We have shown that the historical events of the first century correlate well with the Olivet prophecy.  In Malachi 4:5 it is stated that the prophet Elijah would be sent before the great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.  The context of the fourth chapter of Malachi shows this to be a time of spiritual renewal and a time of judgment.

       Malachi 4:1-6: Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the LORD Almighty. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel. “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."  

       Malachi is speaking prophetically to show that a time of great judgment was coming against those who failed to revere God’s name and respond to His will.  Prior to this judgment occurring, Elijah would bring a message of spiritual renewal.  When is this going to take place?  Is this event yet future to us?  Has this event already occurred?

       In Luke’s gospel we find the angel Gabriel speaking to Zacharias and telling him the following about his son, John the Baptist.

          Luke 1:14-17: He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

       Here we find the words of Malachi being applied to John the Baptist.  We also see that the man Elijah was not going to be resurrected and literally appear.  Malachi was speaking of someone coming in the spirit and power of Elijah.  This person would do what Elijah had done.  A review of the ministry of Elijah in the Old Testament reveals that he brought ancient Israel to a realization of who God is.  John the Baptist would bring first-century Israel back to a realization of who God is.  Jesus identified John the Baptist as the Elijah that was to come.

       Matthew 11:13-14: For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.

       Matthew 17:10-13: The disciples asked him, ‘Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus replied, ‘To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.’ Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

        When did John the Baptist appear? John appeared two-thousand years ago.  What was to follow that appearance?  Malachi said the great and dreadful day of the Lord would follow.  Are we still waiting two-thousand years later for this “day of the Lord” to occur?  It appears from a reading of the entire book of Malachi that Elijah would come as a messenger to proclaim coming judgment upon Israel for her violation and misapplication of the Old Covenant and her rejection of God.  John, as the Elijah to come, came to draw Israel back to God in preparation for the coming of the anointed of God, the promised savior to Israel. The name Jesus means savior and Christ means anointed one.  The ministry of the Christ would provide an opportunity for Israel to repent and receive salvation.  Some did accept Christ and His message and consequently did escape the coming wrath.  Many, however, rejected Christ and the covenantal change He was bringing.  These were destroyed in the judgment upon Jerusalem that came during the A.D. 66 to 73 war.  

       John asks the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:7).  What wrath is John referring to?  The Apostle Paul reflected on how the Thessalonian brethren were waiting for Christ to appear to deliver them from the coming wrath (1 Thessalonians 1:10).  Is this the same “coming wrath” that John is speaking about?  Are the Thessalonians still waiting for Christ to deliver them from the coming wrath?  John speaks of Jesus being ready to harvest the wheat and burn the chaff.  John said, “The ax is already at the root of the trees” (Matthew 3:10-12).  In Matthew 13:36-50, as shown earlier, a similar picture is drawn of the time of the end.  In Matthew 23:29-36, Jesus reveals what would come upon the generation he was addressing at the time. 

       It is instructive that first century Christians are repeatedly told of God’s wrath within a context of it presently happening or about to happen.  Paul told the Colossians that the wrath of God was coming (Colossians 3:6). Paul spoke of God’s wrath being revealed (Romans 1:18) and being stored up (Romans 2:5).  In the Revelation the wrath of God is mentioned ten times. When all scriptural passages dealing with the wrath of God are looked at within the overall context of the NT narrative that consistently shows an about to occur fulfillment of eschatological events, it becomes apparent that the wrath of God spoken of is a wrath that was about to be manifested to those living in the first century.          

       Peter, on the day of Pentecost, associates the manifestation of the Holy Spirit with the prophecy of Joel and said:

       Acts 2:16-21: This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel. ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

       Here Peter identifies the manifestation of the Spirit with what was to take place in the last days.  In so doing, Peter is identifying his time as the last days.  He also shows this to be a time of judgment and the coming of the Lord.  In quoting Joel, Peter uses the same apocalyptic language that Christ used in the Olivet prophecy where Jesus said, “The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” (Matthew 24:29) Jesus, like Peter, identifies these events with the generation He was addressing at the time when He says, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:34).

