PMW 2019-023 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In Revelation 13:1–2 we are introduced to the beast from the sea who will play a prominent role in Revelation from this point forward: “I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.”
We must understand the “first beast” in Rev 13 both generically and individually. This is not unusual in Scripture: Christ’s body is generic (the church) and specific (Jesus); Adam is generic (man) and specific (Adam). Generically the “beast” is Rome; individually it is Nero Caesar, the head of the Roman Empire of the day.
The rationale for the generic identity is as follows. The book’s time frame supports the identification (see earlier article; cp. Rev 1:1, 3). The beast rises from the sea, which suggests the Italian peninsula where Rome is located and when considered from the vantage of either Patmos or Israel (across the Mediterranean Sea). It has “seven heads” (Rev 13:1; 17:3) that are “seven mountains” (Rev 17:8, 9); Rome is famous for its “Seven Hills.” The beast’s number is an exercise in Hebrew gematria: converting letters into numbers. An ancient Hebrew spelling of Nero Caesar perfectly fits the value: “Nrwn Qsr” (Rev 13:18): n  r  w  n  q  s  r .
The Beast of Revelation
by Ken Gentry
A popularly written antidote to dispensational sensationalism and newspaper exegesis. Convincing biblical and historical evidence showing that the Beast was the Roman Emperor Nero Caesar, the first civil persecutor of the Church. The second half of the book shows Revelation’s date of writing, proving its composition as prior to the Fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. A thought-provoking treatment of a fascinating and confusing topic.
For more study materials, go to: KennethGentry.com
The beast’s evil and blasphemous character suggests Nero specifically, and the emperors generically: Since Julius Caesar the emperors were often considered divine. Roman historian Dio Cassius reports on Nero’s return to Rome from Greece: “The people cried out: ‘Thou August, August! To Nero, the Hercules! To Nero, the Apollo! The Eternal One! Thou August! Sacred voice! Happy those who hear thee!’” (Dio, Roman History 62:20:5) In addition, Nero was the first emperor to persecute Christianity (Rev 13:7), and his persecution prevails as a virtual state of siege for around forty-two months, as prophesied in Rev 13:5 (Nov. AD 64 to June AD 68, Rev 13:5).
The healing of the beast’s deadly wound pictures Rome’s revival after the devastating Roman Civil Wars of AD 68–69, which are caused by Nero’s suicide with his own sword. Roman historian Tacitus reports on the Roman Civil Wars: “This was the condition of the Roman state when Servius Galba . . . entered upon the year that was to be for Galba his last and for the state almost the end” (Histories 1:2, 11)
Roman historian Suetonius writes regarding the outcome of the Civil Wars two years later: “The empire, which for a long time had been unsettled and, as it were, drifting through the usurpation and violent death of three emperors, was at last taken in and given stability by the Flavian family” (Vespasian 1:1). Josephus, the Jewish court historian to the Flavians, agrees: “So upon this confirmation of Vespasian’s entire government, which was now settled, and upon the unexpected deliverance of the public affairs of the Romans from ruin” (Josephus, J.W. 4:11:5).
Blessed Is He Who Reads: A Primer on the Book of Revelation
By Larry E. Ball
A basic survey of Revelation from the preterist perspective.
It sees John as focusing on the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.
For more Christian studies see: www.KennethGentry.com
The “second beast” is the first beast’s minion (Rev 13:11–12). He represents apostate Judaism as concentrated in its religious leadership in its high priestly aristocracy: (1) He arises from “the land” (tes ges), i.e., from within Israel. (2) He appears as a “lamb” (Rev 13:11), reminding us of temple worship in that “the lamb is the dominant sacrificial victim” (Interpreters’ Dictionary of the Bible, 3:58). (3) He “spoke as a dragon,” i.e., as Satan (13:11; 12:3), which reflects John and Jesus’ estimation of what Israel has become (Rev 2:9; 3:9; Jn 8:44). (4) He is also the “false prophet” (Rev 19:20), which reminds us of Israel’s long line of prophets.
Tagged: beast of Revelation, Nero, Revelation
How do you see Rev 13:16,17 relating to the identification of the first and second beasts as Nero & apostate Judaism respectively? How did apostate Judaism force people to bear the mark or name of Nero (coinage? cf Matt 22:19-20)? Do you think it could relate somehow to the Jewish tradition of wearing phylacteries (albeit on the left arm/hand and forehead as opposed to right hand and forehead); as a sign of their apostasy perhaps cf Isa 19:13?
I would also be interested in your thoughts on a possible present day application of Rev 13:16,17, as so many Christians believe. The number 6 is associated with man generally (he was created on the sixth day) and the “mark” could be an identifier. Modern technology, where biometric markers (finger prints, retinal scans and facial mapping) can be used to identify individuals and coded on micro-transponders for remote reading, is already being utilised.
Very insightful! I actually do see the phylacteries as playing a role in this. But basically my argument is that the Jews preferred their temple over their Messiah when they declared “We have no king but Caesar.” Because of your question, I will try to provide a study of your question in a later blog.
