“$1000 For One Scripture That Says…” On the heels of the previous post being about dispensationalism, I find this long-standing challenge by TK Burk to be an interesting one. For those who may have seen the last post, but weren’t sure what dispensationalism is, Burk’s eight points below should help give you an idea of what is taught in this school of thought:
A biblical doctrine is not biblical unless it has biblical passages proving it is biblical fact. That may sound a little simplistic, and maybe even a bit of a tongue twister, but it is still the main rule to follow when rightly dividing God’s Word. Please, keep this in mind when reading through this $1000.00 challenge.
Each of the following eight points are taken from foundational teachings in the prophecy view called “Dispensationalism.” If Dispensationalism is truly biblical then there should be Bible passages that clearly speak of these points. If there are no such scriptures, how then can Dispensationalism be said to be biblical? For this challenge, I am offering $1000.00 to the first person that can give just one Bible verse that actually says any of the following Dispensational teachings:
God delayed His Kingdom because the Jews rejected Jesus.
There is a gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel.
There will be a secret pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.
God will require the building of a physical third Jewish Temple.
God will no longer accept grace and Jesus’ blood for salvation but will instead return to the Law and animal blood sacrifices.
An Antichrist will make a seven-year covenant with the Jews.
There will be a future seven-year tribulation period.
A physical Jesus Christ will return to establish a 1000-year reign on earth.
If you’re a Dispensational believer, and if you believe that any or all of the above eight teachings are biblical, would you please give us at least one Bible verse that actually says any of the above? Though Dispensational teachers claim to have much scriptural evidence to support their teachings, you only need one Bible scripture to qualify for the $1000.00.
This $1000.00 offer has been around for many years. To date not even one verse has ever been sent to prove any of these Dispensational teachings are in fact biblical…not one. This silence alone should be enough to prove that these main points in the Dispensational theory are not biblical. However, since Dispensationalism is still claimed by some to be biblical, this $1000.00 is still being offered to the first person that can give such a verse. If you are a Dispensationalist and you cannot find such a scripture, I hope you realize that this means you are missing much more than just $1000.00–you are missing the fullness of God’s Truth.
For continuity, responses to this challenge must use the King James Bible. Use the below “reply” area to send in any Bible verses. Comments concerning the lack of any such scriptural evidence are also welcomed.
Burk is right – not one Scripture passage substantiates any of those eight points. As a side note regarding #5, my understanding is that dispensationalists/pre-millennialists would probably say that God’s grace and Jesus’ blood will still be the basis for salvation in an alleged future millennium, but that animal sacrifices will be re-established as some kind of a memorial. It’s still a very strange idea, though, in my opinion, and certainly without Scriptural basis.
(Note: This post includes a full-scale teaching illustration below the following introduction.)
The last quarter of the 20th century featured many prophecy charts, based on dispensationalism, depicting a future “Rapture,” 7-year tribulation, Antichrist, series of seal/trumpet/bowl judgments, Battle of Armageddon, etc. When I was younger, I saw a few of these charts in person, and a number of others when I watched “A Thief In the Night” (1972), “A Distant Thunder” (1977) and “Image of the Beast” (1981); all available here.
Charts and illustrations can be good teaching aids. Based on my study of church history, however, the vast majority of respected leaders in the first 1800 (or so) years after Christ would have been horrified to see a lot of these (dispensationalist-based) charts. As my personal journey has taken me away from the pre-trib Rapture/premillennialist view I grew up with, and toward fulfilled eschatology, I’m glad to see that new charts, illustrations, and similar tools are being created which are a lot more sound and Biblical (in my opinion). In a couple of previous posts, I’ve highlighted two such illustrations by author Jonathan Welton, one on Daniel 2 and the kingdom of God and another on John’s use of “ge” (land) versus “kosmos” (world) in the book of Revelation.
Welton’s newest illustration concerns the 70 Weeks prophecy in Daniel 9. Seeing this prophecy differently was a major turning point in my own journey. Previously I was led to believe that Daniel saw a future Antichrist who would make a 7-year political covenant with Israel, then break it 3.5 years later, before presiding over another 3.5 years of planet-wide turmoil and catastrophes. This was to be the 7-year tribulation period. The text (Daniel 9:24-27) says none of these things. I can’t forget how stunned I was when it was pointed out to me, online, that the covenant of Daniel 9:27 is parallel to Jesus’ words on the night He was betrayed by Judas:
“Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering…” (Daniel 9:27).
“For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
Each “week” in Daniel’s prophecy represents a period of seven years. We also know that Jesus laid down His life as a sacrifice after 3.5 years of ministry (“…in the middle of the week…”), and that His sacrifice brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings under the old covenant. There went the idea that sacrifices must be restored in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem in our future. There also went the only Scriptural basis (so I thought) for a 7-year tribulation period. Jonathan Welton does a great job bringing this and more out in his latest illustration:
1Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.8And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming.
Just like the seven churches who first received the book of Revelation in the form of a letter, Paul wrote to a church in Thessalonica that was under persecution (II Thessalonians 1:4-7). This persecution was evidently coming from the Jews, based in part on Acts 17:1-13 and I Thessalonians 2:14-16. The first Imperial (Roman) persecution against Christians under Nero had not yet begun, since this book was written around 52 AD. The Thessalonians would experience relief from their affliction, they were told, when Jesus came in vengeance and to be glorified in and marveled at by His people (II Thess. 1:7-10). That Paul expected his first century readers to experience this relief firsthand is no surprise when we remember that Jesus Himself promised to come bringing recompense with Him while some of His 12 disciples were still alive (Matthew 16:27-28).
In this regard, Paul writes to a church that was concerned that they had missed His coming, for Paul writes: “Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come” (II Thess. 2:1-2). We must consider the nature of their expectation about these things. For if their expectation of the Lord’s coming was that it would be visible, that it would bring an end to the world, or that it would result in the instant removal of all believers from the earth, it’s hard to imagine how they could be led to believe that these things had already occurred. If the Day of the Lord referred to “a rapture,” and they thought it may have already occurred, why would Paul still be around? As David Lowman, a Presbyterian pastor, has written, “Now, if on the other hand, the Thessalonians believed the Day of the Lord to be the coming judgment against apostate Israel, then asking about that event would make sense. And if they had friends or relatives in the Judean area it would easily explain their concern that the Day of the Lord had passed.”
David Lowman points out that the Greek word for the phrase “gathered together,” episunagoge, used in II Thess. 2:1, appears three times in the New Testament:  in Matthew 24:31 (“…and He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other”; see our study of this passage),  here in this passage,  and in Hebrews 10:25 (“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”). In each of these cases the term denotes the fellowship of believers or the gathering of the Church in terms of the spread of the gospel.
