Who Can Make War with the Beast? (Revelation 13:4)

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

Review of Rev. 13:3

In the previous post we looked at Revelation 13:3 and the deadly wound of one of the beast’s heads. That post included an extensive overview of the Zealot movement and 12 key leaders of that movement, and I proposed that the seven heads belonged to the family dynasty of Hezekiah the Zealot.

There are also seven kings. Five have fallen 1. Hezekiah (47 BC)
  2. Judas of Galilee (led rebellion from AD 6-8)
  3. Jacob (son of Judas; crucified around AD 47)
  4. Simon (son of Judas; crucified around AD 47)
  5. Jair (son of Judas; father of Eleazar)
one is 6. Eleazar ben Jair (rebel leader from AD 66-73)
and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time” (Rev. 17:10). 7. Menahem (rebel leader for only a month in AD 66)

I also proposed that the wounded head was Menahem, who came “in the state of a king to Jerusalem” in late August AD 66 and quickly became the leader of the Jewish revolt (Wars 2.17.8). Menahem masterminded a series of victories for the Zealots, had the support of most of Jerusalem’s population (Martin Hengel, The Zealots, p. 363), and was probably “the only man possessing the necessary authority and experience to organize a lasting resistance to the Romans” (Hengel, p. 365). However, he was killed only a month later and many of his followers left Jerusalem and went to Masada. Menahem’s death weakened the Zealots and strengthened the moderate forces who wanted to compromise with Rome.

The Beast’s Great Recovery

Here is what Revelation 13:3-4 says about the healing of the beast’s head wound and the dramatic reaction throughout the land of Israel (note that some translations say “earth” or “land” rather than “world”):

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. 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?’”

Verse 3 begins with the devastating death of one of the beast’s heads, but ends with a dramatic recovery that amazes the people and solidifies their loyalty to the beast. Before Menahem’s death the Zealots boldly carried out the following acts of war:

  • The massacre of the Roman garrison at Masada by the Zealots
  • The massacre of the Roman garrison at the Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem by the Zealots

Such acts certainly invited the retaliation of the Romans. This was no time for the Zealots to lose their most capable leader, Menahem, but that’s what happened. Then two months later their movement received new life when the following took place:

  • The Zealots achieved a stunning victory over the forces of the Syrian general, Cestius Gallus, who was commissioned by Rome to crush the Jewish rebellion.
  • Eleazar ben Simon and his uncle, Simon Bar Giora, emerged as war heroes – especially Simon Bar Giora who was regarded by many as “their king” (Wars 4.9.4; Wars 7.2.2) just like Menahem was.

Why does Revelation 13:4 apply to Israel so much better than it could possibly apply to Rome? Here’s what we see when we look at the big picture:

1. The beast would be recognized as a victor of war. “Who is able to make war with him?” (Rev. 13:4).
2. The beast would then receive authority to continue for 42 months and overcome the saints (Rev. 13:5-7).
3. The beast would then be captured and killed by the sword (Rev. 13:10).
4. The beast would ultimately end up in the lake of fire (Rev. 19:20) and the birds would be filled with the flesh of his followers (Rev. 19:21).

If we examine any historical overview of the Jewish-Roman War (AD 66 – AD 73), what will we see? Who started out victorious but ended up in misery and defeat? Was it Rome, or was it Israel? The reality is that Rome was embarrassed at the beginning of the war, but was thoroughly victorious in the end. Israel shocked everyone at the beginning with its victories, but was brutally destroyed in the end. Israel, not Rome, followed the pattern outlined above. Let’s take a closer look now at those initial victories.

Romans Massacred at Masada and Jerusalem

According to Josephus, the war officially began in August AD 66 when the governor of the temple, Eleazar ben Ananias, “persuaded those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner.” At the same time, 60 miles away from Jerusalem, the Zealots “made an assault upon a certain fortress called Masada. They took it by treachery, and slew the Romans that were there, and put others of their own party to keep it” (Wars 2.17.2). Days later they joined with the Sicarii and burned the house of the high priest (Ananias), the palaces of Agrippa and Bernice, and the city archives (Wars 2.17.6). The next day “they made an assault upon Antonia, and besieged the garrison which was in it two days, and then took the garrison, and slew them, and set the citadel on fire” (Wars 2.17.7). These things took place before the death of Menahem.

On the same day that Menahem was killed, the Zealots tricked the remaining Roman soldiers in Jerusalem into laying down their weapons, taking an oath to spare their lives. As soon as the Romans were unarmed, the Zealots violently murdered all of them, except for one person who promised to become a Jew and be circumcised (Wars 2.17.10). This was in September AD 66. For the first time since 63 BC, when Pompey the Great invaded Judea, Jerusalem had no Roman presence. Except for the brief appearance of Cestius Gallus’ armies two months later, it would remain that way for the next 3.5 years until Titus arrived in April AD 70.  

The Shocking Defeat of Cestius Gallus

In the two months that followed the death of Menahem, some of the surrounding nations and cities turned on the Jews who lived among them. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed in Caesarea, Alexandria, Scythopolis, Syria, and other places (Wars 2.18.1-9). The Syrian general Cestius Gallus also came into Galilee with the 12th legion and other Roman forces and began to subdue that nation (Wars 2.18.9-2.19.1). He then approached Jerusalem while the Feast of Tabernacles was taking place. This was in November AD 66 and by this time the people of Jerusalem “were kept under by the seditious” (Wars 2.19.4), meaning that they were under the control of the Zealots.

