The Seven-Headed, Ten-Horned Beast of Revelation 17


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

UPDATE: This post was written when I understood the scarlet beast of Revelation 17 to be the same as the sea beast of Revelation 13:1-10, the seven kings of Revelation 17:10 to be the first seven Roman emperors, and the 10 horns of Revelation 17:12-14 to be the rulers of Rome’s 10 Senatorial Provinces. I now understand the seven kings to Revelation 17:10 to be the high priests of the house of Annas, and the 10 horns to be 10 Jewish generals (named by Josephus) who were appointed around January 67 AD to oversee specific territories and to prepare for war with Rome. This post will be updated accordingly when time allows.

In a recent post,The Harlot of Revelation 17 and Its Relationship to Old Covenant Israel,” we examined the first six verses of Revelation 17. There we were introduced to “a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns” (verse 3). In that article, we mainly discussed the harlot who sat on this beast. In this article, we will take a closer look at this beast and the significance of its seven heads and ten horns.

This is the same beast as the beast from the sea, which John saw in Revelation 13:1-10. That beast also had seven heads, ten horns, and a blasphemous name (13:1). Just as the whole world marveled and followed him (13:3), here in Rev. 17:8 we see that “those who dwell on the earth will marvel” at the beast.

The Beast’s Seven Heads

The angel tells John that the beast’s seven heads represent two things: “seven mountains on which the woman sits” and [2] “also seven kings” (verse 9). In his book,Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” Steve Gregg quotes from David S. Clark, who says,

“We had the beast located geographically on the seven hills, which meant Rome. Now we have him located in history to tell us what period of Rome we are dealing with. And there is no period of Rome’s history that will fit this description but the dynasty of the Caesars.”

Kenneth Gentry, in his book, “Before Jerusalem Fell,” notes (p. 163) that the Coin of Vespasian (emperor of Rome from 69-79 AD) discovered by archaeologists pictures the goddess Roma as a woman seated on seven hills. First-century Rome used to celebrate a feast called Septimontium, the feast of “the seven-hilled city.”

Rev. 17:10 provides a remarkable time marker for when this was written: “There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time.” The following chart shows the first 10 emperors of the Roman Empire, who reigned until the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The first five are the ones who had fallen by John’s day, and the sixth is the one who was presently reigning when John wrote Revelation:

Order of Emperors Name of Emperor Length of Reign Notes/Details
#1 Julius Caesar October 49 BC – March 44 BC “Perpetual Dictator”
#2 Augustus January 27 BC – August 14 AD -time of Jesus’ birth
#3 Tiberius August 14 AD – March 37 AD -time of Jesus’ ascension
#4 Caligula March 37 AD – January 41 AD Murdered
#5 Claudius January 41 AD – October 54 AD Assassinated
#6 Nero October 54 AD – June 68 AD Committed suicide
#7 Galba June 68 AD – January 69 AD Murdered
#8 Otho January 69 AD – April 69 AD Committed suicide
#9 Vitellius April 69 AD – December 69AD Murdered
#10 Vespasian December 69 AD – June 79 AD Destroyed Jerusalem

Although some historians do not consider Julius Caesar to be one of the emperors, Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD) was one who did, and the above list reflects his own in Antiquities of the Jews (Books 18-19, 93 AD). Numerous Roman historians contemporary to Josephus agree, including Dio Cassius and Suetonius (70-135 AD), who wrote Lives of the Twelve Caesars and De Vita Caesarum. It’s also noteworthy that Julius Caesar was appointed as “perpetual dictator” in 42 BC.

According to the above list, then, Nero was the “king” of whom John said “one is” (i.e. “he is reigning now”), and Galba was the one who had “not yet come.” Galba reigned only six months, and he is the one of whom the angel said “he must continue a short time.”

There is no barrier to this interpretation in the fact that John uses the term “kings” and not “emperors.” Tiberius was referred to as a king in John 19:15 and Claudius was referred to as a king in Acts 17:7. Both were Roman emperors.  One may also note that the chart above indicates more Roman emperors than were referenced by John. Kenneth Gentry quotes J. Russell Stuart, who spoke on this matter in his book Apocalypse:

But why only seven kings? First because the number seven is the reigning symbolic number of the book; then, secondly, because this covers the ground which the writer means specially to occupy, viz., it goes down to the period when the persecution then raging would cease (Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 163).

Nero began persecuting Christians throughout the Roman Empire beginning in November 64 AD. This persecution only ended upon his death in June 68 AD. This was 3.5 years later, fulfilling Revelation 13:5-7, which said that the beast would make war with the saints and overcome them for 42 months.

The Beast’s 10 Horns

John is then introduced to 10 more kings in verses 12-13. He is told that the beast’s ten horns are “ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind and hand over their power and authority to the beast.” Some have thought these 10 kings to be the very ones listed in the chart above, since all 10 of them reigned (or had begun to reign, in Vespasian’s case) before Jerusalem’s destruction. However, John wrote that in his day they had “not yet received royal power,” so this view is eliminated.

Another more likely view is that these 10 kings were the rulers of the 10 senatorial provinces of Rome who were empowered by Nero to assist him in carrying out his campaign of persecution against the saints. Revelation 17:14 called this campaign making “war with the Lamb.” Jesus took it personal when His followers were persecuted and martyred. This was also true when Paul (formerly Saul) was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). When he was knocked to the ground on the road to Damascus, a voice from heaven said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5).

The Global Glossary on the Greco-Roman world says there were 10 Senatorial Provinces in ancient Rome: They were “areas that were governed by Roman pro-magistrates; there were ten senatorial provinces, eight of which were led by ex-praetors and two of which were led by ex-consuls.” Wikipedia lists these 10 Senatorial Provinces, as they existed in 14 AD, as follows: [1] Achaea [2] Africa [3] Asia [4] Creta et Cyrene [5] Cyprus [6] Gallia Narbonensis [7] Hispania Baetica [8] Macedonia [9] Pontus et Bithynia [10] Sicilia. One Biblical mention of a Roman provincial ruler is in Acts 18:12-17, where we are told of Gallio the “proconsul of Achaia.” In Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas had direct contact with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7). See here for more information on the Senatorial Provinces of the Roman Empire, and how and by whom authority was distributed.

The above quotation from Wikipedia lists the 10 provinces of Rome as they were then named. Steve Gregg lists them by names that would be considered more modern (p. 456): Italy, Achaia, Asia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain, and Germany. As seen in this map, Israel/Palestine belonged to the province of Egypt. Indeed, the Roman Empire was the world at that time, as can be seen by Luke’s description of Caesar Augustus’ decree “that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1; cf. Acts 2:5).

Roman Empire

Photo credit: http://gbgm-umc.org/UMW/corinthians/empire.stm (Original source: David Camden)

In Rev. 17:15-17 the angel explains to John why the harlot was shown sitting “on many waters” (verse 1). John was told that they represent “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages.” Steve Gregg shares this quote from David Chilton (pp. 416, 418):

Jerusalem could truly be portrayed as seated on “many waters” (i.e. the nations) because of the great and pervasive influence the Jews had in all parts of the Roman Empire before the destruction of Jerusalem. Their synagogues were in every city, and the extent of their colonization can be seen in the record of the Day of Pentecost, which tells us that “there were Jews staying in Jerusalem, devout men, from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5).

In verse 16, we are told that the 10 horns (kings) would join the beast in hating “the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire.” Steve Gregg points out that this very same turn of events was predicted for Jerusalem just before it fell in 586 BC for playing the harlot (pp. 418, 420):

I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure… I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them… And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy… They shall burn your houses with fire…and I will make you cease playing the harlot (Ezekiel 16:37-41).

It’s probably no coincidence that the word “desolate” is used in verse 16, just as it is used in Rev. 18:17, 19 and also in Daniel 9:27 and by Jesus in Luke 21:20. In each case it’s used concerning first century Jerusalem, the “house” that Jesus said was left desolate (Matthew 23:38).

We also know from accounts provided by Josephus (a Jewish historian) and Tacitus (a Roman historian from the same time period) that a number of kings from surrounding provinces joined Vespasian and Titus in Rome’s war against Israel from 67-70 AD. At the very end of July 70 AD, on the exact same day that Jerusalem was burned in 586 BC, the Second Temple was burned to the ground. Josephus remarked that from a distance the entire city of Jerusalem appeared to be on fire. In fact, during August and September 70 the rest of the city was set on fire and leveled to the ground.

In Rev. 17:18, the woman is identified as “the great city” and is said to have “dominion over the kings of the earth.” The designation “great city” was first given to Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8, where it was said to be the place “where also our Lord was crucified.” It’s repeated here in these chapters as a reference to Babylon the Great on at least seven occasions (16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21; cf. Rev. 14:8). Steve Gregg quotes from David Chilton on why it’s fitting that Jerusalem was known as “the great city” (p. 422):

If the City is Jerusalem, how can it be said to wield this kind of worldwide political power? The answer is that Revelation is not a book about politics; it is a book about the Covenant. Jerusalem did reign over the nations. She did possess a Kingdom which was above all the kingdoms of the world. She had a covenantal priority over the kingdoms of the earth.

Lamentations, written shortly after Jerusalem fell the first time in 586 BC, begins this way: “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave.” Interestingly, the great city in John’s day says, “I sit as a queen, I am no widow, and mourning I shall never see” (Rev. 18:7). Also when Jeremiah prophesied of Jerusalem’s soon coming destruction in his day, he wrote:

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).

Jerusalem apparently was great in the political sense as well, though. As Kenneth Gentry writes (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 171),

Jerusalem housed a Temple that, according to Tacitus “was famous beyond all other works of men.” Another Roman historian, Pliny, said of Jerusalem that it was “by far the most famous city of the ancient Orient.” According to Josephus, a certain Agatharchides spoke of Jerusalem thus: “There are a people called Jews, who dwell in a city the strongest of all other cities, which the inhabitants call Jerusalem.” Appian called it “the great city Jerusalem.” …More important, however, is the covenantal significance of Jerusalem. The obvious role of Jerusalem in the history of the covenant should merit it such greatness… Josephus sadly extols Jerusalem’s lost glory after its destruction: “This was the end which Jerusalem came to be the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificance, and of mighty fame among all mankind (Wars 7:1:1)… And where is not that great city, the metropolis of the Jewish nation, which was fortified by so many walls round about, which had so many fortresses and large towers to defend it, which could hardly contain the instruments prepared for the war, and which had so many tens of thousands of men to fight for it? Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations” (Wars 7:8:7).

J. Stuart Russell makes another observation regarding the phrase “kings of the earth” used in verse 18. Not only is this expression found throughout Revelation, he says, but it’s also in Acts 4:26-27. There “Herod and Pontius Pilate are identified by the very same expression. Plainly, then, in Acts the expression means ‘the leaders or rulers of the Land’ (i.e. of Israel). If that is the phrase’s meaning here in verse 18, then Jerusalem surely can be said to be the city that reigns over the rulers of Israel” (Gregg, p. 422).

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This article is adopted from our study of Revelation 17 (Part 2), and is also featured in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine.

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Revelation Chapter 21 (Part 2: Verses 5-27)


REVELATION 21 (Part 2: Verses 5-27)

Adam Maarschalk: February 3, 2010

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 21:1-27

Introduction: In the previous post, we covered the first four verses of Revelation 21, giving special attention to the imagery of a new heaven and a new earth (“for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”), and the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. Our conclusion is that John was being shown the final transition from the Old Covenant age to the New Covenant age (exclusively and in fullness) in 70 AD. In other words, the New Jerusalem came down from heaven at that time, and is a present reality now, just as the author of Hebrews also said (Heb. 8:13; 12:22-24). The events of 70 AD demonstrated decisively that the kingdom no longer belonged to the Jewish nation, but to the holy nation created at Pentecost (Matt. 21:43-44, I Peter 2:4-10; cf. Daniel 7:22, 27), made up of both Jewish and Gentile believers who enter God’s kingdom on an equal basis.

It is recommended that one read Part 1 of our study of Revelation 21 before proceeding here, in order to have a basis for what is to follow. We will now continue with our study, picking things up in verse 5. We will be relying much on Steve Gregg’s commentary on this chapter.

Verse 5: The One on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new…” While the literalist position most often takes this statement to refer, along with the rest of the chapter, to a future physical new heavens and earth, this can also quite naturally be understood as a reference to the same truth which is articulated in II Corinthians 5:17. This verse reads, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” As believers submitted to Christ, every area of our lives should experience renewal. Even as this is true on a personal level for each believer, it’s also true in terms of the New Covenant. In the book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” Steve Gregg writes (p. 491):

The language of these verses also can apply to the passing away of the old covenantal order, which has been so completely replaced by the new order that God commands His people: “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing” (Isa. 43:18-19). No place remains for the old covenant, as the writer of Hebrews explains: “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:13).

Verses 6-7: The text here reads, “And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be His God and he will be My son.’” Is this a present reality, or a future reality to be experienced in the eternal state? Steve Gregg reminds us (p. 491):

[T]he promise, I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts (v. 6), is clearly the same as that made twice by Jesus in John’s Gospel (cf. John 4:10, 14; 7:37f). Also, the phrase He who overcomes (v. 7) is characteristic of the phraseology in the promises made by Christ in the letters to the seven churches (cf. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).

The one who overcomes receives this promise: “and I will be His God and he will be my son.” A similar promise is given in II Corinthians 6:18, a passage speaking of the Church as the temple of the living God. There we read: “and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me, says the Lord Almighty.” This present position as God’s children is also spoken of in Romans 8:15-17. Kenneth Gentry, in his latest book “Navigating the Book of Revelation,” adds:

John is encouraging the beleaguered first century saints to hold on through their trials: Once Jerusalem falls, they will complete their entry into the final redemptive-historical order which has been gradually dawning since the time of Christ (John 4:21-23). As the writer of Hebrews puts it: Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28 NIV; cf. Heb. 8:13). Or as Paul expresses it in the mid-50s: “And this do, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. The night is almost gone, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:11-12) – a reality worthy of enduring persecution.

Jesus promises His disciples that some of them will live to see the kingdom’s final establishment in power: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who shall not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power” (Mark 9:1). Thus in Revelation 21 John paints nascent, post-A.D. 70 Christianity – now finally separated from Judaism – in glowing terms, as a firmly established, glorious reality (p. 167).

Verse 8: This verse reads, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake of fire that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Steve Gregg notes that many scholars have equated “the cowardly” with apostates “who defect from the gospel rather than enduring hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ,” in contrast to those “who overcome” (v. 7).

We also saw a reference to the lake of fire and the second death in Revelation 20:14, with regard to the Great White Throne Judgment. This is where, according to that passage, death and Hades was to be thrown, along with anyone whose name was not found in the book of life (Rev. 20:15).[1]

Steve Gregg makes a very interesting observation at this point. Speaking of the preceding 8 verses in relation to the rest of the final two chapters, he observes (p. 492):

One way of understanding the structure of these final chapters is to see this whole segment (vv. 1-8) as an outline or summary of the remaining portion of the book. A remarkable correspondence exists between the progression of thought in these first verses and in the remaining chapters.

Compare, after the introductory statement in verse 1:

CONTENT

In Verses 1-8

In the Remainder

New Jerusalem Verse 2 21:9-21
God dwells among men Verse 3 21:22-27
Renewal of the world Verse 5a 22:1-5
“These words are true and faithful” Verse 5b 22:6-10
Work completed: “I am Alpha and Omega” Verse 6a 22:11-15
Final blessing: water of life to all who thirst Verses 6b – verse 7 22:16-17
Final curse upon the rebellious Verse 8 22:18-19

Verse 9: John is now taken to see “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb,” by one of the same seven angels who held the bowl judgments. Steve Gregg notes (p. 493) that one of these same angels—perhaps even the same one—had also taken John to see the great harlot in Revelation 17:1: “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.’” He says that this “provides a structural link, deliberately placing the harlot in juxtaposition with the bride.” We made the same observation in our study of chapter 17, comparing the language of these two texts as follows:

A. Revelation 21:9: “Then came one of the seven angels which had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”

B. Revelation 17:3: “And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names.”

B. Revelation 21:10: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.”

Earthly Jerusalem and the Old Covenant temple system are thus contrasted with heavenly Jerusalem and the New Covenant (cf. Galatians 4:21-31; Hebrews 12:18-28). On the different destinations to where John was taken in these two visions, Steve Gregg comments: “The bride-city is elevated upon a mountain, ‘beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth’ (Ps. 48:2), while the harlot city is situated in a barren wasteland.”

Verses 10-11: The descending of “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God” was also shown to John in verse 2. Steve Gregg comments on the significance of her attire:

Here, the attire of the bride is seen to be her having the glory of God (v. 11). The Shekinah that once rested upon the temple in earthly Jerusalem has departed from that institution and come to alight upon the church, the new temple of the Holy Spirit and the new City of God. The inheritance and hope of the New Testament believer is the hope of obtaining the glory of God (Rom. 2:7; 5:2; 8:18; Col. 1:27; I Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 2:14; Heb. 2:10; I Pet. 5:1, 10). This speaks of the likeness of Christ Himself seen upon His people (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21; 2 Pet. 1:19; I John 3:2).

The light radiating from the glorious bride-city is compared to the radiance of a most precious stone, like a jasper stone, clear as crystal (v. 11), which probably refers to a diamond. The believing remnant is likened to jewels in the Old Testament. In Malachi 3:16-17, it is said of those who fear the Lord and meditate on His name, “‘They shall be Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘on the day that I make them My jewels.’” The context in Malachi [3:16-4:6] suggests that the reference is to the Jewish believers in Christ, who escaped the desolation of the capital city in A.D. 70. In this place also some find grounds for seeing the bride as the surviving church at the time of the destruction of the Jewish polity.

Verses 12-13: This text reads, “It [the New Jerusalem] had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates.” Steve Gregg comments (p. 494),

The city is described as surrounded by a great and high wall (v. 12). This is applicable to the church as a spiritual city even today. In speaking of the spiritual Jerusalem, God predicted “and you shall call your walls Salvation” (Isa. 60:18), and “I…will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst” (Zech. 2:5). If Salvation is the wall—indeed, God Himself is the wall—of the city, then the city and its wall appear to be spiritual in nature. This would be a figurative means of expressing the reality of the believer’s security in the City of God.

The wall of the city has twelve gates (v. 12) which have written upon them the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. In Isaiah, the same passage that calls the city’s wall “Salvation” goes on to say, “And your gates [shall be called] Praise” (Isa. 60:18). The most important of the twelve tribes was Judah, whose name means “Praise.” In Isaiah, the city’s gates are named after this tribe; in Revelation, the gates bear the names of all twelve tribes. There may be no conflict here, since in Judah, that is, in Christ, who is of that tribe, all the “twelve tribes” of the spiritual Israel are included. The attachment  of the tribal names to the gates may suggest that through Israel God made a way for the world to enter the City of God, for “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). Of course, this is only another way of saying that salvation is through Jesus Christ, who sprang from the Jewish race…

Another observation concerning the 12 gates with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel is that this parallels Ezekiel’s vision, where he saw the same thing (Ezekiel 48:30-34). Gregg continues,

It is expedient that there should be three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west (v. 13), to speak of the universal access into the church, for Jesus predicted that “They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13:29).

In the passage just quoted from Luke 13, we should note that just before Jesus said these words, He also said to the unbelieving Jews that they would be cast out of the kingdom of God and would experience weeping and gnashing of teeth while the patriarchs, prophets, and many Gentiles would find entrance. This mirrors what Jesus said in the Parable of the Tenants (Matt. 21:43-44; cf. Matt. 22:1-14).

Verse 14: This verse reads, “And the walls of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Steve Gregg’s commentary on this verse is very insightful (p. 494):

Further evidence for identifying the city with the church is seen in the city foundations that have upon them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb (v. 14). This detail communicates pictorially what Paul said more directly, that the church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). This is the city for which Abraham looked: “the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).

Duncan McKenzie likewise says, “A physical structure (a city) is being used here as a symbol to portray the totality of God’s people, just as God’s people are likened to a physical structure (a temple) in Ephesians 2:19-22—notice that both “structures” are built on the foundation of the apostles (Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14).”

Verse 15: Here we read, “And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls.” Steve Gregg again comments (pp. 494-495):

The measuring of the city, its gates, and its wall (v. 15) recalls Ezekiel 40:3, where an angelic messenger carried a measuring line and a reed to measure the gates and walls of “something like the structure of a city” (Ezekiel 40:2) and the temple in it. It seems likely that this vision corresponds to that of Ezekiel, although premillennialists generally apply Ezekiel’s to the Millennium and this one to the state of things after the Millennium.

We should note that a major difference between Ezekiel’s account and John’s account here is that (as we will see) there is no temple in John’s vision. Ezekiel, on the other hand, goes into great detail in describing the temple he sees in his vision [In Philip Mauro’s classic work in 1922, “The Hope of Israel,” he noted that the promises given through Ezekiel were conditional (e.g. Ezekiel 43:9-11), and that these visions had to do with the return from the Babylonian captivity some five centuries before Christ with some foreshadowing also of Christ and the coming Church age].

Verses 16-21: We are now given the physical description of the holy city. Futurists, and premillennialists in particular, see this as a literal description of a future, physical city to be enjoyed during the eternal state following Christ’s millennial reign. On the other hand, as we will see, there is Scriptural warrant for seeing this description as depicting with rich symbolism the glories of the New Covenant church in this present age. Here is the text at hand:

The city lies foursquare; its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia [about 1380 miles]. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.

One key comparison to take note of is the fact that the holy city in John’s vision is cube-shaped, just as the holy of holies in Solomon’s temple was (I Kings 6:20). The holy of holies was overlaid with pure gold, while the holy city in John’s vision is entirely made of pure gold. What follows is Steve Gregg’s commentary on these verses, found on pages 495-496 of his book:

[VERSES 16-17] Since John sees no temple in the city (v. 22), we may imply that the whole city is the temple, or more specifically, the holy of holies. It is the place of the glory of God (cf. v. 11). This is the place of God’s residence (Eph. 2:20-21; I Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:6; I Pet. 2:5), where God communes with men. Earlier [Rev. 11:1-2], John had measured the holy of holies (the naos) for its protection and preservation. In this vision, the naos is again measured, indicating its permanence, but it is now identified with the City of God, the church of Jesus Christ.

Part of the adorning of the bride is her jewelry… The walls, foundations, and gates are all made of great gemstones. This harks back to a prophecy of the Old Testament concerning the church: “O you afflicted one, tossed with the tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones” (Isa. 54:11-12). [Steve Gregg’s endnote: That the church is here pictured seems a necessary conclusion to be drawn from Paul’s quotation of the first verse of the chapter in Galatians 4:26-27 and his application of it to the Gentiles of the New Covenant church.]

[VERSE 18] (T)he city itself was of gold, so thoroughly purified as to become transparent. This is an image used to describe the refined character of the sanctified believer (Job 23:10; Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:3; I Pet. 1:7; Rev. 3:18).

[VERSES 19-20] The twelve gems comprising the foundations call to mind the twelve gems worn upon the breast of the high priest, though again the individual stones are not identical (cf. Ex. 28:15-21). Since these same stones bear the names of the twelve apostles, it could be understood as a statement about the leadership of the people of God having transferred from the high priesthood of the temple to the apostles of the church.

[VERSE 21] There may be symbolic significance to the fact that the twelve gates were twelve pearls (v. 21). Unlike the previously named gems, pearls are created organically. A rough grain of sand irritating the tissues of the oyster causes the secretion of a substance that transforms the source of irritation into a pearl. The pearl thus may stand for affliction turned to benefit, even as silver and gold refined by fire are used in Scripture for the same concept. The gates are the means of entry into the city. If the pearl is understood in this light, we have a picture of one of Paul’s preaching themes: “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

In Scripture a way of life is frequently called a path, a way, a highway, or a road (e.g. Prov. 4:18; Isa. 35:8). Therefore it is reasonable to understand the street of the city (v. 21) as representing the way of life of those who comprise the New Jerusalem. This street was pure gold, like transparent glass, which speaks of the godly character and behavior that comes from enduring the refining fires of tribulation.

