The 1000 Years and the Two Wars of Revelation 20 (Long Island Conference Presentation)


The weekend of March 23-25, 2018 I had the privilege of participating for the third year in a row at the Blue Point Bible Conference in Long Island, New York. The theme of this conference, which was hosted by Pastor Michael Miano, was “Examining Crossroads: Biblical Controversies.” As always, it was a great weekend of fellowship. learning, discussion, and being challenged.

The topic I presented about is certainly a controversial one: the “1000 years” of Revelation 20. It wasn’t too long ago that I was saying this is among the most difficult chapters in the Bible to understand. So it seemed surreal to find myself giving a presentation about it. I still have things to learn about this passage, and I welcome any feedback from those who read this post and/or watch the video. Here’s the video, along with my written notes (this video can also be viewed here):

Introduction

Only 10 verses (Revelation 20:1-10) are devoted to this topic of the 1000 years, more often called “The Millennium.” Although this topic has very limited exposure in Scripture, it has formed the basis of three major schools of thought: Premillennialism, Amillennialism, and Post-Millennialism.

Whether justified or not, all kinds of Biblical passages have been cited as parallels to this brief text in Revelation 20. These include the wolf and lamb dwelling together (Isaiah 11), descriptions of animal sacrifices in Ezekiel 43, and more.

The following are some beliefs about the 1000 years:

  • They are in our future and haven’t yet begun.
  • They began about 2000 years ago and continue to this day.
  • They began in the first century and lasted for literally and exactly 1000 years.
  • They began and ended in the first century, lasting for about 40 years.
  • They began during the days of Solomon, lasting exactly 1000 years and ending just before AD 70.

I’d like to offer one more option for your consideration. I believe that the 1000 years covered a period of about 60 years between roughly AD 70 and AD 132, that is, between the First Great Revolt (AD 66 – 73) and the Second Great Revolt led by Simon Bar Kokhba (AD 132 – 135). There are six things I want to focus on in explaining why I believe this is the correct timing for this prophecy:

[1] Rev. 19:17 – 20:3 describes the capture of the beast, the false prophet, and Satan. Two of them are cast into the lake of fire. Satan is not;

[2] Why Satan was bound and sealed, and how he deceived the nations to war twice;

[3] The timing of Christ sitting on His throne with His saints (Rev. 20:4; Daniel 7:7-11, 7:23-27; Matthew 19:27-28, 25:31; Rev. 3:21);

[4] The identity of those who reigned with Christ, and the connection between Rev. 20:4 and Rev. 13;

[5] The persecution of the saints in the beloved city, Jerusalem (Rev. 20:9);

[6] How Satan joined the beast and the false prophet (who were already) in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).

Before examining these points more in depth, here’s the text we’re looking at:

“Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.

And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Now when the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them. 10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:1-10, NKJV).

  1. The Capture of the Beast, the False Prophet, and Satan

Does Revelation 19 provide a direct setting for what we read in Revelation 20? In other words, do the events of Revelation 19 lead into the events of Revelation 20? Those who believe that the 1000 years ended before AD 70 would say they do not, but I believe they do. Of course, we should always keep in mind that originally there were no chapter divisions. Let’s take a quick look at the last three verses of Revelation 19. Here we see that the beast and the false prophet were captured and cast into the lake of fire, and their followers were killed and fed to the birds:

And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Rev. 19:19-21).

I believe that the next three verses (Rev. 20:1-3) flow chronologically from this text. There we see that Satan was captured and sealed in a pit for 1000 years. In other words, these six verses (Rev. 19:19 – 20:3) are all about the capture of the major players in the war against Christ and the saints. It was Satan who gave his power, throne, and authority to the beast (Rev. 13:2) as he made war, and it was the beast who worked closely with the false prophet in that war (Rev. 13:11-17). I believe Revelation 19:17 – 20:3 describes the capture of the beast, the false prophet, and Satan in AD 70-73. This was then followed by the 1000 years (Rev. 20:4-6).

  1. Why Satan Was Sealed

Revelation 20:3 states that the purpose for sealing Satan in a pit for 1000 years was “so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while.” This phrase “no more” indicates that he had already been deceiving the nations for some time. In Revelation 12:9, we see the same thing:

So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

This is written in the present tense: “deceives.” So both Rev. 12:9 and Rev. 20:3 indicate that, when John received his visions around AD 65, Satan had been deceiving the nations for some time. This creates great difficulty for the view that the 1000 years ended around AD 66, which would mean that Satan had been bound and restrained from deceiving the nations prior to AD 66. Instead, we see in Rev. 12 and Rev. 20 that Satan had been deceiving the nations and he came down with great wrath (Rev. 12:9) and soon gave his power, throne, and authority to the beast (Rev. 13:2) who made war (Rev. 13:4-7).

A survey of the rest of the New Testament also does not seem to show that Satan was bound in a bottomless pit from AD 30-66. Instead he was “walking around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Believers who went astray could be delivered “to Satan for the destruction of the flesh” (I Cor. 5:5). As the god of that age, he had blinded many minds (II Cor. 4:4). He frequently transformed himself into an angel of light, and his ministers were deceiving people by pretending to be ministers of righteousness (II Cor. 11:13-15). Multiple times Satan hindered Paul from coming to the Thessalonians (I Thess. 2:18). And many had turned aside to follow Satan (I Tim. 5:15). In any case, it seems impossible to reconcile Satan being bound in a bottomless pit and freely walking around like a roaring lion at the same time.

In Romans 16:20, Paul wrote that “the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20). It’s said that the book of Romans was written during the winter of AD 57-58. This again sounds like a church that was fighting against the schemes of Satan. It also doesn’t sound like something Paul would say if Satan was presently bound in a bottomless pit at that time.

In Rev. 20:7-10, we see that after the 1000 years Satan would be released to once again deceive the nations just as he did before the 1000 years. This time, though, his time of deception would be brief. Rev. 20:3 calls it “a little while” or “a little season.” His purpose for deceiving them was “to gather them together to battle” (verse 8). Was that his purpose in deceiving the nations the first time as well? I think it was.

I personally believe that when Revelation 20:1-3 says that Satan would be bound “so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished,” this was especially a reference to how Satan had deceived the nations in preparation for the First Great Revolt of 66-73 AD. This deception was described in the first 19 chapters of Revelation. The nations he deceived to go to war during the First Great Revolt included Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Idumea, and Perea. He also deceived Jews throughout the diaspora who continued to take their marching orders from Jerusalem (Rev. 17:15).

In Rev. 20:1-3 John was told that Satan would be bound for a long time from continuing that deception, but that he would be loosed to do it again after the 1000 years (Rev. 20:3b, 7-10). I believe he was released just before the Second Great Revolt of AD 132 – 135). I believe that, just as he gave his power, throne and authority to the leaders of the First Great Revolt (i.e. the Zealots) from AD 66 – 73, he was released just in time to back the Second Great Revolt as well. Of course, both revolts ended in great failure for the Jews. In summary, I believe that Satan deceived the nations to war at the time of both great Jewish revolts; and that he gave his power, throne, and authority to the leaders of both great revolts.

  1. The Timing of Christ Sitting On His Throne with His Saints

Revelation 20:4 is not the first place in Scripture where we read about thrones being set in place for Jesus and His saints. Previous examples include Daniel 7:7-11 and 7:23-27, Matthew 19:27-28 and 25:31, and Revelation 3:21. These passages show thrones being set up when the beast is defeated, Jesus returns in judgment, and the saints receive the kingdom.

Daniel 7:7-11 shows that thrones were set in place at the time of the slaying and burning of Daniel’s fourth beast. As I’ve written elsewhere on this site, I believe the beast was captured and slain in AD 70. At this time “thrones were put in place” and “The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9-10). This is again confirmed in Daniel 7:23-27 where it’s said that the fourth beast, 10 horns, and a little horn would persecute the saints for 3.5 years, change times and the law, and would be defeated. At this time the saints received the kingdom (verse 27) and a court was seated (verse 26).

In Matthew 19:27-28, we read this: “Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.’”

In Matthew 25:31, this is what we read: “When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.”

In Revelation 3:21, Jesus says the following to the church at Laodicea: “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” This letter was delivered to the saints around AD 65, so it was still future to them.

The point in bringing up these five passages is this: How could the 1000 years end before AD 70 if that was the time when Jesus came with His angels and sat on the throne of His glory? On the other hand, these passages show the coming of Christ and the resurrection taking place first, and then the saints inheriting the kingdom and sitting with Christ on thrones with judgment committed to them. Sitting on thrones marked the beginning of the 1000 years, according to Revelation 20:4. This fits an AD 70 timeline but not an AD 30 timeline.

  1. The Identity of Those Who Reigned with Christ

In Revelation 20:4 we see the identity of the saints who reigned with Christ for 1000 years. There’s a bit of a difficulty at first because it says “they sat on them” (thrones) without first saying who “they” is. However, after this initial statement, special (even exclusive) attention is given to those who “had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.” This description is taken directly from Revelation 13:11-17, where the second beast works closely with the first beast to make war on the saints for 42 months (AD 66-70).

This is probably the biggest reason why I cordially disagree with a number of other preterists who teach that the 1000 years began around AD 30. I feel they would need to demonstrate that the 42-month reign of the beast took place prior to AD 30 (and I’m not aware of anyone holding this position). I believe Revelation 20:4 clearly shows the 1000 years beginning after the beast’s reign, since the participants of the 1000 year reign are those who refused to worship him and take his mark.

