Who is the Beast?


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Do you understand the Book of Revelation, or let someone tell you what it says? Be like the Bereans who studied the Scriptures to see what is true. A midweek Bible study of Romans might attract a few people, but if the pastor is teaching Revelation, why, the pews are packed full. I mean, it is curiously frightening to ponder a future age of tribulation during which the Antichrist reigns from the temple of God. (Reformers teach that the papacy is the beast of Revelation, and he was overthrown in the 16th century approximately 1260 [days] years after Rome had usurped the authority of Christ on earth.)

Well, the Pope is still in office, but the Romish system no longer wields power over, nor controls, the true remnant of God. Keep in mind that the force behind the beast is Satan who has, from the beginning, tried to deceive God’s people with counterfeit signs and wonders. The notion that the Pope is the successor to Peter amuses me. Kephas was a married Jew from Galilee. The current Pope is a celibate gentile from Argentina. That just strikes me funny.

Insofar as the Romish church can no longer carry out murderous inquisitions against Jews and Christians it is evident that, in this sense, Satan has been restrained.

But this is just one of many mysteries in the Book of Revelation. There is mention of great tribulation which I believe is the same affliction spoken of by Christ in the Gospel records (Matthew 24:21). Tribulation (thlipseōs, θλίψεως) is also translated distress, persecution, affliction, or anguish. I never hear pastors sound the alarm of the great anguish. It just doesn’t roll off the lips as well.

Christ said that it would be unequaled distress. Nothing from Creation to the end of the world could be compared. Not the Flood? Nor the Inquisition? The Holocaust? These events were calamitous and horrific, but I believe Jesus was speaking prophetically of the end of the Jewish system. His disciples did not ask about the end of the world, but the end of the age (aiōnos, αἰῶνος) which was fulfilled in 70 AD with the destruction of Jerusalem and the holy temple.

Some might ask, “Was that the most terrible event ever?” May I refer you to the historical record of Josephus who was an eyewitness to the catastrophic events. The volume of his work is massive. A complete hardcover compilation of 13 volumes sells for $4000.00. I can only read paragraphs at a time because his graphic descriptions are so upsetting. I cannot look at pictures of the Nazi death camps nor can I stomach the atrocities committed by Rome during the Jewish War (66-70 AD). Yes, Jesus spoke prophetically, and it was fulfilled in that generation just as He said (Matthew 24:34).

Those who wish to discredit the authority of Christ, and the revelation of prophecy, will argue that Jesus was speaking of the end of the world; and because the world is still here they will claim that Christ was a false prophet. No, Jesus was speaking to His generation of things that would soon occur even as He revealed to John those events that must shortly come to pass (Revelation 1:1).

When you read Josephus it is evident that the judgements of Revelation were poured out upon Israel in a three and one-half year period from mid-66 AD to the fall of the city. For example, in Revelation 8:7 the first angel sounds his trumpet and a third of the trees are burned up. When the Jewish War began, Roman legions entered from the north through Galilee. During their southern advance towards Jerusalem they denuded the countryside. Israel was, in ancient times, heavily forested; but the Roman army cut down the trees for fuel, and to build siege works against defensive ramparts.

In Revelation 8:11, the third angel sounds a trumpet and the waters became bitter. Rome poisoned the wells and salted the fields so there would be no drinking water, and no crops.

When the third seal was broken in Revelation 6:6 one of the four living creatures said that it would cost a day’s wage to buy two pounds of wheat, or six pounds of barley.

Interestingly, Josephus wrote:

Many there were indeed who sold what they had for one measure; it was of wheat, if they were of the richer sort; but of barley, if they were poorer. [1]

With regards to buying and selling, Nero required that the Jews be marked in their forehand in order to buy or sell in the marketplace. Every year a Jew had to profess that Caesar was God in order to receive the mark. Was that the fulfillment of Revelation 13:16-18? Not according to charismatic preachers who sound the alarm with regards to implanted chips, or an electronic mark of the beast.

What is the meaning of 666? In Bible prophecy, the number “6” represents man. The number written three times represents a man of supreme authority like a Caesar, or a Pope.

The Talmud reveals Jewish thought that Nero was, in fact, the beast. To criticize the emperor meant certain death so he was simply referred to in code. In his book, The Jewish Unveiling of Revelation and the End, Al Garza wrote:

Every Jewish reader, of course, saw that the Beast was a symbol of Nero. And both Jews and Christians regarded Nero as having close affinities with the serpent or dragon. [2]

Garza noted that John, in making this reference, was writing and thinking as a Hebrew because his first century audience were Jews. Friends, we cannot let this simple fact escape us that the Bible was written to an ancient people. If we are so egocentric to study the Word of God as if it were revealed in this morning’s newspaper then we are essentially portraying Scripture as having absolutely no relevance to whom it was written as early as 2000 years ago.

The Talmud teaches that Messiah (ben Joseph) would come as a suffering servant. He would be killed followed by a long period of great tribulation. Then Messiah (ben David) would come to resurrect the nation. So, yes, Jews believe in two comings of Mashiach, but their hearts have been hardened until a number of Gentiles have been saved (Romans 11:25).

I don’t know what that number is — only God. Then Christ will return, the dead resurrected and the body of believers (Jew and Greek) will be raptured. Thus, all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26). This interpretation doesn’t tickle one’s ears like fanciful stories of being Left Behind, but it is orthodox Christian theology.

Pray for Joey.

Notes:

1. The Wars Of The Jews, Josephus, Book 5, chapter 10, paragraph 2, 75 AD.

2. The Jewish Unveiling of Revelation and the End, Al Garza Th.D, p. 54, Lulu Publishing, 2012.

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