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.

Furthermore, Revelation 19:21 suggests that it was the followers of the beast and the false prophet whose flesh was consumed by the birds. This further confirms that 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 17:16 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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The Beast Empowered by the Dragon (Revelation 13:1-2)


This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here. So far in this series we have examined the four kingdoms of Daniel 2, the four beasts of Daniel 7 (and the little horn), and Revelation 11.

Revelation 13 is probably cited more often than any other chapter when it comes to “the beast” of Revelation, and rightfully so. As you may have noticed in the introduction to this series, 46 percent of the verses in the book of Revelation (16 out of 35) which speak of a beast are in Revelation 13. This chapter actually speaks of two beasts, [1] the one briefly introduced in Revelation 11:7 and [2] a second beast which works closely with the first beast and is later called “the false prophet” (Revelation 16:13, 19:20, 20:10).

The first eight verses of this chapter (Revelation 13:1-8), as well as verse 18, describe “the beast.” We already saw that this beast was responsible for hunting down and killing the two witnesses in Jerusalem. Here we will see that this beast:

-rose up out of the sea
-had seven heads
-had 10 horns with 10 crowns
-had a blasphemous name
-had body parts of a leopard, a bear, and a lion
-received its power, throne, and authority from the dragon (Rev. 12)
-had a mortally wounded head that was healed
-received worship
-was admired for its victories in war
-had authority to continue for 42 months
-blasphemed God, His name, His tabernacle, and His saints
-warred against and overcame the saints
-had authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation
-worked closely with the second beast, later called “the false prophet
-was represented by an image, a mark, a name, and a number

Verses 11-17 describe a second beast that:

-came up out of the earth (also translated “land”)
-had two horns like a lamb
-spoke like a dragon
-worked in the presence of the first beast
-directed those in the land to worship the first beast
-performed great, deceiving signs
-oversaw the creation of an image to the first beast
-granted power to give breath to the image, which could speak and cause people to be killed
-allowed buying and selling only for those who had the mark, number, or name of the first beast

Revelation 13:1

Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”

John was “on the island that is called Patmos” when he recorded his prophetic visions (Rev. 1:9). Patmos is in the Aegian Sea, which “is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea” (Wikipedia). Did John see the beast rise up out of that sea? Recall that Daniel saw “the Great Sea” stirred up (Daniel 7:2) and all four beasts coming “up from the sea” (Daniel 7:3). So Daniel clearly saw the beasts rising up out of the Mediterranean Sea. The Babylonian, Persian, and Greek kingdoms all formed to the east, north, and south of the Mediterranean Sea. The western border of the Judean kingdom was also the Mediterranean Sea.

The term “sea” can represent Gentiles or nations, as it does in Revelation 17:1, 15. (See also Psalm 65:7; Isaiah 17:12-13, 57:20, 60:5; Jeremiah 6:23; Luke 21:25.) As we saw in our study of Revelation 11:1-2, it was not only the Romans in John’s day who were “Gentiles.” The Idumeans and Galileans were also considered to be Gentiles. In Wars 4.3.2-4, Josephus spoke of large multitudes from various regions that “crept into Jerusalem” as the Jewish-Roman War was about to begin, and these multitudes followed the lead of the Zealot movement. The three main Zealot leaders, Eleazar ben Simon, John Levi of Gischala, and Simon Bar Giora, were Galileans. When Simon came to Jerusalem in April 69 AD, he brought an army of 40,000 with him, including many Idumeans (Wars 4.9.3-12).

Revelation 13:1 describes the beast as having seven heads. This is the same number of heads that the dragon (“called the Devil and Satan”) also had (Rev. 12:3, 9). John provides more details about the seven heads in Revelation 17:9-11, and he singles out one of the heads in Rev. 13:3. So when we cover those verses we will explore who the heads were and what roles they played. I believe they were heads of the Zealot movement, some in the decades prior to the Jewish-Roman War and others during the war.

This verse also describes the beast as having 10 horns (Rev. 12:3). Again, this is the same number of horns that the dragon had. John likewise gives more details about the 10 horns in Revelation 17:12-17 than he does in Revelation 13, so we will have that discussion later in this series as well. In the meantime, please feel free to refer to a post I wrote in July 2016 in which I propose that the 10 horns were 10 Jewish generals who were given authority in December 66 AD (Wars 2.20.3-4).