This verse tells us that the way those saints were martyred was by being beheaded. On this site I’ve been developing a series explaining why I believe the beast was Israel, especially under the leadership of the Zealots. Josephus wrote quite a bit about the Zealots cutting the throats of those who wouldn’t follow their war agenda. Since they used swords, this very well could mean that they beheaded their enemies. The Zealots had the upper hand until the siege began in April AD 70. After this, they were hunted down and killed until the war ended in AD 73.

And I saw the souls of those… And they lived and reigned with Christ for 1000 years.”
AD 66-70 AD 70 – 132
Revelation 13 Revelation 20
he who kills with the sword” (Rev. 13:10); “He was granted power to…cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed” (Rev. 13:15) who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God” (Rev. 20:4)

 

and they worshiped the beast” (Rev. 13:4); “and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast” (Rev. 13:12; see also verse 15) who had not worshiped the beast or his image” (Rev. 20:4)
And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads…” (Rev. 13:16-17). and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands” (Rev. 20:4)

A few months ago, Doug Wilkinson gave what I thought was a good explanation for why Rev. 20:4 shows that the 1000 years couldn’t have begun before AD 70. He referenced “the common Full Preterist paradigm where the millennium is in the first century between the cross and the destruction of the temple” and added:

“In the Transmillennial FP position, the millennium ends before the mark of the beast is issued. And, since the martyrs of 20:4 were killed for not taking the mark, that means those martyrs aren’t killed until after the millennium. That means the only people who are explicitly said to be in the millennium are actually excluded from it” (Doug Wilkinson, Rethinking Eschatology Facebook group, November 22, 2017).

In summary, those who reigned with Christ for 1000 years were beheaded during the Jewish-Roman War of AD 66-73, having overcome the beast by refusing to worship him and take his mark. They were rewarded by reigning with Christ. This does not fit the idea of the 1000 years beginning in AD 30, but it does fit the idea of the 1000 years beginning around AD 70.

  1. Persecution of the Jerusalem Saints

Rev. 20:7-10 describes what happens after the 1000 years are over. In verse 9 we see that the deceived nations “surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.” This language suggests a targeted persecution against Christians living in Jerusalem, and indeed that’s what happened during the Second Great Revolt led by Simon Bar Kokhba. Before looking at a quote about that, though, let’s look at the background of that war.

Following the First Great Revolt (AD 66-73), there was a period of relative peace in the region for about 60 years. Although Jerusalem lay in ruins, this period was marked by a Christian presence in the area. This relates to the well-known story about the followers of Christ who fled from Judea to Pella just before the Jewish-Roman War began in AD 66. The story of their flight was told by early church leaders including Eusebius (AD 263-339), Epiphanius (AD 315-403), and Remigius (AD 437-533) – and perhaps also by Josephus (Wars 2.14.2, 2.20.1). They obeyed the words of Jesus (Matthew 24:15-21, Mark 13:14-19, Luke 21:20-23) and were protected in the wilderness for 3.5 years (Revelation 12:14). See this post for more details on that story.

In the book, “The Secret Legacy of Jesus” (2009), Jeffrey Butz writes that a number of Christians returned from Pella and rebuilt a Christian meeting place where the Upper Room (Acts 1:12-14) had been (p. 146). According to Eusebius and Hegesippus (AD 110-180), the person who led them to Pella and then back to Jerusalem was Symeon the son of Clopas. Who was Symeon? He was the first cousin of Jesus (John 19:25). He was also the second bishop of Jerusalem, who was appointed to that position when the first bishop, James (Acts 15:13), was martyred in AD 62 (Antiquities 20:9.1). [In the video, I mistakenly said that his martyrdom was recorded in Acts 12, but I had the wrong James in mind when I said that.]

Beginning with Symeon, the cousin of Jesus, there were 14 bishops of the church in Jerusalem between the two Great Revolts. They were (1) Symeon, AD 62-107; martyred during the time of emperor Trajan (2) Justus (3) Zacchaeus (4) Tobias (5) Benjamin (6) John (7) Matthias (8) Philip (9) Seneca (10) Justus (11) Levi (12) Ephre (13) Joseph (14) Judas.

Symeon is mentioned in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 as one of Christ’s brothers (and also referred to in I Corinthians 9:5). However, The Pulpit Commentary gives a good explanation for why he was believed to be Jesus’ cousin rather than His brother. See this recent post for more details about Symeon and this period of church history. Since it was Symeon who led most of the Christians from Jerusalem to Pella in AD 66, it makes sense that he continued as the bishop of the church in Jerusalem when many of them returned after the war.

The Jewish historian, Gedaliah Alon, wrote that the Roman emperor, Hadrian (AD 117-138), took notice of this church when he visited Jerusalem in AD 130:

“Another early Christian chronicler, Alexander the Monk, writing probably around the middle of the ninth century, says: ‘When (Hadrian) went to the Holy City and saw it in ruins, except for one small Christian church, he gave orders that the whole city be rebuilt, save for the temple. When the Jews heard of this they streamed thither from every direction, and before long the whole city was rebuilt. But once again an evil spirit entered into them and agitated them, and they rebelled against Rome. They set over themselves a commander called Bar Kokhba’” (“The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age [AD 70-640], 1980, p. 446; quoting from Alexander Monachus, De Inventione Sanctae Crucis, p. 87, III, 4044-4045, published in 1620).

Notice the description of an evil spirit entering the Jews who crowded into the city. It was only two years after Hadrian’s visit and his order to rebuild Jerusalem that the Second Great Revolt began. The leader of the war, Simon Bar Kokhba, was a Zealot who claimed to be the Messiah. Robert Travers Herford (1860-1950), a British scholar of rabbinical literature, wrote:

“A century after the death of Jesus another man appeared, Simeon Bar Cocheba, who openly claimed to be the Messiah. He was a Zealot and most of the Pharisaic leaders did not admit his claim. But the greatest of them at the time, Rabbi Akiba, publicly hailed him as the Messiah” (Herford, Judaism in the New Testament Period [London: The Lindsey Press, 1928], p. 217).

The Jewish history site, Livius, says:

“According to the Christian church historian Eusebius (c.260-c.340), Simon claimed to be a luminary who had come down to the Jews from heaven (History of the church 4.6.2). On some of his coins and in his letters, he calls himself ‘Prince’ (Nasi), a word that had very strong messianic connotations (cf. Ezekiel 37.24-25 and several Qumran documents)… he was usually called Bar Kochba (son of the star), which again is a messianic claim. Some miracles were attributed to him: there were reports that he had been seen spewing out flames…

The revolt was clearly religious in nature. The rebels were convinced that this was the apocalyptic war that had been predicted by prophets like Daniel and Zechariah. Their coins show a star on top of and the Ark of the Covenant inside the Temple; the legend is written in archaic Hebrew letters. Some coins were struck with the legend ‘Eleazar the priest’, which strongly suggests that a new high priest was elected…

Simon was so successful, that the emperor Hadrian was obliged to dispatch his best generals to suppress the rebellion. Julius Severus, the governor of Britain, was one of them… Three legions were deployed… No less than seventeen auxiliary units are known to have fought in Palestine… New reinforcements were sent…. For the first time in more than a century, the Romans suffered from manpower shortage; two senators started to conscript Italian boys…

Very few Jews…survived. Fifty of their most important outposts and 985 better known villages were razed to the ground. 580,000 were killed in the various engagements or battles. As for the numbers who perished from starvation, disease or fire, that was impossible to establish… The Romans resorted to terrible atrocities to win the war. Bodies were left unburied for several years (text). There are three reports that children were wrapped in Torah scrolls and burned alive… When [the Romans] brought [Simon’s] head to the emperor Hadrian, he said: ‘If his God had not slain him, who could have overcome him?’”

Some of the coins that were minted under Simon’s rule depicted a Jewish temple and the words, “To the freedom of Jerusalem.” It was a repeat of the First Great Revolt. Simon “eventually mustered an army of almost 350,000. In the ancient world that was an enormous army, greater in number than the entire Roman army.” Even non-Jews joined him, hoping to overthrow the Roman Empire (source). This fact may be a fulfillment of Revelation 20:8, which says that the number of those who came to battle was “as the sand of the sea.”

Even though the emperor Hadrian did not permit the temple to be rebuilt along with the city of Jerusalem (AD 130-132), there’s evidence that a temple was rebuilt during the revolt (AD 132-135). Randall Price included seven pieces of evidence for this short-lived temple in his 1999 book, “The Coming Last Days Temple” (Source):

  1. A passage in the Sibylline Oracles (5:414-417, 420-422) may suggest this possibility.
  2. A Midrash (Exodus Rabbah 51:5) indicates that Hadrian entered the Holy of Holies which would not have been possible without a rebuilt temple.
  3. The seventh-century Byzantine historian known as Chronicum Paschale records that “Hadrian tore down the Temple of the Jews in Jerusalem” in his History of the Jews.
  4. A fourth-century Roman emperor Julian in his Fragment of a Letter to a Priest, in A.D. 362 records: “What have they [the Jews] to say about their own temple, which was overthrown three times and even now is not being raised up again?” [emphasis added]
  5. Coins minted by Bar Kokhba bear an image of the Holy Temple—an unusual practice for Jews if the Temple had not existed.
  6. Evidence of the resumption of the sacrificial system (Sanhedrin 11b) following the Second Temple’s destruction.
  7. Archaeological measurements of the elevated platform upon which the Dome of the Rock are said to indicate dimensions commensurate with the Messianic Temple of Ezekiel rather than the dimensions of the second Temple. Since Bar Kokhba was proclaimed as Messiah and Messiah was expected to build Ezekiel’s Temple, then perhaps the platform is the remains of the Temple of Bar Kokhba.

