“Two become One Flesh”
Ever Wonder Why Jerusalem, the Whore of Babylon, is depicted sitting on Seven Hills as if She Were Rome? Clue: It has something to do with 1 Corinthians 6:16, the Death of the Messiah, and Caesar Titus’ Adulterous Affair With the Firstborn Princess of Israel during and after the Jewish War.
A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 17: Summary and Highlights
In this Preterist commentary on Revelation 17 Jerusalem is not just called the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17, she is also depicted as a whore in Revelation 17 in highly suggestive sexual imagery illustrating Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, in the act of adultery. In Revelation 17:3 the whore of Babylon is shown sitting on the beast representing Rome in Revelation 17:3 which is also identified as the seven hills of Rome and seven kings in Revelation 17:9-10. (Note: The fact that the whore of Babylon sits on the beast in v. 3 and the city of seven hills in v. 9 doesn’t mean she is Rome it just implies that the beast is the city of seven hills (i.e. Rome)) The fact that Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, is called a whore and is depicted sitting on Rome and its seven Caesars in Revelation 17:3; 9-10 is sexual imagery illustrating her as a whore in the act of sexual intercourse.
According to Isaiah 54:5, Israel was in a marriage covenant with God. However, Jerusalem committed adultery against her God, spiritual husband and king by killing the Messiah and His people and declaring Caesar, the beast, her king instead during Christ’s crucifixion: “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15). This rejection of Christ, Jerusalem’s spiritual husband, in favor of Caesar is depicted as an adulterous affair between the beast, representing Rome and its Caesars, and Jerusalem in Revelation 17 and 18. Because of this illicit sexual union between Rome and Jerusalem, Jerusalem is called Babylon. Babylon was the Jews’ nickname for Rome as explicitly stated in 1QpHab of the Dead Sea Scrolls which dates between 1 and 30 B.C. This nickname became especially appropriate after the Jewish War because both Rome and Babylon literally destroyed the physical temple in Jerusalem (6th century B.C. and A.D. 70) and exiled Jews throughout their respective empires. However, Jerusalem is called Babylon, Rome’s epithet, because both cities became one in the same way that when a man has relations with a whore the two become one flesh: “[T]he one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her[.] For He says, “The two shall become one flesh (1 Corinthians 6:16).” Thus Jerusalem, the whore or prostitute of Babylon (Rome), is spiritually called Babylon, Rome’s epithet, throughout the Apocalypse because these two cities became one flesh as a result of their adulterous affair–like a wife taking the name of her husband. In Revelation 11:8 Jerusalem is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt. In Revelation 17 she is also spiritually called Babylon, Rome’s nickname.
Just as ancient Babylon destroyed the temple of God in Jerusalem, first century Jerusalem and Rome each destroyed the spiritual temple of God. The spiritual temple of God is the body of Christ which represents both Christ and his people. In John 2:19-21 Jesus refers to his body as a temple: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The saints are also called the temple of God in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that you [the Christian saints] are a temple of God . . .” Obeying the will of the religious elite of Jerusalem, Rome enacted the execution of Jesus in A.D. 33. Thus Jerusalem and Rome both took part in the unjust death of Christ. Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, Jerusalem also persecuted the early Christian saints in her midst according to Acts 8:1. Then during the reign of Nero Caesar, Rome persecuted the Christian saints in A.D. 64. Here one can see how both Jerusalem and Rome are called Babylon in the Book of Revelation because both cities destroyed the temple of God.
This spiritual adultery is manifested in the flesh by the adulterous affair between Queen Berenice, the firstborn princess of Israel, and Titus, the firstborn son of Caesar, during and after the Jewish War. The following prophecies regarding Babylon in Revelation 17 are jointly fulfilled both in the lives of Caesar Titus and Queen Berenice and in the nations they rule and represent. See Revelation 18: A Preterist Commentary.
The Flavians; Caesar Titus, Queen Berenice’s lover, Vespasian and Domitian; having restored peace and order to Rome are the beast who once was, now is not and yet will come that the Whore of Babylon rides in this chapter. The expression “once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss” is resurrection imagery. Rome, the beast, metaphorically died with Nero Caesar and rose from the dead with the ascension of the Flavians, Caesar Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. Vespasian and his two sons, Titus and Domitian, were all crowned Caesar at the same time and together revived the Roman Empire by putting an end to the civil war after Nero’s death and the war with Israel. In the following preterist commentary on Revelation 17 the identity of the seven/eight heads and ten horns is also identified together with how this sheds light on the political situation in Rome at the time in addition to offering clues to the name of the seven/eight-headed sea monster of Revelation.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
“Two become One Flesh”
How the Adulterous Affair between Jerusalem and Rome Explains Why Both Cities are given the Same Epithet: Babylon
Revelation 17 Preterist Commentary Intro: Who is Babylon?
In A.D. 70, thousands of Roman soldiers and auxiliaries from across the Euphrates converged on the city of Jerusalem. And like ancient Babylon, Jerusalem fell having been overcome to a large part by the passage of its enemies across the Euphrates (Revelation 16:12). Because of the similar way in which both cities fell, the author of Revelation draws heavily from predictions in both Isaiah and Jeremiah concerning the fall of Babylon while describing the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 (Isaiah 48:20; 47:8-9; Jeremiah 50:8; 51:6-7, 49, 63-64). In Revelation 17 and 18 relevant passages from the writings of both prophets are reapplied to Jerusalem, called Babylon throughout the Book of Revelation.
In Luke 13:33 Jesus declares, “[N]o prophet can die outside of Jerusalem [emphasis mine]!” Revelation 18:24 reads, “In her [Babylon] was found the blood of prophets and of the saints, and all who have been killed on the earth [emphasis mine].” If Babylon is responsible for the deaths of the prophets then according to Jesus, Babylon must be Jerusalem.1
Furthermore, just as ancient Babylon destroyed the earthly temple of God in Jerusalem, first-century Jerusalem, in collusion with Rome, also destroyed the spiritual temple of God. The spiritual temple of God is the body of Christ which represents both Christ and His people. In John 2:19-21 Jesus refers to His body as a temple: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The saints are also called the temple of God in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that you [the Christian saints] are a temple of God . . .” Obeying the will of the religious elite of Jerusalem, Rome enacted the execution of Jesus in A.D. 33. Because Jerusalem killed the prophets in the past and it was their will that Jesus should be killed, Jesus considered Jerusalem primarily responsible for His death and the deaths of His people (Matthew 23:34-37; 27:25; Luke 13:33). Shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion, Jerusalem also persecuted the early Christian saints in her midst according to Acts 8:1 and Acts 26:10. Here one can see how Jerusalem is called Babylon in the Book of Revelation because Jerusalem destroyed the spiritual temple of God. In light of the above information it might seem that Babylon is just the city of Jerusalem. However, there is more to this epithet.
Many Preterists focused on Jerusalem being the whore of Babylon seemingly absolve Rome of any guilt. However, Rome also participated in Jesus’ crucifixion (Rome enacted the hit at the Jews’ request) and killed many of the saints during Nero’s persecution. And although Jesus imparted the bulk of the guilt over His death and the deaths of His people to Jerusalem (Matthew 23:34-37; 27:25; Luke 13:33), Jesus did not consider Rome innocent: “Therefore the one [the people of Jerusalem] who handed me over to you [Pilate/Rome] is guilty of a greater sin (John 19:11).” As a result, Jerusalem and Israel received the brunt of the punishment in John’s Apocalypse. However, Rome was also punished quite severely during the year of the four Caesars in fulfillment of the fifth plague of Revelation 16:11-12: “The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.” As a result of God’s vengeance on Rome during the fifth plague, the beast, Rome, was left fallen or dead in a spiritual sense though it had risen from the Abyss, the realm of the dead, soon after according to Revelation 9; 11:7; 13:3; and 17:8.
So if both Rome and Jerusalem share guilt in God’s eyes, then who is Babylon? It is virtually universally recognized in scholarly circles that Babylon is Rome. This belief is based on Revelation 17:18 in which Babylon is called “the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.” Throughout the Book of Revelation, earth represents Israel and sea, Rome. In the first century, Rome was the supreme empire; and Jerusalem was a Roman province. Therefore, the kings of the earth, representing Israel, were under the authority of Rome. Revelation 17:9 further solidifies this interpretation: “The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.” Rome is the city on seven hills. But why is Rome called Babylon in this apocalyptic vision?
The beast out of the sea in Revelation 13:2 is depicted as a chimera: “The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion.” The leopard, bear and lion of Revelation 13:2 harken back to the leopard, bear and lion of Daniel 7 who represented the Greece, Medo-Persia, and Babylon respectively in that vision. The beast out of the sea of Revelation 13 is Rome. See the commentary preterist on Revelation 13. In Revelation 13:2 the beast out of the sea is said to have the mouth of a lion. Like the gold head of the statue in Daniel 2:36-38, this lion represents Babylon. Thus as depicted in Revelation 13:2 Rome is said to have the mouth of Babylon. Revelation 13:2 is one of the first clues in Revelation that Rome is Babylon.
Like Babylon, Rome also had a vast empire of which Israel was a province. In the sixth century B.C., Judea revolted against Babylon; and as a result, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed and many of the Jews were exiled. Rome is also called Babylon in the Book of Revelation because Judea suffered the same fate under Rome in the first century A.D. Judea, a Roman province, revolted against Rome in A.D. 66; and as a result, Jerusalem was again destroyed along with its temple and the Jews were again exiled throughout the empire. According to the Jewish historian Josephus, the Temple was coincidentally destroyed by the Babylonians on the tenth day of Av and by the Romans on the ninth of Av.2
In corroboration of this interpretation, it is interesting to note that Babylon was the Jewish/Christian nickname for Rome in the first century (Sibylline Oracles 5.143).3
One would image that the Jews would have started calling Rome Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 once the similarities between these two empires became most apparent. However, there is reason to believe that Babylon may have been a Jewish nickname for Rome long before the fall of Jerusalem. This interesting nickname for Rome is implied in 1QpHab of the Dead Sea Scrolls which dates back to 30-1 B.C.4 1QpHab is an Essene commentary on Habakkuk in which Habakkuk is interpreted to have its fulfillment at the end of the age. In 1QpHab the Chaldeans (Babylonians) of Habakkuk 1:6 are interpreted to be the Kittim (Romans): “For behold, I rouse the Chaldeans [Babylonians], that [bitter and hasty] nation (i.6a). Interpreted, this concerns the Kittim [Romans] [who are] quick and valiant in war, causing many to perish.” Kittim refers to the island of Cyprus in its limited sense. In its broader usage, Josephus says that Kittim refers to the western islands of the sea and the coastal territory of the Mediterranean including Greece, Rome and Spain, i.e. the territory of the first-century Roman Empire which entirely encircled the Mediterranean.5 This meaning is confirmed by its earlier usage in Jeremiah 2:10, Ezekiel 27:6, and 1 Maccabees 1:1. Furthermore, in Daniel 11:30 Kittim is directly used to identify Rome and is even translated Romans in the Septuagint.
Just as ancient Babylon destroyed the earthly temple of God in Jerusalem, first-century Rome, in collusion with Israel, also destroyed the spiritual temple of God. The spiritual temple of God is the body of Christ which represents both Christ and His people. In John 2:19-21 Jesus refers to His body as a temple: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The saints are also called the temple of God in 1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that you [the Christian saints] are a temple of God . . .” Conceding to the will of the religious authorities of Jerusalem, Rome enacted the execution of Jesus in A.D. 33. Then during the reign of Nero Caesar, Rome persecuted the Christian saints in A.D. 64 during the Neronic persecution. Here one can see how Rome is also called Babylon in the Book of Revelation because Rome also destroyed the spiritual temple of God. But how could two cities be called Babylon in the Book of Revelation? Clue: the answer has something to do with 1 Corinthians 6:16.
Revelation Fulfilled, An Exposition, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 17: Two Cities become One . . .
All the predictions concerning the fate of Babylon in the Book of Revelation were fulfilled in Jerusalem in the first century. How could this be if Rome is also Babylon? Of, of course, can mean from but Jerusalem is not called the Whore of Babylon because she is the whore from Babylon. Jerusalem is called the whore of Babylon because she is the whore of Babylon. When John calls Jerusalem the Whore of Babylon, John is accusing Jerusalem of being Babylon’s prostitute. In other words, the whore of Babylon is Babylon’s whore–i.e. Jerusalem, Rome’s prostitute.
Throughout the Apocalypse the beast is said to be a male as is explicitly stated in Revelation 13:11 while the whore of Babylon is, of course, female as is also clearly stated in Revelation 17:3. The fact that the beast and the whore of Babylon are opposite sexes of course suggests that the whore of Babylon and the beast do not symbolize the exact same thing as most commentators would have you believe. The fact that these two beings are different sexes is a clue to unravelling the symbolism in this chapter. In Revelation 17:3, John portrays the female whore of Babylon sitting on the male beast. This is sexual imagery depicting the adulterous affair between the whore of Babylon which is Jerusalem and the seven-headed beast representing Rome and its Caesars (see Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary). Through this illicit sexual union, the two cities have become one in the same way that through the consummation of a marriage husband and wife become one: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one (Mark 10:6-9).” Interestingly the same two-in-one composite unity is said to occur when a man has relations with a whore: “[T]he one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her[.] For He says, “The two shall become one flesh (1 Corinthians 6:16).” Through Jerusalem’s adulterous affair with Rome, these two cities became one. The two having become one, Jerusalem and Rome are both given the same symbolic name like a wife taking on the surname of her husband. Thus Jerusalem, the whore or prostitute of Babylon, is also called Babylon, Rome’s epithet, throughout the Apocalypse because these two cities became one flesh as a result of their adulterous affair.6
Many preterists who assert that Babylon is Jerusalem to the exclusion of Rome claim that Rome cannot be Babylon because Rome was never married to God as was Jerusalem and Israel (Hosea 2:14-21, Jeremiah 2:2-3). Those who make this argument fail to grasp Rome’s role in this sexual affair. The adulterous affair presented in Revelation 17 is the same as that presented in Ezekiel 23. Here Jerusalem and Samaria are sisters in a marriage covenant with God. However, these sisters defile the sanctity of their marriage by prostituting themselves like the whore of Babylon with their males lovers; Egypt, Assyria and Babylon. The exact same imagery is presented in Revelation 17. In Revelation 17 Jerusalem is again a prostitute and adulteress violating her marriage covenant with God. But this time instead of her male lovers being Egypt, Assyria or Babylon, this time her male lover is the beast, Rome. And just as God gave Jerusalem and Samaria over to their male lovers to be left naked by acts of war in Ezekiel 23, God does the same with Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, in Revelation 17:16: “The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” Compare Revelation 17:16 with Ezekiel 23:29: “They [the Babylonians] will leave you [Jerusalem] stark naked, and the shame of your prostitution will be exposed.”
