The Book of Revelation



Time Frame Parenthesis
Gaius Redivivus Chronological Order
Two Witnesses Creative Freedom
Mother and Child Emmanuel
New New Heavens Overview
Buy and Sell The Great Fire
Vespasian The Continuing Babylon
Realized Eschatology The Aftermath
A House Divided He Shall Reign Forever



Time Frame

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place." (Revelation 1:1).

At least some of the events prophesied in this book must have speedily come to pass, or else this word of scripture falls to the ground.

Moreover, John 'nudges' his readers, implying they can understand to whom he is referring: "He who has a mind, let him compute the number of the beat; for it is the number of a man." (Revelation 13:18). This is the inverse of Daniel's 'seal the book:' "But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end;. . ." (Daniel 12:4). John expects his first circle of readers to 'get it,' while Daniel does not.

According to Epiphanius, John returned from Patmos under Claudius, which would mean he was there under Caligula: "Later, therefore, though from caution and humility he had declined to be an evangelist, the Holy Spirit compelled John to issue the Gospel in his old age when he was past ninety, after his return from Patmos under Claudius Caesar, and several years of his residence in Asia." (Epiphanius, Panarion, Section IV, Chapter 51, p. 36 Brill). It seems unlikely that John was already elderly in the era of Claudius; what Epiphanius has done here, it would seem, is to combine two streams of information, one historical, and one seeking to move the book of Revelation forward into the reign of Domitian. To judge by internal evidence, this is a bit early for the composition of the work, although it may well have been the historic period of the author's exile on Patmos.

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Parenthesis

Dispensationalists describe the church age as a 'parenthesis' unmentioned in Bible prophecy. The impossibility of this concept is expressed by Amos:

"If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?
If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?
Surely the Lord GOD does nothing,
Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.

A lion has roared!
Who will not fear?
The Lord GOD has spoken!
Who can but prophesy?" (Amos 3:6-8).

Some people say that life is what happens while you're making other plans. John Nelson Darby thought that the church was what happened while God was making other plans. Ephesians 1:1-6 shows the gulf between the Bible and this scandalous notion:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:1-6).

It is this novel theory which permits the dispensationalists their dramatic dislocations of time. 2,000 year 'gaps' and other non-literal ways of reading chronologies should be avoided in favor of a literal reading.




  • "There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time. The beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven, and is going to perdition."
  • (Revelation 17:10-11).





Luke 17:20-21


Gaius Redivivus

"There are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. And when he comes, he must continue a short time." (Revelation 17:10).

The five kings who had fallen by the author's day include Julius through Claudius:

1  Julius Caesar
2  Augustus
 3 Tiberius
 4 Gaius (Caligula)
5 Claudius
6 Nero Caesar

Pagan, Jewish and Christian writers start the count of Caesars with Julius. The only way to get Hadrian to come out the fifteenth: "But when, luxurious one, you have had fifteen kings who enslaved the world from east to west. . ." (Sibylline Oracles, Book 8, 50-51),-- is to start with Julius. If we start our count of kings with Julius, Nero is the one who "is," and the "eighth" is projected to be Gaius redivivus, which lines up with a textual variant (616).

G a i u s  
γ α ι ο ς  
3 1 10 70 200  
 C s a r
 κ α  ι  σ α ρ
20 1 10 200 1 100

This list begins as history but continues on into prophecy. After Nero's suicide in 68 A.D. the office was contested. Suetonius counts, after Galba, two rival claimants: Otho and Vitellius, who fought one another, and whose term in office overlaps, in his list of Caesars. The latter fought and lost a civil war against Vespasian, the favorite of the legions in the East. At least some of these people must be considered usurpers and pretenders, if any other is to be considered legitimate. The praetorian guard favored Otho, the German army Vitellius, just as the Spanish army had advanced Galba. In the east, the Egyptian legions swore loyalty to Vespasian as emperor, then the army in Judaea swore allegiance to him in July, 69 A.D., thus conceivably making Vespasian the "eighth." The Latin historians, however, to preserve the legality of their governing system, do tend to count all three short-term contestants.

Gaius (Caligula) did explicitly claim deity and demand worship:




  • "So much for Caligula as emperor. We must now tell of his career as a monster. . .he began from that time on to lay claim to divine majesty. He ordered that such statues of the Gods as were especially famous for their sanctity or their artistic merit, including that of Jupiter of Olympia, should be brought from Greece, in order to remove their heads and put his own in their place. He built out a part of the Palace as far as the Forum, and making the temple of Castor and Pollux its vestibule, he often took his place between the divine brethren, and exhibited himself there to be worshipped by all comers, some of whom hailed him as Jupiter Latiaris. He also set up a special temple to his own godhead, with priests and with victims of the choicest kind. In this temple was a life-sized statue of the Emperor in gold, which was dressed each day in clothing such as he wore himself."
  • (Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Gaius Caligula).



Gaius went so far as to demand that his statue be placed in the temple at Jerusalem, as readers of Philo Judaeus' Embassy are aware. The impossibility of this was explained to him by his Jewish subjects, yet he persisted, only his assassination preventing the calamity. His local representative, Petronius, was left trying to justify this outrage to the population:




  • "Now Caius Caesar did so grossly abuse the fortune he had arrived at, as to take himself to be a God, and to desire to be so called also, and to cut off those of the greatest nobility out of his country. He also extended his impiety as far as the Jews. Accordingly, he sent Petronius with an army to Jerusalem, to place his statues in the temple, and commanded him that, in case the Jews would not admit of them, he should slay those that opposed it, and carry all the rest of the nation into captivity: but God concerned himself with these his commands. However, Petronius marched out of Antioch into Judea, with three legions, and many Syrian auxiliaries. Now as to the Jews, some of them could not believe the stories that spake of a war; but those that did believe them were in the utmost distress how to defend themselves, and the terror diffused itself presently through them all; for the army was already come to Ptolemais."
  • (Flavius Josephus, Wars of the Jews, Book 2, Chapter 10, 1.)

  • "Then Petronius said to them, “Will you then make war with Caesar, without considering his great preparations for war, and your own weakness?” They replied, “We will not by any means make war with him, but still we will die before we see our laws transgressed.” So they threw themselves down upon their faces, and stretched out their throats, and said they were ready to be slain; and this they did for forty days together, and in the mean time left off the tilling of their ground, and that while the season of the year required them to sow it. Thus they continued firm in their resolution, and proposed to themselves to die willingly, rather than to see the dedication of the statue."
  • (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 18, Chapter 8, Section 3).



Gaius, who insisted his own image be worshipped, forbade images of other living men: "He then forbade for all time the erection of the statue of any living man anywhere, without his knowledge and consent." (Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Gaius Caligula). Prior emperors had been sufficiently modest to wait for death to bring their deification; Seneca's Pumpkinification, in the Thriceholy library, explains by what route Claudius would later come to dwell in the heavens. Worshipping man-gods was not time-honored Roman tradition; for most of its history, Rome had been a republic. These implausible claims could be overlooked, not Caligula's in-your-face demands. What a vast gulf had opened up between this unholy system and the civic values of republican Rome!



 Pumpkinification of Claudius 
by Lucius Annaeus Seneca


These events would have concerned not only unbelieving Jews but also Christians, who would in later years suffer martyrdom rather than call Caesar "Lord." In this time frame, many Jewish Christians still observed the law of Moses and worshipped in the temple:

"And they said to him, 'You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law;. . .'" (Acts 21:20).