Our study of Daniel 7 also discussed the three horns that were plucked out by the little horn – details that are not found in the book of Revelation. If you read that part of the series, you’ll recall that I proposed that the little horn was Eleazar ben Simon and that the three plucked horns were [1] Ananus ben Ananus [2] Niger of Perea, and [3] Joseph ben Gorion. Their deaths are recorded in Wars 4.5.2 and Wars 4.6.1.

Revelation 13:2

Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.”

Here John describes the beast as having the traits of the first three beasts that Daniel saw come up from the sea in Daniel 7:3-6. There are a couple of things to notice about John’s description:

1. The animals are listed in reverse order compared to how they were listed by Daniel.
2. The leopard trait is most dominant, representing the beast’s body. Only the feet and the mouth of the beast are like a bear and like a lion.

leopard-lion-and-bear

Photo Source

In Daniel’s vision, the lion represented Babylon (Daniel 7:4), the bear represented Medo-Persia (Daniel 7:5; 8:20), and the leopard represented Greece (Daniel 7:6; 8:21-22). In John’s vision, these same animals are listed in reverse order, referring to Greece, Medo-Persia, and Babylon, respectively.

[The leopard = Greece]: As John saw the beast of his own time period, he also looked back into Israel’s history and first saw the kingdom which had most recently held dominion over Israel – Greece. That kingdom was represented in almost the entire body of the beast: “Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard…” It’s no surprise that the Greek trait was most dominant in the Jewish beast of John’s day, considering that Greece/Macedonia was the kingdom which had held dominion over Israel as recently as 323 BC – 142 BC. The Greek language was dominant in the Roman Empire, and was the language into which the Septuagint was translated and the language in which most of the New Testament was written.

A Greek influence was also seen near the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War. When Vespasian captured part of Galilee in the summer of 67 AD, he “sat upon his tribunal at Taricheae, in order to distinguish the foreigners from the old inhabitants; for those foreigners appeared to have begun the war.” Some of those foreigners were from Hippos, which was “a Greco-Roman city” in the Decapolis that was “culturally tied more closely to Greece and Rome than to the Semitic ethnoi around” (Wikipedia). Josephus said that “the greatest part of [those foreigners] were seditious persons and fugitives, who were of such shameful characters that they preferred war before peace.” Most of the other foreigners were from Trachonitis and Gaulanitis, in the region of Batanea near Persia (Wars 3.10.10).

batanea

Photo Source

[The bear = Medo-Persia]: Only the feet of the beast were “like the feet of a bear.” It may be that the sicarii of John’s day best represented the Persian trait of the beast. The sicarii worked with the Zealots in rebelling, making war, and destroying Israel. As Josephus wrote about this group:

“And then it was that the sicarii, as they were called, who were robbers, grew numerous. They made use of small swords, not much different in length from the Persian acinacae, but somewhat crooked, and like the Roman sicae, [or sickles,] as they were called; and from these weapons these robbers got their denomination; and with these weapons they slew a great many; for they mingled themselves among the multitude at their festivals, when they were come up in crowds from all parts to the city to worship God, as we said before, and easily slew those that they had a mind to slay. They also came frequently upon the villages belonging to their enemies, with their weapons, and plundered them, and set them on fire” (Antiquities 20.8.10).

As we saw in the section just above, a good number of the foreigners that “appeared to have begun the war” (Wars 3.10.10) were from the region of Batanea, very close to Persia.

[The lion = Babylon]: Only the mouth of the beast was “like the mouth of a lion.” Mark Mountjoy of Atavist Bible Church said the following in a conversation in New Testament Open University:

“The Babylonian trait can be seen in the mouth of the Lion and can be explained by extreme pride and arrogance (big and pretentious talk – Wars 4.3.1:121-124) around the architectural beauty and security of Jerusalem (and in Josephus this attitude is attributed to John of Gischala – see Wars 4.3.1:126-127).”

