Week 11 & 12 Preterist View of Revelation
Preterist View of Revelation
It seems that these models have evolved to the point that each one needs its own theme song. Since Jerusalem is being assaulted this week it seems like we need something from an epic war movie. An appropriate selection comes from a 1968 action thriller where Ron Goodwin did the musical score to an Alistair MacLean screen play where Richard Burton played opposite Clint Eastwood and the beauty of the Austrian Alps backdropped a fairy tale castle. Like the book of Revelation it has plot twists, great imagery, a walled fortress being assaulted, contains eagles like the Roman standard, and like the Roman army’s side weapon–a broadsword–the trademark line of the film is “this is broadsword calling Danny boy.”
Imagine in your mind’s eye the Roman army closing in on Jerusalem to the cadence of the snare drums and the raging battle to the big horns….and que up our background music this week from the action packed thrill ride “Where Eagles Dare”
The Preterist view is that John was writing to the Christians in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) to give them hope about events that would occur in their life time and not writing about events that would happen thousands of years in the future.
He used the apocalyptic writing style which drew from the old Hebrew scriptures which would help his audience know how to interpret the events. The apocalyptic style utilizes symbolic imagery, hybrid animals, and numbers in symbolic ways. It uses secret codes that the intended audience would be familiar with, but would be mysterious to an audience that was not familiar with the events, concerns, and hopes of the target audience.
Such an example is the description we’ve already looked at concerning the identity of the beast. The number 666 is the cryptogram of the name “Nero Caesar” when spelled in ancient Hebrew. The mark of the beast would have been the Roman Dictator’s image on Roman coins and laws passed by Rome forced business owners to accept Roman coins as payment of goods and those who refused could have their business shut down.
Having the beast’s mark on one’s forehead was a symbolic way of saying that one’s allegiance was to the beast—it wasn’t an actual mark on someone you could see. This is blurred to some readers because chapter 13 which speaks of the beast ends when John is through writing about the beast. There were no chapter divisions in John’s original writing and no reason to stop reading at that point like many bible readers even teachers do today.
If you continue into the beginning of chapter 14 you see the opposite of being marked by the beast with the 144,000 faithful who had the name of the Lamb and his Father’s name written on their heads. John’s audience would realize this wasn’t actual writing on their skin, but a symbolic reference to whom their allegiance was given. To have their heart and mind, the center of their being and thoughts, marked for Christ was an indication of what they stood for and whom they served.
A major point of contention which greatly divides the futuristic interpretation of the book of Revelation verses the Preterist view that Revelation is history to us is when the book was written. Futurists contend it was written around 90 – 100 AD while Preterists contend it was written before 70 AD.
One of the Preterists main arguments is that the temple was still standing at the time it was written which would mean it had to be before 70 AD. Nothing in the book of Revelation actually says the temple has already been destroyed nor does anything say it will be rebuilt a third time. Revelation simply refers to the temple as if it is still standing.
When John says in Revelation 11: 1 -2
Then I was given a measuring rod like a staff, and I was told, “Rise and measure the temple of God and the altar and those who worship there, 2but do not measure the court outside the temple; leave that out, for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.
It would make no sense to the readers unless the temple is still standing absent any writings about its destruction or being rebuilt of which there are none.
One of the primary authorities futurists relay on to date the writing of Revelation to 90 – 100 AD comes from Iranaeus. While there are numerous arguments that make him an unreliable witness let’s just stick with the fact that he was an unreliable witness to historical dates. He claimed Jesus was 40 – 50 years old during his personnel ministry.
John A.T. Robinson has pointed out that the single most climactic event of this period of Jewish history the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple and end of institutional Judaism based on the Temple is never mentioned in any book of the New Testament therefore it appears all of the N.T. must have been written prior to that event.
Babylon in the book of Revelation refers to Jerusalem not Rome. Whole books have been written about this subject (Who is this Babylon? Don Preston), but let’s just hit a few high points here such as the consistent Old Testament referring to Jerusalem as a harlot in apostasy or when it falls away from its relationship with God. Jesus refers to the current generation of Jews as an adulterous generation.
John uses covenant language against Babylon and cites Ezekiel’s language against Jerusalem. He wouldn’t use covenant language against Rome since it had no covenant with God. Here is one of the many times when a good understanding of the Old Testament helps one to better understand the book of Revelation.
The book of Lamentations was written shortly after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 BC and uses covenant language about the fall of Jerusalem in retrospect and employs its covenant language against Babylon in Revelation. See the charts below produced by Don Preston to cite such examples.
