The Angel of Revelation by William Blake
One of the greatest interpretive challenges for modern preterists concerns the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11.
If Revelation 1-19 is primarily about the first century persecution of the Church and the Roman-Jewish War, then who were these two figures?
Were they historical individual figures?
Or are they symbolic?
The text itself doesn’t provide any obvious clues to lead us to the identities of two specific individuals. In fact, the description of the two witnesses only seems to confound the difficulty from preterist literalist perspective. We are given the following descriptions.
- They shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth (v. 3).
- They are the two olive trees and the two candlesticks (v. 4).
- Fire comes out of their mouth and devours their enemies (v. 5).
- They have the power to cause drought, waters to turn to blood and all sorts of plagues (v. 6).
- The beast from the bottomless pit shall make war against them and kill them (v. 7).
- Their bodies will lie in the streets of the “Great City,” but after three-and-a-half days, they will be bodily resurrected and will ascend to heaven (vv. 8-12).
- Immediately afterward, there will be an earthquake. One-tenth of the city will fall and 7,000 people will be killed (v. 13).
However, preterists are not alone in their inability to agree on a unified interpretation. One commentator remarked that “in scanning through my ever-growing set of 95 commentaries on Revelation, I have run across 37 different theories of who these witnesses might be” (Phil Kayser, The Two Witnesses, Part 1, kaysercommentary.com).
Futurist interpreters take the two witnesses quite literally. They are two real prophets who will appear in Jerusalem during the Great Tribulation in the end-times and perform miracles. Sometimes they are thought to be Moses and Elijah, symbolizing the Law and the Prophets, who also appeared to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; 2 Peter 1:16-18). Several Church Fathers – including Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus of Rome – believed the two witnesses are Enoch and Elijah. They held this view because these were the only two Old Testament prophets to be translated directly into heaven without dying. They reasoned that they would return to the city of Jerusalem to be killed, but then resurrected and taken up into heaven.
Historicist interpreters often have two literal figures, such as Luther and Calvin, or pairs of Reformation martyrs, such as John Huss and William Tyndale. They are also sometimes interpreted as Christian movements, such as the Waldenses and the later Reformers. Some see the French Revolution in the events of Revelation 11. They interpret the descriptions of the Two Witnesses as more loosely symbolic to fit these historical events.
Preterist interpreters of Revelation 11, as I have already mentioned, are also all over the map. Some see these witnesses as two Christian prophets in Jerusalem just before or during the Jewish War of AD 67 to 70. Others say that various figures – the Apostles Stephen and James, or James the Just – might be among the two witnesses because they were each martyred in Jerusalem. Still others interpret this figuratively as a metaphor for the martyrs who died for truth.
Preterists also point to various phenomena during this period of three-and-a-half years. There were numerous signs that the presence of God had departed from the Temple. According to Josephus (Wars of the Jews 6.289-309), from the fall of AD 62 to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, Joshua (Jesus the son of Ananus) began prophesying Jerusalem’s destruction. However, there is no indication that Joshua was a Christian and there is no mention of a partner. There were phenomenal events in early AD 66. A star like a sword or comet appeared in night sky. A brilliant light shown on the altar and sanctuary of the Temple. The doors of Eastern Gate opened on their own. Chariots and armies were seen in the sky throughout Judea. A divine voice was heard from the inner court of the Temple, “We are leaving from here.” Then from the spring of AD 67 to 70, the war resumed under Vespasian – a period of three-and-a-half years. In fact, all the plagues listed in Revelation 11:6 occurred during the war. Josephus even includes a description of “amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake …” (Wars 4.5). Finally, the city of Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed.
However, the main difficulty with this text from a preterist literalist perspective is that there is no record of two individuals who were witnesses for Christ. Yet there are preterists who strongly insist that the Two Witnesses must be actual prophets who appeared in Jerusalem from AD 67 to 70. There must have been two Christian men martyred by the Jews, who lay dead in the city for three-and-a-half days, after which they ascended into heaven. While it is certainly possible that this occurred, there is no historical record of it. There are numerous other events recorded by contemporary historians – such as Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius – that nicely corroborate a preterist approach to Revelation 11. However, the insistence that the Two Witnesses were two actual people in Jerusalem commits the fallacy of special pleading.
Preterist views have the Two Witnesses represented by a variety of figures.
- The Law and the Prophets
- Zerubbabel the king and Joshua the priest
- All the Old Testament prophets who preached against Israel’s sins
- Elijah and John the Baptist who preached in sackcloth
- The Old Covenant and the New Covenant
- Israel and the Church
- Jesus’ witnessing disciples who went out two-by-two
- Stephen and the Apostle James
- James the Just (the brother of Jesus) and another figure
- Peter and Paul (who were martyred on the same day in Rome according to Church tradition)
- The High Priests, Jesus the son of Gamalas, and Ananus the son of Ananus
Throughout Revelation, John uses Old Testament biblical imagery known to his hearers to describe the judgments about to occur in Judea. These are metaphors that often stand for descriptions of historical events that actually occurred. However, they do not always stand for specific figures and events, but are sometimes more general.
I interpret the two witnesses to be neither strictly literal nor symbolic, but metaphorical. That is, the theme of the Two Witnesses extends throughout the entire Bible.
My Solution: The figure of the Two Witnesses is a metaphor for the witness (martyrdom) of Christ and the Church.
The most obvious evidence that the Two Witnesses are not two specific people appears a few chapters prior to this in Revelation 6:9-11. The martyrs who had already been killed cry out for justice and are told they must wait “until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was complete.” These “yet to be killed” are the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11:3-13. This promise is alluded to again in Revelation 11:15-18 when the seventh trumpet sounds and the same angel proclaims, “the time for the dead to be judged came and the time to give the reward to the prophets and saints.” In this context, the Two Witnesses are framed as those who make up total of the number of martyrs killed for the testimony of Jesus before judgment falls on Jerusalem.
The theme of two or more witnesses appears throughout the Bible. It is derived from the Law Concerning Witnesses in Deuteronomy 19:15.
“One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established (emphasis mine).
Of the New Testament writers, John uses the Greek word for “witness” no less than 35 times. The words translated as “bearing witness” and “testimony” are derived from the Greek word for “martyr” (marturia). Jesus is depicted in the Gospel According to John as proclaiming that His witness is valid because the Father also bears witness to His testimony about himself (John 5:31-36; 8:13-18; 10:25; 15:27).
The theme of multiple witnesses appears in another well-known yet controversial passage by the Apostle John.
This is He who came by water and blood – Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one.
If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son (1 John 5:6-13, emphasis mine).
There is not space here to delve into the controversies surrounding 1 John 5:7. It is one of the most significant disputed textual variants. This results in controversies since 1 John 5:7 is often used to defend the Trinity. I am sympathetic to arguments that the Latin Vulgate texts that include the Johannine Comma are more reliable than the Greek texts that omit it. Regardless, it is not necessary to look at that one verse alone. Instead let’s focus on the language that all scholars agree is part of the original, which treats the theme of “bearing witness” and “testimony.”
John begins by saying that Jesus Christ came by “water and blood.” The Holy Spirit is the One “who bears witness because the Spirit is truth.” Then he extends the analogy to the testimony of Christ preached by men. The testimony preached on earth – the Spirit, the water and the blood – is the same as the testimony of heaven. If we on earth believe the testimony of the Son, we have the testimony of God himself in heaven. Following this analogy, the Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 are the testimony of Jesus Christ in heaven and the testimony of the Church on earth.
Elsewhere in the New Testament, the “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1) are a group of “martyrs” of all the ages united as a corporate body by their faith in Christ. Some preterist commentators, such as David Chilton, interpret the Two Witnesses as “the dead bodies of the Old Covenant Witnesses, ‘from righteous Abel to Zechariah’ (Matthew 23:35) [who] lie metaphorically in the street of the Great City” (Paradise Restored 281). I certainly agree with this, but I include among this number Jesus Christ and the New Testament martyrs. According to a Covenantal view, the Church is united with believers of all ages (cf. Hebrews 11).
The Two Witnesses of Revelation 11 is a metaphor for the witness of Christ and the Church – the earthly reflection of the heavenly witness. This solution has the least amount of exegetical problems and also entails several of the specific solutions listed above. All of God’s prophets are witnesses and are members of the Church.
Further symbolism for Christ and the Church is used in the following chapter, Revelation 12:11, where the child and the woman stand for the testimony of Christ and the Church.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.
In Revelation 19:10, we read that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” In Revelation 22:17, we again see two witnesses as “the Spirit and the bride.” These also represent the witness of Christ and the Church.
Revelation 12 unlocks many of the symbols in the surrounding chapters. The preterist interpretation of Revelation 12 must be rigorously correct. Then we can see that much of Revelation is a recapitulation of the theme of the woman and the child at war with the dragon. Revelation 12 is the hinge on which the rest of the book turns. When writing this series I began with Revelation 12 because I consider it to be a straightforward key to the rest of the book.
There is a simple interpretation of the symbolism in Revelation 12 from a preterist perspective. The story tells of the war between the dragon and the woman’s seed. Chapter 12 repeats the story three times from different perspectives, much like the outline of Daniel 7 (which I explain in my interpretation of Revelation 13 and 17). Yet the simplicity of Revelation 12 is preceded by chapter 11, which I consider to be the most difficult chapter of the whole book from any perspective. Although it might seem counter-intuitive to begin a study of the Book of Revelation in the middle and then work outward, I followed a simple rule of interpretation succinctly described by my former pastor, the late great R.C. Sproul.
It is always important to interpret obscure passages by those that are clear. Though we affirm the basic clarity of sacred Scripture, we do not at the same time say that all passages are equally clear. Numerous heresies have developed when people have forced conformity to the obscure passages rather than to the clear passages, distorting the whole message of Scripture. If something is unclear in one part of Scripture, it probably is made clear elsewhere in Scripture. When we have two passages in Scripture that we can interpret in various ways, we want always to interpret the Bible in such a way as to not violate the basic principle of Scripture’s unity and integrity (R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture, Ligonier.org).
Revelation 12, which is more clear, prophesies the war of the dragon versus the seed of the woman. Revelation 11, which is less clear, tells the same story in the context of different symbols. Revelation is a difficult book as shown by the wide amount of disagreement on how it should be interpreted. Although I am convinced the preterist postmillennial view is correct, I do not want to cloud the case for fulfilled prophecy with yet another novel interpretation. My approach when faced with a bewildering labyrinth of twists and turns among the commentators is to use Occam’s Razor. The simplest solution is most likely the right one. When faced with competing solutions to the same problem, select the one with the fewest hermeneutical presumptions and the least amount of exegetical conundrums.
I am a literalist when I can find a biblical passage or a reliable history that uncannily corroborates the fulfilled predictions of Bible prophecy. However, when no such source exists, I use Scripture to interpret Scripture. Then I am an idealist when the same language occurs symbolically in other places in Scripture.
Revelation uses constant parallel structure. The simple rule here is that a biblical text will often interpret itself. Often the answer is nearby. A preceding verse or passage may be interpreted by the next one.
Revelation 4 through 10 is a prophetic prediction warning of impending judgment on the nation of Judea. In the next chapter to be examined, the occasion shifts to a prophecy addressed to all the nations. The last verse of Revelation 10 sets up the context and meaning of Revelation 11.
Revelation 11 Explained
Replica of the Second Temple
The prophecy of Revelation 11 is introduced by the last verse of chapter 10.
Revelation 10:11 – And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings – Here we have the occasion of writing. The angel speaking to John states to whom the prophecy must be addressed. Preterist interpreters are in general agreement that chapters 1-3 are addressed to the seven historical churches of Asia Minor dealing with issues and events that occurred in the first half of the decade from AD 60 up until the time of John’s writing. The next section, chapters 4-10, deals with the ongoing persecution of the Church and the beginning of the Jewish War. John’s audience is the same, but his focus is on Judea, specifically predicting the false Christs, the “wars and rumors of wars … famines and earthquakes” (Matthew 24:6,7) that Jesus predicted would occur in Judea before the destruction of the Temple. The audience here is mainly Christians throughout Asia Minor and the Roman Empire. However, any Jew seeing “all these things” (Matthew 24:2,8) would be without excuse since the Old Testament is rife with prophecies concerning the judgments of God on His people when they forsake His Law-Word.
Now at the midpoint of the book, Revelation shifts to prophesy to “many peoples, nations, tongues and kings,” that is, all the peoples of the known world. This portion is intended for Jews, Christians and pagan Gentiles – all nations – throughout the Roman Empire.
This raises some questions.
How would the nations know of this prophecy?
Would John preach it openly and widely?
Would his book be expediently published in handwritten manuscripts to all nations?
The next verse gives us the answer.
John is to measure the Temple of God. As we shall see, the destruction of the Temple is the prophetic sign to all nations that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords.
The Temple is still standing
Revelation 11:1 – And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.
Rise, and measure the temple of God – Revelation 11:1-2 contains strong evidence that Revelation was written at an early date, prior to AD 70. John is told to measure the Temple, which must have been standing in order for him to do so. If John were writing at the late date of AD 96-98, this passage would have made little sense to his hearers. Regardless of the fact that this command occurs in the context of John’s vision, the immediate audience would have thought of the Temple in the present tense.
In Ezekiel 40-42, the prophet describes how he observes an angel measure the city of Jerusalem and the Temple area. After the measuring is complete, the glory of the Lord returns to the Temple (Ezekiel 43). This is a prophetic picture of the restoration of Jerusalem in the time after the Babylonian captivity, but in type it describes the expansive growth of Christ’s kingdom in power and glory. This we will see is also a general theme of Revelation. An earthly Temple is being razed and a spiritual Temple made of living stones restored.
Measure the temple of God – Taking a measurement with a rod, scale or plumb line is often a symbol of God’s impending judgment. Measurement denotes a prophetic declaration of judgment. There are other Bible passages that bear this out (Daniel 5:27; Matthew 7:2). Even today, we use the figure of Lady Justice holding a balance scale. As in Ezekiel 40-43, it can also mean measurement that results in God’s blessing as we see in the following verse.
And the altar, and them that worship therein – This suggests that the true worshipers of God who have approached the altar – those committed to Jesus Christ – are measured by God. But those who were without, in the Court of the Gentiles, are to be turned over to quick judgment. Although the Temple and the altar were real places of worship, the prophecy here is metaphorical dealing with God’s blessing on His true worshipers and His punishment toward those who reject Him.
Revelation 11:2 – But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles – Most likely, John is referring to the Court of the Gentiles.
In the year 20-19 BC, King Herod began a major renovation, almost a restructuring of the Temple of Jerusalem, the second one that had been built after the exile. In addition to the areas reserved to the members of the people of Israel, in this Temple there was a space in which everyone could enter, Jews and non-Jews, circumcised and uncircumcised, members or not of the chosen people, people educated in the law and people who weren’t (What is the Courtyard of the Gentiles?).
Originally, the Temple was to be the place where the Law-Word of God and His dominion was proclaimed to the world. We see this in the pilgrimages of converts to the faith of the Jews. The most famous example of this was the Queen of Sheba (1 Kings 10:2,10; 2 Chronicles 9:1-9), who came with an abundance of riches to offer to Solomon. She came “to prove him with hard questions,” which Solomon answered to her satisfaction. They exchanged gifts and afterward she returned to her land.
The teachers of the Law assembled here to answer the peoples’ sincere questions. This was the Court of the Gentiles, in Latin the atrium gentium. By the New Testament era, the courtyard of the Gentiles was the place where evangelism of non-Jews took place. It contained “Solomon’s Porch,” which is where the Apostles preached in the years after the miracle of Pentecost and the church at Jerusalem grew mightily (Acts 6:7-15).
This echoes the command to John in the preceding chapter that “Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.” Just as the court of the Gentiles was intended to be a place of light and truth to the nations, it would now become the place where the Gentiles would put the disobedient Jews to the sword because of their rejection of God’s only begotten Son.
