Did All of the Judean Christians Flee to Pella?


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

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

Were Christians in Jerusalem During the Jewish-Roman War?

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

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

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

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

pella

Source: Wikipedia (Pella, Jordan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eusebius (263 – 339 AD)

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

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

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

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

Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis (315 – 403 AD)

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

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

Remigius, Bishop of Reims (437 – 533 AD)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nero’s Government Helped Protect the Christians in Pella

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

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

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

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

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The Little Horn Persecuted the Saints (Daniel 7:21, 25)


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

In the previous post, “The Little Horn Changed Times and Law (Daniel 7:25),” we continued to examine the roles that Daniel 7 says the little horn of the beast was to play. As a review, Daniel 7:8, 21-22, 24-27 states that the little horn would:

[A] come up among the 10 horns
[B] subdue and pluck out three of the first horns
[C] have a mouth speaking pompous words
[D] make war against the saints
[E] be different than the other 10 horns
[F] “intend to change times and law”
[G] and prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints.

The two previous post looked at points A, B, C, E, and F). This post will look at points D and G – how the little horn made war against the saints and prevailed against them for 3.5 years, until it was time for the saints to possess the kingdom (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27; Matthew 21:43-44).

The Saints Given Into the Hand of the Little Horn (Daniel 7:21, 25)

In Daniel 7:21-22, Daniel watched the little horn “making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.” In Daniel 7:25, Daniel learned that this horn would “persecute the saints of the Most High… Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.”

So the picture here is of the saints being persecuted by the little horn who had them in his grip for a 3.5 year period leading up to Christ’s coming in judgment and in His kingdom (see Matthew 16:27-28 and II Timothy 4:1). Who were the saints? We must conclude that they were the followers of Christ, the ones who would inherit God’s kingdom (Matthew 8:11-12, 21:43, 25:34; Luke 12:32; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 3:29, 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5).

When I used to believe that the fourth beast of Daniel, and the beast of Revelation, was Rome/Nero, I never attempted to identify the 11th horn because I didn’t know who it could be. I knew it wasn’t Nero, because he was allegedly the sixth head of the beast (Revelation 17:10), and because the horns were allegedly the Senatorial provinces of Rome. Yet Nero was the only Roman authority who was known to have persecuted Christians around the time of the Jewish-Roman War.

Josephus never touched the topic of persecution against Christians, but Tacitus, the Roman historian, did. He described Nero persecuting Christians in the city of Rome, but not anywhere near Jerusalem, and he didn’t say how long it lasted. Tacitus also listed the cause for that persecution as Nero’s desire to scapegoat the Christians for the arson that he himself was believed to have committed (Tacitus, Annals 15). The motive for that persecution, according to Tacitus, had nothing to do with a refusal to worship him, as should have been the case (see Revelation 13:15) if Nero was the beast (see Revelation 13:15). We’ll discuss this in much more detail when we look at Revelation 13.

So far Jerusalem has been the primary location where the little horn has played the various roles described in Daniel 7. Did this persecution of the saints also take place in Jerusalem? Did it take place during the 3.5 years leading up to mid-April 70 AD when Titus arrived in Jerusalem? If we look ahead to Revelation 13, we do see that the beast from the land, later called the false prophet (Rev. 16:13, 19:20), was active in the land of Israel. There in the land of Israel he worked in the presence of the beast, causing those who lived there to worship the beast, and killing anyone who wouldn’t worship his image (Rev. 13:11-15). So the persecution carried out by the beast (cf. Rev. 13:5-8) was indeed focused on the land of Israel.

Although Josephus never wrote about the persecution of Christians in particular, he did write about the Zealots and the false prophets working together to persecute and kill anyone who didn’t support their war efforts. This bloody persecution appears to have begun in the countryside.

The Persecutions of the Zealots

During the reign of Antonius Felix as Procurator of Judea (52-58 AD), Josephus says that the people of Judea were put to death if they didn’t agree to rebel against Rome:

“[A] company of deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those that continued in obedience to the Roman government, and saying, that such as willingly chose slavery ought to be forced from such their desired inclinations; for they parted themselves into different bodies, and lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war” (Wars 2.13.6).

In Antiquities 20.8.6 Josephus described the same thing happening during the reigns of Felix (52-58 AD) and Festus (59-62 AD):

These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city [Jerusalem] with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God… And again the robbers stirred up the people to make war with the Romans, and said they ought not to obey them at all; and when any persons would not comply with them, they set fire to their villages, and plundered them.

Near the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War in 66 AD, bands of Zealots made their way to Scythopolis (in modern Jordan and Syria). There in one night they “cut the throats” of more than 13,000 Jews who preferred their own safety over relating to the Zealots (Wars 2.18.3).

In February 68 AD, the former high priest Jesus ben Gamala gave a speech in which he said that the Zealots had been using their swords as “the arbitrators of right and wrong” (Wars 4.4.3). After the Zealots and Idumeans had succeeded in killing the high priests (Wars 4.5.2), they then turned and slaughtered many of the common people by the sword, but delayed slaughtering others in hopes that they would join the war effort:

“[The] zealots and the multitude of the Idumeans fell upon the people as upon a flock of profane animals, and cut their throats; and for the ordinary sort, they were destroyed in what place soever they caught them. But for the noblemen and the youth, they first caught them and bound them, and shut them up in prison, and put off their slaughter, in hopes that some of them would turn over to their party; but not one of them would comply with their desires, but all of them preferred death before being enrolled among such wicked wretches as acted against their own country. But this refusal of theirs brought upon them terrible torments; for they were so scourged and tortured, that their bodies were not able to sustain their torments, till at length, and with difficulty, they had the favor to be slain.” (Wars 4.5.3).

After the Idumeans left Jerusalem, the Zealots aimed to kill anyone who tried to flee from their control, blocking their escape from Jerusalem and assuming that anyone who tried to escape was in support of Rome. The Zealots also killed those who tried to bury these victims. As we saw before, Eleazar ben Simon was the leader of the Zealots in Jerusalem at this time, although John Levi of Gischala also worked with him from about mid-68 AD until early 70 AD:

“And indeed many there were of the Jews that deserted every day, and fled away from the zealots, although their flight was very difficult, since they had guarded every passage out of the city, and slew every one that was caught at them, as taking it for granted they were going over to the Romans; yet did he who gave them money get clear off, while he only that gave them none was voted a traitor. So the upshot was this, that the rich purchased their flight by money, while none but the poor were slain. Along all the roads also vast numbers of dead bodies lay in heaps, and even many of those that were so zealous in deserting at length chose rather to perish within the city; for the hopes of burial made death in their own city appear of the two less terrible to them. But these zealots came at last to that degree of barbarity, as not to bestow a burial either on those slain in the city, or on those that lay along the roads; but as if they had made an agreement to cancel both the laws of their country and the laws of nature, and, at the same time that they defiled men with their wicked actions, they would pollute the Divinity itself also, they left the dead bodies to putrefy under the sun; and the same punishment was allotted to such as buried any as to those that deserted, which was no other than death” (Wars 4.6.3).

Some did manage to conceal themselves and flee to the Romans, and this brought them greater safety:

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

From 69 AD to early 70 AD, when three factions (led by Eleazar Ben Simon, John Levi, and Simon Bar Giora) were fighting against each other (Wars 5.1.4), those who came to Jerusalem for the various festivals were often killed inadvertently:

“For notwithstanding these men [the Zealots] were mad with all sorts of impiety, yet did they still admit those that desired to offer their sacrifices, although they took care to search the people of their own country beforehand, and both suspected and watched them; while they were not so much afraid of strangers, who, although they had gotten leave of them, how cruel soever they were, to come into that court, were yet often destroyed by this sedition; for those darts that were thrown by the engines came with that force, that they went over all the buildings, and reached as far as the altar, and the temple itself, and fell upon the priests, and those that were about the sacred offices; insomuch that many persons who came thither with great zeal from the ends of the earth, to offer sacrifices at this celebrated place, which was esteemed holy by all mankind, fell down before their own sacrifices themselves, and sprinkled that altar which was venerable among all men, both Greeks and Barbarians, with their own blood; till the dead bodies of strangers were mingled together with those of their own country, and those of profane persons with those of the priests, and the blood of all sorts of dead carcasses stood in lakes in the holy courts themselves” (Wars 5.1.3).

This gives added significance to the words recorded in Revelation 18:4, urging the people of God to come out of Babylon, the old covenant system: “Come out of her, My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive her plagues.” During this time, if there were Christians in Galatia, Ephesus, Smyrna, Philadelphia, etc. who were persuaded by the teachings of the Judaizers, they may have traveled up to Jerusalem for the feasts and been struck down by the “darts, and javelins, and stones” thrown by the “engines of war” of the Zealot factions (Wars 5.1.3).

Although the Zealot factions were fighting and killing each other, they still united on one thing – killing those who wanted peace with the Romans:

“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. The aged men and the women were in such distress by their internal calamities, that they wished for the Romans, and earnestly hoped for an external war, in order to their delivery from their domestical miseriesnor could such as had a mind flee away; for guards were set at all places, and the heads of the robbers, although they were seditious one against another in other respects, yet did they agree in killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them, as their common enemies. They agreed in nothing but this, to kill those that were innocent” (Wars 5.1.5).

Even during the Roman siege of April – August 70 AD the Zealots “threatened death to the people, if they should any one of them say a word about a surrender. They moreover cut the throats of such as talked of a peace” (Wars 5.8.1). Also John Levi and Simon Bar Giora, “with their factions, did more carefully watch” for people to escape Jerusalem “than they did the coming in of the Romans; and if any one did but afford the least shadow of suspicion of such an intention, his throat was cut immediately.” Still, some did escape to the Romans and “Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased” (Wars 5.10.1).  Josephus adds that there were “a great number of false prophets suborned by the tyrants [Zealots] to impose on the people…to keep them from deserting” (Wars 6.5.2).

In this summary of persecution carried out by the Zealots against those who wished for peace or tried to abandon them, one thing that stands out is how many times Josephus said that the Zealots “cut the throats” of their enemies. This calls to mind Revelation 20:4, which indicates that “those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God” were those “who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands.” Since the Zealots used swords, rather than mere knives, it’s also not difficult to imagine that their throat-cutting could have meant that they beheaded their enemies. From the summary above, note that the persecution and throat-cutting of the Zealots spanned the entire 3.5 years leading up to the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

DATE SITUATION REFERENCE
Fall 66 AD More than 13,000 Jews in Scythopolis had their throats cut because they preferred their own safety over relating to the Zealots. Wars 2.18.3
February 68 AD Jesus ben Gamala says in a speech that the Zealots had been using their swords as “the arbitrators of right and wrong.” Wars 4.4.3
Feb/March 68 AD The Zealots and Idumeans fell upon the common people of Jerusalem and cut their throats. Wars 4.5.3
Spring 68 AD The Zealots killed poor people who tried to leave Jerusalem, and also killed anyone who tried to bury those they killed. Wars 4.6.3
December 69 AD The leaders of the three Zealot factions agreed on “killing those that were for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of an inclination to desert them, as their common enemies.” Wars 5.1.5
Spring 70 AD The Zealots cut the throats of anyone who talked about peace. Wars 5.8.1
Summer 70 AD The Zealots cut the throats of anyone suspected of wanting to escape Jerusalem. Wars 5.10.1

In the next post, which will conclude our study of Daniel 7, we will evaluate the historical accounts concerning the Judean Christians who fled to Pella. We’ll consider whether or not some Christians may have remained in Jerusalem/Judea. We will even see that Nero’s government protected the Christians who fled to Pella.

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

The Little Horn Changed Times and Law (Daniel 7:25)


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

The previous post, “Daniel 7: The Fourth Beast, 10 Horns, Three Horns, and a Little Horn,” began to examine Daniel 7, as well as “the little horn” and the various roles that he was to play. As a review, Daniel 7:8, 21-22, 24-27 states that the little horn would:

[A] come up among the 10 horns
[B] subdue and pluck out three of the first horns
[C] have a mouth speaking pompous words
[D] make war against the saints
[E] be different than the other 10 horns
[F] “intend to change times and law”
[G] and prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints.

The previous post looked at several roles of the little horn (A, B, C, and E), and the majority of this post will look at how he intended to change times and law (F).