Pride is what marked the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon (Daniel 4:37). Here is the quote from Wars 4.3.1 that Mark referred to above, which describes what happened when John Levi escaped from Gischala (in Galilee) and came to Jerusalem in November 67 AD:

“Now upon John’s entry into Jerusalem, the whole body of the people were in an uproar, and ten thousand of them crowded about every one of the fugitives that were come to them, and inquired of them what miseries had happened abroad, when their breath was so short, and hot, and quick, that of itself it declared the great distress they were in; yet did they talk big under their misfortunes, and pretended to say that they had not fled away from the Romans, but came thither in order to fight them with less hazard; for that it would be an unreasonable and a fruitless thing for them to expose themselves to desperate hazards about Gischala, and such weak cities, whereas they ought to lay up their weapons and their zeal, and reserve it for their metropolis… But for John, he was very little concerned for those whom he had left behind him, but went about among all the people, and persuaded them to go to war, by the hopes he gave them. He affirmed that the affairs of the Romans were in a weak condition, and extolled his own power. He also jested upon the ignorance of the unskillful, as if those Romans, although they should take to themselves wings, could never fly over the wall of Jerusalem, who found such great difficulties in taking the villages of Galilee, and had broken their engines of war against their walls. These harangues of John’s corrupted a great part of the young men, and puffed them up for the war.”

In this regard, we can also note that Eleazar ben Simon, the Zealot leader who was in Jerusalem for the entire war (until he was killed in April 70 AD), was known for his “tyrannical temper” (Wars 2.20.3). A man like that may also very well have had a mouth like a lion.

Mark Mountjoy provides this summary of the Greek, Medo-Persian, and Babylonian traits of the beast (New Testament Open University; January 24, 2017):

“Here are some fascinating tid-bits: The Zealots correspond to the leopard traits of the beast. As thorough-going Hellenists they warred against each other just like Alexander’s generals fought tooth and nail after he died. Leopards hunt at night and are swift and stealthy. The Sicarii correspond to the bear traits. The small knife they carried and were infamous for (and even named after) came from Persia (the bear). Unlike the Zealots (who were swift and prone to infighting), the Sicarii were slow and, after the initial wins in Jerusalem, retired to Masada for the duration of the war. I would say that John Gischala and his initial leadership of the beast corresponds to the Babylonians. His boast about the Romans being unable to fly over the walls of Jerusalem even if they had eagle’s wings (Wars 4.3.1:121-127) makes one think of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride for the grand architecture and gardens of Babylon. And John Gischala, (like Belshazzar) went into the Holy Place and used God’s utensils and the priestly oil and wine in a sacrilegious way (Wars 5.13.6:562-565).”

[The dragon gave its power to the beast]: In the last part of verse 2 we see the statement that “the dragon gave him [the beast] his power, his throne, and great authority.” This statement takes us back to Revelation 12, where John saw “a great, fiery red dragon” that had seven heads, ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads (Rev. 12:2) just like the beast (Rev. 13:1). That dragon had his own angels (Rev. 12:7), was kicked out of heaven (Rev. 12:8), and was cast to the earth (Rev. 12:9). He was also called “that serpent of old”, “the Devil,” and “Satan” (Rev. 12:9).

Notice that the dragon’s primary activity was accusing the brethren: “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down” (Rev. 12:10). This trait is another strong indication that the dragon gave his power, throne, and authority to a Jewish beast rather than to a Roman beast. The following Scripture passages demonstrate a repeated pattern among the Jewish authorities of accusing Jesus and His followers during the New Testament period (my thanks goes to Steven Haukdahl for initially sharing a similar list with me):

Matthew 12:10, 27:12, 27:37;
Mark 3:2, 15:3-4, 15:26;
Luke 11:54, 23:2, 23:10, 23:14;
John 8:6, 18:29;
Acts 22:30, 23:28-29, 24:2; 24:8, 24:13; 25:5, 25:11, 26:2, 26:7

Also note that Peter gave the following warning to his readers: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Interestingly, the prophet Zephaniah said this about Jerusalem in his day: “Her princes in her midst are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave not a bone till morning” (Zephaniah 3:3). The Judaizers in Peter’s day, who were like “natural brute beasts,” apparently were known for bringing “a reviling accusation” against God’s people, which even the angels would not do (II Peter 2:11-12; Jude 8-10).

When the Zealots gained control of Jerusalem during the Jewish-Roman War, they displayed this same trait by frequently bringing accusations against the people, even killing those whom they merely suspected of having any sympathy toward Rome (Wars 5.1.5). During the Zealot siege of early 68 AD, the Zealots, with the help of the Idumeans, set up “fictitious tribunals and judicatures” to falsely accuse their enemies:

“And now these zealots and Idumeans were quite weary of barely killing men, so they had the impudence of setting up fictitious tribunals and judicatures for that purpose; and as they intended to have Zacharias the son of Baruch, one of the most eminent of the citizens, slain, – so what provoked them against him was, that hatred of wickedness and love of liberty which were so eminent in him: he was also a rich man, so that by taking him off, they did not only hope to seize his effects, but also to get rid of a man that had great power to destroy them. So they called together, by a public proclamation, seventy of the principal men of the populace, for a show, as if they were real judges, while they had no proper authority. Before these was Zacharias accused of a design to betray their polity to the Romans, and having traitorously sent to Vespasian for that purpose. Now there appeared no proof or sign of what he was accused; but they affirmed themselves that they were well persuaded that so it was… So two of the boldest of them fell upon Zacharias in the middle of the temple, and slew him…” (Wars 4.5.4).