Revelation 17 follows the precedence set in Ezekiel 23 in which Jerusalem previously committed adultery with foreign empires and was therefore attacked and left naked by them. Thus as is the case in Ezekiel 23 in which Jerusalem prostituted herself with Egypt, Assyria and Babylon, in Revelation 17 Jerusalem again prostitutes herself and commits adultery against God, her husband, with Rome, the beast–her new male lover. Thus just as Egypt, Assyria and Babylon were Jerusalem’s male lovers in Ezekiel 23, Rome is Jerusalem’s male lover in Revelation 17. Thus Rome and God are the males in the relationship while Jerusalem is the unfaithful woman. Thus one would not expect Rome to ever be married to God since Rome, the beast, is the male lover that intrudes on God’s relationship with Jerusalem, His spiritual wife, just as Egypt, Assyria and Babylon were the men who previously intruded on God’s marriage covenant with Jerusalem in Ezekiel 23.
Ezekiel 23 may also explain why Jerusalem is also called Egypt in Revelation 11:8. Because Jerusalem had an adulterous affair with Egypt in Ezekiel 23, Jerusalem also became one flesh with Egypt which also partially explains why Israel is afflicted with the plagues of Revelation, each trumpet or bowl representing a plague of Exodus. Furthermore, Ezekiel also adds depth to the Babylonian epithet as Jerusalem also had an adulterous affair with ancient Babylon according to Ezekiel 23 as well. Interestingly, first-century Jews called Rome “Babylon” and not surprisingly Jerusalem also had an adulterous affair with Rome, the beast, in Revelation 17. And as a result, Jerusalem also became one flesh with this new “Babylon” at the end of the age.
The fact that Jerusalem became one flesh with Rome as a consequence of their adulterous affair may also partially explain why the Jews of Jerusalem appear to be called Gentiles in Revelation 11:2. See Revelation 11: A Preterist Commentary–Who are the Two Witnesses? The fact that Jerusalem and Rome are both given the same symbolic name is also appropriate since Jerusalem was a Roman province. As part of Rome, Jerusalem can, in a way, be appropriately called Rome in the same way that Texas may be called America or Ontario, Canada.
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of the End Times and Revelation 17: Why was Jerusalem an Adulteress?
According to Isaiah 54:5, Israel was in a marriage covenant with God. Whenever the people of Israel were unfaithful to their husband and heavenly king, the prophets call Israel a harlot or an adulterer (Ezekiel 23; Isaiah 1:21; 57:8; Jeremiah 2:2, 20).7 The reason Jerusalem is called a whore and an adulterer in Revelation 17 is because she was caught violating her marriage covenant with God by having an adulterous affair with the beast representing Rome. How exactly did Jerusalem commit adultery against God?
Jerusalem is an adulteress because of what the mob in Jerusalem chanted during the crucifixion: “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15.) The fact that the people of Jerusalem selected Caesar, the king of Rome, over the Messiah, the king of the Jews, explains why Jerusalem is an adulteress. In this act Jerusalem committed adultery against God, her spiritual husband and king, by choosing to be ruled by the beast, Rome and its Caesars, rather than the Messiah, her God and creator. The fact that husband and king are blended together is exemplified in Eve’s curse at the fall in Genesis 3:16: “Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” God was both a king and husband to Jerusalem. Thus Jerusalem’s rejection of him in the form of the Messiah in favor of Caesar, the beast, is a spiritual act of adultery.
Preterist Theology, A Commentary of Revelation 17: Jerusalem commits adultery against God, Her Husband and King, by killing the Messiah and His People and declaring Caesar, the Beast, Her King instead.
In Matthew 21:43, Jesus declares to the chief priests and Pharisees, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” Understanding that Jesus was talking about them, the chief priests and Pharisees immediately sought Jesus’ arrest according to Matthew 21:45-46. Having been indignantly accused of wickedness by Jesus on multiple occasions in front of vast crowds of people, the chief priests feared that if Jesus ever became king of Israel, he would have them all deposed.8 Fearing that they would lose their jobs and perhaps even their lives, the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin:
“What are we 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.” Then the High Priest responded by saying, “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).
Though prophetically hinting to Jesus’ sacrificial death for the sins of his people, these words are stated by the high priest with a more malicious intention. If Jesus became both king and high priest, as the Messiah was expected to be, the current high priest would be out of a job—a job that he paid a lot of money for. During the first century, high priests were selected based on who was willing to bribe the governor the most for the glory of the position.9 Thus the position of high priest became a significant source of income for the province of Israel.
Fearing that they would lose their jobs and perhaps even their lives if Jesus became king of the Jews, the high priest and the chief priests masked their desire to have Jesus killed by morally justifying his death as a means of preventing a war with Rome. First century Israel was not a sovereign nation, it was a Roman province. If Jesus became the sovereign king of Israel, His coronation would be seen by Caesar as an act of treason triggering an inevitable war with Rome and a great loss of life. Here one can see what the high priest truly meant when he said, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
The religious elite were successful in their machinations. In John 19:15, Jesus is brought before the Jews; and Pilate asks the people, “Shall I crucify your king?” To which the chief priests respond, “We have no king but Caesar.” In this verse the Jewish religious authorities, once in a marriage covenant with their God according to Isaiah 54:5,10 are depicted killing Jesus Christ–their God, king and husband–in favor of Caesar, the beast (Isaiah 54:5). See Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary. This infidelity against Jerusalem’s heavenly husband and king is symbolically portrayed as an act of adultery in Revelation 17. Here Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, is seen committing adultery against her heavenly king and husband with the beast representing Caesar and Rome. Though Rome and Jerusalem collaborated in the execution of Christ according to the Gospels, this infidelity did not end with the death of Jesus. In Revelation 17:6, the whore of Babylon, is also drunk with the blood of the saints. Both cities also killed a great number of first century Christians shortly after Jesus’ death and resurrection.11 Thus Babylon, representing both Jerusalem and Rome, was punished throughout the Book of Revelation for these crimes in fulfillment of Revelation 18:20 and Revelation 18:24.
Preterist Eschatology and Commentary of Revelation 17: Burning and Stoning is the Punishment for Adultery according to the Law. Jerusalem was stoned by Roman Catapults and Burned by the Romans in A.D.70.
In Ezekiel 16 Jerusalem is depicted as an adulterous wife. This enrages the Lord and in Ezekiel 16:38 He says, “I will sentence you [Jerusalem] to the punishment of women who commit adultery[.]” According to the Law of Moses, the punishment for adultery is stoning (John 8:4-5, Ezekiel 16:38-40). And burning is the prescribed punishment for the daughter of a priest who is found to be a prostitute (Leviticus 26:9). Then in the remaining verses God makes good on His threat and delivers sixth century B.C. Jerusalem into the hands of her lovers; Egypt, Assyria and Babylon; who stone her and burn her with fire (Ezekiel 16:38-41)—the punishment for adultery according to the Law.
Not surprisingly, first-century Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, is caught in the act of adultery with Rome, the beast, in Revelation 17 and suffers the same fate again. Caught in the act of adultery with Rome, Jerusalem was stoned in A.D. 70 by her lover, Rome, who hurled stones into the city launched from Roman catapults. The stoning of the whore of Babylon is found in Revelation 16:21: “From the sky huge hailstones of about a hundred pounds each fell upon men. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible.”
Preterist Bible Commentary on Revelation 17: The Hundred Pound Hailstones of Revelation 16:21 were the Hundred Pound Boulders Launched by Roman Catapults during the Siege of Jerusalem.
Having assembled multiple catapults, the Romans hurled giant stones at the city of Jerusalem during the Jewish War. Revelation 16:21 describes this assault as a plague of hail. In the original Greek, each hailstone is said to weigh a talent, which is approximately one hundred pounds. Regarding this plague of hail, Josephus writes:
Now, the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs and farther. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was a white color [emphasis mine] . . .12
The parallels between Revelation 16:21 and Josephus’ description above are startling. Not only were these stones white like hail, they were also said to weigh a talent—the precise weight of each hailstone in Revelation 16:21. And after being stoned by Roman catapults, Jerusalem was then burned by the Romans in A.D. 70. Thus in fulfillment of Ezekiel 16:38 first-century Jerusalem suffered from both punishments for adultery prescribed by the Law of Moses—stoning (John 8:4-5, Ezekiel 16:38-40) and burning (Leviticus 26:9).
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 17: The Beast is embodied by the Caesars. The Saints are embodied by the Virgin Mary in Revelation 12:1-2. Jerusalem, the Whore of Babylon, is embodied by its Firstborn Princess, Queen Berenice.
In the same way that the beast, representing Rome, is embodied by the Caesars and the woman clothed with the sun in Revelation 12:1-2, representing Israel, is embodied by the Virgin Mary, the whore of Babylon, representing Jerusalem during the Jewish War, is also embodied by a real person. Who was this person? She is the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, the king of Judea and Samaria.13 The firstborn princess of Israel, her name is Queen Berenice.
The adulterous affair between the city of Jerusalem and the city of Rome depicted in Revelation 17 was literally manifested in the flesh during Israel’s war with Rome by an adulterous affair between two people–the firstborn prince of Rome, Caesar Titus, and the firstborn princess of Israel, Queen Berenice.14 Caesar Titus, the beast who once was, now is not, and yet will come mentioned later in this chapter, was divorced when he committed adultery with Berenice.15 Berenice was also a divorced at the time. As implied in Luke 16:18, any sexual contact after divorce is considered an act of adultery: “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Let us now take a detailed look at how Jerusalem and Rome fulfill the prophecies concerning Babylon in this preterist commentary on Revelation 17.
1One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits on many waters.
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 17:1: Who is the Prostitute Who sits on many Waters?
The prostitute in v. 1 is later called Babylon. This is a fitting name because Babylon was the city by many waters (Jeremiah 51:13, Psalm 137:1). According to v. 15, the waters mentioned above are a symbol of the people, multitudes, nations and languages. The fact that the prostitute sits on many waters represents the vast extent of the Roman Empire with its diverse people and ethnic groups.
As is echoed in v. 15, earth symbolizes Israel and sea, Rome throughout the Book of Revelation. This image of Babylon sitting on many waters is also a metaphor for Israel, the earth, sitting above and surrounded by the many waters of the sea, representing Gentile Rome. This interpretation is also implied in v. 3. Here the woman is shown sitting on the seven-headed beast. The seven-headed beast, like the sea, is a metaphor for Rome. Though these waters symbolize Gentile nations, it is interesting to note that the city of Jerusalem with it’s subterranean aqueducts does indeed quite literally sit on many waters like ancient Babylon.
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Revelation 17:1: Queen Berenice was Famous for Her Many Adulteries.
Queen Berenice is a living representative of Jerusalem, the religious capital of which she was the firstborn princess.16 The fact that she is called a prostitute in v. 1 who “sits on many waters” is sexually suggestive. In this verse, she seems to be committing adultery with the Gentile nations. After the deaths of her first two husbands, Queen Berenice married Polemon II of Pontus, the client king of Cilicia, in modern Turkey, whom she deserted in favor of an incestuous affair with her brother Herod Agrippa II, the client king of Chalcis and later the governor of the tetrarchy of Philip and Lysanias.17 Then during the Jewish War, she had an adulterous affair with Caesar Titus.18
2With her the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
A Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 17:2: The Jewish Religious Leadership were in a Marriage Covenant with God According to Isaiah 54:5. However, during Jesus’ Trial, They Yell, “We have No King but Caesar!” This Rejection of Jesus Christ, their God and King, in favor of Caesar, the Beast, is Adultery.
In later verses John offers his readers a clue as to how the kings and people of the earth had committed adultery against God. In v. 6 Babylon is said to be drunk with the blood of the saints. The unjust killing of the saints, the body of Christ, is seen by God as an act of adultery. But how is killing Christ and his people considered an act of adultery? As explained in detail in the introduction to this commentary, the Jewish religious authorities were in a marriage covenant with God according to Isaiah 54:5. However, during Jesus’ trial, they yell, “We have no king but Caesar!” This rejection of Jesus Christ, their God and king, in favor of Caesar, the beast, is an act of adultery against Israel’s spiritual husband.
According to John 11, the high priest and the religious authorities were the major conspirators of Christ’s execution. This is because the Roman procurators, the Roman appointed rulers of Israel, and the high priest were metaphorically in bed with each other. Following the precedent set by King Herod, the Roman authorities bestowed the position of high priest on the highest bidder.19 Therefore, when Jesus continued to gain more and more public support, the high priest would have felt increasingly threatened that he would lose the position that he paid so much money to attain to Jesus, a would be Messiah who was expected to reign as both king and high priest. It was largely for this reason that the high priest conspired to have Jesus killed (John 11:47-50).
Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 17:2: The Kings of Israel also Took Part in the Deaths of Christ and His People.
The kings of the earth mentioned in v. 2 are not just the Jewish religious leadership as mentioned above. The two rulers of Israel, Pilate and Herod, also took part in this plot to kill Jesus and his people. Acts 4:27 reads, “Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.” Pontius Pilate was largely responsible for Christ’s execution, and King Herod Agrippa I had John the Baptist and James killed in addition to imprisoning many other Christians including the Apostle Peter (Acts 12:1-5). In Matthew 23:33-37, Jesus predicted the coming persecution much of which had taken place in Jerusalem shortly after his death (Acts 8:1). Rome soon followed this precedent. In A.D. 64, Emperor Nero vented his hatred of the early church resulting in the torture and execution of a multitude of Christians in public arenas. Wine signifies blood as indicated Revelation 17:6. This wine/blood symbolism is also clearly illustrated in the last supper in which Jesus passes around a cup of wine saying, “This is my blood [.]” (Matthew 26:28.) Both Israel and Rome had become drunk with the blood of the saints, and in this way both had been unfaithful to God. This transgression is symbolized by the author of Revelation as an act of adultery. Given the fact that both the kings and people of Israel killed Jesus and His people in a spiritual act of adultery against God one can see how both the kings and inhabitants of the earth were drunk with the wine or blood the saints in Revelation 17:2.
By way of the unjust murders of Jesus and the saints the kings of the earth had committed adultery with or alongside Jerusalem: “With her the kings of the earth committed adultery[.]” Revelation 17:2 may imply that the kings of the earth had committed adultery with the whore of Babylon, but it is more likely that when v. 2 says that the kings of the earth committed adultery with the Whore of Babylon that it means they committed adultery with Rome together with or alongside Jerusalem, the Whore of Babylon. In other words, the kings of the earth probably did not have metaphorical sex with Jerusalem, the Whore of Babylon, but rather committed adultery with the beast alongside or together with the Jerusalem, the Whore of Babylon.