While Cestius Gallus and his forces were still about six miles from Jerusalem, some of the Jews left the feast and preemptively attacked the Romans, killing 515 of them. Only 22 Jews were killed in that battle. Simon Bar Giora also attacked the Roman armies from behind while they were retreating and he “carried off many of the beasts that carded the weapons of war” (Wars 2.19.2).

Three days later Cestius Gallus launched an attack against Jerusalem. According to Josephus, he had at least two opportunities to capture the city and end the revolt, but he failed to do so. Five days later, Cestius Gallus retreated from the city “without any reason in the world” (Wars 2.19.7) and the Zealots chased after his armies. They attacked the rear “and destroyed a considerable number of both their horsemen and footmen” before chasing them much further and scoring additional victories. The ancient history site, Livius, gives this summary of what happened:

“In October 66, the governor of Judaea, Gessius Florus, needed military support to regain control of Jerusalem. The Twelfth [Roman Legion Fulminata] (supported by subunits from IIII Scythica and VI Ferrata) came, saw, and returned, when its commander saw that his force was not strong enough. On his way back, he was defeated by one of the leaders of the Jewish Zealots, Eleaser son of Simon. Humiliation was added to the disgrace: the legion lost its eagle standard.”

In the end the Zealots “themselves lost a few only,” but killed 5,680 of the Romans. They captured the war engines of the Romans “and came back running and singing to their metropolis,” i.e. Jerusalem (Wars 2.19.9). This is when they “got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war” (Wars 2.20.3-4), and 10 main generals in particular.

After this defeat, Cestius Gallus sent men to Nero, who was in Achaia (Greece) “to inform him of the great distress they were in” (Wars 2.20.1). In his Preface to Wars of the Jews (Preface 8.21), Josephus wrote that “Nero, upon Cestius’s defeat, was in fear of the entire event of the war,” and in Wars 3.1.1 he said that “when Nero was informed of the Romans’ ill success in Judea, a concealed consternation and terror, as is usual in such cases, fell upon him.”

In another book, Josephus wrote that the Zealots “were so far elevated with this success that they had hopes of finally conquering the Romans” (Life 6.24). Similarly, he said this in Wars 3.2.1:

“Now the Jews, after they had beaten Cestius, were so much elevated with their unexpected success, that they could not govern their zeal, but, like people blown up into a flame by their good fortune, carried the war to remoter places.”

Like a Return to the Maccabean Era

To those hungry for war, it apparently seemed as if they had entered a new “Maccabean Era,” and that they were about to relive the time when the Maccabees gained full independence for Israel. Perhaps the greatest moment in the Zealots’ victory over Cestius Gallus and his armies occurred at the Bethoron Pass, where the Zealots trapped the Romans and attacked them at both ends of the pass. According to Josephus, they even could have “taken Cestius’s entire army prisoners” if the sun hadn’t set (Wars 2.19.8). About 230 years earlier, a similar battle had been fought at the same location with the Maccabees emerging victorious. The Jewish Encyclopedia, in a 1906 article written by Kaufmann Kohler, pointed out this same parallel:

“…the Romans were everywhere over-powered and annihilated, Simon bar Giora being one of the heroic leaders whom none could resist. The whole army of Cestius, who had brought twelve legions from Antioch to retrieve the defeat of the Roman garrison, was annihilated by the Zealots under the leadership of Bar Giora and Eleazar ben Simon the priest. The Maccabean days seemed to have returned; and the patriots of Jerusalem celebrated the year 66 as the year of Israel’s deliverance from Rome, and commemorated it with coins bearing the names of Eleazar the priest and Simon the prince

The year 67 saw the beginning of the great war with the Roman legions, first under Vespasian and then under Titus; and Galilee was at the outset chosen as the seat of war. The Zealots fought with almost superhuman powers against warriors trained in countless battles waged in all parts of the known world, and when they succumbed to superior military skill and overwhelming numbers, often only after some act of treachery within the Jewish camp, they died with a fortitude and a spirit of heroic martyrdom which amazed and overawed their victors.”

Mi Kamokha Ba’elim Hashem

Another parallel to the Maccabees may connect directly with the words John used in Revelation 13:4 (“Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”). Eliezer Segal, a professor of Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, writes about an explanation behind the name “Maccabee” which is commonly taught in Jewish education:

“…many of us were taught in school that the name Maccabee is an acronym for the Biblical verse Mi kamokha ba’elim Hashem, ‘Who is like unto thee among the mighty, O Lord!’ As generations of schoolteachers have told the story, Judah [Maccabee] carried these inspiring words upon his standard as he marched off to battle.”

Rabbi Ken Spiro, a licensed tour guide with the Israel Ministry of Tourism, adds that this expression is both an acronym for “Maccabee” and “the battle cry of the Jewish people.” Attributed to Judah Maccabee around 165 BC, this expression is strikingly similar to the expression used in Revelation 13:4 concerning the beast. It’s very possible that Revelation 13:4 reflected the excited hope that the Zealots were about to obtain full independence for Judea the way the Maccabees did about 230 years before their time.

