The Roman Beast; the 666 Gematria Trinity–Nero, Vespasian and Titus–and the Complete Fulfillment of Revelation 13
A Preterist Commentary on Revelation 13: Summary and Highlights
In the following Preterist Bible commentary on Revelation 13 the trinity of the beast is revealed! In this commentary on Revelation 13 readers will see that all the prophecies in Revelation 13 were fulfilled in the first century around the time of Israel’s war with Rome in the actions of three Caesars all of whose names are represented by the 666 Gematria. Greek and Hebrew letters also have numerical values. Thus while it is well known that the sum total of the Greek form of Nero Caesar transliterated into Hebrew characters adds up to 666, the same total is also found in Caesar Vespasian and Caesar Titus, two of Nero’s successors. This beast trinity fulfills all the prophecies in Revelation 13. Like the three-in-one God worshipped by Christians, all three emperors were worshipped in the imperial cult as a god. Also while Titus’ father, Vespasian, ruled as emperor of Rome, Titus could, therefore, be seen, like Christ, as the son of god. Three first-century historians; Josephus, Suetonius, and Tacitus; all tell us that, like Jesus Christ, Vespasian also saw himself and was seen by others as the Jewish Messiah.1 Furthermore, the church historian Eusebius says that Vespasian even went so far as to try to kill any other rival Messianic candidates as he sought to eradicate King David’s bloodline.2
The mark of the beast is a spiritual mark placed on those guilty of the sin of 1 Timothy 6:10. This sin was the root of all Israel’s evil and as will be explained at the end of this commentary is the ultimate reason why Jesus, the saints and all other potential Jewish Messiahs were murdered and thus why Israel was punished at the end of the age according to Revelation 6:9-11 and 17. This sin has a very obvious tangible symbol. Thus this mark is both a spiritual and physical mark. The physical aspect of the mark of the beast, the charagma, was the name and likeness of these three Caesars found in deeds of purchase and Roman money. Prior to A.D. 70 Rome was sympathetic to Jewish Law and allowed the Jews of Palestine to mint their own money without the graven image of the emperor on it.3 After the fall of Jerusalem, Caesar Vespasian no longer honored the Jewish Law and forced everyone throughout the empire to use Roman money with the name and image of Caesar. One such coin minted in A.D. 72 abbreviated Vespasian’s name as follows, “IMP CAES VESP AVG P M COS IIII.” Interestingly, the numerical total of these letters transliterated into Hebrew characters adds up to 666! Thus Caesar Vespasian “forced” everyone to receive the mark of beast in order to buy and sell in explicit fulfillment of Revelation 13:17: “It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.”
The Roman beast with its seven heads represents seven Caesars beginning with the first, Julius Caesar. The head of the beast that had a fatal wound in Revelation 13:3 is the sixth head of the beast and the sixth Caesar, Nero, who committed suicide by stabbing himself in the neck. After Nero’s death, the Roman Empire collapsed into civil war. Peace and order was not restored until the rise of the Flavian Dynasty one year later. Therefore, the Flavian Dynasty beginning with Caesar Vespasian is the beast whose wound had been healed in Revelation 13:3. The healing of the wounded head of the beast is a resurrection motif. The beast out of the earth in Revelation 13:11 is the Roman army that destroyed Israel, the earth, during the reigns of Caesar Nero and Caesar Vespasian. Its two horns are the two generals of this army: Vespasian and Titus. When Vespasian became emperor, the war with Israel resumed and Titus was appointed general of the Roman army in Israel. After Titus seized the temple in Jerusalem, the Roman army under Titus’s leadership worshipped the ensigns, one of which is called the numina legionum (meaning “gods of the legions”), the numina legionum was an image of Caesar and his favorites (i.e. Titus). Thus an image of Caesar Vespasian and Titus were worshipped in the Temple in A.D. 70. Immediately prior to this blasphemous worship, Titus “call[ed] fire down from heaven” in fulfillment of Revelation 13:13. He likely did this by ordering the firing of flaming arrows or debris into Jerusalem during the siege of A.D. 70. The Romans launched burning debris into the city during the earlier siege of Jotapata and thus likely did the same during the siege of Jerusalem shortly thereafter. Titus could also be said to have called fire down from heaven through the command of the 12th Legion who aided in the burning and destruction of the Jewish temple. The emblem of the 12th Legion is the lightning bolt—fire from heaven. Furthermore, the symbol of Rome itself is the Aquila, the eagle messenger of Zeus who carries Zeus’ lightning bolt. Thus the symbol of Rome itself is quite literally “fire from heaven.” After Titus presided over the worship of the images of Caesar Vespasian in the Holy Temple, he ordered all remaining Jews in Jerusalem to be killed. Titus is called the false prophet in Revelation 16:13 because like the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 18:38-40, Titus also ordered all non-believers to be killed after calling down fire from heaven. In the following Preterist Bible commentary on Revelation 13, the reader will see how all the predictions in Revelation 13 were fulfilled DOWN TO THE SMALLEST DETAILS in the actions of the beast trinity: Caesar Nero, Caesar Vespasian and Caesar Titus.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
The Roman Beast; the 666 Gematria Trinity–Nero, Vespasian and Titus–and the Complete Fulfillment of Revelation 13
A Covenant Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13: The Roman Beast with Its Seven Heads Represents Seven Caesars.
This chapter opens with the devil standing on the shore of the sea–a metaphor for Rome throughout the Book of Revelation. This symbolism is most explicit in Revelation 17:15: “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.” See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. This seven-headed sea monster represents Rome. The prophets Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel also used mythical sea monsters to symbolize oppressive Gentile empires (Daniel 7; Isaiah 27:1, 30:7, 51:9-10; and Ezekiel 32:2-9).
Following the precedence set in Ezekiel 32:2-9, the author of Revelation uses this sea beast imagery to signify both an empire and its leaders. Thus the beast is both a king and his kingdom. Illustrating this ancient conception, Kenneth Gentry quotes the Roman poet Ovid (43 B.C.-A.D. 18) as saying, “the state is Caesar.”4 The seven heads of the sea monster represent the seven Caesars of Rome and its body represents the Roman citizenry. See Is the Seven-Headed Beast of Revelation 13 the Kings of Israel? This interpretation is confirmed in Revelation 17:10. Here it is said that the seven heads of the beast are seven kings. Similar imagery is found in Colossians 1:18: “And he [Christ] is the head of the body, the church. . . .” Head is a Biblical metaphor for a king or leader. Likewise, body represents a kingdom or cohesive group of people. Similarly, this beast, with its many heads, signifies both Caesar and his empire.
The number seven points to Rome in two complimentary ways: “The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits. They are also seven kings.” (Rev 17:9-10) Rome was founded on EXACTLY seven hills by EXACTLY seven kings. Aune writes, “[A]ccording to tradition, Rome did have seven kings, no more and no less. These belonged to the Roman monarchy beginning with Romulus (traditionally 753 B.C.) and ending with the expulsion of the seventh king, Tarquinius Superbus, in 508 B.C.”5 Romans suffered greatly during the the reign of these seven kings causing Rome to become a republic in 509 B.C.
It must be emphasized, however, that the seven heads/kings of Revelation are NOT Rome’s seven founding kings, after all Revelation mentions at least eight kings (Revelation 17:11). Rather, the fact that the beast of Revelation 13 is said to have seven heads/kings implies a kind of spiritual or symbolic return of the seven founding kings of Rome or more precisely a return to the autocracy and tyranny of these kings. The seven-headed beast in Revelation symbolizes Rome, the city of seven hills, and its return to autocracy and the evil that seemed destined to follow when history repeated itself as Rome regressed back to its tyrannical roots with Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. when he declared himself emperor for life and was assassinated soon after.
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13: The Connection between the Three-In-One Composite Unity of the Christian God and the Three-In-One Prophetic Composite Unity of the Beast Trinity . . .
In the commentary below I will highlight the many similarities that exist between Christ and the Caesars of the first century. Because there are so many similarities between Christ and the Caesars, the beast of Revelation, I have no aversion to calling call them Antichrists as the beast is often called in futurist circles. Many preterists shy away from using this term since Antichrist is a term used in 1 and 2 John to refer to the spirit of heresy, not a world-wide ruler who blasphemes God and persecutes the saints. It is certainly true that the term Antichrist is never used elsewhere in the Bible to apply to the beast of Revelation or the Lawless One of 2 Thessalonians. However, I may sometimes use this term because it implies to me just how similar and yet opposite Christ and the Caesars, the beast of Revelation, truly were historically.
The prophecies of Revelation 13 highlight the reigns and actions of three of these heads or Caesars—Caesar Nero, Caesar Vespasian and Caesar Titus.6 Like the three-in-one God worshipped by Christians, all three emperors were worshipped in the imperial cult as a god. Also while Titus’ father, Vespasian, ruled as emperor of Rome, Titus could, therefore, be seen, like Christ, as the son of god. It should also be noted that three first-century Roman historians; Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius; tell us that like Jesus Christ, Vespasian also saw himself and was seen by others as the Jewish Messiah.7 The church historian Eusebius even tells us that in seizing this title, Vespasian went so far as to try to eradicate King David’s bloodline.8 In light of their perceived Messianic and “divine” status it is perhaps no surprise that this father and son are also depicted in a Trinitarian-like unity in Biblical prophecy. In John 10:30 Jesus declares, “I and the Father are one.” Though entirely separate and distinct beings, Father and Son are one unified whole. This is the essence of the trinity. Like Jesus and the Father, two members of the antichrist trinity are also a father and son pair who are also Biblically depicted in a Trinitarian-like composite unity. Having together fulfilled every prophecy concerning the beast and the lawless one– including metaphorically rising from the dead–these three “divine” emperors are inextricably fused into one being in the Bible in order to become a dark earthly corollary or antithesis to the three-in-one composite unity of the heavenly trinity. In fact, Vespasian and Titus were even given the title Caesar at the same time.9 And at the start of their reign they each shared the same name which was a fused version of both of their names–Titus Flavius Vespasianus.10
1And the dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
“A.D. 70 Doctrine” Commentary on Revelation 13: The Heads of the Beast are the Dynastic Emperors of Rome.
The heads of the sea beast are the heads of the Roman Empire, the Caesars.11 But the heads of the beast are not just the emperors of Rome. The heads of the beast are those emperors who reigned in the two dynasties that ruled Rome in the first century, the Caesar family dynasty and the Flavian family dynasty. The first six heads are the six emperors of the Caesar family dynasty beginning with the very first, Julius Caesar. Thus the first six heads are the first six Caesars: 1) Julius Caesar 2) Augustus Caesar 3) Tiberius Caesar 4) Gaius Caesar 5) Claudius Caesar 6) Nero Caesar. In Revelation 13:3 the beast is said to have a fatally wounded head. This head is the sixth head, Nero Caesar, who committed suicide in A.D. 68. Nero was the last ruler of the Caesar Family Dynasty. And since Nero had not named his successor, there was a succession struggle resulting in civil war following Nero’s suicide. With Nero’s death, the end of the Caesar Family Dynasty, and the resulting civil war which threatened to collapse the empire at the height of its power, the beast seems to have a fatal wound in Revelation 13:3.
Thus with the sixth head severed this beast appears to be dead with Nero. As will be explained shortly, the seven-headed sea monster of this chapter was certainly not made-up by John. This creature has a name in ancient Jewish and Hellenistic tradition which long predates Revelation’s composition. According to ancient tradition, this many-headed sea beast was known to regenerate severed heads such that two NEW heads would grow up from the stump of the old severed head which explains why the beast is later said to have eight heads in Revelation 17:11 after the sixth is severed. Having received what appears to be a fatal wound, the seven-headed beast appears to die. But it does not stay dead as it grows two new heads in the place of the old sixth head and comes back to life shortly thereafter with the rise of a new family dynasty. The Flavians prevented the empire from collapsing by bringing peace and order back to Rome. Thus under the reign of the Flavians; Vespasian, Titus and Domitian; the beast came back to life.
In the civil war in the year following Nero’s death during which Galba, Otho and Vitellius reigned, these three emperors who were not a part of the Caesar family line are not heads of the beast as the beast was dead at the time as the Caesar family dynasty ended with Nero. The beast then rose from the dead with the rise of the Flavian Dynasty the following year. At this time peace and order was restored to the empire and the beast came back to life. The sixth head of the sea beast then grew two new heads from the neck of the original severed head. These two heads that grew from the neck of the former sixth head are Vespasian and Titus who were both declared Caesar at the same time and shared the same Roman cognomen or formal nickname, Titus Flavius Vespasianus. I believe this historical peculiarity subtly points to these two heads of the beast growing up out of the same severed neck. (Interestingly just as Nero Caesar transliterated into Hebrew characters adds up to 666 so does Titus Flavius Vespasianus by the same transliteration. This fact will be explained shortly.) Thus the new sixth head is Vespasian, the new seventh head is Titus and the old seventh head or new eighth head of Revelation 17:11 appears to be Domitian. The fact that two heads grew up in the place of the old severed head is also implied in Revelation 17:11. According to Revelation 17:11 the beast who once had seven heads eventually ends up with eight. This eighth head was the previous seventh head since two heads grew up from the stump of the previous sixth head representing Nero (see the preterist commentary on Revelation 17).
Revelation Fulfilled, An Exposition, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13: The Similarities between the Heads of the Beast, the Caesars, and Christ . . .
As will be discussed in detail throughout this commentary, there are many similarities between the lives of these first-century Roman emperors and the life of Christ. Concerning the story of the divine birth of Augustus found in the Theologumena, Suetonius writes:
Augustus’s mother, Atia, with certain married women friends, once attended a solemn midnight service at the Temple of Apollo, where she had her litter set down, and presently fell asleep as the others also did. Suddenly a serpent gliding up, entered her, and then gliding away again. On awakening, she purified herself, as if after intimacy with her husband. An irremovable coloured mark in the shape of a serpent, which then appeared on her body, made her ashamed to visit the public baths any more; and the birth of Augustus nine months later suggested a divine paternity [emphasis mine].12
Augustus was the second head of the beast and the first official emperor of Rome.13 Here the similarities between the virgin birth of Christ and the divine conception of Augustus are interesting. The only begotten Son of God, Jesus was born of a virgin and saw his father as the supreme divinity. Also given the title “Son of God,” Augustus was said to have been miraculously conceived by a serpent—a possible symbol of the devil (Genesis 2).
Each head of the beast is said to have a blasphemous name. The Caesars of Rome were often greeted and venerated with divine titles. Roman coins were imprinted with the head of the reigning emperor. Sometimes, as was the case with Augustus, these coins were imprinted with the title Divi F, that is Divi Filius or the Son of God.14 Caesar was also worshiped in temples of the imperial cult. Inscriptions found in Ephesus label Nero Caesar “Almighty God” and “Saviour” and another inscription found in Salamis gave him the title “God and Saviour.”15
The seven-headed beast of Revelation 12 and 13 is most specifically denoted by its healed sixth head, Vespasian, and its seventh head, Titus, whom after coming from Israel where they pursued the woman in Revelation 12 are pictured here making an appearance in Rome to usurp the crown. The fact that this beast is standing on the shore of the sea is another way of saying that it has come up out the Abyss as it had in Revelation 11:7 and Revelation 17:8.16 As will be discussed later, this is resurrection imagery.
Revelation 13:1 Preterist Commentary: The Seven Heads and Ten Horns Represent Vespasian. As Implied in Revelation 13:3, the Beast Dies with Nero and Resurrects with Vespasian. Thus the Caesars Galba, Otho and Vitellius are Not Heads of the Beast. Therefore, Vespasian may be Both the Seventh Head and the Tenth Horn.
In Revelation 13:3, the beast receives a “fatal wound.” As implied by the term “fatal,” the beast, of course, dies as a result of this injury to its sixth head. The sixth head of the beast is the sixth Caesar, Nero. After Nero committed suicide, Rome fell under the weight of civil war. Peace and order began to be restored approximately a year later with the rise of Vespasian, the tenth Caesar. Vespasian, the tenth Caesar, may also be said to be the tenth horn. Because the beast died with Nero and did not resurrect until the rise of the Flavian Dynasty beginning with Vespasian, the three Caesars that reigned in the year of Rome’s civil war between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s ascension (when the beast is considered dead) are not considered heads of the beast since the beast’s wounded head did not heal until Vespasian rose to power. Therefore, Vespasian in a way might also be the seventh head of the beast. He is the seventh head because he is the next head of the beast after Nero. He may also be the tenth horn because he is also the tenth Caesar. Therefore, the tenth Caesar, Vespasian, might be said to be both the seventh head and the tenth horn of the beast in fulfillment of v. 1: “And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.” Though Vespasian, the tenth Caesar, might be said to be the tenth horn, there is more to the ten horns than just what is stated here (see the preterist commentary on Revelation 17).
Though Vespasian could be the seventh head of the beast, it should be stated that it is perhaps even more likely that Vespasian is actually the new healed sixth head of the beast. Soon we shall unmask the Jewish and Hellenistic names of the two ancient beasts depicted by John in this chapter. As stated above, according to ancient tradition this seven-headed sea monster was known to regenerate severed heads so that two new heads would grow back in the place of the old wounded head. As briefly mentioned above, the fact that two heads grew back in the place of the severed sixth head of Revelation 13:3 is implied in Revelation 17:11 where the seven-headed beast of Revelation 13 is later said to have eight heads. Thus the severed sixth head representing Nero likely grew back into a bifurcated new sixth and seventh head representing Vespasian and Titus which would make the old seventh head, Domitian, the new eighth head (Revelation 17:11). See the preterist commentary on Revelation 17 for a more detailed explanation.
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: “And the Dragon stood on the Shore of the Sea.”
The many-headed sea monster of Revelation 12 and 13 is most specifically denoted by what appears to be its healed sixth head, Vespasian, and its seventh head, Titus, whom after coming from Israel, the earth, where they pursued the woman in Revelation 12 are pictured in Revelation 13:1 making an appearance in Rome, the sea, to celebrate their victory in Israel. It is, therefore, at the time of Vespasian’s and Titus’ triumphal entry into Rome that the beast is depicted standing on the sandy shore of the sea in v. 1. The beast is portrayed standing on the sand of the seashore because at the time of the Flavian triumph, Caesar Titus had just arrived in Rome from his military victory in Israel, the earth. Remember that sea represents Rome and the sand or earth of the shore represents Israel throughout Revelation. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations.
Revelation Fulfilled, An Exposition, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13: Revelation 13 is a Prophetic Vision of the Flavian Triumph in Rome when Titus’ and Vespasian’s deeds and successes during the Jewish War are Brought to Light and Celebrated.
It was during the Flavian triumph that the Jewish War was thought to be over, the civil war in Rome had come to an end, and Vespasian’s and Titus’ accomplishments and victory during the Jewish War are remembered and therefore highlighted in the remainder of Revelation 13. Thus Revelation 13 as a whole is a prophecy concerning the Flavian triumphal entry into Rome immediately after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 when Vespasian and Titus entered Rome as Caesar greeted by the mob in great celebration and praise concerning their triumph in Judaea. Revelation 13 highlights these accomplishments as they would have been recalled and addressed at the time of this parousia.17 The Flavian victory in Israel solidified Vespasian’s right to rule in the eyes of the Roman people. Thus when Vespasian and Titus came to Rome during this celebration, they were greeted with overwhelming cheers, praises and acceptance from the Roman people having put an end to the civil war in Rome and the war in Israel that threatened to collapse the empire. Because Rome, the beast, under the Flavians arose victorious from these wars, Rome at this time seemed invincible as suggested in v. 4: “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” As stated above, having recovered from the civil war that temporarily collapsed the empire, Rome under the Flavians is metaphorically portrayed as a beast rising from the dead.
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: The Fact that the Beast rises out of the Sea in v. 1 and comes out of the Earth in v. 11 is More Resurrection Imagery again Pointing to the Rise of the Flavian Dynasty.
In Revelation 13:1 John sees the seven-headed beast “coming up out of the sea” pointing to the rising of the four beasts out of the sea in Daniel 7:3.18 Similar to the healing of the fatal wound of Revelation 13:3 mentioned above, the fact that John saw “a beast coming out of the sea” in v. 1 is also resurrection imagery pointing to the restoration of the integrity of Rome under the Flavians. The fact that the beast is said to come out of the sea in v. 1 and come out of the Abyss in Revelation 9, 11:7 and 17:8 is identical imagery denoting the resurrection of the beast. Remember that sea represents both Gentile Rome and the Abyss, the realm of the dead, concurrently throughout the Apocalypse. See The Poetic Biblical Link Between “Sea” and “Abyss”. Therefore, when the beast is seen coming out of the sea or Abyss, the realm of the dead, this is a subtle metaphorical image of the resurrection of the beast. However, Revelation 13:1 and 13:3 are not the only two verses in this chapter that symbolize the resurrection of Rome under the Flavians.
