Did All of the Judean Christians Flee to Pella?


This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here.

In the previous post, “The Little Horn Persecuted the Saints (Daniel 7:21, 25),” we continued to examine the roles that Daniel 7 says the little horn of the beast was to play. That post highlighted the persecution and murders carried out by the Zealots against anyone who advocated for peace instead of war, and against anyone they even suspected of wanting to defect to the Romans. During the height of that persecution (66 AD – 70 AD), were Christians in Judea and Jerusalem, and did they get caught up in the midst of it? Or did they all flee to Pella in late 66 AD?

Were Christians in Jerusalem During the Jewish-Roman War?

According to Daniel 7:21-22, 25 the little horn would make war against the saints, persecute them, and prevail against them until “the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” The saints would be in his hand for 3.5 years.

Revelation 13 gives some clues as to where these 3.5 years of persecution (Rev. 13:5-7) would take place. It would be directed toward those “who dwell in the land” (of Israel) who wouldn’t worship the beast (Rev. 13:8, 12). This requirement to worship the beast would be enforced by the beast that came “up out of the land” (a.k.a. “the false prophet”; Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). He would deceive “those who dwell in the land,” and he would work in the presence of the beast (Rev. 13:11-15). So Israel would be the geographical center of this persecution.

It should be safe to assume that the Christians didn’t support the war, and therefore they were at high risk of being killed if they were in Judea and Jerusalem from 66-70 AD. However, neither Josephus nor Tacitus specifically said that Christians were killed there during that time. As far as I’m aware, Josephus never singled out Christians, or distinguished between Jews and Christians, in any of his writings. He did not specifically say that Christians were killed along with Jews in Judea and Jerusalem prior to and during the first half of the Jewish-Roman War (66-70 AD).

The claim has been made that no Christians were killed when Jerusalem was destroyed, because they had all escaped to Pella (in modern Jordan). Who first made that claim, and what information was it based on? Assuming it’s true, does it simply mean that no Christians were killed during the siege of April-August 70 AD? Or does it mean, more broadly, that no Christians were killed in Jerusalem after the war began in 66 AD?

pella

Source: Wikipedia (Pella, Jordan)

Since Daniel 7:21, 25 says that the little horn persecuted and prevailed against the Christians for 3.5 years, and since Revelation 13 shows that Christians living in Israel were targets of this persecution, then these are important questions to consider. This is especially true if one is open to the idea that this persecution was carried out by the Zealots.

For a while, the Zealots persecuted and killed their opponents in Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Idumea, and perhaps elsewhere as well, but eventually they were isolated to Jerusalem as the Romans gradually captured those territories. Once the Zealots were isolated to Jerusalem, Josephus is clear that they continued to oppose and kill their opponents there as well (see the previous post). Were Christians among them?

Here are the words of Jesus warning His followers of a time when they would need to flee:

Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains… For then there will be great tribulation…” (Matthew 24:15-16, 21).

But when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains… For in those days there will be tribulation…” (Mark 13:14, 19).

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her… For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:20-21, 23).

So Luke equates the abomination of desolation with Jerusalem being surrounded by armies. When this happened, Christians were instructed to leave not only Jerusalem, but all of Judea, and not to go back in. The following are the earliest testimonies I’m aware of concerning Christians heeding this warning and fleeing to Pella and elsewhere (source: Preterist Archive):

Eusebius (263 – 339 AD)

[1] “But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella. And when those that believed in Christ had come there from Jerusalem, then, as if the royal city of the Jews and the whole land of Judea were entirely destitute of holy men, the judgment of God at length overtook those who had committed such outrages against Christ and his apostles, and totally destroyed that generation of impious men” (Ecclesiastical History 3.5.3, 290’s AD).

[2] “After all those who believed in Christ had generally come to live in Perea, in a city called Pella of the Decapolis of which it is written in the Gospel and which is situated in the neighborhood of the region of Batanaea and Basanitis, Ebion’s preaching originated here after they had moved to this place and had lived there” (Panarion 30:2).

[3] “For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis” (de Mens. et Pond., 15).

[4] “Now this sect of Nazarenes exists in Beroea in Coele-Syria, and in Decapolis in the district of Pella, and in Kochaba of Basanitis– called Kohoraba in Hebrew. For thence it originated after the migration from Jerusalem of all the disciples who resided at Pella, Christ having instructed them to leave Jerusalem and retire from it on account of the impending siege. It was owing to this counsel that they went away, as I have said, to reside for a while at Pella” (Haer 29:7).

Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis (315 – 403 AD)

“The Nazoraean sect exists in Beroea near Coele Syria, in the Decapolis near the region of Pella, and in Bashan in the place called Cocaba, which in Hebrew is called Chochabe. That is where the sect began, when all the disciples were living in Pella after they moved from Jerusalem, since Christ told them to leave Jerusalem and withdraw because it was about to be besieged” (Panarion 29:7:7-8).

“Their sect began after the capture of Jerusalem. For when all those who believed in Christ settled at that time for the most part in Peraea, in a city called Pella belonging to the Decapolis mentioned in the gospel, which is next to Batanaea and the land of Bashan, then they moved there and stayed” (Panarion 30:2:7).

