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.

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Josephus and the Book of Revelation (Nine Case Studies)


Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking in a conference call hosted by my friend, Jordan Hardgrave. My message was titled, “Josephus and the Book of Revelation (Nine Case Studies).” Here’s the audio of my message (3:40 Introduction; 50:35 Presentation; 21:45 Q & A), followed by my notes. There’s a chart in my introduction below which I believe you’ll find helpful.

In John Wesley’s commentary on Matthew 24 (1755), he said, “Josephus’s History of the Jewish War is the best commentary on this chapter…” I believe this is also true for the book of Revelation.

The preterist movement is known for believing that the book of Revelation was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This belief is backed by both external and internal evidence, that is, testimonies in early church history as well as (more importantly) evidence within the text.

The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus is another major source of evidence that Revelation was written before 70 AD. This work by Josephus was published in 75 AD, less than 15 years after Revelation was written. It contains seven books, most of which cover the Jewish-Roman War of 66-73 AD.

In this message I want to present nine case studies showing parallels between the book of Revelation and “The Wars of the Jews.” As we look at these parallels, consider what they mean for the popular idea that John wrote Revelation around 95 AD. Some of the parallels are so striking that a person would basically have to conclude that John borrowed from the earlier writings of Josephus, and then used the language of Josephus to prophesy of a much later warWe know, however, that John wrote his prophecies first, and Josephus wrote his works a decade or so later. John wrote before the Jewish-Roman War and Josephus wrote after the war.

In this presentation I’ve included the month and year of each event that Josephus referred to. This is based on dates that Josephus himself cited, as well as a helpful table in Ed Stevens’ book, “The Final Decade before the End” (p. 242) showing the modern equivalents of the months cited by Josephus. In the chart below, I’ve color-coded the case studies that feature the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments:

Case Study  Reference by John  Reference by Josephus  Approximate Date(s)
 #1  Revelation 6:4
 (2nd Seal)
Civil War: Wars 4.3.2
Sword: Wars 2.18.3, 4.4.3,

4.5.35.8.1, and 5.10.1.
August 66 AD;
Feb./ March 68 AD;

May 70 AD
 #2  Revelation 6:15-16
 (6th Seal)
Wars 6.7.3 August 70 AD
 #3  Revelation 8:7-9
 (1st and 2nd Trumpets)
Wars 3.4.1
Wars 3.9.3
Wars 3.10.9
March – August 67 AD
 #4  Revelation 9:13-16
 (6th Trumpet)
Wars 4.4.2 February 68 AD
 #5  Revelation 11:7-13
 (6th Trumpet)
Wars 4.4.5
Wars 4.5.1-2
February 68 AD
 #6  Revelation 16:3-6
 (2nd and 3rd Bowls)
Wars 4.7.5-6 April-May 68 AD
 #7  Revelation 16:19
 (7th Bowl)
Cities of the nations fell:
Wars 3 (Galilee)
Wars 4.7 (Perea)
Wars 4.9 (Idumea & Judea)
Jerusalem divided:
Wars 5.1.1 and 5.1.4
(67 AD)
(Spring 68 AD)
Mid-68 AD – 69 AD

December  69 AD
 #8  Revelation 16:21
 (7th Bowl)
Wars 5.6.3 May 70 AD
 #9  Revelation 17:12-17 Wars 2.20.3-4 Dec. 66 AD – Aug. 70 AD

Please feel free to share whether or not you believe these parallels are legitimate. The more parallels we can nail down between the book of Revelation and the writings of Josephus, the better we can understand the structure of Revelation. For example, were the seals, trumpets, and bowls fulfilled chronologically? When Josephus made reference to them, did he do so in the same order John listed them? How much recapitulation (restating of events) actually exists in Revelation?

Case Study #1 (Revelation 6:4)

And another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword.”

Revelation 6:4 describes the opening of the second seal. Here we see that peace would be taken from “the earth.” This phrase can also be translated as “land” (as it is in Young’s Literal Translation), a reference to “the promised land,” i.e. the land of Israel. A good example of this is Luke 21:23, where Jesus clearly spoke of Judea, yet some translations say “on the earth” and others say “in the land.”

Here’s a description given by Josephus about the civil war among the Jews, which began outside of Jerusalem but spread to Jerusalem by the time the war began in August 66 AD (Wars 4.3.2):

“But then it must be observed, that the multitude that came out of the country were at discord before the Jerusalem sedition began… There were besides disorders and civil wars in every city; and all those that were at quiet from the Romans turned their hands one against another. There was also a bitter contest between those that were fond of war, and those that were desirous for peace. At the first this quarrelsome temper caught hold of private families, who…began already to stand in opposition one to another; so that seditions arose everywhere… the barbarity and iniquity those of the same nation did no way differ from the Romans; nay, it seemed to be a much lighter thing to be ruined by the Romans than by themselves.

Josephus was describing the events of November 67 AD when he gave this summary. Josephus used phrases like “one against another”, “in opposition one to another”, “civil wars in every city,” and “barbarity.” This lines up well with John’s vision of people “killing one another” in the land. This domestic fighting was so significant that the approach of the Romans was seen as “a much lighter thing.”

In John’s vision, he also saw “a great sword.” Numerous times Josephus spoke of the Zealots killing others with swords and cutting their throats (e.g. Wars 2.18.3, Wars 4.4.3, Wars 4.5.3, and Wars 5.8.1). Were these beheadings? These four instances of throat cutting took place in Galilee and Jerusalem in August 66 AD, February/March 68 AD, and May 70 AD.

Case Study #2 (Revelation 6:15-16)

And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17).

This passage describes the sixth seal. Notice how Josephus described the attempts of the Zealots to save themselves when they were driven out of the lower city of Jerusalem in August 70 AD (Wars 6.7.3):

“So now the last hope which supported the tyrants, and that crew of robbers who were with them, was in the caves and caverns underground; whither, if they could once fly, they did not expect to be searched for; but endeavored, that after the whole city should be destroyed, and the Romans gone away, they might come out again, and escape from them. This was no better than a dream of theirs; for they were not able to lie hid either from God or from the Romans.”

So John saw a vision of commanders and other men [1] hiding in the caves and rocks and [2] attempting to hide from God. Josephus likewise described the Zealots [1] heading to the caves and caverns as their last hope and [2] being unable to hide from God and the Romans.

These accounts are also parallel to an earlier prophecy given by Jesus on His way to Golgotha:

And a great multitude of the people followed Him, and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us! (Luke 23:27-30)

Jesus told those ladies that they and their children would personally see the day when people in Jerusalem would call upon the mountains to fall on them and hide them. About 40 years later it happened just as He said, just as John foretold, and as Josephus recorded it. See also Hosea 10:8.

Case Study #3 (Revelation 8:7-9)

The first angel sounded: And hail and fire followed, mingled with blood, and they were thrown to the earth; and a third of the trees were burned up, and all green grass was burned up. Then the second angel sounded: And something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea, and a third of the sea became blood; and a third of the living creatures in the sea died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.”

This passage describes the first and second trumpet judgments. Notice that both judgments feature a mixture of fire and blood. Compare this with what Josephus said happened in Galilee in March/April 67 AD after he tried to fortify the city of Sepphoris, the capital and largest city of Galilee (see Wars 3.2.4):

“By this means he [Josephus] provoked the Romans to treat the country according to the law of war; nor did the Romans, out of the anger they bore at this attempt, leave off, either by night or by day, burning the places in the plain, and stealing away the cattle that were in the country, and killing whatsoever appeared capable of fighting perpetually, and leading the weaker people as slaves into captivity; so that Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood; nor was it exempted from any kind of misery or calamity…” (Wars 3.4.1).

Sepphoris was located halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee, and only three miles away from Nazareth. In Wars 3.9.3 Josephus described what happened on the Sea of Galilee in June 67 AD to thousands of Jews who tried to escape from Joppa:

“Now as those people of Joppa were floating about in this sea, in the morning there fell a violent wind upon them; it is called by those that sail there “the black north wind,” and there dashed their ships one against another, and dashed some of them against the rocks, and carried many of them by force, while they strove against the opposite waves, into the main sea; for the shore was so rocky, and had so many of the enemy upon it, that they were afraid to come to land… And much lamentation there was when the ships were dashed against one another, and a terrible noise when they were broken to pieces; and some of the multitude that were in them were covered with waves, and so perished, and a great many were embarrassed with shipwrecks. But some of them thought that to die by their own swords was lighter than by the sea, and so they killed themselves before they were drowned; although the greatest part of them were carried by the waves, and dashed to pieces against the abrupt parts of the rocks, insomuch that the sea was bloody a long way, and the maritime parts were full of dead bodies; for the Romans came upon those that were carried to the shore, and destroyed them; and the number of the bodies that were thus thrown out of the sea was four thousand and two hundred.”

