Below I have provided a 32 page downloadable PDF of a study titled, “An Overview of the Zealot Movement and 12 Key Leaders.” I believe this information is valuable not only for understanding Jewish history around the time of Christ, but also for a better understanding of:
A. IntroductionPage 1 B. An Overview of the Zealot Movement Page 2 C. Hezekiah the Zealot and His Family Dynasty Page 4 D. 12 Key Leaders (from 47 BC to AD 73) Page 6 1. Hezekiah (47 BC) Page 7 2. Judas the Galilean (Hezekiah’s Son) and Zadok (AD 6) Page 8 3. Jacob, Simon, and Jair (Sons of Judas) Page 11 4. Eleazar ben Ananias (AD 66) Page 12 5. Eleazar ben Jair (AD 66 – 73) Page 14 6. Menahem (AD 66) Page 16 7. Eleazar ben Simon (AD 66 – 70) Page 19 8. John Levi of Gischala (AD 66 – 70) Page 21 9. Simon Bar Giora (AD 66 – 70) Page 24 E. The Wounded Head of the Beast Page 30
Here is a downloadable PDF of this study. Please feel free to share it with others:
In Matthew 21:43-45 Jesus stunned the religious leaders of Israel by telling them that the kingdom of God would be taken out of their hands and given to another nation. His statement, however, didn’t come out of nowhere. Compare the words of Jesus to what is said in Daniel 2 and 7, where we read about the transition from the fourth kingdom to the everlasting kingdom of God. I’ve letter-coded and highlighted the parallels (A, B, C, D, and E):
“Therefore I say to you, [A]the kingdom of God will be taken from you and [B]given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on [C]this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it [D]willgrind him to powder. Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that [E]He was speaking of them” (Matthew 21:43-45).
“You watched while [C]a stone was cut out without hands, which [D]struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were [D]crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And [C]the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth… And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up [A] a kingdom which shall never be destroyed … The fourth beast shall be [E]a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces… Then [A]the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be [B]given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom…” (Daniel 2:34-35, 44; 7:23, 27).
This chart also helps to show the parallels, and how Jesus confirmed the identity of Nebuchadnezzar’s fourth kingdom (Daniel 2), Daniel’s fourth beast (Daniel 7), and the beast of Revelation:
Daniel 2:34-35, 44
Daniel 7:23, 27
“given to the people, the saints of the Most High”
“given to a nation bearing the fruits of it”
“a stone”; “the stone”
“struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces”; “crushed together”
“ will grind him to powder”
“a fourth kingdom on earth”
“He was speaking of them”
From the time I became a preterist in 2009 until about six months ago, I was convinced that the beast of the Book of Revelation was Nero and the Roman Empire. After all, the Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana (15-98 AD) explicitly referred to Nero as “a beast.” After all, a certain form of Nero’s name, “Nrwn Qsr,” when calculated using Hebrew gematria, is said to equal “666.” After all, Nero persecuted Christians…
At the same time, I was failing to reconcile the Rome/Nero model of the beast with certain passages in Daniel 2, Daniel 7, and Revelation 19. Despite those issues, I never thought I would abandon the Roman model of the beast. This was true even in July 2016 when I made a case for viewing the 10 horns of Revelation 17 as the 10 Jewish generals named by Josephus in Wars 2.20.3-4. For about a week, I considered a reader’s suggestion that there were three beasts in the book of Revelation:  the sea beast with seven heads and 10 horns (Roman)  the land beast with two horns a.k.a. the false prophet (Jewish), and  the scarlet beast with seven heads and 10 horns (Jewish). Ultimately, that didn’t work either.
I decided it was time to restudy and reconsider “the beast.” I decided to not only pay attention to all 35 verses where a beast is mentioned in Revelation, but also to reconcile this study with what is said about the fourth beast/kingdom in Daniel 2 and 7. This study has revealed that the fourth beast – depicted first as iron, and later as iron and clay (Daniel 2:40-43) – was not Rome and Nero. It was Israel, and it was the Zealots who conquered that nation like kings and brought it to destruction.
If we take a close look at Daniel 2 and 7, and then compare it to what Jesus said in Matthew 21:43-45, isn’t it clear that Jesus identified Israel (and its leaders) as the “feet of iron and clay” that would soon be struck and crushed by the rock in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream? Didn’t Jesus portray Israel, not Rome, as the fourth kingdom which would lose the kingdom and be destroyed at the very time that it would be given into the hands of the saints? In this series, we will take a deeper look at all this and more in Daniel 2 and 7 before going on to examine various passages in Revelation 11, 13-17, and 19-20 which speak about the beast.
A Summary of Evidence that the Beast Was Israel, Not Rome
The following is some of the evidence that will be shown in this series for why the beast of Revelation was Israel and not Rome:
*Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image in his dream, and the legs and feet (Daniel 2:33, 40) were the fourth kingdom. Babylon was the head of that image (verse 38), and the feet were the final stage. When the feet were struck by the stone, they were broken into pieces and the entire statue was crushed (verses 34-35, 44-45). At that time, the kingdom of God was set up (verses 35, 44). At that time, Rome was neither crushed nor in its final stage, but Israel was crushed (see Matthew 21:43-44).
*The fourth beast of Daniel 7 was a fourth kingdom (verses 7, 17, 23). Daniel watched as the fourth “beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame” (verse 11). This did not happen to Rome, but it definitely happened to Israel.
*Revelation 11 says that the beast would kill the two witnesses, and that in that same hour an earthquake would kill 7000 people in Jerusalem. In Wars of the Jews Josephus describes an earthquake which took place in late February or early March 68 AD. That same night an army of Idumeans, working on behalf of the Zealots, killed those who tried to keep them out of the city. The next morning 8500 dead bodies were found. The Romans were not in Jerusalem from November 66 AD until early 70 AD, but the Jewish Zealots were there and they not only engaged in mass murder at that time but also prevented victims from being buried (Rev. 11:9).
*In Revelation 13:4 those who worshipped the beast said, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” In Jewish education, it’s taught that Judah Maccabee carried the following expression on his standard when he went to battle around 165 BC: “Who is like unto thee among the mighty, O Lord!” Apparently, a strikingly similar expression was attributed to the Zealots when they slaughtered Roman garrisons at Masada and Jerusalem, and surprisingly defeated the armies of Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD. This expression reflected the excited hope that the Zealots were about to obtain full independence for Judea the way the Maccabees did 200 years before that.
*Revelation 13 shows a second beast, later called “the false prophet,” working closely with and on behalf of the first beast, and even performing signs and wonders. Josephus repeatedly spoke of false prophets working closely with the Zealots (in fact, being hired by them), promoting the war agenda of the Zealots, and claiming to perform signs and wonders.
*The fifth bowl judgment (Revelation 16:10) was poured out “on the throne of the beast,” resulting in darkness, sores, and pain. 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. Those seven-fold judgments were reserved for Israel alone. They were not for 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 hosted the kingdom of the beast.
*Revelation 16:13-14 describes the dragon, beast, and false prophet working together to gather a mass of people to a great battle. Josephus went to great lengths to describe how the Zealots and the false prophets worked together to compel the people of Israel to go to war, killing and torturing those who wouldn’t go along with their agenda.
*In Revelation 17:3 the beast was shown to be scarlet for a reason that was significant to first century Israel. According to both the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud, on the Day of Atonement a scapegoat bearing the sins of the people would be released into the wilderness (see Leviticus 16). The scapegoat would wear a crimson (red/scarlet)-colored strap, and it would become white once it reached the wilderness, indicating that God had forgiven their sins. This miracle happened every year. However, says the Babylonian Talmud, “During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ‘For the Lord’ did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white.” Also according to the Jerusalem Talmud, “the crimson thread remained crimson.” This appears to be why the beast was seen as scarlet.
