We are examining a common objection that is made against Covenant Eschatology. The objection is based on the presupposition of Domitianic persecution (Domitian being the beast of chapter 13) and a late date of Revelation (See my book Who Is This Babylon for a refutation of these ideas).
Remember that per Revelation 13 and 17 there was a partnership of persecution against the saints.
Here are some indisputable facts:
Domitian, ostensibly the persecuting beast, was never in a partnership of persecution with anyone, against the church. In fact, as I demonstrate in my Babylon book, there is a growing awareness even among late date advocates that Domitian never mounted any kind of systematic persecution against the church at all!
It is well known that Nero was the first emperor to initiate a persecution against the church. And, what is so critical is that he was prompted into that persecution by his Jewish wife, his inner circle of counselors, many of whom were Jews, and an ambassage of Jewish leaders from Jerusalem. (See my Babylon book for documentation from a wide range of sources).
Historically, it is indisputably true that Nero’s “partnership” with the Jews against the Christians disappeared with the Jewish rebellion in AD 66.This led to the beast turning against Babylon, and burning her with fire, just as Revelation 17 describes. Nothing like this happened under Domitian– not even close!
There is a great deal of supportive data for what we are saying here. For instance, the number of the beast in Revelation 13 strongly suggests that Nero was that beast.
(One caveat here that is important for our overall view of Revelation: While I believe the Beast of Revelation must, in some cases, be identified as Nero, there is a wider perspective to be honored. Throughout scripture, “the beast” or “leviathan” or, “the adversary” could be and was, personified by different kingdoms and individuals. They were the enemiy of God who persecuted God’s saints. In Revelation 12, the Dragon, the Devil is none other than Israel. My point is that sometimes, the “Beast” is an individual who stands as the representative of God’s enemy, while at other times, the “Adversary” is a more “generic” and corporate body as the enemy. The beast, or enemy, was guilty of killing the saints of God for centuries before Revelation was written, (cf. Hebrews 11) but, Revelation was written at a climactic time when all of the previous “beasts” are represented in the end times defeat of God’s enemy. I believe it is wrong therefore, to say that Nero is the totality of, and the exclusive identity of the “beast” to the exclusion of the previous expressions of “leviathan” who persecuted the saints).
Let me summarize:
The time constraints of Revelation preclude a future fulfillment of its prophecies.
The motif of the vindication of the martyrs– conflated with Jesus’ definitive teaching on the subject– demands a first century fulfillment of Revelation.
The identity of the beast of Revelation 13 (i.e. 666) strongly suggests a Neronian identity.
The source of the two beasts in Revelation 13– land and sea– indicate a partnership between Rome and Israel.
The fact that the two beasts form a partnership of persecution against the church precludes an identity of either beast as Domitian specifically, or, the Roman Catholic church.
The only time in history that properly fits all of this internal data is the time period of Nero. He, prompted by the Jews, engaged in persecuting the church. However, with the Jewish rebellion, that unholy partnership was terminated. Rome turned on Babylon and destroyed her.
Revelation 13 and 17 then, along with the other internal evidence of the Apocalypse, demands a first century fulfillment that was focused on the fall of Babylon, the harlot, the city guilty of shedding all the blood shed on the earth. This was fulfilled in AD 70.
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