The destruction of Jerusalem was the greatest massacre in history. As stated above, this was a prophetic sign, not only to the Jews, but to “many peoples, nations, tongues and kings” that God’s own people had been weighed in the balance and judged.
The historian Josephus Flavius was not only a personal witness to the events, but also a military general for the Jews in the initial stages of the war before being captured by Vespasian and Titus. He then served them as an advisor having become convinced that Vespasian was the “prince” described in Daniel 9. His claim that over 1,100,000 Jews were killed is compiled from his account of each battle of the war. A remaining 97,000 were captured and enslaved. The rest fled to other areas of the Roman Empire. No modern military massacre equals these numbers and this level of suffering, although there have been larger genocides. It was so horrifying that Titus refused to accept a wreath of victory at his own triumph, saying there was no merit in vanquishing a people forsaken by their own God, according to the early third century Roman orator and biographer, Philostratus.
After Titus had taken Jerusalem, and when the country all round was filled with corpses, the neighboring races offered him a crown; but he disclaimed any such honor to himself, saying that it was not himself that had accomplished this exploit, but that he had merely lent his arms to God, who had so manifested his wrath (Philostratus, Life of Apollonius 6.9).
The holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months – Although John is alluding to Ezekiel 40 in these first two verses, he does not have God’s blessing in mind, but rather a cataclysmic judgment. Ezekiel measures the city of Jerusalem and the whole Temple area foreseeing the glory of God coming to rest on His people. On the other hand, John is told to leave out the court for it is to trampled by the Gentiles for 42 months. This was the three-and-a-half year period in which Vespasian and then Titus commanded troops laying siege to the city of Jerusalem and finally destroying the Temple.
This judgment came because the testimony of Jesus was despised and rejected by the unbelieving Jews. They persecuted Christ’s Apostles unto death.
These “forty-two months” during which the nations shall tread the holy city under foot are identical with the “times of the nations” referred to in Luke 21:24: “They shall fall by the edge of the sword and shall be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down by nations until the times of the nations be fulfilled” (Milton Terry, Commentary on the Apocalypse).
The Two Witnesses
Revelation 11:3 – And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.
My two witnesses – There are only two figures specifically called “witnesses” in the Book of Revelation, Christ and the Church.
First, Jesus Christ is called “the Faithful and True Witness” (Revelation 1:5; 3:14).
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Revelation 1:5).
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14).
Second, the martyrs of the first century Church are mentioned several times in Revelation. The word for “witness” in these verses in Greek is martus or “martyr.” The word is used in Revelation to describe the martyrs of the early Church. “Witnesses” are often martyrs, but they are also simply Christians who witness to the death, burial, resurrection and of Christ. A related word with the same root, marturia, is also translated as “record” or “testimony.” Marturia is evidence given judicially or generally.
I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth (Revelation 2:13).
And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held (Revelation 6:9).
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death (Revelation 12:11).
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration (Revelation 17:6).
The witnesses throughout the book of Revelation are Jesus Christ and the witnesses of Jesus – the Church. Antipas of Pergamum is the only individual named as a martyr (Revelation 2:13). If Antipas was a historic person, his example is used as one among a group of martyrs who are commanded to “Be thou faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:20). However, as Milton Terry argues, Antipas more likely is symbolic name, as are Jezebel, the Nicolaitans and the Balaamites (Revelation 2:14-15,20). The name means literally “against all,” as in one who stands “against the world.”
They shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth – 1260 days is three-and-a half-years. This is obviously the same time period as in the previous verse or 42 months (that is, 30-day months). On the surface, this presents a problem for a preterist interpretation as many preterists look for two individual human witnesses who walked the city in sackcloth for three-and-a-half years.
As already stated, the symbols and metaphors throughout Revelation stand for prophecies of historical events that actually occurred, but they are not woodenly literal figures. One fascinating aspect of history is that several of the Church Fathers held that there were no Christians within Jerusalem during the three-and-a-half year Jewish War from the spring of AD 67 to September of AD 70. Being warned about the siege of Jerusalem by Jesus’ prophecy, the Christians in the city knew to flee to the hills of Judea (Matthew 24:15,16; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:21-23).
How then could two witnesses dressed in sackcloth have prophesied for 1260 days if all Christians had fled the city?
One preterist interpretation has the Jewish High Priests Ananus and Jesus as the two witnesses who, according to Josephus, were killed by a radical faction of Jews during the war. However, insisting on a woodenly literal interpretation of the Two Witnesses also creates the necessity of finding literal interpretations of specific details. We read of the two witnesses being killed, lying dead in the streets for three-and-a-half days and then being resurrected and taken up into heaven (Revelation 11:7-12).
One reason I reject this approach is that there are no known historical events that can corroborate this. The witness of Christ against Jerusalem was not delivered by two specific individuals. Rather, Jesus himself witnessed against the unbelieving Jews that “upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth” (Matthew 23:35). The Two Witnesses’ testimony was the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:37-39 ESV).
And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke 19:41-44 ESV).
The Book of Revelation can be understood as the proclamation of the triumph of the Gospel over all God’s enemies as prophesied by Christ himself. The angel communicates Christ’s mandate for John to proclaim this impending victory in the previous chapter.
And he said to me, “You must prophesy again before many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (Revelation 10:11).
This mandate is followed by a short description of the measuring of the temple and the appearance of the Two Witnesses. This leads to the prophecy of the climax of history described in Revelation 11:15 – the sounding of the seventh trumpet.
John is commanded to “prophesy” to the nations about judgment on the unbelieving Jews, the destruction of the Temple and the triumph of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is then recapitulated in more detail throughout Revelation chapters 12-19. The purpose of the destruction of the Temple was to showcase to the nations that the rejection of Christ had brought judgment on His own people. This opened to way for the Gospel to be preached in the whole world.
Therefore, the Two Witnesses are understood not as two individual people, but metaphorically as the witness of Christ and the Church against the unbelieving Jews who killed the prophets and rejected Christ. Their testimony stood against the unbelieving Jews throughout the three-and-a-half year Roman War on the Jews.
Revelation 11:4 – These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.
Verse 4 is a direct allusion to Zechariah 4:2-3.
“I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left” (Zechariah 4:2-3).
Zechariah details the image of a “lampstand” with “seven lamps” in the Temple of God at Jerusalem, supplied with the oil of two olive trees. Just prior to this, Zechariah sees a stone with seven eyes, which are the eyes of God (Zechariah 3:9). In Revelation 1-3, the Apostle John sees seven lampstands, which symbolize the presence of the Holy Spirit in the seven churches of Asia Minor. In both visions, the oil used in lighting the lamps symbolized the Holy Spirit.
In Zechariah 4, the two olive trees, are two witnesses – and we also see “two witnesses” in Revelation 11. Although numerous explanations have been offered as to the identity of the two witnesses, the angel tells Zechariah only that, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:14).
The symbolism of Zechariah repeatedly points to the New Testament revelation of Christ and the Church. There are seven lamps in the Temple at Jerusalem and seven lampstands in the seven churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 1-3). Here they are two candlesticks or lampstands. Simply, the candlesticks represent same figure that is symbolized by the olive trees.
Bible historian Bruce Gore argues that in Zechariah, the two olive trees represent the Governor Zerubbabel and the High Priest Joshua. John then appropriates these figures as representing the Law and the Prophets – the civil ruler and the high priest. These two figures then stand in antithesis to the Beast and the False Prophet in Revelation 13. Nero being the reprobate king and the High Priest the apostate religious ruler.
What follows in Revelation 11:5-8 is a further description of the two witnesses. This passage contains metaphors that compare the two witnesses to Old Testament prophets of judgment. While we can find literal fulfillments of each of these points in the time leading up to the destruction of the Temple, the central idea is that the very judgments that God poured out on the faithless Gentiles who persecuted Israel are now being levied against the unbelieving Jews who persecuted the Church.
Revelation 11:5 – And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.
Fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies – Here we see an image of Elijah contesting with the prophets of Baal, “the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed the enemy” (2 Kings 1:10,12). This is combined with what God revealed to Jeremiah, “Behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire and this people wood and it shall devour them” (Jeremiah 5:14). Compare this also to Psalm 97:3, “A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.”
This image of fire falling from heaven also alludes to the story of the two angels who came to Sodom in the evening and met Lot who was sitting in the gate of the city (Genesis 19:1). The men of Sodom not only rejected God’s two witnesses, but they also sought to abuse them. As the faithful Church escaped the city, God rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. Not only does John compare Jerusalem to Sodom (Revelation 11:8), but the two angels who appeared to Lot can be likened to the Two Witnesses. The image of the Two Witnesses is a typological theme throughout Scripture. God’s messengers are sent to preach repentance. When they are despised and rejected, God judges the disobedient as He rescues the remnant of His people.
Revelation 11:6 – These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
Power to shut heaven – Elijah had the power to stop the rain causing a drought that lasted several years (1 Kings 17:1-7).
Power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues – Moses’ first plague sign was turning he waters of the Nile to blood (Exodus 7:14-25) – the first of a total of ten plagues (Exodus 8-12).
In these two verses, the Two Witnesses are typified by Moses and Elijah, who appeared with Jesus to the Apostles Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration It is striking that this image would be revealed to the Apostle once again. John Boanerges, the “Son of Thunder” (Mark 3:17), is given a word picture of the prophets doling out the wrath of God. Ironically, Jesus rebuked John almost 40 years prior to this for suggesting that fire should be called down on the unbelieving cities of Samaria. Making this comparison, some preterist interpreters have concluded that the Two Witnesses might be Peter and John, the two surviving Apostles who witnessed the transfiguration.
Instead of looking for two individuals who performed these signs, the general meaning here is by analogy. Just as Moses and Aaron called down plagues on the land of Egypt, and the two angels called down fire and brimstone on Sodom, so the Two Witnesses call down plagues on Jerusalem, “which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt” (Revelation 11:8). The destruction of the enemy led to the deliverance of the people of God. The Two Witnesses here condemn the unbelieving Jews in an echo of Jesus’ rebuke.
“You diligently search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which are bearing witness of Me” (John 5:39, emphasis mine).
In short, Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets who testify of Jesus so that the Jews were without excuse.
Revelation 11:7 – And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them.
When they shall have finished their testimony – This is admittedly a problematic interpretation from the point of view I present here. A more convenient preterist literalist view might be that two historical persons would prophecy in Jerusalem throughout the Roman-Jewish War and would be martyred at the very end of the tribulation period. However, the next reference to a “beast” indicates a persecution using symbolism. If we take this “beast” symbolically as a satanic persecution, then it is consistent to take the “Two Witnesses” also symbolically as the witness of the Gospel.
The beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit – The definite article rendered as “that” here refers to the previous character of Revelation 9. The beast is the same figure as the angel that ascends out of the bottomless pit.
And they had a king over them, which is the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in the Hebrew tongue is Abaddon, but in the Greek tongue hath his name Apollyon (Revelation 9:11).
The beast’s name here is synonymous with “death” and “destruction” referred to in the Hebrew Scriptures as Sheol and Abaddon (Job 26:6, 28:22, 31:12; Psalms 88:11;15:11). It is neither the Sea Beast (Rome) nor the Land Beast (Apostate Israel) of Revelation 13:1-18. Just as the Two Witnesses are symbolic of the testimony of Jesus, the beast is symbolic of Satan’s persecution of the Church.
Shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them – This refers to Satan’s general persecution of the Church throughout the whole New Testament period from the time of Jesus’ birth to AD 70. The beast here is Satan who makes war against the saints. We will see this image recapitulated in more detail in the image of the dragon and those who “loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:11). We will see this verse echoed again when the dragon goes to make war with the remnant of the seed of the woman that “have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).
John’s prophecy has the purpose of comforting the Church in the knowledge that this war is cosmic in nature and that physical death cannot be the victor. Although Rome and the unbelieving Jews are the physical manifestation of persecution of the Church, the spiritual enemy is Satan.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12).
The Great City
The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850)
Revelation 11:8 – And the dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
Their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city – The great city where our Lord was crucified is Jerusalem. I will argue below that “the great city” is Jerusalem each time it is mentioned in Revelation.
Yerushaláyim is a Hebrew name meaning “city of God’s peace.” According to a Hebrew Midrash, Yireh, “the abiding place,” was the name of the mountain where Abraham began to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The word shaláyim is also rendered as shalem, shalom or salem, the Hebrew word for “peace.” This is why it is an ironic affront to God that His own prophets would be murdered in the city of peace.
Which martyrs died in Jerusalem?
Jesus did not claim that all martyrs died in Jerusalem. He stated it “cannot be” (Greek: ouk endechetai), which can also be rendered as “not fitting,” “not right,” or “not acceptable,” that a prophet should die apart from Jerusalem. This hyperbolic statement is used to condemn the Pharisees’ rejection of the Son of God.
The same day there case certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk today, and tomorrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem (Luke 13:31-33 emphasis mine).
Jesus condemned the Jewish political order of His day in His “Seven Woes” sermon of Matthew 23. Jesus directed these woes at this particular generation saying that they would be held accountable for the blood of all those who killed the prophets.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers.
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar (Matthew 23:29-35).
On the surface, this statement presents a conundrum for the tenets of biblical law, which Jesus actually espouses a few verses earlier.
The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not (Mathew 23:2-3).
The Law of Moses specifically forbade the death penalty for children of parents who committed murder.
The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin (Deuteronomy 24:16).
This law is reiterated in 2 Kings 14:6; 2 Chronicles 25:4; Jeremiah 31:29,30; Ezekiel 18:20. However, Matthew 23 is not a contradiction of the Law at all. Jesus is here proclaiming here is that the scribes and Pharisees would be responsible for their own sin of killing the prophets, just as the city of Jerusalem had been responsible for the deaths of God’s prophets.
The Book of Acts tells of the martyrdoms of Stephen, whom the religious leaders stoned (Acts 7:54-60) and James the son of Zebedee, who was beheaded (Acts 12:1-2) in the city of Jerusalem.
Josephus wrote about James the brother of Jesus in Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.
Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.
With the exception of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:2-7, 14:6-12; Mark 1:14, 6:17-29; Luke 3:19-20, 7:18-25, 9:9; John 3:24) and Antipas (Revelation 2:12,23), the Christian martyrs mentioned by name in the New Testament and Josephus were killed within the city of Jerusalem.
The great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified – If much of Revelation 11 is the subject of wide disagreement, this one verse ought to be straightforward. John says that the “great city” is “spiritually” called “Sodom and Egypt.” In other words, the name is symbolic. Unless there be any confusion about which city Sodom and Egypt symbolizes, he writes that it is “where also our Lord was crucified.” The “great city” here is Jerusalem.
Why are Sodom and Egypt used as a symbol for Jerusalem here when in other places in Revelation the “great city” is called Babylon?
We are introduced to this pattern in the Old Testament. God uses a pagan nation to judge His own people for the purpose of discipline and redemption. Then when He is about the restore His people, He judges the pagan nation with destruction. We see this in the histories of Lot in Sodom, the Hebrews in Egypt, and the nation of Judah in Babylon. This symbolic pattern is then repeated throughout the Prophets. For example, in Isaiah 1, God speaks directly to His people revealing that all but a “very small remnant” are going to be judged with destruction.
Unless the Lord of hosts
Had left to us a very small remnant,
We would have become like Sodom,
We would have been made like Gomorrah.
Hear the word of the Lord,
You rulers of Sodom;
Give ear to the law of our God,
You people of Gomorrah (Isaiah 1:9,10).
Note that the nation of Judah is called “Sodom and Gomorrah.” There is a warning to God’s people throughout Scripture not to be “like all the nations” (Deuteronomy 17:14; 1 Samuel 8:5; 1 Samuel 8:20; 2 Kings 17:11-15) or else they will suffer the temporal judgments that God has reserved for unbelieving nations who persecute His people.
For their rock is not like our Rock,
Even our enemies themselves being judges.
For their vine is of the vine of Sodom
And of the fields of Gomorrah
Their grapes are grapes of gall,
Their clusters are bitter (Deuteronomy 32:31,32).