Remigius, Bishop of Reims (437 – 533 AD)

[1] “[F]or on the approach of the Roman army, all the Christians in the province, warned, as ecclesiastical history tells us, miraculously from heaven, withdrew, and passing the Jordan, took refuge in the city of Pella; and under the protection of that King Agrippa, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles, they continued some time; but Agrippa himself, with the Jews whom he governed, was subjected to the dominion of the Romans” [Thomas Aquinas (1841). Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels; Collected out of the Works of the Fathers: St. Matthew. (J. H. Newman, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 799-816)].

So the earliest known testimony about the Christians fleeing to Pella seems to belong to Eusebius, who wrote approximately 230 years after the flight took place. Some speculate that his reports were based on the writings of Hegesippus (110-180 AD), whose writings are now mostly lost. Here are a few things to note from these testimonies:

1. Eusebius said that the church in Jerusalem was warned to flee “before the war,” which Josephus said began in August 66 AD (Wars 2.17.2).
2. Eusebius said that the believers “generally” came to live in Pella of Perea. Epiphanius likewise said that they settled in Pella “for the most part.” This indicates that some believers escaped to other locations and/or that not all of the believers escaped.
3. When Remigius said “as ecclesiastical history tells us,” he appears to have been relying on the accounts of Eusebius.
4. Remigius revealed that Agrippa, who protected the Christians at Pella, was under the dominion of the Romans, and that the Jews he watched over were also under the dominion of the Romans.

Josephus does record a mass exodus out of Judea, but it’s difficult to tell exactly when it happened. It took place while Gessius Florus was the Procurator of Judea (64-66 AD). He behaved wickedly toward the Jews, causing the Zealots to gain the upper hand in Judea. According to Josephus, “he spoiled whole cities, and ruined entire bodies of men at once… entire toparchies were brought to desolation, and a great many of the people left their own country, and fled into foreign provinces” (Wars 2.14.2).

The earliest major attack of Jerusalem by the Romans took place in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus led an army toward Jerusalem to try to put down the rebellion there (Wars 2.19.2-9). The Jews who were gathered there for one of the feasts “saw the war approaching to their metropolis” (Wars 2.19.2). Cestius and his army approached from the northeast of Jerusalem, first observing the city from Mount Scopus, one of the seven mountains of Jerusalem (Wars 2.19.4). It appears that Cestius approached Jerusalem and entered it from one direction, rather than surrounding the city. This also took place several months after the war had begun. (According to Eusebius, the believers were warned to flee before the war began.)

In order to reconcile the account of Eusebius with the words of Jesus, Jerusalem needed to be surrounded by armies prior to the war, which began in August 66 AD, according to Josephus. Was there an earlier instance of Jerusalem being surrounded, which prompted the believers to flee? Consider this account by Josephus, which took place in April – May 66 AD:

“A few days after that feast, on the one and twentieth day of the month Artemisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared: I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sun-setting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities” (Wars 6.5.3).

Did Christians flee Jerusalem and Judea at that time? By the time Cestius Gallus arrived in November 66 AD, Josephus says this about the people in Jerusalem: “Now for the people, they were kept under by the seditious” (Wars 2.19.4), meaning that they were under the control of the Zealots. This would have been a dangerous environment for any remaining Christians. In other words, the Zealots were a danger and a threat to the people of Jerusalem well before the Romans were. It was also at this time that Josephus said that many of the Zealots “retired from the suburbs, and retreated into the inner part of the city, and into the temple.” They did this because they were “affrighted at the good order of the Romans.”

Many of the Zealots did briefly leave Jerusalem when Cestius Gallus approached the city, but only for a matter of days. They were seized by fear, ran out of Jerusalem, and some of the people opened the gates and invited Cestius Gallus in “as their benefactor.” However, Cestius was unaware that the Zealots had fled and he surprisingly passed on this opportunity to capture Jerusalem. Instead, the Zealots resumed their courage and began to attack the armies of Cestius Gallus, soon achieving a resounding victory. Presumably, Christians in Jerusalem also had an opportunity to flee Jerusalem during those several days when Cestius Gallus was retreating from Jerusalem and most of the Zealots were pursuing his forces. Here’s how Josephus summarized that chain of events:

“A horrible fear seized upon the seditious, insomuch that many of them ran out of the city, as though it were to be taken immediately; but the people upon this took courage, and where the wicked part of the city gave ground, thither did they come, in order to set open the gates, and to admit Cestius as their benefactor, who, had he but continued the siege a little longer, had certainly taken the city; but it was, I suppose, owing to the aversion God had already at the city and the sanctuary, that he was hindered from putting an end to the war that very day.

It then happened that Cestius was not conscious either how the besieged despaired of success, nor how courageous the people were for him; and so he recalled his soldiers from the place, and by despairing of any expectation of taking it, without having received any disgrace, he retired from the city, without any reason in the world. But when the robbers perceived this unexpected retreat of his, they resumed their courage, and ran after the hinder parts of his army, and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen…” (Wars 2.19.6-7).

