Who Was the Beast? (Five Clues) – Long Island Conference Presentation


On March 25th I had the privilege of speaking for the second year in a row at the Blue Point Bible Conference in Long Island, New York. The theme of this conference, which was hosted by Pastor Michael Miano, was “Revelation Revealed.” It was a great weekend of fellowship, learning, encouragement, and discussion. I was also very glad to be able to bring my wife, Jasmine, along with me this year. My presentation revolved around five clues from the book of Revelation about the identity of the beast. Here’s the video, along with my written notes:

Introduction

The topic that I’m discussing is one that appears in eight out of 22 chapters in the book of Revelation. More space is given to this topic than to the harlot, the two witnesses, New Jerusalem, etc. So this topic is a key part of what John wanted to communicate to his first century readers. This topic is “the beast.”

In John’s day, the consequences for following the beast were very heavy, but the blessings for overcoming the beast were also very great. We see this contrast in Revelation 14 and 15, where one group received the full strength of God’s wrath and fiery torment, while the other group had the privilege of standing on the sea of glass and singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb:

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, 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. 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’” (Rev. 14:9-11).

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. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested’” (Rev. 15:2-4).

So there’s no doubt that the beast was a great enemy to the church, but who was this enemy? Was this enemy Roman? Or was it Jewish? Whoever or whatever it was, there are details about the beast in Daniel 7, and Revelation 11, 13 – 17, and 19 – 20 which all need to be reconciled. These details include:

  • 10 horns on the beast
  • a little horn coming up among the 10 horns
  • three horns that fell before the little horn
  • the little horn persecuting the saints for 3.5 years and changing time and law
  • a second beast that works very closely with the first beast
  • seven heads of the beast
  • a wounded head
  • the dragon, beast, and false prophet working together to gather people to a great battle
  • the beast and false prophet cast into the lake of fire

This presentation won’t cover all these details, but see the “Glossary of Terms” at the end of this article for some more details.

In my studies over the last six months or so, I’ve come to some very different conclusions than those I used to hold about the beast. Beginning in 2009, I believed that the beast was Rome (generally) and Nero (specifically). I did have unanswered questions, especially when it came to Daniel 7 and Revelation 19, but I kept those questions on the back burner. When I finally brought those questions to the forefront, I came to realize that Rome and Nero didn’t fit the visions that Daniel and John had about a beast that would oppose God’s people.

I’ve been putting together a series on this subject in chronological order, moving from Daniel 2 into Daniel 7 and on to Revelation 11, Revelation 13, and to the other chapters which at least mention the beast. In this presentation, though, I’d like to highlight certain pieces of evidence which I believe show that the beast was Israel, and in particular the Zealot movement in Israel that captured the loyalty of so many Jews in the first century. I’ve come to believe that the beast of Revelation wasn’t about emperor worship and persecuting those who wouldn’t worship the emperor Nero. Instead it was about:

  • extreme nationalism
  • idolizing and worshiping the kingdom of Israel
  • the persecution and killing of those who wouldn’t follow the war agenda of the Zealots and the Sicarii
  • a strong rejection of Jesus’ message that His kingdom isn’t of this world
  • a strong rejection of the Prince of Peace and His call to be peacemakers
  • clinging to Mount Sinai, the Jerusalem below, and the kingdom that could be shaken instead of embracing Mount Zion, the Jerusalem above and the kingdom that couldn’t be shaken (Galatians 4:21-31 and Hebrews 12:18-29)

Five Clues About the Beast’s Identity

In this presentation we will analyze five passages in Revelation in an effort to understand the beast’s identity:

1. The fifth bowl was poured out on the beast (Revelation 16:10-11).
2. The beast was given to the burning flame (Daniel 7:11; Revelation 19:20).
3. Who was killed by the sword AND went into captivity (Revelation 13:10)?
4. Who destroyed and burned the harlot (Revelation 17:16)?
5. How did the two beasts relate to “those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 13:3-15)?

1. The Fifth Bowl Poured Out on the Beast (Revelation 16:10-11)

The first piece of evidence I’d like to discuss has to do with the fifth bowl judgment. Here’s how Revelation 16:10-11 describes the pouring out of the fifth bowl:

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. And they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.”

Notice that this bowl is poured out on the beast’s throne and kingdom. I want us to consider this fact in light of an observation that a number of preterist teachers and websites have rightfully made. That observation is that the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls were opened, sounded, and poured out on 1st century Israel (Judea, Samaria, Galilee). For example, in the book, “Four Views on The Book of Revelation,” by Stanley Gundry and C. Marvin Pate, Kenneth Gentry represents the preterist view. He says this on page 72:

“John turns his attention to further judgments on the land [of Israel] by means of the three woes (14:6-21) and the seven bowls (chaps. 15-16).”

Kenneth Gentry, of course, is well-known for his books and DVDs which teach that the beast was Rome and Nero. I don’t mean any disrespect to him, but he contradicts himself here when he says that [1] all seven bowl judgments were for Israel and [2] Rome was the beast, and yet Revelation 16:10 says that the fifth bowl was to be poured out on the throne and kingdom of the beast. I used to be inconsistent on that point as well.

There are several reasons why it’s valid to say that Israel was the target of the seven seals, trumpets, and bowls. I’ll list two of them:

  • Concerning the seven bowls, Revelation 16:1 shows that their target is “the earth,” otherwise translated as “the land,” that is, the land of Israel (I’ll discuss this translation pattern more when we look at Revelation 13). Here’s what verse 1 says: “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’” (or ‘on the land’). So there was a specific land that the seven bowls would be poured out upon, and that land was Israel.
  • 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 (e.g. thunder, lightning, an earthquake, loud sounds, and smoke/fire).

Those seven-fold judgments of Leviticus 26 were reserved for Israel alone. They weren’t for both Israel and 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 represented the kingdom of the beast. If the fifth bowl was poured out on Rome, then the bowls were only a six-fold judgment on Israel and “a one-fold judgment” on Rome, but that’s not the case. Leviticus 26 was completely, not partially, fulfilled.

Revelation 16:11 says that “pains” and “sores” would come upon the people who lived in the beast’s kingdom, and implies that further judgment would come upon this kingdom for refusing to repent. During the Jewish-Roman War did people throughout the Roman Empire experience “pains” and “sores,” or did this happen to the people of Israel? When we read Josephus’ descriptions of civil war, famine conditions, dead bodies lying unburied, etc., it’s easy enough to understand that Israel was plagued by “pains” and “sores” during that time, and this was especially true in Jerusalem. It was Israel that refused to repent, and it was upon Israel that more judgments were heaped.

2. The Beast Was Given to the Burning Flame (Daniel 7:11, Revelation 19:20)

The second point I’d like to bring up is the language of Daniel 7:11 and Revelation 19:20. Here’s what these two verses say:

“…I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame” (Daniel 7:11).

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” (Revelation 19:20).

If the Roman Empire was the beast of Revelation, how was this empire captured, slain, destroyed, burned, and cast into the lake of fire? Rome actually came out of the Jewish-Roman War (AD 66 -73) stronger than ever. History tells us that Rome was stronger in the second century AD than it was in the first century AD.

Someone might say that this applied to Nero, who is said to be the beast in a singular sense. Nero was indeed killed – with his own sword, but he was not captured and he was not burned. Nor did he go down at the same time as any false prophets who worked with him.

It was Israel that was captured, slain, destroyed, and burned – as we can see in great detail in “Wars of the Jews” by Josephus.

3. Who Was Killed by the Sword AND Went Into Captivity (Revelation 13:10)?

On a related note, in Revelation 13:10 we see a prophecy about the ultimate fate of the beast, and this prophecy was to be a comfort to the saints who were under persecution. John writes: “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.”

Some Romans were certainly killed in the Jewish-Roman War, but the end result was victory for Rome. On the other hand, there were mass casualties for Israel, the Zealots, and the pilgrims who came to Jerusalem from many nations but got trapped in the city when the siege began in April AD 70.

It’s important to take note of the first part of this verse: “He who leads into captivity shall go into captivity…” The Romans took people captive, but were they themselves taken captive? No, they weren’t. The Jewish Zealots also took people captive, especially their fellow Jews who wouldn’t go along with their war agenda. Were the Zealots themselves taken captive? Yes, they were. This prophecy was about them.

To point out a couple examples, the Zealot leaders John Levi of Gischala and Simon Bar Giora were both taken captive by the Romans in August or September AD 70, and both were humiliated in a parade all the way to the city of Rome. John was sentenced to life in prison and Simon was executed as “the general” of the revolt. See Wars 6.9.4, Wars 7.2.2, Wars 7.5.3, Wars 7.5.6.

4. Who Destroyed and Burned the Harlot? (Revelation 17:16)

Revelation 16:10 predicted what the 10 horns of the beast would do to the harlot:

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.”

The harlot, of course, was the city of Jerusalem. As we see in Revelation 17:18 and elsewhere, the harlot was also called “the great city.” And when “the great city” was first mentioned in Revelation 11:8 it was said to be the place “where our Lord was crucified,” i.e. Jerusalem. So let’s consider how the writings of Josephus answer three details in this verse:

1. Who made Jerusalem desolate?
2. Who ate her flesh?
3. Who burned her with fire?

Was it Rome, or was it Israel under the Jewish Zealots? Josephus addressed all three of these questions repeatedly. For example, in Wars 5.1.1, 5 Josephus said that when the Zealots attacked the people of Jerusalem in February/March AD 68, this was the beginning of the city’s destruction. He also said that the Zealots were “like a wild beast grown mad” that was “eating its own flesh” and tearing the city into pieces:

“Now as to the attack the zealots made upon the people, and which I esteem the beginning of the city’s destruction, it hath been already explained after an accurate manner; as also whence it arose, and to how great a mischief it was increased. But for the present sedition, one should not mistake if he called it a sedition begotten by another sedition, and to be like a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh… And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces.”