The Body of the Fourth Beast Destroyed and Burned (Daniel 7:11)

In Daniel 7:9-10, Daniel saw a throne scene in which “thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated,” and a court was also seated and books were opened. Verse 11 then comes back to the little horn and the fourth beast, saying,

I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame.”

In this series I am making the case that the fourth beast/kingdom of Daniel and “the beast” of the book of Revelation was Zealot-led Israel. The language used here in this verse certainly fits, considering that Israel was destroyed in the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73, and considering that Jerusalem and the temple were burned with fire (fulfilling Matthew 22:7; II Peter 3:7, 10, 12; Revelation 17:16; 18:8-9, 18; 19:20).

This does not fit Rome, which many say was the fourth beast of Daniel and “the beast” of the book of Revelation. Rome was not slain, destroyed, or burned during the Jewish-Roman War, when the kingdom of God was set up (Daniel 2:35, 44; Matthew 16:27-28, 21:43; Revelation 11:15). In fact, the Roman Empire achieved even greater heights during the second century AD.

The Lives of the Other Beasts Were Prolonged (Daniel 7:12)

In Daniel 7:12, Daniel noted a sharp contrast between the downfall of the fourth beast and the downfall of the previous three beasts:

As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.”

Whereas the fourth beast was slain, destroyed, and burned (Daniel 7:11), the other three beasts lost their dominion but lived on “for a season and a time.” When Babylon was conquered by Medo-Persia in 539 BC, Babylon lost its dominion, but remained as a colony of Medo-Persia. When Persia was conquered by Greece in 330 BC, Persia lost its dominion, but remained as a province of the Seleucid Empire ruled by one of Alexander the Great’s four generals. Greece likewise lived on after the Maccabee victories of 164-142 BC. The principal cities of Babylon, Persia, and Greece were not burned and leveled, their religious systems didn’t collapse, etc.

When Israel and Jerusalem fell in 70 AD, however, there was great physical and religious devastation. Israel, the fourth beast, was slain, destroyed, burned. Although Israel briefly rose up again about 65 years later in the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 AD), its sacrificial system was buried and laid to rest. Its priesthood was gone. According to Josephus, Israel was not merely “taken” as it had been five times previously, but this was its second “desolation” (see Revelation 18:19):

“And thus was Jerusalem taken, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, on the eighth day of the month Gorpeius [Elul]. It had been taken five times before, though this was the second time of its desolation; for Shishak, the king of Egypt, and after him Antiochus, and after him Pompey, and after them Sosius and Herod, took the city, but still preserved it; but before all these, the king of Babylon conquered it, and made it desolate, one thousand four hundred and sixty-eight years and six months after it was built” (Wars 6.10.1).

Jerusalem, aside from its towers and a wall, was also leveled to the ground, just as Jesus predicted:

For the days will come upon you when your enemies will build and embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:43-44).

“Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency…and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side… but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind” (Wars 7.1.1).

The Romans had also cut down everything in an 11.25 mile radius around the city, so that to visitors Judea and the former suburbs of the city appeared as a desert wasteland:

“And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in one and twenty days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about, as I have already related. And truly the very view itself of the country was a melancholy thing; for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down: nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change: for the war had laid all the signs of beauty quite waste: nor if any one that had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again; but though he were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it notwithstanding” (Wars 6.1.1).

The contrast in Daniel 7:11-12 makes a lot of sense when Israel is viewed as the fourth beast, but would make no sense if Rome was the fourth beast. Let’s try it, though, just for argument’s sake:

“…I watched till the Roman Empire was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. As for Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time” (Daniel 7:11-12; Rome as the fourth beast).

It doesn’t work. When the kingdom of God was set up and given into the hands of the saints in the first century (Daniel 2:35, 44; Daniel 7:18, 22, 27; Matthew 16:27-28, 21:43; Revelation 11:15), Rome did not have its dominion taken away at that time. Rome was not burned, slain, or destroyed. The Roman Empire came out of the Jewish-Roman War stronger than it was before the war. That time of kingdom transition was great devastation for Israel, not Rome.

The Kingdom Given to the Saints (Daniel 7:17-18, 21-22, 26-27)

The transition from the fourth kingdom to the everlasting kingdom of the saints was already seen in Daniel 2:35, 44. This transition is repeated three times in Daniel 7:

Those great beasts, which are four, are four kingdoms which arise out of the earth. But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (Daniel 7:17-18).

I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” (Daniel 7:21-22).

But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:26-27).

In all of this, it’s clear that the downfall of the fourth beast and the 11th horn coincides with the saints inheriting the kingdom of God. As I noted in the introduction to this series, we also see this transition in Matthew 21:42-44.

Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone…?” Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder’” (Matthew 21:42-44).

Israel and Jerusalem suffered defeat and destruction during the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). They were ground to powder by the falling stone of Daniel 2:34-35, 45. Yet out of that tragedy has come the awesome, redemptive, and enduring news that this stone is a great mountain, the kingdom of God. It’s a kingdom that has no end (Luke 1:33).

The 11th Horn Would Change Times and Law (Daniel 7:25)

Coming back to the little horn, we see a statement in Daniel 7:25 that the 11th horn would “intend to change times and law.” I welcome any ideas from readers on this point, but I would like to propose that two key actions taken during the Jewish-Roman War seem to fit this description. Neither action had ever taken place since the days of Moses and Aaron:

[1] the decision to no longer receive gifts or sacrifices for foreigners
[2] choosing an unqualified and fake high priest who was not of Aaron’s bloodline.

The following description by Josephus is quite revealing about what transpired during the Jewish-Roman War due to “the fourth philosophy” of the Zealots. Josephus said that their philosophy spread like an infection as the Jewish revolt blew up into a flame in 66 AD (Wars 2.13.6, Wars 2.14.6). It resulted in the type of great changes described in Daniel 7:25.

“[T]he sedition at last increased so high, that the very temple of God was burnt down by their enemies’ fire. Such were the consequences of this, that the customs of our fathers were altered, and such a change was made, as added a mighty weight toward bringing all to destruction, which these men occasioned by their thus conspiring together” (Antiquities 18.1.1).

Eleazar ben Simon had a big hand in altering the customs of the Jews, but the first big move was made in Jerusalem by a different Eleazar just a few months before he was reassigned to Idumea and his role as leader of the Zealots shifted to Eleazar ben Simon (we will discuss this shift below). It was Eleazar ben Ananias who made the first big move in August 66 AD when he put a stop to all the sacrifices and offerings of the Gentiles, something which had never been done since the days of Moses and Aaron:

“At the same time Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the Divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans; for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account; and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon. These relied much upon their multitude, for the most flourishing part of the innovators assisted them; but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple.

Hereupon the men of power got together, and conferred with the high priests, as did also the principal of the Pharisees; and thinking all was at stake, and that their calamities were becoming incurable, took counsel what was to be done. Accordingly, they determined to try what they could do with the seditious by words, and assembled the people before the brazen gate, which was that gate of the inner temple [court of the priests] which looked toward the sun-rising. And, in the first place, they showed the great indignation they had at this attempt for a revolt, and for their bringing so great a war upon their country; after which they confuted their pretense as unjustifiable, and told them that their forefathers had adorned their temple in great part with donations bestowed on them by foreigners, and had always received what had been presented to them from foreign nations; and that they had been so far from rejecting any person’s sacrifice (which would be the highest instance of impiety,) that they had themselves placed those donation about the temple which were still visible, and had remained there so long a time; that they did now irritate the Romans to take arms against them, and invited them to make war upon them, and brought up novel rules of a strange Divine worship, and determined to run the hazard of having their city condemned for impiety, while they would not allow any foreigner, but Jews only, either to sacrifice or to worship therein. And if such a law should be introduced in the case of a single private person only, he would have indignation at it, as an instance of inhumanity determined against him; while they have no regard to the Romans or to Caesar, and forbid even their oblations to be received also; that however they cannot but fear, lest, by thus rejecting their sacrifices, they shall not be allowed to offer their own; and that this city will lose its principality, unless they grow wiser quickly, and restore the sacrifices as formerly, and indeed amend the injury [they have offered foreigners] before the report of it comes to the ears of those that have been injured.

And as they said these things, they produced those priests that were skillful in the customs of their country, who made the report that all their forefathers had received the sacrifices from foreign nations. But still not one of the innovators would hearken to what was said; nay, those that ministered about the temple would not attend their Divine service, but were preparing matters for beginning the war…” (Wars 2.17.2-4)

To be clear, Eleazar ben Ananias was not the same person as Eleazar ben Simon, who was one of the three main Zealot leaders during the first half of the Jewish-Roman War, along with John Levi of Gischala and Simon Bar Giora. Various sources seem to confuse these two Eleazars, and as a result they have attributed certain roles and actions to the wrong person.

For example, the Encyclopedia Judaica says that Eleazar ben Ananias was Captain of the Temple “and continued to hold that position until the destruction of the Temple.” This is not true, however, according to Josephus. Around December of 66 AD, Eleazar ben Ananias was named as one of the 10 generals for war against Rome, and he was assigned to Idumea, a region south of Judea (Wars 2.20.4). At this same time, Eleazar ben Simon, the war hero credited with defeating Cestius Gallus, was quickly gaining power in Jerusalem and the people “submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs” (Wars 2.20.3). Eleazar ben Simon gained and kept control of the inner court of the temple until he was killed at the beginning of the Roman siege in April 70 AD (Wars 5.3.1).

Likewise, on page 219 of Final Decade Before the End (a great resource), Ed Stevens cites Hegesippus (110-180 AD) and Yosippon (10th century AD), who say that after “blocking Roman access to the temple,” Eleazar ben Ananias “then seized control of the temple and used it as his fortress…from that point forward” (Heg. 2:10, 5:1; Yos. 61). Hegesippus even claimed that this same Eleazar “was on Masada after the temple was burned” (Heg. 5:53). Here he apparently confuses Eleazar ben Ananias with a third Eleazar – Eleazar ben Jairus, who fled to Masada in September 66 AD (Wars 2.17.9) and later committed suicide there with around 700 others in 73 AD (Wars 7.8.1).

The confusion over Eleazar ben Ananias and Eleazar ben Simon is the seventh problem covered by Tal Ilan and Jonathan J. Price in their article, “Seven Onomastic Problems in Josephus’ “Bellum Judaicum” [Wars of the Jews]. They write about the strange disappearance of “Eleazar ben Ananias,” who played such a large role at the beginning of the Jewish Revolt, but is never mentioned again by Josephus. They also write about the sudden appearance of Eleazar ben Simon at this same point in Wars of the Jews.

Indeed, both Eleazars are mentioned in Wars 2.20.3-4, one for the last time and the other for the first time. I would like to suggest that the baton of Zealot leadership in Jerusalem was handed off at this time (around December 66 AD) from Eleazar ben Ananias to Eleazar ben Simon.

Eleazar ben Ananias Eleazar ben Simon
August 66 AD In Jerusalem

“…but they had the chief regard to Eleazar, the governor of the temple” (Wars 2.17.2)

Location not Certain

(Not yet mentioned by Josephus)

December 66 AD Left Jerusalem

Appointed as a general for Idumea (Wars 2.20.4)

Stayed in Jerusalem

“…the people were circumvented, and submitted themselves to his authority in all public affairs” (Wars 2.20.3)

February 68 AD Presumably in Idumea

(No longer mentioned by Josephus)

In Jerusalem

“leaders of the Zealots… These leaders were Eleazar, the son of Simon, who seemed the most plausible man of them all, both in considering what was fit to be done, and in the execution of what he had determined upon…” (Wars 4.4.1)


Although Eleazar ben Ananias initiated the cessation of sacrifices for Gentiles, Eleazar ben Simon was the one who enforced this new rule as he made his headquarters in the temple for the next 3.5 years until his death in April 70 AD. The following, for the sake of clarity, is an overview of the lives of Eleazar ben Ananius and Eleazar ben Simon (all of the primary Zealot leaders will be discussed when we come to Revelation 13):

Eleazar ben Ananius

Eleazar ben Ananius was the governor of the temple, (Antiquities 20.9.3, Wars 2.17.2), the second highest position in the temple other than high priest. It’s suggested that he obtained this position in 62 AD. This position was known as “segan” (Aramaic) or “sagan” (Hebrew). According to Rabbi Hanina Segan ha-Kohanim (40-80 AD), “In case the high-priest became unfit for service, the ‘Segan’ [Deputy] should enter at once to do the service” (Talmud, Tractate Sota 42a).