After the Zealots eliminated the prominent men whom they considered to be threats, Josephus described how they suspected, targeted, and accused anyone and everyone:

“…and indeed there was no part of the people but they found out some pretense to destroy them; for some were therefore slain, because they had had differences with some of them; and as to those that had not opposed them in times of peace, they watched seasonable opportunities to gain some accusation against them; and if any one did not come near them at all, he was under their suspicion as a proud man; if any one came with boldness, he was esteemed a contemner of them; and if any one came as aiming to oblige them, he was supposed to have some treacherous plot against them; while the only punishment of crimes, whether they were of the greatest or smallest sort, was death” (Wars 4.6.1).

The Roman siege of Jerusalem began in mid-April AD 70. As it heated up, Simon and John worked together in the most sinister way, falsely accusing people of plotting against them, attempting to betray Jerusalem to the Romans, or attempting to flee to the Romans. Josephus says that they passed these victims back and forth between each other:

“For the men that were in dignity, and withal were rich, they were carried before the tyrants themselves; some of whom were falsely accused of laying treacherous plots, and so were destroyed; others of them were charged with designs of betraying the city to the Romans; but the readiest way of all was this, to suborn [hire] somebody to affirm that they were resolved to desert to the enemy. And he who was utterly despoiled of what he had by Simon was sent back again to John, as of those who had been already plundered by Jotre, Simon got what remained; insomuch that they drank the blood of the populace to one another, and divided the dead bodies of the poor creatures between them; so that although, on account of their ambition after dominion, they contended with each other, yet did they very well agree in their wicked practices” (Wars 5.10.4).

Josephus recorded many other instances of the Zealots and Jewish leaders accusing their enemies, including the following examples: Wars 1.5.3; 1.9.2; 1.10.1; 1.12.4-5 (“accused the brethren”); 1.16.7; 1.22.3; 1.23.1, 3, 4; 1.24.6, 8; 1.26.2-5; 1.27.1-3, 5-6; 1.29.2-3; 1.32.4, 6; 1.33.4; 2.2.1, 4-6; 2.6.1-2; 2.9.5-6; 2.14.3, 5; 2.21.2, 7; 4.4.3; 4.5.4; 4.6.17.2.1; 7.3.3; 7.10.1; and 7.11.1-3.

In the next post we will look at Revelation 13:3, the mortal wounding of one of the beast’s seven heads, and the healing of that wound. I will also present an overview of the Zealot movement, the movement which I believe was led by those seven heads.

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

The Two Witnesses Killed by the Beast (Revelation 11:3-13)


This post continues the series, “The Beast of Revelation Was Zealot-Led Israel.” The introduction and outline to this series can be seen here. In the previous post, “The Gentiles Trampled Jerusalem for 42 Months,” we looked at Revelation 11:1-2 and concluded that the Gentiles mentioned in those verses were not the Romans. Instead they were the Zealots, the Galileans, and the Idumeans who trampled Jerusalem from 66-70 AD. The rest of our study on Revelation 11 will cover:

Verse 3 – the two witnesses prophesying for 1260 days (3.5 years)
Verse 4 – their identity as two olive trees and two lampstands
Verses 5-6 – their ability to escape harm and cause plagues
Verse 7 – the beast killing the two witnesses
Verses 8-9 – the two witnesses lying dead and unburied in Jerusalem
Verse 10 – their enemies rejoicing
Verse 13 – an earthquake taking place in Jerusalem

This series is about “the beast,” which, in this chapter, is only mentioned in verse 7. We will examine more than verse 7, however, because it’s necessary to look at the greater context of this verse. This will help us to validate the identity of the beast and to better understand his actions.

