There exists so much evidence of the first century prophecy of Revelation that it is hard to keep narratives brief, and I am unable to make this a short post. I ask that you bear with me, as I have had a difficult time limiting the information.
The previous post, The Whore of Babylon, presented the evidences of the identity of the woman of Revelation 17 & 18 as Jerusalem. The beast that carried her is also identifiable through scripture and secular history. I will include some discussion of historical events around both Rome, and the destruction of Jerusalem. Secular sources for research include Seutonius, Tacitus, Pliny the Elder, Eusebius, and Josephus among others. Their history is rich if one is willing to study.
The time of the Revelation must also be established, as too many readers make the mistake of moving the prophesy out of time and place. Jesus told his disciples that they would not go through all of the cities of Israel before he came again. (Matt. 10:23) Jesus told them that all would be fulfilled in that generation. (Matt. 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32) Jesus told them that some would still be living when He returned in His kingdom. (Matt. 16:28; Luke 9:27)
The disciples asked him when “shall these things be” meaning specifically the destruction of the temple which He had just told them would be torn down (Matt 24, Luke 21). Thereby, we know that the things He told them would happen happened before and at the destruction of that temple in A.D. 70. He told the disciples in Luke 21:31 that when they saw all these things to know that the kingdom was at hand. That limits the time frame to the first century A.D, and places the coming of His kingdom in power in the first century A.D, specifically in A.D. 70.
Peter stated in Acts 2:16-17 that what was happening on the day of Pentecost after the crucifixion was that from the prophet Joel, that “in the last days” He would pour forth His Spirit upon the people. Peter proclaimed that the day of Pentecost occurred in the last days, in the first century A.D.
So, the last days identified throughout the New Testament, and prophesied throughout the Old Testament, were when Jesus was manifested on earth, and was crucified, and was raised from the dead, and the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the people, and His church was established, and His kingdom came in power and glory. That special generation that Christ appeared on earth was the end of the old covenant, the last days of the old covenant. See the posts “It’s Not The End of The World… Parts 1 -X” a more complete discussion of these evidences of the time of His coming.
Knowing now the time period of the prophesy was that generation of the first century A.D, and that we are standing on the other side almost 2,000 years later, we need to look at history to see some of the clues.
The woman of Revelation is sitting upon a scarlet colored beast that has seven heads and ten horns. (Rev. 17:3) And, the woman is sitting upon seven heads which are seven mountains. (Rev. 17:9) The beast that carries the woman is not the woman.
The beast of Revelation was knowable in the day that John wrote the book. That means that the beast existed when John wrote the book, otherwise the symbolism would be of no benefit to the first century Christians, who were for the most part converted Jews, and were being warned of things which “must shortly come to pass”. (Rev. 1:1) Shortly, did not mean 2,000 years later!
Rev. 17:7, “ And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.” (KJV, bold emp. mine throughout)
The beast rises up out of the sea. (Rev. 13:1) Rome ruled the Mediterranean Sea by virtue of her armies and navy. Jerusalem, the whore of Babylon, was riding the beast, Rome. Jerusalem was influencing her military occupiers. They were in collusion, and for a time, were cooperating for a common economic and political goal.
Rev. 13:2, “And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.“
There is a multitude of symbolism in this verse, but note that the standard bearers of the Roman Legions often wore the skins of leopards, bears, and lions. The beast of Revelation is the Roman Empire of the first century A.D. And, it is the Roman Empire of the first century A.D. which was the 4th empire of Daniel’s dream. (Dan. 2) The first was Babylon, overtaken by Cyrus the Great in 539 BC; the second was Mede-Persia, overtaken by Alexander the Great 334 & 330 BC; the 3rd was the Greco-Macedonia empire, which was overtaken in 188 BC by Rome. See recommended reading at Note 3 below.