Verses 22-27: John continues to describe what he observes concerning the heavenly Jerusalem:

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Steve Gregg’s commentary again follows, including a most helpful chart comparing this portion of Revelation 21 with a corresponding portion of Isaiah 60 (pp. 496-497):

On the statement, I saw no temple in it, [J. Stuart] Russell writes: “Some of the features [of this vision] are evidently derived from the visionary city beheld by Ezekiel [chapters 40-48]; but there is this remarkable difference, that whereas the temple and its elaborate details occupy the principal part of the Old Testament vision, no temple at all is seen in the apocalyptic vision—perhaps for the reason that where all is most holy no one place has greater sanctity than another, or because where God’s presence is fully manifested, the whole place becomes one big temple.” Rather than going to a particular place to worship and appearing before God “in the sanctuary,” today one needs only be found “in God” or “in Christ” to worship acceptably, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple (v. 22).

A helpful way of treating this segment is to look at it alongside an Old Testament passage with which it coincides. Compare the details point-by-point with Isaiah chapter 60:

Isaiah 60

Revelation 21

The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the Lord will be to you…light (v. 19) The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it for the glory of God illuminated it (v. 23)
The Gentiles shall come to your light (v. 3) The nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light (v. 24)
Kings shall minister to you (v. 10); the glory of Lebanon shall come to you (v. 13) The kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it (v. 24)
Your gates shall be open continually…not shut day nor night (v. 11) Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there) (v. 25)
The wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you (v. 5) They shall bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it (v. 26)
Also your people shall be all righteous (v. 21) There shall by no means enter it anything that defiles (v. 27)

In Isaiah 60, all of this is precipitated by the dawning of the glory of the Lord in a glorious new day (Isa. 60:1-3). This day was seen to dawn with the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus (cf. Luke 1:76-78; Matt. 4:13-16). Both passages then would appear to speak, albeit in symbolic terms, of the realities of the New Covenant age. The coming of the Gentiles into the church and the submission of kings to Christ has been in progress for nearly two thousand years now.

These facts alone (those highlighted in the paragraph above) would seem to be conclusive proof that these prophecies found here simply cannot be said to await a future dispensation or realm, but are indeed realities which have characterized the Church for nearly 2000 years.

This brings us to the end of the chapter, in terms of looking at it verse-by-verse. In this post, we have noted several parallels with the book of Ezekiel. This is actually a very common pattern with the book of Revelation, and numerous scholars have recognized that John borrows much from—or alludes much to—Ezekiel. Just for fun, here is a brief summary from Pastor Sam Frost of some of the parallels between Revelation 21 and various visions of Ezekiel:

Ezekiel is taken to a high mountain by angel and sees a city (40.1-3). John is taken to a high mountain by an angel and sees a city (21.10). The first thing Ezekiel sees is the wall (40.5) that surrounds the city. The first thing John sees is the wall surrounding the city (21.12). The first gate Ezekiel sees is the ‘east gate’ (40.6). The first gate for John is the ‘east gate’ (21.13). Ezekiel sees the East, North (40.20-23) and the South (40.24-27), in that order. John follows the same order: ‘From the East gates, three; and from the North gates, three; and the South gates, three’ (21.13). One omission: Ezekiel does not mention a West gate, but John does.

Each gate/alcove for John and Ezekiel are ‘three’ (21.13; cf. 40.10). Each are being measured (21.15-ff; cf. 40.10-ff). John then measures the city itself and its foundations. Here, Ezekiel goes into the city and sanctuary and begins measuring their dimensions.

Obviously, Ezekiel’s vision is much more detailed that John’s. Nonetheless, the pattern is there, plainly. Each gate (four in all, with three alcoves, giving a total of 12) are named after the tribes of Israel (Ez 48.31-ff). Same as John (21.12). The City has ‘living waters’ in Ezekiel 47.1-ff. So does John (22.1-ff). I can expand the list, but we would be here a little longer. By now, you ought to get the point.

Before we bring this post to a close, and by way of review, the following is a selected outline of Kenneth Gentry’s reasons[2] for seeing a first-century fulfillment of the vision of Revelation 21. My numbering of Gentry’s points is a bit different than his own numbering, as I have left out certain points for the sake of brevity:

[1] The flow of Rev’s drama expects the immediate appearance of the New Jerusalem bride (21:2). John’s theme involves Christ’s judging Israel (1:7), which leads to the destruction of old, historical Jerusalem (under the image of Babylon…). Once the old city is destroyed in AD 70 we should expect the New Jerusalem to take its place. Indeed, the NT declares the heavenly Jerusalem is already present in Christianity, as over against Judaism (Gal 4:26; Heb 12:22; cp. vv 18–21).

[2] Per the “unanimous agreement among scholars” (Mathewson, A New Heaven and a New Earth, 33; cf. Beale, Revelation, 1041), John’s immediate source material is surely Isa 65:17–20 (cf. LXX). Isaiah’s prophecy portrays the coming new covenant order established by Christ (cp. 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph 2:10; 4:24). As Young (Isaiah 3:514) explains: “Heaven and earth are employed as figures to indicate a complete renovation or revolution in the existing course of affairs. With the advent of the Messiah the blessing to be revealed will in every sense be so great that it can be described as the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.”

[3] The coming down of the new Jerusalem (21:2) leads to the loud proclamation from God’s throne: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them.” This transpires in the first century, as a result of Christ’s work and his pouring out God’s Spirit. Paul writes in 2Co 6:16: “We are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”

[4] …The promise of the water of life without cost reflects Isa 55:1 and the offer of salvation, which is related to the redemptive-historical order established by Christ in the first century. In his Gospel John speaks of the water of life flowing from Christ during his incarnation (4:10–14) and promises its fuller flow at his exaltation (7:38–39; cp. Ac 2).

[5] The twelve foundation stones of the city in 21:14 picture the historical church, which Paul presents as already “having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20).

[6] …John writes in 21:22: “And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, and the Lamb, are its temple.” This suggests a first century reality, for with Christ’s coming and death the temple is rendered unnecessary (Mk 15:38//; Jn 4:21; Ac 17:24; Heb 8:13), for he is the temple (Jn 2:19–21; Eph 2:19–20) and is greater than the physical temple (Mt 12:6).

[7] That “the nations shall walk by its light” (21:24a) suggests that the nations as separate national entities still exist. Thus, historical conditions still prevail, rather than radically new, eternal conditions of perfect union and the fading of all distinctions.

[8] The city is not a purely consummational phenomenon, for the “unclean” and he “who practices abomination and lying” are not allowed in (21:27). This implies a pre-Judgment setting, where sinners still exist. In fact, the city contains the “tree of life,” which produces leaves “for the healing of the nations” (22:1–2). This also requires conditions subsisting prior to the eternal order. The healing of the nations obviously suggests conversion. John even declares the continued existence of “dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying” (22:15), though they are “outside” of the city. Presumably they are the targets of evangelism, for whom the healing leaves of the tree of life exist. (pp. 2-3)

Summary Statement: “So there you have it! John is picturing the glory of new covenant Christianity, which arises from the fallen ashes of collapsed Judaism (cp. Matt 8:11–12; Heb 8:13).”

An Invitation for Feedback

It seems that this is as good a place as any to pose a question I’ve been wishing to resolve for some time. I have no dogmatic position on this as of yet, and would love to have some thoughts/feedback. My question is this: What is the significance of Hebrews 9:8-10, if any, to Revelation 21? This passage in Hebrews reads as follows:

By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshipper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

Rightly or wrongly, I’m linking this passage to Revelation 21 since, as we noted when looking at verse 16, the cube-shaped holy city in John’s vision replaces the cube-shaped holy of holies of the Old Covenant temple (I Kings 6:20). Among my suppositions and considerations are these:

[1] Unless there is a tense error in the English Standard Version from which I quoted this text in Hebrews 9, the first century readers seem to have been told that the way into the holy places was not yet opened in their day, but that it would be opened once the first section no longer stood. This “first section” was spoken of in Heb. 9:6, and is a reference back to Numbers 28:3 where we see a prescription for the regular offering of two male lambs without blemish. Does Heb. 9:8 mean that the first section must no longer physically stand (a reality accomplished only in 70 AD), or simply that it must no longer stand as covenantally significant (a reality accomplished at the cross)?

[2] By the phrase “the present age,” I understand the author of Hebrews to mean the Old Covenant/Judaic age which ended in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple at the hands of the Romans (see this post here for “a discussion of two ages”). [By the way, if “the present age” is understood—as it popularly is—to mean this present church age, then is “the way into the holy places” still not opened, even in our day? Of course it is. Or is there indeed a tense error in this quoted passage? Curiously, in the ESV the past tense is used in verses 1-5, but the present tense is used in verses 6-10. I’m not so sure that it should be this way. This whole passage may even refer to the wilderness tabernacle, and thus have nothing to do with 70 AD except for the mention of “the present age.”]

[3] The phrase “the time of reformation” I would understand to refer to Christ’s work on the cross, for it was surely this work which brought an end to the imposing of “food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body…”

[4] I want to be careful not to assign any significance to the events of 70 AD which is instead properly assigned to the cross. Jesus and Him crucified must remain central.

So, does anyone have thoughts on this matter? Thanks in advance for any feedback.

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Our next post brings us to Revelation 22, which will be our final post in this series of chapter-by-chapter studies of the book of Revelation.

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


[1] As we saw in a previous post, Duncan McKenzie makes a good case that the great white throne judgment is a past event—for those who have already died. He sees it as an ongoing event ever since 70 AD, so that everyone who has died since then experiences a personal judgment following their physical death, rather than a one-time event in the future to be experienced by all humanity at once. Hebrews 9:27 (“…it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”) is said to reflect this sequence, as is Revelation 11:18. This was also the viewpoint of J. Stuart Russell (1816-1895), who wrote the landmark book “The Parousia.”

[2] Source: Kenneth Gentry, “New Creation as New Covenant” (Supplement to his newest book, Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues), January 2010, p. 4.

Revelation 20: Four Views of Gog and Magog


Revelation 20: Four Views of Gog and Magog

Adam Maarschalk: April 5, 2010

Scripture texts for this study: Ezekiel 38-39; Revelation 20:7-10

Gog and Magog are referenced together twice in Scripture by name, first in Ezekial 38-39 and very briefly in Revelation 20. A third related passage is Revelation 19:17-18, where Gog and Magog are not mentioned by name but the language there appears to be borrowed from Ezekiel’s prophecy. How are Gog and Magog to be identified? The battle prophesied in Ezekiel, in particular, has merited much speculation among prophecy pundits. I would like to discuss four different interpretations for the references to Gog and Magog by both Ezekiel and John (Rev. 20). The following are some questions/factors to consider as we do so:

  1. Does John (in Rev. 19 or Rev. 20) refer to the same historical event as Ezekiel does, or is the battle described by Ezekiel merely a precedent for the battles John is describing?
  2. Is the book of Ezekiel written in a chronological manner, so that the chapters which come before this battle description (e.g. chapters 36-37) and those which follow it (chapters 40-48) suggest the timing of this battle’s occurrence?
  3. The battle described in Rev. 20:7-10 takes place “when the thousand years are ended,” i.e. at the end of the Millennium. One’s eschatological system, therefore, is a large factor in determining when this battle takes place. For Futurists and premillennialists, it will take place 1000 years after the future Second Coming of Christ. For amillennialists and for postmillennialists, it will take place sometime in the future, but before the Second Coming of Christ, since we are in the Millennium now. For full-preterists (those who believe in the past fulfillment of all Bible prophecy), it took place in or just before 70 AD.

The four interpretations we will consider[1] are these:

[A] The position of partial-preterists David Lowman and Gary DeMar that Ezekiel’s prophecy was fulfilled in Esther’s day. For this position, the battles of Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 are not one and the same.

[B] Partial-preterist Kenneth Gentry’s position that Ezekiel 38-39 was likely fulfilled in the second century BC, and its imagery is used by John to foreshadow the events of Revelation 19:11-21 and Revelation 20:8-10. For this position, the battles of Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 are not one and the same (nor are the battles of Rev. 19 and Rev. 20).

[C] The popular Futurist/premillennial position, which says that Ezekiel prophesied of a Russian-led attack on national Israel which is very soon to take place, and that John prophesied of an attack on the literal city of Jerusalem at the end of a future 1000-year Millennium. For this position, the battles of Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 are not one and the same.

[D] Full-preterist Kurt Simmon’s position that Ezekiel 38-39 was a prophecy concerning Rome’s invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD, as was John’s prophecy in Revelation 20. Clearly, then, for this position, the battles of Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 20 ARE indeed one and the same.

After each position is presented, I will offer some pros and cons as I see them (i.e. as I see them at this time; these are not easy texts to interpret, and my views on this subject are not necessarily set in stone). For clarity, my pros and cons will be listed in red and green font, respectively. Feedback is welcome in the comments section.

[A] David Lowman and Gary DeMar: Ezekiel 38-39 Was Fulfilled in Esther’s Day

1. David Lowman’s View

David Lowman is a Presbyterian pastor, and a partial-preterist (one who sees a past fulfillment in many, but not all, Bible prophecies). In the first post in a brief 4-part series on this subject, David Lowman notes that many “prophecy experts…have over the years…promoted the idea that the names used for [Gog, Magog, and their allies] are related to current nations that will supposedly lead a multi-national conglomerate of nations preparing to attack Israel. Those names are Rosh, Meshech and Tubal.” In this thinking, Rosh is supposed to be Russia, Meshech to be Moscow, and Tubal to be Tobolsk. Lowman says that only the NASB (New American Standard Bible) uses the translation “Rosh” in the first place (having been translated by dispensationalists), but even futurists like Charles Ryrie disagree with this translation. He adds,

The term “Rosh” in Hebrew means “chief” or “leader” [and] is a Hebrew word. “Russia” comes from the 11th century Scandanavian word “Rus” and has no relation in root and etemology to the word “rosh.” It’s beyond a stretch of all credulity [to link the two]… “Meshach” and “Tubal” were actual city/nations before the time of Christ and were part of the larger Persian Empire. These words come from the Asiatic words “Mushka” and “Tabal” and they are both literal locations located in modern day Turkey and, again, have NO relation to the nation of Russia in any way. This is such poor exegesis and now many modern Dispensationalist have abandoned these claims, though the more popular prophecy experts still promote it.

In David Lowman’s second post, he makes the point that Ezekiel described a style of warfare that is very much ancient, and that the weapons he mentioned were made out of wood and thus able to be burned (Ezek. 38:4-5; 39:9). Many believe that Russia’s identity is confirmed because these armies were to come from the north (Ezek. 38:6, 15; 39:2), but Lowman notes that other significant invasions of Israel in the Old Testament were also from the north: [1] Babylon (Jeremiah 1:14, 4:6, 6:10, 10:22), Persia (Isaiah 41:25, Jer. 50:41), and Assyria (Zephaniah 2:13). Lowman then adds:

The truth of the matter is that nearly all attacks against Israel came from the north directionally speaking. The easiest way to travel to attack Israel would be from the North. As noted all the great enemies of Israel were from the East or West but their attacks all came from the North. This is also true in several instances in Ezekiel. There are several mentions of nation from the North attaching even though the nation of origin came from the East or West… The closest nation from a northern proximity to ever attack Israel would have been Rome, from across the Mediterranean Sea.

In Lowman’s third post, he agrees with Kenneth Gentry (as we will see) that the battle of Revelation 20, with its reference to Gog and Magog (verse 8), is only an allusion to the battle described in Ezekiel 38-39, but is not a reference to the same historical event.

In Lowman’s fourth post, he notes that many believe that “this event was fulfilled during the time of the Macabbean Revolt [during the second century BC]. This view argues that the enemy in question is Antiochus Epiphanies which would fit the Persian expectation and the worldwide expanse of the Persian empire at that time.” This doesn’t really fit, though, he says, because the Macabbean Revolt involved throwing off the rule of an occupying force after several years, while the attack in Ezekiel describes divine intervention at the time of an invasion.

Instead, Lowman submits that the fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39 “is found during the time of Esther and involves the Israelite victory over Haman’s “schemes” and complete victory of the outmatched Israel forces.” In the second part of this section, Gary DeMar will expand on the idea that Ezekiel 38-39 was fulfilled in Esther’s day.

2. Gary DeMar’s View—Similar to That of David Lowman’s:

At the outset of Gary DeMar’s article, I would like to include a small disclaimer that I personally appreciate some of DeMar’s works more than others. I have read/skimmed excerpts from his books “Last Days Madness” and “Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future,” and appreciated what I read. In short, I have appreciated his articulation of the preterist viewpoint which I also share. However, I’m not on the same page when it comes to the Postmillennial position of his ministry, American Vision, as well as some of the political rants of AV which seem to follow in the vein of World Net Daily, a publication which I respect just about as much as I respect The National Enquirer. Having said that, DeMar’s article on Gog and Magog is quite thought-provoking:

…If the battle described in Ezekiel 38–39 does not refer to modern-day nations that will attack Israel, then when and where in biblical history did this conflict take place? Instead of looking to the distant future or finding fulfillment in a historical setting outside the Bible where we are dependent on unreliable secular sources, James B. Jordan believes that “it is in [the book of] Esther that we see a conspiracy to plunder the Jews, which backfires with the result that the Jews plundered their enemies. This event is then ceremonially sealed with the institution of the annual Feast of Purim.” Jordan continues by establishing the context for Ezekiel 38 and 39:

Ezekiel describes the attack of Gog, Prince of Magog, and his confederates. Ezekiel states that people from all over the world attack God’s people, who are pictured dwelling at peace in the land. God’s people will completely defeat them, however, and the spoils will be immense. The result is that all nations will see the victory, and “the house of Israel will know that I am the Lord their God from that day onward” (Ezek. 39:21–23). . . . Chronologically this all fits very nicely. The events of Esther took place during the reign of Darius, after the initial rebuilding of the Temple under Joshua [the High Priest] and Zerubbabel and shortly before rebuilding of the walls by Nehemiah. . . . Thus, the interpretive hypothesis I am suggesting (until someone shoots it down) is this: Ezekiel 34–37 describes the first return of the exiles under Zerubbabel, and implies the initial rebuilding of the physical Temple. Ezekiel 38–39 describes the attack of Gog (Haman) and his confederates against the Jews. Finally, Ezekiel 40–48 describes in figurative language the situation as a result of the work of Nehemiah.

Ezekiel 38:5–6 tells us that Israel’s enemies come from “Persia, Cush, and . . . from the remote parts of the north,” all within the boundaries of the Persian Empire of Esther’s day. From Esther we learn that the Persian Empire “extended from India to Cush, 127 provinces” in all (Esther 8:9). Ethiopia (Cush) and Persia are listed in Esther 1:1 and 3 and are also found in Ezekiel 38:5. The other nations were in the geographical boundaries “from India to Ethiopia” in the “127 provinces” over which Ahasueras ruled (Esther 1:1). “In other words, the explicit idea that the Jews were attacked by people from all the provinces of Persia is in both passages,” and the nations listed by Ezekiel were part of the Persian empire of the prophet’s day. The parallels are unmistakable. Even Ezekiel’s statement that the fulfillment of the prophecy takes place in a time when there are “unwalled villages” (Ezek. 38:11) is not an indication of a distant future fulfillment as Grant Jeffrey attempts to argue:

It is interesting to note that during the lifetime of Ezekiel and up until 1900, virtually all of the villages and cities in the Middle East had walls for defense. Ezekiel had never seen a village or city without defensive walls. Yet, in our day, Israel is a “land of unwalled villages” for the simple reason that modern techniques of warfare (bombs and missiles) make city walls irrelevant for defense. This is one more indication that his prophecy refers to our modern generation.

* * * * *

Ezekiel’s reference to “dwell safely” and “without walls . . . neither bars nor gates” refers precisely to Israel’s current military situation, where she is dwelling safely because of her strong armed defense and where her cities and villages have no walls or defensive bars. The prophet had never seen a city without walls, so he was astonished when he saw, in a vision, Israel dwelling in the future without walls. Ezekiel lived in a time when every city in the world used huge walls for military defense.

In Esther we learn that there were Jews who were living peacefully in “unwalled towns” (KJV) (9:19) when Haman conspired against them. Israel’s antagonists in Ezekiel are said to “go up against the land of unwalled villages” (Ezek. 38:11). The Hebrew word perazah is used in Esther 9:19 and Ezekiel 38:11. This fits the conditions of Esther’s day. Jeffrey is mistaken in his assertion that “Ezekiel had never seen a village or city without defensive walls.” They seemed to be quite common outside the main cities. Moreover, his contention that Israel is currently “dwelling safely because of her strong armed defense” is patently untrue. Since 2006, the Israeli government has built more than 435 miles of walls in Israel.

The chief antagonist of the Jews in Esther is Haman, “the son of Hammedatha the Agagite” (Esther 3:1, 10; 8:3, 5; 9:24). An Agagite is a descendant of Amalek, one of the persistent enemies of the people of God. In Numbers 24:20 we read, “Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.” The phrase “first of the nations” takes us back to the early chapters of Genesis where we find “Gomer,” “Magog,” “Tubal,” and “Meshech,” and their father Japheth (Gen. 10:2), the main antagonist nations that figure prominently in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Amalek was probably a descendant of Japheth (Gen. 10:2). Haman and his ten sons are the last Amalekites who appear in the Bible. In Numbers 24:7, the Septuagint (LXX) translates “Agag” as “Gog.” “One late manuscript to Esther 3:1 and 9:24 refers to Haman as a ‘Gogite.’” Agag and Gog are very similar in their Hebrew spelling and meaning. Agagite means “I will overtop,” while Gog means “mountain.” In his technical commentary on Esther, Lewis Bayles Paton writes:

The only Agag  mentioned in the OT is the king of Amalek [Num. 24:7; 1 Sam. 15:9]. . . . [A]ll Jewish, and many Christian comm[entators] think that Haman is meant to be a descendant of this Agag. This view is probably correct, because Mordecai, his rival, is a descendant of Saul ben Kish, who overthrew Agag [1 Sam. 17:8–16], and is specially cursed in the law [Deut. 25:17]. It is, therefore, probably the author’s intention to represent Haman as descended from this race that was characterized by an ancient and unquenchable hatred of Israel (cf. 3:10, “the enemy of the Jews”).

A cursive Hebrew manuscript identifies Haman as “a Gogite.” Paul Haupt sees a relationship between Haman’s descriptions as an Agagite and “the Gogite.”

There is another link between Haman the Agagite in Esther and Gog in Ezekiel 38–39. “According to Ezekiel 39:11 and 15, the place where the army of Gog is buried will be known as the Valley of Hamon-Gog, and according to verse 16, the nearby city will become known as Hamonah.”[12] The word hamon in Ezekiel “is spelled in Hebrew almost exactly like the name Haman. . . . In Hebrew, both words have the same ‘triliteral root’ (hmn). Only the vowels are different.”

Haman is the “prince-in-chief” of a multi-national force that he gathers from the 127 provinces with the initial permission of king Ahasuerus to wipe out his mortal enemy—the Jews (Ex. 17:8–16; Num. 24:7; 1 Sam. 15:8; 1 Chron. 4:42–43; Deut. 25:17–19). Consider these words: “King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and established his authority over all the princes who were with him” (Esther 3:1). Having “authority over all the princes who were with him” makes him the “chief prince.” In Esther 3:12 we read how Haman is described as the leader of the satraps, governors, and princes… (More here).

A few of the parallels between the accounts in Esther and Ezekiel 38-39, which Gary DeMar didn’t mention but David Lowman does, are as follows:

  • Ezra and Nehemiah both mention the large amounts of silver and gold that the Jews brought back from exile. These are the same items we are told the approaching armies were attacking to plunder.
  • The battle with Haman’s armies takes place after Israel is returned to the land—during Darius’ reign. Ezekiel prophesied until just a few short decades before this time.
  • Esther and Ezekiel’s enemies from the north both contain Persia and Ethiopia.
  • In a very short battle [in Esther] the Israelites destroy Haman’s army killing nearly 100,000 despite being greatly out-manned.
  • In fact, both passages state that the Jews were attacked by all of Persia’s provinces.