Josephus also said in Wars 5.6.1 that the Romans showed more kindness to Jerusalem than the Zealots did:

“…for they never suffered any thing that was worse from the Romans than they made each other suffer; nor was there any misery endured by the city after these men’s actions that could be esteemed new. But it was most of all unhappy before it was overthrown, while those that took it [i.e. the Romans] did it a greater kindness for I venture to affirm that the sedition destroyed the city, and the Romans destroyed the sedition, which it was a much harder thing to do than to destroy the walls; so that we may justly ascribe our misfortunes to our own people, and the just vengeance taken on them to the Romans…”

FIRE

So Josephus lays the blame upon the Zealots for Jerusalem’s destruction and also says that the Zealots consumed Jerusalem like a beast eating its own flesh. What about Jerusalem being burned with fire? In Wars 5.4.4, Josephus described how a number of key buildings in Jerusalem were burned and destroyed at the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War by “the robbers” and the “internal plotters,” meaning the Sicarii and the Zealots:

“But indeed it is not possible to give a complete description of these palaces; and the very remembrance of them is a torment to one, as putting one in mind what vastly rich buildings that fire which was kindled by the robbers hath consumed; for these were not burnt by the Romans, but by these internal plotters, as we have already related, in the beginning of their rebellion. That fire began at the tower of Antonia, and went on to the palaces, and consumed the upper parts of the three towers themselves.”

Before the Roman general, Titus, arrived and began the siege of Jerusalem in April AD 70, Josephus pointed out that John Levi and Simon Bar Giora, two main Zealot leaders, had already burned down “all the places” around the temple:

“[They] attacked the city also; as if they had, on purpose, done it to serve the Romans, by destroying what the city had laid up against the siege, and by thus cutting off the nerves of their own power. Accordingly, it so came to pass, that all the places that were about the temple were burnt down, and were become an intermediate desert space, ready for fighting on both sides of it; and that almost all that corn was burnt, which would have been sufficient for a siege of many years. So they were taken by the means of the famine, which it was impossible they should have been, unless they had thus prepared the way for it by this procedure” (Wars 5.1.4).

Then notice in Wars 4.6.3 what Josephus said they did to the temple itself:

“…these Zealots occasioned the fulfilling of those very prophecies belonging to their country. For there was a certain ancient oracle of those men, that the city should then be taken and the sanctuary burnt, by right of war, when a sedition should invade the Jews and their own hands should pollute the Temple of God. Now, while these Zealots did not disbelieve these predictions, they made themselves the instruments of their accomplishment.”

So Josephus said that the Zealots were the instruments by which the temple was burnt. To confirm this, here’s what Titus said in his speech to the Zealots soon after the temple burned down:

“When I came near your temple, I again departed from the laws of war, and exhorted you to spare your own sanctuary, and to preserve your holy house to yourselves. I allowed you a quiet exit out of it, and security for your preservation; nay, if you had a mind, I gave you leave to fight in another place. Yet have you still despised every one of my proposals, and have set fire to your holy house with your own hands” (Wars 6.6.2).

In Wars 6.2.9, Josephus described how the Jews started the fire in the temple. At one point, they even let the fire spread on purpose, believing that it would give them an advantage:

“[T]he Jews were so distressed by the fights they had been in, as the war advanced higher and higher, and creeping up to the holy house itself, that they, as it were, cut off those limbs of their body which were infected, in order to prevent the distemper’s spreading further; for they set the north-west cloister, which was joined to the tower of Antonia, on fire, and after that brake off about twenty cubits of that cloister, and thereby made a beginning in burning the sanctuary; two days after which, or on the twenty-fourth day of the forenamed month, [Panemus or Tamuz,] the Romans set fire to the cloister that joined to the other, when the fire went fifteen cubits farther. The Jews, in like manner, cut off its roof; nor did they entirely leave off what they were about till the tower of Antonia was parted from the temple, even when it was in their power to have stopped the fire; nay, they lay still while the temple was first set on fire, and deemed this spreading of the fire to be for their own advantage. However, the armies were still fighting one against another about the temple, and the war was managed by continual sallies of particular parties against one another.”

After this a Roman soldier set fire to a window of the temple which ultimately led to the fire getting out of control and the temple burning to the ground. According to Josephus, the fire had already been started by the Zealots in the inner court of the temple, and they had even fought against those who tried to put the fire out:

“…now that fatal day was come, according to the revolution of the ages: it was the tenth day of the month Lous, [Av,] upon which it was formerly burnt by the king of Babylon; although these flames took their rise from the Jews themselves, and were occasioned by them; for upon Titus’s retiring, the seditious lay still for a little while, and then attacked the Romans again, when those that guarded the Holy House fought with those that quenched the fire that was burning in the inner court of the Temple; but these Romans put the Jews to flight, and proceeded as far as the Holy House itself. 

At which time one of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the Holy House, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward the Jews made a great clamour…” (Wars 6.4.5).

10 HORNS

How do we identify the 10 horns that John said would hate the harlot? Among those who say that the beast was Rome, I’ve generally seen the explanation that they were the 10 Senatorial Provinces of the Roman Empire. However, as far as I’m aware, neither Josephus nor the Roman historians of that time period (e.g. Tacitus, Suetonius, Dio Cassius) ever said that those provinces assisted Titus in the siege of Jerusalem. Instead, Titus came with four legions (Wars 5.1.6).

The idea that the 10 horns were Roman provinces (or any land territories at all) really falls apart when we take note that Daniel 7:24-25 says that a little horn would arise and persecute the saints for 3.5 years AFTER the 10 horns arise. That little horn also had “eyes like the eyes of a man” (Daniel 7:8), which sure sounds like a human. So I believe the 10 horns were people rather than provinces, in the same way that the two horns of the ram in Daniel 8:20 were identified as “kings of Media and Persia” and the four horns on the goat (Daniel 8:8, 22) turned out to be four generals of Greece after the death of Alexander the Great.

Here’s my proposal about the 10 horns of the beast described in Daniel 7:7-8, 20-25 and Revelation 17:3, 7, 12-17. In December AD 66, Israel’s war effort was placed into the hands of exactly 10 generals (Wars 2.20.3-4). This decision was made after the Jews’ shocking victory over Cestius Gallus in late November AD 66. The Jews only lost a few men in that short battle, but they killed nearly 5,800 Romans (see Wars 2.19) in addition to the Romans they had already slaughtered at Masada and the Antonia Fortress in Jerusalem. They knew it was only a matter of time before the Romans returned with a full-scale retaliation, and they needed to prepare.

Daniel provides a detail about the 10 horns which John never mentions in the book of Revelation. According to Daniel 7:8, 20, 24 three of the 10 horns would be “plucked out,” would fall, and would be subdued by a little horn. I believe those three horns were [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea, and [3] Joseph ben Gorion, who were among the 10 original generals. They were killed by the Zealots and the Idumeans during the Zealot siege of February/March 68 AD, and their deaths are recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1.

Were they later replaced? Josephus was one of those 10 generals, and he was captured by the Romans (Wars 3.8.8) only about a year into the war. So at least four of the generals needed to be replaced if Israel’s war effort was to remain in the hands of 10 generals. In any case, John spoke as if the same 10 horns worked together until the harlot was consumed and burned with fire, but Daniel said that three out of the 10 horns would be removed. So this is a point of difficulty regardless of how a person identifies the beast (as being Roman, Jewish, etc.).

There is evidence, though, that the Zealots chose leaders as they pleased. Josephus said in Wars 4.4.1 that the Zealots seized the power of the government during the Zealot siege of February/March AD 68 and that they “presumed to appoint governors as they themselves pleased.”

5. How Did the Two Beasts Relate to “Those Who Dwell on the Earth” (Revelation 13)?

According to Revelation 13:8, 11-12, 14-15, the beast would be worshiped by all who dwelt “on the earth.” This expression, “on the earth,” can also be translated as “in the land,” i.e. the land of Israel. In the following verses, please notice that the expression “those who dwell on the earth” appears four times:

(Verse 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.”

(Verses 11-12) “Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. 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.”

(Verses 14-15) “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. He was granted 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.”

I want to briefly give some background on this expression (“on the earth” or “in the land”) before explaining why this is so significant when it comes to the identity of the beast and the close partnership between the two beasts that we see in Revelation 13. There are two Greek words that are typically translated as “earth” or “world” in the New Testament. These words are “ge” and “kosmos.”

Dr. Jonathan Welton has shown that “kosmos” appears in Revelation only three times, even though John used this word 57 times in his gospel account and 17 times in I John. Dr. Welton explains that this word “refers to the entire globe, the entirety of planet earth, and the heavens.” On the other hand, the word “ge” appears in Revelation 67 times (i.e. 22 times more often than “kosmos”). Dr. Welton says that this word “refers to a localized inhabited civilization or the land of a particular nation.”

Source: Dr. Jonathan Welton

John’s books Number of chapters in each book Number of times John uses the word “kosmos,” meaning the entire planet Number of times John uses the word “ge,” meaning a specific land
The Gospel According to John 21 57 3
I John 5 17 1
II John 1 1 0
III John 1 0 0
Book of Revelation 22 3 67

This pattern was already established in the Old Testament, where a word which is often translated as “earth” meant “a specific land” rather than the planet. This pattern can be seen especially in the book of Isaiah. Thomas Ice, a Dispensationalist Futurist, acknowledged this in a 2008 article published in the Pre-Trib Research Center. He pointed out that the phrase “earth dwellers” appears about 50 times in the Hebrew Old Testament, and that “the overwhelming majority of times…it is rightfully translated as ‘land dwellers’ or ‘inhabitants of the land’ since the context references a localized area of land or country like Israel.”

Probably the clearest example of the word “ge” in the New Testament as a local (not global) reference is in Luke’s version of the Olivet Discourse (Luke 21:23). There, Jesus is clearly speaking about Judea, yet some Bible versions translate this word as “earth,” while others translate it as “land”:

But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people” (Luke 21:20-23).

If you do a study of the various New Testament passages which use the word “ge,” you’ll find that one Bible version consistently translates this word as “land” instead of “earth,” and that’s (Robert) Young’s Literal Translation. You can also see this in the Interlinear Greek-English New Testament by Albert Marshall.

In 1876 a book was published by the Biblical scholar, Alfred Edersheim, and was titled, “Sketches of Jewish Public Life.” Alfred wrote about the significance of the phrase “the land” to the Jewish Rabbis of the first century. “Palestine,” he said, “was to the Rabbis simply ‘the land,’ all other countries being summed up under the designation of ‘outside the land’” (p. 14). About 20 years before Edersheim’s book was published, P.S. Desprez made the following remarks in his 1855 book, “Apocalypse Fulfilled” (p. 13):

“[When the phrase ‘on the earth’ appears in the book of Revelation] 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.