Because Daniel 2 stated that Christ’s kingdom would be established in the days of those kings of the 4th empire (Dan. 2:44), then we know that as Christ appeared on earth, was sacrificed, rose again the 3rd day, established His church on the day of Pentecost, and His kingdom in the first century A.D, the 4th empire had to be the one that existed when He established His church and His kingdom in the first century A.D. The 4th empire of Daniel 2 was the Roman empire of Christ’s day.
Rev. 17:10, “And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.“
The Caesars were the rulers and emperors of Rome at the time John wrote Revelation, and were therefore “kings”. Seven “kings” are mentioned in verse 10. Five were fallen: the first of the Roman empire was Julius Caesar; then Augustus; Tiberius; Caius (or Caligula); and Claudius. The sixth emperor was…Nero. He was ruling at the time John wrote Revelation. Nero reigned from 54 A.D. to June 68 A.D.
The seventh king of Rev. 17:10 had not yet come when John wrote Revelation, and he would only rule a short time. The seventh was Galba who assumed power upon Nero’s death and ruled six months from mid – June 68 A.D. to Jan. 69 A.D. Therefore, John had to have written Revelation before June 68 A.D.
After Galba, came Otho, and Vitellius, all three within the space of one year. Vespasian was the tenth Caesar of Rome, or the tenth horn of Rev. 17:3.
The death of Nero was the end of the Julian line of emperors of Rome. There was turmoil immediately following in civil wars between Galba, Otho and Vitellius with such destruction that horrified the world at that time. Rome and Italy suffered famines, earthquakes, and pestilence (disease). The destruction was so terrible that it left Rome in ruins. Tacitus’ account of the ruin that befell Rome almost describes the horror of the destruction of Jerusalem. Josephus records that “heavy calamities came about Rome on all sides”. He records that General Vespasian had to abandon the Judean wars and return to Rome to fight for the stability of the empire.
So the Roman empire (the beast) was mortally wounded with Nero’s death, suffered near ruin “going down into the abyss”, and was revived under Vespasian. (Rev. 13:3, Rev. 13:12, Rev. 17:8) Once Vespasian held control, he became the head of the beast, and the tenth king, or tenth horn.
Vespasian then sent his son Titus out as General to end the war with Judea, and Titus becomes the mouth of the beast. (Rev. 13:5) Titus declared great blasphemies against God, and stated his intention to destroy the temple at Jerusalem. It was Titus that oversaw the destruction of Jerusalem with the burning firebrands. Titus, therefore, was the one who “maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth…“. (Rev. 13:13).
In God’s figurative prophetic language “heaven” was a ruler or ruling nation, and the “earth” was a symbol for land or the dwelling place of the people, and most often was Israel. So, Revelation 13:13 was Rome (heaven) sending fire upon Israel (earth) under Titus’ command. Titus commanded the 12th Legion whose symbol was the lightning bolt…”fire …from heaven“.
Vespasian and Titus (both pronounced Caesars) conducted the final war against Israel over a 42 month period, from March A.D. 67 to Sept. A.D. 70 when Jerusalem fell. Rabbinic tradition confirms this 42 month assault. Forty-two (42) months is 3-1/2 years, or 1260 days. (Rev. 11:2, Rev. 13:5)
Titus surrounded Jerusalem on the day of the feast of the Passover, the anniversary of the day of our Lord’s death. All of the “strangers” and foreigners had come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Understand, these were the people of the communities of Israelites of the dispersion that still gave allegiance to the Sanhedrin and Jerusalem. Josephus calculated almost 2-million people were in the city. Their continued celebration of the feast of the Passover was a denial of the sacrifice of Christ as that once and forever sacrificial lamb slain from the foundation of the world meant for all. It was blasphemy!
The siege of Jerusalem was sudden, and encompassed all those who had come into the city from the surrounding areas. (Matt 24:27-30, Luke 21:35.)
Luke 21:22, “ For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.”
Titus fully intended to destroy the temple at Jerusalem, and thus God’s dwelling place which he and his father viewed as a threat to their “divinity” as emperors of Rome, and to then destroy all branches of the Jews, namely the Christians. The destruction of Jerusalem was horrible, reaching its pinnacle with mothers killing and eating their own children to survive, and the Romans wading through the blood in the streets.