According to JewishHistory.org, Simon had the support of most Jewish Rabbis, unlike in the First Great Revolt. The most influential rabbi was Akiva ben Joseph:

“It was Rabbi Akiva who ascribed to Shimon bar Kochba the famous messianic verse: “A star will shoot forth from Jacob” (Numbers 24:17). That is how he got the name “Kochba,” which means “star.” In essence, Rabbi Akiva crowned him the Messiah. Rabbi Akiva was so widely respected among the people that if he saw in Shimon messianic qualities then the people immediately elevated him to the level of the Messiah. The helps us understand very well why the Christians would take no part in the war; it would have made one messiah too many.”

Justin Martyr (AD 100-165) gave the following account about the targeting of Christians in Jerusalem during the Second Great Revolt:

“During the recent Jewish War, Bar Cochba, the leader of the revolt of the Jews, had the order issued against Christians that, if they did not deny and defame Jesus Christ, they would be led away to suffer the most severe punishments” (Apol 1.31.6; Eusebius, HistEcc 4.8.4; quoted in Martin Hengel, The Zealots, p. 300).

There was apparently a new Sanhedrin court during the revolt, which had the authority to execute Christians who refused to blaspheme Christ, acknowledge Simon as king, and join his rebellion against Rome. A book titled, “Rabbi Akiva’s Messiah,” tells the stories of five Christian men who went on trial before this Sanhedrin and were executed for holding firm to their faith in Christ. Whatever the fire was that came down from God (Rev. 20:9), it seems clear that it devoured those who “surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city” in order to prevent the Jerusalem church from being entirely devoured. It seems this was accomplished when the Romans prevailed over Simon’s great army.

So the Second Great Revolt involved a brief revival of several things that had been mostly or entirely absent from Jewish history since the First Great Revolt:

  • The temple
  • A Sanhedrin
  • The Zealot movement
  • Persecution against Christians
  1. Satan Joins the Beast and False Prophet in the Lake of Fire

In Rev. 20:10 we read, “And the devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are…” The language used in this verse suggests that, when Satan was cast into the lake of fire, the beast and the false prophet were already there.

The beast and false prophet were key characters in the Jewish-Roman War, and were cast into the lake of fire during that war (Rev. 19:20). We can notice that the end of Rev. 19 does not record Satan being cast into the lake of fire along with them. Instead, at that time he was cast into the bottomless pit for “1000 years.” Then he led another disastrous war, and only then did he join the beast who he previously empowered (Rev. 12:9, 13:2).

The progression of this story (Rev. 19:17 – 20:10) and the language used in Rev. 20:10 fit well if the beast and false prophet were destroyed in the First Great Revolt (AD 66-73), Satan was sealed in the bottomless pit at the time of the First Great Revolt. Then 65 years later Satan was cast into the lake of fire after his final brief reign of deception during the Second Great Revolt.

Beast and False Prophet Satan
AD 70-73 Defeated and cast into the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20) Bound in the bottomless pit (Rev. 20:1-3)
AD 132 Released from his prison (Rev. 20:7)
AD 135 cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are” (Rev. 20:10)

A Final Thought

There’s a short passage in Rev. 10:1-4 which has puzzled many of us. John heard “seven thunders utter their voices,” but when he was about to write what they said a voice told him, “Seal up the things which the seven thunders uttered, and do not write them.” Did John hear details about the Second Great Revolt, but because that time was more than 65 years away, those details were sealed? I’m not sure, but it’s a thought. I’ll look forward to your feedback about this and anything else presented here.

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Here’s a 2-page PDF handout that I gave to those who attended the conference:

Why I Believe the 1000 Years Existed Between the Two Great Revolts

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Who Was the Beast? (Five Clues) – Long Island Conference Presentation


On March 25th I had the privilege of speaking for the second year in a row at the Blue Point Bible Conference in Long Island, New York. The theme of this conference, which was hosted by Pastor Michael Miano, was “Revelation Revealed.” It was a great weekend of fellowship, learning, encouragement, and discussion. I was also very glad to be able to bring my wife, Jasmine, along with me this year. My presentation revolved around five clues from the book of Revelation about the identity of the beast. Here’s the video, along with my written notes:

Introduction

The topic that I’m discussing is one that appears in eight out of 22 chapters in the book of Revelation. More space is given to this topic than to the harlot, the two witnesses, New Jerusalem, etc. So this topic is a key part of what John wanted to communicate to his first century readers. This topic is “the beast.”

In John’s day, the consequences for following the beast were very heavy, but the blessings for overcoming the beast were also very great. We see this contrast in Revelation 14 and 15, where one group received the full strength of God’s wrath and fiery torment, while the other group had the privilege of standing on the sea of glass and singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb:

Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name’” (Rev. 14:9-11).

I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested’” (Rev. 15:2-4).

So there’s no doubt that the beast was a great enemy to the church, but who was this enemy? Was this enemy Roman? Or was it Jewish? Whoever or whatever it was, there are details about the beast in Daniel 7, and Revelation 11, 13 – 17, and 19 – 20 which all need to be reconciled. These details include:

  • 10 horns on the beast
  • a little horn coming up among the 10 horns
  • three horns that fell before the little horn
  • the little horn persecuting the saints for 3.5 years and changing time and law
  • a second beast that works very closely with the first beast
  • seven heads of the beast
  • a wounded head
  • the dragon, beast, and false prophet working together to gather people to a great battle
  • the beast and false prophet cast into the lake of fire

This presentation won’t cover all these details, but see the “Glossary of Terms” at the end of this article for some more details.

In my studies over the last six months or so, I’ve come to some very different conclusions than those I used to hold about the beast. Beginning in 2009, I believed that the beast was Rome (generally) and Nero (specifically). I did have unanswered questions, especially when it came to Daniel 7 and Revelation 19, but I kept those questions on the back burner. When I finally brought those questions to the forefront, I came to realize that Rome and Nero didn’t fit the visions that Daniel and John had about a beast that would oppose God’s people.

I’ve been putting together a series on this subject in chronological order, moving from Daniel 2 into Daniel 7 and on to Revelation 11, Revelation 13, and to the other chapters which at least mention the beast. In this presentation, though, I’d like to highlight certain pieces of evidence which I believe show that the beast was Israel, and in particular the Zealot movement in Israel that captured the loyalty of so many Jews in the first century. I’ve come to believe that the beast of Revelation wasn’t about emperor worship and persecuting those who wouldn’t worship the emperor Nero. Instead it was about:

  • extreme nationalism
  • idolizing and worshiping the kingdom of Israel
  • the persecution and killing of those who wouldn’t follow the war agenda of the Zealots and the Sicarii
  • a strong rejection of Jesus’ message that His kingdom isn’t of this world
  • a strong rejection of the Prince of Peace and His call to be peacemakers
  • clinging to Mount Sinai, the Jerusalem below, and the kingdom that could be shaken instead of embracing Mount Zion, the Jerusalem above and the kingdom that couldn’t be shaken (Galatians 4:21-31 and Hebrews 12:18-29)

Five Clues About the Beast’s Identity

In this presentation we will analyze five passages in Revelation in an effort to understand the beast’s identity:

1. The fifth bowl was poured out on the beast (Revelation 16:10-11).
2. The beast was given to the burning flame (Daniel 7:11; Revelation 19:20).
3. Who was killed by the sword AND went into captivity (Revelation 13:10)?
4. Who destroyed and burned the harlot (Revelation 17:16)?
5. How did the two beasts relate to “those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 13:3-15)?

1. The Fifth Bowl Poured Out on the Beast (Revelation 16:10-11)

The first piece of evidence I’d like to discuss has to do with the fifth bowl judgment. Here’s how Revelation 16:10-11 describes the pouring out of the fifth bowl:

Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. And they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.”

Notice that this bowl is poured out on the beast’s throne and kingdom. I want us to consider this fact in light of an observation that a number of preterist teachers and websites have rightfully made. That observation is that the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls were opened, sounded, and poured out on 1st century Israel (Judea, Samaria, Galilee). For example, in the book, “Four Views on The Book of Revelation,” by Stanley Gundry and C. Marvin Pate, Kenneth Gentry represents the preterist view. He says this on page 72:

“John turns his attention to further judgments on the land [of Israel] by means of the three woes (14:6-21) and the seven bowls (chaps. 15-16).”

Kenneth Gentry, of course, is well-known for his books and DVDs which teach that the beast was Rome and Nero. I don’t mean any disrespect to him, but he contradicts himself here when he says that [1] all seven bowl judgments were for Israel and [2] Rome was the beast, and yet Revelation 16:10 says that the fifth bowl was to be poured out on the throne and kingdom of the beast. I used to be inconsistent on that point as well.