In Wars 3.10.9 Josephus also described what happened on the Sea of Galilee in August 67 AD to people from Tiberias and Taricheae:

“Sometimes the Romans leaped into their ships, with swords in their hands, and slew them; but when some of them met the vessels, the Romans caught them by the middle, and destroyed at once their ships and themselves who were taken in them. And for such as were drowning in the sea, if they lifted their heads up above the water, they were either killed by darts, or caught by the vessels; but if, in the desperate case they were in, they attempted to swim to their enemies, the Romans cut off either their heads or their hands; …one might then see the lake all bloody, and full of dead bodies, for not one of them escaped. And a terrible stink, and a very sad sight there was on the following days over that country; for as for the shores, they were full of shipwrecks, and of dead bodies all swelled; and as the dead bodies were inflamed by the sun, and putrefied, they corrupted the air…”

So John saw fire and blood, land being burned, and ships being destroyed. Josephus described those very things taking place throughout Galilee from March – August 67 AD.

Case Study #4 (Revelation 9:13-16)

Then the sixth angel sounded: And I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, ‘Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.’ So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released to kill a third of mankind. Now the number of the army of the horsemen was two hundred million, and I heard the number of them” (Revelation 9:13-16).

This is a partial description of the sixth trumpet. Momentarily we’ll take a look at a quote from Josephus about four commanders who led a murderous army, but first here’s some background.

During the winter of 67-68 AD, Ananus II, the former high priest in Jerusalem, urged the people of Jerusalem to oppose the lawless Jewish Zealots who had taken over the temple as “blood-shedding villains.” John Levi of Gischala had recently come to Jerusalem, and he pretended to be on the side of Ananus and was invited to be an ambassador to the Zealots (Wars 4.3.13). However, John quickly betrayed Ananus and falsely claimed that he had invited the Roman general Vespasian to conquer Jerusalem (Wars 4.3.14).

In response, the Zealot leaders Eleazar ben Simon and Zacharias ben Phalek requested help from the Idumeans (Idumea was south of Judea). They told the Idumeans that “unless they would come immediately to their assistance… the city would be in the power of the Romans.” The Idumeans quickly prepared an army of 20,000 directed by four commanders (Wars 4.4.2):

“Now these [Idumean] rulers were greatly surprised at the contents of the letter, and at what those that came with it further told them; whereupon they ran about the nation like madmen, and made proclamation that the people should come to war; so a multitude was suddenly got together, sooner indeed than the time appointed in the proclamation, and everybody caught up their arms, in order to maintain the liberty of their metropolis; and twenty thousand of them were put into battle-array, and came to Jerusalem, under four commanders, John, and Jacob the son of Sosas; and besides these were Simon, the son of Cathlas, and Phineas, the son of Clusothus.”

What about the discrepancy between the numbers “200 million” and “20,000”? Earlier I quoted from the New King James Version. Like most versions, it gives some variation of the number “200 million.” Young’s Literal Translation says “two myriads of myriads.” The Interlinear translates this phrase as “twice ten thousand ten thousands.” The word “myriad” in Greek meant “10,000,” so two myriads was “20,000,” the same number that Josephus assigned to the Idumean army.

A similar expression is used in Psalm 68:17 (“The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of thousands; The Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the Holy Place” –NKJV). This verse is far more often translated to say “20,000” than Revelation 9:16 is. The Interlinear for Psalm 68:17 translates this verse to say “even thousands, twenty thousand of God are the chariots.” When it comes to Revelation 9:16, it seems that most translations have unnecessarily squared the number “10,000” before doubling it, coming up with 200 million instead of 20,000.

In any case, John and Josephus both described an army of 20,000 led by four commanders. The Idumeans came to Jerusalem in February 68 AD. We’ll hear more about them in the next section.

Case Study #5 (Revelation 11:7-13)

Now when they [the two witnesses] finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth… In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand men were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”

This vision is also part of the sixth trumpet, or at least it appears before the seventh trumpet sounds. This is the first passage in Revelation where “the beast” is mentioned, and it’s also where “the great city” is first mentioned and defined – as being the city where Jesus was crucified, i.e. Jerusalem.

Josephus described a morning in February 68 AD when the city of Jerusalem woke up to find that 8,500 people had died during the night due to an earthquake and a slaughter carried out by the Idumeans. Here’s how he described the earthquake in the midst of a great storm (Wars 4.4.5):

“[F]or there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake… anyone would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.”

And here’s how he described the slaughter carried out by the Idumeans that same night, after they managed to saw through the gates and break into the city (Wars 4.5.1):

“The zealots also joined in the shouts raised by the Idumeans; and the storm itself rendered the cry more terrible; nor did the Idumeans spare anybody; for as they are naturally a most barbarous and bloody nation, and had been distressed by the tempest, they made use of their weapons against those that had shut the gates against them… Now there was at present neither any place for flight, nor any hope of preservation; but as they were driven one upon another in heaps, so were they slain… And now the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood; and that day, as it came on, they saw eight thousand five hundred dead bodies there.”

Recall that John said “in the earthquake seven thousand men were killed.” Josephus didn’t distinguish between how many died in the earthquake and how many were killed by the sword, so it’s possible that the earthquake killed 7000 and the Idumeans killed 1,500.

The next day the Idumeans, working on behalf of the Zealots, hunted down and killed a couple of former high priests, Ananus and Jesus, who had long tormented the Zealots by opposing their war and working for peace. Here’s how Josephus described their deaths in Wars 4.5.2:

“[The Idumeans] sought for the high priests, and…went with the greatest zeal against them; and as soon as they caught them they slew them, and then standing upon their dead bodies, in way of jest, upbraided Ananus with his kindness to the people, and Jesus with his speech made to them from the wall. Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial… I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city… He…preferred peace above all things; …he was a shrewd man in speaking and persuading the people, and had already gotten the mastery of those that opposed his designs, or were for the war… And this at last was the end of Ananus and Jesus.”

So John and Josephus both described two individuals in Jerusalem who were hated, killed, and not allowed to be buried. If we go back to Rev. 11:5-6, they also both describe a couple of men who could not be taken down by their enemies until this particular time. And they describe this happening at the same time as an earthquake that coincided with the deaths of at least 7000 people.

I realize this case study is probably the most controversial, and it deserves a deeper study. I plan to do that in a series I’m currently working on about the beast of Revelation, which should be ready in a few weeks. Until recently I believed that the beast was Rome (generally) and Nero (specifically). I now believe the beast was Zealot-led Israel and I’ll present a lot of evidence for that in my upcoming series.

One thing we should note here in Revelation 11 is the fact that the beast oversees the deaths of the two witnesses in Jerusalem. If this indeed happened in 68 AD, the beast could not have been Roman. From August 66 AD until April 70 AD the Romans were not in Jerusalem, except for a few days in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus led a failed attack on the city. If the events of Revelation 11 took place anytime between late 66 AD and the spring of 70 AD, the beast that overcame the two witnesses was Jewish, not Roman. And based on the four case studies we’ve already looked at, and the next four that we’re about to look at, it’s very fitting that the events of Revelation would have taken place in early 68 AD.

Case Study #6 (Revelation 16:3-6)

Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man, and every living creature in the sea died. Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying: ‘You are righteous, O Lord, the One who is and who was and who is to be, because You have judged these things. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.’”

This is a description of the second and third bowl judgments. Josephus described how, in the spring of 68 AD, Vespasian prepared for the eventual siege on Jerusalem by marching “against Gadara, the metropolis of Perea” (Wars 4.7.3) and the rest of Perea as well (Wars 4.7.6). Perea was the region east of the Jordan River, just next to Judea and Jerusalem.

Some of the Jews who fled from Gadara joined with others and “got in great numbers together and fled to Jericho” (Wars 4.7.5) with Placidus, Vespasian’s assistant, chasing them. Placidus drove the whole multitude to the riverside, along the Jordan River. Then things really took a tragic turn (Wars 4.7.5-6):

“They then extended themselves a very great way along the banks of the river, and sustained the darts that were thrown at them, as well as the attacks of the horsemen, who beat many of them, and pushed them into the current. At which fight, hand to hand, fifteen thousand…were slain, while the number of those that were unwillingly forced to leap into Jordan was prodigious… and Jordan could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltiris was also full of dead bodies, that were carried down into it by the river. And now Placidus… put his soldiers on board the ships, and slew such as had fled to the lake…”

Lake Asphaltiris was the Greek name for the Dead Sea. So John saw a sea that “became blood as of a dead man” (Rev. 16:3) and he saw that “every living creature in the sea died.” Josephus said that the Dead Sea was “full of dead bodies” and that Placidus killed everyone else who fled to the Dead Sea.

