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


In Matthew 21:43-45 Jesus stunned the religious leaders of Israel by telling them that the kingdom of God would be taken out of their hands and given to another nation. His statement, however, didn’t come out of nowhere. Compare the words of Jesus to what is said in Daniel 2 and 7, where we read about the transition from the fourth kingdom to the everlasting kingdom of God. I’ve letter-coded and highlighted the parallels (A, B, C, D, and E):

Therefore I say to you, [A] the kingdom of God will be taken from you and [B] given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on [C] this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it [D] will grind him to powder. Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that [E] He was speaking of them” (Matthew 21:43-45).

You watched while [C] a stone was cut out without hands, which [D] struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were [D] crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And [C] the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth… And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up [A] a kingdom which shall never be destroyed … The fourth beast shall be [E] a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces… Then [A] the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be [B] given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom…” (Daniel 2:34-35, 44; 7:23, 27).

This chart also helps to show the parallels, and how Jesus confirmed the identity of Nebuchadnezzar’s fourth kingdom (Daniel 2), Daniel’s fourth beast (Daniel 7), and the beast of Revelation:

Daniel 2:34-35, 44 Daniel 7:23, 27 Matthew 21:43-45
A. “a kingdom” “the kingdom” “the kingdom”
B. “given to the people, the saints of the Most High” “given to a nation bearing the fruits of it”
C. “a stone”; “the stone” “this stone”
D. “struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces”; “crushed together” “ will grind him to powder”
E. “a fourth kingdom on earth” “He was speaking of them”

From the time I became a preterist in 2009 until about six months ago, I was convinced that the beast of the Book of Revelation was Nero and the Roman Empire. After all, the Greek philosopher Apollonius of Tyana (15-98 AD) explicitly referred to Nero as “a beast.” After all, a certain form of Nero’s name, “Nrwn Qsr,” when calculated using Hebrew gematria, is said to equal “666.” After all, Nero persecuted Christians…

At the same time, I was failing to reconcile the Rome/Nero model of the beast with certain passages in Daniel 2, Daniel 7, and Revelation 19. Despite those issues, I never thought I would abandon the Roman model of the beast. This was true even in July 2016 when I made a case for viewing the 10 horns of Revelation 17 as the 10 Jewish generals named by Josephus in Wars 2.20.3-4. For about a week, I considered a reader’s suggestion that there were three beasts in the book of Revelation: [1] the sea beast with seven heads and 10 horns (Roman) [2] the land beast with two horns a.k.a. the false prophet (Jewish), and [3] the scarlet beast with seven heads and 10 horns (Jewish). Ultimately, that didn’t work either.

I decided it was time to restudy and reconsider “the beast.” I decided to not only pay attention to all 35 verses where a beast is mentioned in Revelation, but also to reconcile this study with what is said about the fourth beast/kingdom in Daniel 2 and 7. This study has revealed that the fourth beast – depicted first as iron, and later as iron and clay (Daniel 2:40-43) – was not Rome and Nero. It was Israel, and it was the Zealots who conquered that nation like kings and brought it to destruction.

If we take a close look at Daniel 2 and 7, and then compare it to what Jesus said in Matthew 21:43-45, isn’t it clear that Jesus identified Israel (and its leaders) as the “feet of iron and clay” that would soon be struck and crushed by the rock in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream? Didn’t Jesus portray Israel, not Rome, as the fourth kingdom which would lose the kingdom and be destroyed at the very time that it would be given into the hands of the saints? In this series, we will take a deeper look at all this and more in Daniel 2 and 7 before going on to examine various passages in Revelation 11, 13-17, and 19-20 which speak about the beast.

A Summary of Evidence that the Beast Was Israel, Not Rome

The following is some of the evidence that will be shown in this series for why the beast of Revelation was Israel and not Rome:

*Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image in his dream, and the legs and feet (Daniel 2:33, 40) were the fourth kingdom. Babylon was the head of that image (verse 38), and the feet were the final stage. When the feet were struck by the stone, they were broken into pieces and the entire statue was crushed (verses 34-35, 44-45). At that time, the kingdom of God was set up (verses 35, 44). At that time, Rome was neither crushed nor in its final stage, but Israel was crushed (see Matthew 21:43-44).

*The fourth beast of Daniel 7 was a fourth kingdom (verses 7, 17, 23). Daniel watched as the fourth “beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame” (verse 11). This did not happen to Rome, but it definitely happened to Israel.

*Revelation 11 says that the beast would kill the two witnesses, and that in that same hour an earthquake would kill 7000 people in Jerusalem. In Wars of the Jews Josephus describes an earthquake which took place in late February or early March 68 AD. That same night an army of Idumeans, working on behalf of the Zealots, killed those who tried to keep them out of the city. The next morning 8500 dead bodies were found. The Romans were not in Jerusalem from November 66 AD until early 70 AD, but the Jewish Zealots were there and they not only engaged in mass murder at that time but also prevented victims from being buried (Rev. 11:9).

*In Revelation 13:4 those who worshipped the beast said, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” In Jewish education, it’s taught that Judah Maccabee carried the following expression on his standard when he went to battle around 165 BC: “Who is like unto thee among the mighty, O Lord!” Apparently, a strikingly similar expression was attributed to the Zealots when they slaughtered Roman garrisons at Masada and Jerusalem, and surprisingly defeated the armies of Cestius Gallus in November 66 AD. This expression reflected the excited hope that the Zealots were about to obtain full independence for Judea the way the Maccabees did 200 years before that.

*Revelation 13 shows a second beast, later called “the false prophet,” working closely with and on behalf of the first beast, and even performing signs and wonders. Josephus repeatedly spoke of false prophets working closely with the Zealots (in fact, being hired by them), promoting the war agenda of the Zealots, and claiming to perform signs and wonders.

*The fifth bowl judgment (Revelation 16:10) was poured out “on the throne of the beast,” resulting in darkness, sores, and pain. In Leviticus 26:18-28 God repeatedly warned Israel that a time would come when they would be punished “seven times” for their sins, as God would execute the vengeance of His covenant (verse 25). It’s no coincidence that the covenant imagery of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19) appears in the opening of the seventh seal, the sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the pouring out of the seventh bowl. Those seven-fold judgments were reserved for Israel alone. They were not for Rome, so it follows that when the fifth bowl judgment was poured out “on the throne of the beast,” it was Israel, not Rome, which experienced that darkness and pain. It was Israel that hosted the kingdom of the beast.