“Sodom” is a byword in Scripture for describing not only God’s enemies, but also God’s people who several times became like Sodom, as Jeremiah states in Lamentations when describing the horrors suffered by the Jews when they were conquered and taken captive by Babylon.
The punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people
Is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom,
Which was overthrown in a moment,
With no hand to help her! (Lamentations 4:6).
The image of disobedient Israel as Sodom and Gomorrah becomes helpful in interpreting Revelation from a preterist perspective. Scripture must interpret Scripture. John writes of Jerusalem comparing the “great city” to Sodom and Egypt. This condemnation comes from the fact that Jerusalem has become guilty of shedding the blood of the Two Witnesses who have the testimony of Jesus.
The great city … where also our Lord was crucified – John refers to the “great city” in Revelation eleven times and is likely alluding to Jeremiah 22:8,9.
“And many nations will pass by this city; and everyone will say to his neighbor, ‘Why has the Lord done so to this great city?’ Then they will answer, ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God, and worshiped other gods and served them’” (Jeremiah 22:8,9, emphasis mine).
Jeremiah here is prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC. Likewise, John is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in his time. In each case when “the great city” or “that great city” is mentioned in Revelation, we can interpret this as Jerusalem. The “great city” is symbolically “Sodom and Egypt,” but in other places symbolically “Babylon.”
And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication (Revelation 14:8).
And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath (Revelation 16:19).
And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth (Revelation 17:18).
Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! for in one hour is thy judgment come…. And saying, Alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! … And cried when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, What city is like unto this great city! And they cast dust on their heads, and cried, weeping and wailing, saying, Alas, alas that great city, wherein were made rich all that had ships in the sea by reason of her costliness! for in one hour is she made desolate…. And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all (Revelation 18:10,16,18,19,21).
And finally, the redeemed “great city” coming down from heaven is “the holy Jerusalem” – or what is also called “the city of God” and “the New Jerusalem.”
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name (Revelation 3:12).
And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God Revelation 21:10, emphasis throughout mine).
Almost universally, historicists and futurists interpret “Babylon” in Revelation to be either the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages or a revived Roman Empire in the end-times. Yet if John is being consistent with his own symbolism and that of the prophetic books of Scripture, then Babylon is Jerusalem. This underscores the importance of understanding the consistent symbolism of the Prophets before interpreting the Book of Revelation.
Where also our Lord was crucified – It might seem redundant to say that the Two Witnesses are Christ and the Church when this verse states they lie dead in the great city “where also our Lord was crucified.” Note that the Two Witnesses are not two specific individuals, but this figure serves as a metaphor for the testimony of Jesus through a great host of witnesses. Jesus’ crucifixion in this context is a reminder of His rebuke to the Jews that “it is not possible for a prophet to perish out of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).
You must prophesy again before many nations
Revelation 10:11 serves as an introduction to the angel’s discourse in Revelation 11.
And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.
In 11:1-2, we hear the commandment to measure the holy place of the true Temple – the people of God – for preservation from judgment. In 11:3-8, we hear a description of the two witnesses who prophesy the destruction of the Great City. In the next passage, 11:9-14, the focus shifts to the nations. John previously was told that he would now prophesy is to the nations. Revelation 11:9-14 now forms a transition that points us to the main emphasis of this passage – the prophecy to the nations.
Revelation 11:9 – And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves.
The people and kindreds and tongues and nations – The persecution of the Church was a prophetic testimony to the whole world that the people of God could not be defeated even by death. During the persecution of the Church in the Roman Empire in this time period, which overlapped with the Roman-Jewish War, there was a demonic rage against Christ and an insane rejoicing over the deaths of the Christians by the Jews and Gentiles. The persecution began in Jerusalem, but by now had spread throughout the Empire.
Many preterists interpret “the people and kindreds and tongues and nations” as being the Jewish kingdoms and rulers in the areas surrounding Judea, Idumea, Samaria, Galilee, Perea, Decapolis and the surrounding regions with large populations of Jews. This is a possible interpretation. However, the ETHNE in the New Testament usually refers to the Gentile nations. This all-inclusive phrase, “the people and kindreds and tongues and nations” would certainly also include the non-believing nations populated mainly by Jews who surrounded Jerusalem. By AD 64, the witness of the Christ and the Church was opposed by the Jews and the Gentile nations as a matter of policy. However, the context is directly related to the Gentile “nations” of Revelation 10:11 and the “nations” who would trample the outer courts of the Temple in Revelation 11:2. Further, we will soon read in 11:18, “And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come.” Since this is an allusion to Psalm 2 (see below), we should interpret these “nations” consistently as the Gentile nations who were gathered to destroy the city of Jerusalem.
Shall see their dead bodies – According to Josephus, during the three-and-a-half years of the Roman campaign, many of the Jews who remained in the city of Jerusalem continued to believe that the defeat of their enemies was imminent. Keeping with the pattern of the surrounding passages of Revelation 11:1-8 and 12:1-17, the non-believing Jews were the enemies of Christ and the Church. The Christian Church had fled from Jerusalem and the absence of their living testimony seemed to the Jews to be another evidence of their victory. The testimony of the crucified Christ was to them as a dead carcass.
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness…. For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who perish; but unto us who are saved, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:3,18).
Three days and an half – This period can be understood symbolically in one of two ways. First, as just a period of time, a half of a seven, which symbolizes a time of unholy persecution. Second, corresponding to a “year for a day” and synonymous with the other three-and-a half year symbols in the Book of Revelation and Daniel – especially the 42 months and the 1260 days earlier in Revelation 11:2-3. There are some problems with this second solution of having 1260 days and three-and-a-half days stand for the same period of 42 months. However, the second interpretation is not exclusive of the first. John uses “three-and-a-half” as a symbol to stand for a time of tribulation, while it was also a literal time period of 42 months.
It is easy to be misled here into a woodenly literal rendering of the image of the bodies of two martyrs lying dead in the streets for three-and-a-half days. A couple of points indicates that the dead bodies of the Two Witnesses are not human bodies, but symbolically the witness of Christ and the Church that had been despised and desecrated by the Jews.
The first point has already been stated. The resilient Church survived not only the persecution of Nero, but also the destruction of the capital city of Jerusalem where the New Testament Church was born. At first, the presumed death of the Church is a target of scorn to the Jews and the Gentile nations, but soon becomes an object of wonder and fear.
The second point is that during the three-and-a-half year war, the Church had already fled the city. This was the remaining length of the war that the Romans conducted against the Jews until the destruction of the Temple.
The fact that Christians had already fled the city may seem like a contradiction if we understand the text as a strict historical chronology and the Two Witnesses as two literal people. One one hand, the two witnesses prophesied against the Jews in the city of Jerusalem during the war. In further contradiction, they also lay dead within the city.
How shall these dead bodies prophesy?
If we hold that the “two witnesses” stand for the testimony of Jesus and the “dead bodies” signify the Jerusalem’s rejection of the prophetic witness, then the three-and-a-half year Jewish War is the time period referred to here. In fact, the Jews persecuted and killed God’s prophets until the time when they saw Roman armies surrounding the city. At that very point in history, the remaining Christians in Jerusalem fled to hiding places in the hills of Judea. Those who had rejected the Gospel were now sealed within the city. Thinking that God had vindicated them by ridding themselves of the troublesome followers of the Way, they deceived themselves into thinking they were safe, only to suffer a horrific 1260-day-long demise. Thus the language portraying prophetic truth lying dead in the streets is an allusion to Isaiah 59.
Justice is turned back,
And righteousness stands afar off;
For truth is fallen in the street,
And equity cannot enter Justice (Isaiah 59:14 NKJV, emphasis mine).
As in Isaiah, John personifies Truth as having fallen in the streets (see also: Isaiah 26:19; Ezekiel 37:1-10).
Revelation 11:10 – And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
They that dwell upon the earth – The preterist hermeneutic gives two choices on how to interpret the “earth” here. The first choice is the “land” of the Jews – Galilee and Judea. The second choice is the Gentile nations that were part of the Roman Empire where the Gospel had already been preached. Preterists make a big deal about the word “land,” or GE in Greek, meaning the “holy land” – and this is true in most cases in Revelation. Bad interpretations of Revelation assume that GE must always meant the planet earth and not specific judgments on Judea.
On the other hand, it is possible that the judgment prophecies in this context are against all the persecutors of God’s people, that the “land” applies here not only to Judea – but also to other regions of the world where the Gospel had been preached. However, the next part of this verse gives an indication that the reference is toward the unbelieving enemies of the Gospel dwelling in the vicinity of Judea.
They that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them … because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth – The rejoicing over the dead bodies is a cruel and macabre image. The sense here is that the preaching of the Truth of the Word of God was a torment to those who rejected the Gospel because it exposed the curse of sin in unbelievers. If we interpret this in the historical context of the Christians escaping the city before the trap was sprung on those within, the reference is toward the Jews dwelling in the “land” of Judea.
In fact, St. Augustine likened Jesus death on the cross to the devil’s mousetrap.
The cross of the Lord was the devil’s mousetrap; the bait by which he was caught was the Lord’s death (Augustine, Sermon 263, “On the Ascension”).
In a similar way, the destruction of Jerusalem was also the devil’s mousetrap. Nero, the Beast of Revelation 13, wished to rid Judea of any messianic pretenders, so he waged a total war on the Jews with the aim of moving his throne to Jerusalem and reigning as the king of the world. In doing so, he lost control of his own kingdom and died by his own sword. The object of Nero’s wrath, the Christians, had by then escaped the city that killed the prophets. The entrapped Jews then slid into a slow and horrifying demise in the military siege led by Vespasian and Titus. Thus the Beasts of the Land and the Sea doing the bidding of Satan (Revelation 13) were caught with the bait of the blood of the Lamb.
John elsewhere draws a connection between the destruction of the Temple and the crucifixion of Jesus.
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken (John 2:19-22).
As in Revelation 11, here is a comparison between the death of Christ and the destruction of the Temple. Ironically, the failure of the Jews to accept the death and resurrection of Jesus is what led to their own deaths and the obliteration of the earthly Temple for all time. In contrast, the believing Jews who were martyrs for their faith were raised to new life and became part of the heavenly Temple made with living stones.
Revelation 11:11 – And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them.
After three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them – We have only to survey the historical events from AD 64 to 68, to see that the Church really did suffer the death of its leadership. After this point, we hear no more about the Apostles, with the exception of John who is said to have continued on to survive past the death of Domitian in AD 96. For all intents and purposes, truth lay dead in the streets. If we interpret the sign of the Two Witnesses as meaning the “testimony of the crucified Christ,” then Jesus’ prophecy of the Temple’s destruction rose up to give a final word of judgment against the unbelieving Jews after the three-and-a-half year war.
They stood upon their feet – To “stand” as a witness is a biblical idiom meaning to stand to give eyewitness testimony in a judicial proceeding. In Scripture, God’s prophets are called to stand in His presence when receiving the Word of the Lord.
And He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak to you.” (Ezekiel 2:1).
God’s messengers are also to stand upright in the public assembly in the Temple when delivering the Word as it was given to them.
“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word (Jeremiah 26:2).
“Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).
Here the Two Witnesses give their final testimony just before the city of Jerusalem is judged.
Great fear fell upon them which saw them – The Jews still in the city saw that Jesus’ testimony against Jerusalem was about to be fulfilled and were rightly terrified.
Revelation 11:12 – And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.
Here is a thought parallelism to the previous verse.
Come up hither – The Two Witnesses are resurrected and their enemies see them, but this verse adds that they ascended up to heaven in a cloud. The cloud represents the presence of the glorious holiness of God denoting that Christ stood with them as a testimony against their enemies’ unbelief.
Their enemies beheld them – The central idea in 11:11-12 is that the enemies of the Gospel “see” the vindication of the Christian witness. They see that Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of the Temple is about to take place. John presents this as a parallelism to the previous verse to doubly emphasize the terror that now struck the men of Jerusalem.
Revelation 11:13 – And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell, and in the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand: and the remnant were affrighted, and gave glory to the God of heaven.
There was a great earthquake – As with the figure of the Two Witnesses, we have two choices here. We can either view the proceeding images as literal or symbolic. There is historical evidence to support something like a shaking of the city. We can look to a literal shaking as the Roman battering rams and catapults breached the Third Wall on the northern boundary of the city. Recent archaeological evidence has confirmed Josephus’ account of the breach (Israeli Archeologists Discover Titus Breached Jerusalem Walls).
On the other hand, Milton Terry insists that the earthquake and its effects are symbolic figures that “point to a great political upheaval, a signal revolution in human affairs.” Regardless, there is a great similarity between the cataclysmic events of the war and the symbolic language of the prophecy. Often the Book of Revelation depicts the physical world as reflecting the monumental state of the spiritual universe. The important point here is the spiritual revolution. The earthquake not only denotes the physical leveling of the city and the Temple, but also the removal of the old order, the burning away of the beggarly elements of false worship that focus on earthly forms and deny that Jesus is God come in the flesh. Woodenly literalist interpretations from a preterist perspective can make the same error of focusing too much on historical fulfillments of the signs in Revelation rather than the revelation that Jesus Christ is the presently reigning King of all earthly kingdoms.
The tenth part of the city fell – A general rule of numbers in biblical language is that round numbers are hyperbolic, while more specific numbers are literal. The “tenth part” is to be taken symbolically, like the “fourth part” in Revelation 6:8 and “third part” in 8:7,8.
In the earthquake were slain of men seven thousand – Most likely, seven thousand is chosen ]in keeping with the thematic numbering system in the rest of the book. Those who take this number literally, look for evidence in Wars of the Jews 4.4.5, in which Josephus describes an earthquake that took place the night the Idumeans broke into Jerusalem, the day before the High Priests Ananus and Jesus were killed:
[F]or there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake… anyone would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.
That same night the Idumeans slaughtered those who had prevented them from coming in.
The zealots also joined in the shouts raised by the Idumeans; and the storm itself rendered the cry more terrible; nor did the Idumeans spare anybody; for as they are naturally a most barbarous and bloody nation, and had been distressed by the tempest, they made use of their weapons against those that had shut the gates against them… Now there was at present neither any place for flight, nor any hope of preservation; but as they were driven one upon another in heaps, so were they slain… And now the outer temple was all of it overflowed with blood; and that day, as it came on, they saw eight thousand five hundred dead bodies there (Wars 4.5.1).
Note the similarity in the numbers 8500 and 7000. Did 7000 die in the earthquake, and another 1500 die by the swords of the Idumeans? Regardless, John’s prediction of 7000 deaths is very close to the 8500 deaths mentioned by Josephus. Furthermore, this earthquake and the deaths of Ananus and Jesus were less than 24 hours apart, certainly qualifying as taking place “in the same hour.” So goes the literalist argument.
Although Josephus’ account of an “earthquake” and “eight thousand five hundred dead bodies” is compelling and seems to fit a literal fulfillment of events surrounding the deaths of the two High Priests, I do not think this is an acceptable interpretation from the preterist view. First, the Christians had already fled the city of Jerusalem. According to second century historical sources later preserved by Eusebius of Caesarea, the Flight to Pella occurred either before or near the beginning of the Roman-Jewish War. Second, Ananus and Jesus were Jewish High Priests. Although they took a stand against the sins of the Jews during the war, there is no indication that they preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Third, there is no indication in Josephus or any historical source that Ananus and Jesus were raised from the dead and ascended to heaven in view of all present.
Rather, this verse describing the fall of the city is just that. It is a vivid reiteration of the soon-to-be-fulfilled prophecy of Jesus that the city of Jerusalem would be breached by surrounding armies and a great many inhabitants killed (Luke 21:20-24).
Milton Terry explains that this is an example of apocalyptic language.