A year after the victory over Cestius Gallus, another Zealot leader breathed more life into the idea that Israel and Jerusalem were invincible and that it was a matter of time before independence would be theirs once again. In November AD 67 John of Gischala came to Jerusalem after escaping his town of Gischala, which was captured by the Romans, and he soon became a main leader of the Zealots there. John pretended that he and his men had not fled from the Romans, but that they had merely intended to join the fight for Jerusalem. John then gave many of the Jews hope that the Romans were weak, ignorant, and unskilled, and that they barely managed to capture the villages of Galilee. John proclaimed that the Romans could never fly over the walls of Jerusalem and capture their city:

“But for John, he…went about among all the people, and persuaded them to go to war, by the hopes he gave them. He affirmed that the affairs of the Romans were in a weak condition, and extolled his own power. He also jested upon the ignorance of the unskillful, as if those Romans, although they should take to themselves wings, could never fly over the wall of Jerusalem, who found such great difficulties in taking the villages of Galilee, and had broken their engines of war against their walls. These harangues of John’s corrupted a great part of the young men, and puffed them up for the war…” (Wars 4.3.1-2).


In the next post we will look at Revelation 13:5-8 and the 42 months that the beast made war with the saints and had authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation.

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

Josephus Lists the 10 Horns Who Received Authority for “One Hour” (Revelation 17:12)

In the past I’ve echoed the view of other preterist teachers that the 10 horns of the beast in Revelation 17 were the leaders of Rome’s 10 Senatorial Provinces. Recently, however, I learned that there were never 10 Roman provinces involved in the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). Only four legions joined forces with Titus in the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD (Wars 5.1.6), and therefore could not have been the 10 horns that burned the harlot (old covenant Jerusalem) with fire (Revelation 17:16). 

This was one of the factors that caused me to rethink this section of John’s prophecy. 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 or January 67 AD. I would like to propose that they fulfilled the prophecy given to John by the angel in Rev. 17:12-14. This would mean, of course, that the beast in Revelation 17 was Jewish, not Roman.

The 10 Horns of Revelation 17:12-14

In this post we will focus on the 10 horns/kings who did not yet have authority when John wrote his book, but who would soon “receive authority for one hour as kings” with the scarlet beast. Here is how these three verses read:

And 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. 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, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:12-14).

Before we look at what Josephus wrote in War of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 20, here’s some important historical background which can be found in the works of Josephus (e.g. Wars 2.20.1) and Roman historians like Suetonius (The Twelve Caesars, Vespasian 4), Tacitus (The Histories V), and Dio Cassius:

Spring 66 AD

Cestius Gallus was a general in the Roman army and the Governor of the Roman province of Syria, who played a major role at the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD).  In the spring of 66 AD he visited Jerusalem during the Passover and brought a report to Nero on the strength and status of Jerusalem. On Passover 256,500 sacrifices were made, so based on estimates of how many individuals were fed by each lamb Gallus reported that 2.7 million were present for the feast.

Summer 66 AD

During the summer of 66 AD a group of Jewish zealots and revolutionaries, who were opposed to Rome, took control of the Jerusalem temple. 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).

November 66 AD

In November 66 AD Cestius Gallus brought the 12th Legion to put down the Jewish rebellion. He plundered and burned the city of Zebulon in Galilee, then moved south to surround Jerusalem. He arrived when most of Judea was gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Surprisingly, his army suffered about 5,700 deaths, his weapons and supplies were stolen during an ambush, they retreated from Jerusalem on November 22nd, and hundreds were chased and killed by Jewish rebels over the next five days. This gave many Jews confidence that they could overcome any Roman army, believing heaven was with them. 

Source: http://josephus.org/warChronology2.htm

Josephus Lists 10 Newly Appointed Jewish Generals 

The following information is taken from Josephus’ War of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 20:

The Jewish religious leaders and nationalists knew that a full-scale Roman revenge was inevitable. (Indeed Nero officially declared war against Israel in February 67 AD, sending Vespasian as his general. See Revelation 6:1-2.) So these Jewish leaders “got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war” (Wars 2.20.3). As Josephus reveals, exactly 10 generals were appointed and some of them were high priests (this is from sections 3-4 of Wars 2.20):

3. But as to those who had pursued after Cestius, when they were returned back to Jerusalem, they overbore some of those that favored the Romans by violence, and some them persuaded [by en-treaties] to join with them, and got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war. Joseph also, the son of Gorion, and Ananus the high priest, were chosen as governors of all affairs within the city, and with a particular charge to repair the walls of the city; for they did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office, although he had gotten into his possession the prey they had taken from the Romans, and the money they had taken from Cestius, together with a great part of the public treasures, because they saw he was of a tyrannical temper, and that his followers were, in their behavior, like guards about him. However, the want they were in of Eleazar’s money, and the subtle tricks used by him, brought all so about, that the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs.

4. They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command.

Here’s a list of these 10 generals and the territories they were to oversee in preparation for war with Rome:

1. Joseph, the son of Gorion (Governor of Jerusalem)
2. Ananus, the high priest (Governor of Jerusalem)
3. Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests (Idumaea)
4. Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest (Idumaea)
5. Niger, the then governor of Idumea (Idumaea)
6. Joseph, the son of Simon (Jericho)
7. Manasseh (Perea)
8. John, the Esscue (toparchy of Thamna; “Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus”)
9. John, the son of Matthias (toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene)
10. Josephus, the son of Matthias (both the Galilees; “Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command”)

They Receive Authority for One Hour

We read in Revelation 17:12 that the 10 horns had “received no kingdom as yet.” This was true at the time when John wrote Revelation. Before the winter of 66-67 AD these generals didn’t oversee Jerusalem, Idumaea, Jericho, Perea, etc. They received these kingdoms and this authority around the beginning of 67 AD after the defeat of Cestius Gallus.