*Revelation 16:13-14 describes the dragon, beast, and false prophet working together to gather a mass of people to a great battle. Josephus went to great lengths to describe how the Zealots and the false prophets worked together to compel the people of Israel to go to war, killing and torturing those who wouldn’t go along with their agenda.

*In Revelation 17:3 the beast was shown to be scarlet for a reason that was significant to first century Israel. According to both the Jerusalem Talmud and the Babylonian Talmud, on the Day of Atonement a scapegoat bearing the sins of the people would be released into the wilderness (see Leviticus 16). The scapegoat would wear a crimson (red/scarlet)-colored strap, and it would become white once it reached the wilderness, indicating that God had forgiven their sins. This miracle happened every year. However, says the Babylonian Talmud, “During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot ‘For the Lord’ did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white.” Also according to the Jerusalem Talmud, “the crimson thread remained crimson.” This appears to be why the beast was seen as scarlet.

*In Revelation 17:16 John was told that the 10 horns of the beast would make the harlot desolate, eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. Josephus repeatedly blamed the Jewish Zealots for the destruction of Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple. He also repeatedly blamed the Zealots for the fire that consumed the temple. He even referred to the Zealots as a wild beast eating its own flesh.

*In Revelation 19:19-20, it’s said that the beast would be captured at the coming of Christ and cast into the lake of fire. This did not happen to Nero or Rome in the first century, but it happened to the Zealot leaders of Israel.

Paul, Peter, and Jude Referred to the Jewish Leaders as “Beasts”

In I Corinthians 15:32 Paul said that he had “fought with beasts at Ephesus.” There is no record that he wrestled with bears, mountain lions, or any other animal. He did, however, deal with Judaizers (Acts 19:8-9, Ephesians 6:12; I Timothy 1:3-4). Likewise, Peter referred to the false prophets (II Peter 2:1) of his day as “natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed” (verse 12).

Jude also said that there were “brute beasts” (Jude 10) among the saints, and that Enoch had prophesied about them that Christ would come “with ten thousands of His saints [or ‘angels’], to execute judgment on all” (Jude 14-15). This prophecy is found in Enoch 1:9, and Enoch specified that it would happen 70 generations after the time of Noah (Enoch 10:11-14). Luke confirmed that Jesus’ generation was that 70th generation (Luke 3:23-37).

Josephus Also Referred to the Jewish Leaders as “Beasts”

In early 68 AD Jesus, one of the former high priests, gave this description of the Jewish Zealots in his speech to the Idumeans who had been invited by the Zealots to make war on Jerusalem:

“You may, if you please, come into the city, though not in the way of war, and take a view of the marks still remaining of what I now say, and may see the houses that have been depopulated by their rapacious hands, with those wives and families that are in black, mourning for their slaughtered relations; as also you may hear their groans and lamentations all the city over; for there is nobody but hath tasted of the incursions of these profane wretches, who have proceeded to that degree of madness, as not only to have transferred their impudent robberies out of the country, and the remote cities, into this city, the very face and head of the whole nation, but out of the city into the temple also; for that is now made their receptacle and refuge, and the fountain-head whence their preparations are made against us. And this place, which is adored by the habitable world, and honored by such as only know it by report, as far as the ends of the earth, is trampled upon by these wild beasts born among ourselves” (Wars 4.4.3).

Josephus described Simon Bar Giora, a Zealot leader, in this way:

“This success of Simon excited the zealots afresh; and though they were afraid to fight him openly in a fair battle, yet did they lay ambushes in the passes, and seized upon his wife, with a considerable number of her attendants; whereupon they came back to the city rejoicing, as if they had taken Simon himself captive, and were in present expectation that he would lay down his arms, and make supplication to them for his wife; but instead of indulging any merciful affection, he grew very angry at them for seizing his beloved wife; so he came to the wall of Jerusalem, and, like wild beasts when they are wounded, and cannot overtake those that wounded them, he vented his spleen upon all persons that he met with. Accordingly, he caught all those that were come out of the city gates, either to gather herbs or sticks, who were unarmed and in years; he then tormented them and destroyed them, out of the immense rage he was in, and was almost ready to taste the very flesh of their dead bodies” (Wars 4.9.8).

Later he gave this description of the civil wars in Jerusalem:

“When therefore Titus had marched over that desert which lies between Egypt and Syria, in the manner forementioned, he came to Cesarea, having resolved to set his forces in order at that place, before he began the war. Nay, indeed, while he was assisting his father at Alexandria, in settling that government which had been newly conferred upon them by God, it so happened that the sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other; which partition in such evil cases may be said to be a good thing, and the effect of Divine justice. Now as to the attack the zealots made upon the people, and which I esteem the beginning of the city’s destruction, it hath been already explained after an accurate manner; as also whence it arose, and to how great a mischief it was increased. But for the present sedition, one should not mistake if he called it a sedition begotten by another sedition, and to be like a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh” (Wars 5.1.1).