       Apostle James wrote a letter to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations (James 1:1). In this letter he gives them much instruction as to how they should be conducting themselves. He goes on to chide them about hoarding wealth and shows it is in the last days they are doing this.  "You have hoarded wealth in the last days" (James 5:3b). The last days are clearly identified as the days then occurring and not some last days yet future to us. James goes on to instruct them to be patient until the Lord's coming and that this coming was near (James 5:7-8).  More on this in Part Nine of this series. 

       In Acts 2:40, it’s recorded that Peter, with many other words, warned them and pleaded with them to save themselves from the corrupt generation they were living in. Jesus identified the generation he was living in as wicked and adulterous.  He is not here speaking of some generation yet future to us.

       Matthew 12:39:  "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.     

       Acts 2:37 records that the people were “cut to the heart” when they heard these things from Peter and three thousand were added to their number that day.

       It’s apparent that with the manifestation of the Spirit, and this being tied to the coming judgment upon Israel, many realized the plight they were in and chose to accept the gospel message and escape the coming prophesied destruction upon the land of Israel. While Peter was preaching a message of repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), he was also preaching a message of physical salvation from the coming judgment against Jerusalem.  Peter was giving the same warning John the Baptist was giving when he spoke to the Pharisees and Sadducees about the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7).  This is the same warning Jesus was giving in Matthew 23:33-38, and in the Olivet Prophecy.

       The ministry of John the Baptist was a fulfillment of what Malachi had prophesied.  Malachi shows this ministry preceding the coming of the Lord in judgment.  Malachi associates a burning by fire with this judgment.  John the Baptist associates fire with the coming judgment upon Israel.  John the Baptist shows this judgment already beginning at the time of His ministry.

       Matthew 3:1-12: In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’ This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the desert, `Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. ‘I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.’

       This passage of Scripture shows John the Baptist addressing members of the Pharisee and Sadducee religious sects of his day.  He is telling them what is happening and what is about to happen.  This message was being directed to first-century Israel in anticipation of the appearing of the Christ.  The appearing of Jesus would involve his ministry, death and resurrection, and his return in judgment.  All this takes place within the generation that John the Baptist was addressing.


       In Matthew 16:21-27, Mark 8:31-38 and Luke 9:22-26 it is recorded that Jesus began to explain to his disciples (apparently the twelve) that he must go to Jerusalem where He will suffer many things at the hands of the religious leaders. He instructs that He will be killed but that He would be raised to life on the third day.

       He then calls a crowd to Him (Mark 8:34) and addresses them together with the twelve. He tells them that if anyone would come after Him, they must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Him.  Mark records Jesus saying “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels" (Mark 8:38). 

       Luke records something very similar (Luke 9:26) and Matthew records Jesus saying “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done” (Matthew 16:27) All three Gospel writers record Jesus concluding His remarks by saying the following:

       Matthew 16:28: I tell you the truth, some standing here will not taste of death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. 

       Mark 9:1: I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.

       Luke 9:27:  I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.

       The context is Jesus addressing a crowd and the twelve and telling them what they must do to be considered His followers and if they do what He tells them to do they will be rewarded accordingly when He comes in the glory of the Father.  Jesus then tells them that some of them will not die before they see Him come in the power of the kingdom. 

       Some argue that the transfiguration six days later (eight days according to Luke’s account) fulfills Christ’s statement about some whom He was addressing not dying before seeing Him come in power and in His Kingdom (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-9, Luke 9:28-36).  It's been argued that the "some" standing before Him who would not die before seeing Him coming in his kingdom were Peter, James and John who witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-2, Luke 9:28, Mark 9:2).  Is this a valid argument?  Is the transfiguration about Jesus coming in His Kingdom? 

       The account of the transfiguration is much the same in all three gospels.  Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain and while there His face is said to have shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as light. Appearing with Jesus are Moses and Elijah who are seen as talking to Him. Here is what they talked about.

        Luke 9:30-31: Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.

        As already pointed out, when Jesus addressed the crowd and the twelve, He told them what it would take to be a disciple of His and implied that if they did what He told them, they would be rewarded accordingly when He comes in the glory of the Father. It is within this context that Jesus then tells them that some of them will not die before they see Him come in the power of the kingdom. 

