Don’t let the title put you off, we’re about to go on a mad journey through the annuls of history and the Roman Empire, contrasting what John saw in his vision with what has already played out on the “world’s stage” and what we possibly have to look forward to!

First though, let’s look at a little history concerning the book itself before delving into its contents. Why do this? For a couple of reasons really: one, Revelation has some dispute over the year in which it was written, which can impact on the interpretation. Two, at various points in early church history, the book was held in suspicion of being spurious and almost didn’t make it into the Canon of Scripture. We should always endeavour to understand the history and context of a book of Scripture in order to fully understand its intended meaning, and thus, “rightly divide” (2 Tim 2:15) and interpret the Bible properly.

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Two Dating Views

There are two main views on the dating of Revelation: the “early date” and the “late date”.

The early date places John writing Revelation around 64-68 AD, shortly before the fall of Jerusalem and just as the Jewish War was getting underway during the reign of Nero.

The late date puts the writing towards the end of the reign of Domitian around 95-96 AD.

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From John’s own testimony, we know that he was suffering persecution at the time of writing:

Revelation 1:9

I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.

 

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Both of these Roman Emperors persecuted the Christians, though none quite so severely as Nero did.

There’s varying accounts of when Revelation was penned by John. I won’t spend too much time on this as many, many others have wrote books on the topic of dating, so I’ll just give a brief overview of both sides of the argument.

 

One of the earliest accounts mentioning a possible early date for Revelation is from the “Muratorian Fragment which dates back to the around 170-190 AD. This fragment is one of the earliest lists we have of the accepted Canon of Scripture (or books which were approved to be read in the Churches), and in it there is a curious sentence about Paul “following the rule of his predecessor John, [writing] to no more than seven churches by name.” This is interesting because Paul’s letters are widely accepted to be amongst some of the earliest New Testament books we have, as well as historical tradition and writings saying that Paul was martyred under Nero’s reign around 67 or 68 AD, which means if he followed “his predecessor” John, Revelation must have been written before 70 AD!

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There’s also one other reference which offers some insight (though is quite hard to find many sources on), in which the Syriac Vulgate Bible from the sixth century has an opening title to Revelation as follows: "The Apocalypse of St. John, written in Patmos, whither John was sent by Nero Caesar."

 

The late date theory is mainly due to a single quote by Irenaeus (plus a couple of other historical references about John which indirectly impact the early date), where he somewhat cryptically mentions John and/or his vision as possibly being seen during Domitian’s reign:

“We will not, however, incur the risk of pronouncing positively as to the name of Antichrist; for if it were necessary that his name should be distinctly revealed in this present time, it would have been announced by him who beheld the Revelation. For that was seen no very long time since, but almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian's reign." — Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.30:3

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What exactly Irenaeus was referring to being seen “almost in [his] day” has been questioned over time due to the cryptic nature of the sentence, and because just a few paragraphs before this statement, he refers to “ancient copies [of the Apocalypse]” implying the actual text is older than his time.

Eusebius, in mentioning this in his Church History (III, ch. 18), phrases this as: “almost in our own generation”. This potentially changes the way in which you could read Irenaeus’ statement, as it could be understood as saying: ‘almost in our day (the generation towards the end of Domitian’s reign), the revelation was seen.’

The part about Domitian’s reign could just be a way to further clarify the time Irenaeus was living in, rather than specifying the time when John saw the revelation, which was only seen “almost in [their] day” – but not quite in their time! This would then reconcile better with Irenaeus also referring to “ancient copies” of John’s Revelation.

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Robert Young (of Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary) also challenges this late date: 

"It was written in Patmos about A.D.68, whither John had been banished by Domitius Nero, as stated in the title of the Syriac version of the Book; and with this concurs the express statement of Irenaeus (A.D.175), who says it happened in the reign of Domitianou, ie., Domitius (Nero). Sulpicius Severus, Orosius, &c., stupidly mistaking Domitianou for Domitianikos, supposed Irenaeus to refer to Domitian, A.D. 95, and most succeeding writers have fallen into the same blunder. The internal testimony is wholly in favor of the earlier date."

Concise Critical Comments on the Holy Bible, by Robert Young. Published by Pickering and Inglis, London and Glasgow, (no date), Page 179 of the "New Covenant" section. See also: Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary, Baker Book House, March 1977, ISBN: 0-8010-9914-5, pg 178.