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

Series Outline

A. INTRODUCTION
1. A Comparison of Matthew 21:43-45 and Daniel 2:34-35, 44; 7:23, 27
2. A Summary of Evidence in Revelation that the Beast Was Israel, Not Rome
             a. Peter, Jude, and Josephus Referred to the Jewish Leaders as “Beasts”
             b. 35 Verses Which Speak of a “Beast” in Revelation

B. DANIEL 2
1. Daniel 2:31-45 (Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream)
2. Kingdom #1 (Gold / Head) to Kingdom #2 (Silver / Chest and Arms)
3. Kingdom #2 (Silver / Chest and Arms) to Kingdom #3 (Bronze / Belly and Thighs)
            a. Greece’s Rule Over Israel from 323 BC to 164 BC
            b. The Jewish Hammer
4. Kingdom #3 (Bronze/Belly & Thighs) to Kingdom #4 (Iron & Iron-Clay/Legs & Feet)
            a. The Jews Regain Their Independence
            b. The Judean Kingdom Divided
            c. They Will Not Adhere to One Another
5. Kingdom #4 (Iron & Iron-Clay/Legs & Feet) to the Everlasting Kingdom (God’s Mountain)

C. DANIEL 7
1. Daniel 7:2-8, 11-12, 16-27 (Daniel’s Vision of Four Beasts)
2. Overview of the Four Beasts
3. The Fourth Beast
            a. Devouring, Breaking, and Trampling (Daniel 7:7)
            b. Different from All Other Kingdoms (Daniel 7:7, 23)
            c. Ten Horns of the Beast (Daniel 7:7, 20, 24)
4. An 11th Horn, “A Little Horn”
            a. A Little Horn Coming Up Among the 10 Horns (Daniel 7:8, 20-21, 24-26)
            b. Three Horns Plucked Out by the Roots (Daniel 7:8, 20, 24)
            c. A Mouth Speaking Pompous Words (Daniel 7:8, 11, 20)
            d. The Body of the Fourth Beast Destroyed and Burned (Daniel 7:11)
            e. The Lives of the Other Beasts Were Prolonged (Daniel 7:12)
            f. The Kingdom Given to the Saints (Daniel 7:17-18, 21-22, 26-27)
            g. The Little Horn Would Change Times and Law (Daniel 7:25)
            h. The Saints Given Into the Hand of the Little Horn (Daniel 7:21, 25)
5. Were Christians in Jerusalem During the Jewish-Roman War?
            a. Nero’s Government Helped Protect the Christians in Pella

D. REVELATION 11
1. Gentiles in Revelation 11:1-2
2. The Two Witnesses and the Beast

E. REVELATION 13
1. Revelation 13:1-2
            a. The Beast’s 10 Horns
            b. The Dragon
2. Revelation 13:3
            a. Leaders of the Zealot Movement
            b. The Beast’s Seven Heads
            c. The Mortally Wounded Head Was Healed
3. Revelation 13:4 (Who Is Able to Make War with the Beast?)
4. Revelation 13:5-10
            a. Given Authority to Continue for 42 Months
            b. Making War with the Saints
5. Revelation 13:11-15
            a. The Second Beast from the Land
            b. False Prophets Working Closely with the Beast
6. Revelation 13:16-18 (The Mark and the Number ‘666’)

F. REVELATION 14-16
1. Revelation 14:9-11 (Consequences for Worshiping the Beast)
2. Revelation 15:2 (Those Who Have the Victory Over the Beast)
3. Revelation 16:2 (The First Bowl and Sores for Those Who Worshiped the Beast)
4. Revelation 16:10 (The Fifth Bowl Poured on the Throne and Kingdom of the Beast)
5. Revelation 16:13 (Unclean Spirits from the Mouths of the Dragon, Beast, False Prophet)

G. REVELATION 17
1. Revelation 17:3 (A Woman on a Scarlet Beast)
2. Revelation 17:7-11 (Seven Kings and an Eighth)
3. Revelation 17:12-17 (The Ten Horns)
             a. Making War with the Lamb
             b. Making the Harlot Desolate, Eating Her Flesh, and Burning Her with Fire

H. REVELATION 19
1. The Beast and His Armies Gathered To Make War
2. The Beast and the False Prophet Captured and Cast into the Lake of Fire

I. REVELATION 20
1. Satan Bound; Those Who Overcame the Beast Reigned with Christ
2. Satan Released; Gathers the Nations to another Battle
             a. Satan Joins the Beast and False Prophet in the Lake of Fire

J. CONCLUSION

35 Verses Which Speak of a “Beast” in Revelation

The beast is spoken of in 35 verses in the book of Revelation (NKJV) – directly in 29 verses, and by a pronoun (“he” or “him”) in six more. To be clear, nine of these verses (Revelation 13:11-16; 16:13; 19:20; and 20:10) speak of a second beast, later called “the false prophet.” I’ve highlighted the references to “the beast” in red, and the references to the second beast, a.k.a. “the false prophet,” in green. These are the passages that will be examined in this series, along with Daniel 2 and 7:

Verse or Passage Scripture Text
#1

(Rev. 11:7)

7 “When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them” (Revelation 11:7).

-This is a reference to the two witnesses being killed by the beast. See Rev. 11:3-13.

#2-9

(Rev. 13:1-8)

1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.
4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”

-In verses 5-8 this beast is referred to by the pronouns “he” and “him”:

5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for 42 months.
6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven.
7 And it was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation.
8 And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

#10-17

(Rev. 13:11-18)

11 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon.
12 And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.

13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men.

14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who was wounded by the sword and lived.
15 He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed.

16 And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads,

17 and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
18 Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.

#18-19

(Rev. 14:9, 11)

9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand,
10 he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. And he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.
11 And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
#20

(Rev. 15:2)

1 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.
2 And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God.
#21

(Rev. 16:2)

1 Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.”
2 So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.
#22

(Rev. 16:10)

10 Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain.
#23

(Rev. 16:13)

12 Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, so that the way of the kings from the east might be prepared.
13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
#24

(Rev. 17:3)

3 So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
#25-26

(Rev. 17:7-8)

7 But the angel said to me, “Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
8 The beast that you saw was, and is not, and will ascend out of the bottomless pit and go to perdition. And those who dwell on the earth will marvel, whose names are not written in the Book of Life from the foundation of the world, when they see the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
#27-29

(Rev. 17:11-13)

11 And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition.
12 The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.
13 These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.
14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.
#30-31

(Rev. 17:16-17)

16 And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
17 For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.
#32-33

(Rev. 19:19-20)

19 And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
20 Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.
#34

(Rev. 20:4)

4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
#35

(Rev. 20:10)

10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.

The next post will begin to examine the four kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 2).