While Christians themselves worship a man who is God, this does not make them more open to the deity claims of other men, but if anything less so. Some who favor the Domitianic dating of this work make him to be the first persecutor,

"The persecution of the Christians which is reflected in the book fits the Domitianic period alone. There were several periods of persecution of a sort. Caligula (c. 41), the “mad emperor,” carried on some religious persecution; Claudius (c. 52) drove the Christians from Rome because of their conflict with die Jews; Nero (c. 64–68) carried on intense persecution in Rome for reasons already cited; very little persecution was carried on by Vespasian (c. 69–79); Domitian (c. 81–96) is the emperor who has gone down in history as the one who bathed the empire in the blood of the Christians. His persecution was for the purpose of enforcing emperor worship."
(Summers, Ray (1999-03-15). Worthy Is the Lamb (pp. 83-84). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.)

But this is incomplete. Certainly the book of Revelation was written during a time of persecution. Were these earlier emperors really so benign? Caligula was prepared to kill all who did not bow the knee to him as god. It was only his assassination which staved off disaster. Vespasian conducted genocide against the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine in his reconquest of that region for the empire. With regard to some issues, such as the propriety of worshipping Caligula and admitting his statue to the temple, unbelieving Jews and Christians would not have found themselves on different sides of the fence. Persecution is relative; Christianity was a minority sect, and the opposition it received from the outset as recorded in Acts, including the murder of Stephen and others for their testimony, leaves this off the table as a dating device. Throughout the first century Christianity was persecuted.

After Gaius' assassination, Palestinian Christians must have breathed a sigh of relief. Yet as John the Revelator warns them, the problem was not one mad individual as they may have wished to think, but the power behind the throne. This word domination system did not bend the knee to the living God but to Satan. This was and remained a problem for those monotheists who came under the empire's control, whether Pharisees or Christians.



 Embassy to Gaius 
by Philo Judaeus


Many modern interpreters, trying to 'cheat' forward to the traditional dating of the book of Revelation under the Domitian persecution, start the emperor-count with Augustus. "In popular apprehension the first Roman emperor was Julius Caesar; in strict constitutional law, the first who held the empire as an established form of government was Augustus. The series of “kings” might legitimately begin with either of these but not with one later. Apparently John begins with Augustus and gives the following sequence: “Five are fallen”=Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero; “one is”=Vespasian; “one who is to come for a little while”=Titus, who ruled for only two years; “the beast who was and is not is also an eighth and is of the seven”=Domitian, who was pictured as the reincarnation of Nero; his was a revival of the same type of work as that of Nero but was much more intense and widespread. This plan omits Galba, Otho, and Vitellius, but they ruled for a brief time each and were never recognized as emperors by the provinces." (Summers, Ray (1999-03-15). Worthy Is the Lamb (p. 81). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.) Here we end up, perplexingly, with Otho, not a household name: "If we start a list of Roman emperors with Augustus, we then add Tiberius, Gaius, Claudius and Nero, to make five. . .After Nero came Galba, who lasted into 69 but not for long, and then Otho, who snatched the throne but again didn’t keep it for long." (Wright, N. T. (2012-05-22). Revelation for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 155). Westminster John Knox Press. Kindle Edition.) It seems however that the ancient practice was to start the count with Julius, as the only grounding in "strict constitutional law" the empire ever had was the pretense that there was no empire. It does seem that three pretenders who term of office overlaps cannot all be counted, even if all were voted in by the Senate. The time frame must be pushed back, even against tradition, because Caligula is the demented god who wanted worship in the temple, not his successors. To the extent that a template is provided for the future, he is the one who sets it. It is somewhat strange that modern secular Bible scholarship is reluctant to perceive that Jesus Christ claimed to be God, given that the anti-christs of the era had no hesitancy whatever in making this claim:

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Chronological Order

The $64,000 question about the Book of Revelation is whether this book is written in chronological order or is ordered on some other plan. There is no other reason to think the millenium is intended for the period following the second coming than because it is mentioned after Chapter 19. But wait: hasn't the second coming already occurred in Chapter 14?: "Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads." (Revelation 14:1). If the second coming occurs both before and after the second coming, we have a problem! If instead the order is cyclical, with the same events recurring, only viewed from different perspectives, then a better plan would be to line up known landmarks with other known landmarks: the final judgment, for instance, and the general resurrection. We know when these occur: upon Christ's second coming.

If the Book of Revelation were written so that its events unfold  in chronological sequence, then it would be very unusual amongst the prophetic books of the Bible, which are not generally so written. If the Holy Spirit does not see fit to follow this agenda as a general practice, then we cannot impose it in this instance. Yet here it is:

"Most of the struggles of scholars attempting to interpret the book of Revelation stem from a failure to understand that the book of Revelation is a book of prophecy and that prophecy has a chronological order. This becomes the key to unlocking the book of Revelation. . .Confusion in the interpretation of Revelation stems almost entirely from the failure to observe this divine outline."
(Walvoord, John F. (2011-09-01). Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times (p. 525). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.)

Rather, imposing a framework which doesn't fit is the way to induce confusion. When does the final judgment occur? In Revelation 6:

“Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'” (Revelation 6:14-17).

When the sky has rolled up like a scroll, and the "great day" of God's wrath has come, then what event can be in view but the final judgment? What do the premillenial prophecy experts say to this? That a day isn't a day, but whatever you need it to be: "In referring to the period as a day, there is no intimation that this will be limited to twenty-four hours, but rather in the length of the time period required for the fulfillment of these prophecies." (Walvoord, John F. (2011-09-01). Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times (p. 541). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.) How they propose to iron out the rolled-up sky, they don't say. They do not, in point of act, read the Book of Revelation in chronological order, but rather isolate as a 'parenthesis' every incident which cannot fit within their time line. The amillenialists differ from the premillenialists, not in preferring a non-literal reading of scripture, but only in counting one 'parenthesis' more: the millenium itself. To summarize: the only argument that the millenium comes after the second coming is that it is described after Revelation chapter 19, and the book is in chronological order. But the book is not in chronological order, as they themselves admit; rather it moves in recurring cycles, with the same events perceived through different lenses.

The earth is reaped in Revelation 14:14:

“Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, 'Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.' So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped.” (Revelation 14:14-16).

The Son of Man is Jesus; He is the judge. This is the same scene as depicted in Chapter 20. If He does not yet reign, why is there a golden crown upon His head? In each new cycle, we recapitulate the events of prior cycles, from a different perspective. People who want to read this material in chronological order have to make the harvest, so frequently a theme of the Lord's parables, into some other, minor event not heretofore described. The time line of the book of Revelation is cyclical, not a straight line; events recur.

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Two Witnesses

God speaks in various ways through His servants in scripture. At times He places His words directly in their mouths:

"Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: Behold, I have put My words in your mouth." (Jeremiah 1:9).

At other times the Holy Spirit guides an author embarked on an orderly research project:

"Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed." (Luke 1:1).

Luke ends his account with Paul in prison on a charge of sedition, having appealed to Nero Caesar. There being no rhetorical grounds for setting up a trial and then failing to report the verdict if it had been yet handed down, this date must have been when the book was written. Indeed, these two works, Luke and Acts, could well have been prepared as court documents for Theophilus the magistrate to examine, which would explain Acts' friendliness to the Roman authorities, which does not characterize the work here under discussion.

Let us imagine,— and it is pure speculation,— that Nero did not grant Paul a hearing. When the U. S. Supreme Court refuses to hear a death penalty appeal, they do not execute the prisoner on the spot, but send him back to the jurisdiction which sentenced him. If so, Paul would have been returned to Jerusalem and executed there. At the same time, in 62 A.D., James the Lord's brother was also executed at Jerusalem. These were the two great pillars of Gentile Christianity and Jewish Christianity. Roman Catholics, who follow the most unJewish practice of raising altars above dead men's bones, claim to have Paul's body, which would mean he was executed in Rome, not "Sodom:" "And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." (Revelation 11:8). On the other hand, if all the relics they prize are genuine, there must be people with two heads and five arms. Tradition records two Roman imprisonments with a Spanish junket in between, but there may be other possibilities. As will be seen, prophecy generally has multiple fulfillments, partial and complete; no doubt there will also be two end-time witnesses, but the paradigm must have been set in the first century.