*In Revelation 17:16 John was told that the 10 horns of the beast would make the harlot desolate, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. Josephus repeatedly blamed the Jewish Zealots for the destruction of Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple. He also repeatedly blamed the Zealots for the fire that consumed the temple. He even referred to the Zealots as a wild beast eating its own flesh.
*In Revelation 19:19-20, it’s said that the beast would be captured at the coming of Christ and cast into the lake of fire. This did not happen to Nero or Rome in the first century, but it happened to the Zealot leaders of Israel.
Paul, Peter, and Jude Referred to the Jewish Leaders as “Beasts”
In I Corinthians 15:32 Paul said that he had “fought with beasts at Ephesus.” There is no record that he wrestled with bears, mountain lions, or any other animal. He did, however, deal with Judaizers (Acts 19:8-9, Ephesians 6:12; I Timothy 1:3-4). Likewise, Peter referred to the false prophets (II Peter 2:1) of his day as “natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed” (verse 12).
Jude also said that there were “brute beasts” (Jude 10) among the saints, and that Enoch had prophesied about them that Christ would come “with ten thousands of His saints [or ‘angels’], to execute judgment on all” (Jude 14-15). This prophecy is found in Enoch 1:9, and Enoch specified that it would happen 70 generations after the time of Noah (Enoch 10:11-14). Luke confirmed that Jesus’ generation was that 70th generation (Luke 3:23-37).
Josephus Also Referred to the Jewish Leaders as “Beasts”
In early 68 AD Jesus, one of the former high priests, gave this description of the Jewish Zealots in his speech to the Idumeans who had been invited by the Zealots to make war on Jerusalem:
“You may, if you please, come into the city, though not in the way of war, and take a view of the marks still remaining of what I now say, and may see the houses that have been depopulated by their rapacious hands, with those wives and families that are in black, mourning for their slaughtered relations; as also you may hear their groans and lamentations all the city over; for there is nobody but hath tasted of the incursions of these profane wretches, who have proceeded to that degree of madness, as not only to have transferred their impudent robberies out of the country, and the remote cities, into this city, the very face and head of the whole nation, but out of the city into the temple also; for that is now made their receptacle and refuge, and the fountain-head whence their preparations are made against us. And this place, which is adored by the habitable world, and honored by such as only know it by report, as far as the ends of the earth, is trampled upon by these wild beasts born among ourselves” (Wars 4.4.3).
Josephus described Simon Bar Giora, a Zealot leader, in this way:
“This success of Simon excited the zealots afresh; and though they were afraid to fight him openly in a fair battle, yet did they lay ambushes in the passes, and seized upon his wife, with a considerable number of her attendants; whereupon they came back to the city rejoicing, as if they had taken Simon himself captive, and were in present expectation that he would lay down his arms, and make supplication to them for his wife; but instead of indulging any merciful affection, he grew very angry at them for seizing his beloved wife; so he came to the wall of Jerusalem, and, like wild beasts when they are wounded, and cannot overtake those that wounded them, he vented his spleen upon all persons that he met with. Accordingly, he caught all those that were come out of the city gates, either to gather herbs or sticks, who were unarmed and in years; he then tormented them and destroyed them, out of the immense rage he was in, and was almost ready to taste the very flesh of their dead bodies” (Wars 4.9.8).
Later he gave this description of the civil wars in Jerusalem:
“When therefore Titus had marched over that desert which lies between Egypt and Syria, in the manner forementioned, he came to Cesarea, having resolved to set his forces in order at that place, before he began the war. Nay, indeed, while he was assisting his father at Alexandria, in settling that government which had been newly conferred upon them by God, it so happened that the sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other; which partition in such evil cases may be said to be a good thing, and the effect of Divine justice. 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” (Wars 5.1.1).
A. INTRODUCTION 1. A Comparison of Matthew 21:43-45 and Daniel 2:34-35, 44; 7:23, 27 2. A Summary of Evidence in Revelation that the Beast Was Israel, Not Rome a. Peter, Jude, and Josephus Referred to the Jewish Leaders as “Beasts” b. 35 Verses Which Speak of a “Beast” in Revelation
B. DANIEL 2 1. Daniel 2:31-45 (Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream) 2. Kingdom #1 (Gold / Head) to Kingdom #2 (Silver / Chest and Arms) 3. Kingdom #2 (Silver / Chest and Arms) to Kingdom #3 (Bronze / Belly and Thighs) a. Greece’s Rule Over Israel from 323 BC to 164 BC b. The Jewish Hammer 4. Kingdom #3 (Bronze/Belly & Thighs) to Kingdom #4 (Iron & Iron-Clay/Legs & Feet) a. The Jews Regain Their Independence b. The Judean Kingdom Divided c. They Will Not Adhere to One Another 5. Kingdom #4 (Iron & Iron-Clay/Legs & Feet) to the Everlasting Kingdom (God’s Mountain)
C. DANIEL 7 1. Daniel 7:2-8, 11-12, 16-27 (Daniel’s Vision of Four Beasts) 2. Overview of the Four Beasts 3. The Fourth Beast a. Devouring, Breaking, and Trampling (Daniel 7:7) b. Different from All Other Kingdoms (Daniel 7:7, 23) c. Ten Horns of the Beast (Daniel 7:7, 20, 24) 4. An 11th Horn, “A Little Horn” a. A Little Horn Coming Up Among the 10 Horns (Daniel 7:8, 20-21, 24-26) b. Three Horns Plucked Out by the Roots (Daniel 7:8, 20, 24) c. A Mouth Speaking Pompous Words (Daniel 7:8, 11, 20) d. The Body of the Fourth Beast Destroyed and Burned (Daniel 7:11) e. The Lives of the Other Beasts Were Prolonged (Daniel 7:12) f. The Kingdom Given to the Saints (Daniel 7:17-18, 21-22, 26-27) g. The Little Horn Would Change Times and Law (Daniel 7:25) h. The Saints Given Into the Hand of the Little Horn (Daniel 7:21, 25) 5. Were Christians in Jerusalem During the Jewish-Roman War? a. Nero’s Government Helped Protect the Christians in Pella
D. REVELATION 11 1. Gentiles in Revelation 11:1-2 2. The Two Witnesses and the Beast
E. REVELATION 13 1. Revelation 13:1-2 a. The Beast’s 10 Horns b. The Dragon 2. Revelation 13:3 a. Leaders of the Zealot Movement b. The Beast’s Seven Heads c. The Mortally Wounded Head Was Healed 3. Revelation 13:4 (Who Is Able to Make War with the Beast?) 4. Revelation 13:5-10 a. Given Authority to Continue for 42 Months b. Making War with the Saints 5. Revelation 13:11-15 a. The Second Beast from the Land b. False Prophets Working Closely with the Beast 6. Revelation 13:16-18 (The Mark and the Number ‘666’)
F. REVELATION 14-16 1. Revelation 14:9-11 (Consequences for Worshiping the Beast) 2. Revelation 15:2 (Those Who Have the Victory Over the Beast) 3. Revelation 16:2 (The First Bowl and Sores for Those Who Worshiped the Beast) 4. Revelation 16:10 (The Fifth Bowl Poured on the Throne and Kingdom of the Beast) 5. Revelation 16:13 (Unclean Spirits from the Mouths of the Dragon, Beast, False Prophet)
G. REVELATION 17 1. Revelation 17:3 (A Woman on a Scarlet Beast) 2. Revelation 17:7-11 (Seven Kings and an Eighth) 3. Revelation 17:12-17 (The Ten Horns) a. Making War with the Lamb b. Making the Harlot Desolate, Eating Her Flesh, and Burning Her with Fire
H. REVELATION 19 1. The Beast and His Armies Gathered To Make War 2. The Beast and the False Prophet Captured and Cast into the Lake of Fire
I. REVELATION 20 1. Satan Bound; Those Who Overcame the Beast Reigned with Christ 2. Satan Released; Gathers the Nations to another Battle a. Satan Joins the Beast and False Prophet in the Lake of Fire
35 Verses Which Speak of a “Beast” in Revelation
The beast is spoken of in 35 verses in the book of Revelation (NKJV) – directly in 29 verses, and by a pronoun (“he” or “him”) in six more. To be clear, nine of these verses (Revelation 13:11-16; 16:13; 19:20; and 20:10) speak of a second beast, later called “the false prophet.” I’ve highlighted the references to “the beast” in red, and the references to the second beast, a.k.a. “the false prophet,” in green. These are the passages that will be examined in this series, along with Daniel 2 and 7:
Verse or Passage
7 “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (Revelation 11:7).