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There is another theory on the conflicting dating by a David E. Aune, which states that John wrote his apocalypse in two parts. The first during Nero’s tyrannical reign and persecution of the Christian Church around 68-70 AD, and the second “edition” towards the end of the first century. He suggests this, not only based on the themes of persecution in the book, but also because there is a lack of external historical evidence for such dramatic persecution near the end of the first century. The other reason for this dual-dating is the the way in which John writes about Jesus. According to Aune, John later gives “titles and attributes normally reserved for God in Judaism … to the exalted Christ.” (Reclaiming the Book of Revelation, W. E. Glabach, p.36)

The details of who persecuted John and exiled him as a result, seems to predominantly point to Domitian, although there are still varying references in early writings which also point to it being Claudia, Nero or Trajan (Patmos in the Reception History of the Apocalypse, By Ian Boxall, p.31)!

 

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Personally, with the external evidences, it makes me want to lean a little towards the late date, (although the alternate reading of Irenaeus’ quote I proposed earlier causes me to be less certain of a late date), but then the internal evidence of what Revelation contains and describes would appear to fit better with events of an early date pre-70 AD.

If the late date be true, maybe John was recapping earlier events through a spiritual lens, and then following on with the persecution that happened under Domitian’s rule and the eventual demise of the Roman Empire? I won’t be too dogmatic about it either way.

 

Four Interpretation Views

As well as there being two different views on the dating of Revelation, there are as well, four different views of interpretation! These are: the Futurist View, the Historicist View, the Past Fulfilled View, and the Idealist View.

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In brief, these four different views generally say this:

“The idealist approach believes that apocalyptic literature like Revelation should be interpreted allegorically. The preterist and historicist views are similar in some ways to the allegorical method, but it is more accurate to say preterists and historicists view Revelation as symbolic history. The preterist views Revelation as a symbolic presentation of events that occurred in AD 70, while the historicist school views the events as symbolic of all Western church history. The futurist school believes Revelation should be interpreted literally. In other words, the events of Revelation are to occur at a future time.”

Patrick Zukeran, probe.org

 

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While all of this is interesting and possibly challenging for us reading Revelation today, it was unlikely to be so obscure and strange to the early church and those in the seven churches of Asia addressed in the beginning chapters. An “apocalypse” – as in, the genre of writing style that Revelation employs, was fairly well known and accepted within Jewish culture and religion, as it lends heavily from Old Testament prophetic writings. Not only that, but the believer’s it was addressed to were expected to understand this letter just by it being read to them in their churches, as we can see from Rev 1:3 –

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of the prophecy, and blessed are those who hear and who keep what is written in it; for the time is near.

 

And so, we must try to interpret it in the same manner that the original audience would have understood it, with all of the historical circumstances and context that they were living in and through. It might also be worth noting here, more for informations sake than anything, that Revelation was, at one time, counted among the disputed books, though accepted by others to be genuine. So while it has become almost a staple within modern Evangelical doctrine of the “End Times”, it wasn’t always so (cf. Eusebius, Church History, Ch. 3:2; Ch. 25:4).

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In terms of the Jewish War and the siege and eventual destruction of Jerusalem and its temple, Eusebius (along with other early writers, such as Tertullian and others) quite happily regard all of this as the fulfillment of all that Jesus prophesied, as recorded in Matt 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, and also as the completion of the 70 Weeks of Daniel’s prophecy.

“It is fitting to add to these accounts the true prediction of our Saviour in which he foretold these very events … If any one compares the words of our Saviour with the other accounts of the historian concerning the whole war, how can one fail to wonder, and to admit that the foreknowledge and the prophecy of our Saviour were truly divine and marvellously strange.”

Eusebius, Church History, Ch. 7:1, 7

“Vespasian, in the first year of his empire, subdues the Jews in war; and there are made lii (52) years, vi (6) months. For he reigned xi (11) years. And thus, in the day of their storming, the Jews fulfilled the lxx hebdomads (70 sevens) predicted in Daniel.”

Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, Ch. VIII, 160

1260 yrs
1260 yrs in the various interpretive models

Key Points

While initially I was beginning to wonder if Revelation had anything to do with the fall of Jerusalem or was about the later persecutions in Christianity, after studying this a lot more it would seem to be that John was speaking about the impending doom of Jerusalem as well as later persecutions and the fall of the Roman Empire which was, in nonspecific terms, “the beast” and specifically, individual Roman Emperors.