Preterism Explained and Interpreted, A Commentary of Revelation 17:2: Queen Berenice had an Adulterous Affair with Herod Agrippa II, a King of Israel, the Earth, in LITERAL Fulfillment of v. 2: “With Her the Kings of the Earth Committed Adultery . . .”
After Berenice left her third husband, Polemon II of Pontus, she is believed to have resumed her adulterous affair with her brother Herod Agrippa II, the son of Herod Agrippa I. As the governor of the tetrarchy of Philip and Lysanias, Herod Agrippa II is a king of the earth representing first century Israel. Here one can see how the whore of Babylon literally committed adultery with the kings of the earth. Queen Berenice later cheated on her brother, a king of Israel, with Caesar Titus. Her rejection of a king of Israel in favor of Caesar mirrors Israel’s rejection of the Messiah in favor of Caesar during the crucifixion when the people declared, “We have no king but Caesar (John 19:15)”!
A Preterist Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 17:2: Israelites Stole a Statue of Berenice, set it Atop the Roof of a Brothel and performed Sexual Acts with the Statue while Drinking Wine in Fulfillment of v. 2: “The Inhabitants of the Earth were Intoxicated with the Wine of her Adulteries.”
After Berenice’s father, Herod Agrippa I, died, a mob of people from Caesarea and Sebaste stole Berenice’s statue along with those of her sisters and carried them into the brothel houses. After setting these images atop the roofs of the brothels, the people feigned sexual intercourse with the statues. The fact that Berenice’s image was brought to a whorehouse where it was caressed by the people explains why the whore of Babylon was called a prostitute in v.1. During this orgiastic celebration, the mob drank to Charon, the ferryman who ferries the newly dead to Hades, and shouted for joy over the death of the king.20
Though these people outwardly celebrated the death of King Agrippa I, this drunken theatrical orgy with the statue of Berenice represents the literal fulfillment of v. 2. During Jesus’ trial, the Jewish people took responsibility for the death of their Messiah and king proclaiming, “Let his blood be on us and on our children (Matthew 27:25)!” As stated above, wine is a Biblical metaphor for blood (Revelation 17:6, Matthew 26:28). Therefore, as was the case during the last supper (Matthew 26:28) the wine the people drank while feigning sexual intercourse with the statue of Berenice is a Biblical metaphor of the blood of the king. Though these people literally celebrated the death of Herod, the earthly king of the Jews, this blood of the vine ultimately seems to symbolize the blood of the heavenly king of the Jews: Jesus. After having killed Jesus–their king, their God and their husband (Isaiah 54:5, Jeremiah 3:14, Ezekiel 16:32) — the wicked people of Israel outwardly manifested their infidelity to God by committing mock adultery with the image of Berenice, the whore of Babylon, while drinking her cup containing the metaphorical blood of the king of the Jews and his people. In this lewd public celebration, one can see v. 2 literally enacted: “the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
3Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.
Revelation 17:3 Preterist Commentary: A Vision LITERALLY Seen in the Sky . . .
The central theme of this commentary on Revelation is to illustrate the fact that the Book of Revelation is NOT a book of empty symbols as is often supposed in preterist circles. For example, the imagery of the woman and the dragon are not just symbols of the Rome and Jerusalem—they are real images that John saw that are also visible to everyone in the world even today.
Revelation 17:3 Preterist Commentary: Though Most of the Symbolism in Revelation is drawn from the Bible, God often also employs the Symbolism of Ancient Babylon to Address the Fate of Spiritual Babylon.
Most of the symbolism in the Book of Revelation is drawn from the rest of the Bible. However, a significant percentage of symbols in this text have no Biblical precedence. Much of this symbolism is directly related to the Babylonian epithet. As stated above, both Jerusalem and Rome are called Babylon throughout the Book of Revelation. Ancient Babylon which destroyed Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C. predicted the future using a well-developed system of celestial symbols and omens. The Babylonian system of divining the future through the use of astral omens and symbols of Babylonian origin spread throughout Israel and Rome like wild fire by the first century. Thus first century Rome and first century Jerusalem were as familiar with Babylonian imagery and symbolism as the west is familiar with Judeo-Christian iconography today. In much of the Book of Revelation, God uses the well-known symbolism of ancient Babylon to communicate his judgments on spiritual Babylon in a language that spiritual Babylon, both first century Jerusalem and Rome, could and should have understood. In other words, God doesn’t just call Jerusalem and Rome Babylon in the Book of Revelation. He also uses the language and symbolism of ancient Babylon with its well-recognized system of celestial omens to predict the inevitable fate of spiritual Babylon in the Book of Revelation—a fate that is written in the stars.
This system of foretelling the future by Babylonian celestial symbols is called astrology. These ancient Babylonian symbols were handed down from Babylon to Persia to Greece and then to Rome changing somewhat as it passed from the ancient Babylonian Empire to first-century Rome. In other words, even many of the symbols in the Book of Revelation have a literal image that was not only visible during that time of judgment but is also still visible and recognizable today. Thus in much of the Book of Revelation, God often uses the language and symbolism of ancient Babylon to impart his judgments on spiritual Babylon.
The purpose of this commentary is not to expose and illustrate every single constellation of Babylonian origin referred to in the Book of Revelation. This commentary will highlight only those constellations that are inextricably linked to the text. In other words, we shall address only those constellations that are crucial to understanding the richness and meaning of this apocalyptic vision and skip over the rest. Let us now turn our attention to the Babylonian imagery in Revelation 17:3:
A Covenant Eschatology Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 17:3: The Fact that the Whore of Babylon Sits on the Beast is Sexual Imagery.
In v. 3 the whore of Babylon is shown sitting on the seven-headed beast. The seven-headed beast is Rome. Here an angel points to the night sky; and again John sees the lady Virgo, the cup Crater, and the seven-headed sea monster called the Hydra.21 John notices that the constellation Virgo appears to be sitting on top of the Hydra. Now instead of the Hydra lying in wait to devour her child as was the case in Revelation 12:4, Virgo now looks to be in bed with the beast. In addition, she appears to be holding the goblet Crater in her hand. This cup is later revealed in v. 6 to contain the blood of the saints.
A Covenant Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 17:3: Both Israel and Rome killed Christ and His People. This Spiritual Act of Adultery against God is Illustrated by Queen Berenice’s Adulterous Affair with Caesar Titus.
While in unlawful intercourse with the Hydra, Virgo, no longer the virgin woman she was meant to be, shares her drink with her mate and both become drunk with the blood of the saints as stated in Revelation 18:3. Both Babylon and the kings of the earth had together committed adultery with Rome, the seven-headed beast, since Israel; Pilate, a king of the earth; and Rome had collaborated in having Jesus killed. Furthermore, both cities also killed Christians in separate mass persecutions following Jesus’ death and resurrection.22 This illicit union between Israel and Rome is manifested in the flesh by the adulterous affair between Queen Berenice and Caesar Titus during and after the Jewish War.23 Caesar Titus, the beast who once was, now is not and yet will come, is the beast this woman rides.24
A Realized Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 17:6-7: The Original Babylonian Constellation of Virgo, Erua, was moved down slightly by the Greeks and then Replaced with the Constellation Coma Berenices, the “Hair of Berenice,” in 246 B.C. The Fact that the Virgin had become the Adulterer Berenice is Why John is Astonished in vs. 6-7.
Confirmation of the fact that Virgo is the astral depiction of Israel, the whore of Babylon, and Queen Berenice is her human representative is found in a peculiar, but incredible, historical fact. In Revelation 17:6-7, John sees the virgin woman of Revelation 12:1-2 drunk with the blood of the saints and he is astonished. How had the virgin constellation become a murderer and an adulterer?
The original Babylonian constellation of which Virgo had been derived is the ancient Babylonian constellation Erua.25 Citing Dr. Werner Papke, preterist author Jessie E. Mills writes the following concerning this ancient Babylonian constellation:
ERUA was written with the four cuneiform signs E4.RU6.U2.A. RU6 is the sign for the Sumerian word EDIN, rendered Eden in Biblical Genesis, and being an ancient term for Paradise. E4 is the sign for “seed” and U2.A together denote “to bring forth, to bear.” Thus ERUA must be translated: “she who will bring forth the seed (prophesied in) Eden”26
In Judah Erua was called ha-alma, the Virgin.27 The seed prophesied in Eden is depicted in the virgin woman in heaven who is about to bear the Messiah in Revelation 12:1-2. This woman of Eden who is ultimately to give birth to the Messiah is first mentioned in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you [the serpent/Devil] and the woman [Eve], and between your offspring and hers; he [the Messiah] will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”28
The original Babylonian constellation of the virgin Erua was later moved slightly down from its original position by the Greeks so as to traverse the ecliptic, the invisible line that traces the path of the sun through the sky, thus becoming the constellation Virgo, the virgin. In its place was substituted the constellation Coma Berenices, the “Hair of Berenice,” in 246 B.C. Though the constellation “Hair of Berenice” dates to 246 B.C., the prophetic implications of this constellation are astonishing! Berenice was the name of the firstborn princess of Israel who as stated above is the human embodiment of first century Israel and Jerusalem. Queen Berenice and Caesar Titus, the beast who once was, now is not and yet will come, had an adulterous affair during and after the Jewish War.29 Thus John is astonished in Revelation 17:6-7 because Jerusalem the virgin mother of the Messiah once represented in the night sky as the virgin Erua later became Berenice, an adulterer and whore, prophetically pointing to her part in the murder of Christ and His people.
The “A.D. 70 Doctrine” and Revelation 17:1-3: The Fact that the Woman is Seen in the Desert (Revelation 17:3) and Yet Seated on Many Waters (Revelation 17:1) Hints at the Adulterous Affair between Jerusalem and Rome.
The seemingly contradictory fact that the whore of Babylon is depicted sitting on many waters (Revelation 17:1) and yet is seen in a desert (Revelation 17:3) appears to hint at the adulterous affair between Jerusalem and Rome. Notice that John sees the woman sitting on the beast in a desert.30 Of course Jerusalem is situated in a desert. Yet in Revelation 17:1 the woman is said to be seated on many waters. Similarly, Rome is situated by many waters such as the Tiber River. Thus this seemingly contradictory imagery appears to point to these two cities and the different environments surrounding them. It similarly hints at the adulterous affair between Jerusalem, the earth, and Rome, the sea (see In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations).
4The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. 5This title was written on her forehead:
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
A Realized Eschatology Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 17:4: Like the Woman in v. 4, Queen Berenice Dressed Extravagantly.
Looking up to the sky, John sees the cup Crater held in Virgo’s hand. Later revealed to contain the blood of the saints, this cup is an omen of her future desolation. Six centuries before the war with Rome, Ezekiel was shown a similar vision of an unfaithful woman symbolizing Jerusalem drinking a cup whose contents brought defeat and ruin (Ezekiel 23:31-35). Shortly thereafter, Jerusalem was attacked and defeated by the Babylonians. The color of her dress also prefigures the coming war. Once again Jerusalem is dressed in scarlet as she had been in Jeremiah 4:30 before the Babylonian invasion, the color of her dress perhaps representing the blood of those slain (Isaiah 1:15-21). In vs. 4 and 5, the author of Revelation echoes Ezekiel 16. Like Queen Berenice who dressed extravagantly and was famously beautiful even in her forties, Jerusalem is portrayed as a beautiful woman adorned with gold, jewelry, a crown and costly garments in Ezekiel 16. At first glance she seems to be a suitable bride for the Lord though ultimately she is a prostitute and an adulterer.31 But there is more to her clothing then mere adornment.
“Hyper” Preterism and Revelation 17:4-5: Queen Berenice’s Lover Agrippa II was Responsible for Appointing the High Priest. The Description of the Whore of Babylon’s Jewelry and Clothing is meant to point to both Her Royal Garments and the Ceremonial Robe of the High Priest.
In A.D. 48, Queen Berenice’s lover, Agrippa II, was appointed client king of Chalcis with the right of supervising the temple in Jerusalem and appointing its high priest. The adornment and clothing of the whore of Babylon is described in such a way as to intentionally point to both the royal garments worn by Queen Berenice and the ceremonial robe of the high priest. According to Exodus 19:6, Israel was to be a kingdom of priests. Here Jerusalem, Israel’s religious capital, is draped in the priestly colors of scarlet, purple, and gold (Exodus 28:4-8, 15, 33). The precious stones she wears point to the twelve stones mounted on the high priest’s breast piece (Exodus 28:15-21).
It is often thought that both Babylon and the whore of Babylon are Rome, this is not technically or literally correct. After all how could Rome be the whore of itself? The whore of Rome (Babylon) MUST in some way be something other than Rome (Babylon) itself. But if the whore of Babylon must in some way be separate and distinct from Babylon, how is it that Jerusalem has the name Babylon written on her forehead and is called Babylon throughout the remainder of the Apocalypse?
The answer to this question is also written on her forehead: “THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” Just as Jerusalem is spiritually called Sodom and Egypt in Revelation 11:8, Jerusalem is also spiritually called Babylon (Rome) elsewhere in Revelation. Jerusalem is given the name Babylon as a symbol of her adulterous affair with Babylon (Rome). As stated above, 1 Corinthians 6:16 reads, “[T]he one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her[.] For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.” Just as husband and wife or a prostitute and her lover are two entirely separate and distinct beings and yet are spiritually one flesh, the whore of Babylon is entirely distinct from Babylon yet spiritually one flesh with Babylon, her lover. And just as a wife is called by the name of her husband, Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon is called Babylon, the name of her lover. Jerusalem is called Babylon in Revelation as a symbol of the fact that she is the prostitute of Rome and having become spiritually one flesh with Rome because of her adultery is given Rome’s Jewish nickname as a sign of their sexual and spiritual oneness. The fact that the whore of Babylon has a mark on her forehead identifying her as a prostitute in v. 5 strongly points to the Jewish identity of the whore of Babylon. Israel was also said to have “a harlot’s forehead” around the time of her desolation by the Babylonian army in the sixth century B.C. according to Jeremiah 3:3.32 Thus Revelation 17:5 pictures Jerusalem with the name of the beast (Rome), her king and extramarital lover, on her forehead as a means to convey the message that first-century apostate Jerusalem had become one flesh with her lover, Rome.
