The Roman Beast; the 666 Gematria Trinity–Nero, Vespasian and Titus–and the Complete Fulfillment of Revelation 13
A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 13: Summary and Highlights
In the following Preterist Bible commentary on Revelation 13 the trinity of the beast is revealed! In this commentary on Revelation 13 readers will see that all the prophecies in Revelation 13 were fulfilled in the first century around the time of Israel’s war with Rome in the actions of three Caesars each of whose names are represented by the 666 Gematria. Greek and Hebrew letters also have numerical values. Thus while it is well known that the sum total of the Greek form of Nero Caesar transliterated into Hebrew characters adds up to 666, the same total is also found in Caesar Vespasian and Caesar Titus, two of Nero’s successors. This beast trinity fulfills all the prophecies in Revelation 13. Like the three-in-one God worshipped by Christians, all three emperors were worshipped in the imperial cult as a god. Also while Titus’ father, Vespasian, ruled as emperor of Rome, Titus could, therefore, be seen, like Christ, as the son of god. It should also be noted that, like Jesus Christ, Vespasian also saw himself and was seen by others as the Jewish Messiah. In light of their perceived Messianic and “divine” status it is perhaps no surprise that this father and son are also depicted in a Trinitarian-like unity in Biblical prophecy. In John 10:30 Jesus declares, “I and the Father are one.” Though entirely separate and distinct beings, Father and Son are one unified whole. This is the essence of the trinity. Like Jesus and the Father, two members of the beast trinity are also a father and son pair that is also Biblically depicted in a Trinitarian-type composite unity. Having together fulfilled every prophecy concerning the beast and the lawless one–including metaphorically (or if Roman rumors are to be believed perhaps literally) rising from the dead–these three “divine” emperors are inextricably fused into one being in the Bible in order to become a dark earthly corollary or antithesis to the three-in-one composite unity of the heavenly trinity. In fulfillment of Revelation 13:13, Titus even called fire down from heaven when firebrands (flaming arrows or debris) were likely launched into Jerusalem by archers and/or siege engines. The mark of the beast is a spiritual mark placed on those guilty of the sin of 1 Timothy 6:10. This sin was the root of all Israel’s evil and as will be explained at the end of this commentary is the ultimate reason why Jesus, the saints and all other potential Jewish Messiahs were murdered and thus why Israel was punished at the end of the age according to Revelation 6:9-11 and 17. This sin has a very obvious tangible symbol. Thus this mark is both a spiritual and physical mark. The physical aspect of the mark of the beast, the charagma, was the name and likeness of these three Caesar found in deeds of purchase and Roman money. Prior to A.D. 70 Rome was sympathetic to Jewish Law and allowed the Jews of Palestine to mint their own money without the graven image of the emperor on it.1 After the fall of Jerusalem, Caesar Vespasian no longer honored the Jewish Law and forced everyone in Israel to use Roman money with the name and image of Caesar on it. Thus Caesar Vespasian “forced” everyone to receive the mark of beast in order to buy and sell in explicit fulfillment of Revelation 13:17: “It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.” The Roman beast with its seven heads represents seven Caesars beginning with the first, Julius Caesar. The head of the beast that had a fatal wound in Revelation 13:3 is the sixth head of the beast and the sixth Caesar, Nero, who committed suicide by stabbing himself in the neck. After Nero’s death, the Roman Empire collapsed into civil war. Peace and order was not restored until the rise of the Flavian Dynasty one year later. Therefore, the Flavian Dynasty beginning with Caesar Vespasian is the beast whose wound had been healed in Revelation 13:3. The healing of the wounded head of the beast is a resurrection motif. This resurrection imagery is yet another way in which this trinity is Biblically portrayed as a dark earthly shadow or antithetical counterpart of the heavenly Trinity and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the second member of this triune Godhead. The ten horns of the seven-headed Roman beast are the ten auxiliary cohorts dispatched under Vespasian’s command to aid in the destruction of Israel during the Jewish War.2 These ten horns are also ten Caesars of which Vespasian is the tenth. The beast out of the earth in Revelation 13:11 is the Roman army that destroyed Israel, the earth, during the reigns of Caesar Nero and Caesar Vespasian. Its two horns are the two generals of this army: Vespasian and Titus. When Vespasian became emperor, the war with Israel resumed and Titus was appointed general of the Roman army in Israel. After Titus seized the temple in Jerusalem, the Roman army under Titus’s leadership worshipped the ensigns, one of which is the Imago, a three dimensional image of the Caesar Vespasian, in the Temple. Immediately prior to this blasphemous worship, Titus “call[ed] fire down from heaven” in fulfillment of Revelation 13:13. He likely did this by ordering the hurling of flaming arrows or debris into Jerusalem during the siege of A.D. 70. Titus also called down fire from heaven through the command of the 12th Legion who aided in the burning and destruction of the Jewish temple. The emblem of the 12th Legion is the lightning bolt—fire from heaven. Furthermore, the symbol of Rome itself is the Aquila, the eagle messenger of Zeus who carries Zeus’ lightning bolt. Thus the symbol of Rome itself is quite literally “fire from heaven.” After Titus presided over the worship of the images of Caesar Vespasian in the Holy Temple, he ordered all remaining Jews in Jerusalem to be killed. Titus is called the false prophet in Revelation 16:13 because like the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18:38-40, Titus also ordered all non-believers to be killed after calling down fire from heaven. In the following Preterist Bible commentary on Revelation 13, the reader will see how all the predictions in Revelation 13 were fulfilled down to the smallest details in the actions of the beast trinity: Caesar Nero, Caesar Vespasian and Caesar Titus.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
The Roman Beast; the 666 Gematria Trinity–Nero, Vespasian and Titus–and the Complete Fulfillment of Revelation 13
Revelation 13 Has Been Fulfilled: The Roman Beast Out of the Sea is the Leviathan. The Roman Beast out of the Earth is the Behemoth.
In Revelation 13 John introduces two beasts, a many-headed sea beast (Revelation 13:1-10) and a land beast with two horns (Revelation 13:11-18). These two beasts are not unique to Revelation. Both beasts often appear in pairs in the Bible and Jewish tradition and not surprisingly are mentioned side-by-side in this chapter. What are these two beasts?
The sea beast is the famous leviathan. According to Psalm 104:25-26 and Psalm 74:13-14, the leviathan was a many-headed sea monster. Psalm 104:25-26 indicates that Leviathan is a sea monster: “There is the sea, great and broad, in which are swarms without number, animals both small and great. There the ships move along, and Leviathan, which You have formed to sport in it.” Psalm 74:13-14 indicates that Leviathan is a sea monster with many heads: “You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan.” The Ras Shamra tablets goes one step further by stating that Lotan (i.e. Leviathan) has seven heads like the beast of Revelation.3 The seven-headed serpent in the Ras Shamra tablets is called Lotan. Jack Finegan, professor emeritus of New Testament history and archaeology, notes, “Lotan is the same as the Hebrew Leviathan that is described in similar terms in Isaiah 27:1 (c.f. Job 26:12f.).”4 The fact that the sea beast is the leviathan is also suggested by the chant of Revelation 13:4: “Who is like the beast?” This language is echoed in Job’s description of the leviathan in Job 41:33: “Nothing on earth is like him[.]”5
If the sea beast is the leviathan, what is the land beast? The land beast or beast out of the earth is said to have “two horns like a lamb” in Revelation 13:11. This land beast has two horns like a lamb but it is not a lamb. This land animal with two horns would have been easily identified by those familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and culture as this land beast was often paired with the leviathan in the Bible (Job 40:15-41:34) and Judeo-Christian tradition (1 Enoch 60:7-8; 4 Ezra 6:49-51; 2 Baruch 29:3-4; Lev R 13:3, Midrash Rabbah), the behemoth.6 And as indicated in Revelation 13 and 2 Baruch 29:3-4 these two beasts were expected to be revealed when the Messiah was to begin to be revealed: “And it shall come to pass when all is accomplished that was to come to pass in those parts, that the Messiah shall then begin to be revealed. And Behemoth shall be revealed from his place and Leviathan shall ascend from the sea, those two great monsters which I created on the fifth day of creation, and shall have kept until that time[.]” (2 Baruch 29:3-4.) The fact that the behemoth is a land animal is stated in 1 Enoch 60:7-8 and 4 Ezra 6:49-51 and implied in Job 40:15-24. The behemoth was also believed to have horns like the land beast of Revelation 13:11 according to the Akdamut. Akdamut is a Jewish hymn recited on the festival of Shavuot wherein it says, “The sport with the leviathan and the ox [behemoth] . . . When they will interlock with one another and engage in combat, with his horns the behemoth will gore with strength, the fish [leviathan] will leap to meet him with his fins, with power [emphasis mine].” According to Enoch 58:6-8, the God of Israel was expected to slay both the seven-head leviathan and the behemoth at the creation of the new heaven and earth. Revelation 13:3 describes the fatal wound that the leviathan received. In Revelation 12:9, the leviathan is identified as God’s ancient rival, the devil and his kingdom–Rome.
A Covenant Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13: The Roman Beast with Its Seven Heads Represents Seven Caesars.
This chapter opens with the devil standing on the shore of the sea–a metaphor for Rome throughout the Book of Revelation. This symbolism is most explicit in Revelation 17:15: “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. Then the seven-headed leviathan, the beast of Rome, rises out of the ocean. The leviathan is a symbol of Satan’s kingdom. The prophets Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel also used mythical sea monsters to symbolize oppressive Gentile empires (Daniel 7; Isaiah 27:1, 30:7, 51:9-10; and Ezekiel 32:2-9).
Following the precedence set in Ezekiel 32:2-9, the author of Revelation uses the leviathan imagery to signify both an empire and its leaders. Thus the beast is both a king and his kingdom. Illustrating this ancient conception, Kenneth Gentry quotes the Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C.-A.D. 18) as saying, “the state is Caesar.”7 The seven heads of the leviathan represent the seven Caesars of Rome, and its body represents the Roman citizenry. This interpretation is confirmed in Revelation 17:10. Here it is said that the seven heads of the beast are seven kings. Similar imagery is found in Colossians 1:18: “And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church. . . .” Head is a Biblical metaphor for a king or leader. Likewise, body represents a kingdom or cohesive group of people. Similarly, the leviathan, with its many heads, signifies both Caesar and his empire.
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13: The Connection between the Three-In-One Composite Unity of the Christian God and the Three-In-One Prophetic Composite Unity of the Beast Trinity . . .
In the commentary below I will highlight the many similarities that exist between Christ and the Caesars of the first century. Because there are so many similarities between Christ and the Caesars, the beast of Revelation, I have no aversion to calling call them Antichrists as the beast is often called in futurist circles. Many preterists shy away from using this term since Antichrist is a term used in 1 and 2 John to refer to the spirit of heresy, not a world-wide ruler who blasphemes God and persecutes the saints. It is certainly true that the term Antichrist is never used elsewhere in the Bible to apply to the beast of Revelation or the Lawless One of 2 Thessalonians. However, I may sometimes use this term because it implies to me just how similar and yet opposite Christ and the Caesars, the beast of Revelation, truly were historically.
The prophecies of Revelation 13 highlight the reigns and actions of three of these heads or Caesars—Caesar Nero, Caesar Vespasian and Caesar Titus.8 Like the three-in-one God worshipped by Christians, all three emperors were worshipped in the imperial cult as a god. Also while Titus’ father, Vespasian, ruled as emperor of Rome, Titus could, therefore, be seen, like Christ, as the son of god. It should also be noted that, like Jesus Christ, Vespasian also saw himself and was seen by others as the Jewish Messiah. In light of their perceived Messianic and “divine” status it is perhaps no surprise that this father and son are also depicted in a Trinitarian-like unity in Biblical prophecy. In John 10:30 Jesus declares, “I and the Father are one.” Though entirely separate and distinct beings, Father and Son are one unified whole. This is the essence of the trinity. Like Jesus and the Father, two members of the antichrist trinity are also a father and son pair who are also Biblically depicted in a Trinitarian-type composite unity. Having together fulfilled every prophecy concerning the beast and the lawless one– including metaphorically rising from the dead–these three “divine” emperors are inextricably fused into one being in the Bible in order to become a dark earthly corollary or antithesis to the three-in-one composite unity of the heavenly trinity. In fact, Vespasian and Titus were even given the title Caesar at the same time.9 And at the start of their reign they each shared the same name which was a fused version of both of their names–Titus Flavius Vespasianus.10
John introduces the behemoth in v.11 as the beast out of the earth. As always earth represents Israel and the beast, like the beast out of the sea mentioned above, represents a kingdom. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. Before this beast is unmasked, I shall first turn my attention to the beast out of the sea.
1And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Revelation 13:1: When Addressing a Greco-Roman Audience Like That in Revelation, the New Testament Writers often Gave Jewish Concepts and Ideas Greek Names Whenever Possible.
The Book of Revelation was written to seven churches in Asia Minor, a Greco-Roman audience. When addressing a Greco-Roman audience like the one in Revelation, the authors of the New Testament often sought to give Jewish concepts and ideas which were often foreign to their Gentile listeners Greek names and identities whenever possible. In 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 Paul says that he becomes all things to all people so that he might most effectively save the lost:
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.
Seeking to save the lost by becoming Greek to those who are Greek, Paul gave the Jewish God a Greek identity in Acts 17:16-34. While in Athens, Paul sees a statue with the inscription “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Paul then uses this as a means to teach the Greeks about the God of Israel, the god who they did not know.
Similarly, the New Testament was written in Greek. And having been written in the Greek language, the books of the New Testament often translate Hebrew words and Jewish concepts like that of the afterlife in the Greek names of their most similar Greek counterparts. Thus Sheol is often labeled Hades (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14) and Gehenna is called Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4.11 Like Gehenna, the lake of fire (Mark 9:45-46), Tartarus is also said to be an abyss of the damned in Greek mythology.
The same thing occurs in Revelation. Recall that Sheol is identified by its Greco-Roman mythological counterpart, Hades, in Revelation (Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14). Similarly, the Jewish concept of the leviathan which as stated above was believed to be a seven-headed sea monster (Psalm 74:13-14; 104:25-26) is identified in Revelation as its Greco-Roman counterpart, the many-headed sea monster called the Hydra. Though the number of heads of the Hydra varies depending on the source, the hydra of Lerna was often depicted with seven heads:12 “The legendary Hydra of Lerna, a sea creature with seven heads—or nine, according to some . . . was killed by Hercules in the second of his labors [emphasis mine].”13 Not only was the Hydra a seven-headed sea monster just like the seven-headed sea beast of Revelation 13, the heads of the legendary hydra were also sometimes said to “have human features[,]”14 a fact that again points to the sea beast of Revelation 13 with each of its seven heads representing a different Caesar beginning with the first, Julius Caesar. The similarities between the Greco-Roman Hydra and the sea beast of Revelation 13 do not end there: Additional evidence that the Hydra (or the leviathan, the Hydra’s Biblical counterpart) is depicted in Revelation is also found in Revelation 17 where the whore of Babylon is depicted sitting atop the sea beast of Revelation 13 holding a cup full of the blood of the saints in her hand. This image is actually depicted in the sky. The female constellation Virgo sits atop the constellation of the Hydra while appearing to hold the cup Crater in her hand. See Revelation 17: A Preterist Commentary.
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: As Stated in v. 1, the Hydra is Located at the Edge of the Night Sky Called the Sea.
As stated above the seven-headed beast of this chapter is Leviathan or its Greco-Roman counterpart Hydra. The constellation of the Hydra is situated at the edge of the portion of the night sky astrologically named the sea. In this region many of the aquatic constellations reside including Pisces, Aquarius, Capricornus, Cetus, Delphinus, Eridanus and the Hydra.
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: The Seven-Headed Dragon and Spiritual Babylon
Interestingly, the seven-headed sea dragon mentioned in Revelation 13 and present in ancient Israelite culture as Leviathan and Greco-Roman culture as Hydra also appears to have a Mesopotamian counterpart. A Mesopotamian seal cylinder from Tell Asmar pictured below depicts a seven-headed dragon being killed by two divine heroes. The territory of Tell Asmar was once part of the ancient Babylonian Empire and is located just north of ancient Babylon. Perhaps the presence of this ancient seven-headed dragon in Tell Asmar suggests that the myth of the seven-headed dragon was of Babylonian origin? If this seven-headed dragon is of Babylonian origin this would be yet another piece of evidence pointing to Israel and Rome who also had seven-headed dragon myths and are spiritually called Babylon in Revelation. (For an explanation of how Rome was called Babylon in the first century A.D. (and even before) as well as how Jerusalem is also called Babylon in Revelation as a result of becoming one flesh with Rome by way of the adulterous affair depicted in Revelation 17 see Revelation 17: A Preterist Commentary.)
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: The Leviathan and the Tree of Life . . .
Represented by the Hydra, the beast out of the sea has seven heads. Seven is a symbolic number. In Revelation 1:20, the seven churches are represented by seven lampstands. Each lampstand has seven arms crafted to look like the seven branches of a tree.15 The Babylonian tree of life had seven branches. Thus this lampstand which resembles a tree with seven branches presumably represents the tree of life. Just as Christ’s kingdom, the church, has seven branches, the kingdom of Satan, Rome, has the seven serpent-heads of the leviathan. These seven serpent heads are the beasts.
Revelation Fulfilled, An Exposition, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13: The Similarities between the Heads of the Beast, the Caesars, and Christ . . .
The heads of the leviathan are the heads of the Roman Empire, the Caesars. As will be discussed in detail throughout this commentary, there are many similarities between the lives of these seven Caesars and the life of Christ. Concerning the story of the divine birth of Augustus found in the Theologumena, Suetonius writes:
Augustus’s mother, Atia, with certain married women friends, once attended a solemn midnight service at the Temple of Apollo, where she had her litter set down, and presently fell asleep as the others also did. Suddenly a serpent gliding up, entered her, and then gliding away again. On awakening, she purified herself, as if after intimacy with her husband. An irremovable coloured mark in the shape of a serpent, which then appeared on her body, made her ashamed to visit the public baths any more; and the birth of Augustus nine months later suggested a divine paternity [emphasis mine].16
Augustus was the second head of the beast and the first official emperor of Rome.17 Here the similarities between the virgin birth of Christ and the divine conception of Augustus are interesting. The only begotten Son of God, Jesus was born of a virgin and saw his father as the supreme divinity. Also given the title “Son of God,” Augustus was said to have been miraculously conceived by a serpent—a possible symbol of the devil (Genesis 2).
