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?

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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 Book of Revelation Written Before 70 AD: An Illustration


So far this year I’ve posted three prophecy charts created by Jonathan Welton, regarding [1] the fulfillment of Daniel 2, [2] Revelation’s focus on the land of Israel in the first century, and [3] the fulfillment of Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy

Jonathan’s newest illustration deals with the date when the book of Revelation was written (if you click on the chart, it should open in a new tab/window and you’ll be able to click it again to zoom in and see the words more clearly):

Revelation (Welton)

Photo Source: Weebly and Pinterest

The internal evidence, i.e. evidence within Scripture itself, is more important than anyone’s opinion about when Revelation was written. I’ll never forget how the truth of point #2 in Jonathan’s illustration hit me between the eyes a few years ago. The apostle John made it very clear during which time period he was in Patmos recording his visions and prophecies: “There are seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time” (Revelation 17:10). Nero was the sixth king, as Jonathan Welton pointed out, and as this chart also shows (Source – Study on Revelation 17:7-18):

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

For more information on the external and internal evidence that Revelation was written prior to 70 AD, see these five posts:

[1] External Evidence for An Early Date
[2] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 1)
[3] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 2)
[4] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 3)
[5] Internal Evidence for An Early Date (Part 4)

All of our posts on the book of Revelation, including chapter-by-chapter studies, can be found here.

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.

PP5: Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Revelation)-Part 2


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

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

We have now turned to a discussion of the internal evidence for an early date. The previous post (Part 1) was a discussion of Jerusalem, the temple, Babylon the Great, and a great city as they are mentioned in the book of Revelation. We discovered that they are all related. That post can be found here:

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

This part of the discussion (Part 2) will deal with the seven kings mentioned in Revelation 17:9-10, as well as with the identity of the beast of the book of Revelation. Again, it’s recommended that all the previous posts in this series be read in order before reading this one.

Adam Maarschalk

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II. Internal Evidence for an Early Date (Part 2)

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

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

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

According to the above list, then, Nero was the “king” of whom John said “one is” (i.e. “he is reigning now”), and Galba was the one who had “not yet come.” Galba reigned only six months, making him a good candidate to be the one who “must remain only a little while.” This would place John’s authorship of Revelation sometime before Nero’s death in June 68 AD (and after November 64 AD because, as already noted, John was in Patmos as a result of imperial persecution, and no such persecution existed before Nero initiated his).

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

As for the Antichrist, there is no question but what he is going to fight against the holy covenant, and that when he first makes war against the king of Egypt, he shall straightway be frightened off by the assistance of the Romans. But these events were typically prefigured under Antiochus Epiphanes, so that this abominable king who persecuted God’s people foreshadows the Antichrist, who is to persecute the people of Christ. And so there are many of our viewpoint who think that Domitius Nero was the Antichrist because of his outstanding savagery and depravity (Todd Dennis [7], 2009).

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

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

Richard Anthony (2009) shares more details about Nero’s life and character, all of which is substantiated by Suetonius (in his book Nero) and other historians who lived during the first two centuries:

According to Suetonius, he [Nero] murdered his parents, wife, brother, aunt, and many others close to him and of high station in Rome. He was a torturer, a homosexual rapist, and a sodomite. He even married two young boys and paraded them around as his wives. One of the boys, whose name was Sporus, was castrated by Nero. He was truly bestial in his character, depravity, and actions. He devised a kind of game: covered with the skin of some wild animal, he was let loose from a cage and attacked the private parts of men and women, who were bound at stakes. He also initiated the war against the Jews which led to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.

At one point, writes Kenneth Gentry (2002), Nero divorced his first wife, Octavia, in order to marry Poppaea, his mistress. Poppaea then gave orders to have Octavia banished to an island, where in 62 AD she was beheaded. Three years later, when Poppaea was pregnant and ill, Nero kicked her to death. For entertainment, according to the Roman historian Suetonius, Nero “compelled four hundred senators and six hundred Roman knights, some of whom were well to do and of unblemished reputation, to fight in the arena.” The Roman historian Tacitus (55-117 AD) knew Nero as the one who “put to death so many innocent men,” and Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) called Nero “the destroyer of the human race” and “the poison of the world” (p. 52).

Kenneth Gentry (1998) writes that the beast in Revelation is sometimes spoken of as an individual (specific sense) and sometimes as a kingdom (generic sense). For example, John’s readers are told to “calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man” (Revelation 13:18). Earlier in that same chapter John saw “a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads” (Rev. 13:1), and John later identified these seven heads as both “seven mountains on which the woman [harlot] is seated” and “seven kings” (Rev. 17:9-10).[1] It’s not surprising that the beast is interchangeably an individual and a kingdom, if ancient Rome is in view here. Regarding the emperor Augustus, the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC-18AD) wrote, “The state is Caesar.” Gentry also adds, “Scholars as widely divergent as dispensationalist John Walvoord, anti-dispensationalist Philip Mauro, and critical scholar R. H. Charles agree that the Beast in Revelation has both a generic and a specific reference. Thus, he represents both a kingdom and an individual.”


[1] Interestingly, Gentry notes, 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.”