John saw rivers and springs of water turn to blood, and that those who shed the blood of saints and prophets were given “blood to drink.” Josephus said that a multitude of Jews was pushed into, and “unwillingly forced to leap into,” the current of the Jordan River. That river was so full of dead bodies that no one could pass over it. Some of them drank the bloody water as they drowned.

judea-province

Source: Wikipedia (Perea)

Case Study #7 (Revelation 16:19)

Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.”

This is from John’s description of the seventh bowl. “The great city,” as we already saw, was Jerusalem.

The Cities of the Nations Fell

The downfall of the nation of Galilee in 67 AD can be seen mostly in The War of the Jews, Book 3. In the previous section we saw that Vespasian subdued the entire nation of Perea in the spring of 68 AD. Then in the summer of 68 AD Vespasian was at Caesarea, ready “to march directly to Jerusalem” when he learned that Nero had died (in June 68 AD). So Vespasian waited there for almost a year (Wars 4.9.2).

In the meantime, though, another nation fell. That was the nation of Idumea, but it was at the hands of Simon Bar Giora, a Jewish Zealot leader. He first “laid waste the whole country” of Idumea, attacking Hebron, ravaging cities and villages, and making Idumea like a desert (Wars 4.9.7). Then he “compelled a great number of [the Idumeans] to retire to Jerusalem; he followed them himself also to the city.” Josephus said he “was a greater terror to the people than the Romans themselves,” but the Zealots in Jerusalem were even “more heavy upon” the people than Simon and the Romans (Wars 4.9.10).

So, amazingly, Simon was invited into Jerusalem. The people “made joyful acclamation to him, as their savior and their preserver,” thinking he would save them from the madness of the Zealots. However, Simon Bar Giora looked upon them all as his enemies (Wars 4.9.11). In April 69 AD Simon “got possession of Jerusalem” (Wars 4.9.12). Soon the stage would be set for Jerusalem to be divided into three factions, but first we’ll take note of more cities that fell.

In May-June 69 AD Vespasian “marched against those places of Judea which were not yet overthrown,” sparing only Herodium, Masada, Macherus, and Jerusalem which were controlled by the Zealots (Wars 4.9.9). He paused his campaign again, however, when he learned that Vitellus had become emperor of Rome (Wars 4.10.2). In December 69 AD he was named emperor of Rome (Wars 4.11.4-5) and his son, Titus, was dispatched to besiege Jerusalem (Wars 4.11.5 and Wars 5.1.1).

Here’s a simple table of nations that fell from 67 AD to mid-69 AD:

Nations that Fell Time Period Conqueror
Galilee 67 AD Vespasian and Titus (Romans)
Perea Spring 68 AD Vespasian
Idumea Late 68 AD – Early 69 AD Simon Bar Giora (Jewish Zealot)
Judea (most of it) May/June 69 AD Vespasian

Jerusalem Divided Into Three Parts

In Wars 5.1.1 and Wars 5.1.4 Josephus described the conditions in Jerusalem in December 69 AD:

“[T]he sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other… one should not mistake if he called it a sedition begotten by another sedition, and to be like a wild beast grown mad, which for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh.”

“And now there were three treacherous factions in the city, the one parted from the other. Eleazar [ben Simon] and his party, that kept the sacred first-fruits, came against John [Levi of Gischala] in their cups. Those that were with John plundered the populace and went out with zeal against Simon [Bar Giora].”

So this is a very clear fulfillment of John’s words that the great city, Jerusalem, “was divided into three parts” (Revelation 16:19). It’s also a flashback to Jerusalem’s earlier destruction in 586 BC. In Ezekiel 5:1-12 we see that Ezekiel was required to shave his head and divide it into three parts, and God told him, “This is Jerusalem” (verse 5). One third of his hair was burned, one third was chopped up by the sword, and the last third was scattered into the wind.

Case Study #8 (Revelation 16:21)

And great hail from heaven fell upon men, every hailstone about the weight of a talent. And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.”

This is also from John’s description of the seventh bowl. Compare this to the following description of large stones catapulted over the wall in Jerusalem by the tenth Roman legion in May 70 AD (Wars 5.6.3):

“The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion… Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness; accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, ‘THE STONE COMETH,’ so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground; by which means, and by their thus guarding themselves, the stone fell down and did them no harm. But the Romans contrived how to prevent that by blacking the stone, who then could aim at them with success, when the stone was not discerned beforehand, as it had been till then; and so they destroyed many of them at one blow.”

So John saw hailstones weighing a talent falling from the sky over Jerusalem, and Josephus describes white stones weighing a talent being catapulted into the city. A talent was 75 – 100 pounds.

According to William Whiston’s famous translation of the works of Josephus, the watchmen shouted, “THE SON COMETH,” rather than “THE STONE COMETH.” J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book The Parousia (p. 482), pointed out that it was only eight years before this, in 62 AD, that as James was being martyred he cried out that “the Son of Man was about to come in the clouds of heaven.” So Russell speculated that the watchmen gave this cry “in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”

These large stones were actually discovered in an archaeological dig during the last year. See here and here for articles on this find, including photos of the stones.

Case Study #9 (Revelation 17:12-16)

And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as of yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them… And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

As I mentioned earlier, until a few months ago I believed that the beast in Revelation was Rome and Nero. I assumed that the 10 horns must have been the 10 Senatorial Provinces of Rome working with Nero to persecute Christians and to capture and burn Jerusalem in 70 AD.

When I started to rethink this subject, one thing I discovered is that when Titus overthrew Jerusalem in 70 AD he did not have leaders or representatives of those 10 provinces with him. He didn’t even have 10 legions with him. Instead he had four legions – the 5th, 10th, 12th, and 15th legions (Wars 5.1.6).

Then I was surprised to discover that Josephus listed exactly 10 high priests and religious leaders in Israel who were given authority as generals in December 66 AD. Three of them were even killed by the Zealots in early 68 AD, fulfilling Daniel 7:8, 20, 24. Here’s a quick summary of what led up to the selection of those 10 generals. (More details can be seen in this article.)

Josephus says that the Jewish-Roman War officially began in August 66 AD when Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, “who was at that time governor of the Temple, persuaded those that officiated in the divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner.” They used this new law to reject “the sacrifice of Caesar” (Wars 2.17.2). They also massacred a Roman garrison stationed at the Antonia Fortress on the east side of Jerusalem (Wars 2.17.7).

In November 66 AD Cestius Gallus brought the 12th Legion to put down the Jewish rebellion. Surprisingly, his army suffered about 5,700 deaths, his weapons and supplies were stolen during an ambush, they retreated on November 22nd, and the Jewish rebels chased and killed many of them over the next five days. The Jewish temple leaders knew that a full-scale Roman revenge was inevitable. So they “got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war.” Here’s a list of the territories they were to oversee in preparation for war with Rome (Wars 2.20.3-4):

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

The three generals who were killed by the Zealots in fulfillment of Daniel 7:8, 20, 24 were [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea, and [3] Joseph ben Gorion. Their deaths are recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1.

How did these horns make war with the Lamb? In a nutshell, Jesus made war against the harlot/great city, Jerusalem, and He used the Roman army as His instrument (see Matthew 22:7). The Zealots and those who were aligned with them fought desperately to maintain power over Jerusalem and to gain independence for Israel.  This question is addressed further here.

How did they turn on the harlot, make her desolate, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire? They were assigned to Idumea, Jericho, Perea, Galilee, Jerusalem, etc. During the Jewish-Roman War, Jerusalem became more and more isolated as Rome captured Galilee, Perea, and other places. Many people made their way to Jerusalem, and presumably these generals did the same. Josephus, of course, was captured.

We already saw the quote from Wars 5.1.1 where Josephus described “the sedition” in Jerusalem, and the civil war between the Zealot factions, as “a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh.” Josephus also repeatedly blamed the Jews, especially the Zealots, for the fire that burned Jerusalem and the temple. In Wars 6.4.5 he said, “[T]hese flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them.” In Wars 6.6.2 he records a speech given by Titus in which he said to the Zealots, “You…have set fire to your holy house with your own hands.” Josephus made similar statements in Wars 5.4.4, Wars 6.2.9,and other places.

Conclusion

Based on these case studies, I would like to tentatively suggest that the seals, trumpets, and bowls were structured in this way:

Seals – From 66 AD (or earlier) to 70 AD
Trumpets – From early 67 AD to early 68 AD

(Zealot siege)

Bowls – From spring 68 AD to 70 AD

To use an arm as an analogy, the seals would stretch from the shoulder to the fingers; the trumpets would stretch from the shoulder to the elbow; (the elbow would represent the Zealot siege of early 68 AD); and the bowls would stretch from the elbow to the fingers.

This presentation represents an ongoing study, as there are more parallels between the Book of Revelation and Josephus that are not included here. Those who listen to or read this presentation are welcome to evaluate these case studies and this tentative conclusion.

(This article is also published here.)

Study Guide for “Josephus and Revelation” Conference Call


Tonight at 8 pm EST I’ll be speaking in a conference call on the subject of “Josephus and the Book of Revelation.” My presentation will feature nine case studies showing parallels between the book of Revelation and “The Wars of the Jews” by Josephus (published in 75 AD). The study guide below is for those who are already signed up for the call (this will be posted in a Facebook group), but also for anyone else who may wish to join the call or simply use this as a study tool.

The call-in number for tonight’s conference call is 302-202-1108, and the conference code is 984266. By default, callers are muted the whole time (but able to listen), and are able to “raise a hand” to speak during the Q & A time after my presentation.

In the chart below, I’ve color-coded the case studies that feature the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments:

Case Study  Reference by John  Reference by Josephus  Approximate Date(s)
 #1  Revelation 6:4
 (2nd Seal)
Civil War: Wars 4.3.2
Sword: Wars 2.18.3, 4.4.3,
4.5.3, and 5.8.1
August 66 AD;
Feb./ March 68 AD;
May 70 AD
 #2  Revelation 6:15-16
 (6th Seal)
Wars 6.7.3 August 70 AD
 #3  Revelation 8:7-9
 (1st and 2nd Trumpets)
Wars 3.4.1
Wars 3.9.3
Wars 3.10.9
March – August 67 AD
 #4  Revelation 9:13-16
 (6th Trumpet)
Wars 4.4.2 February 68 AD
 #5  Revelation 11:7-13
 (6th Trumpet)
Wars 4.4.5
Wars 4.5.1-2
February 68 AD
 #6  Revelation 16:3-6
 (2nd and 3rd Bowls)
Wars 4.7.5-6 April-May 68 AD
 #7  Revelation 16:19
 (7th Bowl)
Cities of the nations fell:
Wars 3 (Galilee)
Wars 4.7 (Perea)
Wars 4.9 (Idumea & Judea)
Jerusalem divided 3x:
Wars 5.1.1 and 5.1.4

(67 AD)

(Spring 68 AD)
Mid-68 AD – 69 AD

December  69 AD
 #8  Revelation 16:21
 (7th Bowl)
Wars 5.6.3 May 70 AD
 #9  Revelation 17:12-17 Wars 2.20.3-4 Dec. 66 AD – Aug. 70 AD

Based on the case studies I’ll be presenting, I’m tentatively suggesting that the seals, trumpets, and bowls were structured in this way:

Seals – From 66 AD (or earlier) to 70 AD
Trumpets – From early 67 AD to early 68 AD

(Zealot siege)

Bowls – From spring 68 AD to 70 AD.

In about another week, I’ll create a new post with the audio of this conference call and all of my written notes. At that time, and even now, please feel free to evaluate these case studies and this tentative conclusion.

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.

Making Sense of Ezekiel’s Temple Vision by Steve Gregg


Ezekiel 40-48 has been seen by many as a challenging section of Scripture. Steve Gregg asks some good questions and offers a good analysis in the article below. In the next post I would like to interact with Philip Mauro’s thoughts on this subject in his 1922 book, “The Hope of Israel.”

————————————————————————

This article first appeared in the Practical Hermeneutics column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 35, number 03 (2012). 


The book of Ezekiel closes with a vision of a temple and its associated rituals. In chapter 40, the prophet is transported in vision from his home among the exiles in Babylon to Israel, where a divine messenger holding a measuring rod appears to him. The messenger gives Ezekiel a tour of the temple, measuring the various walls, gates, and courts. At one point, the glory of the Lord, which was seen departing from the temple in an earlier vision (chap. 10), is seen returning to inhabit the temple (43:1–4).

The following chapters describe various sacrificial rituals performed by priests. Special attention is given to the role of one who is referred to as “the prince.” Near the end, a river is seen flowing out of the temple from under the threshold. The book closes with portions of the land assigned to various tribes.

Biblical scholars acknowledge that the temple vision, which occupies the last nine chapters of Ezekiel, presents special challenges in its interpretation. Some have even described it as the most difficult passage in the Old Testament.

As with the descriptions in Exodus of the tabernacle and its furnishings, many readers will find this section of Ezekiel tedious, due to its many arcane details, but this is not the greatest difficulty presented by these chapters. By far, the greater difficulty has to do with identifying the time and manner of the fulfillment of the vision.

Is It Solomon’s Temple? When Ezekiel saw the vision (573 BC), there was no temple standing in Jerusalem. Solomon’s temple, which had previously stood there, had been destroyed thirteen years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar, when he conquered Jerusalem and deported the citizens to Babylon. This means that Ezekiel was not seeing Solomon’s temple, or any temple that was actually standing at the time. What temple, then, was he shown?

Is It Zerubbabel’s Temple? Perhaps the answer that first comes to mind would be that this was the temple that came to be built, under the leadership of Zerubbabel, on the return of the Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem. However, this solution seems to be ruled out by the fact that Zerubbabel’s temple ended up being much smaller, and less elaborate, than the one Ezekiel describes. If Ezekiel was prophesying that the temple built by the returning exiles would fit this description, the prophecy failed to come true. This option does not commend itself to those who accept the inspiration of Scripture. Other interpretations, therefore, have been offered by evangelical scholars.

Is It the Church? Some Christian commentators have understood the content of these chapters as an apocalyptic vision, which is best interpreted spiritually. They point out that the church, in the New Testament, is often referred to as God’s “temple” or habitation. Each Christian is a “living stone” (1 Pet. 2:5), built, along with others, “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20) into a “temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16). On this view, the features of temple worship—priests, altars, sacrifices, blood rituals—would be seen as pertaining to spiritual, rather than literal, realities, and applied to our worship of God in the present time. In particular, the description of the river, in chapter 47, would seem to support a nonliteral interpretation. If this is the correct view, we would be required either to see many of the tedious details as being either superfluous or as corresponding to spiritual ideas that would be very difficult to identify with confidence.

Is It the Millennial Temple? Another view of this vision, commonly held among dispensationalists, is that Ezekiel’s temple will be established after the second coming of Christ and will serve as the worship center for all people during the “millennium.” On this view, the one described as “the prince” is often identified as Christ Himself, ruling over the millennial kingdom.

Choosing a Hermeneutical Strategy. In choosing among these options, we are compelled to decide between differing hermeneutical priorities. One of the chief hermeneutical principles recommended by dispensationalist scholars is that of maintaining a consistently literal interpretation. This would mean that “spiritualizing” the text must be seen as a departure from the most faithful handling of Scripture. Therefore, dispensationalists argue for a literal, physical building to be established in fulfillment of Ezekiel’s vision. Since the temple erected after Ezekiel’s time did not fit Ezekiel’s description, they believe that there must be another temple in the future that will do so more admirably.

It would be easier to accept this theory if we did not have the New Testament to guide our thinking. The most obvious problem presented here is that the book of Hebrews (e.g., 10:1–18) speaks of the death of Christ on the cross as a termination of the efficacy of bloody animal sacrifices, such as those Israel offered in the temple. If Ezekiel’s vision applies to a future time, why do we again find the offering of animal sacrifices?

The dispensationalist answer is that the millennial sacrifices will not be intended to atone for sins. The blood of Christ precludes any need for that. Just as the Old Testament sacrificesanticipated the death of Christ as a future event, it is suggested the future millennial sacrifices will commemorate the death of Christ as a past event.

The text of Ezekiel, however, seems to preclude this, since the various offerings in the temple are said to “make atonement for the house of Israel” (45:17).1 Thus, the sacrifices are presented as an atonement for sin, not as a memorial. Christ Himself recommended the use of wine and bread to commemorate His death (1 Cor. 11:24–26). Why would God replace this with animal sacrifices in which God never found any particular pleasure (Ps. 40:6; 51:16; Heb. 10:6)?

Further, Ezekiel says that “the prince” will offer a sin offering “for himself and for all the people” (45:22). If the prince is required to offer sacrifices for his own sins, this would militate against any theory that identifies him with Christ, who never sinned.

Other objections to the idea that Ezekiel’s vision describes a worship economy to be established in the future would include the following:

  • The vision presents a centralized worship in a specified geographical place. In the Old Testament, people were expected to approach the tabernacle, or (later) the temple, for this purpose (Deut. 12:5, 11). Jesus, however, announced to the Samaritan woman that the time of centralized worship was soon to end and to be replaced with spiritual worship, which does not depend on being in any particular place (John 4:21–24; cf. Acts 7:48–50).
  • In Ezekiel’s vision, the Levites and Aaronic priesthood are seen in their former places of service. According to the New Testament, there has been a change of the priesthood (Heb. 7:12). The Jewish priesthood has been replaced by a different priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5) and a non-Aaronic high priest (Jesus). This modification will not be reversed, for Christ is said to be “a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek” (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:17, 21).

Literal Interpretation Is Not Always Best. While the difficulties of the dispensational interpretation seem insurmountable, its only strength lies in its hermeneutic of literal interpretation. There is another hermeneutic principle, however, that overrides literalism—namely, the superior revelation given in Christ.

Hebrews 1:1–3 affirms that, while God spoke to Israel through various prophets in the past, the revelation that has come through Christ is more comprehensive because He is no mere prophet, but “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person.” The New Testament is not a mere appendix added to the writings of the Old Testament prophets. It is a revelation of the new order in Jesus Christ, in whom all previous revelation finds its fulfillment, and through whom all previous revelation must be understood.

Christ opened the understanding of His disciples so that they “might understand the [Old Testament] scriptures” (Luke 24:45). This being the case, it would be foolish for us to seek a meaning of the prophets contrary to that which Christ and the apostles taught. It is their witness that provides the strongest objections to any literalistic interpretation of Ezekiel 40–48. In Christ’s new order (which, unlike the old order, is permanent), the temple, priesthood, and sacrifices are likewise spiritual (1 Pet. 2:5).

Making Sense of the Vision. How then are we to understand the temple vision? First, one might reasonably refer to the vision as that which “might have been,” had the Jewish exiles in Babylon exhibited a more thorough repentance than they did. There is an indication that the realization of this vision in Israel’s future was contingent on the people being sufficiently ashamed, or repentant, of their past sins: “Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern. And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple” (Ezek. 43:10–11).

The response of the Jews to their opportunity to return and to rebuild their temple was notoriously tepid. Only a small remnant opted even to return to Jerusalem, while the rest were content to remain in Babylon. As a result, the temple they built proved to be inferior to the one that Ezekiel described.

Though the Jews did not meet the conditions to have such a temple as Ezekiel’s, the pattern preserved in these chapters stands as a description of an intended order, which, had it materialized, would have testified, as the tabernacle once did, as a type and shadow of “heavenly things” (Heb. 8:5)—the new order in Jesus Christ. This, we may assume, was the long-term purpose served by the vision.

Though some features of the vision were probably intended symbolically from the start (e.g., the seemingly miraculous, ever-deepening river), it is probable that the temple and its rituals would have been literally instituted, as here described, had Israel met God’s conditions.

Whether or not the temple had ever actually been rebuilt, the new revelation in Christ encourages us to see its pattern as having been fulfilled in Jesus Christ Himself, who is the final atoning sacrifice and the eternal high priest of God’s people.

—Steve Gregg

Steve Gregg is the author of Revelation: Four Views: A Parallel Commentary, and host of the radio show The Narrow Path (www.thenarrowpath.com). He lives in Temecula, California.


NOTES

  1. All Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.

Sarah of Jerusalem (1st Century AD): A Story by David Collins


Following this introduction is a neat story by David Collins from Auckland, New Zealand which I would classify as part Biblical and part realistic fiction. Titled “Sarah of Jerusalem,” this story is told from the perspective of Sarah, a grandmother living with her daughter and her family in Jerusalem two years before the city was destroyed by the Romans. It explores how believers in Jesus at that time may have resisted efforts by Judaizers to bring them back under the law of Moses, how they may have reacted to the book of Revelation and the book of Hebrews, how they may have been affected by the murder of Peter and Paul, etc. Following this story are a few of my own notes, indicated by numbers in red.

Sarah lives in a small apartment in Jerusalem. The year is 68 AD. [1] She is the oldest of three generations of her family crammed into the small space in the middle of this bustling city. Many baby girls of her generation bore the name, Sarah – a reflection of the love they all had for Abraham’s wife from whom their beloved nation had been born a good 2000 years earlier.

Sarah was the mother of Tom, who also lived in the apartment with his wife Ruth and their twin daughters. Sarah’s husband had not been seen for thirty years – it was assumed he had not survived after a gang of thugs had broken into their home all that time ago … a proud Pharisee named Saul had led this unruly band [2] – they especially relished breaking in as the believers – disciples of the Nazarene – sang their hymns together. Dragging Sarah’s young husband away, along with other men-folk from the group … Sarah could still remember Saul’s mocking laughter, even though she had long ago forgiven these men and happily immersed herself in the life of the community of believers, and her little family.

For thirty years, Sarah had been rebuilding her life – but it had been far from easy. In the mayhem of those early years of faith, large numbers of her friends had fled Jerusalem for the towns and cities that surrounded the eastern Mediterranean. In those days the Christ community numbered close to 20,000 devotees, but was radically reduced to just a few thousand by the effect of Saul’s persecution against them.

But making new friends was not hard for Sarah – they needed one another, they loved one another and through all the trials shared laughter, song and many a good meal together. [3] They never ceased to wonder at how Jesus healed the sick among them – their fellowship was simple, yet full of the wonder of His presence. And then there was that report that Saul himself had met Jesus on the Damascus road – and had been baptised a believer, but had not been heard from since – a most curious business.

Despite the conversion of Saul, the persecution from the Temple rulers and their gangs of zealots continued. Many of Sarah’s friends, along with many of the community leaders, found that they could lessen the threat to their lives and livelihoods by reintroducing some of the Temple practices into their lives – circumcision, observing the holy days of the Old Covenant and abstaining from certain foods. It wasn’t long before some of their preachers were demanding this of them, and telling them that true salvation couldn’t really be enjoyed without these observances. [4]

This disturbed Sarah greatly, the message of the Christ had been so liberating for her – the rituals of the Temple had been just that – lifeless forms, but when she heard of the free grace of God and the love and freedom of which Jesus had spoken – and then the miracle of miracles of his resurrection and ascension to heaven … well Sarah, Tom and Ruth held firm to the simple things that had brought them freedom and refused to bow to the pressure from the Temple and the compromise that had infiltrated the Jesus community.

If all that wasn’t enough, everyone in the region were finding it hard
to make ends meet. The farms surrounding Jerusalem were not doing well, it was dry and crops were failing – this had effected everyone’s livelihoods, and those who started with little were now barely able to feed their families. Without a hubby, Sarah was struggling. [5]

There would be three times in Sarah’s life that a knock on her apartment door would change everything. The first was hardly a knock, more the brutish force of Saul and his gang bursting in on their worship. The second was completely different – this time it was in the midst of the famine, and the visitor had come from one of the servers in their faith community. [6] She told Sarah how Saul, now named Paul, had turned up in Jerusalem bringing with him money and treasures from the northern gentile churches. This was a great relief to all in Jerusalem who were in hardship [7] – but, Paul had also passed on a list of addresses where he asked that special favour be shown in supplying their needs. Sarah’s little apartment was on the list, as were all the homes where 20 years earlier Paul had once entered with murderous intent.

The leaders in Jerusalem were full of gratitude and good news that
they shared with Paul – thousands in Jerusalem have believed in the Lord, However, they are all zealous for the law of Moses. Paul was known to have stood firmly against these Jerusalem zealots who had insisted that old Jewish laws be adhered to by the Christ communities wherever they were –
he was in hostile territory and a clash was looming. [8]

Sarah, her family and a growing number of her friends were now Paul’s strongest supporters – they were not about to surrender the unconditional love, the grace and freedom they had experienced. Some of Paul’s writings had filtered into the city, and now there was a stark choice in Jerusalem: be part of a free, but persecuted, community of Christ; or join the drift back to the Temple for safety’s sake.

During this time, bands of Jewish militants had launched random
attacks on garrisons of the Roman occupation. The deranged Roman emperor, Nero, was looking for an excuse to move against everything that threatened his rule. In 64 AD a massive fire destroyed large parts of Rome and Nero, seizing the opportunity, unleashed a cruel and massive campaign against the communities of Christ all over his Empire – after all wasn’t this Jesus a Jew? They must be responsible for the fire. There was every reason why the believers started calling Caesar Nero, The Beast. [9]

Three years later – well 67 AD seemed like the worst year of Sarah’s
life. Now 59 years of age, she is more grateful than ever for the loving support of Tom and Ruth and their girls, plus that of her believing friends in Jerusalem – but this was the year that Sarah learned that the Roman’s had murdered the beloved Peter and her spiritual hero, Paul the apostle of grace. Both murders needing the help of the authorities in Jerusalem. On top of that John, whom they called the apostle of love, had been exiled to a prison island [10], and now 60,000 Roman troops are marching through Judea, killing as they go, headed for Jerusalem.

In the New Year there’s a knock on the apartment door – this was
number three. She opened the door to a true brother in Christ, one who was doing the rounds of the believer’s homes in Jerusalem. He had with him three scrolls of parchment. Sarah was not alone that evening, some twenty of her believing neighbours would cram every corner of her house, often five times a week – they jokingly called it their “New Covenant love nest.”

The first parchment was read aloud in the room. It had come from the beloved John – a vastly ranging account of visions and picture scenes and images – the violence and turmoil portrayed looked a lot like the world they were living in, but by the time the visitor had read the final paragraphs, Sarah’s apartment had filled with praise and shouts of victory at what was told. There was Jesus, there was His New Covenant Bride, there were the nations walking in the precious light of the Lamb of God. [11]

The second parchment contained none of the mystery of the first. It
was a letter to them, and to all the Jews who had put their trust in the Messiah and in Him alone. The letter had come from a friend, an apostle they loved and respected greatly. Don’t throw away your confidence in Jesus, the letter urged, don’t forsake gathering together as you do … we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, run with endurance the race God has set before you … keep your eyes on Jesus, who because of the joy awaiting him, endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. [12]

Soon there’s a room full of people holding and hugging one another – speaking with true affection to one another – encouraging and praying over one another. There’s tears aplenty, but all of them of pure beauty.

The third parchment was at least ten years old, and looked like a copy
of a copy of a copy. It had originally been written by the old tax collector from Galilee who had become a disciple of Jesus. It was Matthew’s whole story of Jesus’ life and the things he’d heard Jesus say. Sarah’s visitor went straight to the middle of the scroll, and when he finally locates the bit he wants to read them, begins:

Jesus, as a good farmer, has planted good seed in his field … people who love the King and love his Kingdom. But an enemy has also been at work, sowing false seed, tares among the wheat, people working for another kingdom – one of bondage and wickedness. This enemy is the devil. But this mixture in the field is coming to an end; at harvest time there will be a furnace of fire into which these tares, these offenders will be burned. They will wail and gnash their teeth as they are thrown from God’s field. Then those whose righteousness is by grace alone will shine forth … they’ll come out of the shadows and shine as bright as the sun in the Kingdom of their loving Father. [13]

With that, the small crowd in Sarah’s apartment grew silent as they pondered what lay ahead of them. The Roman troops were now spreading out around the city, the well tested strategy of conquer by siege was beginning to form.

An old man started to speak; as a Jew he’d been taught to memorise the Torah from a boy: “They shall besiege you at all your gates until your high and fortified walls, in which you trust, come down throughout all your land; and they shall besiege you at all your gates throughout all your land which the Lord your God has given you.”

The mood in the room was becoming decidedly somber until Sarah’s
visitor, the bearer of the three parchment scrolls spoke up. “Dear friends, I’ve come to show you that none of what has happened or is about to happened has escaped the understanding of our Lord, nor that of his servants who have written these things. Jesus has always known that your faith would be tested that the enemies of His grace would seek to trample it out. But as far as he is concerned, their opposition is soon coming to an end, as is the old law with which they have sought to bind you.”

And then looking directly at Sarah, her two grand daughters in her lap, he says, it won’t be long now, Sarah, and it’s your time to shine without the shadow of the Judaizers, the Pharisees, the Temple rulers to hinder you. Somehow, dear ones, you’ll escape all this and will then be free to live in the ever advancing Kingdom of the Son. Sarah, all of you, get ready to leave this city – God will make a way – and get ready to shine as the sun.

As they returned to their homes, there was hardly one of them that
wasn’t wondering how the rest of this would play out … and they wondered what it was going to be like for people in every generation to come, all over the earth, to live fully new creation lives in the grace – and grace alone – of their loving God.

[1] Sarah and her family are followers of Christ. My understanding is that the believers fled from Jerusalem about 3.5 years before Jerusalem fell, which would have been late 66 AD/early 67 AD. See these posts (one, two, and three) for a timeline and details on these and other events from this time period.

[2] See Acts 8:1-3.

[3] See Acts 2:46.

[4] See Acts 15, Galatians 1-6, Colossians 2:11-23, etc.

[5] See Matthew 24:7, Acts 11:28-30, Revelation 6:5-6.

[6] See Acts 6:1-7.

[7] See I Corinthians 16:1-4.

[8] See Acts 21:15-25.

[9] See Revelation 13:5-7 (and this post featuring evidence that Rev. 13 concerns Nero and Rome). 

[10] According to Tertullian (160 – 220 AD), it was Nero who banished John to the island of Patmos where he wrote the book of Revelation. Nero banished John after first attempting to boil him alive in oil.

[11] This was the book of Revelation.

[12] This was the book of Hebrews.

[13] See Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

Sarah of Jerusalem

Maurice Perry: The Book of Revelation Is All About Covenant


One of my Facebook friends, Maurice Perry, has also been blogging for the last three months. Maurice believes that the book of Revelation is about the Biblical covenants, and the transition from the old covenant to the new covenant. I believe the same (see “Echoes of Mount Sinai in the Book of Revelation”).

His article on this subject, “The Book of Revelation Is All About Covenant,” makes some great points about the judgments in the book of Revelation being covenantal, and fulfilling Jesus’ words (e.g. Matthew 23:29-38) against the rulers of the old covenant age:

However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothingBut we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (I Corinthians 2:6-8).

Maurice also makes some great points about the main opposition to the church during the generation (roughly 30 AD – 70 AD) when the covenant periods were in transition. That opposition was the bondage of the old covenant and those who sought to impose it upon the new covenant community (Jesus’ followers). This particular opposing force was dealt a huge blow when the Jerusalem temple, the center of old covenant worship and ceremonies, was taken out of the way. I’ve highlighted some of these points in red, below. I’m still mulling over the topics of Satan and the lake of fire, which Maurice also brought up in this article. As always, your thoughts are welcome on these things:

Revelation is all about covenant. It’s a covenantal book. When you look at it that way, things become more simplistic. There were two covenants. One, old. One, new. One (the old) was preparing to vanish away, or be demolished (Hebrews 8:13), while the other (the new) was already in existence because men and women were pressing into it even during Jesus’ earthly ministry (Matt. 11:12, Luke 16:16)…

Revelation, a letter written to 7 churches to SIGNIFY to them things which would shortly come to pass (Rev. 1:1), is virtually entirely written in signs, symbols, metaphors and figurative language. If you read the book with a literal narrative, you will miss the entire meaning and focus.

The Focus?

The revealing of Jesus Christ as Messiah – judgment for the ones that had pierced him (Rev. 1:7) – salvation and deliverance for those 1st century saints that were being persecuted. Covenantally, it was judgment being released on those that killed the apostles and prophets (servants of God). This scenario is played out over, and over, and over and over again throughout Revelation using different imagery, symbols and idiomatic language each time the scenario is retold.

That being said, the majority of stuff in the letter cannot be taken literal. This includes hard things to be understood like “1000 years”, Satan being bound, and the Lake of Fire.

Long story short, Satan being bound for a “1000 years” is in reference to the time in which the gospel went forth relatively unhindered. This would be the gospel of the New Covenant. Remember, it’s all about covenant.

Satan was “loosed for a little while”, and this SIGNIFIED the time when the 1st century saints (who were preaching the gospel of the N.C.) were being persecuted, killed, imprisoned, etc – just as Jesus had previously told them (Matt. 24:9, Mark 13:9, Luke 21:12).

Satan’s main objective was to stop the spreading of the N.C by making the Hebrew Christians trip up and fall away and back into bondage, via the old covenant.

Luke 8:13
They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.

Hebrews 3:12
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

It was Judaism, or the temple worship, and the pressure of the unbelieving Judaizers that caused many to fall away from the faith (in Jesus) and back into Judaism (bondage under the law). Thus, Jesus’ question-

Luke 18:8
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

So, what better way to put an end to [competition against] the New Covenant?

DESTROY the infrastructure of the Old Covenant. That would be the temple!

EVERYTHING in Jerusalem revolved around the temple – worship, politics, economics/commerce (thus, Jesus driving the money changers out!), etc…

When the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the entire economy and way of life for the Jews was destroyed, and when it was destroyed, the main oppressor, or competition [against] the New Covenant was destroyed also (the Old Covenant had then vanished away).

Satan (which means adversary), who opposed God EVERY step of the way, from Genesis to Revelation, could not stop the ultimate plan of redemption for the entire world – the gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ. His last ditch effort to stop the spread of the gospel was with the persecuting of the saints (Rev. 12 – “chasing after the woman”, then “chasing after the woman’s seed”) through the unbelieving Judaizers. He (Satan) failed miserably!

Him (Satan) being thrown into the Lake of Fire is symbolic of his eternal covenantal judgment, and also symbolizes that he can no longer hinder the progression of the gospel of the kingdom, world without end (Eph. 3:21)

New heavens and New earth is spiritual and covenantal. Lake of Fire is spiritual and covenantal. Those that accept Jesus and the New Covenant enter into New heavens and New earth (which 1st century saints began entering – Hebrews 12:22), and those that reject Jesus and the New Covenant enter into the Lake of Fire, which is the 2nd death, which is representative of being cut off from communion with the Father forever.

Satan, being in the Lake of Fire, cannot plead His case with God. Unbelievers who enter the Lake of Fire will not be able to plead their cases. It’s covenantal judgment.

Satan, and demons HAVE NOT been annihilated. They still roam around the world. Thus, the continued need for deliverance ministry and salvation. But they are forever outside of the kingdom, or City of God.

The gates of the city are continuously open for those that are made righteous in Christ, but closed to those that are unbelievers:

Revelation 22:14-15
14Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
15For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.

We see in Rev. 21:8 that the same people of Rev. 22:15 are said to experience the 2nd death:

Revelation 21:8
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

So, being in the Lake of Fire, which is the 2nd death, is synonymous with being left outside of the gates of the city, which is a spiritual city, New Jerusalem, heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion, the city of God, the general assembly, the CHURCH of the first born! (Hebrews 12:22)

THE CHURCH IS NEW JERUSALEM!!! The kingdom is an everlasting kingdom… the church is an everlasting church!!!

Ephesians 3:21
Unto him be glory IN THE CHURCH by Christ Jesus THROUGHOUT ALL AGES, WORLD WITHOUT END. Amen.

Maurice Perry and his wife, Ericka, live in Murfreesboro, Tennessee with their three daughters. In February 2014, Maurice published his first book, “Restoring Sanity in the Western Church.

The Significance of the Word “Desolate” in the New Testament


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the book of Revelation”

The word “desolate” (or the related word “desolation”) only appears 12 times in the New Testament. Seven of these appearances are in the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and five of them are references to Jerusalem’s condition in Jesus’ day and to what was about to happen to that city. This word does not appear in John’s gospel account, but its final two appearances in the New Testament demonstrate that John, in the book of Revelation, was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was.

Like the previous post, this one is also inspired by a recent discussion here. PJ Miller, of Sola Dei Gloria, observed the similarity between Matthew’s use of the word “desolate” in both chapters 23 and 24:

[1] “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).

[2] “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” (Matthew 24:15-16).

[1] In Matthew 23:38, Jesus summed up what had become of Jerusalem in His lament over that city. Although formerly God’s house, Jesus now spoke of Jerusalem (and/or the temple) as “your house,” for He had abandoned it and left it to them as “desolate.”  About 650 years earlierGod said the same to Jeremiah just before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC:

I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritageI have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies… ‘Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; They have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate; Desolate, it mourns to Me; The whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart” (Jeremiah 12:7-11).

(In two recent posts, we discussed how first century Jerusalem became infested with demons, but how God chose new Jerusalem, the bride of Christ, as His house and His dwelling place.)

Strong’s Concordance defines the word “desolate” (#2048), used in Matthew 23:38, as “lonesome, waste, desert, solitary, wilderness.”

[2] In Matthew 24:15, Jesus warned His followers living in Judea to flee to the mountains when they saw the “abomination of desolation.” Matthew’s Jewish audience was familiar with this phrase, and would understand the reference to Daniel, but Luke quotes Jesus differently for his mostly Gentile audience:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…” (Luke 21:20-21).

So the “abomination of desolation” was in the hands of foreign armies coming to complete Jerusalem’s desolation. The warnings of Matthew and Luke, stated differently, were to bring about the same response: immediate flight. In 314 AD, Eusebius, known as the father of church history, wrote the following about the obedience of Jesus’ followers to His words in Matthew 24:

“The people of the church at Jerusalem, in accordance with a certain oracle that was vouchsafed by way of revelation to the approved men there, had been commanded to depart from the city before the [Jewish-Roman war of 67-73 AD], and to inhabit a certain city of Peraea. They called it Pella [in modern-day Jordan]. And when those who believed in Christ had removed from Jerusalem, as if holy men had utterly deserted both the royal metropolis of the Jews itself and the whole land of Judaea, the Justice of God then visited upon them all their acts of violence to Christ and his apostles, by destroying that generation of wicked persons root and branch from among men” (see here for more about this event).

The word “desolation” in Matthew 24:15 is #2049 in Strong’s Concordance, and the definition there is: “from 2048; to lay waste (lit. or fig.): -(bring to, make) desolate (-ion), come to nought.” The word “desolation” in Luke 21:20 is entry #2050, and Strong’s simply points back to #2049. So we can see that all three entries (#2048, #2049, and #2050) are essentially the same word, just as the words “desolate” and “desolation” are essentially the same in English.

“Desolate” and “desolation” appear in Mark 13:14 and Luke 13:35 as direct parallels to Matthew 24 and Matthew 23, respectively. Otherwise, these words only appear six other times in the New Testament.* We’ll look briefly at four of these instances, before looking at their two appearances in Revelation: 

The word “desolation” appears in Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 (parallel passages), where Jesus responds to the Pharisees who question by what power He was casting out demons: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.”

The word “desolate” appears in Acts 1:20 regarding Judas Iscariot: “’For it is written in the Book of Psalms: ‘Let his dwelling place be desolate, and let no one live in it.”

It also shows up in Galatians 4:27, in Paul’s argument that God’s people belong to the Jerusalem above, and not the Jerusalem below. He quotes Isaiah 54: “For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.’”

The Strong’s entry for Acts 1:20 and Galatians 4:27 is #2048, and the entry for Matthew 12:25 and Luke 11:17 is #2049.

*A different Greek word for “desolate” appears in I Timothy 5:5, and refers to a widow’s grief.

The final two places where this word shows up in the New Testament are in Revelation 17:16 and Revelation 18:19 (Strong’s #2049), regarding the burning of the harlot and the great city:

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.”

They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’”

As we discussed in a recent post (“Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons“), “the great city” was first identified as the place “where also our Lord was crucified (Rev. 11:8).” Of course, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. This city was also aptly named “the harlot,” the same name given to it by Jeremiah (3:6-8), Ezekiel (16:15), and Hosea (6:10) because it was full of spiritual adultery at that time. Revelation 16-19 repeatedly holds “the great city”, “the harlot,” and “Babylon the great” (different names for the same entity) responsible for shedding the blood of God’s saints, prophets, and apostles. Jesus left no doubt who was responsible for shedding this blood, and when the resulting judgment would come: Israel, in His generation (Matthew 23:29-38).

Jesus declared Jerusalem in His day to be a desolate house, and He warned that “the abomination of desolation” would come and complete its desolation in His own generation. John, in his visions of “things which must shortly take place…for the time is near…at hand” (Rev. 1:1, 3; 22:10), saw the outcome of what Jesus prophesied, Jerusalem made desolate and burned to the ground.

Seeing how the word “desolate” is used here in Revelation 17 and 18, concerning the harlot and the great city, is good confirmation that John was showing Jerusalem to be every bit the desolate place that Jesus said it was in Matthew 23 and 24. This desolation was made complete in the year 70 AD. Gratefully, we can rejoice that we are children of the Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26), the new Jerusalem aligned with the new covenant established by the blood of our Savior (Hebrews 12:22-24).

Jerusalem, a Dwelling Place of Demons


Series: “Little Gems from Our Study of the Book of Revelation”

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2)

A survey of the Old Testament reveals a common theme, as God repeatedly proclaimed that Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple were His dwelling place. Consider the following texts (this is just a sample):

You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established” (Exodus 15:17).

But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go” (Deuteronomy 12:5).

In Jerusalem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion” (Psalm 76:2).

For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place(Psalm 132:13).

At the same time, God’s dwelling place was in heaven (e.g. I Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49):

“And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive…”

A survey of the Old Testament also reveals that Israel and Jerusalem often proved unworthy of serving as a dwelling place for God. In these times of unfaithfulness, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea were among those who referred to Israel as a harlot:

The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlotAnd I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also” (Jeremiah 3:6-8).

But you trusted in your own beauty, played the harlot because of your fame, and poured out your harlotry on everyone passing by who would have it” (Ezekiel 16:15).

I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: There is the harlotry of Ephraim; Israel is defiled” (Hosea 6:10).

When Jesus came, He summed up what had become of Jerusalem in this lament:

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate” (Matthew 23:37-38).

Strong’s Concordance defines the word “desolate” (#2048), used by Matthew here, as “lonesome, waste, desert, solitary, wilderness.” In the New Testament, we see indications that demons are attracted to such places:

For Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For it had often seized him, and he was kept under guard, bound with chains and shackles; and he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the wilderness” (Luke 8:29; some translations say “solitary places” or “deserted places”).

Similarly, recall what Jesus said would be true of the nation of Israel in His generation:

The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here. When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation” (Matthew 12:41-45).

John wrote the book of Revelation in Jesus’ generation, and there we see a tragic picture of what had become of His former dwelling place, as John describes “Babylon the great”:

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).

Someone may object here and say that Babylon the great is not Jerusalem. However, if we pay attention, John does positively identify the great city, Babylon. In the previous chapter, John is shown “the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication” (Rev. 17:1-2). She is shown sitting on a great beast (verse 3), and on her forehead are written these words: “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (verse 5). John sees her drunk with the blood of the saints and the martyrs (verse 6). The angel says to John, “The woman whom you saw is that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (verse 18). So the following is clear:

The harlot = Babylon the great = the great city

The “great city” is mentioned five times in Rev. 18 (verses 10, 16, 18, 19, and 21). In verses 10 and 21 it’s referred to as “the great city Babylon.” (See also Rev. 14:8.) Yet it’s in the first mention of “the great city” where we see the positive identification of that city. We see this in the scene of the two witnesses who are killed by the beast:

 “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8).

Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. Therefore, “the great city” is Jerusalem. This title was also given to Jerusalem by Josephus (Wars 7:8:7) and Appian, a Roman historian of the same era. It may also be a throwback to Jeremiah’s words when he described the soon-coming judgment upon Jerusalem by Babylon, which took place in 586 BC:

And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, “Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them” (Jeremiah 22:8-9).

The great city, Babylon, is further confirmed as Jerusalem in at least the following three ways:

[1] This would not be the first time that Israel was referred to as “Sodom.” Isaiah did the same thing: Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of SodomGive ear to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: ‘To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:10-11)John invokes the names of two of Israel’s oldest enemies, Sodom and Egypt, and uses them to describe first century Jerusalem.

[2] John describes the great city using the imagery of a harlot. As discussed above, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea referred to Israel as a harlot in their day. Israel was in a covenant relationship with God, and therefore capable of spiritual adultery, unlike other nations in John’s day (or the United States or any other nation in our own day).

[3] John sees the harlot, Babylon the great, drunk with the blood of martyrs and saints (Rev. 17:6), and filled with the blood of prophets and apostles (Rev. 18:20, 24; see also Rev. 16:6, 19:2). Jesus said that Israel would be held responsible and judged in His generation for shedding this very blood (Matthew 23:29-36). He also said that “it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). 

In all this we see that a terrible thing had happened to Jerusalem, God’s former dwelling place. It was given over to spiritual adultery and had become overrun by demons:

“Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2).

With God having abandoned Jerusalem as His dwelling place, was He then without a dwelling place of His own? Not at all. In the next post, we will see that God has chosen as His dwelling place the new Jerusalem, the community of saints who abide in His Son, Jesus.

————————————————————————————

For more information and details on the content in this post, see our studies on Revelation 17 (verses 1-6 and verses 7-18) and Revelation 18.

If time allows, consider also our study on Revelation 9, where John sees an army of torturing locusts emerging out of the abyss. There is good reason to believe John witnesses a horde of demons sweeping through the land of Israel. The locusts didn’t touch any vegetation, but were given authority to torment only those who were not God’s servants, and this torment was to last for five months. In Judea, locusts typically came between May and September (a 5-month period), and this is roughly the same period when Rome laid a 5-month siege upon Jerusalem in 70 AD leading to Jerusalem’s downfall in September of that year.

Why I Embrace Christian Zionism


There was a time when I was a stranger to Christian Zionism. I was on the outside, I was in the darkness, and I was very much missing out on the blessings found in Christian Zionism. Then God, in His mercy, added me to the family, and to the number of those who have embraced Christian Zionism for the last 2000 years. I haven’t been the same since!

The author of Hebrews described this great transformation about 1950 years ago to his audience at the time, members of the early church:

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” (Hebrews 12:22-24).

I am a Christian Zionist because I am a Christian who has been brought to the heavenly Mount Zion, the one that is connected to the heavenly Jerusalem, to Jesus as our Mediator, to the body of Christ, and to the new covenant. This Zionism is glorious, and it’s all about the blessings and promises found in Jesus.

At the same time, I’m not a Christian Zionist. It all depends upon the definition, and one’s covenant perspective. I’m not a Christian Zionist if one goes by the following definitions:

[1] Zionists seek to support, facilitate and advance the return of the Jewish people and sovereignty to their native homeland–the land of Israel. Christians who see the regathering of the Jewish people in their land, as well as the establishment of the sovereign nation of Israel in 1948, as the literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy are known as “Christian Zionists”. Christian Zionists see the Jewish people as the “apple of God’s eye”–His Chosen people, and hold firm that God’s promises, established in the Abrahamic Covenant, remain in effect today.

Christian Zionists are “Biblical advocates” for the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Furthermore, they stand in firm, diametrical opposition to land concessions of any sort which involve the forfeiture of the holy land of Israel as it is a sacred manifestation of the promises of God to the people He calls the “apple of His eye”. Christian Zionists also seek to stand with Israel, showing her unconditional support, solidarity and love whilst praying for her spiritual return to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who “foreknew” her.

Mikael Knighton, Christians Standing With Israel, 2007 (Source)

[2] “Zionism [is] the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel… Jews of all persuasions, left and right, religious and secular, joined to form the Zionist movement and worked together toward these goals. Disagreements led to rifts, but ultimately, the common goal of a Jewish state in its ancient homeland was attained. The term “Zionism” was coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum.” (Jewish Virtual Library).

If Zionism is the belief in the Jewish people’s right to return to their homeland, then a Christian Zionist should simply be defined as a Christian who supports the Jewish people’s right to return to their homeland… The actual theology of Christian Zionism, also known as Biblical Zionism, supports the right of the Jewish people to return to their homeland on scriptural grounds… Christian Zionism is confirmed throughout the Hebrew Scriptures… Christian Zionism differs with Replacement Theology which teaches that the special relationship that Israel had with her God in terms of her national destiny and her national homeland has been lost because of her rejection of Jesus as Messiah, and therefore the Church has become the new Israel.

Rev. Malcolm Hedding, Vice-chairman of the Board, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, “Christian Zionism 101 – Giving Definition to the Movement.” (Source)

[3] “Christian Zionism is a belief among some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy.”

Wikipedia, March 2014 (Source)

John Hagee, the founder of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), is recognized as a well-known leader in this movement known as Christian Zionism. CUFI’s theme verse is Isaiah 62:1. “For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, til her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” (Source) It doesn’t take much digging around to understand how Hagee interprets this verse and applies it to the present day. Shhh – don’t tell him that righteousness and salvation have been shining out from Jesus and His church like a blazing torch for the last 2000 years!

Earthly or Heavenly Zion?

You may have already noticed how incredibly preoccupied the Christian Zionist movement is with earthly Zion (Israel). This movement is heavily invested in political/earthly Israel, political/earthly Jerusalem, and the old covenant. This is essentially where this movement goes off track.

Did you notice the very first word in the passage from Hebrews early in this post? It’s a mere conjunction, but it’s very important. It’s the word “but.”

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…”

Through a basic language rule, we know that the author of Hebrews is contrasting something he said earlier. Let’s take a look at the previous few verses:

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” (Hebrews 12:18-21).

What did he describe here? He described the scene at Mount Sinai where the law code and the old covenant was given to the people of Israel through Moses. The following contrast is shown:

Mount Sinai = physical (able to be touched), earthly, old covenant… Mount Zion = spiritual (not able to be touched), heavenly, new covenant…

In light of this passage, how does the Christian Zionist movement align itself? Where does it stand in light of what Paul says in Galatians 4:21-31?

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.” Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

The Christian Zionist movement has hijacked both terms that it carries, “Christian” and “Zionism.” For decades it has tried to tell the world that Christians are obsessed with a certain land, a certain country, a certain city, a certain race of people, and a Zion that is of this world. It has suppressed new covenant truths, such as God not showing favoritism to one race over others (e.g. Romans 10:12), and has promoted and financially supported injustice and ethnic cleansing, all in the name of Christianity and before the eyes of a watching world.

Biblical Zionism, according to Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12, is aligned with heavenly Jerusalem, Jesus as our Mediator, His church, His shed blood, transformed hearts, freedom, God’s promises, and the new covenant.

This is the Christian Zionism that I embrace.