PROS: [1] Lowman makes a good point that Ezekiel went to great lengths to describe ancient warfare (“horses and horsemen…full armor…buckler and shield, wielding swords…shields and helmet…bow and arrows, clubs and spears” [Ezek. 38:4-5; 39:9]). Unless context clearly dictates otherwise, it would be a huge stretch to make this a description of modern warfare.

[2] I appreciated DeMar’s effort in noting the context of the chapters surrounding Ezekiel 38-39 (i.e. the first return of the exiles from Babylon under Zerubbabel), thus legitimizing his statement that it’s plausible for this text to be applied to Esther’s day if the other data fits.

[3] DeMar argues well for parallel boundaries between the Persian Empire in Esther’s day and Gog/Magog and her allies in Ezekiel’s vision.

[4] In Ezekiel’s vision, the Jews were living in unwalled towns. DeMar notes that this was also the case in Esther’s day, which makes sense since they were part of the Persian Empire at that time, an empire known for its benevolence and for taking good care of its subjects.

[5] The Agag-Gog connection is very intriguing, where Haman (the enemy of Esther) is shown to be an “Agagite” and even a “Gogite” in some manuscripts. That the invaders in Ezekiel’s vision would be buried in the Valley of Hamon-Gog only adds to the intrigue.

[6] The five parallels between the accounts in Esther and Ezekiel are all credible, making this interpretation a very legitimate possibility.

CONS: [1] There is no Biblical record explicitly stating that what took place in Esther’s day was first prophesied by Ezekiel. The connections, though fascinating, are implicit rather than explicit.

[2] There are details recorded in Ezekiel’s vision that are not recorded in Esther’s account, which can be seen primarily in Esther 9.

[B] Kenneth Gentry: Ezekiel 38-39 is Historically Distinct from Rev. 19 and 20

Kenneth Gentry is an ordained Presbyterian minister and author who, like Gary DeMar and David Lowman, is a partial-preterist. On page 160 of his newest book titled “Navigating the Book of Revelation: Special Studies on Important Issues, Gentry notes several parallels between the structure of Ezekiel and how John organizes the book of Revelation. Among these structural parallels, he says, is the correlation between Ezekiel 38-39 and Revelation 19-20.[2] Gentry’s main contribution here, though, will be his explanation that Revelation 19 and 20 simply draw on Ezekiel 38-39, but are not the same event. In other words, John, in both Revelation 19 and 20, only alludes to the prophecy given by Ezekiel (future to Ezekiel, but past to John) as a harbinger of what is to come in his own future.

Aside from this explanation, I haven’t been able to find Gentry’s precise position on the interpretation of Ezekiel 38-39. At “The Forerunner” website where many of his products are sold I did find an article written in 1990 by his ministry associate, Jay Rogers, titled “Is the Soviet Union Gog and Magog?” In this article, Jay Rogers proposes that Ezekiel’s prophecy concerned the Scythian invaders of the 2nd century BC:

Others have understood this vision as a prophecy which was fulfilled in the 2nd century B.C. at the defeat of the Assyrian invaders of Palestine by Judas Maccabeus… Ezekiel 38-39 should be understood in the context of its apocalyptic literary style; this is a highly visionary passage depicting an earthly struggle of Ezekiel’s time which is only a smaller reflection of a spiritual conflict between the forces of heaven and hell. Historically, the nations mentioned in this passage, Magog, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Beth-togarmah, were a barbarous people known as the Scythians. These were a nomadic people who had moved from central Asia to southern Russia. Just about the same time that Ezekiel was born, the Scythians terrorized southwest Asia and the Middle East.

Whether this is Kenneth Gentry’s personal position at this time, I don’t know. The closest admission I could find from Gentry on his own view of Ezekiel’s prophecy is this statement:

[Greg] Beale (980) allows the possibility that Eze. 38–39 could point to second century BC events (Antiochus Epiphanes) that serve as “typological patterns” for what will “happen at the end of history” (cf. Bøe 373). Riddlebarger recognizes that “Divine judgments in history are, so to speak, rehearsals of the last judgment.” That is precisely my understanding of John’s use of Ezekiel to refer to AD 70: for AD 70 is a distant adumbration of the end of history which will come at the Second Advent.

These thoughts from Gentry, as well as what follows, can be found in a publication written by Kenneth Gentry titled “Recapitulation v Progress.” This is a primer for a full-length, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation which Gentry is currently working on. This particular publication is #13 among his Revelation Commentary Updates so far, and these excerpts are from pages 2-9 of that publication.

What follows is a summary of Gentry’s view that Ezekiel’s prophecy is merely drawn upon by John to signify the events of Revelation 19-20. In our introduction to Revelation 20 we noted that Gentry’s partial-preterist views cause him to agree with the premillennial position that Revelation 20:7-10 does not cover the same historical ground as Revelation 19:11-21 either. The reason that this is important to note is because both of these passages in Revelation allude to Ezekiel 38-39. His (rare) agreement with premillennialists on this point comes, though, “with quite different results,” as he explains:

I hold that Christ’s coming from heaven to wage war in Revelation 19:11ff represents His judgment coming on Israel in AD 70. As such it reflects the theme of the book found in 1:7, where he comes against those tribes who pierced him (the Jews). Consequently, 20:1ff presents the consequence of Christ’s judgment of Israel, Christianity’s first major enemy: the binding of Satan, the vindication of the martyrs, and the spiritual rule of believers with Christ in the present age.

Here Gentry makes the following statements regarding the non-explicit references to Gog and Magog in Revelation 19 and the explicit mention of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:

R. Fowler White notes [that Revelation] 19:17–18 is “virtually a verbatim quotation” of Ezekiel 39:17–20 (1989: 326), and [Revelation] 20:7–10 specifically mentions “Gog and Magog” (Ezekiel 38:2; 39:1, 6), showing God destroying them with fire from heaven (cp. Rev 20:7–10; Eze 38:22; 39:6). Clearly then, John bases both “the Armageddon revolt (19:17–21) and the Gog-Magog revolt (20:7–10) on the same prophetic passage” (1989: 327)… [Both Revelation 19:19–21 and Revelation 20:7–10] allude to the same OT eschatological battle prophecy (Ezekiel 38–39).

Gentry notes that there are those who draw from these facts the premise that the events of Revelation 19:19-21 and Revelation 20:7-10 must therefore refer to the same historical event. This is most common among amillennialists who also hold to the Historicist (rather than futurist or preterist) position. However, he adds:

Though “significant correspondence” of a “highly peculiar” nature exists between Rev. 19 and Ezekiel 39, problems confront this interpretation: First, similarity does not entail identity. Simply because John patterns both the battles of Rev. 19 and Rev. 20 on Eze. 38–39 does not mean they are the same battle. Similar language is used because similar fundamental realities prevail: God is catastrophically judging oppressive enemies of His people.

Many scholars see AD 70 as a microcosm of the final judgment. Consequently, we may expect the same imagery to apply to both AD 70 and the end. For instance, of those first century events, Bloesch states: “The catastrophe that befell the Jewish people in A.D. 70 is a sign of the final judgment.” Morris agrees: “…[We see that there is] a theological unity between the two judgments, and that some of what Jesus says [in the Olivet Discourse] could apply equally well to both.” Second, as Bøe notes, John often makes double use of Ezekiel’s images (Bøe, 275). The imagery from Ezekiel’s scroll vision in Eze. 2:8–33 applies both to Rev 5:1 and 10:8–11; Ezekiel’s measuring imagery in Eze 40–48 appears in quite distinct passages in Rev 11:1–2 and 21:10–27 (Bøe 371).

…If John had wanted us to understand recapitulation [the repetition of the same events] rather than sequence in this passage [Revelation 20], John “did us no favor” by: (a) recasting the beast and false prophet (19:20) as Gog and Magog (20:8); (b) inserting a thousand year period between the two battles (20:2–5); (c) representing the period of Christian history from the first century to the end as “a short time” (12:12) and as “a thousand years” (20:2–6)… (d) offering no hint that Satan is bound before Rev 19:11ff while emphasizing his being bound before Rev 20:7ff; and (e) telling us that Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet already are (20:10).

…[The judgment of] AD 70 (in Rev. 19:11–21) anticipates the final eschatological battle (Rev. 20:8–10)… It even seems that the NT emphasizes AD 70 more frequently — probably because it was looming in the near future, directly relevant to first century Christians, and of catastrophic significance in re-orienting their thinking regarding the flow of redemptive history… Indeed, it seems that the NT knows of only two great battles remaining in redemptive history: AD 70 which closes the old covenant era (and inaugurates the new covenant) and the Second Advent which closes the new covenant era (and history). Jesus certainly seems to link AD 70 and the Second Advent in his large Olivet Discourse… In addition, John limits Revelation’s prophecies to the near term (1:1, 3; 22:6, 10), which suggests a strong emphasis on AD 70.

Having made his case that Revelation 19:11-21 and Revelation 20:8-10 are separate and distinct events, Gentry then makes his case for why Ezekiel 38-39 is also not one and the same with Revelation 20:

Ezekiel 38–39 does not fit either the imagery of Rev 20:7–10 or its consummational setting… We see this in that:

(1) In Ezekiel God is on the offensive and gathers Gog (38:1–4; 39:1–2), whereas in Revelation Satan takes the offensive and gathers “Gog” (20:7–10).

(2) In Ezekiel Gog is motivated by plunder (Eze 38:12–13), whereas in Rev. 20:8 he is moved by Satan’s deception without regard to plunder.

(3) Ezekiel speaks of an actual battle wherein God causes men to fight one another with swords (38:21), which is a common motif description for confused historical battle (Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20; Haggai 2:2; Zech. 14:13). This is a common way of showing God providentially and indirectly (rather than miraculously and directly) punishing men in history (e.g., Isaiah 10:5; 13:17). But Rev. 20:7–10 seems to present a purely final-eschatological judgment, involving direct divine destruction by fire (20:9b), with no mention of human implements of war involved.

(4) Ezekiel speaks of Israel becoming faithful at that time because of that battle (39:22–24), whereas Rev. 20 has God’s people already ruling and reigning (20:4) and living in obedience in the “beloved city” (20:9b) at the time of this final judgment…

(6) Ezekiel emphasizes certain events occurring after the battle, including burning the weapons for seven years (39:9), burying the dead (39:12–16), and other nations witnessing God’s triumph and Israel’s faithfulness “from that day onward” (39:21–24). These clearly show history continuing after the battle. But Revelation presents the climactic end-time wrath of God (20:9c), which is followed by the final judgment and the end of history (20:11–15).

PROS: [1] While Gentry says very little about how Ezekiel 38-39 may have been fulfilled, he provides plenty of well-thought-out reasons for why this passage is to be seen as historically distinct from Revelation 19 and Revelation 20. To add to his reasons already given, I offer these as well: [a] Those being attacked in Ezekiel 38-39 dwell in the cities of Israel (Ezek. 39:9) with livestock, goods (38:13), and are dependent on wood from the forests (39:10). Those who are attacked in Revelation 20:7-10 are identified as “the camp of the saints and the beloved city,” a clear parallel to “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:22-23; i.e. the Church). [b] In Ezekiel, Israel’s attackers come from “the uttermost parts of the north” (Ezek. 38:6), while in Revelation Gog and Magog comes from “the four corners of the earth” (Rev. 20:8).

[2] The first-century historian Josephus, as will be noted in the futurist section below, affirmed that the Scythian peoples of his day could trace their descent from Magog.

CONS: Kenneth Gentry, at least here in this material, doesn’t offer much of an explanation for how Ezekiel 38-39 may have been fulfilled by events in the second century BC. This does nothing, however, to take away from his well-argued premise that this prophecy is historically distinct from the prophecies of Revelation 19 and 20.

[C] The Futurist Position: Ezekiel 38-39 is Not Yet Fulfilled (and neither is Revelation 19 or 20)

In this section, we will only deal with the futurist position on Ezekiel 38-39, and not on Revelation 19 and 20 (it’s a given that the majority of futurists see Revelation 19 as taking place in the future prior to Christ’s Second Coming, and Revelation 20 taking place 1000 years later at the end of the Millennium. When it comes to discussions on Gog and Magog, futurist authors have had a great deal to say regarding Ezekiel 38-39. The highly resourceful Preterist Archive has preserved several quotes from well-known futurist authors on this subject. For example, Hal Lindsey had this to say:

“When the Russians invade the Middle East with amphibious and mechanized land forces, they will make a ‘blitzkreig’ type of offensive through the area… The current build-up of Russian ships in the Mediterranean serves as another significant sign of the possible nearness of Armageddon” (The Late Great Planet Earth, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1970,  p. 145-146)

“Dr. Cummings, writing in 1864, said, “This king of the North I conceive to be the autocrat of Russia.. that Russia occupies a place, and a very momentous place, in the prophetic word has been admitted by almost all expositors.” (ibid., p. 52)

(Hal Lindsey changing tune after [the] fall of Russia) “But world domination — as Ezekiel makes clear — was never in the script for Russia!” (italics in original, Cited in Pate and Haines, p. 138)

Patti and Paul Lalonde made this sweeping statement in 1992:

“Bible scholars agree that ‘Gog’ also described as ‘prince of Rosh,’ is the leader of what is modern day Russia.” (In the Edge of Time: The Final Countdown Has Begun)

And Tim Lahaye made these remarks, also in 1992:

“Etymology is the study of linguistic changes and the history of words.  We will investigate the etymology of the names of nations.  As we will see, “Magog” is an ancient name for the nation now known as Russia.  “Gog” merely means “the chief prince of Magog,” or more literally, the chief prince of Meschech and Tubal (38:2-3; 39:1).

The name “Moscow” derives from the tribal name “Meshech,” and “Tobolsk, the name of the principal state, from “Tubal.” The noun “Gog” is from the original tribal name “Magog,” which gradually became “Rosh,” then “Russ,” and today is known as “Russia.” (“Will God Destroy Russia, in Storming Towards Armageddon: Essays in Apocalypse, ed. Wm. James (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 1992), p. 260-261)

“Russia is unquestionably the nation identified in the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39.” (“Will God Destroy Russia, in Storming Towards Armageddon: Essays in Apocalypse, ed. Wm. James (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 1992), p. 259)

Dispensationalist futurist Thomas Ice notes that “Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in their best-selling novel Left Behind, place this invasion of Israel right before the rapture of the church.” Ice adds: “The strength of this position is that it accounts for the burning of the weapons of war for seven years as mentioned in Ezekiel 39:9. However, Tim LaHaye has told me personally that even though they represented a pre-rapture position on Ezekiel 38 and 39 in their novel, he tends to place it after the rapture but before the tribulation.” Ice then accounts for several other variations within the futurist (mostly dispensationalist) camp regarding the placement of Ezekiel’s vision:

The next view, which is the one I hold at this time, is that it will happen after the rapture but before the tribulation. It will be during the interval of days, weeks, months or years between the rapture and the start of the seven-year tribulation. This view also accounts for the seven years of Ezekiel 39:9. I have always thought that one of the strengths of this view is the way in which it could set the stage for the Biblical scenario of the tribulation. If the tribulation is closely preceded by a failed regional invasion of Israel, in other words Russia and her Muslim allies, then this would remove much of the Russian and Muslim influence currently in the world today and allow a Euro-centric orientation to arise. So the tribulation is preceded by a failed regional attack on Israel and this is why the tribulation ends with all the peoples of the world attacking Israel at Armageddon. It could also set the stage for the rebuilding of the Temple as a result of Islamic humiliation.

Perhaps the most widely held view put forth within dispensational literature is that this invasion will take place around the middle of the seven-year tribulation. This view often identifies Ezekiel 38 and 39 with an invasion of the king of the north in Daniel 11:40. Another major argument is based upon the statement that Israel will be “living securely, all of them” (Ezek. 38:8), which is the result of the false peace brought by the anti-Christ in the first half of the tribulation. This view has a lot in its favor.

A significant number of Bible teachers believe that the Gog and Magog event is synonymous with what the Book of Revelation calls the Campaign of Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Since Armageddon is a huge invasion of Israel around the time of the second coming and the invasion of Israel described in Ezekiel 38 and 39 is said to be in “the latter years” (Ezek. 38:8) and “in the last days” (Ezek. 38:16), then they must be the same event. A similar, but slightly different view is that the invasion occurs after the second coming of Christ, during the interlude between the tribulation and the start of the millennium. The main argument for this view is that Israel would be dwelling in peace (Ezek. 38:8).

The last major view is that the battle of Ezekiel 38 and 39 will occur at the end of the millennium. The basis for this view is significant since Revelation 20:7–9 speaks of a conflict at the end of the millennium when Satan is released. Verse 8 says, “(Satan) will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corner of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war . . .” The strength of this view is obvious, Gog and Magog are specifically mentioned in the text.

In Part 2 of this same study, Thomas Ice speculates on the identity of Gog and Magog:

“The name Gog means ‘high, supreme, a height, or a high mountain.’”  The only references to the Gog of Ezekiel’s prophecy appear in the passage itself and there is virtually no information about Gog outside the Bible in history. However, when Gog leads his invasion of Israel he is said to come “from the remote parts of the north” (Ezek. 38:6). Louis Bauman tells us that “L. Sale-Harrison says in his booklet, The Coming Great Northern Confederacy: ‘It is interesting to note that the very word ‘Caucasus’ means ‘Gog’s Fort.’ ‘Gog’ and ‘Chasan’ (Fort) are two Oriental words from which it is derived.’”  So there does appear to be a faint reference to Gog in the general area of Russia that Gog is likely to be from.

Who then is Gog? Bauman says, “Without doubt, Russia will furnish the man—not the Antichrist—who will head up that which is known to most Bible students as ‘the great northeastern confederacy’ of nations and lead it to its doom upon the hills of Israel’s land.” …Hal Lindsey tells us, “Gog is the symbolic name of the nation’s leader and Magog is his land. He is also the prince of the ancient people who were called Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.”  Arnold Fruchtenbaum informs us: “Who Gog will be can only be determined at the time of the invasion, for ‘Gog’ is not a proper name but a title for the rule of Magog, just as the terms ‘pharaoh,’ ‘kaiser,’ and ‘czar’ were titles for rulers and not proper names.”

…The fact that Magog is used in the table of nations (Genesis 10)  provides a basis for tracing the movement of one of the earliest post-flood descendants of Noah. It appears that Ezekiel is using the names of peoples, primarily from the table of nations, and where they lived at the time of the giving of this prophecy in the sixth century B.C. Therefore, if we are able to find out where these people and places were in the sixth century B.C. then we will be able to trace figure out who would be their modern antecedents today. I believe we will be able to accomplish this task and be able to know who will be involved in this battle if it were to come to pass in our own day.

It is probably fair to say that most scholars and experts would trace Magog’s descendants to the ancient people that we know as the Scythians. Chuck Missler notes that a wide collection of ancient historians “identified Magog with the Scythians and southern Russia in the 7th century B.C.”15 These ancients include: Hesiod, Josephus, Philo, and Herodotus. Josephus lived in the first century A.D. and said, “Magog founded the Magogians, thus named after him but who by the Greeks are called Scythians.”

Who are the Scythians? Edwin Yamauchi tells us that the Scythians were divided into two groups, a narrow and broad grouping. “In the narrow sense, the Scythians were the tribes who lived in the area which Herodotus designated as Scythia (i.e., the territory north of the Black Sea),” notes Yamauchi. “In the broad sense the word Scythian can designate some of the many other tribes in the vast steppes of Russia, stretching from the Ukraine in the west to the region of Siberia in the east.”

I haven’t read further in Ice’s narrative, not in any real detail anyway, but the reader can get the idea where he is going from here, in painstakingly attempting to trace through more than 2000 years of history who are the modern descendants of the Scythians. To continue reading, though, by all means see Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10 (which only brings the reader up to Ezekiel 38:6!), and all the other parts that I lost the energy to link to.

PROS: Aside from identifying these speculations as bad exegesis (critical interpretation), it’s difficult to prove them wrong because they are always said to be just ahead in God’s prophetic calendar [I suppose this is part pro / part con]. Thus, it might be said, who can say that these things won’t play out in the way that futurists say that they will?

CONS: [1] This interpretation, ironically, highly allegorizes the references to ancient warfare (“horses and horsemen…full armor…buckler and shield, wielding swords…shields and helmet…bow and arrows, clubs and spears” [Ezek. 38:4-5; 39:9]). This is ironic because futurists and dispensationalists tend to pride themselves on holding to a literal interpretation of Scripture far more often than those who hold alternative viewpoints.

[2] This interpretation virtually ignores the fact that Ezekiel’s prophecies were, in the primary sense, contemporary to his day and concerned the period in which the Israelites were to return from exile in Babylon under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

[3] This interpretation makes the modern, political nation of Israel the recipients of God’s special blessing, promises, and protection in this present age. However, the promises were made to Abraham and his singular offspring, Christ (Galatians 3:16), and Abraham’s true offspring (the heirs according to promise) are only those who belong to Christ (Gal. 3:29).

[4] This prophecy must take place when the nation of Israel, according to this view, is dwelling securely (Ezek. 38:8) in “the land of unwalled villages” (verse 11). This is not even close to the situation in Israel today. Many dispensationalists, though (e.g. Lahaye), say this must be the situation prior to a future 7-year Tribulation period, because the weapons of Israel’s attackers will be burned for seven years (Ezek. 39:9), AFTER seven months of burying their attackers (Ezek. 39:12). Yet, dispensationalists say that peace will be secured for national Israel when “the Antichrist” makes a covenant with that nation at the very beginning of the Tribulation (an idea which I believe to be a severe misapplication of Daniel 9:27), only to break it 3.5 years later.

In this scenario, the 7-month burial period would mean that Israel will be dwelling in security more than half a year prior to the alleged future covenant established by “the Antichrist.” Why would such security exist for months before “the Antichrist” comes along to establish it?

[5] There is much more which could be addressed concerning the various futurist viewpoints noted by Thomas Ice above, but I’d rather not take up  more space in doing so. Perhaps I will do so later in the comments section. For the record, though, I personally happen to believe that the Great Tribulation (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 7:14) was fulfilled during the Roman-Jewish War leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, a subject which has been addressed at length elsewhere on this blog.

[D] Kurt Simmons: Ezekiel 38-39, Revelation 19, and Revelation 20 Were All Fulfilled in 70 AD

Kurt M. Simmons is a full-preterist who believes that “Gog and Magog [as mentioned in Revelation 20:8] was a symbol employed for the persecution under Nero and the Jews.” In other words, for Simmons, the battle described in this passage brought an end to the Millennium just before 70 AD, thus making the Millennium last for only 40 years (beginning around 30 AD and ending around 70 AD). This idea was discussed more fully in Part 2 of our Minority Views on the Millennium. Simmons’ viewpoint is the only one discussed so far which sees Revelation 20:7-10 as not merely alluding to Ezekiel 38-39, but being one and the same event described in both texts.

By way of background information on Ezekiel 38-39, Simmons says,

The three major themes of the OT prophets were 1) the coming judgment upon Israel and Judah in which they would be carried into captivity; 2) the restoration of the nation to the land; and 3) the kingdom of the Messiah. Although separated by several hundred years, prophecies about the return of the captivity and the nation’s political restoration were often woven together with prophecies about the kingdom of the Messiah and the spiritual restoration of man in Christ. In fact, the gathering together and return of the captivity under Zerubbabel became a type of the Messiah, who would gather together [true] Israel and lead them unto spiritual Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem.

Simmons then cites Hosea 1:11, 3:4-5 and Amos 9:8-14 as two examples of prophecy having a more immediate sense as well as ultimately a fuller sense. Moving on to the book of Ezekiel, Simmons remarks:

The imagery of Gog and Magog in Revelation is adapted from Ezekiel. Like other prophets, Ezekiel wrote about the coming captivity, the restoration to the land, and the coming kingdom of the Messiah. The first half of Ezekiel addresses the coming captivity and is laden with prophecies of wrath and lamentation; the latter half is devoted to the themes of national restoration and the coming of Christ. Ezekiel’s most graphic portrayal of the return of the captivity is set out in his prophecy of the “valley of dry bones” (Ezek. 37:1-17): The nation was in captivity; the ten northern tribes carried away by the Assyrians; Judah carried away to Babylon. The temple was burned, the city lay in ruins. Ezekiel likened the nation unto a defeated army, whose bleached bones lay scattered across a vast plain. The question for the Jews of the captivity was did the nation have a future? The answer was, Yes!