The fact that Jerusalem had spiritually become one flesh with Rome is illustrated by the fact that she has Rome’s name, Babylon, marked on her forehead. The tiara on her forehead is both a crown of royalty and a mark of infidelity. The fact that the tiara on her forehead says “MYSTERY” implies that she is not technically or literally Rome. As stated above, Babylon was the Jewish nickname for Rome at least as far back as the first century B.C. If this woman were actually Rome in literal sense, her identity would not be a mystery at all!33
Her crown is the antitheses of the tiara worn by the Jewish high priest which was a gold plate etched with the title: “Holy to the Lord.” (Exodus 28:36) Interestingly, however, G. K. Beale notes that according to both Philo and Josephus the only thing written on the forehead of the high priest Aaron was “Yahweh,” the name of the Lord: “[B]oth Philo (Vit. Mos. 2.114ff.) and Josephus (Ant. 3.187) say that on Aaron’s forehead was written only the name ‘Yahweh.’”34 The epithet in v. 5 is a mark on her forehead, the same one mentioned in Revelation 13:16-17: It is the mark of the beast who is her lover. Revelation 13:16-17 says that the mark of the beast is on the forehead and it is “the name of the beast or the number of his name [emphasis mine].” Babylon was a well-known Jewish nickname for Rome, the beast. The fact that Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, has the name of the beast (Babylon the Great) on her forehead means, of course, that she has the mark of the beast according to Revelation 13:16-17.
The fact that first-century Jerusalem has the mark of the beast, Rome, on her forehead means that she has spiritually become one with Rome. This mark on her forehead is the opposite of the seal or mark on the forehead of the 144,000 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].” In Revelation 14:1 the saints are sealed on their foreheads with the name of Lamb, Jesus Christ, and the Father just as the whore of Babylon is marked on the forehead with the name of the beast, Babylon. When the 144,000 are sealed on their forehead with the name of the Lamb–the antithetical mark of the beast–in Revelation 14:1, this mark on the foreheads of the 144,000 implies that those marked had become one with the Christ, the Lamb, in answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17:20-23:
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. [Emphasis mine.]
In John 17:20-23 Jesus prays that the saints become one with Himself and the Father. The fact that the church has become one with Christ is illustrated by the fact that the church is called the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 3:6; 5:23; Colossians 1:18, 24). The mirror opposite is presented in Revelation with apostate Jerusalem. Just as the church has become one body and one flesh with Christ and is thus called by His name, apostate Jerusalem has become one body and one flesh with Rome and is also called by Rome’s name, Babylon.
As explained above, the mark on the forehead of the whore of Babylon is the mark of the beast which is the antithesis of the mark of God etched on the foreheads of the saints in Revelation 14:1. In both marks are written the name of the king of each individual who is marked: with the saints is written the name of Christ and the Father and with the whore of Babylon is written the Jewish nickname for Caesar and Rome. If the name of the king is written on each mark, this fact, of course, implies that each mark denotes the true kingdom or city to which each individual is a true spiritual resident. This point is explicitly indicated in Revelation 3:12: “I will write on them [the victorious saints of the church of Philadelphia] the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name [emphasis mine].” Notice that the mark on the forehead of the saints also includes the name of the city of which they are true citizens.35 Thus the mark of God–and by extension the mark of the beast–also includes the name of the city to which those marked are true citizens regardless of where they currently reside. Thus according to Revelation 3:12 the saints are labelled with the city called the New Jerusalem. In the case of those who have the mark of the beast, these people are presumably labeled with the city BABYLON THE GREAT as is written on the forehead of the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17:5. The fact that the saints and sinners are each marked with the city of their true citizenship regardless of where they currently live partially explains how the whore of Babylon, the people of apostate Jerusalem, is marked on her forehead with the nickname for Rome. The saints of Philadelphia in Revelation 3:12 are labeled with the title New Jerusalem regardless of the fact that these people lived in the city of Philadelphia which is in Asia Minor. Similarly the wicked of apostate Jerusalem who allied themselves with Rome are given Rome’s nickname, Babylon, on their forehead in Revelation 17:5 despite the fact that these people of Jerusalem were also not technically residing in Rome. Here one can see how apostate Jerusalem is labeled with the name of another city, BABYLON THE GREAT, in Revelation 17:5.
The fact that those with the mark of God and those with the mark of the beast are labeled with the city of their true citizenship explains how apostate Jerusalem has the name of another city, Babylon, written on her forehead. As explained above, Jerusalem is labeled with the mark of her king and lover because as a result of her sexual adultery she became one flesh with the beast and thus the two cities spiritually became one. This idea is strongly implicit in Revelation 3:12 where the saints who are given the antithetical mark of the beast are labeled with “the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem.” In Revelation 21:2 the New Jerusalem comes down from heaven as the bride of Christ: “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” As a result of this marriage union, the church becomes one flesh with Christ, her husband, just as a wife becomes one flesh with her husband in marriage (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:7-8, Ephesians 5:31).” This is presumably why or largely why the church is given the label Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and thus given the name of Christ. (It should be noted that Christian means little Christ.) The same and yet opposite is true regarding apostate Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon. Apostate Jerusalem is also labeled with the city of her true citizenship and her lover; Rome, aka. Babylon. And just as the saints who are the New Jerusalem become one flesh with Christ as a result of their spiritual marriage union mentioned in Revelation 21:2, apostate Jerusalem also becomes one flesh with Babylon because of her adulterous affair with Caesar and Rome: “[T]he one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her[.] For He says, “The two shall become one flesh (Corinthians 6:16).”
The clothing worn by adulterous Jerusalem is also meant to contrast her to God’s new bride, the new Jerusalem in Revelation 21. The gold cup in her hand is meant to point to the gold cup the high priest would pour out on the Temple altar.36 Duncan McKenzie says the following concerning the gold cup held by the whore of Babylon representing adulterous Jerusalem:
The image that Revelation presents of the harlot holding a golden chalice is consistent with the symbols of Israel during the time right before A.D. 70. Some of the coins struck by the Jews during the Jewish war have the inscription Jerusalem the Holy on one side and a ritual chalice on the other. In God’s eyes, Jerusalem the Holy had become Babylon the Harlot[.]37
As noted in the next verse, the chalice held by Babylon is filled with the blood of the saints.
Another link between Jerusalem and its Temple and the Babylon epithet is found in the Babylonian tapestry “that hung at the entrance of the doors of the sanctuary” in the temple in Jerusalem:
As the sanctuary was two stories high, it appeared lower from within than from without and its golden doors were 55 cubits high and 16 broad. The gate opening into the building was, as I said completely overlaid with gold, as was the whole wall surrounding it. Above it, moreover, were the golden graevines (sic) from which hung grape clusters as tall as a man. In front of these hung a veil of equal length of Babylonian tapestry embroidered with blue, scarlet and purple and fine linen, wrought with marvelous craftsmanship.38
Could there be a link between this Babylonian tapestry hung over the entrance to the Temple sanctuary and the fact that Jerusalem is called Babylon in Revelation 17:5? Notice also that the colors of the Temple are the colors of the dress of the Whore of Babylon in Revelation 17:4: “purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold [emphasis mine].”
Revelation 17 Already Happened: How Vespasian Literally made Babylon “the Mother of Prostitutes” in Fulfillment of v. 5 . . .
In v. 5 Babylon is called “the mother of prostitutes.” Interestingly, this epithet is not merely symbolic. According to the Midrash after the conquest of Jerusalem, “Vespasian filled three ships with eminent men of Jerusalem to place them in Roman brothels.”39
Interestingly, even the riff raff of Jerusalem, the Zealots, dressed and acted like prostitutes during the war with Rome:
They [the Zealots] also devoured what spoils they had taken, together with their blood, and indulged themselves in feminine wantonness, without any disturbance, till they were satiated therewith; while they decked their hair, and put on women’s garments, and were besmeared over with ointments; and that they might appear very comely, they had paints under their eyes, and imitated not only the ornaments, but also the lusts of women, and were guilty of such intolerable uncleanness, that they invented unlawful pleasures of that sort. And thus did they roll themselves up and down the city, as in a brothel-house, and defiled it entirely with their impure actions; nay, while their faces looked like the faces of women, they killed with their right hands; and when their gait was effeminate, they presently attacked men, and became warriors, and drew their swords from under their finely dyed cloaks, and ran every body through whom they alighted upon. [emphasis mine].40
In light of the above historical peculiarities it is not surprising that first-century Jerusalem is called a whore in Revelation.
6I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.
Revelation 17 Has Been Fulfilled: Jerusalem, the Whore of Babylon, Killed the Saints and Prophets.
In this verse, John sees the woman’s goblet filled with the blood of the saints in fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction in Matthew 23:34-37. Here Jesus declares that Jerusalem would kill the saints and prophets. Acts 8:1 and Acts 26:10 record the fulfillment of this prediction. Consequently Babylon is drunk with their blood, and John is astonished. Virgo once represented faithful Israel, the virgin mother of the Messiah, in Revelation 12.41 Now in this chapter, she is seen as adulterous Jerusalem drunk with the blood of the saints.42 John seems to be astonished by this transition. See If there is Such a Thing, what Was Jerusalem’s Abomination that Caused Her Desolation?
7Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. 8The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because he once was, now is not, and yet will come.
Revelation 17:8 Preterist Commentary: The Expression “Once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss” is Resurrection Imagery.
The title given to the beast in v. 8 is often interpreted to refer to the Nero redivivus, the belief that Nero would return from the dead after his attempted suicide and reclaim the emperor’s throne. It seems unlikely to me that v. 8 refers to the Nero redivivus legend since Revelation appears to have written while Nero was still alive. Thus it appears that the early composition and circulation of Revelation created the Nero redivivus legend (see The Nero Redivivus Suggests that Revelation was Written before A.D. 68).43
The Abyss is the spiritual realm of the dead. The fact that the beast “once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss” implies a kind of resurrection from the dead. Therefore, the expression “once was, now is not, and yet will come” is a cryptic way of saying, “This beast once was alive, now is dead, and yet will live again.” The beast who once was, now is not, and yet will come is mentioned several times throughout the Book of Revelation. The fact that he comes out of the Abyss in v. 8 links this beast with Apollyon in Revelation 9:11 and the beast who kills the two witnesses in Revelation 11:7. In all three cases, this beast is the Flavian Dynasty often embodied by its second member, Caesar Titus. See the commentary on Revelation 9: A Preterist Commentary–Who is Apollyon? and Revelation 11: A Preterist Commentary–Who are the Two Witnesses?
Revelation Fulfilled, An Exposition, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 17:8: Rome, the Beast, dies with Nero Caesar and rises from the Dead with the Ascension of the Flavians; Vespasian, Titus and Domitian; Who were all Crowned Caesar at the same time and together revived the Roman Empire by putting an End to Rome’s Civil War and the War with Israel.
The beast is a broad metaphor for Rome and the emperors who ruled its two first-century dynasties, the Caesar family dynasty and the Flavian family dynasty. Therefore, the beast who once was represents the Roman Empire under Nero. The fact that the beast “now is not” implies that the beast dies with Nero. Nero was the last emperor of the Caesar family line. And Nero’s suicide triggered a civil war as Nero had not named his successor. Therefore, the beast is metaphorically considered dead in A.D. 69 during the three-way civil war after Nero’s death.44 The fact that the beast “yet will come” implies a kind of resurrection of Nero and his empire. The beast of Rome did not begin to show signs of life until the end of A.D. 69 at the rise of the Flavian Dynasty when Vespasian, the beast whose wound had been healed in Revelation 13:3, Titus and Domitian were all officially declared Caesar.45 Soon after the Flavians rose to power the revolts in Jerusalem and the three-way civil war in Rome that began after Nero’s death had ended. The Flavians, had saved the Roman Empire which was on the precipice of collapsing while at the zenith of its power.46 The rise of the Flavian Dynasty marks the resurrection of the beast of Rome. This notion is implicit in a coin minted during Vespasian’s reign which depicts Vespasian reaching his hand out to help the Goddess Roma back to her feet. If Roma is being helped back to her feet by Vespasian, does this imply a popular perception that Rome had temporarily fallen during the year of the four Caesars? Under the leadership of the Flavian Dynasty the beast had risen from the Abyss. Its wound had been healed! The restoration of the peace and stability of the Roman Empire under the Flavians is, however, not the only way in which the Roman beast is historically and metaphorically resurrected from the dead.
Preterist Theology, A Commentary of Revelation 17: The Beast who once was, now is not and yet will come and the Caesar Titus and Antiochus Epiphanies Connection . . .
There is another way in which this beast “once was, now is not, and yet will come.” Titus, the second member of the Flavian Dynasty or trinity, was not the first person to desecrate the holy temple. In 168 B.C., Antiochus Epiphanies defiled the temple in Jerusalem and stopped the daily sacrifice. This man is a type of the beast who “once was.” The beast that defiles the temple is not active during the time of Revelation’s composition and thus “now is not.” Then in A.D. 70, the temple is defiled and the daily sacrifice is stopped once again, this time by Titus, the beast that “yet will come.”
It is perhaps no coincidence that the one of the names of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse that provided auxiliary troops to Caesar Titus for the siege of Jerusalem was also named Antiochus. Perhaps this was an omen pointing to Titus as a kind of return of Antiochus Epiphanies? See Revelation 6: A Preterist Commentary.
Preterist Eschatology and Commentary of Revelation 17: The Nero Imposter and the Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius point to Titus as the Beast Who Rises out of the Abyss.
Nero held on to his empire by afflicting Rome with intense fear; such that after the announcement of Nero’s death, many Roman citizens believed that he would return to reclaim the throne. In the words of Suetonius, “[T]here were people who used to lay spring and summer flowers on his [Nero’s] grave for a long time, and had statues made of him, wearing his fringed toga, which they put up on the Rostra; they even continued to circulate his edicts, pretending he was still alive and would soon return to confound his enemies.”47
During Titus’ reign, a man resembling Nero appeared in Rome. Describing this man, Cassius Dio writes:
In his 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.48
As indicated in Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary, Nero, Vespasian and Titus are all represented by the 666 cryptogram. In the Book of Revelation these three men symbolically represent a beast who dies and resurrects from the dead. The Flavian Dynasty–Vespasian, Titus and Domitian–represent the beast whose wound had been healed while last remaining member of the Caesar family line, Nero, represents the beast with the wounded head. If the Nero imposter is not the actual miraculous resurrection of Nero and thus a literal fulfillment of Revelation 13:3, I believe he at least represents a kind of counterfeit resurrection, a symbol pointing to the Flavian Dynasty as the beast who rises from the dead. As stated above, “the beast who once was, now is not, and yet will come,” is expected, in some way, to die and resurrect from the dead. Furthermore, the first century historian Suetonius writes the following concerning Titus, the second Caesar of the Flavian Dynasty: “It was even thought and prophesied quite openly that he [Titus] would prove to be a second Nero.”49 The fact that the Flavian Dynasty represents the healing of the wounded head of the beast of Revelation 13:3 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.”50
Called the beast that comes out of the Abyss in v. 8, the Flavian Dynasty is seen as a kind of resurrected devil. The Abyss is the dark, fiery spiritual realm of the dead. 1 Enoch 10:4-7 reveals that the Abyss is located under the earth. 1 Enoch 18:10-16 states that the Abyss is a realm of fire. According to 1 Enoch, the spiritual realm of the Abyss is an underground pit of molten fire and burning sulfur much like the magma of the earth’s core. In Revelation 9:2 an angel opens up a shaft releasing the smoke from the Abyss, a fact which sounds very much like a volcanic eruption. During a volcanic eruption, thousands of pounds of smoke are ejected. This smoke can darken the sky for miles like the smoke described in Revelation 9:2. Marking Titus’ coronation, Mt. Vesuvius erupted. Recall that according to 1 Enoch, the Abyss is located under the earth so the smoke released from Vesuvius is not unlike smoke from the Abyss in fulfillment of Revelation 9:2: “When he opened the Abyss, smoke rose from it like the smoke from a gigantic furnace.”51
Cassius Dio states that during the time of the eruption, “Some thought that the Giants [Titans] were rising again in revolt (for at this time also many of their forms could be discerned in the smoke . . .)”52 The fact that spiritual beings were seen in the smoke of this erupting volcano may be a miraculous manifestation of the resurrection of spirits out of the Abyss. Thus during Titus’ brief reign there were at least two signs pointing to this member of the Flavian Dynasty as the beast who rises out of the Abyss.