Rev. 17:12-13 goes on to say that 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.” The phrase “one hour” is used again three times in Revelation 18, each time to describe the judgment of the great city, the harlot, Babylon the great:

And the kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come‘” (Rev. 18:9-10).

For in one hour such great riches came to nothing…” (Rev. 18:17).

“…For in one hour she is made desolate” (Rev. 18:19).

We know that “the great city” was first identified in Revelation 11:8 as Jerusalem, “where also our Lord was crucified.” We also know that both Daniel and Revelation frame this time of judgment as 3.5 years, repeatedly using terms like “42 months”, “1260 days,” and “a time, times, and half a time.” During this time Israel experienced seven seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments. It was 3.5 years from the time that Nero declared war on Jerusalem in February 67 AD until the city and its temple were destroyed and burned in August 70 AD. This is also how long the ten kings, the generals listed by Josephus, kept their authority. So it seems that in Revelation 17:12; 18:10, 17, 19, “one hour” = 3.5 years.

These Will Make War with the Lamb

In Revelation 17:14 we read, “These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord or lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

Jesus made war against the harlot/great city and He used the Roman army as His instrument. Probably the clearest indication of this fact can be seen in The Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14). When the king (God) arranged a marriage for his son (Jesus), those who were invited refused to come, and some even mistreated and killed the king’s servants. Jesus went on to say, “But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city” (verse 7). We also know that Jesus promised to come in judgment within the lifetime of His disciples, and in their own generation (Matthew 16:27-28, I Thessalonians 2:14-16, II Thessalonians 1:6-8, James 5:8-9, Revelation 22:12, etc.).

So when these 10 generals (high priests among them) attempted to defeat the Romans and maintain Jerusalem as the center of the old covenant system which Jesus had already made obsolete (Hebrews 8:6, 13, etc.), this was nothing less than war against Jesus Himself. There’s evidence that they even knew this and warred against Jesus intentionally, as they called to mind His predictions that Jerusalem would be destroyed in that generation.

When Jesus said, “the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it…on whomever [this stone] falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:43-44), the chief priests and Pharisees knew He was speaking of them (verse 45).

When James, the brother of Jesus, was martyred in 62 AD with the approval of the high priest, Ananus, these were James’ last words: “Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.” The Pharisees responded, “We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus.”

In 70 AD, during the 5-month siege on Jerusalem which ultimately caused its downfall, the 10th Legion of the Romans launched white boulders as heavy as 100 pounds over the city walls into Jerusalem (see Revelation 16:21). They were catapulted from Roman engines from up to a quarter mile away. Josephus records that the watchmen on the wall, if they saw them 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 then many were crushed by these stones.  J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book, The Parousia, offered this explanation (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. 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.”

And the Lamb Will Overcome Them

These 10 generals, the 10 horns, were of one mind. They thought they could use their own power and authority to prevent Jesus’ predictions from coming true. They thought they could maintain power over the great temple and their prosperous old covenant system. Of course, they failed and all of them perished or were captured. The words of God were fulfilled (Revelation 17:17). They made war with the Lamb, but the Lamb overcame. Just as it was true then, it’s still true now: In every generation, we who are with the Lamb are “called, chosen, and faithful.”

The 10 Horns Turned on the Harlot

Revelation 17:16 says, “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.”

Previously I thought that this verse couldn’t possibly describe the actions of the Jews, and that it must be about the Romans only. However, we can take note that Josephus described the various Jewish groups fighting among themselves from 67-70 AD, and that he blamed them for Jerusalem’s destruction. For example, Josephus likened the situation in Jerusalem to a wild beast gone mad and eating its own flesh (Wars 5.1.1, 5):

“…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… And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces.”

Josephus, in another place (Wars 4.3.10) said that the Romans would treat the Jews with “much greater moderation” than the Jews were treating themselves:

“[T]hough we should be taken by them [the Romans] (God forbid the event should be so!), yet can we undergo nothing that will be harder to be borne than what these [Jewish] men have already brought upon us….Besides, can any one be afraid of a war abroad, and that with such as will have comparatively much greater moderation than our own people have? For truly, if we may suit our words to the things they represent, it is probable one may hereafter find the Romans to be the supporters of our laws, and those within ourselves the subverters of them.”

It was also one of the Jewish leaders who destroyed the food supply during the siege, making the famine conditions much worse. So I tend to think that this insane, self-defeating behavior is what is described in Rev. 17:16. This will be explored further in an upcoming series on the beast of Revelation, including how the Jews had a significant hand in causing the temple and their city to be burned.


What are your thoughts about this view of the 10 horns?

PP17: The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 1)

This is now the seventeenth post in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. All the previous posts can be found here, and it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this post:

[1] Brief Explanation of Preterism
[2] References
[3] External Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation
[4] Internal Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation (Part 1)
[5] Internal Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation (Part 2)
[6] Internal Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation (Part 3)
[7] Internal Evidence for An Early Date for the Writing of Revelation (Part 4)
[8] Daniel’s 70 Week Prophecy (Part 1)
[9] Daniel’s 70 Week Prophecy (Part 2)
[10] Jerusalem’s Destruction Foretold in the Olivet Discourse
[11] Did Jesus Come in 70 AD? (Part 1)
[12] Did Jesus Come in 70 AD? (Part 2)
[13] Signs of the Close of the Age
[14] Abomination of Desolation
[15] The Man of Lawlessness – II Thessalonians 2 (Part 1)
[16] The Man of Lawlessness – II Thessalonians 2 (Part 2)

We will now turn to a discussion of the historical events which led up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. In this first post we will see a fascinating timeline of these events, beginning with the martyrdom of James, the brother of Jesus. It’s not really practical to break up this timeline, so take a deep breath because this will be the longest post yet.