…The prophecy of the dry bones [Ezekiel 37:11-12] would be fulfilled in the restoration of Israel to its land. Cyrus would allow the city to be rebuilt and the captives to return home. This happened in the great migrations under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. But Ezekiel’s prophecy didn’t stop with the return of the captivity; like other OT prophets it looked beyond the return of the captivity unto the spiritual restoration of man in Christ.

Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side…and David my servant shall be king over them. Ezek. 37:21, 24; emphasis added.

Like Hosea’s prophecy of “David their king,” David here is a symbol for Christ and speaks to the restoration of the Davidic throne that had been usurped by Nebuchadnezzar and the Gentile powers. However, Christ would not sit upon the throne of David on earth or the terrestrial Jerusalem, but in the heavenly Jerusalem above. Peter made this abundantly clear in the very first gospel sermon after Christ’s resurrection [Acts 2:29-34]… Premillennial hopes of Christ seated upon David throne upon earth are empty and vain; they embody the very hope that led the Jews to crucify Christ; for they looked for a national liberator, not a Savior who would deliver from the bondage of sin and death. When, therefore, Ezekiel and the prophets speak of David ruling over his people, we understand that they spoke of Christ and the church. The church is the restored Israel and kingdom of Messianic prophecy.

Ezekiel’s prophecies of the valley of dry bones and “David my servant” occur in Ezekiel thirty-seven; the prophecy of Gog and Magog occurs in chapters thirty-eight and thirty-nine. Thus, restored Israel (the church) under “David” is the historical and chronological context of the prophecy about Gog and Magog.

The Eschatological Battle of Gog & Magog

Ezekiel describes the great battle of the end time in terms of a pagan hoard that invades the land of Israel; a host so numerous that they ascend like a storm and a cloud to cover the land [Ezekiel 38:1-8]. Several points need to be made at this juncture. First, Gog has set himself as the enemy of God and his people and there is an historical account that the Lord wants to settle. When he says that “after many days thou shalt be visited,” the prophet indicates that God has abstained from vengeance for many years, but that Gog’s day would come. Gog’s war against restored Israel was divinely permitted or ordained, and would provide occasion for judgment and vengeance against the people symbolized by Gog. Second, the invasion of Gog would occur in the latter times. This phrase speaks to the closing years of the world economy marked by the reign of sin and death. This places Gog’s attack upon restored Israel in the period immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, for the end of the mosaic age coincided with the end of the world order that obtained from the time of mankind’s fall. Third, the description of Gog’s territory mirrors that of the Roman empire. Ethiopia and Libya were Rome’s south-western boundary, Persia beyond the Euphrates unto the Caspian sea was its eastern-most boundary, and the “north quarters” coasting long the Black sea and the Danube unto theBritish isles were its northern-most holdings. Evidence that Ezekiel’s description of Gog’s territory answers to that of Rome is provided by Agrippa II’s famous speech attempting to dissuade the Jews from war with Rome, recorded by Josephus:

For all Euphrates is not a sufficient boundary for them on the east side, nor the Danube on the north, and for their southern limit, Libya has been searched over by them, as far as countries uninhabited, as is Cadiz their limit on the west.” Josephus, Wars, II, xvi, 4, Whiston ed.

Having established the time of Gog’s attack and the extent of his territory, it remains only to show whom he attacked. Ezekiel describes the objects of Gog’s invasion as those “brought forth out of the nations;” viz., restored Israel under “David,” which is to say, the church. But if Gog’s territory answers to the Roman empire, and the time of his attack upon the church preceded the destruction of Jerusalem, then what historical event must the prophet have in mind? That’s right, the great spiritual battle that overtook the church in the first century. The battle of Gog and Magog is a symbol of the eschatological persecution of the saints by Nero and the Jews. This conclusion is corroborated by John’s Revelation.

For the sake of brevity, I’ll skip much of what Simmons says regarding Revelation 11-12, the on and off persecution of the Church between Christ’s ascension and Nero’s reign, his speculation regarding Claudius Caesar being the angel of Revelation 20:1, etc. It can be seen by following the link to this article, but quite honestly I find some of the details in this section to be noteworthy, and others to be rather odd. Simmons then moves in on his conclusion by saying this:

“Satan” is a generic term signifying an adversary. The character which here in verse seven is called “satan” in verse two is called the “dragon.” In other words, the adversary in this case was world civil power embodied in Rome, Nero, and the Jews. In Rome, the beast was identified with Nero, who was its driving power (Rev. 13:1-10); in Asia and other parts of the empire, the Jews, at the behest of their leaders in Jerusalem, were the driving force. John portrays this by a harlot, riding the beast in a surfeit of blood and gore. (Rev. 17:3-6) In Palestine, the persecution was driven by the “false prophet,” the religious leaders of the Jews who bade them to make an inquisition against the church like unto the beast’s. (Rev. 13:11-18) The dragon and beast make war against the church by surrounding the “camp of the saints” (the church). But fire comes down from God out of heaven and consumes Gog and his host, and the dragon, beast, and false prophet are cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 19:20, 21; 20:9, 10) The harlot is also consumed. (Rev. 18) An angel calls to the birds of heaven to come and devour the carcasses of the slain. (Rev. 19:17, 18; cf. Ezek. 39:17) Following the world-wide devastations of the last days, God renews the earth, in which the church reigns supreme with Christ. (Rev. 21, 22)

Conclusion

The battle of Gog and Magog was a symbol for the eschatological battle of the last days; the persecution under Nero and the Jews.

PROS: [1] I appreciated Simmons’ development of the chapters surrounding Ezekiel 38-39, as he rightfully (I believe) pointed out that Ezekiel 37 was a prophecy (at least in the primary sense) of Israel’s return to its land and subsequent restoration under Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. I was also intrigued by his discussion of the double fulfillment of certain prophetic passages, i.e. having both an immediate sense and an ultimate sense.

[2] Simmons points out that Ezek. 38:8 speaks of this attack taking place in “the latter years,” which he defines as the end of the Mosaic age marked by the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Being that Ezekiel and Daniel were near contemporaries, it’s interesting that Daniel was told that his visions would see fulfillment at “the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4, 9; cf. Dan. 8:17, 26). The phrase(s) used in Daniel are a bit stronger, but it’s possible that “the latter years” could be a synonym for the “the time of the end.” Some of what Daniel prophesies is thought to have taken place, though, during the 2nd century BC and earlier (e.g. the events of Daniel 8:20-22, Dan. 11:1-19), and not as late as the period leading up to 70 AD.

CONS: [1] Simmons pointed out that Ezekiel 37 (the prophecy of the dry bones) is the immediate context of the battle of Ezekiel 38. Since, in the ultimate sense, the end of Ezekiel 37 foreshadowed “restored Israel (the church) under ‘David,’” he then concludes that Ezekiel 38 must speak of an attack on the Church. Why, though, can’t the immediate sense of Ezekiel 37 (the return of the Israelites to the land of Israel in the 5th century BC) also be the context by which we see the battle of Ezekiel 38? If this is allowed, then Ezekiel 38-39 could very well speak of events in Esther’s day as Gary DeMar and David Lowman have proposed (or, one might say, events in the second century BC as Gentry seems to propose).

[2] The armies in Ezekiel 38 are described in great detail as being arrayed in ancient armor and bearing ancient weapons. It seems to be a very large stretch to equate this type of battle imagery with persecution of the saints. Elsewhere in Scripture, and even in a book like Revelation filled with apocalyptic language, the idea of persecution appears to be presented in a much more straightforward manner. This imagery of armor and weapons is also completely absent from Revelation 20:7-10, although, granted, it could be said that space doesn’t allow for it there.

[3] One goal of the invaders in Ezekiel 38 is to sieze silver, gold, livestock, and goods (Ezek. 38:13). This doesn’t seem to be a goal at all in the attack recorded in Revelation 20.

[4] If Ezekiel 38-39 speaks of the events of 70 AD, in what sense did the church burn the wooden weapons of their persecutors at that time for seven years (Ezek. 39:9-10)?

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Having now presented and analyzed each of these four positions, I will now list in descending order how I see these positions in terms of Biblical accuracy and plausibility. At the top of my list is the position I agree with the most, and at the bottom is the position I agree with the least:

#1: David Lowman and Gary DeMar’s position that Ezekiel 38-39 was fulfilled in Esther’s day, Revelation 19 in 70 AD, and Revelation 20:7-10 remains unfulfilled.

#2: Kenneth Gentry’s position that Ezekiel 38-39 was likely fulfilled in the second century BC through the Scythian peoples, Revelation 19 in 70 AD, and Revelation 20:7-10 remains unfulfilled.

#3: Kurt Simmon’s position that Ezekiel 38-39, Revelation 19, and Revelation 20 were all fulfilled in 70 AD.

#4: The futurist position (or one of them anyway) which sees Ezekiel 38-39 as yet to be fulfilled with a Russian/Iranian led invasion upon modern Israel, Revelation 19 awaiting fulfillment at Christ’s future Second Coming, and Revelation 20 as awaiting fulfillment at the end of a future 1000-year Millennium period.

What would your list look like, and why? Do you have an alternative view on these matters which hasn’t been given attention here?

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In the next post, we will examine a discussion of the two ages spoken of frequently in the New Testament. This post will serve as a transition into our study of Revelation 21.

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

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


[1] Another viewpoint which could have been considered is the viewpoint of amillennialist and Historicist Kim Riddlebarger. I have greatly appreciated and learned from quite a few of his writings, but chose not to include his viewpoint in the main body of this article as I am quite limited in my understanding of Historicism. I also noted that he declared Ezekiel’s vision of Gog and Magog to be a prophecy of “the Assyrian invasion of Israel from the north.” I’m puzzled by this idea, as the Syrian invasion took place in 722 BC and Ezekiel ministered in the time period before and after Babylon’s invasion of Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC. Riddlebarger sees Ezekiel’s vision as “typological of the end-times war upon the entire people of God as witnessed by John in his vision.”

Another amillennialist article also postulates that Ezekiel predicted the Syrian invasion. Though I’m not in agreement with a number of things in this article, the author (Nollie) does provide an interesting comparison chart for the three passages where Gog and Magog is either mentioned directly or clearly alluded to:

Revelation 19:11-21 Ezekiel 38-39 Revelation 20:7-10
Gog & Magog (38:2; 39:1, 6) Gog & Magog (8)
“to gather them for the battle” (ton polemon) in v. 19 (cf. 16:14, 15a) “to gather them for the battle” (ton polemon) in v. 8
birds feast on defeated humans (“kings” “captains” “mighty men” “horses and their riders”) (17-18) animals and birds feast on defeated humans (“mighty men” “princes” “horses” “charioteers” “warriors”) (39:4, 17-20)
fiery judgment on nations, beast, and false prophet (20) fiery judgment on Gog & Magog (38:22; 39:6) fiery judgment on Gog and Magog and Satan (9-10)
total cosmic destruction by earthquake, hail, rain, and fire (38:19-22) total cosmic destruction (11)
total destruction of wicked (19-21) total destruction of the wicked (9-10)

[2] Duncan McKenzie provides an even more comprehensive analysis of the parallels between Ezekiel and Revelation, here and here.

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


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

Adam Maarschalk: March 20, 2010

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

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

OUTLINE

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

A. The Millennium Began in 70 AD

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rev. 19:20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.

Rev. 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshipped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.

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

And he [the beast] was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months…It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation…[and] as many as would not worship the image of the beast [were] to be killed (Rev. 13:5, 7,15 brackets mine).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revelation 20:4

Revelation 6:9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“The Earth” as a Common Reference to Israel in Revelation: Part 2


“The Earth” as a Common Reference to Israel in Revelation: PART 2 of 3

“An In-depth Study of John’s Frequent Use of This Phrase to Indicate Israel’s Imminent Judgment in the First Century AD”

Adam Maarschalk: February 19, 2010

This is now the second post in this series regarding the phrase “those who dwell on the earth,” which is used 10 times in the book of Revelation and also appears in Revelation many times in other forms. In the first post we laid a foundation for the meaning of this phrase by examining the passage in which it is mentioned for the first time, Revelation 1:7, arguably Revelation’s theme verse. We noted how “the earth” is very often substituted for “the land” in Revelation and elsewhere in the New Testament. We also took into account three different viewpoints on the meaning behind the usage of this phrase in Revelation. Finally, we began by looking at two instances in Revelation where this phrase (or a form of it) is used: [1] Revelation 1:7 and [2] Revelation 3:10. In this post we will look at 10 more related case studies. Before doing so, here is an abbreviated outline for this series (we are now in section C).

ABBREVIATED OUTLINE

A. Laying a Foundation for the Meaning of “the earth” in Revelation
I. Revelation 1:7 as the theme of Revelation: The meaning of the phrase “tribes of the earth”
II. The interchangeable use of “land” and “earth” in the New Testament
B. Three Views on the Meaning of “those who dwell on the earth”
I. Future and worldwide: Thomas Ice’s analysis of Isaiah 24-27 and Revelation
II. Future and limited to Israel: Mo Dardinger proposes that they are non-Jews
III. Jews living in Israel prior to 70 AD: Kenneth Gentry and P. S. Desprez
C. 18 Case Studies for “the earth” As An Indication of 1st Century Israel
D. Appendix: The Term “sea” in Revelation (Brief Overview)

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The references to various Scriptures in Revelation are hyperlinked in order to point to the Bible studies we have posted which include these particular passages:

#3: REVELATION 6:3-4, 8 [When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, ‘Come!’ And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that men should slay one another, and he was given a great sword… And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.]

Regarding the picture of civil war here, we noted the following in our study on this passage, which gives credence to the idea that “the earth” in this passage refers to the land of Israel, prior to 70 AD:

As a historical fact, in the fall/winter of 67 AD a brutal civil war broke out in Jerusalem and Judea between the revolutionaries and those who wanted to maintain peace with Rome. Jerusalem was eventually divided into three factions led by [1] Eleazar, who was over the Zealots [2] John of Gischala, who was over the Galileans, and [3] Simon, who was over the Idumeans. It remained this way until the city was destroyed. The conditions were awful. In one night 8500 people were killed, and their bodies were cast outside of Jerusalem without being buried. The outer temple was “overflowing with blood” and the inner court even had pools of blood in it. Homes and gravesites were looted.

Not only did Josephus and other first-century historians speak of pestilences, famine, and killing by the sword in Jerusalem during that time, but Steve Gregg (pp. 114, 116) sheds more light on the prophetic significance of John’s description of the fourth seal judgment in verse 8:

The reference to the means of death, sword, hunger, death [i.e. pestilence], and beasts of the earth [v. 8] are a deliberate echo of Ezekiel 14:21, where “sword and famine and wild beasts and pestilence” are called God’s “four severe judgments on Jerusalem.” In Ezekiel, God used these means to inflict judgment at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., which was a precursor of this event, similar in detail and in significance, in A.D. 70.

#4: REVELATION 6:9-10, 15-16 [When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?’” …Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?]

If this equating of the phrase “those who dwell on the earth” with Israeli citizens is accurate, would it have been out of place for believers martyred prior to 70 AD to cry out for their blood to be avenged upon Jewish persecutors? Not at all, for Jesus couldn’t have been more clear that His own generation in Israel would be held responsible for the shedding of the blood of the saints, prophets, and Himself (Matthew 21:33-45, 23:29-38). This was Jesus’ pronouncement of judgment upon the Jewish religious leaders of His day: “that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar… Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matt. 23:35-36). Also noteworthy is this quote by Steve Gregg (p. 118) of J. Stuart Russell, who, writing in 1887, said,

[I]t is impossible not to be struck with the marked resemblance between the vision of the fifth seal and our Lord’s parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8): ‘And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith in the land?’ This is more than resemblance: it is identity.

Regarding Rev. 6:15-16, this is what we wrote in our study of this particular passage:

F.F. Bruce said the following in 1986 regarding this verse: “The best commentary on the present passage is found in our Lord’s words to the ‘daughters of Jerusalem’ on the Via Dolorosa (Lk. 23:30)… If the same crisis is in view here, the first six seals span the forty years up to A.D.70″ (“Revelation” in International Bible Commentary, p. 1608). This is what Luke 23:27-30 says:

And there followed Him [Jesus] a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for Him. But turning to them Jesus said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us,” and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?

Jesus spoke these things to the “daughters of Jerusalem,” concerning themselves and their children. If these things were to take place centuries later in judgment upon Gentile nations, why would He have directed these remarks in this way to the present generation of Jews whom He lived among? This is yet another indication that the judgments of the book of Revelation were directed toward apostate 1st-century Israel.

On July 31, 70 AD, after a five month siege, the Romans succeeded in penetrating the final wall around Jerusalem and burned the temple to the ground. Tens of thousands of Jews were killed, but the surviving Jews retreated to the Upper City of Jerusalem, where many continued to plunder, ambush, and assault their fellow Jews. The victims were too weakened by famine to resist, and quite a few were killed senselessly. Josephus tried to persuade them to surrender to the Romans and spare what was left of the city, but he was only laughed at. Josephus records that some put on happy faces “in expectation, as they said, of death to end their miseries.” Many Jews sought refuge in the caves and underground caverns, hoping to remain hidden once the Romans would reach the Upper City, as Josephus records (Steve Gregg, pp. 124, 126):

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 (Wars, 6:7:3).

#5: REVELATION 7:2-3 [Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.]

Clearly, God is marking His faithful people so that they will be spared from an impending judgment. Our proposal here is that this judgment is meant to be understood as being local rather than global, and that it took place in the past, namely the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Temple in 70 AD. Steve Gregg points to a remarkable parallel event, recorded by Ezekiel, which occurred shortly before Jerusalem fell the first time:

Jerusalem twice fell to invaders because of God’s judgment upon them: first, in 586 B.C., to the Babylonians; and second, in A.D. 70, to the Romans. Prior to the conquest in 586 B.C., God took care to identify His own and to separate them for safety during the holocaust. This fact was symbolically portrayed to Ezekiel in a vision of an angel marking God’s faithful with an ink mark on their foreheads. Following this marking, six angels with deadly weapons were dispatched against Jerusalem to slaughter its inhabitants (Ezekiel 9).

Here a similar vision is given to John prior to the second destruction of Jerusalem in his own day. This time, before the four winds (v. 1) are unleashed upon Israel, God’s servants are sealed on their foreheads for their preservation… Those who survived the holocaust of A.D. 70 were those who possessed the seal of God (Eph. 1:13), that is, the Jewish believers in Christ (pp. 126, 128).

Steve Gregg also wrote about the believers in Jerusalem successfully escaping before Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, just as Jesus warned them to do in Matthew 24:15-21 and Luke 21:20-24:

Just prior to the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jewish Christians in that city were warned by a prophetic oracle to flee from the city (echoing Jesus’ own warning in Luke 21:20ff). Historian Eusebius (c. 325) wrote: “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”

Revelation 7:4 records the number of those sealed as being 144,000. Setting aside for now any discussion of whether or not this number is meant to be taken literally, what is relevant to this study is their testimony as recorded in Rev. 14:4, saying, “…These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb…” Steve Gregg aptly notes that this is confirmation that this group lived in the first century:

Since the church age has been one long harvest of souls (Matt. 9:37f; John 4:35-38), the “firstfruits” must have come in at the beginning of this time (compare James 1:1, 18, which speaks of the Jewish believers as “firstfruits”). If this 144,000 referred to some future group living in the end times (as the futurists believe), one would expect them to be called the “last fruits.”

#6: REVELATION 8:5, 7, 13 [Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake… The first angel blew his trumpet, and there followed hail and fire, mixed with blood, and these were thrown upon the earth. And a third of the earth was burned up, and a third of the trees were burned up, and all the green grass was burned up… Then I looked, and I heard an eagle crying with a loud voice as it flew directly overhead, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, at the blasts of the other trumpets that the three angels are about to blow!’”]

This is the second of at least four instances in Revelation where we see these same phenomena: thunder, lightning, and rumblings (along with an earthquake in this case). The first instance was in Rev. 4:5, and we see this again in Rev. 11:19 and Rev. 16:18. Regarding their occurrence in Rev. 4:5, Steve Gregg (p. 88) says something very interesting (and this applies equally well in all four occurrences):

The lightnings, thundering and voices (v. 5) recall Mount Sinai, where God first established His covenant with Israel [Exodus 19:16; cf. Rev. 8:5, 11:19]. Similar phenomena are mentioned here to suggest the end of that covenant and its replacement with another. The writer of Hebrews (citing Hag. 2) likened the overthrow of the first covenant (publicly demonstrated by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70) to the time of its establishment at Sinai, but the latter would be accompanied by even more fearful phenomena (Heb. 12:18-29).

When these phenomena are seen again in Rev. 11:19, it’s in the context of the ark of God’s covenant being seen in His temple. There is a transition of covenants taking place, which will become even more evident as we continue in this study. As Gregg pointed out, there is a clear parallel here with the comparison of the Old and New Covenants as pictured in Hebrews 12:18-29. The first century believers who were the original recipients of the book of Hebrews had “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (verse 22), and were “receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (verse 28), unlike the things pertaining to the Old Covenant which could be (and were) shaken (verse 27).

Regarding the burning of the trees (verse 7), if meant to be taken literally, this account from Josephus points to a very plausible fulfillment during the five-month siege upon Jerusalem leading up to its destruction in 70 AD (Steve Gregg, pp. 151-152):

And now the Romans, although they were greatly distressed in getting together their materials, raised their banks in [21] days, after they had cut down all the trees that were in the country that adjoined to the city, and that for ninety furlongs round about, as I have already related. And, truly, the very view itself of the country was a melancholy thing; for those places which were before adorned with trees and pleasant gardens were now become a desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down: nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change; for the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste (Wars, VI:1:1).

In verse 13, we see that three woes are pronounced upon “those who dwell on the earth.” Steve Gregg quotes from Adam Clarke (1732-1815), who he says is a historicist but “accurately puts forth the preterist position”:

These woes are supposed by many learned men to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem: the first woe—the seditions among the Jews themselves; the second woe—the besieging of the city by the Romans; the third woe—the taking and the sacking of the city, and burning the Temple. This was the greatest of all the woes, as in it the city and Temple were destroyed, and nearly a million men lost their lives.

#7: REVELATION 9:1, 3-4 [And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit… Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.”]

Regarding verse 1, we considered in our study of Revelation 9 that the “star fallen from heaven” could be either: [1] Lucifer (See Luke 10:18 and Rev. 12:9-10), or, perhaps more likely [2] the great star that fell from heaven in Rev. 8:10. If it is the latter, we have these helpful notes from David Chilton:

The name of this fallen star is Wormwood, a term used in the Law and the Prophets to warn Israel of its destruction as a punishment for apostasy (Deut. 29:18; Jer. 9:15; 23:15; Lam. 3:15, 19; Amos 5:7). Again, by combining these Old Testament allusions, St. John makes his point: Israel is apostate, and has become an Egypt; Jerusalem has become a Babylon; and the covenant-breakers will be destroyed, as surely as Egypt and Babylon were destroyed (Steve Gregg, p. 164).

We also noted that the language used by John regarding “Wormwood” mirrored the test for adultery under the Law of Moses, as recorded in Numbers 5:11-31, where the drinking of bitter water would reveal whether or not a woman was guilty of adultery. This has special application to Israel, as the nation which had been joined to God in a covenant, the breaking of which would bring the accusation of adultery.

The army which John was shown in verses 3-4, likened to locusts, was sent to torment people. This torment was to last for five months (verse 5). David Chilton informs us of the interesting fact that in Judea it was typical for locusts to appear in the land anytime between May and September, a period of five months. Most significantly, we know that the siege of the Romans upon Jerusalem in 70 AD indeed lasted for five months, and not just any five months but in fact the same time of the year when locusts would appear in Judea. Kenneth Gentry (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 248) quotes the following details from F.F. Bruce (New Testament History, p. 382):

Titus began the siege of Jerusalem in April, 70. The defenders held out desperately for five months, but by the end of August the Temple area was occupied and the holy house burned down, and by the end of September all resistance in the city had come to an end.

