Thursday, September 19, 2019

More Musing on the Beast

Previously, I have presented some evidence for why I think the beast in Revelation 13 could have referred to the Roman X Legion Fretensis.  To give a brief overview of some of the evidence for context in this post: it was the X Legion and the beast in Revelation was said to have "ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns"; "Fretensis" means "of the sea strait" and the beast was said to have come "out of the sea"; the X Fretensis had auxillaries from seven different legions assigned to it (seven heads)--one of which, the XII Fulminata, had been ambushed and routed to the point of losing it's aquila and one of the heads of the beast was said "to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed"; despite losing the aquila (which normally resulted in a legion being disbanded), the XII Fulminata was not disbanded and in fact was used as the primary force in the siege of Jerusalem; the X Fretensis was headed by General Titus and, according to Irenaeus, the Aramaic form of "Titus" numerologically added up to six hundred sixty-six; Roman legions carried images (literally: imago) of either the current emperor or the emperor who founded the legion, and the beast in Revelation was said to set up an image that it forced people to worship--something that Titus did when he destroyed the temple in 70 AD and set up the legion's image there; if that image was of the current emperor it would have been Vespasian, the father of General Titus and who's real name was also Titus and thus would have also added up to six hundred sixty-six; the beast was "allowed to make war on the saints and conquer them" which the X Fretensis literally did; and finally, it was "allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months" which is how long it took the X Frentensis from the time it landed in Judea until the fall of the Temple.

In response, a couple of people pointed out that of the beast in Revelation 17 it is said: "the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast."

Now the first question that could be asked here is whether or not this is even the same beast as in Revelation 13.  And that brings up more discussion.  After all, in Revelation 13 there are actually two beasts mentioned: "I saw a beast rising out of the sea" (verse 1); "Then I saw another beast rising out of the earth" (verse 11).  Finally, Revelation 17 describes the beast in that chapter as: "I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast" (verse 3).  Many have concluded the scarlet beast is the same as the beast from the sea because both are said to have "seven heads and ten horns" but this is not a necessary conclusion.  However, even granting they are the same beast (as I do lean toward), it is clear that the horns on the scarlet beast have multiple meanings, standing both for seven mountains and for seven kings even within chapter 17.  Furthermore, in chapter 17, the horns, heads, and beast itself all stand for kings at various times.

But beyond even that, I would maintain that all three of the beasts (if they are three distinct entities, or both of them if there's just two) are actually referencing different aspects of the same structure.  After all, in historical times, kings and kingdoms were synonymous, as were generals and their armies.  In the case of the X Fretensis, since General Titus moved on to become emperor after the death of his father, you could have army, general, king, and kingdom all wrapped up in the same entity.

To give some more credence to this view we can look at Daniel.  In Daniel 7, the prophet also had a vision of four beasts.  The last beast "had great iron teeth" and "was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns" (Daniel 7:7).  The fact that this beast had ten horns, like the beasts mentioned in Revelation, is an indication that it might be referring to the same beast as in Revelation 13 and/or 17.  Additionally, the "great iron teeth" gives a callback to Daniel 2, where Nebuchadnezzar had the dream of the statue with iron legs and feet made of iron mixed with clay--a reference to the Roman Empire, which would be "a divided kingdom" (Daniel 2:41, Rome being divided between the East and West) destroyed by a rock "cut out by no human hand" which destroyed all empires forever.  And indeed, after the Roman Empire collapsed, there has been no empire since.  Even those that wished to be empires (e.g., the Holy Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, etc.) were hardly like the previous empires that have been destroyed by the rock, which is Christianity.

Returning to the beast in Daniel 7, the dream was interpreted there: "These four great beasts are four kings who shall rise out of the earth" (verse 17).  But in verse 23, we read: "As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms."  Important for the point I'm seeking to establish, the beasts are described both as kings and as kingdoms in the same chapter and, indeed, the exact same context.  So I think it's clear that the ancients did not differentiate between kings and their kingdoms, generals and their armies.  Indeed, this is the natural outworking of societies built on federal headship, where the federal head stands in place of everything that head oversees.  From the Garden of Eden, when Adam was the federal head for all mankind, to Father Abraham being the federal head for all Jews, even up to Christ being the federal head of all who believe in Him, the concept is through all of Scripture.

But there's something else in Daniel too which bears more directly on the identity of the beast.  The ten horns are also defined: "As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings" (verse 24).  Additionally, we are told: "But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end" (verse 26).

What makes this interesting is that the 10th emperor of Rome was Titus.  After those ten, "another shall arise after them".  The 11th emperor was Domitian.  Domitian was also the third emperor of his family (the Flavian family), and after he was assassinated the Roman senate enacted "damnatio memoriae" on him--literally damning his memory as a form of dishonor.  Thus, one could say he brought down his family (three kings) and his dominion was taken away, consumed, and destroyed--literally.  And again, remember that each ruling member of the Flavian family was named "Titus" so each of them would have added up to six hundred sixty-six in numerology, to link it back to Revelation too.

Not only that, but remember that Daniel was speaking to the king of Babylon of the statue and said that when the rock crashed into the feet of the statue: "it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold" (Daniel 2:45).  The gold head was Babylon itself. And what happens when the beast falls in Revelation?  "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!" (Revelation 14:8 and 18:2).

So what to make of all this?  The beast motif used in Daniel is echoed in Revelation, so in both places probably refers to the same thing.  There are very clear signs in both Daniel and Revelation that link the beast to Roman history, from the "seven mountains" being the seven hills of Rome, to Rome being the final empire, to the oddities of the X Legion, to the result of Domitian's end.  The beast stands in for the entire system of Rome, from its armies to its leaders.  There are certainly a lot of coincidences, far more than would happen by chance, in two different books of the Bible written six or seven hundred years apart not to treat Rome as the intended referent. 

Ultimately this means that we can broadly conclude that since Daniel and Revelation both reference the Roman Empire, the events that feature the beasts have a historical fulfillment already.  Of course many who agree that these are referring to Rome also claim that there will be a dual fulfillment in the future.  Is it possible for a future fulfillment?  Well, I suppose anything is possible.  But what reason do we have to suspect that these events will happen again?  So far, we have a prediction that we have quite a bit of evidence to show was fulfilled in the first century, and there is lots of language that infers this is permanent (e.g., "It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever" -- Daniel 2:44).  Why, then, should we expect a future fulfillment too? 

What will it affect for you, theologically, if it turns out that the preterist view is correct and only the final judgment depicted in Revelation 20 remains to be completed?  What if, instead of a pessimistic view, we held to the promise that the stone cut not by human hands is a mountain that never passes away?  Would it affect how you evangelize to others not to live in fear that the beast might be seeking to brand your forehead right now?

I think it would.  I think it changes how we approach world events and other people--and not in a positive manner--to treat this as a future fulfillment.  Not only that, by treating it as a future fulfillment we ignore the past fulfillment.  And we have to, because once we acknowledge it happened in the past we need to come up with a reason to believe it will happen again, and the text just doesn't provide us those reasons.  Thus, we cut ourselves off from a line of evidence that gives more credence to the faith of Christianity.  Atheists have no way of explaining how Daniel could possibly have known about the Roman Empire being the last empire similar in any shape to that of Babylon.  And yet we don't use that evidence.  We can't use that evidence, because to use it means we can't insist on future despair.  We inadvertently falsify a chunk of the Scripture...and what do we gain?  A sense of impending doom? 

Why not victory in Christ instead?


  1. The beast. Antichrist. Son of perdition. The lawless one. He has plenty of names.

    He is yet to take his place on the world stage.

  2. Very interesting. But Jesus himself tells us that the 'great tribulation' is in the future and there has never been one like it. We will know for certain it has begun by these words: When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place...For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven. Rev 20 is after the great tribulation which has not occurred yet.

    1. Jesus did not tell *US* that it was in the future; He told the disciples in 30-35 AD that it was in the future. It was very clearly fulfilled by the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, and General Titus was beyond all doubt the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel. Not only does it fit Daniel's time-frame with the seventy weeks of years, but the destruction of the Temple is EXACTLY what Jesus was referring to in the very passage He references Daniel. Look at Mark 13:1-2. Jesus specifically says the Temple will be destroyed and "There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." The disciples in verse 4 then ask, "When will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished." Jesus then gives them those signs and tells them it will not be immediate, "But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." In other words, Jesus expected at least some of the people He was speaking to to be the eyewitnesses of the events. Given He spoke around 30-35 AD, and the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, that gives plenty of time for the warning that it's not immediate, while also being within the time-frame of the people Jesus spoke to to still be alive.

      [Incidentally, Matthew 24 relays the exact same data without any discrepancies.]

      The Temple was destroyed. There is no doubt because you can literally go to Jerusalem today and *not see it*. Not a single stone remains standing from the Temple. The only thing that remains from the time is the Western Wall (commonly called the Wailing Wall), which was part of the retaining wall around the Temple that Rome purposely left intact just to show the Jews how the massive walls could not protect their Temple one bit.

      Not only was it destroyed, we have the historical record of exactly when it happened: August 30, 70 AD. There is absolutely no reason to insert 2,000 years and counting into the text when we have a straightforward prediction and a straightforward fulfillment of the prophecy happening exactly within the time Daniel and Jesus both said it would happen.

    2. Also, when looking at the sun being darkened and stars falling from heaven, it is imperative that you read Jeremiah, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. Because they all mention the same things, but are very clearly speaking of the fall of Assyria and Babylon, not the end times. In other words, it's stock "judgement" language used in all apocalyptic literature.

      Also, of interest, when you read Josephus's account of the fall of Jerusalem (he was an eyewitness to it), you'll see that he mentions the stones that were quarried and launched into the city by the Romans were so bright that they shone visibly in the sky by reflecting the light, and the watchmen on the wall would point toward them and yell out, "The son is coming!" The word "son" is used both in the Greek and Latin translations of Josephus, so it's not an error. The Romans then had to paint the rocks dark to obscure them in order to not give warning to the citizens of Jerusalem as to where they would be landing.

      Finally, it should be noted that the X Legion camped on the Mount of Olives, which is the very spot Jesus was at when He spoke the words recorded in Mark 13 and Matthew 24. (Mark 13:3--"And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple...")

  3. Peter, the abomination of desolation in Daniel is referring to Antiochus IV's sacrificing a pig on the altar to Zeus. Jesus repurposes it to refer to Titus' armies surrounding Jerusalem. The two texts have different referents. There seems to be a reoccurring issue in Preterist hermeneutics that I've addressed on my blog, using your post as the example of it, here:

  4. What do y'all think of Joel Richardson's arguments that the Legs of Iron / Beast with Iron Teeth represents the Caliphate?

    His main points are that: Rome never held Babylon while all the other empires and the Caliphate did; Greece in the original language is Yavan which is a territory now held by Turkey; all the previous empires are held by the Caliphate.

  5. I would argue that such is a case of context replacement, since the book tells us who the beast is. We simply make all sorts of associations with things that sound familiar, and that is why we end up making false identifications in our exegesis of symbols. The key is to discover what the author associates with the symbol, and he makes that clear throughout the book.