It is worth noting that the “Giants” or Titans seen rising out of the smoke of Vesuvius according to Cassius Dio’s account of the eruption of Vesuvius are the mythical revivals of the Greek Gods. Titan is etymologically related to the name Titus since the name Titan is a variant of the name Titus.53 Interestingly, the sum of the numerical values of Titan, like Titus, also adds up to 666.54 See Revelation 9: A Preterist Commentary, Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary and Revelation 20: A Preterist Commentary.
9“This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.
Revelation 17 Preterist Commentary: Babylon is Rome.
As stated above, Rome is the city of seven hills. Here one can see that Babylon is a symbolic name for Rome. That being said, the way in which this verse is phrased also hints at Jerusalem as well.
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Revelation 17:9: The Fact that Jerusalem, the Earth, sits on Rome, the Sea, is a Portrait of the Ancient Concept of the Earth Sitting Above and Surrounded by the Sea.
Earlier in v. 3 the woman is seen sitting on the beast; and then in this verse, she is seen sitting on seven hills. The beast and the seven hills all represent Rome. As explained in v. 1, the image of the woman, Jerusalem, sitting on Rome is a picture of Jerusalem in the act of adultery. (It is interesting to note that according to Milton Terry, Jerusalem also sat on seven hills: Zion, Moriah, Acra, Bezetha, Millo, Opel, and the rocky hill upon which the Tower of Antonia stood.55 Could this fact be a permanent sign or omen of her adultery with Rome?)
The seven-headed beast, like the sea, is a metaphor for Rome. The fact that Jerusalem, the earth, is depicted sitting on Gentile Rome, the sea, also has added significance. This earth and sea imagery paints a picture of the ancient mythical concept of the earth as a disc, here representing Jerusalem, sitting above and surrounded by the primordial sea or Abyss, representing Rome.
Below are two different symbolic representations of Israel and Rome. The first represents Israel as the earth surrounded by the sea or waters as it is depicted in v. 1.56 The second is a synonymous image of Jerusalem, the earth, sitting on the seven-headed beast representing Gentile Rome. Both pictures are a metaphor for Israel sitting on and surrounded by Gentile Rome, as the earth appears to be sitting on and surrounded by the sea in the picture of the island below:
10They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.
Revelation 17:10 Full Preterist Commentary: The Seven Kings are the Caesars.
In this verse, John provides his audience with a clue as to when he saw his vision. The seven kings are the Caesars of Rome. If the first five Caesars had fallen, then John must have written Revelation during the reign of the sixth Caesar. Who was the sixth Caesar?
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 17:10: This Verse suggests that the Book of Revelation was written during Nero’s Reign.
John begins his count with the first self-proclaimed emperor of Rome, Julius Caesar. Prior to Julius Caesar’s reign, Rome was a republic ruled by someone like a president whose power was limited by the senate. After Julius Caesar’s death, Rome was ruled by kings with absolute power. The next four Caesars are Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius. These kings had fallen. Therefore John must have been shown this vision during the reign of the next Caesar, the one named by the 666 cryptogram in Revelation 13:18–Nero.
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 17:10: The next Head of the Beast is the next undisputed Emperor of Rome.
During the year between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s ascension, Rome was ruled by three generals each of whom ruled during a time of civil war and thus never fully attained control of the empire. Upon seizing power, each general’s claim to the throne was heavily contested by uprisings in various parts of the empire that supported another general’s right to rule. The west supported Galba, parts of the empire supported Otho and the north supported Vitellius. The first-century Roman historian Suetonius in his work entitled The Lives of the Twelve Caesars refers to the brief reigns of Galba, Otho and Vitellius as but a “rebellion.”57 Josephus, another first-century historian, called every Roman ruler from Julius to Vespasian “Caesar” except when mentioning Galba, Otho and Vitellius.58 These kings all reigned in A.D. 69 during what may have been the most tumultuous year in Roman history corresponding with the fifth plague of Revelation 16:10.59
At this time, God turned his attention away from Judea and raised his hand against Rome. This plague was triggered by Nero’s death. Having stabbed himself in the throat, Nero represents the wounded head60 of the beast. As a result of this fatal wound (Revelation 13:3), the beast’s kingdom is cast into darkness and thus begins the fifth plague. The fact that Rome, the beast, is cast into darkness during the fifth plague of Revelation 16:10 symbolizes the descent of the beast into the outer darkness of the Abyss, “the land of gloom and utter darkness, . . . the land of deepest night, of utter darkness and disorder, where even the light is like darkness (Job 10:19-22).” The Abyss is presumably the dark underworld of the dead.61 The fact that the beast is dead in A.D. 69 is also implied by the fact that in Revelation 11:7 and Revelation 17:8 the beast is said to come up out of the Abyss, the realm of the dead as stated above. This resurrection imagery points to the antecedent death of the beast. During this year of darkness, Rome died with Nero and the Roman Empire collapsed from the combined weight of wars to the east and west and a three-way civil war within.
The collapse of the Roman Empire in A.D. 69 is also implied in Revelation 16:19: “The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed.” “The great city” in v. 19 is an ambiguous term for both Jerusalem and Rome. In A.D. 69 both Rome and Jerusalem split into three parts as a consequence of separate three-way civil wars. In Jerusalem, Jewish rebels split the city into three factions led by three aspiring Messiahs—John, Simon and Eleazar.62 Meanwhile in Rome, Galba, Otho and Vitellius pitted the Roman legions against each other for control of the empire. According to Revelation 16:19, after the death of Nero, while Jerusalem and Rome were split into three parts, “the cities of the nations collapsed.” “The cities of the nations” is Rome. The collapse of the Roman Empire is symbolically depicted as the death of the seven-headed beast as a consequence of the “fatal wound” of Revelation 13:3 in which Nero committed suicide by stabbing himself in the throat in A.D. 68.
With the sixth head wounded, the Roman leviathan suffered a fatal injury, an injury with which Rome does not fully recover until the fall of Jerusalem and the rise of the Flavian Dynasty, when peace and order returned. Having ruled during the fifth plague, when Rome is metaphorically dead as a result of its wounded head, Galba, Otho and Vitellius are not considered heads of the beast. These three men ruled in A.D. 69, when the beast “now is not.” The beast that has not yet come in v. 10 is the Roman Empire under the Flavian Dynasty; Caesar Vespasian, Caesar Titus and Caesar Domitian.
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Revelation 17:10: Galba Could Not be the One Who is to Come in v. 10 because Galba Officially began his Reign the Day before Nero Died leaving no Gap in Which the Beast “Now is Not.”
The next Caesar to officially succeed Nero was Galba who as stated above reigned for several months before his death in A.D. 69. Galba might initially seem to be a good fit because his reign only lasted a few months. Thus he truly did reign “for a little while” as predicted in v. 10: “[T]he other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for a little while.” The problem with this view is that the person mentioned in v. 10 who was to come is the beast who rises out of the Abyss mentioned in v. 8: “The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction.” Notice v. 8 says this beast “once was, now is not, and will come . . .” V. 8 explicitly mentions a gap in which there is a time in which the beast “now is not.” This cannot be Galba since Galba began to reign immediately around the time of the death of Nero without a gap. In fact, Galba officially began his reign on June 8th, one day before the death of Nero. The expression “now is not” implies a gap. Since Galba began his reign even before Nero died, there was absolutely no gap. In other words, there was no time in which the beast “now is not.” However, there was a gap of over a year between the death of Nero and the beast he represents in June of A.D. 68 and its rise from the dead at the rise of the Flavain Dynasty at the end of A.D. 69.
In support of this notion which appears to me to be implied in Revelation that Vespasian is the true successor to Nero and the rest of the Julio-Claudian line, the Roman historian Kenneth Scott writes the following: “In turn, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius held for a fleeting moment the reins of power, but for so short a time that they could not develop a religious policy. Finally Fortune elevated to the throne the general of the Syrian army, T. Flavius Vespasianus, and we may consider him the real successor of the Julio-Claudians [emphasis mine].”63
Thus the beast of Revelation with its heads representing Rome’s emperors is truly and only denoted by Rome’s two first-century ruling dynasties—the Caesar family dynasty; Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius and Nero; and the Flavian family dynasty; Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. Galba, Otho and Vitellius, the three emperors who ruled in A.D. 69, the year in between these two dynasties were all unrelated and are not considered heads of the beast as each of these men never ruled long enough to solidify their reign in the eyes of the Roman mob and certainly nowhere near the extent necessary to form a ruling dynasty.
Revelation 17:10 Preterist Commentary: The Length of the Flavian Dynasty would be considered a “Little While” in the Bible when compared with similar Language concerning the Timing of the Parousia.
But how could Vespasian or the entire Flavian Dynasty be the beast who rises from the Abyss when Vespasian ruled for almost ten years and Domitian ruled until A.D. 96? How could ten to twenty-six years be considered “a little while?” The expression “a little while” is ambiguous. How long is a little while? To get an idea one must look at similar time statements in the Bible? Throughout the Gospels and the New Testament Jesus promised to return “soon.” Furthermore, in the letters of the Apostles, the parousia is said to be imminent, soon, at hand, at the door and so on. In other words the second coming was expected to occur in a little while. This “little while” stretched a span of about forty years. Thus even if the “little while” in v. 10 spanned twenty-six years from the beginning of Vespasian’s reign until the death of Domitian, that is still less than the forty years between the parousia and the start of Jesus’ ministry.
Revelation 17:10 Preterist Commentary: The Seven Kings are also the Seven Principal Commanders of the Roman Army.
The seven kings are also the seven principal commanders of the Roman Army. According to Josephus, the seven principal commanders of the Roman army during the siege of Jerusalem were 1) Caesar Titus, the general of the entire army; 2) Tiberius Alexander, Titus’ second in command over the whole army; 3) “Sextus Cerealis, the commander of the fifth legion;” 4) “Larcius Lepidus; the commander of the tenth legion;” 5) “Titus Frigius, the commander of the fifteenth legion;” 6) “Eternius, the leader of the two legions that came from Alexandria;” 7) “Marcus Antonius Julianus, the procurator of Judea.”64 If one also counts Vespasian who as emperor was commander and chief of all the legions of Rome, then that makes eight—hence the reference to seven and eight kings in the following verse:
11The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.
Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 17:11: According to the Myth of the Hydra, Two Heads Grow in the Place of One Severed Head. Thus after the Beast with the Severed Head of Revelation 13:3 is raised to life again, the Seven-Headed Beast now has Eight Heads. It is for this Reason that the Eighth King of v. 11 is also One of the Seven.
According to Revelation 1-3, the Apocalypse was originally written to churches in Asia Minor, a Greco-Roman audience. As explained in the commentary on Revelation 13, when the writers of the New Testament wrote in Greek they, of course, used Greek words to conveying Jewish concepts and ideas. For example, the Hebrew words Sheol and Gehenna are often translated into their mythological Greco-Roman counterparts Hades and Tartarus (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14). Similarly, the Jewish leviathan which according to Psalm 74:13-14 and 104:25-26 is a many-headed sea monster is often depicted in Revelation as its Greco-Roman mythological counterpart the many-headed sea monster, the Hydra.
The many-headed Hydra, the Roman equivalent of Tiamat and the Hebrew monster the seven-headed leviathan, was known to regenerate severed heads. Thus the Roman myth of the Hydra was analogous to the Middle Eastern creature called Tiamat in Babylon and Leviathan in Israel. Thus as shown above, John sees Rome represented in the night sky by the constellation Hydra. According to the myth of the Lernaean Hydra if one of the heads of the Hydra were decapitated, two heads would grow in its place.65 In Revelation 13:3, John says that one of the heads of the beast received a fatal wound. Therefore after the severed head of the beast is healed as it was in Revelation 13:3, the Roman beast is then restored to life with eight heads, not seven, because two heads grew in the place of the sixth wounded head. Because the revived seven-headed beast now has eight heads v. 11 mentions an eighth king who is also one of the seven.
Revelation 17:11 Preterist Commentary: Who are the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Kings and Why?
The head that receives the fatal wound in Revelation 13:3 is Nero, the sixth Caesar, who committed suicide by cutting his throat with a knife. As implied in Revelation 13:3 where the beast is said to receive a fatal wound at this time, the death of Nero marks the death of the Roman beast itself. As stated above, the fact that the beast is said to rise out of the Abyss in v. 8, the realm of the dead, is resurrection imagery. The fact that the beast rises out of the land of the dead, of course, means that it was once dead as is also stated in Revelation 13:3. After Nero’s death, Rome collapsed into civil war. Thus the fatal wound of Revelation 13:3 rendered Rome symbolically dead during the civil war that began at Nero’s death and ended shortly after Vespasian’s ascension. Therefore, each of the three Caesars that ruled during the Roman civil war after the death of Nero are not considered heads of the beast because, as implied in Revelation 13:3, the beast is metaphorically dead from its fatal wound at this time of civil war.