I don’t see the number 6 as significant in 666. In the Greek the number is not given as six and six and six, but as six-hundred, sixty, and six. It is the sum of the letters to Nero’s name when spelled in Hebrew characters. This Hebrew spelling should not surprise us in that Revelation is the most Hebraic book in the NT. Therefore, I believe any attempt at some technological application today is fundamentally mistaken.
Why does the beast of Revelation 13 have seven heads, ten horns, and “ten diadems” while the Dragon of Revelation 12 has seven heads, ten horns and “seven diadems?” I know of course these details are to be taken symbolically and not literally; however, the consistent thing I read (from preterist) of the Dragon in Revelation 12 is that the seven heads represents the seven the city on seven hills which is Rome. The ten horns represents the division of ten provinces across the empire, and the seven diadems represents the seven emperors of Rome which would compliment what Revelation 17:10 says.
Why would the beast of Revelation 13 then have ten diadems instead of seven? What is the significance?
Maybe the nuance is irrelevant, since they are two different figures in the Apocalypse.
Good question. It appears that this may be explained by the following. The dragon had the diadems on his head to signify he was “the mastermind” behind world rule, whereas the beast has them on his horns showing they are gained by military conquest, since horns speak of military power, as we see in Da 7:7–8; Zec 1:19, 21. Thus, the reason the dragon only has seven diadems is that he only has seven heads, whereas since the beast’s diadems are located on his horns, he has ten diadems.
Here is a suggestion for a likely identification of the 2 horns that are on the 2nd Land Beast of Rev. 13:11. Dr. Gentry, I’m not sure how you will identify them in your commentary, but I would take them to be the Pharisee and Sadducee parties that were embedded in the power structure of the Judaic leadership of this Land Beast. Speaking deceptively, like a dragon, was typical of their underhanded methods as they attempted to entrap Christ in His teachings.
As for the different presentation of the diadems on the dragon’s 7 heads, instead of being on his 10 horns in Rev. 12:3, these crowns upon the 7 heads would indicate that Satan ruled supremely in the 7-hilled city of Rome. He gave his “great authority” and controlling power over the city (“his seat”) into the hands of the Sea Beast, represented individually by Nero at this time, as you have pointed out. Satan boasted of having this power as the prince of the world’s kingdoms to Christ in the wilderness temptation of Luke 4:6, and that he could give it to whomever he wished.
And although I know you do not agree, I still see a 3rd beast in Rev. 17 coming from the wilderness (Judaic origin), not the sea (Roman origin). Both the Land Beast of Rev. 13 (the false prophet) and the scarlet-colored Wilderness Beast of Rev. 17 (which includes 10 false Messiahs) provide a wicked JUDAIC parody of the True Prophets of Israel (from Moses through John the Baptist) which preceded the True Messiah (Jesus) that the faithful in Israel had anticipated since Moses and the prophets spoke. Since apostate Israel ultimately rejected the teachings of both the prophets and Jesus, these 2 Judaic Beasts are a picture of the resulting false substitutes.
Simply because the same number of 7 heads and 10 horns appear on both Sea and Wilderness Beasts does not make them one and the same. To me, they still appear to be a Roman and a Judean mirror image of each other. Rome’s beast had 7 hills around Rome to sit upon, and Jerusalem’s beast had its own 7 hills around Jerusalem to sit upon. Rome’s beast had 10 horns representing emperors, and Jerusalem’s beast had 10 horns representing those individuals who strove militarily to become the Messiah over Jerusalem in the struggle leading up to AD 70. I John 2:18 said there would be “many”coming out from among them, so a figure of 10 would not be an exaggeration.
Can you name the seven heads and the ten horns?
Check back on this site on this coming Tuesday, Aug. 27.
Dr. Gentry, The beast from the land is the one with the number. Nero is 666 (Revelation 13:19), so how it that apostate Judaism?
Hi, dr. Kenneth.
If the beast who came uou out of the earth represents apostate Judaism, how can we understand Revelation 13:13-14? Apostate judaism did not perform “great things, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of the people…”
in 13:13 it appears that the Land beast’s fire under the authority of the sea beast represents the Jewish high priesthood’s conducting temple sacrifices at God’s heaven-fired altar. In this context involving his submission to the sea beast, John has specifically in view the priestly sacrifices in behalf of the Roman emperor. We know from history that the priestly hierarchy offers “sacrifices twice every day for Caesar, and the Roman people” (J.W. 2:10:4 §197; Philo, Embassy 32 §157, 232; 40 §317; 45 §355). In fact, elsewhere Josephus writes: “we also offer perpetual sacrifices for them; nor do we only offer them every day at the common expenses of all the Jews, but although we offer no other such sacrifices out of our common expenses, no, not for our own children, yet do we this as a peculiar honor to the emperors, and to them alone, while we do the same to no other person whomsoever” (Ap. 2:6 §77-78; cp. J.W. 2:10:4 §197). Thus, “just as Caesar was linked with traditional gods and heroes elsewhere in the East, so in the Jerusalem Temple, the priests ‘offered sacrifice twice daily for Caesar and the Roman people” (Horsley 1995: 122).