There are several reasons why it’s valid to say that Israel was the target of the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls. I’ll list two of them:

  • Concerning the seven bowls, Revelation 16:1 shows that their target is “the earth,” otherwise translated as “the land,” that is, the land of Israel (I’ll discuss this translation pattern more when we look at Revelation 13). Here’s what verse 1 says: “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth’” (or ‘on the land’). So there was a specific land that the seven bowls would be poured out upon, and that land was Israel.
  • In Leviticus 26:18-28 God repeatedly warned Israel that a time would come when they would be punished “seven times” for their sins, as God would execute the vengeance of His covenant (verse 25). It’s no coincidence that the covenant imagery of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) appears in the opening of the seventh seal, the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the pouring out of the seventh bowl (e.g. thunder, lightning, an earthquake, loud sounds, and smoke/fire).

Those seven-fold judgments of Leviticus 26 were reserved for Israel alone. They weren’t for both Israel and Rome. So it follows that when the fifth bowl judgment was poured out “on the throne of the beast,” it was Israel, not Rome, which experienced that darkness and pain. It was Israel that represented the kingdom of the beast. If the fifth bowl was poured out on Rome, then the bowls were only a six-fold judgment on Israel and “a one-fold judgment” on Rome, but that’s not the case. Leviticus 26 was completely, not partially, fulfilled.

Revelation 16:11 says that “pains” and “sores” would come upon the people who lived in the beast’s kingdom, and implies that further judgment would come upon this kingdom for refusing to repent. During the Jewish-Roman War did people throughout the Roman Empire experience “pains” and “sores,” or did this happen to the people of Israel? When we read Josephus’ descriptions of civil war, famine conditions, dead bodies lying unburied, etc., it’s easy enough to understand that Israel was plagued by “pains” and “sores” during that time, and this was especially true in Jerusalem. It was Israel that refused to repent, and it was upon Israel that more judgments were heaped.

2. The Beast Was Given to the Burning Flame (Daniel 7:11, Revelation 19:20)

The second point I’d like to bring up is the language of Daniel 7:11 and Revelation 19:20. Here’s what these two verses say:

“…I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11).

Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20).

If the Roman Empire was the beast of Revelation, how was this empire captured, slain, destroyed, burned, and cast into the lake of fire? Rome actually came out of the Jewish-Roman War (AD 66 -73) stronger than ever. History tells us that Rome was stronger in the second century AD than it was in the first century AD.

Someone might say that this applied to Nero, who is said to be the beast in a singular sense. Nero was indeed killed – with his own sword, but he was not captured and he was not burned. Nor did he go down at the same time as any false prophets who worked with him.

Furthermore, Revelation 19:21 suggests that it was the followers of the beast and the false prophet whose flesh was consumed by the birds. This further confirms that it was Israel that was captured, slain, destroyed, and burned – as we can see in great detail in “Wars of the Jews” by Josephus.

3. Who Was Killed by the Sword AND Went Into Captivity (Revelation 13:10)?

On a related note, in Revelation 13:10 we see a prophecy about the ultimate fate of the beast, and this prophecy was to be a comfort to the saints who were under persecution. John writes: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”

Some Romans were certainly killed in the Jewish-Roman War, but the end result was victory for Rome. On the other hand, there were mass casualties for Israel, the Zealots, and the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem from many nations but got trapped in the city when the siege began in April AD 70.

It’s important to take note of the first part of this verse: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity…” The Romans took people captive, but were they themselves taken captive? No, they weren’t. The Jewish Zealots also took people captive, especially their fellow Jews who wouldn’t go along with their war agenda. Were the Zealots themselves taken captive? Yes, they were. This prophecy was about them.

To point out a couple examples, the Zealot leaders John Levi of Gischala and Simon Bar Giora were both taken captive by the Romans in August or September AD 70, and both were humiliated in a parade all the way to the city of Rome. John was sentenced to life in prison and Simon was executed as “the general” of the revolt. See Wars 6.9.4, Wars 7.2.2, Wars 7.5.3, Wars 7.5.6.

4. Who Destroyed and Burned the Harlot? (Revelation 17:16)

Revelation 17:16 predicted what the 10 horns of the beast would do to the harlot:

And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

The harlot, of course, was the city of Jerusalem. As we see in Revelation 17:18 and elsewhere, the harlot was also called “the great city.” And when “the great city” was first mentioned in Revelation 11:8 it was said to be the place “where our Lord was crucified,” i.e. Jerusalem. So let’s consider how the writings of Josephus answer three details in this verse:

1. Who made Jerusalem desolate?
2. Who ate her flesh?
3. Who burned her with fire?

Was it Rome, or was it Israel under the Jewish Zealots? Josephus addressed all three of these questions repeatedly. For example, in Wars 5.1.1, 5 Josephus said that when the Zealots attacked the people of Jerusalem in February/March AD 68, this was the beginning of the city’s destruction. He also said that the Zealots were “like a wild beast grown mad” that was “eating its own flesh” and tearing the city into pieces:

“Now as to the attack the zealots made upon the people, and which I esteem the beginning of the city’s destruction, it hath been already explained after an accurate manner; as also whence it arose, and to how great a mischief it was increased. But for the present sedition, one should not mistake if he called it a sedition begotten by another sedition, and to be like a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh… And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces.”

Josephus also said in Wars 5.6.1 that the Romans showed more kindness to Jerusalem than the Zealots did:

“…for they never suffered any thing that was worse from the Romans than they made each other suffer; nor was there any misery endured by the city after these men’s actions that could be esteemed new. But it was most of all unhappy before it was overthrown, while those that took it [i.e. the Romans] did it a greater kindness for I venture to affirm that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition, which it was a much harder thing to do than to destroy the walls; so that we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people, and the just vengeance taken on them to the Romans…”

FIRE

So Josephus lays the blame upon the Zealots for Jerusalem’s destruction and also says that the Zealots consumed Jerusalem like a beast eating its own flesh. What about Jerusalem being burned with fire? In Wars 5.4.4, Josephus described how a number of key buildings in Jerusalem were burned and destroyed at the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War by “the robbers” and the “internal plotters,” meaning the Sicarii and the Zealots:

“But indeed it is not possible to give a complete description of these palaces; and the very remembrance of them is a torment to one, as putting one in mind what vastly rich buildings that fire which was kindled by the robbers hath consumed; for these were not burnt by the Romans, but by these internal plotters, as we have already related, in the beginning of their rebellion. That fire began at the tower of Antonia, and went on to the palaces, and consumed the upper parts of the three towers themselves.”

Before the Roman general, Titus, arrived and began the siege of Jerusalem in April AD 70, Josephus pointed out that John Levi and Simon Bar Giora, two main Zealot leaders, had already burned down “all the places” around the temple:

“[They] attacked the city also; as if they had, on purpose, done it to serve the Romans, by destroying what the city had laid up against the siege, and by thus cutting off the nerves of their own power. Accordingly, it so came to pass, that all the places that were about the temple were burnt down, and were become an intermediate desert space, ready for fighting on both sides of it; and that almost all that corn was burnt, which would have been sufficient for a siege of many years. So they were taken by the means of the famine, which it was impossible they should have been, unless they had thus prepared the way for it by this procedure” (Wars 5.1.4).

Then notice in Wars 4.6.3 what Josephus said they did to the temple itself:

“…these Zealots occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their country. For there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews and their own hands should pollute the Temple of God. Now, while these Zealots did not disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment.”

So Josephus said that the Zealots were the instruments by which the temple was burnt. To confirm this, here’s what Titus said in his speech to the Zealots soon after the temple burned down:

“When I came near your temple, I again departed from the laws of war, and exhorted you to spare your own sanctuary, and to preserve your holy house to yourselves. I allowed you a quiet exit out of it, and security for your preservation; nay, if you had a mind, I gave you leave to fight in another place. Yet have you still despised every one of my proposals, and have set fire to your holy house with your own hands” (Wars 6.6.2).

In Wars 6.2.9, Josephus described how the Jews started the fire in the temple. At one point, they even let the fire spread on purpose, believing that it would give them an advantage:

“[T]he Jews were so distressed by the fights they had been in, as the war advanced higher and higher, and creeping up to the holy house itself, that they, as it were, cut off those limbs of their body which were infected, in order to prevent the distemper’s spreading further; for they set the north-west cloister, which was joined to the tower of Antonia, on fire, and after that brake off about twenty cubits of that cloister, and thereby made a beginning in burning the sanctuary; two days after which, or on the twenty-fourth day of the forenamed month, [Panemus or Tamuz,] the Romans set fire to the cloister that joined to the other, when the fire went fifteen cubits farther. The Jews, in like manner, cut off its roof; nor did they entirely leave off what they were about till the tower of Antonia was parted from the temple, even when it was in their power to have stopped the fire; nay, they lay still while the temple was first set on fire, and deemed this spreading of the fire to be for their own advantage. However, the armies were still fighting one against another about the temple, and the war was managed by continual sallies of particular parties against one another.”

After this a Roman soldier set fire to a window of the temple which ultimately led to the fire getting out of control and the temple burning to the ground. According to Josephus, the fire had already been started by the Zealots in the inner court of the temple, and they had even fought against those who tried to put the fire out:

“…now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of the ages: it was the tenth day of the month Lous, [Av,] upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them; for upon Titus’s retiring, the seditious lay still for a little while, and then attacked the Romans again, when those that guarded the Holy House fought with those that quenched the fire that was burning in the inner court of the Temple; but these Romans put the Jews to flight, and proceeded as far as the Holy House itself. 