Immediately after this defeat of Cestius Gallus, Josephus speaks of more Jews fleeing from Jerusalem: “After this calamity had befallen Cestius, many of the most eminent of the Jews swam away from the city, as from a ship when it was going to sink” (Wars 2.20.1).

Aside from the armies in the clouds which were seen surrounding cities in April – May 66 AD, there were also armies of Zealots roaming throughout Judea and Jerusalem. It’s possible that they surrounded Jerusalem prior to gaining such power that in November 66 AD they were able to “keep the people under” (Wars 2.19.4).

Concerning “abominations,” note that Josephus said that Jerusalem was full of them by September 66 AD, two months before the Romans arrived. This is when the Zealot leader Manahem and his followers were slain in the temple and other parts of the city:

The city was all over polluted with such abominations, from which it was but reasonable to expect some vengeance, even though they should escape revenge from the Romans…as likely themselves to undergo punishment for the wickedness of the seditious; for indeed it so happened that this murder was perpetrated on the sabbath day, on which day the Jews have a respite from their works on account of Divine worship” (Wars 2.17.10).

What about the fate of Christians during this time when Jerusalem was in the grip of the Zealots? It’s the later commentaries which say that not a single Christian died in Jerusalem’s destruction. The same compilation of quotes at Preterist Archives reveals that this claim was made by Henry Hammond (1659), Thomas Newton (1754), George Peter Holford (1805), John Gill (1809), Albert Barnes (1832), Adam Clarke (1837), and Charles Finney (1852).

Whether this claim is true or not, it seems to refer only to the siege of Titus beginning in mid-April 70 AD. In other words, they claimed that Jerusalem was empty of Christians by spring 70 AD, but they did not seem to claim that Jerusalem was empty of Christians by fall 66 AD. Henry Hammond (1659), for example, says that “when Titus came some months after and besieged the city, there was not one Christian remaining in it.” Of course, it’s good to ask how Hammond or anyone else living many centuries later could have known that to be the case.

According to these commentaries, not all of the Christians went to Pella. Thomas Newton (1754) and Adam Clarke (1837) both said that they also settled “in other places beyond the River Jordan.”

Thomas Newton was likely referring to the writings of Josephus when he said, “We do not read anywhere that so much as one of them [Christians] perished in the destruction of Jerusalem.” That’s true. Again, Josephus, who wrote in more detail about the Jewish-Roman War than anyone else, didn’t specifically mention Christians being killed in Jerusalem. He also didn’t say anything about Christians escaping to safety in Pella. The lack of such information from Josephus doesn’t necessarily mean that it didn’t happen. It just means that he didn’t discuss the status of Christians at all.

The language of Daniel 7:21, 25 indicates that there were still Christians in the grip of the Zealots during the period of 66-70 AD. Based on the descriptions given by Josephus, it was difficult, but not impossible, for local people to enter and exit Jerusalem during that time. For example, After the Idumeans joined the Zealots in slaughtering thousands in February – March 68 AD, Josephus said this:

“But because the city had to struggle with three of the greatest misfortunes, war, and tyranny, and sedition, it appeared, upon the comparison, that the war was the least troublesome to the populace of them all. Accordingly they ran away from their own houses to foreigners, and obtained that preservation from the Romans, which they despaired to obtain among their own people” (Wars 4.7.1).

Despite the Zealots watching “all the passages out of the city,” others also managed to conceal themselves and flee directly to Vespasian, the Roman general:

“Vespasian did, indeed, already pity the calamities these men were in, and arose, in appearance, as though he was going to besiege Jerusalem, – but in reality to deliver them from a [worse] siege they were already under” (Wars 4.7.3).

Even in the midst of the Roman siege (April – September 70 AD), there were Jews who found safety when they escaped to the Romans, as “Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased” (Wars 5.10.1). Later in the siege Josephus said this:

“Many also of the other nobility went over to the Romans, together with the high priests. Now Caesar not only received these men very kindly in other respects, but, knowing they would not willingly live after the customs of other nations, he sent them to Gophna, and desired them to remain there for the present, and told them, that when he was gotten clear of this war, he would restore each of them to their possessions again; so they cheerfully retired to that small city which was allotted them, without fear of any danger” (Wars 6.2.2).

Although many Christians apparently left Jerusalem before the war began, it’s possible that some didn’t heed Jesus’ warning to flee (Matthew 24:15-20, Mark 13:14-18, Luke 21:20-23) and perished. It’s also possible that others stayed, endured great difficulties, and managed to flee later.

Outsiders continued to travel to Jerusalem from far and wide for the annual festivals all the way up to April 70 AD, and many of these pilgrims were killed because of the fighting between the Zealot factions (Wars 5.1.3). It’s possible that Christians from other regions outside of Judea came to Jerusalem to participate in the festivals, failing to heed the warning of Revelation 18:4, and paid the price with their lives.