Each head of the beast is said to have a blasphemous name. The Caesars of Rome were often greeted and venerated with divine titles. Roman coins were imprinted with the head of the reigning emperor. Sometimes, as was the case with Augustus, these coins were imprinted with the title Divi F, that is Divi Filius or the Son of God.18 Caesar was also worshiped in temples of the imperial cult. Inscriptions found in Ephesus label Nero Caesar “Almighty God” and “Saviour” and another inscription found in Salamis gave him the title “God and Saviour.”19
The leviathan of Revelation 12 and 13 is most specifically denoted by its healed sixth head, Vespasian, and its seventh head, Titus, whom after coming from Israel where they pursued the woman in Revelation 12 are pictured here making an appearance in Rome to usurp the crown. The fact that this beast is standing on the shore of the sea is another way of saying that it has come up out the Abyss as it had in Revelation 11:7 and Revelation 17:8.20 As will be discussed later, this is resurrection imagery.
Revelation 13:1 Preterist Commentary: The Seven Heads and Ten Horns Represent Vespasian. As Implied in Revelation 13:3, the Beast Dies with Nero and Resurrects with Vespasian. Thus the Caesars Galba, Otho and Vitellius are Not Heads of the Beast. Therefore, Vespasian is Both the Seventh Head and the Tenth Horn.
In Revelation 13:3, the beast receives a “fatal wound.” As implied by the term “fatal,” the beast, of course, dies as a result of this injury to its sixth head. The sixth head of the beast is the sixth Caesar, Nero. After Nero committed suicide, Rome fell under the weight of civil war. Peace and order began to be restored approximately a year later with the rise of Vespasian, the tenth Caesar. Vespasian, the tenth Caesar, is the tenth horn. Because the beast died with Nero and did not resurrect until the rise of the Flavian Dynasty beginning with Vespasian, the three Caesars that reigned in the year of Rome’s civil war between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s ascension (when the beast is considered dead) are not considered heads of the beast since the beast’s wounded head did not heal until Vespasian rose to power. Therefore, Vespasian is also the seventh head of the beast. He is the seventh head because he is the next head of the beast after Nero. He is also the tenth horn because he is also the tenth Caesar. Therefore, the tenth Caesar, Vespasian, is both the seventh head and the tenth horn of the beast in fulfillment of v. 1: “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.”
Though Vespasian could be the seventh head of the beast, it should be stated that it is just as likely that Vespasian is actually the new healed sixth head of the beast. According to Greco-Roman mythology if one of the Hydra’s heads were severed two new ones would grow back in its place. The fact that two heads grew back in the place of the severed sixth head of Revelation 13:3 is implied in Revelation 17:11 where the seven-headed beast of Revelation 13 is later said to have eight heads. Thus the severed sixth head representing Nero likely grew back into a bifurcated new sixth and seventh head representing Vespasian and Titus which would make the old seventh head, Domitian, the new eighth head (Revelation 17:11). See the preterist commentary on Revelation 17 for a more detailed explanation.
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:1: The Ten Horns are Also Ten Auxiliary Cohorts dispatched under Vespasian’s Command.
When Vespasian was given command of the Roman legions in Israel, he was provided with ten cohorts and two legions which he took with him to reinforce the Roman army already stationed there.21 The ten horns may also be the commanders of these ten cohorts. Thus I believe that the ten horns symbolize both ten Caesars and the leaders of ten cohorts in the same way that the seven heads of the beast are seven kings and seven mountains according to Revelation 17:9-10. Could the ten horns also be the ten Jewish commanders of Jewish-Roman War? See the commentary on Revelation 17.
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: “And the Dragon stood on the Shore of the Sea.”
The leviathan of Revelation 12 and 13 is most specifically denoted by what appears to be its healed sixth head, Vespasian, and its seventh head, Titus, whom after coming from Israel, the earth, where they pursued the woman in Revelation 12 are pictured in Revelation 13:1 making an appearance in Rome, the sea, for the first time during their triumph after the fall of Jerusalem. It was during the Flavian triumph that Vespasian (and Titus) first entered Rome, the sea, as king. It is, therefore, at the time of Vespasian’s and Titus’ triumphal entry into Rome that the beast is depicted standing on the sandy shore of the sea in v. 1. The beast is portrayed standing on the sand of the seashore because at the time of the Flavian triumph, Caesar Titus had just arrived in Rome from his military victory in Israel, the earth. Remember that sea represents Rome and the sand or earth of the shore represents Israel throughout Revelation. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations.
Revelation Fulfilled, An Exposition, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13: Revelation 13 is a Prophetic Vision of the Flavian Triumph in Rome when Titus’ and Vespasian’s deeds and successes during the Jewish War are Brought to Light and Celebrated.
It was during the Flavian triumph that the Jewish War was thought to be over, the civil war in Rome had come to an end, and Vespasian’s and Titus’ accomplishments and victory during the Jewish War are remembered and therefore highlighted in the remainder of Revelation 13. Thus Revelation 13 as a whole is a prophecy concerning the Flavian triumphal entry into Rome immediately after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 when Vespasian and Titus entered Rome for the first time as Caesar greeted by the mob in great celebration and praise concerning their triumph in Judaea. Revelation 13 highlights these accomplishments as they would have been recalled and addressed at the time of this parousia.22 The Flavian victory in Israel solidified Vespasian’s right to rule in the eyes of the Roman people. Thus when Vespasian and Titus came to Rome for the first time during this celebration, they were greeted with overwhelming cheers, praises and acceptance from the Roman people having put an end to the civil war in Rome and the war in Israel that threatened to collapse the empire. Because Rome, the beast, under the Flavians arose victorious from these wars, Rome at this time seemed invincible as suggested in v. 4: “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” As stated above, having recovered from the civil war that temporarily collapsed the empire, Rome under the Flavians is metaphorically portrayed as a beast rising from the dead.
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: The Fact that the Beast rises out of the Sea in v. 1 and comes out of the Earth in v. 11 is More Resurrection Imagery again Pointing to the Rise of the Flavian Dynasty.
In Revelation 13:1 John sees the seven-headed beast “coming up out of the sea” pointing to the rising of the four beasts out of the sea in Daniel 7:3.23 Similar to the healing of the fatal wound of Revelation 13:3 mentioned above, the fact that John saw “a beast coming out of the sea” in v. 1 is also resurrection imagery pointing to the restoration of the integrity of Rome under the Flavians. Remember that sea represents both Gentile Rome and the Abyss, the realm of the dead, concurrently throughout the Apocalypse. See The Poetic Biblical Link Between “Sea” and “Abyss”. Therefore, when the beast is seen coming out of the sea or Abyss, the realm of the dead, this is a subtle metaphorical image of the resurrection of the beast. However, Revelation 13:1 and 13:3 are not the only two verses in this chapter that symbolize the resurrection of Rome under the Flavians.
In v. 11 John sees “another beast coming out of the earth.” The fact that this beast comes out of the earth represents the fact that Caesar Titus had just come from Israel, the earth, immediately before arriving in Rome during the Flavian triumph. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. However, there is another layer of meaning to this verse. Verse 11 appears to be another resurrection motif. Genesis 3:19 reads, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return [emphasis mine].” The fact that the beast is depicted coming out of the earth paints a picture of a creature that was once dead but has come to life and risen out of the dust of the earth.
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: The Resurrection of the Beast is a repeated Theme throughout Revelation.
The death of the beast under Nero and its resurrection with Vespasian and the Flavian Dynasty is an often-mentioned thematic element throughout the Apocalypse. Revelation 17:7-8 and Revelation 11:7 are two clear examples. Revelation 17:8 says, “The beast . . . once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction.” The fact that the beast “now is not” implies that the beast died with Nero. The resurrection of the beast is then clearly implied again by the fact that it rises out of the Abyss, the realm of the dead, in Revelation 17:8.
2The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.
Revelation 13:2 Preterist Commentary: The Roman Beast is a Fusion of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greek Empires.
This is an overt reference to Daniel 7. Here Daniel sees four beasts arise out of the sea, each symbolizing a different Gentile empire that would conquer Israel. The first is a lion, signifying Babylon; the next is a bear, representing Medo-Persia; then a leopard, symbolizing Greece; and last of all is the beast described in this chapter, the Roman leviathan, the most terrifying creature in Canaanite lore.
In this verse, the leviathan is said to resemble a leopard, have the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion. These attributes illustrate the vast extent of Roman dominion. Rome conquered much of the territory of the prior three empires. As a result, Rome absorbed much of their culture and religion. First and second century Rome was dominated by four major religions borrowed from each empire in Daniel 7. Rome adopted notions of astrology and astral fatalism from the Babylonians. Persia contributed the cult of Mithras. The most popular of the mystery religions, Mithraism grew in popularity to rival Christianity in the second century. Rome also adopted and renamed the Greek gods in addition to absorbing the Greek practice of emperor worship.
It is also worth noting that skins of lions, leopards and bears were often worn by Roman standard bearers that marched at the head of each legion.
3One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.
Revelation 13:3 Commentary: In Psalm 74:14 God Crushes the Heads of the Leviathan.
God demonstrated his power over the leviathan by an omen said to have occurred in the last year of Nero’s reign. Suetonius writes, “[A] thunderbolt presently struck the Temple of the Caesars, decapitating all the statues at a stroke and dashed Augustus’s sceptre from his hands.”24 This omen foreshadowed the ultimate fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 and Psalm 74:14. In Psalm 74:14, God is said to crush the heads of the leviathan representing the leaders of Rome, the Caesars. As stated earlier, each head of the leviathan symbolized a Roman emperor.
Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:3: The Head of the Beast that had a Fatal Wound is the Sixth Head of the Beast, Nero Caesar, who stabbed Himself in the Neck.
That year Nero cut his throat. His head wounded, the emperor died and along with him, the Caesar family line and the beast itself. With six Caesars dead, six of the seven heads of the beast had been severed, and the Roman leviathan suffered a fatal injury. With no clear successor to the throne, Rome was ripped apart by civil war and temporarily collapsed. In other words, after the death of Nero there was great fear in Rome that the empire would ultimately fall. This year between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s ascension is mentioned in 4 Ezra 12:18: “[G]reat conflicts will arise, which will bring the empire into danger of falling; and yet it will not fall then, but will be restored to its original strength.”
During the year between the death of Nero and the rise of Vespasian three self-proclaimed Caesars; Galba, Otho and Vitellius; ruled over Rome with a tenuous grip all of whom where quickly killed by their successors. This period is called the year of the four Caesars. Regarding this time, the first-century historian Tacitus writes, “This was the condition of the Roman state when Serius Galba, chosen consul for the second time, and his colleague Titus Vinius entered upon the year that was to be for Galba his last and for the state almost the end [emphasis mine].”25 Josephus says that Rome at this time was near “ruin” and “laid waste.”26 Josephus then proceeds to say “every part of the habitable earth under them [the Romans] was in an unsettled and tottering condition.”27 Then upon Vespasian’s ascension, Josephus writes, “So upon his confirmation of Vespasian’s entire government, . . . and upon the unexpected deliverance of the public affairs of the Romans from ruin . . .” [Emphasis mine.]28 But in this chapter, Rome is symbolized by the Hydra for a reason. Like the Hydra which was known to regenerate severed heads, Rome’s wound would be healed. In other words, the civil wars between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s ascension would not cause the permeant collapse of the empire.
A Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:3: Were the Roman Rumors True? Was Nero’s Fatal Wound Literally Healed? There are Several Striking Similarities in Appearance and Actions between that of the “Nero Impostor” and the Real Nero.
Before discussing some of the evidence for how the Flavian Dynasty ultimately represents the healing of the wounded head of the beast, let us ask a serious question. Were the Roman rumors true? Did Nero also resurrect from the dead as Jesus Christ did according to the Gospels? If God raised Jesus from the dead, couldn’t he also raise Nero if he wished? And wouldn’t it seem even more likely if the word of God suggests it?
It is also possible that Nero just survived his attempted suicide. Revelation 13:3 does not say that the beast signifying Nero actually died. Verse 3 simply says that “the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound [emphasis mine].” Thus it is possible that Nero could have survived his deadly wound. Though it is impossible to know for sure if Nero truly did rise from the dead or just survive his attempted suicide, there is a good deal of historical evidence implying the fact that Nero may have still been alive after his purported death.
The Roman historian Suetonius says that after Nero’s alleged death, friends of the former emperor circulated his edicts “pretending he was still alive and would soon return to confound his enemies.”29 He also indicates that a man claiming to be Nero convinced the Parthians of his regal identity and was sheltered by them for some time before finally being surrendered to Rome.30 The Roman historian Tacitus expounds upon the actions of this man:
About this time Achaia and Asia were upset by a false alarm. It was rumoured that Nero was on his way to them. There had been conflicting stories about his death, and so numbers of people imagined—and believed—that he was alive. I shall describe the adventures of the other claimants in their chronological context as my story develops. On this occasion the man concerned was a slave from Pontus, or, according to other accounts, a freedman from Italy. The circumstances that he was a harpist and singer by profession when added to a facial resemblance, made the imposture all the more plausible. He was joined by some army deserters who had been roaming about in destitution until he bribed them to follow him by lavish promises. With these men he embarked on board ship. A storm forced him to land on the island of Cythnus, where he recruited some troops returning from the east on leave, or had them murdered when they refused. He also robbed businessmen and armed the sturdiest of their slaves. A centurion named Sisenna, representing the army of Syria, happened to be bringing some symbolic ‘hands’ to the praetorians as a token of friendship. He was subjected to a variety of artful approaches, but finally slipped away from the island and fled in fear of his life. This caused a wave of panic, and many restless or discontented creatures rallied with eagerness to a famous name. The bubble reputation, daily increasing, was abruptly pricked by one of the chances of history [emphasis mine].31
Notice that Tacitus says that this man resembling Nero in appearance and actions was also a harpist and singer. Not only was the Nero impostor a harpist and singer like Nero, but according to Tacitus this man was a harpist and singer by profession. Interestingly, this is precisely how Nero planned to support himself if he were ever ousted. After having been declared an enemy of the state Cassius Dio indicates that Nero planned to flee and support himself by singing and playing the harp: “Even though we be driven from our empire, yet this little talent [singing and playing harp] shall support us there.”32
Tacitus also states that this man resembling Nero “was joined by some army deserters who had been roaming about in destitution until he bribed them to follow him by lavish promises.” According to Suetonius immediately after stabbing himself in the neck, Nero was discovered by soldiers who tried to revive him.33 Where they successful? And if so, did these soldiers then desert their posts having been promised great riches if they helped Nero reclaim his throne?
The above account also indicates that this man “robbed businessmen.” This fact again points to the real Nero. In his historical description of Nero, Suetonius writes that even while emperor, Nero made a sport of robbing local businesses: “He [Nero] would also break into shops and rob them, afterwards opening a market at the Palace with the stolen goods, dividing them by lots, auctioning them himself, and squandering the proceeds.”34
J Massynberde Ford says that the previously-mentioned Nero imposter was killed by some of Galba’s officers and that another Nero imposter surfaced during Titus’ reign.35 Whether this is the same “imposter” or a different one that surfaced at this time, this man is described in a similarly suggestive way by Cassius Dio:
In his [Titus’] reign also the False Nero appeared, who was an Asiatic named Terentius Maximus. He resembled Nero both in appearance and in voice (for he too sang to the accompaniment of the lyre). He gained a few followers in Asia, and his advance to the Euphrates attached a far greater number, and finally sought refuge with Artabanus, the Parthian leader, who . . . both received him and set about making preparations to restore him to Rome.36
Echoing Tacitus, Cassius Dio indicates that this “False Nero” “resembled Nero both in appearance and in voice (for he too sang to the accompaniment of the lyre).” According to this account the “Nero impostor” sought refuge with the emperor of the Parthians just as the Sibylline Oracles predicted concerning the humiliated emperor.37 Suetonius says that this is exactly what Nero planned to do after being declared an enemy of the state: “Nero turned over a number of plans in his mind. For example, he might throw himself on the mercy of the Parthians . . .”38 As one can see, not only did this Nero impostor or imposters, if there were more than one, look like Nero and sound like Nero while singing, as explained above, he or they also acted striking like Nero in several notable and unique ways. Was this man or one of these men really an impostor or was this actually Nero risen from the dead who used the alias Terentius Maximus when in danger?
What about Nero’s funeral? Was Nero’s body actually burned on a pyre as stated by Suetonius or was the body of a look-alike killed and substituted for the body of the emperor?39 During his reign, Nero was in the habit of procuring look-alikes. For example, after murdering his wife Sabina, “Nero missed her so greatly after her death that on learning of a woman who resembled her he at first sent for her and kept her; but later he caused a boy of the freedmen, whom he called Sporus, to be castrated, since he, too, resembled Sabina, and he used him in every way like a wife.”40 Likewise, Nero also found a woman who looked like his famously beautiful mother, Agrippina. Concerning this look-alike, Suetonius writes, “The lecherous passion he [Nero] felt for his mother, Agrippina, was notorious . . . . So he found a new mistress who was said to be a spitting image[.]”41 Upon being revived, did Nero and the soldiers who sought to revive the emperor know of a man resembling Nero who could serve as a body double for a mock-funeral? Even if the man was not a perfect match, any differences could easily be hidden by sufficiently beating and thus disfiguring the corpse. No one would doubt that the soldiers who found the emperor may have taken out their anger on him for his infamy and the many oppressive policies that marked his reign.