Adam Maarschalk


G. The Historical Events Leading Up to 70 AD (Part 1)

A number of historical events belonging to this time period have already been enumerated in previous sections, but here further details will be added. Some are of a gory nature, but it should be remembered that one purpose of this judgment was to advance the kingdom of God. Jesus said as much in Luke 21:31 when He stated, “So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” John Wesley, in his commentary on this passage, said, “The destruction of the Jewish city, temple, and religion” occurred in order “to make way for the advancement of [God’s] kingdom” (Todd Dennis [10], 2009).

In order to see a basic framework for the historical events leading up to 70 AD, the following is a timeline derived from dates given by Josephus (Todd Dennis [11], 2009),[1] and combined with information from sources referenced in this paper. Some commentary is included, as well as related Scripture references as inferred by Preterist sources:

62 AD James, the brother of Jesus, is martyred in Jerusalem. According to Hegesippus [110-180 AD], the Scribes and Pharisees confronted James and said to him, “We entreat thee, restrain the people; for they are gone astray in regard to Jesus, as if he were the Christ.” However, James used his last words on earth to say, “Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.” At that statement, James was thrown off the temple and stoned to death. The believers among the crowd, seeing and hearing his testimony, shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” This prompted the Pharisees to say, “We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus.”
Late 62 Jesus, the son of Ananus and a common Roman citizen, came to the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem during a time of great peace and prosperity and began to cry out, “A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the holy house, a voice against the bridegrooms and the brides, and a voice against this whole people!” He continued to do this for seven years and five months, day and night, in all the lanes of the city, crying out the loudest during the festivals. He was often whipped until his bones were bare, but witnesses say he never shed a tear, only crying out at every lash, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!” He was dismissed by the Roman Procurator as a madman.
June 64 Nero reportedly sets fire to Rome, watching the “beauty of the flames” with delight from Mecena’s Tower while dressed in actor’s clothes and singing of the destruction of Troy. When he is pinned down as guilty by rumors, he places the blame for this fire on the Christians.
November 64 Nero launches an imperial persecution against Christians throughout the empire, and against anyone who would not declare allegiance to him. This proves to be the first and the most intense persecution in Rome’s history. Some are covered with the skins of wild beasts and sent into arenas to be torn apart by dogs, while others are crucified. Many others are burned, their bodies first clothed with pitch, paper, and wax, and then fastened to stakes through their throats. At night their bodies are lit up as torches to give light, especially to provide light in Nero’s garden so that he could put on circus shows. This time of persecution lasts until Nero’s death in June 68, a period of 42 months (cf. Revelation 13:5-7).
65 The elaborate temple renovations begun by Herod the Great in 20 BC are finally completed.
Spring 66 Cestius Gallus reports to Nero on the strength and status of Jerusalem. On Passover 256,500 sacrifices were made, so based on estimates of how many individuals were fed by each lamb Gallus reports that 2.7 million were present for the feast.
April 66 [1] On the 8th day of Nisan, when great crowds are gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a tremendous light begins to shine around “the altar and the holy house.” This happens at 3:00 AM, lasting for half an hour, and it appears to be “bright day time.” Many interpret this to be a good sign, perhaps God’s favor. [2] At this same festival, a heifer, led by the (false and blasphemous) high priest to be sacrificed, suddenly gives birth to a lamb in the midst of the temple. [3] One night at midnight the eastern gate of the inner court of the temple opens of its own accord. This gate, made of very heavy brass, normally requires the strength of 20 men to open and shut it, and it “had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor.” Writes Josephus, “This also appeared to the vulgar to be a very happy prodigy, as if God did thereby open them the gate of happiness.” [4] A few days after the feast, seen and recorded by multiple witnesses, just before sunset “chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor are seen running about among the clouds,” surrounding the cities.
June 66 At the Feast of Pentecost, the priests who are going at night into the inner court of the temple to perform the sacred duties feel a quaking and hear a great noise. Then they hear “a sound as of a great multitude, saying, ‘Let us remove hence.’”
Fall 66 [1] Zealots and Revolutionaries (against Rome) take control of the Jerusalem temple. [2] The Jewish/Roman War begins in October with a revolt at Caesarea due to a group of Greeks sacrificing birds in front of a local synagogue. The revolt occurred because the Jews were frustrated that the local Roman garrison did not intervene. [3] The High Priest successfully leads a massacre of the Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem, the 12th Legion led by Cestius Gallus of Syria. [4] The Romans in Caesarea slaughter 20,000 Jews. [5] About 13,000 more Jews are put to death in Damascus, Syria.
Late 66/Early 67 [1] Cestius Gallus, the Roman governor of Syria, takes the Twelfth Legion to put down the Jewish rebellion. He plunders and burns the city of Zebulon in Galilee, then moves south to surround Jerusalem. He arrives when most of Judea is gathered in Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles. Surprisingly, his army is defeated and driven away, with the Romans suffering about 5700 deaths. This gives many Jews confidence that they could overcome any Roman army, and the moderates who advocated maintaining peace with Rome are scorned all the more. [2] Thousands of Christian believers, however, recalling the warnings Jesus gave (e.g. Luke 21:20-21, Matthew 24:15-20-23, Mark 13:14-18), and also collectively being instructed by a divine oracle, flee to Pella beyond the Jordan River.*** It’s recorded that not one single believer perished in the siege that would come later. [3] The Jews cease to offer prayers and sacrifices at the temple for Nero, the Roman Emperor.
Early February 67 Rome officially declares war on Israel, and Nero formally commissions Vespasian as his general to lead this war (Revelation 6:2).
Early spring 67 Vespasian marches into Judea with an army of 60,000 men. At least 150,000 Jewish inhabitants of Galilee and Judea are killed in the coming months. Josephus describes Galilee at one point as “filled with fire and blood,” and writes that the sea turned to blood near Joppa after a brutal slaughter there, recording also that the Sea of Galilee was filled with dead bodies.
June 29, 67 Paul the Apostle is beheaded in Rome on this day, according to Chrysostom and later records of the eastern and western church. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, affirms in a letter that Peter is martyred with him, crucified upside down as Christ had foretold (John 21:18-19).
August 67 Josephus is captured by the Romans when Yotapata falls. He surrenders, thus receiving the label of traitor by the Zealots. Josephus is held in Caesaria until 69 AD, and returns with Titus to Jerusalem in 70 AD as an eye-witness to the final siege there.