-This is a reference to the two witnesses being killed by the beast. See Rev. 11:3-13.
1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. 2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority. 3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast. 4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
-In verses 5-8 this beast is referred to by the pronouns “he” and “him”:
5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for 42 months. 6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. 7 And it was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation. 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.
11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 12 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.
13He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.
14 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. 15He was granted power 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.
16 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,
17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
(Rev. 14:9, 11)
9 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, 10 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. 11 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.”
1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete. 2 And 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.
1 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.” 2 So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.
10 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.
12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
3 So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
7 But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns. 8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
11 And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition. 12 The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. 13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. 14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.
16 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. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
19 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. 20 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.
4 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.
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.
The next post will begin to examine the four kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2).
Several days ago I presented nine case studies showing parallels between “The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus and the Book of Revelation. We noted that John wrote Revelation before the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD, and that Josephus wrote “The Wars of the Jews” in 75 AD.
One person who listened to my presentation (Jeff Good) later pointed out two different parallels between Revelation 6:5-6 and “The Wars of the Jews.” I’d like to discuss that double parallel in this post.
“When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ And I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine’” (Rev. 6:5-6).
This description of the third seal is clearly about famine conditions, and it references a time when a quart of wheat or three quarts of barley would cost as much as the average worker earned in a day (a denarius). Consider this description by Josephus of the famine which took place around May 70 AD during the Roman siege of Jerusalem:
“Many there were indeed who sold what they had for one measure; it was of wheat, if they were of the richer sort; but of barley, if they were poorer. When these had so done, they shut themselves up in the inmost rooms of their houses, and ate the corn they had gotten; some did it without grinding it, by reason of the extremity of the want they were in, and others baked bread of it, according as necessity and fear dictated to them: a table was nowhere laid for a distinct meal, but they snatched the bread out of the fire, half-baked, and ate it very hastily” (Wars 5.10.2).
So both John and Josephus spoke of the great difficulty that people had, during the famine of 70 AD, just to obtain wheat and barley. They had to spend a day’s wage, or sell all that they had, just to obtain one measure. Notice that both John and Josephus singled out these same two food items.
As another listener, Chad Kennow, pointed out, by July 70 AD the famine conditions in Jerusalem became so bad that a mother cooked and ate her own child. Her name was Mary of Bethezub, and her story is recorded in Wars 6.3.4. This fulfilled what Deuteronomy 28:53, 56-57 said would happen to a perverse generation (Deut. 32:20) during a siege in Israel’s latter days (Deut. 31:29).
Josephus also described a sacrilegious act involving oil and wine. It was carried out by one of the Zealot leaders, John Levi of Gischala:
“But as for John, when he could no longer plunder the people, he betook himself to sacrilege, and melted down many of the sacred utensils, which had been given to the temple; as also many of those vessels which were necessary for such as ministered about holy things, the caldrons, the dishes, and the tables; nay, he did not abstain from those pouring vessels that were sent them by Augustus and his wife; for the Roman emperors did ever both honor and adorn this temple; whereas this man, who was a Jew, seized upon what were the donations of foreigners, and said to those that were with him, that it was proper for them to use Divine things, while they were fighting for the Divinity, without fear, and that such whose warfare is for the temple should live of the temple; on which account he emptied the vessels of that sacred wine and oil, which the priests kept to be poured on the burnt-offerings, and which lay in the inner court of the temple, and distributed it among the multitude, who, in their anointing themselves and drinking, used [each of them] above an hin of them” (Wars 5.13.6).
So one of the four living creatures in John’s vision said, “Do not harm the oil and the wine,” and Josephus recorded how a Zealot leader abused the “sacred wine and oil” used by the priests for their work in the temple.
In summary, here is a simple chart showing these two parallels between Josephus and Revelation 6:5-6.
Josephus (The Wars of the Jews)
“A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius…” (Revelation 6:6).
“Many there were indeed who sold what they had for one measure; it was of wheat, if they were of the richer sort; but of barley, if they were poorer…” (Wars 5.10.2).
“…and do not harm the oiland thewine…” (Revelation 6:6).
“…he betook himself to sacrilege… he emptied the vessels of that sacred wine and oil…” (Wars 5.13.6).
Ten Case Studies So Far
With this new case study on Revelation 6:5-6 added (#3 below), here’s an updated chart comparing Josephus and the Book of Revelation:
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking in a conference call hosted by my friend, Jordan Hardgrave. My message was titled, “Josephus and the Book of Revelation (Nine Case Studies).” Here’s the audio of my message (3:40 Introduction; 50:35 Presentation; 21:45 Q & A), followed by my notes. There’s a chart in my introduction below which I believe you’ll find helpful.
In John Wesley’s commentary on Matthew 24 (1755), he said, “Josephus’s History of the Jewish War is the best commentary on this chapter…” I believe this is also true for the book of Revelation.
The preterist movement is known for believing that the book of Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This belief is backed by both external and internal evidence, that is, testimonies in early church history as well as (more importantly) evidence within the text.
“The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus is another major source of evidence that Revelation was written before 70 AD. This work by Josephus was published in 75 AD, less than 15 years after Revelation was written. It contains seven books, most of which cover the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD.
In this message I want to present nine case studies showing parallels between the book of Revelation and “The Wars of the Jews.” As we look at these parallels, consider what they mean for the popular idea that John wrote Revelation around 95 AD. Some of the parallels are so striking that a person would basically have to conclude that John borrowed from the earlier writings of Josephus, and then used the language of Josephus to prophesy of a much later war. We know, however, that John wrote his prophecies first, and Josephus wrote his works a decade or so later. John wrote before the Jewish-Roman War and Josephus wrote after the war.
In this presentation I’ve included the month and year of each event that Josephus referred to. This is based on dates that Josephus himself cited, as well as a helpful table in Ed Stevens’ book, “The Final Decade before the End” (p. 242) showing the modern equivalents of the months cited by Josephus. In the chart below, I’ve color-coded the case studies that feature the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments:
Please feel free to share whether or not you believe these parallels are legitimate. The more parallels we can nail down between the book of Revelation and the writings of Josephus, the better we can understand the structure of Revelation. For example, were the seals, trumpets, and bowls fulfilled chronologically? When Josephus made reference to them, did he do so in the same order John listed them? How much recapitulation (restating of events) actually exists in Revelation?
Case Study #1 (Revelation 6:4)
“And another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.”