       The transfiguration reveals nothing about Jesus coming in the power of the Kingdom or about reward for righteous behavior.  Instead, what we see is Moses and Elijah speaking to Jesus about His departure. They are speaking to Him about what was about to befall Him at Jerusalem.

       During the transfiguration, it is recorded that a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”  It appears the transfiguration was for the purpose of impressing upon the disciples that Jesus was truly the promised Messiah to Israel even through he was about to be killed. This event was not about His return in the power of His Kingdom but about what was going to happen to Him prior to such event.     

       This being the case, it is apparent that when Jesus told the crowd that some of them would not die before they saw Him come in the power of His Kingdom, He was telling them that some of them would live to see that event.  To conclude the transfiguration fulfilled Jesus' statement defies logic. When Jesus said "some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power," the implication is that some would taste death before this event.  The transfiguration took place six to eight days after Jesus made this statement. We know that none of the twelve died and it is unlikely anyone in the crowd that heard Jesus would have died in that short timeframe. On this basis alone, the transfiguration, as a fulfillment of Jesus' statement, appears quite improbable.  

        It is also instructive that Jesus speaks of being ashamed of him in the generation He was addressing at the time and seemingly ties this to His return while that generation is still extant. 

       Mark 8:38: If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels. 

       It should be apparent that Jesus saying that some whom He was addressing would be alive when He came in the power of His Kingdom is not filled in the transfiguration. Throughout this series of essays, we have provided multiple dozens of statements made by Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, and others that show Jesus coming in His Kingdom was expected to occur in their generation. The statement Jesus made about some not dying before this event took place is another testimony to this expectation.  


       Some have conjectured that the transfiguration pictured Jesus’ return to establish the kingdom because Peter said to Jesus “it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (Matthew 17:4, Mark 9:5, Luke 9:33 KJV).  It is believed that Peter’s request to make three tabernacles (shelters in the NIV) was Peter reflecting on the OT Feast of Tabernacles as foreshadowing the coming of the Messiah and the establishment of the Kingdom. Is this the case?

       First of all, both Mark and Luke record that Peter said what he said about making three tabernacles (shelters) within a mindset of not knowing what he was saying. Luke records “He did not know what he was saying” (Luke 9:33).  Second of all, The OT Feast of Tabernacles has nothing to do with foreshadowing the coming of Christ to establish the kingdom. There is nothing in the entirety of Scripture that teaches this.

       The Feast of Tabernacles (AKA the Feast of Booths) was a harvest festival established by God for the purpose of reminding the Israelites of their having to live in booths when they left Egypt. The English word “booths” is a rendering of the Hebrew word sukkah which means “a temporary dwelling.” It is sometimes rendered as “tabernacle.” This festival was not designed to foreshadow anything. It was designed to keep the Israelites in remembrance of circumstances extant at the time of their exodus from Egypt.

       Leviticus 23:33-35: The LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites: `On the fifteenth day of the seventh month the LORD's Feast of Tabernacles (Hebrew sukkah) begins, and it lasts for seven days.The first day is a sacred assembly; do no regular work.

       Leviticus 23:39-43: So beginning with the fifteenth day of the seventh month, after you have gathered the crops of the land, celebrate the festival to the LORD for seven days; the first day is a day of rest, and the eighth day also is a day of rest.  On the first day you are to take choice fruit from the trees, and palm fronds, leafy branches and poplars, and rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days. Celebrate this as a festival to the LORD for seven days each year. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come; celebrate it in the seventh month.  Live in booths (Hebrew sukkah) for seven days: All native-born Israelites are to live in booths so your descendants will know that I had the Israelites live in booths when I brought them out of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.'"     

2 PETER 1:16-18:      

        Some have used Peter’s reference to the transfiguration in 2nd Peter chapter one as evidence that this event pictured the return of Christ and thus fulfilled the requirements of what Christ said in reference to some not tasting death before seeing Christ come in his Kingdom.  Is it the return of Christ that Peter sees in the transfiguration?