This exact phrase (“those who dwell on the earth”) is found in 10 verses in the book of Revelation (3:10, 6:10, 8:13, 11:10, 13:8, 13:12, 13:14, 14:6, 17:2, and 17:8). Here’s where we come back to why this is so important when looking at Revelation 13 and the close relationship between the two beasts. Four of these 10 instances are in connection with the beast (the verses in bold font above), and three of them are in Revelation 13 (verse 8, twice in verse 12, and verse 14). Revelation 13 speaks of two beasts, one that rises up out of the sea and one that comes up out of the earth (land). What we see is that both beasts demanded worship and loyalty from “those who dwell in the land,” and one beast acted as an enforcer for the other.

It’s very significant that all the activity described in Revelation 13 was centralized in Israel. According to verse 3, all the land followed the beast. According to verse 4, they also worshiped the beast and said, “Who is able to make war with him?” I believe this describes the response after the Zealots kicked the Romans out of Masada and Jerusalem in August/September AD 66, and after they achieved victory over Cestius Gallus and his army in November AD 66. The second beast, described in verses 11-17, was later called “the false prophet” (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). According to verses 11-14, that beast exercised authority in the presence of the first beast, causing the people in the land of Israel to worship him, to make an image to him, etc.

A number of preterist authors have identified the first beast as Rome/Nero and the second beast as the religious leaders of Israel. In other words, the implication would be that religious leaders in Israel forced the people of Israel to give their loyalty and worship to Rome and to Nero. However, this is simply not possible. There was an extremely anti-Roman climate in Israel, especially once the Zealots took over. Anti-Roman feelings were already strong in Israel before the war, but they were the only feelings that the people were allowed to have once the war began. Josephus repeatedly described the Zealots killing anyone whom they even suspected of wanting peace with Rome.

In Wars 2.19.4, Josephus said this about Jerusalem in November AD 66: “Now as for the people, they were kept under by the seditious.” Clearly, then, Jerusalem was under the control of the Zealots and already off-limits to the Romans by that time. So any 3.5 year period featuring a deep partnership between Rome/Nero and false prophets from Israel would have ended by AD 66 (even earlier actually), and therefore would have begun by at least AD 62. However, there was no such time period, and preterists don’t even look for any time period as early as that to fulfill the 42 months of Revelation 13, as far as I’m aware.

I would like to submit that Revelation 13 describes a partnership between the Zealot movement (the first beast) and the false prophets in the land (the second beast). Let’s look at a few examples from the works of Josephus to see what this partnership looked like.

Jewish False Prophets Working with the Zealots

In Antiquities 20.8.6 Josephus wrote the following about numerous false prophets who deceived the Jews during the time of the Procurators Felix (52-58 AD) and Festus (59-62 AD):

“These works, that were done by the robbers, filled the city with all sorts of impiety. And now these impostors and deceivers persuaded the multitude to follow them into the wilderness, and pretended that they would exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God. And many that were prevailed on by them suffered the punishments of their folly; for Felix brought them back, and then punished them. Moreover, there came out of Egypt about this time to Jerusalem one that said he was a prophet, and advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives…”

In Wars 2.13.4-6 Josephus wrote about various false prophets and deceivers who worked to persuade the people to revolt against the Romans and who killed those who refused to revolt:

“There was also another body of wicked men gotten together… These were such men as deceived and deluded the people under pretense of Divine inspiration, but were for procuring innovations and changes of the government; and these prevailed with the multitude to act like madmen, and went before them into the wilderness, as pretending that God would there show them the signals of liberty…

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

In Wars 6.5.1-2 Josephus talked about how, when the temple was burned down, the number of people killed in that blaze was especially high because so many people listened to the words of a false prophet. Josephus also revealed that this false prophet was one of many false prophets who had been hired by the Zealots to control the people and keep them from fleeing from their control:

“A false prophet was the occasion of these people’s destruction, who had made a public proclamation in the city that very day, that God commanded them to get upon the temple, and that there they should receive miraculous signs of their deliverance. Now there was then a great number of false prophets suborned [hired] by the tyrants to impose on the people, who denounced this to them, that they should wait for deliverance from God; and this was in order to keep them from deserting” (Wars 6.5.2).

Limitations of Nero’s Persecution

Some may ask, “Well, what about Nero’s persecution?” Revelation 13:5-7 says that the beast would have authority for 42 months (3.5 years) and would “make war with the saints” and overcome them. Didn’t Nero persecute Christians for 3.5 years, beginning in AD 64? Let’s quickly look at what historians say about why Nero persecuted Christians, where this persecution took place, and for how long it took place.

The Roman historian, Tacitus, wrote that Nero punished Christians in Rome in order to “get rid of the report” that he had ordered Rome to be burned. Tacitus only mentions this happening in the city of Rome, but not elsewhere in the empire:

“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace… Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind” (Tacitus, Annals 15).

So Tacitus said that Christians in Rome were persecuted for “hatred against mankind” and as scapegoats for arson. This was an entirely different cause for persecution than what John saw taking place in Revelation 13:15. There John saw that persecution and death came from refusing to worship the image of the beast.

The “Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 6” says that Nero’s persecution of Christians “does not seem to have extended through all the provinces [of the Roman empire], but rather to have been restricted to Rome and the surrounding country” (p. 956). On the other hand, John saw persecution happening to those who were dwelling in the land (i.e. of Israel), carried out by the second beast (false prophet) that came up out of the land, and taking place in the presence of the first beast (verses 11-14).

Again, it’s quite impossible to imagine the false prophets from the land demanding that the people of Israel worship Nero, and sentencing to death those who refused, when those same people came under the tight control of the fanatically anti-Roman Zealots in AD 66, less than two years after Nero’s persecution began. (There was a heavy anti-Roman climate in Israel even well before AD 66, and Jews were killed for feeling otherwise before AD 66 as well.)

Another resource, “A Critical Study of the Sources of the History of the Emperor Nero,” written by John Nicholas Henry Jahn, notes that Nero’s persecution may not have lasted even two years. This is because Nero left Rome in late AD 66 and went to Greece, where he remained for more than a year (pp. 14-15). Jahn also agreed that it “is not likely that Nero ordered the persecution to be extended to the provinces” of the Roman Empire (p. 15).

So various sources indicate that Nero’s persecution, as severe as it was, did not match the motive, location, or duration spoken of in Revelation 13:5-8. It also needs to be pointed out that Daniel 7 shows the little horn of the beast persecuting the saints for 3.5 years all the way up until the very time that the kingdom would be stripped from that beast and given into the hands of the saints. This does not suggest that the persecution stopped in AD 68 when Nero died, but rather that it stopped when Israel was stripped of the kingdom (Matthew 21:43-44) at the time of the Roman siege of Jerusalem in April – September AD 70.

Revelation 20:4 elaborates on Revelation 13 and Daniel 7 by saying that those who refused to worship the beast and receive his mark were beheaded. Quite a number of times, Josephus spoke of the Zealots cutting the throats of Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere, especially those who talked about peace, showed disloyalty to their cause, or whom they suspected of wanting to escape to the Romans. The phrase “cut their throats” could very well mean beheading since the Zealots used swords and not just knives. Examples of this throat cutting from the fall of AD 66 through the summer of AD 70 can be seen in Wars 2.18.3, 4.4.3, 4.5.3, 4.6.3, 5.1.5, 5.8.1, and 5.10.1.

Conclusion

Among preterists, it appears that there has been a shift when it comes to the man of lawlessness of II Thessalonians 2. It used to be taken for granted that this man was Nero. In the Sibylline Oracles, dating to the end of the 1st century AD or the early 2nd century AD, Nero was depicted as the man of lawlessness of II Thessalonians 2:3-4 (Oracle 5, James Eason, “Nero As the Antichrist”). In the 4th century AD, Augustine, in his book “The City of God” (XX.19.3), also wrote that many thought Nero was the man of sin of II Thess. 2.

Now, however, a number of writers have concluded that the man of lawlessness was a Jew, one of the Zealots. I would like to suggest that this same shift is justified when it comes to the beast of Revelation.

Several early church fathers (e.g. Clement of Alexandria, St. Jerome, Augustine) seemed to hint that Nero was the beast of Revelation, but didn’t say it directly (source). From what I’ve seen, there were four different authors around the 1830s who were the first to directly say that Nero was the beast. Then this idea gained momentum with the publishing of “The Parousia” in 1878 by J. Stuart Russell, who shared this idea in his book. In any case, I’m hoping that a more critical analysis will be applied to the identity of the beast as some have done regarding the man of sin.

Takeaways

The primary message and agenda of the Zealots was war. They persecuted those who threatened that agenda or wouldn’t go along with it. The Zealots stood in total opposition to the message of Jesus, the new covenant, and the kingdom of God. They were determined to maintain, build, and spread their own kingdom. They were extreme nationalists, but ironically they destroyed their own nation and region fighting for that ideal.

The vision of the Old Testament prophets for the new covenant age was one of peace. That was true for the 1st century church during the Jewish-Roman War, and it’s true for the church now in the year 2017. Are there “beasts” even now trying to get us to follow some type of war agenda? How about the Christian Zionist movement with its open calls for war with Iran and any other perceived “enemies of Israel”? How about voices outside of Christianity, and unfortunately inside of Christianity as well, that want us to fight against refugees, Muslims, liberals, or other groups? N.T. Wright said this in his book, “Mark for Everyone” (p. 152):

“The word ‘brigand’ in Jesus day wasn’t a word for “thief” or “robber” in the ordinary sense, but for the revolutionaries, those we today would call the ultra-orthodox, plotting and ready to use violence to bring about their nationalist dreams. Part of Jesus’ charge against his fellow Jews was that Israel as a whole had used its vocation to be a light for the world as an excuse for a hard, narrow, nationalist piety and politics in which the rest of the world was to be not enlightened but condemned” (Source).

Let’s be careful not to go down the same type of path. Let’s be the peacemakers that Jesus called us to be.

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Glossary of Terms

(These are my suggestions. Please feel free to personally investigate these things.)