Revelation 6:4 describes the opening of the second seal. Here we see that peace would be taken from “the earth.” This phrase can also be translated as “land” (as it is in Young’s Literal Translation), a reference to “the promised land,” i.e. the land of Israel. A good example of this is Luke 21:23, where Jesus clearly spoke of Judea, yet some translations say “on the earth” and others say “in the land.”
Here’s a description given by Josephus about the civil war among the Jews, which began outside of Jerusalem but spread to Jerusalem by the time the war began in August 66 AD (Wars 4.3.2):
“But then it must be observed, that the multitude that came out of the country were at discord before the Jerusalem sedition began… There were besides disorders and civil wars in every city; and all those that were at quiet from the Romans turned their hands one against another. There was also a bitter contest between those that were fond of war, and those that were desirous for peace. At the first this quarrelsome temper caught hold of private families, who…began already to stand in opposition one to another; so that seditions arose everywhere… the barbarity and iniquity those of the same nation did no way differ from the Romans; nay, it seemed to be a much lighter thing to be ruined by the Romans than by themselves.”
Josephus was describing the events of November 67 AD when he gave this summary. Josephus used phrases like “one against another”, “in opposition one to another”, “civil wars in every city,” and “barbarity.” This lines up well with John’s vision of people “killing one another” in the land. This domestic fighting was so significant that the approach of the Romans was seen as “a much lighter thing.”
In John’s vision, he also saw “a great sword.” Numerous times Josephus spoke of the Zealots killing others with swords and cutting their throats (e.g. Wars 2.18.3, Wars 4.4.3, Wars 4.5.3, and Wars 5.8.1). Were these beheadings? These four instances of throat cutting took place in Galilee and Jerusalem in August 66 AD, February/March 68 AD, and May 70 AD.
Case Study #2 (Revelation 6:15-16)
“And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17).
This passage describes the sixth seal. Notice how Josephus described the attempts of the Zealots to save themselves when they were driven out of the lower city of Jerusalem in August 70 AD (Wars 6.7.3):
“So now the last hope which supported the tyrants, and that crew of robbers who were with them, was in the caves and caverns underground; whither, if they could once fly, they did not expect to be searched for; but endeavored, that after the whole city should be destroyed, and the Romans gone away, they might come out again, and escape from them. This was no better than a dream of theirs; for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans.”
So John saw a vision of commanders and other men  hiding in the caves and rocks and  attempting to hide from God. Josephus likewise described the Zealots  heading to the caves and caverns as their last hope and  being unable to hide from God and the Romans.
These accounts are also parallel to an earlier prophecy given by Jesus on His way to Golgotha:
And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him.But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!” (Luke 23:27-30)
Jesus told those ladies that they and their children would personally see the day when people in Jerusalem would call upon the mountains to fall on them and hide them. About 40 years later it happened just as He said, just as John foretold, and as Josephus recorded it. See also Hosea 10:8.
Case Study #3 (Revelation 8:7-9)
“The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood; and a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”
This passage describes the first and second trumpet judgments. Notice that both judgments feature a mixture of fire and blood. Compare this with what Josephus said happened in Galilee in March/April 67 AD after he tried to fortify the city of Sepphoris, the capital and largest city of Galilee (see Wars 3.2.4):
“By this means he [Josephus] provoked the Romans to treat the country according to the law of war; nor did the Romans, out of the anger they bore at this attempt, leave off, either by night or by day, burning the places in the plain, and stealing away the cattle that were in the country, and killing whatsoever appeared capable of fighting perpetually, and leading the weaker people as slaves into captivity; so that Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood; nor was it exempted from any kind of misery or calamity…” (Wars 3.4.1).
Sepphoris was located halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee, and only three miles away from Nazareth. In Wars 3.9.3 Josephus described what happened on the Sea of Galilee in June 67 AD to thousands of Jews who tried to escape from Joppa:
“Now as those people of Joppa were floating about in this sea, in the morning there fell a violent wind upon them; it is called by those that sail there “the black north wind,” and there dashed their ships one against another, and dashed some of them against the rocks, and carried many of them by force, while they strove against the opposite waves, into the main sea; for the shore was so rocky, and had so many of the enemy upon it, that they were afraid to come to land… And much lamentation there was when the ships were dashed against one another, and a terrible noise when they were broken to pieces; and some of the multitude that were in them were covered with waves, and so perished, and a great many were embarrassed with shipwrecks. But some of them thought that to die by their own swords was lighter than by the sea, and so they killed themselves before they were drowned; although the greatest part of them were carried by the waves, and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was four thousand and two hundred.”
In Wars 3.10.9 Josephus also described what happened on the Sea of Galilee in August 67 AD to people from Tiberias and Taricheae:
“Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; …one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled; and as the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun, and putrefied, they corrupted the air…”
So John saw fire and blood, land being burned, and ships being destroyed. Josephus described those very things taking place throughout Galilee from March – August 67 AD.
Case Study #4 (Revelation 9:13-16)
“Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million, and I heard the number of them” (Revelation 9:13-16).
This is a partial description of the sixth trumpet. Momentarily we’ll take a look at a quote from Josephus about four commanders who led a murderous army, but first here’s some background.
During the winter of 67-68 AD, Ananus II, the former high priest in Jerusalem, urged the people of Jerusalem to oppose the lawless Jewish Zealots who had taken over the temple as “blood-shedding villains.” John Levi of Gischala had recently come to Jerusalem, and he pretended to be on the side of Ananus and was invited to be an ambassador to the Zealots (Wars 4.3.13). However, John quickly betrayed Ananus and falsely claimed that he had invited the Roman general Vespasian to conquer Jerusalem (Wars 4.3.14).
In response, the Zealot leaders Eleazar ben Simon and Zacharias ben Phalek requested help from the Idumeans (Idumea was south of Judea). They told the Idumeans that “unless they would come immediately to their assistance… the city would be in the power of the Romans.” The Idumeans quickly prepared an army of 20,000 directed by four commanders (Wars 4.4.2):
“Now these [Idumean] rulers were greatly surprised at the contents of the letter, and at what those that came with it further told them; whereupon they ran about the nation like madmen, and made proclamation that the people should come to war; so a multitude was suddenly got together, sooner indeed than the time appointed in the proclamation, and everybody caught up their arms, in order to maintain the liberty of their metropolis; and twenty thousand of them were put into battle-array, and came to Jerusalem, under four commanders, John, and Jacob the son of Sosas; and besides these were Simon, the son of Cathlas, and Phineas, the son of Clusothus.”
What about the discrepancy between the numbers “200 million” and “20,000”? Earlier I quoted from the New King James Version. Like most versions, it gives some variation of the number “200 million.” Young’s Literal Translation says “two myriads of myriads.” The Interlinear translates this phrase as “twice ten thousand ten thousands.” The word “myriad” in Greek meant “10,000,” so two myriads was “20,000,” the same number that Josephus assigned to the Idumean army.
A similar expression is used in Psalm 68:17 (“The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands; The Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the Holy Place” –NKJV). This verse is far more often translated to say “20,000” than Revelation 9:16 is. The Interlinear for Psalm 68:17translates this verse to say “even thousands, twenty thousand of God are the chariots.” When it comes to Revelation 9:16, it seems that most translations have unnecessarily squared the number “10,000” before doubling it, coming up with 200 million instead of 20,000.
In any case, John and Josephus both described an army of 20,000 led by four commanders. The Idumeans came to Jerusalem in February 68 AD. We’ll hear more about them in the next section.
Case Study #5 (Revelation 11:7-13)
“Now when they [the two witnesses] finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth… In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand men were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”
This vision is also part of the sixth trumpet, or at least it appears before the seventh trumpet sounds. This is the first passage in Revelation where “the beast” is mentioned, and it’s also where “the great city” is first mentioned and defined – as being the city where Jesus was crucified, i.e. Jerusalem.