Lowman notes that, where this term was used in the Olivet Discourse, it was the fall of the temple and Jerusalem that enabled the gospel to be spread apart from infringement by Jewish authorities and the Judaizers. Also recall that in I Thessalonians 2:14-16 Paul says “the Jews…oppose all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God’s wrath has come upon them at last!” Paul saw the coming judgment upon apostate Israel, which Jesus had repeatedly prophesied was to come, as a good development for the spread of the gospel among the nations.
Paul states that two events had to occur before the day of the Lord would come:  the rebellion, and  the revealing of the man of lawlessness.
The Greek word “apostasia” is used here in verse 3 for “the rebellion.” It can mean either  rebellion or  falling away. Most modern translations now render it as “rebellion.” So this doesn’t have to mean a falling away that is only spiritual in nature, but it can also indicate a social or political rebellion. History tells us that a large-scale Jewish rebellion rose up in 66 AD which led to Nero declaring war on Israel in February 67 AD, precisely 3.5 years before Jerusalem was crushed and the temple fell in late August 70 AD. This rebellion began about 15 years after Paul wrote this letter. It appears that Paul made the argument that the Day of the Lord’s judgment against Israel would not take place before the rebellion led by the Zealots had already occurred, and this is exactly how it played out in history (see this post and this post for more details).
Verse 4 says that the man of lawlessness “opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.” Among futurists, i.e. those who believe that this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, it is popularly held that a third temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem, and then a future antichrist figure will literally sit in that temple. Among those who do believe this was fulfilled in the first century, some believe (as I do) that Nero was the man of lawlessness referred to here by Paul, while others believe that it was Titus. Some question the idea that Nero was the man of sin because he is not known to have physically entered into the Jerusalem temple, as Titus did in 70 AD. However, is it correct to believe that Paul was even referring to a physical temple, or is this interpretation perhaps off-track from the very beginning?
On the other hand, some have interpreted the phrase “temple of God” to refer to the Church (e.g. Ephesians 2:11-22), rather than to any physical temple. I agree with this interpretation. In other words, the man of lawlessness would attempt to usurp the place of God as the object of supreme worship within the Church. This Nero did. [He had coins minted on which he was called “Savior” and “God.” Those living in Rome were required by law to publicly proclaim their allegiance to Caesar by burning a pinch of incense and declaring, “Caesar is Lord,” after which time they were then given a document called a “libellus,” which was necessary for engaging in commerce in the Roman marketplace. More is written on this here and here.] Regarding the physical temple which stood in Paul’s day, let’s remember that God had already rejected that temple as His own. As Jesus said to the Jewish leaders in His day, “See, YOUR house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:38). Why would the Holy Spirit then, speaking through Paul, refer to the Jerusalem temple as the “temple OF GOD”?
Alan Campbell, a pastor in Belfast, Ireland, has pointed out that when Paul spoke of “the temple of God,” he used the Greek word, “Naos.” According to Young’s Analytical Concordance, this word means “a dwelling place or inner sanctuary.” When Jesus used this word in John 2:19-21, He referred to His own body. When Paul used it in I Corinthians 3:17 and II Cor. 6:16, it was to say that Christ’s followers are “the temple of the living God.” When Paul used it again in Ephesians 2:21, it was to say that the Church “grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” If Paul had wanted to say that the man of sin would sit in a physical temple, says Pastor Campbell, “he would undoubtedly have used the Greek word ‘hieron,’ which is used on some 25 other occasions to describe the Jewish temple at Jerusalem.”
Many futurists today believe that Paul spoke of a physical temple which, in our time, has not yet been rebuilt. Is there any way that the Thessalonian believers would have understood Paul’s words this way? They knew from Jesus’ own prophecies that the Jerusalem temple they were acquainted with would be destroyed in their own generation (Matthew 23:29-24:1, 24:3, 24:34; Luke 19:41-44, Luke 21:5-33, etc.). How strange it would have been for them to consider that this temple would later BE REPLACED in order to grant a momentary seat to a lawless one, a person whom they didn’t even need to be concerned about because he was generations away from appearing. It’s even more impossible to conceive of such a rebuilt temple being regarded as “the temple OF GOD.” Those who are trying to initiate this project in the 21st century hope to resume the Old Covenant sacrifices, which is an outright rejection of Christ and another wave of apostasy. It’s a tragedy that many professing Christians in America today are actually passionate about seeing such a project come to pass in modern Israel, even to the point of collectively donating millions of dollars to see it happen.
Lactantius (260-330 AD), embracing the viewpoint that by “temple of God” Paul was referring to the Church, said that Nero became enraged by the “faithful and steadfast TEMPLE OF THE LORD” built through the evangelism of Peter, Paul, and the early Church. So Nero “sprung forward to raze THE HEAVENLY TEMPLE and destroy the true faith.”
Paul reminded the Thessalonians that he had already discussed these things with them in person (verse 5), and his language indicates that we are not given all the details of their conversation. Apparently, Paul had privately discussed with them the identity of the man of lawlessness and the entity that was restraining him, because he says, “And YOU KNOW what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time” (verse 6). This points to a first-century fulfillment, as does Paul’s next statement: “For the mystery of lawlessness is ALREADY at work. Only he who NOW restrains it will do so until he is out of the way” (verse 7).
James Stuart Russell, whose book, “Parousia,” in 1878 has been cited favorably by Charles Spurgeon and (more recently) R.C. Sproul, wrote the following about the immediate relevance of this subject to the Thessalonians:
“Is it not obvious that whoever the man of sin may be, he must be someone with whom the apostle [Paul] and his readers had to do? Is he not writing to living men about matters in which they are intensely interested? Why should he delineate the features of this mysterious personage to the Thessalonians if he was one with whom the Thessalonians had nothing to do, from whom they had nothing to fear, and who would not be revealed for ages yet to come? It is clear that he speaks of one whose influence was already beginning to be felt, and whose unchecked and lawless fury would [before] long burst forth. But why does not the apostle speak out frankly? Why this reserve and reticence in darkly hinting what he does not name? …Obviously, because it was not safe to be more explicit…”
The early church father, Augustine (354-430 AD), held to the same interpretation:
“Some think that these words refer to the Roman empire, and that the apostle Paul did not wish to write more explicitly, lest he should incur a charge of calumny against the Roman empire, in wishing ill to it when men hoped that it was to be everlasting. So in the words, ‘For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work,’ HE REFERRED TO NERO, whose deeds already seemed to be as those of Antichrist” (emphasis added).