Fall/Winter 67 Civil War breaks out in Judea between the revolutionaries and those who want peace with Rome. Jerusalem is eventually divided into three factions led by [1] Eleazar, who was over the Zealots [2] John of Gischala, who was over the Galileans, and [3] Simon, who was over the Idumeans. It remains this way until the city is destroyed.[2] Numerous earthquakes occur at this time..
November 67 [1] Gischala was the last city in all of Galilee to be taken by Vespasian and his son, Titus, because it was a farming community. However, John, who was fond of war and most corrupt, had built a wall around it. When Titus arrived with 1000 horsemen, John pretended that he cared about honoring the Sabbath day and persuaded Titus to retreat until the Sabbath was over. However he escaped during the night with all the armed men and many families. The next day Titus the remaining inhabitants came out of the city and embraced Titus as if he was a deliverer, so their lives were spared but they were taken captive. Titus could not catch John before he reached Jerusalem, so in his anger he slew 6000 of the women and children who had followed behind him in the escape. [2] John of Gischala, the enemy of Josephus, arrives in Jerusalem with numerous followers; he proves to be a false prophet as he repeatedly assures everyone that Rome lacks the power to take Jerusalem. He is also the cause of much division and fighting.
Winter 67/68 [1] Guerilla groups make their way to Jerusalem and are welcomed by the populace; [2] Relatives of King Agrippa and other Royalists are executed by the Zealots for supposed treason; [3] The Zealots appoint their own High Priest, Phannias, annulling the previous succession of the high priesthood. Phannias, in the months to come, commits what, to Judaism, are lawless acts of false worship. [4] The people are incited to rebel against the Zealots by prominent men (including Ananus, the former High Priest), but the Zealots, hearing of the plan, strike first. When the people retaliate much bloodshed occurs and the Zealots fall back into the Inner Court and bar themselves inside. [5] Certain Zealot leaders escape and, using deceitful means, persuade 20,000 Idumeans to march on Jerusalem.  [6] The Idumeans are kept shut outside the city gates, but a verbal war ensues. Overnight a terrible storm takes place, along with a great earthquake, which Josephus described as “amazing concussions and bellowing of the earth” (Wars 4.4.5). Certain Zealots take advantage of the awful noise to cut through the gates unnoticed. The Idumeans enter, and the Zealots fight from within, and by daybreak 8,500 are dead. The outer temple is said to be “overflowing with blood.” Houses are then looted and their inhabitants killed. The corpses are cast outside the city without burial.
February 68 [1] The Zealots and Idumeans murder 12,000 of their opponents who will not join them, including Ananus and Jesus son of Gamaliel, two former High Priests who had been popular with many people. The Idumeans discover that they were duped by John of Gischala numerous times and decide to leave Jerusalem. Unchecked, the Zealots continue to murder all possible opponents and persons of authority. [2] Vespasian of Rome decides not to attack Jerusalem yet, giving time for the dissension to weaken its inhabitants first. [3] The Zealots ridicule “every dictate of religion” and “scoffed at the oracles of the [Old Testament] prophets as impostor’s tales.” [4] Simon, son of Gioras, leaves Masada, gains a following, and comes to Jerusalem to “proclaim liberty for the slaves and rewards for the free.”
Feb./March 68 Vespasian attacks Gadara before moving on toward Jerusalem.
March/April 68 The Sicarii (assassins) at Masada conduct raids on Judea, including a Passover attack on En Gedi.
June 68 [1] Vespasian reaches the walls of Jerusalem. [2] Nero’s reign ends when he commits suicide. Vespasian, unnerved by this news, loosens his grip on Jerusalem. He is forced to return to Rome to deal with the outbreaks of civil war there. Numerous false prophets in Jerusalem and Judea proclaim God’s favor and deliverance for the Jews. [3] The “Year of Four Emperors” begins, as Nero is succeeded by Galba, Ortho, Vitellius, and finally Vespasian. Rome is in political disarray during this time and teeters on the brink of total collapse. [4] Simon takes control of parts of Judea and clashes with the Zealots. With 20,000 troops he overcomes Idumaea, takes Hebron and begins to ravage the country. When his wife is kidnapped by the Zealots, he attacks Jerusalem in a rage until they give her back.
April 69 Simon drives many Idumean refugees back into Jerusalem.
Spring 69 [1] The Galilean followers of John dress like women (probably during the festival of Purim) and “indulge themselves in feminine wantoness,” while attacking men at random and running them through with swords kept under their gowns. [2] The Idumeans gather together against John and his followers, but the Zealots rush to John’s defense. [3] The chief priests, Idumaeans, and the wealthy in Jerusalem invite Simon to Jerusalem to overthrow John, and Simon is hailed as “their Savior and Protector.” [4] Simon becomes the Master of Jerusalem and attacks the Zealots in the temple. The part of the temple deemed as the Holy Court is filled with lakes of blood and dead carcasses.
June 69 Vespasian resumes his attack on Judea and Jerusalem, retaking areas conquered by Simon as he makes his advance.
Summer 69 A star and a comet, both resembling a sword, appear over the city of Jerusalem, and remain there stationary for a full year, until Jerusalem’s destruction is final.
December 69 [1] Vespasian is declared Emperor in Rome. He dispatches his son Titus to crush Jerusalem. [2] Eleazar the son of Simon breaks from the Zealots, and takes over the Inner temple, planting weapons on top of the gates. [3] The parties of Eleazar, Simon, and John exchange missile fire, making victims of the “worshippers who still come to the Temple from all corners of the Earth,” and “the blood of all manner of corpses formed pools in the courts of God.” [4] John of Gischala foolishly sets fire to the supply warehouses, and nearly all the grain supplies are burned, which would have lasted the city for years. This sets up a massive famine that will prove to be Jerusalem’s undoing. [5] As Titus advances on Jerusalem with four legions of the Roman army (more than 80,000 men), some of the Jews launch successful guerilla warfare-type attacks on his men, attacking quickly and then retreating. [6] Titus arrives and camps with his army at the Mount of Olives. The factions in Jerusalem temporarily stop fighting, only to resume later while under the final siege.
April 70 [1] Titus suddenly closes in on Jerusalem and the final siege of begins in full fury, 40 years to the week from the crucifixion of Christ, according to Josephus. This siege is to last for five months. Many had come up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and were unable to escape because they were trapped by the Roman armies. [2] The 10th Legion of the Romans begins to launch white boulders as heavy as 100 pounds over the city walls into Jerusalem. They are cast by catapults from Roman engines from a distance of up to two furlongs (a quarter mile) away. Josephus records that the watchmen on the wall, if they saw them coming, would shout, “The Son cometh!”[3] After a while the Romans learned to blacken the stones so that they couldn’t as easily be detected, and thus many were crushed by these stones. [3] Jesus, the son of Ananus, is killed by a large stone flung from one of the Roman engines. He had loudly and repeatedly prophesied Jerusalem’s destruction throughout the city for seven years and five months. Just before he was struck, he cried out with great force, “Woe, woe to the city again, and to the people, and to the holy house! Woe, woe to myself also!”