Some examples: Jerusalem cast down from heaven and exalted Babylon cast down. Jerusalem judged for shedding innocent blood and Babylon judged for shedding innocent blood. Jerusalem and Babylon both called harlots, Jerusalem and Bab both over thrown in a moment, those stand by marvel and disbelief at her fall, both judgment because of sin, judgment as a winepress, drink as wormwood, and death better than life.
So much of the Old Testament is woven in to Revelation. An earlier study (Idealism) examined how the theme of the Jewish festivals is woven into Revelation and the Lamentation is one more lens to view Revelation through, but it is not just the author showing off his literary skills—knowing how to relate Lamentations to the earlier Babylonian experience helps explain how to relate Revelation’s Babylonian experience to the future.
Jerusalem is linked to Babylon as the city that shed the blood of the saints. Revelation 17:4-6
The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet… 5 And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” 6 And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
Matthew 23:34-35 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth….
Revelation 18:21 – 24 So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence,….24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
Jerusalem is the place where Stephen was stoned where Jesus was crucified, where James the brother of John was killed by the Jewish religious leaders.
The Jewish leaders who were responsible for killing the saints rode the beast Revelation 17:3 (Rome) by getting Jesus executed through the Roman rulers of Judea and later Rome would destroy Jerusalem. This seems to be laid out perfectly in Revelation 17:16 even to the point of the fires that burned Jerusalem in the Roman conquest in 70 AD
3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 16 And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire,
Revelation from beginning to end is full of time statements that indicate that the return of Christ is imminent.
Revelation 1:1 things which must shortly take place
1:3 the time is at hand
2:16 I will come quickly
3:11 Behold, I come quickly
10:6 No more delay
12:12 Knows he has a short time
14:7 The hour of his judgment has come
22:6 Must shortly come to pass
22:7 I come quickly
22:10 Time is at hand
22:12 I am coming quickly
22:20 Surely I come quickly
No where in Revelation does it suggest that the events spoken of are for a future generation or time. There is heavy emphasis that the time of Christ’s coming is at hand.
The Jewish War and Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD
The Jewish rebellion against Rome began in 66 AD and in February of 67 Nero formally commissioned Vespasian to put down the revolt. It ended in August-September of 70 AD with the destruction of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem so the actual war covers a period of time of basically 42 months or 3.5 years which equals the time given for the great tribulation.
Revelation 16: 14 & 16
For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. 16 And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.
Megiddo (The word Armageddon is derived from the Greek rendering of the Hebrew name Har Megiddo the Hebrew prefix Har means “hill” or “mountain”). was the staging area for the Roman army in 67 AD as it prepared for its assault on Jerusalem.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 15 “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, 18 and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. 19 And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23 Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, ‘Look, he is in the wilderness,’ do not go out. If they say, ‘Look, he is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. 29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
The Preterist view on verse 14 about preaching the gospel to all the World sees this view of World limited to the area around the Mediterranean Sea. Since people of that day didn’t know the World was round it would be impossible for them to interpret that statement any other way except the usual way the used the term world which meant the nations around the Mediterranean Sea and of course we know that it was carried to those nations before 70 AD.
Preterist see the abomination of desolation spoken of here as the Roman Army that gathered outside Jerusalem. Various sources indicate that the Christians in Jerusalem remembered Jesus’ warning and fled the city at some point of to the rugged hill country of Pella (click map to enlarge) which lies in the modern country of Jordan, about 2.5 miles east of the Jordan River and 17 miles south of the Sea of Galilee.
This could have come after Roman Governor of Syria, Cestius Gallus (66/67), attacked Jerusalem with the Twelfth Legion and occupied the northern suburb of Bezetha; however, he did not have sufficient forces to take the rest of the city and had to withdraw. Or it could have come after the temporary withdrawal of Vespasian and the 10th Legion to await the outcome of events (civil war and suicide of Nero) in Rome (A.D. 68/69).
Vespasian eventually gained the emperorship for himself (69) and dispatched his son Titus to finish off the Jewish revolt which he did in 70 AD.
In verse 26 Jesus warns his followers not to be deceived and go into the wilderness. Many people claiming to be the messiah came on the scene after Jesus and often would lead their followers out into the Wilderness. Jesus seems to make specific reference to these events.
In verse 29 Jesus warns the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken which is a direct comparison to what Isaiah wrote about the fall of Babylon in 13:9-10
Behold, the day of the LORD comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land a desolation
and to destroy its sinners from it.
10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations
will not give their light;
the sun will be dark at its rising,
and the moon will not shed its light.