Whether this man or one of these men was actually Nero or not, this figure at least appears to illustrate the fulfillment of Revelation 13:3 and serve as a divine omen that the Roman Empire, the beast, would rise from the dead after the civil war following Nero’s death. Thus if Nero really did survive his attempted suicide and resurrect from the dead, this would be yet another way in which the Caesar beasts could be said to resemble Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death and resurrection was a sign and symbol of the coming resurrection of his kingdom, the Body of Christ, the kingdom of God. Similarly, Nero’s death and subsequent resurrection also appears to be a sign and omen of the coming resurrection of his kingdom, Rome, under the Flavians. In other words, this man or these men resembling Nero is or are a sign that the turmoil following Nero’s death would not result in the death or permanently collapse of Rome, the beast. Rome did, in fact, survive the fatal wound of v. 3 under a new dynasty, the Flavians: Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.
Preterism, A Commentary on Revelation 13:3: A Sign that the Wounded Head would be healed with the Flavian Dynasty?
Suetonius lists several signs that confirmed Vespasian’s hope of becoming emperor. Speaking of one of these signs, Suetonius writes, “A cypress-tree was also uprooted and hurled to the ground on his [Vespasian’s] grandfather’s farm, though there had been no gale to account for the accident; yet by the next day it had taken root again and was greener and stronger than ever.”42 Was this a sign that Rome’s wounded head would be healed at the succession of the Flavian Dynasty? When Vespasian was declared Caesar his two sons, Titus and Domitian, were also bestowed this title at the same time.43 Interestingly, the first century historian Suetonius writes the following concerning Titus, the second Caesar in the Flavian Dynasty, in Lives of the Twelve Caesars 11.7: “It was even thought and prophesied quite openly that he [Titus] would prove to be a second Nero.” The fact that the Flavian Dynasty represents the healing of the wounded head signifying Nero may also be unintentionally symbolized by the fact that “when Vespasian came to power in A.D. 69 he had the head of a statue of Nero at Olympia replaced with the head of Titus.”44
Revelation 13:3 Preterist Commentary: From Judea Would Come the Future King of the World—Vespasian, the Beast Whose Wound had been Healed . . .
An ancient prophecy originating in Judea spread throughout the Roman Empire: From Judea would come the future king of the world.45 Vespasian, the general of the Jewish War, was stationed in Israel at Nero’s death. Believed by many to be the fulfillment of this prophecy, Vespasian awaited his opportunity; and when the time came, he rose up and overthrew Vitellius. Shortly after gaining the crown the civil war ended and the revolts in Judea and Gaul were over. Once again in peace and stability, the Roman Empire had been reborn; its wound healed through Vespasian, the man who saved the empire. Illustrating the resurrection of Rome under Vespasian, Roman coins minted in A.D. 70 depict Vespasian helping Roma, the goddess of Rome, back to her feet.46 If Vespasian is depicted raising Rome to her feet in this coin, does this imply a popular perception that Rome “fell” during the civil war prior to Vespasian’s ascension? In the very least, there was a popular perception among the Roman mob that year as illustrated in this coin and cited above that the empire would ultimately collapse.
4Men worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”
Revelation 13:4 Commentary: Vespasian the Seemingly Invincible Beast . . .
With wars in Gaul and Judea and civil war within, Rome seemed to be attacked on all sides. When Vespasian seized the throne all resistance was obliterated; and for a moment, Rome seemed invincible. At this time, Jerusalem fell. And Titus, the new general of the Jewish War, brought the Roman ensigns to the temple in Jerusalem and offered sacrifices to them.
Revelation 13:4 Preterist Commentary: The Image of Vespasian, the Beast, was worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Roman ensigns were military standards similar to flags today. What is interesting about the Roman ensigns was that along with the eagle, a symbol of Rome, was an image of the reigning emperor.47 These ensigns served as idols or objects of worship to the Roman military. In The Wars of the Jews, the Romans were said to have acted out their worship of the beast by offering sacrifices to Vespasian’s image on the ensigns. Recording the worship of the beast in A.D. 70 by way of the images of Caesar and Rome on the ensigns, Josephus says the following in fulfillment of Revelation 13:4:
“AND now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city [of Jerusalem], and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy [emphasis mine].48
Revelation 13:4 Preterist Commentary: As Emperor of Rome, Vespasian was worshipped in the Imperial Cult.
This outward display of emperor worship was not uncommon in the Roman Empire though it was certainly much more prevalent in the provinces where it was officially sanctioned and temples were erected for the worship of Caesar and Rome. Emperor worship began as early as Julius Caesar, the first head of the beast. The first temples were erected for emperor worship during Augustus’ reign, the second head of the beast,49 and this practice continued throughout the reigns of each head of the leviathan.
Concerning the worship of Vespasian in Syria, the Roman historian Kenneth Scott writes the following:
By the inhabitants of Syria divinity was apparently bestowed on Vespasian even in his lifetime. His regnal year is sometimes designated as the “new holy year” or the “holy year” on Syrian coinage, for like Augustus he was the restorer of peace and prosperity, the founder of a new golden age.50 Two groups of coins of the early years of his reign indicate his divinity: on one group he is represented with the aegis [an attribute of Zeus and Athena]—just as sometimes on the Roman coinage51—a symbol which denotes world empire and through which the ruler is compared with Zeus.52 The other group, belonging to the second year, shows an eagle below the monarch’s head, and this representation “kann nur den Aufstiege des Kaisers zu den Gottern veranschaulichen.”53 Another Syrian type of an eagle on a club has been interpreted as a comparison of Vespasian with Hercules[.]54
Though emperor worship was not officially sanctioned in Rome around the time of the Jewish War as it was in the eastern provinces, Caesar worship was surprisingly prevalent within the city limits of Rome at that time in an unofficial capacity. One example of emperor worship is found in the writings of Dio Cassius. Here Tiridates, the king of Armenia, fell at the feet of Nero at the Forum in Rome saying, “I have come to thee, my god, to worship thee as I do Mithras.”55 As a reflection of the prevalence of Caesar worship whether officially sanctioned or purely voluntary Vespasian was occasionally depicted during his reign on imperial coins with the corona radiate, the radiate crown, as a symbol of divinity:56
The radiate crown on imperial coins had been used up to the time of Nero exclusively as decoration of a divus [deified one].57 Nero, however, created the precedent of appearing on coins with the crown borrowed from the sun god,58 and his example was followed by Vespasian, who at least did not prevent the Senate from flattering him by the issue of coins bearing his image with radiate crown.59
Concerning the worship of Caesar Titus, the first-century Roman poet Martial writes the following epigram: “In that the loyal and suppliant elephant worships you, O Caesar, this beast, which just now was so to be feared by the bull, does not do so under orders or at the bidding of any trainer; believe me, it, too, perceives out god (nostrum sentit et ille deum).”60 This epigram was written in praise of Caesar Titus and the Colosseum. Though some scholars believe this epigram was written during the reign of Domitian since Titus was officially deified after his death, Roman Historian Kenneth Scott disagrees:
Weinreich, however, has most convincingly shown that these poems could be composed under any emperor and that there is every reason to believe that nos. I-XXX [which includes the above cited epigram] deal with the games given in connection with the dedication of the Colosseum in 80 [during Caesar Titus’ reign]. [Emphasis mine.]61
Though Caesar worship was not officially mandated in Rome from the time of Augustus to Titus, in the above citation we can see that it was nonetheless a common occurrence even in Rome. Therefore, the fact that men “worshipped the beast” in Revelation 13:4 is not an unlikely occurrence even in first-century Rome prior to Domitian’s reign.
When Titus and Vespasian celebrated their triumph in Rome in A.D. 70 in celebration of the fall of Jerusalem–which I believe is what is predicted in v. 4 and the rest of Revelation 13–there can be little doubt that Vespasian and his sons were worshipped by the adoring crowds in Rome at that time in fulfillment of v. 4. Recall that Vespasian was able to usurp the empire through support from the east where emperor worship was a day-to-day occurrence and officially sanctioned in Rome. Therefore, Vespasian’s retinue, of course, consisted largely of people from the east accustomed to emperor worship and many people in Rome would quite certainly echo their adoration, praise and even worship as even the native Romans mixed in the crowds were not unaccustomed to similar chants of divine praise of the emperor at that time. Interestingly, on the arch of Titus, the famous landmark erected in Rome in celebration of the Flavian triumph after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 Titus is called Divi f(ilius),62 the son of god, an official title granted to Titus after the deification of his father shortly after Vespasian’s death in A.D. 79.
Revelation 13:4 ends with people worshipping the beast and chanting, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” A statement like this would have almost certainly been chanted during the Flavian triumph of A.D. 70 which celebrated Caesar Titus and Caesar Vespasian’s victory during the Jewish War. Furthermore, this victory marked the official end to the various rebellions against Rome at that time as well as the civil wars after the death of Nero which was popularly thought might ultimately collapse the empire. During the Flavian triumph Vespasian renewed the Roman mob’s confidence in the strength of Rome making Rome which survived what seemed to be impossible obstacles seem invincible at that time. Interestingly, of all the accolades the Roman poet Martial gives Titus in the twentieth epigram, Titus, the princeps [“first one” or “leader”], is called invictus, an epithet meaning unconquerable or undefeated.63 In this epithet we can see how Revelation 13:4 is fulfilled in the Flavians, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”
In v. 4 John writes, “Men worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast.” In 1 Corinthians 10:20, Paul asserts that sacrifices made to idols are considered offerings to demons. According to Revelation 13:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:20, the act of emperor worship is ultimately directed toward the devil, the presumed source of the emperor’s power.
5The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
Revelation 13:5-6 Commentary: The Mouth of the Beast is the False Prophet of Revelation 19:20.
In v. 5 the beast is “given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies[,]” and in v. 6 the beast opens “his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place[.]” The “mouth” of the beast is the little horn of Daniel 7. In Daniel 7:8 and 25, the little horn is said to “speak against the Most High” with “a mouth that spoke boastfully.” The little horn is the “mouth” of the beast in the same way that Aaron was the mouth of Moses according to Exodus 4:16: “[H]e [Aaron] will be as a mouth for you [Moses] and you will be as God to him.” When Aaron acts as a mouth to Moses he becomes something like a prophet to a god. Not surprisingly the little horn is also called the false prophet to the beast in Revelation 19:20: “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.” Titus, the son of the beast the emperor Vespasian, is the little horn of Daniel 7 and the false prophet of Revelation 19:20. See Revelation 19: A Preterist Commentary and Daniel 7: A Preterist Commentary.
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13:5-6: The Babylonian Talmud records the many Blasphemous Things the Mouth of the Beast, Titus, said and did against the God of Israel in Fulfillment of Revelation 13:5-6 and Daniel 7:8 and 25.
As stated above, the mouth of the beast is called the little horn in Daniel 7 and the false prophet in Revelation 19. Revelation 13:5-6 says that he will “utter proud words and blasphemies” and “blaspheme God, and . . . slander his name and his dwelling place[.]” In Gittin 56b of the Babylonian Talmud, Titus is recorded to have said and done the following upon setting up the idolatrous ensigns in the temple in Jerusalem cited above:
Vespasian sent Titus who said, “Where is their God, the rock in whom they trusted?” This was the wicked Titus who blasphemed and insulted Heaven. What did he do? He took a harlot by the hand and entered the Holy of Holies and spread out a scroll of the Law and committed a sin on it. He then took a sword and slashed the curtain. Miraculously blood spurted out, and he thought that he had slain God himself, as it says, “Thine adversaries have roared in the midst of thine assembly, they have set up their ensigns for signs. [. . . .]” Titus further took the curtain and shaped it like a basket and brought all the vessels of the Sanctuary and put them in it, and then put them on board ship to go and triumph with them in his city.
In the quote above one can see how Titus “blaspheme[d] God, and . . . slander[ed] his name and his dwelling place” in fulfillment of Revelation 13:5-6. This, however, is not the only recorded instance in which Titus spoke and acted blasphemously against God. While on his way back to Rome Gittin 56b of the Babylonian Talmud also records Titus issue the following boastful challenge to the God of Israel: “If he is really mighty, let him come up on the dry land and fight with me.” In this blasphemous challenge, one can also appreciate how Titus truly did “speak against the Most High” with “a mouth that spoke boastfully” as predicted in Daniel 7:8 and 25.
Preterist Eschatology and Commentary of Revelation 13:6-7: Sulpicius Severus also records Titus’ War against the Saints and His Desire to Destroy the Temple in Fulfillment of Revelation 13:6 in which the Mouth of the Beast, Titus, is said to slander God’s “Dwelling Place and Those Who live in Heaven.”
The fact that Titus, the mouth of the beast, is said to “make war against the saints and to conquer them” during the Jewish War and slander those who live in heaven is implied by Titus’ desire to destroy the Christian and Jewish religions. Titus intended to accomplish this by destroying God’s dwelling place, the temple in Jerusalem. Sulpicius Severus says the following in Chronica 2:30.7:
But others, on the contrary, disagreed–including Titus himself. They argued that the destruction of the Temple was a number one priority in order to destroy completely the religion of the Jews and the Christians: For although these religions are conflicting, they nevertheless developed from the same origins. The Christians arose from the Jews: With the root removed, the branch is easily killed.
In the quote above, one can see how Titus did more than merely slander God’s dwelling place and those who live in heaven as predicted in v.6. Confirming the implications of his words and actions recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, Titus meant to destroy the temple, God’s dwelling place, and by doing so put an end to the Law of Moses and the religion of the saints, Christianity, together in one fell swoop. Thus the Flavians under Caesar Titus did, in fact, make war against the saints during the Jewish War. However, though Caesar Titus succeeded in this war which resulted in his conquest of all the people of Israel and Rome, Christians included, he was not successful in killing the saints in fulfillment of Revelation 12:13-16.
If Titus truly did fulfill Revelation 13:5-7 as indicated by the testimony of the Babylonian Talmud and Sulpicius Severus quoted above, why doesn’t The Wars of the Jews also mention these facts? In Josephus’ account of the Jewish War, the Flavians were depicted in an almost saintly manner not unlike the way in which the infamous Nero Caesar was often depicted by historians writing accounts of his life while he was still alive: “Though there were historians who wrote laudatory accounts while Nero was alive, their verdict was overturned after his death and their works have not survived.”64 Not only was The Wars of the Jews published in A.D. 75, during Vespasian’s reign, Josephus was also a close personal friend of Cesar Vespasian and Titus. In fact, as a show of loyalty Josephus even took on Titus and Vespasian’s surname which is why he called himself Flavius Josephus. Furthermore, when Josephus wrote his history of the Jewish War he was commissioned by the Flavians to do so. Thus if Caesar Titus had actually blasphemed God, slandered his dwelling place and his people as predicted in v. 6, it is not surprising that Flavius Josephus did not mention this fact.
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:5-7: In the 42 Months between Vespasian and Titus’ arrival to lead the Roman Army in Israel to the Fall of Jerusalem, Vespasian became Emperor of Rome and destroyed the Temple in Fulfillment of vs. 5-7.
In v. 5, the beast is said to exercise authority for 42 months or three and a half years. “In this verse, the Majority Text (MT) reads and he was given authority to make war for forty-two months (13:5).”65 This is the interval between Vespasian and Titus’ arrival in Israel to lead the Roman army in March of A.D. 67 to the fall of Jerusalem in September of A.D. 70. Rabbinic tradition confirms the fact that Titus and Vespasian assaulted Israel for 42 months or three and a half years in the Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 1.31 and 1.40. According to the Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 1.31 and 1.40, Vespasian was expected to be punished in Gehenna for three and a half years because that was the length of time in which he besieged Israel.
During this 42 month period all elements of these two verses were fulfilled. In A.D. 69, Vespasian became emperor of Rome in fulfillment of v. 7: “And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.” After becoming Caesar, Vespasian appointed Titus to lead the Roman army in its war on Jerusalem. Then in A.D. 70, the Roman army offered pagan sacrifices to Rome, Vespasian and Titus in the holy temple in Jerusalem before they destroyed it. During this time, Titus was recorded to have said and done many blasphemous things against God and the temple in fulfillment of v. 6: “He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place [the temple in Jerusalem].” The war against the saints in v. 7 has already been addressed in Revelation 12:13-16. Here the dragon, represented on earth by Titus and Vespasian, pursues the saints of God during the Jewish War, but the earth, Israel, takes the brunt of the Roman assault and the Jewish Christians largely escape safely to Pella. Though the saints had mostly escaped Titus and Vespasian’s assault on Israel and their intentions to destroy Christianity and Judaism, the Flavians did still conquer the saints because they not only conquered Israel but had also ultimately become emperors of Rome and as such were the earthly kings of all the Christian Jews in the empire before the end of this forty-two month timeframe. It should also be noted that after the fall of Jerusalem, Titus’ father, Vespasian, ordered all descendants of King David to be searched out and eradicated so that no one in the Messiah’s bloodline could contest his authority.66 Here one can see how Titus and Vespasian were “given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.”
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13:5-7: The Neronic Persecution . . .
A frequently cited alternative fulfillment of the beast’s “war against the saints” in v. 7 may be found in the Neronic persecution. In July of A.D. 64 a fire broke out in downtown Rome. Nero Caesar blamed the deed on the growing body of Christians, and as punishment many of the saints were tortured and executed for a crime they did not commit.67 Concerning this wave of persecution, Tacitus writes, “Wrapped in the hides of wild beasts, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or fastened to crosses to be set on fire, that when the darkness fell they might be burned to illuminate the night.”68
8All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
Revelation 13:8 Commentary: The Slaughter of the Abomination that Causes Desolation . . .
According to v. 8, all the inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life will worship the beast. The “inhabitants of the earth” in v. 8 are the people in Israel, the metaphorical earth of Revelation. This verse is fulfilled in the emperor’s imperial cult and the “abomination that causes desolation” spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:15.
These “inhabitants of the earth” were those Jews who allied themselves with Rome against their rebel compatriots. Those who sided with Rome and worshipped the beast consisted to a large extent of the Jewish elite who were caught up in the crossfire of the Jewish War. Who these Jews were, why they worshipped the image of the beast, and why they were punished at the end of the age will be addressed in detail at the very end of this chapter.
It should be noted that there were also Gentiles in Israel who worshipped the beast. The Gentile people of the earth who also worshipped the beast were the Roman soldiers stationed in Israel during the war. As stated above, these soldiers setup the Roman ensigns over the Jewish temple and together worshiped these metal symbols of Rome and its leader, the beast. After worshipping the ensigns, Titus ordered all the remaining Jews in Jerusalem to be hunted down and killed.