So, during the interim after the death of Nero, and the resumption under Vespasian, there was a lull of the war in Judea of 12 months, or the year of 4 emperors. It was at this time that the Christians fled Jerusalem to Pella. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Vespasian ordered that all descendants of King David be searched out and killed so that no one of the Messianic line would dispute Vespasian’s authority as emperor. Thus, the power of Rev. 13:7 to make war with the saints.
Rome was the beast that carried the woman. The ruler of Rome at the time Revelation was written was Nero. It was Nero who began the worst persecution in history of the saints, and it was Nero who was the man John numbered 666.
Rev. 13:18, ” Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.“ (KJV)
Present tense of the verb, “is”, as written by John in the first century A.D. And, it is the number of a man! Not an organization, not a church, not a nation. But the number of a man!
The number 666 was used to conceal the name of the man that was in power and ruling at the time John wrote Revelation (A.D. 66 -68), so as to protect the readers of the book who were suffering his extreme persecution. John could not be forthright and name Nero for fear of further drawing his anger. The numbering method used to signify the name was a common practice of the day for numbering letters of a name. It was used in both the Greek and Hebrew languages.
But, the Jewish Christian, and indeed all Jews, thought and wrote the name of Nero in Hebrew. Their language was Hebrew, so the symbol was to the Hebrew spelling, “Neron Kesar.” Only the consonants carried the numeric value. Vowels were not included or numbered.
Rendered in the English (as I don’t have a Hebrew keyboard), NRWN QSR:
N = 50; R = 200; W = 6; N = 50; Q = 100; S= 60; R = 200…. for a total of 666.
In the Aramaic, RSQ NWRN:
R = 200; S = 60; Q = 100; N = 50; W = 6; R = 200; N = 50…. for a total of 666.
Nero Caesar was THE antichrist of Revelation. There were and are many antichrists, as anyone who denies Christ is an antichrist. But, the one numbered by John, whom he was warning the persecuted Christians about in the first century A.D. was Nero.
“Foremost in the rank of those emperors, on whom the church looks back with horror as her persecutors, stands Nero, a prince whose conduct towards the Christians admits of no palliation, but was to the last degree unprincipled and inhuman. The dreadful persecution which took place by order of this tyrant, commenced at Rome about the middle of November, in the year of our Lord 64. . . . This dreadful persecution ceased but with the death of Nero. The empire, it is well known, was not delivered from the tyranny of this monster until the year 68, when he put an end to his own life.” (L. von Mosheim, Historical Commentaries, I:138,139).
Apollinius of Tyana, a contemporary of Nero, wrote, “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.” (bold emp. mine)
“Nero was the first of the emperors who showed himself an enemy of the divine religion.” Eusebius.
Pliny the Elder called Nero “the destroyer of the human race” and “the poison of the world.”
Nero killed by the sword and died by the sword. Seutonius stated that he “drove a dagger into his throat, aided by Epaphroditus, his private secretary.”
Rev. 13:10, “ He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.”
Nero was commonly called a beast. He murdered almost everyone close to him, including his mother, his aunt, his wife Poppaea, and his relatives by marriage. Tacitius records Nero’s persecution of the Christians…
“And their death was aggravated with mockeries, insomuch that, 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.”
The Christians were crucified, beheaded, burnt alive, and used as torches to light Nero’s garden parties.
Nero began his persecutions of the Christians in 64 A.D., and it lasted until his death in June 68 A.D. A period of 42 months, or 3-1/2 years. This began the great tribulation of Daniel 12. Jesus told the disciples in Matt 24:15-21 citing Daniel and specifically stating,
“For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matt 24:21)
“…and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time:….” Dan. 12:1
Jesus was answering the disciples’ question in Matt. 24 of when the temple was going to be torn down. His citing of Daniel 12 makes the link clear. The great tribulation was the persecution of the saints and lasted approx. 6 years, from mid Nov. A.D. 64 to the destruction of Jerusalem in Sep. A.D. 70. (70 weeks, Dan. 9:24-27) At which time the sacrifices and the oblations ceased.