Chrysostom (347-407 AD) also agreed, saying:“‘For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work.’ HE SPEAKS HERE OF NERO… But he did not also wish to point him out plainly: and this not from cowardice, but instructing us not to bring upon ourselves unnecessary enmities, when there is nothing to call for it” (emphasis added). Others who taught that Nero was the man of lawlessness include Clement of Alexandria [150-215 AD], Tertullian [160-220 AD], and Jerome [347-420 AD], who, interestingly enough said, “There are MANY of our viewpoint who think that Domitius Nero was the Antichrist because of his outstanding savagery and depravity.” James Stuart Russell continues,
“But how striking are the indications that point to Nero in the year when this epistle was written, say A.D. 52 or 53. At that time Nero was not yet ‘manifested;’ his true character was not discovered; he had not yet succeeded to the Empire. Claudius, his step-father, lived, and stood in the way of the son of Agrippina. But that hindrance was soon removed. In less than a year, probably, after this epistle was received by the Thessalonians, Claudius was ‘taken out of the way,’ a victim to the deadly practice of the infamous Agrippina; her son also, according to Suetonius, being accessory to the deed. But ‘the mystery of lawlessness was already working;’ the influence of Nero must have been powerful in the last days of the wretched Claudius; the very plots were probably being hatched that paved the way for the accession of the son of the murderess. A few months more would witness the advent to the throne of the world of a miscreant whose name is gibbeted in everlasting infamy as the most brutal of tyrants and the vilest of men.”
Victorinus, another church father who was martyred in the year 303 AD, in his commentary on Revelation, wrote:
“[John tells us that the beast] was in the kingdom of the Romans, and that he was among the Caesars. The Apostle Paul also bears witness, for he says to the Thessalonians: ‘Let him who now restraineth restrain, until he be taken out of the way; and then shall appear the Wicked One, even he whose coming is after the working of Satan, with signs and lying wonders.’ And that they might know that he should come WHO THEN WAS THE PRINCE, he adds: ‘He already endeavours after the secret of mischief’ – that is, the mischief which he is about to do he strives to do secretly; but he is not raised up by his own power, nor by that of his father, but by command of God.”
Victorinus here connects “the beast” from the book of Revelation with the Roman empire. He also links “the Wicked One” [a.k.a. the lawless one] with the person who was prince when Paul wrote (Nero), and who would follow his father (Claudius) to the throne just about two years later (in 54 AD).
On a humorous note, Dispensationalists often claim that the restrainer is the Holy Spirit, who will be taken out of the way when the Church is allegedly to be snatched away (in “the Rapture”) before a future 7-year Tribulation. This creates a dilemma, though, because Dispensationalism also says that there will be a revival during the Tribulation led by 144,000 Jewish evangelists. It’s impossible, however, that so many Jews, or anyone at all, could come to faith in Christ without the work of the Holy Spirit.
The lawless one, Paul said, would be killed by the appearance of Christ’s coming in vengeance (II Thess. 2:8): “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of His mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of His coming” (II Thess. 2:8). Is it significant that Paul used the expression, “the appearance of…”? Concerning this language, James Stuart Russell (in 1878) said:
“In this significant expression we have a note of the time when the man of sin is destined to perish, marked with singular exactitude. It is the coming of the Lord, the Parousia, which is to be the signal of his destruction; yet not the full splendour of that event so much as the first appearance or dawn of it… This evidently implies that the man of sin was destined to perish, not in the full blaze of the Parousia, but at its first dawn or beginning. Now what do we actually find? Remembering how the Parousia is connected with the destruction of Jerusalem, we find that the death of Nero preceded the event. It took place in June A.D. 68, in the very midst of the Jewish war which ended in the capture and destruction of the city and the temple. It might therefore be justly said that ‘the appearance, or dawn, of the Parousia was the signal for the tyrant’s destruction.”
Bringing Nero “to nothing” was no small thing. Nero began to persecute the Christians throughout the Roman Empire in November 64 AD, after using them as a scapegoat for the large fire which many believe he set himself. The methods he used to put the saints to death were especially vicious, cold-blooded, and inhumane (more details can be seen here). This intense persecution only ended when Nero committed suicide in June 68 AD with the help of his personal secretary. Thus he made war on the saints for a period of exactly 42 months (in fulfillment of Revelation 13:5-7; Daniel 7:21, 25), until he himself came to an end.
This is now the third post on Revelation 13. The first post looked at the first 10 verses in this chapter, showing that Nero fit the description of the first beast in the specific sense and that first-century Rome fit the description of this same beast in the general sense. In the second post, we were introduced to its main advocate, a second beast, and we considered four different views regarding the identity of this second beast. In this present post we will see more about the healing of the first beast’s mortal wound, the mark of the beast, and the fact of its identification with the famous “666” symbol.
Verse 12: We read again about the “mortal wound” of the first beast having been healed. Before examining what this might refer to, it’s good to remember that we have already seen that the first beast is manifested as both an individual (Nero) and an empire (Rome). Many Futurists gravitate only toward the idea of “the Antichrist” dying from an assassination attempt, but returning to life all the more demon-possessed. It’s often not considered that it could be the Roman Empire which survived, rather than the mortally wounded “head” (verse 3). In my 70 AD term paper, I presented two popular Preterist views regarding this healing, and I will again present these here. The following information can be found here (excerpts are in maroon-colored font):
The first possibility is that the wounded head did, in a sense, come back to life as Nero’s successors tried to keep his image, his policies, and his memory very much alive. It’s already been noted how far Vitellius went in deifying Nero in the eyes of the Roman populace. Vitellius, who reigned only eight months, was the third emperor to reign after Nero’s demise, before he was murdered. The first, Galba, reigned only six months and then was murdered. After him, Otho reigned four months before he committed suicide like Nero. It is said of Otho that he paid Nero “all public honors.”
The historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Zonaras affirm that after Nero’s death proclamations continued to be published in his name as if he was still alive, and that his image was frequently placed upon the rostra (large speaker’s platforms in Rome) “dressed in robes of state.” Even Jewish and Christian writers began to foretell that Nero was back from death as the dreaded Beliar demon. Paul Kroll (1999) adds the following details:
Nero committed suicide in June of AD 68. However, a rumor arose and persisted that he had not died but had fled across the Euphrates river to Rome’s arch-enemy, Parthia. It was said that one day Nero would return at the head of Parthian armies to destroy Rome. This became the so-called “Nero redivivus” myth. In fact, during the decades following Nero’s death, several pretenders did come forth claiming to be Nero (Tacitus, Histories 1.78; 2.8; Suetonius, Nero 57). By the turn of the first century a further twist was added to the Nero legend. It was said he would actually rise from the dead, return to Rome and seize the empire… This myth of Nero’s return so captured the popular fancy that it found its way into Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings. Here the triumphant Nero was sometimes even pictured as the antichrist (Ascension of Isaiah 4:1-14; Sibylline Oracles 4:119-124; 5:137-154, 361-374)…
Otho also allowed himself to be hailed as “Nero” or “Otho Nero,” and he used Nero’s name in official letters to provincial leaders as well as in official letters to Spain. He reinstated the procurators and other government officials who had ruled during Nero’s reign, and in many ways took on the persona of Nero (See Kenneth Gentry, pp. 309-309). Gentry also notes (p. 303), “In the pagan literature, references to the expectation of Nero’s return after his fall from power can be found in the writings of Tacitus, Suetonius, Dio Cassius, Xiphilinus, Zonaras, and Dion Chrysostom.”