By his symbolically linking the Land beast (the high priest) to the sea beast (Rome), John appears to be taking a slap at the Jewish sacrifice in honor of the emperor. Sacrifices on the altar speak of atonement and forgiveness of sin, peace with God, and so forth. How then can they offer sacrifices in honor of the idolatrous emperor? Sacrifices in behalf of the emperor involve a selling-out of the priestly system so that they might preserve their own power.
John is thus exposing temple worship as a lie (remember 2:9; 3:9) whereby the high priest “deceives” those who “dwell in the Land” (13:14a). In fact, instead of acting “before the Lord” (enōpion tou kuriou) (11:4) as a true servant of God, he acts “in the presence of men” (enōpion tōn anthrōpōn) (13:13). As Osborne (514) notes, he does so “in full view of men” so that “it is not a religious act but a public-relations performance.” But this is not an either/or situation. The Land beast is acting both religiously and for public relations purposes. He is engaging in (what is now) false religious worship in order to maintain influence among men. This is precisely like the religious leaders during and after Christ’s ministry. Instead of engaging worship to serve God, they who betray God’s Messiah act religiously by loudly (and pompously) praying on street corners (Mt 6:5), engaging in showy religious fasts (Mt 6:16), doing various religious works, and wearing extravagant religious attire (Mt 23:5). They do this so as to be “noticed by men” and so that they could receive “honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues” (Mt 23:5)
I have to repeat my question: The beast from the land is the beast with the number. The number is that of Nero. How can that be apostate Israel?
It is not. It is the number of the Roman beast. The second beast who is his underling is the apostate priesthood.
The one who causes those to have the mark is the land beast. Only he who has the mark, the name, or the number of the beast is able to buy or sell. Grammatically (or otherwise) why is that of the sea beast, not the land beast.
The sea beast is the main subject of this chapter which has two scenes; he therefore dominates it: (1) He is the first to arise (13:1; cp. 13:11), even being called “the first beast” (13:12). (2) The word “beast” is repeatedly applied to him (13:1, 2, 3, 4 [3x], 12 [2x], 14 [2x], 15 ), whereas the land beast is only referred to one time as “beast” (13:11). (3) The land beast is the servant of the sea beast (13:12, 14), showing the dominance of the sea beast. (4) The land beast makes an image of the sea beast for purposes of worshiping the sea beast and oppressing those who dwell on the earth (13:15), and this image quickly becomes associated with “the number of his name” (13:17–18). (5) After introducing the land beast (13:11), the word “beast” is clearly applied to the land beast in the scene (13:12, 14, 15) so that we must understand “the number of the beast” being his number (13:17–18).
I believe you are correct. I’m constantly amazed that no matter how often I read something and no matter how “in-depth” I study it, something can still easily be missed. Of course, when looking at this passage this way, it is evident that the only reference to the land beast as “beast” is the first. What makes this difficult are all the pronouns. From v.11, the word “he” is used nine times, “him” and “his” a total of six more (NASB). Oh, the wonders of God’s word. I’m glad I asked. Thank you.
My understanding is that they represent the ten leading provincial governors of the Roman empire.
Hi dr. Kenneth
If the ten horns represent the ten leading providencial governors of the Roman Empire, what does represent the litlle horn and the three other horns who were uprooted?
You are mingling Daniel’s beast and Revelation’s beasts which are different. I recommend your consulting Jay Rogers’ commentary on Daniel. https://www.kennethgentry.com/in-the-days-of-these-kings-the-book-of-daniel-in-preterist-perspective-by-jay-rogers-bk/
if “land” (ges) symbolizes the land of Israel, how should we understand Revelation 20:8? In this context “earth” does not seem to refer to Israel, but to the whole world. “Nations in the four cornes of the ‘earth'” seem to refer to nation from whole world.
“Land” speaks of Israel in Revelation about 60% of the time. Context determines the difference. And as you can see, the context of 20:8 broadens the concept to include the whole earth.
What do you think about the fact that the Beast is killed and/or cast into the lake of fire at the cloud-coming of Jesus Christ (Rev. 19:20)? And that it is “tormented unto the ages of the ages” (Rev. 20:10)? It doesn’t seem that this can describe Rome, which was not destroyed or punished in any way in AD 70.
Because of this, I’ve been considering Adam Maarschalk’s idea that the Beast is zealot-led Israel, although that also seems to fail to fit the Beast’s description in other ways.
Furthermore, what were “the cities of the Gentiles” that fell in AD 70 (Rev. 16:19), and why was Jesus equipped to “smite the nations” at his cloud-coming (Rev. 19:15)? As far as I know, only Judaea was punished in AD 70…?
With many scholars, I believe the beast is sometimes Rome and sometimes Rome’s head, Nero Caesar. Thus, it is Nero that is killed at the judgment coming in the first century.