       2 Peter 1:16-18: We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying,” ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

       Peter did not say the event they experienced was representative of the return of Christ.  Peter said they did not invent a story about the power and coming of Christ and that the evidence for this was their personal witnessing of the majesty of Christ.  Peter was saying that because they had witnessed the majesty of Christ on the sacred mountain, they were able to affirmatively speak of the power and coming of Christ.  Peter was here showing how God had affirmed Jesus as the promised Messiah and therefore his readers could rest assured that what was said about the power and coming of Christ was the truth.     


      We have another interesting narrative related to the return of Christ recorded in the gospel of John:

       John 21:20-23: Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’) When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.’ Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, ‘If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?’

       While this passage does not say the disciple whom Jesus loved would be alive at Christ’s return, the very fact that Jesus indicated it was a possibility, shows the first-century context of His return.  It would make no sense for Jesus to make such a statement if His return was to be 2000 thousands years in the future and counting. Jesus wasn’t suggesting this disciple could live physically for thousands of years.  The context is the return of Christ.  The rumor among the brothers was that this disciple would not die.  The context shows that the rumor was that this disciple would be alive at the return of Christ.  There is no reason to believe that the brothers were thinking in terms of this disciple living for thousands of years.  It is reasonable to conclude that the brothers were anticipating a return of Christ within a normal lifetime.  

       The Scriptural passages we have covered so far provide strong Scriptural evidence for a first-century coming of Christ in judgment and to establish His everlasting Kingdom. The Scriptural evidence strongly indicates that it was the generation that was living during the time of Christ’s ministry that lived to experience the events Christ prophesied.  A spiritual return of Christ as God's agent to facilitate judgment, through the vehicle of human armies, is not out of line with other similar events in Scriptural history.  The Old Testament is full of accounts of God coming in various ways to bring judgment upon nations. Did God physically appear in these events?   No, He didn’t.  Instead, He appeared through human armies and other natural phenomena to accomplish His purpose.  Now Jesus, as the glorified Son of God, is sent by God to facilitate judgment in much the same manner.  

       Every disciple whose writings make up the New Testament addressed their audiences from the perspective that Christ would return during their lifetime.  They believed and taught this because of what Jesus taught them.  The written record of Christ’s teachings strongly point to a first-century return and establishment of the Kingdom.  This return was not a physical return.  It was a spiritual return whereby God through Christ facilitated His purpose through the Roman armies.  That purpose was to bring judgment upon those who had violated the terms and requirements of the Old Covenant and had refused to accept Jesus as Messiah and the New Covenant system that He came to establish.


       Let’s return to the book of Revelation and see how what is recorded there corresponds to what we have thus far identified as a first-century fulfillment of the return of Christ and all accompanying events.  We already noted earlier, in discussing the letters to the seven churches, that the emphasis was on soon to occur events.

        The basic focus of the Revelation is set forth at the beginning of this prophecy as seen in verse seven of the first chapter.  “Look, he is coming with clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the people of the earth will mourn because of him.”  The phrase, “even those who pierced him,” further identifies the time period as the first century.  It was in the first century that Christ was crucified and was physically pierced by a Roman soldier and spiritually pierced by His enemies (See Acts 2:23,36; 3:15; 5:30; 7:52; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15).

       This passage in the Revelation corresponds very closely with what Jesus said in Matthew 24:30. “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”  Jesus then said in Matthew 24:34, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”  Here Jesus dates the fulfilling of the Olivet Prophecy to the generation He is addressing in the first century.  Since the statement in Revelation 1:7 about coming in the clouds and the nations mourning is essentially the same as in the Olivet prophecy, it is apparent that the same event is being discussed.

       In both these passages Jesus speaks of the people of the earth mourning.  The Greek word translated people and nations in these two passages, is phule.  This word is translated as tribes throughout most of the New Testament and is shown to have tribes as its basic meaning in Greek lexicons. (See The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament and The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia). The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament informs that the Septuagint uses phule in relation to the tribes of Israel. 

       It appears that this statement by Christ is taken from Zechariah 12:10-14 where the prophet speaks of there being a great weeping in Jerusalem over the “one they have pierced,” and the tribes of Israel mourning.  Since this coming of Christ was a coming in judgment against the tribes of Israel, these statements would make perfect sense.