In summary, I don’t believe that the testimonies of Eusebius, Remigius, Hammond, Newton, etc. in any way dismiss the idea that it was the Zealots, especially under the leadership of Eleazar Ben Simon, who prevailed over the saints in Israel and Jerusalem for 3.5 years. On the other hand, the testimony of Remigius actually dismisses the idea that Nero fulfilled Revelation 13:5-7 by persecuting Christians in all parts of the Roman Empire for a period of 3.5 years (from 64 AD until his death in 68 AD).

Nero’s Government Helped Protect the Christians in Pella

Remigius stated that the Christians in Pella were under the protection of King Agrippa, “but Agrippa himself, with the Jews whom he governed, was subjected to the dominion of the Romans.” The fact that Christians escaped from Jerusalem to Pella in 66 AD indicates that Nero was not enforcing an empire-wide persecution of Christians at that time. It means that Nero’s government actually helped protect these Christians from the wrath of the Zealots. In fact, all of Perea, where Pella was located, was conquered by the Romans during the last six months of Nero’s life, but the Christians in Pella remained safe during that time.

The Roman general Vespasian’s victory over “Gadara, the metropolis of Perea” is recorded in Wars 4.7.3. Other parts of Perea were also conquered and Josephus says that “all Perea had either surrendered themselves, or were taken by the Romans” (Wars 4.7.6). This took place in the first half of 68 AD while Nero was still alive. If Nero was intent on killing Christians throughout the Roman Empire, then why did the Christians remain protected in Pella during this time when the Romans specifically targeted Perea and captured all of it? The far greater threat to their safety came from the Zealots who controlled Judea until most of that country was captured by the Romans, and who controlled Jerusalem for the entire first half of the Jewish-Roman War.

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The next post will begin to examine Revelation 11:1-13, where the beast is introduced for the first time in the book of Revelation.

All of the posts in this series can be found at this page.

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11 thoughts on “Did All of the Judean Christians Flee to Pella?

  1. Wow, what a load!
    Look around you today! If you can’t see the global table set for the marriage supper of the Lamb, all your searching is for nothing.
    Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy – it all relates to His returning, soon!
    What, you haven’t heard the Good News?
    “Learn the lesson of the fig tree” – hint:1948 Israel becomes a nation!
    Oh, sorry, you hate to be reminded about that FACT

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  2. This is very good work, Adam. I did not find anything that I could dispute. YOu did a whale of a research job. We know that there were no Christian writings after about 65 AD, until about 120 AD. Where were those Christians? The ones who had written earlier (Paul, John etc.) were probably not around, but not killed in Pella, but had joined Jesus. Apparently, no one wrote until Polycarp. This blank period of about 50 years tells us that the Christians were in a flat mode for some reason–too much moving?

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    • Thank you, Dean. That’s a good question about the period of silence after the Jewish-Roman War. Maybe it was because of a lot of movement, as you’ve suggested. Even if there was silence, though, there is this great testimony about Christians returning from Pella to Jerusalem after the war and bearing much fruit:

      “So Aquila [an envoy of Hadrian], while he was in Jerusalem, also saw the disciples of the disciples of the apostles flourishing in the faith and working great signs, healings, and other miracles. For they were such as had come back from the city of Pella to Jerusalem and were living there and teaching. For when the city was about to be taken and destroyed by the Romans, it was revealed in advance to all the disciples by an angel of God that they should remove from the city, as it was going to be completely destroyed. They sojourned as emigrants in Pella, the city above mentioned, in Transjordania. And this city is said to be of the Decapolis. But after the destruction of Jerusalem, when they had returned to Jerusalem, as I have said, they wrought great signs, as I have already said.”

      Source: Epiphanius, http://www.netours.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=274&Itemid=30

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  3. Hi Adam,

    A few points here…

    The quote by Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History that you mentioned does not say that the Christians FLED “before the war”. Eusebius says that they were WARNED before the war began. They were supposed to make their flight AFTER the war began, when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies. I believe this was when Cestius Gallus arrived in AD 66, but Jesus could have also intended to include the Zealot armies who were massed in Jerusalem, prepared to fight against Gallus and his forces.

    Also, you have posed the question: “If Nero was intent on killing Christians throughout the Roman Empire, then why did the Christians remain protected in Pella during this time when the Romans specifically targeted Perea and captured all of it?”

    The persecution against Christians that Nero desired to accomplish from AD 64 until his suicide in June of AD 68 was limited by Nero’s waning popularity in those months of early AD 68 at the very end of Nero’s life. (The Senate had declared Nero to be “an enemy of the state” around this time.) His growing lack of support by the Romans would have been especially evident among the Roman military, I would think, since they approved Galba as their emperor of choice to replace Nero.

    Speaking of the “little horn”, Daniel 7:21 & 25 tells us that the saints would be given “into HIS hand” for that “time, and times, and a dividing of time”. It was not so much that the ENTIRE BEAST “made war with the saints and prevailed against them” as it was the SINGLE HORN that instigated this persecution to satisfy a personal vendetta (which point Tacitus makes about Nero’s persecution of Christians in his Annals XV . 44).