In v. 11 John sees “another beast coming out of the earth.” The fact that this beast comes out of the earth represents the fact that Caesar Titus had just come from Israel, the earth, immediately before arriving in Rome during the Flavian triumph. See In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations. However, there is another layer of meaning to this verse. Verse 11 appears to be another resurrection motif. Genesis 3:19 reads, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return [emphasis mine].” The fact that the beast is depicted coming out of the earth paints a picture of a creature that was once dead but has come to life and risen out of the dust of the earth.
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: The Resurrection of the Beast is a repeated Theme throughout Revelation.
The death of the beast under Nero and its resurrection with Vespasian and the Flavian Dynasty is an often-mentioned thematic element throughout the Apocalypse. Revelation 17:7-8 and Revelation 11:7 are two clear examples. Revelation 17:8 says, “The beast . . . once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction.” The fact that the beast “now is not” implies that the beast died with Nero. The resurrection of the beast is then clearly implied again by the fact that it rises out of the Abyss, the realm of the dead, in Revelation 17:8.
2The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.
Revelation 13:2 Preterist Commentary: The Roman Beast is a Fusion of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Greek Empires.
This is an overt reference to Daniel 7. Here Daniel sees four beasts arise out of the sea, each symbolizing a different Gentile empire that would conquer Israel. The first is a lion, signifying Babylon; the next is a bear, representing Medo-Persia; then a leopard, symbolizing Greece; and last of all is the beast described in this chapter, the Roman sea monster.
In this verse, the seven-headed sea beast is said to resemble a leopard, have the feet of a bear and the mouth of a lion. These attributes illustrate the vast extent of Roman dominion. Rome conquered much of the territory of the prior three empires. As a result, Rome absorbed much of their culture and religion. First and second century Rome was dominated by four major religions borrowed from each empire in Daniel 7. Rome adopted notions of astrology and astral fatalism from the Babylonians. Persia contributed the cult of Mithras. The most popular of the mystery religions, Mithraism grew in popularity to rival Christianity in the second century. Rome also adopted and renamed the Greek gods in addition to absorbing the Greek practice of emperor worship.
It is also worth noting that skins of lions, leopards and bears were often worn by Roman standard bearers that marched at the head of each legion.
3One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast.
Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:3: The Head of the Beast that had a Fatal Wound is the Sixth Head of the Beast, Nero Caesar, who stabbed Himself in the Neck.
In June of A.D. 68 Nero cut his throat. His head wounded, the emperor died and along with him, the Caesar family line and the beast itself. With six Caesars dead, six of the seven heads of the beast had been severed, and the Roman sea monster suffered a fatal injury. With no clear successor to the throne, Rome was ripped apart by civil war and nearly collapsed. In other words, after the death of Nero there was great fear in Rome that the empire would ultimately fall. This year between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s ascension is mentioned in 4 Ezra 12:18: “[G]reat conflicts will arise, which will bring the empire into danger of falling; and yet it will not fall then, but will be restored to its original strength.”
During the year between the death of Nero and the rise of Vespasian three self-proclaimed Caesars; Galba, Otho and Vitellius; ruled over Rome with a tenuous grip all of whom where quickly killed by their successors. This period is called the year of the four Caesars. Regarding this time, the first-century historian Tacitus writes, “This was the condition of the Roman state when Serius Galba, chosen consul for the second time, and his colleague Titus Vinius entered upon the year that was to be for Galba his last and for the state almost the end [emphasis mine].”19 Josephus says that Rome at this time was near “ruin” and “laid waste.”20 Josephus then proceeds to say “every part of the habitable earth under them [the Romans] was in an unsettled and tottering condition.”21 Then upon Vespasian’s ascension, Josephus writes, “So upon his confirmation of Vespasian’s entire government, . . . and upon the unexpected deliverance of the public affairs of the Romans from ruin . . .” [Emphasis mine.]22 But in this chapter, Rome is symbolized by the seven-headed beast for a reason. The many-headed sea creature that is described in this chapter but not named by John is easily recognizable and was known to regenerate severed heads. Thus Rome’s wound would be healed. In other words, the civil wars between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s ascension would not cause the permeant collapse of the empire.
A Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:3: Were the Roman Rumors True? Was Nero’s Fatal Wound Literally Healed? There are Several Striking Similarities in Appearance and Actions between that of the “Nero Impostor” and the Real Nero.
Before discussing some of the evidence for how the Flavian Dynasty ultimately represents the healing of the wounded head of the beast, let us ask a serious question. Were the Roman rumors true? Did Nero also resurrect from the dead as Jesus Christ did according to the Gospels? If God raised Jesus from the dead, couldn’t he also raise Nero if he wished? And wouldn’t it seem even more likely if the word of God suggests it?
It is also possible that Nero just survived his attempted suicide. Revelation 13:3 does not say that the beast signifying Nero actually died. Verse 3 simply says that “the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound [emphasis mine].” Thus it is possible that Nero could have survived his deadly wound. Though it is impossible to know for sure if Nero truly did rise from the dead or just survive his attempted suicide, there is a good deal of historical evidence implying the fact that Nero may have still been alive after his purported death.
Dio Chrysostom (A.D. 40-after 112) states, “Even now everyone wishes that Nero were alive and most people actually believe it.”23 The Roman historian Suetonius says that after Nero’s alleged death, friends of the former emperor circulated his edicts “pretending he was still alive and would soon return to confound his enemies.”24 He also indicates that a man claiming to be Nero convinced the Parthians of his regal identity and was sheltered by them for some time before finally being surrendered to Rome.25 The Roman historian Tacitus expounds upon the actions of this man:
About this time Achaia and Asia were upset by a false alarm. It was rumoured that Nero was on his way to them. There had been conflicting stories about his death, and so numbers of people imagined—and believed—that he was alive. I shall describe the adventures of the other claimants in their chronological context as my story develops. On this occasion the man concerned was a slave from Pontus, or, according to other accounts, a freedman from Italy. The circumstances that he was a harpist and singer by profession when added to a facial resemblance, made the imposture all the more plausible. He was joined by some army deserters who had been roaming about in destitution until he bribed them to follow him by lavish promises. With these men he embarked on board ship. A storm forced him to land on the island of Cythnus, where he recruited some troops returning from the east on leave, or had them murdered when they refused. He also robbed businessmen and armed the sturdiest of their slaves. A centurion named Sisenna, representing the army of Syria, happened to be bringing some symbolic ‘hands’ to the praetorians as a token of friendship. He was subjected to a variety of artful approaches, but finally slipped away from the island and fled in fear of his life. This caused a wave of panic, and many restless or discontented creatures rallied with eagerness to a famous name. The bubble reputation, daily increasing, was abruptly pricked by one of the chances of history [emphasis mine].26
Notice that Tacitus says that this man resembling Nero in appearance and actions was also a harpist and singer. Not only was the Nero impostor a harpist and singer like Nero, but according to Tacitus this man was a harpist and singer by profession. Interestingly, this is precisely how Nero planned to support himself if he were ever ousted. After having been declared an enemy of the state Cassius Dio indicates that Nero planned to flee and support himself by singing and playing the harp: “Even though we be driven from our empire, yet this little talent [singing and playing harp] shall support us there.”27
Tacitus also states that this man resembling Nero “was joined by some army deserters who had been roaming about in destitution until he bribed them to follow him by lavish promises.” According to Suetonius immediately after stabbing himself in the neck, Nero was discovered by soldiers who tried to revive him.28 Where they successful? And if so, did these soldiers then desert their posts having been promised great riches if they helped Nero reclaim his throne?
The above account also indicates that this man “robbed businessmen.” This fact again points to the real Nero. In his historical description of Nero, Suetonius writes that even while emperor, Nero made a sport of robbing local businesses: “He [Nero] would also break into shops and rob them, afterwards opening a market at the Palace with the stolen goods, dividing them by lots, auctioning them himself, and squandering the proceeds.”29
J Massynberde Ford says that the previously-mentioned Nero imposter was killed by some of Galba’s officers and that another Nero imposter surfaced during Titus’ reign.30 Yet Lucian refers to the Nero imposter in the singular tense.31 Whether this is the same “imposter” or a different one that surfaced at this time, this man is described in a similarly suggestive way by Cassius Dio:
In his [Titus’] reign also the False Nero appeared, who was an Asiatic named Terentius Maximus. He resembled Nero both in appearance and in voice (for he too sang to the accompaniment of the lyre). He gained a few followers in Asia, and his advance to the Euphrates attached a far greater number, and finally sought refuge with Artabanus, the Parthian leader, who . . . both received him and set about making preparations to restore him to Rome.32
Echoing Tacitus, Cassius Dio indicates that this “False Nero” “resembled Nero both in appearance and in voice (for he too sang to the accompaniment of the lyre).” According to this account the “Nero impostor” sought refuge with the emperor of the Parthians just as the Sibylline Oracles predicted concerning the humiliated emperor.33 Suetonius says that this is exactly what Nero planned to do after being declared an enemy of the state: “Nero turned over a number of plans in his mind. For example, he might throw himself on the mercy of the Parthians . . .”34 As one can see, not only did this Nero impostor or imposters, if there were more than one, look like Nero and sound like Nero while singing, as explained above, he or they also acted striking like Nero in several notable and unique ways. Was this man or one of these men really an impostor or was this actually Nero risen from the dead who used the alias Terentius Maximus when in danger?
What about Nero’s funeral? Was Nero’s body actually burned on a pyre as stated by Suetonius or was the body of a look-alike killed and substituted for the body of the emperor?35 During his reign, Nero was in the habit of procuring look-alikes. For example, after murdering his wife Sabina, “Nero missed her so greatly after her death that on learning of a woman who resembled her he at first sent for her and kept her; but later he caused a boy of the freedmen, whom he called Sporus, to be castrated, since he, too, resembled Sabina, and he used him in every way like a wife.”36 Likewise, Nero also found a woman who looked like his famously beautiful mother, Agrippina. Concerning this look-alike, Suetonius writes, “The lecherous passion he [Nero] felt for his mother, Agrippina, was notorious . . . . So he found a new mistress who was said to be a spitting image[.]”37 Upon being revived, did Nero and the soldiers who sought to revive the emperor know of a man resembling Nero who could serve as a body double for a mock-funeral? Even if the man was not a perfect match, any differences could easily be hidden by sufficiently beating and thus disfiguring the corpse. No one would doubt that the soldiers who found the emperor may have taken out their anger on him for his infamy and the many oppressive policies that marked his reign.
Whether this man or one of these men was actually Nero or not, this figure at least appears to illustrate the fulfillment of Revelation 13:3 and serve as a divine omen that the Roman Empire, the beast, would rise from the dead after the civil war following Nero’s death. Thus if Nero really did survive his attempted suicide and resurrect from the dead, this would be yet another way in which the Caesar beasts could be said to resemble Jesus Christ. Jesus’ death and resurrection was a sign and symbol of the coming resurrection of his kingdom, the Body of Christ, the kingdom of God. Similarly, Nero’s death and subsequent resurrection also appears to be a sign and omen of the coming resurrection of his kingdom, Rome, under the Flavians. In other words, this man or these men resembling Nero is or are a sign that the turmoil following Nero’s death would not result in the death or permanently collapse of Rome, the beast. Rome did, in fact, survive the fatal wound of v. 3 under a new dynasty, the Flavians: Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.
Preterism, A Commentary on Revelation 13:3: A Sign that the Wounded Head would be healed with the Flavian Dynasty?
Suetonius lists several signs that confirmed Vespasian’s hope of becoming emperor. Speaking of one of these signs, Suetonius writes, “A cypress-tree was also uprooted and hurled to the ground on his [Vespasian’s] grandfather’s farm, though there had been no gale to account for the accident; yet by the next day it had taken root again and was greener and stronger than ever.”38 Was this a sign that Rome’s wounded head would be healed at the succession of the Flavian Dynasty? When Vespasian was declared Caesar his two sons, Titus and Domitian, were also bestowed this title at the same time.39 Interestingly, the first century historian Suetonius writes the following concerning Titus, the second Caesar in the Flavian Dynasty, in Lives of the Twelve Caesars 11.7: “It was even thought and prophesied quite openly that he [Titus] would prove to be a second Nero.” The fact that the Flavian Dynasty represents the healing of the wounded head signifying Nero may also be unintentionally symbolized by the fact that “when Vespasian came to power in A.D. 69 he had the head of a statue of Nero at Olympia replaced with the head of Titus.”40 The fact that Titus’ head replaced Nero’s in the Olympia is certainly a fascinating historical coincidence since as stated above, John implies that the same thing occurred to the seven-headed sea beast of Revelation 13—two new heads denoting Titus and Vespasian also replaced the old severed sixth head representing Nero.
Revelation 13:3 Preterist Commentary: From Judea Would Come the Future King of the World—Vespasian, the Beast Whose Wound had been Healed . . .
An ancient prophecy originating in Judea spread throughout the Roman Empire: From Judea would come the future king of the world.41 Vespasian, the general of the Jewish War, was stationed in Israel at Nero’s death. Believed by many to be the fulfillment of this prophecy, Vespasian awaited his opportunity; and when the time came, he rose up and overthrew Vitellius. Shortly after Vespasian gained the emperor’s crown the Roman civil war ended and the revolt in Israel appeared to be over. Once again in peace and stability, the Roman Empire had been reborn; its wound healed through Vespasian, the man who saved the empire. Illustrating the resurrection of Rome under Vespasian, Roman coins minted in A.D. 70 depict Vespasian helping Roma, the goddess of Rome, back to her feet.42 If Vespasian is depicted raising Rome to her feet in this coin, does this imply a popular perception that Rome “fell” during the civil war prior to Vespasian’s ascension? In the very least, there was a popular perception among the Roman mob that year as illustrated in this coin and cited above that the empire would ultimately collapse.
4Men worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”
Revelation 13:4 Commentary: Vespasian the Seemingly Invincible Beast . . .
With wars in Gaul and Judea and civil war within, Rome seemed to be attacked on all sides. When Vespasian seized the throne all resistance was obliterated; and for a moment, Rome seemed invincible. At this time, Jerusalem fell. And Titus, the new general of the Jewish War, brought the Roman ensigns to the temple in Jerusalem and offered sacrifices to them.
Revelation 13:4 Preterist Commentary: The Image of Vespasian, the Beast, was worshipped in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Roman ensigns were military standards similar to flags today. What is interesting about the Roman ensigns was that along with the eagle, a symbol of Rome, was an image of the reigning emperor.43 These ensigns served as idols or objects of worship to the Roman military. In Wars of the Jews, the Romans were said to have acted out their worship of the beast by offering sacrifices to Vespasian’s image on the ensigns. Recording the worship of the beast in A.D. 70 by way of the images of Caesar and Rome on the ensigns, Josephus says the following in fulfillment of Revelation 13:4:
“AND now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city [of Jerusalem], and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator with the greatest acclamations of joy [emphasis mine].44
Revelation 13:4 Preterist Commentary: As Emperor of Rome, Vespasian was worshipped in the Imperial Cult.
This outward display of emperor worship was not uncommon in the Roman Empire though it was certainly much more prevalent in the provinces where it was officially sanctioned and temples were erected for the worship of Caesar and Rome. Emperor worship began as early as Julius Caesar, the first head of the beast. The first temples were erected for emperor worship during Augustus’ reign, the second head of the beast,45 and this practice continued throughout the reigns of each head of the seven-headed beast. Concerning the worship of Vespasian in Syria, the Roman historian Kenneth Scott writes the following:
By the inhabitants of Syria divinity was apparently bestowed on Vespasian even in his lifetime. His regnal year is sometimes designated as the “new holy year” or the “holy year” on Syrian coinage, for like Augustus he was the restorer of peace and prosperity, the founder of a new golden age.46 Two groups of coins of the early years of his reign indicate his divinity: on one group he is represented with the aegis [an attribute of Zeus and Athena]—just as sometimes on the Roman coinage47—a symbol which denotes world empire and through which the ruler is compared with Zeus.48 The other group, belonging to the second year, shows an eagle below the monarch’s head, and this representation “kann nur den Aufstiege des Kaisers zu den Gottern veranschaulichen.”49 Another Syrian type of an eagle on a club has been interpreted as a comparison of Vespasian with Hercules[.]50
Though emperor worship was not officially sanctioned in Rome around the time of the Jewish War as it was in the eastern provinces, Caesar worship was surprisingly prevalent within the city limits of Rome at that time in an unofficial capacity. One example of emperor worship is found in the writings of Dio Cassius. Here Tiridates, the king of Armenia, fell at the feet of Nero at the Forum in Rome saying, “I have come to thee, my god, to worship thee as I do Mithras.”51 As a reflection of the prevalence of Caesar worship whether officially sanctioned or purely voluntary Vespasian was occasionally depicted during his reign on imperial coins with the corona radiate, the radiate crown, as a symbol of divinity:52
The radiate crown on imperial coins had been used up to the time of Nero exclusively as decoration of a divus [deified one].53 Nero, however, created the precedent of appearing on coins with the crown borrowed from the sun god,54 and his example was followed by Vespasian, who at least did not prevent the Senate from flattering him by the issue of coins bearing his image with radiate crown.55
Concerning the worship of Caesar Titus, the first-century Roman poet Martial writes the following epigram: “In that the loyal and suppliant elephant worships you, O Caesar, this beast, which just now was so to be feared by the bull, does not do so under orders or at the bidding of any trainer; believe me, it, too, perceives out god (nostrum sentit et ille deum).”56 This epigram was written in praise of Caesar Titus and the Colosseum. Though some scholars believe this epigram was written during the reign of Domitian since Titus was officially deified after his death, Roman Historian Kenneth Scott disagrees:
Weinreich, however, has most convincingly shown that these poems could be composed under any emperor and that there is every reason to believe that nos. I-XXX [which includes the above cited epigram] deal with the games given in connection with the dedication of the Colosseum in 80 [during Caesar Titus’ reign]. [Emphasis mine.]57
Though Caesar worship was not officially mandated in Rome from the time of Augustus to Titus, in the above citation we can see that it was nonetheless a common occurrence even in Rome. Therefore, the fact that men “worshipped the beast” in Revelation 13:4 is not an unlikely occurrence even in first-century Rome prior to Domitian’s reign.
When Titus and Vespasian celebrated their triumph in Rome in A.D. 70 in celebration of the fall of Jerusalem–which I believe is what is predicted in v. 4 and the rest of Revelation 13–there can be little doubt that Vespasian and his sons were worshipped by the adoring crowds in Rome at that time in fulfillment of v. 4. Recall that Vespasian was able to usurp the empire through support from the east where emperor worship was a day-to-day occurrence and officially sanctioned in Rome. Therefore, Vespasian’s retinue, of course, consisted almost exclusively of people from the east accustomed to emperor worship and many people in Rome would quite certainly echo their adoration, praise and even worship as even the native Romans mixed in the crowds were not unaccustomed to similar chants of divine praise of the emperor at that time. Interestingly, on the arch of Titus, the famous landmark erected in Rome in celebration of the Flavian triumph after the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 Titus is called Divi f(ilius),58 the son of god, an official title granted to Titus after the deification of his father shortly after Vespasian’s death in A.D. 79.
Revelation 13:4 ends with people worshipping the beast and chanting, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?” A statement like this would have almost certainly been chanted during the Flavian triumph of A.D. 70 which celebrated Caesar Titus and Caesar Vespasian’s victory during the Jewish War. Furthermore, this victory marked the official end to the various rebellions against Rome at that time as well as the civil wars after the death of Nero which was popularly thought to ultimately result in the collapse the empire. During the Flavian triumph Vespasian renewed the Roman mob’s confidence in the strength of Rome making Rome which survived what seemed to be impossible obstacles seem invincible at that time. Interestingly, of all the accolades the Roman poet Martial gives Titus in the twentieth epigram, Titus, the princeps [“first one” or “leader”], is called invictus, an epithet meaning unconquerable or undefeated.59 In this epithet we can see how Revelation 13:4 is fulfilled in the Flavians, “Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?”
In v. 4 John writes, “Men worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast.” In 1 Corinthians 10:20, Paul asserts that sacrifices made to idols are considered offerings to demons. According to Revelation 13:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:20, the act of emperor worship is ultimately directed toward the devil, the presumed source of the emperor’s power.
5The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. 6He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
Revelation 13:5-6 Commentary: The Mouth of the Beast is the False Prophet of Revelation 19:20.