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

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Revelation Chapter 13 (Part 5: Ten Fulfilled Prophecies)


REVELATION 13 (Part 5: Ten Fulfilled Prophecies Regarding the Beast)

Adam Maarschalk: October 22 & 29, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 13:1-18

By way of reviewing the previous four posts, the following is a chart indicating what was foretold regarding “the beast from the sea” in Revelation 13 and 17, and how these things were true of Nero and the empire he led, represented, and personified. In some cases it would be possible for another entity aside from Nero to fulfill one of these prophecies (being identified with “666,” for example), but the fact that each one of these prophecies fits Nero and first-century Rome makes for a very compelling case that the fulfillment of Revelation 13 is past and not future. Keep in mind, as we noted in Part 1 of this Revelation 13 series, that the beast is seen in both the singular and the general sense (i.e. as an individual, and at the same time as an empire).

10 PROPHECIES REGARDING THE BEAST FROM THE SEA

FULFILLMENT BY NERO/THE ROMAN EMPIRE

1. The beast was to have ten horns, which would carry it, give to it their own power and authority, persecute the saints, and finally turn on the “great prostitute” to the point of burning her with fire (Rev. 13:1; 17:3, 7, 12-14, 16-17).

The Roman Empire contained 10 Senatorial Provinces, and the governors of each one granted their authority to Rome and also exercised authority on its behalf (See Part 1). This included aiding in Nero’s persecution of the saints, and carrying out the Roman war against Israel which resulted in the burning of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

2. The beast had seven heads. To John it was explained that the seven heads represented not only the “seven mountains on which the woman is seated,” but also “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” (Rev. 13:1; 17:3, 7, 9-10).

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 (Again see Part 1).

3. The beast was to have a mouth like a lion (Rev. 13:2).

The apostle Paul, referring to his trial before Nero, testified that he was “rescued from the lion’s mouth” (II Timothy 4:16-17).

4. One of the beast’s heads was to receive a mortal wound, but the beast’s wound would be healed, causing the whole earth to marvel “as they followed the beast” (Rev. 13:3, 12).

Nero committed suicide in June 68 AD, bringing an end to the blood line that had sustained Rome since it had become an empire. His death was followed by chaos and civil war, causing the empire to nearly collapse, and Josephus testified that “every part of the habitable earth” under the Romans “was in an unsettled and tottering condition” (Wars 7.4.2). The next three emperors (Galba, Otho, and Vitellius) each reigned considerably less than a year, each tried desperately to resurrect Nero’s image and authority, and it was only when Vespasian came to power in December 69 AD that Rome stabilized and became more powerful than ever (See Part 2 and Part 3).

5. The “whole earth” would worship the beast, extolling it as incomparable and overwhelmingly powerful to any who would dare to oppose it. Only those whose names were “written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain” would not worship the beast (Rev. 13:4, 8; 17:8).

See Part 2 for 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. As for the reference to “the whole earth,” this can either be understood as referring to the Roman Empire (cf. Luke 2:1), or to Israel (See my 3-part study outlining nearly 20 cases in Revelation where the context seems to demand that the expressions “the earth” and “those who dwell on the earth” be understood as dealing with the land of Israel/Palestine rather than to the entire planet [Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

6. The beast was to be given authority “to make war on the saints and to conquer them” for a period of 42 months. The scope of his authority would be “over every tribe and people and language and nation” (Rev. 13:5-7).

It’s a historical fact that Nero began to persecute the Christians throughout the Roman Empire in mid-November 64 AD. This intense persecution only ended when Nero committed suicide in June 68 AD. Thus he made war on the saints for a period of exactly 42 months. See Part 1.

7. The saints were called to endure and remain faithful in light of the fact that the beast who so often wielded the sword would himself be killed by the sword (Rev. 13:10, 14).

In June 68 AD Nero ended his life by thrusting his sword through his own throat, with the help of his personal secretary, Epaphroditus, in part because he realized that his popularity had waned and also because of an attempted coup (See Part 1). Nero lived by the sword, and died by the sword. Tertullian [145-220 AD] credited “Nero’s cruel sword” as providing the martyr’s blood as seed for the church. At one point he urged his readers to “consult your histories; you will find there that Nero was the first who assailed with the imperial sword the Christian sect.”

8. The beast from the sea would be given much support from a second beast (“from the earth”), which would compel “the earth and its inhabitants” to worship the first beast. An image of the first beast would be given breath, so that it might “even speak and might cause those who would not worship the image of the beast to be slain” (Rev. 13:11-15).

Paul Kroll (1999), of Grace Communion International, notes that early church writers Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (among others) wrote of Simon Magus (mentioned in Acts 8:9-24) being able to bring statues to life in the first century AD. Kroll remarks that it was common during this era for statues to be deemed able to speak and perform miracles. The Roman historian Dio Cassius records in detail how a foreign king, Tiridates, literally and publicly worshipped Nero and his images in one particular conference. A number of ancient and modern historians insist that those who refused to do so, both during and after Nero’s reign, were executed.

David Chilton (quoting from Austin Farrer’s 1964 work) points out that these executions were carried out not only by Roman authorities, but also by Jewish authorities aligned with Rome: “[The Jewish leaders] organized economic boycotts against those who refused to submit to [Nero] Caesar as Lord, the leaders of the synagogues ‘forbidding all dealings with the excommunicated,’ and going as far as to put them to death” (See Part 3).

Much more is written on this in Part 2 (See especially View #3, as the reference to “the earth” here again likely indicates that Israel was in view).

9. No one would be able to buy or sell unless he had the mark of the beast on his right hand or forehead, “that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Rev. 13:16-17).

C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines Jr. (1995) record that those who worshipped Nero “received a certificate or mark of approval – charagma, the same word used in Revelation 13:16.” Richard Anthony (2009) adds these details: “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).” See Part 3.

10. John’s first-century readers, if they had wisdom and understanding, were to be able to identify the beast by calculating his number, which was “666.” John wrote this as if the beast was already in power as he was putting these things down in writing (Rev. 13:18).

In Hebrew gematria, which John’s readers would have been familiar with (given the vast number of Hebrew references in Revelation), Nero’s name (NRWN QSR) = 666. The values of these seven Hebrew letters are 50, 200, 6, 50, 100, 60, and 200, respectively, adding up to 666. John’s code would have utilized the Hebrew language rather than Greek or Latin in order to avoid detection from Roman authorities, being that he had been exiled to Patmos (a Roman prison island) by Rome.