    As Nero’s viability as an emperor deteriorated in those last few months before his suicide in June of AD 68, this was the very time when Pella and Perea were being purged of the Zealot presence, which made it an ideal location for escaping Christians to occupy. At that time, Christians were not primarily the focus of the Roman legions, as much as the rebellious Zealot factions who had engaged in open revolt. As soon as the Zealot’s rebellious activity had painted a Roman target on their own backs, this relieved the Christians of a good deal of harassment and persecution by those Jews who were hostile to the faith.

    Contrary to the idea that the Zealots might be the ones “wearing out the saints”, there was instead a RESPITE from persecution by their Jewish oppressors that was promised to the Thessalonian believers by Paul in II Thess. 1:6-8 (written around AD 52). “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you,” (the Great Tribulation of AD 66-70 for ethnic Jews), “And to you who are troubled REST WITH US, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:”

    So, it would appear that when the “days of vengeance” began for the Jews who had rejected Christ, it gave the Christians a rest period from persecution by their Jewish oppressors.

    Adam, there actually IS a way to get a rough, numerical estimate of how many Christians avoided getting trapped within Jerusalem for the duration of the AD 70 siege by Titus. We can arrive at the approximate number of those who heeded Christ’s warning to leave Judea and Jerusalem as given in Luke 21 and the other gospels by using the casualty list given in Ussher’s “Annals”. He gives us a record compiled by a Justus Lipsius for the number of Jews who perished in the “Great Tribulation” period between AD 66 and the end of the AD 70 siege. This casualty list is found on the last page of Ussher’s “Annals”.

    To begin with, we put down the number of Passover attendees that were in Jerusalem when Cestius Gallus took a census for Nero in AD 66. That number counted by the priests was:

    2,700,200 (Those present at Passover AD 66 – Wars 6.9.3, 422-425)

    – 248,200 (Subtract the number of Jews who were killed in
    ————— various cities from AD 66 until the beginning of
    the AD 70 siege – from Ussher’s notes #6997. This
    doesn’t include totals from Masada, Machaerus, etc. –
    totals that came from prior to AD 66 or after AD 70.)

    = 2,452,000 (This is the resulting number left of AD 66 Passover
    celebrants who probably would have still been alive
    and able to attend the AD 70 Passover in Jerusalem.)

    – 1,197,000 (Subtract the number of Jews present in Jerusalem
    —————– who either died in the city or were captured by the
    close of the AD 70 siege – Wars 9.9.3, 420-421.)

    = 1,255,000 This final number is the amount of those living from AD 66 onward who never returned to celebrate Passover again in AD 70. Most of this group must have been those who, from AD 66 onward, heeded the warning Christ gave in Luke 21:20-21 and the other gospels to flee Judea and Jerusalem when they first saw armies surrounding Jerusalem.

    Granted, these numbers don’t come from scripture, and may be based on imprecision or exaggeration, but it would appear that somewhere around 1 & 1/4 million people had believed Christ’s warning passed down from the disciples, and fled to Pella and other destinations to avoid the tragedy of Jerusalem and Judea’s fall. That means this approximate number of 1 & 1/4 million people were NOT around to be the objects of persecution by the Zealots. These Zealot factions had their hands full anyway, just fighting one another for 3 1/2 years (the whole civil war “brother against brother” thing), followed closely by the conflict with the Roman forces at the end of this period. Any Zealot animosity towards Christians would have had to take a back seat to these more pressing conflicts.

    If Christians occasionally got caught in the crossfire – that’s possible – but I don’t think it equates with massive numbers of saints being “worn out” by the Zealots “overcoming” them by “making war against them”. The language about the beast or the little horn in Daniel 7:21, 25 and Revelation 13:7 coming against the saints doesn’t really match with the record we have of the Zealots’ actions toward the Christians during the AD 66-70 period. (Actually, it’s a LACK of records about this.) So, the end result of my figuring still adds up to Rome as the Sea Beast of Revelation 13, with Nero – not the Zealots – that persecuted the saints for 42 months. Sorry, Adam, I still think the Zealots belong only with the third Scarlet Beast in Revelation 17, instead of the Sea Beast in Revelation 13. I’m reading carefully everything you are presenting in your Beast of Revelation series, but I still can’t see the Sea Beast being Zealot-led Israel.

    As for the title of your post Adam, even though I do see a mass exodus of Christians from Judea and Jerusalem who left when they saw the armies surrounding Jerusalem, I believe there probably WAS a particular remaining group of saints left in the city to do evangelistic work – even up to the very end. Possibly you will think the comments below are strange, but here goes…

    There was a group of saints found in Jerusalem while the Zealots were trampling it that were called “the REMNANT” in Revelation 11:13. At the same time when the two witnesses were resurrected, (Ananus and Joshua ben Gamaliel), and the city of Jerusalem experienced the earthquake when 7,000 men were killed in the Idumean attack that night, this “REMNANT” saw all of this happen, “was affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven”. This is a RIGHTEOUS response from a RIGHTEOUS REMNANT of people that were actually INSIDE Jerusalem’s walls during the Idumean attack. I believe this “REMNANT” of righteous ones are some of the same “REMNANT of the woman’s seed” in Revelation 12:17, which the dragon had made war against because they “kept the commandments of God and had the testimony of Jesus”.