Having seen that it was the Zealots and the Idumeans who trampled Jerusalem for 3.5 years (42 months), we also see in Revelation 11:3 that God gave power to His two witnesses to prophesy for 3.5 years (1260 days). These time periods were identical in length, but did they begin and end at the same time? I don’t believe they did, and I will propose that they only halfway overlapped as in the following diagram:

revelation-11-timeline

I’ve developed a series of case studies comparing the works of Josephus and the book of Revelation. As the chart in that analysis shows, it would be very fitting for the events of Revelation 11 to have taken place in early 68 AD.

Revelation 11:4

In Revelation 11:4, the two witnesses are identified as “the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.” As many scholars have recognized, this description draws on Zechariah’s “Vision of the Lampstand and Olive Trees”:

Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of sleep. And he said to me, ‘What do you see?’ So I said, ‘I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.’ … Then I answered and said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees…?’ So he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones, who stand before the Lord of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:1-3, 11, 14).

This vision came on the heels of Zechariah’s “Vision of the High Priest,” concerning the high priest, Joshua (Zechariah 3), who served alongside the governor, Zerubbabel (Zech. 4). As Albert Barnes said in his 1834 commentary on Revelation 11:4,

“This representation, that the ministers of religion “stand before the Lord,” is one that is not uncommon in the Bible. Thus it is said of the priests and Levites: ‘The Lord separated the tribe of Levi, to stand before the Lord, to minister unto him, and to bless his name,’ Deuteronomy 10:8; compare Deuteronomy 18:7. The same thing is said of the prophets, as in the cases of Elijah and Elisha: ‘As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand,’ 1 Kings 17:1; also, 1 Kings 18:152 Kings 3:142 Kings 5:16; compare Jeremiah 15:19. The representation is that they ministered, as it were, constantly in his presence and under his eye.”

In Zechariah’s vision, he saw one lampstand (Zech. 4:2). In Revelation 1:12 John saw seven lampstands, which he was told were the seven churches (Rev. 1:20). Here in Rev. 11:4 there were two lampstands, the two witnesses.

Ananus ben Ananus and Jesus ben Gamaliel

I would like to propose that the two witnesses were two first century high priests, Ananus ben Ananus and Jesus ben Gamaliel (also known as Joshua). According to Josephus, they led the peace movement in Jerusalem when the Zealots were determined to rebel and incite war with the Romans, hoping to gain full independence for Israel. As we will see, their roles, deaths, the aftermath of their deaths, and the timing of their deaths line up with a number of details John saw in Revelation 11. Here is a short summary of these two men.

1. Ananus: The appointment of Ananus as high priest is recorded in Antiquities 20.9.1. He was appointed in 62 AD. Josephus called him “the ancientest of the high priests” and “a very prudent man” (Wars 4.3.7), “a prodigious lover of liberty” who “preferred peace above all things,” and “a shrewd man in speaking and persuading the people” (Wars 4.5.2). Ironically, in December 66 AD he was appointed as a general over Jerusalem, one of 10 generals appointed to prepare for war with Rome (Wars 2.20.3). A long speech given by Ananus against the Zealots is recorded in Wars 4.3.10.

2. Jesus: The appointment of Jesus as high priest is recorded in Antiquities 20.9.4. He was appointed in 63 or 64 AD, but only for about a year (Ant. 20.9.7). From that time on, Josephus said, Jerusalem was “greatly disordered” and “all things grew worse and worse” (Ant. 20.9.4). Josephus referred to Jesus as “a friend and companion” (Life 41.204), and called him “the eldest of the high priests next to Ananus.” Josephus added that “although he was inferior to [Ananus] upon the comparison, he was superior to the rest” (Wars 4.5.2). Jesus also gave a long speech against the Zealots, which is recorded in Wars 4.4.3.

The Zealot Temple Siege

Ananus and Jesus were both killed at the same time during the Zealot Temple Siege of February-March 68 AD. This siege took place after the Zealots appointed a fake high priest, Phannias, who “did not well know what the high priesthood was” (Wars 4.3.6-8), and he unworthily presided over that post until Jerusalem was destroyed. In a sense, Ananus and Jesus represented the final lampstands, the final oil-bearing olive trees, of the temple before it was destroyed.

Phannias was a fraud, and the people of Jerusalem finally had enough of the Zealots. Ananus and Jesus led them in an uprising:

“And now the people could no longer bear the insolence of this procedure, but did altogether run zealously, in order to overthrow that tyranny… The best esteemed also of the high priests, Jesus the son of Gamalas, and Ananus the son of Ananus, when they were at their assemblies, bitterly reproached the people for their sloth, and excited them against the zealots…” (Wars 4.3.9).