The beast: Judea/Israel and later Zealot-led Israel; referenced in Daniel 2, 7; Revelation 11, 13-17, and 19-20

A beast from the land: the false prophets (collectively) who worked with, and on behalf of, the Zealots/Sicarii; this beast was later called “the false prophet”; referenced in Revelation 13:11-17, 16:13, 19:20, and 20:10

10 horns: initially 10 Jewish generals chosen to lead Israel’s war effort (Wars 2.20.3-4) soon after the Jews’ surprising victory over Cestius Gallus in November AD 66 (Wars 2.19); later some of them were replaced as the Zealots pleased (Wars 4.4.1); referenced in Daniel 7:7, 20, 24; Revelation 13:1; 17:3, 7, 12-14, and 16-17

Three horns fell: [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea [3] Joseph ben Gorion; deaths recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1; referenced in Daniel 7:8, 20, 24

A little horn: most likely Eleazar ben Simon, Zealot leader from late AD 66 until April AD 70 whose headquarters was the temple, including the inner court; this person: [A] came up among the 10 horns [B] plucked out three of the first horns [C] had a mouth speaking pompous words [D] made war against the saints [E] was different than the other 10 horns [F] would “intend to change times and the law [G] and prevailed against the saints for 3.5 years until the coming of the Ancient of Days and the possession of the kingdom by the saints; referenced in Daniel 7:8, 11, 20-22, and 24-27

Seven heads: the family dynasty of “Hezekiah the Zealot” (killed in 47 BC), who Josephus called “the head of the robbers” (Wars 1.10.5); included “Judas the Galilean” (Acts 5:35-37), his three sons, his grandson (Menahem), and Eleazar ben Jairus (Menahem’s cousin), who led the final rebel holdout at Masada until AD 73; referenced in Revelation 13:1, 3; 17:3, 7, and 9-11

Wounded head: Menahem, the seventh head who only continued “a short time” (Revelation 17:10); in late August AD 66 he raided Herod’s armory at Masada, “returned to Jerusalem in the state of a king”, “became the leader of the sedition” (Wars 2.17.8), led the massacre of the Roman garrison at Jerusalem’s Antonia Fortress, and was killed a month later; Menahem is recognized as a Messianic figure; his sudden death was a great blow to the Zealot cause because he was their top leader and it happened so soon after the war began; referenced in Revelation 13:3, 12

Deadly wound healed: two months after Menahem’s death the Zealots defeated the armies of Cestius Gallus, and their followers rejoiced and came to believe they could defeat Rome; another Messianic figure, Simon Bar Gioras, emerged as a hero of that war, became a “king” (Wars 4.9.4), took possession of Jerusalem (Wars 4.9.12, Wars 5.7.3), and was “the general” of the war (Wars 7.5.1-7); referenced in Revelation 13:3, 12

The saints persecuted for 42 months: approximately late fall AD 66 – spring AD 70; this persecution was carried out and/or supervised by the little horn up until the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom; referenced in Daniel 7:21-27; Revelation 13:5-7

No one may buy or sell: The Zealots minted their own coins beginning in AD 66 to represent their independence from Rome and discontinued the use of other coins in Jerusalem, at Masada (60 miles away), and perhaps elsewhere; some were labeled “For the Redemption of Zion”; referenced in Revelation 13:17

Two witnesses: Ananus ben Ananus and Jesus ben Gamaliel, two former high priests who led a peace movement in opposition to the Zealots until they were killed during the Zealot Temple Siege of February/March AD 68; they had “the mastery” over those who opposed them (Wars 4.5.2) until the time came for them to be killed; their bodies remained unburied in the streets of Jerusalem; they were killed the day after a great earthquake; their enemies rejoiced over their deaths; referenced in Revelation 11:3-13

For a more detailed study on the beast of Revelation, please see my series titled “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel,” which is being developed here.

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


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

This was one of the factors that caused me to rethink this section of John’s prophecy. Then I was surprised to discover that Josephus listed exactly 10 high priests and religious leaders in Israel who were given authority as generals in December 66 AD or January 67 AD. I would like to propose that they fulfilled the prophecy given to John by the angel in Rev. 17:12-14. This would mean, of course, that the beast in Revelation 17 was Jewish, not Roman.

The 10 Horns of Revelation 17:12-14

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

And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:12-14).

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

Spring 66 AD

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

Summer 66 AD

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

November 66 AD

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

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

Josephus Lists 10 Newly Appointed Jewish Generals 

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

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

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

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

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

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

They Receive Authority for One Hour

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

Rev. 17:12-13 goes on to say that they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.” The phrase “one hour” is used again three times in Revelation 18, each time to describe the judgment of the great city, the harlot, Babylon the great:

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

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

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

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

These Will Make War with the Lamb

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

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

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

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

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

In 70 AD, during the 5-month siege on Jerusalem which ultimately caused its downfall, the 10th Legion of the Romans launched white boulders as heavy as 100 pounds over the city walls into Jerusalem (see Revelation 16:21). They were catapulted from Roman engines from up to a quarter mile away. Josephus records that the watchmen on the wall, if they saw them coming, would shout, “The Son cometh!” After a while the Romans learned to blacken the stones so that they couldn’t as easily be detected, and then many were crushed by these stones.  J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book, The Parousia, offered this explanation (p. 482):

“It could not but be well known to the Jews that the great hope and faith of the Christians was the speedy coming of the Son. It was about this very time, according to Hegesippus [110-180 AD], that St. James, the brother of our Lord, publicly testified in the temple that ‘the Son of man was about to come in the clouds of heaven,’ and then sealed his testimony with his blood. It seems highly probable that the Jews, in their defiant and desperate blasphemy, when they saw the white mass hurtling though the air, raised the ribald cry, ‘The Son is coming,’ in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”

And the Lamb Will Overcome Them

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

The 10 Horns Turned on the Harlot

Revelation 17:16 says, “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

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

“…it so happened that the sedition at Jerusalem was revived, and parted into three factions, and that one faction fought against the other; which partition in such evil cases may be said to be a good thing, and the effect of Divine justice. Now as to the attack the zealots made upon the people, and which I esteem the beginning of the city’s destruction, it hath been already explained after an accurate manner; as also whence it arose, and to how great a mischief it was increased. But for the present sedition, one should not mistake if he called it a sedition begotten by another sedition, and to be like a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh… And now, as the city was engaged in a war on all sides, from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, the people of the city, between them, were like a great body torn in pieces.”

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

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

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

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

The Seven Kings of Revelation 17 Were the High Priests of the House of Annas


Revelation 17:10 is a key verse in determining and understanding when the book of Revelation was written, and reads this way:

“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.”

Here an angel is explaining to John the meaning of what he was shown in Revelation 17:1-6, summarized this way by the angel: “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” (verse 7). The angel says that the seven heads represent “seven mountains on which the woman sits” (verse 9) as well as “seven kings” (verse 10).

In our study of Revelation 17:7-18, written in late 2009, and also in this post from last year I listed the first seven emperors of Rome, using the list that was agreed upon by the ancient historians Josephus (Antiquities 18-19), Dio Cassius, and Suetonius: 

[1] Julius Caesar (October 49 BC – March 44 BC; 4.5 year reign)
[2] Augustus (January 27 BC – August 14 AD; 13.5 year reign)
[3] Tiberius (August 14 AD – March 37 AD; 12.5 year reign)
[4] Caligula (March 37 AD – January 41 AD; 3.5 + year reign)
[5] Claudius (January 41 AD – October 54 AD; 13.5 year reign)
[6] Nero (October 54 AD – June 68 AD; 13.5 year reign)
[7] Galba (June 68 AD – January 69 AD; seven month reign)

As others have done, I identified Nero as the one who “is” and Galba as the one who had “not yet come” but would continue only “a short time.” That would mean that John wrote Revelation during Nero’s reign, before his death in June 68 AD.

A couple months ago, however, Patricia Watkins left a very intriguing comment under this post, in which she stated that the seven kings in Revelation 17 were not Roman emperors but instead Jewish high priests of the House of Annas, and that Revelation could not have been written after 62 AD. Here is her explanation:

…the following is used to prove a composition date prior to, but NO LATER than, AD 62. It involves the much-discussed list of kings on the scarlet beast of Revelation 17. The 6th king on the list of these seven kings of Revelation 17 is not nearly as important as the 7th king for the purpose of dating Revelation. I’m afraid the list of seven kings has absolutely nothing to do with the emperors of Rome, and everything to do with the HIGH PRIESTS OF THE HOUSE OF ANNAS. There were exactly seven of them, with an 8th, a grandson of Annas, who also served as high priest in AD 65-66.

Why should this particular family of high priests be distinguished from all other high priests who ever served? Because Annas, as the patriarch of this conniving, avaricious family that is excoriated in the Talmud for their corruption, was ultimately the one responsible for conspiring to put Christ to death. This family of high priests was the main feature of the rich man and Lazarus parable, which Christ gave as a condemning example of supreme greed. Caiphas, the son-in-law of Annas, played the role of the rich man. He wished to have Abraham send someone to “his father’s house” (which would be Annas and the temple) to warn him and Caiphas’ “five brothers” (Annas’ five sons, who also served as high priests, one after another, as they monopolized the high priesthood in the years leading up to the AD 70 era). Israel was, after all, called a “kingdom of priests” by God.

I can claim that these high priests are called “kings of the earth” (GE – the land of Israel – not kings of Rome) by quoting Christ Himself from Matthew 17:25: “Of whom do the KINGS OF THE EARTH take custom or tribute? Of their own children (sons) or of strangers (others)?” The entire thrust of Christ’s question to Peter was to demonstrate that Christ (who would become our high priest), as a true Son of His Father’s House (the temple), had every right to be exempt from paying the half-shekel temple tax collected by the agents of the “kings of the earth” – the high priests. These high priests and their sons were exempt from paying this half-shekel temple tax themselves – they were “free” from that obligation. To demonstrate His utter humility, Christ used the coin Peter pried out of the fish’s mouth to pay it anyway.

Using this true definition of “kings” as high priests, the list of kings in Rev. 17 and the rather odd language describing their actions aligns perfectly with the appointment and tenure of each of the seven and the 8th high priest coming from the House of Annas. Here is how Revelation 17 reads (with this understanding of “kings”/high priests in place), when it is held up side by side with a chronology of the dates of appointments for the high priests of the 1st century:

Revelation 17:8 – The (scarlet) beast that thou sawest WAS” (in a position of power headed by the House of Annas from AD 6-44), “and IS NOT” (the House of Annas temporarily lost power after AD 44, which means Revelation has to have been written some time after AD 44) “and IS ABOUT TO ASCEND OUT OF THE BOTTOMLESS PIT” (the abyss being the equivalent of a state of death, as it is compared to in Rom. 10:7; by this we can see that the 7th king, Ananus son of Annas, was about to reinstate the power of the House of Annas when he came into office in AD 62) “and go into destruction” (since Ananus son of Annas would die in the Idumean-led attack on Jerusalem in AD 68).