Eleazar’s father, Ananius ben Nedebaios, was the high priest from roughly 46-52 AD. He’s the one who commanded Paul to be struck on the mouth during his appearance before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:2), prompting Paul to prophesy that Ananias would also be struck (verse 3). Ananius also gave evidence against Paul to the governor Felix at Caesarea (Acts 24:1). The Pulpit Commentary says that he “was a violent, haughty, gluttonous, and rapacious man, and yet looked up to by the Jews.” When Eleazar was the commander of the temple, he was anti-Roman, but his father, Ananias was pro-Roman (one of the complaints of the Zealots was that the Herodian dynasty appointed high priests who were sympathetic to Rome).

In Final Decade before the End (p. 219), Ed Stevens says that Eleazar ben Ananias led a challenge against Roman troops in May 66 AD. “When the Roman Procurator Gessius Florus brought his soldiers to Jerusalem to confiscate all the gold from the Temple (May AD 66),” Yosippon recorded the following:

[Eleazar b. Ananius]… being a youth and very stout of heart, saw the evil that Florus did among the people. He sounded the shofar, and a band of youths and bandits, men of war, gathered around him, and he initiated a battle, challenging Florus and the Roman troops [Sepher Yosippon, ch. 59].

In The Wars of the Jews by Josephus, Eleazar ben Ananias was first mentioned in Wars 2.17.2, as we have already seen, in connection with the events of August 66 AD, which Josephus said were the true beginning of the Jewish-Roman War. He was mentioned again in Wars 2.17.5 as being among “the seditious” (the Zealots) who “had the lower city [of Jerusalem] and the temple in their power,” while “the men of power, with the high priests, as also all the part of the multitude that were desirous of peace, took courage, and seized upon the upper city [Mount Sion].”

Soon after this, Eleazar’s father Ananius was killed by “Manahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean” (Wars 2.17.8-9). Manahem had gone to Masada, broken open king Herod’s armory, stolen arms for his own people and “other robbers,” and “returned in the state of a king to Jerusalem.” Josephus says that Manahem “became the leader of the sedition” (the Zealot movement), but this only lasted for about a month. After Manahem killed Ananias, “Eleazar and his party” avenged his father’s death and killed Manahem.

The last time that Eleazar ben Ananias was mentioned by Josephus was in Wars 2.20.4. There it was said that he was appointed as one of the 10 generals of war. He was one of three commanders assigned to Idumea, south of Judea. This was around December 66 AD, soon after the surprising Jewish victory over Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD. Presumably Eleazar ben Ananias left Jerusalem at this point and took up residence in Idumea. Josephus never mentioned him again.

Eleazar ben Simon

Eleazar ben Simon was first introduced by Josephus in Wars 2.20.3 (just before Josephus mentioned Eleazar ben Ananias for the last time). Eleazar ben Simon was the nephew of Simon Bar Giora, one of the three main Zealot leaders. In Wars 6.4.1, Josephus referred to him as “the brother’s son of Simon the tyrant.”

In Wars 4.4.1 Josephus said that Eleazar ben Simon was the main leader of the Zealots at this point. This was in early 68 AD, shortly after John Levi of Gischala, the other main Zealot leader, had fled his hometown and come up to Jerusalem. Josephus said regarding Eleazar ben Simon that he was “the most plausible man” of the Zealot leaders, “both in considering what was fit to be done, and in the execution of what he had determined upon.” Josephus also said that it was “Eleazar, the son of Simon, who made the first separation of the zealots from the people, and made them retire into the temple” (Wars 5.1.2).

John Levi joined forces with Eleazar and, after killing Ananus ben Ananus and the other high priests in February-March 68 AD, together they seized control of the entire city of Jerusalem. In spring or summer 69 AD Simon Bar Giora seized control of the upper city of Jerusalem and parts of the lower city. John Levi maintained control of part of the lower city and the outer court of the temple, and Eleazar ben Simon controlled the inner court of the temple.

three-main-zealot-leaders

Source: Mark Mountjoy, New Testament Open University (June 9, 2015)

Then a short time before the Roman siege began on April 14, 70 AD, Eleazar ben Simon turned against John because, according to Josephus, “he could not bear to submit to a tyrant [John] who set up after him” (Wars 5.1.2). There were then “three treacherous factions in the city” (Wars 5.1.4; Revelation 16:19). This was the breakdown of the three armies (Wars 5.6.1):

[1] Simon Bar Giora: 10,000 men and 50 commanders; 5000 Idumeans and eight commanders
[2] John Levi: 6,000 men and 20 commanders
[3] Eleazar ben Simon: 2,400 men

Eleazar ben Simon was killed by John Levi’s forces on April 14, 70 AD, just as the Roman general Titus began his siege. This happened at the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Eleazar opened the gates to the inner court of the temple

“and admitted such of the people as were desirous to worship God into it. But John made use of this festival as a cloak for his treacherous designs, and armed the most inconsiderable of his own party, the greater part of whom were not purified, with weapons concealed under their garments, and sent them with great zeal into the temple, in order to seize upon it; which armed men, when they were gotten in, threw their garments away, and presently appeared in their armor… These followers of John also did now seize upon this inner temple, and upon all the warlike engines therein, and then ventured to oppose Simon. And thus that sedition, which had been divided into three factions, was now reduced to two” (Wars 5.3.1).

During the first half of the Jewish-Roman War (Fall 66 AD – Spring 70 AD), Eleazar ben Simon was the Zealot leader who controlled the inner court of the temple. His location and position allowed him to oversee and regulate the activities which took place there.

Phannias, the Fake High Priest of the Zealots

The second major custom to be altered had to do with the high priesthood. In Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus gave an account of the high priests from Aaron until his own time, taking note of the strict rule that every high priest had to be a blood descendant of Aaron. This rule was broken by the Zealots (“the seditious”) during the Jewish-Roman War:

“AND now I think it proper and agreeable to this history to give an account of our high priests; how they began, who those are which are capable of that dignity, and how many of them there had been at the end of the war. In the first place, therefore, history informs us that Aaron, the brother of Moses, officiated to God as a high priest, and that, after his death, his sons succeeded him immediately; and that this dignity hath been continued down from them all to their posterity. Whence it is a custom of our country, that no one should take the high priesthood of God but he who is of the blood of Aaron, while every one that is of another stock, though he were a king, can never obtain that high priesthood. Accordingly, the number of all the high priests from Aaron, of whom we have spoken already, as of the first of them, until Phanas, who was made high priest during the war by the seditious, was eighty- three” (Antiquities 20.10.1).

In Wars 4.3.6-8, Josephus provided the details of how the Zealots committed this treachery. This took place around December 67 AD. Keep in mind that Eleazar ben Simon was the main leader of the Zealots at this time (Wars 4.4.1), controlling the inner court of the temple:

Now the people were come to that degree of meanness and fear, and these robbers to that degree of madness, that these last took upon them to appoint high priests. So when they had disannulled the succession, according to those families out of which the high priests used to be made, they ordained certain unknown and ignoble persons for that office, that they might have their assistance in their wicked undertakings; for such as obtained this highest of all honors, without any desert, were forced to comply with those that bestowed it on them

These men made the temple of God a strong hold for them, and a place whither they might resort, in order to avoid the troubles they feared from the people; the sanctuary was now become a refuge, and a shop of tyranny. They also mixed jesting among the miseries they introduced, which was more intolerable than what they did; for in order to try what surprise the people would be under, and how far their own power extended, they undertook to dispose of the high priesthood by casting lots for it, whereas, as we have said already, it was to descend by succession in a family. The pretense they made for this strange attempt was an ancient practice, while they said that of old it was determined by lot; but in truth, it was no better than a dissolution of an undeniable law, and a cunning contrivance to seize upon the government, derived from those that presumed to appoint governors as they themselves pleased.

Hereupon they sent for one of the pontifical tribes, which is called Eniachim, and cast lots which of it should be the high priest. By fortune the lot so fell as to demonstrate their iniquity after the plainest manner, for it fell upon one whose name was Phannias, the son of Samuel, of the village Aphtha. He was a man not only unworthy of the high priesthood, but that did not well know what the high priesthood was, such a mere rustic was he! yet did they hail this man, without his own consent, out of the country, as if they were acting a play upon the stage, and adorned him with a counterfeit thee; they also put upon him the sacred garments, and upon every occasion instructed him what he was to do. This horrid piece of wickedness was sport and pastime with them, but occasioned the other priests, who at a distance saw their law made a jest of, to shed tears, and sorely lament the dissolution of such a sacred dignity.

So the times and the law of the Jews were significantly changed by these actions which Eleazar ben Simon had a major hand in carrying out. If you have any further insights into how the times and law were changed by the little horn, please feel free to share them.

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In the next post, we will look at how the little horn persecuted the saints for 3.5 years right up until the time that the kingdom was given into their hands.

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

Daniel 7: The Fourth Beast, 10 Horns, Three Horns, and a Little Horn


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

The previous post, “Rome Congratulated Israel on Becoming the Fourth Kingdom of Daniel 2,” concluded our study of Daniel 2. Daniel 7 features another prophetic dream, but this time it was Daniel himself who had “a dream and visions” (verse 1). Whereas Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue with four parts, Daniel saw four beasts. The meaning was the same, though, in that Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel were both shown four kingdoms. It’s the fourth beast (kingdom) which plays a significant role in the book of Revelation.

In our study of Daniel 2, a lot of space was given to the progression from the first kingdom to the fourth kingdom. Most of that information will not be repeated in this post, but we will instead focus primarily on the key details that Daniel was given about the fourth beast. Here is Daniel’s vision of the four beasts as recorded in Daniel 7:

Daniel 7:2-8, 11-12, 16-27 (Daniel’s Vision of Four Beasts)

Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea. And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other. The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. I watched till its wings were plucked off; and it was lifted up from the earth and made to stand on two feet like a man, and a man’s heart was given to it.

“And suddenly another beast, a second, like a bear. It was raised up on one side, and had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And they said thus to it: ‘Arise, devour much flesh!’

“After this I looked, and there was another, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird. The beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.

“After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words…

11 “I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time…

16 I came near to one of those who stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘Those great beasts, which are four, are four kingdoms which arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever.’

19 “Then I wished to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its nails of bronze, which devoured, broke in pieces, and trampled the residue with its feet; 20 and the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, before which three fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth which spoke pompous words, whose appearance was greater than his fellows.

21 “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.

23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast shall be 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. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. 25 He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, shall persecute the saints of the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time.

26 ‘But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. 27 Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’

An Overview of the Four Beasts

In Daniel 7:3-8, Daniel saw four beasts which differed in how they appeared and what they represented. Since we already identified and discussed the four kingdoms in our study of Daniel 2, we will only briefly take note of what Daniel sees here:

[1] Babylon was the first beast that was like a lion with eagle’s wings. Babylon was also compared to a lion in Jeremiah 4:7, and compared to an eagle in Ezekiel 17:3, 12. Nebuchadnezzar was specifically called a lion in Jeremiah 50:17 (“Israel is like scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away. First the king of Assyria devoured him; now at last this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon has broken his bones”).

The man with the heart who stood on two feet was most likely Nebuchadnezzar, who brought the Babylonian Empire to its highest height. His heart was “changed from that of a man” to “the heart of an animal” (Daniel 4:16) until he regained his reason (verse 36) and once again had a man’s heart. The plucking of the eagle’s wings could refer to the ceasing of Babylon’s conquests and/or to the humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar and his temporary loss of the kingdom (Daniel 4:31-33).

[2] Medo-Persia was the second beast that was like a bear. The fact that it was raised up on one side likely refers to Persia being more dominant than Media. The three ribs could refer to three major territories that this empire conquered: Babylon, Lydia, and Egypt.

[3] Greece/Macedonia was the third beast that was like a leopard with four wings of a bird on its back. The angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel that the male goat was the kingdom of Greece (Daniel 8:21). In Daniel 8:5-6 this goat is seen running with great speed and power (as leopards are known to do, and as Alexander the Great was also known to have done). Jerome (347-420 AD) said,

“Nothing was more swift than the conquest of Alexander, from Illyricum and the Adriatic sea, unto the Indian ocean, and the river Ganges; he rather ran through the world by victories than by battles, and in six years subdued part of Europe, all Asia even unto India” (John Gill’s Commentary on Daniel 7; 1746-1763).

This beast’s four heads represented the four generals (Cassander, Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Lysimachus) who oversaw four parts of the kingdom (Daniel 8:22) after the death of Alexander the Great (verse 21).

[4] Israel was the fourth beast that was exceedingly strong and had huge iron teeth and 10 horns. As we saw in the last post, in 164 BC the Maccabees secured a great victory for Israel over Antiochus Epiphanes and the Macedonian kingdom. In 142 BC Israel was granted full independence, received congratulations from Rome, and its kingdom expanded. Israel enjoyed this independence for the next 79 years, and was then semi-autonomous all the way up to the Jewish-Roman War.

This beast would use its feet to devour, break in pieces, and trample residue. It was different than the three beasts that came before it. A little horn would come up among its 10 horns, would pluck out three of the first horns by the roots, and would have a mouth speaking pompous words.

The Fourth Beast

It’s this fourth beast that we will focus on in the rest of our study of Daniel 7. After this part of Daniel’s vision (Daniel 7:1-8) he goes on to learn that the fourth beast would be a fourth kingdom, and it would be slain “and given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11, 23). He also learns that the little horn would make war against the saints and “intend to change times and the law” (Daniel 7:21, 24-25). The little horn would prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the Ancient of Days would come and the saints would possess the kingdom (Daniel 7:21-22, 25-27). We will examine these details one at a time.

Devouring, Breaking, and Trampling (Daniel 7:7)

The following excerpt comes from the Jewish Virtual Library regarding the strength of the Maccabees, known as “the Jewish Hammer,” in their victory over the Macedonians:

“The family of Mattathias became known as the Maccabees, from the Hebrew word for ‘hammer,’ because they were said to strike hammer blows against their enemies. Jews refer to the Maccabees, but the family is more commonly known as the Hasmoneans.

Like other rulers before him, Antiochus underestimated the will and strength of his Jewish adversaries and sent a small force to put down the rebellion. When that was annihilated, he led a more powerful army into battle only to be defeated. In 164 BCE, Jerusalem was recaptured by the Maccabees and the Temple purified, an event that gave birth to the holiday of Chanukah

It took more than two decades of fighting before the Maccabees forced the Seleucids to retreat from the Land of Israel. By this time Antiochus had died and his successor agreed to the Jews’ demand for independence. In the year 142 BCE, after more than 500 years of subjugation, the Jews were again masters of their own fate…

The kingdom regained boundaries not far short of Solomon’s realm and Jewish life flourished.”

Wikipedia says that the Maccabees “reasserted the Jewish religion, partly by forced conversion” and “expanded the boundaries of Judea by conquest.” Likewise, I Maccabees 14:4-24 says that Simon Maccabee “took Joppe for a haven, and made an entrance to the isles of the sea. And he enlarged the bounds of his nation, and made himself master of the country… the fame of his glory was renowned even to the end of the earth.”

The Hasmonean kingdom of Israel apparently became oppressive to its subjects. In 63 BC Pompey the Great intervened in a Judean civil war, the Judean kingdom lost some of its land, became semi-autonomous, and some of the cities that had been under Judea became autonomous and formed the Decapolis. According to Wikipedia, “The people of the Decapolis cities welcomed Pompey as a liberator from the Jewish Hasmonean kingdom that had ruled much of the area.”

As we saw in our study of Daniel 2, by 40 BC Herod the Great, the Edomite founder of the Herodian Dynasty in Israel, was doing his own “devouring, breaking, and trampling.” We also saw how Herod divided the land of Israel into five parts, and how after his death his sons divided it further.

When we look at Revelation 13 and 17 later in this series, we will examine how the Zealots did all kinds of “devouring, breaking, and trampling” in the land, in Jerusalem, and in the temple complex.

“Different from All Other Kingdoms” (Daniel 7:7, 23)

How was Israel/Judea, as the fourth kingdom, different than the three kingdoms which preceded it? Like the other kingdoms, the Maccabees (Hasmoneans) expanded their territory by political conquest. Unlike the other kingdoms, the Hasmonean kingdom also expanded through forced religious conversions.

I would speculate, though, that the primary difference between Israel/Judea and the other kingdoms was its widespread religious authority. The high priesthood in Jerusalem held authority over Jews living in “every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5), some of whom would travel to Jerusalem three times a year for the major festivals (Passover, Weeks/Pentecost, and Tabernacles).

Ten Horns of the Beast (Daniel 7:7, 20, 24)

Daniel observes that the fourth beast had 10 horns (verse 7). In verse 20 Daniel asked about those 10 horns and it was revealed to him that they “are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom” (verse 24). Daniel wasn’t told anything else about those 10 horns, but in Revelation 17:12-17 John learns that they [1] would “receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast” [2] would “give their power and authority to the beast” [3] would make war with the Lamb but be overcome by the Lamb [4] would “hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire” [5] and would “give their kingdom to the beast until the words of God are fulfilled.” We’ll examine the 10 horns in more depth later in this series when we come to Revelation 17.

In a post I wrote in July 2016 I proposed that the 10 horns were the 10 Jewish generals who were given authority in December 66 AD. After the Jews defeated Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD, these generals were chosen to lead Israel in preparing for the inevitable war with Rome. In Wars 2.20.3-4 Josephus lists 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 of Perea, 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”)

An 11th Horn, “A Little Horn”

In the following sections we will see that Daniel was told a great deal about another character spoken of as “a little horn.” This person is not spoken of in the book of Revelation by this title, but only here in Daniel 7. According to Daniel 7:8, 21-22, 24-27 this person would:

[A] come up among the 10 horns
[B] pluck out three of the first horns
[C] have a mouth speaking pompous words
[D] make war against the saints
[E] be different than the other 10 horns
[F] “intend to change times and the law”
[G] and prevail against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints.

A Little Horn Coming Up Among the 10 Horns (Daniel 7:8, 20-21, 24-26)

As Daniel was considering the 10 horns, he saw a little horn coming up among them. He had “eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words” (Daniel 7:8). Even though he was “little,” his “appearance was greater than his fellows” (Daniel 7:20). At this point, I believe this 11th horn was either Eleazar ben Simon (my top choice) or John Levi of Gischala (my second choice). Both were prominent leaders of the Zealots in Jerusalem during the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD. (We will take a closer look at the Zealots in our study of Revelation 13.)

If Eleazar was the 11th horn, how did he “come up among” the 10 horns? Josephus wrote in Wars 2.20.3 that it was surprising that Eleazar was not appointed as one of the 10 generals for the war because he was credited with leading the victory against Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD. However, the reason he was not chosen with the other 10 was because of his “tyrannical temper.” Still the people in Jerusalem submitted to his authority anyway:

“…for they did not ordain Eleazar the son of Simon to that office [as one of the 10 generals], 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.”

If John of Gischala was the 11th horn, how did he “come up among” the 10 horns? Around this same time, John tried to convince the authorities in Jerusalem to remove Josephus from the position of governor of the Galileans, and to give that position to him instead. Gischala was John Levi’s native city, but it was located in Galilee, and John was displeased when he found out that Josephus had been appointed as the governor of Galilee:

“But the hatred that John, the son of Levi, bore to me, grew now more violent, while he could not bear my prosperity with patience. So he proposed to himself, by all means possible, to make away with me; and built the walls of Gischala, which was the place of his nativity. He then sent his brother Simon, and Jonathan, the son of Sisenna, and about a hundred armed men, to Jerusalem, to Simon, the son of Gamaliel, in order to persuade him to induce the commonalty of Jerusalem to take from me the government over the Galileans, and to give their suffrages for conferring that authority upon him” (Life of Flavius Josephus, 38 [189]).

Soon afterward, though, Josephus had a dream in which he was told that John’s schemes against him would not succeed and that he would live to fight the Romans (Life, 42). John Levi eventually made it to Jerusalem in November 67 AD (Wars 4.2.4), and before long he was able to seize control of part of the city.

Three Horns Plucked Out by the Roots (Daniel 7:8, 20, 24)

Daniel 7:8 states that “before” (i.e. in front of) the little horn “three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots.” Verse 20 says that they “fell,” and verse 24 says that the little horn would “subdue” them.

Josephus records the deaths of three of the 10 generals at the hands of Eleazar ben Simon and John of Gischala. Their deaths took place during the Zealot siege of Jerusalem in February/March 68 AD:

[1] Ananus ben Ananus, governor of Jerusalem and a former high priest
[2] Niger of Perea
[3] Joseph ben Gorion.

Ananus was killed in early 68 AD when the Zealot leaders tricked the Idumeans into coming up to Jerusalem. This happened after John of Gischala first pretended to befriend Ananus, who was vehemently against the Zealots and their war agenda. Ananus was the leader of “the moderates,” those who took a moderate position regarding Rome. With false pretenses, John discussed plans with Ananus and then secretly passed them along to the other Zealot leaders. He also lied to the Zealots and claimed that Ananus was plotting to invite the Roman general Vespasian to take over Jerusalem (Wars 4.3.13-14).

So John convinced Eleazar ben Simon and the other Zealots to help him send a letter to the Idumeans (south of Judea), urging them to come up to Jerusalem and defend the city (Wars 4.4.1). An army of 20,000 Idumeans, led by four commanders (see Revelation 9:13-17) then came up to Jerusalem (Wars 4.4.2). Together with the Zealots, they killed thousands of people, filling the outer court of the temple with blood (Wars 4.5.1). They then specifically hunted down the high priests and killed Ananus, among others (Wars. 4.5.2).

When the Idumeans left Jerusalem, Josephus says that the Zealots thirsted “chiefly after the blood of valiant men, and men of good families; the one sort of which they destroyed out of envy, the other out of fear; for they thought their whole security lay in leaving no potent men alive; on which account they slew Gorion*, a person eminent in dignity, and on account of his family also… Nor did Niger of Peres escape their hands… so did they slay him” (Wars 4.6.1).

* The Gorion family was wealthy and well-known, and Nicodemus (John 3) was from this family. In Wars 2.17.10 Josephus specifically mentions “Gorion the son of Nicodemus.” In Wars 2.20.3 Josephus states that “Joseph the son of Gorion” was a governor of Jerusalem and one of the 10 generals for the war against Rome. A footnote for this section says,

“From this name of Joseph the son of Gorion, or Gorion the son of Joseph, as B. IV. ch. 3. sect. 9, one of the governors of Jerusalem, who was slain at the beginning of the tumults by the zealots…”

In Wars 4.3.9 we read about “Gorion the son of Josephus” growing tired of the Zealots and opposing them. The footnote above states that this is the same person. This makes sense because Josephus had already named Nicodemus as the actual father of Gorion. According to Martin Hengel, author of “The Zealots” (p. 367), Josephus had a habit of stating names differently and changing them around in his works.

Then in Wars 4.6.1 he speaks of the death of “Gorion” at the hands of the Zealots. As the footnote states, this must be the same Gorion (or “Joseph the son of Gorion”) mentioned just a little bit earlier in Wars 4.3.9.

In the October 1993 – January 1994 edition of the Jewish Quarterly Review (University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 189-208), Tal Ilan and Jonathan J. Price published an article titled “Seven Onomastic Problems in Josephus’ “Bellum Judaicum [Wars of the Jews]. Ilan and Price highlighted this same problem (#6) and seemed to come to the same conclusion.

So far, outside of Wars 4.6.1 and the footnote for Wars 2.20.3, I have been unable to find any other record of how or when Joseph ben Gorion, the governor of Jerusalem, died. If anyone has such information, please do share it. It would be good to have an even stronger confirmation that Josephus was speaking of the same person, despite the name getting switched around.

So, from the list of 10 generals (10 horns) above, the three horns who were killed by the Zealots were #1, #2, and #5. All three were killed in Jerusalem.

A Mouth Speaking Pompous Words (Daniel 7:8, 11, 20)

According to Daniel 7:8, 11, and 20, the little horn would speak “pompous words.” This likely corresponds with Revelation 13:5, which says that the beast “was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies.” Concerning Eleazar ben Simon, Josephus says that he “was of a tyrannical temper” (Wars 2.20.3), but Josephus doesn’t seem to say much else about the way Eleazar spoke. Concerning John of Gischala, Josephus does include an example of John boasting and talking big. This was when John escaped from Gischala (of Galilee) when that city was captured by the Roman general Titus in November 67 AD:

“Now upon John’s entry into Jerusalem, the whole body of the people were in an uproar, and ten thousand of them crowded about every one of the fugitives that were come to them, and inquired of them what miseries had happened abroad, when their breath was so short, and hot, and quick, that of itself it declared the great distress they were in; yet did they talk big under their misfortunes, and pretended to say that they had not fled away from the Romans, but came thither in order to fight them with less hazard; for that it would be an unreasonable and a fruitless thing for them to expose themselves to desperate hazards about Gischala, and such weak cities, whereas they ought to lay up their weapons and their zeal, and reserve it for their metropolis. But when they related to them the taking of Gischala, and their decent departure, as they pretended, from that place, many of the people understood it to be no better than a flight; and especially when the people were told of those that were made captives, they were in great confusion, and guessed those things to be plain indications that they should be taken also. But for John, he was very little concerned for those whom he had left behind him, but 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; but as to the more prudent part, and those in years, there was not a man of them but foresaw what was coming, and made lamentation on that account, as if the city was already undone; and in this confusion were the people” (Wars 4.3.1-2).

On this point, there seems to be more evidence pointing toward John as the little horn. As we consider all the points collectively, each reader can look at the evidence and decide whether Eleazar, John, or even another individual best fits the descriptions that Daniel was given.

In the next post, we will continue to look at Daniel 7 and other details concerning the little horn.

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

The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel: Introduction and Outline


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] will grind 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 Matthew 21:43-45
A. “a kingdom” “the kingdom” “the kingdom”
B. “given to the people, the saints of the Most High” “given to a nation bearing the fruits of it”
C. “a stone”; “the stone” “this stone”
D. “struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces”; “crushed together” “ will grind him to powder”
E. “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: [1] the sea beast with seven heads and 10 horns (Roman) [2] the land beast with two horns a.k.a. the false prophet (Jewish), and [3] 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).

Other references to the Jews as “beasts” can be seen in Wars 3.8.6 and Wars 5.2.5.

Series Outline

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

J. CONCLUSION

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 Scripture Text
#1

(Rev. 11:7)

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.

#2-9

(Rev. 13:1-8)

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.

#10-17

(Rev. 13:11-18)

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.

13 He 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.
15 He 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.

#18-19

(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.”
#20

(Rev. 15:2)

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.
#21

(Rev. 16:2)

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.
#22

(Rev. 16:10)

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.
#23

(Rev. 16:13)

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.
#24

(Rev. 17:3)

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.
#25-26

(Rev. 17:7-8)

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.
#27-29

(Rev. 17:11-13)

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.
#30-31

(Rev. 17:16-17)

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.
#32-33

(Rev. 19:19-20)

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.
#34

(Rev. 20:4)

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.
#35

(Rev. 20:10)

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).

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

That Mountain Was Cast Into the Sea…and These Mountains Can Be Too


I recently came across an article on Jesus’ words about casting a mountain into the sea (Matthew 21:20-22, Mark 11:21-24), and I found it to be very good overall. The author, Don Walker, discusses how His followers in the first century AD did exactly that with the specific mountain that Jesus was talking about – Jerusalem / Israel / the old covenant system. This is confirmed in Revelation 8:3-4, 8-9.

It’s a brief article and I will include it in this post. In the second paragraph, Don discounts other applications of this passage, and I understand his point about the failure to first consider how Jesus’ listeners would have understood His words (audience relevance). However, Jesus Himself makes a secondary, greater application to what He said about casting the mountain into the sea, and I want to focus on that application in the final section of this post. A mountain was cast into the sea in the generation of Jesus and His disciples, and great victories can also take place in our generation. Here’s a simple outline for this post:

1. Don Walker’s Article
2. A Further Explanation of That Mountain Being Cast Into the Sea
3. A Prototype for More Victories

1. Don Walker’s Article

Here’s Don Walker’s article, “The Mountain Cast Into the Sea”:

The failure of many scholars and Bible commentators to recognize the significance of the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. is evidenced through much of their interpretation of the New Testament. One clear case of this is found in Matthew 21:21-22 where Jesus says: “Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it shall happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.”

This passage has been “fodder” for many sermons on “Mountain-Moving Faith.” I have heard sermons on “a mountain of debt,” “a mountain of worry,” “a mountain of problems,” “ a mountain of sickness,” on and on ad nauseam. Time and again this passage, along with Mark 11:23-24, becomes the “launching pad” for a “faith rocket” aimed in any direction we want it to go. This is a clear example of “a text taken out of context becoming a pretext for just about anything.”  As an aside, having heard many of the so-called “faith preachers” expound on these verses about how they are to be taken “literally,” I have not, as of yet, heard of any one of them casting a “literal” mountain into the sea.     

In order to properly interpret this passage we must note that Jesus did not say, “a mountain.” Jesus said, “this mountain,” which holds great hermeneutical importance. He is not speaking about “any mountain.” He is speaking about a specific one. The Greek language is quite clear on this point. There is a definite article following the word “oros” (meaning mountain). Without the definite article it would mean that this would be translated as “a mountain.” Obviously, “a mountain,” and “this mountain” makes a difference in how one interprets what Jesus was referring to.

What mountain was Jesus specifically speaking about? I believe Jesus’ Jewish disciples, steeped in the language of the Old Testament, knew exactly what Jesus was referring to in this instance, and which mountain was to ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea.’

Mountains in the Scriptures symbolize nations and people (Isa.41:14-16, Zech. 4:7). Exodus 15:17 tells us that God that would “plant” Israel “in the mountain of Thine inheritance.” Throughout the Old Testament the nation was spoken of as “Mount Zion” (example: Ps. 48:11, 74:2, 125:1; Isa. 8:18, 10:12, 24:23, 29:8; Joel 2:32). The disciples were well aware of this and understood the implication of Jesus’ words. In addition, William Telford in his book, The Barren Temple and the Withered Tree, states that the phrase “this mountain” was a standard expression among the Jewish people for the Temple Mount.  

“This mountain” was understood, by the disciples, to be in reference to the nation of Israel which was directly related to the Temple. Coupled with this statement from Jesus, in the midst of His warnings about the destruction of Jerusalem (Matt. 20-25), is His cursing of an unfruitful fig tree, as a symbol of judgment upon Israel.

Jesus was not suddenly changing the topic away from the destruction of Jerusalem, but focusing in on the role of His followers to pray, in faith, for its destruction. Commenting on this passage in his book, Days of Vengeance, David Chilton writes:

“Jesus was instructing His disciples to pray imprecatory prayers, beseeching God to destroy Israel, to wither the fig tree, to cast the apostate mountain into the sea.”  

In Revelation 8:8 we see the fulfillment of the prayers of the saints (Rev. 8:3-4), when we are told, “something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea.” This is also the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy concerning the judgment of Babylon, which Jerusalem had become, “a destroying mountain” on which God unleashed His wrath. The imagery of Revelation 8:8 parallels that of Jeremiah 51:25,42, which declares:

Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, who destroys the whole earth,” declares the Lord, “and I will stretch out My hand against you, and roll you down from the crags and I will make you a burnt out mountain… The sea has come up over Babylon; she has been engulfed with its tumultous waves.”

The apostate mountain that is “cast into the sea” speaks symbolically of the Diaspora, the dispersion of the Jewish people across the earth, into the “sea of humanity.” The mountain was not only “taken up” but also “cast into the sea” in the language of the Scriptures. It was, therefore, an actual fulfillment of the prayers of the saints who obeyed Christ’s instructions.

The “this mountain” that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 21:21 was replaced by “the great mountain” of Daniel 2:35. We see the replacement of the Harlot with the Bride, Israel with the Church, and Babylon (earthly Jerusalem) with the heavenly Jerusalem.

The failure of most Bible commentators to see the significance of the fall of Jerusalem “clouds” their interpretation of this and many other passages of Scripture. It has also hindered the Church of Jesus Christ from seeing the surpassing greatness of the New Covenant, which has made the old obsolete (Heb. 8:13).

2. A Further Explanation of That Mountain Being Cast Into the Sea

John Noē shares more details about how Jerusalem was on a mountain:

Geographically, Jerusalem sits on top of a mountain. To get there from any direction one must go “up to Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 19:34; 1 Ki. 12:28; 2 Ki. 18:17; 2 Chron. 2:16; Ezra 1:3; 7:7; Zech. 14:17; Matt. 20:17, 18; Mark 10:32, 33; Luke 18:31; 19:28; John 2:13; 5:1; Acts 11:2; 15:2; 21:12, 15; 24:11; 25:9; Gal. 1:17, 18). Jerusalem is also called God’s “holy mountain” (Psa. 43:3) and the “chief among the mountains” (Isa. 2:2-3; also 14:13; Exod. 15:17; Joel 2:32; 3:16-17).

In Revelation 6:9-11 John saw “the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held” crying out and asking God how soon He would judge and avenge their blood on those who were dwelling on the earth (or “in the land”). See also Luke 18:1-8 (the Parable of the Persistent Widow).

Centuries before it was prophesied that this blood would be avenged (Deuteronomy 32:43) upon “a perverse and crooked generation” (Deut. 32:5, 20; cf. Matthew 17:17) at Israel’s “latter end” (Deut. 32:28-29). Jesus also declared that His own generation would be held responsible and judged because of this righteous blood (Matthew 23:34-36). See also I Thessalonians 2:14-16.

As the seven angels prepared to blow the seven trumpets, John saw the following scene:

Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. And he was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. 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 trumpets prepared themselves to sound” (Revelation 8:3-6).

It seems evident that the collective prayers of the saints were received by God and that the seven trumpets which followed were connected to those prayers. This is how John described the second trumpet:

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” (Revelation 8:8-9).

As Don Walker pointed out, this calls to mind how Jerusalem and the Second Temple were burned and destroyed in 70 AD. It also calls to mind some of the battles that took place during the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). According to Josephus and other historians, more than 150,000 Jews were killed in Galilee and Judea, and around 1.1 million were killed in Jerusalem in 70 AD. At least 97,000 Jews were sold as slaves to different parts of the Roman Empire. Here’s how Josephus described one battle that took place in the Sea of Galilee:

“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; and indeed they were destroyed after various manners every where, till the rest being put to flight, were forced to get upon the land, while the vessels encompassed them about [on the sea]: but as many of these were repulsed when they were getting ashore, they were killed by the darts upon the lake; and the Romans leaped out of their vessels, and destroyed a great many more upon the land: one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped” (Wars 3.10.9; also see Wars 3.9.3 for what happened near Joppa).

When we compare the literary structure of this verse in Revelation 8 to the literary structure of “the great city’s” downfall in Revelation 18, it’s even more clear that they are talking about the same thing (keep in mind that “the great city” was first identified as Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8):

Revelation 8:8

Revelation 18:21a

Revelation 18:21b

“And the second angel sounded, “And a strong angel saying,
and something like a great took up a stone like a great ‘Thus will Babylon that great
mountain burning with fire millstone city
was thrown into the sea…” and threw it into the sea, will be thrown down with violence
    and it will not be found any longer.”

As the outpouring of judgment progresses in the book of Revelation, we see how God answers the cries of the martyrs:

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” (Revelation 16:4-6; see also Rev. 17:3-6).

“…Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!” …And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth” (Rev. 18:19-24).

For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her” (Rev. 19:2).

In response to the prayers of the saints, that mountain was cast into the sea. “Mount Sinai” and “Jerusalem…in bondage with her children” were cast out, but the heavenly Jerusalem is free (Galatians 4:21-31) and God’s people have come to Mount Zion, the new covenant city of God (Hebrews 12:22-24).

3. A Prototype for More Victories

Are there grounds for seeing this as a prototype for other “mountains to be cast into the sea,” so to speak? I believe there are. After all, Jesus first caused a fig tree to wither and die as a prototype for how “this mountain” could be cast down (Matthew 21:18-20; Mark 11:12-14, 20-21). After affirming that His disciples also would have the authority to tell that mountain to be cast into the sea, and that it would be done, Jesus said this:

“And all things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22).

“Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24).

Here Jesus says to His disciples that just like they would be able to cast that mountain into the sea, they would also be able to see other victories take place and other strongholds fall. It wasn’t just the 12 disciples who prayed and declared the casting down of that mountain, but it was the saints as a whole. 

Today we have an everlasting kingdom and dominion in our hands, but much of the body of Christ hardly realizes it:

And 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 kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:35, 44).

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever… the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom… Then the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27).

And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:33).

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

“…on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever‘” (Revelation 11:15).

In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down, and this is not the only victory seen during the last 2000 years of Church history. What strongholds, what “mountains,” what barriers are facing the body of Christ in this generation? What is exalting itself against the knowledge of Christ in our world, in your nation, or in our communities at this time?

Is it ISIS / terrorism?
Is it wars in different parts of the world?

Is it racism?
Is it poverty?
Is it government corruption?
Is it the Israeli/Palestinian conflict?
Is it the abortion epidemic?

Is it something else?

Just as the first century saints cast down the mountain that opposed the people, plans, and purposes of God in their time, we can and should unite in prayer and declaration to do the same to “mountains” that exalt themselves against the kingdom of God at this point in history.

In March 2016 I had the privilege of speaking at an “end times” conference in Long Island, New York which was hosted by Pastor Michael Miano of Blue Point Bible Church. I wrote about that here and here. One of the other speakers, Apostle Johnny Ova, impacted me with his words about living worthy of the kingdom of God, praying and declaring life instead of death. and how the state of this world is a direct reflection of the strength of the Church. At one point, he expressed dismay at the words of some Christians who are complaining about ISIS and Islam and even wishing death upon Muslims around the world. He said:

“Do you know what I want to see? I want to see everyone of them get saved and give their lives to Christ. That’s what I want to see. To me that would be an unbelievable miracle. Imagine that – a revival in ISIS, that no one wants to kill them anymore; all ISIS wants to give God praise now. To me that would cause shock waves throughout the whole entire world. Why aren’t we praying for that? If we would pray as much as we complain, we would see some genuine change in this world.”

Amen. Johnny’s entire message (26 minutes) can be seen here. This is a clip of the part (21:25 – 23:55) that impacted me the most:

Let’s be people who realize the power of the kingdom that we possess, and work and pray together to cast down mountains even as that mountain was cast down long ago.

Daniel 2: The Kingdom Is Here


Jonathan Welton, the author of the book “Raptureless,” has created a neat illustration of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation of it in Daniel 2. I very much agree with the main conclusion: “The kingdom is present; the kingdom is growing. We are in the kingdom age… and we are the King’s ambassadors.”

Daniel 2:44 is indeed a pivotal verse, as it states clearly the timing for the setting up of God’s eternal kingdom:

And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”

As many scholars agree, Rome was the fourth kingdom depicted in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision. Rome was preceded by Nebuchadnezzar’s own Babylonian kingdom (#1), Medo-Persia (#2), and Greece (#3). These were successive empires, and the Roman empire ceased to exist in 476 AD (Sources: BBC History, History Learning Site, Rome.Info, Wikipedia, About.com’s Ancient History). Daniel, a true and faithful prophet, recorded that God’s kingdom would be set up before all four of those kingdoms ceased to exist.

By the year 600 AD the final earthly kingdom revealed in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision had been gone for more than 100 years. By 1500 AD that fourth kingdom had already been gone for a full millennium (1000 years). What are we to make, then, of popular teachings which say that, as of the year 2014, God has not yet set up His kingdom? We are now 1538 years beyond the parameters of Daniel’s prophecy: “And in the days of these kings…” If God’s kingdom has not yet been established, it would seem that Daniel was not a true prophet.

The problem, however, is not with Daniel, but rather with premillennialism and any other school of thought which says that God’s kingdom is not yet here, or that when it comes it will take on earthly characteristics (e.g. a temple and a spiritual headquarters in Jerusalem, Israel) that the world has not yet seen.

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).

Daniel 7 Reveals the Timing of the Kingdom

Coming back to Daniel, he later had a vision of four beasts, the fourth of which was “dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong,” and having 10 horns (Daniel 7:7). Daniel also foresaw “One like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heavento the Ancient of Days – a picture of Jesus’ ascension.

I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

In the rest of the chapter, Daniel sees or is told three times that the kingdom would be given into the hands of the saints:

But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever” (verse 18).

I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom” (verses 21-22).

Then the saints shall be given into [the fourth beast’s] hand for a time and times and half a time. But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever. Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (verses 25-27).

Parallel to this is Revelation 13:1-8, where John also saw a beast with 10 horns speaking blasphemous things and making war with the saints and overcoming them for 42 months (which is equal to 3.5 years, and also equal to Daniel’s “time and times and half a time”). In our study of Revelation, we saw how this was fulfilled in Nero and his 3.5 year campaign of persecution against Christians in the Roman empire from November 64 AD – June 68 AD (see here and here). In Daniel 7 then, we first see that Jesus received the kingdom immediately after His ascension, and then we see that God’s kingdom was set up and given into the hands of His people during the days of the fourth kingdom/beast, Rome.

The Gospels Reveal the Timing of the Kingdom

John the Baptist and Jesus, in their day, repeatedly proclaimed that the kingdom of God was at hand. Then Jesus told His disciples (Matthew 16:27-28) and the crowds (Mark 8:34-9:1) that He would come in His kingdom while some of them were still alive.

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (Matt. 16:27-28; see also Matthew 10:23).

In Luke 21 Jesus described a series of events which were to occur before the temple would fall (Luke 21:5-7) and before His generation would pass away (Luke 21:32). According to Jesus, when His disciples saw those things take place, they could be sure that God’s kingdom was near.

Then He spoke to them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near” (Luke 21:29-31).

Matthew 21: The Parable of the Tenants

The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46) is also important in regard to when God’s kingdom was to be established, and we see in this parable a parallel to Daniel 7. Jesus, speaking to the chief priests and elders of the people (Matt. 21:23), exposes the vinedressers (the stewards) of God’s vineyard for their long-term persecution, beating, and killing of God’s servants, and for finally conspiring to kill Him and attempt to seize His inheritance. Jesus continued the discussion in this way:

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:40-44).

Jesus thus proclaimed that the kingdom would be taken away from the corrupt Jewish religious leaders at the time of their judgment for shedding the blood of God’s saints and God’s Son. (This judgment was to fall upon Jesus’ own generation, according to Matthew 23:29-37.) It was at this time that the kingdom would be given to a fruit-bearing nation, the church.

As in Daniel 2, Jesus is the rock that crushes His opponents. In this case, faithless Israel, except for a remnant, had set itself up in opposition to Him, and the Rock would fall and “grind him to powder.” This happened with the destruction of Jerusalem, Israel, and the temple in 70 AD. At the same time, Jesus is a mighty Rock and fortress for those who trust in Him.

Hebrews 12 Reveals the Timing of the Kingdom

The author of Hebrews spoke of the kingdom that his audience was receiving in the first century (Hebrews 12:28), and he pointed out that it was a kingdom which could not be shaken, unlike those things made with hands which could and would be shaken (verses 26-27). I believe this was a reference, in particular, to the temple in Jerusalem, the worship center for old covenant Judaism. The context bears this idea out. Ten verses earlier we read that the saints had not come to Mount Sinai, where the old covenant had been established (verse 18), but they had “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant…” (verses 22-24). If we compare this with Galatians 4:21-31, we see that earthly Jerusalem was in bondage and was about to be cast out (verses 25 and 30), but the heavenly Jerusalem is said to be the mother of God’s people (verse 26). Here is what Hebrews 12 has to say:

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, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” 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, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews 12:18-29)

To Review

1. Daniel 2 reveals that God would set up His kingdom before Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome had all expired as kingdoms/empires.
2. Daniel 7 reveals that Jesus would receive His kingdom at the time of His ascension to His Father’s throne. It also confirms that God’s kingdom would be put into the hands of His people, the church, during the time of the Roman empire and immediately following a vicious campaign of persecution meant to eradicate the church.
3. John the Baptist and Jesus repeatedly proclaimed that the kingdom of God was near in their day. Jesus promised to come in His kingdom while some of His disciples were still alive, and He revealed that His kingdom would be given to His church at the same time it was taken away from rebellious Israel at the time of their judgment.
4. Hebrews 12 reveals that God’s people were receiving an unshakable kingdom in the first century, and that they would receive it at a time when all that could be shaken would be shaken.

The nation of Israel, as a whole, was found unworthy to steward God’s kingdom. Jesus, on the other hand, was perfectly obedient, laid down His life, rose again, and was found worthy to receive the kingdom. He came to take it out of the hands of Israel’s leaders, and He placed it into the hands of His church. We have been given the privilege of being the stewards of God’s kingdom. How much is the church being limited in its ability to spread God’s kingdom, and walk in its realities and power, because of the pervasive belief that it hasn’t even come yet?

God’s kingdom has come, and God’s kingdom will remain forever.

————————————————————————————————————————–

For the record, I agree with everything in Jonathan Welton’s illustration except for this statement:

“Since Jesus (the Rock) crashed into the feet of the statue in His first coming, the kingdom has been present and growing all the way until His second coming.”

Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium (Part 1)


Revelation 20: Minority Views on the Millennium (Part 1)

Adam Maarschalk: March 20, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 20:1-15

The primary purpose of these next two posts is to acknowledge that there are some whose beliefs regarding the Millennium do not fit into the three well-known camps: premillennialism, amillennialism, and postmillennialism. In this post I would like to highlight three minority views on this subject which I am aware of: [1] the position of J. Stuart Russell (1816-1895) and Duncan McKenzie (and others) that the Millennium began in 70 AD and continues until now [2] Kenneth Gentry’s newest viewpoint on Revelation 20:4-6; what he calls “The Martyr’s Millennium,” and [3] the position of full-preterism, which does not see Revelation 20 as either a present (ongoing) or future reality, but as having been completely fulfilled in the past. This post covers the first two views. This post and the next are summed up by the following outline:

OUTLINE

A. J. Stuart Russell & Duncan McKenzie: The Millennium Began in 70 AD
B. Kenneth Gentry: “The Martyr’s Millennium” (A Study of Revelation 20:4-6)
C. Full Preterism: One Thousand Years Represents Only 40 Years (30 AD—70 AD)

A. The Millennium Began in 70 AD

We now come to the viewpoint espoused well over a century ago by J. Stuart Russell (and perhaps before that by others) that the Millennium began in 70 AD following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple. This is quite similar to amillennialism/postmillennialism which generally proposes that the reign of Christ began with His work on the cross. I haven’t read Russell’s writings on this particular matter, but I would imagine he drew his conclusions from at least the following texts: [1] Daniel 7:21-22, 27 [2] Matthew 21:33-45.

In Daniel 7, the time comes for the saints to possess the kingdom after “the horn” makes war with the saints and prevails over them for a time (cf. Rev. 13:5-7). Most preterists (partial or full) would agree that this passage was fulfilled in the first century, in Nero’s day and shortly after. In Matthew 21 (The Parable of the Tenants), Jesus tells the Jewish religious leaders of His day that the kingdom of God would be taken away from them “and given to a people producing its fruits” (verse 43; cf. verse 41). This is linked to the stone (verse 44) crushing those who had been responsible for killing God’s servants and Son (verses 35-39; cf. Acts 2:22-23, 36; 5:30; 7:52; I Thess. 2:14-15), which many take to refer to God’s wrath poured out on apostate Israel in 70 AD. So it would seem from these texts that the kingdom was inaugurated (or “secured for God’s people,” as Kenneth Gentry says) at this point, even if the kingdom was present from the time of Christ’s ministry. Thought of this way, then, the “already but not yet” phase of God’s kingdom lasted for only 40 years rather than for about 2000 years (as postulated by many premillennialists).

Interestingly, Duncan McKenzie calls his view “The Postribulational (i.e. post AD 70) Beginning of the Millennium.” This is because he believes (as I do) that the Great Tribulation (Matt. 24:21; Rev. 7:14) took place from early 67 AD—mid 70 AD. Before quoting from McKenzie on his views regarding the Millennium, it will be helpful if I can clarify where he stands with regard to preterism. He stands with J. Stuart Russell (1816-1895), the writer of the classic book “The Parousia,” [1] whose position is as follows:

Where Russell’s position is different from full preterism is that it does not hold that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70… The position of James Stuart Russell offers a third preterist option that is different from full preterism and traditional partial preterism. Russell’s position is essentially like the full preterist position (i.e. the one and only Second Coming, the judgment and the resurrection happened at AD 70, the resurrection having an ongoing fulfillment since AD 70.[2] Russell’s position sees us as currently in the new heaven and earth, a symbol of the post AD 70 new covenant order). Where Russell’s position is different from full preterism is that it does not hold that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70… Russell saw the millennium as beginning at AD 70, not ending at that time as full preterism necessitates. I believe that Russell was right and a wrong turn took place with the advent of full preterism. I say this because of my study of Daniel 7; I believe it lends support to Russell’s position. It should be noted that in Russell’s system there will be a future end to evil at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:7-10); it sees Satan as defeated, just not disposed of yet.

Russell’s position is that what is being shown in Revelation 20 is not two separate throne scenes and judgments (one in Rev. 20:4 and one in 20:11-15) separated by the millennium, but one throne scene and judgment (composed of Revelation 20:4 and 11-15) with a digression of what will happen at the end of the millennium (Revelation 20:7-10) in between. Russell’s position is that John begins describing a throne scene judgment at the beginning of the millennium in Revelation 20:4. At 20:7-10 John digresses about what would happen at the end of the millennium, and then at 20:11 he takes up again the subject of the throne scene judgment he started in 20:4. Russell thus saw the description of the throne scene and judgment that is begun in Revelation 20:4 as being continued in Revelation 20:11. The two sections (Rev. 20:4 and 11-15) are thus describing one throne scene judgment (which happens at the beginning of the millennium), not two throne scene judgments (one at the beginning of the millennium and one at its end).

Russell spoke of Rev. 20:5-10 as a parenthesis and “the sole instance in the whole book of an excursion into distant futurity…matters still future and unfulfilled.” Here, McKenzie is even more clear regarding his own overall position on eschatology, i.e. what has and has not yet been fulfilled:

Like full preterists, I see AD 70 as the time of the Second Coming, resurrection and judgment (with the resurrection and judgment having an ongoing fulfillment since that time).  Like partial preterists I see certain prophetic events that still await fulfillment (e.g., the destruction of Satan at the end of the millennium described in Revelation 20:7-10).  While my position is much closer to full preterism, I strongly disagree with its premise that all biblical prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70.

Our approach is most similar to that of nineteenth-century theologian James Stuart Russell.  Like full preterists, Russell saw AD 70 as the time of the Second Coming; unlike full preterists, Russell saw the Second Coming as the beginning of the millennium, not its end. I call this position “premillennial preterism.”  It is premillennial in that it holds that Jesus returned right before (pre-) the millennium.  Unlike futuristic premillennialism, however, it does not see the millennium as a literal 1000-year period.  My position is preteristic because it holds that the one and only Second Coming occurred at the AD 70 end of the old covenant age.  R. C. Sproul, in his book The Last Days according to Jesus, wrote favorably concerning Russell’s position and his attempt to answer the hard questions related to the New Testament’s teaching of a very soon (first century) Second Coming.

One may also follow the above link to view McKenzie’s arguments on why the Second Coming occurred (once and for all) in 70 AD, based on “the words of Jesus (as recorded by Matthew, Mark and Luke), Peter, Paul, James, John, Jude, and the author of Hebrews.” That discussion falls outside of the scope of our discussion here, but as McKenzie makes brief references (in what is to follow) to a past Second Coming I wanted to point this out for the sake of clarity.  Let us now turn to McKenzie’s discussion of why the Millennium should be thought of as having its formal and official beginning in 70 AD. I have to admit that this is very well argued:

[Revelation 20:1-4] is the famous passage of the binding of Satan and the reign of Jesus and His people. On the surface this passage appears relatively simple; on closer inspection, however, it turns out to be one of the most difficult and debated passages in the Bible. One of the first matters to attend to in understanding the millennium is the question of how it fits in sequentially in relation to the rest of Revelation. Is the binding of Satan in Revelation 20:1 a continuation of the events of Revelation 19 (the AD 70 fall of Babylon and the Second Coming) or is there a recapitulation (a going back and restating of events that happened earlier)? Some say that there is a recapitulation here, that Revelation 20 is going back to the time of Pentecost (c. AD 30) or even the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (c. AD 26). My position is that Revelation 20 is a continuation of the (AD 70) events of Revelation 19, not a recapitulation to the time around AD 30.

In considering the sequence of Revelation 19-20, it is helpful to broaden one’s focus. Here is Revelation 19:11-20:4 without the chapter separation (chapter separations were not part of the original manuscript). For brevity I have left out Revelation 19:12-18 which is mostly a description of the One on the white horse (the Word of God, Rev. 19:13).

“Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True and in righteousness He judges and makes war…And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was capturedand with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh. Then I saw an angel coming down form heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished. But after these things he must be released for a little while. And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped 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.”

Notice the sequence in Revelation 19-20. The individual beast and false prophet (the one who made people take the mark of the beast, Rev. 13:11-18) are captured at the Second Coming in chapter 19 and put in the lake of fire. Satan is then taken and thrown in the abyss as the kingdom is established in chapter 20. Those who had lost their lives for not taking the mark of the beast (cf. Rev. 19:20; 13:15-16) are then resurrected in Revelation 20:4 at the beginning of the millennium. God was letting His first century audience know that the one who was faithful to Him to the point of death (cf. Rev. 2:10-11) would still get to participate in the soon coming millennial reign (Rev. 2:25-27; 3:21).

Notice the reference to the mark of the beast as a past event in both chapter 19 and 20. Revelation 20 is a continuation of the AD 70 narrative of the Second Coming, not a recapitulation to AD 30.

Rev. 19:20 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.

Rev. 20:4 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 worshipped 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.

In Revelation 13:1-10 the seven churches were warned about the soon coming individual beast (cf. Rev. 17:18) that would overcome the saints. In Revelation 13:11-18 they were warned about his mark on the head and hand (cf. Rev. 14:8-11). These events of the tribulation were to happen in the forty-two month period (of AD 67-70) immediately preceding the Second Coming.

And he [the beast] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months…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…[and] as many as would not worship the image of the beast [were] to be killed (Rev. 13:5, 7,15 brackets mine).

In Revelation 19 we are shown the defeat of the beast by the Second Coming. The saints that had been killed for not taking the beast’s mark are shown among those that come to life in chapter 20 as the millennium begins. Revelation 20 is thus a continuation of the AD 70 narrative of chapter 19; it is not a recapitulation back to AD 30. Again, one of the groups that come alive at the beginning of the millennium consists of those who had been killed for not taking the mark of the beast. They had gone through the great tribulation (cf. Rev. 7:9-17) and are being resurrected at AD 70 to participate in the millennium.

The sequence I have proposed above is shown in Daniel 7. 1. The Antichrist (the little eleventh horn, Dan. 7:19-20) overcomes the saints. 2. He is defeated by the coming of God. 3. The court is seated (thrones are put in place as the kingdom reign begins, Dan. 7:8-11) as the saints possess the kingdom.

I was watching; and [1] the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, [2] until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and [3] the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom. Dan. 7:21-22

Again, the same sequence that is shown in Daniel is shown in Revelation. 1. The Antichrist (the individual beast) overcomes the saints (Rev. 13:5-7). 2. He is defeated by the coming of God (Rev. 19:11-21). 3. The saints then possess the kingdom as the millennium begins (Rev. 20:4). This is a pre-millennial sequence; the Second Coming happens right before God’s people possess the kingdom of God. This was James Stuart Russell’s position; he considered any attempts to fit the millennium in before AD 70 to be “violent and unnatural.” [J.S. Russell, The Parousia (Baker, 1999), 514]. It is at the AD 70 coming of God that the saints inherited the kingdom. This explains why one of the groups that come alive at the beginning of the millennium consists of believers who had been killed for not taking the mark of the beast. The millennium began right after the great tribulation at the AD 70 Second Coming, not at AD 30. Again, it was at the coming of God (what the NT will show as the Second Coming) that God’s people possessed the kingdom of God (Dan. 7:21-22; cf. Rev. 19:11-20:4).

Now a full preterist can not accept what I have written here, at least not if he or she wants to stay a 100% full preterist. Full preterism necessitates that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled by AD 70. Thus full preterists have to reject an AD 70 beginning to the millennium; if the millennium did begin at AD 70 it means there is still prophecy yet to be fulfilled (e.g. Satan’s loosing from the abyss at the end of the millennium, Rev. 20:7-10). Full preterists are left with a choice of either accepting what I am saying about an AD 70 beginning of the millennium (which is not going to happen) or attempt to separate the millennial kingdom (which they see as being from around AD 26-30 to sometime before AD 70) from the saints possessing the kingdom at the AD 70 Second Coming (Dan. 7:21-22). Most full preterists (wanting to stay card carrying full prets.) will attempt the latter option (differentiating the beginning of the millennium from the saints possessing the kingdom at the AD 70 Second Coming). Again if a full preterist acknowledges the start of the millennium as being the same as the AD 70 coming of the kingdom (cf. Matt. 19:28; Rev. 20:4), then they violate their basic premise of all prophecy fulfilled by AD 70.

Comparing Daniel 7 with Revelation 20, it is impossible to make a legitimate case that the AD 70 establishment of the kingdom of God of Daniel 7 (vv. 19-27) and the millennium of Revelation 20 are speaking of two different reigns. Of the AD 70 establishment of the kingdom, Daniel 7:9-10 (NRSV) reads, [A] “As I watched, thrones were set in place…[B] The court sat in judgment” (brackets mine). Of the millennium, Revelation 20:4 (NRSV) reads, [A] “Then I saw thrones, and [B] those seated on them were given authority to judge.” I don’t see how one can make these to be two separate events, the first starting at AD 70 the second supposedly starting at AD 30.

…For more on J.S. Russell’s position on the millennium see, http://planetpreterist.com/news-5017.html. For more on the Connection between the little horn of Daniel 7 and the beast of Revelation see, http://planetpreterist.com/news-2622.html.

Duncan McKenzie, in his book “The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination” (Xulon Press: 2009) also sees the Great White Throne Judgment of Rev. 20:11-15 as beginning to be fulfilled in 70 AD (pp. 398-401):

Despite my disagreements with full preterism, I do agree with many of its conclusions. Let me begin with some of these points of agreement: I agree that the Second Advent happened at AD 70 and that this was when the resurrection and judgment began (it is ongoing from that time, cf. Rev. 14:8-13).[3] According to the book of Daniel the resurrection was to begin at the end of the great tribulation; these events were to happen at the AD 70 shattering of the Jewish nation.

At that time [the time of the king of the North’s attack on Jerusalem, Dan. 11:40-45] Michael shall stand up, the great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book. And many who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt… Then I saw the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished (Daniel 12:1-2, 7; cf. 7:25-27).

The partial preterist attempt to separate the time of the great tribulation (which they say happened at AD 70) from the time of the resurrection (which they say will happen in the future) does not hold up to scrutiny. Consistent with Daniel 12:1-7, Revelation 11:15-18 also shows the resurrection beginning at the destruction of those who were destroying the Land [ten gen] of Israel. This happened at the AD 70 full establishment of the kingdom of God.

Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders, whosit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign. And the nations were enraged, and Your wrath came, and the time came for the dead to be judged, and the time to reward Your bond-servants the prophets and the saints and those who fear Your name, the small and the great, and to destroy those who destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:15-18 NASB).

Partial preterists acknowledge that Revelation 11:15-18 is referring to the AD 70 destruction of Israel. Because the creeds do not teach an AD 70 resurrection, however, they maintain that the judgment of the dead in Revelation 11:18 (“and the time came for the dead to be judged…”) is not really the judgment of the dead! They claim this is just showing an AD 70 reward of the martyrs.

Daniel 7 likewise shows the judgment (and thus the resurrection) as beginning right after the tribulation. Consistent with Revelation 11:15-18, chapter 7 shows the judgment beginning at the AD 70 full establishment of God’s kingdom, at the time that the dominion of the little eleventh horn…is taken away:

I was considering the [ten] horns and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words. I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated and the books were opened. I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn was speaking: I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame (Daniel 7:8-11; underlined emphasis mine).

Thus he said: the fourth beast shall be 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. The ten horns are ten kings who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the first ones, and shall subdue three kings. He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, and shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever (Daniel 7:23-26; underlined emphasis mine).