This remarkable book is the consummation and crown of all the apocalyptical prophecies. Its author has made a most discriminating use of figures, names and symbols. His imagery belongs to Jewish modes of thought and is appropriated mainly from the Hebrew Scriptures…. [T]he prophecies of this book are an apocalypse of the fall of Judaism and the rise and triumph of Christianity. The old covenant had “become aged and was nigh unto vanishing away” (Hebrews 8:13), but its removal involved a shaking, not only of the earth, but also of the heaven (Hebrews 12:26). That transition from the old to the new was an event of unspeakable moment and is depicted as a world-convulsing revolution. The imagery and style of the Old Testament apocalyptists are most appropriately brought into use; sun, moon and stars and the heaven itself, are pictured as collapsing and the crisis of the ages is signaled by voices and thunders and lightnings and earthquake. To insist on a literal interpretation of such imagery is to bring prophecy itself into contempt and ridicule (The Apocalypse of John, “Scope and Plan of the Apocalypse”).
Thus 7000 is a symbolic number, an image of death so great that the rest of the city becomes gripped with overwhelming fear.
Revelation 11:14 – The second woe is past; and, behold, the third woe cometh quickly.
As Revelation often does between John’s visions, the perspective shifts again from the earth to the throne room of heaven. The transition between the second and third woes comes quickly. The fulfillment of the prophecy of the Two Witnesses against the city of Jerusalem would come to pass quickly at the end of the three-and-a-half year period. The events leading up to the third woe are then recapitulated in the succeeding chapters of Revelation 12-19. The third woe comes quickly when “Babylon the Great has fallen” (Revelation 14:8; 18:2).
The Climax of History
This next section (Revelation 11:15-19) is a heavenly interlude that completes the transition between the two major sections of the book. Revelation chapters 18 and 19 will later recapitulate in much more detail what is expressed in these few verses.
Revelation 11:15 – And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever – The central message of the Book of Revelation comes at the very center of the book. The great climax does not come at the end, but in the middle, because the climax of history came in the middle – the inauguration of Messiah’s kingdom.
In imitation of the Book of Revelation, Georg Handel got it right when he put the “Hallelujah Chorus” at the very center of his aria, Messiah. It is not the finale, but the central theme. Handel’s Messiah combines the name of Christ, “King of kings and Lord of Lords” (Revelation 19:16) when the climax of the Lord’s victory is reiterated, to complete the lyrics taken from the center. It is fitting that the “Hallelujah Chorus” is the most performed musical piece in history. This is the prophecy to the nations that is referred to in Revelation 10:11 and 11:9. Despite the rage of the nations, Christ is King of kings.
Revelation 11:16 – And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God,
And the four and twenty elders – As in Revelation 4:4, these 24 elders are “two twelves” and symbolize the unified believers in heaven made up of both the Old and New Testament Church – or the Church Triumphant.
Revelation 11:17 – Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.
O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come – The mystery of God, which is the revelation of Jesus Christ as Lord over all Creation, is spoken of as a past, present and future reality.
Thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned – The kingdom is not just “at hand,” but has already appeared. Note that this idea of the presently reigning King is presented as a parallelism joined by a coordinating conjunction (usually rendered as “that” or “because”) to emphasize the final victory and greatness of Christ’s kingdom.
Revelation 11:18 – And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.
This is last description of the state of affairs on the earth before the second half of Revelation. Our interpretation here depends a lot on how we identify several words. The different figures are all jumbled up in one long compound sentence and our job is to untangle them.
Who are the nations?
Who are the dead?
Who are them which destroy the earth?
And what is the earth?
And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come – Again here, we have two choices. Just as the “land” or “earth” (GE) in Revelation can refer to either the land of the Israel or the entire earth, the “nations” (ETHNE) can mean either just the Gentile nations or all the ethnic nations of the world including the Jewish nation. The people of Israel are often called one of the “nations” throughout Scripture, although the word in Hebrew, MISHPACHA, usually refers to the unbelieving Gentile nations.
The reason why I hold this applies to “all the nations” including the non-believing Jews here is the strong allusion to Psalm 2.
Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
And the rulers take counsel together,
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
“Let us break Their bonds in pieces
And cast away Their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3).
As previously noted, the book of Revelation contains the most allusions to the Old Testament that any other New Testament book. However, no Old Testament verse is ever directly quoted. It is important to understand that most Old Testament quotations and allusions throughout the New Testament are meant to be allusions to entire passages, not quotes of isolated verses. When we see such an allusion to the Hebrew Scriptures. We need read the entire passage. Then we should determine the central idea and come back to the New Testament to apply the same general meaning.
In the entire passage of Psalm 2:1-12, God is angry with the nations because they have rejected and made war with Christ. Likewise, the “nations” in in this verse are the Roman and Judean powers who persecute Christ and the Church.
And the time of the dead, that they should be judged – This is not the Final Judgment of the righteous and wicked among the living and the dead at the General Resurrection as many futurists have supposed. This refers in context to the judgment of God over the nations who persecuted God’s prophets and saints in the here and now. In fact, a clearer rendering of this sentence is to combine this with the parallel idea that comes immediately afterward.
The time of the dead (that is, the martyrs) has come /
that they should be judged (that is, rewarded and their persecutors destroyed).
The dead – These are the Two Witnesses whose bodies were slain in that great city where their Lord was crucified (11:7,8). The time has for the judgment to reward these martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel, who “had been slain for the word of God” (6:9-11) and to avenge those who persecuted them. Of course, “the dead” are all the witnesses of Christ who were faithful unto death.
That thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great – Here is the second half of the parallelism. That “the dead … should be judged” includes God’s reward to all Christ’s witnesses.
And that shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth – God’s will also destroy all who have persecuted His servants. “Them” here refers to the enemies of God. The “earth” is the land of Judea. Preterists might want to conclude that the invading Romans are the ones who “destroy the land.” A case could be made that God’s enemies included the Roman Caesar Nero who persecuted the Church. Now God is about to turn His wrath toward the Sea Beast who we will encounter in Revelation 13 and 17. However, the primary targets are the “inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah” who destroyed the land by neglecting the care of the Lord’s vineyard. John is likely alluding here to Isaiah 5:1-7 and by extension Matthew 21:33-41.
Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
My Well-beloved has a vineyard
On a very fruitful hill.
He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst,
And also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth wild grapes.
“And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
What more could have been done to My vineyard
That I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,
Did it bring forth wild grapes?
And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard:
I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned;
And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
I will lay it waste;
It shall not be pruned or dug,
But there shall come up briers and thorns.
I will also command the clouds
That they rain no rain on it.”
For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.
He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help (Isaiah 5:1-7).
“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. [^37 ^]Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time” (Matthew 21:33-41).
The last verse of this chapter is a fitting and ominous transisition into the vision of the “great sign” in Revelation 12:1
Revelation 11:19 – And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
And the temple of God was opened in heaven – In the beginning of this chapter, God’s Temple is symbolically measured off for preservation in the midst of judgment (Revelation 11:1,2). Now the eternally preserved heavenly Temple, which is made of living stones, is finally revealed at the end of the passage, “the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, not man” (Hebrews 8:2; compare Hebrews 9:8-13 and 10:9).
There was seen in his temple the ark of his testament – It is significant that although the ark did not appear in verse 1, it is pictured here in heaven. In Moses day, the ark was the housing place for the Shekinah glory of God. When the armies of Israel marched to in the wilderness on their way to possess the land, the glory cloud of the Lord would lead them by day and it became a pillar of fire by night. Further, to come into the presence of the ark with unatoned sin or ceremonial uncleanness of any kind, meant death. This image is fitting for what comes next.
There were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail – We should note here that these prodigious signs are seen in heaven, not on earth. Even so, there is a remarkable similarity to the words of Josephus who described the disturbances of nature that foreshadowed the doom of the city of Jerusalem.
… there broke out a prodigious storm in the night, with the utmost violence, and very strong winds, with the largest showers of rain, with continued lightnings, terrible thunderings, and amazing concussions and bellowings of the earth, that was in an earthquake.
The language is so similar here that some have audaciously suggested that either John or Josephus were familiar with the other’s writing. However, the solution to this uncanny similarity is simple. Both John and Josephus were first century Jews who thought like Jews. Josephus like all historians of the ancient world interpreted natural disasters as omens. Furthermore, a Jew would use language from the Hebrew Scriptures to emphasize the portentous nature of great events to point to greater sorrows to come.
… anyone would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.
As the first half of Revelation climaxes, the angel describes impending destruction in the land. We are also reminded that the source of these great judgments are from a still-open heaven (compare with Revelation 4:1). As we read on, we may expect greater judgments to come as Christ’s victorious kingdom becomes more manifest.
In Revelation 12, we will see the “hinge” of the prophecy in which the contents of the first half of John’s visions – especially Revelation 11 – are revealed in the “great sign” of the woman, the child, and the war between the dragon and the seed of the woman.
America’s Pro-life Movement Strangely Silent
As of 10 January 2011:
Red = States with legal Constitutional protection for all people from conception to natural death
Blue = Mexico City offers abortion on request to any woman up to twelve weeks of pregnancy
I was confused to hear a report in numerous media headlines about Mexico’s Supreme Court. An abortion law in a Mexican state that criminalized abortion was struck down. I heard that the “Mexican Roe v. Wade” would now lead the way to liberalize abortion in this nation of 128 million people. This came in the wake of the recently enacted Texas Heartbeat Act that seeks to restrict abortion. I also heard in the same hour that a powerful earthquake shook southwest Mexico.
I expected to hear an outcry from the U.S. pro-life movement condemning this ruling, calling for a national Human Life Amendment in Mexico, and audaciously declaring that the earthquake was a sign of God’s judgment on a nation that has allowed the killing of preborn children.
But most pro-life groups were silent.
Simply, America’s pro-life movement has long agreed with the decriminalization of abortion.
Meanwhile, the Texas abortion law is being touted as a victory by many of America’s pro-life organizations. However, it too explicitly prohibits penalties for women committing child murder. It also decriminalizes abortion for surgeons. The only civil penalty afforded by the Texas law is that it gives citizens the right to sue a doctor committing an abortion after a heartbeat has been detected, which is at about six to eight weeks. Thus the Texas abortion law has an almost identical effect as the Mexico Supreme Court ruling.
Paradoxically, it is the position of almost every American “pro-life” organization (with the exception of a few stalwarts) that neither women nor doctors should be criminally punished for committing abortion. The most austere pro-life bills restricting abortion propose fines for the doctors and the possible suspension of medical licenses if state boards of medicine will act.
Let’s first be clear about a bit of history on Mexico’s abortion laws.
Ten years ago in Mexico, eighteen states had already passed measures enshrining into law full Personhood protections for preborn children. The amendments and laws were passed in reaction to the legalization of abortion in Mexico City in 2009. The state measures received the support of 88 percent of the members of state legislatures including members of every major political party.
Then in September 2011, the Mexican Supreme Court rejected two actions to overturn the laws enacted by the states of Baja California and San Luis Potosí for unconstitutionality. The Court recognized “the power of the state legislature” to enact laws on the subject. However, their decision does not criminalize or decriminalize abortion in Mexico.
Mexico City, where approximately 7.87% of the national population lives, offers abortion on request to any woman up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy. This position is considered liberal in Latin America and only Cuba, Argentina and Uruguay have similar laws. However, even with the Personhood Amendments in most of Mexico’s states, every state has various exceptions for abortion including rape and incest. Further, although the true numbers are not known, the illegal Mexican abortion rate per capita is thought to be at least as high as in the United States. This is typical in other nations throughout Latin America.
Although the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that criminalizing abortion is illegal, it did not strike down a single abortion law entirely. It did not reverse the numerous Personhood measures. It did not make abortion legal across Mexico. However, it set up a precedent to challenge the vast majority of Mexican states that mandate jail time or other criminal penalties for women who have the procedure. It should be noted that the most severe criminal penalties for abortion in Latin America usually amount to three years in prison. The courts do not try women for murder. It should also be noted that Roman Catholic countries do not enforce the death penalty for murder.
Leaders of the American pro-life movement have repeatedly said they want no penalties for women who have abortions. This is why not a word is heard about this Mexican ruling in their numerous blogs, news releases and fundraising appeals.
Not a word.
Yes, hundreds of millions of pro-life Christians throughout the world are upset by this ruling, but so far the vast majority of pro-life organizations have been silent. To their credit, Mexico’s Catholic bishops decried the decision calling it “murderous.”
The Texas Heartbeat Act
Texas Heartbeat Act restricts abortion at six weeks without any exception for rape or incest. This Act might save some lives compared to the abortion policy that now stands in Texas. That is a good thing. We ought to rejoice greatly when any life is saved.
It also clearly states that the Act “does not create or recognize a right to abortion before a fetal heartbeat is detected.” It is good that the law does not create a condition under which a human being can be killed with impunity. Although his statement in itself is a double-edged sword because it does not define the Personhood of the preborn child from biological beginnings.
The law specifically exempts women from civil penalties if they commit abortion.
Sec.A171.206.(b) This subchapter may not be construed to: (1) authorize the initiation of a cause of action against or the prosecution of a woman on whom an abortion is performed or induced or attempted to be performed or induced in violation of this subchapter;
Thus a law being heralded as a great victory essentially takes the same position as the Mexico Supreme Court. Pro-life organizations are face with a conundrum if they support both the Mexican state Personhood laws criminalizing abortion and the Texas Heartbeat Act. Further, this is not simply a position of political expediency. Numerous American pro-life organizations have gone on record saying they officially oppose the prosecution of women who have abortions, just as the Mexican Supreme Court ruled.
Winning with the Personhood Paradigm
The first principle is the recognition of the Personhood of all human beings. We are created in the image of God with the right to life and all the legal protections afforded by law to a natural Person.
I decided to move to Melbourne, Florida in 1993 after interviewing Keith Tucci several times. At that time, Pastor Keith was the director of Operation Rescue National. He had decided to stay in town and plant a church after conducting a 12-week discipleship and training course for Christian evangelism and action on the sanctity of life cause. It’s interesting how much things have not changed in almost 20 years. If I told you the interview was in 2021, you might think that much the same is true today.
Keith Tucci: Since Operation Rescue started, over 500 abortuaries in this country have shut down; there are less practicing abortionists than there have been in a decade; there are less medical colleges that teach abortion. We are getting hammered in the political arena, but that is not a problem with Operation Rescue. That just shows the fallacy of the failed political strategies of pro-life and conservative groups. It has very little to do with us. I think that we’ve helped to hold it together a little bit longer. So I think these people are looking at the wrong symptoms. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the politicians let abortion be legal, but there wasn’t a community in the country who would let an abortionist practice?
FR: So what you’re looking at is making it impossible for an abortuary to function in this country?
Keith Tucci: We’ve got to make it intolerable and only then will we make it illegal. In the history of cultural change in this nation, it was usually the grass-roots and the church who dictated change. Abolition of slavery is the most obvious example. When they dictated change by their actions and by their willingness to spend themselves, then and only then did it become illegal. I’m a firm believer that things don’t happen from the top down; they happen because the church will make a decision or won’t make a decision. We made a very key foundational error 20 years ago in the pro-life movement: we began to try to convince the world – and either falsely assumed the church was in agreement or even made an even bigger assumption in that we didn’t have to convince the church – but it was a key tactical error that has caused the church a lot of grief.
FR: Convince them that abortion is wrong?
Keith Tucci: That abortion is MURDER and that it is not optional to be in resistance to it.
This thought encapsulates everything the Personhood Paradigm has been from the beginning and is now. We are continuing to get hammered in the political arena, but we are winning on the streets. Make no mistake, the key is not politics. The foundational error is that we’ve failed to convince the Church -- and that includes much of the pro-life movement, especially the political pro-life movement -- which is the secular world, not the Church.
The first key is the Church
The way we approach the Church to convince them is paramount. A friend of mine here in Orlando, John Barros, is frequently asked to speak at events and Christian conferences and even on secular radio programs. When asked to criticize churches for their lack of action, he refuses to do so. For the many years I have known John, he has seen more churches join street evangelism at abortuaries than anyone I know. Or as John would say, “My job is to show up and see God show off.” He has seen God in His sovereignty activate these churches.
The second key is the Personhood Paradigm
Personhood first seeks to get the Church and the culture to recognize and defend the Personhood of all human beings. Many pro-lifers will say they agree with this. Most of our state legislators say they believe this.