Revelation 17:10 – and there are 7 kings: five are fallen (the first five high priests of the House of Annas would have died as of John’s writing; we know Jonathan son of Annas was murdered by the Sicarii around AD 55/56) and ONE IS (still living – which would probably be Matthias son of Annas, the youngest son), and the other IS NOT YET COME (into office), and WHEN HE COMETH (Ananus son of Annas was appointed as high priest in AD 62) he must continue a SHORT SPACE (because he was deposed after serving a brief three months. His offense was in overstepping the bounds of his office’s authority by executing James the Just, Christ’s half brother).And the beast that WAS (the House of Annas that was in power almost continuously from AD 6-44) and IS NOT (is not in power from AD 44-62 – which means John was writing Revelation at a time prior to AD 62) even he is AN EIGHTH (because the 7-member House of Annas briefly resurfaced again in AD 65 through the grandson of Annas, the high priest Matthias son of Theophilus) and is OF THE SEVEN (Matthias was in the genetic line of the House of Annas) and goes into destruction (because this Matthias was also murdered during the Zealot’s temple siege in AD 66).

To my mind, all of this above fits the description of Revelation 17’s group of seven and the 8th king so much better than the rather awkward fit of the list of 10 emperors that belong on the SEA BEAST. These seven and eight kings are actually on a different beast – the scarlet colored one in the wilderness (the wilderness is always indicative of Israel, not Rome). THIS MEANS THAT THERE ARE ACTUALLY A TOTAL OF THREE BEASTS IN REVELATION – not just two. The Sea Beast is Roman in origin, and the Land Beast (false prophet) and the Scarlet Beast are both Judaic in origin. There are too many differences between the Sea Beast and the Scarlet Beast for them to be one and the same. They are counterparts of each other.

Here are some reasons why I find at least most of Patricia’s suggestions convincing:

*Revelation 17:2, 18 speak of “the kings of the earth” drunk with the wine of the harlot’s adultery and under her rule. I was already convinced that these kings were religious rulers in Israel, because the “great city” (verse 18) is identified as Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8 and because “earth” can be translated as “land,” i.e. the land of Israel. This is also established by Jesus in Matthew 17:24-27 and by the apostles in Acts 4:26-27. So there is no stretch in seeing the seven kings in verses 10-11 as these same “kings of the earth.”

*Revelation 17:10 says that when the seventh king would come, he would continue “only a short time.” The seventh high priest was Ananus, who reigned as high priest in 62 AD for only three months because he was removed, as Patricia says, after “overstepping the bounds of his office’s authority by executing James the Just, Christ’s half brother.” See here for Josephus’ account of what happened when Ananus had James killed.

*The beast in Revelation 17 was in “the wilderness.” As Patricia points out here, the wilderness was commonly associated with Israel (e.g. Deuteronomy 32:9-10), not Rome. At first I was on board with the idea of three beasts in Revelation, but not anymore. This has caused me to take another look at the beasts in Revelation (two of them, I would say), and I’m now seeing that both beasts (from the sea and from the land) were Jewish and that neither one was Roman. I plan to post more on this topic in coming weeks.

*Jerusalem sat on seven mountains (Mt. of Olives, Mt. Zion, Mt. Scopus, Mt. of Offense, Hill of Evil Counsel, Northwestern Hill, Northeastern Hill), as mentioned in Revelation 17:9.

*Patricia makes a good point when she says elsewhere that “it never really sounded plausible to have this harlot, Mystery Babylon (which I was absolutely sure was Jerusalem, the great city who had killed the prophets, after comparing Rev. 18:4 with Luke 11:49-51 and Matt. 23:37), riding in a dominant position on top of the Scarlet Beast, if its 10 horns were Roman emperors, and its seven heads were Roman hills.  Something didn’t sit quite right with that picture.  It didn’t compute. Jerusalem did not sit on seven Roman hills, and she did not dominate the Roman emperors.  But it is true that the great city Jerusalem had its own set of seven heads/mountains to sit upon (Mt. Scopus, Mt. Zion, Mt. of Olives, etc.).”

Here is the list of the seven high priests of the house of Ananus, and the years that they reigned. The five sons of Ananus are #2, #4, #5, #6, and #7:

1 Ananus (or Annas) the son of Seth (6–15 AD)
2 Eleazar the son of Ananus (16–17 AD)
3 Joseph, the son of Caiaphas (18–36 AD); he was the son-in-law of Ananus
4 Jonathan the son of Ananus (36–37 AD and 44 AD)
5 Theophilus the son of Ananus (37–41 AD)
6 Matthias the son of Ananus (43 AD)
7 Ananus the son of Ananus (62 AD)

One reason that this entire time period was significant is because the year 6 AD is also when Judea was named as a province of Rome. Annas I was the first High Priest of Roman Judea and his family dominated this office from that time until the Jewish-Roman War. Wikipedia introduces Annas I in this way:

Annas [also Ananus[1] or Ananias[2]] (Hebrew: חנן), son of Seth…was appointed by the Roman legate Quirinius as the first High Priest of the newly formed Roman province of Iudaea in 6 CE; just after the Romans had deposed Archelaus, Ethnarch of Judaea, thereby putting Judaea directly under Roman rule.

Josephus said this about Ananus and his legacy: 

“It is said that the elder Ananus was extremely fortunate. For he had five sons, all of whom, after he himself had previously enjoyed the office for a very long period, became high priests of God – a thing that had never happened to any other of our high priests” (Josephus, Jewish Antiquities XX, 9.1). 

Wikipedia gives this summary of Ananus and his family’s long hold on the office of high priest:

“Annas officially served as High Priest for ten years (6–15 CE), when at the age of 36 he was deposed by the procurator Gratus. Yet while having been officially removed from office, he remained as one of the nation’s most influential political and social individuals, aided greatly by the use of his five sons and his son-in-law Caiaphas as puppet High Priests.”

Bible History Online adds these details about the power that Annas wielded:

Annas, who’s name means “The grace of Jehovah” was the son of Seth and appointed high priest of the Jews in 6 A.D in his 37th year. He was high priest from 6 to 15 A.D. but as long as he lived he was the virtual head of the priestly party in Jerusalem… 

Years afterward he lost the high priesthood, but even then he was popularly considered as still in office and was called “high priest”; even after Pentecost his name appears first in the list of priestly leaders:

Acts 4:5-7 “And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. ”

In John 18:19, 22 the high priest is undoubtedly Annas, although in vs. 13 and 24 Caiaphas is mentioned as the high priest. Annas is referred to in connection with the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, which took place “in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” (Luke 3:2 ), as though father and son-in-law were joint holders of the office…

When Jesus was arrested, He was first brought before Annas (John 18:13). It was apparently Annas who questioned Him about His disciples and His teaching, and who gave orders to one of the officers standing by to strike Jesus with his hand (18:19-22). After the questioning, he sent Jesus “bound” to Caiaphas [verse 24]…

He was undoubtedly the ruling voice in the council that condemned Jesus, although nothing is said about his part in the proceedings that followed the preliminary questioning. He was present at the meeting of the Sanhedrin before which Peter and John defended themselves for preaching the Gospel of the Resurrection (Acts 4:6)…

Also see Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, XVI11. ii. 1, 2; XX. ix. 1.

Another brother from Indonesia also holds the view that the seven kings of Revelation 17 were the Jewish high priests of the house of Ananus. He shares his thoughts here.

The Geneology website “Geni” happens to also list the eight family members of the House of Annas, at the end of this article, as follows:

The House of Ananus

What do you think about this view?

Why Brexit, Britain, and the EU Have Nothing to Do with the 10 Horns of Revelation 17


“The 10 horns (kings) of Revelation 17 came and went more than 1900 years ago.”

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Among those who believe in a future fulfillment of the book of Revelation, there has long been an interest in linking the 10 horns (10 kings) of Revelation 17 to political partnerships in Europe, especially the European Union. Gary DeMar, an author and Bible prophecy teacher, pointed out in an article this week that the well-known Oswald J. Smith made the following prediction in 1927:

“Ten nations, no more, no less, are to become allied and known as the Roman empire because Rome will be the centre, the capital, and it will be in Rome that the Emperor will reign.”

Hal Lindsey also assured readers of The Late Great Planet Earth (1970) that “a ten nation confederacy” (pp. 96-97) would form in Europe by 1980, in order to set the stage for Revelation 17 (and Daniel 2) to be fulfilled. Of course, this topic has come to light again this week because of the Brexit referendum and Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. The Babylon Bee, a satire site, posted an article suggesting that dispensationalists are frantically adjusting their prophecy charts to include the Brexit vote. Another satire article posted in “The End Times” states that dispensationalist Christians are shocked, disappointed, angry, and depressed over this news.

What happens in this world is important, but all this speculation about how the European Union might fit into Bible prophecy is a waste of time. The 10 horns (kings) of Revelation 17 came and went more than 1900 years ago. 

John’s Vision of a Harlot, a Beast, and 10 Horns

In Revelation 17, John had a vision of a harlot that was about to be judged (verse 1). John saw the harlot sitting on a beast with seven heads and 10 horns (verse 3), and the woman was “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (verse 6).

The Harlot

The harlot is also referred to as “the great city” a number of times in Revelation (e.g. 11:8, 14:8, 16:19, 17:18, 18:10, 18:18). This title was first given to Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8, where it was said to be the place “where also our Lord was crucified.” Jerusalem and the Second Temple were burned with fire in 70 AD after a 5-month siege, as predicted in Revelation 17:16; 18:8-9, 18. This was God’s judgment upon the harlot drunk with the blood of His saints (17:1, 6). As outlined in another post, “The Avenging of Righteous Blood (Deuteronomy, Matthew, and Revelation),”

1. Moses prophesied that God would “avenge the blood of His servants” upon a faithless, perverse, and crooked generation at the time of Israel’s “latter end” (Deuteronomy 32:5, 20, 29, 43).

2. Jesus repeatedly denounced His own generation as “perverse”, “faithless”, and “adulterous.” Paul told the Philippian church that they were shining as lights in the midst of “a crooked and perverse generation” (Phil. 2:14-15).

3. Jesus told the religious leaders of Israel that their generation would be held responsible and judged for all the righteous blood shed on earth (Matthew 23:29-36).

4. John was shown a scene of martyrs crying out for their blood to soon be avenged “on those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 6:10).

5. John then saw seven bowls poured out “on the earth” (Rev. 16:1), and one of them caused the rivers and springs to become blood in order to judge those who had “shed the blood of saints and prophets” (Rev. 16:4-6).

6. John also saw a harlot dressed like a high priest of Israel and “drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Rev. 17:3-6).