Contrary to what [most] partial preterists teach, the judgment began at the AD 70 defeat of the little eleventh horn (cf. Matt. 16:27-28; 25:31-46). At this point it is usually assumed by full preterists that because the partial preterist position is shown to be wrong on these issues, full preterism is therefore shown to be correct. This is an error in logic, however; just because a given position is wrong on a number of issues, that does not mean an alternative position is necessarily right on all points. Daniel 7 cuts both ways. Not only does it show the resurrection and judgment beginning at AD 70, it also shows the millennium beginning at that time (i.e. thrones being put in place as the court is seated, vv. 9-10, 25-27; cf. Rev. 20:4). That the resurrection and the millennium began at AD 70 explains why it is that the martyrs of the beast are shown being resurrected at the beginning of the millennium: “I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witnesses to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image…And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years…” (Rev. 20:4).

This last statement by McKenzie is a very fitting transition into the next section.

B. Kenneth Gentry: “The Martyr’s Millennium”

The following information is taken from Kenneth Gentry’s newest book titled “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues,” published in 2009 by GoodBirth Ministries (Fountain Inn, SC). Gentry discusses Revelation 20:4-6 in chapter 14 (pp. 157-165). This book is a precursor to Gentry’s full-length, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation which is now nearing completion.

Under discussion in this section are only verses 4-6 of Revelation 20. Gentry says that he maintains “the Augustinian view” on Rev. 20:1-3, i.e. “that the thousand years is a symbolic time frame covering Christian history from the first century down to the end” (p. 157). From what I can see, Gentry maintains his postmillennial viewpoint on chapter 20, except for these three verses [Amillennialism overlaps quite a bit with postmillennialism, which is why I quoted Gentry several times in my posts titled “Revelation 20: Amillennial Viewpoint…”]. Gentry explains how his views on Rev. 20:4-6 have now changed (p. 158), and for the record I’m intrigued by what he has to say because some of it reflects my own musings on this passage (any underlining is mine):

First, I originally held that two groups were in view in Revelation 20:4. I held the common Augustinian view that the martyrs represent deceased Christians in heaven (the Church Triumphant) and the confessors represent the living saints on the earth (the Church Militant). And together these two groups picture all Christians throughout Church history. I no longer accept this interpretation.

Second, I also previously held that the fact that they “came to life and reigned with Christ” (Rev. 20:4c) portrayed the new birth experience, where the Christian arises from spiritual death to sit with Christ in heavenly places. I still believe this doctrinal position, for it is taught in various places in Scripture (see especially Eph. 2). But I do not believe this is a proper exegetical position here in Revelation 20. In other words, I now believe that this view is good theology but bad exegesis—if we draw it from Revelation 20.

Third, I previously held that “the rest of the dead” who “did not come to life until the thousand years were completed” (Rev. 20:5) pointed to the bodily resurrection of all men. As an orthodox Christian I do, of course, believe that John teaches a general resurrection of all men. He even teaches it in Revelation 20. But I now believe he holds off on that until verses 11-15.

Gentry, a little further on, makes a very interesting claim regarding parallels between the books of Ezekiel and Revelation. Having noticed numerous parallels myself between these two books, I’m even more inclined to look into this now that I’ve seen the direct correlations Gentry has proposed (p. 160):

John approaches Israel like Isaiah (see especially Isa. 1), Jeremiah (see especially Jer. 2-3), and Ezekiel (see especially Eze. 2-6, 16). In fact, he organizes his material around Ezekiel’s structure—which explains so many specific parallels to Ezekiel:

Eze. 1 = Rev. 1
Eze. 2 = Rev. 5 (10)
Eze. 9-10 = Rev. 7-8
Eze. 16, 23 = Rev. 17
Eze. 26-28 = Rev. 18
Eze. 38-39 = Rev. 19-20
Eze. 40-48 = Rev. 21-22 (11)

Gentry then examines Rev. 20:4, which reads, “Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the Word of God, and who had not worshipped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Gentry comments (pp. 160-163),

Previously I held that this presents two separate groups, martyrs and confessors, which themselves represent all Christians in history, dead or living. As such I originally thought these groups portray the whole Christian Church throughout the Christian era. I now believe that John envisions only one group: deceased martyrs who did not worship the beast…

Not only are these enthroned ones deceased, but they are deceased under specific circumstances. They have been judicially killed: “beheaded” is a standard form of capital punishment well-known in the Roman Empire (cf. Matt. 14:10)… Furthermore, this imagery fits all the preceding story of Revelation, where the Jewish aristocracy is drunk on the blood of the saints (Rev. 17:6), as is the Roman beast (Rev. 13:7). This further confirms my redemptive-historical preterism and continues John’s concern for his audience, which is facing the very real prospect of death for their faith.

What is more, I now realize that structurally Revelation 20:4 is really the answer to the prayer of Revelation 6:9-11. In fact, it clearly repeats some of the same thoughts and words. Revelation 6:9-11 speaks of “the souls of those who had been slain.” These did not just fall over and die; they were slaughtered (esphagmenon, Rev. 6:9). They are crying out for God to avenge [ekdikeis] their blood on those who “dwell in the Land [tes ges]” (Rev. 6:10). Revelation 20:4 and 6:9 are doublets, based on replicated wording and strong parallels: Note:

Revelation 20:4

Revelation 6:9

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the Word of God. I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the Word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained.

…I would argue that these two passages represent promise and fulfillment… The “souls” at the altar in Revelation 6:11 are told to “rest for a little while longer,” until others join them in a martyr’s death, being “killed even as they had been.” Since Christ’s judgment-coming against Israel in Revelation 19:11ff (cp. Rev. 6:12-17) results in the glory of Revelation 20:1-4, John appears to be stating that by A.D. 70 the martyrs will be vindicated within the promised time frame of “a little while” (chronon micron, Rev. 6:11; cp. Luke 18:7-8). Thus, their “coming to life” as fulfillment of the promise given to them (which is given to them while they already are in heaven, Rev. 6:11), appears to be an image of their vindication in the death of their opponents in A.D. 70 rather than at the very moment of their entering heaven. This is unique to John—whose work is unique in many respects.

Some of what Gentry is saying here reflects the misgivings I’ve had for a long time with some of the things I’ve heard about the Millennium. Gentry rightly points out that the text says that those who were to be seated on thrones and to reign during these thousand years were only those who [1] had been beheaded because of their righteous testimony and [2] did not worship the beast and his image. I’m not likely to be beheaded in my lifetime, and most believers throughout Church history were never beheaded either. Nor have the vast majority of believers in Church history been faced with the prospect of worshipping the beast and/or his image. Are we not then disqualified from sitting on these thrones? At the same time, though, not all of Jesus’ disciples or John’s faithful first century readers were beheaded either, though many of them were martyred by some means. Peter, for example, never gave his allegiance to Nero (whom I believe was the beast in the singular sense), but he was crucified upside down rather than beheaded. So is “beheading” used in the text to represent all forms of capital punishment at that time, with beheading being perhaps the most common form?

Also, does this have anything to do with the promise Jesus gave to Peter and His other disciples? “Truly, I say to you, in the new world [regeneration], when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28). Likewise, in Luke 22:28-30 Jesus said to His disciples, “You are those who have stayed with Me in My trials, and I assign to you, as My Father assigned to Me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” At the same time, though, Paul in I Corinthians 6:2-3 says that “the saints will judge the world” and also “are to judge angels.” Paul’s use of “the saints” here seems to be wider than simply the twelve apostles.

In any case, Gentry’s conclusions on this passage (Rev. 20:4-6) are these (pp. 163-165):

Now all of this means that those who are on the thrones in the millennium are not living Christians. Nor are they simply deceased Christians. Nor are they Christians from all ages. They are deceased Christians in heaven, who are martyred in the first century. This is John’s point: Keep the faith! Withstand your oppressors! You will be greatly rewarded in heaven even if you die! Indeed, that is effectively how he introduces his book: “I, John, your brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus” (Rev. 1:9).

Of course, heavenly reward awaits all Christians in all ages. But that is not John’s point here. We learn this extended truth from other Scriptures. Here in Revelation 20 he is speaking from a particular context in completing a long-running call to accept martyrdom rather than succumbing to the beast or the false prophet. Remember how Hebrews warns Jewish converts to Christ not to apostasize—especially since the old covenant is “obsolete and growing old” and “ready to disappear” (Heb. 8:13)? John is doing the same in Revelation, only more dramatically.

So then, my first two changes in my understanding of Revelation 20 are: I now see only one group in the vision; and that one group involves only the first century martyrs. Revelation 20:4-6 does not speak of the reign of the Church in history, nor does it prophesy a still-future political reign on earth. Though again: I do believe the Church reigns in history (I Cor. 3:21-23; Eph. 1:19-23), and that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places (e.g. Eph. 2:6; Col. 3:1)… But John’s express teaching regards the first century persecuted Church and her two persecutors, Rome and Israel.

[“The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection.” (Rev. 20:5)]

It does not seem that “the rest of the dead” are the unbelievers of all of history who stand before God on Judgment Day. They have not been mentioned yet. I do hold that all unbelievers will stand before God on Judgment Day. And, as I stated above, I believe John teaches that—in Revelation 20:11-15. But he does not teach this here in Revelation 20:5. Who are these “the rest of the dead” then? How are they related to John’s overarching story-line?

“The rest of the dead” are the other dead mentioned in the preceding context [Rev. 19:11-21]. Who did we last hear had died in John’s narrative? Revelation 19:19-21 answers this: “And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him who sat upon the horse, and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest [hoi lopoi] were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat upon the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

“The rest” of the dead are the ones allied with the first-century beast and his false prophet, the ones responsible for executing the martyrs… John is encouraging his first century audience to withstand their assailants. Those enemies have a hollow victory: they will die and lie in the chains of darkness until the resurrection at the end of history. But the martyrs will not only enter heaven and eternal bliss, but after entering into heaven will be elevated and “come to life” and begin reigning in the presence of God and Christ.

Remember: Christ dies and is resurrected, then ascends into heaven and sits at God’s right hand in victory. And He is publically vindicated against His tormentors in A.D. 70. As Jesus warns the high priest and the Sanhedrin during His trial: “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64; cp. Mark 9:1). Likewise, His faithful martyrs will also die, arise to new life, and experience heavenly vindication. Thus, they actually will live in the glory of triumph and heavenly vindication while their persecutors die in ignominy. This is John’s point. This fits everything he has been saying previously.

This passage [Rev. 20:4-6] is really not useful to the “millennial” debate.

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In Part 2 we will look at one more minority view on the Millennium, and that is the full-preterist view.

All of our Revelation chapter-by-chapter studies, and any other posts related to the book of Revelation, can be found here.

All of our studies on Revelation 20 and the Millennium can be found here.


[1] Charles Spurgeon is one who highly esteemed Russell’s work, despite some reservations, saying: “Though the author’s theory is carried too far, it has so much of truth in it, and throws so much new light upon obscure portions of the Scriptures, and is accompanied with so much critical research and close reasoning, that it can be injurious to none and may be profitable to all” (Charles Spurgeon, The Sword and the Trowel, 1878 edition). This book has been reprinted in modern times by Baker House, and has gained the deep respect of R.C. Sproul and others of our day.

[2] When McKenzie says that “the resurrection [is] having an ongoing fulfillment since AD 70,” I believe what he means by this is that those who die in Christ experience their personal resurrection at that time along with their redeemed bodies. Todd Dennis, the founder of the highly resourceful Preterist Archive, even believes that the “coming” of Jesus to receive His own and take them to be where He is (John 14:1-3) takes place each and every time a follower of Christ passes from this life (Hebrews 9:27-28). The Bema Seat judgment (Romans 14:10-12; I Cor. 3:12-15; II Cor. 5:10) also takes place at this time, on an individual basis. This understanding is related to the words recorded in Rev. 14:13, saying, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!

[3] In other words, for McKenzie (and Todd Dennis—see previous footnote) there is a future “resurrection of the dead” for every person living today. It’s only a past event for those who have already died. It’s future for everyone else, but will be experienced on an individual basis, not as a singular event on a given future Day. The “resurrection of the dead” and “judgment” was, however, a singular event (in 70 AD–in heaven) for those who had died prior to 70 AD.