In his speech (Wars 4.3.10), Ananus said that he would lead the people in an all-or-nothing attack against the Zealots, and that he would not spare his own body in that effort. In that battle, Ananus and his followers actually gained the upper hand against the Zealots, forcing them into the inner temple and gaining control of the rest of the city (Wars 4.3.12). Ananus then chose 6000 armed men to keep the Zealots surrounded and under guard. Unfortunately, as we will see, this strategy came undone because of the trickery of John Levi of Gischala (Wars 4.3.13-14).

Revelation 11:5-6

In Revelation 11:5 we read that fire would proceed out of the mouths of the two witnesses to devour their enemies who would try to harm them. Compare this to what Jeremiah was told:

Because you speak this word, behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them” (Jeremiah 5:14).

For more on God’s word being like a fire, and having the power to “slay” people, see Jeremiah 23:29 and Hosea 6:5.

Revelation 11:6 says that the two witnesses would “have power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy…” Note that during the days of Elijah “it did not rain for three years and six months” (James 5:17; Luke 4:25). This matches the duration of time that the two witnesses would prophesy (Rev. 11:3). During the Roman siege in 70 AD, Josephus gave a speech to the Zealots in which he mentioned that the springs of water were “almost dried up” while Jerusalem was in the hands of the Zealots, but suddenly had more than enough water once the Romans arrived. This indicates that there was a lack of rain during the time that the Zealots controlled Jerusalem:

“…and as for Titus, those springs that were formerly almost dried up when they were under your power since he is come, run more plentifully than they did before; accordingly, you know that Siloam, as well as all the other springs that were without the city, did so far fail, that water was sold by distinct measures; whereas they now have such a great quantity of water for your enemies, as is sufficient not only for drink both for themselves and their cattle, but for watering their gardens also” (Wars 5.9.4.409-410).

Josephus said that Ananus had “the mastery of those that opposed his designs, or were for the war” (Wars 4.5.2). Josephus didn’t give many details about how he mastered his opponents, but this indicates that Ananus remained untouchable for a significant period of time even while the Zealots had their way in Jerusalem.

Revelation 11:7-9

Revelation 11:7-9 says this about the two witnesses:

Now when they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three and a half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into the graves.

Here “the beast” is mentioned for the very first time in the book of Revelation. (As we discussed in the previous post, it seems evident that John expected his readers to be familiar with Daniel’s description of the fourth beast in Daniel 7.) Here is also the first mention of “the great city” (later mentioned in Rev. 14:8; 16:19; 17:18; 18:10, 16, 18-19, 21). “The great city” is clearly defined as Jerusalem, the place where Jesus was crucified (e.g. Luke 9:31).

It’s significant that the beast oversees the deaths of the two witnesses in Jerusalem. This has a bearing on whether the beast was Roman, as many suppose, or Jewish, which is the view I’m presenting in this series. As we saw in our study of Daniel, the Romans were not in Jerusalem from August 66 AD until April 70 AD, except for a few days in November 66 AD when Cestius Gallus led a failed attack on the city. If the events of Revelation 11 took place anytime between late 66 AD and the spring of 70 AD, the beast that overcame the two witnesses was Jewish, not Roman. The events which I believe fulfilled this prophecy took place in February-March 68 AD.

In February 68 AD, Ananus urged the people of Jerusalem to oppose the lawless Jewish Zealots who had taken over the temple as “blood-shedding villains.” John Levi of Gischala was a Zealot leader who had recently come to Jerusalem, but he pretended to be on the side of Ananus and was invited to be an ambassador to the Zealots (Wars 4.3.13). John quickly betrayed him and falsely claimed that Ananus had invited the Roman general Vespasian to conquer Jerusalem (Wars 4.3.14).

In response, the Zealot leaders Eleazar ben Simon and Zacharias ben Phalek requested help from the Idumeans, who lived south of Judea. The Zealots told the Idumeans that “unless they would come immediately to their assistance… the city would be in the power of the Romans.” Even though the Zealots were trapped in the inner temple, they somehow managed to sneak out two messengers to deliver this message to the Idumeans (Wars 4.4.2-3). In fulfillment of Revelation 9:13-16, the Idumeans quickly prepared an army of 20,000 directed by four commanders (Wars 4.4.2):

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

When the Idumeans came to Jerusalem, at first Ananus’ guards prevented them from coming into the city. Jesus gave a speech in which he denied that anyone had betrayed Jerusalem to the Romans. He invited the Idumeans to help deliver the city from the real enemies, the Zealots, but the Idumeans were not persuaded (Wars 4.4.3-4).