Revelation six especially appears to directly correlate with Matthew 24 with the predicted signs and woes which were to come. Matthew lays it out in “real world” terms, whereas Rev 6 speaks of the same things happening, but from the heavenly viewpoint of Jesus opening the seals on a scroll.

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Let’s break it down a little:

Matthew 24

Revelation 6

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Seal/Meaning

vv.4-5: Jesus answered them, “Beware that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray.

v.2: I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.

The first seal is a white horse with the rider in a crown. The symbolism of purity and honour is then eclipsed by the fact this horseman intends to conquer those he goes to. The wider comparison here is that of the White Horse of Rev 19:11 in which Jesus is the rider, showing more so this first horse is an imposter of truth.

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vv.6-7a: And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom...

v.4: And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another; and he was given a great sword.

The second seal/horseman is the red horse which brings with it war and removes peace.

v.7b: …and there will be famines…

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vv.5-6: ...and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, and I heard ... a voice … saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!”

The third horseman is generally understood to represent famine due to his imbalanced scales which he holds. The value of basic food is disproportionately high, and thus would cause famine – especially among the lower class and poorer citizens.

v.7c: …and earthquakes in various places…

In Luke’s version, Jesus also mentions there will be “famines and plagues” (Lk 21:11).

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v.8: I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.

The fourth seal also emcompasses famines, along with death in general by various other means. It’s possible that the preceding horseman is what sets things in place for Death to ride through, by affecting the economy enough to result in famine, which would lead to death along with much disease.

v.9: Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of my name.

v.9: When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given

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The fifth seal is one which affects even God’s own people. This is the seal of martyrdom.

vv.14-16ff: And this good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world, as a testimony to all the nations; and then the end will come.

vv.12-13:  When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and there came a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.

v.17: …for the great day of [God’s] wrath has come…

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This seal matches the same language and imagery as the prophecy in Joel 2, which Peter also quotes on Pentecost as being fulfilled in the pouring out of the Holy Spirit before the Day of the Lord fully arrived in the War against Jerusalem.



You’ve then got the “beast” of Revelation which seems to have dual symmetry: one of representing specific Roman Emperors, and then again as representing the Roman Empire as a whole. Revelation 17 references the beast as having “seven heads” which are the “seven mountains” on which it belongs. These are also “seven kings”, five of whom have been and gone at this point. Rome is known to have been the city built on seven hills, so this appears to be what John is alluding to in his vision, which many scholars also agree on, along with the veiled reference to Rome being “Babylon”.


In this section about the seven kings, there is also mention of “ten horns” which you may recognise from Daniel’s vision in Dan 7 which predicted the main future kingdoms of the Earth’s history (Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome, which was the majority opinion of the Early Church, and can be see in Jerome’s commentary on Daniel
). These also would correlate with John’s revelation about the seven kings as being the line of Roman Emperors. 

Rome on seven hills
Rome on seven hills
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But how does ten horns and seven kings match up, you ask?

Daniel 7 gives us a clue here as this vision adds a little detail which Revelation omits, but which history can fill in the gaps. Daniel 7:7 is about one of the beasts (a kingdom) with ten horns which was to come. This is now here in John’s day in the form of the Roman Empire. This is also why we can equate the “beast” of Revelation with a kingdom too, as this is how Daniel’s vision portrays ruling powers and the two books correlate closely with one another.

Then in the next verse we see that three of the horns are uprooted to make room for another, the “eighth king” which also “belongs to the seven” as Rev 17:10 tells us.

If we look at the line of Roman Emperors, starting with Augustus (the first official Emperor) we have:

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Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Of all of these, Galba, Otho, Vitellius barely reigned. These three literally only lasted a few months each; none made even a single year in power due to being murdered and suicide.

So when you “uproot” these three, it leaves us with Emperors who had lengthier reigns and who made an impact on the Empire and on history in general (for better or worse!). So while Daniel makes note of the three being removed, John seems to skip by them and just focus on those in power that were important in the events being foretold.

When we view the references to the beast with this in mind, we can make some sense of it, as displayed below in the table:

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The Beast

Rev 17:8

“...was…”

“...and is not…”

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“...and is about to ascend from the bottomless pit …”

“...and go to destruction.”