But many probably would not like this statement of Keith Tucci:
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the politicians let abortion be legal, but there wasn’t a community in the country who would let an abortionist practice?
That sounds wrong to me as a self-declared theonomist, as one who holds God’s Law as the supreme standard for morality and legislation. But in reality, that is what needs to happen first before the legal Personhood of all human beings is recognized and defended. We convince individuals, churches, and local communities at the grassroots level. Politics at most is fourth. Even though I am involved in the political process, I have no faith that we can accomplish our goals by demanding politicians do our job for us. Politicians aren’t going to do what the Church does not have the will to do.
Then in order to enact legislation, we need to appeal to the moral law of God, not the false hope of compromised legislative victories. That is, don’t worry if a law protecting all human life won’t pass constitutional muster. Just do it because it’s right and see what happens. This approach seems to speak to many churches who are worn out by politics and yet know better than withdraw into silence. There are indeed eternal truths that will lead to moral victories and will always outweigh short term bargains with wickedness.
The number of the beast is 666 by William Blake
Nero (Reign: AD 54 to 68)
The following is a chapter from a soon to be published book, In the Days of These Kings: The Prophecy of Daniel in Preterist Perspective.
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus was the grand-nephew of Claudius Caesar. Nero’s father, Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus, died when he was young. He became his great uncle’s heir due to the incestuous marriage of Claudius to his mother, Agrippina, the emperor’s niece and fourth wife.
The consensus of ancient historians is that Agrippina murdered Claudius by poison contained in a plate of mushrooms. Agrippina had manipulated Claudius to name her son Nero as his heir. When Claudius admitted that had been a mistake, she had her husband poisoned before Claudius’ son, Britannicus, could come of age.
Upon the death of Claudius, Nero became the youngest emperor of Rome thus far at the age of 17. In the beginning of his reign, Nero relied on the guidance of his mother, but soon tired of her domineering and manipulative personality. Nero listened to his advisers, Seneca and Burrus, who were competent, but over time they gradually lost their influence.
Once severed from her influence over her son, Agrippina began pushing for Britannicus, Nero’s younger step-brother and uncle, to be reinstated as the true heir to Claudius. Nero responded by having the 14-year-old boy poisoned. Nero then set about cutting off the influence of his experienced advisers by falsely accusing them of crimes, such as treason, conspiracy and embezzlement, from which they were eventually acquitted by the Senate.
Coin showing Nero and Agrippina as co-regents. Although the Romans did not have woman rulers, it was generally accepted that Agrippina was in power with her teenage son, guiding him at the beginning of his reign.
In the beginning of his reign, Nero was popular with the lower classes. He reformed the laws of Rome and initiated many building projects. Under his advisors’ influence, Nero ruled with moderation, reduced taxes, gave slaves the right to file complaints against their owners and pardoned prisoners arrested for sedition. He often appeared at the games, drove a chariot in races, sang and performed readings of his poetry publicly – often for many hours before a captive audience. Suetonius portrays Nero as neglecting his governing duties for months at a time in order to play in the Olympic Games in which he once emerged as the victor even when he failed to finish a chariot race. Suetonius’ account of Nero’s conceits is often comical.
He ordered those contests which normally took place only at long intervals to be held during his visit, even if it meant repeating them; and broke tradition at Olympia by introducing a musical competition into the athletic games…. No one was allowed to leave the theatre during his recitals, however pressing the reason, and the gates were kept barred. We read of women in the audience giving birth, and of men being so bored with the music and the applause that they furtively dropped down from the wall at the rear, or shammed dead and were carried away for burial (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, “Nero” 23, Robert Graves translation).
Nero did not come to power with an impressive military resume like the five Caesars before him. Instead he wanted to be known as an artist, actor, poet and athlete. His behavior was always eccentric and erratic, but he became increasingly paranoid, perverse and psychotic as he grew into adulthood.
It is difficult to limit the amount of information showing that Nero is the fulfillment of both Daniel’s prophecy and the corresponding passages in John’s Revelation. An entire book would be necessary just to contain the amount of reference material showing how closely Nero fits the description of the “little horn” of Daniel 9 and the Beast from Sea, the man with the number of 666, described in Revelation 13 and 17. I will give a historical outline and some references here.
Who was Poppaea Sabina?
A little known footnote of history is that Nero married an older woman named Poppaea Sabina who is thought to have been a Jewish proselyte. Tacitus called her mother, Poppaea Sabina the Elder, “the loveliest woman of her day.” Poppaea evidently shared her mother’s great beauty. Tacitus also painted her as being scheming and ambitious. She had been married to Rufrius Crispinus when she was 14-years-old. Ancient historians claim she married her second husband, the later Emperor Otho, who was a best friend of Nero, in order to get close to the throne. She then seduced Nero with her beauty.
In AD 58, Poppaea became Nero’s mistress while he was married to his first wife, Octavia. Nero’s mother, Agrippina, opposed his marriage to Poppaea, seeing her to be an ambitious woman. Sometime later, Nero began to plot to murder his own mother. Tacitus states that Poppaea induced Nero to murder Agrippina in AD 59 so that she could marry him.
The murder was contrived at first to look like an accident in which his mother was crossing a bay along the coast on barge. The boat was set to sink so that she would drown. When Agrippina swam to shore, Nero became frustrated. He had his mother killed by framing her in a botched plot to assassinate him with the aid of a freed slave named Agermus. Nero then claimed his mother committed suicide as a result of the conspiracy being foiled.
For want of a better plan, Nero ordered one of his men to drop a dagger surreptitiously beside Agermus, whom he arrested at once on a charge of attempted murder. After this he arranged for Agrippina to be killed, and made it seem as if she had sent Agermus to assassinate him, but committed suicide on hearing that the plot had miscarried. Other more gruesome details are supplied by reliable authorities: it appears that Nero rushed off to examine Agrippina’s corpse, handling her legs and arms critically and, between drinks, discussing their good and bad points. Though encouraged by the congratulations which poured in from the Army, the Senate and the people, he was never thereafter able to free his conscience from the guilt of this crime. He often admitted that the Furies were pursuing him with whips and burning torches; and set Persian mages at work to conjure up the ghost and make her stop haunting him (Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, “Nero” 34).
Seneca wrote a dishonest defense to the Senate explaining the reasons for Agrippina’s death and exonerating Nero of the murder. Poppaea then grew jealous of everyone around Nero, including his wife Octavia and his advisers, Seneca and Burrus, and pushed for their removal. Nero did not formally marry Poppaea until his divorce from his first wife Octavia in AD 62. Octavia had not given Nero an heir and the two became estranged. After Nero divorced Octavia citing her infertility, he accused her of adultery and had her killed.
Coins bearing the images of Nero and Poppaea appeared after their marriage in AD 62.
According to Josephus, Poppaea had a more noble character than that of the scheming woman described by Tacitus and Suetonius. Josephus twice uses a Greek word to describe her, theosebeis, which is translated as, “God-fearer,” God-worshipper,” or “religious woman.” This probably means she was either a Jew, a proselyte to Judaism or at least was a sympathetic advocate to the Jews among her friends. The Jews had been expelled from Rome by the decree of Claudius in AD 49, but Nero allowed them to return when he became emperor. Poppaea became the Jews’ strongest advocate in Rome. Josephus describes two cases in which Poppaea influenced Nero in his dealings with the Jews.
The first is an event that took place around AD 59, shortly after Festus became the procurator of Judea. King Herod Agrippa II had built an elevated dining room in his palace in Jerusalem from which he could observe the courts of the Temple. The priests considered this a sacrilege and built a wall facing the west to block Agrippa’s view.
Map of Jerusalem showing the proximity of Herod Agrippa II’s palace to the Temple. Click to enlarge.
At these doings both king Agrippa, and principally Festus the procurator, were much displeased; and Festus ordered them to pull the wall down again: but the Jews petitioned him to give them leave to send an embassage about this matter to Nero; for they said they could not endure to live if any part of the temple should be demolished; and when Festus had given them leave so to do, they sent ten of their principal men to Nero, as also Ismael the high priest, and Helcias, the keeper of the sacred treasure. And when Nero had heard what they had to say, he not only forgave them what they had already done, but also gave them leave to let the wall they had built stand. This was granted them in order to gratify Poppaea, Nero’s wife, who was a religious woman, and had requested these favors of Nero, and who gave order to the ten ambassadors to go their way home; but retained Helcias and Ismael as hostages with herself. As soon as the king heard this news, he gave the high priesthood to Joseph, who was called Cabi, the son of Simon, formerly high priest (Josephus, Antiquities XX.8.11).
The fact that Nero kept the high priest and the temple treasurer as “hostages” has been interpreted by Judaic scholar, Louis Feldman, to mean he kept them as expert teachers of the Jewish religion to please Poppaea.
The second event took place around AD 63, when Josephus actually met Poppaea in the flesh. Josephus had come to Rome to plead for the release of some Jewish priests in Jerusalem who had been sent as prisoners by the procurator Felix several years before to appear before Nero in Rome on trumped up charges. Through the friendship of a Jewish comedian actor named Aliturus, a favorite of Nero, Josephus was introduced to Poppaea.
I was introduced to Poppaea, Caesar’s wife, and I took the earliest opportunity to ask her to free the priests. Having received large gifts from Poppaea in addition to this favor, I returned to my own country (Josephus, The Life of Flavius Josephus, III.2).
What were the circumstances of Apostle Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome?
It was into this royal household of sexual and political intrigue that the Apostle Paul appeared as a captive at Rome. Paul had been the center of a controversy over his preaching of the Gospel with the Jews in Jerusalem. He had been forewarned by the prophet Agabus that he would be bound by the Jews and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles (Acts 21:10,11). The Jews used a false charge of sedition in order to hatch a plot to have Paul murdered as he was being delivered to a council of chief priests and elders. However, Paul knew by revelation that he was to stand before Nero Caesar himself as a witness for the Gospel.
But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome” (Acts 23:11).
As a Roman citizen accused of sedition, he had the right to appeal to Caesar, although the extradition to Rome and the wait for trial would take several years. He appealed first to the Roman procurator Felix at Caesarea, who seemed genuinely interested in hearing more about “the Way” Paul was preaching. Felix found no fault in Paul, but held him for two years until he was replaced by Festus. When Festus heard Paul preach, he wanted to curry favor with the Jews by turning him back over to the council. But Paul maintained his innocence and insisted that his case be heard before Caesar.
Here Paul played his trump card. The law of appeal to Caesar was sacred to the Romans. Under Julian law any magistrate, or any other with Roman authority, who put to death or tortured a Roman citizen who had made an appeal to Caesar, could be condemned themselves with a death sentence. This appeal was generally used as a last defense. Most citizens would not want to appear before the emperor of Rome. But Paul had to go to Rome according to the word of prophecy. This also relieved Festus of his obligation to the Jews, which is what he wanted.
By chance, King Herod Agrippa II of Judea came to visit Festus to pay his respects. Since Agrippa was a Jew, Festus began to tell him about Paul and his testimony of Jesus who was seen alive after being crucified. Festus arranged to have Paul make his case before Agrippa and his sister Berenice. The next day, Agrippa gave Paul the right to speak freely. Agrippa came under conviction and declared that Paul was innocent.
Paul before Festus, Agrippa and Berenice. Trial of the Apostle Paul, 1875, Nikolai K. Bodarevsky.
And Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar” (Acts 26:32).
Nero was the “Caesar” referred to when Apostle Paul made his appeal.
“I stand at Caesar’s judgment seat, where I ought to be judged … I appeal to Caesar” (Acts 24:10,11).
Throughout the narrative, Nero is also called “Augustus,” which was the family name and later throne name of all the Caesars.
What was “Caesar’s household”?
Nero was also the emperor referred to when Paul wrote the closing greetings to his Epistle to the Church at Philippi.
All the saints greet you, but especially those who are of Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:2).
Paul wrote these words from Rome near the end of his first imprisonment around AD 62. This closing greeting, together the account of Acts 28 and the lengthier closing greeting in Romans 16 gives us more information on the progress of the Gospel in the city of Rome.
“Caesar’s household” was all the slaves and freemen alike, living in and near the palace of the emperor on Palatine Hill at Rome. This was a vast number of people, easily hundreds if not thousands, since Nero was constantly engaged in building projects in and around the palace. Many of the slaves of city of Rome were Jews and many of them would have been in employed on the palace grounds.
We are not told how many disciples Paul made while he was in Rome. Luke wrote only that as a prisoner Paul was under what would be considered “house arrest” and free to preach the Gospel to everyone he encountered. In fact, Acts 28 notes that they found believers when they first arrived in Italy.
And landing at Syracuse, we stayed three days. From there we circled round and reached Rhegium. And after one day the south wind blew; and the next day we came to Puteoli, where we found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came to meet us as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage. Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him (Acts 28:12-16).
Paul’s first journey to Rome
The narrative then concerns some Jews living in Rome who came to hear Paul preach the Gospel.
Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”
So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. (Acts 28:21-24).
Paul then preached words from Isaiah 6:9,10 condemning those who would not believe and resolving that the Gospel was destined to be preached instead to the Gentiles.
Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him (Acts 28:30,31).
In Philippians, which was written during Paul’s first imprisonment at Rome, Paul corroborates that he was able to preach the Gospel in Nero’s palace.
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (Philippians 1:12-14).
The eminent Bible commentator, J.B. Lightfoot, did an intriguing dissertation as part of his commentary on Philippians on what was meant by “Caesar’s household” (Philippians 4:2).
Some of Lightfoot’s suggestions and conjectures on this subject are exceedingly interesting. He reviews the names of the persons to whom Paul sends greeting in Romans 16 and compares them with the names of persons who lived at that time, and which have been found in monumental inscriptions on the columbaria or places of sepulture exhumed on the Appian Way. Many of the occupants of those columbaria were freedmen or slaves of the emperors, and were contemporaries of Paul. The result of Lightfoot’s review of the names is that he claims to have established a fair presumption that among the salutations in Romans some members at least of the imperial household are included.
In the household of the emperor there were necessarily many persons of high rank. Perhaps we may find a hint that the gospel had been embraced by some in the higher grades of society, in such strange facts as the execution of Titus Flavius Clemens, a man of consular rank and cousin to the emperor, and also in the fact that Flavia Domitilla, the wife of Flavius Clemens, was banished by Domitian, notwithstanding her near relationship to him, for she was the emperor’s niece. Her daughter Portia also shared in the same punishment of exile. The charges brought against all three were atheism and inclination to Jewish customs: surely such charges were sufficiently vague and even self-contradictory. The opinion has been suggested that probably these three persons in the inner circle of the emperor’s kinsmen were Christians (“Caesar’s Household,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).
In fact, the “Clement” that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3, “my fellow laborer” in Christ, is thought by some to be Clement of Rome. Clement was the writer of an Epistle to the Corinthians in about AD 96 that first recorded the martyrdom of Peter and Paul. J.B. Lightfoot wrote an additional dissertation in his commentary discussing evidence for this possibility. Some have suggested that Clement was a slave or a freedman of a member of the royal family, Titus Flavius Clemens, whom the Emperor Domitian had executed for having sympathy for “Jewish customs.” During this time, the common charge against both Jews and Christians was “atheism” since according to the Roman worldview they denied the Roman gods.
Why does the account of Acts 28 stop at this point?
After stating that Paul had free reign to preach the Gospel in Caesar’s household, the account ends abruptly. This poses a problem for liberals who would late date both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles to the latter part of the first century or even later. The internal evidence suggests that Acts was written by Luke as a traveling companion of Paul. The abrupt ending implies that Paul was released at this point, which would have been around AD 62.