9He who has an ear, let him hear. 10If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
A Realized Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13:10: After Jerusalem fell Many People were taken Captive and killed by the Sword as predicted in v. 10.
A month after the Romans offered sacrifices to the ensigns, Jerusalem fell. And many Jews were taken captive and killed by the sword as predicted in v. 10. Concerning the aftermath of the war, Josephus writes, “Titus also sent a great number [of Jews] into the provinces, as a present to them, that they might be destroyed upon their theaters, by a sword and by the wild beasts; but those that were under seventeen years of age were sold for slaves [emphasis mine].”69
It is interesting to note that some ancient manuscripts read, “If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.” According to church tradition, Paul was decapitated by a sword during the Neronic persecution. Furthermore, Tertullian attributes “Nero’s cruel sword” as having provided the seed of the church.70 After being declared an enemy of the state, Nero Caesar drove a dagger into his throat and ended his life.71 Nero, a man who killed so many with the sword, died the way he lived.
11Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.
Revelation 13:11 Commentary: Horns Symbolize Kings or Generals.
In the Bible, horns are frequently used to symbolize kings or generals. The two horns of this monster are the dark counterparts of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. One of these figures is later called the false prophet in Revelation 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10, because like the two witnesses, this horn is a type of Elijah. In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah calls down fire from heaven as a sign that YHWH, not Baal, is the true god that Israel must worship. After performing this miraculous sign, Elijah ordered those who did not worship YHWH to be killed. As will be seen in vs. 13-15, the beast of the earth performs a nearly identical miracle. Like Elijah, the beast out of the earth also causes fire to come down from heaven as a sign to direct men to worship the beast whose wound had been healed. Then like Elijah who ordered all those who would not worship YHWH to be killed, the beast out of the earth also ordered all who would not worship the beast to be killed.
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:11: The Beast out of the Earth is the Roman Army in Israel, the Earth. Its Two Horns are the Two Generals of this Army: Vespasian and Titus.
Called the beast out of the earth because of its presence in Israel, this beast is represented by the behemoth.72 As explained above, the Roman/astrological counterpart of the Hebrew leviathan is the Hydra. For an explanation of the Roman/astrological equivalent of the Hebrew behemoth see the commentary on Revelation 17:12-14.
A powerful land creature with horns, the behemoth symbolizes the formidable Roman army sent by Caesar to Israel to crush the Jewish rebellion. The two horns of this monster represent the two leaders of this massive force, Vespasian and Titus. Before becoming emperor of Rome, Vespasian led the Roman legions in the war against Israel. Then after Vespasian had become emperor, Titus succeeded him as general of the Roman military in Judea. The son of Vespasian, Titus was also bestowed the title of Caesar when his father, Vespasian, had become emperor of Rome.73
Revelation 13:1 and 13:13 Commentary: The Symbolic Significance of the Number Ten and the Number Two as it Relates to Israel/Judah and the Lost Ten Tribes.
Now let us look at the potential symbolic significance of the number ten and the number two. The number ten calls to mind the lost ten tribes of Israelites that were dispersed throughout the Assyrian Empire. Thus this number may be sometimes used in Daniel and Revelation to intentionally call to mind the notion of somehow being Gentile. Conversely, the number two might also be used occasionally in Revelation to call attention to the two remaining tribes that had remained in the original land of their inheritance: Judah and Benjamin. That said the fact that the beast out of the sea has ten horns makes sense because like the number ten, “sea” also refers to the Gentile nations (i.e. Rome) throughout Revelation. Furthermore, the fact that the behemoth is initially said to have two horns implying the fact that this beast is present in Judah also makes sense of the name “beast out of the earth.” Like the number two, “earth” also represents the nation of Israel (generally Judah) throughout Revelation. Thus these numbers compliment the names of the beast as it relates to the beast’s location whether inside or outside of Israel or Judah. The beast is Rome. Thus the beast out of the earth is Rome in Israel or Judah. In other words, the beast out of the earth is the Roman Army in Israel or Judah as discussed previously.
12He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.
Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 13:12: The Beast out of the Earth was a High Priest of the Imperial Cult Who presided over the Worship of Caesar and Rome in the Temple in Jerusalem on the 9th of Av in A.D. 70.
Perhaps partially based on this v. in which the beast out of the earth directs the earth in the worship of the first beast, the beast out of the earth is sometimes understood to be the Jewish high priest. This interpretation is half true. The beast out of the earth is the high priest, but not the Jewish high priest.
Jewish tradition challenges the notion that the behemoth is the Jewish high priest. As cited above, 2 Baruch 29:3-4 indicates that the behemoth as well as the leviathan were to be revealed when the Messiah began to be revealed: “And it shall come to pass when all is accomplished that was to come to pass in those parts, that the Messiah shall then begin to be revealed. And Behemoth shall be revealed from his place and Leviathan shall ascend from the sea, those two great monsters which I created on the fifth day of creation, and shall have kept until that time[.]” These verses challenge the Jewish high priesthood interpretation as this institution had been established by Moses. 2 Baruch, however, supports the interpretation that the land beast is the Roman army in Israel led by its general Caesar Titus as Rome became an empire in 27 B.C., less than thirty years prior to Jesus’ birth, and conquered Jerusalem under Pompey in 63 B.C.
Though present in Israel, the earth, the Midrash and Jewish haggadoth challenge the notion that the land beast is Jewish. R. Judan b. R. Simeon says the following in the Midrash: “Behemoth and the Leviathan are to engage in a wild-beast contest before the righteous in the Time to Come, and whoever has not been a spectator at the wild-beast contests of the heathen nations in this world will be accorded the boon of seeing one in the World to Come [emphasis mine].74 Furthermore, “Jewish haggadoth also allegorize these two beasts, sometimes seeing them as the destructive powers which are hostile to the Jews.”75 Since the leviathan and the behemoth are not real animals but rather mythical creatures that represent world powers as suggested by Jewish haggadoth as well as the fact that the seven heads of Leviathan are said to be seven kings (Revelation 17:9-10), the Jewish haggadoth and the above excerpt from the Midrash suggest that the behemoth and Leviathan are Gentile, not Jewish.
If the Jewish high priest is not the high priest mentioned in this v., then what high priest is alluded to in v. 12? From the time of Caesar Augustus the Caesars were automatically granted the title Pontifex Maximus or high priest. (Notice that the Caesars were granted the title high priest during the reign of the Caesar who ruled when Jesus was “revealed” or born (Luke 2:1-5) as predicted in 2 Baruch 29:3-4.) Thus as Pontifex Maximus, the Caesars were the high priests of the Imperial Cult. The purpose of the Imperial Cult was to worship and honor Rome and its emperor. In fulfillment of v. 12, General Titus who had just been granted the title Caesar at the time of Vespasian’s coronation just prior to the siege of Jerusalem enacted this new role as high priest of the Imperial Cult by directing the worship of Caesar and Rome in the Temple in Jerusalem on the 9th of Av in A.D. 70.
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of the End Times and Revelation 13:12: After the General Vespasian Became Emperor, Titus Became General of the Roman Army in Israel. After Titus Seized the Temple, the Roman Army Worshipped Images of the First Beast, Vespasian, in the Temple.
After successfully seizing the holy temple in Jerusalem, the Romans set their ensigns against its eastern gate with Caesar Titus’ approval. The ensign called the Imago would have contained a three-dimensional metallic image of Vespasian, the beast whose wound had been healed of v. 12.76 Thus the the Roman legions outwardly worshiped this image of Vespasian by offering sacrifices to these idols of Caesar and Rome.77 In this act one can see how Titus “exercised all the authority of the first beast [Vespasian] on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants [the Roman army in Israel] worship the first beast, whose wound had been healed [Vespasian].”
The reason the behemoth exercises the authority of the leviathan on its behalf in v. 12 is not merely because the Roman army, the behemoth, exercises the will of Rome, the seven-headed leviathan, in Israel. It is also because right before the assault on Jerusalem, Vespasian, the general of the Roman forces in Israel, became the emperor of Rome and his son and second command, Titus, was also given the title Caesar at the same time.78 While Vespasian claimed the emperor’s throne, Titus was given full control of the Roman army and its final assault on Jerusalem. With both generals having received the title Caesar, the two horns of the beast of the earth, Titus and Vespasian, have now also become the next two heads of the seven-headed leviathan. As a result of this merging together of the beast out of the earth and the seven-headed leviathan, there is a subsequent molding together of the attributes of both beasts. It is for this reason that the behemoth now has the power to breathe firebrands or flaming torches in the following verse, a defining characteristic of the seven-headed leviathan according to Job 41:19.79
13And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:13: The “Fire From Heaven” in v. 13 is likely firebrands hurled into Jerusalem during the Roman Siege of A.D. 70
The fire from heaven mentioned in this verse is the same fire said to come from the mouths of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:5 and the mouths of the locusts in Revelation 9:17. This fire is the firebrands said to come out of the mouth of the behemoth. According to Josephus, during the siege of Jotapata, Josephus states that firebrands were launched into the city in The Wars of the Jews 3.7.9:
At the same time such engines as were intended for that purpose threw at once lances upon them with a great noise, and stones of the weight of a talent were thrown by the engines that were prepared for that purpose, together with fire, and a vast multitude of arrows, which made the wall so dangerous, that the Jews durst not only come upon it, but durst not come to those parts within the walls which were reached by the engines [emphasis mine].
It stands to reason that firebrands would also have been hurled into the city of Jerusalem later in the war. These firebrands are quite literally “fire from heaven.”
One might object to the above interpretation as sounding like pure conjecture. However, this interpretation is not mere speculation. Gary DeMar notes that in the Bible arrows and lightning bolts (fire from heaven) are occasionally used interchangeably.80 In other words, lightning (fire from heaven) is often said to be the arrows of God as is the case in Psalm 18:14; 77:17; 144:6; Habakkuk 3:11; and Zechariah 9:14.81 In these verses one can see how arrows or flaming arrows are symbolically and poetically linked to lightning or fire from heaven in the Bible.
Recall as stated above that the seven-headed sea monster representing Rome in Revelation is the Leviathan, a seven-headed sea monster of ancient Canaanite lore. When describing the Leviathan, a symbol of oppressive foreign empires, Job says, “Out of his mouth goes forth burning torches; sparks of fire leap forth (Job 41:19).” These flaming torches or firebrands are flaming arrows or burning debris launched into a city during siege warfare. These burning torches coming from the mouth of the Leviathan mirrors the fire coming out of the mouths of the locust army in Revelation 9:17 which is also signified in Revelation 13:13 as fire from heaven. In fact it was a burning torch from the mouth of the beast, Caesar Titus, that ultimately caused the destruction and burning of the Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70:
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 clamor, such as so mighty an affliction required, and ran together to prevent it; and now they spared not their lives any longer, nor suffered any thing to restrain their force, since that holy house was perishing, for whose sake it was that they kept such a guard about it.82
Though Titus, the mouth of the beast, is said to object to the burning of the Temple in Wars of the Jews.83 This reluctance is likely a fabrication so as to portray the future emperor–and close personal friend of Josephus, the author–in as favorable a light as possible to the people of the empire as Titus was Vespasian’s chosen successor. As stated above, Sulpicius Severus offers a much more plausible account when he says that Titus wished to destroy the Temple in Chronica 2:30.7: “But others, on the contrary, disagreed–including Titus himself. They argued that the destruction of the Temple was a number one priority . . . .” It is likely that Severus is correct and that Titus, the mouth of the beast, actually ordered the Temple to be burned as a means to destroy his enemies with minimal casualties to his own soldiers. Thus if Severus is correct the burning of the Temple by firebrands could be said in a symbolic sense to have come from the mouth of the beast as Titus, the mouth of the beast, likely ordered the burning of the Temple by a burning torch in fulfillment of Job’s description of Leviathan in Job 41:19: “Out of his mouth goes forth burning torches; sparks of fire leap forth [emphasis mine].”
A Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:13: The “Fire From Heaven” in v. 13 is also a Symbol of Rome Itself. The Symbol of Rome was the Aquila which Held Zeus’ Lighting Bolt in its Claws. The Aquila was Present in the Abomination that Causes Desolation.
The lightning or fire from heaven mentioned in v. 13 is also a symbol of Rome itself. The symbol of imperial Rome was the Aquila in the same way that the bald eagle represents the United States. In Greek and Roman mythology Aquila was the eagle messenger of Zeus that carried Zeus’ lightning bolt from heaven to earth. During the war between the gods and the Titans, Aquila carried Zeus’ lightning bolts down to the enemy of the gods, the Titans.84
The main ensign that the Roman army carried wherever they went was a metallic image or idol of this messenger of Zeus and symbol of Rome. Not surprisingly, this ensign was called the Aquila. Thus the fire from heaven mentioned in v. 13 was also depicted in the Aquila, the chief ensign that the Roman legions brought inside the Temple in A.D. 70. This metal idol of Rome was generally crafted holding Zeus’ lightning bolt—fire from heaven–in its claws. Therefore the presence of the Aquila erected on the floor of the burning Temple with Zeus’ lightning bolt in its claws is also a symbol of fire having come down “from heaven to earth in full view of men.” Given the fact that the symbol of the Roman Empire was the Aquila, the mythological being that carried Zeus’ lightning bolt down to the earth, it does not appear to be a stretch to suggest that Rome itself is the fire from heaven mentioned in this verse. In other words, the presence of the Roman army in Israel and its Temple was also the fire from heaven mentioned in v. 13.
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:13: This “Fire from Heaven” is also a symbol of the 12th Legion Whose Emblem is a Lightning Bolt and Whose Presence in Israel, the Earth, Under Titus’ Leadership Aided in the burning of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Interestingly there is another way in which the Roman army was explicitly symbolized by fire from heaven. Josephus says the following in The Wars of the Jews: “But when Titus perceived that his endeavors to spare a foreign temple turned to the damage of his soldiers and made them be killed, he gave orders to set the gates [of the Temple] on fire.”85 With the aid of the twelfth legion, Legio XII Fulminata, the Romans set the Temple ablaze. With the Temple on fire, the Romans were soon able secure the Temple after having exterminated the Jewish resistance seeking refuge within its walls. Though first century Rome itself is symbolized by the main ensign called the Aquila mentioned above, each Roman legion also had an emblem or mascot with which they were represented. It is interesting to note that the emblem of the twelfth legion was a lightning bolt—fire from heaven. Here one can see how “fire from heaven,” representing the twelfth legion, was responsible for the burning of the Jewish temple. This miraculous victory inspired in the Roman army such a reverence for Titus, their leader, that while the holy Temple burned, the Roman army offered sacrifices to the ensigns on the eastern gate of the temple “and there did they make Titus imperator.”86
A Realized Eschatology Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:13: By “Causing Fire to come down from Heaven to Earth,” Titus Becomes a Type of Elijah.
As general of the Roman legions in Israel, Titus’ ability to draw the Roman legions including the 12th Legion, “the fire from heaven,” to the earth, Israel, to aid in the siege of Jerusalem links Titus, the beast out of the earth, with the prophet Elijah which is why Titus is called the false prophet in Revelation 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10. In this way Titus is linked to Emperor Vespasian in the same way that John the Baptist is linked to Christ in the gospels. In Mark 9:13, John the Baptist is identified as the Elijah who is to come. Jesus sees John as a man who possesses the power and spirit of Elijah–the prophet who in 1 Kings 18:24-39 and 2 Kings 1:12 called fire down from heaven. John acted by the power and spirit of Elijah to direct people to worship Jesus, the king of the Jews. In a similar way, Titus by the power and spirit of the Anti-Elijah compelled those in Judea to worship Caesar Vespasian, the emperor of Rome and thus also the king of the Jews.
Revelation 13:13 Preterist Commentary: By “Causing Fire to come down from Heaven to Earth,” Titus also Becomes an Embodiment or Representative of Zeus, the Thunder God, and His Image on the Aquila.
As explained in How the Greek (2nd Century B.C.) and Roman Armies (1st Century A.D.) with Their Idols of Zeus Literally fulfill All Bible Prophecies Concerning the Abomination that Causes Desolation, the main ensign, the Aquila, was a symbol of Rome and an idol of Zeus typically portrayed as the eagle messenger of Zeus holding Zeus’ lightning bolt in its claws. When Titus called down fire from heaven, he also became an embodiment or representative of Zeus, the thunder god, and of Rome whom the Aquila represents.
14Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of the End Times and Revelation 13:14: The Image of the Beast was Found on the Ensigns.
Because of the signs the false prophet performed on behalf of the beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth to worship the image of the beast. The sign in v. 14 is the fire from heaven mentioned in v. 13 which burned the city of Jerusalem and its temple. While the temple burned, the Roman soldiers erected the ensigns on the eastern gate of the temple and offered sacrifices to them.87
Preterist Bible Commentary on Revelation 13:14: The Image of the Beast is the Imago. The Imago of Vespasian, the Beast who’s Wound had been healed, was worshipped by the Romans in the Temple in A.D. 70.
The “image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived” is the Roman ensign called the Imago. As stated above, the Roman ensigns were military standards. These metal flags symbolized both Rome and its leader and thus contained the Roman eagle as well as a three-dimensional image of the reigning emperor.88 As previously indicated, when Nero committed suicide by stabbing himself with a knife, Rome fell into a civil war that temporarily collapsed the empire. It was not until Vespasian’s ascension when Vespasian, Titus and Domitian were simultaneously crowned Caesar that order was restored. Therefore, the Roman Empire under the rule of the Flavian trinity; Vespasian, Titus and Domitian; are the beast whose wound had been healed.
