May 22, 33 A.D. - August 31, 70 A.D. Roman Empire
Key players and places pertaining to the last days before the end of the age prophecies in the Bible are revealed. Learn the identity of the beast, antichrist, false prophet, and more. History often repeats itself (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10), Bible prophecy does not (Joel 2:2, Mark 13:19). See Scripture come alive as we compare historical accounts and relevant Bible passages!
The 1st (Solomon's) temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. The 2nd (Zerubbabel's) temple was constructed 70 years later in 516 BC (Ezra 6:15). The prophet Daniel prophesied about the End Time (Daniel 9:20-27, Daniel 12:1-13) between forty, and five years before the completion of the 2nd (Zerubbabel's) temple (Ezra 5:2, Haggai 1:14). This temple was dismantled by King Herod circa 18 BC and afterward replaced with a more glorious one (Haggai 2:9). Technically speaking, the temple that existed in Jesus' day and which was destroyed in 70 AD was the 3rd (Herod's) temple. Solomon built the 1st, Zerubbabel built the 2nd. Zerubbabel's (2nd) temple structure was never destroyed, rather, Josephus records that King Herod disassembled the 2nd and built the 3rd in its place. Since the Bible never mentions a rebuilt-4th temple, the 3rd (Herod's) temple period must be in view. There is another temple that the prophet Ezekiel saw in a vision (chapters 40-48). However, Ezekiel recorded this vision (Ezekiel 40:2) before the 2nd temple was built (Ezekiel 40:1). Also, Ezekiel was a spectator (Ezekiel 40:4) who observed an angel (not a human) measuring a temple that was already constructed in the heavenly vision (Ezekiel 40:3-5).
New Testament authors never describe the destruction of Jerusalem and its 3rd (Herod's) temple as a past event. Furthermore, the apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation as though the 3rd temple was still standing (Revelation 11:1-2). John, unlike Ezekiel, measured the temple himself (Revelation 11:1). On top of that, Jesus stated that the next, or fourth, temple to be raised after the destruction of the 3rd was the temple of his own body (Mark 14:58, John 2:19-22). In summation, the Bible's historical chronology coupled with the absence or presence of contextual indicators constrain the last days before the end of the age to an event already fulfilled in the past, that is, by the year 70 AD during the 3rd temple-period.
May 22, 33 AD on Pentecost (Acts 2:15-17) up until the desolation of Jerusalem and the destruction of its 3rd (Herod's) temple on August 31, 70 AD. The apostle Peter told the crowd that his generation (Acts 2:40) was living in the last days before "the day of the Lord" when "a large and mighty army comes, such as never was in ancient times nor ever will be in ages to come" against Jerusalem (Joel 2:1-2). Jesus indicated in 33 AD that individuals living in "this generation", a span of about forty years (Numbers 32:13), would witness these events (Matthew 24:34, Act 2:40).
The Roman Empire, recognized as the "whole world" in the 1st-century AD (Revelation 13:3). The word, "world" in end-time prophetic passages of the Bible refers to the geo-political "world" which included the Province of Judea (Daniel 2:40; see also Colossians 1:5-6). This is distinct from its usage in creation passages where the same word refers to the entire, created planet earth (Psalm 50:12). In addition, Hebrew authors wrote that Rome "had become a world power" (1 Maccabees 8:11-13) by the 2nd-century B.C.
Christian heretic and contemporary of the apostle John, known as Cerinthus. He taught that Jesus was not the Christ-Messiah come in the flesh (1 John 2:18-22, 2 John 1:7), and instead, "Jesus has suffered and risen again but the Christ who had come to him from above flew away without suffering - that is, the thing which had descended in the form of a dove - and Jesus is not Christ." According to church historians, Cerinthus was "that false apostle... one of the ones who caused the trouble in the apostles' time... one of those who opposed St. Peter." In addition, Cerinthus taught that "the kingdom of Christ will be an earthly one... that there is to be a period of a thousand years for marriage festivals". Cerinthus' heretical doctrine challenges Jesus' statement, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). The apostle John called him "the enemy of the truth."
Bar-Jesus the Jewish sorcerer/magician (Acts 13:6). The apostle Paul called him the "son of the devil" (Acts 13:10). Another likely candidate was Simon, son of Gioras, the Jewish leader in the revolt against Rome (Revelation 16:13). Christian residents who heeded Christ's warning did not stay to fight against the Romans (Luke 21:20), but fled into the wilderness where they were sheltered for the 3.8 year-duration of the Roman siege (Revelation 12:6). A false prophet also claimed that God commanded Jerusalem's residents to stay and defend the temple and wait for "miraculous signs of their deliverance" in order to prevent them from deserting. Other false messiahs and false prophets claiming to "exhibit manifest wonders and signs, that should be performed by the providence of God" also appeared at that time (Mark 13:21-23).