7. In Revelation 18:19-24, John saw the great city…overthrown and made desolate (see Matthew 23:38). The holy prophets and apostles, and all of heaven, were told to rejoice over this scene because God had avenged them on her, and because “in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.

The Beast

John describes a scarlet 7-headed, 10-horned beast which carries the harlot. Its seven heads are identified in Rev. 17:10 as seven kings, five of whom had fallen, one that was, and one that would soon come, but only briefly. John was also told that “the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to destruction” (Rev. 17:11).

These seven kings were the high priests of the house of Annas (Ananus). Annas, his five sons, and his son-in-law monopolized the position of High Priest from about the time of Jesus’ birth until Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD (verse 10). The first five had died, the sixth one was still alive, and the seventh, Ananus, was about to rule. He only ruled for three months. Here is the list of the seven high priests of the house of Ananus, and the years that they reigned. The five sons of Ananus are #2, #4, #5, #6, and #7:

1 Ananus (or Annas) the son of Seth (6–15 AD)
2 Eleazar the son of Ananus (16–17 AD)
3 Joseph, the son of Caiaphas (18–36 AD); he was the son-in-law of Ananus
4 Jonathan the son of Ananus (36–37 AD and 44 AD)
5 Theophilus the son of Ananus (37–41 AD)
6 Matthias the son of Ananus (43 AD)
7 Ananus the son of Ananus (62 AD)

“The eighth” was Matthias, the grandson of Annas, and he was “also of the seven” because he was part of that family lineage (verse 11). He ruled as high priest from 65-66 AD and was murdered when the Jewish Zealots sieged the temple.

See this post for more details on these things.

The 10 Horns

In  Revelation 17:7-18, an angel explained the meaning of the vision, and he described the 10 horns in this way:

And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast. These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them…” (Revelation 17:12-14).

All of John’s visions were concerning “things which must shortly take place” because “the time [was] near” (Revelation 1:1-3; 22:6, 10). In War of the Jews (Book 2, Chapter 20), Josephus listed exactly 10 high priests and religious leaders in Israel who were given authority as generals from early 67 AD until Jerusalem’s downfall 3.5 years later. 

Here’s some important historical background which shows why these generals were appointed at that time. This information can be found in the works of Josephus (e.g. Wars 2.20.1) and Roman historians like Suetonius (The Twelve Caesars, Vespasian 4), Tacitus (The Histories V), and Dio Cassius. (This is abbreviated; a longer version can be seen in this post.)

Summer 66 AD

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

November 66 AD

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

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

Josephus Lists 10 Newly Appointed Jewish Generals 

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

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

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

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

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

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

They Receive Authority for One Hour

It’s stated in Revelation 17:12-13 that “they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast. These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.” The phrase “one hour” is used again three times in Revelation 18, each time to describe the judgment of the great city, the harlot, Babylon the great:

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

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

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

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

These Will Make War with the Lamb

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

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

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

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

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

In 70 AD, during the 5-month siege on Jerusalem which ultimately caused its downfall, the 10thLegion of the Romans launched white boulders as heavy as 100 pounds over the city walls into Jerusalem (see Revelation 16:21). They were catapulted from Roman engines from up to a quarter mile away. Josephus records that the watchmen on the wall, if they saw them coming, would shout, “The Son cometh!” After a while the Romans learned to blacken the stones so that they couldn’t as easily be detected, and then many were crushed by these stones.  J. Stuart Russell, in his 1878 book, The Parousia, offered this explanation (p. 482):

“It could not but be well known to the Jews that the great hope and faith of the Christians was the speedy coming of the Son. It was about this very time, according to Hegesippus [110-180 AD], that St. James, the brother of our Lord, publicly testified in the temple that ‘the Son of man was about to come in the clouds of heaven,’ and then sealed his testimony with his blood. It seems highly probable that the Jews, in their defiant and desperate blasphemy, when they saw the white mass hurtling though the air, raised the ribald cry, ‘The Son is coming,’ in mockery of the Christian hope of the Parousia.”

And the Lamb Will Overcome Them

These 10 generals, the 10 horns, were of one mind. They thought they could use their own power and authority to prevent Jesus’ predictions from coming true. They thought they could maintain power over the great temple and their prosperous old covenant system. Of course, they failed and all of them perished or were captured. The words of God were fulfilled (Revelation 17:17). They made war with the Lamb, but the Lamb overcame.

The 10 Horns Turned on the Harlot

Revelation 17:16 says, “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire.”

See the final section of this post to see how Josephus likened Jerusalem in 67-70 AD to a wild beast that had gone mad and was eating its own flesh.

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The 10 horns have nothing to do with Brexit, the European Union, or the 21st century. We don’t have to worry about them coming on the scene in our day. They played their role and “fulfill[ed] His purpose” (Rev. 17:17) many centuries ago, at the end of the old covenant age in the first century AD.

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.

The Harlot of Revelation 17 and its Relationship to Old Covenant Israel


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.

The following study was published yesterday in The Fulfilled Connection (TFC) Magazine, and is adapted from our study of Revelation 17 (Part 1):

In Revelation 17, John was shown a woman known as “Babylon the Great”, “the mother of harlots,” and “the great city.” This woman/city has been interpreted in various ways, from the Roman Catholic Church, to New York City, to modern Iraq, to the church in America, etc. This article will discuss a number of reasons why “Babylon the Great” was first century Jerusalem and old covenant Judaism. In doing so, we will look at the first six verses of Revelation 17.

The fall of Babylon was first announced in Revelation 14:8, and Revelation 11:8 identified “the great city” as the place “where also our Lord was crucified,” which, of course, was Jerusalem. Revelation 17-19 describes Babylon’s fall in more detail. This is then followed by a description of the bride, the wife of Jesus, who stands in contrast to the harlot. Note how the following passages deliberately contrast each other:

A. 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.’”

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.”

In Revelation 17:2, Babylon is prosecuted for its sexual immorality, by which “the dwellers on earth” and “the kings of the earth” were made guilty. Notice that the reference to “the kings of the earth” here is distinct from the reference to “the kings of the whole world” in Revelation 16:14, where that reference was to the provincial kings of the Roman Empire. In an earlier 3-part series, I discussed 20 instances in Revelation where the phrase “those who dwell on the earth” refers to first century Israel rather than to everyone on the planet (see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). 

Verse 3: John then sees a woman sitting on a scarlet beast with seven heads and ten horns. One of my previous articles, “Ten Fulfilled Prophecies Concerning the Beast from the Sea,” makes the case that the beast was Nero in the specific sense and the Roman Empire in the general sense. The fact that the woman is sitting on the beast suggests a very close relationship between the woman and the beast, who are both distinct in their identity. On this topic, I wrote the following elsewhere regarding the woman (Jerusalem) riding the beast (Rome):

In what sense might Jerusalem have sat on the beast that would ultimately turn on her and destroy her (Rev. 17:3, 9, 16-18)? 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, Before Jerusalem Fell, 2002, p. 63).

Kenneth Gentry suggests that the beast was the color scarlet for any of the following reasons: [1] The robes worn by Roman emperors were red in color [2] Rome, led by Nero, was responsible for shedding much blood among God’s people [3] Nero was famous for his red beard.

Verses 4-5: The woman wore purple, scarlet, gold, jewels, and pearls. She had in her hand a golden cup “full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.” Her forehead proclaimed that she was “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” According to Todd Dennis, the founder of the Preterist Archive,

…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).

In Jeremiah’s day, Judah (with its capital of Jerusalem) was prosecuted because it had “played the whore with many lovers” and “polluted the land with…vile whoredom” (Jeremiah 3:1-2). Like Israel in John’s day, Judah prior to its fall in 586 BC had “the forehead of a whore” (verse 3).

Duncan McKenzie’s article has helped me to understand that “Babylon the Great” here was more than just a physical city. It was also a religious system full of abominations, old covenant temple-based Judaism. In Revelation 18 God commands His people regarding Babylon, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). We know from Revelation 1 that John’s immediate audience didn’t live in Jerusalem, but in Asia Minor. So this was not a command to flee from the city of Jerusalem.

God’s message was about breaking completely free from old covenant temple-based Judaism. Babylon represented not only Jerusalem, but also the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus and the new covenant. Both physical Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD. In Daniel 9:26-27 we see that it is on “the wing of abominations” that one comes “who makes desolate” (see also Rev. 17:16, Matt. 23:38). This was related to the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” (Daniel 9:24). The abominations of the earth (land) were the apostate practices of old covenant Judaism.

As mentioned earlier, John was shown a contrasting picture of two women: the harlot of chapters 17 and 18, and the bride in chapter 19 clothed with “fine linen, bright and pure…the righteous deeds of the saints” (see verses 1-8). One (the harlot) persecuted the other (the bride, Christ’s Church). What is most fascinating is Paul’s own contrasting of two women in his epistle to the Galatians:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? ”Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman (Galatians 4:21-31).

Just as Paul wrote in Galatians 4, we see in Revelation that God casts out and destroys the harlot (Revelation 18:21), but the bride inherits the Lamb as her husband.

Verse 6: The woman is said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” This same charge was laid upon those of “the earth” in the previous chapter (Rev. 16:1), where it was said that “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets (16:4-7).” In chapter 18 we also see 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 that 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, apostles, and the saints, according to Jesus, and who would receive judgment as a result? The answer can be found in Matthew 23:

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).

The harlot is not a 21st century entity, but was the first century old covenant community. As God’s people, those of us who are in Christ today have the privilege of being part of the pure woman, God’s bride.

“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 17 (Part 2: Verses 7-18)


REVELATION 17: Part 2

Adam Maarschalk: December 3, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 17

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 Part 1 of our study of Revelation 17, we examined the first six verses of this chapter. We considered the identity of Babylon the Great, and saw numerous reasons for believing that this was in fact first-century Jerusalem, as well as Old Covenant temple-based Judaism. We were also introduced again (as in chapter 13) to the beast with seven heads and ten horns. In this second part, we will see how the angel unveils to John the meaning of the prostitute (Babylon the great) and the beast. When we come to verse 18, we will consider the significance of the reference to a “great city.”

B. The Meaning of the Woman and the Beast (Rev. 17:7-18)

Verse 7: The angel now prepares to tell John clearly who the woman and the beast are. He begins with the beast. Again we are told that the beast carries the woman. Recall that in our study of Revelation 13 a few weeks ago, we took note of the fact that the beast of the sea is both spoken of as an individual (the specific sense) and as a kingdom (generic sense).