    I believe they are also the same “REMNANT of the dead” in Revelation 20:5 who were resurrected in the “First Resurrection” along with Christ. This “First Resurrection” was when the literal 1,000 years of the millennium had finished in AD 33. In other words, I believe this “REMNANT” mentioned in all three of these places in Revelation is referring to the remnant of 144,000 Firstfruits, Matthew 27:52-53 saints who were raised to “live again” with Christ in AD 33.

    The description Revelation 20:5-6 gives of this “REMNANT of the dead” is that they are “blessed and holy”, and that THE SECOND DEATH HAS NO POWER OVER THEM. Since the “Second Death” / Lake of Fire was the localized judgment in Jerusalem itself as the nation and the temple were being dissolved for the second time (similar to the first time it had died under the Babylonian invasion), this means that the desperate conditions inside the city of Jerusalem from AD 66-70 had absolutely no power to harm this “remnant of the dead” who had been resurrected with Christ in AD 33.

    Revelation 11:13 lets us know that the “Remnant” were inside Jerusalem, witnessing the Idumean attack and the resurrection of the two witnesses, which came 3 1/2 days after the earthquake (similar to the Matthew 27:52-53 saints who themselves had also been raised by Christ over 3 days after the earthquake at His crucifixion). Scripture would not say they were protected from the “Second Death” if they were not actually sitting in the middle of it, witnessing the catastrophe themselves, from a front-row seat.

    I believe this is an example of God’s great mercy to those who were unfortunately trapped inside Jerusalem at the end of the age. He was providing one last opportunity for salvation, using the indestructible, incorruptible, resurrected Matthew 27 saints as His gospel messengers, up to the very last minute before Jesus bodily returned on the Mount of Olives at Pentecost in AD 70.

    Revelation 14:10 confirms that these “holy angels” (or holy messengers – angelon hagion) were in the very presence of those who were being tormented with fire and brimstone (the Lake of Fire / Second Death of Jerusalem). I take this to mean that some of the “remnant” of Matthew 27 resurrected saints were inside Jerusalem, seeing those with the beast’s mark being tormented in their presence (enopion – before their face).

    Fortunately, all of the 144,000 Firstfruits saints of Matthew 27:52-53 had been “sealed” in their foreheads with God’s name (Revelation 7:2-4, 14:1). As resurrected saints, they could not possibly be hurt by either demonic evil imprisoned in the city (Revelation 18:2), or by starvation, fire, or sword. The “seal” for these Firstfruits saints just meant that their eventual rapture to heaven was delayed for a time, but would be certain to happen when Christ returned on Pentecost day in AD 70. Just as Paul described the rapture in I Thessalonians 4, these Matthew 27 saints who had been made “alive” again in AD 33, but who had “remained” on earth as God’s servants, would be caught up together in the air with the newly-resurrected saints and the returning Christ in AD 70.

    Adam, I realize that all the above must seem like I am stretching things just to make them fit, but honestly, do you have a better explanation for just how it is possible for those “holy angels” / messengers to actually be IN THE PRESENCE OF (enopion – before the face of) those who were being tormented with fire and brimstone in the Lake of Fire? I mean, Revelation 14:10 says that these “holy angels” / messengers are RIGHT THERE in the middle of this fire and brimstone, along with those who have the beast’s mark.

    In addition, the “Lamb” was also there in Revelation 14:10, observing this “fire and brimstone” suffering that was going on before His face. This is an entirely different reality for the “Lake of Fire / Second Death” than is usually pictured in people’s minds and in sermons such as “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”. If Jesus was going to “stain all His raiment” with “blood” from the “winepress” that represented Jerusalem and Judea (the “vine of the earth”), then that means Jesus was somehow in close enough proximity to Jerusalem to get soaked from head to toe by the blood from these “grapes of gall” coming out of Jerusalem, the winepress. Nobody gets grape juice to soak their clothing by viewing the winepress from a far distant location (Isaiah 63:2 compared with Revelation 19:13-15).

    Also, if these 144,000 Matthew 27 resurrected Firstfruits saints were said to “follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth” (Revelation 14:4), then it would make perfect sense to say that they were some of the “holy angels” / messengers that were here together with the Lamb in Revelation 14:10, with fire and brimstone from Jerusalem’s “Lake of Fire / Second Death” tormenting those in front of them who had the beast’s mark.

    Adam, it does seem as if those Matthew 27:52-53 saints left their footprints all over the New Testament in the most unexpected places. I suspected that an increasing number of references to these resurrected saints would continue to appear in my Bible reading, ever since you first put up your post in March 2015 called “Comparing Matthew 24 and I Thessalonians 4-5”. It was then that I started looking more carefully for references related to these resurrected Firstfruits saints and their activities. For example, this group of Matthew 27:52-53 saints monopolizes the Revelation 14 chapter. Their resurrection in AD 33 was the first sickle harvest in Revelation 14:14-16. Their resurrection in AD 33 is the starting point for the time mentioned in Revelation 14:13 – “FROM HENCEFORTH…” They were the ones who had “the patience of the saints” as they waited for their eventual rapture to heaven (Rev. 14:12). And so on, and so on…

    You may not agree with any of the points above, Adam, but thank you for providing a place for open comments. And if you have time and can think of a better interpretation for any of these points, I’m open to admitting mistakes and changing my view on something if necessary.