In verse 6 we are told that, as a result of the locusts’ torment, people would “seek death and…not find it” and “long to die, but death [would] flee from them.” Did this happen in 70 AD? Josephus records that during the height of the siege surviving Jews “poured forth their congratulations on those whom death had hurried away from such heartrending scenes” as were seen during the siege. Thousands were literally starved to death, over a period of months and not just weeks. As we saw in our study on Revelation 6, Josephus also records that when the temple was burned in August 70 AD, many survivors retreated to Upper Jerusalem and some put on happy faces “in expectation, as they said, of death to end their miseries.” This longing for death is reminiscent of what Jesus said in Luke 23:27-30 (cf. Rev. 6:16).

Kenneth Gentry (Before Jerusalem Fell, 1998, pp. 247-248) believes that demons (rather than literal locusts) are in view in this passage, and that “this fits well with requirements of the early date [for the writing of the book of Revelation, i.e. before 70 AD] and the prophetic expectation of Christ in Matthew 12:38-45. There Christ teaches that during His earthly ministry He had cast out demons in Israel, but because of Israel’s resistance to His message, the demons will return in greater numbers within the ‘generation.’”

#8: REVELATION 10:1-2 [Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land…”]

In the Appendix we will briefly make the case that “the sea” is a common reference in Revelation (and elsewhere in Scripture as well) for the Gentile nations. If this is the case here, then this angel’s action signifies a bridging of the gap between Jews (“the land”) and Gentiles (“the sea”). His proclamation only makes this point crystal clear:

And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as He announced to His servants the prophets (Rev. 10:5-7).

The phrase “the mystery of God” should ring a bell for anyone familiar with the epistles written by Paul. He speaks of this mystery in Romans 16:25-26 (cf. Rom. 11:25), but he covers this topic most thoroughly in his epistles to the Ephesians (1:7-10, 2:11-3:11, 5:31-32, 6:18-20) and to the Colossians (1:24-27, 2:1-4, 4:3-4 [cf. 3:11]). The following brief summary will lead us to a monumental statement made by Paul in Ephesians 3:6.

In his epistle to the Ephesians, Paul reminds the Gentile believers that they were formerly called “the uncircumcision” (2:11), they were “separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12), and “far off” (2:13). Now they “have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13) and “made one new man” with Jewish believers (2:15). They are “no longer strangers and aliens,” but are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (2:19), being “joined together…into a holy temple in the Lord” (2:21).

Paul told the Ephesians that by reading his description of the mystery made known to him by revelation (3:1-4), they could perceive his insight into “the mystery of Christ” which was not made known to previous generations as it had been revealed to the apostles and prophets in his day (3:4-5). Paul is then most explicit regarding what this mystery is in Ephesians 3:6, and this is most crucial to our understanding of Revelation 10:7:

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Therefore, David Chilton and Jay Adams are correct as they are quoted for the Preterist commentary on Revelation 10:7 in Steve Gregg’s book:

This ‘Mystery’ is a major aspect of the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians: the union of believing Jews and Gentiles in one church, without distinction (Chilton, as quoted in Steve Gregg, Revelation, p. 208).

The completion of the mystery of God (v. 7) refers to the fact that the “predominantly Jewish nature of the church was to be ended by the destruction of the temple, the distinctive feature in which it centered” (Adams). The mystery itself, of course, is that of which Paul frequently speaks, namely, as Adams writes, “that the Gentiles should come into the church on an equal footing with the Jews, not first having to become Jews themselves…” (Steve Gregg, ibid).

We might do well to remember that several years after Jesus had ascended the Jewish believers were astounded when salvation began to come to the Gentiles (Acts 10:45, 11:18, 13:46, 14:27, 15:9-10). In 70 AD the centerpieces of Old Covenant Judaism, the temple and the once holy city of Jerusalem, were taken out of the way. The kingdom was taken from national Israel and given to the Church, the people whom Jesus said would produce its fruits (See the ‘Parable of the Tenants’ in Matthew 21:33-45; cf. Hebrews 8:13).

The picture of the angel bridging the gap between land and sea is a beautiful symbol of God’s bringing Jews and Gentiles together in Himself on an equal basis, having torn down the dividing wall by His work on the cross (Eph. 2:14). The placing of this picture in the context of events taking place in 70 AD is not to say that this reality was only made true at that time. Rather this reality brought about by the work of the cross was made all the more apparent and universal when the physical temple, the central symbol of Old Covenant Judaism and Israel’s national pride, was visibly brought down forever in 70 AD in favor of “a holy temple in the Lord…a dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22).

In Daniel 12:7, as in Rev. 10:5-6 we see an angel who “raised his right hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever.” The exact same language is used in both passages. When the angel raised his hand to swear by God the first time, he swore that the things being told to Daniel would take place over a 3.5 year time period (“a time, times, and half a time”). It would result in the “shattering of the power of the holy people.” From the time that Nero declared war on the land of Israel in late winter 67 AD until the temple was destroyed in August 70 AD, exactly 3.5 years transpired. No event in Israel’s history epitomizes the shattering of their power like what occurred in 70 AD.

Furthermore, Daniel was told that this would be a “time of trouble” for his people like never before (cf. Matt. 24:21, Jer. 30:7), but that everyone whose names were “written in the book” (believers in Christ; cf. Rev. 3:5, 20:12) would be delivered. This is precisely what happened during the Jewish-Roman War. As we wrote in our study of Rev. 7,

Just prior to the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jewish Christians in that city were warned by a prophetic oracle to flee from the city (echoing Jesus’ own warning in Luke 21:20ff). Historian Eusebius (c. 325) wrote: “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”

#9: REVELATION 11:6, 10, 18 [They [the two witnesses] have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire… and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth… The nations raged, but Your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding Your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear Your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”]

In the case of the two witnesses, we know for sure that their ministry ends with their death in Jerusalem, for Rev. 11:8 declares that “their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.” Jesus was crucified within the vicinity of Jerusalem. If the ministry of the two witnesses took place entirely (or primarily) within Israel, it would make sense that “the earth” here is also Israel. That’s where their ministry caused torment, and that’s where their death caused rejoicing (verse 10).

The fact that Jerusalem is referred to here as “Sodom and Egypt” is no doubt a reference to her apostasy. When Isaiah was instructed to prophesy against Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1), he called the Israelites by the same name because of their apostasy. It would make sense for John to speak of apostate Jerusalem, once known as the holy city, as “Sodom,” and later (chapters 16-19) as “Babylon” and a bloodthirsty “harlot.” Jesus did the same (Matt. 23:37-38), and called for Jerusalem’s demise within one generation (Matt. 23:35-36, Luke 23:28-31) as a result. Todd Dennis writes, “The image of the unfaithful wife, the harlot, was often used of Israel in the OT. Israel is repeatedly called the wife of God (Jer. 2:2, 3:14, Is. 54:5). But she was an unfaithful wife (Jer. 3:20, Hos. 1:2, Ez. 6:9, Ez. 16, Is. 50:1) behaving as a prostitute (Jer. 3:1-2). This is covenant language, and only a nation that was once in such a covenant could be guilty of breaking it.

In our two posts on Revelation 11, here and here, we proposed that the two witnesses were in fact the Church living in the last days prior to the overthrow of Jerusalem. One of several reasons for believing this is seen in the language of verse 7: “And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them.” The same thing is said of the beast in Rev. 13:5-7 regarding not just two individuals, but all “the saints” under his authority: “And the beast…was allowed to exercise authority for 42 months… Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them.” This is also a description of the work of the dragon in Rev. 12:17, who bore the same features as the beast (cp. Rev. 12:3 and Rev. 13:1), clearly with regard to the Church as a whole: “Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.”

In our study of Revelation 13:1-10 we noted that Nero launched a vicious persecution against the Christians within the Roman empire beginning in November 64 AD. This campaign of persecution lasted until his death in June 68 AD, a period of 42 months. What does this have to do with Israel, if in fact Israel can be equated with “the earth” whose inhabitants rejoiced because of this persecution against the Church?

Israel had enjoyed a good relationship with Rome until the Jewish revolt began in 66 AD, and Judaism was recognized as a valid religion within the Roman Empire. Josephus wrote of this relationship, “It seems to me to be necessary here to give an account of all the honors that the Romans and their emperors paid to our nation [Israel], and of the leagues of mutual assistance they have made with it” (Antiquities, 14.10.1-2). The Jews frequently took advantage of this relationship to induce persecution against Jesus and His followers (Luke 23:2; John 18:28-31, 19:15; Acts 4:27, 16:20, 17:7, 18:12, 21:11, 24:1-9, 25:1-2). W.H.C. Frend even writes that “the promptings of orthodox Jews in the capitol had something to do with” Nero’s decision to begin persecuting Christians in 64 AD (The Rise of Christianity [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], 109; quoted in Kenneth Gentry, “The Beast of Revelation,” 2002, p. 63). According to numerous accounts, the Jews made use of Nero’s wife at the time, who herself was a convert to Judaism.

#10: REVELATION 12:12, 15-16 [Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short! …The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood. But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth.”]

Futurists generally take this throwing down of Satan (verses 9-10) to be future, so that his arrival on earth triggers the last 3.5 years of a future 7-year Tribulation. However, a case can be made that Satan’s role as “accuser of the brethren” (verse 10) ended at the time of the cross, at which time he was also cast down from heaven. As we wrote in our study of Revelation 12, we see this Old Testament role of Satan (prior to the cross) in the case of Job (Job 1:6-7), where Satan stands before God accusing Job of being incapable of serving God if he is left unprotected. We see this again in Zechariah 3:1, where Satan is pictured standing before the angel of the Lord to accuse Joshua the high priest. In Luke 22:31 we are told that Satan has put in a specific request to sift Peter as wheat. A not-as-clear reference to this type of activity also appears in Jude 9, where we learn that Satan entered into contention with the archangel Michael over the body of Moses. Steve Gregg also writes (p. 264),

Because the great dragon was cast out (v. 9) as a consequence of the battle, we can pinpoint the heavenly battle as being at the same time as the accomplishment of the atonement at the death and resurrection of Christ.”  One of several evidences of this is found in Jesus’ statement (recorded by the same author): “now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out“  (John 12:31). Another evidence appears in the announcement that Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ has come (v. 10). This also coincides with the atonement. In addition, other New Testament authors confirm that a victory of this sort over Satan was accomplished by Christ in His death (cf. Col. 2:15, Heb. 2:14-15).

The death of Christ did not put Satan entirely out of business, but it ended his career as the accuser of our brethren (v. 10), his principle role in pre-Christian times (cf. Job 1-2; Zechariah 3). The blood of Christ has undermined the grounds of every charge that Satan might bring against the brethren [Romans 8:33-34]. Satan is cast to the earth. He cannot accuse the saints before God any longer, as they overcame his accusations by appeal to the atoning blood of the Lamb (vs. 11). They also take territory from the satanic kingdom by the word of their testimony (that is, preaching the gospel), and by their willingness to die rather than be intimidated by persecution (vs. 11).

With the timing of Satan’s removal from heaven thus established, we can begin to see why Satan possessed only a short time to do a certain work in the first century in relation to “the earth” (Israel) and “the sea” (Gentile nations). Jesus had promised that certain things would occur within one generation of His own incarnational ministry (note these and other time statements: Matt. 23:35-36, 24:34; Luke 23:28-31). One of these promises was the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom “throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations” before the end would come (Matt. 24:14). Was this fulfilled prior to 70 AD? Paul told his Roman readers that their faith “is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). In his epistle to the Colossians he also said that “the word of the truth of the gospel,” which had come to them, had gone to “the entire world” (Colossians 1:6) and had “been proclaimed in all creation under heaven” (verse 23). Devout Jews “from every nation under heaven” even heard the gospel in their own languages on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5).

The phrase “the whole world” here then must mean what it meant in Luke 2:1 when we are told that “the entire world” was registered in the days of Caesar Augustus, i.e. the known world or the Roman Empire (cf. Luke 11:28, Acts 24:5, Romans 16:25-26). In John Wesley’s commentary on Matt. 24:14, he said, “And this was done by St. Paul and the other apostles, before Jerusalem was destroyed. And then shall the end come—Of the city and temple.” Wesley took this phrase, “and then the end shall come,” not as a reference to the end of world history but to the end of “the city and the sanctuary” (Daniel 9:26), i.e. the end of the Judaic age. It’s in this vein that the author of Hebrews speaks of “these last days” (Heb. 1:2; cf. Heb. 9:26), that Peter saw the day of Pentecost as part of “the last days” (Acts 2:17), that Paul spoke of a “present distress” (I Cor. 7:26) significant enough to advocate celibacy because “the present form of this world” was “passing away” (I Cor. 7:31), and Peter was also able to say that Jesus “was made manifest in the last times” (I Peter 1:20); cf. Acts 2:40, Rom. 13:11-12, Rom. 16:20, I Thess. 2:14-16, Heb. 10:25, James 5:7-9, and I Peter 4:7. Steve Gregg picks up on this line of thought (p. 268):

[Satan’s] intention is to stamp out the church before it can extend itself as a globally entity. Since Jesus indicated [Matt. 24:14] that this would be accomplished within a single generation (Matt. 16:28; 24:34), the dragon has only a short time (vs. 12) to stamp out the infant movement. Thus, he goes to war with the remaining seed of the woman.

In verse 14 we are told that the woman “was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time” (often understood to mean 3.5 years). This is thought to refer (as we did in the case study on Revelation 7) to the escape of the Judean church  to Pella (modern day Jordan) during the invasion of Rome from 67-70 AD. This is the time, says David Chilton (Gregg, p. 270), when “in obedience to Christ’s commands (Matt. 24:15-28), the Christians escaped to shelter in the caves of the desert.” Steve Gregg continues, “The wings of a great eagle (v. 14) which carry the woman to safety are an echo of the Exodus, in which God told Israel that He had carried them out of Egypt on eagles’ wings (Exodus 19:14). Like the woman in this vision, Israel had been delivered from the dragon (cf. Psalm 74:13-14; Ezek. 32:2) and sustained by God in the wilderness.” Steve Gregg then quotes from Steve Farrer, who adds,

The woman is treated as the congregation of Israel, saved from Egypt, lifted by the Lord on eagles’ pinions and brought to Sinai. The dragon’s pursuit of her by throwing a waterflood after her is a generalized image for the action of Pharaoh, who [1] commands Israelite children and especially Moses to be washed down the Nile, [2] comes out after escaping Israel with a host, and [3] counts on the Red Sea to shut Israel in.

David Chilton (Gregg, p. 274) sees verse 16 as suggesting that, with the woman (God’s faithful remnant) gone from Jerusalem/Judea/Galilee, “the land of Israel swallows up the river of wrath, absorbing the blow in her place.” Thus, “the earth” as first century Israel here can be seen not only in Jesus’ words regarding the timing of Satan’s being cast out, as well as the historical parallels to the text under review here, but also in the imagery which echoes some of Israel’s unique history in the Old Testament era.

#11: REVELATION 13:1-3, 8 [And I saw a beast rising out of the sea… One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast…and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.”]

This beast is shown to be from among the Gentiles, as indicated by his rising “out of the sea” (see Appendix). In our study of Rev. 13:1-10 we took note of much evidence that this beast is [a] Nero, in the specific sense, and [b] Rome, in the general sense. It’s tempting to post some of the key pieces of evidence here, but a lot of space can be saved by pointing to this very concise summary post here. One piece to the puzzle, though, I will mention here, and that is the explanation of the beast’s seven heads (verse 1) as given in Rev. 17:9-10.

To John it was explained that the seven heads represented not only the “seven mountains on which the woman is seated,” but he was also told of: “seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is [in John’s day], the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.” Rome is the one city in history famous for its seven mountains, and first-century Rome celebrated the feast of the “seven-hilled city.” According to Josephus, Dio Cassius, Suetonius, and other historians, the first five Roman emperors (or “kings”; cf. John 19:15) were [1] Julius Caesar [2] Augustus [3] Tiberius [4] Caligula, and [5] Claudius. The sixth was Nero (54-68 AD), and the next emperor was Galba, who reigned for only six months before he was murdered. Thus, Nero fits the bill as the one of whom it was said “one is,” and Galba fits the bill as the seventh king who remained “only a little while.”

Regarding the mortal wound of the beast which was healed, Steve Gregg comments (p. 282) on how this can be seen following Nero’s unexpected suicide in June 68 AD:

Even if Nero is the head mortally wounded, it is not he who personally survives the wound, but the beast that survives the wounding of one of its heads. At the death of Nero, the Roman Empire was thrown into violent convulsions of civil war and anarchy, in which three emperors succeeded one another within a single year. Historians consider it astonishing that the empire stabilized and survived this period that might easily have spelled the end of the imperial rule. Thus the recovery of the empire under Vespasian was a marvel to all—the beast of the empire had survived the mortal wounding of one of its heads (Nero).

If “the whole earth” (verse 3) indeed refers to the Jewish people, should it be a surprise that they would be prepared in the first century to worship the beast? Do we see any indication in the gospels of their willingness to do so? Steve Gregg (p. 286) reminds us of an instance where the Jews not only refused to give allegiance to Christ, but they clearly expressed their allegiance to Caesar instead:

Given the opportunity to own Christ as their king before Pilate, the Jews proclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15). Alfred Edersheim writes: “With this cry Judaism was, in the person of its representatives, guilty of denial of God, of blasphemy, of apostasy. It committed suicide.”

In this example from John’s gospel, we see that the rulers of Rome were not only called “emperors,” but also “kings.” This brings further light to the text of Rev. 17:10, where the seven “kings” can easily be understood as Roman emperors.

#12: REVELATION 13:11 [Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.”]; REVELATION 13:12, 14 [“…It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence, and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed…and by the signs that it is allowed to work in the presence of the beast it deceives those who dwell on earth, telling them to make an image for the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.”]

In contrast to the first beast, which rose out of the “sea,” this second one rises out of the “earth.” We see a close alignment between these two beasts, with the second beast acting as a strong advocate for the first beast. A footnote in the English Standard Version notes that the phrase “in its presence” can also be translated “on its behalf.” Scholars seem to be united in their view that the second beast (from “the earth”) is one and the same with the false prophet (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10).

As we saw in the previous case study, “the whole earth” marveled as they followed the beast from the sea (verse 3). Now we see that they were compelled to do so by this second beast (verse 12). If “the earth” can be interpreted as a reference to Israel, and “the sea” as a reference to Gentiles, then the proposal here is that the Jewish religious leadership of Israel (the false prophet in a corporate sense) compelled the inhabitants of Israel to worship Rome leading up to (and during) Nero’s reign. We’ve already seen that in Christ’s day the Jewish population as a whole was willing to pledge allegiance to Rome (John 19:15). Does the New Testament establish a pattern of Jewish religious leaders cooperating with Rome in fighting against the Church? David Chilton believes it does (Steve Gregg, p. 298):

The Jewish leaders, symbolized by this Beast from the Land, joined forces with the Beast of Rome in an attempt to destroy the Church (Acts 4:24-28; 12:1-3; 13:8; 14:5; 17:5-8; 18:12-13; 21:11; 24:1-9; 25:2-3, 9, 24)… The Book of Acts records several instances of miracle-working Jewish false prophets who came into conflict with the Church (cf. Acts 8:9-24) and worked under Roman officials (cf. Acts 13:6-11); as Jesus foretold (Matt. 7:22-23), some of them even used His name in their incantations (Acts 19:13-16).

Each of the references Chilton cited is worth studying out, but of particular interest is Acts 4:24-28. There we see that Peter and John were persecuted by [1] “the Gentiles” and “the peoples” (verse 25) [2] “the kings of the earth” and “the rulers” (verse 26). In verse 27 “the kings of the earth” are identified as none other than Herod and Pontius Pilate. We know that Herod and Pilate did not reign over the entire globe, including South America and Europe, but only over Israel. Thus, we have another example outside of Revelation where “the earth” is clearly identified with Israel. We know from Rev. 17:18 that “the kings of the earth” were under the dominion of “the great city,” i.e. Jerusalem (Rev. 11:8).

How devoted were the Jewish people to Rome prior to the Roman-Jewish War? We have this testimony from Josephus: “The Jews responded to the favors of Rome…by offering ‘sacrifices twice every day for Caesar, and for the Roman people’” (Josephus, Wars 2:10:4; cf. Daniel 11:31, 12:11). This offering in honor of Nero (who reigned from 54-68 AD), however, was stopped in the summer of 66 AD, which Josephus says led to the Jewish-Roman War:

Eleazar, the son of Ananias the high priest, a very bold youth, who was at that time governor of the temple, persuaded those that officiated in the divine service to receive no gift or sacrifice for any foreigner. And this was the true beginning of our war with the Romans: for they rejected the sacrifice of Caesar on this account: and when many of the high priests and principal men besought them not to omit the sacrifice, which it was customary for them to offer for their princes, they would not be prevailed upon.

Regarding the worship of the first beast’s image, see this post in order to get a picture of the very pronounced and extravagant worship demanded by, and received by, Nero during and after his reign. This included offering sacrifices to Nero’s spirit in the public square even after his death. One statue of Nero stood more than 110 feet high, and coins and other inscriptions hailed him as “Almighty God” and “Savior.” He was hailed as Apollo, Hercules, “the only one from the beginning of time,” and even rulers from other lands had to publicly worship both Nero and his images which were set up on lofty platforms. The Roman historian Dio Cassius writes of such an incident. This occurred in 66 AD when Tiridates, King of Armenia, paid Nero a visit:

Indeed, the proceedings of the conference were not limited to mere conversations, but a lofty platform had been erected on which were set images of Nero, and in the presence of the Armenians, Parthians, and Romans Tiridates approached and paid them reverence; then, after sacrificing to them and calling them by laudatory names, he took off the diadem from his head and set it upon them…Tiridates publicly fell before Nero seated upon the rostra in the Forum: “Master, I am the descendant of Arsaces, brother of the kings Vologaesus and Pacorus, and thy slave. And I have come to thee, my god, to worship thee as I do Mithras. The destiny thou spinnest for me shall be mine; for thou art my Fortune and my Fate” (Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, 2002, p. 82).

“By this action this king actually worshiped ‘the image of the Beast’ (Rev. 13:15),” says Gentry. One senator, though, failed to worship Nero and his “Divine Voice,” and Dio Cassius records that he was executed: “Thrasaea was executed because he failed to appear regularly in the senate…and because he never would listen to the emperor’s singing and lyre-playing, nor sacrifice to Nero’s Divine Voice as did the rest.” It’s easy to imagine that if a Roman senator would be executed for failing to worship Nero, then this would be all the more true for subjects throughout the empire, including in Israel (verses 14-15). Interestingly, Justin Martyr, Clementine, and Irenaeus all record that the heretic Simon Magus (Acts 8:9-24) had the ability to bring statutes to life.

In Rev. 13:16-17 we learn that this same beast from “the earth” prevented its subjects from buying or selling without a mark “on the right hand or the forehead” denoting “the name of the [first] beast or the number of its name.” This can be understood as either [1] a non-literal mark, as the seal on the foreheads of God’s servants (Rev. 7:2-3) is most often thought to be, or [2] a literal mark of some kind. In our study of Rev. 13:12-18 we noted three different testimonies regarding this matter:

[1] David Chilton: “Similarly [the Jewish leaders] organized economic boycotts against those who refused to submit to Caesar as Lord, the leaders of the synagogues ‘forbidding all dealings with the excommunicated,’ and going as far as to put them to death.” [Here Chilton partially quotes from Austin Farrer in his 1964 work entitled The Revelation of St. John the Divine (p. 157).]

[2] Richard Anthony: “All those under the jurisdiction of Rome were required by law to publicly proclaim their allegiance to Caesar by burning a pinch of incense and declaring, ‘Caesar is Lord’. Upon compliance with this law, the people were given a papyrus document called a ‘libellus’, which they were required to present when either stopped by the Roman police or attempting to engage in commerce in the Roman marketplace, increasing the difficulty of ‘buying or selling’ without this mark (emphasis added).”