Verse 8: The angel tells John that all “the dwellers on earth” (Israel)** whose names were not written in the book of life would marvel to see the beast that “was and is not and is to come.” There is a clear parallel here to Revelation 13:3-4, which states “…and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast…” (cf. Rev. 13:12 and the discussion there regarding the beast’s mortal head wound). More is said on this in verse 11.

**[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 9-10: Steve Gregg comments,

The principal concern in verses 7 through 11 has to do with the meaning of the seven heads of the beast as mountains (v. 9) and kings (v. 10). David S. Clark writes: “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…”

In our study of Revelation 13, we looked ahead to this very passage. This is what we noted regarding the reference to the seven mountains spoken of in verse 9:

…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). Kenneth 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.”

We also noted the following regarding the seven kings of verse 10, which states, “they [the seven heads] 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.”

There is no barrier to our interpretation here 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).

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.”

Verse 11: We are told that the beast “was and is not”, but also [1] is an eighth king [2] belongs in some sense to the seven kings, and [3] goes to destruction. For Jay Adams, this “represents the remainder of the emperors who will be of or like the former seven.” Is this a reference to the fact that the Roman Empire fell into such chaos and disorder during the “Year of the Four Emperors” (following Nero’s suicide) that it nearly ceased to exist? See the study on Revelation 13:12 for this discussion.

Kenneth Gentry believes that the key to understanding this reference to “an eighth” is found in the language of the text. He notes that up until this phrase is mentioned, the definite article “the” is used when referring to the seven kings. However, it is “conspicuously absent in the reference to the eighth head/king…the eighth is “an eighth.” He continues,

This indicates that John is not concerned with the number of the particular emperor arising after the seventh in the Roman Civil War. Rather he is interested solely with the fact that there is one coming soon, who will, as the empire’s stabilizing head bring life back to the empire. There is a very important sense in which the revival of the Empire under Vespasian, was a revival under “an eighth,” who is “of the seven.” It is the same Roman Empire that is brought to life from the death of Civil War. John’s concern is particularly with the contemporaneous events, i.e., here the Roman Civil War that occurred within the compass of the reign of the seven kings… The fact that this revival is of an eighth head, however, indicates the rapid recovery of the Beast. That recovery will come shortly after the demise of the original seven (Gentry, Before Jerusalem Fell, pp. 315-316).

Verses 12-14: John then turns to a discussion of the ten kings who represented the ten horns of the beast. We also visited this topic in our study of chapter 13, and I will reproduce some of our conclusions here:

John says in Rev. 17:12-13 [that these 10 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 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”).[1]

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.

David S. Clark’s description is helpful in seeing how vast this empire was:

We know that Rome embraced at that time the countries of Europe that bordered on the Mediterranean Sea, and the northern part of Africa and considerable territory in Asia, and also in central Europe. Rome had conquered the world (Steve Gregg, p. 414).

The above quotation from Wikipedia lists out 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, Rome 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).

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

Verses 15-17: John is then told the meaning of the “many waters” referred to in verse 1. They represent “peoples and multitudes and nations and languages,” and this is where the prostitute was seated. As seen already, the scope of these many waters could certainly be a valid description of the Roman Empire in the first century. Does this indicate that the prostitute IS the Roman Empire, or simply that its influence reached throughout the Roman Empire? David Chilton opts for the latter (as do I), saying (Steve Gregg, 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.” Earlier in verse 3 we saw the prostitute (Jerusalem) sitting on the beast which was “full of blasphemous names” (Rome). Now the beast has turned on the prostitute with hatred. 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). What is the significance of verse 16 then, in light of Jerusalem’s downfall in 70 AD?

First, it’s probably no coincidence that the word “desolate” is used here, just as it is used in Rev. 18:17, 19 and also in Daniel 9:27 and by Jesus in Luke 21:20 (recognized even by most Futurists as referring to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD). Thus, the use of this word again here in reference to Jerusalem would be more than fitting. Secondly, we do 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. Thirdly, at the very end of July 70 AD, on the exact same day as 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. More will be said of this in our study on chapter 18. Suffice it to say that all the elements necessary for this prophecy to be fulfilled were present in 70 AD.

Regarding the second point, that multiple provincial kings joined Rome’s war against Israel, it was already mentioned in our discussion of verse 3 that this began with a Jewish revolt in the fall of 66 AD. I wrote in greater detail about this sequence of events in my term paper:

[1] Zealots and Revolutionaries (against Rome) take control of the Jerusalem temple. [2] The Jewish/Roman War begins in October with a revolt at Caesarea due to a group of Greeks sacrificing birds in front of a local synagogue. The revolt occurred because the Jews were frustrated that the local Roman garrison did not intervene. [3] The High Priest successfully leads a massacre of the Roman garrison stationed in Jerusalem. [4] The Romans in Caesarea slaughter 20,000 Jews. [5] About 13,000 more Jews are put to death in Damascus, Syria.

This was just the beginning of the carnage. After a less than successful attack on Galilee and Jerusalem by Cestius Gallus, the Roman governor of Syria, Nero declared war on Israel in February 67 AD, dispatching Vespasian as his general with triple the forces initially led by Cestius Gallus. The link I provided above provides many details of the events which transpired during the next 3.5 years.

Verse 18: As already pointed out, 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 given to Jerusalem in Revelation 11:8, and is 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 notes that this verse “is considered most definitive in the recognition of Rome as the harlot city,” for those who are of this opinion. He adds, “if no other data were given in Revelation for the identification of the city, no one would question that this is Rome” (p. 420). Yet we have seen a wealth of data suggesting otherwise. Steve Gregg then quotes David Chilton on this matter (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, as we will see in our study of chapter 18, 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 was great in the political sense as well, though. Take note of Josephus’ description of Jerusalem in his introduction to Wars of the Jews:

“it had so come to pass, that our city Jerusalem had arrived at a higher degree of felicity than any other city under the Roman government, and yet at last fell into the sorest of calamities again” (Wars Preface 1.4).

Kenneth Gentry also 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 this verse and often thought to be wider in scope than Israel/Palestine. 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” (p. 422).

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Our study of Revelation 18 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.


[1] This campaign of persecution led by Nero took place from November 64 AD – June 68 AD, a period of 42 months, which most preterists see as a fulfillment of Revelation 13:5-7. See here for more details.

Revelation Chapter 17 (Part 1: Verses 1-6)


REVELATION 17

Adam Maarschalk: December 3, 2009

Scripture text for this study: Revelation 17

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.

A. The Scarlet Woman and the Scarlet Beast (Rev. 17:1-6)

Verse 1: At this point, the seven bowl judgments have been poured out on Babylon the Great (Rev. 16:19) by seven angels. One of these angels now takes John to see her judgment. Babylon, whose identity we will soon discuss, is referred to as “the great prostitute who is seated on many waters.” Steve Gregg, in his book “Revelation: Four Views (A Parallel Commentary),” reminds us that the fall of Babylon was first announced in Rev. 14:8 (p. 400). He then adds,

Chapters 17-19 reveal the destruction of Babylon in greater detail, the precursor to the marriage of the Lamb to a new bride. Appropriately, the chaste bride is contrasted with the wicked city depicted as a great harlot (v. 1). In order to gain this insight, John is transported in vision into the wilderness (v. 3). David S. Clark points out that “sometimes he was carried away into heaven to see visions; but the thing he was about to see now had no affinity with heaven, and he could not see such a scene as this in heaven, so he was taken to a wilderness as a more appropriate place, and one more in congruity with what he was about to see.”

Verse 2: Babylon is indicted for its sexual immorality, by which “the dwellers on earth” and “the kings of the earth” were made guilty. 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. Notice that the reference to “the kings of the earth” here is distinct from the reference to “the kings of the whole world” in Revelation 16:14, where that reference was to the provincial kings of the entire Roman Empire.

We have also noted a couple of times that at this point in John’s narrative, there is division in the preterist camp regarding who judgment is being poured out upon. Some say it’s the Roman Empire, and others say it’s Jerusalem (this is my view). Steve Gregg (pp. 402-406) summarizes J. Stuart Russell’s arguments on why Babylon is to be identified with Jerusalem, and not with Rome. He lists 13 such reasons[1], which are reproduced here:

#1: The fall of Rome [in 476 AD] does not fall within the things “which must shortly take place,” which is the stated subject matter of the Apocalypse (cf. 1:1). [The fall of Jerusalem does, as it occurred in 70 AD, in John’s own day];

#2: The Olivet Discourse, which Russell conceives as a shorter treatment of the same subject matter as Revelation, does not include a discussion of the fate of Rome (see Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21);

#3: As Revelation presents a series of contrasts—a Lamb vs. a dragon; the Father’s name vs. the beast’s name on people’s foreheads; the bride vs. the harlot—so also the Apocalypse contrasts two cities, Babylon and the New Jerusalem. The latter is the church. The earthly Jerusalem is clearly in view in earlier chapters. To bring Rome into the picture at this point would introduce a third city and destroy the symmetry of the book;

#4: As a symbolic name for Jerusalem, Babylon would be as fitting as Sodom and Egypt, which were applied to Jerusalem earlier (11:8);

#5: The phrase “that great city” was used of Jerusalem earlier (11:8), as it is used repeatedly in these chapters regarding Babylon;

#6: In chapter 14, the winepress was trodden “outside the city” (14:20), which almost all understand to refer to Jerusalem, yet the only “city” named earlier in that chapter is Babylon (14:8), hence, Babylon equals Jerusalem;

#7: The division of Babylon into “three parts” in 16:19 best fits Jerusalem… (cf. Ezek. 5:1-12). [By this, Steve Gregg is also referring to the historical fact of three warring factions in Jerusalem during the siege leading up to Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD, which literally carved up the city into three parts. See previous post on chapter 16.];

#8: The appellation “the harlot” is an established label for Jerusalem from the Old Testament (cf. Isa. 1:21; 57:8; Jer. 2:2, 20); it could never be applied to Rome or any Gentile city, since they have never been in a covenant relationship with God. As Chilton writes: “The metaphor of harlotry is exclusively used in the Old Testament for a city or nation that has abandoned the Covenant and turned toward false gods; and with only two exceptions…[2] the term is always used for faithless Israel;

#9: Jerusalem sat upon seven hills as truly as did Rome [SEE FINAL NOTE at the end of this post];

#10: If “the kings of the earth” [verse 2] be understood to mean “the rulers of the land (Israel),” then Jerusalem, as appropriately as Rome, could be said to be “that great city” in 17:18 [more on this later];

#11: The expression “that great city which reigns over the rulers of the land” (v. 18) is fully equivalent to that which is said of Jerusalem in Lamentations 1:1—“Who was great among the nations! The princess among the provinces”;

#12: The Jews of Jerusalem were idolatrous, as was Rome;

#13: No city other than Jerusalem could be charged with the blood of the prophets and saints and apostles (see 17:6; 18:20, 24).