In v. 5 the beast is “given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies[,]” and in v. 6 the beast opens “his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place[.]” The “mouth” of the beast is the little horn of Daniel 7. In Daniel 7:8 and 25, the little horn is said to “speak against the Most High” with “a mouth that spoke boastfully.” The little horn is the “mouth” of the beast in the same way that Aaron was the mouth of Moses according to Exodus 4:16: “[H]e [Aaron] will be as a mouth for you [Moses] and you will be as God to him.” When Aaron acts as a mouth to Moses he becomes something like a prophet to a god. Not surprisingly the little horn is also called the false prophet to the beast in Revelation 19:20: “But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.” Titus, the son of the beast the emperor Vespasian, is the little horn of Daniel 7 and the false prophet of Revelation 19:20. See Revelation 19: A Preterist Commentary and Daniel 7: A Preterist Commentary.
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13:5-6: The Babylonian Talmud records the many Blasphemous Things the Mouth of the Beast, Titus, said and did against the God of Israel in Fulfillment of Revelation 13:5-6 and Daniel 7:8 and 25.
As stated above, the mouth of the beast is called the little horn in Daniel 7 and the false prophet in Revelation 19. Revelation 13:5-6 says that he will “utter proud words and blasphemies” and “blaspheme God, and . . . slander his name and his dwelling place[.]” In Gittin 56b of the Babylonian Talmud, Titus is recorded to have said and done the following upon setting up the idolatrous ensigns in the temple in Jerusalem cited above:
Vespasian sent Titus who said, “Where is their God, the rock in whom they trusted?” This was the wicked Titus who blasphemed and insulted Heaven. What did he do? He took a harlot by the hand and entered the Holy of Holies and spread out a scroll of the Law and committed a sin on it. He then took a sword and slashed the curtain. Miraculously blood spurted out, and he thought that he had slain God himself, as it says, “Thine adversaries have roared in the midst of thine assembly, they have set up their ensigns for signs. [. . . .]” Titus further took the curtain and shaped it like a basket and brought all the vessels of the Sanctuary and put them in it, and then put them on board ship to go and triumph with them in his city.
In the quote above one can see how Titus “blaspheme[d] God, and . . . slander[ed] his name and his dwelling place” in fulfillment of Revelation 13:5-6. This, however, is not the only recorded instance in which Titus spoke and acted blasphemously against God. While on his way back to Rome Gittin 56b of the Babylonian Talmud also records Titus issue the following boastful challenge to the God of Israel: “If he is really mighty, let him come up on the dry land and fight with me.” In this blasphemous challenge, one can also appreciate how Titus truly did “speak against the Most High” with “a mouth that spoke boastfully” as predicted in Daniel 7:8 and 25.
Fulfilled Eschatology and Revelation 13:7: The Beast’s War Against the Saints in Revelation 13:7 is Missing in Most of the Earliest and Most Reliable Manuscripts of Revelation.
Critics might be tempted to argue that Titus and Vespasian cannot be the beast whose wound has been healed as they did not persecute the saints. Below we shall provide historical evidence against this argument, but first let us take a look at the first half of v. 7 which is the tenuous crux of this contention: “He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.” This fragment of this v. is NOT present in most of the earliest and most reliable manuscripts of Revelation.60 This fact suggests that this portion of the v. may have been an early explanatory/parenthetical insertion by a zealous scribe who might have wished to draw a connection in the minds of his readers between Revelation 13:7 and Daniel 12:7 which also mentions a three and a half year or forty-two month period (Revelation 13:5): “It will be for a time, times and half a time. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed (Daniel 12:7).”
I believe it is unlikely that this scribe intentionally wished to permanently alter the text but rather may have written this fragment in parenthesis or along the margin and a later scribe copying his work may have inserted his commentary into the text mistakenly thinking it was part of the original manuscript. G. K. Beale, however, believes John’s original manuscript contained this portion of v. 7 even though it is missing in most early manuscripts. Beale believes that a very, very early error in transmission occurred in which a scribe’s eyes accidently skipped over this line or portion of v. 7 when copying the text as the first few words of the first and second sentences of this v. are worded very similarly.61 Even if Beale is correct, verse 7 is still not evidence against the Flavian view.
The “A.D. 70 Doctrine” and Revelation 13:7: The Beast’s War Against the Saints in Revelation 13:7 is an Allusion to Daniel 12:7 and Here These “Holy People” seem to Refer to the Jews who were Killed by the Romans during Titus’ Forty-Two Month Military Campaign in Palestine.
It seems likely that the “saints” (literally “holy [ones]”) of Revelation 13:7 who the beast makes war with during this forty-two month or three and a half year time frame are the “holy people” mentioned in Daniel 12:7 as implied above. Daniel 12:7 reads, “It will be for a time, times and half a time [forty-two months]. When the power of the holy people has been finally broken, all these things will be completed.” The holy people of Daniel 12:7 are generally believed by most preterists to be the Jews of Palestine who were attacked during Titus and Vespasian’s forty-two month long military campaign in Israel which ended in the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Perhaps unaware of the connection between Revelation 13:5-7 and Daniel 12:7, many of these same preterists will often switch gears and say that Revelation 13:7 was fulfilled in the Neronic persecution. If the “holy people” of Daniel 12:7 are the Jews of Palestine who were, in fact, attacked by the Flavians for exactly forty-two months or three and a half years, this, of course, implies that the “saints” or Revelation 13:7 are also these same Jews.62
How could the wicked, non-Christian Jews of Palestine be called “saints” in Revelation 13:7? Recall that the whore of Babylon, wicked Jerusalem, was dressed in “fine linen” (Rev 18:16) just like the new bride of Christ. “Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.” (Rev 19:8). Similarly, in Rev 11:2 Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, is called “the holy city.” Here we see that wicked Jerusalem is called “holy” throughout Revelation as a reference to her heritage despite her present unholiness mentioned in the Apocalypse. The same appears to occur between v. 7 and 9 where Israel is called “holy” in v. 7 because of its heritage in spite of its present wickedness. This is largely because Revelation 13:7 is meant to be a direct allusion to Daniel 12:7 in which the “holy people” refers to non-Christian Jews of Palestine. The fact that wicked Jews are “holy” also echoes Psalm 79:1-3 where the “godly ones” of these verses refer to the wicked people of Jerusalem who were slain by the Babylonians in the sixth-century B.C. (see Daniel Chapter 12: A Preterist Commentary).
Preterist Eschatology and Commentary of Revelation 13:6-7: Sulpicius Severus also records Titus’ War against the Saints and His Desire to Destroy the Temple in Fulfillment of Revelation 13:6 in which the Mouth of the Beast, Titus, is said to slander God’s “Dwelling Place and Those Who live in Heaven.”
Though it seems possible and perhaps likely that the saints of Revelation 13:7 refer to the Jews of Palestine who were killed during the Jewish War, verse 7 could still be said to have been fulfilled by the Flavians even if the saints of Revelation 13:7 are, in fact, Christians. The fact that Titus, the mouth of the beast, is said to “make war against the saints and to conquer them” during the Jewish War and slander those who live in heaven is implied by Titus’ desire to destroy the Christian and Jewish religions. Titus intended to accomplish this by destroying God’s dwelling place, the temple in Jerusalem. Sulpicius Severus says the following in Chronica 2:30.7:
But others, on the contrary, disagreed–including Titus himself. They argued that the destruction of the Temple was a number one priority in order to destroy completely the religion of the Jews and the Christians: For although these religions are conflicting, they nevertheless developed from the same origins. The Christians arose from the Jews: With the root removed, the branch is easily killed [emphasis mine].
In the quote above, one can see how Titus did more than merely slander God’s dwelling place and those who live in heaven as predicted in v.6. Confirming the implications of his words and actions recorded in the Babylonian Talmud, Titus meant to destroy the Temple, God’s dwelling place, and by doing so put an end to the Law of Moses and the religion of the saints, Christianity, together in one fell swoop. Thus the Flavians under Caesar Titus did, in fact, make war against the saints during the Jewish War. However, though Caesar Titus succeeded in this war which resulted in his conquest of all the people of Israel and Rome, Christians included, he was not successful in killing the saints in fulfillment of Revelation 12:13-16—since according to these vs. the woman representing the saints successfully escapes the beast’s attacks.
In Josephus’ account of the Jewish War, Josephus depicts Titus as an unwilling participant in the destruction of the Temple. I believeTitus wished to spare the Temple if possible, but changed his mind when it proved too big or dangerous a hurdle to military success. In Wars of the Jews, the Flavians are depicted in an almost saintly manner not unlike the way in which the infamous Nero Caesar was often depicted by historians writing accounts of his life while he was still alive: “Though there were historians who wrote laudatory accounts while Nero was alive, their verdict was overturned after his death and their works have not survived.”63 Not only was Wars of the Jews published in A.D. 75, during Vespasian’s reign, Josephus was also a close personal friend of Cesar Vespasian and Titus. In fact, as a show of loyalty Josephus even took on Titus and Vespasian’s surname which is why he called himself Flavius Josephus. Quoting Josephus’ own words, Eusebius says that the Flavians commissioned Josephus to write a history of the Jewish War and “from these books alone should information be given the public as to the events.”64 Like all Caesars, the Flavians wished to control history so that it reflected them favorably. And the Flavians of course read and edited the text. Therefore, the fact that Wars was commissioned by Titus and Vespasian to be written by Titus’ close friend Josephus would be like a history of World War 2 being written by Hitler’s drinking buddy.
Preterism and Revelation 13:6: Josephus says that Titus entered the Holy of Holies and Presided over the Worship of Pagan Idols in the Temple Fulfilling v.6: “It opened its Mouth to Blaspheme God, and to Blaspheme His name and His Dwelling Place[.]”
Regardless of whether or not Titus approved of or ordered the destruction of the Temple, Josephus actually mentions at least two ways Titus slandered God’s name and His “dwelling place” in Wars of the Jews. The word translated “slander” in v. 6 is actually blasphēmēsai meaning “blaspheme.” The first way Titus overtly blasphemed God and the Temple was when Josephus records him entering the Holy of Holies with his generals, an act only permitted by the high priest once a year:
And now, since Caesar [Titus] was no way able to restrain the enthusiastic fury of the soldiers, and the fire proceeded on more and more, he went into the holy place of the temple, with his commanders, and saw it, with what was in it, which he found to be far superior to what the relations of foreigners contained, and not inferior to what we ourselves boasted of and believed about it. But as the flame had not as yet reached to its inward parts, but was still consuming the rooms that were about the holy house[.]65
The only part of the Temple which was mysterious was the Most Holy Place. The fact that Titus saw the mysterious part of the Temple meant that he entered the inner sanctuary where God was believed to dwell. The second way in which Josephus records Titus blaspheming God and the Temple was when Titus presided over the worship of the Roman ensigns, idols of Caesar and Rome, on the eastern gate of the Temple.66 Thus Titus blasphemed God and His dwelling place by entering the Holy of Holies and presiding over the worship of pagan idols in the Temple of God in explicit fulfillment of v. 6: “It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place[.]”
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:5-7: In the 42 Months between Vespasian and Titus’ arrival to lead the Roman Army in Israel to the Fall of Jerusalem, Vespasian became Emperor of Rome and destroyed the Temple in Fulfillment of vs. 5-7.
In v. 5, the beast is said to exercise authority for 42 months or three and a half years. “In this verse, the Majority Text (MT) reads and he was given authority to make war for forty-two months (13:5).”67 This is the interval between Vespasian and Titus’ arrival in Israel to lead the Roman army in March of A.D. 67 to the fall of Jerusalem in September of A.D. 70. Rabbinic tradition confirms the fact that Titus and Vespasian made “war” with Israel for 42 months or three and a half years in the Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 1.31 and 1.40. According to the Midrash Rabbah Lamentations 1.31 and 1.40, Vespasian was expected to be punished in Gehenna for three and a half years because that was the length of time in which he besieged Israel.
During this 42 month period all elements of these two verses were fulfilled. In A.D. 69, Vespasian became emperor of Rome in fulfillment of v. 7: “And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.” After becoming Caesar, Vespasian appointed Titus to lead the Roman army in its war on Jerusalem. Then in A.D. 70, the Roman army offered pagan sacrifices to Rome, Vespasian and Titus in the holy temple in Jerusalem before they destroyed it. During this time, Titus was recorded to have said and done many blasphemous things against God and the temple in fulfillment of v. 6: “He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place [the temple in Jerusalem].” The war against the saints in v. 7 has already been addressed in Revelation 12:13-16. Here the dragon, represented on earth by Titus and Vespasian, pursues the saints of God during the Jewish War, but the earth, Israel, takes the brunt of the Roman assault and the Jewish Christians largely escape safely to Pella. Though the saints had mostly escaped Titus and Vespasian’s assault on Israel and their intentions to destroy Christianity and Judaism, the Flavians did still conquer the saints because they not only conquered Israel but had also ultimately become emperors of Rome and as such were the earthly kings of all the Christian Jews in the empire before the end of this forty-two month timeframe. It should also be noted that after the fall of Jerusalem, Titus’ father, Vespasian, ordered all descendants of King David to be searched out and eradicated so that no one in the Messiah’s bloodline could contest his authority.68 Here one can see how Titus and Vespasian were “given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.”
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13:5-7: The Neronic Persecution . . .
A frequently cited alternative fulfillment of the beast’s “war against the saints” in v. 7 may be found in the Neronic persecution. In July of A.D. 64 a fire broke out in downtown Rome. Nero Caesar blamed the deed on the growing body of Christians, and as punishment many of the saints were tortured and executed for a crime they did not commit.69 Concerning this wave of persecution, Tacitus writes, “Wrapped in the hides of wild beasts, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or fastened to crosses to be set on fire, that when the darkness fell they might be burned to illuminate the night.”70
8All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
Revelation 13:8 Commentary: The Slaughter of the Abomination that Causes Desolation . . .
According to v. 8, all the inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life will worship the beast. The “inhabitants of the earth” in v. 8 are the people in Israel, the metaphorical earth of Revelation. This verse is fulfilled in the emperor’s imperial cult and the “abomination that causes desolation” spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:15.
These “inhabitants of the earth” were those Jews who allied themselves with Rome against their rebel compatriots. Those who sided with Rome and worshipped the beast consisted to a large extent of the Jewish elite who were caught up in the crossfire of the Jewish War. Who these Jews were, why they worshipped the image of the beast, and why they were punished at the end of the age will be addressed in detail at the very end of this chapter.
It should be noted that there were also Gentiles in Israel who worshipped the beast. The Gentile people of the earth who also worshipped the beast were the Roman soldiers stationed in Israel during the war. As stated above, these soldiers setup the Roman ensigns over the Jewish temple and together worshiped these metal symbols of Rome and its leader, the beast. After worshipping the ensigns, Josephus says that Titus ordered all the remaining Jews in Jerusalem to be hunted down and killed.71 Thus in clear fulfillment of Revelation 13:8 the people of the earth (Israel) who did not worship the beast were, in fact, killed.
9He who has an ear, let him hear. 10If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints.
A Realized Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13:10: After Jerusalem fell Many People were taken Captive and killed by the Sword as predicted in v. 10.
A month after the Romans offered sacrifices to the ensigns, Jerusalem fell. And many Jews were taken captive and killed by the sword as predicted in v. 10. Concerning the aftermath of the war, Josephus writes, “Titus also sent a great number [of Jews] into the provinces, as a present to them, that they might be destroyed upon their theaters, by a sword and by the wild beasts; but those that were under seventeen years of age were sold for slaves [emphasis mine].”72 In this quote one can see how Revelation 13:10 was fulfilled in the Jewish War and its aftermath: “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.”
It is interesting to note that some ancient manuscripts read, “If anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he will be killed.” According to church tradition, Paul was decapitated by a sword during the Neronic persecution. Furthermore, Tertullian attributes “Nero’s cruel sword” as having provided the seed of the church.73 After being declared an enemy of the state, Nero Caesar drove a dagger into his throat and ended his life.74 Nero, a man who killed so many with the sword, died the way he lived.
11Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon.
Revelation 13 Has Been Fulfilled: The Sea Beast and Land Beast of Revelation 13 were Not Made Up by John. Both Creatures Long Predate Revelation and Are Often Mentioned Together in Pairs in Jewish Tradition. Correctly Identifying the Creatures Referred to in Revelation 13 is Critical to Correctly Identifying the Human Figure or Figures They Each Represent.
In Revelation 13:11 the land beast makes its appearance. Both the seven-headed sea monster and the two-horned land beast were not first introduced by John in Revelation. These two creatures were well known in Jewish tradition long before Revelation was ever written and they each have a name. And because these two creatures are frequently mentioned together in ancient Jewish tradition as they are in Revelation 13 if you correctly identify the name of the sea beast of this chapter, the name of the land beast becomes obvious. And if you can identify the name of the land beast, this information then offers the reader a clue as to the human figure or figures that this beast represents.
The sea beast is undoubtedly the leviathan. According to Psalm 104:25-26 and Psalm 74:13-14, the leviathan was a many-headed sea monster. Psalm 104:25-26 indicates that Leviathan is a sea monster: “There is the sea, great and broad, in which are swarms without number, animals both small and great. There the ships move along, and Leviathan, which You have formed to sport in it.” Psalm 74:13-14 indicates that Leviathan is a sea monster with many heads: “You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters. You crushed the heads of Leviathan.” The Ras Shamra tablets goes one step further by stating that Lotan (i.e. Leviathan) has seven heads like the beast of Revelation.75 The seven-headed serpent in the Ras Shamra tablets is called Lotan. Jack Finegan, professor emeritus of New Testament history and archaeology, notes, “Lotan is the same as the Hebrew Leviathan that is described in similar terms in Isaiah 27:1 (c.f. Job 26:12f.).”76 The fact that the sea beast is the leviathan is also suggested by the chant of Revelation 13:4: “Who is like the beast?” This language is echoed in Job’s description of the leviathan in Job 41:33: “Nothing on earth is like him[.]”77
Recall that according to Psalm 74:13-14 God was expected to crush the heads of the leviathan. Psalm 74:13-14 appears to be alluded to in Revelation 13:3 when one of the heads of the sea beast is said to have a fatal wound. This correlation is another bit of evidence that the leviathan is the sea beast of Revelation 13. Recall that the heads of the leviathan were the Caesars. I believe that God demonstrated his power over the leviathan predicted in Psalm 74:13-14 by an omen said to have occurred in the last year of Nero’s reign. Suetonius writes, “[A] thunderbolt presently struck the Temple of the Caesars, decapitating all the statues at a stroke and dashed Augustus’s sceptre from his hands.”78 Given the fact that the heads of the Caesars which were the heads of the leviathan were decapitated in the last year of Nero’s reign this omen clearly foreshadowed the ultimate fulfillment of Genesis 3:15 and Psalm 74:13-14 when God is said to crush the heads of the Leviathan.
If the sea beast is the leviathan, what is the land beast? The land beast or beast out of the earth is said to have “two horns like a lamb” in Revelation 13:11. Many preterists believe that the beast out of the earth is a lamb. And since lambs are clean animals, this land beast must be Jewish as clean animals represent Jews and unclean animals, Gentiles (Acts 10) though in truth there are many exceptions to this rule (Dan 8:5, Mt 23:33, Jn 3:14, Rev 5:5). This is one major reason why many preterists believe that the beast out of the earth is a Jewish figure. Another reasons many preterists believe the beast out of the earth is Jewish is because it resides on the earth and throughout Revelation earth represents Israel and sea, nations outside of Israel (see In the Bible “Earth” Signifies the Specific Land Addressed While “Sea” Symbolizes Foreign Nations). But the fact that this beast resides on the earth does not imply that it is Jewish. First-century Israel had many unclean animals living in it just as it had many pagan Gentile residents as well especially in Caesarea. Just like many nations outside of Israel had many clean animals and Jews residing in them. Although the land beast is said to have two horns like a lamb, it is not a lamb. And despite the fact that the beast out of the earth is, in fact, found in Israel, the human figure or figure it represents is not likely to be Jewish as this creature is not a clean animal.