The same language was used to describe the fall of Egypt
When I blot you out, I will cover the heavens
and make their stars dark;
I will cover the sun with a cloud,
and the moon shall not give its light.
8All the bright lights of heaven
will I make dark over you,
and put darkness on your land,
declares the Lord GOD.
Obviously in the OT heavenly bodies like the sun, moon, and stars were not darkened, this is the style in which apocalyptic literature is written and the audience it is written to understands it. Such language does not mean the physical end of the world or the end of earthly time. This celestial symbolism is associated with the fall of nations. It accompanied the fall of the empire of Babylon in the OT and since Jerusalem is the Babylon of Revelation what better way to symbolize its destruction than with the same imagery.
The Gospel Taken to the Whole World
In Matthew 23: 14
Jesus says “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Here Jesus isn’t talking about nations all around the earth. He is talking about the nations around the Mediterranean Sea.
Paul in 1st Colossians declared this done.
which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,
If indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Obviously Paul isn’t saying that the gospel has been preached in places on the other side of the planet since he doesn’t even know such places exist. When World is used in the Bible it refers to the area around the Mediterranean Sea.
Seals Opened in Revelation
In the interest of time and space I’m not going to do every seal here, but hit the high points.
Second Seal: Revelation 6:3 – 4
3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4 And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword
Vespasian began to suppress the Jewish revolt away from Jerusalem and gradually worked his way to Jerusalem hoping to so thoroughly annihilate all resistance that when he got to Jerusalem the city would give up without a fight. In Galilee 100,000 Jews were killed or sold into slavery. He quickly rolled up Jewish resistance at Paraea, Samaria, Idumea, Gadara, Jericho and Emmaus.
Josephus [link to bio on Josephus] writes of the scene in Galilee:
Galilee from end to end became a scene of fire and blood; from no misery, no calamity was it exempt…One could see the whole lake red [The Sea of Galilee-PT] with blood and covered with corpses, for not a man escaped. During the following days the district reeked with a dreadful stench and presented a spectacle equally horrible. The beaches were strewn with wrecks and swollen carcasses. [Link to the Complete Works of Josephus online.]
The term slay one another appears to refer to places where factions of Jews often lead by groups of Zealots fought one another for various reasons, for example, if the Zealots weren’t satisfied the Jewish leaders were sufficiently opposed to the Romans.
Third Seal: Romans 6:5 – 6
5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”
Famine follows war as food becomes scarce in Judea. Russell writes that wheat and barley are at famine prices and the daily wage of a common laborer (a denarius) will buy only a single measure of wheat-less than a quart and would buy three times that in lesser grains. Josephus writes that many Jerusalem when it was under siege exchange all they owned for a single measure of wheat.
As for the statement do not harm the oil and wine, Josephus wrote that, John of Gischala, one of the leaders of the rebellion drew the sacred wine and oil the priests used to pour on burnt offerings and distributed it among his close followers.
Fourth seal: Revelation 6:7 – 8
7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8 And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.
The fourth horseman of the Apocalypse, the pale rider, death is the inevitable result of war and starvation throughout the land and especially in the now besieged city of Jerusalem. Josephus provides the following figures from the Jewish war: 1,000,000 perished in the siege, 347,000 perished in other places. Of the remainder, 97,000 were carried into captivity and 11,000 starved through neglect or sullen refusal of food. It is probably impossible to really get accurate figures with calamities of this magnitude, but it does give you a sense of the scale of death associated with the war.
Sixth seal: Revelation 6:12 – 17
12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”
Russell points how closely Jesus prophecies from the Olivet Discourse resemble the sixth seal. There shall be earth quakes in various places (Luke 21:11; Matthew 24:7.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light and the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (Matthew 24:29). Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, fall on us and to the hills cover us (Luke 23:30).
Again not the foretelling the physical destruction of the earth, but the end of the Jewish Age of Temple Worship and system of organizing their live and government around the Temple worship. Russell calls it the end of a grand providential epoch.
The 144,000 Sealed
Rev 7:1 – 4
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. 2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” 4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel.
Russell calls Revelation and echo and expansion of the Olivet Discourse and at the of the Jewish Age there is a promise of safety to the disciples of Christ coupled with declarations of wrath upon their enemies. Jesus warns his followers to escape to the mountains (Pella mentioned earlier) when they saw Jerusalem surrounded with armies (Luke 21:20) and the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place (Matt. 24:15).
The seventh seal is the connecting link between the between the visions of the seals and the trumpets.
