One frequent claim against Revelation having already been fulfilled is that Nero as the beast died and therefore could not be the beast that was revived.
We don’t know Roman history very well. Many people make the mistake of assuming that the wounded head of the beast revived. But, the wounded head, though one of the heads of the beast, and a representative of the beast, was not the entire beast.
Beasts were / are oppressor nations / kingdoms that preyed upon the people. The word beast in Rev. 13:1 is “therion” and means a wild beast, a predator that preys upon and devours the young and the weak. God used this symbol of a wild beast (lions, bears, leopards, wolves, etc.) for oppressive, parasitic kingdoms that fed off the people.
Psa 17: 9-12, David’s prayer for relief –
9 From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. 10 They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly.
11 They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; 12 Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places. (KJV)
Ezek. 22:25-27, God’s condemnation of Israel / Jerusalem –
” There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.
26 Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
27 Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.” (KJV)
Ezek. 34:8-10, God’s prophesy against the shepherds of Israel –
8 As I live, saith the Lord God, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock;
9 Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the Lord;
10 Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.“ (KJV)
The beast of the sea in Revelation was a pagan nation, as the sea symbolized the nations that surrounded the land of Israel (Isa. 17:12; 23:11). Many times in prophetic language, Israel was the “earth” or “land” of God’s people. Therefore, water / sea surrounding land was a metaphor for the pagan nations surrounding Israel, and were many times the “floods” that God brought against them. (See. Deu. 13:7; 28:23; Lev. 26:19; Isa. 5:30; 59:19; Jer. 46:8; and the previous post “Heaven And Earth Have Passed Away.”)
The pagan sea beast had seven heads / kings and ten horns (lesser governors / rulers) (Rev. 13:1; 17:3). Five of these seven kings had already fallen and “one is” (Rev. 17:10). “One is” indicated the present ruler at the time the prophesy was spoken.
The sixth king / head was ruling over the beast nation at the time Revelation was written. That means that the beast nation existed during the lifetime of John, during the first century A.D. The head of the beast that was going to receive the mortal wound (Rev. 13:3) was only indirectly the beast nation. The direct attack was against one of the heads, and the one that was mortally wounded unto death. This mortal wound almost caused the death of the beast, but the beast was healed.
Rev. 17:8, The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit,…” (KJV)
The ruling king / head that received the mortal wound died, but the beast / nation did not die. The deadly wound delivered to the nation at the death of the king was healed by a successor king. As heads of the beast nation, each king took on a beast role.
Rev. 17:11, “ And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.” (KJV)
Nero “was and is not”, meaning he had died. He was the last of the Julian line of Caesars. But, he is shown again in the eighth king / ruler. The eighth king / Caesar of Rome was Otho. (Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and then Vespasian)
Tacitus wrote, “Moreover, on certain days the people and soldiers, as if adding thereby to Otho’s nobility and distinction, acclaimed him as Nero Otho.” (Histories 1.78; cf. 1.13 and 1.25). Note:19 ” On the portrayal of Otho in Tacitus, Plutarch and Suetonius, see Perkins 1993 and Braun 1992.” (1)
The Year of Four Emperors
Galba ruled for just 6 months (Rev. 17:10, “… and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.”). (2) Otho murdered Galba, and was proclaimed emperor by the army. He then ruled for three months, from Jan to April AD 69. He had been a friend to Nero, but had joined with Galba to overthrow Nero. (3), (4), (5) That Otho was “of the seven” possibly refers to his conspiracy with Galba to overthrow Nero.
Vitellius’ army defeated that of Otho in April of AD 69. He ruled Rome for approx. 7 months until Dec AD 69. He had also been a companion to Nero, and signaled the type of rule he would follow by making funerary offerings to Nero and calling for Nero’s songs. (6). He was a very cruel and gluttonous man, and soon lost support of the armies. His army was defeated by Vespasian’s, and the senate confirmed Vespasian as emperor on Dec. 21, AD 69. (7), (8)
Possibly in an effort to legitimize their rule in the eyes of the people by calling on the Julian line, Otho and Vitellius essentially resurrected Nero in both their accolades of him and their similar behavior.
The point was that the death of the sixth king (Nero) almost caused the beast nation to die, and its death struggle was a wonder to all those who witnessed the civil wars that ensued.
That beast nation was Rome. Nero died in June AD 68, committing suicide with the help of his servant, and the Roman empire was thrown into a year of civil war under the rule of four successive “heads”: Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, followed by Vespasian.
Thus, it became the Year of Four Emperors. (9) The civil wars of the first three Caesars brought Rome into near ruin, and as a result, Vespasian broke off the war in Judea, leaving his son Titus in charge, gathered his army and marched to Rome. He knew that if the capital city of Rome fell, then so would the empire.
Vespasian and his army took control of the empire in AD 69 and restored order to Rome. Thus, the Roman beast empire received a mortal wound, nearly dying at the death of Nero, but was healed and revived under Vespasian.
The prophesy never said that the head / king that was mortally wounded would revive. Nero, one head of the empire, was not the entire beastly empire. But, two of his successors, Otho and Vitellius both honored and ruled in Nero’s memory, in essence making a reappearance of Nero and “ascending out of the bottomless pit” (Rev. 17:8)
(1) Nero, the Beast Study Archive here
(2) Servius Sulpicius Galba from Roman-Empire.net here
(3) “Otho” from Encyclopedia Britannica here
(4) Otho from Ancient History Encyclopedia here
(5) Marcus Salvius Otho from Roman-Empire.net: here
(6) The Life of Vitellius by Seutonius here
(7) Vitellius from Ancient History here
(8) Titus Flavius Sabinus Vespasianus from Roman-Empire.net here
(9) AD 69 Or The Year of Four Emperors here
See the previous posts “The Beast of Revelation” and “The Whore of Babylon” at the right margin.
(All bold emphasis is mine.)