This land animal with two horns would have been easily identified by those familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and culture as this land beast was often paired with the leviathan in the Bible (Job 40:15-41:34) as well as in Jewish and Christian tradition (1 Enoch 60:7-8; 4 Ezra 6:49-51; 2 Baruch 29:3-4; Lev R 13:3, Midrash Rabbah; b. Baba Bathra 74b-75a).79 The beast out of the earth is, of course, the behemoth. And as indicated in Revelation 13 and 2 Baruch 29:3-4 these two beasts were expected to be revealed when the Messiah was to begin to be revealed: “And it shall come to pass when all is accomplished that was to come to pass in those parts, that the Messiah shall then begin to be revealed. And Behemoth shall be revealed from his place and Leviathan shall ascend from the sea, those two great monsters which I created on the fifth day of creation, and shall have kept until that time[.]” (2 Baruch 29:3-4.) The fact that the behemoth is a land animal is stated in 1 Enoch 60:7-8 and 4 Ezra 6:49-51 and implied in Job 40:15-24. The behemoth was also believed to have horns like the land beast of Revelation 13:11 according to the Akdamut. Akdamut is a Jewish hymn recited on the festival of Shavuot wherein it says, “The sport with the leviathan and the behemoth . . . When they will interlock with one another and engage in combat, with his horns the behemoth will gore with strength, the fish [leviathan] will leap to meet him with his fins, with power [emphasis mine].” According to the Talmud Baba Bathra 75a, the God of Israel was expected to slay the seven-head leviathan at the creation of the new heaven and earth. Revelation 13:3 describes the fatal wound that the leviathan received. In Revelation 12:9, the leviathan is identified as God’s ancient rival, the devil and his kingdom—Rome.
A Realized Eschatological View and Commentary of Revelation 13:1: When Addressing a Greco-Roman Audience Like That in Revelation, the New Testament Writers often Gave Jewish Concepts and Ideas Greek Names Whenever Possible.
Having identified the Jewish name of the seven-headed sea beast and its land companion in Revelation 13, it may be surprising to the reader that the sea beast mentioned in Revelation 13 also has a Greco-Roman name. Recall that the Book of Revelation was written to seven churches in Asia Minor, a Greco-Roman audience. When addressing a Greco-Roman audience like the one in Revelation, the authors of the New Testament often sought to give Jewish concepts and ideas which were often foreign to their Gentile listeners Greek names and identities whenever possible. In 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 Paul says that he becomes all things to all people so that he might most effectively save the lost:
To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.
Seeking to save the lost by becoming Greek to those who are Greek, Paul gave the Jewish God a Greek identity in Acts 17:16-34. While in Athens, Paul sees a statue with the inscription “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.” Paul then uses this as a means to teach the Greeks about the God of Israel, the god who they did not know.
Similarly, the New Testament was written in Greek. And having been written in the Greek language, the books of the New Testament often translate Hebrew words and Jewish concepts like that of the afterlife in the Greek names of their most similar Greek counterparts. Thus Sheol is often labeled Hades (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14) and Gehenna is called Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4.80 Like Gehenna, the lake of fire (Mark 9:45-46), Tartarus is also said to be an abyss of the damned in Greek mythology.
The same thing occurs in Revelation. Recall that Sheol is identified by its Greco-Roman mythological counterpart, Hades, in Revelation (Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14). Similarly, the Jewish concept of the leviathan which as stated above was believed to be a seven-headed sea monster (Psalm 74:13-14; 104:25-26) is identified in Revelation as its Greco-Roman counterpart, the many-headed sea monster called the Hydra. Though the number of heads of the Hydra varies depending on the source, the hydra of Lerna was often depicted with seven heads:81 “The legendary Hydra of Lerna, a sea creature with seven heads—or nine, according to some . . . was killed by Hercules in the second of his labors [emphasis mine].”82 Not only was the Hydra a seven-headed sea monster just like the seven-headed sea beast of Revelation 13, the heads of the legendary hydra were also sometimes said to “have human features[,]”83 a fact that again points to the sea beast of Revelation 13 with each of its seven heads representing a different Caesar beginning with the first, Julius Caesar.
The fact that the Hydra is generally said to have either seven or nine heads is strong evidence that the sea beast of Revelation is the Hydra. The sea beast of Revelation is also said to have seven heads. Then after its fatally wound head is healed (Rev 13:3) it ends up with eight heads (Rev 17:11). The fact that the sea beast ends up with eight heads suggests that when the fatally wounded head of Rev 13:3 was healed, two new heads grew up in the place of the old wounded head. This implicit fact certainly explains how the sea beast ends up with one (or two) additional heads in Rev 17:11. The fact that the sea beast appears to grow additional heads after the first was fatally wounded links the sea beast uniquely with the Hydra. According to Greek mythology when one of the heads of the Hydra was crushed or severed two NEW heads grew up in place of the old wounded head. If the sea beast of Revelation is the Hydra, a fact suggested by its implied ability to grow additional heads after being wounded, the fact that it had eight heads in Rev 17:11 means that this sea beast actually had a total of NINE heads before its death if one counts the crushed head in addition to the two new heads that grew out from it. Here we see the beast of Revelation starting out with seven heads and having a total of nine different heads before its death just like the Greek Hydra which is generally said to have either seven or nine heads depending on the source of the myth. For an explanation of who those nine heads or kings are and why see Revelation 17: A Preterist Commentary.
The similarities between the Greco-Roman Hydra and the sea beast of Revelation 13 do not end there: The constellation Hydra is situated at the edge of the portion of the night sky astrologically named the sea. In this region many of the aquatic constellations reside including Pisces, Aquarius, Capricornus, Cetus, Delphinus, Eridanus and the Hydra. The fact that the constellation of the Hydra is found in the sea is not surprising as the Hydra is a sea monster. However, what may be shocking to readers is that the imagery of Revelation 17 is pictured in the night sky around the Hydra. In Revelation 17 the whore of Babylon is said to sit atop the seven-headed sea beast while she holds a cup full of the blood of the saints in her hand. This image of a woman sitting atop the Hydra holding a cup in her hands as depicted in Revelation 17 is actually pictured in the sky with the constellations Hydra, the woman Virgo and the cup Crater. The female constellation Virgo sits atop the constellation of the Hydra while appearing to hold the cup Crater in her hand (see Revelation 17: A Preterist Commentary).
Further evidence linking Hydra with the sea beast of Revelation 13 and 17 is the fact that according to the myth of Hercules twelve labors the Hydra was known to regenerate severed heads. This ability to regrow severed heads not only explains how the beast’s sixth severed head had been healed in Revelation 13:3, it also explains how the sea beast is then said to have eight heads in Revelation 17:11. The reason the seven-headed beast of Revelation 13 is said to have eight heads in Revelation 17:11 is because according to the myth of Hercules twelve labors if the Hydra’s head was severed two new heads would grow up out of the neck of the previously severed head leaving the beast with eight heads after its injury was healed (see Revelation 17: A Preterist Commentary).
Revelation 13:1 Commentary: The Seven-Headed Dragon and Spiritual Babylon
Interestingly, the seven-headed sea dragon mentioned in Revelation 13 and present in ancient Israelite culture as Leviathan and Greco-Roman culture as Hydra also appears to have a Mesopotamian counterpart. A Mesopotamian seal cylinder from Tell Asmar pictured below depicts a seven-headed dragon being killed by two divine heroes. The territory of Tell Asmar was once part of the ancient Babylonian Empire and is located just north of ancient Babylon. Perhaps the presence of this ancient seven-headed dragon in Tell Asmar suggests that the myth of the seven-headed dragon was ultimately of Babylonian origin? If this seven-headed dragon is of Babylonian origin this would be yet another piece of evidence pointing to Israel and Rome who also had seven-headed dragon myths and are spiritually called Babylon in Revelation. (For an explanation of how Rome was called Babylon in the first century A.D. (and even before) as well as how Jerusalem is also called Babylon in Revelation as a result of becoming one flesh with Rome by way of the adulterous affair depicted in Revelation 17 see Revelation 17: A Preterist Commentary.)
Furthermore, ancient Babylon which fell in the sixth century B.C. even appears to be represented by this seven-headed dragon’s Jewish counterpart, the Leviathan, in Isaiah 27:1. If it is true that ancient Babylon is represented by Leviathan in Isaiah 27:1, it is perhaps not a surprise that Rome—which as stated above is spiritual Babylon–is also represented by this seven-headed sea monster in Revelation.
Revelation 13:11 Commentary: Horns Symbolize Kings or Generals.
Having addressed the names and identities of the sea and land beasts let us now focus on who or what the land beast, the Behemoth, represents. In the Bible, horns are frequently used to symbolize kings or generals. The two horns of this monster are the dark counterparts of the two witnesses of Revelation 11. One of these figures is later called the false prophet in Revelation 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10, because like the two witnesses, this horn is a type of Elijah. In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah calls down fire from heaven as a sign that YHWH, not Baal, is the true god that Israel must worship. After performing this miraculous sign, Elijah ordered those who did not worship YHWH to be killed. As will be seen in vs. 13-15, the beast of the earth performs a nearly identical miracle. Like Elijah, the beast out of the earth also causes fire to come down from heaven as a sign to direct men to worship the beast whose wound had been healed. Then like Elijah who ordered all those who would not worship YHWH to be killed, the beast out of the earth also ordered all who would not worship the beast to be killed.
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:11: The Beast out of the Earth is the Roman Army in Israel, the Earth. Its Two Horns are the Two Generals of this Army: Vespasian and Titus.
Called the beast out of the earth because of its presence in Israel, this beast is represented by the behemoth.84 As explained above, the Greco-Roman/astrological counterpart of the Hebrew leviathan is the Hydra. For an explanation of the Roman/astrological equivalent of the Hebrew behemoth see If the Roman/Astrological Equivalent of the Leviathan is the Hydra, What is the Roman/Astrological Counterpart of the Behemoth?.
A powerful land creature with horns, the behemoth symbolizes the formidable Roman army sent by Caesar to Israel to crush the Jewish rebellion. The two horns of this monster represent the two leaders of this massive force, Vespasian and Titus.85 Before becoming emperor of Rome, Vespasian led the Roman legions in the war against Israel. Then after Vespasian had become emperor, Titus succeeded him as general of the Roman military in Judea. The son of Vespasian, Titus was also bestowed the title of Caesar when his father, Vespasian, had become emperor of Rome.86
12He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.
Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 13:12: The Beast out of the Earth was a High Priest of the Imperial Cult Who presided over the Worship of Caesar and Rome in the Temple in Jerusalem on the 9th of Av in A.D. 70.
The belief that the beast out of the earth is the Jewish high priest is also partially based on this v. in which the beast out of the earth directs the earth (Israel) in the worship of the first beast. Jewish tradition challenges the notion that the behemoth is the Jewish high priest. As cited above, 2 Baruch 29:3-4 indicates that the behemoth as well as the leviathan were to be revealed when the Messiah began to be revealed: “And it shall come to pass when all is accomplished that was to come to pass in those parts, that the Messiah shall then begin to be revealed. And Behemoth shall be revealed from his place and Leviathan shall ascend from the sea, those two great monsters which I created on the fifth day of creation, and shall have kept until that time[.]” These verses challenge the Jewish high priesthood interpretation as this institution had been established by Moses. 2 Baruch, however, supports the interpretation that the land beast is the Roman army in Israel led by its general Caesar Titus as Rome became an empire in 27 B.C., less than thirty years prior to Jesus’ birth, and conquered Jerusalem under Pompey in 63 B.C.
Though present in Israel, the earth, the Midrash and Jewish haggadoth also challenges the notion that the land beast is Jewish. R. Judan b. R. Simeon says the following in the Midrash: “Behemoth and the Leviathan are to engage in a wild-beast contest before the righteous in the Time to Come, and whoever has not been a spectator at the wild-beast contests of the heathen nations in this world will be accorded the boon of seeing one in the World to Come [emphasis mine].87 Furthermore, “Jewish haggadoth also allegorize these two beasts, sometimes seeing them as the destructive powers which are hostile to the Jews.”88 Since the leviathan and the behemoth are not real animals but rather mythical creatures that represent world powers as suggested by the Jewish haggadoth as well as the fact that the seven heads of Leviathan are said to be seven kings (Revelation 17:9-10), the Jewish haggadoth and the above excerpt from the Midrash suggest that the behemoth and Leviathan are Gentile, not Jewish.
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of the End Times and Revelation 13:12: After the General Vespasian Became Emperor, Titus Became General of the Roman Army in Israel. After Titus Seized the Temple, the Roman Army Worshipped Images of the First Beast, Vespasian, in the Temple.
After successfully seizing the holy temple in Jerusalem, the Romans set their ensigns against its eastern gate with Caesar Titus’ approval: “And now the Romans . . . brought their ensigns to the temple and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices to them, and there did they make Titus imperator.”89 The ensign called the numina legionum was an image of Caesar and his favorites. Thus this ensign would have contained an image of Vespasian, the beast whose wound had been healed of v. 12.90 Thus the the Roman legions outwardly worshiped this image of Vespasian by offering sacrifices to these idols of Caesar and Rome.91 As general and Caesar, Titus would have been expected to preside over this blasphemous worship in the Temple. Here we can see how Titus “exercised all the authority of the first beast [Vespasian] on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants [the Roman army in Israel] worship the first beast, whose wound had been healed [Vespasian].”
The reason the behemoth exercises the authority of the leviathan on its behalf in v. 12 is not merely because the Roman army, the behemoth, exercises the will of Rome, the seven-headed leviathan, in Israel. It is also because right before the assault on Jerusalem, Vespasian, the general of the Roman forces in Israel, became the emperor of Rome and his son and second command, Titus, was also given the title Caesar at the same time.92 While Vespasian claimed the emperor’s throne, Titus was given full control of the Roman army and its final assault on Jerusalem. With both generals having received the title Caesar, the two horns of the beast of the earth, Titus and Vespasian, have now also become the next two heads of the seven-headed leviathan. As a result of this merging together of the beast out of the earth and the seven-headed leviathan, there is a subsequent molding together of the attributes of both beasts. It is for this reason that the behemoth now has the power to breathe firebrands or flaming torches in the following verse, a defining characteristic of the seven-headed leviathan according to Job 41:19.93
13And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men.
A Full Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:13: The “Fire From Heaven” in v. 13 is likely firebrands hurled into Jerusalem during the Roman Siege of A.D. 70
The fire from heaven mentioned in this verse is the same fire said to come from the mouths of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:5 and the mouths of the locusts in Revelation 9:17. This fire is the firebrands said to come out of the mouth of the behemoth. According to Josephus, during the siege of Jotapata, Josephus states that firebrands were launched into the city:
At the same time such engines as were intended for that purpose threw at once lances upon them with a great noise, and stones of the weight of a talent were thrown by the engines that were prepared for that purpose, together with fire, and a vast multitude of arrows, which made the wall so dangerous, that the Jews durst not only come upon it, but durst not come to those parts within the walls which were reached by the engines [emphasis mine].94
It stands to reason that firebrands would also have been hurled into the city of Jerusalem later in the war. Especially since Tacitus says that during the siege of Jerusalem, the Romans constructed “every conceivable device for storming cities, whether invented long ago or due to the ingenuity of modern times.”95 Thus these firebrands launched into Jerusalem are quite literally “fire from heaven.”
One might object to the above interpretation as sounding like pure conjecture. However, this interpretation is not mere speculation. Gary DeMar notes that in the Bible arrows and lightning bolts (fire from heaven) are occasionally used interchangeably.96 In other words, lightning (fire from heaven) is often said to be the arrows of God as is the case in Psalm 18:14; 77:17; 144:6; Habakkuk 3:11; and Zechariah 9:14.97 In these verses one can see how arrows or flaming arrows are symbolically and poetically linked to lightning or fire from heaven in the Bible.
Recall as stated above that the seven-headed sea monster representing Rome in Revelation is the Leviathan, a seven-headed sea monster of ancient Israelite lore. When describing the Leviathan, a symbol of oppressive foreign empires, Job says, “Out of his mouth goes forth burning torches; sparks of fire leap forth (Job 41:19).” These flaming torches or firebrands said to come out of the mouth of the leviathan are flaming arrows or burning debris launched into a city during siege warfare. These burning torches coming from the mouth of the Leviathan mirrors the fire coming out of the mouths of the locust army in Revelation 9:17 which is also signified in Revelation 13:13 as fire from heaven. In fact it was a burning torch from the mouth of the beast, Caesar Titus, that ultimately caused the destruction and burning of the Temple by the Romans in A.D. 70:
At which time one of the soldiers, without staying for any orders, and without any concern or dread upon him at so great an undertaking, and being hurried on by a certain divine fury, snatched somewhat out of the materials that were on fire, and being lifted up by another soldier, he set fire to a golden window, through which there was a passage to the rooms that were round about the holy house, on the north side of it. As the flames went upward, the Jews made a great clamor, such as so mighty an affliction required, and ran together to prevent it; and now they spared not their lives any longer, nor suffered any thing to restrain their force, since that holy house was perishing, for whose sake it was that they kept such a guard about it.98
Although Titus, the mouth of the beast, is said to object to the burning of the Temple in Wars of the Jews.99 This reluctance is likely a fabrication so as to portray the future emperor–and close personal friend of Josephus, the author–in as favorable a light as possible to the people of the empire as Titus was Vespasian’s chosen successor. As stated above, Sulpicius Severus offers a much more plausible account when he says that Titus wished to destroy the Temple in Chronica 2:30.7: “But others, on the contrary, disagreed–including Titus himself. They argued that the destruction of the Temple was a number one priority . . . .” It is likely that Severus is correct and that Titus, the mouth of the beast, actually ordered the Temple to be burned as a means to destroy his enemies with minimal casualties to his own soldiers. Not only does Chronica seem more plausible from a military standpoint, Josephus’ account of Titus’ reluctance to burn the Temple is also internally inconsistent as Josephus records Caesar Titus later ordering the complete demolition of the Temple so that the Jews could never again use it as a fortress.100
Titus’ eagerness to burn the Temple also makes sense from a political perspective. Titus and Vespasian knew that a Roman victory in Palestine would legitimize their reign in the hearts and minds of the Roman mob above all the other Caesars who had ruled after Nero. (This is ostensibly why Vespasian commissioned Josephus to write Wars of the Jews so as to remind the public of this victory.) A great military victory would solidify Vespasian’s right to rule and greatly minimize the risk of another coup. And Vespasian was not shy about his fear of assassination. Titus and Vespasian needed a victory fast as the longer they waited the greater was the risk of a successful assassination plot. The burning of the Temple was the quickest way to achieve victory and Titus knew that if he was to keep his elderly father alive and thus soon become emperor he needed the war to end fast. Thus if Severus is correct the burning of the Temple by firebrands could be said in a symbolic sense to have come from the mouth of the beast as Titus, the mouth of the beast, likely ordered the burning of the Temple by a burning torch in fulfillment of Job’s description of Leviathan in Job 41:19: “Out of his mouth goes forth burning torches; sparks of fire leap forth [emphasis mine].”
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:13: This “Fire from Heaven” is also a symbol of the 12th Legion Whose Emblem is a Lightning Bolt and Whose Presence in Israel, the Earth, Under Titus’ Leadership Aided in the burning of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Interestingly there is another way in which the Roman army was explicitly symbolized by fire from heaven. Josephus says the following in Wars of the Jews: “But when Titus perceived that his endeavors to spare a foreign temple turned to the damage of his soldiers and made them be killed, he gave orders to set the gates [of the Temple] on fire.”101 With the aid of the twelfth legion, Legio XII Fulminata, the Romans set the Temple ablaze. With the Temple on fire, the Romans were soon able to secure the Temple after having exterminated the Jewish resistance seeking refuge within its walls. Though first century Rome itself is symbolized by the main ensign called the Aquila mentioned above, e Each Roman legion also had an emblem or mascot with which they were represented. It is interesting to note that the emblem of the twelfth legion was a lightning bolt—fire from heaven. Here one can see how “fire from heaven,” representing the twelfth legion, was responsible for the burning of the Jewish temple.
A Preterist Interpretation, Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:13: The “Fire From Heaven” in v. 13 is also a Symbol of Rome Itself. The Symbol of Rome was the Aquila which Held Zeus’ Lighting Bolt in its Claws. The Aquila was Present in the Abomination that Causes Desolation.
The lightning or fire from heaven mentioned in v. 13 is also a symbol of Rome itself. The symbol of imperial Rome was the Aquila in the same way that the bald eagle represents the United States. In Greek and Roman mythology Aquila was the eagle messenger of Zeus that carried Zeus’ lightning bolt from heaven to earth. During the war between the gods and the Titans, Aquila carried Zeus’ lightning bolts down to the enemy of the gods, the Titans.102
The main ensign that the Roman army carried wherever they went was a metallic image or idol of this messenger of Zeus and symbol of Rome. Not surprisingly, this ensign was called the Aquila. Thus the fire from heaven mentioned in v. 13 was also depicted in the Aquila, the chief ensign that the Roman legions brought inside the Temple in A.D. 70. This metal idol of Rome was generally crafted holding Zeus’ lightning bolt—fire from heaven–in its claws. Therefore the presence of the Aquila erected on the floor of the burning Temple with Zeus’ lightning bolt in its claws is also a symbol of fire having come down “from heaven to earth in full view of men.” Given the fact that the symbol of the Roman Empire was the Aquila, the mythological being that carried Zeus’ lightning bolt down to the earth, this fire from heaven appears to also be a symbol of Rome itself. In other words, the presence of the Roman army in Israel and its Temple was also the fire from heaven mentioned in v. 13. This miraculous victory inspired in the Roman army such a reverence for Titus, their leader, that while the holy Temple burned, the Roman army offered sacrifices to the ensigns on the eastern gate of the temple “and there did they make Titus imperator.”103
A Realized Eschatology Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:13: By “Causing Fire to come down from Heaven to Earth,” Titus Becomes a Type of Elijah.