Prior to the 20th century, New Testament chronologies traditionally put Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome after AD 62. However, there was an archaeological find in 1905 of an inscription that dates Gallio’s proconsulship of Achaia (Acts 18:12). This has had the effect of shifting the traditional dates a couple of years or so earlier. Paul’s trial before Gallio places the first imprisonment under Nero about two years earlier, from around AD 60 to 62 AD. These dates also better fit the events of the Book of Acts, which ends abruptly around that time. Luke does not mention the martyrdom of James, the brother of the Lord and a bishop in the church in Jerusalem, which Josephus places during the Jewish unrest caused by the death of Festus in AD 62. Luke does not mention the fire of Rome in AD 64 or the resulting persecution of Christians under Nero later that year.
Since Acts ends abruptly with the account of Paul’s preaching in Caesar’s household, there is no account of what Paul preached to Nero or the reason why Paul was released. Suetonius, who is otherwise critical of Nero’s despotism, records that in the first part of his reign he often pardoned prisoners and was generally affable toward working class Roman citizens, which certainly describes Paul. AD 62 is also the year that Nero officially wed Poppaea. It is possible that if Poppaea had heard Paul preach, that she would have advocated for him to be released.
Paul presented himself as a rabbi and a Pharisee when the need arose in order to connect with Jews and proselytes familiar with Judaism. To the Gentiles, he presented himself as a Roman citizen and free man. He certainly did so in addressing the pagan Roman procurator Festus and the Herodian rulers, Agrippa and Berenice.
Governor Festus retorted, “You are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” (Acts 26:24), while King Agrippa countered, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (v. 28).
One can imagine Paul giving a similar Gospel presentation of the risen Christ and the hope of the resurrection before Nero, Poppaea and the Roman court, no doubt with a similar reaction. We do not know for certain what Paul preached to Nero, but we can imagine he began his defense as he did before.
My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee (Acts 26:4,5).
Paul might have explained that he was a Roman citizen who had always obeyed the civil magistrate’s law according to the message in Romans 13:1-6. We might even imagine that Paul used his “athlete” analogy to describe the contest of faith.
Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9:24,25).
Paul most likely would have preached that he was “free” as a Roman citizen and “free” from the curse of the Law as an ambassador of Christ. He probably concluded as he had done before Festus and Agrippa.
“I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains” (Acts 26:29).
In the final reckoning, Paul committed no crime according to Roman law. It must have seemed odd to Nero to have a “prisoner” so highly esteemed by his own household who appeared in the imperial court not to defend himself, but to defend the Gospel of a messianic sect of Jews.
It may have simply been that Nero the self-described “artist and poet” — champion of the Greek Olympics and patron of the Jewish actor Aliturus — found Paul’s testimony eloquent and entertaining.
Since the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment took place during the years when Poppaea was known for advocating for the Jews on at least two recorded occasions, it is also possible that Nero may have been swayed by Poppaea in this case.
J.B. Lightfoot doubted that Poppaea Sabina would have advocated for Paul, but would have been more inclined to take the side of the synagogue Jews of Rome in favor of punishment. Lightfoot makes the argument that since the Jews of Rome were opposed to Paul, Poppaea would have shared their revulsion to the Gospel.
More plausible is the idea that Poppaea, instigated by the Jews, might have prejudiced the emperor against an offender whom they hated with a bitter hatred. Doubtless she might have done so. But, if she had interfered at all, why should she have been satisfied with delaying his trial or increasing his restraints, when she might have procured his condemnation and death? The hand reeking with the noblest blood of Rome would hardly refuse at her bidding to strike down a poor foreigner, who was almost unknown and would certainly be unavenged. From whatever cause, whether from ignorance or caprice or indifference or disdain, her influence, we may safely conclude, was not exerted to the injury of the Apostle (J.B. Lightfoot, Epistle to the Philippians, “Order of the Epistles of the Captivity”).
On the other hand, the account of Acts records that when Paul preached the Gospel to the synagogue Jews of Rome they were not universally opposed to his message. Acts 28 simply states that “some were persuaded … and some disbelieved.”
Further, Paul was treated well as a Roman citizen who had appealed to Caesar. He lived “in his own rented house and received all who came to him.” The Epistle to the Romans was probably composed from Corinth about a year prior to the time of Paul’s arrest in Jerusalem. Romans 16 shows an intimate familiarity with the Christians who were living in Rome, and as Lightfoot and others have argued, some may have been members of the royal family, slaves and freedmen. If Paul was among Caesar’s household for two whole years, there is a high degree of likelihood that Poppaea knew of him. With her interest in Judaism, how could she not?
Since Poppaea was a “God-fearer,” as Josephus called her, then it is likely she would have been positively affected by Paul’s teaching. God-fearers were of great importance to the growth of the early Church. These were Gentiles who shared religious ideas with Jews to some degree. However, they were not converts to Judaism, but a separate community interested in Jewish religious teaching and practices. Conversion to Judaism would require adherence to all of the Law of Moses, which included numerous prohibitions – such as dietary laws, circumcision, Sabbath observances, participation in the festivals at Jerusalem at least two times a year – which would have been difficult for most people of the Greco-Roman world. Paul’s message of the Gospel of grace was attractive to God-fearers because it did not necessitate an adherence to dietary and ceremonial laws of the Jews in order to be justified before God. So even if Poppaea was not converted to Christ, she may have seen Paul as a wise rabbi who was spreading the Good News throughout the world.
Since there is no description of this meeting in the Book of Acts, it is likely that Luke was not present or he finished his account shortly before Paul was set free.
It is only evident that Paul had a trial in Rome and that he stood before Nero face to face. In 2 Timothy 4:16, he makes mention of his “first answer,” that is, his “first apology” – which was not an apology in the sense of an “excuse” for his conduct – rather the Greek word apologia means a plea or a defense of the faith. This “first answer” may have been his defense in AD 62. However, I think it is more likely that he was referring to another meeting with Nero after his second imprisonment in Rome. We can safely assume that Paul had at least two face to face meetings with Nero.
In any case, the timing of Paul’s release in AD 62 was providential, since about 18 months later the Great Fire of Rome occurred – an event which altered the course of history.
What was Nero’s Golden House?
On July 19th, AD 64, a fire raged throughout the city of Rome for six full days consuming the greater part of the city. The popular image of Nero “fiddling while Rome burned” is probably without basis. When the fire broke out, Nero was at his summer villa on the coast of Italy at Antium about 35 miles from Rome. Nero immediately returned and began relief measures. However, Nero’s popularity had waned by this time and a rumor started that he stood on his rooftop playing his lyre and singing about the destruction of Troy as he watched the city burn.
The Great Fire of Rome lasted six days and consumed the better part of the city.
By the sixth day enormous demolitions had confronted the raging flames with bare ground and open sky, and the fire was finally stamped out.… This new conflagration caused additional ill-feeling because it started on Tigellinus’ estate in the Aemilian district. For people believed that Nero was ambitious to found a new city to be called after himself. Of Rome’s fourteen districts only four remained intact. Three were leveled to the ground. The other seven were reduced to a few scorched and mangled ruins (Tacitus, Annals XV, 40).
Many people by this time saw Nero as a homicidal maniac who had his own mother killed five years earlier. Some believed he had ordered the fire started, especially after he began to use the land cleared by the fire to build his “Golden House,” or Domus Aurea, and the surrounding pleasure gardens in the months following the catastrophe. While the common people were free to enjoy the public gardens at the center of Nero’s Golden House, the extravagance of the palace caused consternation.
3D Map of the Domus Aurea. Credit: National Geographic.
The Domus Aurea was designed as a place of entertainment. It was a pleasure palace of 300 rooms without any sleeping quarters, while Nero’s own palace remained on the Quirinal Hill. The Domus Aurea covered parts of the slopes of three of the seven hills of Rome, with a man-made lake at the center, the estimated size of the Domus Aurea was over 300 acres, while others estimate its size to have been under 100 acres. Suetonius describes the complex as a countryside in the city. The outside of the palace was covered in gold leaf and the inside rooms were adorned with marble, precious stones and cut gems, with mosaics and many frescoes by the Roman Empire’s greatest artists. The artwork of the Golden House inspired later Renaissance artists when it was accidently rediscovered in the 15th century under centuries of landfill.
A giant statue of Nero (artist’s conception) greeted visitors to the Golden House.
At the center of the public gardens, Nero also commissioned a colossal 95-foot high bronze statue of himself, the Colossus Neronis, almost as high as the Statue of Liberty. This statue represented Nero as the sun god. The face of the statue was modified after Nero’s death during Vespasian’s reign to make it truly a statue of the god Sol. The later Roman Emperor Hadrian moved it, with the help of the architect Decrianus and 24 elephants, to a position next to the Flavian Amphitheater. This building may have later taken the name Colosseum after the statue of Nero, and not, as some believe, because of the sheer size of the arena. The construction of the Golden House is believed to have taken several years, and parts were still being finished at the time of Nero’s death.
When the edifice was finished in this style and he dedicated it, he deigned to say nothing more in the way of approval than that he was at last beginning to be housed like a human being (Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, “Nero” 31).
When Nero began to build the Golden House, he had additional land cleared by setting smaller fires. This caused many to suspect Nero had wanted the land for himself all along. As the public consternation grew, so did the rumors that Nero started the fire. Nero looked for a scapegoat to deflect his guilt and settled on the Christians. This began the first Roman persecution of the Church that went on for three-and-a-half years. To take John’s “42 months” (Revelation 13:5) exactly literally, we can date the persecution as beginning in December, AD 64 and continuing to Nero’s death on June 9th, 68.
Nero also needed a way to finance his Golden House while simultaneously deflecting the accusations of arson away from himself. Perhaps coinciding with the timing of his plan to frame the Christians as the cause of the fire, Nero began to devalue the silver coins in this year. The Roman “tribunician year” traditionally began on December 10th, which nearly coincided with Nero’s birthday on December 15th. Metallurgists have determined that Nero began to debase the value of silver coins by adding a significant amount of copper beginning in AD 64. The silver taken from these debased coins was used to finance the building of the Golden House.
Suetonius, who was severely critical of Nero, as one given to the most murderous tendencies and all sorts of unnatural lusts, lists the punishment of the Christians among several of Nero’s more admirable accomplishments.
Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief (Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, “Nero” 16).
Tacitus shows more sympathy in describing the horrific tortures the Christians suffered and gives details of how the depraved emperor lit his gardens at night with the burning corpses of Christians tarred with pitch.
But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.
Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed (Tacitus Annals XV. 44, bold emphasis mine).
Christians were “doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car.” ~ Tacitus
In the summer of AD 65, about a year after the Great Fire, Poppaea was pregnant with what might have become Nero’s only heir. She began to scream at Nero over his spending too much time at the chariot races. Nero kicked her and she began to hemorrhage, or some accounts stated that he repeatedly jumped on her stomach until she was dead. The fact that Poppaea’s body was embalmed and not cremated according to Roman custom is often used as evidence that she had embraced Judaism or some foreign religion. Shortly afterward, Nero had her son by her former husband Rufrius put to death. After Poppaea’s death, Nero descended into complete madness. He engaged in every type of sexual perversion imaginable including having a young male freedman castrated, dressing him as Poppaea and pretending that she remained alive.
Either it was during the time when the Gospel was being preached in Caesar’s household, or a few years after, that Nero became convinced of a prophecy about a king who would rule the whole world from the east – some said from the city of Jerusalem. It is unclear where he first heard this prophecy. It may have come from his own soothsayers and astrologers, Poppaea’s knowledge of Judaism, one of Paul’s converts in Nero’s household, or the preaching of the Apostle Paul himself.
Some preterist writers mention that Nero killed his pregnant wife Poppaea and make note that Nero was the Roman emperor during Paul’s stay in Rome from AD 60 to 62. However, no one has advanced the thesis that Nero may have become knowledgeable of the Hebrew Scriptures through either Poppaea or Paul. Evidently, Nero twisted the prophecies of Scripture and deceived himself into thinking that he was the promised Messiah prophesied by Daniel, the king of the world who would rule from Jerusalem.
According to Josephus, as soon as Nero took the throne in AD 54, many false Messiahs entered Jerusalem. Great natural disasters began to take place, famines, pestilence and earthquakes. This set the stage, according to Matthew 24, for a rebellion against Roman rule and the invasion of Judea by Roman forces in AD 66.
According to Suetonius, Nero believed that a prophecy from the East foretold of his coming as a world ruler. This was confirmed by his astrologers, but it is uncertain what is being referred to. Suetonius gives the following information saying that the Jerusalem prophecy came from “astrologers.” However, we know that the Romans were aware of the messianic prophecies of the Bible.
Nero’s astrologers had told him that he would one day be removed from public office, and were given the famous reply:
“A simple craft will keep a man from want.”
This referred doubtless to his lyre-playing which, although it might be only a pastime for an emperor, would have to support him if he were reduced to earning a livelihood. Some astrologers forecast that, if forced to leave Rome, he would find another throne in the East; one or two even particularized that of Jerusalem (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, “Nero” 40).
In recording that Nero had thoughts to move his throne from Rome to Jerusalem, Suetonius reveals that this was a motivation for Nero’s war on Judea.
An ancient superstition was current in the East, that out of Judea would come the rulers of the world. This prediction, as it later proved, referred to two Roman Emperors, Vespasian and his son Titus; but the rebellious Jews, who read it as referring to themselves, murdered their Procurator, routed the Governor-general of Syria when he came down to restore order, and captured an Eagle. To crush this uprising, the Romans needed a strong army under an energetic commander, who could be trusted not to his plenary powers. The choice fell on Vespasian. He had given signal proof of energy and nothing, it seemed, need be feared from a man of such modest antecedents. Two legions, with eight cavalry divisions and ten supernumerary battalions, were therefore dispatched to join the forces already in Judea; and Vespasian took his elder son, Titus, to serve on his staff (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, “Vespasian” 4).
Tacitus also relates the prophecy of messianic expectation. It is likely that Tacitus learned this from conferring with Josephus. Both were in Rome at the time they wrote their histories.
The majority [of the Jews] firmly believed that their ancient priestly writings contained the prophecy that this was the very time when the East should grow strong and that men starting from Judea should possess the world. This mysterious prophecy had in reality pointed to Vespasian and Titus, but the common people, as is the way of human ambition, interpreted these great destinies in their own favour, and could not be turned to the truth even by adversity (Tacitus, Histories, V.13).
This begs the question, which “ancient priestly writings” were Suetonius and Tacitus referring to? In all likelihood, it was the prophecy of Daniel 2:44.
And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
It is possible that Nero knew the Daniel prophecy from his wife, Poppaea, or had even heard of the Mount Olivet Discourse through the Apostle Paul’s teaching. Nero had already declared himself to be a god. Now he wanted to move the seat of the capital from Rome to Jerusalem. But after the events that took place from AD 64 to 66, Nero became an enemy of both Christians and Jews.
Nero’s reign occurred during a time frame when messianic fervor was at a fever pitch among the Jews. Like most Romans, Nero was probably unable to discern one messianic Jewish sect from another. The blame for the Great Fire of Rome was laid at the feet of Christians, but even Tacitus writing a generation later notes that Christianity was a “superstition” that originated in Judea. Nero likely saw the rebellion of messianic Jews at Jerusalem as part of the same superstition. After Nero killed Poppaea in AD 65, combined with his resulting denial and bitterness over the mishap, the rebellion in Judea in AD 66 must have led him to think that the prophecies of an “eastern king” were a threat to his sovereignty – although he hoped that this applied to himself.
Gessius Florus was the Roman procurator of Judea from 64 until 66. Ironically, he was appointed by the Emperor Nero due to Poppaea’s friendship with his wife. He was noted for his public greed and injustice to the Jews, and is blamed by Josephus as being the primary cause of the Great Jewish Revolt of AD 66. Gessius Florus and the Roman general Cestius Gallus failed to put down an uprising that started as a tax revolt. In a short time, this turned into a major war. Nero then sent one of the greatest generals in the Roman Empire, Vespasian, to attack Judea in AD 67.
What is the evidence that 666 equals the number of Nero?