The fact that Galba, Otho and Vitellius, the three Caesars that ruled during the civil war of A.D. 69 between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s ascension, are not considered heads of the beast is not surprising. During the civil war of A.D. 69 Rome had no official emperor. This was a direct result of the fact that the loyalty of the Roman mob was divided among these three instigators of this civil war, Galba, Otho and Vitellius, who each claimed to be Caesar often while their predecessor also claimed this title.66
The beast started to show signs of life and began to rise from the Abyss (resurrect from the dead) at the start of the Flavian Dynasty when Vespasian and his two sons, Titus and Domitian, were all three simultaneously declared Caesar. Though the beast rises from the dead when Vespasian, Titus and Domitian are concurrently declared Caesar, it does not fully recover from its wound until the fall of Jerusalem shortly thereafter. Thus the Flavian Dynasty–Caesar Vespasian, Caesar Titus and Caesar Domitian—which were all given the title Caesar at the same time might be said to represent the final three heads of the beast.67 Vespasian having quenched the civil war that raged after Nero’s death could be then said to represent the new sixth head that grew in the place of the old severed sixth head representing Nero. Titus would then, therefore, be the seventh head and Domitian, the eighth.
The fact that Vespasian and Titus may represent the two heads of the hydra that bifurcated or branched out from the root of the old severed, sixth head representing Nero seems to be implied by an interesting historical peculiarity: Up until A.D. 69, at the beginning of the Flavian ascension, Vespasian and Titus shared the same name, Titus Flavius Vespasianus.68 Could the fact that father and firstborn son adopted the same cognomen or official Roman nickname at the start of their concurrent rise to power be a subtle historical hint from God that these two men represent the two heads that sprung up from the root of the old sixth, severed head of the hydra? In further support of this fact, remember that like Nero the number 666 is also rendered by the name Titus Flavius Vespasianus; Vespasian’s and Titus’ blended, shared name. See Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary.
Because Vespasian and Titus represent the two heads that grow in the place of the old sixth head, Domitian, the former seventh head, now becomes the new eighth head. This is why Domitian is called “[t]he beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven[.]” (Revelation 7:11) As part of the Flavian Dynasty, Domitian is one of the members of the beasts that rises out of the Abyss. In other words, the last three heads of the beast are the Flavian Dynasty (Trinity reference?).
The fact that Domitian is grouped together with the other seven heads of the beast as the eighth king mentioned in Revelation 17:11 makes sense in light of his cruelty toward Christians. Domitian, like Vespasian and Titus, is often regarded as a kind of resurrected Nero. This is sometimes suggested with Domitian in particular because Domitian was the next Caesar after Nero who is believed to have violently persecuted Christians in Rome. In this unique way, one can see how Domitian having a similarly evil character to Nero might be regarded as a kind of resurrection of Nero in fulfillment of v.11. (As a side note, Titus appears to have shared a similar malice toward Christians according to Sulpicius Severus.69)
Nero, however, may have survived his wound. For the surprising historical evidence in favor of this fact see the explanation on v. 3 in Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary. If the Roman rumors are to be believed and Nero did, indeed, survive his attempted suicide, then Nero would therefore himself become the LITERAL healing of the sixth wounded head. This would then make Vespasian the seventh head and Titus, the eighth. This interpretation also works very well. So well, in fact, that it seems likely to me that both interpretations are correct and simultaneously implied by the text.
The idea that Titus is the eighth head of the beast may also be implied in Daniel 7. In this chapter, Daniel is given a vision of ten horns. Then an eleventh grows up before which three of the previous horns are uprooted according to Daniel 7:8: “While I was thinking about the [ten] horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it.” As stated in Daniel 7: A Preterist Commentary, these eleven horns also appear to be eleven Caesars from the first, Julius Caesar, to the eleventh, Titus Caesar. The three horns that are uprooted before the eleventh horn could be said to be Galba, Otho and Vitellius. The fact that the three horns representing Galba, Otho and Vitellius were uprooted before the eleventh horn, Caesar Titus makes Titus an eighth Caesar while also being the eleventh Caesar. (11-3=8) That being the case, this makes Titus the seventh and/or eighth head of the beast. This may also be why according to v. 11, “The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king” and yet “belongs to the seven.”
This ambiguity in which Vespasian could be viewed as either a sixth or seventh head of the beast and Titus as either a seventh or eighth head of the beast is not surprising since Nero, Vespasian, Titus are all represented by the 666 cryptogram as if they were all one individual. See commentary on Revelation 13:18 in Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary. Furthermore, Titus and Vespasian shared the same name, Titus Flavius Vespasianus,70 and were both crowned Caesar at the same time, during Vespasian’s coronation.71 Considering these facts, it is not surprising that Nero, Vespasian and Titus are often spoken of as a cohesive unit throughout this text. It is also interesting to note that Domitian, the final member of the Flavian Dynasty and possibly the eighth head of the beast, is occasionally alleged to be represented by the 666 cryptogram.
12“The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. 13They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.
Revelation 17:12-14 Preterist Commentary: Could there also be a Jewish Fulfillment to the Ten Horns?
In the commentary on Daniel 7 I explained that I believe that the ten horns represent the first ten Caesars as well as the ten Zealot leaders of the Jewish Revolt.72 The symbols of Revelation can represent more than one thing as explicitly indicted in Revelation 17:9-10 in which the seven heads of the beast symbolize both seven hills and seven kings. Furthermore, as explained above, Jerusalem and Rome appear to have become one flesh as a consequence of their adulterous affair (1 Corinthians 6:16). If it is true that Rome and Jerusalem symbolically became one flesh as a consequence of their adultery, perhaps one might expect to see some symbolic hints of this fact? I believe that the ten horns may hint at this fusion of Rome and Jerusalem.
Despite the fact that both Jerusalem and Rome became one flesh by way of their adulterous affair (1 Corinthians 6:16) some might still object to this dual fulfillment or chimeric depiction of the Roman beast being part Roman and Jewish and/or both Roman and Jewish. However, keep in mind that first-century Rome was a vast empire comprised of many different people and ethnic groups. And, of course, first-century Israel was part of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, Rome, the beast of Revelation, is explicitly said to be a chimera in Revelation 13:2. Immediately after mentioning the ten horns of the beast in Revelation 13:1, John then goes on to describe the chimeric appearance of the Roman beast in the next verse: “The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion (Revelation 13:2).” This verse is a direct reference to Daniel’s vision of the leopard, bear and lion representing the Greek, Medo-Persian, and Babylonian Empires respectively. See the preterist commentary on Daniel 7. In Revelation 13:2 it is clear that the Roman beast is a chimera being part leopard (Greek), part bear (Medo-Persian) and part lion (Babylonian). In Revelation 13:2 the beast out of the sea is said to have the mouth of a lion and the feet of a bear. Since the lion represents Babylon and the bear, Medo-Persia, the beast of Revelation is said to have the mouth of Babylon and the feet of Medo-Persia. If the beast could have the mouth of Babylon and the feet of Medo-Persia, it could also have the horns of Israel on its head. In other words, this chimeric depiction of the beast makes it possible for the ten horns of the Roman sea beast to represent Israel and its ten Zealot leaders. After all if the Roman beast can be part Greek, Medo-Persian and Babylonian as a result of having conquered large parts of each of these previous empires, it should not be surprising if the beast is also part Jewish as well since Israel was also part of the Roman Empire. Likewise, the Roman army mustering for the siege of Jerusalem is also depicted as a chimera in Revelation 9 where these soldiers are pictured as locusts with faces like men, woman’s hair, lions’ teeth, serpent heads and scorpion tails. See Revelation 9: A Preterist Commentary–Who is Apollyon?.
In Revelation 17:3 the whore of Babylon, the religious capital of Israel, is depicted sitting on the beast: “Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns [emphasis mine].” Then in Revelation 17:9 the whore of Babylon is specifically said to be seated on the seven heads of the beast which are also seven hills: “The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.” This is a strange image. According to Revelation 17:9, the whore of Babylon appears to actually be seated on the seven heads of the beast which are also seven hills. Interestingly, according to Revelation 13:1 the ten horns are also situated atop the seven heads of the beast: “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.” Crowns are placed on heads so if ten crowns are placed on ten horns, the ten horns must therefore be atop the seven heads of the beast. Could the fact that Jerusalem, the religious capital of Israel, and the ten horns are both situated on top of the seven heads of the beast imply that the ten horns, like the whore of Babylon, might also be Jewish? I believe that there is good reason to believe that they may be.
I believe that the ten horns of Revelation 17:12 are also the ten toes of the statue of Daniel 2. These ten toes are explicitly said to be a mixture of iron and clay: “Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron (Daniel 2:41)[.]” Like the rest of the metals of the statue which represent the succession of Gentile empires which conquered Israel, the iron also represents a Gentile empire that ruled over Israel. This empire is Rome. The clay of the statue appears to represent Israel following the precedent set in Isaiah 64:8 and Jeremiah 18:6. (For a much more detailed explanation of the evidence that the clay of the statue represents Israel and the iron, Rome see the preterist commentary on Daniel 2.) Thus the iron (Rome) mixing with clay (Israel) in Daniel 2 seems to echo this fusion of Jerusalem and Rome hinted upon in Revelation 17.
The ten horns are said to be ten kings (Daniel 7:24, Revelation 17:12). Thus if the ten toes of the statue in Daniel 2 are also the ten horns this iron and clay mixture implies that there should be two sets of ten kings: one Roman represented by the iron part of the ten toes and one Israeli represented by the clay part of the ten toes (Isaiah 64:8, Jeremiah 18:6). Above I mentioned the fact that I believe the iron or Roman aspect of the ten horns/toes represents the first ten Caesars. Where there also ten Israelite horns? I believe that there were. In The Wars of the Jews, Josephus mentions the fact that Jewish rebels appointed ten generals/governors over Israel in A.D. 66, near the start of the Jewish revolt:
But as to those who had pursued after Cestius, when they were returned back to Jerusalem, they overbore some of those that favored the Romans by violence, and some them persuaded [by en-treaties] to join with them, and got together in great numbers in the temple, and appointed a great many generals for the war. Joseph also, the son of Gorion, and Ananus the high priest, were chosen as governors of all affairs within the city[. . . .] They also chose other generals for Idumea; Jesus, the son of Sapphias, one of the high priests; and Eleazar, the son of Ananias, the high priest; they also enjoined Niger, the then governor of Idumea, who was of a family that belonged to Perea, beyond Jordan, and was thence called the Peraite, that he should be obedient to those fore-named commanders. Nor did they neglect the care of other parts of the country; but Joseph the son of Simon was sent as general to Jericho, as was Manasseh to Perea, and John, the Esscue, to the toparchy of Thamna; Lydda was also added to his portion, and Joppa, and Emmaus. But John, the son of Matthias, was made governor of the toparchies of Gophnitica and Acrabattene; as was Josephus, the son of Matthias, of both the Galilees. Gamala also, which was the strongest city in those parts, was put under his command [emphasis mine].73
As do most, if not all, preterists, I believe that Revelation was likely written prior to the Jewish War, this means that all of these ten horns or ten generals having been appointed to office at the start of this war had not yet received their authority at the time in which Revelation was composed in fulfillment of Revelation 17:12: “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast [emphasis mine].” (For a compelling case for the dating of Revelation prior to the Jewish revolt see Before Jerusalem Fell by Kenneth Gentry.)
The hour in which the ten horns receive authority is, of course, not a literal sixty-minute hour. The hour in which these kings receive authority refers to the time of the end itself. For example, Babylon is said to fall in one hour according to Revelation 18:17. Similarly, the end of the age is explicitly called the last hour in 1 John 2:18: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour [emphasis mine].”
If the ten horns are Jews, how is this possible in light of v. 16? Revelation 17:16 reads, “The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.” Revelation 17:16 say that the ten horns would “hate the prostitute” and “eat her flesh.” Concerning how the ten horns ate the flesh of the prostitute Josephus uses nearly identical language to express how the Zealots plundered and killed one another as if they were a beast eating its own flesh:
Now as to the attack the zealots made upon the people, and which I esteem the beginning of the city’s destruction, it hath been already explained after an accurate manner; as also whence it arose, and to how great a mischief it was increased. But for the present sedition, one should not mistake if he called it a sedition begotten by another sedition, and to be like a wild beast grown mad, which, for want of food from abroad, fell now upon eating its own flesh [emphasis mine].74
One of the themes of Josephus’ account of Israel’s first-century war with Rome was to illustrate how the Jewish rebels brought their own destruction upon themselves by provoking an unwinnable war with Rome and by the savagery they showed one another throughout the war. Josephus frequently recounts how the Zealots plundered and killed their own people throughout the Jewish War. Perhaps in this way the ten horns ate the flesh of the prostitute?
But did the ten horns hate the whore of Babylon? In his account of Israel’s first-century war with Rome, Josephus mentions two groups of Jews: those who were loyal to Rome before and throughout the war and those who sought independence from Rome. The leaders of the ten horns by and large were not loyal to Rome. Those Jews who were loyal to Rome throughout the war were seen by the Zealot leaders as traitors to their nation. Those Jews on the side of Caesar were largely the religious, political and economic elites. These wealthy Jews did not want a war with Rome because they owed much of their power and wealth to Rome. Furthermore, many of these Jewish elites passionately sought to avoid a war with Rome because any war especially one with Rome put their wealth in serious jeopardy through pillaging and destruction of property. Similarly, a war with Rome risked destroying the Temple, the source of their wealth as first-century Jerusalem’s entire economy was based on the Temple. In fact, it was for this reason that these wealthy rich men who were loyal to Rome looked for a reason to kill Jesus as is implied in John 11:47-49:
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we 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.” 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 [emphasis mine].”
In v. 48 the Pharisees complain, “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.” What they meant in saying this was that if Jesus continued to garner more followers eventually the people might forcibly seek to place Him on a throne in Jerusalem and crown Him as the Messiah. And if Jesus was made the sovereign king of the Jews as the messiah was believed to be, this would be interpreted by Rome as a declaration of war as first-century Israel was a Roman province, not a sovereign nation. In response to this point, Caiaphas says, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
As is made explicitly clear in John 11:47-49 these men of the Sanhedrin conspired to kill Jesus so as to avoid a war with Rome. But this desire to have Jesus killed in order to avoid a tragic war was not entirely altruistic. The Sanhedrin was comprised of Jerusalem’s religious and economic elites, the two generally went hand-in-hand in a Temple-based economy as Jerusalem was at the time. These wealthy men sought to kill Jesus in order to avoid a war with Rome as any war would leave them broke through pillaging and destruction of property (Matthew 2:1-3; 19:24; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 11:39; 16:13-15; 18:18-26; 1 Timothy 6:10; James 2:6; 5:1-6). In John 11:50 Caiaphas addresses all the other rich men of the Sanhedrin saying “that it is better for you” that Jesus perish. It was better for these wealthy men that Jesus die because if Rome declared war on Israel they would lose everything. This is why James writes the following in James 5:1-6:
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. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 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, who was not opposing you.
James 5:1-6 explicitly states that it was the rich who killed Jesus. And despite their plot to kill the Messiah so as to preserve their personal fortunes, the war with Rome came anyway and their worst fears were realized when all their wealth was lost at that time. In other words, it was the desire to preserve their wealth and status that these wealthy elites who were loyal to Rome killed Jesus and then during Jesus’ trial yelled, “We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
Of course not all Jews were hostile toward Jesus, Jesus’ followers were almost exclusively poor (Matthew 19:24, 1 Corinthians 1:26, 2 Corinthians 6:10, Hebrews 10:34, James 2:1-7, Revelation 2:9). It was the poor that desired a Messiah, not the rich who already lived a pleasant life of luxury under Roman rule. Like the early Christians who placed their faith in Jesus during His earthly ministry, the Zealots who revolted against Rome were also almost entirely poor people who were also oppressed by the wealthy Jewish and Roman elites. These Zealots and many of their leaders, the ten horns, hated these wealthy Jews even more during the Jewish War because they were believed to be traitors who never wavered in their loyalty to Rome, their military enemy. Josephus writes, “But as for the richer sort, it proved all one to them whether they staid in the city or attempted to get out of it, for they were equally destroyed [by the Zealots] in both cases; for every such person was put to death under this pretense, that they were going to desert [to the Romans],–but in reality that the robbers might get what they had [emphasis mine].”75 Recording how the Zealots plundered and killed the wealthy people of their nation, Josephus writes the following:
Now when these were quieted, it happened, as it does in a diseased body, that another part was subject to an inflammation; for a company of deceivers and robbers got together, and persuaded the Jews to revolt, and exhorted them to assert their liberty, inflicting death on those that continued in obedience to the Roman government, and saying, that such as willingly chose slavery ought to be forced from such their desired inclinations; for they parted themselves into different bodies, and lay in wait up and down the country, and plundered the houses of the great men, and slew the men themselves, and set the villages on fire; and this till all Judea was filled with the effects of their madness. And thus the flame was every day more and more blown up, till it came to a direct war [emphasis mine].76
But for the noblemen and the youth, they [the Zealots and Idumeans] first caught them and bound them, and shut them up in prison, and put off their slaughter, in hopes that some of them would turn over to their party; but not one of them would comply with their desires, but all of them preferred death before being enrolled among such wicked wretches as acted against their own country. But this refusal of theirs brought upon them terrible torments; for they were so scourged and tortured, that their bodies were not able to sustain their torments, till at length, and with difficulty, they had the favor to be slain. Those whom they caught in the day time were slain in the night, and then their bodies were carried out and thrown away, that there might be room for other prisoners. . . . and there were twelve thousand of the better sort who perished in this manner.77
[F]or he [John, who later became one of the Zealot leaders] permitted them to do all things that any of them desired to do, while their inclination to plunder was insatiable, as was their zeal in searching the houses of the rich; and for the murdering of the men, and abusing of the women, it was sport to them. They also devoured what spoils they had taken, together with their blood[.]78
Though Jerusalem is the prostitute of Revelation 17, not everyone in first-century Jerusalem was guilty of the whore of Babylon’s sins. Remember that first-century Jerusalem had a thriving Christian community. If the church at Jerusalem is not part of what is called the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17, then perhaps the population of Jerusalem could be subdivided even further? As touched upon above, the whore of Babylon most specifically denotes those people of Jerusalem whose loyalty to Rome caused them to kill Jesus and His people: “I saw that the woman [the whore of Babylon] was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.” And as shown in James 5:1-6 the people who perpetrated these murders were the wealthy Jews of Jerusalem who did so, so as to preserve their personal fortunes. In the quotes above, Josephus shows how the Zealots under the authority of the ten horns hated these wealthy people whom they viewed as traitors to the nation and thus robbed and killed these people throughout the war. Here one can see how the ten horns and the rebels under their authority hated the prostitute in fulfillment of v. 16.
One might also ask how it is that these ten horns could be Jewish if they are said to give their authority to the beast in vs. 13 and 17? One might object to the ten horns being Jewish since Israel was at war with Rome. If Israel and Rome were at war, how is it that these ten horns could be said to give their authority to the beast? I believe the answer to this question lies in the outcome of the war. As stated above, these ten generals received their authority at the start of Israel’s revolt against Rome and all ten horns ultimately lost that authority at end of that war, though some lost it sooner. Once Rome crushed the Palestinian war for independence, these ten horns ultimately lost their authority and thus were unwillingly forced to give their authority back to Rome, the beast. It is as a consequence of having lost the war that I believe that the ten horns had given their authority (albeit unwillingly) to the beast. Verse 17 seems to confirm this interpretation as Revelation 17:17 is more accurately translated “to make one mind to surrender their kingdom to the beast.”79 The fact that v. 17 literally says that the ten horns “surrender their kingdoms” seems to point more to the ten horns surrendering their kingdoms or authority to the beast as a result of military defeat rather than willingly joining the beast and working with him or it.
This loss of authority at the end of the war may also be what is spoken of in v. 18: “The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18).” The earth in this verse is Palestine or Israel. See In the Bible ‘Earth’ Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While ‘Sea’ Symbolizes Foreign Nations. If the earth in Revelation is Palestine or Israel, then the kings of the earth (i.e. Palestine or Israel) should rule over, not under, Jerusalem, the woman and great city mentioned in v. 18. The fact that the kings of Israel are ruled over by their capital city seems to poetically imply that these “kings” had ultimately lost their power once Babylon fell as stated in v.16. (Though it is also possible that the kings of the earth may refer to the former Roman governors like Florus and Agrippa II who lost control of their provinces during the Jewish revolt.)80
14They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
Preterist Eschatology Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 17:14: How Did the Beast and the Ten Horns Wage War Against Christ?
How is it that the beast and the ten horns are said to “make war” against Christ? As depicted in Revelation 17, Israel and its governors, the kings of the earth, and Rome, the beast, had both killed Christ and His people. In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine [the Christian saints], even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” In light of Matthew 25:40 because Rome and Israel both partook and collaborated in the unjust deaths of Christ and his people and made war against the saints in Revelation 13:7, Israel and Rome had ultimately declared war on Christ, the rider on the white horse, and his heavenly army. It should also be stated that it is not impossible that the kings of the earth of Revelation 19 could be the ten horns of Revelation 17 and not the deposed kings of Israel mentioned above. If the kings of the earth are actually the ten horns and that these ten horns are the ten Zealot leaders of the Jewish Revolt, then this war against the Lamb may be fulfilled in the actions of one of these men. One of the ten Zealot leaders listed by Josephus is Ananus II. Ananus II was responsible for killing James, Jesus’ biological brother as well as the leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem.81 Recall that according to Matthew 25:40 whatever one does to any Christian, they do this act to Christ: “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine [the Christian saints], even the least of them, you did it to Me.” Interestingly, James was not just a “brother” to Christ because he was a Christian, James was also LITERALLY Jesus’ brother in a biological sense. The fact that Ananus II killed James, the leader of the church of Jerusalem and Jesus’ biological brother, shows how these ten Jewish horns also waged war against Christ in fulfillment of Revelation 17:14 and 19:19.
15Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are the peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. 16The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled.
Revelation 17:16 Full Preterist Commentary: Verse 16 suggests that the Whore of Babylon is Jerusalem, Not Rome.
As explained above, though both Jerusalem and Rome are given the title Babylon, Jerusalem was Rome’s whore thus Jerusalem is the whore of Babylon. Those who mistakenly argue that Rome is the whore of Babylon run into a problem in v. 16. Verse 16 says that the beast will hate the prostitute. The beast is Rome and its emperor. How could Rome hate Rome?82
The “A.D. 70 Doctrine” and Revelation 17:16: Why Did the Beast and the Ten Horns Hate the Prostitute?
The beast and the ten horns hate the prostitute because like any prostitute she is not faithful to one man. In the beginning of Revelation 17 Jerusalem is depicted in the act of adultery with Rome. However, first-century apostate Jerusalem does not remain faithful to the beast and proves to be unfaithful even to Rome when in A.D. 66 Israel revolted against Rome, her lover. This metaphorical infidelity was largely the result of Florus’ anti-Semitic policies in the region which pushed the Zealots into revolt. But not all of Israel wanted independence and war. A large segment of the aged and wealthy wanted peace and thus allied themselves with Rome while many of the poorer, younger Jews wanted independence in fulfillment of Matthew 10:21. Because of this discord and division in loyalty, Jerusalem is symbolized as a prostitute who is naturally unfaithful to any one lover. Because of Jerusalem’s lack of loyalty to Rome she is hated by the beast and the ten horns who ultimately destroy her in A.D 70.
Revelation 17:16 Preterist Commentary: Death by Burning was the Punishment for a Prostitute Who was the Daughter of a Priest according to the Law.
In Revelation 17:16, Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, is stripped naked and burned with fire. Death by burning was the prescribed punishment for a prostitute who was the daughter of a priest according to the Leviticus 21:9: “[T]he daughter of any priest, if she profanes herself by harlotry, she profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire.”
Revelation 17:16-17 Preterist Commentary: The Beast, Titus and Vespasian, and the Ten Horns destroyed the Prostitute, Jerusalem.
Almost seven hundred years before Revelation was written, the prophet Ezekiel also accused Jerusalem of being a prostitute; and in Ezekiel 16:35-41, the prophet warned that Jerusalem would be destroyed by her lovers. As promised, Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon in 597 B.C. History repeats itself. In the first century, Jerusalem is again caught in an adulterous affair, this time with Rome. And like the prophet Ezekiel, John sees Jerusalem burned and destroyed by her lover, an event that soon came to pass in A.D. 70.83 Like a prostitute at work, Jerusalem is left naked in v. 16. Nakedness is a Biblical metaphor for desolation.84
18The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”
Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 17:18: Jerusalem is the Great City that Rules over the Kings of the Earth, Israel.
As implied in v. 18, Babylon is the chief city of the earth. As Israel’s religious capital, Jerusalem reigns over Israel, the earth. Because of donations to the Temple from Jews all over the known world, first century Jerusalem was an immensely wealthy city eclipsed in wealth only by Rome and Alexandria. Thus it is not surprising that Josephus calls Jerusalem “that great city”85 which “was supreme and presided over the neighboring country as the head does over the body[.]”86 Similarly, in 4QLam of the Dead Sea Scrolls Jerusalem is called “princess of all nations.”87
As stated throughout this commentary, the earth is Israel. Thus the kings of the earth of v. 18 are the kings of Israel. The fact that the kings of the earth signify the kings of Israel is explicitly illustrated in Acts 4:26-27: “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’ Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.” In Acts 4:26-27 one can see that Herod and Pilate are the kings of the earth mentioned in Acts 4:26.88
When referring to Jerusalem, v. 18 appears to be a pun concerning the ultimate fate of the kings of Israel during the war with Rome. Because the true kings of Israel, the earth, were appointed by Rome, these kings had obviously lost their authority when the people of Israel revolted against Rome during the Jewish War (Wars 18.104.22.168). The kings of the earth should reign over Babylon representing Jerusalem, not the other way around. The fact that the city of Babylon reigns over the kings of the earth may satirically point to the kings of the earth being stripped of their authority during the Jewish War.
If the kings of the earth in v. 18 also refer to the leaders of the Jewish revolt, this verse has an added layer of meaning. The fact that the city of Babylon reigns over the kings of the earth might also point to the leaders of the Jewish revolt also being stripped of their authority as they lie dead underground in their graves. Though the dead were not buried during the war, they were buried shortly thereafter as thousands of dead bodies littered the streets of Jerusalem at its fall in A.D. 70. In other words, this verse may picture some of the leaders of the Jewish War, here seemingly also depicted as the kings of the earth, no longer ruling over Babylon but lying dead under Babylon. Interestingly, the above verse might more accurately be translated: “The woman who you saw is the great city, which has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.”89
This verse is also fulfilled in the ironic way in which the Jewish War ended. John and Simon, the two remaining leaders of the Jewish revolt, fled to underground caverns under Jerusalem to avoid capture after Jerusalem fell in fulfillment of Revelation 6:15:
Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it [emphasis mine]?”
No longer ruling over their kingdom, these men, having been stripped of power, were literally under their kingdom as they hid away in caves under the earth.90
After Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans little of it remained after the Romans destroyed its buildings, demolished the Temple and burned the city to the ground. In the next chapter, John foresees the lament over the fallen city.
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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.
Preterist Commentary on Revelation 17: Conclusion
As stated in this preterist commentary on Revelation 17, Babylon is both Rome and Jerusalem; and the prophecies regarding Babylon are jointly fulfilled both in the lives of Caesar Titus and Queen Berenice and in the nations they rule and represent.
- This verse is very similar to Jeremiah 51:49. In this verse, the prophet writes, “Babylon must fall because of Israel’s slain, just as the slain in all the earth have fallen because of Babylon.” Just as Babylon had killed everyone in the land of Israel, Jerusalem had killed all the prophets.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.5.
- G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 18-19; Don K. Preston, Who is This Babylon?, (Ardmore, OK: JaDon Management Inc., 2011), 262-263.
- Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, rev. ed. (London: Penguin Books, 2004), 509.
- Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 1.6.1.
- Though the city of Rome literally sits atop seven hills and the readers is expected to understand this fact, there is more to this symbolism than just giving the reader a picture of the city of Rome resting above seven hills. The fact that the whore of Babylon is depicted sitting on the seven hills of Rome is also meant to be understood as sexual imagery depicting the adulterous affair between the whore of Babylon which is Jerusalem and the seven-headed beast which is Rome and its Caesars. Now wait a minute! How could Babylon be Rome and yet also symbolize a city having sex with Rome? This imagery of Babylon sitting on the seven hills of Rome, the beast, is double talk hinting at the fact that these two cities became one as a consequence of their adulterous affair.
- In the Old Testament three cities are called whores or harlots: Nineveh, Tyre and Jerusalem. Nineveh is called a harlot who participates in whoredoms in Nahum 3:1-4. Tyre plays “the harlot with all the kingdoms of the world” in Isaiah 23:15-17, and Jerusalem is called a harlot in Isaiah 1:21 and Jeremiah 2:20.
- One prominent example, among many, of this public defamation is found in Matthew 21:23-46.
- Hersh Goldwurm, History of the Jewish People: The Second Temple Era, The ArtScroll History Series, ed. Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1982), 149. 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), 218.
- See also Jeremiah 3:8 and Ezekiel 16:32.
- Acts 8:1. Rome killed Christians during the Neronic persecution.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.6.3.
- Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 19.5.1.
- Though Titus was Vespasian’s firstborn son, Titus had an elder sister who died shortly after birth (Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 10.5).
- Suetonius The Lives of the Twelve Caesars 11.4.
- Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 19.5.1, 19.9.1. Her father, Herod Agrippa I, was the client king of Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem is the capital of Judea.
- Ibid., 20.7.3.
- Tacitus The Histories 2.2; Cassius Dio Roman History 66.15.
- Hersh Goldwurm, History of the Jewish People: The Second Temple Era, The ArtScroll History Series, ed. Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1982), 149. 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), 218.
- Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 19.9.1.
- J. 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.
- Though the people of Israel sentenced Christ to be killed, it was ultimately the Romans that carried out the act. Furthermore, both Israel and Rome had murdered the saints in separate waves of persecution.
- Tacitus The Histories 2.2; Cassius Dio Roman History 66.15.
- The beast who rises out of the Abyss is the Flavian Dynasty, Caesar Vespasian, Caesar Titus and Caesar Domitian who all were declared Caesar at the same time. (Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.) Shortly after having been bestowed this title, the Flavians put an end to the war in Israel and the civil war in Rome.
- To be completely accurate, the constellation Virgo actually evolved from a combination of two ancient Babylonian female constellations, Erua and Shala.
- Jessie E. Mills, Jr., Results of Fulfilled Prophecy, (Bradford, PA: International Preterist Association, Inc., 2001), 14.
- Ibid., 15.
- Ibid., 14.
- Tacitus The Histories 2.2; Cassius Dio Roman History 66.15.
- The fact that the whore of Babylon is seen in the desert is meant to draw a connection between the whore of Babylon and the woman of Revelation 12 who flees to the desert.
- Israel had often been called a prostitute by the Old Testament prophets: Jeremiah 2:20; Isaiah 1:21; Hosea 4:10.
- Arthur M. Ogden, The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets: Commentary on Revelation, (Pinson, AL: Ogden Publications, 2006), 472.
- Phillip Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2007), 280.
- G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 1114.
- Philippians 3:20 reads, “But our citizenship is in heaven.”
- Duncan W. McKenzie, Ph.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination Volume 2: The Book of Revelation (USA: Xulon Press, 2012), 217-218.
- Cornfeld, The Jewish War (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982), 285-286. 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), 218.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.5.4, trans. Cornfeld, 358 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), 218.
- Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 1.45. This account then goes on to say that the men of these three ships later jumped out and drowned themselves. Though these men may not have made it to the Roman brothels, the women said to accompany them in these ships presumably did.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.9.10.
- Mary is the human embodiment of the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of heaven before she becomes unfaithful and is embodied by Berenice. See the Revelation 12: A Preterist Commentary.
- For the similarities between the whore of Babylon and the faithful women of Revelation 12 see Paul B. Duff, Who Rides the Beast? Prophetic Rivalry and the Rhetoric of Crisis in the Churches of the Apocalypse (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 86-88.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998).
- It is interesting to note that this was also the year in which Titus was away in Egypt.
- Titus and Vespasian were declared Caesar simultaneously.
- However, according to Revelation 13:15, the beast does not fully regain its strength until the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. See Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.57.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.19.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 11.7.
- 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.
- From the vantage point of the earth’s surface heaven is said to be up (2 Kings 2:1, Psalm 14:2, Lamentations 3:41, Matthew 28:2, Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9-11) and hell down (Numbers 16:31, Ezekiel 26:20, Luke 16:23 and 2 Peter 2:4). Whether or not this cosmology is literally true is impossible to know. Perhaps heaven is above the earth but it exists in another dimension and hell is below the earth in another dimension? Regardless of whether or not this is true, in many languages the word dirt or earth is the same as hell and the word heaven is the same as sky. Thus in this way the sky is a symbol or earthly shadow of heaven and the deep recesses of the earth are a symbol or shadow of hell. This symbolism seems appropriate since hell is described as a lake of fire like the molten magma of the earth’s core (Matthew 25:41, Mark 9:43-48, Revelation 19:20; 20:10; 20:14-15; 21:8). But, of course, this does not mean that the magma of the earth’s core is hell. It is an earthly shadow or symbol of hell, not hell itself, in the same way that the sky is a shadow or symbol of heaven and not heaven itself.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.23.
- http://www.babynamespedia.com/meaning/Titan (9/27/2013).
- Irenaenus, Against Heresies 5.30, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 190.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.5.8 cited in Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 431.
- Ancient Israelites, viewed the earth as a disc surrounded by an ocean, the chaotic realm of the Abyss.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 10.1., cited in Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Beast of Revelation, (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2002), 143.
- W.G. Baines, “Number of the Beast in Revelation 13:18,” Heythrop Journal (April 2007): 195-196. Though Josephus does not label Galba, Otho and Vitellius “Caesar,” he does call them “emperor.” (Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.9.2.)
- During this plague, “The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness.”
- Head is also a metaphor for a king. Biblical prophecy often has both literal and figurative fulfillment.
- Job 10:19-22: “If only I had never come into being, or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave! Are not my few days almost over? Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy before I go to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and utter darkness, to the land of deepest night, of utter darkness and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.” This description of the underworld as a realm of darkness is also widely attested to by survivors of clinical death. The virtual consensus seems to be that there are many afterlife realms, the lowest are the darkest and gloomiest and the highest are the brightest and most beautiful.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.1.1.
- W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 1.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.3.
- Isbon Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (New York: Macmillan, 1919), 636.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.17.
- Ibid., 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.
- Concerning the Flavian desire to destroy the Christian saints represented by the woman, 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.
- 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.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- When Vespasian became emperor, the Jewish War resumed under the command of his son Titus. An overwhelming army of Roman soldiers were drawn from neighboring provinces to ensure a successful conquest of Jerusalem. Each Roman legion consisted of ten cohorts each led by a senior centurion called the Primus pilus. I believe that the ten horns may also be the ten leaders of each legion. The beast and the ten horns were successful (Revelation 17:16). And in Revelation 18:10, the reader learns that Jerusalem fell in one hour as a result of this unified assault.
It should be emphasized that the repeated references to the seven heads and ten horns of the beast in Revelation might be said to be fulfilled in both Rome, the seven-headed leviathan, and the beast out of the earth, the behemoth which symbolizes the Roman army stationed in Israel during the Jewish War under Vespasian’s and Titus’ command which seems to have been a kind of microcosm of Rome itself. Recall that horns just represent kings or kingdoms in the Bible. As explained in the commentary on Daniel 7, the ten horns represent ten Caesars. These ten Caesars or horns may be said to be the ten horns of the seven-headed sea monster of Revelation 13:1-10 and the ten horns of Daniel 7. So if the ten horns are ten Caesars, how could they also be the ten leaders of each legion?
Before addressing why I believe the ten horns are ten Caesars as well as the leaders of ten cohorts in each legion it is important to emphasize that two-fold referents are not without explicit precedent in Revelation. For example, the seven heads of the beast symbolize both seven kings and seven mountains according to Revelation 17:9-10. If the seven heads symbolize two different things, is it surprising if the ten horns on the seven heads symbolize two things as well? But why might these ten horns symbolize both ten Caesars and ten senior centurions?
I believe the answer is hinted at in Revelation 13:13 and Revelation 9:17-18. As mentioned previously in this commentary on Revelation, the behemoth and the earthly reflection of the locust army of Revelation 9 are one and the same: They are both the Roman army in Israel lead by the Flavians. In Revelation 13:13 the beast out of the earth, the behemoth, calls down fire from heaven. This fire from heaven is also mentioned in Revelation 9:17-18 where it is depicted as fire pouring out of the mouths of the locust army in Revelation 9:17-18. As explained previously in this commentary on Revelation, this fire from heaven and the fire coming from the mouths of the locust army largely refer to the firebrands likely launched by the Roman army into Jerusalem during the Jewish War. The fact that the behemoth is depicted breathing fire in Revelation 9:17-18 and Revelation 13:13 is peculiar because it is the leviathan (the 7 headed sea monster), not the behemoth (the beast out of the earth which is also the locust army of Revelation 9), that is said to breathe firebrands as indicated in Job 41:19-21. Why does the behemoth, the beast out of the earth, have abilities and attributes uniquely characteristic of the leviathan?
The answer is simple. In the middle of the 42 month long Roman assault on Israel lead by Vespasian and Titus, Vespasian, the former general of the Jewish War, became the emperor of Rome. And at Vespasian’s coronation Titus was also granted the title Caesar. When Titus and Vespasian became Caesars they then also became heads of the leviathan. In other words, during the siege of Jerusalem Vespasian and Titus who were once just the two horns of the behemoth had also eventually become two heads of the many-headed sea monster called the leviathan or Hydra. This fact explains why the behemoth is depicted taking on attributes of the leviathan like the ability to breathe firebrands. But this is not the only characteristic of the leviathan that the beast out of the earth, the behemoth, appears to takes on.
Because Vespasian and Titus had become Caesars, the behemoth, the beast out of the earth, also appears to have taken on seven heads like the leviathan. This is implied by the fact that the Roman army in Israel during the siege of Jerusalem is said by Josephus to have been led by what he calls “seven principal commanders” who he lists by name. (Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.3.) Thus because the Flavians had become Caesars during the Jewish War, in order to symbolize this fact the beast out of the earth, the behemoth, appears to have mutated into something that looks a lot like the leviathan. If the behemoth had seven heads like the leviathan, it would not be surprising if it also had ten horns. Perhaps these ten horns of the behemoth are the ten leaders of the ten cohorts which comprise each Roman legion with all the legions in Israel being under the authority of these “seven principal commanders.”
Now wait a minute! How could the behemoth have ten horns when Revelation 13:11 says that it only had 2 horns? Josephus says that out of the seven principal commanders of the Roman army during the Jewish War there were two supreme commanders who were generals over the ENTIRE army. These two men were Titus and Vespasian at the start of the Jewish War and then after Vespasian became emperor they became Titus and Tiberius Alexander. (Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.3.) This horn/head imagery does not appear to be rigidly inflexible. Remember that the seven-headed beast is also said to have eight heads in Revelation 17:11. Thus because the behemoth took on a form resembling the leviathan the fact that it might have grown ten additional horns to accompany its seven heads would not be surprising. Therefore, because the beast out of the earth had taken on the attributes of the leviathan, the ten horns could be said to be Caesars when referring to the leviathan in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13:1-10 and then be said to be the ten leaders of the ten cohorts when referring to the mutated behemoth/leviathan in Revelation 17:12-13. See If the Roman/Astrological Equivalent of the Leviathan is the Hydra, What is the Roman/Astrological Counterpart of the Behemoth?.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 2.20.3-4.
- Ibid., 5.1.1.
- Ibid., 22.214.171.1244.
- Ibid., 2.13.6.
- Ibid., 4.5.3.
- Ibid., 4.9.10.
- Stephen S. Smalley, The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2005), 441.
- Let us now turn back to Daniel 7. Daniel 7:20 says that all ten horns are on the head of the beast: “I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head[.]” Notice that “head” is singular. The fourth beast of Daniel 7 is the seven-headed beast of Revelation 13 and 17. The fact that all ten horns are found on one head implies that these ten kings who had not yet received a kingdom at the time in which Revelation was composed (Revelation 17:12) all received their authority during the reign of one of the later Caesars. As stated above, Josephus indicates that these ten horns received their authority on November of A.D. 66 during the reign of Nero, the sixth Caesar and, therefore, the sixth head of the beast.
Daniel 7:24 says that the little horn, Caesar Titus, was different from the other ten horns: “The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings.” Maybe Caesar Titus was different from the earlier ten horns because he was a Roman general while the other horns were Jewish commanders, Titus’ enemies? Daniel 7:8 says that three horns were uprooted before the little horn: “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it.” Maybe the three horns that were uprooted before, Titus, the horn that came up after the ten (Daniel 7:24), were the three Jewish commanders that fought each other in a three-way civil war at the time in which Titus arrived with the Roman army to besiege Jerusalem in A.D. 70? [Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.1.1.] Titus and his army captured Jerusalem after a five month siege and thus succeeded in overcoming his three Jewish rivals. Perhaps this is how Titus, the little horn who was different from the ten others (Daniel 7:24) uprooted three horns in Daniel 7:8?
One might critique the above interpretation by pointing out that some of these three Jewish commanders are not mentioned as the original ten appointed at the start of the revolt. However, it is important to note that many of these ten commanders did not survive or remain in power until the end of the war. For example, Josephus ben Matthias who wrote The War of the Jews, the definitive history of the Jewish-Roman war became a Roman traitor after being captured. Also Ananus II, who was once in joint control of Jerusalem was later murdered by the Zealots and Idumaeans. [Ibid., 4.5.1-2.] Thus at the time in which Titus and his army arrived outside of Jerusalem in March of A.D. 70 the rebels of the city were led by three different commanders. [Edward E. Stevens, First Century Events in Chronological Order: From the Birth of Christ to the Destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, (Pre-publication manuscript, 2008), 53.]
- Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1.
- Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Book of Revelation: Consisting of a Commentary on the Apocalypse of the New Testament, (Fort Smith, AR: Foy E. Wallace Jr. Publications, 1966), 364.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.2.
- Ezekiel 23:29. Rome’s rejection of Jerusalem is also represented in the flesh by Titus’ rejection of Berenice. In A.D. 75, Queen Berenice came to Rome and the couple resumed their affair. According to Cassius Dio, “She expected to marry him and was already behaving in every respect as if she were his wife; but when he perceived that the Romans were displeased with the situation, he sent her away.” Cassius Dio Roman History 66.15. When Titus became emperor of Rome, Berenice again came to her former lover’s palace but was quickly dismissed yet again. Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 10.7. The fact that the whore of Babylon is left naked in v. 16 is a Biblical metaphor. Clothing symbolizes a kingdom in the Bible. One example, among many, of this symbolism is found in 1 Kings 11:29-37. The fact that the whore of Babylon is left naked allegorically points to the fact that Berenice’s kingdom had become desolate. With Jerusalem and Agrippa II’s kingdom destroyed during the Jewish War and Titus’s rejection of her as his queen, she is left naked, a queen without a kingdom. However, Titus did award Agrippa II with additional territory shortly after the war.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 7.8.7, cited in Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 434.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 3.3.5, cited in Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 435.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 285.
- Foy E. Wallace, Jr., The Book of Revelation: Consisting of a Commentary on the Apocalypse of the New Testament, (Fort Smith, AR: Foy E. Wallace Jr. Publications, 1966), 375.
- In the NRSV, this verse reads: “The woman whom you saw is the great city which reigns over the kings of the earth.” Some have interpreted this verse to mean that Babylon is Rome since Rome rules over Israel, the earth. Interestingly, the same can be said about Jerusalem. As Israel’s religious capital, Jerusalem also reigns over Israel, the earth. However, it is noted in the central column of this Bible that reigns should literally be translated has a kingdom.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.9.4, 7.2.2.