In the midst of a terrible storm and an earthquake that night, most of the guards were allowed to go home and some of the Zealots managed to come out of the temple and use saws to cut through the gates. This allowed the Idumeans to enter the city, and the Zealots joined them in slaughtering the guards (Wars 4.5.1). The next day the Idumeans, working on behalf of the Zealots, hunted down and killed Ananus and Jesus, who had long tormented the Zealots by opposing their war and working for peace:

“[The Idumeans] sought for the high priests, and…went with the greatest zeal against them; and as soon as they caught them they slew them, and then standing upon their dead bodies, in way of jest, upbraided Ananus with his kindness to the people, and Jesus with his speech made to them from the wall. Nay, they proceeded to that degree of impiety, as to cast away their dead bodies without burial… I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city… He…preferred peace above all things; …he was a shrewd man in speaking and persuading the people, and had already gotten the mastery of those that opposed his designs, or were for the war… And this at last was the end of Ananus and Jesus” (Wars 4.5.2).

So John and Josephus both described two individuals in Jerusalem who were hated, basically invincible for a while, finally killed, and not allowed to be buried.

Revelation 11:10 (Festival of Purim?)

Revelation 11:10 describes the reaction of those who were glad to be rid of the two witnesses:

And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.”

The word “earth,” as we discussed earlier, often means “land,” i.e. the land of Israel. This is certainly the case here, as the two witnesses were based in, and killed in, Jerusalem.

In the previous verse we read that “peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” would see the dead bodies of the two witnesses. Why was there such a diverse population at that time? Was it because it took place during a festival, when Jews from various nations would be gathered in Jerusalem? If so, the description in verse 10 sounds like the festival of Purim:

“Purim is a Jewish holiday that commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from Haman, who was plotting to kill all the Jews. This took place in the ancient Persian Empire… The day of deliverance became a day of feasting and rejoicing. Based on the conclusions of the Scroll of Esther (Esther 9:22): “…that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” Purim is therefore celebrated among Jews by: Exchanging reciprocal gifts of food and drink… Eating a celebratory meal… Other customs include drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage, wearing of masks and costumes, and public celebration (Wikipedia: Purim).

The deaths of Ananus and Jesus are commonly said to have taken place in February or March 68 AD. The Fast of Esther and Purim are typically celebrated from the 13th – 16th of Adar. In the year 68 AD, the last day of Adar was March 22nd, according to our modern calendar (“The Jewish war: a new tr.,” p. 191). Therefore, since each Jewish month was 29 or 30 days, we can know that the Fast of Esther and Purim took place around March 4-7 in 68 AD.

It appears that when the Zealots celebrated Purim in March 68 AD, they not only celebrated the deliverance from Haman that took place in Esther’s day, but they also celebrated being free from Ananus and Jesus and all their efforts to oppose the Zealots and achieve peace with Rome.  After all, they believed the lie told by John of Gischala – that Ananus had invited Vespasian to capture Jerusalem, and that Ananus intended for them all to be captured by the Romans.

A short while later, another Zealot leader, Simon Bar Giora, found out that Ananus was dead. He was at Masada because Ananus had previously driven him away from Acrabattene, a toparchy of Judea, because of his tyranny there (Wars 2.22.1-2). When Simon “heard of the death of Ananus, he…went into the mountainous part of the country. So he proclaimed liberty to those in slavery, and a reward to those already free, and got together a set of wicked men from all quarters” (Wars 4.9.3). This is just one example of how the Zealots behaved as if they were free of the “torments” of Ananus and Jesus.

Revelation 11:11-12

Now after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, ‘Come up here.’ And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them” (Revelation 11:11-12).

At this time, I don’t have much insight into what these verses mean or how they may fit the narrative described above (or any narrative described by Josephus or any other first century historian). Does this simply mean that heaven validated their message of peace? Did Ananus and Jesus embrace the gospel and become followers of Christ (something Josephus wouldn’t have mentioned)? I hope to gain insight on these verses in the future. In the meantime, those who read this are invited to share any insight you may have.

Revelation 11:13

Revelation 11:13 reads this way:

In the same hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. In the earthquake seven thousand men were killed, and the rest were afraid and gave glory to the God of heaven.”