The Book of Acts records tension between Jews and Gentiles in the early church, but our author is devoted to both communities. He balances on the knife-edge, treasuring Jewish believers:

"Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. . .These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes." (Revelation 14:1-4).

They are "virgins" because they have never worshipped any but Jehovah, unlike the Gentile converts from paganism who had first been devoted to foreign gods. But John welcomes this group as well:

"After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!'" (Revelation 7:9-10).

The beast from the bottomless pit who kills them is Nero Caesar. In Josephus' account James' death is not laid at the feet of the Romans. For that matter he portrays the Romans and the Jews as stumbling in the dark towards war, as the Romans blindly fail to rein in the greed, incompetence and cultural insensitivity of their personnel. But our author sees nothing accidental in this conflict. It is the rulers of these two kingdoms who are ever at war, and they drag their peoples behind them.




Admittedly, however, Paul and James are inadequate to the role of the two witnesses, who must be caught up to heaven. Tradition moreover testifies that Paul was executed, at Rome, subsequent to the fire of 64 A.D., not, as suggested here, before; nor is there any suggestion of a resurrection and ascension. So let us start over. The time frame of the Book of Revelation is cyclical, resetting backwards and moving forward again over the same events. It is not linear, ever moving forward. How far we cycle back each time is variable; some of these vignettes recapitulate salvation history as a whole. If so, perhaps the two witnesses are John the Baptist and Jesus. John is Elijah, who shuts the skies. Both suffered the public display of their bodies or some portion of their bodies after death, albeit not for three and a half days. Jesus was displayed for the world to see on the cross until taken down, while John's head was deposited in a charger at an obscene dinner party. Jesus was taken up into heaven at His ascension; no comparable information is available for John, although if he was indeed the Elijah that was to come, such might be inferred. It might seem that the saying, "And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also [και] our Lord was crucified." (Revelation 11:8), specifically rules out this identification, the 'also' making Jesus unavailable; or perhaps to the contrary it intends to point in this direction.

To the Christian mind, John the Baptist and Jesus are figures so far from being on a plane that this identification does not naturally suggest itself. But the author of the fourth gospel was interested in the Baptist, and there is a similarity in the trajectory of the two careers: "But as this second part of the gospel began prophetically with a look toward the final fate of Jesus expressed in His address of instruction to His disciples, so too it closes with the death of the Baptist, which the Evangelist has no doubt chosen as a prophetic type of the death of Jesus." (Weiss, Bernhard, 1827-1918; Schodde, George Henry, 1854-1917; Wilson, Epiphanius, 1845-1916. A commentary on the New Testament (Kindle Locations 2501-2503). New York, Funk & Wagnalls.)

Our author is interested in 'witnesses;' the theme of the 'three witnesses' is a major one in his gospel. If we run down the 'witness' list provided there to fill in these two, these are the best candidates. Jesus does usually make it onto this author's 'witness' list, and is even accused of testifying in His own behalf. That we are dealing here with one author rather than three, one each for the gospel, letters, and book of Revelation, is declared by internal evidence. Such themes as Jesus as the Lamb of God, Jesus as the Logos, are precious to this author, not others.

Looking back to the two 'anointed ones' of Zechariah 4:14, that one is intended for the Messiah occurs to many commentators, "Christ is the anointed One, or son of oil, being anointed with the Holy Ghost to the office of Prophet, Priest, and King; and with which oil he has supplied his candlestick, the church, in all ages." (John Gill, Exposition of the Entire Bible, Zechariah 4:14). Zechariah seems to be working with a template of a priestly Messiah and a kingly Messiah. What these two olive trees become in Christian interpretation, cannot be two minor figures of the end times. As to personages known to have been resurrected and ascended into heaven, Jesus makes what is undeniably a very short list. If John the Baptist, as suggested here, can ever have been conceived to have made the same list, it must be on the strength of his identification as the Elijah of the first advent.

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Creative Freedom

Some human authors, especially poets, enjoy writing in symbolic style. So how can it be declared, by human fiat, that the Holy Spirit does not enjoy the same liberty? How can man prohibit God from employing such writing styles as He likes? As God's word says, "But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases." (Psalm 115:3). It cannot be that 'writing symbolically' is the one thing God is not permitted to do; who could enforce such a prohibition?

When the author of Revelation explains his own material, it is symbolic. If we allow those symbols which are explicated to be symbols but insist those not explicated are meant literally, we demand that the Holy Spirit write poorly, because inconsistent style is bad style.

Dispensationalists aspire to prohibit readers from delving beneath the surface:

"The Golden Rule of Interpretation

"When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense, but take every word at its primary, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context clearly indicate otherwise." (David L. Cooper, quoted by Tim LaHaye, The Beginning of the End)

This might more aptly be termed the 'Dumbing Down Rule of Interpretation,' because it is well known that fallible human writers like Plato, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Herman Melville succeeded in creating literary works with many layers of meaning. Yet the capacities of these finite minds were infinitesimal compared with God. Why constrain God's creative projects within the bounds of human stupidity? Unlike human authors who must write fiction to realize their creative schemes, the whole wide world is God's canvas; He controls the events about which He writes. The commentary is His, the facts are His. This book is packed with more connecting threads, more tightly wound into a skein of meaning, than any other. The apostles teach us by example, in the New Testament, how to read the Old; and their lesson is not to skitter along the surface, but to mine all the meaning with which God has packed this book.

Reading the book of Revelation literally sites the bulk of the book's prophecies in the first century A.D. References to 'slaves,' 'horses,' and 'chariots,' cannot apply literally to conditions of today, nor do first century technologies look poised to make a comeback. As has been seen, dispensationalism fails to deliver on its advertised literalism. Multiplying the Bible's singular 'day of judgment' into seven distinct events is not literal; making the second coming into two events but not counting the 'second' as the 'third' is not literal; inserting 2,000 year gaps into chronologies as needed is not literal. . .and 'updating' locusts into Cobra attack helicopters is not literal. The dispensationalists see the Bible bristling with armored personnel carriers and rocket launchers, where literalists see horses and swords: "However, writing 2,500 years ago, Ezekiel used terms meaningful to his people. 'Horses, swords, armor, bucklers, and shields' could be symbolic terms of implements of warfare which in our day would represent tanks, M-16s, machine guns, rockets, bazookas, etc." (Tim LaHaye, The Beginning of the End, p. 74). Why advertise literalism, and then deliver symbolism? In the case of the book of Revelation, literalism seems to be leading down the right track, while the dispensationalists' "symbolic terms" lead elsewhere.

Mother and Child

"Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. . .She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne." (Revelation 12:1-5).

As even the dispensationalists must admit, the Child who is to rule all nations "with a rod of iron" can be none other than the Messiah, Jesus. So Psalm 2 prophesied: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed. . .Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.'" [Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron, LXX] (Psalm 2:2-9).

Yet the time frame in which the male child was born, in a manger at Bethlehem, and was later at His ascension caught up to God's throne, is not in sequence with what precedes nor what comes after. Jesus Christ will not be born again as a baby; He will return as He departed: "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11).

From time to time false Christs arise, claiming to be 'Maitreya' or some other grand thing. Jesus warned of these, saying, "Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. . .For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." (Matthew 24:23-27).