The 144,000

       The statements dealing with the sealing of the 144,000 as found in Revelation the ninth chapter; provide another time/place indicator.  “Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel” (Revelation 7:4).  The tribes are then listed, showing that we are dealing here with actual physical descendants of the tribes of Israel and not “spiritual Israelites.”  Then in Revelation 14:1-4 we see the 144,000 identified as the firstfruits to God and the Lamb.

       Who are the firstfruits in Scripture?  In the Old Testament, firstfruits designated the first gatherings of the crops (See Exodus 23:19; Leviticus 2:14; Nehemiah 10:35).  James, in his letter addressed to the “twelve tribes scattered among the nations,” says in verse 18, “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (James 1:1,18).  James is addressing his contemporaries as the firstfruits.  A reading of the New Testament Scriptures clearly shows that the first converts to Christianity were from the tribes of Israel.

       The 144,000, who are Israelites, are called the firstfruits in the Revelation.  Since the concept of firstfruits appears to be identified with those Israelites who became Christians in the first century, it would place the 144,000 in the first century.  This would provide another time/place indicator as to when the events that John wrote about were to take place.  If the 144,000 are to first make their appearance in our future, they could hardly be considered the “firstfruits.”  There have been many descendants of the tribes of Israel converted to Christianity in the nearly 2,000 years since the first century, far exceeding anything close to 144,000.  If the 144,000 were to appear at a “time of the end” that is yet in our future, the 144,000 could more appropriately be labeled the last fruits.

       Some would define “firstfruits” as all those who convert to Christianity from the first century to the time of Christ’s return sometime yet in our future. Therefore, the firstfruits are defined as spiritual Israelites.  If the number of 144,000 is considered as a literal representation of these converts, such a notion would be ludicrous as there have been millions of Christian converts since the first century.  If this number is considered figurative, it still doesn’t square with the common usage of firstfruits.  To define firstfruits as being gathered over a period of 2,000 years and counting, runs contrary to any sensible understanding of the meaning of firstfruits.  In the Old Testament, firstfruits are associated with the first pickings of the harvest.  Scripture associates this usage with events connected with conversion to Christianity.  The initial converts to Christianity were the firstfruits of the greater harvest that was to come.       


       The beast of Revelation is first mentioned in Revelation 11:7 where it is said that when the two witnesses have finished their testimony, the beast, that comes up from the Abyss, will attack them and overpower and kill them.  The beast is next mentioned in Revelation 13.

       Revelation 13:1-2: The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.

       Revelation 13: 3-8 describes one of the heads of the beast as seemingly receiving a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world is seen as being filled with wonder and following the beast. People are seen as worshiping the dragon who is seen as giving authority to the beast and also worshiping the beast and asking “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” The beast is seen as “given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months." The beast is seen as opening “its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.”  It is seen as being given power to “wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them.” It is seen as being given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth are seen as worshiping the beast, that is “all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.”

       Beginning with Revelation 13:11, John reports seeing a second beast, coming out of the earth. “It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon.”  It is seen as exercising “all the authority of the first beast on its behalf.”  It is seen as making “the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.”  It is seen as performing great signs and even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people.  It is recorded that “because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth." It is seen as ordering the inhabitants of the earth to “set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.” This second beast is shown to be given “power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.”

       This second beast is also shown to force “all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark.”  The mark is shown to be “the name of the beast (the second beast) or the number of its name.” This passage concludes in verse 18 with the instruction that those who have insight can “calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.”

       Reference to the beast occurs 19 more times in the Revelation. All these additional references appear to be of the first beast, not the second. In 14: 9-10 it’s recorded that “if anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.”  We read in 14:11 that “the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”

       Revelation 15:2 reports that John saw “what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God.”  Revelation 16:2 speaks of festering sores breaking out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.  16:10 speaks of the throne/kingdom of the beast plunged into darkness. 16:13 speaks of three impure spirits that looked like frogs coming out of the mouth of the beast.  In 17:3 we see a woman sitting on a scarlet beast.  This beast is seen as covered with blasphemous names and having seven heads and ten horns.