Josephus described a morning in February 68 AD when the city of Jerusalem woke up to find that 8,500 people had died during the night due to an earthquake and a slaughter carried out by the Idumeans. Here’s how he described the earthquake in the midst of a great storm (Wars 4.4.5):
“[F]or there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake… anyone would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.”
And here’s how he described the slaughter carried out by the Idumeans that same night, after they managed to saw through the gates and break into the city (Wars 4.5.1):
“The zealots also joined in the shouts raised by the Idumeans; and the storm itself rendered the cry more terrible; nor did the Idumeans spare anybody; for as they are naturally a most barbarous and bloody nation, and had been distressed by the tempest, they made use of their weapons against those that had shut the gates against them… Now there was at present neither any place for flight, nor any hope of preservation; but as they were driven one upon another in heaps, so were they slain… And now the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood; and that day, as it came on, they saw eight thousand five hundred dead bodies there.”
Recall that John said “in the earthquake seven thousand men were killed.” Josephus didn’t distinguish between how many died in the earthquake and how many were killed by the sword, so it’s possible that the earthquake killed 7000 and the Idumeans killed 1,500.
The next day the Idumeans, working on behalf of the Zealots, hunted down and killed a couple of former high priests, Ananus and Jesus, who had long tormented the Zealots by opposing their war and working for peace. Here’s how Josephus described their deaths in Wars 4.5.2:
“[The Idumeans] sought for the high priests, and…went with the greatest zeal against them; and as soon as they caught them they slew them, and then standing upon their dead bodies, in way of jest, upbraided Ananus with his kindness to the people, and Jesus with his speech made to them from the wall. Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial… I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city… He…preferred peace above all things; …he was a shrewd man in speaking and persuading the people, and had already gotten the mastery of those that opposed his designs, or were for the war… And this at last was the end of Ananus and Jesus.”
So John and Josephus both described two individuals in Jerusalem who were hated, killed, and not allowed to be buried. If we go back to Rev. 11:5-6, they also both describe a couple of men who could not be taken down by their enemies until this particular time. And they describe this happening at the same time as an earthquake that coincided with the deaths of at least 7000 people.
I realize this case study is probably the most controversial, and it deserves a deeper study. I plan to do that in a series I’m currently working on about the beast of Revelation, which should be ready in a few weeks. Until recently I believed that the beast was Rome (generally) and Nero (specifically). I now believe the beast was Zealot-led Israel and I’ll present a lot of evidence for that in my upcoming series.
One thing we should note here in Revelation 11 is the fact that the beast oversees the deaths of the two witnesses in Jerusalem. If this indeed happened in 68 AD, the beast could not have been Roman. From August 66 AD until April 70 AD the Romans were not in Jerusalem, except for a few days in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus led a failed attack on the city. If the events of Revelation 11 took place anytime between late 66 AD and the spring of 70 AD, the beast that overcame the two witnesses was Jewish, not Roman. And based on the four case studies we’ve already looked at, and the next four that we’re about to look at, it’s very fitting that the events of Revelation would have taken place in early 68 AD.
Case Study #6 (Revelation 16:3-6)
“Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man, and every living creature in the sea died.Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: ‘You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.’”
This is a description of the second and third bowl judgments. Josephus described how, in the spring of 68 AD, Vespasian prepared for the eventual siege on Jerusalem by marching “against Gadara, the metropolis of Perea” (Wars 4.7.3) and the rest of Perea as well (Wars 4.7.6). Perea was the region east of the Jordan River, just next to Judea and Jerusalem.
Some of the Jews who fled from Gadara joined with others and “got in great numbers together and fled to Jericho” (Wars 4.7.5) with Placidus, Vespasian’s assistant, chasing them. Placidus drove the whole multitude to the riverside, along the Jordan River. Then things really took a tragic turn (Wars 4.7.5-6):
“They then extended themselves a very great way along the banks of the river, and sustained the darts that were thrown at them, as well as the attacks of the horsemen, who beat many of them, and pushed them into the current. At which fight, hand to hand, fifteen thousand…were slain, while the number of those that were unwillingly forced to leap into Jordan was prodigious… and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltiris was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river. And now Placidus… put his soldiers on board the ships, and slew such as had fled to the lake…”
Lake Asphaltiris was the Greek name for the Dead Sea. So John saw a sea that “became blood as of a dead man” (Rev. 16:3) and he saw that “every living creature in the sea died.” Josephus said that the Dead Sea was “full of dead bodies” and that Placidus killed everyone else who fled to the Dead Sea.
John saw rivers and springs of water turn to blood, and that those who shed the blood of saints and prophets were given “blood to drink.” Josephus said that a multitude of Jews was pushed into, and “unwillingly forced to leap into,” the current of the Jordan River. That river was so full of dead bodies that no one could pass over it. Some of them drank the bloody water as they drowned.
“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.”
This is from John’s description of the seventh bowl. “The great city,” as we already saw, was Jerusalem.
The Cities of the Nations Fell
The downfall of the nation of Galilee in 67 AD can be seen mostly in The War of the Jews, Book 3. In the previous section we saw that Vespasian subdued the entire nation of Perea in the spring of 68 AD. Then in the summer of 68 AD Vespasian was at Caesarea, ready “to march directly to Jerusalem” when he learned that Nero had died (in June 68 AD). So Vespasian waited there for almost a year (Wars 4.9.2).
In the meantime, though, another nation fell. That was the nation of Idumea, but it was at the hands of Simon Bar Giora, a Jewish Zealot leader. He first “laid waste the whole country” of Idumea, attacking Hebron, ravaging cities and villages, and making Idumea like a desert (Wars 4.9.7). Then he “compelled a great number of [the Idumeans] to retire to Jerusalem; he followed them himself also to the city.” Josephus said he “was a greater terror to the people than the Romans themselves,” but the Zealots in Jerusalem were even “more heavy upon” the people than Simon and the Romans (Wars 4.9.10).
So, amazingly, Simon was invited into Jerusalem. The people “made joyful acclamation to him, as their savior and their preserver,” thinking he would save them from the madness of the Zealots. However, Simon Bar Giora looked upon them all as his enemies (Wars 4.9.11). In April 69 AD Simon “got possession of Jerusalem” (Wars 4.9.12). Soon the stage would be set for Jerusalem to be divided into three factions, but first we’ll take note of more cities that fell.
In May-June 69 AD Vespasian “marched against those places of Judea which were not yet overthrown,” sparing only Herodium, Masada, Macherus, and Jerusalem which were controlled by the Zealots (Wars 4.9.9). He paused his campaign again, however, when he learned that Vitellus had become emperor of Rome (Wars 4.10.2). In December 69 AD he was named emperor of Rome (Wars 4.11.4-5) and his son, Titus, was dispatched to besiege Jerusalem (Wars 4.11.5 and Wars 5.1.1).
Here’s a simple table of nations that fell from 67 AD to mid-69 AD:
“[T]he sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other… 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 there were three treacherous factions in the city, the one parted from the other. Eleazar [ben Simon] and his party, that kept the sacred first-fruits, came against John [Levi of Gischala] in their cups. Those that were with John plundered the populace and went out with zeal against Simon [Bar Giora].”
So this is a very clear fulfillment of John’s words that the great city, Jerusalem, “was divided into three parts” (Revelation 16:19). It’s also a flashback to Jerusalem’s earlier destruction in 586 BC. In Ezekiel 5:1-12 we see that Ezekiel was required to shave his head and divide it into three parts, and God told him, “This is Jerusalem” (verse 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.