[3] C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines Jr.: “While earlier emperors were proclaimed deities upon their deaths, Nero abandons all reserve and demanded divine honors while still alive (as did also Caligula before him, AD 37-41).  Those who worshipped the emperor received a certificate or mark of approval – charagma, the same word used in Revelation 13:16 [the famed mark of the beast].”

For a clear and concise review of 10 distinct prophecies concerning the beast which were fulfilled by Nero and the Roman Empire, please see this post here.

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In the third and final post of this series we will examine six more case studies from the book of Revelation where the phrase “the earth” indicates first century Israel. We will also see that the Gentiles are often indicated by the phrase “the sea” in the book of Revelation and elsewhere.

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

“The Earth” as a Common Reference to Israel in Revelation: Part 1


“The Earth” as a Common Reference to Israel in Revelation

“An In-depth Study of John’s Frequent Use of This Phrase to Indicate Israel’s Imminent Judgment in the First Century AD”

Adam Maarschalk: February 19, 2010

OUTLINE

A. Laying a Foundation for the Meaning of “the earth” in Revelation
I. Revelation 1:7 as the theme of Revelation: The meaning of the phrase “tribes of the earth”
II. The interchangeable use of “land” and “earth” in the New Testament
B. Three Views on the Meaning of “those who dwell on the earth”
I. Future and worldwide: Thomas Ice’s analysis of Isaiah 24-27 and Revelation
II. Future and limited to Israel: Mo Dardinger proposes that they are non-Jews
III. Jews living in Israel prior to 70 AD: Kenneth Gentry and P. S. Desprez
C. 18 Case Studies for “the earth” As An Indication of 1st Century Israel
1. Revelation 1:7
2. Revelation 3:10
3. Revelation 6:3-4, 8
4. Revelation 6:9-10, 15-16
5. Revelation 7:2-3
6. Revelation 8:5, 7, 13
7. Revelation 9:1, 3-4
8. Revelation 10:1-2
9. Revelation 11:6, 10, 18
10. Revelation 12:12, 15-16
11. Revelation 13:1-3, 8
12. Revelation 13:11-12, 14
13. Revelation 14:3-6, 18-19
14. Revelation 16:1-2, 18-19
15. Revelation 17:1-2, 5
16. Revelation 17:8, 18
17. Revelation 18:3, 9, 11, 23-24
18. Revelation 19:1-2, 19
D. Appendix: The Term “sea” in Revelation (Brief Overview)

A. Laying a Foundation for the Meaning of “the earth” in Revelation

At this point we have completed and posted our studies on the first 19 chapters of Revelation. In our study of Revelation so far, we have often suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In this study I will outline nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case. Before doing so, however, I will attempt to explain why and how this pattern can be established (This will be a three-part series).

I. Revelation 1:7 as the theme of Revelation: The meaning of the phrase “tribes of the earth”

Many scholars from various viewpoints believe that Revelation 1:7 is the theme of the book of Revelation. This passage reads: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him. Even so. Amen.” Kenneth Gentry, in his book “Before Jerusalem Fell” (1998), quotes from the following authors who all agree with the premise that Rev. 1:7 is the book’s theme: [1] Moses Stuart (1845) [2] Friedrich Dusterdieck (1886) [3]Bernhard Weiss (1889) [4] Justin A. Smith (1884) [5] Milton S. Terry (1898) [6] J. Stuart Russell (1887) [7] Thomas Dehany Bernard (1864) [8] Donald W. Richardson (1964) [9] David Chilton.[1]

More important than these and other like-minded testimonies, says Gentry, is “the emphasis placed on [Christ’s] coming that is a constant refrain in the personal letters to the Seven Churches (Rev. 2:5, 16, 25; 3:3, 11, 20) and elsewhere (Rev. 16:15; 22:7, 12, 20).”[2] If it is established, then, that this is Revelation’s main theme, it is wise to take notice of a phrase like “the tribes of the earth” rather than casually passing it by. Indeed, from all appearances, its usage here sets the tone for how to understand the phrase “the earth” where it is mentioned in most cases throughout the remainder of the book.

Why is this so? One strong indication can be seen in the fact that Revelation 1:7 is an undeniable reference to Zechariah 12:10-14. It’s helpful to look at that text in order to better understand what is being communicated as Revelation’s theme, and in particular what is meant to be understood by the phrase “the tribes of the earth”:

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on Me, on Him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over Him, as one weeps over a firstborn. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.

In analyzing the comparison between Revelation 1 and Zechariah 12, I agree with the conclusions of Richard Anthony, who states:

Obviously, this is the foundation for John’s statement that ‘every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth (or land) shall wail because of him.’ So, in essence, Zechariah was saying that the ‘tribes of the land’ would mourn for Him whom they had pierced. Who were those tribes? ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem.’ This also helps us identify the ‘earth’ in Revelation 1:7. According to Zechariah, the ‘earth’ is the land of Palestine, specifically, Jerusalem. Also, it is those tribes, i.e., the nation of Israel, who would ‘look upon Me whom they have pierced.’ And because of that, ‘the mourning in Jerusalem’ would be great. With all of this information, we can see that the ‘tribes of the earth’ in Revelation 1:7 are the nation of Israel. The ‘earth’ is Palestine. The land that would mourn is Jerusalem. So, the main purpose of Revelation would be to reveal Jesus to the nation of Israel. The place of this revealing would be Jerusalem. Lastly, this revealing would be to those who pierced Him, i.e., the Jews. [3]

Concerning the Greek word used for “tribe” in Revelation 1:7, Kenneth Gentry notes (p. 127) that when used elsewhere in the New Testament it “most frequently refers to the Jewish tribes.” He cites The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament which states that this Greek word “with few exceptions…becomes a fixed term for the tribal system of Israel.” This is likewise the conclusion of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, and this pattern is also borne out in the Arndt-Gingrich and Thayer Greek lexicons. Continues Gentry, “The term obviously has that import in Revelation 7:4ff, where it is used of each of the specifically named Twelve Tribes.”

II. The interchangeable use of “land” and “earth” in the New Testament

Gentry is especially helpful (pp. 128-131) in explaining that “land” and “earth” are often used interchangeably in Scripture, with a meaning that is localized rather than global. He notes (p. 128) that literal translations such as [1] Robert Young’s Literal Translation of the Holy Bible and [2] Alfred Marshall’s The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament come up with the phrase “tribes of the land” rather than “tribes of the earth” in their translations of Revelation 1:7. In this way, “the term can be understood as designating the Promised Land.”

A quick glance at a couple of New Testament Scriptures begins to demonstrate that this is also true outside of the book of Revelation. For example, relating the circumstances surrounding Christ’s death on the cross, Matthew 27:45 in the English Standard Version states, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” A footnote says that “earth” could have been used instead of “land” in this text, but most readers will conclude that this darkness was localized that day and not global.

Looking also at Luke 21:20-24, the context likewise shows that these events belong to Judea and Jerusalem, and even Futurists generally agree that this passage speaks of the siege and destruction of Jerusalem from 67-70 AD. Yet verse 23 says, “…For there will be great distress upon the earth and wrath against this people.” The phrase “this people” here no doubt refers to the unrepentant Jews, and “the earth” here is the land of Judea. We should at least consider that the same could be true in the book of Revelation, where we frequently see the phrase “the earth” (and especially the phrase “dwellers on the earth” or “those who dwell on the earth”). Other New Testament texts which use the phrase “the earth” in this way likely include Matthew 23:35, Acts 1:8, Acts 4:26-27, and Romans 10:18.

B. Three Views on the Meaning of “those who dwell on the earth”

There is no one view among scholars, teachers, and laymen regarding the identity of “those who dwell on the earth,” a phrase that appears repeatedly in Revelation. Some see these individuals as taking up residence worldwide, while others believe the reference is limited to the land of Israel. Some envision these individuals living in the future, while others believe they lived and died in the past. In this section we will examine three different views regarding their identity and placement in history.

I. Future and worldwide: Thomas Ice’s analysis of Isaiah 24-27 and Revelation

Thomas Ice, a Dispensationalist Futurist, agrees that the terms “the earth” and “the land” are interchangeable. Though he comes to a different conclusion than I do regarding their meaning in Revelation, he makes some notable observations:

Like most New Testament terminology, “earth dwellers” originates in the Old Testament. A couple forms of the construct are used almost 50 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, not including a similar phrase, “world dwellers,” that occurs five times. The overwhelming majority of times that “earth dwellers” is used in the Old Testament, it is rightly translated “land dwellers” or “inhabitants of the land,” since the context references a localized area of land or country like Israel… When “earth dwellers” and “world dwellers” are used in the same contexts, it serves to strengthen the notion that a global rather than local context is intended… Every global use of “earth dwellers” in the Old Testament appears in a judgment context… [Thomas Ice, “The Earth Dwellers of Revelation,” Midnight Call. Referenced February 10, 2010.]

So Ice concludes that 45 out of 50 times that a form of the phrase “earth dwellers” is used in the Old Testament, this is a reference to a local rather than a global region (Israel in particular). In only five cases, he says, a global context is likely intended, because this phrase is coupled with the phrase “world dwellers.” Yet, despite making no attempt to link the phrase “those who dwell on the earth” in Revelation with any phrase resembling “world dwellers” there, Ice maintains that the “earth dwellers” in Revelation will inhabit the entire globe in the future. According to Ice, then, even though this phrase clearly originated in the Old Testament (a point on which I agree with him), it no longer functions in the book of Revelation as it did in the Old Testament. This seems to be a peculiar conclusion, one perhaps involving some preconceived notions (and this is not to say I’m incapable of having preconceived notions myself).

Ice draws particular attention to Isaiah 24-27, which he rightly observes is known as “Isaiah’s Apocalypse” and likely serves as “the backdrop for understanding what is meant in Revelation 3:10, as well as John’s used of ‘earth dwellers’ throughout Revelation.” Those who examine these four chapters in Isaiah will likely see that Ice has a valid point here. Again, though, it seems that this should lead him to consider that this phrase, as it appears in Revelation, was meant to aid the first-century reader in understanding that the nation of Israel was in view.

After all, in Isaiah’s case, “the earth” was defiled because its inhabitants had “violated the statutes” and “broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5). In Isaiah’s day, what nation was known for having a divine covenant with many statutes? That would be Israel. As in Matthew 27:45, my ESV Bible has a footnote for Isaiah 24:1 (“Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate, and He will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants”). This footnote says that the phrase “the earth” can be translated as “the land,” and that this is the case throughout the entire chapter. The phrase “the earth” appears in Isaiah 24 a total of 17 times: Isaiah 24:1, 3, 4 (2x), 5, 6 (2x), 11, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19 (3x), 20, and 21 (2x).[4]

[I have recently received approval to take on this subject (“’The Earth’ As a Common Reference to Israel in Revelation”) for a term paper I need to write for my university studies. In my term paper I plan to study out Isaiah 24-27 in more depth, as well as interact more thoroughly with Thomas Ice’s arguments. I’m excited by the parallels I see between Revelation 4-21 and Isaiah 24-27, and the implications these hold. When this term paper is completed, I will most likely post that study of Isaiah 24-27 as a follow-up to what can be presently seen here.]

II. Future and limited to Israel: Mo Dardinger proposes that they are non-Jews

Mo Dardinger, an author with Strong Tower Publishing, is another Futurist who has studied out this matter. Unlike Ice, though, he concludes that “the phrase ‘those who dwell on the earth’ actually refers to a subset of humankind, not to all the unsaved… The consensus among scholars is that none of the earth dwellers are redeemed. Indeed, throughout Revelation, they are contrasted with the redeemed and other groups…” [Mo Dardinger, “Earth Dwellers Identified,” 9 August 2008]. For Dardinger, Rev. 1:7 “is a critical piece of the puzzle,” and his comparison of this text with Zechariah 12:10-14 leads him to conclude that:

[The phrase] ‘those who dwell on the earth’ could be equally translated ‘those who dwell on the Land [of Israel].’ … I have not seen anything in the context of Revelation that would tell me the whole world is in view. In fact, the quotation from Zechariah strongly suggests that the context is uniquely the Holy Land.

This drives Dardinger’s interpretation of this phrase (in its various forms) throughout the book of Revelation. On this, I agree with Dardinger. However, his application of this interpretation is radically different than mine. His apparently Dispensationalist theology leads him to propose that the “earth dwellers” of Revelation are not only future, but that they will be non-Jews living in Israel:

They are not the Jews. The earth dwellers never repent—the Jews do. In fact, the earth dwellers are contrasted with the Jews. The spiritual context is worship of the Antichrist and, by extension, persecution of the Jews… Rather than unrepentant humanity, they are invaders. They will illegally and immorally occupy God’s Holy Land during the End Times. Israel is intended by the Almighty to be inhabited by the Jews in perpetuity (and not by those who hate and persecute His Holy People).

The burden of proof is on Dardinger to demonstrate that Revelation portrays [1] ethnic Jews as victims of persecution rather than the perpetrators (Rev. 2:9, 3:9; see also our study on Rev. 13:11—View #3) [2] the repentance of the Jewish people, aside from the remnant in Rev. 7:4-8 [3] the political nation of Israel as a “Holy Land” rather than bearing the stigma of “Sodom and Egypt” (Rev. 11:8) and “Babylon” (see our study on Rev. 17:1-6) [4] ethnic Jews as God’s “Holy People” rather than the Church having this role (Rev. 19:7-9; cf. Matt. 8:10-12, 21:43, 22:1-14; Acts 13:45-46; Romans 2:28-29, 9:6-8; I Peter 2:9-10). I believe that our study in the following section will debunk Dardinger’s premises as to the identity of the “earth dwellers” in Revelation.

III. Jews living in Israel prior to 70 AD: Kenneth Gentry and P. S. Desprez

Kenneth Gentry (p. 128) quotes from P. S. Desprez, who, in his 1855 book titled “The Apocalypse Fulfilled,” wrote the following on the matter of understanding the phrase “on the earth” in Revelation (emphasis added):

But the words in question are sometimes found qualified by governing considerations which define and determine their meaning, and this is always the case, when they are found in connection with the governing clauses “they that dwell”… Then they have, and can have, only one meaning; then they refer only to one land and to one people, and this land and this people must be the land and the people of Judea.[5]

I believe that the contexts in which this phrase appears in Revelation will bear out what Desprez is saying. This phrase can be seen in Revelation 3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8, 13:12, 13:14, 14:6, 17:2, and 17:8. Shorter or similar forms of this phrase can be seen in numerous other texts as well. We will examine many of these in the following section.

All of this does not mean, though, that every single time the word “earth” appears in the book of Revelation, that this is a reference to the nation of Israel. The context will generally show whether or not this is the case. For example, Revelation 5:3 reads, “And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.” Here “earth” is contrasted with “heaven,” and I do not assume that this is a reference to Israel.

C. 18 Case Studies for “the earth” As a Representation of 1st Century Israel

I would suggest that the following are among the instances in Revelation where the phrase “the earth” (or “land” in some translations) refers to the nation of Israel in the first century. The references to various Scriptures in Revelation are hyperlinked in order to point to the Bible studies we have posted which include these particular passages:

#1: REVELATION 1:7 [Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes ofthe earth will wail on account of Him. Even so. Amen.”]

This passage has already been discussed in the introduction, but it would be good to add some further thoughts here. Kenneth Gentry (p. 127) notes that historian Adam Clarke “argues for an early date for Revelation based on Revelation 1:7,” saying, “By this the Jewish people are most evidently intended, and therefore the whole verse may be understood as predicting the destruction of the Jews; and is a presumptive proof that the Apocalypse [Revelation] was written before the final overthrow of the Jewish state [in 70 AD]”[6]

We haven’t yet noted that unmistakably similar language is also used by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse: “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matt. 24:30). Some translations use the word “nations” instead of “tribes,” but this is of little consequence. In our study of Revelation 19 we noted that “in 70 AD the land of Palestine was made up of the following nations: [1] Phoenicia [2] Galilee [3] Samaria [4] Judea [5] Idumea [6] Philistia [7] Gualanitis [8] Decapolis [9] Perea [10] Nabatea.”

Aside from this detail, though, there are plenty of indications in Matthew 24 that Jesus is predicting a local judgment, rather than a global one, including [1] the context of Matthew 23, in which Jesus pronounces numerous woes upon the Scribes, Pharisees, and Jerusalem, even limiting their fulfillment to the generation that heard Him speak these things (Matt. 23:35-36) [2] the explicit references to the temple in Jerusalem (Matt. 23:38; 24:1-3) [3] the command to flee to the mountains, which is only given to “those who are in Judea” (Matt. 24:15-16) [4] the reference to fleeing on the Sabbath (Matt. 24:20), a distinctive Jewish custom [5] the parallels between “the great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be” in Matt. 24:21 and similar utterances in Jeremiah 30:7 (“That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it”) and Daniel 12:1 (“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found in the book”), and [6] the sun, moon, and stars (Matt. 24:29) as being established symbols for Israel ever since these symbols appeared in Jacob’s dream (Genesis 37:9-10).

Furthermore, we have the time reference of Jesus limiting the fulfillment of His words thus far in the Olivet Discourse to the generation which heard Him speak those things (Matt. 24:34). Much more is written on all these things in the sections of my term paper on 70 AD which discuss the Olivet Discourse:  [1] here [2] here [3] here [4] here, and [5] here.

Keeping in mind that the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 contains numerous specific references to the land of Israel/Palestine, Kenneth Gentry reminds us of an interesting fact (pp. 130-131): The Gospel of John is completely silent concerning the Olivet Discourse. Because of this fact, there are many who speculate that the book of Revelation “served as [John’s] exposition of the Discourse.” J. Stuart Russell, in his 1887 work titled “The Parousia,” shared this sentiment, saying,

The silence of St. John in his gospel is the more remarkable in that he was one of the four favoured disciples who listened to that discourse; yet, in his gospel we find no trace of it whatever… But the difficulty is explained if it should be found that the Apocalypse [Revelation] is nothing else than a transfigured form of the prophecy on the Mount of Olives.

If it’s true that John expands on the Olivet Discourse in Revelation, and this certainly appears to be the case, then it should be no surprise that the book of Revelation deals largely with the coming judgment upon Israel, the same topic Jesus dealt with in the Olivet Discourse recorded by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. John’s time references speaking of a near fulfillment for his visions take up slightly different language than what Jesus used (e.g. Matt. 24:34), but they are nevertheless frequent and clear enough to give pause to the Futurist position which says that the bulk of Revelation is still awaiting fulfillment: Revelation 1:1-3 (“the things that must soon take place…for the time is near”); 3:11 (“I am coming soon”); 22:7 (“I am coming soon”), 22:12 (“I am coming soon”; cf. Matt. 16:27-28), 22:20 (“I am coming soon”).

We can also note that the Greek word used for “soon” here is the same one Jesus used when He said His time to be crucified was “at hand” (Matthew 26:18), and when John said “the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand” (John 7:2), events that no doubt were literally near. If it is somehow maintained that the words “soon” and “near” in the book of Revelation mean something else (i.e. 2000 years later or so), what words could God have used instead if He really did mean to communicate nearness in time (i.e. the expected fulfillment within the lifetime of John’s original readers)?

Steve Gregg, in his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” provides a most concise and helpful articulation of the preterist (i.e. past fulfillment) position on Revelation 1:7, which applies with equal strength to Matthew 24:30 (Gregg, p. 57):

[They] suggest that the passage does not predict the literal Second Coming, but is a figurative description of Christ’s coming in vengeance to destroy Jerusalem, not in person, but using the Roman armies in A.D. 70… Such interpreters note the following considerations: The principal features of the prediction are (a) Christ coming, (b) His coming with clouds; (c) every eye will see Him, even they who pierced him; and (d) all the tribes of the earth [or land] mourning at His coming.

(a) The expression coming of the Lord is used in many contexts that do not appear to be referring to the Second Coming (e.g., Rev. 2:5; 3:20; cf. Deut. 33:2; Isa. 19:1; Zech. 1:16; Mal. 3:1-2; Matt. 10:23), thus leaving open the possibility of another meaning here;

(b) The specific language of the Lord coming with clouds is used in the Old Testament with reference to historic judgments not associated with the end of the world (Isa. 19:1; Ps. 104:3) and may be so understood here as well;

(c) Jesus placed the time of His “coming with the clouds” within the lifetime of some of His contemporaries (Matt. 16:28; 24:30, 34; 26:64). This would allow one to understand they who pierced Him as the actual generation that crucified Christ, which would be the natural understanding to the literalist…

(d) The judgment of Jerusalem is implied by the expression all the tribes of the earth (which can be translated, “all the tribes of the land [Israel]“) will mourn. The Old Testament passage which is alluded to is a prophecy concerning “the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (Zech. 12:10). This view finds further support in the fact that Israel is divisible into tribes, whereas the earth is generally divided into nations.

#2: REVELATION 3:10 [Because you have kept My word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.”]

This was a prophecy to the first-century church living in Philadelphia. In our post on this chapter, we quoted from Sam Storms who noted that it would be most odd if the Futurist position were to be true in this case, as it would mean that Jesus promised to protect one church in Asia Minor “from an event that not one single individual in that church would ever see, indeed, an event that would not transpire for at least another 1,900 years!” Steve Gregg’s note on this verse is helpful, especially in squashing the idea that this refers to a future Rapture event (pp. 76-77):

…removal of Christians from the earth [need not be] the only possible way in which Jesus could keep His people from the wars and plagues anticipated to occur at that time. For example, Jesus prayed thus for His disciples: ‘I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one’ (John 17:15)… Preterists argue that an empire-wide crisis would satisfy the normal use of the terminology in Revelation 3:10. The whole world is a term used to designate the Roman Empire in Luke 2:1 and elsewhere. That it is to test those who dwell on the earth (or “land,” i.e. Israel) may suggest that there is a crisis that will shake the whole empire and put the Jews, in particular, into special peril. In A.D. 68, the death of Nero, and the civil wars that followed, greatly threatened the stability of the Roman Empire, until Vespasian was made emperor in A.D. 70. During this same period (A.D. 66-70), the Jews were embroiled in a fight for the survival of their nation against the Romans…which they lost. Preterism suggests that this judgment on Jerusalem is what is implied in the promise, I am coming quickly! (v. 11).

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In part 2 of this study we will examine 10 more passages in Revelation where this pattern is also borne out.

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


[1] Kenneth Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (An Exegetical and Historical Argument for a Pre-A.D. 70 Composition), American Vision: Powder Springs, GA. 1998, pp. 121-122.

[2] Gentry goes on to note that, “although the fact of Revelation’s theme is widely agreed upon, the nature of the fulfillment of the fact is not so broadly agreed upon.” That is, Futurists tend to see all expressions related to Christ’s coming as referring to the Second Coming. Preterists, on the other hand, are more likely to understand such expressions (in places) as referring to Christ’s non-physical coming in judgment upon faithless Israel in 70, in order that the Kingdom might belong instead to the Church (Matt. 21:43-44; 22:2-14). This is a topic I’ve previously discussed here.

[3] While it can be said that all of humanity, in effect, has its part in having pierced Christ, this charge is most specifically laid by Scripture upon the Jewish people in the first century, as Kenneth Gentry elaborates (“Before Jerusalem Fell,” pp. 123-125): “The biblical record is quite clear: the Jews are the ones who sought His death (John 11:53; Matt. 26:4; 27:1), who paid to have Him captured (Matt. 26:14-15, 47; 27:3-9), who brought false witnesses against Him (Matt. 27:59-62), who initially convicted Him (Matt. 27:65-66), who turned Him over to Roman authorities (Matt. 27:2, 11, 12; Acts 3:13), and who even arrogantly (and disastrously!) called down His blood upon their own heads (Matt. 27:24-25).” See also John 18:38-40; 19:6, 11-12, 14-15, for the Jews’ reaction to Pilate in this regard, and especially see Acts 2:22-23, 36; 5:30; 7:52; I Thess. 2:14-15 for explicit statements made by Peter, Stephen, and Paul regarding the guilt of the Jews in murdering Christ and nailing Him to the cross. In case this analysis might receive any charge of anti-semitism, this video by Kenneth Gentry should be helpful in explaining otherwise, as should this source.