The Seven Kings

Rev 17:10

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“...five have fallen…”

“...one is [reigning]…”

“...the other has not yet come, and when he comes, he must remain for a little while…”

“The beast that was and is not, is himself an eighth king, yet he belongs to the seven and is going to destruction.”

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The first Roman Emperors

Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero

Vespasian

Titus

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Domitian

 

The beast that “was” I believe to be Nero. It is his name which best fits the decryption of the numeric name of “666” (translated as “Cæsar Neron” using the Hebrew gematria) and also due to his relentless persecution of Christians and his evil nature in general. Under Nero, Christians “were clad in the hides of beast and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified, others set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed” (Tacitus, Annals, 15.44).

Domitian did also meet destruction in the form of an assassination by court officials.Then we have Titus, who did only remain a little while, reigning for only two years as Emperor. His reign was blighted with misfortune, such as Mount Vesuvius erupting and destroying Pompeii and surrounding towns, to one of the worst plagues known spreading through the Empire. Some believed this was punishment from the gods for his terrible treatment towards the Jews in the Jewish War and for destroying the Jerusalem Temple!

Nero 666
Nero's name and title adding up to "666"
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Alternatively, if Domitian is the “one who is” (if John wrote under his reign, rather than Nero’s) then that would make Trajan the 8th king and Nerva the one who comes for a little while (and did only reign for a year). Trajan also brought persecutions against the Church, so it is plausible on the face of it.

But this doesn’t fit with the three horns being uprooted (Galba, Otho, Vitellius) to make room for the short reign (Titus). Whichever it is, it still would apply to Roman rulers and the persecution done by the Empire. It also would be strange to only count the previous five, not beginning with the first Emperor, if there had been others before. So with that it makes sense to count the fallen five as the first emperors, starting with Augustus who was the first official Emperor in a monarchy-like position.

 

Other Interpretations

It's also worth noting that the early Reformers believed that the beast and kings/horns were a reference to the dark ages of 1260 years when the Popes ruled via a corrupted Church system out of Rome/Babylon. They tied their theology of the seven kings to different Popes and believed the antichrist to be the Papacy.

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Another view, which relates back to the Roman Empire, comes from Jerome’s Commentary of Daniel in which he states that “[t]he fourth empire is the Roman Empire, which now occupies the entire world” but “when the Roman Empire is to be destroyed, there shall be ten kings who will partition the Roman world amongst themselves.”.

There is one other view worth mentioning, which is that John spoke of the kings as empires or kingdoms, rather than individual rulers. The five kings that "were" are those from Babylon to the Seleucids, the one that "is", was the (then current) Roman Empire, with a seventh that was still to come and an eighth which would arise from the seven.

Again, this also sounds a plausible interpretation. This could also be the wider application of Rev 17 and maybe there is also a longer reach to John’s vision other than just events local to him, as many Protestants and the Historicism doctrine teaches.

 

Historical Context

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While the other views and interpretations possibly have some plausibility, I don’t believe it completely fits the context of Rev 17 where it mentions the “seven heads” of the beast being the seven mountains on which it sits, ie. Rome.

Other than that, we can read of the persecutions from early accounts written by Christians during these times and how they related Domitian’s rule to be like that of Nero and how he “possessed a share of Nero's cruelty” and “who dyed his sword in Christian blood”, as Tertullian wrote (Apol. 5.17). By this point, Nero was long dead but his cruelty wasn’t forgotten. The Romans feared that Titus was going to be like Nero when he came to power, due to his ruthlessness in war, but it was in fact his brother Domitian who turned the Empire back to harsher times.

This is where I believe the link to the beast comes from in Revelation. Nero was an archetype, the beast/antichrist first personified. But he was the beast that “was, and is not”, the one who began persecutions against the Saints. Now, again the beast “is about to come” in form of Domitian when he took power after Titus’ sudden death. Tertullian even described Domitian as “a limb of this bloody Nero” (Apol. 5.17)!

Both Nero and Domitian considered themselves divine – Nero even building a statue of himself in the pose/form of the Roman sun god, Sol. Domitian took it one step further and required everyone to refer to him as “lord and godand also had money printed in this theme! This would be where Rev 13 fits in, I believe, with the mark of the beast and the image of the beast which was to be worshipped. Roman citizens had to pay homage to the Emperor, recognise his divinity and make sacrifices to him and the other gods of Rome on pain of death.