Nero’s name also adds up to “616,” which some early manuscripts refer to as the number of the beast because of a later transliteration into Latin. In this case “Nero Caesar” = 616 in Latin just as “Neron Caesar” = 666 in Hebrew, so Nero’s identity is confirmed by both renderings. See Part 3.

It is likely that even more prophecies concerning the beast will be seen to have been fulfilled in Nero’s day once we examine Revelation 17 in more detail. For now, though, I would like to close out this series on Revelation 13 by re-posting the “brief study on the Antichrist” which appeared in Part 2:

Revelation 13 seems to be the first passage one thinks of when considering the person popularly known in American church culture as “the Antichrist.” Other passages which are rightly or wrongly said to speak of “the Antichrist” are II Thessalonians 2 (“the man of sin”), Daniel 9:24-27 (the 70 Weeks Prophecy), and Daniel 11:36ff. However, it’s most interesting to note that none of these passages even mention the term “Antichrist.” This term can only be found in two books, both written by John, but neither of them being the book of Revelation. Here are the passages where this term is found: [1] I John 2:18 [2] I John 2:22 [3] I John 4:3 [4] II John 7.

In these passages, which hardly any Dispensationalist will go to in a discussion of the Antichrist, John makes the following points: [1] His readers had heard that “antichrist is coming.” [2] Many antichrists had come, indicating that it was the last hour (in John’s day). [3] Anyone who denies the Father and the Son, or that Jesus is the Christ, is “the antichrist.” [4] The “spirit of the antichrist” was in the world in John’s day, and was characterized as denying that Jesus is from God. [5] “The antichrist” is anyone who does not “confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” Such a person is a deceiver, and many such persons existed in John’s day.

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Our study of Revelation 14 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.

Revelation Chapter 13 (Part 3: Verses 12-18)


REVELATION 13:12-18

Adam Maarschalk: October 29, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 13:11-18

This is now the third post on Revelation 13. The first post looked at the first 10 verses in this chapter, showing that Nero fit the description of the first beast in the specific sense and that first-century Rome fit the description of this same beast in the general sense. In the second post, we were introduced to its main advocate, a second beast, and we considered four different views regarding the identity of this second beast. In this present post we will see more about the healing of the first beast’s mortal wound, the mark of the beast, and the fact of its identification with the famous “666” symbol.

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Verse 12: We read again about the “mortal wound” of the first beast having been healed. Before examining what this might refer to, it’s good to remember that we have already seen that the first beast is manifested as both an individual (Nero) and an empire (Rome). Many Futurists gravitate only toward the idea of “the Antichrist” dying from an assassination attempt, but returning to life all the more demon-possessed. It’s often not considered that it could be the Roman Empire which survived, rather than the mortally wounded “head” (verse 3). In my 70 AD term paper, I presented two popular Preterist views regarding this healing, and I will again present these here. The following information can be found here (excerpts are in maroon-colored font):

The first possibility is that the wounded head did, in a sense, come back to life as Nero’s successors tried to keep his image, his policies, and his memory very much alive. It’s already been noted how far Vitellius went in deifying Nero in the eyes of the Roman populace. Vitellius, who reigned only eight months, was the third emperor to reign after Nero’s demise, before he was murdered. The first, Galba, reigned only six months and then was murdered. After him, Otho reigned four months before he committed suicide like Nero. It is said of Otho that he paid Nero “all public honors.”

The historians Tacitus, Suetonius, and Zonaras affirm that after Nero’s death proclamations continued to be published in his name as if he was still alive, and that his image was frequently placed upon the rostra (large speaker’s platforms in Rome) “dressed in robes of state.” Even Jewish and Christian writers began to foretell that Nero was back from death as the dreaded Beliar demon. Paul Kroll (1999) adds the following details:

Nero committed suicide in June of AD 68. However, a rumor arose and persisted that he had not died but had fled across the Euphrates river to Rome’s arch-enemy, Parthia. It was said that one day Nero would return at the head of Parthian armies to destroy Rome. This became the so-called “Nero redivivus” myth. In fact, during the decades following Nero’s death, several pretenders did come forth claiming to be Nero (Tacitus, Histories 1.78; 2.8; Suetonius, Nero 57). By the turn of the first century a further twist was added to the Nero legend. It was said he would actually rise from the dead, return to Rome and seize the empire… This myth of Nero’s return so captured the popular fancy that it found its way into Jewish and Christian apocalyptic writings. Here the triumphant Nero was sometimes even pictured as the antichrist (Ascension of Isaiah 4:1-14; Sibylline Oracles 4:119-124; 5:137-154, 361-374)…

Otho also allowed himself to be hailed as “Nero” or “Otho Nero,” and he used Nero’s name in official letters to provincial leaders as well as in official letters to Spain. He reinstated the procurators and other government officials who had ruled during Nero’s reign, and in many ways took on the persona of Nero (See Kenneth Gentry, pp. 309-309). Gentry also notes (p. 303), “In the pagan literature, references to the expectation of Nero’s return after his fall from power can be found in the writings of Tacitus, Suetonius, Dio Cassius, Xiphilinus, Zonaras, and Dion Chrysostom.”

A second possibility is that it was the beast in the form of the Roman empire which dramatically recovered from the mortal wound of one of its seven heads (Nero). This is in fact what happened in first century Rome. Upon Nero’s demise [in June 68 AD], the Roman Empire immediately fell into chaos and civil war… What followed was the “Year of the Four Emperors,” the reigns of Galba (six months), Otho (four months), Vitellius (eight months), and Vespasian (beginning in December 69 AD)…

Nero’s death by the sword is the type of mortal wound that John said the beast would receive (Revelation 13:12, 14). Richard Anthony (2009) and Kenneth Gentry (1998) postulate that the healing of this wound can perhaps be seen in what took place in the Roman Empire immediately following Nero’s death. Upon his death, the Roman Empire’s founding family suddenly had no representative. “The blood line that had given birth to, extended, stabilized, brought prosperity to, and had received worship from the Roman Empire was cut off forever” (Gentry, p. 311). The “Julio-Claudian House” became extinct. The empire was plunged “into civil wars of horrible ferocity and dramatic proportions” and Rome appeared ready to topple.