A three-dimensional metallic image of Vespasian, the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived, was fixed to the ensign called the Imago while the ensign called the Aquila represented Rome, the seven-headed beast of Revelation. These ensigns served as idols or objects of worship to the Roman military. In The Wars of the Jews, the Romans are said to have acted out their worship of Emperor Vespasian by offering sacrifices to his image, the Imago, in the Holy Temple in A.D. 70.89 As will be explained below, there was also likely an image or ensign of Caesar Titus that was also worshipped at this time. Not surprisingly, most Jews did not make a similar acclamation and thus were killed or exiled.90
Revelation 13:14 Commentary: Both Titus and Vespasian were worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Revelation 13:14 says that the beast out of the beast ordered his people “to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” As stated above, this v. was fulfilled when the Romans set up the Imago on the eastern gate of the Temple on the 9th of Av of A.D. 70. At this time there was also likely an image or ensign of Caesar Titus that was also worshipped at this time. While the Roman army offered sacrifices to the ensigns, Caesar Titus was declared imperator, a term loosely translated as emperor. And according to Suetonius, many of his soldiers wanted to make him emperor.91 If his soldiers did truly declare Titus emperor, Titus would have received all the divine worship and accolades normally directed toward the emperor. Thus Titus would have been worshipped during this celebration as was customary in the imperial cult in fulfillment of 2 Thessalonians 2:4: “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” All emperors received an Imago. Thus it is likely that during this occasion in which the Romans worshipped the ensigns in the Temple that a makeshift Imago of Titus was made of wood or straw or whatever else was readily available. This image would have then been placed beside or in place of the Imago of Vespasian assuming of course that a metal Imago of Titus did not already exist. Keep in mind that Titus was declared Caesar at Vespasian’s coronation thus it seems likely that an Imago of Titus already existed alongside the image of Vespasian at the eastern gate. Not surprisingly, most Jews did not make a similar acclamation and thus were killed or exiled.92 This fact is foretold in the following verse:
15He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 13:15: The Mouth of the Beast is Titus, the False Prophet of Revelation 19:20.
In Revelation 13:5 the beast is “given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies[.]” As explained in v. 5, the “mouth” of the beast is Titus. In v. 15 the mouth of the beast, Titus, is said to speak on the Beast Vespasian’s behalf: “He [Titus, the mouth of the beast,] was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak . . .” As stated above, Titus was the “mouth” of the beast in the same way that Aaron was the mouth of Moses according to Exodus 4:16: “[H]e [Aaron] will be as a mouth for you [Moses] and you will be as God to him.” When Aaron acts as a mouth to Moses he acts as though he is a prophet to a god. This is partially why Titus is also called the false prophet to the beast in Revelation 19:20. See Revelation 19: A Preterist Commentary.
A Covenant Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13:15: Colossians 1:15 and John 14:9 imply that the Image of the Beast was also a Man.
Above I explained how the image of the beast was the ensign called the Imago. This is true. However, the image of the beast is more than just the Imago. The image of the beast is also a man. How could a man be the image of a deity? In the same way that man is the image of God in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image[.]’” Revelation 13:15 says that people worshipped the image of the beast. Therefore the image of the beast must be a god. Throughout the book of Revelation the beast, Rome, is embodied by the Caesars. Thus the Caesars are also called the beast throughout the Apocalypse as they are the image or human representative of Rome. Both Rome and its Caesars were regularly worshipped in the Imperial Cult. The image of the beast mentioned in v. 15 is also one of these Caesars who as will be explained in greater detail below was worshipped in the Temple in A.D. 70 as a god in fulfillment of v. 15. This man is the firstborn son of the emperor, Caesar Titus.
Not only is Titus the mouth of the beast as explained above, he is the image of the beast as well. As stated above, the image of the beast is no ordinary man. He was a man who was worshipped as a god. The fact that this man was worshipped as a god serves an important literary purpose. It is meant to link this man with Christ. In other words, the image of the beast is a kind of antichrist.
Citing 1 John 2:18-22, many Christians just see Antichrist as a term used to refer to apostate Christians who left the church or deny that Jesus is the Christ. If Antichrist just refers to apostate Christians, where in Scripture is there expected to come a great individual Christian apostate at the end of the age as specified in 1 John 2:18? The figure mentioned in 1 John 2:18 must refer to the beast, the lawless one, the little horn or the false prophet because there are no other singular, future maniacal figures expected to come at the end of the age. Even though Antichrist is never used in the Bible to specifically to denote these figures I believe that because there are no other possible candidates for the man mentioned in 1 John 2:18 this term must denote these figures. Antichrist simply means anyone who is against Christ. As touched on a little bit above and will continue to be addressed throughout the remainder of this preterist commentary, the beast, false prophet and the lawless one all fit this description of someone who is against Christ. Not only are these figures against Christ and thus appropriately labeled as Antichrist, there are many ways in which the beast, the lawless one, the little horn and the false prophet are like dark counterparts of Christ which makes the term Antichrist uniquely suitable to these figures. The title Antichirst seems especially applicable to Caesar Vespasian who as stated above believed himself to be and was commonly believed by the Roman mob to be the Messiah predicted by the Jewish prophets.
Colossians 1:15 reads, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Similarly in John 14:9 Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” According to Colossians 1:15 and John 14:9 Jesus, the Son of God, is the image of the Father. The same holds true for Caesar Titus. When Vespasian was given the title Caesar, his two sons, Titus and Domitian, also received this title at the same time. And like Jesus who is the firstborn Son of God according to Colossians 1:15, Titus was literally the firstborn son of his father, the Emperor Vespasian. Thus in the same way that Jesus, the firstborn Son of God, is the image of His Father, Caesar Titus, the firstborn son of Caesar was also the image of his father, the Emperor Vespasian–the beast. The fact that Caesar Titus was the image of the beast, the emperor Vespasian, is also suggested by an interesting historical peculiarity: Titus and his father, the emperor, shared the same cognomen, Titus Flavius Vespasianus.93 The fact that Titus is also the image of the beast explains how the metallic images of Caesar and Rome on the Imago were given the breath of life in v. 15.
Revelation 13:15 Commentary: The Resurrection in the midst of the Abomination that Causes Desolation . . .
This expression giving breath calls to mind Genesis 2:7 where God “breathed life” into man in order to make him a living being. In this verse, the same meaning is intended. The fact that the beast is given life implies that the fatal wound mentioned in v. 3 had resulted in the death of the beast.94 The resurrection of the beast is also described in v. 3 as a wound that had been healed. After Nero’s death, Rome was thrust into a civil war that temporarily collapsed the empire. Therefore, the beast is allegorically said to be dead with Nero. Rome began to show signs of life at Vespasian’s coronation but did not fully regain its strength until the fall of Jerusalem. This event brought peace and security back to Rome and galvanized Vespasian’s right to rule in the eyes of the Roman people. After this victory, the beast–once again ruled by a clear, undisputed king–is metaphorically given the breath of life.
The fact that the beast is said to have risen from the dead stronger than ever with the destruction of Jerusalem is also symbolized in the midst of the abomination that causes desolation. Remember that the beast whose wound had been healed is the three Caesars of the Flavian Dynasty who were all awarded the title Caesar together. Thus it is likely that Caesar Titus and Caesar Domitian also had Imagos that were worshipped beside that of their father in the Jewish Temple. Furthermore, at that time Titus shared the same name as his father, Titus Flavius Vespasianus.95 Therefore as Caesar, Titus who as explained above is the image of the beast, is a living embodiment of the metallic images of himself and his father, Vespasian, on the ensigns. Thus, Titus’ living presence as the corporal image of his father, the emperor, and Rome standing in the temple beside the lifeless metallic images of himself and Vespasian on the ensigns is a metaphorical illustration of a beast that has risen from the dead. In other words, Titus’ divine presence as the human embodiment of the image of the beast beside that of his lifeless image on the ensign idols would appear to a religious devote as an idol of a god that had come to life.
It should also be noted that even in the unlikely event that no Imago of Titus was worshipped beside that of the Imago of Vespasian in the Temple, an idol of Titus would have still been present in the Temple beside the image of Vespasian. The numina legionum was an ensign that after the end of the commonwealth contained the images of the emperors and their favorites (i.e. Titus, the firstborn son of Vespasian and Vespasian’s intended successor). The numina legionum would have certainly contained an image of Titus. The fact that an image of Titus would have almost certainly appeared at least on the numina legionum is illustrated by the fact that throughout Vespasian’s reign coins were often minted depicting images of Vespasian together with busts of Titus and Domitian explicitly or implicitly identifying them as heirs to the throne.96 Vespasian wanted to make his successors clear not only because he loved his two sons but also because he greatly feared assassination, a fate that ultimately befell the three Caesars who immediately preceded him. The numina legionum is depicted below with a hand at the top and the image of the emperor and his favorites below.
Revelation 13:15 Commentary: Like Elijah, Titus after calling Fire Down from Heaven Ordered all Non-Believers to be Killed.
In 1 Kings 18 Elijah calls down fire from heaven and then orders all those who would not worship the god of the Israelites to be killed. Like the prophet Elijah, Titus, the false prophet of Revelation 19:20, also called down fire from heaven before ordering all those who would not worship Caesar, the god of the Romans, to be killed. After desecrating the temple with pagan worship, Caesar Titus declared to his Jewish enemies “that he would henceforth spare nobody.”97 With this order to kill the remaining Jews, Titus becomes a type of Elijah who after calling fire down from heaven ordered all those who would not worship God to be killed (1 Kings 18). As predicted in Revelation 13:15, the Jews refusing to participate in this unholy rite were, in fact, slaughtered. And Jerusalem was left desolate.98
16He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Revelation 13:16 Commentary: The 10th Plague of Exodus . . .
In Revelation 8, Revelation 9 and Revelation 16, John describes the seven bowls and trumpets. These plagues are meant to mimic the plagues of Exodus. In these two verses, John describes the plague of the firstborn. In vs. 16 and 17, the beast out of the earth forces everyone to receive the mark of the beast which is a mark on their hand and forehead, a dark reminder of the tenth plague of Exodus. During the tenth plague of Exodus, the firstborn sons of the Hebrew slaves were saved from death by the ritual sacrifice of the firstborn lamb. According to Exodus 13:15-16, the Hebrew slaves and their descendants were spiritually marked on their hand and forehead as a result of this ritual sacrifice. In Revelation 5:6, Christ acts as the Passover lamb for the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem. Consequently, these followers of God having fled to Pella were also saved from the plagues of Revelation and death. The rest of the Jews in Judea, like the Egyptians in Exodus, were not as lucky.
A similar spiritual mark is mentioned in Ezekiel 9:3-6. In this chapter, an angel is instructed to mark the foreheads of all those Jews still devoted to God. Marked with a sign of loyalty to God the lives of these Israelites were then saved from the coming Babylonian invasion. The mark of the beast is also a spiritual mark like the mark of Ezekiel 9:3-6. This spiritual mark was placed on the Jews who were guilty of the sin of 1 Timothy 6:10. This sin was the root of all Israel’s evil and as will be explained at the end of this commentary is the ultimate reason why Jesus, the saints and all other potential Jewish Messiahs were murdered and thus why Israel was punished at the end of the age according to Revelation 6:9-11 and 17. This sin has a very obvious tangible symbol. Thus this mark is both a spiritual and physical mark.
The mark of God was also a physical mark as it was in Exodus 28:36-37. Furthermore, sometime after the Jews returned from exile in Babylon possibly as early as the fourth century B.C. Jewish rabbis began to take Exodus 13:16 literally: “So it shall serve as a sign on your hand and as phylacteries on your forehead, for with a powerful hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”99 Consequently rabbis tied phylacteries which were and are leather pouches containing portions of Scripture around their left arm and forehead as a physical sign of Exodus 13:15-16. These phylacteries are mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 23:5: “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long.” This physical sign on the forehead and arm was used by first century rabbis to exhibit their devotion to the Law. However, the continued practice of the Law after its fulfillment became an idolatrous practice: “But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man; he who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine’s blood; he who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol. As they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations (Isaiah 66:3)[.]” As implied in Isaiah 66:3 those who continued to practice the Law after its fulfillment in A.D. 70 were guilty of all sorts of abominable sins including idolatry. In light of Isaiah 66:3 one can see how this physical sign of devotion to the Law morphed into an evil mark on the hand and forehead after A.D. 70. These physical marks on the hand and forehead worn by those Jews passionately devoted to the Law after its fulfillment also served as physical signs of one’s equally passionate devotion to the beast. This fact will be explained in detail shortly in light of another physical mark that these Jews carried with them on their hands that permitted them to buy and sell.
Before explaining these points in detail let me first emphasize the fact that following the Biblical precedents set in Exodus 13:15-16, Ezekiel 9:3-6, and Matthew 23:5, the mark of the beast mentioned in vs. 16 and 17 was both a physical and spiritual mark. The fact that the mark of the beast is also a physical mark is made even clearer in v. 17 which says that no one can buy or sell without the mark of the beast. What was this mark? And how was it related to the phylacteries worn by those first century Jews who clung idolatrously to the Law while it was passing and ultimately fulfilled in A.D. 70?
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:16-17: The Mark of the Beast is the Charagma. The Presence of the Charagma on Deeds of Purchase and Roman Money made it Impossible to buy or sell without this Mark of the Beast.
The mark of the beast is the charagma. Charagma is the Greek word for mark.100 The charagma is a brand, etching, engraving, stamp or seal used to notarize official documents or documents of purchase, brand slaves as a mark of ownership, mark soldiers with the name of their general, and tattoo religious devotees of a particular god. It was also the name given to the image of the emperor stamped on currency. Thus each Roman coin was literally “marked” with the face and name of Caesar. The presence of the charagma or mark of Caesar on Roman coins and deeds of purchase made it impossible to buy or sell without it. Thus one could accurately say that Roman coins and deeds of purchase were a physical aspect of the mark of the beast since they were literally marked with the name and image of Caesar, the beast.
As implied above, the term mark of the beast hints at two complimentary messages. It is a term that points to a spiritual mark of devotion like the mark on the hand and forehead in Exodus 13:15-16 and Ezekiel 9:3-6 in addition to being a descriptive term for Roman coins and deeds of purchase which were said to be quite literally marked with the image of Caesar and Rome, the beast. The charagma or mark of the beast is the tangible manifestation of a spiritual mark of devotion to Caesar and is therefore the dark counterpart of the seal given to those devoted to God in Revelation 7:3; 14:1; Exodus 13; and Ezekiel 9:3-6. In other words, just as those loyal to Caesar are spiritually marked on their foreheads with “the name of the beast” according to Revelation 13:16, the saints are also marked with the name of God the Father and the Lamb on their foreheads in Revelation 14:1: “Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads [emphasis mine].” Thus in light of Revelation 14:1, it is clear that the mark on the forehead is a spiritual mark denoting the name of the true king to whom one is devoted.101 If a person is a devoted servant of Christ, this person is spiritually marked with the name of the Father and the Lamb on their forehead (Revelation 14:1). If a person is only devoted to Caesar, the beast, (in this case because of greed) then this person is marked with “the name of the beast or the number of its name” as stated in Revelation 13:16-17. During Jesus’ crucifixion, the wealthy elites chanted, “We have no king but Caesar” in John 19:15. Those who sought to have Jesus killed saying that they have no king but Caesar, of course, have the mark of the beast. These wealthy Jewish elites who sought to have Jesus killed while vociferously allying themselves with Caesar did so because of greed. The clear and inextricable Biblical and historical link between Roman money, the plot to kill Jesus and passionate devotion to Caesar over and above God will be thoroughly explained shortly, but before addressing this link it is necessary to highlight the idolatrous nature of Roman coins from the perspective of a first century Jew.
A Preterist Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:16-17: Roman Coins, the Mark of the Beast, had the Name and Image of Caesar, the Beast, Printed on Them in Fulfillment of v. 17: “No One Could Buy or Sell unless He had the Mark, which is the Name of the Beast . . .”
The Law of Moses prohibited graven images (Exodus 20:4-6). Therefore, coins marked with the deified image of the emperor were prohibited. Thus Roman money which was marked with the deified or implicitly divine image of the emperor was considered sinful to touch in first century Israel.102 Prior to the Jewish revolt in A.D. 66, the kings of the Jewish territories of Palestine and the Roman procurators who governed Judaea abided by Jewish Law and minted coins without graven images on them.103 Except for some coins minted during the reign of Pontus Pilate which contained pagan religious symbols, the currency in Judaea prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was not offensive to Jews though many of these coins were marked with Caesar’s name as implied in Revelation 13:16: “[N]o one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast[.]” [Emphasis mine.] The coins below are a few coins minted in Judaea prior to the fall of Jerusalem which gives the reader a general idea of the appearance of these coins and the fact that they lacked graven images of the emperor, the beast:
That having been said there were some notable exceptions to the lack of graven images on money in the Jewish territories of Palestine prior to the fall of Jerusalem. Though first-century Israelites minted and circulated money without graven images of the emperor, traces of Roman money did, of course, still find their way into first-century Judaea probably from surrounding provinces just as U.S. and Canadian coins occasionally intermingle. In Mark 12:13-17 the Pharisees and Herodians tried to trap Jesus by asking if it was okay to pay taxes to Caesar during which they produced a coin with Cesar’s image on it. Recent archaeological discoveries confirm the fact that Roman money with the image of Caesar on it was present and circulated in first century Jerusalem.104 Furthermore, unlike the Roman procurators who were sympathetic to Jewish custom, Herod Agrippa I, who was king of Judaea from A.D. 41-44 issued many coins during his brief reign with the graven image of himself or Caesar, the beast, on them:
Then during the Jewish War, Israelites continued to mint their own coins without graven images of Caesar. The two coins below were in circulation during the Jewish War with Rome.
After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 everything changed. Entirely unsympathetic to the Jewish religion and culture, Caesar Vespasian as well as his two sons and successors, Caesar Titus and Domitian, minted coins with their graven image similar to all the money circulating throughout the rest of the Roman Empire outside of Israel prior to A.D. 70. This money depicting the graven images of Caesar Vespasian, Titus and Domitian became the official currency throughout the Roman Empire and Judaea and the Jewish regions of Palestine were no longer exempt. After the fall of Jerusalem all Jews—even those in the Jewish territories of Palestine–were now forced to use Roman money with the name and graven image of Caesar on them.105 This change in policy was not surprising in light of the fact that Titus had destroyed the Temple and according to Sulpicius Severus tried to put an end to the religion of the Jews and Christians.106 This universal change in currency literally fulfills Revelation 13:16-17 wherein the beast “forced” everyone to receive the mark of the beast so that no one—not even the Jews of Palestine–could buy or sell without it: “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.”