[4] I have recently received approval to take on this subject (“’The Earth’ As a Common Reference to Israel in Revelation”) for a term paper I need to write for my university studies. In my term paper I plan to study out Isaiah 24-27 in more depth, as well as interact more thoroughly with Thomas Ice’s arguments. I’m excited by the parallels I see between Revelation 4-21 and Isaiah 24-27, and the implications these hold. When this term paper is completed, I will most likely post that study of Isaiah 24-27 as a follow-up to what can be presently seen here.

[5] Alfred Edersheim, in his 1876 work titled “Sketches of Jewish Social Life,” wrote concerning the significance of the phrase “the land” to the Jewish Rabbis of the first century, prior to Jerusalem’s downfall in 70 AD. To the Rabbis, “the precise limits of Palestine were chiefly interesting so far as they affected the religious obligations or privileges of a district… Indeed, viewing the question from this point, Palestine was to the Rabbis simply ‘the land,’ all other countries being summed up under the designation of ‘outside the land.’”

[6] Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, 6 vols. (Nashville: Abingdon [c. 1823] rep. n.d.) 6:971.

Revelation Chapter 20: Introduction and Outline


Revelation Chapter 20: Introduction and Outline

Adam Maarschalk: February 7, 2010

This post will serve as an introduction to Revelation 20, expressing some thoughts as we prepare to look more deeply into the period designated by John as “a thousand years,” popularly known as the Millennium. This post will also contain a mini outline. Here’s why:

Our Bible study group met last Wednesday (January 27, 2010), as we do on a weekly basis, and we completed our group study of Revelation 20 at that time. We generally take turns leading, so that each person only needs to lead the group study roughly every five weeks. This time, however, three of us each led a portion of the study. Dave presented on Revelation 20 from a postmillennial standpoint, Rod from a premillennial viewpoint, and myself from an amillennial viewpoint. All of us completely reject premillennialism, and find ourselves agreeing with some elements within amillennialism and postmillennialism. I personally, however, can’t help but believe that the truth of what John wrote in Revelation 20 goes beyond any of these three schools of thought.

Due to time constraints, we only presented a fraction of the material that we could have presented. Over time, we’ll be posting more than we prepared for our actual study time. On my part, at least, this will be a work in progress, and this post includes an outline of our posts on this topic. This same information can also be found on our Revelation page.

Here is the working outline for the posts on Revelation 20 (it may be expanded in the future). Following the outline are some preliminary thoughts on the topic of reigning with Christ for a thousand years:

Revelation Chapter 20 Outline

1. Revelation Chapter 20: Introduction and Outline (this post)
2. John Piper Hosts “An Evening of Eschatology” (Subject: “The Millennium”)
3. Revelation Chapter 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 1: Verse-by-Verse Study)
4. Revelation Chapter 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 2: Verse-by-Verse Study)
5. Revelation Chapter 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 3: Two Articles)
6. Revelation Chapter 20: Amillennial Viewpoint (Part 4: Two More Articles)
7.
Revelation Chapter 20: Post-millennial Viewpoint
8.
Revelation Chapter 20: Pre-millennial Viewpoint
9. Revelation Chapter 20: Minority Viewpoints on the Millennium (Part 1)
10. Revelation Chapter 20: Minority Viewpoints on the Millennium (Part 2)
11. Revelation Chapter 20: Four Views on Gog and Magog
12. A Discussion of Two Ages: “This age and the age to come”

Preliminary Thoughts on Revelation 20

Anyone who has read through the previous studies which we have posted on the book of Revelation will have noticed that on the whole we favor what is known as the preterist interpretation. That is, we see a first-century fulfillment for the prophecies contained in the book of Revelation, John’s descriptions of God’s judgment about to be poured out upon unfaithful Israel and old covenant temple-based Judaism in 70 AD just as Jesus predicted (e.g. Luke 19:41-44, 23:28-31; Matthew 23:37-24:34). This is based not only on a wealth of internal evidence in Revelation, but also on John’s numerous statements announcing that the things he saw were soon to take place (e.g. Rev. 1:1, 3; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20).

Now, I’ve also mentioned that, as a group, we seem to be leaning toward the amillennial interpretation, i.e. that the “1000 year reign of Christ” began in the first century and continues until today (whether this is taking place in heaven, on earth, or both, will be discussed in a couple of posts which are to follow). A combination of these two views—and it’s understood that many readers will not hold to this same combination—means that we (generally speaking) do not see the storyline of Revelation 20 as being parallel in time to the story-line of Revelation 1-19. In other words, Revelation 1-19 was completely fulfilled by 70 AD, though there is continued application for us today, but at least some portion(s) of Revelation 20 suggest an ongoing and even future fulfillment. (Check back with me in a couple of years – I might change by that time.)

Many amillennialists do see Revelation 20 as parallel in time to at least the events of Revelation 6-19, most notably those who are also Historicists. We do not – at this time. I offer up this explanation for the sake of clarity regarding what is to follow. In this regard, I would like to quote a few excerpts from a publication written by Kenneth Gentry titled “Recapitulation v Progress.” This is a primer for a full-length, verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Revelation which Gentry is currently working on. This particular publication is #13 among his Revelation Commentary Updates so far. The following selected excerpts are from pages 2-9 of that publication:

Revelation 20 is probably the best known and most hotly debated chapter in Revelation. This is the chapter (the only chapter in the Bible!) that mentions Christ’s ruling and reigning with His saints for 1000 years… An extremely important issue arises as we move from Revelation 19 into chapter 20. The question arises regarding the relationship between these two passages: Is it one of recapitulation (i.e., repetition of the same events) or sequence (two different episodes with one following as a result of the other)?

The prevailing scholarly (non-premillennial) consensus today holds that the relationship between these two chapters is one of recapitulation. The recapitulationist sees Rev 20:7–10 covering the same ground as and repeating 19:11–21. That is, they argue that the final eschatological battle at the second coming of Christ appears in both 19:11–21 and 20:7–10. This, of course, destroys the premillennial argument that sees the second coming (19:11–21) leading to Christ’s subsequently establishing his millennium (20:1–10). Consequently, premillennialists insist on sequence rather than recapitulation.

Oddly enough, my evangelical preterist view agrees with the premillennialist regarding the relationship between these two passages — though with quite different results. I hold that Christ’s coming from heaven to wage war in Revelation 19:11ff represents His judgment coming on Israel in AD 70. As such it reflects the theme of the book found in 1:7, where he comes against those tribes who pierced him (the Jews). Consequently, 20:1ff presents the consequence of Christ’s judgment of Israel, Christianity’s first major enemy: the binding of Satan, the vindication of the martyrs, and the spiritual rule of believers with Christ in the present age.

By way of illustration, Gentry later makes some statements on the mention of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:

R. Fowler White notes [that Revelation] 19:17–18 is “virtually a verbatim quotation” of Ezekiel 39:17–20 (1989: 326), and [Revelation] 20:7–10 specifically mentions “Gog and Magog” (Ezekiel 38:2; 39:1, 6), showing God destroying them with fire from heaven (cp. Rev 20:7–10; Eze 38:22; 39:6). Clearly then, John bases both “the Armageddon revolt (19:17–21) and the Gog-Magog revolt (20:7–10) on the same prophetic passage” (1989: 327)… both [Revelation] 19:19–21 and [Revelation] 20:7–10 allude to the same OT eschatological battle prophecy (Ezekiel 38–39).

Gentry notes that there are those who draw from these facts the premise that the events of Revelation 19:19-21 and Revelation 20:7-10 must therefore refer to the same historical event. However, he adds:

Though “significant correspondence” of a “highly peculiar” nature exists between Rev. 19 and Ezekiel 39, problems confront this interpretation: First, similarity does not entail identity. Simply because John patterns both the battles of Rev. 19 and Rev. 20 on Eze. 38–39 does not mean they are the same battle. Similar language is used because similar fundamental realities prevail: God is catastrophically judging oppressive enemies of His people.

Many scholars see AD 70 as a microcosm of the final judgment. Consequently, we may expect the same imagery to apply to both AD 70 and the end. For instance, of those first century events, Bloesch states: “The catastrophe that befell the Jewish people in A.D. 70 is a sign of the final judgment.” Morris agrees: “…[We see that there is] a theological unity between the two judgments, and that some of what Jesus says [in the Olivet Discourse] could apply equally well to both.” Second, as Bøe notes, John often makes double use of Ezekiel’s images (Bøe, 275). The imagery from Ezekiel’s scroll vision in Eze. 2:8–33 applies both to Rev 5:1 and 10:8–11; Ezekiel’s measuring imagery in Eze 40–48 appears in quite distinct passages in Rev 11:1–2 and 21:10–27 (Bøe 371).

…If John had wanted us to understand recapitulation rather than sequence in this passage [Revelation 20], John “did us no favor” by: (a) recasting the beast and false prophet (19:20) as Gog and Magog (20:8); (b) inserting a thousand year period between the two battles (20:2–5); (c) representing the period of Christian history from the first century to the end as “a short time” (12:12) and as “a thousand years” (20:2–6)… (d) offering no hint that Satan is bound before Rev 19:11ff while emphasizing his being bound before Rev 20:7ff; and (e) telling us that Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet already are (20:10).

…[The judgment of] AD 70 (in Rev. 19:11–21) anticipates the final eschatological battle (Rev. 20:8–10)… It even seems that the NT emphasizes AD 70 more frequently — probably because it was looming in the near future, directly relevant to first century Christians, and of catastrophic significance in re-orienting their thinking regarding the flow of redemptive history… Indeed, it seems that the NT knows of only two great battles remaining in redemptive history: AD 70 which closes the old covenant era (and inaugurates the new covenant) and the Second Advent which closes the new covenant era (and history). Jesus certainly seems to link AD 70 and the Second Advent in his large Olivet Discourse… In addition, John limits Revelation’s prophecies to the near term (1:1, 3; 22:6, 10), which suggests a strong emphasis on AD 70.

That’s one view, and it reflects the view that most of us in our Bible study group tentatively hold at this time. I’m not sure yet if it’s my own. Revelation 20 is one tough chapter to understand.

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Kim Riddlebarger has compiled a very good, clear, and concise “Comparison Chart” displaying the distinctives of:

[1] Dispensational Premillennialism
[2] Historic Premillennialism
[3] Postmillennialism
[4] Amillennialism.

For each viewpoint, Kim includes a brief overview, a list of distinctive features and emphases, and he also names the leading proponents for each view. This very informative comparison chart can be seen here:

http://www.fivesolas.com/esc_chrt.htm

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

Revelation Chapter 13 (Part 1: Verses 1-10)


REVELATION 13:1-10

Adam Maarschalk: October 22, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 13:1-10

A. The Beast from the Sea—the First Beast (Rev. 13:1-10)

Introduction/Disclaimer: In this five-part discussion, it will be suggested that the beast spoken of in this chapter is Nero, who ruled Rome from 54-68 AD. This premise flies in the face of the rather popular view that Revelation was written in 95 or 96 AD, so if this is new or troublesome to the reader, it may be helpful to first take a look at some compelling evidence that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD: [1] External evidence [2] Internal evidence (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4). Other internal evidence for an early date for the writing of the book of Revelation has been presented in our previous Revelation studies (chapters 1-12), all of which can be found here.

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Verse 1: We are introduced now to a beast which John describes as “rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.” The red dragon in Rev. 12:3 is also said to have “seven heads and ten horns,” and we know that this dragon is Satan (12:9), so this beast here in chapter 13 is clearly empowered by Satan. Additionally, it seems that “the sea” where mentioned elsewhere in this book refers to Gentiles [See the Appendix (D) in this post here, for a more detailed explanation of this pattern]. So this reference here is very likely a way of telling the first century reader that this beast is a prominent Gentile figure. This is similar to one of Daniel’s visions where he saw four great beasts coming “up out of the sea” (Daniel 7:3).

We will be told more about this beast, here in chapter 13 and also in chapter 17, including details about its 10 horns and seven heads. Before proceeding, though, I think this is an appropriate place to note the twofold nature of the beast. The following quote is a helpful one, from Kenneth Gentry in his book “Before Jerusalem Fell” (1998, p. 310):

…John allows some shifting in his imagery of the Beast: the seven-headed Beast is here conceived generically as the Roman Empire, there specifically as one particular emperor. It is impossible to lock down the Beast imagery to either one referent or the other. At some places the Beast has seven-heads that are seven kings collectively considered (Rev. 13:1; Rev. 17:3, 9-10). Thus, he is generically portrayed as a kingdom with seven kings that arise in chronological succession (cf. Rev. 17:10-11). But then again in the very same contexts the Beast is spoken of as an individual (Rev. 13:18), as but one head among the seven (Rev. 17:11). This feature, as frustrating as it may be, is recognized by many commentators [emphasis added].

So the beast in Revelation is sometimes spoken of as an individual (specific sense) and sometimes as a kingdom (generic sense). It’s not surprising that the beast is interchangeably an individual and a kingdom, if ancient Rome is in view here. As Gentry also notes, the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-18AD) once wrote regarding the emperor Augustus, “The state is Caesar.”

We will now look ahead briefly to the passage referred to in Revelation 17:9-10, where John speaks of this same beast and explains what the seven heads are. The following information is taken from a term paper I wrote earlier this year, entitled, “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD,” and can be found here:

More compelling evidence for an early date is found in John’s reference to seven kings in Revelation 17:9-10, which states, “This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while.” This description of the seven kings lines up well with historical data showing the emperors who reigned in the Roman Empire up until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, which is as follows:

Order of Emperors Name of Emperor Length of Reign Notes/Details
#1 Julius Caesar October 49 BC – March 44 BC “Perpetual Dictator”
#2 Augustus January 27 BC – August 14 AD -time of Jesus’ birth
#3 Tiberius August 14 AD – March 37 AD -time of Jesus’ ascension
#4 Caligula March 37 AD – January 41 AD Murdered
#5 Claudius January 41 AD – October 54 AD Assassinated
#6 Nero October 54 AD – June 68 AD Committed suicide
#7 Galba June 68 AD – January 69 AD Murdered
#8 Otho January 69 AD – April 69 AD Committed suicide
#9 Vitellius April 69 AD – December 69AD Murdered
#10 Vespasian December 69 AD – June 79 AD Destroyed Jerusalem

Some historians do not consider Julius Caesar to be one of the emperors, and rather designate him as one who played a key role in transforming the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD), however, was one who did, and the above list reflects his own list in his writing titled Antiquities of the Jews (Books 18 and 19). Numerous Roman historians contemporary to Josephus agree. Among these were Dio Cassius and Suetonius (70-135 AD), who wrote Lives of the Twelve Caesars and De Vita Caesarum. Julius Caesar was appointed as “perpetual dictator” in 42 BC, so his inclusion in such a list would not have been strange.

According to the above list, then, Nero was the “king” of whom John said “one is” (i.e. “he is reigning now”), and Galba was the one who had “not yet come.” Galba reigned only six months, making him a good candidate to be the one who “must remain only a little while.”

The chart above indicates that there were more Roman emperors than were referenced by John. Kenneth Gentry quotes J. Russell Stuart, who spoke on this matter in his book Apocalypse:

But why only seven kings? First because the number seven is the reigning symbolic number of the book; then, secondly, because this covers the ground which the writer means specially to occupy, viz., it goes down to the period when the persecution then raging would cease (Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 163).

We know that the imperial persecution initiated by Nero ceased with his death in 68 AD. Gentry makes the point that if it can be accepted that Revelation was written prior to that time, then “the enumeration of the ‘kings’ covers all of imperial history up until John’s time and the events ‘shortly’ to follow [a reference to the word ‘shortly’ in Rev. 1:1]… For then it would be the case that in John’s day only six emperors had ascended the imperial throne.”

Regarding the reference to seven mountains, there should be no doubt that this is speaking of Rome, and even Futurist scholars generally concede this point (although they may anticipate a revival of the Roman Empire). Gentry also notes that the Coin of Vespasian (emperor of Rome from 69-79 AD) discovered by archaeologists pictures the goddess Roma as a woman seated on seven hills. Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, is the one city in history famous for its seven mountains. First-century Rome used to celebrate a feast called Septimontium, the feast of “the seven-hilled city.”

Revelation 13:1 also depicts the beast as having 10 horns, which John says in Rev. 17:12-13 are “ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind and hand over their power and authority to the beast.” Some have thought these 10 kings to be the very ones listed in the chart above, since all 10 of them reigned (or had begun to reign, in Vespasian’s case) before Jerusalem’s destruction. However, John wrote that in his day they had “not yet received royal power,” so this view is eliminated. Another more likely view is that these 10 kings were the rulers of the 10 empirical (senatorial) provinces of Rome who were empowered by Nero to assist him in carrying out his campaign of persecution against the saints, which Scripture refers to as “war on the Lamb” (Rev. 17:14; cf. Acts 9:5 where Paul, as an unbeliever, also made “war on the Lamb”).

The Global Glossary on the Greco-Roman world says there were 10 Senatorial Provinces in ancient Rome: They were “areas that were governed by Roman pro-magistrates; there were ten senatorial provinces, eight of which were led by ex-praetors and two of which were led by ex-consuls.” Wikipedia lists these 10 Senatorial Provinces, as they existed in 14 AD, as follows: [1] Achaea [2] Africa [3] Asia [4] Creta et Cyrene [5] Cyprus [6] Gallia Narbonensis [7] Hispania Baetica [8] Macedonia [9] Pontus et Bithynia [10] Sicilia. One Biblical mention of a Roman provincial ruler is in Acts 18:12-17, where we are told of Gallio the “proconsul of Achaia.” In Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas had direct contact with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:7). See here for more information on the Senatorial Provinces of the Roman Empire, and how and by whom authority was distributed.

empire2a

Photo credit: http://gbgm-umc.org/UMW/corinthians/empire.stm (Original source: David Camden)

David Sielaff of Associates for Scriptural Knowledge answers the Futurist supposition that the beast will be a revived Roman empire, somehow corresponding with the European Union. He shows how this is impossible, since the borders of the EU are very much unlike the boundaries of the old Roman empire:

It is important to consider how the Roman Empire was constituted. It was a vast empire that spread from Britain in the north to south of Egypt, from Spain and North Africa in the west to the borders of Parthia (Iran today) in the east. In the 1st century, when the New Testament was written, the border of the Roman Empire in Europe stopped at the Rhine and Danube Rivers. It never included any significant portion of Germany or Eastern Europe. The center of the Roman Empire was never Gaul (France today). The heart of the Roman Empire in the 1st century were the great cities of Rome itself, Alexandria in Egypt, and the great Greek cities, with the great cities of Antioch, Damascus, and Jerusalem that were inland from the Mediterranean coast.

Source: David Sielaff, The Ten Nations and the Roman Empire, http://www.askelm.com/news/n040724.htm, 2004.

Verse 2: The beast is now described in such a way that it incorporates the traits of all four beasts that Daniel saw in a vision in his day (Daniel 7:1-8): that of a leopard, a bear, a lion, and having ten horns. Bible scholars seem to be in general, if not full, agreement that the beasts in Daniel’s vision represented the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. Steve Gregg remarks (in his book, Revelation: Four Views [A Parallel Commentary], pp. 280, 282), “It is interesting that, when Paul was discussing his release from imprisonment under Nero, he remarked, “I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Tim. 4:17).

Q: Whose power, throne, and authority were given to this first beast?
A: The beast’s power, throne, and authority came from “the dragon,” whom we know to be Satan from Revelation 12:9.

Certain preterists, according to Steve Gregg, believe that “the concern of the Apocalypse has now shifted from the doom of Jerusalem to the judgment of Rome. Others, such as Milton Terry, think Rome is only brought into the picture as a chief agent of the judgment that came upon Jerusalem in A.D. 70.” I agree with Milton Terry, who adds that “we have before us the Roman empire as a persecuting power…conceived as the organ of the old serpent, the Devil, to persecute the scattered saints of God” (p. 280).

Verses 3-4: John now observes that one of the beast’s seven heads had what appeared to be a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, causing the whole earth [or “land,” a common reference to Israel, as we have seen in previous posts] to worship the beast. This will be brought up again when we come to verse 12, but two theories regarding this mortally wounded head are that it refers to the survival of the Roman Empire after the stunning deaths of [1] Julius Caesar or [2] Nero. At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, Steve Gregg comments (p. 282):

Even if Nero is the head mortally wounded, it is not he who personally survives the wound, but the beast that survives the wounding of one of its heads. At the death of Nero, the Roman Empire was thrown into violent convulsions of civil war and anarchy, in which three emperors succeeded one another within a single year. Historians consider it astonishing that the empire stabilized and survived this period that might easily have spelled the end of the imperial rule. Thus the recovery of the empire under Vespasian was a marvel to all—the beast of the empire had survived the mortal wounding of one of its heads (Nero).

[Surprisingly, several Futurist writers agree with this interpretation, including John Walvoord, Robert H. Mounce, G.B. Caird, and James Moffat, who (despite being a late-date scholar) even attributes this passage to the “terrible convulsions which in 69 A.D. shook the (Roman) empire to its foundation” (Gentry, p. 315). Walvoord believes the “wounding of one of the heads” to be “a reference to the fact that the Roman Empire as such seemingly died and is now (in the future) going to be revived” (Gregg, p. 285).

It’s only fair to point out that some partial-preterists view the healed mortal wound as a reference to the survival of the Roman empire, not after the death of Nero (in 68 AD) but after the death of Julius Caesar (44 BC). Arthur M. Ogden, for example, in his book “The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets: Commentary on Revelation” (Ogden Publications: Pinson, AL, 1985), tied this prophecy to events during the nearly 30 year “transfer of power from the (Roman) republic to the empire (61 BC—31 BC).” He writes:

“(Julius Caesar) wore the purple robe of royalty, but the old prejudice against kings denied him the title and crown. Yet he was made dictator for ten years, and then became censor and high priest for life… All responsible authority centered in himself as monarch of the Roman Empire… From the chief executive power in the State, the Senate was degraded to the place of an advisatory council” (Joy, James Richard, Rome and the Making of Modern Europe, [New York; Flood and Vincent, 1893], page 100)…

The smoldering fires of anger among the degraded senators erupted into full flame when, on March 15, 44 B.C., 60 members of the Senate attacked him on the Senate floor. With daggers in hand they inflicted 23 wounds which insured his death. With cries of “Liberty is restored” they celebrated what they thought was the end of Imperialism, but “his deadly wound was healed” (cf. Rev. 13:3) and the empire survived.]

Is it a surprise that the Jews** (“the whole earth”; verse 3) would worship the beast? Do we see any indication in the gospels of their willingness to do so? Steve Gregg (p. 286) reminds us of an instance where the Jews not only refused to give allegiance to Christ, but they clearly expressed their allegiance to Caesar instead:

Given the opportunity to own Christ as their king before Pilate, the Jews proclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15). Alfred Edersheim writes: “With this cry Judaism was, in the person of its representatives, guilty of denial of God, of blasphemy, of apostasy. It committed suicide.”

As a side note, in this example from John’s gospel, we see that the rulers of Rome were not only called “emperors,” but also “kings.” This brings further light to the text of Revelation 17:10, where the seven “kings” can easily be understood as Roman emperors. Here in Revelation 13:4, we see not only the Jews’ adoration of Rome’s incomparable power and stamina (“Who is like the beast…?”), but also their sense of being powerless to oppose Rome in any way (“…and who can fight against it?”).

**[In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subject beginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.]

Verses 5-7: The beast, who John told us has a mouth like a lion, begins to speak “haughty and blasphemous words.”

Q: What type of blasphemies did the beast speak?
A: He spoke blasphemies against God’s name, God’s “dwelling,” and against those who dwell in heaven.

Q: What was the extent of the authority granted to the beast?
A: He was allowed to make war on the saints and conquer them, but only for 42 months. He had authority “over every tribe and people and language and nation.” This can be seen to refer to the known world at the time, or to the Roman Empire (See Luke 2:1 to observe how “all the world” clearly referred to the Roman Empire).