At which time one of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the Holy House, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward the Jews made a great clamour…” (Wars 6.4.5).

10 HORNS

How do we identify the 10 horns that John said would hate the harlot? Among those who say that the beast was Rome, I’ve generally seen the explanation that they were the 10 Senatorial Provinces of the Roman Empire. However, as far as I’m aware, neither Josephus nor the Roman historians of that time period (e.g. Tacitus, Suetonius, Dio Cassius) ever said that those provinces assisted Titus in the siege of Jerusalem. Instead, Titus came with four legions (Wars 5.1.6).

The idea that the 10 horns were Roman provinces (or any land territories at all) really falls apart when we take note that Daniel 7:24-25 says that a little horn would arise and persecute the saints for 3.5 years AFTER the 10 horns arise. That little horn also had “eyes like the eyes of a man” (Daniel 7:8), which sure sounds like a human. So I believe the 10 horns were people rather than provinces, in the same way that the two horns of the ram in Daniel 8:20 were identified as “kings of Media and Persia” and the four horns on the goat (Daniel 8:8, 22) turned out to be four generals of Greece after the death of Alexander the Great.

Here’s my proposal about the 10 horns of the beast described in Daniel 7:7-8, 20-25 and Revelation 17:3, 7, 12-17. In December AD 66, Israel’s war effort was placed into the hands of exactly 10 generals (Wars 2.20.3-4). This decision was made after the Jews’ shocking victory over Cestius Gallus in late November AD 66. The Jews only lost a few men in that short battle, but they killed nearly 5,800 Romans (see Wars 2.19) in addition to the Romans they had already slaughtered at Masada and the Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem. They knew it was only a matter of time before the Romans returned with a full-scale retaliation, and they needed to prepare.

Daniel provides a detail about the 10 horns which John never mentions in the book of Revelation. According to Daniel 7:8, 20, 24 three of the 10 horns would be “plucked out,” would fall, and would be subdued by a little horn. I believe those three horns were [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea, and [3] Joseph ben Gorion, who were among the 10 original generals. They were killed by the Zealots and the Idumeans during the Zealot siege of February/March 68 AD, and their deaths are recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1.

Were they later replaced? Josephus was one of those 10 generals, and he was captured by the Romans (Wars 3.8.8) only about a year into the war. So at least four of the generals needed to be replaced if Israel’s war effort was to remain in the hands of 10 generals. In any case, John spoke as if the same 10 horns worked together until the harlot was consumed and burned with fire, but Daniel said that three out of the 10 horns would be removed. So this is a point of difficulty regardless of how a person identifies the beast (as being Roman, Jewish, etc.).

There is evidence, though, that the Zealots chose leaders as they pleased. Josephus said in Wars 4.4.1 that the Zealots seized the power of the government during the Zealot siege of February/March AD 68 and that they “presumed to appoint governors as they themselves pleased.”

5. How Did the Two Beasts Relate to “Those Who Dwell on the Earth” (Revelation 13)?

According to Revelation 13:8, 11-12, 14-15, the beast would be worshiped by all who dwelt “on the earth.” This expression, “on the earth,” can also be translated as “in the land,” i.e. the land of Israel. In the following verses, please notice that the expression “those who dwell on the earth” appears four times:

(Verse 8) “And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

(Verses 11-12) “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.”

(Verses 14-15) “And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived. He was granted to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.”

I want to briefly give some background on this expression (“on the earth” or “in the land”) before explaining why this is so significant when it comes to the identity of the beast and the close partnership between the two beasts that we see in Revelation 13. There are two Greek words that are typically translated as “earth” or “world” in the New Testament. These words are “ge” and “kosmos.”

Dr. Jonathan Welton has shown that “kosmos” appears in Revelation only three times, even though John used this word 57 times in his gospel account and 17 times in I John. Dr. Welton explains that this word “refers to the entire globe, the entirety of planet earth, and the heavens.” On the other hand, the word “ge” appears in Revelation 67 times (i.e. 22 times more often than “kosmos”). Dr. Welton says that this word “refers to a localized inhabited civilization or the land of a particular nation.”

Source: Dr. Jonathan Welton

John’s books Number of chapters in each book Number of times John uses the word “kosmos,” meaning the entire planet Number of times John uses the word “ge,” meaning a specific land
The Gospel According to John 21 57 3
I John 5 17 1
II John 1 1 0
III John 1 0 0
Book of Revelation 22 3 67

This pattern was already established in the Old Testament, where a word which is often translated as “earth” meant “a specific land” rather than the planet. This pattern can be seen especially in the book of Isaiah. Thomas Ice, a Dispensationalist Futurist, acknowledged this in a 2008 article published in the Pre-Trib Research Center. He pointed out that the phrase “earth dwellers” appears about 50 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, and that “the overwhelming majority of times…it is rightfully translated as ‘land dwellers’ or ‘inhabitants of the land’ since the context references a localized area of land or country like Israel.”

Probably the clearest example of the word “ge” in the New Testament as a local (not global) reference is in Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21:23). There, Jesus is clearly speaking about Judea, yet some Bible versions translate this word as “earth,” while others translate it as “land”:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are 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 these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:20-23).

If you do a study of the various New Testament passages which use the word “ge,” you’ll find that one Bible version consistently translates this word as “land” instead of “earth,” and that’s (Robert) Young’s Literal Translation. You can also see this in the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Albert Marshall.

In 1876 a book was published by the Biblical scholar, Alfred Edersheim, and was titled, “Sketches of Jewish Public Life.” Alfred wrote about the significance of the phrase “the land” to the Jewish Rabbis of the first century. “Palestine,” he said, “was to the Rabbis simply ‘the land,’ all other countries being summed up under the designation of ‘outside the land’” (p. 14). About 20 years before Edersheim’s book was published, P.S. Desprez made the following remarks in his 1855 book, “Apocalypse Fulfilled” (p. 13):

“[When the phrase ‘on the earth’ appears in the book of Revelation] in connection with the governing clauses ‘they that dwell’… Then they have, and can have, only one meaning; then they refer only to one land and to one people, and this land and this people must be the land and the people of Judea.

This exact phrase (“those who dwell on the earth”) is found in 10 verses in the book of Revelation (3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8, 13:12, 13:14, 14:6, 17:2, and 17:8). Here’s where we come back to why this is so important when looking at Revelation 13 and the close relationship between the two beasts. Four of these 10 instances are in connection with the beast (the verses in bold font above), and three of them are in Revelation 13 (verse 8, twice in verse 12, and verse 14). Revelation 13 speaks of two beasts, one that rises up out of the sea and one that comes up out of the earth (land). What we see is that both beasts demanded worship and loyalty from “those who dwell in the land,” and one beast acted as an enforcer for the other.

It’s very significant that all the activity described in Revelation 13 was centralized in Israel. According to verse 3, all the land followed the beast. According to verse 4, they also worshiped the beast and said, “Who is able to make war with him?” I believe this describes the response after the Zealots kicked the Romans out of Masada and Jerusalem in August/September AD 66, and after they achieved victory over Cestius Gallus and his army in November AD 66. The second beast, described in verses 11-17, was later called “the false prophet” (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). According to verses 11-14, that beast exercised authority in the presence of the first beast, causing the people in the land of Israel to worship him, to make an image to him, etc.

A number of preterist authors have identified the first beast as Rome/Nero and the second beast as the religious leaders of Israel. In other words, the implication would be that religious leaders in Israel forced the people of Israel to give their loyalty and worship to Rome and to Nero. However, this is simply not possible. There was an extremely anti-Roman climate in Israel, especially once the Zealots took over. Anti-Roman feelings were already strong in Israel before the war, but they were the only feelings that the people were allowed to have once the war began. Josephus repeatedly described the Zealots killing anyone whom they even suspected of wanting peace with Rome.

In Wars 2.19.4, Josephus said this about Jerusalem in November AD 66: “Now as for the people, they were kept under by the seditious.” Clearly, then, Jerusalem was under the control of the Zealots and already off-limits to the Romans by that time. So any 3.5 year period featuring a deep partnership between Rome/Nero and false prophets from Israel would have ended by AD 66 (even earlier actually), and therefore would have begun by at least AD 62. However, there was no such time period, and preterists don’t even look for any time period as early as that to fulfill the 42 months of Revelation 13, as far as I’m aware.

I would like to submit that Revelation 13 describes a partnership between the Zealot movement (the first beast) and the false prophets in the land (the second beast). Let’s look at a few examples from the works of Josephus to see what this partnership looked like.

Jewish False Prophets Working with the Zealots

In Antiquities 20.8.6 Josephus wrote the following about numerous false prophets who deceived the Jews during the time of the Procurators Felix (52-58 AD) and Festus (59-62 AD):

“These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God. And many that were prevailed on by them suffered the punishments of their folly; for Felix brought them back, and then punished them. Moreover, there came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives…”

In Wars 2.13.4-6 Josephus wrote about various false prophets and deceivers who worked to persuade the people to revolt against the Romans and who killed those who refused to revolt:

“There was also another body of wicked men gotten together… These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretense of Divine inspiration, but were for procuring innovations and changes of the government; and these prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, as pretending that God would there show them the signals of liberty…

for a company of deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those that continued in obedience to the Roman government, and saying, that such as willingly chose slavery ought to be forced from such their desired inclinations; for they parted themselves into different bodies, and lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war.”