After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 all Jews who remained in Judaea, Jerusalem and the rest of Israel in addition to those who were exiled throughout Rome were forced to use Roman money marked with the image of the beast. Thus after the fall of Jerusalem it would have been impossible to buy or sell anywhere in the Roman Empire without the mark of the beast. Not only did these Roman coins contain the name and graven image of Caesar imprinted on them, a violation of the Law of Moses, many of these coins were even circulated to commemorate the Jewish defeat during the war with Rome. Below is an example of one such coin minted during Vespasian’s reign. On the front of the coin is the name and image of the emperor. On the opposite side are two Jewish slaves with an inscription signifying the defeat of Israel.107
Revelation 13:16-17 Preterist Commentary: The Mark of the Beast is Similar to Circumcision in that it is Both Physical and Spiritual. And Just as the One Who is Circumcised and is a Law Breaker Becomes as One who is Uncircumcised (Romans 2:25-29; 4:9-11), the One Who Merely Handles the Mark of the Beast is Not Wicked Unless He or She has the Mark of the Beast Inwardly.
Though all those living in the Roman Empire were forced to use the physical aspect of the mark of the beast, i.e. Roman currency with the graven images of Caesar imprinted on them, after A.D. 70, it is important to note that the mark of the beast–though certainly physical–was also and truly a spiritual mark (Revelation 14:9-11). This invisible spiritual mark is likened to pagans branded or tattooed with the charagma or mark of their god as a sign of religious devotion similar to the way in which Jews were branded with the mark of Dionysus in 3 Maccabees 2:29.
If Caesar Vespasian forced everyone throughout the Roman Empire to buy and sell with the mark of the beast, does this mean that everyone in the empire was damned after A.D. 70? If King David had an empire the size of Rome and forced everyone including all the Gentiles in his kingdom to be circumcised, would everyone in his empire be saved? Of course not! A second-century Christian document directly addresses this question, “But thou wilt say; In truth the people hath been circumcised for a seal. Nay, but so likewise is every Syrian and Arabian and all the priests of the idols. Do all those then too belong to their [the Jews’] covenant? Moreover the Egyptians also are included among the circumcised (Epistle of Barnabas 9:5).” Merely handling the mark of the beast (Roman money) is not a sin or what would constitute “having the mark of the beast” in a true spiritual sense. Jesus handled Roman money with the image of Caesar on it (Mark 12:13-17). As stated above, the mark of the beast is both a physical and spiritual mark. Thus the mark of the beast is just like circumcision in the sense that there is both a physical and spiritual component. According to Romans 2:25-29 if a circumcised man breaks the Law he becomes as though he were uncircumcised. And if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the requirements of the law he is said to become like one who is circumcised. This is because according to Romans 2:28-29 someone is not a Jew because they are one outwardly, rather one is a Jew who is one inwardly. Thus all that matters is whether someone is circumcised spiritually:
Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God (Romans 2:25-29).
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them (Romans 4:9-11).
Just like circumcision is said to be a sign and seal of righteousness in Romans 4:11, the mark of the beast is also a sign and seal but instead of being a sign and seal of righteousness, it is a sign and seal of wickedness. And similar to circumcision if a person is not truly wicked spiritually the outward sign of the mark of the beast also means nothing. Thus the sin of the mark of the beast goes well beyond prohibitions to graven images in the Law of Moses. As will be explained in detail below, the mark of the beast found on Roman money and its relationship to phylacteries worn by the wealthy Jewish elite are physical signs and symbols of Israel’s ultimate sin (Revelation 14:9-11, 1 Timothy 6:10).
18This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.
Preterism Explained and Interpreted, A Commentary of Revelation 13:18: The 666 Gematria
Here the reader is introduced to the popular 666 cryptogram or Gematria. Like the rest of Revelation in which the events of the first century are encrypted in symbolism, John stays consistent with this theme by wrapping up the identity of the beast out of the sea in a riddle. In many ancient languages the characters of the alphabet served as both letters and numbers. Latin, Greek and Hebrew are a few examples. Because of the dual meaning letters have in these languages, cryptograms or gematria were common in the ancient world. A gematria or cryptogram is a logic puzzle whose answer involves figuring out a word in which the numerical values of each letter add up to the number provided in the riddle. Revelation 13:18 is a classic example. Though there are many others uncovered in antiquity dating to the general time and place of Revelation’s composition.108 Who or what was intended by the number of the beast?
Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 13:18: Nero Caesar the Beast and the 666 Gematria
The transliteration of therion, the Greek word for beast, into Hebrew characters is trywn. The sum total of the numerical values of each of the Hebrew letters of the word trywn adds up to 666.109 Could this be a clue to identifying the beast? Though the Book of Revelation was originally written in Greek, perhaps, as is the case with trywn, the secret to the identity of the beast lies in using Hebrew characters? Verse 18 indicates that it is the number of a man. As stated earlier, Revelation 13 follows the precedence set in Ezekiel 32 in which Pharaoh is pictured as a fearsome sea monster. Similarly in the Apocalypse, the Roman hydra or Hebrew leviathan is represented by the name of its leader. The total numerical value of each letter of the Hebrew spelling of Nero Caesar adds up to 666.110 Here John gives the beast a name, the name of the then current emperor of Rome.111
Though not the most popular spelling of the name Nero Caesar, John uses a less common spelling of Nero Caesar found in the Talmud and other Rabbinical writings.112 Further confirmation of the identity of the beast is found in a rare textual variant. Irenaeus mentions an alternate reading of this verse found in some ancient copies of Revelation in which the number of the beast is said to be 616.113 While the Greek form of Nero Caesar transliterated into Hebrew letters adds up to 666, the Latin form of Nero Caesar transliterated into Hebrew totals 616.114 It is interesting to note that “the genitive noun of [‘]beast[’] (which can carry the meaning of belonging to the beast) when translated into Hebrew (tryw) [also] equals 616.”115
What’s more Apollonius of Tyana, a first century Roman seer, is recorded to have said:
In my travels, which have been wider than ever man yet accomplished, I have seen many, many wild beasts of Arabia and India; but this beast, that is commonly called a Tyrant, I know not how many heads it has, nor if it be crooked of claw, and armed with horrible fangs. . . . And of wild beasts you cannot say that they were ever known to eat their own mother, but Nero has gorged himself on this diet.116
John and Apollonius were not the only Romans to call Nero a beast. The Sibylline Oracles, dating to the second century A.D., labels Nero a “great beast” and Lactantius echoes these sentiments calling him a “noxious wild beast.”117 These epithets were no coincidence. Nero’s evil was legendary.
Revelation 13:18 Commentary: Nero is the Beast
Believed to have had a part in killing his adopted father Claudius, Nero later went on to murder Claudius’ son Britannicus in order to secure his claim to the throne. After his first taste of blood, little restrained Nero’s murderous appetite. The young emperor killed almost everyone close to him including his mother, his aunt and his pregnant wife Poppaea after she had complained about him coming home late from the races. When Claudius’s daughter Antonia refused to take her place, she was executed along with virtually every other member of his family including relatives by marriage.118
Nero’s depravity also extended to the sexually perverse. Nero married a young boy named Sporus, dressed him in the fine clothes of an empress and paraded him through the streets of Rome.119 He also married his freedman Doryphorus, and on the wedding night, loudly imitated the moans of a virgin being deflowered.120 He was even reported to have invented a game in which he would dress in animal skins and attack the private parts of men and women whom he had bound to stakes.121
Because of his unnatural lust for blood, Nero also enjoyed watching a certain Egyptian ogre rip apart living men and eat their raw flesh.122 Unheard of for one crowned king of an empire, Nero was known to wander the streets and taverns at night sometimes attacking men on their way home. If they offered resistance, they were killed and their bodies dropped down the sewer. He would also sometimes break into shops and sell the stolen goods at the palace.123 Nero’s hatred for all things good and holy even led him into a murderous rampage against the church. During part of his reign, Christians were burned on crosses and fed to wild animals. Nero gripped his empire so tightly with fear that after his alleged death many feared he might return to reclaim the throne. And in a way he did, at the ascension of Vespasian–the beast whose wound had been healed.
Preterist Eschatology and Commentary of Revelation 13:18: Vespasian and Titus are also Represented by the 666 Gematria.
In the same way that the numerical sum of the Hebrew characters in the transliteration of Nero Caesar totals 666, the numerical values of each letter of the transliteration of Titus Flavius Vespasianus Augustus into Hebrew letters also add up to 666.124 According to the historian Brian Jones, before A.D. 69, both Vespasian and Titus were called Titus Flavius Vespasianus.125 The fact that Titus and Vespasian are also represented by the 666 gematria is not a coincidence. John does not distinguish between Nero and the Flavians.
The fact that Nero, Vespasian and Titus are not distinguished in end time prophecy is explicable in light of the mythology underlying the seven-headed sea monster of Revelation. As stated above according to Greco-Roman mythology when a head of the hydra was severed two new heads would grow back in its place. Thus after the severing of the sixth head of the leviathan or hydra [Nero] in Revelation 13:3 two new heads [Titus Flavius Vespasianus Augustus, Titus and Vespasian] grew back in its place. The numerical total of the names of the original head and the joint name of the two heads that grew out of the neck of the original each add up to 666. I do not believe that this is a coincidence.
Revelation 13:18 Preterist Commentary: Nero, Vespasian and Titus, the Unholy Trinity of the Roman Beast, and the Messianic Connection . . .
The molding together of these Caesars into the same head of the leviathan serves an important literary purpose. Through the healing of the leviathan, the author of Revelation is able to make a connection between these emperors and the Messiah. Just as Christ was resurrected from the dead, so too must his nemesis, the antichrist. Here Nero represents the living beast or antichrist and the Flavians, the resurrected beast or antichrist.
There are many historical similarities between the lives of Nero, Vespasian and Jesus that support the notion that Nero and Vespasian are the antichrist of 1 John 2:18. Like Jesus, both men were worshipped and considered a god by many of their subjects (Revelation 13:4). In this chapter of Revelation, Vespasian was even said to have a prophet in the power and spirit of Elijah, like Jesus with John the Baptist. And like John the Baptist who pointed his followers to Jesus, Titus also directed men to worship his master, Vespasian (Revelation 13:12). Furthermore, during the year between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s triumphal entry into Rome, Vespasian like Jesus is also said to have performed miraculous healings. Vespasian reportedly restored sight to a blind man in addition to having healed a man with a withered hand in the presence of a vast crowd of bystanders.126
Compelling similarities also lie in the events surrounding the death of Nero and the rise of Vespasian. Nero, much like Jesus, willingly forfeited his life. Christ gave up his life as a sin offering; Nero ended his life by suicide.127 Similar to the second coming or resurrection of the Messiah, many Romans, like Jesus’ disciples, believed that Nero, like Jesus, would return to reclaim the throne. This belief persisted for many years after Nero’s death. After Jesus died, the kingdom of God128 almost seemed to collapse as His disciples lost faith and feared for their lives, hiding way from the authorities in a rented room. When Nero died very much the same thing occurred, his kingdom thrown into strife and civil war also almost collapsed. Then both kingdoms were restored to order at Christ’s resurrection and Vespasian’s ascension as the risen Nero. The similarities do not end there. Jesus lay entombed for three days, while three Caesars were killed to make way for the resurrection of Nero as Vespasian. Each fallen Caesar representing a day Jesus lay in the tomb. Lastly, an ancient Jewish prophecy foretold of a future king that would arise out of Judea to rule the world. Stationed in Israel during Nero’s death, Vespasian was believed by many to be this kingly Messiah.129
Because of the multifaceted similarities between Nero, Vespasian and Christ, I believe that Nero represents the incarnate antichrist and the Flavians especially Vespasian, the resurrected antichrist. It seems to me that the author of Revelation sees these figures as an unholy and unified antichrist.130
Revelation 13 Commentary: The Imagery of Revelation 13 all Points to Israel’s Ultimate Sin and the Reason She is punished at the End of the Age.
Having laid the ground work above it is now time to explain the deep, underlying message and meaning of Revelation 13 and the Book of Revelation as a whole. There is an important link between the mark of the beast, the image of the beast, and the death of Christ and His people that is critical to fully grasping the imagery of Revelation 13 as well as explaining why those who have the mark of the beast and worship his image were to be punished. This reason is far deeper than literal idolatry. In Revelation 13:14-15, I explained that the image of the beast was the image of Caesar on the ensigns. And this is certainly true. However, what I did not explain then is that the Imago or image of the beast is really a large mark of the beast. When the Romans worshipped the image of the beast on the ensigns in the full view of the Jews in Jerusalem, this act was something like a play performed in the presence of the people of Jerusalem symbolizing the crime for which they were ultimately being punished aptly held in the temple of “their” God. (The reason why their is in quotes will be explained shortly.)How could this be so? In Revelation 13:14-15 John foresees the Romans worshipping the ensigns, the image of the beast, in the Temple. However, the image of the beast is also mentioned immediately thereafter in Revelation 13:16-17. The image of the beast on the ensigns called the Imago is also a symbol of the mark of the beast which as explained above is Roman money. The ensign called the Imago was a medallion containing the three-dimensional image of the emperor at its center. In other words, the Imago looked exactly like large Roman coins which also contained a three-dimensional image of the emperor in a circular shape. Roman money was said to literally be marked with the image of the emperor in the center of each coin. Obviously the image of the beast on the ensigns mentioned in Revelation 13:14-15 is, of course, the same image found on the mark of the beast of Revelation 13:15-16 (Roman money). Also the Imago and Roman coins both framed the image of the beast in the center of a circular metal disc. Thus the only significant difference in appearance between the Imago and Roman coins was the fact that the Imago was much larger and it was held aloft on a pole.
And like the Imago which was a metallic idol of a foreign god, Roman money could also be said to be a metal idol. Idols are, of course, crafted images of gods. Roman money with its defied images of Caesar and Rome by this definition are literally little circular metal idols. As explained above, the image of Caesar on Roman coins was generally depicted with divine attributes whether explicitly indicated in writing or symbolically conveyed with the emperor’s likeness arrayed in the image of various Roman deities. Therefore, because Roman money contained an image of the deified Caesar, these coins are quite literally little idols. The fact that Roman money is essentially a little metal idol of Caesar seems to symbolically points to the fact that greed is idolatry, a fact explicitly stated in Colossians 3:5-6: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming [emphasis mine].” The fact that greed is idolatry is why I believe Israel is accused of idolatry in Revelation 9:20-21. These multi-faceted similarities between Roman money and the Imago are not coincidental. As shall be explained shortly God conveyed an important message to the Jews when the Romans worshipped these coin-shaped images of Caesar in the Jews’ presence in the Temple.
As mentioned above, the mark of the beast is also a spiritual mark placed on the greedy who hoard money. The mark of the beast is also a spiritual mark because as will be explained shortly, the physical mark of the beast, Roman money, perfectly symbolizes Israel’s ultimate spiritual sin for which she is punished in Revelation. This underlying sin and its nearly inseparable relationship to the phylacteries will also be explained soon.
It is well known that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for money: “Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him [Jesus] to you?’” And they weighed out thirty pieces of silver to him (Matthew 26:14-15).” According to Matthew 26:14-15 Jesus was indisputably betrayed and, of course, later killed for money. However, what is less understood is that the Bible also strongly implies that the chief priests who paid Judas to betray Jesus also sought to have Him killed for the same reason.
It is often assumed that Jesus was executed for claiming to be God (Matthew 26:65-66). This is only half true. The plot to have Jesus killed began in Matthew 21:43-46 and at this time this plot had nothing to do with making divine claims. According to Matthew 21:43-46 because of Jesus’ clear public hostility toward them, the Pharisees and the chief priests correctly understood that if Jesus ever became king of Israel their positions of authority, status and their personal fortunes would be in serious jeopardy. When Jesus was charged with blasphemy by the Sanhedrin immediately before His crucifixion, this was only an excuse to legitimize Jesus’ execution. When Jesus was arrested and brought to the Sanhedrin the religious authorities of the Sanhedrin could not agree on charges to bring against Him. If Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin solely out of concern that He had made unjust claims to divinity, the Sanhedrin would not have likely raised conflicting charges and brought false testimony against Him (Matthew 26:59-62). In other words, if blasphemy alone was the charge for which Jesus had been brought to this council, He would have likely been tried on this ground alone without an irrelevant debate in which an assortment of conflicting accusations and charges were raised. Instead, according to Matthew 26:59 the Sanhedrin tried to obtain false testimony against Jesus “so that they might put him to death.” Matthew 26:59 explicitly says that the reason that Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin was so that charges could be found to justify or legitimize His death. In other words, according to Matthew 26:59 the charge for which Jesus would die was not important to them. As will be explained below the reason the charge was not important was because the real motive behind Christ’s execution was largely because of money, specifically money made as a direct consequence of the continued practice of the Law.
The fact that Jesus was killed for money explains how many of the people of Israel had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. According to Revelation 13:16-17 no one could buy or sell without the mark of the beast. As stated above, the physical aspect of the mark of the beast is Roman money. Though Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish says that idol worship ran rampant in first century Israel,131 the fact that these people “had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image” is another way of saying that these people worshipped the almighty Roman dollar. As stated above, the image of Caesar, the beast, appears on Roman money. Therefore, it was through their idolatrous love of money that the Israelite elite worshiped the image of Caesar, the beast, on Roman money.