As general of the Roman legions in Israel, Titus’ ability to draw Rome and its legions including the 12th Legion, “the fire from heaven,” to the earth, Israel, to aid in the siege of Jerusalem links Titus, the beast out of the earth, with the prophet Elijah which is why Titus is called the false prophet in Revelation 16:13, 19:20 and 20:10. In this way Titus is linked to Emperor Vespasian in the same way that John the Baptist is linked to Christ in the gospels. In Mark 9:13, John the Baptist is identified as the Elijah who is to come. Jesus sees John as a man who possesses the power and spirit of Elijah–the prophet who in 1 Kings 18:24-39 and 2 Kings 1:12 called fire down from heaven. John acted by the power and spirit of Elijah to direct people to worship Jesus, the king of the Jews. In a similar way, Titus by the power and spirit of the Anti-Elijah compelled those in Judea to worship Caesar Vespasian, the emperor of Rome and thus also the king of the Jews. When Titus called down fire from heaven and directed everyone to worship the beast, Titus explicitly fulfilled 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[.]
Like the false prophet of Deuteronomy 13:1-5, Titus produced a “sign”, the fire from heaven. He then also led the people in the worship of “other gods.” Thus in light of Deuteronomy 13:1-5 one can see how Titus is called the false prophet in Revelation 19:20.
Revelation 13:13 Preterist Commentary: By “Causing Fire to come down from Heaven to Earth,” Titus also Becomes an Embodiment or Representative of Zeus, the Thunder God, and His Image on the Aquila.
As explained in How the Greek (2nd Century B.C.) and Roman Armies (1st Century A.D.) with Their Idols of Zeus Literally fulfill All Bible Prophecies Concerning the Abomination that Causes Desolation, the main ensign, the Aquila, was a symbol of Rome and an idol of Zeus typically portrayed as the eagle messenger of Zeus holding Zeus’ lightning bolt in its claws. When Titus called down fire from heaven, he also became an embodiment or representative of Zeus, the thunder god, and of Rome whom the Aquila represents.
14Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.
Preterist View, Interpretation and Commentary of the End Times and Revelation 13:14: The Image of the Beast was Found on the Ensigns.
Because of the signs the false prophet performed on behalf of the beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth to worship the image of the beast. This deception is mentioned again in Revelation 19:20: “But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.” For an explanation of how the beast deceived the inhabitants of the earth see Revelation 19: A Preterist Commentary. The sign in v. 14 is the fire from heaven mentioned in v. 13 which burned the city of Jerusalem and its temple. While the temple burned, the Roman soldiers erected the ensigns on the eastern gate of the temple and offered sacrifices to them.104
Preterist Bible Commentary on Revelation 13:14: The Image of the Beast is the Imago. The Imago of Vespasian, the Beast who’s Wound had been healed, was worshipped by the Romans in the Temple in A.D. 70.
The “image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived” is the Roman ensign called the Imago or numina legionum. As stated above, the Roman ensigns were military standards. These metal flags symbolized both Rome and its leader and thus contained the Roman eagle as well as a three-dimensional image of the reigning emperor.105 As previously indicated, when Nero committed suicide by stabbing himself with a knife, Rome fell into a civil war that temporarily collapsed the empire. It was not until Vespasian’s ascension when Vespasian, Titus and Domitian were simultaneously crowned Caesar that order was restored. Therefore, the Roman Empire under the rule of the Flavian trinity; Vespasian, Titus and Domitian; are the beast whose wound had been healed.
A three-dimensional metallic image of Vespasian, the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived, was fixed to the ensign called the Imago or numina legionum while the ensign called the Aquila represented Rome, the seven-headed beast of Revelation. These ensigns served as idols or objects of worship to the Roman military. In Wars of the Jews, the Romans are said to have acted out their worship of Emperor Vespasian by offering sacrifices to his image, the Imago, along with all the other ensigns in the Holy Temple in A.D. 70.106 As will be explained below, there was also likely an image or ensign of Caesar Titus that was also worshipped at this time. Not surprisingly, most Jews did not make a similar acclamation and thus were killed or exiled.107
Revelation 13:14 Commentary: Both Titus and Vespasian were worshiped in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Revelation 13:14 says that the beast out of the beast ordered his people “to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” As stated above, this v. was fulfilled when the Romans set up the Imago on the eastern gate of the Temple on the 9th of Av of A.D. 70. At this time there was also likely an image or ensign of Caesar Titus that was also worshipped at this time. While the Roman army offered sacrifices to the ensigns, Caesar Titus was declared imperator, a term loosely translated as emperor. And according to Suetonius, many of his soldiers wanted to make him emperor.108 If his soldiers did truly declare Titus emperor, Titus would have received all the divine worship and accolades normally directed toward the emperor. Thus Titus would have been worshipped during this celebration as was customary in the imperial cult in fulfillment of 2 Thessalonians 2:4: “He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” All emperors received an Imago. Thus it is likely that during this occasion in which the Romans worshipped the ensigns in the Temple that an Imago of Titus was present. This image would have then been placed beside or in place of the Imago of Vespasian. Keep in mind that Titus was declared Caesar at Vespasian’s coronation thus it seems likely that an Imago of Titus already existed alongside the image of Vespasian at the eastern gate on the ensign called the numina legionum (meaning “gods of the legions”).
The fact that an Imago of Titus was present in the Temple at the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 is indicated in early Christian literature. Scholia on Matthew, a ninth or tenth century Christian composition, states, “What is the abomination of desolation? It speaks of the image of Titus who captured the city, and after the destruction of Jerusalem erected his own statue.”109 Theophylact of Ochrida (d. 1108) also states that an image of Titus was present in the Temple in A.D. 70 on the ensign called the numina legionum (meaning “gods of the legions”): “The abomination of desolation is the statue of the captor of the city. For every idol is called an abomination. And it is one of desolation because after the Romans had captured Jerusalem, they laid waste to it, leaving it desolate, and set up this statue within the sanctuary of the temple.”110 Not surprisingly, most Jews probably did not join the Romans in the worship of this image and thus were killed or exiled.111 This fact is foretold in the following verse:
15He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
Fulfilled Eschatology, A Commentary of Revelation 13:15: Statues in Pagan Temples in Syria, Israel’s Northern Neighbor, were Famous for Speaking and Moving just Like the Image of Revelation 13:15.
It is possible that ventriloquism and counterfeit miracles were performed with the ensigns under Titus’ direction in the Temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70 as this appears to have been a common practice in the pagan Temples of Syria, Judaea’s northern neighbor and the province in which much of Titus’ army was drawn. The following is written concerning the pagan temples of Syria in the second century A.D.: “The statues sweat, and move, and utter oracles, and a shout has often been raised when the temple was closed; it has been heard by many [emphasis mine].”112 Regardless of whether or not these signs were faked in the Temple in A.D. 70 as was common in the pagan Temples of Israel’s northern neighbor, v. 15 was certainly fulfilled at least in a mundane sense in A.D. 70.
Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 13:15: The Mouth of the Beast is Titus, the False Prophet of Revelation 19:20.
In Revelation 13:5 the beast is “given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies[.]” As explained in v. 5, the “mouth” of the beast is Titus. In v. 15 the mouth of the beast, Titus, is said to speak on the Beast Vespasian’s behalf: “He [Titus, the mouth of the beast,] was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak . . .” As stated above, Titus was the “mouth” of the beast in the same way that Aaron was the mouth of Moses according to Exodus 4:16: “[H]e [Aaron] will be as a mouth for you [Moses] and you will be as God to him.” When Aaron acts as a mouth to Moses he acts as though he is a prophet to a god. This is partially why Titus is also called the false prophet to the beast in Revelation 19:20. See Revelation 19: A Preterist Commentary.
A Covenant Eschatology Interpretation and Commentary of Revelation 13:15: Colossians 1:15 and John 14:9 imply that the Image of the Beast was also a Man.
Above I explained how the image of the beast was the ensign called the Imago or numina legionum. This is true. However, the image of the beast is more than just the Imago. The image of the beast is also a man. How could a man be the image of a deity? In the same way that man is the image of God in Genesis 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image[.]’” Revelation 13:15 says that people worshipped the image of the beast. Therefore the image of the beast must be a god. Throughout the book of Revelation the beast, Rome, is embodied by the Caesars. Thus the Caesars are also called the beast throughout the Apocalypse as they are the image or human representative of Rome. The fact that Caesar is the image of the beast (Rome) is illustrated by a quote from Ovid (43 B.C. –A.D. 18): “[T]he state is Caesar.”113 Both Rome and its Caesars were regularly worshipped in the Imperial Cult. The image of the beast mentioned in v. 15 is also one of these Caesars who as will be explained in greater detail below was worshipped in the Temple in A.D. 70 as a god in fulfillment of v. 15. This man is the firstborn son of the emperor, Caesar Titus.
Not only is Titus the mouth of the beast as explained above, he is the image of the beast as well. As stated above, the image of the beast is no ordinary man. He was a man who was worshipped as a god. The fact that this man was worshipped as a god serves an important literary purpose. It is meant to link this man with Christ. In other words, the image of the beast is a kind of antichrist.
Citing 1 John 2:18-22, many Christians just see Antichrist as a term used to refer to apostate Christians who left the church or deny that Jesus is the Christ. If Antichrist just refers to apostate Christians, where in Scripture is there expected to come a great individual Christian apostate at the end of the age as specified in 1 John 2:18? The figure mentioned in 1 John 2:18 must refer to the beast, the lawless one, the little horn or the false prophet because there are no other singular, future maniacal figures expected to come at the end of the age. Even though Antichrist is never used in the Bible to specifically to denote these figures I believe that because there are no other possible candidates for the man mentioned in 1 John 2:18 this term must denote these figures. Antichrist simply means anyone who is against Christ. As touched on a little bit above and will continue to be addressed throughout the remainder of this preterist commentary, the beast, false prophet and the lawless one all fit this description of someone who is against Christ. Not only are these figures against Christ and thus appropriately labeled as Antichrist, there are many ways in which the beast, the lawless one, the little horn and the false prophet are like dark counterparts of Christ which makes the term Antichrist uniquely suitable to these figures. 1 John 2:22 says, “[T]he one who denies that Jesus is the Christ” “is the antichrist.” In light of 1 John 2:22, the title Antichirst seems especially applicable to Caesar Vespasian who as stated above seems to have believed himself to be and was commonly believed by the Roman mob to be the Christ predicted by the Jewish prophets.114
Colossians 1:15 reads, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Similarly in John 14:9 Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” According to Colossians 1:15 and John 14:9 Jesus, the Son of God, is the image of the Father. I believe much of the same can be said concerning Caesar Titus. When Vespasian was given the title Caesar, his two sons, Titus and Domitian, also received this title at the same time. And like Jesus who is the firstborn Son of God according to Colossians 1:15, Titus was literally the firstborn son of his father, the Emperor Vespasian. Thus in the same way that Jesus, the firstborn Son of God, is the image of His Father, Caesar Titus, the firstborn son of Caesar was also the image of his father, the Emperor Vespasian–the beast. Titus was not just Vespasian’s chosen successor, Vespasian gave Titus so much authority during his reign that Rome was really ruled JOINTLY by BOTH men. The fact that Rome was ruled by this father and son pair is illustrated by the fact that Titus and his father, the emperor, shared the same official Roman nickname or cognomen, Titus Flavius Vespasianus.115 In this joint rule and shared name we can see how Caesar Titus was the “IMAGE” or representative of Vespasian. The fact that Titus is also the image of the beast explains how the metallic images of Caesar and Rome on the numina legionum were given the breath of life in v. 15.
Revelation 13:15 Commentary: The Resurrection in the midst of the Abomination that Causes Desolation . . .
This expression giving breath calls to mind Genesis 2:7 where God “breathed life” into man in order to make him a living being. In this verse, the same meaning is intended. The fact that the beast is given life implies that the fatal wound mentioned in v. 3 had resulted in the death of the beast.116 The resurrection of the beast is also described in v. 3 as a wound that had been healed. After Nero’s death, Rome was thrust into a civil war that temporarily collapsed the empire. Therefore, the beast is allegorically said to be dead with Nero. Rome began to show signs of life at Vespasian’s coronation but did not fully regain its strength until the fall of Jerusalem. This event brought peace and security back to Rome and galvanized Vespasian’s right to rule in the eyes of the Roman people. After this victory, the beast–once again ruled by a clear, undisputed king–is metaphorically given the breath of life.
The fact that the beast is said to have risen from the dead stronger than ever with the destruction of Jerusalem is also symbolized in the midst of the abomination that causes desolation. Remember that the beast whose wound had been healed is the three Caesars of the Flavian Dynasty who were all awarded the title “Caesar” together. Thus it is likely that Caesar Titus and Caesar Domitian also had images that were worshipped beside that of their father in the Jewish Temple. This fact seems certain as the numina legionum was an ensign that after the end of the commonwealth contained an image of the emperor and his favorites. The fact that Titus (and even Domitian) likely had images beside or below the image of Vespasian on the numina legionum seems especially likely as both men were named Vespasian’s successors at his coronation in A.D. 69. And Vespasian wanted the Roman people to know this fact as images of his two sons also often appeared in Roman coins minted during Vespasian’s reign.117 Vespasian wanted to make his successors clear not only because he loved his two sons but also because he greatly feared assassination, a fate that ultimately befell the three Caesars who immediately preceded him. The numina legionum is depicted below with a hand at the top and the image of the emperor and his favorites below.
Furthermore, at that time Titus shared the same name as his father, Titus Flavius Vespasianus.118 Therefore as Caesar, Titus who as explained above is the image of the beast, is a living embodiment of the metallic images of himself and his father, Vespasian, on the ensigns. Thus, Titus’ living presence as the corporal image of his father, the emperor, and Rome standing in the temple beside the lifeless metallic images of himself and Vespasian on the ensigns is a metaphorical illustration of a beast that has risen from the dead. In other words, Titus’ divine presence as the human embodiment of the image of the beast beside that of his lifeless image on the ensign idols would appear to a religious devote as an idol of a god that had come to life.
Revelation 13:15 Commentary: Like Elijah, Titus after calling Fire Down from Heaven Ordered all Non-Believers to be Killed.
In 1 Kings 18 Elijah calls down fire from heaven and then orders all those who would not worship the god of the Israelites to be killed. Like the prophet Elijah, Titus, the false prophet of Revelation 19:20, also called down fire from heaven before ordering all those who would not worship Caesar, the god of the Romans, to be killed. After desecrating the Temple with pagan worship, Caesar Titus declared to his Jewish enemies “that he would henceforth spare nobody.”119 With this order to kill the remaining Jews, Titus becomes a type of Elijah who after calling fire down from heaven ordered all those who would not worship God to be killed (1 Kings 18). As predicted in Revelation 13:15, the Jews refusing to participate in this unholy rite were, in fact, slaughtered. And Jerusalem was left desolate.120
16He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, 17so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.
Revelation 13:16 Commentary: The 10th Plague of Exodus . . .
In Revelation 8, Revelation 9 and Revelation 16, John describes the seven bowls and trumpets. These plagues are meant to mimic the plagues of Exodus. In these two verses, John describes the plague of the firstborn. In vs. 16 and 17, the beast out of the earth forces everyone to receive the mark of the beast which is a mark on their hand and forehead, a dark reminder of the tenth plague of Exodus. During the tenth plague of Exodus, the firstborn sons of the Hebrew slaves were saved from death by the ritual sacrifice of the firstborn lamb. According to Exodus 13:15-16, the Hebrew slaves and their descendants were spiritually marked on their hand and forehead as a result of this ritual sacrifice. In Revelation 5:6, Christ acts as the Passover lamb for the Jewish Christians of Jerusalem. Consequently, these followers of God having fled to Pella were also saved from the plagues of Revelation and death. The rest of the Jews in Judea, like the Egyptians in Exodus, were not as lucky.
A similar spiritual mark is mentioned in Ezekiel 9:3-6. In this chapter, an angel is instructed to mark the foreheads of all those Jews still devoted to God. Marked with a sign of loyalty to God the lives of these Israelites were then saved from the coming Babylonian invasion. The mark of the beast is also a spiritual mark like the mark of Ezekiel 9:3-6.
Slaves in the ancient world were often marked on their foreheads to indicate who owned them.121 In the Book of Revelation there are two marks: one given to the saints and another given to those who worship the beast. Like the brand indicating a slave’s owner, those with the mark of the beast are said to be marked with the name of the beast on their foreheads: “[N]o one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast[.]” [Emphasis mine.] The saints are also marked with the name of their God on their foreheads: “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 (Revelation 14:1). [Emphasis mine.] In alignment with this custom of marking a slave, the saints are said to have been purchased by God: “They [the 144,000] were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb (Revelation 14:4).” “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).” [Emphasis mine.] The mark on the foreheads of the saints mentioned in Revelation 14:1 is called a seal in Revelation 7:3: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” This seal is likely the Holy Spirit:
“[God] set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 1:22).”
“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13.)”
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).”122
Whether or not the seal of the saints mentioned in Revelation 7:3 is the Holy Spirit or not, it is perhaps not at all controversial to say that the seal or mark on the foreheads of the saints mentioned in Revelation 7:3 and 14:1 is an invisible mark as it also appears to have been in Exodus 13:15-16 and Ezekiel 9:3-6. Now if the mark on the foreheads of the saints was or is invisible, then this fact implies that the mark of the beast on the foreheads of the wicked was or is also a spiritual or invisible mark.
Though the mark of God and the mark of the beast placed on the foreheads of the righteous and the wicked were ultimately invisible, spiritual marks signifying personal devotion to either God or the beast the fact that it was impossible to buy or sell without the mark of the beast strongly implies that there is also a physical component to the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:17). Thus this mark though truly spiritual and thus invisible appears to have a physical aspect. As shall be explained shortly this spiritual mark on the foreheads of the wicked was placed on the Jews who were guilty of the sin of 1 Timothy 6:10. This sin was the root of all Israel’s evil and as will be explained at the end of this commentary is the ultimate reason why Jesus, the saints and all other potential Jewish Messiahs were murdered and thus why Israel was punished at the end of the age according to Revelation 6:9-11 and 17. This sin has a very obvious tangible symbol. Thus as will be explained shortly, the mark of the beast is both a spiritual and physical mark.
Though often an invisible or spiritual mark, the mark or seal of God was not always invisible and intangible (Exodus 28:36-37). Similar to the golden seal or mark worn on the high priest’s forehead mentioned in Exodus 28:36-37, the Jews as far back as the fourth century B.C. began to interpret Exodus 13:16 literally and often wore phylacteries which are leather pouches worn over their hands and foreheads containing various vs. of Scripture. Jesus mentions these phylacteries in Matthew 23:5: “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long.” Thus following the Biblical precedents set in the golden seal on the high priest’s forehead mentioned in Exodus 28:36 and the phylacteries worn by the Jews in Matthew 23:5, the mark of the beast mentioned in vs. 16 and 17 was also a spiritual mark with a physical component or visible manifestation.
A Preterist View and Commentary of Revelation 13:16-17: The Mark of the Beast is the Charagma. The Presence of the Charagma on Deeds of Purchase and Roman Money made it Impossible to buy or sell without this Mark of the Beast.
The mark of the beast is the charagma. Charagma is the Greek word for mark.123 The charagma is a brand, etching, engraving, stamp or seal used to notarize official documents or documents of purchase, brand slaves as a mark of ownership, mark soldiers with the name of their general, and tattoo religious devotees of a particular god.124 It was also the name given to the image of the emperor stamped on currency. Thus each Roman coin was literally “marked” with the face and name of Caesar. The presence of the charagma or mark of Caesar on Roman coins and deeds of purchase made it impossible to buy or sell without it. Thus one could accurately say that Roman coins and deeds of purchase were a physical aspect of the mark of the beast since they were literally marked with the name and image of Caesar, the beast.