The following information is taken from my term paper on 70 AD, with this specific portion coming from here:

Prior to Nero’s persecution, writes Kenneth Gentry (2002), persecution against Christians had come largely from the Jews. Christianity was considered a sect of Judaism, which was a “legal religion.” Gentry notes, “Earlier Paul had safely appealed to Nero Caesar (Acts 25:11-12; 28:19) and in A.D. 62 had been acquitted and released.” Herbert Workman, in his 1906 work, Persecution in the Early Church, said that Rome didn’t make a clear distinction between Christianity and Judaism until 64 AD (pp. 62-63).

Kenneth Gentry takes note of the testimonies of early historians regarding Nero’s campaign of persecution against Christians (pp. 54-55, 64-66). Clement of Rome (30-100 AD) said that it targeted “a vast multitude of the elect…through many indignities and tortures.” Eusebius (260-340 AD) pointed out that Nero was “the first of the emperors who showed himself an enemy of the divine religion,” and Lactantius (240-320 AD) agrees by saying of Nero, “He it was who first persecuted the saints of God.” Sulpicius Severus (360-420 AD) said that he was “the basest of all men, and even of wild beasts, [showing himself] in every way most abominable and cruel…he first attempted to abolish the name of Christian.” Sulpicius devoted two chapters to Nero’s reign of terror in his Sacred History, but only three sentences for Domitian. In 1854 church historian John Laurence von Mosheim added these thoughts:

Foremost in the rank of those emperors, on whom the church looks back with horror as her persecutors, stands Nero, a prince whose conduct towards the Christians admits of no palliation [minimizing], but was to the last degree unprincipled and inhuman. The dreadful persecution which took Diace by order of this tyrant, commenced at Rome about the middle of November, in the year of our Lord 64. This dreadful state of persecution ceased with the death of Nero. The empire, it is well known, was not delivered from the tyranny of this monster until A.D. 68, when he put an end to his own life.[1]

Tacitus, the Roman historian who lived from 56-117 AD, wrote in detail of Nero’s move to persecute the saints soon after the fire that raged through Rome, destroying 10 out of 14 city divisions:

But by no human contrivance, whether lavish contributions of money or of offerings to appease the gods, could Nero rid himself of the ugly rumor that the fire was due to his orders. So to dispel the report, he substituted as the guilty persons and inflicted unheard-of punishments on those who, detested for their abominable crimes, were vulgarly called Christians…wrapped in the hides of wild beasts, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or fastened to crosses to be set on fire, that when the darkness fell they might be burned to illuminate the night (Tacitus, Annals 15:44).

The most remarkable detail about Nero’s campaign of persecution is that it lasted just over 42 months, which Revelation 13:5-8 records is the length of time that would be given to the beast to war against and conquer the saints. The persecution ended when Nero died on June 9, 68 AD. In this context, Revelation 13:10 was a comfort to the saints. Not only were they already told that the beast would only be allowed to persecute them for 3.5 years, but they were also told how their persecutor would be removed: “…he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.” Nero ended his life by thrusting his sword through his own throat, with the help of his personal secretary, Epaphroditus, when he realized that his popularity had waned and that a coup was in the making.

Verse 7: God allows the beast “to make war on the saints and conquer them.” We saw in chapter 12 how the dragon (Satan) became enraged with “the woman” and “went off to make war on the rest of her offspring” (Rev. 12:17). This is clearly a reference to persecution of the Church, for “her offspring” are identified as “those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.” At this point, the Jewish believers have escaped from Jerusalem (Rev. 12:13-16; also the post on Revelation 7), but the believers in general throughout the Roman Empire are targeted for persecution and many are martyred. (Note the language in 12:17, which says “And he [the dragon] stood on the sand of the sea.”) John records that authority is given to the beast, not just over Israel, but “over every tribe and people and language and nation.” Steve Gregg (p. 288) quotes from David S. Clark, who writes regarding Nero’s campaign of persecution,

Rome becomes the Devil’s agent. History tells us of the persecutions of Rome; how Paul was beheaded, and Peter crucified head downwards; how the Christians were thrown to the lions, exposed to the cold, drowned in rivers, thrown into cauldrons of boiling oil, daubed with pitch and burned for torchlights; how every conceivable torture was inflicted on them; how all the might and power of the Roman empire were exerted to extirpate them, till the church at length conquered its persecutor.

Regarding the 42 month limit for the beast’s intense persecution of the Church, Jay Adams tells us why it was important for John’s first-century readers to know this detail:

Since many were about to face a period of great persecution, they are encouraged to endure by the comforting revelation that though it will be severe, it will be short. The time of the dragon’s authority to overcome the saints is only 42 months (Steve Gregg, p. 288).

Here I would like to quote again from what I wrote in my term paper a few months ago. This is takenfrom the following post:

Numerous church fathers and leaders during the first several centuries identified Nero as the beast of the book of Revelation, or speculated that it was he. These include Clement of Alexandria [150-215 AD], Tertullian [160-220 AD], Augustine [354-430 AD], and Jerome [347-420 AD] who stated the following in his commentary on Daniel 11:27-30:

As for the Antichrist, there is no question but what he is going to fight against the holy covenant, and that when he first makes war against the king of Egypt, he shall straightway be frightened off by the assistance of the Romans. But these events were typically prefigured under Antiochus Epiphanes, so that this abominable king who persecuted God’s people foreshadows the Antichrist, who is to persecute the people of Christ. And so there are many of our viewpoint who think that Domitius Nero was the Antichrist because of his outstanding savagery and depravity.

C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines Jr. (1995) point to historical details from the reign of Nero to show how he fit the Biblical description of the beast introduced in Revelation 13 (pp. 41-42, emphasis added):

The blasphemous worship demanded by the beast distinctly reminds one of the imperial cult of the first century, and the war the beast wages on the saints cannot help but recall the intense persecutions Nero, and later Domitian, inflicted on Christians because they did not worship Caesar.  Nero’s persecution of Christians from November AD 64 [when he blamed the Christians for the massive fire he started] to June AD 68 could account, in part, for the forty-two months (or 3 ½ years) of oppression mentioned in Rev. 13:5. The reference in Revelation 13:11-15 to the beast of the land securing worship for the beast from the sea (Rome was across the sea from the place of the writing of the Apocalypse, Asia Minor) reminds one of the local priests of the imperial cult in Asia Minor whose task was to compel the people to offer a sacrifice to Caesar and proclaim him Lord.  Megalomaniac that he was, Nero had coins minted in which he was called “almighty God” and “Savior.” Nero’s portrait also appears on coins as the god Apollo playing a lyre.  While earlier emperors were proclaimed deities upon their deaths, Nero abandons all reserve and demanded divine honors while still alive (as did also Caligula before him, AD 37-41).  Those who worshipped the emperor received a certificate or mark of approval – charagma, the same word used in Revelation 13:16 [the famed mark of the beast].

Verses 8-10: All of national Israel (note the phrase “all who dwell on earth”), worshipped the beast, except for those whose names were “written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain.”

Verse 10 is stated quite differently in the [1] ESV (English Standard Version) than it is in the [2] New King James Version: [1] “If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.” [2] “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity; he who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”

Without attempting to do a Greek study to see which translation is more accurate, suffice it to say that this appears to be a clear prophecy regarding how the beast (in the singular sense) would be slain. Verse 14, in fact, speaks of “the beast that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” Kenneth Gentry (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 218) and others believe this prophecy pointed to Nero’s impending death. This was to be taken as a comforting fact, helping the believers in Nero’s day to endure through intense persecution in light of this prophecy. Nero martyred thousands (including Paul) by the sword, and Kenneth Gentry reminds us that “Tertullian [145-220 AD] credits ‘Nero’s cruel sword’ as providing the martyr’s blood as seed for the church” (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 218).  It’s a historical fact that Nero also met his own suicidal demise at the hand of a sword. He did indeed live and die by the sword. It was this event in June 68 AD which brought an end to this most intense period of persecution against the Church.

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In the next post (part 2 of 5), we will be introduced to the beast’s main advocate, a second beast.

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


[1] I Clement 6:1; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2:25:2-3; Lactantius, On the Death of the Persecutors 2:2; Severus, Sacred History 2:29; John L. von Mosheim, History of Christianity in the First Three Centuries (New York: Converse, 1854) 1:138-139.

Revelation Chapter 7


REVELATION 7

Dave: September 10, 2009/Adam: August 2011

Scripture text for this study:  Revelation 7

Notes from Adam were edited into this post in November 2009, and again in August 2011, and are in red:

Background Note: Chapter 7 is an interlude between the sixth seal (6:12) and the seventh seal (8:1). Revelation 6 ends with a statement that the great day of the wrath of the Lord had come, along with a question about who could stand in that day. That question is answered here in this chapter.

Verses 1-3: Here we see that four different angels have been given power to harm the earth and sea. However, with more judgment about to come, another angel intervenes and strictly commands the four angels to hold back this judgment until God’s servants could first be sealed on their foreheads. This intervening angel is said to have “the seal of the living God.” He also comes from the east. Why is that?

One possibility relates to what we know from the history of the Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). During the 5-month siege on Jerusalem in 70 AD, Titus made his headquarters on the northern ridge of the Mount of Olives, which was on the eastern side of Jerusalem. Attack plans and strategies were made from this location, which Titus called “Lookout Hill” (Mount Scopus). From there he was able to look into the city over its fortified walls. It was also from there that the famous 10th Legion of Rome used catapults to launch huge stones weighing 75 – 100 pounds into the city (this will be discussed further in our study of Revelation 16), causing much devastation. 

Arethas, the Bishop of Caesarea in the 10th century AD, gave an interesting commentary on these verses:

Here in a suitable manner are shown those evangelists which openly remained among the Jews in the war against the Romans in the avenging affliction of the Lord. For, the four angels saved the guards upon the four corners of the land of the Jews putting to flight their fear, whether it be fear of the certain sufferings and injuries or the unseasonable affliction of the country or of their beloved wives. These things, which were a near threat to Judea, are designated figuratively. But also the winds are to be prohibited from blowing upon the land or upon the sea . Upon the land indeed, lest either they find a small consolation in the time of war against the Romans or the vegetable farmers diligently arise rejoicing because their plants are being refreshed by the blowing of the winds. [Or the land or the sea may designate] the foot soldiers fighting in the war or the navy, since as Josephus says, ships also were used in the attack. For all these misfortunes happened to them.

Source: Francis Gumerlock, Revelation in the First Century, 2012

Verses 4-8: What do we know about the 144,000 from the text?

  • They are “sealed” on their foreheads (verse 3; compare with Rev. 3:12, 13:16).
  • There are 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • They have been protected from the wrath to be poured out on the earth (verse 3).

Q: Where else does the Bible talk about His people being sealed?
A: Ephesians 1:13-14, Ezekiel 9:4-6.

In Steve Gregg’s book, “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” he points to a remarkable parallel event, recorded by Ezekiel, which occurred shortly before Jerusalem fell the first time:

Jerusalem twice fell to invaders because of God’s judgment upon them: first, in 586 B.C., to the Babylonians; and second, in A.D. 70, to the Romans. Prior to the conquest in 586 B.C., God took care to identify His own and to separate them for safety during the holocaust. This fact was symbolically portrayed to Ezekiel in a vision of an angel marking God’s faithful with an ink mark on their foreheads. Following this marking, six angels with deadly weapons were dispatched against Jerusalem to slaughter its inhabitants (Ezekiel 9).

Here a similar vision is given to John prior to the second destruction of Jerusalem in his own day. This time, before the four winds (v. 1) are unleashed upon Israel, God’s servants are sealed on their foreheads for their preservation… Those who survived the holocaust of A.D. 70 were those who possessed the seal of God (Eph. 1:13), that is, the Jewish believers in Christ (pp. 126, 128).

Steve Gregg also wrote about the believers in Jerusalem successfully escaping before Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, just as Jesus warned them to do in Matthew 24:15-21 and Luke 21:20-24:

Just prior to the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the Jewish Christians in that city were warned by a prophetic oracle to flee from the city (echoing Jesus’ own warning in Luke 21:20ff). Historian Eusebius (c. 325) wrote: “The whole body, however, of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, given to men of approved piety there before the war, removed from the city, and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella.”

The normative view among evangelical preterists is that this 144,000 is a symbolic number representing the full number of Jewish Christians who escaped the doomed city before its destruction. That this group lived in the first century is confirmed in another passage, which calls them the “firstfruits to God” (Rev. 14:4). Since the church age has been one long harvest of souls (Matt. 9:37f; John 4:35-38), the “firstfruits” must have come in at the beginning of this time (compare James 1:1, 18, which speaks of the Jewish believers as “firstfruits”). If this 144,000 referred to some future group living in the end times (as the futurists believe), one would expect them to be called the “last fruits.”

Regarding the escape of believers to Pella (Jordan) before 70 AD, more is written about that here:

https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/16/pp14-abomination-of-desolation/ and
https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/22/pp18-the-historical-events-leading-up-to-70-ad-part-2/
 (includes a map)

The 144,000 are mentioned again in Rev 14:1-4. What additional information about this group do we find there?

  • They have the name of the Lamb and His Father’s name written on their foreheads.
  • They were redeemed from the earth.
  • They are virgins.
  • They follow the Lamb wherever He goes.
  • They are said to be redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb.
  • In their mouth no lie was found.

Q: Who do scholars think that they are?
A:
According to proponents of the Pre-tribulation rapture view, they are Jewish believers brought to faith after Jesus returns and removes (raptures) the church from the earth. Some view the 144,000 as the church.  According to John M. Frame and Vern S. Poythress, for example, the visions of the 144,000 and the international multitude are “complementary perspectives” on the Church. This view holds that the 144,000 and the group in 9-17 are the same people. Why this view is problematic to the leader of this study (Dave):

  • The group in 9-17 is “innumerable”; the group in 4-8 is numbered.
  • The group in 4-8 is from the 12 tribes of Israel; the group in 9-17 is from “all tribes and peoples and languages.

Kenneth Gentry, in his book, Before Jerusalem Fell (1998), says (pp. 232ff), ” The 144,000 are Christians of Jewish extraction.”

  • Jewish, because they are “in the land”
  • Jewish, because they are from the twelve tribes of Israel
  • Jewish, because they are contrasted with the multitude in 9-17

Verses 9-17: John then sees “a great multitude.” What do we know about this group from the text?

  • They are innumerable.
  • They come from all tribes and peoples and languages.
  • They are clothed in white robes.
  • They have palm branches in their hands.
  • They extol God for His salvation.
  • They are seen “coming out of the great tribulation”.
  • They are purified by the blood of the Lamb.
  • They are before the throne of God and serve Him night and day.
  • They are sheltered by His presence.
  • They no longer experience hunger or thirst.
  • They are no longer able to be overcome by heat.
  • The Lamb, who is said to be in the midst of the throne, is their shepherd.
  • He guides them to springs of living water (see John 4:14, 7:37-38; Isaiah 49:10).
  • God wipes away every tear from their eyes.

What is the great tribulation mentioned in verse 14?
A: Here are several views, depending on one’s interpretation of this term:

  • Futurist Pre-Tribulationist view: Seven years of suffering for those “left behind” after a future Rapture of the Church
  • Futurist Post-Tribulationist view: An “end-times” generation will suffer through a future 7-year outpouring of God’s wrath
  • Historicist view: The sufferings of the church from its inception (John 16:33)
  • Preterist view: A 3.5 year period that occurred in history, beginning with Nero’s declaration of war against Israel in February 67 AD until Jerusalem’s destruction in August 70 AD (Matthew 24:21; cf. Daniel 12:1, Jeremiah 30:7). This is our view, and more details can be seen in Part 3 of our series on the Olivet Discourse.

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It may be helpful to further clarify our reasons for believing that the predicted judgments alluded to here in this chapter were to be poured out primarily on the land of Israel. As noted above, one of the reasons Kenneth Gentry gave for seeing the 144,000 as believers of Jewish extraction was that they were shown to be “in the land,” a reference to verse 3 (some translations say “earth”). In our study of Revelation so far, we have suggested that many of the references to “the earth” in the book of Revelation are not meant to be taken as worldwide in scope, but as dealing instead with the land of Israel/Palestine. In a 3-part study on this subjectbeginning with this post, I have outlined nearly 20 instances where this appears to be the case.

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Our study of Revelation 8 can be found here.

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

PP4: Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Revelation)-Part 1


This is now the fourth segment in our series on “A Partial-Preterist Perspective on the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.” This is the same title as a term paper I recently submitted to Northwestern College. The first segment included the Title Page, Outline, Introduction, and a brief introduction to Partial-Preterism. The second segment consisted of the References page, and the third segment was a discussion of the external evidence for an early date for the writing of the book of Revelation. These segments can be found here, and again it’s recommended that they be read in order before reading this current post:

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/brief-explanation-of-partial-preterism/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp2-references/
[3] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/13/pp3-external-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation/

We will now turn to some of the internal evidence for an early date. This was a rather long section in my paper, so I’m going to break it up into several parts. Among other things, this first part will deal with references to Jerusalem, a temple, Babylon the Great, and a great city in the book of Revelation.

Adam Maarschalk

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II. Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Part 1)

The reality is that if an early date for the book of Revelation is valid, this leaves room for the possibility that many of the events in this book were also fulfilled during the siege of Jerusalem, the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, and the Roman/Jewish War of 66-73 AD. Even more telling than the external evidence (e.g. quotes from early church fathers and historians), though, is the internal evidence from the text when it is compared with other passages of Scripture and also with what historically happened during the Roman/Jewish War.

Kenneth Gentry (1998), a former Dispensationalist, discovered in his reading of “The Jewish War” by Josephus a number of accounts which seem to reflect the descriptions of the plagues and judgments in Revelation. For example:

Regarding the blood flow to the “horses’ bridles” [Revelation 14:20], Josephus’ comments on the battle scenes during the Jewish War are enlightening. At one point a naval battle produced a “lake all bloody and full of dead bodies” (Wars 3:10:9). Later he reported that “the whole of the country through which they had fled was filled with slaughter, and [the] Jordan [River] could not be passed over, by reason of the dead bodies that were in it, but because the lake Asphaltitis was also full of dead bodies” (Wars 4-7:6). Surely such carnage and bloodshed are suggested by John’s imagery (p. 245).

John also refers to a time period of 42 months in Revelation 11:2-3, which is significant in light of history. John is told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months…” During the Roman/Jewish War, as will be seen, it did take Rome 3.5 years, or 42 months, to overcome Jerusalem and trample it. This occurred from the time Nero dispatched his general Vespasian to advance on Jerusalem in early spring 67 AD until Jerusalem and the temple were demolished and laid level by the end of September 70 AD.

John’s words echoed the words of Jesus given earlier. In Luke 21:24, Jesus, clearly speaking about Jerusalem’s pending destruction (Luke 21:5-7), said, “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Dispensationalists interpret the phrase “times of the Gentiles” to be the entire Church Age. However, is it not possible that the “times of the Gentiles” is what John wrote about in Rev. 11:2-3?

In this Revelation 11 passage, John is told to measure a temple which apparently still existed. If he wrote this in 95-96 AD, the temple would have met its destruction 25 years before, and one could wonder why John did not raise a question when given this command or even mention the recent destruction of the temple at all in his book. Its absence  after 70 AD was no small thing, not only because of its most central significance to Judaism, but also because of its magnificence and physical stature. After a grand renovation project at the hands of Herod around 20 BC, it was widely acknowledged as one of the most beautiful structures in the world [The use of the phrase “temple of God” quite possibly indicates that the Church is also being referred to here (cf. Eph. 2:11-22; II Cor. 6:16; I Cor. 3:16, 6:19). Therefore it may be that John was (symbolically) measuring the Church which would be trampled (persecuted) for 42 months (see Rev. 13:5-7; this passage will be discussed later). Given the similarity between this passage and Luke 21:24, the physical temple was also probably being alluded to. It may be that both ideas were being spoken of in this case.]

On the other hand, if the temple John measured is still future, as Dispensationalists teach, on what grounds could a future physical temple be referred to as “the temple of God”? Such a temple would be blasphemous in light of Christ’s work on the cross which has created a new, non-physical temple (e.g. Ephesians 2:13-20). The reinstitution of sacrifices would be an even greater insult (See Hebrews 7:11-10:18).

The description of the woman in Revelation 17 offers further internal evidence for an early date. This woman, who rode the beast, was said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (verse 6). She is a great city (verse 18), and is hated by the beast and the 10 kings who desolate her and burn her with fire (verses 16-17). More specifically, it is said that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on the earth” (18:24), and the “saints and apostles and prophets” were told to rejoice over her destruction (18:20).

Who was responsible for shedding all the blood of the prophets and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? The answer can be found in Matthew 23, as David Lowman (2009 [3]) so aptly points out:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets’” Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate (Matthew 23:29-38, emphasis added).

Is it a coincidence that the word “desolate” is used here, just as it is used in Revelation 17:16; 18:17, 19, not to mention Daniel 9:27 and Luke 21:20? No, Jerusalem was the prophetic “Babylon the Great” in the book of Revelation. The generation which heard Jesus speak these things also saw them happen, just as He said they would, in 70 AD. The third bowl judgment, rivers and springs of water becoming blood (Revelation 16:4), also is directly linked to those who had shed righteous blood (verses 5-6): “And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, ‘Just are You, O Holy One, who is and who was, for You brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!’” As we will see later, Josephus and others recorded that the rivers and springs of Jerusalem and its surroundings were filled with blood during the Roman/Jewish War. Again, Jesus said that it was the generation that would crucify Him that would be held responsible for the blood of saints and prophets (cf. Matthew 21:33-45), not a generation in the 21st century or beyond, and that Jerusalem would experience this wrath.

Jerusalem receives specific mention in Revelation 11:8, where she is clearly identified by the description “the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where [the] Lord was crucified.” It’s worth noting that “Revelation 11:8 suggests that Jerusalem’s streets were intact at the time of John’s writing” (Kenneth Gentry, 1998, p. 236) because the dead bodies of the two witnesses were to lie there for several days. If John wrote this in 95 or 96 AD, Jerusalem would have been a wasteland. As Kathleen M. Kenyon remarked, “It was two centuries or more [after 70 AD] before human activity began once more to make its mark in the whole area of ancient Jerusalem.”[1] It’s also significant in Revelation 11:8 that Jerusalem is called “the great city.” This is the same title given to Babylon the Great on at least six occasions (17:18; 18:10, 16, 18, 19, 21).

To be called “Sodom,” of course, is not a compliment. When Isaiah was instructed to prophesy against Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1), he called the Israelites by the same name because of their apostasy. It would make sense for John to speak of apostate Jerusalem, once known as the holy city, as Sodom, Babylon, and a harlot. Todd Dennis writes, “The image of the unfaithful wife, the harlot, was often used of Israel in the OT. Israel is repeatedly called the wife of God (Jer. 2:2, 3:14, Is. 54:5). But she was an unfaithful wife (Jer. 3:20, Hos. 1:2, Ez. 6:9, Ez. 16, Is. 50:1) behaving as a prostitute (Jer. 3:1-2). In the context of Jerusalem’s designation as a prostitute, Is. 1:21 is especially noteworthy: ‘See how the faithful city has become a harlot’” (Todd Dennis [25], 2009). Rome in John’s day or a secular city/state in our day could not be said to fornicate against God in the way that Jerusalem was able to. Kenneth Gentry (1998, p. 241) also writes that there “is an obvious contrast between the Harlot and the chaste bride (cp. Rev. 17:2-5 with Rev. 21:1ff.) that suggests a contrast with the Jerusalem below and the Jerusalem above (Rev. 21:2; cp. Gal. 4:24ff; Heb. 12:18ff.).”

Dennis adds that the description of the harlot’s attire (purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls) was nearly identical to the ephod worn by the high priest (Revelation 17:4; cf. Exodus 28:5-21). The golden cup she held was likely symbolic of the temple vessels, the greatest part of which were gold and silver, according to the Jewish historian Josephus (Wars 5.4.4). On Aaron’s forehead was the inscription “Holy to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). The harlot’s forehead, on the other hand, bore the title “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” (Rev. 17:5).


[1] Kathleen M. Kenyon, Jerusalem: Excavating 3000 Years of History, 1967, p. 185.

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The Bible study group I belong to has posted fairly comprehensive chapter-by-chapter studies on the book of Revelation. They can all be found here.