In Wars 6.5.1-2 Josephus talked about how, when the temple was burned down, the number of people killed in that blaze was especially high because so many people listened to the words of a false prophet. Josephus also revealed that this false prophet was one of many false prophets who had been hired by the Zealots to control the people and keep them from fleeing from their control:

“A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. Now there was then a great number of false prophets suborned [hired] by the tyrants to impose on the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God; and this was in order to keep them from deserting” (Wars 6.5.2).

Limitations of Nero’s Persecution

Some may ask, “Well, what about Nero’s persecution?” Revelation 13:5-7 says that the beast would have authority for 42 months (3.5 years) and would “make war with the saints” and overcome them. Didn’t Nero persecute Christians for 3.5 years, beginning in AD 64? Let’s quickly look at what historians say about why Nero persecuted Christians, where this persecution took place, and for how long it took place.

The Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote that Nero punished Christians in Rome in order to “get rid of the report” that he had ordered Rome to be burned. Tacitus only mentions this happening in the city of Rome, but not elsewhere in the empire:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace… Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind” (Tacitus, Annals 15).

So Tacitus said that Christians in Rome were persecuted for “hatred against mankind” and as scapegoats for arson. This was an entirely different cause for persecution than what John saw taking place in Revelation 13:15. There John saw that persecution and death came from refusing to worship the image of the beast.

The “Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 6” says that Nero’s persecution of Christians “does not seem to have extended through all the provinces [of the Roman empire], but rather to have been restricted to Rome and the surrounding country” (p. 956). On the other hand, John saw persecution happening to those who were dwelling in the land (i.e. of Israel), carried out by the second beast (false prophet) that came up out of the land, and taking place in the presence of the first beast (verses 11-14).

Again, it’s quite impossible to imagine the false prophets from the land demanding that the people of Israel worship Nero, and sentencing to death those who refused, when those same people came under the tight control of the fanatically anti-Roman Zealots in AD 66, less than two years after Nero’s persecution began. (There was a heavy anti-Roman climate in Israel even well before AD 66, and Jews were killed for feeling otherwise before AD 66 as well.)

Another resource, “A Critical Study of the Sources of the History of the Emperor Nero,” written by John Nicholas Henry Jahn, notes that Nero’s persecution may not have lasted even two years. This is because Nero left Rome in late AD 66 and went to Greece, where he remained for more than a year (pp. 14-15). Jahn also agreed that it “is not likely that Nero ordered the persecution to be extended to the provinces” of the Roman Empire (p. 15).

So various sources indicate that Nero’s persecution, as severe as it was, did not match the motive, location, or duration spoken of in Revelation 13:5-8. It also needs to be pointed out that Daniel 7 shows the little horn of the beast persecuting the saints for 3.5 years all the way up until the very time that the kingdom would be stripped from that beast and given into the hands of the saints. This does not suggest that the persecution stopped in AD 68 when Nero died, but rather that it stopped when Israel was stripped of the kingdom (Matthew 21:43-44) at the time of the Roman siege of Jerusalem in April – September AD 70.

Revelation 20:4 elaborates on Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 by saying that those who refused to worship the beast and receive his mark were beheaded. Quite a number of times, Josephus spoke of the Zealots cutting the throats of Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere, especially those who talked about peace, showed disloyalty to their cause, or whom they suspected of wanting to escape to the Romans. The phrase “cut their throats” could very well mean beheading since the Zealots used swords and not just knives. Examples of this throat cutting from the fall of AD 66 through the summer of AD 70 can be seen in Wars 2.18.3, 4.4.3, 4.5.3, 4.6.3, 5.1.5, 5.8.1, and 5.10.1.

Conclusion

Among preterists, it appears that there has been a shift when it comes to the man of lawlessness of II Thessalonians 2. It used to be taken for granted that this man was Nero. In the Sibylline Oracles, dating to the end of the 1st century AD or the early 2nd century AD, Nero was depicted as the man of lawlessness of II Thessalonians 2:3-4 (Oracle 5, James Eason, “Nero As the Antichrist”). In the 4th century AD, Augustine, in his book “The City of God” (XX.19.3), also wrote that many thought Nero was the man of sin of II Thess. 2.

Now, however, a number of writers have concluded that the man of lawlessness was a Jew, one of the Zealots. I would like to suggest that this same shift is justified when it comes to the beast of Revelation.

Several early church fathers (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, St. Jerome, Augustine) seemed to hint that Nero was the beast of Revelation, but didn’t say it directly (source). From what I’ve seen, there were four different authors around the 1830s who were the first to directly say that Nero was the beast. Then this idea gained momentum with the publishing of “The Parousia” in 1878 by J. Stuart Russell, who shared this idea in his book. In any case, I’m hoping that a more critical analysis will be applied to the identity of the beast as some have done regarding the man of sin.

Takeaways

The primary message and agenda of the Zealots was war. They persecuted those who threatened that agenda or wouldn’t go along with it. The Zealots stood in total opposition to the message of Jesus, the new covenant, and the kingdom of God. They were determined to maintain, build, and spread their own kingdom. They were extreme nationalists, but ironically they destroyed their own nation and region fighting for that ideal.

The vision of the Old Testament prophets for the new covenant age was one of peace. That was true for the 1st century church during the Jewish-Roman War, and it’s true for the church now in the year 2017. Are there “beasts” even now trying to get us to follow some type of war agenda? How about the Christian Zionist movement with its open calls for war with Iran and any other perceived “enemies of Israel”? How about voices outside of Christianity, and unfortunately inside of Christianity as well, that want us to fight against refugees, Muslims, liberals, or other groups? N.T. Wright said this in his book, “Mark for Everyone” (p. 152):

“The word ‘brigand’ in Jesus day wasn’t a word for “thief” or “robber” in the ordinary sense, but for the revolutionaries, those we today would call the ultra-orthodox, plotting and ready to use violence to bring about their nationalist dreams. Part of Jesus’ charge against his fellow Jews was that Israel as a whole had used its vocation to be a light for the world as an excuse for a hard, narrow, nationalist piety and politics in which the rest of the world was to be not enlightened but condemned” (Source).

Let’s be careful not to go down the same type of path. Let’s be the peacemakers that Jesus called us to be.

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Glossary of Terms

(These are my suggestions. Please feel free to personally investigate these things.)

The beast: Judea/Israel and later Zealot-led Israel; referenced in Daniel 2, 7; Revelation 11, 13-17, and 19-20

A beast from the land: the false prophets (collectively) who worked with, and on behalf of, the Zealots/Sicarii; this beast was later called “the false prophet”; referenced in Revelation 13:11-17, 16:13, 19:20, and 20:10

10 horns: initially 10 Jewish generals chosen to lead Israel’s war effort (Wars 2.20.3-4) soon after the Jews’ surprising victory over Cestius Gallus in November AD 66 (Wars 2.19); later some of them were replaced as the Zealots pleased (Wars 4.4.1); referenced in Daniel 7:7, 20, 24; Revelation 13:1; 17:3, 7, 12-14, and 16-17

Three horns fell: [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea [3] Joseph ben Gorion; deaths recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1; referenced in Daniel 7:8, 20, 24

A little horn: most likely Eleazar ben Simon, Zealot leader from late AD 66 until April AD 70 whose headquarters was the temple, including the inner court; this person: [A] came up among the 10 horns [B] plucked out three of the first horns [C] had a mouth speaking pompous words [D] made war against the saints [E] was different than the other 10 horns [F] would “intend to change times and the law [G] and prevailed against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints; referenced in Daniel 7:8, 11, 20-22, and 24-27

Seven heads: the family dynasty of “Hezekiah the Zealot” (killed in 47 BC), who Josephus called “the head of the robbers” (Wars 1.10.5); included “Judas the Galilean” (Acts 5:35-37), his three sons, his grandson (Menahem), and Eleazar ben Jairus (Menahem’s cousin), who led the final rebel holdout at Masada until AD 73; referenced in Revelation 13:1, 3; 17:3, 7, and 9-11

Wounded head: Menahem, the seventh head who only continued “a short time” (Revelation 17:10); in late August AD 66 he raided Herod’s armory at Masada, “returned to Jerusalem in the state of a king”, “became the leader of the sedition” (Wars 2.17.8), led the massacre of the Roman garrison at Jerusalem’s Antonia Fortress, and was killed a month later; Menahem is recognized as a Messianic figure; his sudden death was a great blow to the Zealot cause because he was their top leader and it happened so soon after the war began; referenced in Revelation 13:3, 12

Deadly wound healed: two months after Menahem’s death the Zealots defeated the armies of Cestius Gallus, and their followers rejoiced and came to believe they could defeat Rome; another Messianic figure, Simon Bar Gioras, emerged as a hero of that war, became a “king” (Wars 4.9.4), took possession of Jerusalem (Wars 4.9.12, Wars 5.7.3), and was “the general” of the war (Wars 7.5.1-7); referenced in Revelation 13:3, 12

The saints persecuted for 42 months: approximately late fall AD 66 – spring AD 70; this persecution was carried out and/or supervised by the little horn up until the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom; referenced in Daniel 7:21-27; Revelation 13:5-7

No one may buy or sell: The Zealots minted their own coins beginning in AD 66 to represent their independence from Rome and discontinued the use of other coins in Jerusalem, at Masada (60 miles away), and perhaps elsewhere; some were labeled “For the Redemption of Zion”; referenced in Revelation 13:17

Two witnesses: Ananus ben Ananus and Jesus ben Gamaliel, two former high priests who led a peace movement in opposition to the Zealots until they were killed during the Zealot Temple Siege of February/March AD 68; they had “the mastery” over those who opposed them (Wars 4.5.2) until the time came for them to be killed; their bodies remained unburied in the streets of Jerusalem; they were killed the day after a great earthquake; their enemies rejoiced over their deaths; referenced in Revelation 11:3-13

For a more detailed study on the beast of Revelation, please see my series titled “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel,” which is being developed here.