       In Revelation 17: 7-8, we have an explanation of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns. It’s explained that the beast, “once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.”  In 17:11-13 it is written that “the beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.  The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.”

       In Revelation 17:16-17 we read this: “The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.  For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled.”  In 19:19-20 John sees “the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse (Christ: see 19:11-18) and his army.”  The beast is seen as captured along with the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. It is recorded that with these signs the false prophet had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them (the beast and false prophet) are then seen as being thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.

       In Revelation 20:4 John sees thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.  He also sees the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. He observes that they had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. These folks are seen as coming to life and reigning with Christ a thousand years.  The last mention of the beast is in Revelation 20:10 where the devil, who is seen as deceiving the nations, is thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown and they will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

       It would appear from a careful reading of the beast passages of the Revelation that the beast that is seen coming out of the sea in 13:1-2 and having seven heads and ten horns is a description of a ruling kingdom and its succession of rulers. This ruling kingdom and its rulers appear to be first century Rome. In Revelation 17:9b we read, “The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits."  It is instructive that Rome sits on seven hills named Palatine, Aventine, Caelian, Esquiline, Viminal, Quirinal and Capitoline. Roman historians speak of a first century Roman festival called Septimontium which means “The feast of seven hills.”   

       The ten horns are felt to represent the ten provinces of Italy, Achaia, Asia, Syria, Egypt, Africa, Spain, Gaul, Britain and Germany over which Rome ruled. The second beast that is seen as coming out of the earth in 13:11 appears to represent the ruler Nero.  Many historians and theologians identify the Roman Emperor Nero as the beast of Revelation 13:11 and/or the beast of 13:1-10. History reveals that Nero fits very well the description of the beast/beasts seen in Revelation 13.

       John writes that the beast was given authority for forty-two months and given power to make war against the saints (Revelation 13: 5-7). It is interesting to note that the Neronic persecution against the Christians began in November of A.D. 64, and continued until June of A.D. 68.  It was in June of A.D. 68 when Nero committed suicide.  The period of November A.D. 64 to June 68 is a period of forty-two months.

       Nero (Emperor from A.D. 54 to 68) was the sixth Caesar to govern the developing Roman Empire and the first to bring massive persecution upon the Christians.  Clement of Rome (A.D. 30-100) speaks of Nero’s persecution claiming vast numbers of the elect through tortures and indignities.  Clement wrote that Nero’s behavior was evil beyond description and could rightly be attributed to that of a beast.  Nero murdered his parents, wife, brother, aunt and many others.  Using poison and elaborately rigged “accidents” were his favorite methods of murder.

       Clement of Alexandria (AD 150-215) writes of Apostle John being able to leave the Island of Patmos after the death of the tyrant.  In his book “Life of Apollonius,” writer Philoarratus quotes Apollonius of Tyana, a contemporary of Nero, as calling Nero a tyrant and a wild beast. A writer by the name of Juvenal (AD 60-138) speaks of “Nero’s cruel and bloody tyranny” and discusses Nero’s sexual exploits with young men. The Sibylline Oracles (AD 175) speak of Nero as a "great beast." 

       The Roman historian Suetonius (A.D. 70-160) tells how Nero would disguise himself and prowl the streets and attack men, stabbing them to death and dropping them down sewers.  Suetonius described him as “insolent, lustful, extravagant, greedy and cruel.”  He had his travel paths lined with temporary brothels staffed with married women.  Suetonius speaks of Nero as a torturer, a homosexual rapist and sodomist.

       The Roman historian Tacitus (A.D. 55-117) tells of how Nero initiated the persecutions against the Christians with horrible tortures, crucifixions, beheadings, burning them alive and using them as human torches. In AD 64 a fire destroyed a good portion of the city of Rome. Tacitus writes that Nero was seen as responsible for setting the fire and in an attempt to shift the blame from himself, he blamed the fire on the Christians and proceeded to punish them in the manner described above.