A second possibility is that it was the beast in the form of the Roman empire which dramatically recovered from the mortal wound of one of its seven heads (Nero). This is in fact what happened in first century Rome. Upon Nero’s demise [in June 68 AD], the Roman Empire immediately fell into chaos and civil war… What followed was the “Year of the Four Emperors,” the reigns of Galba (six months), Otho (four months), Vitellius (eight months), and Vespasian (beginning in December 69 AD)…
Nero’s death by the sword is the type of mortal wound that John said the beast would receive (Revelation 13:12, 14). Richard Anthony (2009) and Kenneth Gentry (1998) postulate that the healing of this wound can perhaps be seen in what took place in the Roman Empire immediately following Nero’s death. Upon his death, the Roman Empire’s founding family suddenly had no representative. “The blood line that had given birth to, extended, stabilized, brought prosperity to, and had received worship from the Roman Empire was cut off forever” (Gentry, p. 311). The “Julio-Claudian House” became extinct. The empire was plunged “into civil wars of horrible ferocity and dramatic proportions” and Rome appeared ready to topple.
The general Vespasian pulled back from the wars he was committed to, including the siege on Jerusalem, because of the turmoil on his own home front. Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius all recorded that Rome at this time was brought near to utter ruin, with Josephus saying that “every part of the habitable earth under them [the Romans] was in an unsettled and tottering condition” (Wars 7.4.2). It wasn’t until Vespasian took the throne in December 69 AD, initiating the Flavian Dynasty, that stability was restored.
Verses 13-15: This second beast is said to perform great signs on behalf of the first beast, and in this way deceives “those who dwell on earth” (Israel).** The common people are compelled to create an image for the first beast (Rome) “that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” This particular activity would have taken place, then, between 68-70 AD. The details in View #3 and View #4 (see previous post) say much about what took place in the Roman empire, and also in Israel, during this time.
**[In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subjectbeginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]
Verses 16-17: Selling and buying was limited only to those who bore the mark, i.e. “the name of the beast or the number of its name.” David Clark comments, “This was to boycott or ostracize the Christians, and deprive them of the common rights of citizens, or the common rights of humanity. The pressure of economic distress was to be laid on them to compel them to conform” (Steve Gregg, p. 304). David Chilton adds, “Similarly [the Jewish leaders] organized economic boycotts against those who refused to submit to Caesar as Lord, the leaders of the synagogues ‘forbidding all dealings with the excommunicated,’ and going as far as to put them to death.” [Here Chilton partially quotes from Austin Farrer in his 1964 work entitled The Revelation of St. John the Divine (p. 157).] Richard Anthony (2009) speaks further of the allegiance required by Nero during his lifetime:
All those under the jurisdiction of Rome were required by law to publicly proclaim their allegiance to Caesar by burning a pinch of incense and declaring, “Caesar is Lord”. Upon compliance with this law, the people were given a papyrus document called a “libellus”, which they were required to present when either stopped by the Roman police or attempting to engage in commerce in the Roman marketplace, increasing the difficulty of “buying or selling” without this mark (emphasis added).
In the first post for chapter 13 we also saw a quote from C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines Jr., from their 1995 book entitled Doomsday Delusions, in which they said,
Megalomaniac that he was, Nero had coins minted in which he was called “almighty God” and “Savior.” Nero’s portrait also appears on coins as the god Apollo playing a lyre. While earlier emperors were proclaimed deities upon their deaths, Nero abandons all reserve and demanded divine honors while still alive (as did also Caligula before him, AD 37-41). Those who worshipped the emperor received a certificate or mark of approval – charagma, the same word used in Revelation 13:16 [the famed mark of the beast].
In verse 16, were John’s original readers meant to understand that the followers of the beast would receive a literal and visible mark on their hands or forehead? If so, then the two quotes above lend credence to the idea that such a thing occurred in Nero’s day. Or did the language John used primarily hearken back to classic Old Testament metaphors of the hand representing one’s deeds and the forehead representing one’s thoughts? Perhaps this is a reference to Moses’ instructions to the people of Israel that they were to bind the words of God “as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:8). Only, in this case, the apostate followers of the beast would not be symbolically marked with the words of God, but with their allegiance to the one who stood opposed to God and His people.
Verse 18: John appeals to the wisdom and understanding of the reader here, regarding the “number of the beast.” While the beast has so far been portrayed as an empire, it’s clear in this instance that the beast is also an individual, indicated by the words “it is the number of a man.”
Q: Did John expect his original audience to be able to calculate the beast’s number, and thus know his identity?
A: Yes, by the language he used, he clearly did. Therefore, it is good to re-emphasize the point that John was not referring here to a 21st century Antichrist.
Hank Hanegraaff agrees, as he remarked in his 11/21/2004 broadcast on Voice of Reason, “John is saying to his readers [living in his own generation] that with wisdom and understanding they could discern the number of the Beast and the number of his name. If, in fact, the Beast was not around at that time, he would have been giving them false information… The beast is singularly Nero” (Source). Steve Gregg comments (p. 302):
John obviously did not expect his readers who had understanding (v. 18) to have any difficulty in identifying the beast, since they could simply calculate the meaning of this cryptogram. Here using English characters, the Hebrew form of “Caesar Nero” is Nrwn Qsr (pronounced “Neron Kaiser”). The value of the seven Hebrew letters is 50, 200, 6, 50, 100, 60, and 200, respectively. The total is thus 666. This is the solution advocated by David S. Clark, Jay Adams, Kenneth Gentry, David Chilton, and most others [i.e. partial-preterists].
Most likely, the code utilized the Hebrew form rather than the Greek or Latin form of the name to avoid detection from Roman authorities, who would know both Latin and Greek, but not Hebrew. The readers of the book, however, knew considerable Hebrew, judging from the many symbols taken from the Old Testament and also John’s use of Hebrew words like Armageddon, amen, hallelujah, Satan (a Hebrew name, used in addition to the Greek word for devil), and Abaddon (in addition to its Greek counterpart Apollyon). The Hebrew language has exerted so great an influence over the writing of Revelation, in fact, that some scholars have even speculated that John originally wrote it in Aramaic (his native tongue and a cognate of Hebrew).
Don Walker concurs, saying, “Let us remember that John is writing from the isle of Patmos, where he has been imprisoned. This letter would have been, in all likelihood, carried off the island by Roman soldiers. John had to send his message in ‘code’ lest his captors understand his reference to the emperor. Instead of openly stating who the ‘Beast’ was, he left them a clue that every Hebrew could easily discern.” I also wrote the following in my term paper, here:
John revealed the identity of the beast to his readers in a coded manner, Richard Anthony (2009) says, using the system of Gematria which assigned numerical values to the alphabet: “John used this puzzle to reveal Nero without actually writing down his name. Remember, the early churches were being persecuted during this time—not only from the Jews, but also from the Romans.” The following chart shows the Hebrew letters in ‘Nero Caesar’ (NRWN QSR):
Don Walker also adds,
Another interesting factor to consider is what is called the “textual variant.” If you consult a Bible with marginal references you will find something quite intriguing. Regarding Revelation 13:18, your reference may say something to the effect: “Some manuscripts read 616.” The fact is that the number 666 in some ancient manuscripts is actually changed to 616… The difference surely is no accident of sight made by an early copyist. The numbers 666 and 616 are not even similar in appearance — whether spelled out in words or written in numerals. As textual scholars agree, it must be intentional.
A strong case has been made for the following probability. John, a Jew, used a Hebrew spelling of Nero’s name in order to arrive at the number 666. But when Revelation began circulating among those less acquainted with Hebrew, a well meaning copyist who knew the meaning of 666 might have intended to make its deciphering easier by altering it to read 616. It is certainly no mere coincidence that 616 is the numerical value of “Nero Caesar,” when spelled in Hebrew by transliterating it from its more widely familiar Latin spelling. Such a conjecture would explain the rationale for the deviation: so that the non-Hebrew mind might more readily discern the identity of the Beast.
The form Neron Kesar (1) is the linguistically “correct” Hebrew form, (2) is the form found in the Talmud and other rabbinical writings, and (3) was used by Hebrews in the first century, as archaeological evidence has shown. As F. W. Farrar observed, “the Jewish Christian would have tried [tested] the name as he thought of the name – that is in Hebrew letters. And the moment he did this the secret stood revealed. No Jew ever thought of Nero except as ‘Neron Kesar,’ and this gives at once . . . 666″ (The Early Days of Christianity, Chicago and New York: Belford, Clarke & Co., 1882, p. 540). Of some related interest is the fact that if Nero’s name is written without the final n (i.e., the way it would occur to a Gentile to spell it in Hebrew), it yields the number 616 — which is exactly the variant reading in a few New Testament manuscripts. The most reasonable explanation for this variant is that it arose from the confusion over the final “n.”
Kenneth Gentry (p. 205) quotes Robert H. Mounce, a Futurist author who says, “John intended only his intimate associates to be able to decipher the number. So successful were his precautions that even Irenaeus some one hundred years later was unable to identify the person intended.” Gentry rightfully notes the irony of Mounce’s statement, in that he admits that John’s original 1st-century audience knew who he was speaking about in Rev. 13:18, yet Mounce believes that John was prophecying about a figure who was to live some 2000 years later. In other words, Mounce would have us believe that John intended for his first-century readers to discern that the beast was (let’s say, for example) a 21st-century leader of the European Union.
The manuscript bearing the number “616” is almost non-existent today, but it was already a factor before Irenaeus lived (130-200 AD). Kenneth Gentry (p. 197) notes that in his work Against Heresies 5:30:1, Irenaeus writes regarding this matter:
I do not know how it is that some have erred following the ordinary mode of speech, and have vitiated the middle number in the name, deducting the amount of fifty from it, so that instead of six decads they will have it that there is but one. Others then received this reading without examination; some in their simplicity, and upon their own responsibility, making use of this number expressing one decad; while some, in their experience, have ventured to seek out a name which should contain the erroneous and spurious number.
The “Nrwn Qsr” rendering is the ancient Hebrew or Aramaic spelling of “Nero Caesar,” as attested to by the Talmud and other Rabbinical writings, says Gentry (p. 199). Being that John was primarily addressing believers who “were of Hebrew extraction,” his code of “666” appealed to this very rendering. The “616” variant was apparently copied this way intentionally by a well-meaning translator, who did so “by transliterating it from its Latin spelling” (p. 203). This does nothing to harm the theory that John meant “666” to refer to Nero, and in fact it serves to further confirm it. “Neron Caesar” written in Hebrew characters is equivalent to “666” and “Nero Caesar” in the Latin form is “616.” Nero’s identity is confirmed by both the common rendering as well as the obscure textual variant.
This is now the second post on Revelation 13. In the first post, which can be found HERE, we looked at the first 10 verses in this chapter. We saw that Nero fit the description of this beast in the specific sense, with his 42-month reign of persecution from November 64 – June 68 AD (vss. 5-7), with his death by the sword [even as he had used the sword to cause death] (verse 10), and with his demand for worship (vss. 4, 8). We also saw that first-century Rome fit the description of this beast in the general sense, with its identification as the fourth beast in Daniel’s similar vision (Daniel 7:1-8), and with the healing of the mortal wound suffered by one of its heads (vss. 1-3; cf. Rev. 17:7-10). In this post we will be introduced to its main advocate, a second beast.
A brief study on “the Antichrist”: This seems to be the first passage one thinks of when considering the person popularly known in American church culture as “the Antichrist.” Other passages which are rightly or wrongly said to speak of “the Antichrist” are II Thessalonians 2 (“the man of sin”), Daniel 9:24-27 (the 70 Weeks Prophecy), and Daniel 11:36ff. However, it’s most interesting to note that none of these passages even mention the term “Antichrist.” This term can only be found in two books, both written by John, but neither of them being the book of Revelation. Here are the passages where this term is found:  I John 2:18  I John 2:22  I John 4:3  II John 7.
In these passages, which hardly any Dispensationalist will go to in a discussion of the Antichrist, John makes the following points:  His readers had heard that “antichrist is coming.”  Many antichrists had come, indicating that it was the last hour (in John’s day).  Anyone who denies the Father and the Son, or that Jesus is the Christ, is “the antichrist.”  The “spirit of the antichrist” was in the world in John’s day, and was characterized as denying that Jesus is from God.  “The antichrist” is anyone who does not “confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” Such a person is a deceiver, and many such persons existed in John’s day.
B. The Beast from the Land—the Second Beast (Rev. 13:11-18)
Verses 11-12: We are now told of a second beast coming up “out of the earth.” Thus far in the book of Revelation it seems that references to “the earth” (or “land”) refer to the nation of Israel. Is this the case here?** Preterists are divided on this point, and on the identity of this second beast. There does seem to be consensus, though, that this second beast is one and the same with the “false prophet” spoken of in Rev. 16:13, 19:20, and 20:10. This second beast exercises the authority of the first beast (identified in the previous post as Nero). It does so “in its presence” (or “on its behalf,” as stated in a footnote in the ESV). It makes “the earth” (i.e. Israel) to worship the first beast. The following section will examine four different views regarding the identity of this second beast.
**[In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subjectbeginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]
VIEW #1 (The Roman Concilia/”Cult of the Emperor”): Steve Gregg comments (pp. 292, 294), “The most frequently encountered view [among preterists] suggests that this beast is a symbol for ‘the cult of the emperor,’ that is, that organized force within the [1st century Roman] empire that sought to enforce the worship of the Caesars. The second beast’s two horns like a lamb (v. 11) suggest a religious nature more than a political one.” David S. Clark and Jay Adams hold to this position, as did Ray Summers in his 1951 book entitled Worthy is the Lamb (Nashville, TN: Broadman Publishing, pp. 174-175). Summers identified the second beast as the Roman Concilia, a government entity whose job it was in ancient times to regulate all details related to emperor worship. This entity had the authority to impose economic sanctions on individuals who would not prove their willingness to worship the emperor.
VIEW #2 (A Jewish Leader/Governor): J. Stewart Russell, on the other hand, believes this beast must be confined to Israel because it comes “out of the earth.” For him, the reason the second beast has only two horns in contrast with the 10 horns of the first beast is because of its smaller “sphere of government” (pp. 294, 296). Says Russell, “He can be no other than the Roman procurator or governor of Judea under Nero, and the particular outbreak must be sought at or near the outbreak of the Jewish war.” Russell points to Gessius Florus, who was hands down the worst and most oppressive governor of the Jewish province, ruling from 64-66 AD. Josephus says he was also the primary cause for the Jewish revolt which led to the Roman-Jewish War of 66-73 AD. Russell acknowledges that Josephus and other historians don’t specifically record that Gessius Florus enacted “compulsory enforcement of homage to the emperor’s statue and the ascension of miraculous pretensions” (which we see in verses 12-17). But he adds that “the image of the beast is clearly the statue of the emperor.” Russell also notes that we know historically that “the test by which the martyrs [of this period] were tried was to adore the emperor, to offer incense before his statue, and to invoke the gods” (Steve Gregg, p. 298).
VIEW #3 (Judaism and Jewish Leadership): A somewhat alternative view is taken up by David Chilton, who, according to Steve Gregg, sees the second beast as representing “the Jewish religious system and leadership collectively as a false agent of God.” Chilton says,
The Jewish leaders, symbolized by this Beast from the Land, joined forces with the Beast of Rome in an attempt to destroy the Church (Acts 4:24-28; 12:1-3; 13:8; 14:5; 17:5-8; 18:12-13; 21:11; 24:1-9; 25:2-3, 9, 24)… The Book of Acts records several instances of miracle-working Jewish false prophets who came into conflict with the Church (cf. Acts 8:9-24) and worked under Roman officials (cf. Acts 13:6-11); as Jesus foretold (Matt. 7:22-23), some of them even used His name in their incantations (Acts 19:13-16).
Not only did the religious leaders reject their true King, they also pledged their allegiance to Rome. The book of Acts also tells of both Jewish false prophets who performed signs and wonders (e.g. Simon the Magician, Acts 8:9-24) through magic, and of the allegiance between Rome and Jewish false prophets and leaders. Both of these come together in Acts 13:6-11, where a false prophet and magician named Bar-Jesus is with the Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus, as well as Elymas the Magician. The role of the second beast was to point back to the first beast, working with the first beast against the Church. This is exactly what we see apostate Jewish leaders doing throughout the Gospels, and Acts. By the time of the Neronic persecution, this only intensified. So, just as the Roman Empire, under the rule of Nero, fits the description of the first beast, the apostate Jewish leaders who point away from the true King towards Rome and the Caesar fit into the description of the second beast. They were certainly “from the land,” worked in accordance with the Roman Empire, pledging allegiance to their “king,” and opposed the church. They also performed signs and wonders and were considered false prophets, just as the second beast is called throughout Revelation.
As noted in the previous post, even during the time of Christ, Israel as a nation had shown devotion to the Roman government (John 19:15 is probably the most blatant example). Kenneth Gentry also records that “since the times of Julius Caesar, Israel had benefited from certain special privileges from Rome that were not allowed to other of its subjects.” This included the ability of the Jews to gather freely for their special religious meetings, contrary to Roman policy (Josephus, Antiquities 14:10:8), and “to maintain its strict monotheism” (pp. 281-282). It’s quite likely that this relationship is what was symbolized by the harlot woman “sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns” (Rev. 17:3). The Jews enjoyed even more favor when Nero’s second wife, Poppaea Sabina, became intensely interested in Judaism.
Gentry adds, “The Jews responded to the favors of Rome…by offering ‘sacrifices twice every day for Caesar, and for the Roman people’” (Josephus, Wars 2:10:4; cf. Daniel 11:31, 12:11). This offering in honor of Caesar, however, was stopped in the summer of 66 AD, which Josephus says led to the Jewish-Roman War:
Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans: for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account: and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon.
VIEW #4 (Vitellius, Rome’s 9th Emperor): This is the view that I was personally leaning toward when I wrote a term paper a few months ago on Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. I now favor view #3 above, but I will post this excerpt anyway, especially because it says much about the level of worship that Nero demanded during his reign and the consequences for failing to do so. These details are excellent background, in any case, for Rev. 13:12-17. The excerpt which follows is taken from here:
Vitellius, the ninth emperor, [was very devoted] in his worship of Nero. It is said that he “greatly pleased the public by offering sacrifices to Nero’s spirit in the Campus Martius [Latin for Field of Mars, a 2 sq km public square in Rome], making all the priests and people attend.” These were his “funerary offerings to Nero” and this left “no doubt in anyone’s mind what model he chose for the government of the State” (Suetonius, Vitellius 11:2). The actions of Vitellius appear to fulfill what was written in Revelation 13:11-12 of a second beast, referred to later as the false prophet. This text states: “Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence [or on its behalf], and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.” Vitellius had such a rabid fascination with Nero that Vespasian had to “make a determined effort to check the growth of the Nero cult when he came to power.”
Paul Kroll (1999) writes the following about the prospect of Vitellius, or someone like him, fulfilling the role of the false prophet in Nero’s time:
The false prophet sends out a universal order to “set up an image in honor of the beast” (verse 14)… Strangely enough, the false prophet gives the inanimate image breath so that it can speak. Thus, the second beast has power to animate the image of the first beast. In the time Revelation was written, this was not an alien idea. The ancients believed that statues spoke and performed miracles. It was thought that the gods and demons used statues as conduits to communicate with humans and work miracles. For example, the heretic Simon Magus is said to have brought statues to life (Clementine Recognitions 3.47; Justin, Apologia 1.26; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.23). In ancient times, that was precisely the point of having idols. People thought that the life of the person or being was actually in the idol.
In their book, Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World (1999), the authors (Brown, Bowersock, Grabar) write about the common sight of images of Roman emperors in the third and fourth centuries. These images took prominent places throughout the empire and were literally worshipped. This was ordinary in the first century as well:
Those who beheld Constantine in his golden raiment were said by Eusebius to be “stunned and amazed by the sight—like children who have seen a frightening apparition.” But away from court and capital, emperors rarely appeared in person. In the provinces, their presence was represented by statues and other images. Municipal squares were dominated by imperial statues; the portraits of emperors hung in official buildings, shops, theaters, and public porticoes… In their range and variety, imperial images made emperors omnipresent…the crowd applauded not only the emperor but also his image as it was paraded around them, surrounded—like the emperor himself—by the imperial bodyguard… These mirror images of majesty not only made permanent the transitory messages of imperial ceremonial, but were designed to blur the distinction between emperors and their representations… [There was] a rigid insistence on the performance of the same rituals and ceremonies before imperial images as before the emperor himself. Those approaching an emperor’s statue were required to prostrate themselves “not as though they were looking at a picture, but upon the very face of the emperor.” A proper atmosphere of sanctity was to be maintained at all times (pp. 173-174).