Beast of the sea
Roman Empire. Its capital city, Rome, was built on seven hills. (Revelation 17:3-9). The apostle John writes that the beast of the sea had seven heads which represented "seven kings. Five have fallen (emperors Julius, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius), one is (emperor Nero), the other has not yet come (emperor Galba)... [but] must remain for only a little while" (Revelation 17:10). The eighth king "who once was, and now is not" (Revelation 17:11), was in reference to emperor Vespasian. John also writes that the Beast had ten horns which are "ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast" (Revelation 17:12). It is important to note that the ten horns were kings (Revelation 17:3-7), not kingdoms or nations of the world. They did not have their own kingdom. Neither were they ten regions of the world. Rather, in the context of the geopolitical Roman Empire-world, they were 10 generals and their armies that supported the Roman Empire in the siege against apostate Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Babylon, mother of prostitutes
Jerusalem, the ancient city that murdered Jesus and the prophets before him (Revelation 17:3-9; see also 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Matthew 23:29-39). The prophet Jeremiah describes apostate Jerusalem as "this great city" (Jeremiah 22:8). Ezekiel the prophet records that the LORD God set Jerusalem "in the center of the nations, with countries all around her... you are more turbulent than the nations that are all around you" (Ezekiel 5:5-7). Ezekiel further scandalously defines Jerusalem as "a brazen prostitute... adulterous wife" who "played the whore" with the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylon (Ezekiel 16:23-33). Jesus applied Isaiah's "day of the Lord" passage to first-century AD Jerusalem (Matthew 24:29) in the same way that God originally used it against ancient Babylon (Isaiah 13:9-10). Furthermore, the apostle John's vision of "the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free" calling to the mountains and rocks to "Fall on us and hide us (Revelation 6:15-16, Luke 23:30)" was borrowed from Hosea's prophecy against apostate Israel (Hosea 10:8). The purple and scarlet, glittering gold, precious stones and pearls that the woman was dressed in (Revelation 17:4) referred to the temple's decorative Babylonian curtain that was "embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful." Josephus says the combination of colors had a "mystical interpretation." Josephus also tells us that the apostate Jews incorporated astrology into the temple's furniture. For example, "the seven lamps signified the seven planets" and "the twelve loaves that were upon the table signified the circle of the zodiac and the year." Josephus also testifies that the first-century AD Jews that were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD were more wicked than those destroyed by the Babylonians in 597 BC. And rightly so, for the Jews in the first-century AD murdered Jesus - their Messiah, while those before them murdered the prophets.
The Devil or Satan, "that ancient serpent" (Revelation 12:9, 20:2). Scripture informs us that it was only in the late 60's AD, that Satan was given "power and great authority" over emperor Nero and his Roman Empire for 42 months (Revelation 13:2-5, Daniel 7:23-25) during the Great Tribulation (Revelation 7:13-15). The Devil was afterward bound and locked in the Abyss (Revelation 20:1-3).
The ancestral people of the Messiah "who keep God's commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus" (Revelation 12:17). These are the "remnant" Jews (Romans 9:27, 11:5; see also Isaiah 10:22) and the "sealed" Jews (Revelation 7:4). They were also called the "firstfruits" redeemed from the tribes of Israel (Revelation 14:4). This collective group of Christ-believing Jews were protected from the Dragon in an undisclosed location for the duration of the Jewish-Roman War from 66-70 AD (Revelation 12:14). Historians later identified this place of refuge as Pella, Jordan. The "great sign" which appeared in heaven of "a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars" (Revelation 12:1, Cf. Genesis 37:9) is a symbolic reference to the theocratic nation of Israel which consisted of twelve tribes (Genesis 49:28, Revelation 21:12). The sun and the moon probably signify the nation's production of the Messiah (John 4:22) who would serve as a light to the Gentile nations (Luke 2:32, Act 13:47, 26:23). The apostle John also saw that the woman was pregnant and gave birth to a "male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne..." (Revelation 12:5). This is an obvious reference to Jesus Christ, who was born of Mary through the lineage of mostly Jews and some notable foreigners (Matthew 1:1-25, Isaiah 9:6, Luke 1:35, John 4:22), and who rules over the nations (Psalm 2:7-9, Revelation 2:27, 19:5) beside his Father's throne in heaven (Psalm 110:1, Mark 12:35-37, Acts 2:34-36, Ephesians 2:6, Hebrews 8:1, Hebrews 12:2, Revelation 3:21). The obvious timeframe reference is the first-century AD, since this is when the Christ-child was born. The other timeframe reference is contained in the description of "a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems" (Revelation 12:3). This is almost identical to the description of the "beast rising out of the sea" (Revelation 13:1). The only difference is that the Dragon had seven diadems on his heads, while the beast had ten diadems on its horns. