The Phantom Army in the Sky of A.D. 66 and the Second Coming
A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 19: Summary and Highlights
In this Preterist commentary on Revelation 19 the reader will be exposed to compelling historical evidence suggesting that the second coming occurred in the first century in fulfillment of Mark 14:61-16, John 21:22-23, and Matthew 24. The most detailed description of the second coming is found in Revelation 19. Here Jesus leads an angelic army in the clouds. Two first century non-Christian historians Josephus and Tacitus record an angelic army in the clouds at the start of the Jewish War in A.D. 66. This army in the clouds seen in A.D. 66 LITERALLY fulfills Biblical descriptions of the second coming exactly as it is described in Revelation 19. Then in v. 19 John sees the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war with Jesus and His army. This was fulfilled when the king Agrippa II and Queen Berenice, the kings of Israel, the earth, accompanied the Roman army and provided thousands of auxiliary troops in the assault on Israel and siege of Jerusalem during the Jewish War. In the following commentary on Revelation 19, the reader will be exposed to the complete fulfillment of this chapter during the Israel’s war with Rome.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
The Phantom Army in the Sky of A.D. 66 and the Second Coming
Revelation 19 Preterist Commentary Intro: The Fall of Babylon Continued . . .
John’s present vision concerning the fall of Babylon comes to a close in v. 10 of this chapter.1 Then in v. 11, John is given another vision beginning with the second coming. Here he sees Jesus leading the armies of heaven over the skies of Israel. Is there any historical evidence of such an event? This question will be answered shortly. But before doing so, John’s vision of the fall of Babylon will be discussed.
1After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants. 3And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Revelation 19:3: The Expression used in v. 3 is also used to describe the Historical Destruction of Edom.
Referring to the destruction of the city of Babylon, John uses the expression, “The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” Similar imagery is found in Isaiah 34:9-10 referring to the destruction of the land of Edom. Here Isaiah threatens, “Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night and day; its smoke will rise forever.”
Revelation 19:3 Full Preterist Commentary: Aion and Olam mean Age or Age Lasting, not Forever.
The Greek word used for, “for ever and ever” in v. 3 is aion. This is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word Olam found in Isaiah 34:10. Both words signify an unknown interval of great length. These words are frequently translated age, though they may be used to signify an eternal duration if the subject or context in which they are used requires it.2 The subject and context of these verses do not require these words to be translated forever. In Isaiah 34:9-10, the prophet states that the fires in the land of Edom will not be quenched. Because Isaiah is talking about the destruction of the land of Edom at the hands of its enemies, an actual historical event, the fact that the fire will not be quenched seems to indicate that it will not be intentionally put out, not that it will literally continue to burn forever. Unquenchable fire is an expression that is used to describe fires that become so great that they cannot be put out. This expression implies that the fire will only stop burning once it has run out of fuel. These verses might more accurately be translated “its smoke will go up for the age of ages.” Both Edom and Jerusalem are described in this way in order to draw a poetic connection between the lake of fire in the realm of the dead and the current state of Edom and Jerusalem after their destruction.
A Preterist Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 19:3: Eternal Recollection of a Fallen City . . .
As predicted in v. 3, the city of Jerusalem and its temple were razed and burned to the ground. Many Jews today still lament this tragic loss. During Jewish weddings, the groom breaks a wine glass after saying his vows. This custom is meant to signify the destruction of the second temple and is still performed to commemorate this war.
4The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!” 5Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!” 6Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. 7Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” 10At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
Covenant Eschatology and Revelation 19:4-10: A New Vision Begins . . .
In v. 10, John falls at the feet of his angelic guide. At this the angel rebukes him and instructs him to worship God. This verse in which John interacts with the angel indicates a break in John’s vision. From this point, John is given another vision starting at the second coming and progressing one thousand years into the future to another war. Perhaps as bloody as the war with Rome, echoes of this war still linger in the collective minds of people today. But before commenting on Gog and Magog, John sees Christ coming in glory with the armies of heaven behind him.
11I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
Preterism Explained, A Revelation 19:11-14 Commentary: The Army Seen in the Clouds in A.D. 66 . . .
Compare the rider on the white horse in vs. 11-14 with horseman of Revelation 6:2. Both horsemen are wearing a crown or crowns and both are riding a white horse. Interestingly, Milton Terry notes that the word translated crowns in v. 11 may be a composite crown. “The same word in the same plural form is employed in Job xxxi, 36, as if it were singular.”3 Thus this plural form of crown seems to denote the fact that the rider on the white horse is the King of Kings.
Furthermore, both horsemen are armed with weapons often linked to God. The horseman of Revelation 6:2 holds a bow. The bow is a weapon of God according to Psalm 21:12, Lamentations 2:4, Lamentations 3:12, Habakkuk 3:9 and Zechariah 9:13. The horseman of Revelation 19:14 has a sword in his mouth. The sword is also an often-mentioned weapon of God according to Psalm 17:13, Isaiah 27:1, Isaiah 34:5-6, Isaiah 66:16, Jeremiah 12:12, Jeremiah 47:6, Ezekiel 5:2, Ezekiel 12:14 and Ezekiel 21:3-5. The fact that the rider on the white horse of Revelation 6 carries a bow while the rider on the white horse of Revelation 19 has a sword does not imply, as some suggest, that they are different. The fact that this horseman has a bow and sword seems to allude to the rider of Psalm 45:1-6 who also carries a bow and sword which Hebrews 1:8 quotes in reference to Christ.
Because of the similarities between Revelation 6:2 and Revelation 19:11-16, it appears that these two horsemen are the same being—Jesus Christ. Not only do these similarities imply that these horsemen are the same being, they also suggest that Revelation 6:2-8 and Revelation 19:11-16 are describing the same event. Because Revelation 6:1-8 transpired before the unleashing of the seven trumpets and bowls, this army of horsemen described in Revelation 6:1-8 and Revelation 19:11-16 must have made their appearance at the start of the Jewish Revolt in A.D 66. Interestingly, an angelic army of horsemen was reportedly seen at precisely this time–the start of the Jewish revolt in Iyyar of A.D. 66:
[O]n the twenty-first day of the month of Artemisius [Jyar], a certain prodigious and incredible phenomenon appeared; I suppose the account of it would seem to be a fable, were it not related by those that saw it, and were not the events that followed it of so considerable a nature as to deserve such signals; for, before sunsetting, chariots and troops of soldiers in their armor were seen running about among the clouds, and surrounding of cities.4
The Jewish historian Josephus describes a heavenly army in the clouds much like the army Jesus led in vs. 11-14. The pagan historian Tacitus also mentions this event: “In the sky appeared a vision of armies in conflict, of glittering armour.”5 Above is a painting of the army in the clouds at the start of the Jewish War as it is recorded by Tacitus and Josephus. Notice the similarities in the image above and the second coming as it is depicted in Revelation 19 in the image above it. This army in the clouds in A.D. 66 literally fulfills Biblical descriptions of the second coming. For a detailed discussion of how this event and other appearances and manifestations of Christ during the Jewish War literally fulfill all Biblical descriptions of the parousia see Historical Evidence that Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century.
Revelation 19:11-16 Preterist Commentary: Do Differing Features Between Revelation 19:11-16 and Revelation 6:2 Suggest that the Horseman of Revelation 6:2 is Not Jesus Christ?
It is occasionally argued that because of some slight differences in physical appearance between the soldier riding the white horse of Revelation 6:2 and the soldier riding the white horse of Revelation 19:11-16 that this implies that these two riders are not the same individual. If the rider of Revelation 6:2 and Revelation 19:11-16 is Jesus Christ, then this argument is tenuous—to say the least—especially in a book that is a series of symbolic visions. In Revelation 1:12-16 Jesus is pictured as a being of light holding seven stars with a two-edged sword coming out of His mouth. In Revelation 5:5 Jesus is called the Lion from the tribe of Judah. Then in v. 6 He is depicted as a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. It would be absurd to argue that the Lamb and Lion of Revelation 5 and the human-like being of light in Revelation 1 are not all Christ because they are each described with different physical attributes. Here one can see that because Jesus is depicted in so many diverse ways in Revelation and the rest of the Bible, it cannot be argued that the horseman of Revelation 6:2 cannot be Jesus because his appearance is slightly different from the horseman of 19:11-16.
Fulfilled Eschatology and Revelation 19:11-16: Why the Rider on the White Horse in Revelation 6 and 19 Appears to Be Jesus Christ in Light of the Parable of the Ten Minas and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.
H. B. Swete argues that the rider on the white horse is not likely to be Christ because “[a] vision of the victorious Christ would be inappropriate at the opening of a series which symbolizes bloodshed, famine, and pestilence.”6 This is a fallacious objection. As explained in the preterist commentary on Revelation 6, the seven seals climax in the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 which led to “bloodshed, famine, and pestilence.” This siege fulfilled the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14) and the Parable of the Ten Minas (Luke 19:11-27). In the Parable of the Ten Minas the Jews who rejected Christ and killed His people shortly afterwards are represented by subjects who did not want a prince (Jesus Christ) to be their king who later returned as king (during the Parousia) to kill those people (Luke 19:11-27). According to the Parable of the Wedding Banquet this vengeance upon Christ’s enemies was accomplished by an army led by Christ (Matthew 22:7), similar to the armies implicitly led by the four horsemen of Revelation 6. Thus not only is the argument that the rider on a white horse cannot be Jesus Christ because he leads an army causing bloodshed, famine and pestilence false, the fact that this rider brings on these calamities is actually evidence that this rider is, in fact, Jesus Christ in light of Matthew 22:1-14 and Luke 19:11-27. For further evidence that it is Christ who ultimately leads and guides the Romans to enact His judgments on Palestine during the Jewish War see Revelation 10: A Preterist Commentary.
If Rome is the beast of Revelation, why would Christ use a wicked kingdom to enact His justice on Palestine? Would this not imply that the Romans are the protagonists in Revelation? Absolutely not! The Romans are not the protagonists in the Apocalypse, the saints fulfill this role. The apostate Jews and the Romans are pitted against each other at the end of the age as a form of mutual punishment as any war regardless of who is victor is never a blessing. Thus the Romans are similar to the Babylonians who besieged wicked Judah in the sixth century B.C. One would never argue that the Babylonians were “good guys” in this act (Jeremiah 51:6-8), yet they were also guided by God to attack Judah as were the Romans who besieged Palestine in the first century A.D.
15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.
Revelation 19:15 A Full Preterist Commentary: At the Same Time in Which the Angelic Army was seen on the Clouds in Iyyar of A.D. 66, A Sword-Shaped Star like the Sword said to Come out of the Mouth of Christ was Visible that Evening.
Revelation 19:15 says that when Christ rode His horse at the head of His angelic army a sharp sword came out of His mouth: “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” At the same time in which the vision of the army of angels was seen in the clouds in Iyyar of A.D. 66 a sword-shaped star appears to have been visible over Jerusalem that evening. At the start of the Jewish revolt, Josephus mentions a sword-shaped star hovering over the city of Jerusalem: “Thus there was a star resembling a sword, which stood over the city, and a comet, that continued a whole year.”7
Throughout Jesus’ ministry one of the central points of His teaching was to warn His followers of the coming war and in doing so, save them from it. In Matthew 24:21-22, Jesus described the magnitude of the tribulation and provided His followers with signs indicating when they should flee Jerusalem to avoid it. One of these signs is mentioned in Matthew 24:30. Here it says, “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.” What could this sign be? See Matthew 24 Commentary: THAT Generation Shall Not Pass.
Realized Eschatology and Revelation 19:15 Commentary: The Sword that Comes out of the Mouth of Christ in v. 15 is the Word of God.
According to Ephesians 6:16 the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. Furthermore, in John 1 Christ is said to be the living Word of God. Thus the sharp sword coming out of the mouth of the Messiah in v. 15 is a symbol of himself. This interpretation is bolstered by the fact that the rider on the white horse is called the Word of God in v 13.
Perhaps the sign of the Son of Man in the sky mentioned in Matthew 24:30 is this celestial sword mentioned by Josephus which was seen at the time in which the angelic army was also seen in the clouds. Could this sword-shaped star like the sword of Revelation 19:15 represent the Word of God? This symbol of Christ and His message would seem to remind Jesus’ followers of His teachings concerning the coming tribulation. Upon seeing this omen in the sky, perhaps these Jewish Christians were reminded of Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 24 warning them that the end is at hand and that now is the time to flee?
Furthermore, it would not be surprising if the zealots, eager to overthrow their Roman oppressors, saw in this sword-shaped star a divine call to arms. Perhaps this omen indicated to them that God would also take up his sword against Rome and aid them in their struggle? In truth, I believe the sword had another function. As indicated in v. 15, it is Christ’s tool to strike down the nations and that includes both Rome and Judea.
Revelation 19:15 A Preterist Commentary: How did Christ “Strike down the Nations” in the First Century?
If the Book of Revelation climaxes in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, how is it that Jesus is said to “strike down the nations” in Revelation 19:15? The striking down of the nations in v. 15 appears to be fulfilled in A.D. 69, the year before the fall of Jerusalem. In A.D. 69, the Year of the Four Caesars, Rome suffered through three civil wars and perhaps experienced its most tumultuous year in its long history. That year it was widely believed that the empire though at the peak of its strength would ultimately collapse.
16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. 17And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.”
Preterism, A Revelation 19:17-18 Commentary: In Violation of the Law, the Jews did not Bury the Dead during the Siege of Jerusalem resulting in a Feast for Carrion Birds.
V. 18 is the prophetic fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:26: “Your carcasses will be food for all the birds of the air.” Deuteronomy 28 lists a series of curses, like the one quoted above, that God promised to inflict on his people if they failed to follow the Law. The curse mentioned in v. 26 is perhaps the most logical. According to Mosaic Law, the Jews were commanded to bury the dead. The Jewish rebels fighting in the city of Jerusalem failed to obey this law, and as a result untold numbers of dead bodies littered the streets of Jerusalem during the Roman siege. As might be expected, these bodies would have been a feast for carrion birds.
But there is more to this imagery. The “birds flying in midair” which are presumably vultures or eagles are also a symbol of foreign invaders as is the case in Hosea 8:1. The eagle of Hosea 8:1 is a metaphor for an invading nation. The eagle in Hosea 8 represents the Assyrian army. These birds in v. 17 which are presumably vultures or eagles may represent Rome. This bird or eagle imagery also calls to Matthew 24:28: “Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures [eagles] will gather.”
Interestingly, the symbol of Rome was the eagle, the Aquila. The eagle, the Aquila, was the main ensign of the Roman legions and would have been visible high above the heads of the soldiers at the top of long poles held by the Roman standard bearers. Thus when the Roman army arrived to besiege the cities of Israel during the Jewish War metal eagles would have been seen held up above and amidst the ranks of the various legions. These eagles held high by their standard bearers are also “the birds flying in midair.” And like eagles viciously attacking their prey, Rome slaughtered their Israelite enemies. “[T]he flesh of the kings, generals and mighty men, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great” is the flesh of the apostate Jews that these eagles representing Rome consumed.
19Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army,
Preterism Explained, A Revelation 19:19 Commentary: In the First Century, both Israel and Rome Killed Christ and His People.
Answering the call of the angel in Revelation 19:17-18, the eagles representing Rome arrived in Israel to enact God’s judgment on Israel for her sins in receiving the mark of the beast and killing the saints. In v. 19 the kings of the earth alongside the beast representing Rome arrives in answer to the call of the angel.
Who are the kings of the earth in v. 19? Psalm 2:2 reads, “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed[.]” Though likely fulfilled initially in the life of King David and then again in the death of Christ at the hands of Pilate, Revelation 19:19 predicts the ultimate fulfillment of this verse in the Jewish War. Revelation 19:19 says that the kings of the earth accompanied the beast representing Rome and his army. As explained throughout this commentary, earth represents Israel so the kings of the earth are the rulers of Israel. The fact that the kings of the earth mentioned in v. 19 are Roman procurators or client kings is implied in Matthew 17:25 and Acts 4:26: “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others [emphasis mine]?” (Matthew 17:25) “The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one [emphasis mine].” (Acts 4:26)
Thus the kings of the earth are the kings of Israel. But which kings? Are they the former rulers of Israel like Agrippa II who joined the Roman army hoping to regain his kingdom after being ousted by the ten horns, the Zealot leaders, during Israel’s revolt? Or are the kings of the earth of Revelation 19 the ten horns, the ten Zealot leaders, who fought against Rome? As will be shown below the kings of the earth of Revelation 19 could be either of these options or even both together. Let us first look at the possibility that the kings of the earth refer to the former kings of Israel who joined Titus’ army during the Jewish War.
If the kings of the earth are the former kings of Israel who joined the Roman army then the specific kings mentioned here are Tiberius Alexander and Agrippa II. After Vespasian became emperor, Titus appointed Tiberius Alexander his second in command over the entire Roman army during the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Tiberius Alexander was procurator of Judaea during the reign of Caesar Claudius. Agrippa II was governor of large swaths of what is now modern Israel. Agrippa II presided over the tetrarchy of Philip, Lysanias (Abilene), and Varus.8 Then when Nero became emperor he bestowed upon Agrippa large tracts of Galilee and Perea. Agrippa was also responsible for appointing the Jewish high priesthood, a position which he sold to the highest bidder. When the Jewish War broke-out, Agrippa allied himself with the Romans. And after the capture of Jotapata, Agrippa II accompanied the Roman army throughout the remainder of the war and in explicit fulfillment of v. 19 even assisted them with his troops.9 After Vespasian was crowned emperor, Agrippa also accompanied Titus during the Roman siege of Jerusalem.10 It should also be mentioned that Queen Berenice, the human embodiment of the whore of Babylon, also accompanied the Roman army during the Jewish War and during which had an adulterous affair with Caesar Titus in fulfillment of Revelation 17.
Fulfilled Eschatology Explained, A Revelation 19:19 Commentary: Why the Kings of the Earth in Revelation 18:9 and 19:19 Cannot be the Ten Horns of Revelation 17.
It is important to note that the kings of the earth in v. 19 are also the kings of the earth who mourn over Babylon’s fall in Revelation 18:9. Agrippa II and Berenice allied themselves with Rome in the hope that the Romans would aid them in regaining their lost kingdom after it had been stripped from them by rebels during the revolt. Thus these kings of Palestine no doubt hoped Jerusalem would peacefully surrender to Rome as Jerusalem was the crown jewel of Palestine being a city of great wealth and splendor. It would be a great honor to rule this city and thus these kings did not wish to see it destroyed. Furthermore, as stated above Agrippa II would have mourned the destruction of the Temple in particular as he profited greatly off of it having sold the position of high priest to the highest bidder.
That having been said one might object to the idea that the ten horns of Revelation 17 are included among the kings of the earth mentioned in Revelation 18:9 or 19:9 since they are said to hate the whore of Babylon and sought to bring her to ruin (Revelation 17:16). This is the exact opposite response of the kings of the earth who mourn over the fall of Babylon in Revelation 18:9.11 The former kings of the Palestine (i.e. Agrippa II and Queen Berenice) certainly did not hate the whore of Babylon as did the ten horns of Revelation 17:16 as they were themselves two of its most prominent members.
But does the fact that the kings of the earth having mourned the fall of the whore of Babylon preclude these men from being the ten Zealot leaders? Not necessarily, the whore of Babylon is Jerusalem and she is depicted as a whore because of her adultery against God with Rome. However, like any whore, Babylon is also expected to have many lovers. During the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, those who were trapped in the city were divided into two camps: those loyal to Rome and those who wanted independence. If one defines the whore of Babylon as just those people of Jerusalem whose loyalty to Rome inspired them to kill Jesus and the saints, then certainly the majority of the Zealot leaders, though not all as will be explained below, would not mourn their deaths. If the whore of Babylon is understood to refer to the entire city of Jerusalem that was afflicted with the plagues of Revelation (which I think is more likely to be true), then the zealot leaders would certainly mourn the fall of this city. Even though they did not wish this city to fall, it is still not be inaccurate to say that they hated this whore or city (Revelation 17:16) since they robbed, plundered and killed so many people therein relatively indiscriminately throughout the siege in addition to those they killed out of suspicion of being Roman traitors.
Revelation 17:14 reads, “They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” Revelation 17:14 suggests that Christ’s army mentioned in vs. 11-16 and v.19 are comprised at least in part by the early Christian martyrs. Also suggesting that the army of soldiers accompanying Christ in the clouds may be comprised in part by Christian saints and martyrs is the fact that according to Revelation 19:14 these soldiers are “dressed in fine linen, white and clean.” According to Revelation 19:8 “[f]ine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.” The fact that the army Christ leads in Revelation 19 is composed at least in part by the saints is explicitly stated in the Ascension of Isaiah 4:14: “And after . . . the LORD will come with his angels and with the hosts of the saints from the seventh heaven . . . and will drag Beliar [Satan], and his hosts also, into Gehenna.”
Though Rome is called in this v. to help enact God’s judgment on wayward Israel, Rome is not innocent. She too waged war against Christ and the saints since she also took part in Jesus’ crucifixion and in the deaths of the saints. The beast’s war against the saints is explicitly mentioned in Revelation 13:7: “He [the beast] was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.” 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.
Above we addressed how the kings of Israel and Rome waged war against the Lamb by killing Jesus and his people. Did the ten horns, the ten Zealot leaders, also kill the saints? Yes. Well, at least one of them did. One of the ten Zealot leaders listed by Josephus is Ananus II.12 Ananus II was responsible for killing James, Jesus’ biological brother as well as the leader of the Christian church in Jerusalem.13 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 the ten horns also waged war against Christ in fulfillment of Revelation 17:14 and 19:19. Though Rome and the various kings of the earth could be said to have declared war against the Lamb in the manner mentioned above, there is also a way in which the beast literally and deliberately declared war on God and his people.
Revelation 19:19 Preterist Commentary: Titus intended to put an End to the Religion of the Jews and Christians according to Sulpicius Severus. In Literal Fulfillment of Revelation 19:19, Titus also openly challenged God to War after He thought He killed God at the Destruction of the Temple according to the Talmud.
Above we explained how the beast and the kings of the earth may have indirectly waged war against the Lamb by their persecution of the Christian saints per Matthew 25:40. That having been said, the beast’s war on God and his people may have been quite a bit more deliberate and literal. As explained in the commentary on Revelation 13, Titus, the little horn of Daniel 7, is the mouth of the beast (Revelation 13:5-6, Daniel 7:8, 25) as Aaron was the mouth of Moses (Exodus 4:16). According to Revelation 13:6 the beast opens “his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place[.]” Titus, the little horn, is also called the false prophet to the beast in Revelation 19:20: “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.” Titus, the son of the beast the Emperor Vespasian, is the mouth of the beast of Revelation 13:5-6, the little horn of Daniel 7 and the false prophet of Revelation 19:20. For historical testimony of how Titus LITERALLY spoke blasphemies against God and his dwelling place see Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary and Daniel 7: A Preterist Commentary.
Revelation 19:19 predicts that the beast will “make war against the rider on the horse and his army.” Essentially the same thing is predicted in Revelation 13:6-7. In these verses, Titus, the mouth of the beast, is said to “make war against the saints and to conquer them” during the Jewish War and slander those who live in heaven. Revelation 19:19 and Revelation 13:6-7 appear to be fulfilled in Titus’ desire to destroy the Christian and Jewish religions by destroying the Temple. 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. [Emphasis mine.]
Above one can see that Titus made “war against the rider on the horse and his army” by trying to destroy the religion of the Jews and Christians. This, however, is not the only way in which Titus declared war on God. According to Gittin 56b of the Babylonian Talmud, Titus LITERALLY and EXPLICITLY challenged God to war after he thought that he had killed God at the destruction of the Temple:
This was the wicked Titus who blasphemed and insulted Heaven. What did he do? He took a harlot by the hand and entered the Holy of Holies and spread out a scroll of the Law and committed a sin on it. He then took a sword and slashed the curtain. Miraculously blood spurted out, and he thought that he had slain God himself . . .” [Emphasis mine.]
Shortly thereafter, Gittin 56b of the Babylonian Talmud also records Titus declare war on “the rider on the horse,” the God of Israel, by saying, “If he [the rider on the horse, the God of Israel] is really mighty, let him come up on the dry land and fight with me.” Rome persecuted the people of Israel during and shortly after the Jewish War. Rome also persecuted Christians, the soon-to-be inhabitants of heaven, just prior to this war during the Neronic persecution. In this declaration of war against God one can see how the mouth of the beast, the False Prophet Titus, explicitly declares the beast’s intention through its war with Israel and persecution of Christians “to make war against the rider on the horse and his army[.]”
20But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.14 With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
Revelation 19:20 Preterist Commentary: The Beast is Vespasian and the False Prophet is Titus. The Miraculous Sign that Titus Performed is calling down of Fire from Heaven. The Image of the Beast is the Image of Vespasian on the Ensigns that the Roman Army Worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The two people mentioned in this verse are the two Roman generals of the Jewish War, Vespasian and Titus. The beast mentioned in this verse is Vespasian. The false prophet is Titus. Titus is called the false prophet because of what he did to fulfill Revelation 13:11-18. On the 9th of Av of A.D. 70, the Romans worshipped the ensigns in the temple in Jerusalem. When the Romans worshipped these ensigns; one of which was the Imago, a metallic image of Caesar; Titus enacted his role as high priest of the Imperial cult, a role he inherited upon receiving the title Caesar at his Father’s coronation. Because Titus presided over the false worship of his father, the emperor, and Rome in the Temple in Jerusalem, Titus is called the false prophet in this verse as stipulated by Deuteronomy 13:1-5:
If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God[.]
Titus is also called the false prophet because he acted as a dark reflection of the prophet Elijah. The miraculous sign mentioned in v. 20 that was performed on Vespasian’s behalf is mentioned in Revelation 13:13. Like the prophet Elijah, Titus calls fire down from heaven. It is also because of this similarity with the prophet Elijah that Titus is called the false prophet in this verse. As a result of this fire from heaven, the whole city of Jerusalem and its temple are burned. The burning of the city was a mark of Roman conquest. In celebration of this victory, the Roman legions proclaimed Titus imperator and offered sacrifices of divine worship to the image of the Vespasian on the ensigns.15
Revelation 19:20 Preterist Commentary: How Those Jews Who had received the Mark of the Beast were deluded by the Sign of Verse 20 . . .
Revelation 19:20 says that with this sign of Roman victory, the false prophet “had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image.” Josephus says that many of the Jews of Jerusalem who were trapped in the city during the Roman siege of A.D. 70 hoped that the Romans would come and deliver them from the Zealots who threatened their lives during the siege.16 Given the fact that the Romans had seized the Temple, those Jews who had received the mark of the beast and were thus loyal to Rome thought that they were soon going to be saved from their zealot persecutors. The following verse accurately predicts that they were deluded. As explained in the commentary on Revelation 13 when Titus seized the Temple, he ordered his troops to indiscriminately kill everyone they encountered in the city. Thus the Romans went on a killing spree killing everyone in Jerusalem without discriminating between those who were Roman rebels and those Jews who were loyal to Rome who had received the mark of the beast and were trapped in the city at the start of the war. Those Jews who had received the mark of the beast and were thus loyal to Rome were also killed alongside the zealot rebels and everyone else in Jerusalem. Before discussing who these Jews were who had the mark of the beast, let us first take a look at how the beast was cast alive into the lake of fire.
Revelation 19:20 Preterist Commentary: How was the Beast and the False Prophet Cast into the Abyss?
In Revelation 19:20 the beast and the false prophet are said to be “captured.” This is a mistranslation. The Greek word translated “captured” here literally means “to lay hold of, to take” and is more accurately translated “seized” in the NASB.17 Thus Revelation 19:20 truly says that the beast and the false prophet are seized and cast into the lake of fire. The casting of the beast into the Abyss, the lake of fire, is also explicitly and/or implicitly mentioned and/or alluded to in Daniel 7:11; Revelation 9:1-3; 9:11; 11:7; 13:3; 16:10; and 17:8. In each and every instance in which the beast is said to be cast into the Abyss I explain in this commentary that this event refers to death of the beast representing Rome after Nero Caesar’s suicide. After Nero killed himself, Rome fell into civil war. In the year and a half between the death of Nero and the rise of Caesar Vespasian, Rome suffered through three civil wars in addition to the revolts already underway in Gaul (France) and Israel. This unprecedented time of turmoil and internal revolt is symbolized in the Bible as the beast, Rome, being cast into the fiery Abyss, the realm of the dead.
However, as is perhaps implied by the fact that the beast and the false prophet are thrown alive into the Abyss, the beast ultimately resurrects from the dead and is explicitly said to rise out of the Abyss, the realm of the dead, in Revelation 9:1-3; 11:7; 13:3 and 17:8. Just as Satan is eventually freed from the Abyss according to Revelation 20:1-7, the beast and the false prophet also do not remain in the Abyss forever. The resurrection of the beast representing Rome and its Caesars symbolizes the rise of the Flavian Dynasty; Caesars Vespasian, Titus and Domitian. (All three members of the Flavian Dynasty were crowned Caesar during Vespasian’s coronation.18) Shortly after coming to power, Vespasian crushed the revolt in Judea and ended the succession struggle that caused the repeated civil wars after the death of Nero. Thus having brought an unlikely peace and unity back to Rome shortly after coming to power, the Flavians; Vespasian, Titus and Domitian; had saved the empire. This restoration of the original strength, peace and unity of Rome is symbolized in the Book of Revelation as a beast rising out of the Abyss, the realm of the dead.
Having explained some of the symbolism underlying how the beast is cast into the Abyss, there is also another way in which the beast and the false prophet were “thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” In Luke 17:21 Jesus says that the kingdom of God also known as the kingdom of heaven is present with the physical presence of Christ and His disciples: “For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” In the same way that the kingdom of heaven is present with Christ and His disciples, the kingdom of the Abyss is also present with the beast and the false prophet, the beast out of the Abyss.
Revelation 19:20 Preterist Commentary: Jerusalem and Israel were Burned by the Romans during the Jewish War.
Before explaining how the kingdom of the Abyss is present with the beast and the false prophet some things must first be explained. During the gradual conquest of Israel during the Jewish War, Rome, the beast, set fire to city after city as well as the surrounding countryside as part of Rome’s scorched-earth policy. As a result, Jerusalem and much of the rest of Israel was progressively engulfed in a literal lake of fire in partial fulfillment of 2 Peter 3:7: “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” The earthly shadow of the fiery lake of burning sulfur in v. 20 is the destruction of the earth, representing Israel, by fire. This is fulfilled in the Roman army’s scorched earth policy enacted in Israel during the Jewish War: “Now this country [Jericho] is then so sadly burnt up that nobody care [sic] to come at it…”19 “[N]or did the Romans . . . leave off either by night or by day, burning the places in the plain . . . so that Galilee was all over filled with fire and blood. . . .”20 “He [Vespasian] also set fire, not only to the city [of Gadara] itself, but to all the villas and small cities that were round about it. . . .” Titus also totally demolished Jerusalem, setting the entire city and its suburbs on fire.21 Much of the rest of Israel was also left charred and desolate, suffering the same fate as that of Jerusalem, Jericho, Gadara and Galilee mentioned above.22
Revelation 19:20 Preterist Commentary: Israel is described as a “Fiery Lake of Burning Sulfur” to Poetically Link the Burning of Israel to Hell.
The fact that Israel seems to be described as a “fiery lake of burning sulfur” in Revelation 19:20 appears to poetically link the burning state of Israel to the fiery Abyss of the damned. As a “fiery lake of burning sulfur,” Israel, having killed Christ and the prophets, becomes an earthly beacon of the ultimate fate of many of its people in the life to come. The beast, Vespasian, and the false prophet, Titus, are the ones ultimately responsible for the burning of Israel. Their physical presence in Israel while it lay burning is another way in which these human embodiments of Rome are said to have been “thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” The fact that they are thrown alive into the lake of fire hints not only at their presence in Israel while it lay burning, it also seems to foreshadow their ultimate fate in hell after death.
Revelation 19:20 Preterist Commentary: The Bible often describes Burning Places in the Image of Hell.
The fact that Israel and Jerusalem are called a lake of fire is not without precedence. As stated in v. 3, the destruction of Jerusalem as Babylon is also described in the imagery of hell: “The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” This same language is used in Isaiah 34:9-10 regarding the destruction of Edom: “Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch, her dust into burning sulfur; her land will become blazing pitch! It will not be quenched night and day; its smoke will rise forever.” It is also worth noting that Jesus often refers to hell as Gehenna, a burning trash heap in the valley of Ben Hinnon outside of Jerusalem. It is interesting to note that during the siege of Jerusalem, the Jews did not bury the dead. Instead, they cast the dead over the city walls into the valleys like the valley of Ben Hinnon where Jesus says the bodies of the wicked would be cast (Matthew 5:29-30; 10:28; 18:9).23 As is illustrated in the examples above, the authors of the Bible often describe burning places on earth in the imagery of hell. That being said the opposite is also true. As will be shown in Revelation 21: A Preterist Commentary and Revelation 22: A Preterist Commentary, the New Jerusalem of this world is described in the image of heaven.
Revelation 19:20 Preterist Commentary: Israel is described as the Abyss, the “Fiery Lake of Burning Sulfur” in v. 20 to symbolize the Conquest of Israel, the Earth, by Rome, the Abyss.
The fact that Israel and its most religiously significant city, Jerusalem, is described as a “fiery lake of burning sulfur” not only poetically links the burning state of Jerusalem and Israel to the fiery Abyss, the afterlife realm of the damned, it also signifies the conquest of Israel, the earth, by Rome, the sea or Abyss. As stated often in this commentary, Israel is represented by the earth and Rome, by the sea or Abyss. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations and The Poetic Biblical Link Between “Sea” and “Abyss”. In A.D. 66, Israel, the earth, rebelled and declared independence from Rome, the sea. The fact that Israel, the earth, becomes a “fiery lake” in v. 20 is a metaphorical flood pointing to the destruction of the earth by the sea. As a result of the conquest of Israel, the earth, by Rome, the Abyss, Israel, the earth, sinks below the sea reverting back to its pre-creation water world state of Genesis 1:1-8. It is perhaps no coincidence that as Rome conquered city after city in Israel, it burned these conquered regions as part of Rome’s scorched-earth policy. This scorched earth policy is itself an earthly symbol of Israel, the earth, being conquered by Rome, the Abyss–the fiery lake of burning sulfur.
Therefore, the fact that the beast as Vespasian, and the false prophet, Titus, “were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur [the Abyss]” may also signify their living presence in Israel, the earth, during its military conquest by Rome, the fiery Abyss. Thus as mentioned above, in the same way that the kingdom of heaven is present with Christ and His disciples (Luke 17:21), the kingdom of the Abyss (representing Rome and the afterlife realm of the dead simultaneously) is also present with the beast and the false prophet, the beast out of the Abyss. Thus in this way the beast and the false prophet are also thrown alive into the Abyss as predicted in v. 20.
Thus in this context when Revelation 19:20 says that the beast and the false prophet are seized, they are not captured or imprisoned as is implied in the previously mentioned symbolism discussed above concerning the death of the beast as a result of Nero’s suicide. Rather, the message conveyed by this seizure in this additional layer of significance to this verse is one akin to that in Ezekiel 29:4 and 38:3-9. In Ezekiel 38:3-9 Gog, the leader of Magog, is seized by God so that he may be drawn out with his vast army to attack Israel: “I will turn you [Gog] about and put hooks into your jaws, and I will bring you out, and all your army. . . . in the latter years you will come into the land that is restored from the sword, whose inhabitants have been gathered from many nations to the mountains of Israel . . .” Like Gog the leader of Magog, the beast and the false prophet are also seized and drawn out to attack Israel by the command of the angel in v. 18. When the beast and the false prophet obey this command and enact the punishment ordained by God, they are set in the midst of the lake of fire which as explained above symbolizes Rome and its fiery conquest of Israel as a natural consequence of Rome’s scorched-earth policy.24
Revelation 19:20 Preterist Commentary: The Deaths of Titus and Vespasian at the Coming of Christ fulfills Revelation 19:20 and 2 Thessalonians 2:8.
The fact that Titus and Vespasian “were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur” may also hint at their ultimate demise at the coming of Christ. 2 Thessalonians 2:8 reads, “And then the lawless one [Titus and Vespasian] will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” The fact that the lawless one is overthrown by the “breath of his [Jesus’] mouth” is another way of saying that they are destroyed by the Word of God which is symbolized by the sword that came out of the mouth of Jesus, the rider on the white horse, in Revelation 19:15. See 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9: A Preterist Commentary–The Man of Lawlessness Revealed! For a detailed explanation of the compelling historical evidence of what appears to be the miraculous coming of Christ at the deaths of Titus and Vespasian see The Miraculous Historical Appearance of Christ at the Death of the Beast Fulfills 2 Thessalonians 2:8 and Revelation 19:19-20 and The Coming of Christ in A.D. 70–Like You’ve Never Heard it Before!
21The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
Revelation 19:21 Preterist Commentary: The Sword in v. 21 is the Word of God. The Unburied Dead became Food for Carrion Birds.
The sword that came out of the mouth of the rider of the horse is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:16 indicates that the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. Furthermore, in John 1 Christ is said to be the living Word of God. Thus the sharp sword that came out of the mouth of the Messiah in v. 15 is a symbol of himself and his predictions concerning the coming judgment. Throughout his ministry, Jesus warned the people of Israel of the coming war; those who failed to heed this warning were likely killed. Though Titus and Vespasian survived, both the Jewish and Roman armies suffered heavy casualties throughout the course of the war. The Jews, for the most part, did not bury the dead; thus the bodies of many Israelites were eaten by carrion birds according to v. 21.
Revelation 19:21 Preterist Commentary: Who were the “Rest” referred to in v. 21?
If the “rest of them” in v. 21 refers to the beast and his army, then this is a prime example of apocalyptic hyperbole. In the same way that “all” or “every” does not always mean “all” or “every” in the Bible (Matthew 2:1-3; 4:8 and 10:22), “rest” does not necessarily mean every single person other than the beast and the false prophet in these two armies. There were plenty of Jewish rebels and Roman soldiers who survived the war.
In fact, because there were so many survivors on both sides of this war it seems unlikely that the rest of the people referred to in v. 21 who were killed by the word of God were all the soldiers in the armies of the beast and the kings of the earth. Instead, it seems that the “rest” who were to be killed are the people who were deceived into receiving the mark of the beast mentioned in the previous verse. Let’s look at Revelation 19:20-21 again:
But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
It seems from the immediate context that the “rest” who were killed by the word of God appear to be those who were deceived by the false prophet into receiving the mark of the beast, not the entire multitude of Jewish rebels and Roman soldiers. Keep in mind that the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider is the Word of God. Declaring the Word of God, an angel warns the people of Jerusalem that if anyone receives the mark of the beast or worships his image they will be cast into the lake of fire in Revelation 14:9-11. (Recall that the earthly reflection of the Abyss, the lake of fire, was reflected on earth in the burning of Israel during the Jewish War.) Revelation 14:9-11 reads:
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”
Notice that worshiping the image of the beast and receiving the mark of the beast, the same two sins mentioned in Revelation 19:20, are mentioned in Revelation 14:9-11. And as stated in Revelation 14:9-11, those who do those things were to be cast into the lake of fire. This punishment sounds a lot like what happened to the “rest” of the people of Revelation 19:21.25 I believe God did, in fact, kill those in Israel who received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image.26 But what is the mark of the beast, and why was it so bad?
Realized Eschatology and Revelation 19:21 Commentary: What is the Mark of the Beast, and Why was It so Bad?
In Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary I explain in detail how there is an important link between the mark of the beast and its image and the death of Christ and his people (Revelation 17:6) that explains why those who have the mark of the beast and worship his image were to be punished. Christians often assume that Jesus was simply killed for making divine claims (Matthew 26:65-66). However, the Gospels make it clear that there was a much more sinister motive underlying Jesus’ death.
The Jews had a lengthy history of killing potential Messiahs like Jesus (Matthew 2:3). The reason they did this was because the Messiah was expected to rule over a sovereign Israel. Israel was a Roman province. Therefore if Jerusalem made Jesus or any other potential Messiah its sovereign king, this would be seen by the Romans as a declaration of independence which would result in an inevitable war (John 2:19-20;11:47-50; 19:15). The civil and religious authorities and wealthy merchants of Jerusalem owed their wealth to the lucrative Temple economy in Jerusalem. Not only would a war with Rome threaten to destroy the Temple, the source of their great wealth, it would also further impoverish them through pillaging and destruction of property.
Thus Jesus was killed by the rich in order to prevent a war with Rome that would threaten all that they possessed (Matthew 2:3; 19:24; Luke 11:39; 16:13-15, 19-31; James 5:6). The mark of the beast is a spiritual mark of greed placed on the wealthy elite who horded Roman money and plotted to kill the Messiah in order to stay wealthy. It is also a physical mark since according to Revelation 13:16-17 no one could buy or sell without the mark of the beast. Roman money was also said to be marked with the image of Caesar in the front of the coin and often arrayed in deified form on the back as well. Thus these coins also literally contained the “image of the beast.” Roman money perfectly represents Israel’s ultimate spiritual sin, greed. This is why Jesus says “[T]he love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).” This was certainly true of first century Israel. It was money marked with the deified images of Caesar that was the true God of the Jewish elite. This idolatrous love of money (Colossians 3:5-6) is how the Jewish elite had the mark of the beast and worshipped its image.
Revelation 19:21 Full Preterist Commentary: How were the “Rest” of Them that received the Mark of the Beast and Worshipped Its Image Killed?
Having established the crime for which the “rest” were killed in Revelation 19:21, let us now focus on how the “rest” of those who have received the mark of the beast were killed. The “rest” namely the rich and greedy who took part in the deaths of Jesus and his people were largely killed in v. 21 by their own people, the Zealots. Recording the fulfillment of Revelation 19:21, Josephus says the following concerning how the wealthy people of Israel who had the mark of the beast were killed by the Zealot rebels:
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].27
During the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the rich people who survived and remained in Jerusalem were pillaged and often killed by the Zealots. Josephus says the following concerning the slaughter of the rich people of Jerusalem by the combined forces of the Zealots and Idumeans:
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.28
Again mentioning the slaughter of the rich people of Jerusalem by the Jewish rebels, Josephus writes the following:
[F]or he [John] 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[.]29
The Zealots hated the rich because of their loyalty to Rome, the Zealots’ seemingly invincible enemy. For this act of “treason” and out of desperation, the Zealots often killed and robbed the wealthy out of both hatred as well as the need for provisions to feed the war effort: “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].”30 Many of these rich Israelite Roman sympathizers were outright and opening killed by the radical Zealots and their Idumean allies as were Ananus, the high priest; Jesus; and Zacharias. However, many were also indirectly killed by famine as a result of losing all their food, money and provisions to these Zealot robbers during the siege of the city.31 Thus it was primarily by the hands of the Zealots that the “rest” of those who had worshiped the mark of the beast and its image were killed according to the word of God in fulfillment of v. 21.
Though those Jews loyal to Rome who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped its image were largely killed by their own people, they were also ironically killed by the Romans whom they adored. When Titus called down fire from heaven acting as a type of Elijah, an act that resulted in the Roman’s seizing the strongest fortress in Jerusalem, the Temple, those Jews who had received the mark of the beast thought that the Romans were soon going to save them from their mutual enemies, the zealots. However as predicted in Revelation 19:20 these people were deluded. Revelation 19:19 reads, “With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image.” As explained in the commentary on Revelation 13 when Titus seized the Temple, he ordered his troops to indiscriminately kill everyone they encountered in the city. Thus the Romans went on to kill everyone in Jerusalem without discriminating between those who were Roman rebels and those Jews who were loyal to Rome who had received the mark of the beast. Thus those Jews who were deluded into thinking that they were going to be saved by the Romans in v. 20 were ultimately killed by them alongside the zealot rebels and everyone else in the city.
As punishment for their roles in the death of Christ and His people, God seems to have put it in the hearts of his enemies to gather them together to kill one another as God had also done for his people in Judges 7:22 and 2 Chronicles 20:21-23. This great slaughter in v. 21 was a consequence of the word of God. Here Christ is the puppet master whose sword, His word, causes this great slaughter. In fact so many people were killed by the famine induced by the Roman siege of the city that the people of Jerusalem did not bury the dead. Eventually, so many corpses piled up that the people of Jerusalem ended up throwing these dead bodies over the walls of the city to become literal food for literal carrion birds.
The fact that birds literally gorged themselves on the dead in v. 21 also appears to convey a symbolic message. This image of the dead being cast out of the city to the carrion birds is also a picture of the dead who received the mark of the beast being hurled out of Jerusalem to the Roman army encamped outside the city. Recall that the symbol of Rome was the eagle Aquila. Thus the birds feasting on the flesh of the unrighteous in v. 21 appears to symbolize the Roman army represented by the eagle Aquila figuratively feasting on the flesh of the dead who received the mark of the beast. This image of Rome depicted as an eagle feasting on a corpse is echoed in Matthew 24:28 when Jesus said, “Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.” The word translated vulture in Matthew 24:28 also means eagle. Revelation 19:21 and Matthew 24:28 were both fulfilled in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. See the preterist commentary on Matthew 24.
In the next chapter, John is given a glimpse of a distant war. One thousand years after the war with Rome, Satan is released. With the help of his servant Alp Arslan, Satan deceived the nations; and Israel was again engulfed in war. Revelation 20 describes what happened.
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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. Previous Next
As stated in this preterist commentary on Revelation 19, the army in the clouds in A.D. 66 meets all Biblical criteria concerning the second coming and is the literal fulfillment of Revelation 19:11-14. Previous Next
- The chapter divisions in the Bible are almost entirely random. The original manuscripts contained no chapters or verses. These were added later for ease in looking up verses.
- John Wesley Hanson, A.M., The Greek Word Aion—Aionios Translated Everlasting—Eternal in the Holy Bible, Shown to Denote Limited Duration (Chicago: Northwestern Universalist Publishing House, 1875), 3. This book may be viewed online at http://www.tentmaker.org/books/Aion_lim.html (7/1/2006).
- Milton S. Terry, Biblical Apocalyptics: A Study of the Most Notable Revelations of God and of Christ, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 157.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
- Tacitus The Histories 5.13.
- Henry B. Swete, D.D., F.B.A., The Apocalypse of St. John: The Greek Text With Introduction Notes and Indices, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1908), 86.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3.
- Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 20.7.1.
- Sir Charles Moore Watson, The Story of Jerusalem, 2nd ed. (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1918), 109.
- Tacitus The Histories 5.1.
- G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 883.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 2.20.3-4.
- Josephus Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.
- A few manuscripts read “the beast was seized and the ones with him, the false prophet.” G. K. Beale believes it is likely that this textual variant occurred as a scribal error though it is possible that it may be early evidence of “an early corporate interpretation of the false prophet.” (G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 969.) Could the false prophet be more than one person as is the case with the Lawless One of 2 Thessalonians 2:1-9?
- The mark of the beast, as stated earlier, is the denarius. The people, objects and events forming the historical backdrop of this verse are discussed in greater detail in Revelation 13: A Preterist Commentary.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 5.1.5.
- W. Don Wilkins, M.A., Th.M., Ph.D. and others, The Strongest: NASB Exhaustive Concordance, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 1558.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.8.3.
- Ibid., 3.4.1.
- Ibid., 5.6.2, 6.4.1-6.9.4.
- Ibid., 4.8.3, 4.9.7, 6.1.1.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 18.104.22.1688.
- Some might be tempted to argue that the beast and the false prophet cannot be Romans like Vespasian and Titus as they both survived the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. In response some preterists have proposed various Jewish candidates like the four zealot leaders: John, Simon, Eleazar ben Jair, and Eleazar ben Simon. While it is true that three of these zealot leaders could be said to be cast alive into the lake of fire, that is the fiery fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, as they, like Titus, were physically present in Jerusalem at its fall, John and Simon ultimately survived the war. Simon was captured and slain in Rome at the Roman triumph, John was sentenced to life in prison (Josephus The Wars of the Jews 22.214.171.1243-434). Less is known concerning Eleazar ben Simon who was attacked by John’s forces in the Temple (Ibid., 5.3.1) but later joined forces with John in his fight against Simon (Ibid., 5.6.1). How or when Eleazar ben Simon died is lost to history. Eleazar ben Jair died at the fall of Masada in A.D. 74.
- I believe the Abyss and the lake of fire are one and the same. Notice that in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus it is the rich man who is cast into the Abyss (Luke 16:19-31).
- Perhaps it is also possible that the rest of them who were killed by the sword is a reference to the death of the beast when the beast was cast into the Abyss, the realm of the dead, mentioned in Daniel 7:11; Revelation 9:1-3; 9:11; 11:7; 13:3; 16:10; and 17:8?
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 2.13.6.
- Ibid., 4.5.3.
- Ibid., 4.9.10.
- Ibid., 126.96.36.1994.
- Ibid., 4.5.