First-century Jerusalem was a city of great wealth. “In fact the province of Syria, to which the province of Judaea really belonged, ‘was the equal of Egypt, as far as commerce and industry was concerned[.]’”132 Jerusalem’s wealth was a direct consequence of donations to the Temple and the selling of goods and services related to the Temple economy. As instructed in Deuteronomy 14:22-23 and Proverbs 3:9, the Jewish people all over the world were required to donate ten percent of their income. These tithes largely went to the Temple in Jerusalem. Imagine the money that must have circulated through Jerusalem when ten percent of the gross income of untold numbers of Jews throughout the world were being donated to the Temple especially in light of the fact that as is the case with Jewish people today, the Jews of the first century were also disproportionately wealthy. Referring to the wealth stored in the Temple, the first-century Roman historian Tacitus writes, “Their capital is Jerusalem. Here stood their Temple with its boundless riches.”133 Because of this incredible amount of money funneling into Jerusalem through the Temple, first-century Jerusalem may have been the wealthiest city in the Roman world per capita. Before the Romans went on a killing spree in the city, Caesar Titus is recorded to have said the following implying the fact that Jerusalem was the richest city in the Roman Empire per capita: “[W]e [the Romans] have given you leave to gather up that tribute which is paid to God . . . till at length you became richer than we [the Romans] ourselves[.]”134
Those who profited most directly from this economy based on Temple worship, the Pharisees, merchants and the religious and political authorities who were ultimately responsible for killing Jesus and His followers did so largely, if not exclusively, for monetary reasons—greed. “The popularity of commerce among all classes in Jerusalem can be judged by the fact that merchants were held in such respect that even priests and scholars joined their ranks.”135 The fact that the priests of Jerusalem became very wealthy in Jesus’ day is stated in 4Q169 of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Jewish authorities correctly understood that Jesus was an aspiring Messiah. If Jesus became high priest and sovereign king of the Jews, as the Messiah was expected to be, three things seemed to be virtual certainties: 1) According to John 2:19-20 the scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the Law believed that if Jesus became king of the Jews he might have tried to destroy the Temple, the ultimate source of their income. 2) They, the present political and religious authorities, would likely have been expelled from office. Because the chief priests and the Pharisees believed Jesus had Messianic and thus political intentions, the scribes, teachers of the Law and Pharisees believed that they would be expelled from office if Jesus became king of the Jews as stated in Matthew 21:43-46. This point is also strongly implicit in the Parable of the Tenants (Mark 12:7) and it is also implied in Psalm 2:1-3. 3) The Messiah was expected to rule over a sovereign Israel. If Israel made Jesus its sovereign king, this act would have been a declaration of independence from Rome triggering an inevitable war (John 19:12). The civil and religious authorities and mercantile elite owed their wealth and status to Rome. Not only would a war with Rome jeopardize this it would have also invariably caused a tremendous loss of wealth to the Jewish elite through pillaging and destruction of property. Also the Temple, the ultimate source of their income, might be destroyed during the war. This final reason also appears to explain why Israel had a history of killing its potential Messiahs even before Jesus. Thus in light of these three issues, the wealthy elites did not want Jesus to be their king (Luke 19:27).
Therefore, just like all the other potential Messiah’s who were killed before Christ who were likely also all killed for the same or similar reasons in order for the Jewish elite to stay rich Jesus and all other potential Messiahs had to die. Here one can see that it was the worship of money (which not ironically contained the defied image of Caesar, the beast) that ultimately caused Jesus and His followers to be persecuted and killed by the Jewish civil and religious authorities. This is why the Bible says “[T]he love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).” It was greed that was Israel’s ultimate spiritual sin. And it was this greed that motivated these unjust murders. James 2:6, 5:1-6 and Luke 16:19-31 echo this link. After admonishing the church for showing favoritism to rich parishioners, James says the following in James 2:6: “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” Furthermore, after crying “woe” to those who have stored up wealth in the last days in James 5:1-6, James says the following in the next verse: “You [the rich] have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you (James 5:6).” The “innocent one” murdered by the rich was Jesus. James could not be more explicit that it was the rich who were persecuting the church. If the rich were the enemies of the saints because they were the ones actively persecuting Jesus and His people, is it any wonder that the mark of the beast is money?
The fact that the Jewish elite were willing to kill Jesus, their God and king, and His people for money implies that money is their true god. This is how the Jewish elite “had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.” This is also why Jesus says “[I]t is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).” Because of these great sins of greed and idolatry which led to murder, first-century Israel was punished during the Jewish War.
The sinful greed of the Jewish people of that generation was so deep that it ultimately caused them to kill their God and Messiah and His people. And it was for this crime of murder that Israel was ultimately punished at the end of the age (Revelation 17:4-6). Thus it is not a coincidence that Roman money depicted Rome and its emperor in the image of foreign gods. The money itself with the deified images of Caesar and Rome on them were the idols worshipped by these sinful people. These coins illustrate how the sinful Jews of that generation chose Rome and its emperor as foreign gods over their national God and husband, a fact clearly illustrated during their chant at Jesus’ crucifixion, “We have no king but Caesar (John 19:15).”
These coins are also, of course, a tangible sign of the greed that ultimately led to this act. Thus when the Romans worshipped the coin-shaped images of Caesar and Rome in the Temple, this act literally depicted what these unfaithful Jews had been doing for years—worshipping money rather than God while hypocritically practicing and profiting from Temple worship and the Temple economy surrounding it which was the ultimate root of Jerusalem’s entire economy and Jerusalem’s extraordinary wealth. This is why Jesus said the following to the Pharisees: “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness (Luke 11:39).” Echoing Luke 11:39, Jesus also said, “’These people [the Pharisees and teachers of the law] honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (Matthew 15:8).”
This worship of money gained through the incredibly lucrative Temple economy reared its ugly head when the Jewish elite killed a man who performed many incredible and miraculous acts proving that He was from God in order to prevent Him from ascending to David’s throne. Thus the greed of these men ran so deep that they ultimately murdered their God, spiritual husband and king–all in the name of money. Thus when the Romans worshipped the Imago–which looked almost exactly like a large Roman coin—in the Temple, this act signified and symbolized the ultimate sin for which Jerusalem was being punished. Instead of worshipping God, the Jewish elite worshipped money gained through the continued practice of the Temple economy. This sin of greed, the worship of money, was symbolically presented to the Jews before they were killed by the Romans as if in a play orchestrated by God. In this “theatrical performance” the Romans unwittingly acted out the Jews’ greed and idolatry when they worshipped these money-shaped images of Caesar in the Temple of what should have been Israel’s national god, YHWH, in Revelation 13:14-15. In other words, when the Romans worshiped these large money-shaped idols in the Temple this idolatrous worship symbolized the fact that the first century Jewish elite of Jerusalem really worshipped money rather than God in their Temple worship. Thus when the Romans worshipped these money-shaped medallions of the divine Caesar in the Temple of Israel’s national god, this act was a symbol pointing to the ultimate sin for which God punished Jerusalem at the end of the age. This sin as stated above was the worship of money over God Himself which ultimately led first century Jerusalem to kill Jesus, their God, and His people. Thus not only were the Jewish elite of that generation guilty of extreme avarice, this greed ran so deep that it ultimately led them to idolatry and murder by rejecting and killing Jesus Christ, their god, in favor of Rome, Caesar, and money–all foreign gods.
The physical mark of the beast, Roman money, is a symbol of Israel’s ultimate spiritual sin. This is why the greedy hording of Roman money was so bad at that time–it was a physical sign of that sin. Thus the imagery of Revelation 13 and its historical fulfillment in the worship of the image of the beast in the Temple in A.D. 70 was a deeply symbolic divine accusation depicting Israel’s ultimate sin for which she was punished during the Jewish War. In other words, the mark of the beast was a tangible sign of Israel’s ultimate spiritual sin which is explicitly identified in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” It was this love of money, the mark of the beast, that was the ultimate reason that Jesus was killed and Israel suffered at the end of the age.
Thus first-century Jerusalem was punished for her greed in the same way that sixth century Jerusalem was also punished for the same crime according to Micah 3:11-12:
Her [Jerusalem’s] leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.” Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.
In fulfillment of Micah 3:11-12 sixth century Jerusalem was besieged, the Temple destroyed and the people of the city killed and exiled by the Babylonians largely because of greed. History repeated itself. In the middle of the first century, the Romans also besieged Jerusalem, destroyed its Temple and killed and exiled its people for the same sin.
The fact that Jesus was ultimately killed because of greed sheds piercing light on the Bible’s teachings on money. As stated above, Jerusalem’s economy was rooted in the Temple. The Temple complex was exceedingly large and it employed a huge workforce that needed clothing, food and all kinds of goods and services. It was the religious elite and the merchants of Jerusalem that profited off the needs generated from the Temple and its services. Imagine if you were a wealthy merchant living in Jerusalem and a potential Messiah showed up. Would you believe this person was the Messiah if you believed as most Jews did at that time that he was to be the earthly king over a sovereign Israel? You know, of course, this would inevitably result in a war with Rome that win or lose would almost invariably result in the destruction of the city and Temple causing you to lose the entire source of your income, not to mention the fact that your beautiful home would probably be destroyed and much of your property stolen or destroyed by pillagers. Even if this potential Messiah, Jesus, seemed to be able to raise the dead and heal the blind, most of the wealthy people of Jerusalem rationalized these miracles as just clever tricks, magic or demonic sorcery because following Jesus or any other Messiah would almost assuredly leave them broke in the end. Thus the wealthy of Jerusalem had too much to lose by believing that Jesus was who he said he was, the Messiah. Greed was an almost insurmountable hurdle which got in the way of faith in Christ. This is why Jesus said, “[I]t is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).” Because great personal fortune was such a hurdle to faith, this is why Jesus told the wealthy man in Luke 18:18-26 to sell everything, give the profits to the poor and follow him. This is also why Jesus told Zacchaeus to do the same in Luke 19:1-9. Possessing significant wealth would have undoubtedly been the biggest impediment to putting one’s faith in Christ.
In Matthew 2:1-3 when the Magi appear before King Herod with news that the Messiah had been born, King Herod “was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” As stated above, Jerusalem was a very wealthy city at the time. Jerusalem mourned the birth of Messiah because under Roman authority Jerusalem grew immensely wealthy and the political and religious elite and the wealthy merchants did not want a Messiah who would drag them into a war with Rome and cause them to lose everything that they had worked for. Despite how hard the wealthy people of Jerusalem worked to prevent a war with Rome–with the blood of Christ and His people on their hands–their worst fears were realized and those people who had worshipped money, the mark of the beast, lost everything anyway:
And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her [Jerusalem], because no one buys their cargoes anymore—cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives. The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them. The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance, and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’ And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’ Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her (Revelation 18:11-20).
Despite the fact that the rich people of Jerusalem approved of Jesus’ execution in order to preserve their wealth, the mark of the beast, they ultimately lost it all since Israel ultimately fell into war with Rome despite having killed their Messiah to prevent this war from happening. The fact that Jesus was killed to prevent a financially disastrous war with Rome is stated in John 11:47-50. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, the wealthy elite called a meeting of the Sanhedrin to debate how they were going to stop Jesus from being crowned king and high priest of Israel:
‘What are we [the Sanhedrin] accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation [the source of our status and wealth].’ Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish (John 11:47-50).’
The first thing to note concerning John 11:47-50 is that it is the high priest who is said to be ultimately responsible for Jesus’ execution. Coincidence? Who better to oversee the death of Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, than the Jewish high priest?
Though Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied in the above vs. concerning Jesus’ sacrificial death, these words were stated with a much more maniacal intention. In saying that “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish,” Caiaphas pretended to express concern for the great loss of life that would result from an inevitable war with Rome that would immediately follow the crowning of the Messiah as sovereign king of Israel. In the first century, Israel was a province of Rome so if Israel crowned Jesus the sovereign king of Israel as the Messiah was expected to be, this act would serve as a declaration of independence from Rome triggering an inevitable war. In other words, Caiaphas was saying that it would be better to kill Jesus in order to prevent a war with Rome and thus save countless Jewish lives. However, in reality Caiaphas, like all the high priests of that century who preceded him, paid an immense amount of money to be given the title high priest. During the first century the positon of high priest was sold to the highest bidder so the list of high priests of that era were a list of all the richest families in Jerusalem at that time. Thus Caiaphas almost certainly cared only about keeping his position and the wealth that he and his family amassed from the Temple economy. And to do that, Jesus had to be eliminated. This is why Caiaphas said to the other wealthy men of the Sanhedrin “that it is better for you” that Jesus perish. It was better for the other men of the Sanhedrin because they were wealthy men as well and they too stood to lose everything if Israel went to war with Rome since their fortunes were also a direct consequence of the Temple economy. This was the ultimate concern of the council which is why they met to discuss what they should do about Jesus. “If we let him [Jesus] go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation [the source of our status and wealth] (John 11:48).” The Sanhedrin feared that if Jesus continued to perform miracles the people of Israel might end up crowning Him the sovereign king of the Jews as the Messiah was expected to be. And the war with Rome that would inevitably follow any man becoming king of Israel could destroy the Temple, the source of the Sanhedrin’s wealth and social status, and leave them all broke in the end.
The Sanhedrin’s concern about preserving the Temple in John 11:48 was not out of devotion to God since they were willing to kill a man who they themselves had witnessed performing many miracles which pointed strongly to Jesus being sent by God. If they were willing to explain away these miracles as demonic tricks and kill a man who was so obviously sent by God it implies that their motive for preserving the Temple was based on money alone and not out of devotion to God. Thus James 5:1-6 sums up the fate of these wealthy people of Jerusalem who received the mark of the beast and as a result killed their Messiah because of their love of these little metal idols of Caesar:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. . . . You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one [Jesus Christ], who was not opposing you.
The same message is presented in James 2:1-7. According to v. 7, it was the rich who were blaspheming Jesus’ name: “Are they [the rich] not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him [Jesus] to whom you belong?” This same message is also conveyed in Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:13-21. This was one of Jesus’ central teachings throughout His ministry, Jesus warned against accumulating wealth, the mark of the beast, in the last day since “[i]f anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury[.]”(Revelation 14:9-10.) In alignment with the fact that it was the rich who killed Jesus and brought judgment upon themselves at the end of the age it is not surprising that in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus it is, of course, the rich man who is the villain in this story (Luke 16:19-31).
The fact that first century Israel killed its potential Messiahs is not shocking. As stated above, crowning a sovereign king of Israel would trigger a war with Rome, Greece or any other imperial power with which Israel was ever in subjugation. And this inevitable war would invariably threaten to destroy the Temple and the economy built around it which historically made Jerusalem such a wealthy city, a fact which Titus reminds the people of Jerusalem before he ordered his soldiers to kill everyone in Jerusalem.136 Jesus knew that if he claimed to be the Messiah, the wealthy elite would invariably seek to have him killed since he knew that any Messiah would directly threaten their source income, the Temple. Jesus knew that He was at risk of being killed for money. This is and was no secret at the time and is ultimately why Jesus said that you cannot serve both God and money:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight (Luke 16:13-15).
Notice that according to Luke 16:14 the Pharisees who plotted to have Jesus killed “loved money.” The reason that this love of money is detestable in God’s sight according to Luke 16:14 is because it ultimately led these men to kill Jesus and His people and it is why the mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13:17 is so abominable. Notice that Jesus says the love of money is “detestable in God’s sight.” If the love of money is detestable in God’s sight, is it a surprise that this greed or love of money is the spiritual mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13?
The fact that Jesus knew that He was ultimately going to be killed in order to preserve the lucrative Temple economy also explains why He overturned the tables of the money changers and drove out the people who were buying and selling in the Temple:
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching (Mark 11:15-18).
Notice that after Jesus drove everyone out of the Temple who were buying and selling and prevented anyone from carrying merchandise through the Temple, the wealthy religious elite “began looking for a way to kill him (Mark 11:18).” These men began looking for a way to kill Jesus because not only did He as an aspiring Messiah threaten to destroy the Temple as a consequence of a war with Rome but He also displayed hostility to the Temple economy by this outburst. Either way these wealthy men stood to lose a fortune if Jesus were ever crowned king of Israel.
When Jesus accused the merchants of turning the Temple into a den of robbers He expressed His denunciation of the greed of those profiteers who turned this holy site into a way to dishonestly make money. That having been said when Jesus said that those greedy, dishonest merchants had turned the Temple into a den of robbers, Jesus was also making an end time prediction. “Robbers” was the name Josephus gave the Jewish rebels who drove Israel into war with Rome in A.D. 66 and in the process turned the Temple into their fortress or “den.” This phrase has double meaning pointing both to the ultimate sin for which Israel was punished at the end of the age in addition to predicting how this sinful greed would cause the Temple to become overrun with Jewish rebels called the “robbers” during the Jewish War. Thus both before and during the Jewish War, the Temple had truly become “a den of robbers.”
The link between the fact that the rich were responsible for the murder of the saints and consequently punished by the Romans is also implied in the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1QpHab. (The Kittim in these vs. refer to the Romans who are also called Kittim in Daniel 11:30.) These verses mention “the last Priests of Jerusalem who heap up riches and gain by plundering the peoples” (1QpHab 9:4-5).137 These wealthy priests were said to ultimately to be plundered by the remnant because they had previously robbed and killed (cut off) their own people:
Because you [the last priests of Jerusalem] have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you because of the blood of men and the violence done to the land, to the city, and to all its inhabitants. Woe to him who gets evil profit for his house; who perches his nest high to be safe from the hand of evil! You have devised shame to your house: by cutting off many peoples you have forfeited your own soul [emphasis mine]. (1QpHab 2:7-11.)
Those who plundered the rich, the last priests of Jerusalem, in 1QpHab are the Zealots and later the Romans during the revolt against Rome. This is why Josephus calls the Zealots “robbers” as mentioned above.
Revelation 13:16-18 Commentary: How were the Phylacteries worn over the Forehead and Hand Related to Roman Money?
Having shown how the love of money was the root of all first century Israel’s evil (1 Timothy 6:10), let us now take another look at how this greed was related to the mark of the beast. As explained above, Jerusalem’s economy was rooted in the Temple and the practice of the Law. And the Jewish elite who killed Jesus did so because of a love of money. This money was, therefore, made through the continued practice of the Law. In order to ensure that the Law persisted and the money kept coming in, the Jewish elite correctly understood that they had to protect the Temple, the source of their great wealth. Israel was a Roman province so all potential Messiahs had to be killed because crowning a sovereign king of Israel threatened a war with Rome that could result in the destruction of the Temple which would put an end to the Law, the source of Israel’s great wealth. This idea is implied in John 11:48: “If we let him [Jesus] go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” In Matthew 23:38 and 24:2 Jesus appears to have confirmed His murderers’ suspicions that the Temple was soon to be destroyed. Thus the wealthy elite who made their fortunes from the Temple economy were naturally devoted to Caesar and thus were spiritually branded with “the name of the beast” on their forehead (Revelation 13:16-17) out of a financially motivated desire for peace which led them to killed any and all potential Messiahs. Thus the Jewish elite’s devotion to the Law and Caesar, the beast, were all inextricably linked to and rooted in the love of money. Because of this interrelationship between Caesar, the Law and money, I believe that there may be more to the physical aspect of the mark of the beast than just Roman money. There is another element to the equation that was only addressed in passing–the Law.