Premillenialism seems a natural reading of Revelation, because the reader tends to read Revelation Chapter 20 in succession after Chapter 19. If the reader understands Chapter 19 to describe the second coming, which is a plausible conjecture, then he understands the next event described, the millenium, to follow in sequence after the second coming. Yet look at how completely this logic fails when applied to Chapter 12. A false christ could 'prove' the Messiah is to be born again as a baby just as soundly as the premillenialist 'proves' his conjecture about the millenium. Whether the woman is Zion or Mary, this vignette takes us back to the manger in Bethlehem. In fact this book is not written in chronological order, as indeed is no other prophecy book of the Bible. How do the premillenialists deal with this departure from chronological order?: "The entire passage of Revelation from chapter 10 through chapter 14 is parenthetic and does not advance the narrative except for the injection at this point of the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the details of which are unfolded in chapter 15." (Walvoord, John F. (2011-09-01). Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times (p. 557). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.) Rather than identifying the book of Revelation as a tome in chronological order which inexplicably incorporates large parenthetical sections which are not in chronological order, we should notice rather that the book does not appear to be in chronological order.

Taking each narrative unit as a thing unto itself, the story of Christ's birth (Chapter 12) lines up to perfection with other scripture. Forcing it into a chronological sequence with surrounding chapters yields confusion and conflict with other scripture. Thus the 'mother and child' sequence may serve as a reductio ad absurdum proof that the book of Revelation is not a narrative in chronological order. This Bible book should be read by isolating narrative sequences and reading them on their own terms, not by imposing a uniform time-frame from the outside. This vignette recapitulates salvation history.

Now look at Chapter 20 as a thing unto itself, without forcing it to fit into sequence. When Satan is loosed in verse 7: what better time for antichrist to arise? The battle with Gog and Magog, after the millenium (verse 8): the battle of Armageddon. The final judgment of verse 12: as readers of the gospels know, this takes place immediately after Christ comes again: "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left." (Matthew 25:30-33). The new heavens and the new earth: again, at the second coming, not one thousand years later: "Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:13).

Everything fits perfectly on the assumption that Christ comes after the millenium. Augustine's amillenialism yields one of each event of which the Bible gives you one, whereas premillenialism gives at a minimum two of every event. Which is better? Ockham's razor says one is better. And we know that Jesus reigns at the present; though the premillenialists may claim to believe that Satan rules this world, to whom do they pray when things go wrong?

While this understanding of the millenium is admittedly counter-intuitive, the premillenial reduplication of each event is the hallmark of a mistaken fit. If you assemble your mail-order furniture so that the screws do not line up with the pre-drilled holes, do you say, 'No problem, I'll just drill new holes, so then there will be two holes for every screw,' or do you say, 'I must have assembled this incorrectly, I will start over so that the screws line up with the holes'? Of course if you are a dispensationalist, then you drill seven additional holes and fasten colorful streamers, just because you can.




Emmanuel

It is announced as a new thing, that God will dwell among His people: "And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.'" (Revelation 21:3). According to the dispensationalists, God incarnate, Jesus Christ, has been dwelling amongst men for the prior one thousand years, at the time when God's habitation among men is announced as a new thing. This author has no hesitancy about calling Jesus Christ 'God;' he even calls Him 'the almighty' in 1:8: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8). If God had, as premillenialists assert, been dwelling among men for the prior one thousand years, why announce this old news anew in 21:3, with 'Behold'?

New New Heavens

The creation of a new world is announced in Revelation 21:1:

"Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea." (Revelation 21:1).

When will this new world appear, and the heavenly Jerusalem come down to man? According to Peter, at the time of Jesus' second coming. Responding to scoffers who ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?" Peter explains:

"But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells." (2 Peter 3:10-13).

Now let's watch our dispensationalist friends start multiplying. How many new heavens can they get out of this one Bible promise? Two of 'em, a new heavens and a newer new heavens. One at the second coming: "The present world he calls 'the heavens and the earth that now are.' The third, after the Second Coming of Christ, will provide a new heaven and earth, all of which are kept in place by the word (or power) of God." (Tim LaHaye, 'The Beginning of the End,' pp. 138-139); "This fact is used by Peter as a sign that such a catastrophe will end this present order and usher in a new one which he calls the new heavens and the new earth. . .Because this world will be dissolved in a gigantic atomic explosion (not set off by man, but controlled by God), we ought to leave no stone unturned in our efforts to warn the lost to come to Christ." (Tim LaHaye, 'The Beginning of the End,' p. 144).

But wait: Revelation 21:1 shows the heavens and earth replaced after the millenium. That, too: "Furthermore, the earth will not be destroyed until after Jesus Christ comes back to this earth. In fact, the complete destruction of this world won't take place for over 1,000 years after he comes. (See Revelation 19:11-20:10)." (Tim LaHaye, 'The Beginning of the End,' p. 9). So a new heavens and earth only 1,000 years old,--fairly new as these things go,--has to be junked again (completely) so we can get this to happen twice. This even though God promises the new heavens and the new earth will remain, not vanish away: "'For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,' says the LORD, 'So shall your descendants and your name remain.'" (Isaiah 66:22).

In fact everything has to happen twice: Gog and Magog must erupt twice, once prior to the second coming, then again at the close of the millenium. But oddly enough, no Bible author ever mentions that these things happen more than once. Time for a recount?

Overview

The book of Revelation is commonly read as if it were all or nothing: either everything described in the book is an event of distant futurity from the author's day, or none of it is. There is no other Bible book of prophecy which people read this way. When Isaiah prophesies against King Rezin of Syria, no one assumes that, because Isaiah also prophesies about the Messianic Age and the new heavens and new earth, he is not talking about the contemporary King Rezin but about another figure of the same name to arise in times of distant futurity. While it may be true that the works of the Old Testament prophets were compiled by their successors while the book of Revelation was delivered at a single sitting, in fact these books were all complied by the same Holy Spirit in a manner felt suitable for books of prophecy. John's text is strung along with the phrase, 'and I saw...' While the visions are sequential, what is seen in them need not be in sequence, just as a movie-goer sees one thing, and then he sees another, though what he is seeing may be in flashback, anticipation, or direct narrative. If people were to read the book of Revelation the same way they read other books of Bible prophecy, that would mark a great return to rationality in the study of this book.

The book begins in real time, and so continues until chapter 6. Then begins an escalating sequence of apocalyptic dooms, some of these, especially those of the seventh seal, of a scale and magnitude corresponding to nothing yet seen upon the earth. Therefore their fulfillment awaits the future. This sequence reaches its culmination at 10:6, when time is swallowed by eternity:

"Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and the land lifted his right hand into the sky, and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created the sky and what is in it, and the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there shall be no more time; but in days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall blow his trumpet, the mystery of God shall be accomplished, as he announced to his slaves the prophets." (Revelation 10:5-7, Lattimore).

There is no reason not to translate this literally. Plato said that time is the moving image of eternity. If a reader with extreme tunnel vision frantically scans a page, collecting each little dot and shape he can see into letters and words, and exercising all his memory and his expectation, he can almost keep up with a reader with normal vision, who sees the whole phrase entire. A reader of greater capabilities might see the whole page at a glance; a reader of superhuman abilities might grasp at once the whole book. We are ever stringing together the single point in time we can grasp and actually experience, in a hopeless quest to make good the whole which we cannot grasp. But there is constant, endless loss in grabbing onto, then discarding, each moment in time. This impoverished and deprived way of living will be done away with when Jesus comes and "thy mystery of God [is] accomplished." Our way of experiencing the world will be closer to God's, complete rather than partial: "Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." (1 Corinthians 13:12).




Some dispensational authors, such as Grant Jeffrey, display a violent aversion for the eternal state. They understand eternity as the condition of a motionless statue. To form this vision of eternity, take one of the dots we time-bound creatures can experience,--a moment,--and prolong it forever. It may be that this defective idea of eternity is a root cause of the dispensational confusion that now overspreads end times study.

The narrative does not continue as per usual after time is no more! We start over in real time with John instructed to measure the temple. This is another indication that this book was written prior to 70 A.D. The heavenly temple which formed the "pattern" for the earthly (Hebrews 8:5) is not in view, because that temple cannot be trampled under.

After the self-contained segment on Madonna and child, a pack of beasts saunter onto the field. The circumstances here described are strikingly reminiscent of Gaius (Caligula) Caesar's reign. Five Roman emperors had come and gone, and John writes as the sixth (Nero) still holds office. The facts compel even dispensationalists to admit the "five" are ancient Roman emperors: "The seven heads described here probably refer to the seven heads of the Roman government, the epitome of human evil, that would appear through history. Five emperors had come and gone by the apostle John's time; one ruled during his time; and the seventh represents the Antichrist to come." (Tim LaHaye, 'Are We Living in the End Times?,' p. 267). (In fact the seventh holds office for only a brief time; it is the "eighth" who does real damage.) Notice the dispensational new math: if the sixth is Nero (or even Domitian), can the "eighth" be an end-times figure mentioned by Paul who would not even be born until thousands of years later? Would that not be the eight hundred and eighth, rather than the eighth? If there is a sequence of Caesars, as even dispensationalists sometimes admit, how can the "eighth" come two thousand years after the "seventh"? The literal way to count is not to count 'one, two, three, nine hundred and thirty-two,' but to count, 'one, two, three, four.' The "eighth," if one takes numbers literally rather than whimsically, is Vespasian.

Rome's burning is described in Chapter 18. This fire forms a narrative unit complete in itself rather than a continuation of preceding events. What John sees is not the total downfall of the city, because even as the sea captains stand off and wail the burning of the city, an angel appears (verse 21) and predicts its future violent downfall. This fire broke out, in my estimation, two years after this book was written, and caused no end of trouble for the infant church.

Verse 19:11 begins the narrative of a great battle. This unequal encounter is familiar to scripture readers:

"Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; for there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations. Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, go down; for the winepress is full, the vats overflow—for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision." (Joel 3:12-14).

This is the great day of judgment. All mankind will be gathered in that valley, the quick and the dead, the beast and his prophet, Stalin and Hitler, and even the dispensationalists, who insist they will not be there and indeed that there will be no such event. The timing of this great event is not stated, neither can it be assumed to occur prior to the next narrative unit, the millenium. To assume otherwise is to force this book into a framework which can be shown not to match the author's intent.

Buy and Sell

"And he causes all, the small and the great, the rich and the poor, the free and the slaves, he causes the giving of his mark to them upon their right hand or upon their forehead, so that none can buy or sell unless he has the mark, the name of the beast or the number of his name." (Revelation 13:17 Lattimore)

One of the ways in which the state regulates commerce is through the money supply. During the Jewish revolt and then later during the Bar Kochba uprising, Israel coined its own money, but at this time the money bore the image of Caesar:

“Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:18-21, Mark 12:16, Luke 20:24).

Once Gaius (Caligula) Caesar had deified himself in life, coins that bore his image were idols: images of a false god. This made handling money, without which one cannot buy and sell, problematic for pious Jews.

The Great Fire

As already noted, Rome burned, rather comprehensively, in 64 A.D. Suetonius, a conspiracy theorist, also describes this event, which he blamed on Nero:




  • "For six days and seven nights destruction raged, while the people were driven for shelter to monuments and tombs. At that time, besides an immense number of apartment houses, the private houses of leaders of old were burned, still adorned with trophies of victory, and the temples of the Gods vowed and dedicated by the Kings and later in the Punic and Gallic wars, and whatever else interesting and noteworthy had survived from antiquity. Viewing the conflagration from the tower of Maecenas and exulting, as he [Nero] said, in 'the beauty of the flames,' he sang the whole of the 'Sack of Troy,' dressed up in his regular stage costume."
  • (Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Nero).



Many citizens shared Suetonius' opinion, believing that Nero himself had set the fire to clear room for a gigantic new palace. Pliny the Elder thought so: "Cęcina Largus, one of the grandees of Rome, and the owner of the house, used often to point them out to me in my younger days; and, as I have already made mention8 of the remarkable longevity of trees, I would here add, that they were in existence down to the period when the Emperor Nero set fire to the City, one hundred and eighty years after the time of Crassus; being still green and with all the freshness of youth upon them, had not that prince thought fit to hasten the death of the very trees even." (Pliny the Elder, Natural History, Book XVII, Chapter 1). But while Nero was without doubt a depraved person of very low morals, he was not a raving lunatic, and no sane person, even if a cruel despot, would destroy his capital city to clear space for his new home. This would be cutting off your nose to spite your face, because the city that ruled the world was threatened with ruin, receiving very nearly a mortal blow by destruction on this scale. Where is the glory in ruling over an ash-heap piled with corpses? This was a major blow to the city which ruled the world:

"The calamity which the city then experienced has no parallel before or since, except in the Gallic invasion. The whole Palatine hill, the theatre of Taurus, and nearly two-thirds of the remainder of the city were burned, and countless persons perished. There was no curse that the populace did not invoke upon Nero, though they did not mention his name, but simply cursed in general terms those who had set the city on fire. And they were disturbed above all by recalling the oracle which once in the time of Tiberius had been on everybody's lips. It ran thus:
"'Thrice three hundred years having run their course of fulfilment,
Rome by the strife of her people shall perish.'" (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book LXII, 18:2-4).

But the strength of Rome lay in her legions, not in her real estate, and the city rose again. The city we think of as ancient Rome: the city of broad boulevards and spacious parks, is the city that rose from the ashes. The city that burned was a city of "narrow, crooked streets" (Suetonius) lined with tenements. The broad boulevards were designed as fire-breaks. Many witnesses described public officers setting fires: "For the soldiers (including the night watch), having an eye upon plunder, instead of extinguishing any blaze kindled greater conflagrations." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 62, Chapter 17). For so many to act in unison, they must have been following orders, and the orders must have been to set back-fires as a last-ditch effort at fire control. Still to this day we fight wild-fires in forested land this way. Fighting an urban fire by deliberately setting "greater conflagrations" is an extreme measure, proportioned to an extreme situation.

What is remarkable about this fire is that the Christians were blamed for it. Why? If we surmise that the book of Revelation was written when the book says it was written, no further explanation is needed.

There are two possibilities: either this prophecy was delivered before the city burned, or after. If after, then the writer would have been aware of two things: 1). that Rome had burned in 64 A.D., and 2). that the Christians had been blamed for it. This makes ex eventu prophecy psychologically impossible, as it would look very much like confession after the fact.

In this case tradition ascribes a very late date to this book. In a neat convergence, secular Bible study also assigns very late dates, not only to this book, but to other New Testament writings. Usually these late dates solve no problems but only create them. If Acts was written after Nero's massacre of Roman Christians, why is Luke so friendly to Rome? If Revelation was written after the definitive break between church and synagogue, why its preoccupation with the Jewish Christians, who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ"? (Revelation 12:17). This was still a large population in James' lifetime: "many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law. . ." (Acts 21:20), yet not to the very end of the first century. All internal evidence in these books points to dates prior to 70 A.D.; it is only a polemical impulse, which equates 'early' with 'authentic,' that points elsewhere.

Looking back to the days of Rudolph Bultmann's form criticism, secular Bible study posited for itself a never-never land wherein a neutron bomb had detonated over the ancient near east. Otherwise Tacitus' "immense multitude" of Christians, who would have jumped for joy to talk with those who walked with the Lord during His earthly ministry, and to read their first-hand accounts, would surely have hooked up with disciples who were still very much alive and a boat-ride away. Objective-minded readers ought not to swallow such silliness; late dates for New Testament books should be recognized as the religiously-motivated propaganda they are.





  • "While such scenes were occurring at various points, a wind caught up the flames and carried them indiscriminately against all the buildings that were left. Consequently no one concerned himself any longer about goods or houses, but all the survivors, standing where they thought they were safe, gazed upon what appeared to be a number of scattered islands on fire or many cities all burning at the same time. There was no longer any grieving over personal losses, but they lamented the public calamity, recalling how once before most of the city had been thus laid waste by the Gauls. While the whole population was in this state of mind and many, crazed by the disaster, were leaping into the very flames, Nero ascended to the roof of the palace, from which there was the best general view of the greater part of the conflagration, and assuming the lyre-player's garb, he sang the 'Capture of Troy,' as he styled the song himself, though to the enemies of the spectators it was the Capture of Rome.

    "The calamity which the city then experienced has no parallel before or since, except in the Gallic invasion. The whole Palatine hill, the theatre of Taurus, and nearly two-thirds of the remainder of the city were burned, and countless persons perished."
  • (Cassio Dio, Roman History, Volume VIII, LXII, 17-18.).




Vespasian

According to the 'isolating' method offered here, Vespasian is the "eighth," who is the return of one "of the seven" (Revelation 17:11), Gaius Caligula. While Petronius may have been perceived as Gaius' second-in-command, for Vespasian that would be Titus, his son, successor, and partner. Gaius is the template, Vespasian the copy. While both these characters bear a family resemblance to the antichrist of the end-times, as born of common paternity, the direct and immediate reference is not to the end times, but to the first century. Does Vespasian fit the bill?

Vespasian makes war against the holy people, the Jews, both believing and unbelieving, like the beast: "And it was given to hm to do battle against the saints, and defeat them, and he was given authority over every tribe and people and language and nation." (Revelation 13:7). Vespasian figures in the historical narrative as a man of more modesty and common sense than the mad Caligula. And yet Vespasian claimed to be the Messiah:




  • "There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world. This prediction, referring to the Emperor of Rome, as afterwards appeared from the event, the people of Judaea took themselves."
  • (Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Vespasian).




Vespasian also claimed to give sight to the blind. It is an oddity of modern secular Bible scholarship that they'll happily make Jesus an imitator of Vespasian, even though this requires the time-line to run backwards. There can be no doubt that the Roman emperor Vespasian was to a degree a 'copy-cat' of Jesus of Nazareth, although not likely sharing any popular movement that took these claims serioulsy. Jesus, it seems, started a trend:

Up



  • "A man of the people who was blind, and another who was lame, came to him together as he sat on the tribunal, begging for the help for their disorders which Serapis had promised in a dream. For the God declared that Vespasian would restore the eyes, if he would spit upon them, and give strength to the leg, if he would deign to touch it with his heel. Though he had hardly any faith that this could possibly succeed, and therefore shrank even from making the attempt, he was at last prevailed upon by his friends and tried both things in public before a large crowd; and with success."
  • (Suetonius, The Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Vespasian).




The Continuing Babylon

"My father, and the father of my father, pitched their tents here before me: but they never heard of these figures. For twelve hundred years have the true believers -- and, praise be to God! all true wisdom is with them alone -- been settled in this country, and not one of them ever heard of a palace under ground. Neither did they who went before them. But lo! here comes a Frank from many days' journey off, and he walks up to the very place, and he takes a stick. . .and makes a line here, and makes a line there. Here, says he, is the palace; there, says he, is the gate; and he shows us what has been all our lives beneath our feet, without our having known anything about it. Wonderful! wonderful! Is it by books, is it by magic, is it by your prophets, that you have learnt these things? Speak, O Bey; tell me the secret of your wisdom." (Sheik Abd-er-Rahman, quoted p. 260, C. W. Ceram, 'Gods, Graves, and Scholars').

When archaeologist Robert Koldewy turned up at Babylon, spade in hand, in 1898, no city met his sight. If you have to dig to find the city, then is the city standing, or swept clean? Yet oddly enough some dispensationalists want to rebuild the thing, so they can destroy it all over again. But Koldewy's barren site had already been swept with God's broom:

“For I will rise up against them,” says the LORD of hosts, “And cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, and offspring and posterity,” says the LORD. “I will also make it a possession for the porcupine, and marshes of muddy water; I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” says the LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 13:22-23).

At the time of the New Testament, Babylon's political demise had long been accomplished. The city still stood, but was physically sinking into ruin; Alexander the Great had, hundreds of years before, detailed his men to restore already collapsing structures. The great city was depopulated: "At present it [Seleucia, the new capital] is larger than Babylon; the other is in great part deserted, so that no one would hesitate to apply to it what one of the comic writers said of Megalopolitae in Arcadia, 'The great city is a great desert.'" (Strabo, Geography, Book XVI, Chapter I, Section 5, (first century) Volume III, p. 145). The emperor Trajan found nothing on the spot but mounds, stones and ruins: "Trajan ascertained this in Babylon. He had taken the side-trip there on the basis of reports, unmerited by aught that he saw (which were merely mounds and stones and ruins), and for the sake of Alexander, to whose spirit he offered sacrifice in the room where he had died." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, Book 68, Chapter 30). The Mesopotamian city no longer presented any threat to the people of God; so why does "Babylon" turn up in the New Testament, this time astride the seven hills of Rome?

To understand, the reader must realize who is the king of Babylon. The king of Babylon is, at first notice, a mortal man who must die even though he has proclaimed himself a god:

". . .you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say:
'How the oppressor has ceased, the golden city ceased! The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers; he who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he who ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted and no one hinders.' . .Hell from beneath is excited about you, to meet you at your coming; it stirs up the dead for you, all the chief ones of the earth; it has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. They all shall speak and say to you: 'Have you also become as weak as we? Have you become like us? Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the sound of your stringed instruments; the maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you.'" (Isaiah 14:1-11).

The "king of Babylon" who is food for maggots is a man. But there is another king of Babylon, the power behind the throne:

"How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!" (Isaiah 14:12).

This "king of Babylon" remained in business while the others were mouldering in the grave, having moved his capital city to Rome. The people of this king will continue sharing the earth with the people of God, as tares with wheat, up until the harvest, when all things will be separated and put in order.

Realized Eschatology

Tradition assigns authorship of Revelation to John, the beloved disciple. Though the Hebraic language of Revelation differs from the smoother Greek of John's gospel, it is natural for an author not at home in the language he uses to seek the assistance of native speakers. But exiled on Patmos, John was deprived of the community help he would have had while writing his gospel.

John, in his gospel, uses the language of realized eschatology. Without prejudice to the future complete fulfillment of prophecy, he stresses how much of the believer's hope is held already as a present possession. Is this another such passage?: "This is the first resurrection." (Revelation 20:5). Although a specific group is here in view, all believers are said to have already experienced resurrection, in passages like Colossians 2:12:

"In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Colossians 2:11-12).
"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God." (Colossians 3:1).
"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:4-7).

This contemporary sermon touches on the same theme:

"Now in that hope of the resurrection, the personal resurrection that happens in each of us when we are born again (John 3:3), when we are given new life, when the Spirit of Christ now moves into our heart and takes over our lives, this gives us hope, not only for this life, so we can live holy lives in this life, but it gives us hope for the after-life. It gives us hope for eternity.
(Chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, Sermon)

The new birth is itself a literal resurrection from the dead, according to the Bible, thus all born-again believers are resurrected people. What can be truthfully predicated of each member of the class can also be predicated of a sub-group, namely the martyrs with whose situation John is especially concerned. As the book of Acts records, the roll call of Christian martyrs began with Stephen and kept lengthening. As John explains, these people are not to be lamented as having suffered a miserable fate; they have gained, not lost.

Weighing in on the 'not' side is Dean Alford, who insists that, if one resurrection is physical as the second certainly is, then so much be the first:

"If, in a passage where two resurrections are mentioned, where certain souls lived at the first, and the rest of the dead lived only at the end of a specified period after that first, if in such a passage, the first resurrection may be understood to mean spiritual rising with Christ, while the second means literal rising from the grave; then there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to anything. If the first resurrection is spiritual, then so is the second, which I suppose no one will be hardy enough to maintain. But if the second is literal, then so is the first, which in common with the whole primitive church and many of the best modern expositors, I do maintain and receive as an article of faith and hope." (Dean Alford, quoted p. 59, 'Jesus is Coming,' William E. Blackstone).

Let us apply Dean Alford's methodology to other speeches which John quotes:

"Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Let us proceed according to Dean Alford's rule, which lays down that in any passage in scripture which counts 'life' or 'resurrection' or 'death,' the term must have precisely the same signification in both uses, or else "there is an end of all significance in language, and Scripture is wiped out as a definite testimony to anything." Thus the Lord said, "He who believes in Me, though he may die. . .shall never die." This is self-contradictory, if 'die' can mean only one thing. Rather, the believer may see physical death, as his soul and spirit depart his failing body, which is left as a motionless corpse, yet, if he is truly a believer, he will never see spiritual death, or disunion from God. Let's try another saying of the Lord: "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:25-26). By Dean Alford's rule, whoever loses his life for the Lord's sake has found just exactly what he lost, not anything even a little different. In a sense that is so, because the believer who perishes a martyr will regain, at the resurrection, the physical body from which his soul has been sundered. But what he finds as he dies is not the quotidian life he gives up, the ability to move one's limbs which a guppy also has or a house-cat, but a life at one with the source of life. The Lord's point is not that the believer's loss is made up, but that he does not lose but gains.

Dean Alford's rule has failed, with well-known sayings of the Lord. Why assume it will be successful with Revelation 20?

The Aftermath

What is beyond doubt historically is that Rome did burn in 64 A.D., and the Christians were blamed for it. It may be that they were implicated, though innocent. What most people believe: that mad Nero scape-goated the Christians for a fire he himself started,-- has the look and feel of propaganda.

Conspiracy theories were as popular in antiquity as they are today. After a fire, the ancients looked for the arsonist. Fire was antiquity's preferred weapon of mass destruction. The victors in war not uncommonly burned a fallen city. This weapon was also in the arsenal of civil war: the conspirators in Cataline's abortive revolution were accused of planning arson; Cicero, who unmasked the conspiracy, turns oracular, "For I seem to myself to see this city, the light of the world and the citadel of all nations, falling on a sudden by one conflagration." (The Fourth Oration of M. T. Cicero against Lucius Catalina, Delivered in the Senate, Section 11). Centuries prior, a slave insurrection had been uncovered and forestalled:

"Agrippa Menenius, Publius Lucretius and Servius Nautius, having been honored with the military tribuneship, discovered a plot that had been formed against the commonwealth by slaves. The conspirators were planning to set fire to the houses at night in many different places at the same time, and then, when they had learned that everyone had rushed to the aid of the burning buildings, to seize the Capitol and the other fortified places and, once in possession of the strong positions in the city, to summon the other slaves to freedom and together with them, after slaying their masters, to take over the wives and possessions of the murdered men." (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities, Book XII, Chapter 6, Loeb edition Volume 7, page 219).

Arson was also a weapon available to stateless terrorists. Most fires, of course, start accidentally. But when a politician died unexpectedly the ancients looked for the poisoner, and when a city burned, they looked for the arsonist.

Eye-witnesses reported seeing men spreading the fire, some of whom claimed to be acting under orders. Most of these must have been opportunistic looters. When I was attending art school in New York, the lights went out, and residents of that red-white-and-blue city went on an all-night looting spree. Rome, like New York City, encompassed within its bounds the extremes of wealth and poverty. To watch wealthy residents flee their homes, stocked with precious portable items of silver and gold, must have placed temptation in the way of the city's poor, who may also have helped the fire along in its march toward the wealthier districts.

It is also not inconceivable that Nero's men did start fires. Rome had running water, though insufficient water pressure to fight fires effectively. Once the fire was out of control, what means did they have to make one last desperate effort to save the city? Firemen facing a forest fire today set back-fires. The intent is not to make a bad situation worse, but to contain the fire, by encircling it with a ring of scorched earth. The fire's advance is checked by a lack of fuel. This is radical surgery, like amputating a limb to save a life, or shooting down a passenger plane to keep it from hitting a building. Sacrificing one district to save another would involve political controversy if known. But to this day it is an effective fire-fighting technique, and I wonder if it was not tried when all else had failed. Seneca suggests knowledge of such a technique in 'On Mercy,' "If a fire is discovered beneath some single roof, the family and the neighbors pour on water; but a widespread conflagration that has now consumed many homes is put down only by the destruction of half the city." (Lucius Annaeus Seneca, On Mercy, Book I, Chapter 25).

Both of these groups of fire-starters: opportunistic looters and fire-fighters,-- come on the scene of an already mature fire. They did not start the fire, which most likely was accidental, as are most fires. Nonetheless, the Christians were blamed for it. Was there evidence against them? The criminal investigation got underway: "The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods, and recourse was had to the Sibylline books, by the direction of which prayers were offered to Vulcanus, Ceres, and Proserpina." (Tacitus, Annals, 15:43). It is one of the oddities of life that pagan polytheist Rome held sacred certain books written by, among others, Jewish women. Later, Christians and Jews would be accused of forging this material; however, this cannot be proven. Some people simply find it incredible a pagan city should have conducted its business based, in part, on God-devoted oracles. But why is this incredible? Access to this material was restricted. While some of the surviving 'Sibylline' material comes from who knows where, extant passages which appear authentic commend monotheism, condemn idolatry, and praise the Jews.

One idea which must have struck investigators is the repeated prediction of a world fire, a world-ending conflagration: ". . .when God who dwells in the sky rolls up the heaven as a scroll is rolled, and the whole variegated vault of heaven falls on the wondrous earth and ocean. An undying cataract of raging fire will flow, and burn earth, burn sea, and melt the heavenly vault and days and creation itself into one and separate them into clear air." (Sibylline Oracles, Book 3, 81-87). Peter sounds this theme in his letter from Babylon about the "fiery trial" or arson trial they are then undergoing (1 Peter 4:12): ". . .the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat" (1 Peter 3:12). Not only Christians, but also the Stoic philosophers who held government posts, anticipated a world fire. It is self-evident such a fire cannot be started by a human arsonist. It is also self-evident, however, that Revelation Chapter 18 is not about this world conflagration, because the merchant spectators standing at a distance are not consumed. Another theme of interest is the resentment conquered peoples feel for their masters, a theme not heard in the tributes to Roman 'liberation' of the 'Fox News' networks of the day, but real and raw: "However much wealth Rome received from tribute-bearing Asia, Asia will receive three times that much again from Rome and will repay her deadly arrogance to her. Whatever number from Asia served the house of Italians, twenty times that number of Italians will be serfs in Asia, in poverty, and they will be liable to pay ten-thousandfold." (Sibylline Oracles, Book 3, 350-355). One cannot know if they read, ". . .when the earth-shaking lightning-giver will break the glory of idols and shake the people of seven-hilled Rome. Great wealth will perish, burned in a great fire by the flame of Hephaestus." (Sibylline Oracles, Book 2, 16-19). That Rome was built upon seven hills was a common-place of ancient literature, "Now, while ye may, bulls, crop the grass of the Seven Hills. Ere long this will be a great city's site. Thy nation, Rome, is fated to rule the earth wherever Ceres looks from heaven upon the fields she tends. . ." (Tibullus Book II, Chapter V, 55-60, p. 275 Loeb edition).

The Sibylline oracles may have started the government looking in the direction where they ultimately found pay-dirt, because they did beyond doubt punish the Christians for the fire:




  • "Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired."
  • (Tacitus, Annals 15:44).





On what basis would Christians be convicted of "hatred against mankind"? There is no basis for such a charge in the gospels or epistles, yet to Roman eyes, in the aftermath of the great fire of 64 A.D., chapter 18 of the book of Revelation must have looked very much like "hatred against mankind."

To what did the Christians confess, or plead guilty: to being Christians, or to setting the fire? Either is possible, because torture was then in use as an investigative tool. Torture is such a powerful investigative technique that it wrings confessions from the innocent as well as the guilty. Under the chaotic conditions in the fire's aftermath, it must have been difficult to track down the "immense multitude" of the city's Christians, even if the police had their names. The usual way of tracking down a suspect: knocking on the front door,-- would not have worked with such extensive tracts of the city laying in ruins. People were camped out in the fields. The police must have benefitted from the Christians' willingness to give information against themselves and admit to being Christians. Those who heard the warning, "Come out of her, my people," were long gone, out of town.

It is always controversial to ascribe calamities like Hurricane Katrina to God's hand, because hurtful to those who lost someone. Yet the Bible repeatedly does describe such events as chastisements sent by God. It is no use to complain; what can the clay answer to the potter: "Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!" (Jeremiah 18:6). The great Roman fire of 64 A.D. was certainly within God's permissive will, because it did happen. To judge from Revelation chapter 18, it was yet more. Romans were even at that early date persecuting Christians, God's anointed; they should have desisted. Instead of repenting, they lashed back; this, too, was anticipated. Nero was very much a modern man, not disposed to propitiate divine wrath. The victors are those shown forth as such from the longest perspective, encompassing both heaven and earth.

A House Divided

Judaism has historically been able to hold within its bounds the most diverse views imaginable: "For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both." (Acts 23:8). Imagine a religion whose devotees disagree about so fundamental a question as the afterlife! Today Judaism encompasses both those who hold the law of Moses (orthodox) and those who do not (reform). Christianity could not square this circle: "But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, 'If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?'" (Galatians 2:14). Yet there is one glaring exception to Judaism's traditional wide latitude of belief and practice: Christianity. Why did relations between church and synagogue turn so hostile?

From the earliest years some, like Paul before his conversion, persecuted Christians. But there was another viewpoint, expressed by Gamaliel: "And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing. . ." (Acts 5:38-39). This 'live and let live' perspective had disappeared by the end of the first century, replaced by execration: "And for apostates let there be no hope; and may the insolent kingdom be quickly uprooted in our days. And may the Nazoreans and the heretics perish quickly; and may they be erased from the book of life; and may they not be inscribed with the just." (The Eighteen Blessings, quoted p. 160, 'The Four Witnesses,' Robin Griffith-Jones). Later still Bar-Kochba's partisans hunted down and killed Christians. This ill-will would be repaid with interest during long, dark centuries of Christian anti-semitism.

Two years after the great fire of 64 A.D., Roman armies were marching through Judaea. They were suppressing the 'Jewish Revolt,' which Josephus' narrative paints as the unsought outcome of Roman ignorance, indifference and incompetence. But what if the Roman policy was one of provocation rather than indifference? If the Roman government was serious in its conviction that Christian arsonists started the fire of 64 A.D., their slogan may have been, 'fight them over there so we don't have to fight them at home.' Jewish 'moderates' would want to distance themselves as far as possible from Christian 'extremists,' of whose innocence they may not have been convinced. If this was the process, then the book of Revelation was in some measure a self-fulfilling prophecy.

He Shall Reign Forever

Revelation 20:4-6 mentions a reign:

"And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4-6).

When does this thousand-year reign begin? Does Jesus not reign as Christ in any sense until after the Second Coming, as dispensationalism proposes? Or is His reign now underway?

It may be objected that Satan is not now bound. However, Jesus says that he is: "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house." (Matthew 12:28-29).

There is room for interpretation in dating the inauguration of a government. From what point should we date Communist rule in Cuba: from the first formation of a provisional government? From the time when the insurgents began to seize and hold significant territory? Or not until the victorious Communists marched through the streets of Havana? In truth even in the mountains the guerrillas were a self-governing community with their own rules and authorities. Can the king be visibly present in His glory, as at the transfiguration, yet the kingdom not be anywhere yet?




It is always best to let scripture interpret scripture. Christ's coming reign is prophesied in Psalm 110:

"The LORD said to my Lord, 'Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.' The LORD shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!" (Psalm 110:1-2).

This session at the right hand is not anticipated to begin at some time in the future. It has been present reality since the Lord's ascension:

"So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God." (Mark 16:19).
". . .and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all." (Ephesians 2:19-23).

However, not every enemy yet lies prostrate beneath His feet:

"'You have put all things in subjection under his feet.' For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him." (Hebrews 2:8).
"But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For 'He has put all things under His feet.'" (1 Corinthians 15:23-26).

Notice the sequence in this last passage: from Christ's resurrection (33 A.D.) to the general resurrection, which has not happened yet. "He must reign," not after he has destroyed death at His second coming, but "till" [achris] that future event. The modern assumption that Jesus does not reign as Messiah until after His Second Coming is not Biblical in the least. Yet it is heard on every hand:

"For Christ to return, the Roman Empire must be revived. . .Christ did not establish His kingdom the first time He came, so He must come again to do so. When? 'In the days of those kings'—i.e., when the Roman Empire has been revived, out of which the Antichrist will arise." ('The Endtimes,' by Dave Hunt, 1990).

God reigns over human history even at the present. The balance of forces between the pagan Roman empire and the first century church was impossible; and yet by following the strategy laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, and suffering rather than inflicting violence, the majority was with the church within a few centuries. The dispensationalists' claim that Satan is triumphant at present cannot be verified from a study of history. God holds a wide variety of levers, and His way of working is often unexpected. The pagans used to say, 'those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad;' it might be more apt to say, those whom God would overthrow, He poisons with lead. It is often noted there were a wide variety of environmental sources of lead in ancient Rome, because this easily worked metal was present even in places where it should not be, such as women's cosmetics:

"Then make haste and bake pale lupins and windy beans. Of these take six pounds each and grind the whole in the mill. Add thereto white lead and the scum of ruddy nitre and Illyrian iris, which must be kneaded by young and sturdy arms. And when they are duly bruised, an ounce should be the proper weight." (Ovid, Women's Cosmetics or the Art of Beauty, Kindle location 7454, Complete Works of Ovid, Delphi Classics edition).

I do not know whether lead can be absorbed through the skin, but all this unfortunate girl has to do is touch her face and then eat an apple, to ingest lead. They did not adequately understand the problem; lead is a powerful central nervous system toxin:

"The Ethyl Corporation, a joint venture of General Motors and Standard Oil, built a plant for the manufacture of tetraethyl lead (TEL, the "lead" in leaded gasoline) at the refinery over the course of three months in 1924. Within the first two months of its operation, the facility had seventeen cases of severe lead poisoning leading to hallucinations and insanity, and then five deaths in quick succession. The plant was shut down by the state of New Jersey in October, and Standard Oil was forbidden to manufacture TEL there again without state permission." (Wikipedia Article, Bayway Refinery).

It was no help to Satan's kingdom that the people running it were crazy. The dispensationalists are wrong, Satan is not in charge. It is, rather, like the pagans used to say, 'the mills of the gods grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine.' God rules His kingdom and overrules the world.