       Pliny the elder (A.D. 23-79) describes Nero as “the destroyer of the human race,” and “the poison of the world.”  The writer Thana (4 B.C. - A.D. 96) actually called Nero a beast, comparing him with wild beasts of the field.  The writer Lactantius (A.D. 240-320), speaks of Nero as “an execrable and pernicious tyrant” and a “noxious wild beast.”  Suetonius, in writing about Nero, said,

        “He so prostituted his own chastity that after defiling almost every part of his body, he at last devised a kind of game, in which, covered with the skin of some wild animal, he was let loose from a cage and attacked the private parts of men and women, who were bound to stakes, and when he had satiated his mad lust, was dispatched by his freeman Doryphorus.”

       It is Nero who initiated the war against the Jewish nation that led to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

     The number 666 has been tied to various individuals and entities throughout the centuries.  Many historians and theologians identify the number 666 with Nero. If indeed Nero is the beast of Revelation 13, the number 666 would have to relate to his name as the Scripture demands in Revelation 13:18.

       In Latin, Greek, Hebrew and other older languages, letters were used to represent numbers. John wrote in code to hide the meaning from the enemies of first-century Christians.  John was a Jew and understood Hebrew and yet wrote the Revelation in Greek.  To identify the beast numerically in Greek would have been too easy to recognize by the enemies of the Christians.  What John apparently did was to identify Nero in Hebrew letters, which he translated into Greek.  The reader would have to know the Hebrew equivalents to the Greek letters in order to arrive at the proper meaning, the same way we have to know English equivalents to the Greek letters in order to understand the meaning.  That is why John writes in Revelation 13:18, “This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast.”

       Nero’s full title name as Roman Emperor was Nero Caesar.  In Hebrew, translated into Greek, Nero Caesar is rendered (in English characters) as: NRWN QSR.  The numbers associated with these letters are N=50, R=200, W=6, N=50, Q=100, S=60, R=200. Total, 666.  What gives greater evidence to Nero being the beast of Revelation 13 is that in several very early copies of the Greek New Testament, the number 616 is given which is the Latin numerical equivalent of the name Nero Caesar.  What this tells us is that the copiers knew that 666 in the Greek represented Nero and they were simply using the Latin numerical designation that they were well aware of.

       It is interesting to note that in Revelation 17:9-10, seven kings are spoken of with five having fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come.  In actual history, five Roman emperors had come and gone, Julius Caesar (49-44 BC), Augustus Caesar (31 BC - A.D.14), Tiberius Caesar (A.D. 14-37), Caligula (A.D. 37-41), and Claudius Caesar A.D. 41-54 with Nero (A.D. 54-68) being the sixth. If the “one is” statement of John is to be applied to the Roman emperor who was on the throne at the time that John wrote the Revelation, then Nero is again identified as the beast, seeing how John refers to the king that “now is” as the beast.

       Of interest is that Nero is seen on various inscriptions as “Nero Claudius” or Nero Claudius Caesar” which is apparently his adoptive name. After Claudius became Emperor, Nero's mother Agrippina, a descendant of Augustus Caesar, married Claudius. Nero’s biological father had died years before.  Claudius adopted Nero as his son and gave him the name "Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus.”

        A man named Epiphanius (A.D. 315-403) who was the bishop of Salamis Cyprus around A.D 367, wrote in regard to the Revelation that John “prophesied in the time of Claudius…the prophetic word according to the Apocalypse being disclosed.”  Scholars believe Epiphanius was referring to Claudius Nero.    

       It should be noted that when Nero killed himself, it ended the bloodline of Caesars that had ruled over the Roman Empire beginning with Julius Caesar around 48 B.C.  In Revelation, 13:3, John speaks of the beast having a deadly wound that was healed.  With the death of Nero, the empire was thrown into civil war and great calamity. The historians of the time, such as Tacitus, Suetonius, and Josephus all wrote of the imminent collapse of the Empire as three would-be successors to Nero failed and died within the space of eleven months (Galba, Otho and Vitellius). Galba ruled the longest, June of A.D. 68 to January of A.D. 69, a period of eight months.