    Blessings on your studies in this year of 2018.

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  4. Hi Adam,

    Ooops, my list of numbers above didn’t quite print out as I thought it would. Sorry about that, but hopefully the idea still comes through in spite of the messy layout.

    Here’s one more piece of the puzzle coming from Revelation 20 that falls into place if you can recognize that there were some of the “remnant” of resurrected First-fruits, Matthew 27:52 saints sitting INSIDE Jerusalem as evangelists during that Great Tribulation period between AD 66-70…

    You may remember from one of your last posts about the “Wounded Head” (in your “Beast of Revelation” series) that I put forth the claim that “Gog” coming against Jerusalem in Rev. 20 and Ezekiel 38 & 39 was fulfilled by Simon bar Giora and his vast army. As you know, this Zealot leader showed up and surrounded Jerusalem in AD 69. Eventually, those in Jerusalem decided to admit him and his army into the city, because there was a deluded hope that he would protect the citizens from John of Gischala’s faction which had become tyrannical (Wars 4.9.11, 573).

    In Revelation 20:9, we are told that Gog’s army “went up on the breadth of the earth” (across the land of Israel) “and compassed the camp of the saints about and the beloved city.” This is exactly what Simon bar Giora and his armies did in AD 69 (Wars 4.9.10, 556-557). In this Rev. 20:9 verse, the “CAMP OF THE SAINTS” is linked together in the same location with “THE BELOVED CITY” (which refers to Jerusalem). This tells us that they were both being surrounded simultaneously by Gog (Simon and his armies). That means there was a “camp of the saints” WITHIN JERUSALEM at that time.

    If what I have noticed is true about the righteous “remnant” being in the city during the Idumean attack (Rev. 11:13), then this same righteous “remnant” would also be identified as the Revelation 20:9 “camp of the saints” INSIDE Jerusalem when Gog (Simon and his armies) came to surround the city in AD 69, a year or so after the Idumean attack.

    So, it would appear that this “remnant” patiently stayed to serve inside the disintegrating city until the very end – not an impossible job to accomplish for some of the 144,000 resurrected Matthew 27:52-53 saints, since their incorruptible body forms of resurrected flesh and bone couldn’t possibly be injured or corrupted by any means, whether spiritual or physical. It would have been a unique task that only they could have performed; so perhaps this is why the 144,000 First-fruits saints were the only ones who could “learn that song” in Revelation 14:3.

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  5. Hi Adam,

    It’s likely you will find the following remarks to also sound as strange as the ones above, but I’ll
    put them up for anyone to consider and/or correct. I didn’t know where else to place this comment except here where I have mentioned some of the activities of the 144,000 “Firstfruits” Matt. 27 resurrected saints during those days leading up to the AD 70 resurrection.

    Remember when I said that verses keep cropping up in my Bible reading that refer to those Matt. 27 saints? Well, here’s another text below that points to their missionary activities in the early church. We know these 144,000 “Firstfruits” saints didn’t leave the planet with Christ at His ascension, because Paul said that the church still HAD the “Firstfruits” with them in Romans 8:23. And that’s not the “fruit of the Spirit” of personal holiness that Paul was talking about there.

    Here’s another set of verses in III John 5-8 (written around AD 65) that describes what the 144,000 “Firstfruits” Matt. 27 saints were doing while they remained on the earth back then. In this passage, the Matt. 27 resurrected saints are called “strangers”. John’s letter is written to Gaius, commending him for charitably supporting the brethren, but ALSO for his support of “strangers”. These “strangers” apparently were staying with Gaius as a sort of “pit-stop” on their “journey” to spread the truth among the Gentiles. Gaius had gone out of his way to charitably support them, and these “strangers” gave him credit before the church for doing so. Then John urged Gaius to bring these “strangers” forward on their journey in a manner “worthy of God”, because they were going to the Gentiles without taking anything from them for their labor among them.

    John then said that those of the church should “receive” these “strangers”, so that the church could be “fellow-helpers of the truth”. Widows especially in the church were required to have lodged these “strangers” before they could expect assistance and financial support from the church in their old age (I Tim. 5:9-10). John’s urging the church to house and “receive” these “strangers” is the same instruction Christ gave His disciples in Matt. 10:41. “He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.”

    Some of the Matt. 27 saints that Christ raised along with Himself WERE prophets. Prophets were included in the list of the “multitude of captives” that the risen Christ brought with Him out of the grave on His resurrection day, and gave those risen saints as gifts to men. “And He gave some apostles” (meaning “sent ones”), “and some PROPHETS, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers;” These risen Matt. 27 saints with their various titles were given to help in the “perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:8-12).

    Just as John urged Gaius and the church to support and to “receive” these “strangers”, the author of Hebrews also gave the same injunction to the church in Hebrews 13:2. “Be not forgetful to entertain STRANGERS: for thereby some have entertained ANGELS (messengers) unawares.” Typically, most think this verse is referring to Abraham and the heavenly angels visiting him in the OT, but I believe this actually is meant to refer to resurrected HUMAN messengers / angels in those NT days, since the word “angels” can refer to either human or heavenly origin, depending on the context. These traveling “strangers” who are also “angels” or “messengers” for God were, I believe, the Matt. 27 resurrected saints, journeying to the Gentiles (as III John 7 said), carrying the gospel of the truth with them. They were a major part of the labor force necessary to fulfill Christ’s promise in Matt. 24:14 that the gospel would be preached in ALL THE WORLD before the end came. This universal coverage REQUIRED the assistance of the indestructible Matt. 27 resurrected saints, because the 11 disciples themselves personally would NOT have gone over all the cities of Israel before Christ came (Matt. 10:23). This evangelistic gap in the universal coverage of the world before AD 70 was filled by the task force of the 144,000, fulfilling Christ’s promise.

    Some of these “strangers” are the “holy angels” or “messengers” that I mentioned above who were sitting INSIDE JERUSALEM as the city was turned into the Lake of Fire for its “second death” in AD 70. Rev. 14:10 described those “holy angels” or “messengers” being in the very presence of those suffering Jerusalem’s torments.

    One more thing, Adam.

    The man John who was writing III John was also a resurrected saint such as the Matt. 27 saints were. His full name was John Eleazar, or we would know him better by the name of LAZARUS, the beloved disciple that Christ raised from the dead. This is a point taught by Pastor David Curtis at his Berean Bible Church website. After carefully studying the biblical evidence for this, I agree with Pastor Curtis. John considered himself to be in the same condition such as the Matt. 27 “strangers” were. John said to the church that “we therefore ought to receive SUCH…” (those who were just LIKE the “strangers” John spoke of ). The III John 8,9 verses say that, even though the church was supposed to “receive” the “strangers” as “fellow-helpers to the truth”, one prideful, power-hungry man in the church named Diotrephes would NOT receive such as (the resurrected) John when he personally came to visit the church. John’s scalding reproof was unmistakable for this man’s arrogance in not receiving himself and other brethren like him.

    On the other hand, another man mentioned for praise in this III John epistle was Demetrius, to whom John gave a glowing commendation for the “good report” he had established in front of all men. This, I believe, is the same Ephesian silversmith called Demetrius in Acts 19:24 that a few years earlier had started the riot in Ephesus against Paul, and who probably ended up bringing charges in court against Paul and possibly John himself as leaders in the Ephesian church (Acts 19:38). Yet here in III John, Demetrius is obviously converted and is now ranking high in John’s estimation. What would it have taken to convert such a fervent idol-worshipping Ephesian into an equally fervent follower of Christ? The cause for his sudden conversion, I believe, was Demetrius personally witnessing the proconsul of Ephesus trying unsuccessfully to boil John alive in a vat of oil under Nero’s orders, as Tertullian and Jerome tell us. You simply can’t turn a resurrected John Eleazar / Lazarus into a deep-fried martyr. It’s an impossibility to destroy the body of a resurrected, immortal saint such as John Eleazar / Lazarus was, with a second death experience. We are clearly appointed to die only ONCE.

    Another indication that the author of III John was the resurrected Lazarus is that he says his words cannot possibly be doubted. “Demetrius hath good report of all men and of the truth itself: yea, and we also bear record; AND YE KNOW THAT OUR RECORD IS TRUE.” Why is the truthfulness of the record John gave considered so absolutely certain here? Because resurrected saints can’t possibly be liars. The very same assurance is given about John Eleazar in John 21:24 by the ones who were publishing John’s gospel account. “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things: AND WE KNOW THAT HIS TESTIMONY IS TRUE.” Hands-down, no questions asked – John was considered an absolutely, impeccably truthful source of information by everyone, since his testimony of being raised from the dead was widely known to the believers. This same John who Christ said would “tarry” or “remain” until He came in AD 70 was the resurrected John Eleazar / Lazarus who couldn’t possibly utter a lie or pass through death ever again.

    The same undoubted level of truthfulness is a virtue that the 144,000 Firstfruits, Matthew 27 saints also shared. Revelation 14:5 says that “in their mouth was found no guile, for they are without fault before the throne of God.” In other words, the 144,000 Firstfruits, Matthew 27 resurrected saints couldn’t possibly tell a lie either , any more than the resurrected author of III John and the epistle John could do this.

    So, when the “angel” / messenger who revealed the prophecies of Revelation to John refused John’s worship because he was a “FELLOW-SERVANT and of thy brethren the PROPHETS”, the “angel” was telling us that John was also one just like himself – a human messenger / “angel” who was a prophet (Rev. 22:8-9). And all of these resurrected saints who “tarried” or “remained” alive on earth were raptured with the rest of the newly-resurrected believers in the AD 70 Pentecost Day resurrection at Christ’s coming, so we don’t need to wonder if they are still around.

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