Much has been written by preterists that “Neron Caesar ” (Nron Qsr, נרון קסר) adds up to 666 when spelled in Hebrew letters. In ancient cultures, numerals were expressed by certain letters of the alphabet. In fact, our modern numerals are derived from Arabic letters. Since each letter in an ancient language had a numerical value, a person’s name could be added up to equal a certain number. Apparently, counting the number of the “Beast” Nero was a popular past-time even among pagans. Suetonius wrote that a piece of graffiti often scrawled on the walls of the empire had the following saying.
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.
The letters of Nero’s name in Greek when converted into numerals, had the sum value of 1005; and so had the letters of “murdered his own mother.” This shows that it was a well-known practice to use numerical “code” to speak of this dictator.
That Nero was nicknamed the “Beast ” is attested to in several ancient sources. There are other instances of cryptograms that were used to refer to the insane emperor, who had killed his mother. The Sibylline Oracles had done this as well calling Nero a “terrible snake” and citing that Nero’s name had “fifty as an initial.”
One who has fifty as an initial will be commander, a terrible snake, breathing out grievous war, who one day will lay hands on his own family and slay them, and throw every-thing into confusion, athlete, charioteer, murderer, one who dares ten thousand things. He will also cut the mountain between two seas and defile it with gore. But even when he disappears he will be destructive. Then he will return declaring himself equal to God. But he will prove that he is not. Three princes after him will perish at each others’ hands.
The Sibylline Oracles, which are Greek language pseudo-prophecies written after the fact, may have drawn on the idea that the name of Nero equaled the number of the Beast. In any case, the Apostle John was not the only writer to use cryptogram as the name of Nero. Criticizing a mad emperor in writing was a dangerous business. So cryptic references were necessary, although some were more obvious than others.
Left: There is a textual variant in some early copies of Revelation that has the reader count the number of the Beast as “616” – “Caesar Nero” – and not the Aramaic “666” – “Caesar Neron.” Numerals were indicated by a line drawn over the Greek letters.
In support of this hypothesis, there is also a textual variant in some early copies of Revelation that has the reader count the number of the Beast as “616” – “Caesar Nero” – and not the Aramaic “666” – “Caesar Neron.” The difference is in the Latin versus the Aramaic spelling of Nero’s name. Dropping the last “N” subtracted the number 50 from the total. This variant has been known from the mid-second century and was mentioned by the Church Father Irenaeus in his writings.
Another attempt to make Nero’s name equal the variant “616” is the Liber genealogus, a chronology written in Latin by an unknown North African Donatist Christian in the fifth century. It uses the Latin spelling, not the Hebrew. It also advocates a Nero Redivivus futurist theory, not a preterist interpretation. Literally, “Nero Revived,” this was a popular fable among Jews and Christians that Nero would rise from the dead and appear once again as an Antichrist world ruler who would touch off events that would lead to a messianic kingdom.
Citing a portion of Revelation 13:18, paragraphs 614-620 of the version that was written in AD 438 states that the letters of Nero’s name are to be used in calculating the number of the Beast (Francis X. Gumerlock, Westminster Seminary Journal 68 (2006):347-360, “Nero Antichrist: Patristic Evidence of the Use of Nero’s Name in Calculating the Number of the Beast”).
When was Paul’s second imprisonment under Nero?
Church tradition has Paul coming a second time to Rome along with Peter at some point after AD 64. Either they were arrested during Nero’s persecution from AD 64 to 68 or they had already been in Rome preaching when the persecution of Christians broke out after the Great Fire in AD 64. Since the Book of Acts ends abruptly a few years before the events of AD 64, we have to use the later Epistles of Paul and the writings of the Church Fathers to piece together a chronology of what may have happened in the five years between AD 62 and 67. The following synopsis by William Killen presents the traditional view of the Church Fathers on Paul’s activities after his first imprisonment in Rome.
It is probable that Paul, after his release, accomplished his intention of visiting the Spanish Peninsula…. In all likelihood, he now once more visited Jerusalem, travelling by Corinth, Philippi, and Troas, where he left for the use of Carpus the case with the books and parchments which he mentions in his Second Epistle to Timothy (4:13). Passing on then to Colossae, he may have visited Antioch in Pisidia and other cities of Asia Minor, the scenes of his early ministrations; and reached Jerusalem by way of Antioch in Syria. He perhaps returned from Palestine to Rome by sea, leaving Trophimus sick at Miletum in Crete (2 Timothy 4:20). The journey did not probably occupy much time; and, on his return to Italy, he seems to have been immediately incarcerated. His condition was now very different from what it had been during his former confinement; for he was deserted by his friends, and treated as a malefactor.
When he wrote to Timothy he had already been brought before the judgment-seat, and had narrowly escaped martyrdom. “At my first answer,” says he, “no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:16,17). The prospect, however, still continued gloomy; and he had no hope of ultimate escape. In the anticipation of his condemnation, he wrote those words so full of Christian faith and heroism, “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight – I have finished my course – I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me in that day, and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8) (William Dool Killen, The Ancient Church, “Paul’s Second Imprisonment, and Martyrdom; Peter, his Epistles, his Martyrdom, and the Roman Church”).
Traditionally, June 29th, AD 67 is the date of the martyrdom of Peter and Paul at Rome. The account of the deaths of the Apostles at Rome is early and well-attested. Clement of Rome, who wrote his Epistle to the Corinthians, probably written around AD 96, gave the earliest witness – possibly an eyewitness account since Clement was an early bishop in the church at Rome.
But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours, and when he had finally suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience. To these men who spent their lives in the practice of holiness, there is to be added a great multitude of the elect, who, having through envy endured many indignities and tortures, furnished us with a most excellent example (1 Clement 5,6, bold emphasis mine).
A short apologetic treatise by the Church Father Lactantius, “Of the Manner in Which the Persecutors Died,” was written shortly before the Council of Nicea in the early fourth century. It mentions that Nero was in fact called a “beast” and attempts to refute the then popular “Nero Redivivus” theory.
His apostles were at that time eleven in number, to whom were added Matthias, in the room of the traitor Judas, and afterwards Paul. Then were they dispersed throughout all the earth to preach the Gospel, as the Lord their Master had commanded them; and during twenty-five years, and until the beginning of the reign of the Emperor Nero, they occupied themselves in laying the foundations of the Church in every province and city.
Since Nero came to power on October 13, AD 54, “twenty-five years” is exactly right if we assume that Jesus’ ascension was in AD 30 and the New Year was counted in the fall in most Roman provinces, usually in September. October AD 54 would have been the beginning of the 25th year since Christ’s ascension.
And while Nero reigned, the Apostle Peter came to Rome, and, through the power of God committed unto him, wrought certain miracles, and, by turning many to the true religion, built up a faithful and steadfast temple unto the Lord. When Nero heard of those things, and observed that not only in Rome, but in every other place, a great multitude revolted daily from the worship of idols, and, condemning their old ways, went over to the new religion, he, an execrable and pernicious tyrant, sprung forward to raze the heavenly temple and destroy the true faith. He it was who first persecuted the servants of God; he crucified Peter, and slew Paul: nor did he escape with impunity; for God looked on the affliction of His people; and therefore the tyrant, bereaved of authority, and precipitated from the height of empire, suddenly disappeared, and even the burial-place of that noxious wild beast was nowhere to be seen. This has led some persons of extravagant imagination to suppose that, having been conveyed to a distant region, he is still reserved alive; and to him they apply the Sibylline verses concerning
“The fugitive, who slew his own mother, being to come from the uttermost boundaries of the earth;”
as if he who was the first should also be the last persecutor, and thus prove the forerunner of Antichrist! But we ought not to believe those who, affirming that the two prophets Enoch and Elias have been translated into some remote place that they might attend our Lord when He shall come to judgment, also fancy that Nero is to appear hereafter as the forerunner of the devil, when he shall come to lay waste the earth and overthrow mankind (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book IV, bold emphasis mine).
Was the persecution of Christians under Nero localized or empire-wide?
While there is little to go on, many modern Church historians assume that the Neronian persecution was localized to Rome. Therefore, preterists have to make the case to explain why John could have been arrested in Ephesus and exiled to Patmos. However, there is more ancient contemporary testimony for the Neronian persecution than for the persecution under Domitian. Tacitus, Clement of Rome and Lactantius use the words “an immense multitude” and “multitudes” in describing the Christians who were put to death by Nero’s persecution.
The oldest testimonies closest to the source record a great number of Christians being martyred. Coupled with the fact that the Apostolic Church was already suffering ongoing persecutions from the Jews, it is not a stretch to imagine the iron claws of Rome stretching into Ephesus to arrest the Apostle John.
Lactantius’ purpose in writing on the sixth Roman Caesar was to refute the Nero Redivivus theory. Lactantius was a futurist, but saw the idea that Nero would rise from the dead to be revealed as the future Antichrist as a misguided superstition. Yet he recognized that Nero fit the description of the Beast of Revelation. Nero was the Roman emperor who sent Vespasian to conquer the city of Jerusalem that resulted in the Temple being destroyed. “Not one stone here shall be left upon another, which will not be torn down” (Matthew 24:2). What is interesting about Lactantius’ account is that he connects the razing of the Temple with the fact that Nero had also “sprung forward to raze the heavenly temple and destroy the true faith” – meaning he persecuted the Church founded by Christ and killed many Christians including the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Lactantius also has Peter and Paul preaching at Rome reiterating the words of the Daniel and Jesus that the time was at hand for foretold “abomination that causes desolation” to come to pass (Daniel 12:11; Matthew 24:15; Luke 21:20).
But He also opened to them all things which were about to happen, which Peter and Paul preached at Rome; and also said that it was about to come to pass, that after a short time God would send against them a king who would subdue the Jews, and level their cities to the ground, and besiege the people themselves, worn out with hunger and thirst. Then it should come to pass that they should feed on the bodies of their own children, and consume one another. Lastly, that they should be taken captive, and come into the hands of their enemies, and should see their wives most cruelly harassed before their eyes, their virgins ravished and polluted, their sons torn in pieces, their little ones dashed to the ground; and lastly, everything laid waste with fire and sword, the captives banished forever from their own lands, because they had exulted over the well-beloved and most approved Son of God. And so, after their decease, when Nero had put them to death, Vespasian destroyed the name and nation of the Jews, and did all things which they had foretold as about to come to pass (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Book IV).
Lactantius assumes that in preaching the Gospel, Peter and Paul would have included the Mount Olivet Discourse. There is obviously some embellishment here in an account written a few centuries after the event. However, Lactantius knew that Peter and Paul preached in Rome and were martyred by Nero. He supposed that they had preached the full contents of the Gospel. The prophecy that Rome would send legions to Judea and “level their cities” follows the Mount Olivet Discourse together with other details found in Josephus’ History of the Wars of the Jews.
Paul’s arrest was probably prior to Nero’s departure for Greece in the fall of AD 67, as he called for Timothy and Mark to come to Rome “before winter” in his Second Epistle to Timothy.
Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry. And Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come – and the books, especially the parchments … Do your utmost to come before winter (2 Timothy 4:11-13,21).
The authorship of the Epistle to the Hebrews is a matter of controversy. I am of the opinion that it was composed by Paul and Luke during the second imprisonment at Rome and polished by Timothy or another scribe, such as Clement of Rome. The purpose of Hebrews is to explain the covenantal shift that had occurred at the coming of Christ and to ready the Hebrew Christians for the soon coming destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. Since most Christians at this point were ethnic Jews, they were not to put their hopes in the types and shadows represented in Temple worship, but in Christ alone.
Paul does not mention Peter in 2 Timothy, so if the Peter came to Rome, it was after Paul, perhaps to meet up with his disciple Mark, whom he mentions as being with him in 1 Peter 5:13. At Rome, Peter probably wrote his Second Epistle explaining that he was approaching his death and warning about the wrath of God’s coming judgment.
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).
The key to understanding much of the apocalyptic language 2 Peter 3 is to know that the sense of impending judgment is related to the coming destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, the phrase, “the elements will melt with fervent heat,” most likely refers to the Temple at Jerusalem and the sacrificial system. Each time the word stoicheion is used in the Pauline epistles, it refers to “elementary principles” related to doctrines or modes of worship that were passing away with the coming of the New Covenant (cf. Galatians 4:3,9; Colossians 2:8,20; Hebrews 5:12). As in his sermon in Acts 2, Peter is characteristically speaking with a sense of urgency for his immediate audience, while also keeping in view “day of the Lord” that will be yet to come – or the Final Judgment.
After Mark came to Rome at the behest of Paul, he probably wrote the Gospel According to Mark. The tradition of the Church Fathers, beginning with Papias of Hierapolis, testifies that Mark wrote down the Gospel preached by the Apostle Peter from memory.
Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took special care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements (Papias, Fragments).
Most modern scholars concur that Mark probably wrote from Rome and was addressing a Greco-Roman audience. Mark explains Aramaic phrases and customs and uses a number of Latin terms. Although many modern theologians hold to a “Marcan Priority Hypothesis,” with Matthew and Luke drawing on materials from Mark, the view for most of Church history was that the four Gospel accounts were written independently. Clement of Alexandria taught that Mark was a later conflation of Matthew and Luke. The internal evidence from the New Testament and testimony from the Church Fathers indicates that this may be true.
Was the Book of Revelation written while Nero was the Emperor?
Another controversy that rages about the issue of preterism is the date when John’s Book of Revelation was written. Many suppose it was written late, when John would have been an extremely old man, during the second persecution of the Christians under Domitian that ended in AD 96. Yet John actually gives two strong internal indicators that tell us when he is writing.
First, he never once mentions that the Temple at Jerusalem has been destroyed in the past tense. Every time he mentions the Temple, it is still standing (cf. Revelation 11). Since the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, he would have had to be writing before then.
Second, the most direct indication of when the Book of Revelation was written, points to a king who “is.”
There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time (Revelation 17:10, bold emphasis mine).
If we use the line of Roman kings given by Suetonius and Josephus, these are:
The sixth king who “is” at the time of John’s writing was Nero.
There are several traditions that hold to an early date of the writing of Revelation, prior to the death of Nero.
1. The fourth century Church Father, Epiphanius of Salamis, wrote that Revelation was written during the time of “Claudius Caesar.” He could have been referring to either Claudius or Nero since Nero’s full name upon his adoption was “Nero Claudius Caesar Drussus Germanicus.” His throne name was “Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.” In either case, this supports an early date for the writing of Revelation.
2. The Muratorian canon, a list of New Testament books compiled in about AD 170, states that the letters of Paul were seven in number and followed John’s example of the letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 1-3. This would have put the writing of Revelation prior to the death of Paul, which took place in the reign of Nero.
3. Tertullian of Carthage places John’s banishment to Patmos in the immediate context of Nero’s persecution.
4. Clement of Alexandria writes that the ministries of Jesus’ Apostles “end with Nero.”
5. Several early Syriac translations of the Bible all contain a “superscript” or introduction, “The Revelation, which was made by God to John the Evangelist, in the island of Patmos, to which he was banished by Nero the Emperor.”
John was probably writing in late AD 64 or 65. Nero’s persecution of the Church may have lasted a full 42 months, or the 42 months could be the counted from the time John began to write Revelation, from the end of the year 64 to Nero’s death in June 68.
And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months. Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. It was granted to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them. And authority was given him over every tribe, tongue, and nation (Revelation 13:5-7, bold emphasis mine).
The Book of Acts, Romans 16, Philippians 4 and several early Church traditions indicate that Nero heard the Gospel preached by the Apostle Paul – or at least knew of a prophecy that the king of the world would come from Jerusalem – prior to the Great Fire of Rome. The Gospel According to Luke, which was thought by the Church Fathers to be Paul’s Gospel, contained the Mount Olivet Discourse as did the Gospel According to Mark, which was thought to be Peter’s Gospel. Lactantius and others inferred that this drew Nero’s ire.
However, the Gospel According to John does not contain the Mount Olivet Discourse passage. It could be inferred that John was merely banished by the Roman authorities and not executed because he did not preach openly about the coming tribulation except in veiled terms. In the Gospel According to John, which may have been written after the deaths of Peter and Paul in AD 67, but prior to the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem in AD 70, it is inferred that Peter has already died, while John would “remain till I come.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, “Follow Me.”