Case Study #8 (Revelation 16:21)
“And great hail from heaven fell upon men, every hailstone about the weight of a talent. And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.”
This is also from John’s description of the seventh bowl. Compare this to the following description of large stones catapulted over the wall in Jerusalem by the tenth Roman legion in May 70 AD (Wars 5.6.3):
“The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion… 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; accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, ‘THE STONE COMETH,’ so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm. But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow.”
So John saw hailstones weighing a talent falling from the sky over Jerusalem, and Josephus describes white stones weighing a talent being catapulted into the city. A talent was 75 – 100 pounds.
According to William Whiston’s famous translation of the works of Josephus, the watchmen shouted, “THE SON COMETH,” rather than “THE STONE COMETH.” J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book The Parousia (p. 482), pointed out that it was only eight years before this, in 62 AD, that as James was being martyred he cried out that “the Son of Man was about to come in the clouds of heaven.” So Russell speculated that the watchmen gave this cry “in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”
These large stones were actually discovered in an archaeological dig during the last year. See hereand here for articles on this find, including photos of the stones.
Case Study #9 (Revelation 17:12-16)
“And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as of yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them… 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.”
As I mentioned earlier, until a few months ago I believed that the beast in Revelation was Rome and Nero. I assumed that the 10 horns must have been the 10 Senatorial Provinces of Rome working with Nero to persecute Christians and to capture and burn Jerusalem in 70 AD.
When I started to rethink this subject, one thing I discovered is that when Titus overthrew Jerusalem in 70 AD he did not have leaders or representatives of those 10 provinces with him. He didn’t even have 10 legions with him. Instead he had four legions – the 5th, 10th, 12th, and 15th legions (Wars 5.1.6).
Then I was surprised to discover that Josephus listed exactly 10 high priests and religious leaders in Israel who were given authority as generals in December 66 AD. Three of them were even killed by the Zealots in early 68 AD, fulfilling Daniel 7:8, 20, 24. Here’s a quick summary of what led up to the selection of those 10 generals. (More details can be seen in this article.)
Josephus says that the Jewish-Roman War officially began in August 66 AD when Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, “who was at that time governor of the Temple, persuaded those that officiated in the divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner.” They used this new law to reject “the sacrifice of Caesar” (Wars 2.17.2). They also massacred a Roman garrison stationed at the Antonia Fortress on the east side of Jerusalem (Wars 2.17.7).
In November 66 AD Cestius Gallus brought the 12th Legion to put down the Jewish rebellion. Surprisingly, his army suffered about 5,700 deaths, his weapons and supplies were stolen during an ambush, they retreated on November 22nd, and the Jewish rebels chased and killed many of them over the next five days. The Jewish temple leaders knew that a full-scale Roman revenge was inevitable. So they “got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war.” Here’s a list of the territories they were to oversee in preparation for war with Rome (Wars 2.20.3-4):
Joseph, the son of Gorion (Governor of Jerusalem)
Ananus, the high priest (Governor of Jerusalem)
Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests (Idumaea)
Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest (Idumaea)
Niger, the then governor of Idumea (Idumaea)
Joseph, the son of Simon (Jericho)
John, the Esscue (toparchy of Thamna; “Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus”)
John, the son of Matthias (toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene)
Josephus, the son of Matthias (both the Galilees; “Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command”)
The three generals who were killed by the Zealots in fulfillment of Daniel 7:8, 20, 24 were  Ananus ben Ananus  Niger of Perea, and  Joseph ben Gorion. Their deaths are recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1.
How did these horns make war with the Lamb? In a nutshell, Jesus made war against the harlot/great city, Jerusalem, and He used the Roman army as His instrument (see Matthew 22:7). The Zealots and those who were aligned with them fought desperately to maintain power over Jerusalem and to gain independence for Israel. This question is addressed further here.
How did they turn on the harlot, make her desolate, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire? They were assigned to Idumea, Jericho, Perea, Galilee, Jerusalem, etc. During the Jewish-Roman War, Jerusalem became more and more isolated as Rome captured Galilee, Perea, and other places. Many people made their way to Jerusalem, and presumably these generals did the same. Josephus, of course, was captured.
We already saw the quote from Wars 5.1.1 where Josephus described “the sedition” in Jerusalem, and the civil war between the Zealot factions, as “a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh.” Josephus also repeatedly blamed the Jews, especially the Zealots, for the fire that burned Jerusalem and the temple. In Wars 6.4.5 he said, “[T]hese flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them.” In Wars 6.6.2 he records a speech given by Titus in which he said to the Zealots, “You…have set fire to your holy house with your own hands.” Josephus made similar statements in Wars 5.4.4, Wars 6.2.9,and other places.
Based on these case studies, I would like to tentatively suggest that the seals, trumpets, and bowls were structured in this way:
Seals – From 66 AD (or earlier) to 70 AD Trumpets – From early 67 AD to early 68 AD
Bowls – From spring 68 AD to 70 AD
To use an arm as an analogy, the seals would stretch from the shoulder to the fingers; the trumpets would stretch from the shoulder to the elbow; (the elbow would represent the Zealot siege of early 68 AD); and the bowls would stretch from the elbow to the fingers.
This presentation represents an ongoing study, as there are more parallels between the Book of Revelation and Josephus that are not included here. Those who listen to or read this presentation are welcome to evaluate these case studies and this tentative conclusion.
Tonight at 8 pm EST I’ll be speaking in a conference call on the subject of “Josephus and the Book of Revelation.” My presentation will feature nine case studies showing parallels between the book of Revelation and “The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus (published in 75 AD). The study guide below is for those who are already signed up for the call (this will be posted in a Facebook group), but also for anyone else who may wish to join the call or simply use this as a study tool.
The call-in number for tonight’s conference call is 302-202-1108, and the conference code is 984266. By default, callers are muted the whole time (but able to listen), and are able to “raise a hand” to speak during the Q & A time after my presentation.
In the chart below, I’ve color-coded the case studies that feature the seal, trumpet, and bowljudgments:
Based on the case studies I’ll be presenting, I’m tentatively suggesting that the seals, trumpets, and bowls were structured in this way:
Seals – From 66 AD (or earlier) to 70 AD Trumpets – From early 67 AD to early 68 AD
Bowls – From spring 68 AD to 70 AD.
In about another week, I’ll create a new post with the audio of this conference call and all of my written notes. At that time, and even now, please feel free to evaluate these case studies and this tentative conclusion.
“For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants who I brought out of the land of Egypt… Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins” (Leviticus 26:21).
“…Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues…” (Revelation 18:4).
Those who are familiar with the Book of Revelation know that the number “seven” appears regularly in this book. John wrote letters to seven churches in Asia (Rev. 1:4, 11). One like the Son of Man stood in the midst of seven golden lampstands with seven stars in His hand (Rev. 1:12-13, 16). There were seven lamps of fire before God’s throne (Rev. 4:5) and seven Spirits of God (Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). A scroll was sealed with seven seals. Seven thunders said things that weren’t written down (Rev. 10:3-4). The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes (Rev. 5:6), and the dragon and the beast both had seven heads (Rev. 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7). There are seven mountains and seven kings (Rev. 17:9-10).
Michael Rusten, my former study mentor at The University of Northwestern (Saint Paul, Minnesota), included the following chart in his 2008 work, “Charts for Understanding How the Bible Fits Together”:
Perhaps most famously, the Book of Revelation features seven seals (Rev. 5:1-5; 6:1-17; 8:1-2), seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2; 8:6-9:21; 11:15-19), and seven bowls (Rev. 15:6-16:21; 17:1, 21:9).