Interestingly, Ignatius an early Christian writer who lived from A.D. 35 to A.D. 107 seems to confirm the above interpretation concerning the fact that the physical mark of the beast was Roman money: “[F]or just as there are two coinages, the one of God and the other of the world, and each of them hath its proper stamp impressed upon it, the unbelievers the stamp of this world, but the faithful in love the stamp of God the Father through Jesus Christ[.]”125 Recall that charagma, the Greek word for mark, was the same word used to refer to the stamp on Roman currency.
As stated above, the saints and the wicked were marked on their hands and foreheads with the name of the one to whom they serve and are devoted (Revelation 7:3; 13:16-17; 14:1) just as a slave was often marked to denote the identity of their owner. In other words, the two marks of Revelation are distinct brands intended to separate the servants or slaves of God from the servants or slaves of the beast. And just as the seal of God sometimes had a physical manifestation or component (Exodus 28:36, Matthew 23:5), the mark of the beast also clearly had a tangible sign or component (Revelation 13:16-17). The tangible aspect of the mark of the beast were Roman coins and deeds of purchase which were said to be quite literally marked with the image of Caesar and Rome, the beast. The charagma or mark of the beast is the tangible manifestation of a spiritual mark of idolatrous service and devotion to Caesar and is therefore the dark counterpart of the seal given to those devoted to God in Revelation 7:3; 14:1; Exodus 13; and Ezekiel 9:3-6. Thus the mark of Revelation is a brand denoting the name of the true king to whom one is a devoted slave or servant126 If a person is a devoted servant of Christ, this person is spiritually marked with the name of the Father and the Lamb on their forehead (Revelation 14:1). If a person is only devoted to Caesar, the beast, (in this case because of greed) then this person is marked with “the name of the beast or the number of its name” as stated in Revelation 13:16-17.
During Jesus’ crucifixion, the wealthy elites chanted, “We have no king but Caesar” in John 19:15. Those who sought to have Jesus killed saying that they have no king but Caesar, of course, have the mark of the beast. These wealthy Jewish elites who sought to have Jesus killed while vociferously allying themselves with Caesar did so because of greed. The clear and inextricable Biblical and historical link between Roman money, the plot to kill Jesus and passionate devotion to Caesar over and above God will be thoroughly explained shortly, but before addressing this link it is necessary to highlight the idolatrous nature of Roman coins from the perspective of a first-century Jew.
A Preterist Exposition and Commentary of Revelation 13:16-17: Roman Coins, the Mark of the Beast, had the Name and Image of Caesar, the Beast, Printed on Them in Fulfillment of v. 17: “No One Could Buy or Sell unless He had the Mark, which is the Name of the Beast . . .”
The Law of Moses prohibited graven images (Exodus 20:4-6). Therefore, coins marked with the deified image of the emperor were prohibited. Thus Roman money which was marked with the deified or implicitly divine image of the emperor was considered sinful to touch in first-century Israel.127 Prior to the Jewish revolt in A.D. 66, the kings of the Jewish territories of Palestine and the Roman procurators who governed Judaea abided by Jewish Law and minted coins without graven images on them.128 Except for some coins minted during the reign of Pontus Pilate which contained pagan religious symbols, the currency in Judaea prior to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 was not offensive to Jews though many of these coins were marked with Caesar’s name as implied in Revelation 13:16: “[N]o one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast[.]” [Emphasis mine.] The coins below are a few coins minted in Judaea prior to the fall of Jerusalem which gives the reader a general idea of the appearance of these coins and the fact that they lacked graven images of the emperor, the beast:
That having been said there were some notable exceptions to the lack of graven images on money in the Jewish territories of Palestine prior to the fall of Jerusalem. Though first-century Israelites minted and circulated money without graven images of the emperor, traces of Roman money did, of course, still find their way into first-century Judaea probably from surrounding provinces just as U.S. and Canadian coins occasionally intermingle. In Mark 12:13-17 the Pharisees and Herodians tried to trap Jesus by asking if it was okay to pay taxes to Caesar during which they produced a coin with Cesar’s image on it. Recent archaeological discoveries confirm the fact that Roman money with the image of Caesar on it was present and circulated in first-century Jerusalem.129 Furthermore, unlike the Roman procurators who were sympathetic to Jewish custom, Herod Agrippa I, who was king of Judaea from A.D. 41-44 issued many coins during his brief reign with the graven image of himself or Caesar, the beast, on them:
Then during the Jewish War, Israelites continued to mint their own coins without graven images of Caesar. The two coins below were in circulation during the Jewish War with Rome.
After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 everything changed. Entirely unsympathetic to the Jewish religion and culture, Caesar Vespasian as well as his two sons and successors, Caesar Titus and Domitian, minted coins with their graven image similar to all the money circulating throughout the rest of the Roman Empire outside of Israel prior to A.D. 70. This money depicting the graven images of Caesar Vespasian, Titus and Domitian became the official currency throughout the Roman Empire and Judaea and the Jewish regions of Palestine were no longer exempt. After the fall of Jerusalem all Jews—even those in the Jewish territories of Palestine–were now forced to use Roman money with the name and graven image of Caesar on them.130 This change in policy was not surprising in light of the fact that Titus had destroyed the Temple and according to Sulpicius Severus tried to put an end to the religion of the Jews and Christians.131 This universal change in currency literally fulfills Revelation 13:16-17 wherein the beast “forced” everyone to receive the mark of the beast so that no one—not even the Jews of Palestine–could buy or sell without it: “He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.”
After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 all Jews who remained in Judaea, Jerusalem and the rest of Israel in addition to those who were exiled throughout Rome were forced to use Roman money marked with the image of the beast. Thus after the fall of Jerusalem it would have been impossible to buy or sell anywhere in the Roman Empire without the mark of the beast. It should, therefore, not be surprising that a coin issued in A.D. 72 is marked with the following legend around Vespasian’s head: IMP CAES VESP AVG P M COS IIII. If one were to transliterate this inscription into Hebrew characters it would read as follows ymp qys wsp ‘wg p m kws d.132 The sum total of the numerical values of these Hebrew characters adds up to 666 in explicit fulfillment of Revelation 13:17-18: “[N]o one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.” Here we can see that after the fall of Jerusalem all people throughout the Roman Empire–even the Jews in Palestine who were previously exempt–were forced to use Roman money marked with the name of Vespasian on them whose sum total transliterated into Hebrew characters adds up to exactly 666, the number of the beast!
Not only did these Roman coins contain the name and graven image of Caesar imprinted on them, a violation of the Law of Moses, many of these coins were even circulated to commemorate the Jewish defeat during the war with Rome. Below is an example of one such coin minted during Vespasian’s reign. On the front of the coin is the name and image of the emperor. On the opposite side are two Jewish slaves with an inscription signifying the defeat of Israel.133
Revelation 13:16-17 Preterist Commentary: The Mark of the Beast is Similar to Circumcision in that it is Both Physical and Spiritual. And Just as the One Who is Circumcised and is a Law Breaker Becomes as One who is Uncircumcised (Romans 2:25-29; 4:9-11), the One Who Merely Handles the Mark of the Beast is Not Wicked Unless He or She has the Mark of the Beast Inwardly.
Though all those living in the Roman Empire were forced to use the physical aspect of the mark of the beast, i.e. Roman currency with the graven images of Caesar imprinted on them, after A.D. 70, it is important to note as stated above that the mark of the beast–though certainly physical–was also and truly a spiritual mark (Revelation 14:9-11). This invisible, spiritual mark is likened to pagans branded or tattooed with the charagma or mark of their god as a sign of religious devotion similar to the way in which Jews were branded with the mark of Dionysus in 3 Maccabees 2:29.
If Caesar Vespasian forced everyone throughout the Roman Empire to buy and sell with the mark of the beast, does this mean that everyone in the empire was damned after A.D. 70? If King David had an empire the size of Rome and forced everyone including all the Gentiles in his kingdom to be circumcised, would everyone in his empire be saved? Of course not! A second-century Christian document directly addresses this question, “But thou wilt say; In truth the people hath been circumcised for a seal. Nay, but so likewise is every Syrian and Arabian and all the priests of the idols. Do all those then too belong to their [the Jews’] covenant? Moreover the Egyptians also are included among the circumcised (Epistle of Barnabas 9:5).” Merely handling the mark of the beast (Roman money) is not a sin or what would constitute “having the mark of the beast” in a true spiritual sense. Jesus handled Roman money with the image of Caesar on it (Mark 12:13-17). As stated above, the mark of the beast is both a physical and spiritual mark. Thus the mark of the beast is just like circumcision in the sense that there is both a physical and spiritual component. According to Romans 2:25-29 if a circumcised man breaks the Law he becomes as though he were uncircumcised. And if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the requirements of the law he is said to become like one who is circumcised. This is because according to Romans 2:28-29 someone is not a Jew because they are one outwardly, rather one is a Jew who is one inwardly. Thus all that matters is whether someone is circumcised spiritually:
Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God (Romans 2:25-29).
Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them (Romans 4:9-11).
Just like circumcision is said to be a sign and seal of righteousness in Romans 4:11, the mark of the beast is also a sign and seal but instead of being a sign and seal of righteousness, it is a sign and seal of wickedness. And similar to circumcision if a person is not truly wicked spiritually the outward sign of the mark of the beast also means nothing. Thus the sin of the mark of the beast goes well beyond prohibitions to graven images in the Law of Moses. As will be explained in detail below, the mark of the beast found on Roman money are physical signs and symbols of Israel’s ultimate sin (Revelation 14:9-11, 1 Timothy 6:10).
18This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.
Preterism Explained and Interpreted, A Commentary of Revelation 13:18: The 666 Gematria
Here the reader is introduced to the popular 666 cryptogram or Gematria. Like the rest of Revelation in which the events of the first century are encrypted in symbolism, John stays consistent with this theme by wrapping up the identity of the beast out of the sea in a riddle. In many ancient languages the characters of the alphabet served as both letters and numbers. Latin, Greek and Hebrew are a few examples. Because of the dual meaning letters have in these languages, cryptograms or gematria were common in the ancient world. A gematria or cryptogram is a logic puzzle whose answer involves figuring out a word in which the numerical values of each letter add up to the number provided in the riddle. Revelation 13:18 is a classic example. Though there are many others uncovered in antiquity dating to the general time and place of Revelation’s composition.134 Who or what was intended by the number of the beast?
Preterism, A Commentary of Revelation 13:18: Nero Caesar the Beast and the 666 Gematria
The transliteration of therion, the Greek word for beast, into Hebrew characters is trywn. The sum total of the numerical values of each of the Hebrew letters of the word trywn adds up to 666.135 Could this be a clue to identifying the beast? Though the Book of Revelation was originally written in Greek, perhaps, as is the case with trywn, the secret to the identity of the beast lies in using Hebrew characters? Verse 18 indicates that it is the number of a man. As stated earlier, Revelation 13 follows the precedence set in Ezekiel 32 in which Pharaoh is pictured as a fearsome sea monster. Similarly in the Apocalypse, the Roman hydra or Hebrew leviathan is represented by the name of its leader. The total numerical value of each letter of the Hebrew spelling of Nero Caesar adds up to 666.136 Here John gives the beast a name, the name of the then current emperor of Rome.137
Though not the most popular spelling of the name Nero Caesar, John uses a less common spelling of Nero Caesar found in the Talmud and other Rabbinical writings.138 Further confirmation of the identity of the beast is found in a rare textual variant. Irenaeus mentions an alternate reading of this verse found in some ancient copies of Revelation in which the number of the beast is said to be 616.139 While the Greek form of Nero Caesar transliterated into Hebrew letters adds up to 666, the Latin form of Nero Caesar transliterated into Hebrew totals 616.140 It is interesting to note that “the genitive noun of [‘]beast[’] (which can carry the meaning of belonging to the beast) when translated into Hebrew (tryw) [also] equals 616.”141
What’s more Apollonius of Tyana, a first century Roman seer, is recorded to have said:
In my travels, which have been wider than ever man yet accomplished, I have seen many, many wild beasts of Arabia and India; but this beast, that is commonly called a Tyrant, I know not how many heads it has, nor if it be crooked of claw, and armed with horrible fangs. . . . And of wild beasts you cannot say that they were ever known to eat their own mother, but Nero has gorged himself on this diet.142
John and Apollonius were not the only Romans to call Nero a beast. The Sibylline Oracles, dating to the second century A.D., labels Nero a “great beast” and Lactantius echoes these sentiments calling him a “noxious wild beast.”143 These epithets were no coincidence. Nero’s evil was legendary.
Revelation 13:18 Commentary: Nero is the Beast
Believed to have had a part in killing his adopted father Claudius, Nero later went on to murder Claudius’ son Britannicus in order to secure his claim to the throne. After his first taste of blood, little restrained Nero’s murderous appetite. The young emperor killed almost everyone close to him including his mother, his aunt and his pregnant wife Poppaea after she had complained about him coming home late from the races. When Claudius’s daughter Antonia refused to take her place, she was executed along with virtually every other member of his family including relatives by marriage.144
Nero’s depravity also extended to the sexually perverse. Nero married a young boy named Sporus, dressed him in the fine clothes of an empress and paraded him through the streets of Rome.145 He also married his freedman Doryphorus, and on the wedding night, loudly imitated the moans of a virgin being deflowered.146 He was even reported to have invented a game in which he would dress in animal skins and attack the private parts of men and women whom he had bound to stakes.147
Because of his unnatural lust for blood, Nero also enjoyed watching a certain Egyptian ogre rip apart living men and eat their raw flesh.148 Unheard of for one crowned king of an empire, Nero was known to wander the streets and taverns at night sometimes attacking men on their way home. If they offered resistance, they were killed and their bodies dropped down the sewer. He would also sometimes break into shops and sell the stolen goods at the palace.149 Nero’s hatred for all things good and holy even led him into a murderous rampage against the church. During part of his reign, Christians were burned on crosses and fed to wild animals. Nero gripped his empire so tightly with fear that after his alleged death many feared he might return to reclaim the throne. And in a way he did, at the ascension of Vespasian–the beast whose wound had been healed.
Preterist Eschatology and Commentary of Revelation 13:18: Vespasian and Titus are also Represented by the 666 Gematria.
In the same way that the numerical sum of the Hebrew characters in the transliteration of Nero Caesar totals 666, the numerical values of each letter of the transliteration of Titus Flavius Vespasianus Augustus into Hebrew letters also add up to 666.150 According to the historian Brian Jones, before A.D. 69, both Vespasian and Titus were called Titus Flavius Vespasianus.151 The fact that Titus and Vespasian are also represented by the 666 gematria is not a coincidence. John does not distinguish between Nero and the Flavians.
The fact that Nero, Vespasian and Titus are not distinguished in end time prophecy is explicable in light of the mythology underlying the seven-headed sea monster of Revelation. As stated above according to Greco-Roman mythology when a head of the hydra was severed two new heads would grow back in its place. Thus after the severing of the sixth head of the leviathan or hydra [Nero] in Revelation 13:3 two new heads [Titus Flavius Vespasianus Augustus, Titus and Vespasian] grew back in its place. The numerical total of the names of the original head and the joint name of the two heads that grew out of the neck of the original each add up to 666. I do not believe that this is a coincidence.
Revelation 13:18 Preterist Commentary: Nero, Vespasian and Titus, the Unholy Trinity of the Roman Beast, and the Messianic Connection . . .
The molding together of these Caesars into the same head of the leviathan serves an important literary purpose. Through the healing of the leviathan, the author of Revelation is able to make a connection between these emperors and the Messiah. Just as Christ was resurrected from the dead, so too must his nemesis, the antichrist. Here Nero represents the living beast or antichrist and the Flavians, the resurrected beast or antichrist.
There are many historical similarities between the lives of Nero, Vespasian and Jesus that support the notion that Nero and Vespasian are the antichrist of 1 John 2:18. Like Jesus, both men were worshipped and considered a god by many of their subjects (Revelation 13:4). In this chapter of Revelation, Vespasian was even said to have a prophet in the power and spirit of Elijah, like Jesus with John the Baptist. And like John the Baptist who pointed his followers to Jesus, Titus also directed men to worship his master, Vespasian (Revelation 13:12). Furthermore, during the year between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s triumphal entry into Rome, Vespasian like Jesus is also said to have performed miraculous healings. Vespasian reportedly restored sight to a blind man in addition to having healed a man with a withered hand in the presence of a vast crowd of bystanders.152
Compelling similarities also lie in the events surrounding the death of Nero and the rise of Vespasian. Nero, much like Jesus, willingly forfeited his life. Christ gave up his life as a sin offering; Nero ended his life by suicide.153 Similar to the second coming or resurrection of the Messiah, many Romans, like Jesus’ disciples, believed that Nero, like Jesus, would return to reclaim the throne. This belief persisted for many years after Nero’s death. After Jesus died, the kingdom of God154 almost seemed to collapse as His disciples lost faith and feared for their lives, hiding way from the authorities in a rented room. When Nero died very much the same thing occurred, his kingdom thrown into strife and civil war also almost collapsed. Then both kingdoms were restored to order at Christ’s resurrection and Vespasian’s ascension as the risen Nero.155 Lastly, an ancient Jewish prophecy foretold of a future king that would arise out of Judea to rule the world. Stationed in Israel during Nero’s death, Vespasian was believed by many to be this kingly Messiah.156
Because of the multifaceted similarities between Nero, Vespasian and Christ, I believe that Nero represents the incarnate antichrist and the Flavians especially Vespasian, the resurrected antichrist. It seems to me that the author of Revelation sees these figures as an unholy and unified antichrist.157
Revelation 13 Commentary: The Imagery of Revelation 13 all Points to Israel’s Ultimate Sin and the Reason She is punished at the End of the Age.
Having laid the ground work above it is now time to explain the deep, underlying message and meaning of Revelation 13 and the Book of Revelation as a whole. There is an important link between the mark of the beast, the image of the beast, and the death of Christ and His people that is critical to fully grasping the imagery of Revelation 13 as well as explaining why those who have the mark of the beast and worship his image were to be punished. This reason is far deeper than literal idolatry. In Revelation 13:14-15, I explained that the image of the beast was the image of Caesar on the ensigns. And this is certainly true. However, what I did not explain then is that the Imago or image of the beast is really a large mark of the beast. When the Romans worshipped the image of the beast on the ensigns in the full view of the Jews in Jerusalem, this act was something like a play performed in the presence of the people of Jerusalem symbolizing the crime for which they were ultimately being punished aptly held in the temple of “their” God. (The reason why their is in quotes will be explained shortly.)How could this be so? In Revelation 13:14-15 John foresees the Romans worshipping the ensigns, the image of the beast, in the Temple. However, the image of the beast is also mentioned immediately thereafter in Revelation 13:16-17. The image of the beast on the ensigns called the Imago or numina legionum is also a symbol of the mark of the beast which as explained above is Roman money. The ensign called the Imago or numina legionum was a medallion containing the three-dimensional image of the emperor at its center. In other words, the Imago looked exactly like large Roman coins which also contained a three-dimensional bust or image of the emperor in a circular shape. Roman money was said to literally be marked with the image of the emperor in the center of each coin. Obviously the bust or image of the beast on the ensigns mentioned in Revelation 13:14-15 is, of course, the same bust or image found on the mark of the beast of Revelation 13:15-16 (Roman money). Also the numina legionum and Roman coins both framed the image of the beast in the center of a circular metal disc. Thus the only significant difference in appearance between the Imago and Roman coins was the fact that the Imago was much larger and it was held aloft on a pole.
And like the numina legionum which was a metallic idol of a foreign god, Roman money could also be said to be a metal idol. Idols are, of course, crafted images of gods. Roman money with its defied images of Caesar and Rome by this definition are literally little circular metal idols. As explained above, the image of Caesar on Roman coins was generally depicted with divine attributes whether explicitly indicated in writing or symbolically conveyed with the emperor’s likeness arrayed in the image of various Roman deities. Therefore, because Roman money often contained an image of the deified Caesar, these coins are quite literally little idols. This fact is ironic as will be explained below because the Jews who killed Jesus while allying themselves with Rome and its emperor did so because of money. Thus these coins were not just little metal idols because they often contained the deified image of a “god” on them but also because those Jews who allied themselves with Caesar while plotting against Christ did so because money truly was their god. So the mark of the beast is at its core is a spiritual mark of devotion to Caesar because of greed. However, the physical aspect or manifestation of the mark of the beast, Roman money, perfectly symbolizes Israel’s ultimate spiritual sin for which she is punished in Revelation.
The fact that Roman money is quite literally a little metal idol of Caesar and Rome, the beast, is itself a perfect visual illustration of the fact that greed is idolatry, a fact explicitly stated in Colossians 3:5-6: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming [emphasis mine].” The fact that greed is idolatry is why I believe Israel is accused of idolatry in Revelation 9:20-21. These multi-faceted similarities between Roman money and the numina legionum are not coincidental. As shall be explained shortly God conveyed an important message to the Jews when the Romans worshipped these coin-shaped images of Caesar in the Jews’ presence in the Temple.