Revelation 13:16 says that the mark the beast was also present on the forehead. As stated above, the mark of the beast also has a physical aspect. The physical mark of the beast which was present on the hand is, of course, Roman money. Though present on the hand, Roman money was not present on the forehead. What was the physical aspect on the mark of the beast placed on the forehead? As indicated above, the mark of the beast is a spiritual mark signifying devotion to Caesar over God because of greed (Revelation 13:16-17; 14:1). But as stated above, this mark was more than just a spiritual mark, it was also physical and tangible. First century Jews often wore leather pouches on their hand and forehead called phylacteries which contained various Bible verses highlighting devotion to the Law. This practice is mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 23:5: “They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long[.]” The boxes placed over the arm and forehead in modern phylacteries contain four sets of Bible verses (Exodus 13:1-10; 11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 11:13-21). These verses highlight the Mosaic decree to keep the Law on their hands and foreheads. They also refer to the sacrifice of the firstborn which symbolically and prophetically pointed to Jesus’ death, the ultimate sign and manifestation of Israel’s sinful greed for which she was punished at the end of the age. The following verses are all found in modern phylacteries:
The Lord said to Moses, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.” Then Moses said to the people, “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand. . . . On that day tell your son, ‘I do this because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips. For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand. You must keep this ordinance at the appointed time year after year (Exodus 13:1-10).
“After the Lord brings you into the land of the Canaanites and gives it to you, as he promised on oath to you and your ancestors, you are to give over to the Lord the first offspring of every womb. All the firstborn males of your livestock belong to the Lord. Redeem with a lamb every firstborn donkey, but if you do not redeem it, break its neck. Redeem every firstborn among your sons. “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the Lord killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand (Exodus 13:11-16).
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).
So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth (Deuteronomy 11:13-21).
Look again at Exodus 13:15-16: “’This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand (Exodus 13:11-16).” The Jewish elite sacrificed Jesus, Israel’s true firstborn son (Romans 8:29) and sacrificial lamb (Revelation 5:12) as indicated in Exodus 13:15 as a sign of their devotion to the Law (Exodus 13:16) and by trying to preserve the Law, unwittingly fulfilled it.
There is an element of poetic beauty to the mark of God mentioned in Exodus 13 and the mark of the beast. Faithful Jews sacrificed their firstborn out of worship and devotion to God (Exodus 13:15-16). The Jewish elites sacrificed Jesus, the antitypical firstborn Lamb of God, out of worship and devotion to money, physical the mark of the beast placed on the hand. Because the Jewish elites sacrificed Jesus, the firstborn Lamb of God, and allied themselves with the beast all because of an idolatrous devotion to money, these men received a spiritual and physical mark on their hand and forehead just like the Jews who sacrificed the firstborn in Exodus 13. But because these evil men sacrificed the firstborn Lamb of God out of the worship of money these men received the mark of the beast on their hand and forehead rather than the mark of God on their hand and forehead mentioned in Exodus 13:15-16: “This is why I sacrifice to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the Lord brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand.”
Having addressed why Israel historically killed its Messiahs including Jesus one can see how the phylacteries worn by the Jewish elite and the Roman money that they handled were outward, physical signs of an impious devotion to the Law based entirely on greed and devoid of religiosity. Thus it is not hard to see how Roman money and the phylacteries worn by the first century Jews who killed Jesus were directly and inextricably linked. The religious elite who plotted Jesus’ death did so because Jesus, an aspiring Messiah, posed a direct threat to the continued practice of the Law, their source of income. Throughout Jesus’ ministry and the ministries of His disciples laid out in the New Testament it was repeatedly emphasized that the Law was passing and would soon completely be fulfilled (Matthew 5:17; 9:14-17; Romans 3:21-26; 6:14; 7:4; 10:4; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 10:1; Philippians 3:9). Thus Jesus and the disciples taught their early followers to stop practicing the Law a fact that not only saved their lives spiritually but also physically during the Jewish War. The Jewish political and religious authorities and merchants made their money from the continued practice of the Law. Thus these wealthy Jews who killed Christ because their devotion to the Law was rooted in money rather than faith are mentioned in Romans 9:30-33:
What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.
These men whose devotion to the Law was rooted in greed and devoid of faith in God killed Jesus, the stumbling stone mentioned in Romans 9:33, because He presented an obvious threat to the continued practice of the Law, the source of their wealth. The fact that these men defended the Law based on greed rather than faith or faithfulness to God is illustrated by the fact that these men killed Jesus, a man whose many deeds proved that He was sent by God. Keep in mind that it was not all Jews who rejected Jesus, the great number of Israelites who placed their faith in Christ in the first century were almost exclusively the poor people of Israel (Matthew 19:24, Hebrews 10:34, James 2:1-7).
The Jewish elite who plotted to kill Jesus out of greed naturally allied themselves with Caesar and Rome, the beast. These men betrayed the Messiah and allied themselves with Caesar and Rome in order to avoid at all costs a war that could potentially destroy the Temple and leave them penniless.
Just as the Jews of old were marked in Exodus 13:15-16 and Ezekiel 9:3-6 as a symbol of their devotion to God, these Jewish elites were given the mark of the beast because of their devotion to Caesar, a devotion rooted in a desire to preserve the Temple and the continued the practice of the Law so that they could continue to make money. The continued practice of the Law made them money and peace with Rome was necessary toward that end. It was the conjoined devotion to Caesar, the Law and money over and above personal devotion to God and His anointed that imparted the physical and spiritual mark of the beast. Those who continued to practice the Law while it was actively passing and wore phylacteries on their hands and foreheads as a sign of this outward devotion to both the Law and Caesar had both the spiritual and physical mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13:16 because their loyalty to Caesar and the Law was rooted in the love of money rather than in pious devotion to God. Thus those political and religious authorities and merchants of Jerusalem whose devotion to the Law was rooted only in making money were those who had both the spiritual and physical the mark of the beast on their hands and foreheads. This devotion to Rome and the Law was based on greed (their spiritual sin) which was outwardly displayed in the hording of Roman money and the phylacteries worn over their hands and foreheads (their conjoined physical and spiritual mark of the beast). Thus the mark of the beast is a spiritual mark signifying devotion to Caesar and the Law because of greed. This spiritual mark or sin visibly manifested itself on the hands and foreheads of God’s enemies who filled their hands with money and wore the phylacteries over their hands and foreheads while the Law was actively passing.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
Commentary on Revelation 13: Conclusion
In this preterist commentary on Revelation 13, the beast trinity is revealed as the Roman beast, Caesar Nero, Caesar Vespasian and Caesar Titus, who collectively fulfill all prophecies found in Revelation 13 including the fact that the names of all three Caesars are represented by the 666 Gematria and no one could buy or sell without the mark of the beast or charagma which is the names and images of these three Caesars found in Roman money and deeds of purchase.
- The only time this law was transgressed was from A.D. 41-44 during which Herod Agrippa I minted coins with the graven image of himself and the emperor on them.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 10.4.
- The Baal Cycle Fifth Tablet.1.1-4. Lotan is the Ugaritic equivalent of the leviathan.
- Jack Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past: The Archaeological Background of the Hebrew-Christian Religion, vol. I (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 148.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 211.
- Steven J. Friesen, Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 175.
- Cited in Michael Grant, The Twelve Caesars, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996), 95 cited again in Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Beast of Revelation, (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2002), 11.
- Vespasian and Titus were crowned Caesar at the same time. (Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.)
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- Brian Jones and Robert Milns, Suetonius: The Flavian Emperors, A Historical Commentary (London: Bristol Classic Press, 2002), 90, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 191.
- Some versions of the Bible translate tartaroo as hell. Interestingly and similarly, hell was originally the name of the underworld in Norse mythology.
- Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 190; Lucia Impelluso, Nature and Symbols, trans. Stephen Sartarelli (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004), 362.
- Lucia Impelluso, Nature and Symbols, trans. Stephen Sartarelli (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004), 362.
- The arms of the lampstand were designed to resemble an almond tree. Exodus 25:31-36.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 2.94.
- The first Caesar and the first head of the beast, Julius Caesar was killed immediately after he declared himself emperor for life.
- John Dominic Crossan, God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 2007), 117.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 272.
- The Abyss is the underworld, the realm of the dead. It is also a metaphor for Gentile Rome throughout the Book of Revelation.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 10.4.
- Even the enforcement of the mark of the beast would still fall under the Flavian triumph as Roman currency legitimized an emperor’s right to rule thus mints began immediately upon coronation. As a testimony to this fact there exist coins of Otho despite the fact that he only ruled a few short months. An example of a coin of Caesar Vespasian minted from A.D. 69 to A.D. 70 is depicted below:
- Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 244.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 7.1. A similar omen is also recorded in this verse in Lives of the Twelve Caesars: “With Nero the line of the Caesars became extinct. Among the many prophetic indications of this event two were outstanding. As Livia, years before, was returning to her home near Veii immediately after marrying Augustus, an eagle flew by and dropped into her lap a white pullet which it had just pounced upon. Noticing a laurel twig in its beak she decided to keep the pullet for breeding and to plant the twig. Soon the pullet raised such a brood of chickens that the house is still known as ‘The Poultry’; moreover the twig took root and grew so luxuriously that the Caesars always plucked laurels from it to wear at their triumphs. It also became an imperial custom to cut new slips and plant these close by. Remarkably enough, the death of each Emperor was anticipated by the premonitory wilting of his laurel; and in the last year of Nero’s reign not only did every tree wither at the root, but the whole flock of poultry died.”
- Tacitus The Histories 1.11.
- Phillip Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, (London: SPCK, 1931), 230, cited in Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 304.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.10.2, cited in Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 304.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.11.5, cited in Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 305.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.57, cited in Homer Hailey, The Book of Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, (Las Vegas: Nevada Publications, 2007), 286.
- Tacitus The Histories 2.8.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 63.27.2; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.40.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.49.
- Ibid., 6.26.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 211.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.19.
- The Sibylline Oracles 4.155-162.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.47.
- Ibid., 6.50.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 67.28.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.28.
- Ibid., 10.5.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- Levick, Vespasian, 74, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, Ph.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination Volume 2: The Book of Revelation (USA: Xulon Press, 2012), 147.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.4.
- Levick, Vespasian, Plate XI, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, Ph.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination Volume 2: The Book of Revelation (USA: Xulon Press, 2012), 194.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 3.48, 4.14; Tacitus The Histories 4.62, 1.41.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.1.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 264.
- Wruck, Die Syrische Provinzialpragung von Augustus bis Trajan (1931), 105-106, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Mattingly and Sydenham, Roman Imperial Coinage, ii (1926), 62, no. 391, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Wruck, op. cit., p. 112. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, i (1930), 76, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Wruck, op. cit., p. 113, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Wruck, op. cit., p. 114-115, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 62.5.2, cited in Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 273.
- Cf. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, ii (1930), 18, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 32.
- F. Kenner, “Die Scheidemunze des Kaisers Nero,” Num. Zeitschr. X (1878), 250-253; Beurlier, Le Culte imperial, 48-50; L. Cesano, “Di un nuovo medaglione aureo di Costantino I e del ‘princeps iuventutis,’” Rassegna Numismatica (1911), 36-43; Ph. Lederer, “Beitrage zur romischen Munzkunde IV,” Zeitschrift fur Numismatik xl (1930), 51, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 32.
- Cf. Lederer, op. cit., p. 51 and Cesano, op. cit., p. 39, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Cf. Lederer, op. cit., p. 40 and Cesano, op. cit., p. 53, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Martial Epigrams On the Spectacles 1.18, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 59.
- Weinreich, Studien zu Martial (1928), 21-23, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 56.
- CIL. vi 1246, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 40.
- C.f. Sauter, op. cit., 153-159, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 59.
- Miriam T. Griffin, Nero: The End of a Dynasty, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984, 1985), 15, cited in Dallas R. Burdette, D. Min., Commentary on Daniel: An Unraveling of God’s Messianic Kingdom, (USA: Xulon Press, 2016), 207.
- Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 306.
- Eusebius The History of the Church 3.12.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 254.
- Tacitus Annals 15:44. The duration of forty-two months corresponds with the time in which the saints would be handed over to the beast in Daniel 7:25. In Daniel 7:25, the saints were handed over to the beast for a time, times and half a time. This is three years and six months or forty-two months according to the Hebrew calendar. Over time many Romans became sympathetic to the harsh way in which Christians were treated. Nero died in early June of A.D. 68. Perhaps this persecution ended in January of A.D. 68 at the start of the revolt in Gaul? This revolt weakened Nero’s grip on Rome and the populace became increasingly defiant. Sensing the increasing loss of public loyalty, Nero may have ceased public executions so as not to increase public displeasure and cater to his concerns of being deposed.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.9.2.
- http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/beast.html (5/31/2006).
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.49.
- This metaphor of the beast arising out of the earth is symbolically portrayed during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius at the start of Titus’ reign. According to Cassius Dio Roman History 66.23, spirits were seen in the ash of the volcanic eruption. These spirits are presumably described in Revelation 9 in the image of Titus’ legions.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- Lev R 13:3, Midrash Rabbah, 3rd impression (London: Soncino Press, 1961), cited in J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 218.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 218.
- Tacitus The Histories 4.62, 1.41; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 3.48; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 4.14.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.1.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- The fire said to shoot out of the mouth of the leviathan in Job 41:19 would be more actually translated as firebrands. Firebrands are flaming torches used as weapons of war.
- Gary DeMar, Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future: Identifying the Gog-Magog Alliance, (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2008), 114.
- It should also be noted that arrows also sometimes signify people (Psalms 127:4, Proverbs 25:18, Isaiah 49:2); words and teeth (Psalms 57:4, Jeremiah 9:8); and plight (Job 6:4, Lamentations 3:12, Ezekiel 5:16, Ephesians 6:16).
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.5.
- Ibid., 6.4.6.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.1.
- Ibid., 6.6.1.
- Tacitus The Histories 4.62, 1.41; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 3.48; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 4.14.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.1.
- Ibid., 6.6.1-6.9.4.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 11.5.
- Ibid., 6.6.1-6.9.4.
- Brian Jones and Robert Milns, Suetonius: The Flavian Emperors, A Historical Commentary (London: Bristol Classic Press, 2002), 90, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 191.
- The fact that the beast is dead in the year between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s coronation explains why Titus is the eighth head of the beast, despite being the eleventh Caesar in Revelation 17:11. The three Caesars that had ruled Rome during the civil war are not considered heads of the beast in the Book of Revelation since the beast is not fully revived until the fall of Jerusalem.
- Brian Jones and Robert Milns, Suetonius: The Flavian Emperors, A Historical Commentary (London: Bristol Classic Press, 2002), 90, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 191.
- Cf. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, ii (1930), 24, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 23-24.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.3.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.9.2-4.
- Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 184-185.
- Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 264.
- Isbon Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (New York: Macmillan, 1919), 644.
- http://www.livius.org/jo-jz/judaea/judaea.htm (11/29/2006).
- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/atheology/2016/09/first-century-coin-of-nero-found-in-jerusalem-the-mark-of-the-beast/ (12/3/2016).
- It should be noted that Roman money sometimes circulated for hundreds of years in ancient times. Therefore, though all new money was printed with the image of Vespasian in A.D. 70, other coins previously used in Judaea would have still circulated to a residual extent.
- Sulpicius Severus Chronica 2:30.7.
- Prior to the final siege of Jerusalem, Jewish Christians escaped the war having fled to Pella. Pella was a city in the Decapolis. Though protected by Rome, the cities of the Decapolis were granted a certain decree of autonomy allowing each city to mint its own coins. The Decapolis was a region comprised of ten independent city-states. All ten cities in this region were allowed some degree of political autonomy allowing them to mint their own coins, many of which were imprinted with terms celebrating this sovereignty. Though some coins of the Decapolis contained the name and image of Caesar, many did not.
- The first century historian Suetonius records this interesting cryptogram or gematria circulating during Nero’s reign: “Count the numerical values of the letters in Nero’s name, and in ‘murdered his own mother’: You will find their sum is the same.” Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.39. Cryptograms or gematria have been found etched in stones in Pergamum, one of the cities of the Apocalypse. Furthermore, a cryptogram or gematria similar to the one in Revelation 13:18 was discovered in Pompeii saying, “I love her whose number is 545.”
- David Aune, Revelation 6-16, Word Bible Commentary, vol. 52 C, gen. ed. Bruce Metzger, David Hubbard, and Glen Barker, NT ed. Ralph Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 769, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 192.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 193-219.
- Before Jerusalem Fell is a detailed, well-argued case for an early date of composition for the Book of Revelation. Contrary to the church tradition that suggests that Revelation was written during Domitian’s reign, internal evidence speaks strongly in favor of an earlier date of composition. In Revelation 17:10, the author of Revelation explains that the seven heads of the beast are seven kings. “Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come.” Therefore, in John’s own words, the sixth king is alive during the time in which Revelation was composed. Nero was the sixth Caesar.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 198, 199.
- Ibid., 196, 197.
- Ibid., 203.
- David Aune, Revelation 6-16, Word Bible Commentary, vol. 52 C, gen. ed. Bruce Metzger, David Hubbard, and Glen Barker, NT ed. Ralph Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 722, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 192.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 214.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.34, 35.
- Ibid., 6.28.
- Ibid., 6.29.
- Ibid., 6.37.
- Ibid., 6.26.
- Isbon Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (New York: Macmillan, 1919), 645.
- Tacitus The Histories 4.81.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.49.
- In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus seems to refer to the church as “the kingdom of God.”
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.4.
- It is also worth mentioning that Lateinos (i.e., the Roman Empire) also totals 666 using Greek characters. See Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 192.
- Midrash Rabbah Lamentations Proems 22.
- Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Times of Jesus, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 38, cited in Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 406.
- Tacitus The Histories 5.8.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 22.214.171.1243.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 305.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 126.96.36.1993.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 156.