April 10-14, 70 The Roman armies, situated some distance outside of Jerusalem, begin leveling the ground between them and the city walls. This is completed in four days.
Mid-late April 70 The Romans begin to bombard the city with missiles, shot from their siege towers. Titus begins to pound the third (outer) wall with his battering rams.
April 29, 70 One of the Roman battering rams breaches the third wall.
May 25, 70 The Romans completely bypass the third wall and capture the New City northwest of the temple.
May/June 70 [1] The Romans bypass the second wall; the Jews retreat behind the first wall. [2] Titus divides his army and they try to attack the first wall and the Fortress of Antonia at the same time, but fail. [3] Within three days Titus and his army cast a trench around Jerusalem, and the entire city is enclosed with a new wall, nine miles in length. All available timber within a 10-mile radius around Jerusalem is used, and the entire area is stripped bare of foliage. [4] Titus challenges the Jewish fanatics to let the citizens go, promising that they would receive their houses back in time, but the fanatics instead begin to execute any caught discussing the idea of surrender. Their bodies are mutilated and thrown over the wall to the Romans. [5] Titus, making his rounds, sees the valleys full of dead bodies and groans with his hands spread toward the sky, calling heaven as a witness that these deaths were not his doing but “were the sad case of the city itself.”
Summer 70 [1] In the city, dead bodies are piled up in heaps, the result of famine and civil war. Some of the mansion houses are used as body depositories. The stench of decomposing bodies fills the city. [2] Robbers plunder the city houses at will, thrusting some of the starving ones through with their swords for sheer pleasure. However, writes Josephus, those who asked to be killed in order to escape their misery were laughed at and left alone to suffer. Most of them died with their eyes fixed on the temple, as if they hoped until the end that the temple itself could save them. [3] During the siege many desperate Jews tried to escape Jerusalem, mostly men who left behind their wives and children thinking they alone could escape unnoticed. However, writes Josephus (Jewish Wars, Book 5, Chapter 6), they were caught by the thousands, whipped, tortured by various means, and crucified just outside the city walls at a rate of 500 crucifixions per day. Titus took pity on these victims, but didn’t interfere because he hoped that the inhabitants (who could see this going on) would surrender in order to avoid a similar fate. In the end, being that there weren’t enough crosses and scarcely room for all of them in any case, more than one Jew was often nailed to the same cross.
Late June/July 70 [1] The Romans breach part of the first (inner) wall with their battering rams, but discover to their dismay that the rebel forces under John have built another inner wall behind it. [2] The Romans take their fight all the way to the temple gates, but meet fierce resistance and are forced to retreat. [3] On July 18th, the Jews set a fire trap in the walkway connecting the temple and the Fortress of Antonia. These Jews pretend to retreat, luring the Roman soldiers into the walkway and into the fire trap. Many Roman troops are burned.
July 22, 70 [1] The Fortress of Antonia falls to Titus. [2] Around this time (the 17th of Tammuz) the daily sacrifice of the Jews fails, as recorded by Josephus in Wars, VI, 2.1., greatly troubling the Jewish people: “[T]he last lamb was gone and not even a handful of flour was left in the city. Thus the sacrifice ended and the fire on the altar was extinguished.”
July 29, 70 Earthworks are completed, and Titus and his troops approach the temple outer courtyard from the west. The Romans try to scale the temple walls with ladders, but fail. As a last resort, Titus orders his troops to set fire to the temple gates, but to spare the temple itself. [2] Since the time of the initial invasion and withdrawal of Cestius Gallus at the end of 66 AD, a time period of roughly three years and seven months has transpired, or 1,290 days if each year is reckoned as 360 days (cf. Daniel 12:12).
August 10, 70 [1] The Romans burn the gates and enter the temple courtyards. Despite the orders of Titus to spare the temple, it is burnt to the ground on the exact same day and month as the previous temple had been burnt by the Babylonians in 586 BC (Josephus, Antiquities 2.11.8). The flames are so great that from a distance, the entire city of Jerusalem appears to be on fire. [2] Old Covenant Judaism ceases to be intact from this point forward. History records that Judaism has never been the same since, and that religious Jews, having no central temple, have ever since been unable to obey the stipulations which required the presence of the temple. [3] Surviving Jews flee the temple and go into the city to continue the fight from there or to search for hiding places. [4] The victorious Romans carry the idolatrous standards of their legions into the temple courtyards and make sacrifices to them there.
Aug/Sept 70 [1] Surviving Jews retreat to the Upper City of Jerusalem, where many continue to plunder, ambush, and assault their fellow Jews. The victims are too weakened by famine to resist, and quite a few are killed senselessly. Josephus tries to persuade them to surrender to the Romans and spare what is left of the city, but he is laughed at. Josephus records that some put on happy faces “in expectation, as they said, of death to end their miseries.” [2] Many Jews seek refuge in the caves and underground caverns, hoping to remain hidden once the Romans would reach the Upper City. However, Josephus records: “This was no better than a dream of theirs; for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans” (cf. Revelation 6:15-17). [3] The Romans burn the Lower City, assault Herod’s Palace, and prepare to enter the Upper City. They are once again forced to build earth ramps, which are completed on August 27. The next day the whole city is burning. Josephus estimates the death toll in Jerusalem to be 1,197,000. Most of the surviving Jews are sold into international slavery (cf. Luke 21:24), a total of 97,000.
September 14, 70 [1] With all resistance ended, and cleanup complete, Titus leaves Jerusalem for Caesarea. [2] Since the time of the initial invasion and withdrawal of Cestius Gallus, a time period of three years, eight months, and 15 days has transpired, or 1,335 days (cf. Daniel 12:12).
Late 70-Early 73 [1] Those who had managed to escape from Jerusalem during its final overthrow create pockets of resistance around the Dead Sea areas, including at the hill fortress of Masada. [2] Titus throws two birthday parties, one for his brother (Domitian) and one for his father. As entertainment, Jewish captives are forced to fight beasts or each other, and others are burnt. At least 2500 are killed in this manner in the first party, and an even greater “multitude” in the second party.
April 8, 73 Masada is taken by the Romans and the last of the Jewish refugees, 960 individuals, commit mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. This is accomplished by the men first killing their own wives and children, then killing all but 10 among themselves, according to the lots they had cast. Nine of the final 10 are killed by one last man, who sets fire to the palace and then plunges himself through with a sword. This account is related to Josephus by two woman who survive by hiding inside a cistern with five children.
May 20, 73 The last of the territories of Israel is sold off, leaving no trace of the Jewish homeland, its territories, or its temple in Jewish hands. Since the initial invasion and withdrawal of Cestius Gallus, a time period of just over six years and four months has transpired (cf. Daniel 8:14, regarding “2,300 evenings and mornings”).