Long Island Conference: What WAS the Purpose of the End Times? (Part 2)


Yesterday I posted a video of a presentation I gave at Blue Point Bible Church last weekend as part of a conference on “the end times.” The theme of the conference was two-fold:

  1. What was the purpose of the end times?
  2. How do we walk worthy of the kingdom of God?

Yesterday’s post (Part 1) included my notes on the first half of the video where I addressed the first question, tracing John’s pattern of referencing the imagery of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) throughout the book of Revelation (e.g. 4:5, 8:5, 11:19, and 16:18; 1:6 and 12:14). John did this to show that “the end times” and “the last days” were bringing about the final transition from the old covenant age to the new covenant age during the first century AD.

This post (Part 2) includes the notes I used in the second half of my presentation, where I looked at Revelation 21:1 – 22:5 as a blueprint for how to walk worthy of God’s kingdom in the New Jerusalem. This part of the presentation begins around the 29:30 mark of the video.

[Revelation 21:2] New Jerusalem is God’s holy city, pictured as a bride.

  • This is not the first time that the people of God in Christ are pictured as a city.
  • Jesus said His people are a city set on a hill, the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
  • The author of Hebrews told his readers that they had already “come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” (Heb. 12:22).
  • This was Isaiah’s prediction as well: “Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 60:14).

[Rev. 21:3] God dwells with His people, He’s with them, and He’s their God.

  • This fulfills a prophecy made by Ezekiel: “Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Ezekiel 37:26-27).
    • Don’t let anyone tell you that this isn’t true for the followers of Christ right now just because this was addressed to “the house of Israel.” We are the house of Israel, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16), because Jesus is true Israel and we are Israel with Him (Galatians 3:16, 29).
  • These truths are also repeated in Ezekiel 43:7, 48:35; II Corinthians 6:16, and elsewhere.

[Rev. 21:9] John sees the New Jerusalem as a bride, the Lamb’s wife.

  • He contrasts the bride with the harlot of Rev. 17, old covenant Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8).
  • Paul also contrasted two women in Galatians 4:21-31, where he portrayed one woman in slavery representing the old covenant and a free woman representing the new covenant.
  • Note the comparisons and contrasts in the following passages:
  1. Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’”
  2. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’
  1. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wildernessand I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”
  2. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountainand showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

In Rev. 17:3, it’s likely that John was taken to a wilderness because it was in a wilderness that God established the old covenant with the Israelites. In Rev. 21:10, perhaps John was taken to a great, high mountain because of what God said He would do in the last days of the old covenant age:

Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it” (Isaiah 2:2, Micah 4:1).

[Rev. 21:12-13] The new Jerusalem has a high wall with 12 gates, bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel; three gates each on the east, north, south, and west sides.

  • Isaiah 60:18, Ezekiel 48:30-35, Matthew 8:11, and Luke 13:29 depict the kingdom of God as a city with walls facing each direction, or with people entering in from all directions.
  • Sam Storms once made these comparisons between the writings of Ezekiel and John on this subject:

Ezekiel is taken to a high mountain by angel and sees a city (40.1-3). John is taken to a high mountain by an angel and sees a city (21.10). The first thing Ezekiel sees is the wall (40.5) that surrounds the city. The first thing John sees is the wall surrounding the city (21.12). The first gate Ezekiel sees is the ‘east gate’ (40.6). The first gate for John is the ‘east gate’ (21.13)… The City has ‘living waters’ in Ezekiel 47.1-ff. So does John (22.1-ff)…

 -Sam Storms, “A Reconstruction of the Millennium”

[Rev. 21:14] The city’s foundations bear the names of the 12 apostles.

  • This is strikingly similar to what Paul wrote to believers in Ephesus: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).

[Rev. 21:15-18] The new Jerusalem in John’s vision is cube-shaped, as was the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple (I Kings 6:20). The holy of holies was overlaid with pure gold, and the holy city in John’s vision is also entirely made of pure gold.

[Rev. 21:19-21] The foundations of the city walls are covered in precious gems.

  • This fulfills Isaiah 54:11-12 (“O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones”).
    • Paul clearly affirms that Isaiah 54 is about the church (Galatians 4:27).
  • These precious stones may represent all the spiritual blessings we are equipped with and enjoy today in Christ.

[Rev. 21:22-23] Jesus is the temple and the light of this city.

  • There is again evidence that John is drawing heavily from Isaiah 60, or at least receiving identical revelation to what Isaiah received, as they both describe the body of Christ: “The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory” (Isaiah 60:19).

[Rev. 21:24] The nations of those who are saved walk in the light of this city.

  • “The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising” (Isaiah 60:3).
  • “The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you…” (Isaiah 60:10).
  • The body of Christ is richer when we fellowship with believers from various nations, cultures, races, and backgrounds.
  • It’s never been easier to do that than now, with instant, worldwide communication through Facebook, with the ability to travel halfway around the world in one day, with a melting pot of cultures here in our cities, etc.
  • The walls of the city of God are built up and strengthened as the people of God from different nations mingle, share with, help, and bless one another.

[Rev. 21:25-26] The gates of the city are never shut; the glory and honor of the nations come in.

  • “Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you… Therefore your gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 60:5, 11).

[Rev. 21:27] Only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life enter this city.

  • “Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified” (Isaiah 60:21).

[Rev. 22:1] A pure, clear river of water of life flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

  • “And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur” (Zechariah 14:8).
  • “Jesus answered and said to [the Samaritan woman at the well], ‘Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life’” (John 4:13-14).
  • “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:37-38).
  • “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

[Rev. 22:2] On both sides of the river is the tree of life, which bears different fruit each month. The leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. See Ezekiel 47:1-12.

  • Futurist eschatology says that Jesus will return in our future and there will be no more sin, suffering, etc., and that’s when Rev. 21-22 is fulfilled.
  • This picture in Rev. 22:2 shows the nations in need of healing. That time is right now, and we are the channels for that healing.

Recent Article in the Gospel Herald

Here is an example of Christ’s followers using leaves from the tree of life to heal the nations:

“Syrian refugees who fled predominantly Muslim countries amid ongoing war and terrorism are embracing Christianity and teaching their children about Jesus after experiencing firsthand the love and compassion of believers in Greece…

The ministry leader shared one particularly compelling story of how one refugee, who will go by the name of Saddam for security reasons, embraced Christianity after witnessing the kindness of the Christian aid workers. Saddam appeared to have been a man of authority and wealth in Syria, and told the ministry that he found out about them because everyone at the hotel where he was staying was talking about it. When he first arrived, he asked a ministry worker if he was a Christian or a Muslim. Uncertain of why he was asked such a question, the worker asked him why he wanted to know.

With tears streaming from his eyes, Saddam said, ‘I need someone to talk with me about Jesus.’ The workers summoned the ministry co-directors, and the Muslim man told them, ‘All the Muslim countries have turned their back to us. The Muslim nations have ripped us from our treasures. They taught us not to trust the Christians, and that they are liars. I come to Greece and I find myself in the best place with the best food for me and my children. I find love that I have never seen. Please teach me.'”

Leah Marieann Klett, Syrian Refugees Embracing Christ, Teaching Children About Jesus after Witnessing Love of Christians, Gospel Herald, March 15, 2016, http://www.gospelherald.com/articles/62914/20160315/syrian-refugees-embracing-christ-teaching-children-jesus-witnessing-love-christians.htm

  • Contrast this with what a seemingly popular preterist individual said on Facebook a few months ago: “There’s only one way to deal with the Muslim problem. Nuke them all! Nothing less than that will work.”
  • God is doing awesome things in the Muslim world right now, with amazing movements to Christ happening in various places. It’s been said that more Muslims have come to Christ in the last 15 years than in the previous 1400 years. What if God has brought Muslims to our cities on purpose so that we can build relationships with them and invite them to drink of the living waters of Christ?
  • Fulfilled eschatology might be the only school of thought that consistently believes that the healing of the nations is for right now. We should “own this message,” so to speak. How can we work together to see the nations of this world healed?

[Rev. 22:5] There’s no night in the city, and no need for a lamp. The people in the city will reign forever.

  • “Arise, shine; For your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you… Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended” (Isaiah 60:1, 20).
  • “Then those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
  • “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father…” (Matthew 13:43).
  • “Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life’” (John 8:12).
  • “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
  • “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).
  • “…and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father…” (Rev. 1:6).
  • We’re not waiting for a future millennium to start. We are called and equipped to rule and reign right now.