As expected then, statues of Nero’s likeness already existed in the Roman Empire during his lifetime, even from early in his reign. In 55 AD, the second year of his reign, the Roman senate erected a statue of Nero in the Temple of Mars that stood between 110 and 120 feet high. “The emperor’s brow was crowned with rays, suggesting a comparison or identification with the Sun-god” (Kenneth Gentry, 2002). His portrait appeared on coins at the time as Apollo playing the lyre. “He appears with his head radiating the light of the sun on copper coins struck in Rome and at Lugdunum.” Even his mother, Agrippina, was hailed by provincial coins “as goddess and the parent of a god.” Inscriptions found in Ephesus called Nero “Almighty God” and “Savior,” and inscriptions found in Cyprus called him “God and Savior” (pp. 80-81). The behavior of the highly-revered Augustus Caesar (27 BC-14 AD) was very modest compared to the worship Nero demanded for himself. Dio Cassius writes of an incident in which a regional king was compelled to worship both Nero and his image. This occurred in 66 AD when Tiridates, King of Armenia, paid Nero a visit:
Indeed, the proceedings of the conference were not limited to mere conversations, but a lofty platform had been erected on which were set images of Nero, and in the presence of the Armenians, Parthians, and Romans Tiridates approached and paid them reverence; then, after sacrificing to them and calling them by laudatory names, he took off the diadem from his head and set it upon them…Tiridates publicly fell before Nero seated upon the rostra in the Forum: “Master, I am the descendant of Arsaces, brother of the kings Vologaesus and Pacorus, and thy slave. And I have come to thee, my god, to worship thee as I do Mithras. The destiny thou spinnest for me shall be mine; for thou art my Fortune and my Fate” (Gentry, p. 82).
“By this action this king actually worshiped ‘the image of the Beast’ (Rev. 13:15),” says Gentry. One senator, though, failed to worship Nero and his “Divine Voice,” and Dio Cassius records that he was executed: “Thrasaea was executed because he failed to appear regularly in the senate…and because he never would listen to the emperor’s singing and lyre-playing, nor sacrifice to Nero’s Divine Voice as did the rest.” Nero was even deified in Greece, where he spent a significant amount of time in 67 AD as a musician and actor in the Grecian festivals. There he was proclaimed as “Zeus, Our Liberator,” and his statue was set up in the temple of Apollo where he was called “The new Sun, illuminating the Hellenes.” When he returned to Rome in early 68 AD, the entire population was made to come out and greet him with these words: “Hail, Olympian Victor! Hail, Pythian Victor! Augustus! Augustus! Hail to Nero, our Hercules! Hail to Hero, our Apollo! The only Victor of the Grand Tour, the only one from the beginning of time! Augustus! Augustus! O, Divine Voice! Blessed are they that hear thee” (Gentry, p. 83).
All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.
 Futurists also tend to agree that the second beast functions in more of a religious role, while the first beast is political in nature.
 Edward Gibbon, a foremost authority on ancient Rome, asserts that Poppaea was one of the Jews’ “powerful advocates in the palace,” and that it was she who incited Nero to blame the Christians for the fire in Rome in July 64 AD. Source: Gibbon, Edward. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1. Page 459. Modern Library, New York.
This is now the eighth part in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. The first segment included the Title Page, Outline, Introduction, and a brief introduction to Partial-Preterism. The second segment consisted of the References page, and the third segment was a discussion of the external evidence for an early date for the writing of the book of Revelation. These segments can be found here:
We then turned to a discussion of the internal evidence for an early date. In Part 4 we discussed the inclusion of Jerusalem, the temple, Babylon the Great, and “a great city” in the book of Revelation. Part 5 dealt with the seven kings mentioned in Revelation 17:9-10 and the identity of the beast of the book of Revelation. Part 6 addressed Nero’s persecution of the saints and his prophesied demise. Part 7 spoke of the worship of Nero and the worship of his image even after his death. We also saw that the language used by John strongly indicates the relevance of the entire book of Revelation to the first-century Christians who were alive when he wrote this book. These posts can be found here: [Part 4], [Part 5], [Part 6], and [Part 7].
We will now examine the 70-Week Prophecy given to Daniel through the angel Gabriel, in two parts. In this first part, we will begin to discover that the historical view did not focus on a future Antichrist, but rather the focus was Jesus the Messiah.
Daniel’s 70-Week Prophecy (Part 1)
Earlier we saw that Clement’s statement regarding John’s banishment to Patmos makes it difficult to determine when he believes the book of Revelation was written. However, there is no doubt that he saw in the events of the Roman/Jewish War the fulfillment of the final week of Daniel’s 70-Week prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27). Dispensationalist Futurists hold that this final week (seven years) is still unfulfilled, and that the book of Revelation foretells the events which will take place during those seven years. Clement saw it differently:
From the captivity at Babylon, which took place in the time of Jeremiah the prophet, was fulfilled what was spoken by Daniel the prophet as follows: [Here he quotes Daniel 9:24-27 in its entirety.] …And Christ our Lord, “the Holy of Holies,” having come and fulfilled the vision and the prophecy, was anointed in His flesh by the Holy Spirit of His Father. In those “sixty and two weeks,” as the prophet said, and “in the one week,” was He Lord. The half of the week Nero held sway, and in the holy city Jerusalem placed the abomination; and in the half of the week he was taken away, and Otho, and Galba, and Vitellius [were also taken away]. And Vespasian rose to the supreme power, and destroyed Jerusalem, and desolated the holy place. And that such are the facts of the case, is clear to him that is able to understand, as the prophet said (Puritan Lad, 2008).
In his mind, Clement may or may not have tied the final week of Daniel’s 70-Week prophecy to the book of Revelation, as is often done by Dispensationalists and non-Dispensationalists alike. If he did, though, then by definition he was an advocate for Revelation’s early authorship, i.e. before 70 AD, because he clearly taught that Daniel 9:24-27 was entirely fulfilled by the end of the Roman/Jewish War. In any case, his view of Daniel 9 was certainly Preterist and, as we will see, so also was his view of Matthew 24 and other passages thought by Futurists to be unfulfilled.
It can be noted that nowhere in the book of Revelation is a 7-year period indicated, but a period of 3.5 years can be seen. The basis for a future 7-year Tribulation period within Dispensational thought is taken only from Daniel’s 70-Weeks prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27. Sam Storms (2006) speaks of the importance of this passage to Dispensationalist and Futurist theology when he says, “One could conceivably make an argument that apart from the dispensational interpretation of Daniel 9, these and related prophetic doctrines would lack substantial biblical sanction.”