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Eusebius doesn’t miss this connection either when writing his Church History, as in Book 3.18 he writes about John’s apocalypse and how he “accurately indicated the time” of persecutions which were performed under Domitian’s harsh rule. Chapter 19 and 20 of Church History also relate how the Emperor had all the “descendants of David” (Jews) killed and then those who were “the descendants of Jude” (ie. related to Jesus’ earthly relatives) “on the ground that they were of the lineage of David and were related to Christ himself.”. Eusebius mentions that “even those writers who were far from our religion did not hesitate to mention in their histories the persecution and the martyrdoms which took place” (Church History, Book III).

 

There’s then the link back to Daniel 2:41 and interpretation of the statue from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, where Daniel say it will be “a divided kingdom” (due to the two legs of the statue). This is what later happened to the Roman Empire shortly before its fall; it was divided into an East and West empire, of which there was five countries or provinces in each.

The Western part: Britannia, Gallia, Hispania, Italia, Africa; and the Eastern part: Asia, Pannonia, Maoesia, Thracia, Asiana, Oriens.

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Two legs, ten toes? Divided kingdom, ten kings? Two heads, ten horns?

To Summarise

The date of writing is debated. Some argue for pre-70 AD authorship under Nero or just after him, while others argue for a late 90s date in the reign of Domitian. Church tradition and other early texts do seem wholly in favour of the later date, from what I can see, though there is definitely internal evidence within the text of Revelation which would appear to be speaking of events before the Jewish War. But as always, these things are open for interpretation – even the quotes which appear to favour a late date, since the language is often obscure and no one explicitly stamps a date on when John first saw or wrote this book, just allusions to certain times.

The early chapters and church letters seem to be writing pre-70 AD, sometime in the reign of Nero. Apart from the Jewish War with the Romans, there was no other persecution (especially against Christians) until Domitian and beyond.

Revelation 2:9 and Rev 3:9 appear to be talking about Jews who were persecuting the Church, but after the fall of Jerusalem, there is little to no evidence that the Jews went after the Christians anymore. This was mainly carried out by Rome after the war.

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Later chapters talk about the saints who die in the “great tribulation” (Rev 7:9, 14) and about the temple being no more as God now dwells with his people in the New Jerusalem. Though this could be a hindsight text, writing of the previous persecution under Nero and the War and the spiritual events behind it – especially since John was told to measure the temple prior to this, and that the “nations” would trample the Holy City (Rev 11:2) which is what Jesus predicted in the Olivet Discourse (Lk 21:24), and that event was pretty much unanimously agreed upon by the Early Church writers to have been fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Revelation is also warning the Church that more is yet to come, and possibly is referring to yet another Jewish War: the revolt of Bar-Kokhba, which interestingly, also lasted just over 3 years too, along with the general persecutions against the faithful.

Chronology isn't a strong point in this book, it jumps around a lot. The last few closing chapters seem to be slightly sporadic, almost like isolated events disconnected from the previous narrative, which could be speaking of something future. Many of the Early Church Fathers believed and expected a literal millennial reign at some point in the far future, although opinion on this was divided, and Jerome refers to it as the “millennial fable” in his Commentary on Daniel, as he interprets the Church inheriting an eternal, spiritual kingdom – not an earthly one, along with Eusebius also considering such things as “figurative passages” when speaking against Papias’ literal understanding of it.

 

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There is, though, an extant extra-biblical saying of Jesus which Papias recorded, in which there is a description of life during this millennial reign:

“The Lord used to teach about those times and say: The days will come when vines will grow, each having ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand branches, and on each branch ten thousand twigs, and on each twig ten thousand clusters, and in each cluster ten thousand grapes, and each grape when crushed will yield twenty-five measures of wine. And when one of the saints takes hold of a cluster, another cluster will cry out, I am better, take me, bless the Lord through me. Similarly a grain of wheat will produce ten thousand heads, and every head will have ten thousand grains, and every grain ten pounds of fine flour, white and clean. And the other fruits, seeds, and grass will produce in similar proportions, and all the animals feeding on these fruits produced by the soil will in turn become peaceful and harmonious toward one another, and fully subject to humankind.… These things are believable to those who believe. And when Judas the traitor did not believe and asked, How, then, will such growth be accomplished by the Lord?, the Lord said, Those who live until those times will see.”