       The Empire appeared to be coming to an end when General Vespasian, at the insistence of his army, took control of the government and became the seventh emperor.  Vespasian was not a member of the line of ruling Caesars, but did bring the empire back from oblivion.  That is why John speaks of “The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king.  He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction” (Revelation 17:11).  Vespasian was figuratively of the seven heads of John’s vision but also separate as he was not part of the ruling family of Caesars.

      It is unclear as to what the “image of the beast” was.  Some have conjectured that it represents what is referred to as the “Imperial Cult.”  The Imperial Cult is seen as the promotion of the worship of the emperor as a God, a thing not uncommon in the Roman Empire. In A.D. 55 the Roman senate erected a statue of Nero in the Temple of Mars in Rome. Inscriptions in Ephesus have been discovered where Nero is called “Almighty God” and “Savior.”  Some feel the “false prophet” is associated with the Imperial Cult.  It is interesting that history reports that Nero built a 120 foot high likeness of his head haloed with solar rays that identified him as Phoebus Apollo. Could the image of the beast be none other than Nero himself?


        Another strong indicator as to the time frame involved in the events described in Revelation is the fact that John speaks of the temple as still standing as part of his description (Revelation 11:1-2).  We know the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70.  Therefore, it would be logical to conclude that the events being prophesied by John were within the time frame that included the temple that was still physically standing in Jerusalem.  The only other explanation would be to postulate a yet future rebuilding of the temple with the events of Revelation 11 and much of the rest of this prophecy relating to future events.  Such a futuristic interpretation, however, would fly in the face of all the above evidence for a first-century application of this prophecy.

       There simply is no Scriptural evidence to support a rebuilt temple.  A rebuilt temple would imply a reestablishment of sacrifices and other Old Covenant ordinances.  Christ came to forever set aside Old Covenant requirements.  A rebuilt temple would have no significance relative to salvation or the purposes of God.  A future rebuilt temple is not the temple of record in the Revelation.

       As part of the prophecy relating to measuring the temple, John is instructed not to measure the outer court because it has been given to the gentiles and it is said, “they will trample on the holy city for 42 months” (Revelation 11:2).  In the Olivet Prophecy it is stated, “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24)It is interesting to note that from the time that Vespasian and his Roman armies entered Palestine in the spring of A.D. 67 until Jerusalem was destroyed in the late summer of A.D. 70, was a period of 42 months.

       In regard to dating the writing of the Revelation, the fact that the author is writing about events associated with an existing temple speaks to the Revelation being written before the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70.  If the Revelation was written subsequent to the destruction of the temple one would think there would be a reference to that destruction having occurred.

       It is instructive that in the Epistle of Barnabas which is dated somewhere between A.D. 75 and A.D. 100, Barnabas makes reference to the temple being destroyed. Ignatius, writing around A.D. 107, alludes to the destruction of the temple. Justin Martyr, writing around A.D. 147, speaks of the devastation of the land of the Jews just as Jesus had prophesied. Yet the writer of the Revelation sees the temple still standing, thus giving evidence to a pre-A.D.70 writing of the Revelation.

       The Revelation was written with a great deal of symbolism.  It appears that this narrative was largely written in code in order to conceal the meaning from the enemies of Christianity.  At the same time, this narrative provided a warning to the Christians as to what was about to take place.  This allowed the Christian community to properly prepare themselves and gain faith from knowing what the outcome would be.  The outcome would involve the return of Christ to facilitate judgment and resurrection and establish His everlasting Kingdom.

       In the final chapter of the Revelation, John is told, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near” (Revelation 22:10) This is in stark contrast to what Daniel was told relative to his prophecy regarding end time events.  “But seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future” (Daniel 8:26).  “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end” (Daniel 12:9).

       Daniel wrote in the 6th century B.C. (See my essay entitled "Who wrote the book of Daniel?"). Those portions of Daniel’s prophecy concerning end-time events were sealed and didn’t materialize until nearly 500 years later in the first century A.D.  John was told not to seal up his prophecy because the time was near.  It should be clear that the events described in the Revelation were to take place soon after John was given this prophecy and not thousands of years into the future.

       In part five of this series, we will identify who Babylon is in the Revelation given to John and begin to look at the book of Daniel as it pertains to our discussion in these essays.