Rev. 7:14, “….These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
The sealed of Rev. 7 were those washed in the blood of the Lamb that had come out of the persecution of the great tribulation; they were those converted to Christ, and had been severely persecuted by the Jews and Romans.
Vespasian would revive the beast and finish the war against the woman, whom they hated, which was Jerusalem. (Rev. 17:16, Je 50:41, Ez. 16:37)
The woman, who was carried by the beast, also sits upon seven mountains. (Rev. 17:9)
Ancient Jerusalem was built upon seven (7) hills: Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath.
While Rome was built upon seven hills, where Romulus and Remus deliberately chose an area of the Tibur River because of the universally understood symbolic perfection of the number 7, so was Jerusalem known as the “City of Seven Hills”.
Jerusalem was the center of the Jewish world, and all of the Jewish communities throughout the Roman empire sent their tribute annually to Jerusalem. The Jewish communities all gave their allegiance to the Sanhedrin Council in Jerusalem. Thus, Jerusalem had “dominion over the kings of the earth.” (Rev. 17:18)
The words “great city” in the Greek in Rev. 11:8 in which our Lord was crucified, which was Jerusalem, are the same words used in Rev. 16:19 where “God remembered great Babylon”, and in Rev. 17:18 which had “dominion over the kings of the earth”, and in Rev. 18:10, “thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon!”, and in Rev. 18:18, “What city was like the great city?”, and in Rev. 18:19, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea…”, and in Rev. 18:21, “…so shall Babylon, the great city be thrown down with violence…”
The city that was thrown down was Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the harlot, and was referred to as Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon. (Jer. Ch 3; Jer. 23:14; Ez. Ch.16) All of the references to the great city are references to Jerusalem. The great tribulation of Daniel 12, is the same great tribulation which Jesus warned his disciples they would have to endure in Matt. 24. The destruction of Jerusalem were the days of vengeance. (Luke 21:22)
The destruction of Jerusalem marked the end of the nation of Israel, and the finality of the old covenant.
The Jews had used their influence with Rome and colluded with the beast to remove a troubling matter that threatened their economic and political power, the Messiah and the Christians. They stirred up Rome to perform the crucifixion of Christ, and they stirred up Rome to persecute the Christians. God, in vengeance and judgment, then used the Romans to destroy Jerusalem. Ironic, isn’t it? Rome was the beast, and the tool and messengers from God. (Rev. 17:17)
The book of Revelation was written to the Christians of the first century A.D. as a warning of the destruction of Jerusalem and encouragement to persevere through that time of great tribulation. It is a book concerning the covenant city of God, one who was once married to God, and became unfaithful, became a harlot turning her back on God. (Ez. 16:36-41)
Rome was never a covenant city of God! Rome was never in a covenant relationship with God, and thus cannot be considered as the harlot woman of Revelation 17 & 18. Jesus was not crucified in Rome. He was crucified in Jerusalem. Rev. 11:8 identifies the great city as the city where Jesus was crucified.
There is much more evidence from both within the scriptures and from secular history that the beast of Revelation was the Roman empire of the 1st century A.D., and specifically Nero. Time and space prevents me from including all of it here. Please see the recommended readings below, and my other posts.
Revelation was the prophesy to the first century Christians of the then future destruction of Jerusalem, and the 2nd coming of Christ in A.D. 70 to fully remove the temple worship of the old covenant, and to establish forever His spiritual kingdom. It serves as an example for all generations that God will judge all those who turn their backs on Him. As He continues to rule today from the right hand of God, He continues to come in judgment against the nations who sin against Him.
I am certain that the world faces the wrath of God today. There are some humanly devised parallel events that exist today, and have existed throughout history, but the immediate prophesy of Revelation was to the first century Christians.