As we saw in the previous part of this series, some of the earliest writings put the New Jerusalem and Church as being one and the same, coupled with us being the temple where God now dwells to live amongst his people, therefore leaving no room for a future, physical temple to be rebuilt.

Nero fits the 666 and even the “typo” copyist error of 616 (or the Latin variant of Nero’s name), which happened early on, as Irenaeus mentions it around 180 AD.

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While there was always an Emperor cult, beginning with Julius Caesar, which made the rulers act as though they had some divinity, Nero properly considered himself divine and Domitian decreed himself “lord and god” and had that printed on all the money. This is often what is thought to be meant by the “mark of the beast” which enables “buying and selling” (Rev 13:17). The Jews had special money minted because of this.

Much of the early church saw the millennium as literal, except some who interpreted it as metaphorical to symbolise completion or totality of God (eg. Like the psalms saying ‘God owns the cattle on 1000 hills’). The general interpretation is that God made the world in 6 days, and since 1 day is as 1000 years with God (2 Peter 3:8), it is fitting that creation lasts that long before Jesus comes back for the eternal Sabbath day. I’m not entirely sure where they got the idea from that Creation should only last that long, but there you go.

If this is accurate, though, and runs according to the Jewish calendar  (which counts from day one of creation), then we only have around another 224 years to go before we find out for sure, as we are now in the 5776th year – so that’ll be the year 2239 the world potentially ends, for anyone keeping track!

For a more detailed look at the resurrection and the New Jerusalem, I will do some short follow up articles on those, rather than make this one any longer (Edit: New Jerusalem article is here).

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To Conclude

Whichever way you slice it, Revelation seems to be predominantly about the persecutions that the Roman Empire did do, and would continue to do, against the first century Church and beyond (even if there are future applications after the Roman Empire), and that the believers who have to suffer through these times shouldn’t lose faith or hope in God.

But as shown in this article, there are a variety of interpretations and evidences showing various details of Revelation in accord with human history which leads me to caution anyone (myself included) about being overtly dogmatic on any aspect or doctrine derived from Revelation. Even back in Irenaeus’ day (around 180), he wrote in length cautioning believers from getting too caught up in trying to understand the number of the beast and all that it means! You can read more about word/numbers and Irenaeus’ caution here and here respectively.

One of the main themes of Revelation, is that of God’s abode; specifically, his throne. In Rev 4 it is located in Heaven, whereas later in Rev 21, God’s throne is now on Earth in the New Jerusalem where he dwells with his people. The thrust of the book is about holding fast to the Faith, trusting in God when all seems lost, because ultimately, he is coming down to dwell with his people where he will comfort them, bring joy and wipe away every tear (Reclaiming the Book of Revelation, W. E. Glabach, p.28).

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This is what it should mean for us today: hope in our God, not a reference guide to the end of the world matched against various news headlines and current events (all of which have undoubtedly failed).

 

Or to put it more bluntly, in the words of Augustine, who began to view eschatological things as referring to the struggle between good and evil in people:

"Obviously, then it is a waste of effort for us to attempt counting the precise number of years which this world has yet to go, since we know from the mouth of Truth that it is none of our business."

— Augustine of Hippo, City of God, 18:53

 

Trust God, abide in his love and know that ultimately, He is in control.

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American Gun Violence and the Early Church on War and Violence