The final week (i.e. seven years) will be initiated, Dispensationalists say, when the Antichrist makes a covenant with Israel. This is the current popular interpretation of verse 27, which states: “And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering…”). For this to happen, we are also told, the Jerusalem temple must be rebuilt and the sacrifices and offerings resumed. John Hagee, Benny Hinn, and others are willing to raise millions of dollars to see this happen, despite the blasphemous nature of such a venture in light of Christ’s work on the cross and also what happened in 70 AD.
This viewpoint does not appear to be the historic one. A number of the early church writers (like Clement) and also some of the reformers, in fact, did not see the “he” of verse 27 as referring to the Antichrist, but they insisted that this was a reference to Jesus. The covenant in view, then, was the New Covenant, made with many (Matthew 26:28, Mark 10:45, Mark 14:24). The first half of the final week was fulfilled in Jesus’ 3.5 year earthly ministry. The “end to sacrifice and offering” was achieved by Christ’s work on the cross, which was the ultimate sacrifice. Philip Mauro, a brilliant lawyer who spent years on the bar of the US Supreme Court, spoke of the centrality of Christ’s work on the cross in Daniel’s 70-Weeks prophecy in his 1921 book, The Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation:
No one will dispute that, when Christ suffered and died on the Cross, thus offering “one sacrifice for sins forever,” he then and there caused the sacrifice, and oblations of the law to cease as a divine appointment… Neither can there be any question that the removal of those sacrifices (which could never take away sins) was a great thing in the eyes of God, a thing so great and well-pleasing to Him, to warrant its having a prominent place in this grand Messianic prophecy. In proof of this important point we direct the attention of our readers to Hebrews, chapters 8, 9 and 10… The great subject of this part of Hebrews, as of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, is the Cross… And when we find, both in the prophecy (Daniel 9:27) and in Hebrews 10, that this setting aside of the sacrifices of the law is connected directly with the confirming of the New Covenant, we are compelled to conclude that the passage in Hebrews is the inspired record of the fulfillment of this Prophecy… This gives to the last week of the seventy the importance it should have, and which the prophecy as a whole demands, seeing that all the predictions of verse 24 depend upon the events of that last week. On the other hand, to make this last Week refer to a paltry bargain between Antichrist (or a supposed Roman prince) and some apostate Jews of the future, for the renewal (and that for a space of only seven years) of those sacrifices which God has long ago abolished forever, is to intrude into this great scripture a matter of trifling importance, utterly foreign to the subject in hand and to bring the entire prophecy to an absurdly lame and impotent conclusion (pages 30-32, emphasis added; Todd Dennis , 2009).
Ralph Woodrow in 1971 pointed out the significance of Christ’s ministry being 3.5 years long, in relation to the prophecy in Daniel 9:27a (Todd Dennis , 2009). He notes that Augustine and Eusebius recognized that Daniel had defined the exact length of Christ’s ministry, with Eusebius saying, “Now the whole period of our Saviour’s teaching and working of miracles is said to have been three-and-a-half years, which is half a week. John the evangelist, in his Gospel makes this clear to the attentive [by the mention of four Passovers during His ministry; John 2:13, 5:1, 6:4, 13:1].”
Understanding this, we can now see real significance in certain New Testament statements which also speak of a definite established time at which Jesus would die. For example, we read: “They sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come” (John 7:30). In John 2:4, Jesus said, “Mine hour is not yet come.” On another occasion, he said, “My time is not yet come” (John 7:6). Then just prior to his betrayal and death, he said, “My time is at hand” (Mt. 26:18), and finally, ‘”the hour is come” (John 17:1; Mt. 26:45).
These and other verses clearly show that there was a definite time in the plan of God when Jesus would die. He came to fulfill the scriptures, and there is only one Old Testament scripture which predicted the time of his death—the prophecy which stated that Messiah would be cut off in the midst of the 70th week—at the close of three and a half years of ministry! How perfectly the prophecy was fulfilled in Christ!
But those who say that the confirming of the covenant and causing sacrifices to cease in the midst of the 70th week refers to a future Antichrist, completely destroy this beautiful fulfillment and are at a complete loss to show where in the Old Testament the time of our Lord’s death was predicted.
The prophecy of Daniel 9 stated that Messiah would confirm the covenant (or would cause the covenant to prevail) with many of Daniel’s people for the “week” or seven years. We ask then, when Christ came, was his ministry directed in a special way to Daniel’s people —to “Israel ” (Dan. 9:20)? Yes!
A good article on the subject of Daniel’s 70th Week, which I didn’t reference here, is this one by Peter Cohen of Messianic Good News. Cohen focuses on how this prophecy concerned Christ’s incarnational ministry and work on the cross during His first coming, and notes the implications of saying that what Daniel prophesied will yet be fulfilled through some means other than the cross.
A chiasm is a literary structure long recognized as a way to emphasize ideas or concepts by placing them into a symmetric pattern, as they are recorded in a given literary work. Where they appear in the Bible, some have referred to them as the “fingerprints of God.” The chiastic structure of Daniel 9:25-27 is very interesting, as it makes clear that the Messiah is the “he” who confirms the covenant. William H. Shea, a historicist, notes the following chiasm in Frank Holbrook’s work*, “The Seventy Weeks, Leviticus, and the Nature of Prophecy“:
Another helpful chiasm of this same passage, including verse 24, can be seen here. It is shown as follows:
24 ” 7.) Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city,
6.) To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness,
5.) To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.
25 4.) “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem
3.) Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
2.) The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.
26 1.) “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;
2.) And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary.
3.) The end of it shall be with a flood,
4.) And till the end of the war desolations are determined.
27 5.) Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
6.) And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate,
7.) Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”
RED – The center of the chiasm , the apex of eternity , the cross.
GREEN – Above – God uses gentiles (Cyrus) to liberate nation for rebuilding city
Below – God uses gentiles (Romans) to decimate nation and destroy city
VIOLET – Above – Announces arrival of Messiah in Blessing
Below – Announces departure of Messiah in Judgment
BLUE – Above – Restoration commanded by God through man
Below – Desolation Determined by God through Messiah
PINK – Above- Anoint the High Priest who would be the sacrifice and offering.
Below – End sacrifice and offering
ORANGE – Above – Christ brings in everlasting righteousness and reconciliation
Below – Christ makes the city of the abominable unrighteous, desolate.
DARK RED – Above- 70 weeks of years determined for rebuilding and life
Below – The consummation of judgments determined for rejection.
In the following post, we will consider whether or not there was meant to be any gap at all between the 69th and 70th weeks in Daniel’s prophecy.
All parts belonging to this term paper on the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD can be found here.
*William H. Shea, “The Prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27”, in Holbrook, Frank. ed., The Seventy Weeks, Leviticus, and the Nature of Prophecy, 1986, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series, Vol. 3, Review and Herald Publishing Association; shown on Wikipedia in the following entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/70_weeks_prophecy