It is well known that Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for money (Matthew 26:14-15). Most people don’t realize there is deep symbolism here. The name Judas is a Greek form of the Hebrew name Judah found in the Septuagint and New Testament. Names throughout the Bible often have symbolic meaning. For example, the name Moses means “to draw out” signifying Moses’ role in drawing the twelve tribes out of Egypt. The same is true of Judas whose name means Judah and whose actions clearly illustrate the actions of the people of Judah who also sought to have Jesus killed for EXACTLY the same motive—money. Though, of course, still a real person as was Moses, Judas was a true everyman-embodiment of Judah who ultimately killed the Messiah for money–the mark of the beast.
It is often assumed that Jesus was executed for claiming to be God (Matthew 26:65-66). This is only half true. The plot to have Jesus killed began in Matthew 21:43-46 and at this time this plot had nothing to do with making divine claims. According to Matthew 21:43-46 because of Jesus’ clear public hostility toward them, the Pharisees and the chief priests correctly understood that if Jesus ever became king of Israel their positions of authority, status and their personal fortunes would be in serious jeopardy. When Jesus was charged with blasphemy by the Sanhedrin immediately before His crucifixion, this was only an excuse to legitimize Jesus’ execution. When Jesus was arrested and brought to the Sanhedrin the religious authorities of the Sanhedrin could not agree on charges to bring against Him. If Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin solely out of concern that He had made unjust claims to divinity, the Sanhedrin would not have likely raised conflicting charges and brought false testimony against Him (Matthew 26:59-62). In other words, if blasphemy alone was the charge for which Jesus had been brought to this council, He would have likely been tried on this ground alone without an irrelevant debate in which an assortment of conflicting accusations and charges were raised. Instead, according to Matthew 26:59 the Sanhedrin tried to obtain false testimony against Jesus “so that they might put him to death.” Matthew 26:59 explicitly says that the reason that Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin was so that charges could be found to justify or legitimize His death. In other words, according to Matthew 26:59 the charge for which Jesus would die was not important to them. As will be explained below the reason the charge was not important was because the real motive behind Christ’s execution was largely because of money, specifically money made as a direct consequence of the continued practice of the Law.
The fact that Jesus was killed for money explains how many of the people of Israel had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. According to Revelation 13:16-17 no one could buy or sell without the mark of the beast. As stated above, the physical aspect of the mark of the beast is Roman money. Though Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish says that idol worship ran rampant in first century Israel,158 the fact that these people “had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image” is another way of saying that these people worshipped the almighty Roman dollar. As stated above, the image of Caesar, the beast, appears on Roman money. Therefore, it was through their idolatrous love of money that the Israelite elite worshiped the image of Caesar, the beast, on Roman money.
First-century Jerusalem was a city of great wealth. “In fact the province of Syria, to which the province of Judaea really belonged, ‘was the equal of Egypt, as far as commerce and industry was concerned[.]’”159 Jerusalem’s wealth was a direct consequence of donations to the Temple and the selling of goods and services related to the Temple economy. As instructed in Deuteronomy 14:22-23 and Proverbs 3:9, the Jewish people all over the world were required to donate ten percent of their income. These tithes largely went to the Temple in Jerusalem. Imagine the money that must have circulated through Jerusalem when up to ten percent of the gross income of untold numbers of Jews throughout the world was being donated to the Temple especially in light of the fact that as is the case with Jewish people today, the Jews of the first century were also disproportionately wealthy. Referring to the wealth stored in the Temple, the first-century Roman historian Tacitus writes, “Their capital is Jerusalem. Here stood their Temple with its boundless riches.”160 Because of this incredible amount of money funneling into Jerusalem through the Temple, first-century Jerusalem may have been the wealthiest city in the Roman world per capita. Before the Romans went on a killing spree in the city, Caesar Titus is recorded to have said the following implying the fact that Jerusalem was the richest city in the Roman Empire person for person: “[W]e [the Romans] have given you leave to gather up that tribute which is paid to God . . . till at length you became richer than we [the Romans] ourselves[.]”161
Those who profited most directly from this economy based on Temple worship, the Pharisees, merchants and the religious and political authorities who were ultimately responsible for killing Jesus and His followers did so largely, if not exclusively, for monetary reasons—greed. “The popularity of commerce among all classes in Jerusalem can be judged by the fact that merchants were held in such respect that even priests and scholars joined their ranks.”162 The fact that the priests of Jerusalem became very wealthy in Jesus’ day is stated in 4Q169 of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Jewish authorities correctly understood that Jesus was an aspiring Messiah. If Jesus became high priest and sovereign king of the Jews, as the Messiah was expected to be, three things seemed to be virtual certainties: 1) According to John 2:19-20 the scribes, Pharisees and teachers of the Law believed that if Jesus became king of the Jews He might have tried to destroy the Temple, the ultimate source of their income. 2) They, the present political and religious authorities, would likely have been expelled from office. Because the chief priests and the Pharisees believed Jesus had Messianic and thus political intentions, the scribes, teachers of the Law and Pharisees believed that they would be expelled from office if Jesus became king of the Jews as stated in Matthew 21:43-46. This point is also strongly implicit in the Parable of the Tenants (Mark 12:7).163 3) The Messiah was expected to rule over a sovereign Israel. If Israel made Jesus its sovereign king, this act would have been a declaration of independence from Rome triggering an inevitable war (John 19:12). The civil and religious authorities and mercantile elite owed their wealth and status to Rome. Not only would a war with Rome jeopardize this it would have also invariably caused a tremendous loss of wealth to the Jewish elite through pillaging and destruction of property. Also the Temple, the ultimate source of their income, might be destroyed during the war. This final reason also appears to explain why Israel had a history of killing its potential Messiahs even before Jesus. Thus in light of these three issues, the wealthy elites did not want Jesus to be their king (Luke 19:27).
Therefore, just like all the other potential Messiah’s who were killed before Christ who were likely also all killed for the same or similar reasons in order for the Jewish elite to stay rich Jesus and all other potential Messiahs had to die. Here one can see that it was the worship of money (which not ironically contained the defied image of Caesar, the beast) that ultimately caused Jesus and His followers to be persecuted and killed by the Jewish civil and religious authorities. This is why the Bible says “[T]he love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).” It was greed that was Israel’s ultimate spiritual sin. And it was this greed that motivated these unjust murders. James 2:6, 5:1-6 and Luke 16:19-31 echo this link. After admonishing the church for showing favoritism to rich parishioners, James says the following in James 2:6: “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?” Furthermore, after crying “woe” to those who have stored up wealth in the last days in James 5:1-6, James says the following in the next verse: “You [the rich] have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you (James 5:6).” The “innocent one” murdered by the rich was Jesus. James could not be more explicit that it was the rich who were persecuting the church. If the rich were the enemies of the saints because they were the ones actively persecuting Jesus and His people, is it any wonder that the tangible aspect of the mark of the beast is money?
The fact that the Jewish elite were willing to kill Jesus, their God and king, and His people for money implies that money is their true god. This is how the Jewish elite “had the mark of the beast and worshiped his image.” Because of these great sins of greed and idolatry which led to murder, first-century Israel was punished during the Jewish War. The sinful greed of the Jewish people of that generation was so deep that it ultimately caused them to kill their God and Messiah and His people. And it was for this crime of murder that Israel was ultimately punished at the end of the age as implied by the prayer of the saints for vengeance for their unjust deaths in Revelation 6:9-11 and by the cup filled with the blood of the saints drunk by the beast and the whore of Babylon in Revelation 17:4-6. Thus it is not a coincidence that Roman money depicted Rome and its emperor in the image of foreign gods. The money itself with the deified images of Caesar and Rome on them were the idols worshipped by these sinful people. These coins illustrate how the sinful Jews of that generation chose Rome and its emperor as foreign gods over their national God and husband, a fact clearly illustrated during their chant at Jesus’ crucifixion, “We have no king but Caesar (John 19:15).”
These coins are also, of course, a tangible sign of the greed that ultimately led to this act. Thus when the Romans worshipped the coin-shaped images of Caesar and Rome in the Temple, this act literally depicted what these unfaithful Jews had been doing for years—worshipping money rather than God while hypocritically practicing and profiting from Temple worship and the Temple economy surrounding it, the ultimate root of Jerusalem’s entire economy and Jerusalem’s extraordinary wealth. This is why Jesus said the following to the Pharisees, those who sought to have Him killed: “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness (Luke 11:39).” Echoing Luke 11:39, Jesus also said, “’These people [the Pharisees and teachers of the law] honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (Matthew 15:8).”
This worship of money gained through the incredibly lucrative Temple economy reared its ugly head when the Jewish elite killed a man who performed many incredible and miraculous acts proving that He was from God in order to prevent Him from ascending to David’s throne. Thus the greed of these men ran so deep that they ultimately murdered their God, spiritual husband and king–all in the name of money. Thus when the Romans worshipped the numina legionum–which looked almost exactly like a large Roman coin—in the Temple, this act signified and symbolized the ultimate sin for which Jerusalem was being punished. Instead of worshipping God, the Jewish elite worshipped money gained through the continued practice of the Temple economy. This sin of greed, the worship of money, was symbolically presented to the Jews before they were killed by the Romans as if in a play orchestrated by God. In this “theatrical performance” the Romans unwittingly acted out the Jews’ greed and idolatry when they worshipped these money-shaped images of Caesar in the Temple of what should have been Israel’s national god, YHWH, in Revelation 13:14-15. In other words, when the Romans worshiped these large money-shaped idols in the Temple this idolatrous worship symbolized the fact that the first-century Jewish elite of Jerusalem really worshipped money rather than God in their Temple worship. Thus when the Romans worshipped these money-shaped medallions of the divine Caesar in the Temple of Israel’s national god, this act was a symbol pointing to the ultimate sin for which God punished Jerusalem at the end of the age. This sin as stated above was the worship of money over God Himself which ultimately led first-century Jerusalem to kill Jesus, their God, and His people and declare Caesar their king so as to prevent a financially disastrous war that would leave them penniless. Thus not only were the Jewish elite of that generation guilty of extreme avarice, this greed ran so deep that it ultimately led them to idolatry and murder by rejecting and killing Jesus Christ, their god, in favor of Rome, Caesar, and money–all foreign gods.
The imagery of Revelation 13 and its historical fulfillment in the worship of the image of the beast in the Temple in A.D. 70 was a deeply symbolic divine accusation depicting Israel’s ultimate sin for which she was punished during the Jewish War. And the physical mark of the beast was a tangible sign of this sin explicitly identified in 1 Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” It was this love of money, the physical aspect of the mark of the beast, that was the ultimate reason that Jesus was killed and Israel suffered at the end of the age.
Thus first-century Jerusalem was punished for her greed in the same way that sixth century Jerusalem was also punished for the same crime according to Micah 3:11-12:
Her [Jerusalem’s] leaders judge for a bribe, her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they look for the Lord’s support and say, “Is not the Lord among us? No disaster will come upon us.” Therefore because of you, Zion will be plowed like a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of rubble, the temple hill a mound overgrown with thickets.
In fulfillment of Micah 3:11-12 sixth-century Jerusalem was besieged, the Temple destroyed and the people of the city killed and exiled by the Babylonians largely because of greed. History repeated itself. In the middle of the first century, the Romans also besieged Jerusalem, destroyed its Temple and killed and exiled its people for the same sin.
The fact that Jesus was ultimately killed because of greed sheds piercing light on the Bible’s teachings on money. As stated above, Jerusalem’s economy was rooted in the Temple. The Temple complex was exceedingly large and it employed a huge workforce that needed clothing, food and all kinds of goods and services. It was the religious elite and the merchants of Jerusalem who profited off the needs generated from the Temple and its services. Imagine if you were a wealthy merchant living in Jerusalem and a potential Messiah showed up. Would you believe this person was the Messiah if you believed as most Jews did at that time that he was to be the earthly king over a sovereign Israel? You know, of course, this would inevitably result in a war with Rome that win or lose would almost invariably result in the destruction of the city and Temple causing you to lose the entire source of your income, not to mention the fact that your beautiful home would probably be destroyed and much of your property stolen or destroyed by pillagers. Even if this potential Messiah, Jesus, seemed to be able to raise the dead and heal the blind, most of the wealthy people of Jerusalem rationalized these miracles as just clever tricks, magic or demonic sorcery because following Jesus or any other Messiah would almost assuredly leave them broke in the end. Thus the wealthy of Jerusalem had too much to lose by believing that Jesus was who He said He was, the Messiah. Greed was an almost insurmountable hurdle which got in the way of faith in Christ. This is why Jesus said, “[I]t is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24).” Because great personal fortune was such a hurdle to faith, this is why Jesus told the wealthy man in Luke 18:18-26 to sell everything, give the profits to the poor and follow Him. This is also why Jesus told Zacchaeus to do the same in Luke 19:1-9. Possessing significant wealth would have undoubtedly been the biggest impediment to putting one’s faith in Christ.
In Matthew 2:1-3 when the Magi appear before King Herod with news that the Messiah had been born, King Herod “was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.” As stated above, Jerusalem was a very wealthy city at the time. Jerusalem mourned the birth of Messiah because under Roman authority Jerusalem grew immensely wealthy and the political and religious elite and the wealthy merchants did not want a Messiah who would drag them into a war with Rome and cause them to lose everything that they had worked for. Despite how hard the wealthy people of Jerusalem worked to prevent a war with Rome–with the blood of Christ and His people on their hands–their worst fears were realized and those people who had worshipped money, the mark of the beast, lost everything anyway:
And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her [Jerusalem], because no one buys their cargoes anymore—cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human lives. The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them. The merchants of these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’ And every shipmaster and every passenger and sailor, and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance, and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’ And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’ Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her (Revelation 18:11-20).
Despite the fact that the rich people of Jerusalem approved of Jesus’ execution in order to preserve their wealth, the mark of the beast, they ultimately lost it all since Israel ultimately fell into war with Rome despite having killed their Messiah to prevent this war from happening. The fact that Jesus was killed to prevent a financially disastrous war with Rome is stated in John 11:47-50. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, the wealthy elite called a meeting of the Sanhedrin to debate how they were going to stop Jesus from being crowned king and high priest of Israel:
‘What are we [the Sanhedrin] accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation [the source of our status and wealth].’ Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish (John 11:47-50).’164
Though Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied in the above vs. concerning Jesus’ sacrificial death, these words were stated with a much more maniacal intention. In saying that “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish,” Caiaphas pretended to express concern for the great loss of life that would result from an inevitable war with Rome that would immediately follow the crowning of the Messiah as sovereign king of Israel. In the first century, Israel was a province of Rome so if Israel crowned Jesus the sovereign king of Israel as the Messiah was expected to be, this act would, as stated above, serve as a declaration of independence from Rome triggering an inevitable war. In other words, Caiaphas was saying that it would be better to kill Jesus in order to prevent a war with Rome and thus save countless Jewish lives. However, in reality Caiaphas, like all the high priests of that century who preceded him, paid an immense amount of money in the form of a bribe to be given the title high priest. During the first century the positon of high priest was sold to the highest bidder so the list of high priests of that era were a list of all the richest families in Jerusalem at that time. Thus Caiaphas almost certainly cared only about keeping his position and the wealth that he and his family amassed from the Temple economy. And to do that, Jesus had to be eliminated. This is why Caiaphas said to the other wealthy men of the Sanhedrin “that it is better for you” that Jesus perish. It was better for the other men of the Sanhedrin because they were wealthy men as well and they too stood to lose everything if Israel went to war with Rome since their fortunes were also a direct consequence of the Temple economy. This was the ultimate concern of the council which is why they met to discuss what they should do about Jesus. “If we let him [Jesus] go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation [the source of our status and wealth] (John 11:48).” The Sanhedrin feared that if Jesus continued to perform miracles the people of Israel might end up crowning Him the sovereign king of the Jews as the Messiah was expected to be. And the war with Rome that would inevitably follow any man becoming king of Israel could destroy the Temple, the source of the Sanhedrin’s wealth and social status, and leave them all broke in the end.
The Sanhedrin’s concern about preserving the Temple in John 11:48 was not out of devotion to God since they were willing to kill a man who they themselves had witnessed performing many miracles which pointed strongly to Jesus being sent by God. If they were willing to explain away these miracles as demonic tricks and kill a man who was so obviously sent by God implies that their motive for preserving the Temple was based on money alone and not out of devotion to God. Thus James 5:1-6 sums up the fate of these wealthy people of Jerusalem who received the mark of the beast and as a result killed their Messiah because of their love of these little metal idols of Caesar:
Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. . . . You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one [Jesus Christ], who was not opposing you.
The same message is presented in James 2:1-7. According to v. 7, it was the rich who were blaspheming Jesus’ name: “Are they [the rich] not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him [Jesus] to whom you belong?” This same message is also conveyed in Jesus’ parable in Luke 12:13-21. This was one of Jesus’ central teachings throughout His ministry, Jesus warned against accumulating wealth, the tangible aspect of the mark of the beast, in the last day since “[i]f anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury[.]”(Revelation 14:9-10.) In alignment with the fact that it was the rich who killed Jesus and brought judgment upon themselves at the end of the age it is not surprising that in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus it is, of course, the rich man who is the villain in this story (Luke 16:19-31).
The fact that first-century Israel killed its potential Messiahs is not shocking. As stated above, crowning a sovereign king of Israel would trigger a war with Rome, Greece or any other imperial power with which Israel was ever in subjugation. And this inevitable war would invariably threaten to destroy the Temple and the economy built around it which historically made Jerusalem such a wealthy city, a fact which Titus reminds the people of Jerusalem before he ordered his soldiers to kill everyone in Jerusalem.165 Jesus knew that if He claimed to be the Messiah, the wealthy elite would invariably seek to have Him killed since He knew that any Messiah would directly threaten their source income, the Temple. Jesus knew that He was at risk of being killed for money. This is and was no secret at the time and is ultimately why Jesus said that you cannot serve both God and money:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight (Luke 16:13-15).
Above Jesus says, “You cannot serve both God and money.” Recall that in Revelation there are two marks: one marking the servants of the beast and the other, the servants of God. And as stated frequently above, the tangible aspect of the mark of the beast is money. Thus when Jesus said you cannot serve both God and money, this statement ultimately points to the two marks of Revelation where the servants of this series of visions are either servants or slaves of Caesar, the beast, or servants or slaves of God. In other words, a person cannot be a servant marked with both the mark of God (Revelation 7:3, 14:1) and the mark of the beast (Revelation 13:16-17) whose tangible aspect is money.
The other point to notice from Luke 16:13-15 quoted above is the fact that according to Luke 16:14 the Pharisees who plotted to have Jesus killed “loved money.” The reason that this love of money is detestable in God’s sight according to Luke 16:14 is because it ultimately led these men to kill Jesus and His people and it is why the mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13:17 is so abominable. Notice that Jesus says the love of money is “detestable in God’s sight.” If the love of money is detestable in God’s sight, is it a surprise that this greed or love of money is the spiritual mark of the beast mentioned in Revelation 13?
The fact that Jesus knew that He was ultimately going to be killed in order to preserve the lucrative Temple economy also explains why He overturned the tables of the money changers and drove out the people who were buying and selling in the Temple:
On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching (Mark 11:15-18).
Notice that after Jesus drove everyone out of the Temple who were buying and selling and prevented anyone from carrying merchandise through the Temple, the wealthy religious elite “began looking for a way to kill him (Mark 11:18).” These men began looking for a way to kill Jesus because not only did He as an aspiring Messiah threaten to destroy the Temple as a consequence of a war with Rome but He also displayed hostility to the Temple economy by this outburst. Either way these wealthy men stood to lose a fortune if Jesus were ever crowned king of Israel.
When Jesus accused the merchants of turning the Temple into a den of robbers He expressed His denunciation of the greed of those profiteers who turned this holy site into a way to dishonestly make money. That having been said when Jesus said that those greedy, dishonest merchants had turned the Temple into a den of robbers, Jesus was also making an end time prediction. “Robbers” was the name Josephus gave the Jewish rebels who drove Israel into war with Rome in A.D. 66 and in the process turned the Temple into their fortress or “den.” This phrase has double meaning pointing both to the ultimate sin for which Israel was punished at the end of the age in addition to predicting how this sinful greed would cause the Temple to become overrun with Jewish rebels called the “Robbers” during the Jewish War. Thus both before and during the Jewish War, the Temple had truly become “a den of robbers.”