The general Vespasian pulled back from the wars he was committed to, including the siege on Jerusalem, because of the turmoil on his own home front.  Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius all recorded that Rome at this time was brought near to utter ruin, with Josephus saying that “every part of the habitable earth under them [the Romans] was in an unsettled and tottering condition” (Wars 7.4.2). It wasn’t until Vespasian took the throne in December 69 AD, initiating the Flavian Dynasty, that stability was restored.

Verses 13-15: This second beast is said to perform great signs on behalf of the first beast, and in this way deceives “those who dwell on earth” (Israel).** The common people are compelled to create an image for the first beast (Rome) “that was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” This particular activity would have taken place, then, between 68-70 AD. The details in View #3 and View #4 (see previous post) say much about what took place in the Roman empire, and also in Israel, during this time.

**[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 16-17: Selling and buying was limited only to those who bore the mark, i.e. “the name of the beast or the number of its name.” David Clark comments, “This was to boycott or ostracize the Christians, and deprive them of the common rights of citizens, or the common rights of humanity. The pressure of economic distress was to be laid on them to compel them to conform” (Steve Gregg, p. 304). David Chilton adds, “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).] Richard Anthony (2009) speaks further of the allegiance required by Nero during his lifetime:

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).

In the first post for chapter 13 we also saw a quote from C. Marvin Pate and Calvin B. Haines Jr., from their 1995 book entitled Doomsday Delusions, in which they said,

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].

In verse 16, were John’s original readers meant to understand that the followers of the beast would receive a literal and visible mark on their hands or forehead? If so, then the two quotes above lend credence to the idea that such a thing occurred in Nero’s day. Or did the language John used primarily hearken back to classic Old Testament metaphors of the hand representing one’s deeds and the forehead representing one’s thoughts? Perhaps this is a reference to Moses’ instructions to the people of Israel that they were to bind the words of God “as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes” (Deuteronomy 6:8). Only, in this case, the apostate followers of the beast would not be symbolically marked with the words of God, but with their allegiance to the one who stood opposed to God and His people.

Verse 18: John appeals to the wisdom and understanding of the reader here, regarding the “number of the beast.” While the beast has so far been portrayed as an empire, it’s clear in this instance that the beast is also an individual, indicated by the words “it is the number of a man.”

Q: Did John expect his original audience to be able to calculate the beast’s number, and thus know his identity?
A: Yes, by the language he used, he clearly did. Therefore, it is good to re-emphasize the point that John was not referring here to a 21st century Antichrist.

Hank Hanegraaff agrees, as he remarked in his 11/21/2004 broadcast on Voice of Reason, “John is saying to his readers [living in his own generation] that with wisdom and understanding they could discern the number of the Beast and the number of his name.  If, in fact, the Beast was not around at that time, he would have been giving them false information… The beast is singularly Nero” (Source). Steve Gregg comments (p. 302):

John obviously did not expect his readers who had understanding (v. 18) to have any difficulty in identifying the beast, since they could simply calculate the meaning of this cryptogram. Here using English characters, the Hebrew form of “Caesar Nero” is Nrwn Qsr (pronounced “Neron Kaiser”). The value of the seven Hebrew letters is 50, 200, 6, 50, 100, 60, and 200, respectively. The total is thus 666. This is the solution advocated by David S. Clark, Jay Adams, Kenneth Gentry, David Chilton, and most others [i.e. partial-preterists].

Most likely, the code utilized the Hebrew form rather than the Greek or Latin form of the name to avoid detection from Roman authorities, who would know both Latin and Greek, but not Hebrew. The readers of the book, however, knew considerable Hebrew, judging from the many symbols taken from the Old Testament and also John’s use of Hebrew words like Armageddon, amen, hallelujah, Satan (a Hebrew name, used in addition to the Greek word for devil), and Abaddon (in addition to its Greek counterpart Apollyon). The Hebrew language has exerted so great an influence over the writing of Revelation, in fact, that some scholars have even speculated that John originally wrote it in Aramaic (his native tongue and a cognate of Hebrew).

Don Walker concurs, saying, “Let us remember that John is writing from the isle of Patmos, where he has been imprisoned. This letter would have been, in all likelihood, carried off the island by Roman soldiers. John had to send his message in ‘code’ lest his captors understand his reference to the emperor. Instead of openly stating who the ‘Beast’ was, he left them a clue that every Hebrew could easily discern.” I also wrote the following in my term paper, here:

John revealed the identity of the beast to his readers in a coded manner, Richard Anthony (2009) says, using the system of Gematria which assigned numerical values to the alphabet: “John used this puzzle to reveal Nero without actually writing down his name. Remember, the early churches were being persecuted during this time—not only from the Jews, but also from the Romans.” The following chart shows the Hebrew letters in ‘Nero Caesar’ (NRWN QSR):

Nero 666Don Walker also adds,

Another interesting factor to consider is what is called the “textual variant.” If you consult a Bible with marginal references you will find something quite intriguing. Regarding Revelation 13:18, your reference may say something to the effect: “Some manuscripts read 616.” The fact is that the number 666 in some ancient manuscripts is actually changed to 616… The difference surely is no accident of sight made by an early copyist. The numbers 666 and 616 are not even similar in appearance — whether spelled out in words or written in numerals. As textual scholars agree, it must be intentional.

A strong case has been made for the following probability. John, a Jew, used a Hebrew spelling of Nero’s name in order to arrive at the number 666. But when Revelation began circulating among those less acquainted with Hebrew, a well meaning copyist who knew the meaning of 666 might have intended to make its deciphering easier by altering it to read 616. It is certainly no mere coincidence that 616 is the numerical value of “Nero Caesar,” when spelled in Hebrew by transliterating it from its more widely familiar Latin spelling. Such a conjecture would explain the rationale for the deviation: so that the non-Hebrew mind might more readily discern the identity of the Beast.