In Wars 4.4.5 Josephus described an earthquake that took place the night the Idumeans broke into Jerusalem, the day before Ananus and Jesus were killed:

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

That same night the Idumeans slaughtered those who had prevented them from coming in:

“The zealots also joined in the shouts raised by the Idumeans; and the storm itself rendered the cry more terrible; nor did the Idumeans spare anybody; for as they are naturally a most barbarous and bloody nation, and had been distressed by the tempest, they made use of their weapons against those that had shut the gates against them… Now there was at present neither any place for flight, nor any hope of preservation; but as they were driven one upon another in heaps, so were they slain… And now the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood; and that day, as it came on, they saw eight thousand five hundred dead bodies there” (Wars 4.5.1).

Did 7000 die in the earthquake, and another 1500 die by the swords of the Idumeans? In any case, John’s prediction of 7000 deaths is very close to the 8500 deaths mentioned by Josephus. Furthermore, this earthquake and the deaths of Ananus and Jesus were less than 24 hours apart, certainly qualifying as taking place “in the same hour.”

Typically, estimates of Jerusalem’s population in the first century range from 30,000 to 100,000 people, so it’s very reasonable to conclude that 7000 deaths in 68 AD represented a tenth of the city falling. Even if the normal population was closer to 30,000, it would have been higher at the time of that earthquake if it took place around the festival of Purim. This was a minor festival, so the population may have doubled, but it wouldn’t have swollen to 250,000 or more as it would during the major festivals.

Jerusalem Took a Turn for the Worse

The deaths of Ananus and Jesus marked a significant turning point for Jerusalem, according to Josephus:

“I should not mistake if I said that the death of Ananus was the beginning of the destruction of the city, and that from this very day may be dated the overthrow of her wall, and the ruin of her affairs, whereon they saw their high priest, and the procurer of their preservation, slain in the midst of their city… to say all in a word, if Ananus had survived they had certainly compounded matters… And the Jews had then put abundance of delays in the way of the Romans, if they had had such a general as he was” (Wars 4.5.2).

After their deaths, the Zealots and the Idumeans “fell upon the people as upon a flock of profane animals, and cut their throats.” Others endured “terrible torments” before finally meeting their deaths. At least 12,000 died in that massacre (Wars 4.5.3).

Then one of the Zealots told the Idumeans that they had been tricked, and that Ananus and the high priests never did plot to betray Jerusalem to the Romans. So the Idumeans regretted their actions, saw “the horrid barbarity of [the Zealots who] had invited them,” and they left Jerusalem (Wars 4.5.5). The Zealots, no longer hindered by the high priests or even the Idumeans, then increased their wickedness:

“[T]he zealots grew more insolent, not as deserted by their confederates, but as freed from such men as might hinder their designs, and put some stop to their wickedness. Accordingly they made no longer any delay, nor took any deliberation in their enormous practices, but made use of the shortest methods for all their executions, and what they had once resolved upon, they put in practice sooner than anyone could imagine…” (Wars 4.6.1).

In summary, Ananus and Jesus were two former high priests, and the most prominent of the high priests during the Jewish-Roman War. As such, they fit the Old Testament imagery of olive trees and lampstands representing those who stood before the Lord in the service of the temple. Until the time of their deaths, they were immune to the harm that their enemies wanted to inflict upon them. They gave speeches predicting the destruction that would come to Jerusalem because of the Zealots and due to the rejection of their message of peace. Jerusalem experienced a drought during that time. They were killed by the Zealots (and their cohorts, the Idumeans) just as the Zealots gained full control of the city. They were not allowed to be buried, and their enemies rejoiced over their deaths. This happened at the same time as an earthquake and the deaths of 8500 people.

In the next post we will begin to look at Revelation 13.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Josephus Also Referred to the Jewish Leaders as “Beasts”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Series Outline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J. CONCLUSION

35 Verses Which Speak of a “Beast” in Revelation

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

Verse or Passage Scripture Text
#1

(Rev. 11:7)

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

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

#2-9

(Rev. 13:1-8)

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

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

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

#10-17

(Rev. 13:11-18)

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

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

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

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

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

#18-19

(Rev. 14:9, 11)

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

(Rev. 15:2)

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

(Rev. 16:2)

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

(Rev. 16:10)

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

(Rev. 16:13)

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

(Rev. 17:3)

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

(Rev. 17:7-8)

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

(Rev. 17:11-13)

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

(Rev. 17:16-17)

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

(Rev. 19:19-20)

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

(Rev. 20:4)

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

(Rev. 20:10)

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

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

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