Why is it significant that these judgments came in sets of seven?
“Babylon the great” (Revelation 17:5) was the recipient of these judgments (Rev. 16:19; 18:2-8). Babylon was also known as “the great harlot” (Rev. 17:1) and the “great city” (Rev. 17:18), which was first identified as the place “where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8), i.e, Jerusalem. Babylon was responsible for the bloodshed of the saints, prophets, and apostles (Rev. 16:4-7, 17:6, 18:20, 18:24). This is the same bloodshed which Jesus said the religious leaders of Israel would be held responsible and judged for in His own generation (Matthew 23:29-36).
In Deuteronomy 32:20, 29 God spoke of “the latter end” of Israel (see also Deut. 31:29), when there would be “a perverse and crooked generation…children in whom is no faith” (Deut. 32:5, 20; see also Matthew 17:17, Luke 18:8, and Philippians 2:14-15). Upon that generation He would “avenge the blood of His servants” (Deut. 32:43). In Leviticus 26, God repeatedly warned that Israel would one day receive seven-fold judgments:
“And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins” (Lev. 26:18).
“Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins” (Lev. 26:21).
“And if by these things you are not reformed by Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I will punish you yet seven times for your sins” (Lev. 26:23-24).
“And after all this, if you do not obey Me, but walk contrary to Me, then I will also walk contrary to you in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins” (Lev. 26:27-28).
God called this the vengeance of His covenant (Lev. 26:25). Revelation is a book about covenants, a book about the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. My post, “Echoes of Mount Sinai in the Book of Revelation,” details how the covenant imagery of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) is present at the opening of the seventh seal, the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the pouring out of the seventh bowl.
Interestingly, when Josephus described the spoils of war that the Romans took from Jerusalem in 70 AD, he wrote, “…These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews” (Wars 7.5.5).
Why did the judgments in the Book of Revelation come in the form of seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls? These were the seven-fold plagues that God promised would come upon Israel in her latter days:
“…I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins” (Leviticus 26:21).
“…Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues… Therefore her plagues will come in one day…” (Revelation 18:4, 8).
These plagues were poured out during the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD in fulfillment of what God promised in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, 32. The seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments of the Book of Revelation have nothing to do with our future and they were never intended for the entire planet. They were for the final generation of Israel, the crooked and perverse generation of Jesus’ own day. The apostles, prophets, and all of heaven rejoiced when this was accomplished (Revelation 18:20).
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:
What was the purpose of the end times?
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 covenant – already obsolete when Revelation was written – completely vanish away
revealing the glories of the new covenant – already 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 oldis 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“wasgiven two wings of a great eagle, that she might flyinto the wildernessto 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
We will observe these four passages, with some brief notes on their significance:
“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.
“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.
“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).
“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:  the Zealots, led by Eleazar  the Galileans, led by John of Gischala, and  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.”
The same phenomena that appeared at Mount Sinai appear repeatedly in the book of Revelation.
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).
Other covenant imagery can be seen in these passages in Revelation where the phenomena of Mount Sinai appear.
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.
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 inheritwith the son of the free woman.’ (Galatians 4:27-31).
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.
The internal evidence, i.e. evidence within Scripture itself, is more important than anyone’s opinion about when Revelation was written. I’ll never forget how the truth of point #2 in Jonathan’s illustration hit me between the eyes a few years ago. The apostle John made it very clear during which time period he was in Patmos recording his visions and prophecies: “There are seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time” (Revelation 17:10). Nero was the sixth king, as Jonathan Welton pointed out, and as this chart also shows (Source – Study on Revelation 17:7-18):
Order of Emperors
Name of Emperor
Length of Reign
October 49 BC – March 44 BC
January 27 BC – August 14 AD
-time of Jesus’ birth
August 14 AD – March 37 AD
-time of Jesus’ ascension
March 37 AD – January 41 AD
January 41 AD – October 54 AD
October 54 AD – June 68 AD
June 68 AD – January 69 AD
January 69 AD – April 69 AD
April 69 AD – December 69AD
December 69 AD – June 79 AD
For more information on the external and internal evidence that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD, see these five posts:
Following this introduction is a neat story by David Collins from Auckland, New Zealand which I would classify as part Biblical and part realistic fiction. Titled “Sarah of Jerusalem,” this story is told from the perspective of Sarah, a grandmother living with her daughter and her family in Jerusalem two years before the city was destroyed by the Romans. It explores how believers in Jesus at that time may have resisted efforts by Judaizers to bring them back under the law of Moses, how they may have reacted to the book of Revelation and the book of Hebrews, how they may have been affected by the murder of Peter and Paul, etc. Following this story are a few of my own notes, indicated by numbers in red.
Sarah lives in a small apartment in Jerusalem. The year is 68 AD.  She is the oldest of three generations of her family crammed into the small space in the middle of this bustling city. Many baby girls of her generation bore the name, Sarah – a reflection of the love they all had for Abraham’s wife from whom their beloved nation had been born a good 2000 years earlier.
Sarah was the mother of Tom, who also lived in the apartment with his wife Ruth and their twin daughters. Sarah’s husband had not been seen for thirty years – it was assumed he had not survived after a gang of thugs had broken into their home all that time ago … a proud Pharisee named Saul had led this unruly band – they especially relished breaking in as the believers – disciples of the Nazarene – sang their hymns together. Dragging Sarah’s young husband away, along with other men-folk from the group … Sarah could still remember Saul’s mocking laughter, even though she had long ago forgiven these men and happily immersed herself in the life of the community of believers, and her little family.
For thirty years, Sarah had been rebuilding her life – but it had been far from easy. In the mayhem of those early years of faith, large numbers of her friends had fled Jerusalem for the towns and cities that surrounded the eastern Mediterranean. In those days the Christ community numbered close to 20,000 devotees, but was radically reduced to just a few thousand by the effect of Saul’s persecution against them.
But making new friends was not hard for Sarah – they needed one another, they loved one another and through all the trials shared laughter, song and many a good meal together. They never ceased to wonder at how Jesus healed the sick among them – their fellowship was simple, yet full of the wonder of His presence. And then there was that report that Saul himself had met Jesus on the Damascus road – and had been baptised a believer, but had not been heard from since – a most curious business.
Despite the conversion of Saul, the persecution from the Temple rulers and their gangs of zealots continued. Many of Sarah’s friends, along with many of the community leaders, found that they could lessen the threat to their lives and livelihoods by reintroducing some of the Temple practices into their lives – circumcision, observing the holy days of the Old Covenant and abstaining from certain foods. It wasn’t long before some of their preachers were demanding this of them, and telling them that true salvation couldn’t really be enjoyed without these observances. 
This disturbed Sarah greatly, the message of the Christ had been so liberating for her – the rituals of the Temple had been just that – lifeless forms, but when she heard of the free grace of God and the love and freedom of which Jesus had spoken – and then the miracle of miracles of his resurrection and ascension to heaven … well Sarah, Tom and Ruth held firm to the simple things that had brought them freedom and refused to bow to the pressure from the Temple and the compromise that had infiltrated the Jesus community.
If all that wasn’t enough, everyone in the region were finding it hard to make ends meet. The farms surrounding Jerusalem were not doing well, it was dry and crops were failing – this had effected everyone’s livelihoods, and those who started with little were now barely able to feed their families. Without a hubby, Sarah was struggling. 