David Chilton, in his 1987 book “Days of Vengeance,” said the following on this matter:

The form Neron Kesar (1) is the linguistically “correct” Hebrew form, (2) is the form found in the Talmud and other rabbinical writings, and (3) was used by Hebrews in the first century, as archaeological evidence has shown. As F. W. Farrar observed, “the Jewish Christian would have tried [tested] the name as he thought of the name – that is in Hebrew letters. And the moment he did this the secret stood revealed. No Jew ever thought of Nero except as ‘Neron Kesar,’ and this gives at once . . . 666″ (The Early Days of Christianity, Chicago and New York: Belford, Clarke & Co., 1882, p. 540). Of some related interest is the fact that if Nero’s name is written without the final n (i.e., the way it would occur to a Gentile to spell it in Hebrew), it yields the number 616 — which is exactly the variant reading in a few New Testament manuscripts. The most reasonable explanation for this variant is that it arose from the confusion over the final “n.”

Kenneth Gentry (p. 205) quotes Robert H. Mounce, a Futurist author who says, “John intended only his intimate associates to be able to decipher the number. So successful were his precautions that even Irenaeus some one hundred years later was unable to identify the person intended.” Gentry rightfully notes the irony of Mounce’s statement, in that he admits that John’s original 1st-century audience knew who he was speaking about in Rev. 13:18, yet Mounce believes that John was prophecying about a figure who was to live some 2000 years later. In other words, Mounce would have us believe that John intended for his first-century readers to discern that the beast was (let’s say, for example) a 21st-century leader of the European Union.

The manuscript bearing the number “616” is almost non-existent today, but it was already a factor before Irenaeus lived (130-200 AD). Kenneth Gentry (p. 197) notes that in his work Against Heresies 5:30:1, Irenaeus writes regarding this matter:

I do not know how it is that some have erred following the ordinary mode of speech, and have vitiated the middle number in the name, deducting the amount of fifty from it, so that instead of six decads they will have it that there is but one. Others then received this reading without examination; some in their simplicity, and upon their own responsibility, making use of this number expressing one decad; while some, in their experience, have ventured to seek out a name which should contain the erroneous and spurious number.

The “Nrwn Qsr” rendering is the ancient Hebrew or Aramaic spelling of “Nero Caesar,” as attested to by the Talmud and other Rabbinical writings, says Gentry (p. 199). Being that John was primarily addressing believers who “were of Hebrew extraction,” his code of “666” appealed to this very rendering. The “616” variant was apparently copied this way intentionally by a well-meaning translator, who did so “by transliterating it from its Latin spelling” (p. 203). This does nothing to harm the theory that John meant “666” to refer to Nero, and in fact it serves to further confirm it. “Neron Caesar” written in Hebrew characters is equivalent to “666” and “Nero Caesar” in the Latin form is “616.” Nero’s identity is confirmed by both the common rendering as well as the obscure textual variant.

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Our study of Revelation 13 (Part 4 of 5)  continues here.

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

PP7: Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Revelation)-Part 4


This is now the seventh part 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:

[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 then turned to a discussion of the internal evidence for an early date. In Part 1 we discussed the inclusion of Jerusalem, the temple, Babylon the Great, and a great city in the book of Revelation. Part 2 dealt with the seven kings mentioned in Revelation 17:9-10 and the identity of the beast of the book of Revelation. Part 3 addressed Nero’s persecution of the saints and his prophesied demise. These posts can be found here, and it is recommended that they be read first:

[4] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp4-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-1/
[5] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp5-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-2/
[6] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/pp6-internal-evidence-for-an-early-date-revelation-part-3/

Part 4 will speak of the worship of Nero and the worship of his image even after his death. We will also see that the language used by John strongly indicates the relevance of the entire book of Revelation to the first-century Christians who were alive when he wrote this book.

Adam Maarschalk

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II. Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Part 4)

Interestingly, Vitellius, the ninth emperor, was even more devoted [than the Roman Emperor Otho–see previous post] in his worship of Nero. It is said that he “greatly pleased the public by offering sacrifices to Nero’s spirit in the Campus Martius [Latin for Field of Mars, a 2 sq km public square in Rome], making all the priests and people attend.” These were his “funerary offerings to Nero” and this left “no doubt in anyone’s mind what model he chose for the government of the State” (Suetonius, Vitellius 11:2). The actions of Vitellius appear to fulfill what was written in Revelation 13:11-12 of a second beast, referred to later as the false prophet. This text states: “Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence [or on its behalf], and makes the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose mortal wound was healed.” Vitellius had such a rabid fascination with Nero that Vespasian had to “make a determined effort to check the growth of the Nero cult when he came to power.”

Paul Kroll (1999) writes the following about the prospect of Vitellius, or someone like him, fulfilling the role of the false prophet in Nero’s time:

The false prophet sends out a universal order to “set up an image in honor of the beast” (verse 14)… Strangely enough, the false prophet gives the inanimate image breath so that it can speak. Thus, the second beast has power to animate the image of the first beast. In the time Revelation was written, this was not an alien idea. The ancients believed that statues spoke and performed miracles. It was thought that the gods and demons used statues as conduits to communicate with humans and work miracles. For example, the heretic Simon Magus is said to have brought statues to life (Clementine Recognitions 3.47; Justin, Apologia 1.26; Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.23). In ancient times, that was precisely the point of having idols. People thought that the life of the person or being was actually in the idol.

In their book, Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World (1999), the authors (Brown, Bowersock, Grabar) write about the common sight of images of Roman emperors in the third and fourth centuries. These images took prominent places throughout the empire and were literally worshipped. This was ordinary in the first century as well:

Those who beheld Constantine in his golden raiment were said by Eusebius to be “stunned and amazed by the sight—like children who have seen a frightening apparition.” But away from court and capital, emperors rarely appeared in person. In the provinces, their presence was represented by statues and other images. Municipal squares were dominated by imperial statues; the portraits of emperors hung in official buildings, shops, theaters, and public porticoes… In their range and variety, imperial images made emperors omnipresent…the crowd applauded not only the emperor but also his image as it was paraded around them, surrounded—like the emperor himself—by the imperial bodyguard… These mirror images of majesty not only made permanent the transitory messages of imperial ceremonial, but were designed to blur the distinction between emperors and their representations… [There was] a rigid insistence on the performance of the same rituals and ceremonies before imperial images as before the emperor himself. Those approaching an emperor’s statue were required to prostrate themselves “not as though they were looking at a picture, but upon the very face of the emperor.” A proper atmosphere of sanctity was to be maintained at all times (pp. 173-174).