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.”
Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?”
This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true (John 21:17-24).
This has been interpreted in various ways. According to early Church tradition, Paul was beheaded, which was the mode of execution for a Roman citizen. Peter’s mode of execution was to be crucified. Crucifixion was a common form of punishment for slaves and non-Roman citizens, so the crucifixion of Peter is historically likely. The reference that Peter would be crucified in found in Jesus admonition, “you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish.” The tradition that Peter was crucified upside down because he was too ashamed to have the same manner of death as the Lord is also entirely possible although it could be a later embellishment.
The question, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?” refers to John. This is confusing as it seems to indicate that John would remain until the Second Coming of the Lord. But this cannot be the case since John indicates that “Jesus did not say to him that he would not die.” The preterist view has offered the only solution to this cryptic saying that makes any sense. This is most likely John’s reference to the Lord’s “coming in judgment on the city of Jerusalem,” but not the “Second Coming of Jesus.” John may have been the only one of the Twelve Apostles who survived Nero’s persecution, the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, and then a second persecution under the Emperor Domitian who was himself assassinated in AD 96.
What happened to end the persecution of the Church?
Although Nero still remained popular among some of the lower classes, he had become a polarizing figure. The aristocrats and the senators began to conspire against him. This only added to Nero’s paranoia. In his last years, he began to put to death anyone who aroused his suspicion, including his teacher from childhood, Seneca.
There was no family relationship which Nero did not criminally abuse. When Claudius’s daughter Antonia refused to take Poppaea’s place, he had her executed on a charge of attempted rebellion; and destroyed every other member of his family, including relatives by marriage, in the same way (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, “Nero” 36,37).
Tacitus and Suetonius record a comet that was observed after the time of the Great Fire. We know from ancient astronomy that comets appeared in AD 64, 65 and 66, the latter being Halley’s Comet. Tacitus also states that Nero consulted an astrologer and was advised to kill members of the aristocracy to atone for the comet.
Nero was no less cruel to strangers than to members of his family. A comet, popularly supposed to herald the death of some person of outstanding importance, appeared several nights running and greatly disturbed him. His astrologer Balbillus observed that monarchs usually avoided portents of this kind by executing their most prominent subjects and thus directing the wrath of heaven elsewhere; so Nero resolved on a wholesale massacre of the nobility. What fortified him in this decision, and seemed to justify it, was that he had discovered two plots against his life. The earlier and more important one of the two was Piso’s conspiracy in Rome; the other, detected at Beneventum, had been headed by Vinicius. When brought up for trial the conspirators were loaded with three sets of chains. Some, while admitting their guilt, claimed that by destroying a man so thoroughly steeped in evil as Nero, they would have been doing him the greatest possible service. All children of the condemned men were banished from Rome, and then starved to death or poisoned.
After this, nothing could restrain Nero from murdering anyone he pleased, on whatever pretext (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, “Nero” 36,37)
This description indicates that it was likely one of the latter two comets since Suetonius recorded this after the death of Poppaea. At the time of his death, Nero had planned to make over the entire city of Rome renaming it Neropolis.
At last, after nearly fourteen years of Nero’s misrule, the earth rid herself of him. The first move was made by the Gauls under Julius Vindex, their pro-Praetor (Seutonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, “Nero” 40).
Nero began behaving more and more irrationally and some of the Praetorian Guard decided he had to be assassinated. While fleeing a military coup, Nero committed suicide on June 9 AD 68 by stabbing himself with a sword. Rather than be killed by the coup, he killed himself.
He who kills with the sword must be killed with the sword (Revelation 13:10).
Among his last words were, Qualis artifex pereo. This is translated as, “What an artist perishes!” or “So great an artist – dead!”
Then came a civil war and the next four emperors, all within the space of one year.
Seven heads. Ten Horns. The Roman world thought the empire was dead with no one in line from the Julio-Claudian line to take sole rulership of Rome. A civil war ensued and the empire was thrown into chaos for a time.
Was Nero really that bad?
In a word, yes. Josephus and Tacitus wrote that the accounts of Nero’s depravity by other historians were exaggerated, but they agreed that he was a tyrant. Even the poet Lucanus, who wrote of the peace and prosperity under Nero in contrast to previous war and strife, was later involved in a conspiracy to overthrow Nero and was executed. Seneca, Nero’s teacher from the time he was a boy, wrote only positive things about Nero. However, Seneca too was caught up in a plot to assassinate Nero. Although it is questionable whether Seneca was guilty, Nero ordered him to commit suicide – the Roman method of “honor killing.”
Despite the murderous reign of Nero, the devotion to the emperor cult remained strong among a minority, especially in the East. Some persisted in the belief that Nero was not dead and at least three imposters claiming to be Nero appeared. Even twenty years later, a Nero imposter in the eastern province of Parthia gained a following and was extradited to Rome to be executed. This gave rise to the “Nero Redivivus” myth among many Christians and Jews – the belief that Nero would rise from the dead with his deadly head wound healed to rule the world once more as the Antichrist.
Nero died at the age of thirty-two, on the anniversary of Octavia’s murder. In the widespread general rejoicing, citizens ran through the streets wearing caps of liberty, as though they were freed slaves. But a few faithful friends used to lay spring and summer flowers on his grave for some years, and had statues made of him, wearing his fringed gown, which they put up on the Rostra; they even continued to circulate his edicts, pretending he was still alive and would soon return to confound his enemies. What is more, King Vologaesus of Parthia, on sending ambassadors to ratify his alliance with Rome, particularly requested the Senate to honour Nero’s memory. In fact, twenty years later, when I was a young man, a mysterious individual came forward claiming to be Nero; and so magical was the sound of his name in the Parthians’ ears that they supported him to the best of their ability, and were most reluctant to concede Roman demands for his extradition (Suetonius, Lives of the Twelve Caesars, “Nero” 57).
The Babylonian Talmud, written in the second century AD, contains an apocryphal story that has Nero coming to Jerusalem after he fled from Rome.
When Nero arrived in Palestine, he shot arrows in the direction of the four principal points of the compass; but all of them flew toward Jerusalem. A boy whom he asked to recite his Biblical lesson (a usual form of oracle) quoted Ezekiel 25:14, “And I shall take my revenge on Edom through My people Israel; and they shall do unto Edom according to My anger and My wrath,” on hearing which Nero said: “God wishes to wipe His hands [lay the blame] on me” (i.e., “wishes to make me His tool and then to punish me”). He fled and became a convert to Judaism; and from him Rabbi Meïr was descended. This Talmudical story seems to be an echo of the legend that Nero was still alive and would return to reign. Indeed, some pretenders availed themselves of this legend and claimed to be Nero. Oracles prophesying Nero’s return from beyond the Euphrates were current among the Jews; and an apocryphal book of the second century, Ascension of Isaiah, declares that in the last days “Belial shall appear in the form of a man, of the king of unrighteousness, of the matricide.” In Christian legends, Nero was personified as Antichrist (Gotthard Deutsch, S. Mannheimer, “Nero,” JewishEncyclopedia.com).
Even though the majority of sources paint Nero as an insane despot, still there were those who had a favorable view of him. Dio Chrysostom (c. AD 40–120), the Greek philosopher and historian, wrote that the Roman people longed for Nero once he was gone and embraced imposters whenever they appeared.
Indeed the truth about this has not come out even yet; for so far as the rest of his subjects were concerned, there was nothing to prevent his continuing to be Emperor for all time, seeing that even now everybody wishes he were still alive. And the great majority do believe that he still is, although in a certain sense he has died not once but often along with those who had been firmly convinced that he was still alive (Dio Chrysostom, Discourse XXI, On Beauty).
In the wake of Nero’s suicide, it appeared to many that the Roman Empire could not survive after years of misrule and a resulting bitter civil war. Yet in little over a year, the Empire came back with a vengeance under the military strong man, Vespasian. Seemingly, the Great Beast was brought back from the dead.
Nero was the sixth head of the Beast. He was the king referred to as the “little horn” in Daniel 7 and the “sixth” king who “is” at the time John wrote Revelation 13 and 17.
You may be planning to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this week, but you probably know little of the true history of Patrick. Contrary to popular belief, he was not Irish at all. He was a British bishop who lived at exactly the same time as St. Augustine. And the people he preached to in Ireland, were not “Irish,” but “Scots.”
Most people don’t know it, but two genuine writings of Patrick survive.
Legend credits Patrick with banishing snakes from the Ireland. One suggestion for the origin of this is that “snakes” referred to the serpent symbolism used by the Druids of that time, or to the heresy of Pelagianism — the idea spread by heretics of that day that we are saved by works and not by grace. Legend also credits Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Trinity by showing people the shamrock. My Irish grandmother once told me an interesting version of this story concerning Patrick’s explanation of four leaf clovers. If you send me an email, I will tell you about that.
One could also make the claim from reading Patrick’s letter to Coroticus that he was proto-Protestant — or at the very least in tune with the robust Augustinian doctrine of the fifth century.
Most importantly, Patrick was a rescuer. If he were alive today, he would have been a pro-life activist. He denounced the pagan practice of the shedding of innocent blood. He begins his Letter To Coroticus with these words:
I, Patrick, a sinner, unlearned, resident in Ireland, declare myself to be a bishop. Most assuredly I believe that what I am I have received from God. And so I live among barbarians, a stranger and exile for the love of God. He is witness that this is so. Not that I wished my mouth to utter anything so hard and harsh; but I am forced by the zeal for God; and the truth of Christ has wrung it from me, out of love for my neighbors and sons for whom I gave up my country and parents and my life to the point of death. If I be worthy, I live for my God to teach the heathen, even though some may despise me. With my own hand I have written and composed these words, to be given, delivered, and sent to the soldiers of Coroticus; I do not say, to my fellow citizens, or to fellow citizens of the holy Romans, but to fellow citizens of the demons, because of their evil works. Like our enemies, they live in death, allies of the Scots and the apostate Picts. Dripping with blood, they welter in the blood of innocent Christians, whom I have begotten into the number for God and confirmed in Christ!
Patrick writes here of the barbaric practices of the Celtic tribes of northern Europe – the ancestors of the Gaelic speaking peoples of England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland and northwestern Spain. The Celts were pagan idolaters who commonly sacrificed human beings – even innocent children – to the Mother Goddess.
In fact, Julius Caesar wrote of the Druids of Gaul (relatives of the Gaelic people in the British isles):
The whole nation of the Gauls is greatly devoted to ritual observances, and for that reason those who are smitten with the more grievous maladies and who are engaged in the perils of battle either sacrifice human victims or vow so to do, employing the druids as ministers for such sacrifices. They believe, in effect, that, unless for a man’s life a man’s life be paid, the majesty of the immortal gods may not be appeased; and in public, as in private life they observe an ordinance of sacrifices of the same kind. Others use figures of immense size whose limbs, woven out of twigs, they fill with living men and set on fire, and the men perish in a sheet of flame. They believe that the execution of those who have been caught in the act of theft or robbery or some crime is more pleasing to the immortal gods; but when the supply of such fails they resort to the execution even of the innocent.
Patrick put a stop to ritual human sacrifice in Ireland over 1500 years ago. It is only fitting that we will honor his name by circulating Personhood petitions at St Patrick’s Day events here in Florida.
So, how is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God; the sons of the Irish [Scotti] and the daughters of the chieftains are to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ.
- The Confession of St Patrick
Prince Hall (1735–1807) was held as a slave by William Hall, in Boston until the age of 35, when he was freed. Hall used his freedom to become an advocate for African Americans. Hall made many petitions on behalf of free blacks and successfully petitioned for the release of three Boston African Americans who had been kidnapped into slavery.
While most Americans are familiar with the 18th century abolitionist movement, Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, few know about the reasons for the abolition of slavery in the northern states in the 1770s. Prince Hall’s Petition to the Massachusetts General Assembly (the state Supreme Court at the time) used the argument of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal with the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness to argue for the abolition of slavery.
Prince Hall’s Petition became the precedent for the abolition of slavery in Massachusetts and then all the northern states through state courts and state constitutional law.
January 13, 1777
The Petition of a great number of Negroes who are detained in a state of Slavery in the Bowels of a free & Christian Country Humbly Shewing:
That your Petitioners apprehend that they have, in common with all other Men, a natural & unalienable right to that freedom, which the great Parent of the Universe hath bestowed equally on all Mankind, & which they have never forfeited by any compact or agreement whatever—But they were unjustly dragged, by the cruel hand of Power, from their dearest friends, & some of them even torn from the embraces of their tender Parents, from a populous, pleasant and plentiful Country—& in Violation of the Laws of Nature & of Nation & in defiance of all the tender feelings of humanity, brought hither to be sold like Beasts of Burden, & like them condemned to slavery for Life—Among a People professing the mild Religion of Jesus—A People not insensible of the sweets of rational freedom—Nor without spirit to resent the unjust endeavours of others to reduce them to a State of Bondage & Subjection.
Your Honors need not to be informed that a Life of Slavery, like that of your petitioners, deprived of every social privilege, of every thing requisite to render Life even tolerable, is far worse than Non-Existence—In imitation of the laudable example of the good People of these States, your Petitioners have long & patiently waited the event of Petition after Petition by them presented to the legislative Body of this State, & can not but with grief reflect that their success has been but too similar.
They can not but express their astonishment, that it has never been considered, that every principle from which America has acted in the course of her unhappy difficulties with Great-Britain, pleads stronger than a thousand arguments in favor of your Petitioners.
They therefore humbly beseech your Honors, to give this Petition its due weight & consideration, & cause an Act of the Legislature to be passed, whereby they may be restored to the enjoyment of that freedom which is the natural right of all Men—& their Children (who were born in this Land of Liberty) may not be held as Slaves after they arrive at the age of twenty one years.
So may the Inhabitants of this State (no longer chargeable with the inconsistency of acting, themselves, the part which they condemn & oppose in others) be prospered in their present glorious struggles for Liberty; & have those blessings secured to them by Heaven, of which benevolent minds can not wish to deprive their fellow Men.
And your Petitioners, as in Duty Bound shall ever pray.
Jack Purpont [his mark]
Nero Suneto [his mark]
Newport Symner [his mark]
Prince Hall continued his activism by protesting that African American children did not have public schools. Eventually he started a school of his own for them.
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
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Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes
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Special Two-Disc Set!
After 40 years of intense study and world-wide ministry, Dr. Francis Schaeffer completed his crowning work of scholarship – to present profound truths in simple film language. Dr. Schaeffer’s brilliant analysis of the past and predictions for current trends have proven so uncannily accurate that this amazing series still feels contemporary almost three decades after its initial release. Ultimately, Schaeffer concludes that man’s only hope is a return to God’s Biblical absolute, the truth revealed in Christ through the Scriptures.
Available for the first time on DVD, this documentary spectacular also includes intimate in-depth conversations with Francis and Edith Schaeffer. With the on-disc study guide, this presentation forms a unique course of comprehensive study. While this series forms an innovative analysis of the past, this outstanding work is more than history. Each episode focuses on a significant era, yet speaks clearly to 21st-century man with answers for modern problems.
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Who is the Real Jesus?
Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
Over the past 100 years, however, startling discoveries in biblical archeology and scholarship have all but vanquished the faulty assumptions of these doubting modernists. Regrettably, these discoveries have often been ignored by the skeptics as well as by the popular media. As a result, the liberal view still holds sway in universities and impacts the culture and even much of the church.
The Real Jesus explodes the myths of these critics and the movies, books and television programs that have popularized their views. Presented in ten parts — perfect for individual, family and classroom study — viewers will be challenged to go deeper in their knowledge of Christ in order to be able to defend their faith and present the truth to a skeptical modern world – that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Jesus of history — “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is the real Jesus.
Speakers include: George Grant, Ted Baehr, Stephen Mansfield, Raymond Ortlund, Phil Kayser, David Lutzweiler, Jay Grimstead, J.P. Holding, and Eric Holmberg.
Ten parts, over two hours of instruction!
Running Time: 130 minutes
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What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?
Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!
“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l
Running Time: 40 minutes
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