Fifth & Sixth Trumpets
1 And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. 2 He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. 3 Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth. 4 They were told not to harm the grass of the earth or any green plant or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. 5 They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. 6 And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them. 7 In appearance the locusts were like horses prepared for battle: on their heads were what looked like crowns of gold; their faces were like human faces, 8 their hair like women’s hair, and their teeth like lions’ teeth; 9 they had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the noise of their wings was like the noise of many chariots with horses rushing into battle. 10 They have tails and stings like scorpions, and their power to hurt people for five months is in their tails. 11 They have as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit. His name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek he is called Apollyon. 12 The first woe has passed; behold, two woes are still to come.
13 Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, 14 saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” 15 So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. 16 The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. 17 And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions’ heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. 18 By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. 19 For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.
Roman legions are usually associated with infantry, but four legions were drawn from the area of the Euphrates under one Oriental King, Antiochus of Commagene, and another Oriental King, Sohemus, sent a contingent both of which were mostly cavalry which like their Parthian cousins to the north is the way they usually fought. These were literally fierce hordes of barbarian horsemen which would have been terrifying to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Releasing the four angels prepared for that hour appears to reference the releasing of the four legions who would kill not a third of the population of the entire planet, but of the area around Judea.
Five months is the time period that the Roman siege lasted around Jerusalem. During this time the Romans didn’t try to take the city, but let the work of the siege slowly weaken the city defenders and bring conditions upon them that could fit the definition of a great tribulation.
During the siege the Zealots inside Jerusalem set fire to the foodstocks that were stored up thinking that without food the inhabitants would be more compelled to join them in fighting the Romans.
As food disappeared people were compelled to eat leather from belts, shoes, and anywhere else it could be found. In Deuteronomy when Moses pronounces blessings and curses on the people depending on whether they follow God or fall away he foretells of an enemy laying siege to their city and mothers eating their young.
52 “They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the LORD your God has given you. 53 And you shall eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your sons and daughters, whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemies shall distress you. 54 The man who is the most tender and refined among you will begrudge food to his brother, to the wife he embraces, and to the last of the children whom he has left, 55 so that he will not give to any of them any of the flesh of his children whom he is eating, because he has nothing else left, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in all your towns. 56 The most tender and refined woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground because she is so delicate and tender, will begrudge to the husband she embraces, to her son and to her daughter, 57 her afterbirth that comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears, because lacking everything she will eat them secretly, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemy shall distress you in your towns. 58 “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the LORD your God.
Josephus writes of the apparent fulfillment of this prophecy The Jewish War Book 6. Chapter 3.4
Among the residents of the region beyond Jordan was a woman called Mary, daughter of Eleazar, of the village of Bethezuba (the name means “House of Hyssop”). She was well off, and of good family, and had fled to Jerusalem with her relatives, where she became involved with the siege. Most of the property she had packed up and brought with her from Peraea had been plundered by the tyrants [Simon and John, leaders of the Jewish war-effort], and the rest of her treasure, together with such foods as she had been able to procure, was being carried by their henchmen in their daily raids. In her bitter resentment the poor woman cursed and abused these extortioners, and this incensed them against her. However, no one put her to death either from exasperation or pity. She grew weary of trying to find food for her kinsfolk. In any case, it was by now impossible to get any, wherever you tried. Famine gnawed at her vitals, and the fire of rage was ever fiercer than famine. So, driven by fury and want, she committed a crime against nature. Seizing her child, an infant at the breast, she cried, “My poor baby, why should I keep you alive in this world of war and famine? Even if we live till the Romans come, they will make slaves of us; and anyway, hunger will get us before slavery does; and the rebels are crueler than both. Come, be food for me, and an avenging fury to the rebels, and a tale of cold horror to the world to complete the monstrous agony of the Jews.” With these words she killed her son, roasted the body, swallowed half of it, and stored the rest in a safe place. But the rebels were on her at once, smelling roasted meat, and threatening to kill her instantly if she did not produce it. She assured them she had saved them a share, and revealed the remains of her child. Seized with horror and stupefaction, they stood paralyzed at the sight. But she said, “This is my own child, and my own handiwork. Eat, for I have eaten already. Do not show yourselves weaker than a woman, or more pitiful than a mother. But if you have pious scruples, and shrink away from human sacrifice, then what I have eaten can count as your share, and I will eat what is left as well.” At that they slunk away, trembling, not daring to eat, although they were reluctant to yield even this food to the mother. The whole city soon rang with the abomination. When people heard of it, they shuddered, as though they had done it themselves.
100 lb Hailstones
Revelation tells of 1 talent or 100 lb hailstones falling down on the people of Jerusalem.