As expected then, statues of Nero’s likeness already existed in the Roman Empire during his lifetime, even from early in his reign. In 55 AD, the second year of his reign, the Roman senate erected a statue of Nero in the Temple of Mars that stood between 110 and 120 feet high. “The emperor’s brow was crowned with rays, suggesting a comparison or identification with the Sun-god” (Kenneth Gentry, 2002). His portrait appeared on coins at the time as Apollo playing the lyre. “He appears with his head radiating the light of the sun on copper coins struck in Rome and at Lugdunum.” Even his mother, Agrippina, was hailed by provincial coins “as goddess and the parent of a god.” Inscriptions found in Ephesus called Nero “Almighty God” and “Savior,” and inscriptions found in Cyprus called him “God and Savior” (pp. 80-81). The behavior of the highly-revered Augustus Caesar (27 BC-14 AD) was very modest compared to the worship Nero demanded for himself. Dio Cassius writes of an incident in which a regional king was compelled to worship both Nero and his image. 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, 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.” Nero was even deified in Greece, where he spent a significant amount of time in 67 AD as a musician and actor in the Grecian festivals. There he was proclaimed as “Zeus, Our Liberator,” and his statue was set up in the temple of Apollo where he was called “The new Sun, illuminating the Hellenes.” When he returned to Rome in early 68 AD, the entire population was made to come out and greet him with these words: “Hail, Olympian Victor! Hail, Pythian Victor! Augustus! Augustus! Hail to Nero, our Hercules! Hail to Hero, our Apollo! The only Victor of the Grand Tour, the only one from the beginning of time! Augustus! Augustus! O, Divine Voice! Blessed are they that hear thee” (Gentry, p. 83). Richard Anthony (2009) speaks further of the allegiance required by Nero during his lifetime:

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).

If Vitellius was indeed the second beast who compelled the Roman world to be marked with the name or number of the first beast (Revelation 13:16-18), then the practice described by Anthony above would have continued during his 8-month reign. Scripture seems to indicate that it would have been taken to an even more oppressive level. No doubt he also would have carried on Nero’s practice of putting to death those who would not worship the images of Nero, which in Nero’s day were considered to be divine.

John revealed the identity of the beast to his readers in a coded manner, Richard Anthony (2009) says, using the system of Gematria which assigned numerical values to the alphabet: “John used this puzzle to reveal Nero without actually writing down his name. Remember, the early churches were being persecuted during this time—not only from the Jews, but also from the Romans.” The following chart shows the Hebrew letters in ‘Nero Caesar’ (NRWN QSR):

Nero's Name

John wrote to seven historical churches in Asia Minor (Rev. 1:4, 11) which were going through a time of great trouble and tribulation, just as he was (Rev. 1:9, 2:3, 2:9-10, 2:13, 3:10). What better candidate was there for such an intense time of trouble than the first and greatest imperial persecution of Christianity initiated by Nero from late November 64 AD until his death in early June 68 AD?[1] Kenneth Gentry (2002) poses this question for those who hold to the Futurist position: “Put yourself in first century sandals: Would you think John might be speaking of events occurring untold centuries after the collapse of the Empire which was presently persecuting you? Would you surmise that he was not really relating a message about Imperial Rome?”

John wrote the book of Revelation in such a way that the subject matter of the entire book, not just his letters to the churches, was urgent for and relevant for those churches. At the end of the book, Jesus said, “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7). God, speaking in terms that man would understand, spoke through John saying, “The Revelation of Jesus, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place…Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Revelation 1:1-4). We see that the seven churches who received this writing were encouraged to read the entire book aloud in their assemblies, and to keep what was written in it. 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. Four times Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly” (Revelation 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20). In some translations, “soon” is used instead of “quickly.”

It’s noteworthy that Daniel was told that the prophecies he received referred “to many days from now” (Daniel 8:26), and were for the time of the end and thus they were to be “shut up and sealed” (Daniel 12:4, 9). Yet John in his time, as pointed out by both Kenneth Gentry (2002) and David Lowman (2009 [4]), was told not to seal up the prophecies he received because the time of their fulfillment was near (Revelation 22:10). If their fulfillment has still not come in our day, how do we account for these different instructions, when one set of prophecies was given about 2550 years ago and the other set about 1950 years ago?

Dispensationalism assumes that when Daniel mentioned “the time of the end,” he was referring to the end of the world. However, the context itself contains other constraints, and it should be noted that the phrase “the end of time” is never used in these prophecies. Daniel had already been told that his visions concerned his people (e.g. 11:14). Again he was told that “at the time of the end” (11:40) Michael, “the great prince who has charge of your people,” would arise. There would be a time of trouble, “such as never has been since there was a nation till that time [cf. Matthew 24:21]. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1).

Whose “time of the end” was God referring to? From the language used, it’s evident that these things directly concerned the nation of Israel rather than mankind in general. Daniel asked for a more specific time marker (12:6), and he was given one: “…it would be for a time, times, and half a time, and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be finished” (12:7). The utter destruction of Jerusalem, the temple, and more than a million Jews in 70 AD did accomplish this. Daniel’s writings will be examined in more detail later.

Another intriguing detail in the book of Revelation is that twice in the letters to the seven churches (Revelation 2:9 and 3:9), Jesus spoke of Judaizers who were persecuting the churches, saying they were “of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not.” After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD this type of persecution faded, but it was certainly a significant factor in the Church prior to that event. Therefore, it would make far more sense for this remark to have been written while Jerusalem and the temple still stood.

Other examples of internal evidence for an early date will be shown, whether explicit or implicit, in the section on actual historical events during the Roman/Jewish War.


[1] John’s participation in this persecution means that it was imperial, coming from Rome, as only Rome had the authority to banish individuals to Patmos, its own prison island. If the early date is true for Revelation’s authorship, John then wrote no earlier than November 64 AD because this is when the first imperial persecution began.