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I referenced three other speakers during my presentation. Here are two of those videos:

[1] Daniel Colon – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49c-hecPH6c

[2] Johnny Ova – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zr8IZnj4yk0

(Jason’s presentation is not yet available.)

There was also a debate on the second night of the conference which you may be interested in viewing. It was between Michael Miano (a preterist) and Stephen Whitsett (a futurist): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPtYL76KbZs

On the last day of the conference, there was a roundtable discussion where members of the audience were able to ask questions for us to answer. I participated in that roundtable and here is that video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsnEooTpP78

All of the videos from this conference will soon be made available at this link: http://www.powerofpreterism.com/preterism-.html

Long Island Conference: What WAS the Purpose of the End Times? (Part 1)


Last weekend I had the privilege of participating in an “End Times” conference in Blue Point, New York (Long Island). The conference was held at Blue Point Bible Church, pastored by Michael Miano. It was a great time of fellowship with like-minded believers, meeting Facebook friends for the first time, and learning from and being challenged by others. I also had the opportunity to speak on the following two-fold theme:

  1. What was the purpose of the end times?
  2. How do we walk worthy of the kingdom of God?

My presentation video was produced by one of the elders at BPBC. I’m a lot more confident as a writer than I am as a speaker, but I’m sharing this video here anyway and I’ll just hope that no one unsubscribes from this blog because of it. 🙂 Below the video are my notes which correspond with about the first 29 minutes of the video. (Some readers may recognize that the first half of this lecture is based on my article titled, “Echoes of Mount Sinai in the Book of Revelation,” which was posted exactly two years ago today.)

One major theme which weaves through the book of Revelation goes a long way in answering the first question of this conference. This theme is covenant transition:

  • preparing to see the old covenantalready obsolete when Revelation was written – completely vanish away
  • revealing the glories of the new covenantalready valid when Revelation was written – which would soon stand alone

Proposal: Revelation guides the early church in navigating the transition period from one covenant to the next (old to the new), especially as that period was drawing to a close. This period lasted roughly 40 years (30 AD – 70 AD), parallel to the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.

Evidence: The same imagery that was present at the giving of the law, the old covenant, is echoed several times in the book of Revelation (4:5, 8:5, 11:19, and 16:18).

Parallel Scripture Passage: “In that He says, ‘a new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13).

1. The background of these passages is Exodus 19.

a. The children of Israel were camped in the Wilderness of Sinai.
b. This was less than three months after leaving Egypt (verse 1).
c. God spoke to Moses from Mount Sinai.

“…Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings* and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’**Then it came to pass on the third day, in the morning, that there were thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly (Exodus 19:1-18).

2. God reminded them how He bore the people of Israel “on eagles’ wings”*out of Egypt and to Himself.

*Compare to Revelation 12:13-14, where the persecuted woman was given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.”

3. God was establishing a covenant with them at this time, and He called them to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”**

**Compare this with John’s opening greeting to the seven churches, where he says that Jesus “has made us kings and priests to His God and Father” (Revelation 1:6).

4. This meeting on Mount Sinai was for establishing the old covenant.

a. It was marked by thundering and lightning, the sound of a loud trumpet, thick smoke, and the whole mountain quaking greatly.

5. The same cosmic phenomena present at Mount Sinai are seen again in the book of Revelation. Obviously it’s not because the old covenant was being established in John’s day. Rather it’s because the old covenant was being dissolved in John’s day, and a new covenant was being established.

Four Passages That Echo Mount Sinai in Revelation

Echoes of Mount Sinai in Revelation

We will observe these four passages, with some brief notes on their significance:

Revelation 4:4-5

Around the throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones I saw 24 elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”

a. Who are the 24 elders?
b. Some scholars believe they are the 12 patriarchs of Israel and the 12 apostles.

  • They represent the redeemed of both covenants, united in Christ.

c. The names of the 12 tribes and 12 apostles are written on the gates/walls of New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12-14).
d. This covenant-establishing imagery takes place in the presence of elders representing both the old and the new covenant ages. 
e. There are seven lamps representing seven Spirits of God. We see the number seven in each instance where these features at Mount Sinai are shown.

Revelation 8:4-6

And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake. So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.”

a. This scene takes place at the opening of the seventh and final seal (Rev. 8:1).
b. It’s likely that these prayers are linked to the cries of the martyrs for God to avenge their “blood on those who dwell on the earth” (Rev. 6:10).

c. If so, the seal judgments are poured out in response to the prayers of God’s people.
d. The covenant-establishing imagery of Mount Sinai appears here because the prayers of the new covenant community were about to result in the old covenant system reaching its demise.

Revelation 11:19

Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple. And there were lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake, and great hail.

a. This scene takes place at the sounding of the seventh trumpet.
b. The 24 elders are also present at this scene (Rev. 11:15-16).
c. Loud voices declare, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
d. Here is perhaps the most explicit reference connecting the old covenant to prophecies in the book of Revelation.
e. John sees a vision of God’s temple housing “the ark of His covenant.

  • In ancient Israel, the ark of the covenant was a centerpiece of the temple and the old covenant.
  • The ark was located in the Most Holy Place and represented God’s presence.

f. When the judgments are over, what does heaven shout? “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God” (Rev. 21:3).

  • This did not suddenly become true because buildings fell in 70 AD.
  • Paul told the Corinthian church that they were “the temple of the living God“ (II Corinthians 6:16).
  • The downfall of Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple in 70 AD demonstrated and confirmed that God had chosen the glorious new covenant over the inferior old covenant (see Hebrews 8).

g. In this same passage, John witnesses an earthquake that kills 7000 people in “the city” (Rev. 11:13).

  • This is already identified as Jerusalem: “the great city…where our Lord was crucified“ (verse 8).
  • Josephus wrote about one night in early 68 AD when “a prodigious storm” took place in Jerusalem, marked by “the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake.”
  • Josephus added that the Jewish zealots allowed the Idumaeans to come in and help slaughter some of their fellow Jews who opposed their rebellion against the Romans. Between this slaughter and the earthquake, 8500 people died that night (Josephus, Wars 4:4:5, 4:4:7-4:5:1).

Revelation 16:17-21

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, ‘It is done!’ And there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth. Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath. Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great. 

a. This scene takes place at the pouring out of the seventh bowl.
b. John sees the great city, Jerusalem, divided into three parts.

  • This is a flashback to Ezekiel 5:1-12, when the prophet was required to shave his head and divide it into three parts, and was told by God: “This is Jerusalem” (Ezek 5:5). 
  • One third of his hair was burned, one third was chopped up by the sword, and the last third was scattered into the wind.
  • This was fulfilled when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C. at the hands of Babylon. Jerusalem was also divided between 67-70 AD into three warring factions: [1] the Zealots, led by Eleazar [2] the Galileans, led by John of Gischala, and [3] the Idumeans,  led by Simon.

c. Revelation 11 described a literal earthquake, and Rev. 16 describes literal hail.

  • A talent was about 75-100 pounds.
  • Josephus wrote of large stones shot from catapults by the Roman armies into the temple complex in Jerusalem. This happened during the 5-month siege from April-August 70 AD.
  • The watchmen in the city reported these stones as appearing white in the sky:

“Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness” (Josephus, Wars 5:6:3).

  • Josephus also records that the watchmen on the wall, when they saw the stones coming, would shout, “The Son cometh!” After a while the Romans learned to blacken the stones so that they couldn’t as easily be detected, and many more were crushed by these stones. J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book titled The Parousia, offers this explanation for the words of the watchmen (p. 482):

“It could not but be well known to the Jews that the great hope and faith of the Christians was the speedy coming of the Son. It was about this very time, according to Hegesippus [110-180 AD], that St. James, the brother of our Lord, publicly testified in the temple that ‘the Son of man was about to come in the clouds of heaven,’ and then sealed his testimony with his blood [in 62 AD]. It seems highly probable that the Jews, in their defiant and desperate blasphemy, when they saw the white mass hurtling though the air, raised the ribald cry, ‘The Son is coming,’ in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”

To Review

  1. The same phenomena that appeared at Mount Sinai appear repeatedly in the book of Revelation.
  2. They take place at the seventh seal, the seventh trumpet, and the seventh bowl. In Leviticus 26:18, 21, 24, and 28 God promised to punish Israel seven times if they abandoned His covenant. God said He would “execute the vengeance of His covenant” (verse 25).
  3. Other covenant imagery can be seen in these passages in Revelation where the phenomena of Mount Sinai appear.
  4. All of this shows that a major goal of the end times was to completely dissolve the old covenant system and to champion the new covenant age that Jesus established at the cross.

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Just as the book of Revelation does, Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12 also contrast Mount Sinai and the new covenant, as well as two cities (earthly Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem) and two women (the harlot and the bride of Christ):

For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words… But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven…to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant… Now this… indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace…” (Hebrews 12:18-28).

“For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage…and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is…but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all… Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.’ (Galatians 4:27-31).

Two Covenants

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The next post, Part 2, will include the notes that I used in the second half of my presentation, where we looked at Revelation 21:1 – 22:5 as a blueprint for how to walk worthy of God’s kingdom in the New Jerusalem.