21 And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.
Josephus tells of the Roman 10th Legion using their catapults to launch white rocks weighing 100 lbs into Jerusalem. The Jewish War Book 5 chapter 6.3
More Great Tribulation like Events in Jerusalem
As groups of Zealots lost battles with the Romans in other parts of Judea they fell back into Jerusalem and when the siege began they fought one another as well as other Jewish citizens. Jerusalem became divided up into three sections each controlled by different groups of Zealots that warred with each other as the Romans stood by and let the inhabitants of the city do their work for them.
People in the city killed each other over scrapes of food. Some people tried to escape and swallowed gold coins ahead of time therefore anyone suspected of contemplating escape was disemboweled to look for coins. In one night 2,000 people were disemboweled.
If someone did escape in their weakened condition they were usually swept up by Roman patrols and crucified in various positions for the amusement of the soldiers and to horrify those in the city in an attempt to scare them into surrender. The Romans used up all the trees surrounding Jerusalem to make crosses and had to bring in wood from other places.
Identity of the Second Beast
We have already name Nero as the first beast and Russell gives a litany of reasons further pointing to Nero has the first beast and Kenneth Gentry The Beast of Revelation writes an entire book detailing how Nero fit the description of the first beast so we won’t spend any more time on it here.
Russell names the last Roman governor of Judea, Gessius Florus, as the second beast of Revelation. He lists the characteristics of the second beast as rising up from the land, has only two horns, speaks like a dragon, has delegated authority from the first beast, compels men to pay homage to the first beast, has tyrannical cruelty, excludes from civil rights those who won’t worship the beast. Josephus says of Florus that he engaged in incredible profligacy, fraud, treachery, and tyranny. He was the worst of all the governors. That he was a miscreant worthy to stand by Nero and a fit servant to such a master.
The Two Witnesses
Revelation 9:3 – 13
3And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”…. 7And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, 8 and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city …. where their Lord was crucified. 9 For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb,
Josephus reports that as the death tolled accelerated in Jerusalem it became impossible to for burial work to keep up with the number of people either killed or who starved and eventually they began to just toss the bodies over the side of the city walls and eventually just let the bodies pile up in the street. So anybody dying in the last days of the siege would likely just lay in the street unburied. Russell names James and Peter as the two witnesses. Peter was known to be in Jerusalem on the eve of the revolt and had habitual place of residence in the city. James also had habitual residence in the city and a recognized relationship with the church their. James had the gifts of prophecy and miracles, prophesized in sackcloth and no one had better title to the title of Elijah in that day.
Great Storm of the Sixth Seal
And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake,
Russell points to Josephus writing about what may have been the fulfillment of verse 13. A group of Zealots invited the Idumean forces to sneak into the city one night with their help and as a violent storm raged the Idumeans (A tribe from South of Jerusalem who the Zealots would help them fight the Romans, but instead turned on them) went on a killing spree which totaled in the thousands. Josephus writes of the storm:
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. These things were a manifest indication that some destruction was coming upon men, when the system of the world was put into this disorder; and any one would guess that these wonders foreshowed some grand calamities that were coming.
No Stone Unturned
Jesus prophesied that the Temple would be destroyed and specifically that no stoned would be left unturned.
Matthew 24:1 – 2
1 Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. 2 But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Josephus provides the fulfillment of this prophecy by telling how the temple caught fire and the gold instruments of worship ran down in the crevices of the stonewalls of the temple and the Roman soldiers who wanted the gold took the temple apart stone by stone to get at the gold.
Last Days Becomes Last Hour
Russell points out how what is referred to as the last days during most of the Epistles becomes the last hour in 1st John. There is a graduation of how imminent the return of Christ and that the end of the Jewish age is now upon them.
Some passages using the term last days:
2 Timothy 3:1
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.
knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.
In the verses the last days are still in the future. Then in 1st John it reads that the last hour has come.
1st John 2:18
Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.
It can even be argued that 1st John is written after the book of Revelation since Revelation is a prophecy about what is to come and in 1st John the antichrists have already arrived.
Reign of the Thousands not the 1,000 year Reign of Christ
Preterists don’t believe Christ returns to earth to reign for a 1,000 year millennial period in Chapter 20. The 1000 years in the Greek should be interpreted as the reign of the thousands of saints, referring not to a time period of 1,000 years, but to the number of saints reigning. In Revelation chapter 7 the 144,000 should be interpreted as indicative of the thousands of saints who are reigning. Satan is bound during their reign to the extent that he can’t stop the gospel from spreading from nation to nation. That reign of the thousands is the time between Pentecost and the return of Christ in 70 AD