| 03rd October 2017 | Early Church

In light of the sad, recent events in the Las Vegas shooting — and similar events in America— I often see Christians across social media jumping to the defence of gun ownership whenever there is even a slight hint at gun control in America. But how has gun culture become so ingrained in American Christianity when we can observe a clear theme and pattern of thought in the first few centuries of the Church, which goes completely against this? You can read more in the link below, but here's a few examples from the early Church with regards to war and violence, and using or owning weapons: “It is not lawful for a Christian to bear arms for any earthly consideration.” — Marcellus ~298 AD “Under no circumstances should a true Christian draw the sword.” — Tertullian 155-230 AD “God wished iron to be used for the cultivation of the earth, and therefore it should not be used to take human life.”  — Cyprian ~250 AD “The servants of God do not rely for their protection on material defenses but on the pine Providence.”  — Ambrose 338-397 AD I don't have an answer to this cultural problem, and I'm not sure we can ever fully solve the issues of gun violence in the States now; but one thing that I do know is this: the Church in America needs to repent of its idolatry of guns, turn back to God and focus on the love of Christ again, and not on the weapons of destruction. Even if the rest of society clings to their guns, the Church should be the ones clinging to the Prince of Peace instead, and rejecting anything that could cause another harm. You can't love your neighbour or your enemies if you are willing to kill them (Matthew 22:36-40; Matthew 5:44-45). Matthew 26:52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. There is no room in the teaching or examples of Jesus, nor in the New Testament epistles, to give those who claim the name of Christ, permission to kill another human being! And before you head to the comments to write it, no, Jesus didn't command that we own weapons — Luke 22:36 is taken entirely out of context if you believe that, along with Exodus 22:2 if your thoughts were taking you there next. As John Piper puts it, "Does it accord with the New Testament to encourage the attitude that says, “I have the power to kill you in my pocket, so don’t mess with me”? My answer is, No.". Which is as Paul also taught in Romans: "Do not repay anyone evil for evil" and to "never avenge yourselves" (Rom 12:17, 19) because that is the role of the Lord, not us. Clearly this teaching of non-violence was something that was understood pretty well by the Early Church, as the quotes above point out. We have documented teaching from the first two centuries by those who were taught by the Apostles and who followed in their (and Jesus') instructions, rejecting any and all forms of violence and weapon bearing.  So where did it all go wrong and change?   See more early Church quotes on war and violence here: rogueminister.wordpress.com/.../quotes-the-early-church-on-war-and-violence/ Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.   Further Reading: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/oct/02/las-vegas-shooting-what-we-know-so-far http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/one-mass-shooting-every-day-seven-facts-gun-violence-america/ https://sojo.net/articles/american-christianity-has-failed http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/no-jesus-didnt-command-we-own-weapons/ http://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/why-exodus-222-doesnt-work-to-justify-armed-self-defense/ http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/should-christians-be-encouraged-to-arm-themselves https://rogueminister.wordpress.com/2008/11/19/quotes-the-early-church-on-war-and-violence  ...

My Upcoming Book

| 09th August 2017 | My Books

It's been a little quiet from me over here, but not for lack of things to write! I have been busy putting together a book based on the Lenten series I recently did this Easter just gone. It has been reformatted for paperback and soon to follow, eBook/Kindle too, as a daily reading plan not just to be read during Lent but can be read as your own personal reading plan over a forty day period of your choosing. The book will also be released with a companion book which will contain all of the full, original texts from the relevant Church Fathers that are included within the forty day plan. You can read more about it, and follow any updates here on this promo page: 40-days-with-the-fathers.html  ...

The Resurrection as a historical event

| 29th April 2017 | Easter

Table of Contents Jesus was raised bodily – and historically The resurrection is what makes Christianity unique! Evidence from Paul The mystery of the resurrection The nature of the resurrection The resurrection is more than physical What with Easter still ringing in our ears, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of resurrection, but from a historical standpoint and why we can trust it as a real, world-changing event. So, what really is the resurrection? How will we be resurrected, and what does it mean for us that Jesus rose again? Let’s explore what this means for us as Christians, and see what the Scriptures say. Jesus was raised bodily – and historically Let’s look at the way Jesus was resurrected first, since he is the “firstfruits” of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-23). The historical, bodily resurrection of Christ is central to our faith. Without it, we may as well pack up and go home, which Paul makes clear to the Corinthian church: 1 Corinthians 15:12-15 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ—whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. I saw a survey recently about this very topic, which suggested that a worrying amount of self-identifying Christians in Britain don’t believe that the resurrection of Jesus happened at all! Fewer than one-in-three Christians in Britain believe “word-for-word” the Biblical story of Jesus rising from the dead … A survey for the BBC carried out to mark Palm Sunday found that 23 per cent of those calling themselves Christians “do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” at all. [Source: telegraph.co.uk] The resurrection is what makes Christianity unique! Despite the misinformation that circulates on the internet, Jesus isn’t just a carbon-copy of previous “dying and rising gods” from Egypt and Greece – mainly because none pre-date Christianity! The consensus among modern scholars — nearly universal — is that there were no dying and rising gods that preceded Christianity. They all post-dated the first century. [Source: y-jesus.com] It’s this uniqueness and reality which impacts our lives and changes us from within, because the “Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells” in us (Rom 8:11)! Think about that for a moment. The power that raised Christ from the dead – that incredible force of God; the very life giving Spirit of the universe, dwells in US! Christians might do all those [good works], but that is not the core of their faith. It is the result of their faith. They do those things as the musician plays music or the athlete plays his sport. They do those things because they are talented and it gives them joy. So the Christian does these good things because he has been filled with the Spirit of the risen Jesus Christ and he does those things with joy because he wants to. [Source: patheos.com] Recently, the Shroud of Turin has been in the news again, as it has been recently authenticated again, which shows that it may not be a medieval forgery or piece of art! If you’ve not heard of this “Shroud of Turin”, it’s an ancient burial cloth which bears the image of a man who has been crucified, obviously meaning to be of Jesus. It attracts attention because of its unique nature and that it appears to be a negative image somehow imprinted on the cloth in an inexplicable way: Giulio Fanti of Padua University ... In 2012 … concluded that an electrical charge in the form of radiation is what likely caused the man’s image to be imprinted on the Shroud. He has also dated the Shroud to th...

Lent Day 40: Leo the Great: Sermon LXXII: ON THE LORD'S RESURRECTION, II

| 15th April 2017 | Lent

Day Forty: St. Leo the Great: Sermon LXXII: ON THE LORD'S RESURRECTION, II Who: Leo the Great, also known as Pope St. Leo I (the Great), was Pope from 440-61 AD. Place and date of birth unknown; died 10 November, 461. Leo's pontificate, next to that of St. Gregory I, is the most significant and important in Christian antiquity, as he tried to  combat the heresies which seriously threatened church unity even in the West, such as Pelagianism. What: A sermon on the Gospel, incarnation and resurrection of our Lord. Why: To encourage the Church in the power of the incarnation and the true faith and the nature of Christ and to give a new meaning to Passover in light of Jesus When: Between 440 and 461 AD You can find today’s reading on page 195 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf   Here we are, at the final day of Lent. I hope you've found it an interesting journey through Church History, covering various authors and topics from the first four centuries of the Church. And what better way to end this series than with a sermon on the resurrection! “The whole of the Easter mystery, dearly-beloved, has been brought before us in the Gospel narrative”, Leo declares as the opening statement of this sermon. What is this Easter mystery? “The cross of Christ, which was set up for the salvation of mortals” which is both a “mystery and an example” for us to follow. It's “a sacrament where by the Divine power takes effect” and “an example whereby man's devotion is excited” to be “inseparably united to” Christ, who is “the Way that is of holy living, the Truth of Divine doctrine, and the Life of eternal happiness (Jn 14:6). Christ took our nature upon Him for our salvation In the beginning, when the “whole body of mankind had fallen”, our merciful God had purposed in himself to make a way to reconcile “His creatures made after His image [...] through His only-begotten Jesus Christ”. Leo goes on to say that if we had not fallen from how God made us, we'd have been happy; but now we can be happier if we remain in what he has remade us to be through his Spirit. Jesus was “excluded [from] all taint of the sin which has passed upon all men”, that taint being “weakness and mortality, which were not sin, but the penalty of sin”. The “Redeemer of the World” suffered these things for our sake, “that they might be reckoned as the price of redemption”. In us is the “heritage of condemnation”, but in Christ is the “mystery of godliness” (1 Tim 3:16) Through the enemy, Jesus had “His spotless flesh” tortured. Because of this, because Jesus willingly went to die for us, now “believers in Him might find neither persecution intolerable, nor death terrible, by the remembrance that there was no more doubt about their sharing His glory than there was about His sharing their nature”. Set your minds on things that are above Following on with the previous thought, Leo goes on to explain that, “in Christ we are crucified, we are dead, we are buried; on the very third day, too, we are raised”; which is why Paul writes to the Colossians, Colossians 3:1-4So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. We achieve this raising by the power of Christ with us, who lifts us up, because he is with us, as he promised: “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). This in itself fulfills the promise that his own name means, prophesied by Isaiah when he said, they “ ... shall name him Immanuel” (Isa 7:14), which means “God with us”. But even in Christ's ascending, he has not forsaken us, because even though he sits at “the right hand of God” (Acts 2:32-33), he...