Verse 3: John then sees a woman sitting on a scarlet (red) beast with seven heads and ten horns. We already discussed the identity of this beast at length in Revelation 13 (See Post #1 here and Post #5 here), seeing a compelling case for its identity as Nero in the specific sense and the Roman Empire in the general sense. The woman here in verse 3 is seen as a prostitute (verse 1), and the fact that she is sitting on the beast does not mean that she is one and the same with the beast. Rather it suggests a very close relationship between the woman and the beast, who are both distinct in their identity. In my term paper on the events of 70 AD, I wrote the following regarding the significance of the woman (Jerusalem, as representing Israel) riding the beast (Rome):

In what sense might Jerusalem have sat on the beast with seven heads (mountains), the beast that would ultimately turn on her and destroy her (Rev. 17:3, 9, 16-18)? 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, 2002, p. 63).

Kenneth Gentry suggests that the beast is seen as scarlet for any (or all) of the following reasons: [1] The robes worn by Roman emperors were red in color [2] Rome, led by Nero, was responsible for shedding much blood among God’s people [3] Nero was famous for his red beard. Regarding this last point, Gentry says, “It would seem most appropriate to expect the red color of the beast to also correspond to the person designated as the beast whose number is 666” (Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 217). In other words, this is likely one more means by which John made known to his first-century readers exactly who the beast was (in the singular sense) without saying so explicitly.

Verses 4-5: The woman is seen to be wearing purple and scarlet, and gold, jewels, and pearls. She has in her hand a golden cup “full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality.” Her forehead proclaimed that she was “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” In my term paper on the events of 70 AD, I noted some observations made by Todd Dennis, the founder of the Preterist Archive:

…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).

The attire of the harlot was also similar to what Josephus said was discovered “in the midst [of the inmost court], that most sacred part of the temple” when Jerusalem was captured by the Romans in 70 AD:

“The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls” (Revelation 17:4).

“But then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth; but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful” (Wars 5.5.4).

In Jeremiah’s day, Judah (with its capital of Jerusalem) was indicted because it had “played the whore with many lovers” and “polluted the land with…vile whoredom” (Jeremiah 3:1-2). Like Israel in John’s day, Judah prior to its fall in 586 BC had “the forehead of a whore” (verse 3).

Duncan McKenzie’s article has helped me to understand that “Babylon the Great” here was more than just a physical city in its identity. It was also a religious system full of abominations. That system, I believe, was Old Covenant temple-based Judaism. In the next chapter, we will see a command from God regarding Babylon, saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). We know from chapter 1 that John’s immediate audience did not live in Jerusalem (or Rome), but in Asia Minor. The believers in Jerusalem did flee, as we noted in chapter 7, but what did this message mean to believers already living outside of Jerusalem and Judea?

God’s message was about breaking completely free from Old Covenant temple-based Judaism. Babylon represented not only Jerusalem, but also the unfaithful community which had rejected Jesus in order to maintain corrupted Old Covenant practices. Both physical Jerusalem and temple-based Judaism were judged and destroyed in 70 AD. In Daniel 9:26-27 we see that it is on “the wing of abominations” that one comes “who makes desolate” (cf. Rev. 17:16, Matt. 23:38). This is in reference to the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary” (as related to Daniel’s own people and his holy city—Dan. 9:24). What are the abominations spoken of in both Daniel and Revelation? Regarding Daniel 9, John Calvin several centuries ago remarked:

I have no hesitation in referring this language of the angel to that profanation of the Temple which happened after the manifestation of Christ, when sacrifices ceased, and the shadows of the law were abolished. From the time, therefore, at which the sacrifice really ceased to be offered; this refers to the period at which Christ by his advent should abolish the shadows of the law, thus making all offering of sacrifices to God totally valueless… God’s wrath followed the profanation of the Temple. The Jews never anticipated the final cessation of their ceremonies, and always boasted in their peculiar external worship, and unless God had openly demonstrated it before their eyes, they would never have renounced their sacrifices and rites as mere shadowy representations. Hence Jerusalem and their Temple were exposed to the vengeance of the Gentiles.

As Russell pointed out earlier, John is being shown a contrasting picture of two women: the harlot of chapters 17 and 18, and the bride in chapter 19 clothed with “fine linen, bright and pure…the righteous deeds of the saints” (see verses 1-8). One (the harlot, representing Judaism) persecuted the other (the bride, Christ’s Church), as we will see again in the next verse. What is most fascinating is Paul’s own contrasting of two women in his epistle to the Galatians:

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons,one by a slave woman andone by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, whilethe son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are twocovenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Now you, brothers,like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say?”Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave butof the free woman (Galatians 4:21-31, emphasis added).

Note how the following passages contrast each other:

A. 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.’”

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.”

On these matters, Duncan McKenzie concludes:

Revelation is talking about the same subject as Galatians; both books are contrasting two “cities” (physical Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem in Galatians, Babylon and the New or heavenly Jerusalem in Revelation) that are two “wives” (Hagar and Sarah in Galatians, the widowed harlot and the bride in Revelation).  These two women of Galatians and Revelation represent two communities, those of the old and new covenants…  In the book of Revelation, as in Galatians (4:29), one woman persecutes the other (i.e. the harlot persecutes the bride, Rev. 17:6).  Similarly in Revelation, as in Galatians, one of the two women is cast out (and destroyed—Rev. 18:21) while the other woman receives her inheritance (i.e. the Lord takes her as His bride).  This explains why the very next subject in Revelation after Babylon is destroyed is the wedding of the bride (Rev. 19:1-10).  God deposes of His unfaithful old covenant wife (who irrevocably broke her covenant of marriage with God and became a widow when she had Jesus killed) and then marries His faithful new covenant bride…

Just as the New Jerusalem is not a literal city but a community of people (the bride, the new covenant community) so Babylon was not a literal city but a community of people (the harlot, the unfaithful old covenant community)… While Babylon was centered in Jerusalem, its citizens were all those of unfaithful Israel that were rejecting Jesus for the temple system.

When the earthly Jerusalem fell, God’s true people were in possession of “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Hebrews 12:18-28). Upon the removal of that which could be shaken (vs. 27; cf. Hebrews 9:8-10), there remained “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (vs. 28; cf. Daniel 7:21-22, Matthew 21:43).

Verse 6: The woman is said to be “drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.” This same charge was laid upon those of “the earth” (Rev. 16:1) in the previous chapter, where it was said that “they have shed the blood of saints and prophets (16:4-7).” In chapter 18 we will see 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 that 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? David Lowman, a Presbyterian pastor, aptly points out that the answer can be found in Matthew 23:

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).

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In Part 2 of our study on Revelation 17 we will see how the angel unveils to John the meaning of the prostitute (Babylon) and the beast…

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, in his book Before Jerusalem Fell, lists his own set of reasons (pp. 240-241): “Briefly, the evidence for the identifying of Jerusalem as the Harlot is based on the following: (1) Both are called ‘the great city’ (Rev. 14:8; 11:8). (2) The Harlot is filled with the blood of the saints (cp. Rev. 16:6; 17:6, 18:21, 24; with Matt. 23:34-38; Luke 13:33; Acts 7:51-52). Jerusalem had previously been called by pagan names quite compatible with the designation ‘Babylon’ (cp. Rev. 14:8 and 17:5 with 11:8). (4) Rome could not fornicate against God, for only Jerusalem was God’s wife (Rev. 17:2-5, cp. Isa. 1:20; Jer. 31:31). (5) 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.). The fact that the Harlot is seated on the seven-headed Beast (obviously representative of Rome) indicates not identity with Rome, but alliance with Rome against Christianity (cp. Matt. 23:37ff.; John 19:6-16; Acts 17:7).” SEE ALSO QUESTION #9 HERE: http://www.forerunner.com/beast/beastfaq.html.

[2] Note from Steve Gregg: “The two exceptions are Tyre (Isaiah 23:15-17) and Nineveh (Nahum 3:4). It is notable that both of these pagan cities, Tyre (See I Kings 5:1-12; 9:13; Amos 1:9) and Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-10), had at one time been in covenant with God.”

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FINAL NOTE: Regarding J. Stuart Russell’s 13 arguments for identifying Babylon with Jerusalem, there was one that I wasn’t quite on board with earlier (i.e. I thought it shouldn’t belong to his list). That was #9, which stated, “Jerusalem sat upon seven hills as truly as did Rome.” Then today I came across this information at the site of Australian Pastor Andrew Corbett:

The City of Jerusalem as it existed in the time of Christ Jesus was widely reckoned to be the “City of Seven Hills.” This fact was well recognized in Jewish circles. In the Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, an eighth century midrashic narrative (section 10), the writer mentioned without commentary (showing that the understanding was well known and required no defense) that “Jerusalem is situated on seven hills” (recorded in The Book of Legends, edited by Bialik and Ravnitzky, p. 371, paragraph 111). And, so it was. Those “seven hills” are easy to identify. If one starts with the Mount of Olives just to the east of the main City of Jerusalem (but still reckoned to be located within the environs of Jerusalem), there are three summits to that Mount of Olives. The northern summit (hill) is called Scopus [Hill One], the middle summit (hill) was called Nob [Hill Two], the highest point of Olivet itself, and the southern summit (hill) was called in the Holy Scriptures the “Mount of Corruption” or “Mount of Offence” [Hill Three] (II Kings 23:13). On the middle ridge between the Kedron and the Tyropoeon Valleys there was (formerly) in the south “Mount Zion” [Hill Four] (the original “Mount Zion” and not the later southwest hill that was later called by that name), then the “Ophel Mount” [Hill Five] and then to the north of that the “Rock” around which “Fort Antonia” was built [Hill Six]. And finally, there was thesouthwest hill itself [Hill Seven] that finally became known in the time of Simon the Hasmonean as the new “Mount Zion.” This makes “Seven Hills” in all.

So, indeed, J. Stuart Russell was correct. Still, as we will see in the following post, there is another sense also in which the woman (apostate Israel) can be seen as seated on the seven mountains of Rome (if Rome is in view in Revelation 17:9).