[1] One of the best sources containing the complete works of Josephus, including his “War of the Jews” and “Antiquities of the Jews,” can be found in the translated work of William Whiston, located here: http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/JOSEPHUS.HTM. A chronology based on Josephus’ writings has been compiled by G. J. Goldberg and can be seen here: http://www.josephus.org/warChronologyIntro.htm.

[2] Kurt Simmons (2009 [2]) sees this fact as a fulfillment of Revelation 16:19; “The great city was split into three parts…”

[3] J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book titled The Parousia, offers this explanation (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” (Todd Dennis [23], 2009).

***The timing of this event is based on the testimonies of Eusebius (263-339 AD) and Remigius (437-533 AD), who said that the Christians dwelling in Jerusalem and the surrounding regions fled to Pella beyond the Jordan “on the approach of the Roman army” (See post 14 entitled, “Abomination of Desolation”). There are some who suggest that the believers may not have fled during the first approach of the Roman army in late 66/early 67 AD, but rather during the Roman army’s second approach in 69/70 AD. They note correctly that Vespasian, having swept through Galilee and Judea and having closed in on Jerusalem by early 68 AD, upon learning of Nero’s death in 68 AD then retreated to Rome to deal with the sudden civil war there. It was then his son, Titus, who led the Roman army’s second march toward Jerusalem, arriving by April 70 AD. The contention is that the last of the believers may have only fled during this second approach led by Titus.