The link between the fact that the rich were responsible for the murder of the saints and consequently punished by the Romans is also implied in the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1QpHab. (The Kittim in these vs. refer to the Romans who are also called Kittim in Daniel 11:30.) These verses mention “the last Priests of Jerusalem who heap up riches and gain by plundering the peoples” (1QpHab 9:4-5).166 These wealthy priests were said to ultimately be plundered by the remnant because they had previously robbed and killed (cut off) their own people just as is abundantly indicated throughout the Bible when the rich were accused of killing both Jesus and the saints as exhaustively shown above:
Because you [the last priests of Jerusalem] have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you because of the blood of men and the violence done to the land, to the city, and to all its inhabitants. Woe to him who gets evil profit for his house; who perches his nest high to be safe from the hand of evil! You have devised shame to your house: by cutting off many peoples you have forfeited your own soul [emphasis mine]. (1QpHab 2:7-11.)
Those who plundered the rich, the last priests of Jerusalem, in 1QpHab are the Zealots and later the Romans during the revolt against Rome. This is why Josephus calls the Zealots “robbers” as mentioned above.
Similarly according to the Damascus Document of the Dead Sea Scrolls the princes of Judah also shared in this sinful greed which as explained above led to the death of Christ and His people: “’The princes of Judah’ . . . . have wallowed in the ways of whoredom and wicked wealth. . . . ‘Their wine is the venom of serpents . . .” (CD 8.4-13.) Compare this pericope with Revelation 17:2: “With her [the whore of Babylon] the kings of the earth committed adultery and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.” The wine that the whore of Babylon drinks is actually the blood of the saints (Revelation 17:6). As is explained in the preterist commentary on Revelation 17, the whore of Babylon, is adulterous first-century Jerusalem who became drunk with the blood of Jesus and His people all because of greed.
As stated above, the mark of the beast is a spiritual mark denoting personal devotion and service to Rome and Caesar, the beast, as a direct consequence of the idolatrous worship of money rather than God. And just like the spiritual mark of God occasionally had a physical manifestation or counterpart (Exodus 28:36, Matthew 23:5), the mark of the beast also has a similar tangible aspect, Roman money. Here one can see how the mark of the beast appears to have a physical manifestation in the hand (Revelation 13:16-17), could this mark also have a physical manifestation on the forehead as well? See How the Phylacteries Worn on the Forehead and Hand Where Related to the Mark of the Beast.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
Commentary on Revelation 13: Conclusion
In this preterist commentary on Revelation 13, the beast trinity is revealed as the Roman beast, Caesar Nero, Caesar Vespasian and Caesar Titus, who collectively fulfill all prophecies found in Revelation 13 including the fact that the names of all three Caesars are represented by the 666 Gematria and no one could buy or sell without the mark of the beast or charagma which is the names and images of these three Caesars found in Roman money and deeds of purchase.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 10.4; Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.4; Tacitus The Histories 5.13.
- Eusebius The History of the Church 3.12
- The only time this law was transgressed was from A.D. 41-44 during which Herod Agrippa I minted coins with the graven image of himself and the emperor on them.
- Cited in Michael Grant, The Twelve Caesars, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996), 95 cited again in Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Beast of Revelation, (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2002), 11.
- Ralph P. Martin and Lynn Allan Losie, gen. eds., Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 52C, Revelation 17-22, by David E. Aune (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 961.
- Vespasian and Titus were crowned Caesar at the same time. (Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.)
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 10.4; Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.4; Tacitus The Histories 5.13.
- Eusebius The History of the Church 3.12.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- Brian Jones and Robert Milns, Suetonius: The Flavian Emperors, A Historical Commentary (London: Bristol Classic Press, 2002), 90, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 191.
- Seven is a symbolic number. In Revelation 1:20, the seven churches are represented by seven lampstands. Each lampstand has seven arms crafted to look like the seven branches of a tree. The arms of the lampstand were designed to resemble an almond tree (Exodus 25:31-36). The Babylonian tree of life had seven branches. Thus this lampstand which resembles a tree with seven branches presumably represents the tree of life. Just as Christ’s kingdom, the church, has seven branches, I believe the kingdom of Satan, Rome, has the seven serpent-heads of this sea beast.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 2.94.
- The first Caesar and the first head of the beast, Julius Caesar was killed immediately after he declared himself emperor for life.
- John Dominic Crossan, God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 2007), 117.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 272.
- The Abyss is the underworld, the realm of the dead. It is also a metaphor for Gentile Rome throughout the Book of Revelation.
- Even the enforcement of the mark of the beast would still fall under the Flavian triumph as Roman currency legitimized an emperor’s right to rule thus mints began immediately upon coronation. As a testimony to this fact there exist coins of Otho despite the fact that he only ruled a few short months. An example of a coin of Caesar Vespasian minted from A.D. 69 to A.D. 70 is depicted below:
- Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 244.
- Tacitus The Histories 1.11.
- Phillip Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, (London: SPCK, 1931), 230, cited in Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 304.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.10.2, cited in Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 304.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 4.11.5, cited in Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 305.
- Orat. 21.10, cited in Ralph P. Martin and Lynn Allan Losie, gen. eds., Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 52B, Revelation 6-16, by David E. Aune (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 738.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.57, cited in Homer Hailey, The Book of Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary, (Las Vegas: Nevada Publications, 2007), 286.
- Tacitus The Histories 2.8.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 63.27.2; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.40.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.49.
- Ibid., 6.26.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 211.
- Adv. ign. 20, cited in Ralph P. Martin and Lynn Allan Losie, gen. eds., Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 52B, Revelation 6-16, by David E. Aune (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 738.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.19.
- The Sibylline Oracles 4.155-162.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.47.
- Ibid., 6.50.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 67.28.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.28.
- Ibid., 10.5.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- Levick, Vespasian, 74, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, Ph.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination Volume 2: The Book of Revelation (USA: Xulon Press, 2012), 147.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.4.
- Levick, Vespasian, Plate XI, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, Ph.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination Volume 2: The Book of Revelation (USA: Xulon Press, 2012), 194.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 3.48, 4.14; Tacitus The Histories 4.62, 1.41.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.1.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 264.
- Wruck, Die Syrische Provinzialpragung von Augustus bis Trajan (1931), 105-106, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Mattingly and Sydenham, Roman Imperial Coinage, ii (1926), 62, no. 391, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Wruck, op. cit., p. 112. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, i (1930), 76, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Wruck, op. cit., p. 113, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Wruck, op. cit., p. 114-115, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 62.5.2, cited in Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 273.
- Cf. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, ii (1930), 18, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 32.
- F. Kenner, “Die Scheidemunze des Kaisers Nero,” Num. Zeitschr. X (1878), 250-253; Beurlier, Le Culte imperial, 48-50; L. Cesano, “Di un nuovo medaglione aureo di Costantino I e del ‘princeps iuventutis,’” Rassegna Numismatica (1911), 36-43; Ph. Lederer, “Beitrage zur romischen Munzkunde IV,” Zeitschrift fur Numismatik xl (1930), 51, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 32.
- Cf. Lederer, op. cit., p. 51 and Cesano, op. cit., p. 39, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Cf. Lederer, op. cit., p. 40 and Cesano, op. cit., p. 53, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 33.
- Martial Epigrams On the Spectacles 1.18, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 59.
- Weinreich, Studien zu Martial (1928), 21-23, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 56.
- CIL. vi 1246, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 40.
- C.f. Sauter, op. cit., 153-159, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 59.
- G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 698.
- The fact that the saints or “holy [ones]” of Rev 13:7 and Dan 12:7 are Jews generically–and not Christians exclusively–is also implied by the usage of this same term, hagiōn (translated saints or holy ones) three verses later in Rev 13:10 which reads, “If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints (hagiōn). (NASB.) Rev 13:10 is a direct allusion to Jeremiah 15:2 where Jeremiah addresses the Jews during the Babylonian captivity by saying, “And when they [the Israelites] ask you, ‘Where shall we go?’ you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “‘Those who are for pestilence, to pestilence, and those who are for the sword, to the sword; those who are for famine, to famine, and those who are for captivity, to captivity.’” Revelation 13:10 paraphrases Jeremiah 15:2. Thus when Rev 13:10 says, “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints (hagiōn),” it is an allusion to the Jews’ belief in their sacred Scriptures–specifically Jer 15:2. Revelation 13:10 is saying that because this statement about death and captivity is part of the Jewish sacred Scriptures (Jer 15:2), it is therefore the “faith” of Israel in general because it was a part of their sacred Scriptures. The fact that this statement is present in the Jewish sacred Scriptures is why it is the “faith” of Israel generically thereby implying that the holy ones or saints of Rev 13:7 and 10 is Israel in general and not Christians exclusively.
It is also possible that the “holy ones” mentioned in v. 9 are the Christian saints and that v. 10 is better rendered, “Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.” (NASB) A similar expression is found in Rev 14:12 and here the saints are those “who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” It was the belief of first century Christians that those who persecuted them would be punished. If Christians are alluded to in v. 9, would this not suggest that they are also mentioned as the “holy ones” of v. 7? Perhaps, after all the beast is said to wage war on Christ and His army which is presumably the saints in Rev 19:19. And perhaps the war against the “holy ones” in v. 7 is a war against Christians, and not just unfaithful Jews, as suggested in Rev 19:19 when the beast fights against Christ and His army of saints in Rev 19:19.
- Miriam T. Griffin, Nero: The End of a Dynasty, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1984, 1985), 15, cited in Dallas R. Burdette, D. Min., Commentary on Daniel: An Unraveling of God’s Messianic Kingdom, (USA: Xulon Press, 2016), 207.
- Life of Josephus, 361-4, cited in Eusebius The History of the Church 3.10. Other historians like Tacitus and Cassius Dio wrote brief accounts of this war after Titus’ reign. But Josephus’ history was the only extant history available during Vespasian’ and Titus’ reigns.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.7.
- Ibid., 6.6.1.
- Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 306.
- Eusebius The History of the Church 3.12.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 254.
- Tacitus Annals 15:44. The duration of forty-two months corresponds with the time in which the saints would be handed over to the beast in Daniel 7:25. In Daniel 7:25, the saints were handed over to the beast for a time, times and half a time. This is three years and six months or forty-two months according to the Hebrew calendar. Over time many Romans became sympathetic to the harsh way in which Christians were treated. Nero died in early June of A.D. 68. Perhaps this persecution ended in January of A.D. 68 at the start of the revolt in Gaul? This revolt weakened Nero’s grip on Rome and the populace became increasingly defiant. Sensing the increasing loss of public loyalty, Nero may have ceased public executions so as not to increase public displeasure and cater to his concerns of being deposed.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.3.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.9.2.
- http://www.ecclesia.org/truth/beast.html (5/31/2006).
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.49.
- The Baal Cycle Fifth Tablet.1.1-4. Lotan is the Ugaritic equivalent of the leviathan.
- Jack Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past: The Archaeological Background of the Hebrew-Christian Religion, vol. I (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015), 148.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 211.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 7.1. A similar omen is also recorded in this verse in Lives of the Twelve Caesars: “With Nero the line of the Caesars became extinct. Among the many prophetic indications of this event two were outstanding. As Livia, years before, was returning to her home near Veii immediately after marrying Augustus, an eagle flew by and dropped into her lap a white pullet which it had just pounced upon. Noticing a laurel twig in its beak she decided to keep the pullet for breeding and to plant the twig. Soon the pullet raised such a brood of chickens that the house is still known as ‘The Poultry’; moreover the twig took root and grew so luxuriously that the Caesars always plucked laurels from it to wear at their triumphs. It also became an imperial custom to cut new slips and plant these close by. Remarkably enough, the death of each Emperor was anticipated by the premonitory wilting of his laurel; and in the last year of Nero’s reign not only did every tree wither at the root, but the whole flock of poultry died.”
- Steven J. Friesen, Imperial Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 175; G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 682.
- Some versions of the Bible translate tartaroo as hell. Interestingly and similarly, hell was originally the name of the underworld in Norse mythology.
- 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.
- Lucia Impelluso, Nature and Symbols, trans. Stephen Sartarelli (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2004), 362.
- This metaphor of the beast arising out of the earth is symbolically portrayed during the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius at the start of Titus’ reign. According to Cassius Dio Roman History 66.23, spirits were seen in the ash of the volcanic eruption. These spirits are presumably described in Revelation 9 in the image of Titus’ legions.
- The number ten calls to mind the lost ten tribes of Israelites that were dispersed throughout the Assyrian Empire. Thus this number may be sometimes used in Daniel and Revelation to intentionally call to mind the notion of somehow being Gentile. Conversely, the number two might also be used occasionally in Revelation to call attention to the two remaining tribes that had remained in the original land of their inheritance: Judah and Benjamin. That said the fact that the beast out of the sea has ten horns makes sense because like the number ten, “sea” also refers to the Gentile nations (i.e. Rome) throughout Revelation. Furthermore, the fact that the behemoth is initially said to have two horns implying the fact that this beast is present in Judah also makes sense of the name “beast out of the earth.” Like the number two, “earth” also represents the nation of Israel (generally Judah) throughout Revelation. Thus these numbers compliment the names of the beast as it relates to the beast’s location whether inside or outside of Israel or Judah. The beast is Rome. Thus the beast out of the earth is Rome in Israel or Judah. In other words, the beast out of the earth is the Roman Army in Israel or Judah as discussed previously.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- Lev R 13:3, Midrash Rabbah, 3rd impression (London: Soncino Press, 1961), cited in J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 218.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 218.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.1.
- Tacitus The Histories 4.62, 1.41; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 3.48; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 4.14.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.1.
- Cassius Dio Roman History 66.1.
- The fire said to shoot out of the mouth of the leviathan in Job 41:19 would be more actually translated as firebrands. Firebrands are flaming torches used as weapons of war.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 3.7.9.
- Tacitus The Histories 5.13.
- Gary DeMar, Why the End of the World is Not in Your Future: Identifying the Gog-Magog Alliance, (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2008), 114.
- It should also be noted that arrows also sometimes signify people (Psalms 127:4, Proverbs 25:18, Isaiah 49:2); words and teeth (Psalms 57:4, Jeremiah 9:8); and plight (Job 6:4, Lamentations 3:12, Ezekiel 5:16, Ephesians 6:16).
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.5.
- Ibid., 6.4.6.
- Ibid., 7.1.1.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.4.1.
- Ibid., 6.6.1.
- Tacitus The Histories 4.62, 1.41; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 3.48; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 4.14.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.1.
- Ibid., 6.6.1-6.9.4.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 11.5.
- Scholia on Matthew. On Matthew 24:15. PG 106:1151, cited in Gary DeMar and Francis X. Gumerlock, The Early Church and the End of the World, (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, Inc., 2006), 87.
- Theophylact, Commentary on Mark. On Mark 13:14-17. The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of the Holy Gospel According to St. Mark (House Springs, MO: Chrysostom Press, 1993), 112, cited in Gary DeMar and Francis X. Gumerlock, The Early Church and the End of the World, (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, Inc., 2006), 87.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.1-6.9.4.
- Lucian De Syria Dea 10.
- Cited in Michael Grant, The Twelve Caesars, (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1996), 95 cited again in Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., The Beast of Revelation, (Powder Springs, GA: The American Vision, Inc., 2002), 11.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 10.4; Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.4; Tacitus The Histories 5.13; Eusebius The History of the Church 3.12.
- Brian Jones and Robert Milns, Suetonius: The Flavian Emperors, A Historical Commentary (London: Bristol Classic Press, 2002), 90, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 191.
- The fact that the beast is dead in the year between Nero’s death and Vespasian’s coronation explains why Titus is the eighth head of the beast, despite being the eleventh Caesar in Revelation 17:11. The three Caesars that had ruled Rome during the civil war are not considered heads of the beast in the Book of Revelation since the beast is not fully revived until the fall of Jerusalem.
- Cf. Mattingly, Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, ii (1930), 24, cited in W. R. Connor, advisory ed., Ancient Religion and Mythology, The Imperial Cult Under the Flavians, by Kenneth Scott (New York: Arno Press, 1975), 23-24.
- 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.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.6.3.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.9.2-4.
- See references in C. Schneider, TDNT IV, 636-37, cited in G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 411.
- G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 411-415.
- Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 184-185.
- Plutarch, Pericles 26; Herodotus 2.113; 7.233; Lucian, De Syria Dea 59, cited in G.K. Beale, The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013), 715.
- Ignatius to the Magnesians 5.2.
- Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 264.
- Isbon Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (New York: Macmillan, 1919), 644.
- http://www.livius.org/jo-jz/judaea/judaea.htm (11/29/2006).
- http://www.patheos.com/blogs/atheology/2016/09/first-century-coin-of-nero-found-in-jerusalem-the-mark-of-the-beast/ (12/3/2016).
- It should be noted that Roman money sometimes circulated for hundreds of years in ancient times. Therefore, though all new money was printed with the image of Vespasian in A.D. 70, other coins previously used in Judaea would have still circulated to a residual extent.
- Sulpicius Severus Chronica 2:30.7.
- W.G. Baines, “Number of the Beast in Revelation 13:18,” Heythrop Journal (April 2007): 195-196. The Latin alphabet did not originally have distinct symbols for the vowel “U” or the consonant “V” and thus rendered “U” and “V” as a “V.”
- Prior to the final siege of Jerusalem, Jewish Christians escaped the war having fled to Pella. Pella was a city in the Decapolis. Though protected by Rome, the cities of the Decapolis were granted a certain decree of autonomy allowing each city to mint its own coins. The Decapolis was a region comprised of ten independent city-states. All ten cities in this region were allowed some degree of political autonomy allowing them to mint their own coins, many of which were imprinted with terms celebrating this sovereignty. Though some coins of the Decapolis contained the name and image of Caesar, many did not.
- The first century historian Suetonius records this interesting cryptogram or gematria circulating during Nero’s reign: “Count the numerical values of the letters in Nero’s name, and in ‘murdered his own mother’: You will find their sum is the same.” Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.39. Cryptograms or gematria have been found etched in stones in Pergamum, one of the cities of the Apocalypse. Furthermore, a cryptogram or gematria similar to the one in Revelation 13:18 was discovered in Pompeii saying, “I love her whose number is 545.”
- David Aune, Revelation 6-16, Word Bible Commentary, vol. 52 C, gen. ed. Bruce Metzger, David Hubbard, and Glen Barker, NT ed. Ralph Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 769, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 192.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 193-219.
- Before Jerusalem Fell is a detailed, well-argued case for an early date of composition for the Book of Revelation. Contrary to the church tradition that suggests that Revelation was written during Domitian’s reign, internal evidence speaks strongly in favor of an earlier date of composition. In Revelation 17:10, the author of Revelation explains that the seven heads of the beast are seven kings. “Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come.” Therefore, in John’s own words, the sixth king is alive during the time in which Revelation was composed. Nero was the sixth Caesar.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 198, 199.
- Ibid., 196, 197.
- Ibid., 203.
- David Aune, Revelation 6-16, Word Bible Commentary, vol. 52 C, gen. ed. Bruce Metzger, David Hubbard, and Glen Barker, NT ed. Ralph Martin (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 722, cited in Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 192.
- Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 1998), 214.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.34, 35.
- Ibid., 6.28.
- Ibid., 6.29.
- Ibid., 6.37.
- Ibid., 6.26.
- Isbon Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (New York: Macmillan, 1919), 645.
- Tacitus The Histories 4.81.
- Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 6.49.
- In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus seems to refer to the church as “the kingdom of God.”
- The similarities do not end there. Jesus lay entombed for three days, while three Caesars were killed to make way for the resurrection of Nero as Vespasian. Perhaps each fallen Caesar represents a day Jesus lay in the tomb?
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.5.4; Suetonius Lives of the Twelve Caesars 10.4; Tacitus The Histories 5.13; Eusebius The History of the Church 3.12.
- It is also worth mentioning that Lateinos (i.e., the Roman Empire) also totals 666 using Greek characters. See Duncan W. McKenzie, PH.D., The Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, vol. II (United States: Xulon Press, 2012), 192.
- Midrash Rabbah Lamentations Proems 22.
- Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Times of Jesus, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 38, cited in Ralph E. Bass, Jr., Back to the Future: A Study in the Book of Revelation, (Greenville, SC: Living Hope Press, 2004), 406.
- Tacitus The Histories 5.8.
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 188.8.131.523.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 305.
- It is also implied in Psalm 2:1-3.
- One thing to note concerning John 11:47-50 is that it is the high priest who is said to be ultimately responsible for Jesus’ execution. Coincidence? Who better to oversee the death of Jesus, the sacrificial lamb, than the Jewish high priest?
- Josephus The Wars of the Jews 184.108.40.2063.
- J. Massyngberde Ford, The Anchor Bible: Revelation A New Translation With Introduction And Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1975), 156.