There would be three times in Sarah’s life that a knock on her apartment door would change everything. The first was hardly a knock, more the brutish force of Saul and his gang bursting in on their worship. The second was completely different – this time it was in the midst of the famine, and the visitor had come from one of the servers in their faith community.  She told Sarah how Saul, now named Paul, had turned up in Jerusalem bringing with him money and treasures from the northern gentile churches. This was a great relief to all in Jerusalem who were in hardship  – but, Paul had also passed on a list of addresses where he asked that special favour be shown in supplying their needs. Sarah’s little apartment was on the list, as were all the homes where 20 years earlier Paul had once entered with murderous intent.
The leaders in Jerusalem were full of gratitude and good news that they shared with Paul – thousands in Jerusalem have believed in the Lord, However, they are all zealous for the law of Moses. Paul was known to have stood firmly against these Jerusalem zealots who had insisted that old Jewish laws be adhered to by the Christ communities wherever they were – he was in hostile territory and a clash was looming. 
Sarah, her family and a growing number of her friends were now Paul’s strongest supporters – they were not about to surrender the unconditional love, the grace and freedom they had experienced. Some of Paul’s writings had filtered into the city, and now there was a stark choice in Jerusalem: be part of a free, but persecuted, community of Christ; or join the drift back to the Temple for safety’s sake.
During this time, bands of Jewish militants had launched random attacks on garrisons of the Roman occupation. The deranged Roman emperor, Nero, was looking for an excuse to move against everything that threatened his rule. In 64 AD a massive fire destroyed large parts of Rome and Nero, seizing the opportunity, unleashed a cruel and massive campaign against the communities of Christ all over his Empire – after all wasn’t this Jesus a Jew? They must be responsible for the fire. There was every reason why the believers started calling Caesar Nero, The Beast. 
Three years later – well 67 AD seemed like the worst year of Sarah’s life. Now 59 years of age, she is more grateful than ever for the loving support of Tom and Ruth and their girls, plus that of her believing friends in Jerusalem – but this was the year that Sarah learned that the Roman’s had murdered the beloved Peter and her spiritual hero, Paul the apostle of grace. Both murders needing the help of the authorities in Jerusalem. On top of that John, whom they called the apostle of love, had been exiled to a prison island , and now 60,000 Roman troops are marching through Judea, killing as they go, headed for Jerusalem.
In the New Year there’s a knock on the apartment door – this was number three. She opened the door to a true brother in Christ, one who was doing the rounds of the believer’s homes in Jerusalem. He had with him three scrolls of parchment. Sarah was not alone that evening, some twenty of her believing neighbours would cram every corner of her house, often five times a week – they jokingly called it their “New Covenant love nest.”
The first parchment was read aloud in the room. It had come from the beloved John – a vastly ranging account of visions and picture scenes and images – the violence and turmoil portrayed looked a lot like the world they were living in, but by the time the visitor had read the final paragraphs, Sarah’s apartment had filled with praise and shouts of victory at what was told. There was Jesus, there was His New Covenant Bride, there were the nations walking in the precious light of the Lamb of God. 
The second parchment contained none of the mystery of the first. It was a letter to them, and to all the Jews who had put their trust in the Messiah and in Him alone. The letter had come from a friend, an apostle they loved and respected greatly. Don’t throw away your confidence in Jesus, the letter urged, don’t forsake gathering together as you do … we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, run with endurance the race God has set before you … keep your eyes on Jesus, who because of the joy awaiting him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 
Soon there’s a room full of people holding and hugging one another – speaking with true affection to one another – encouraging and praying over one another. There’s tears aplenty, but all of them of pure beauty.
The third parchment was at least ten years old, and looked like a copy of a copy of a copy. It had originally been written by the old tax collector from Galilee who had become a disciple of Jesus. It was Matthew’s whole story of Jesus’ life and the things he’d heard Jesus say. Sarah’s visitor went straight to the middle of the scroll, and when he finally locates the bit he wants to read them, begins:
Jesus, as a good farmer, has planted good seed in his field … people who love the King and love his Kingdom. But an enemy has also been at work, sowing false seed, tares among the wheat, people working for another kingdom – one of bondage and wickedness. This enemy is the devil. But this mixture in the field is coming to an end; at harvest time there will be a furnace of fire into which these tares, these offenders will be burned. They will wail and gnash their teeth as they are thrown from God’s field. Then those whose righteousness is by grace alone will shine forth … they’ll come out of the shadows and shine as bright as the sun in the Kingdom of their loving Father. 
With that, the small crowd in Sarah’s apartment grew silent as they pondered what lay ahead of them. The Roman troops were now spreading out around the city, the well tested strategy of conquer by siege was beginning to form.
An old man started to speak; as a Jew he’d been taught to memorise the Torah from a boy: “They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the Lord your God has given you.”
The mood in the room was becoming decidedly somber until Sarah’s visitor, the bearer of the three parchment scrolls spoke up. “Dear friends, I’ve come to show you that none of what has happened or is about to happened has escaped the understanding of our Lord, nor that of his servants who have written these things. Jesus has always known that your faith would be tested that the enemies of His grace would seek to trample it out. But as far as he is concerned, their opposition is soon coming to an end, as is the old law with which they have sought to bind you.”
And then looking directly at Sarah, her two grand daughters in her lap, he says, it won’t be long now, Sarah, and it’s your time to shine without the shadow of the Judaizers, the Pharisees, the Temple rulers to hinder you. Somehow, dear ones, you’ll escape all this and will then be free to live in the ever advancing Kingdom of the Son. Sarah, all of you, get ready to leave this city – God will make a way – and get ready to shine as the sun.
As they returned to their homes, there was hardly one of them that wasn’t wondering how the rest of this would play out … and they wondered what it was going to be like for people in every generation to come, all over the earth, to live fully new creation lives in the grace – and grace alone – of their loving God.
 Sarah and her family are followers of Christ. My understanding is that the believers fled from Jerusalem about 3.5 years before Jerusalem fell, which would have been late 66 AD/early 67 AD. See these posts (one, two, andthree) for a timeline and details on these and other events from this time period.
 See Acts 8:1-3.
 See Acts 2:46.
 See Acts 15, Galatians 1-6, Colossians 2:11-23, etc.
According to Tertullian (160 – 220 AD), it was Nero who banished John to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. Nero banished John after first attempting to boil him alive in oil.
This is a great quote from Philip Mauro, almost 100 years ago, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, its significance in relation to Bible prophecy, and how popular beliefs on Bible prophecy speak to the people of Israel today:
“It is greatly to be regretted that those who, in our day, give themselves to the study and exposition of prophecy, seem not to be aware of the immense significance of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, which was accompanied by the extinction of Jewish national existence, and the dispersion of the Jewish people among all the nations. The failure to recognize the significance of that event, and the vast amount of prophecy which it fulfilled, has been the cause of great confusion, for the necessary consequence of missing the past fulfillment of predicted events is to leave on our hands a mass of prophecies for which we must needs contrive fulfillments in the future. The harmful results are two fold; for first, we are thus deprived of the evidential value, and the support to the faith, of those remarkable fulfillments of prophecy which are so clearly presented to us in authentic contemporary histories; and second, our vision of things to come is greatly obscured and confused by the transference to the future of predicted events which, in fact, have already happened, and whereof complete records have been preserved for our information.”
“Yet, in the face of all this, we have today a widely held scheme of prophetic interpretation, which has for its very cornerstone the idea that, when God’s time to remember His promised mercies to Israel shall at last have come, He will gather them into their ancient land again, only to pour upon them calamities and distresses far exceeding even the horrors which attended the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This is, we are convinced, an error of such magnitude as to derange the whole program of unfulfilled prophecy.”
–Philip Mauro, “Seventy Weeks and the Great Tribulation,” 1921
For some good information on the historical events that took place from 62 AD – 70 AD, and the spiritual significance of many of these events in light of Bible prophecy, please see the following posts: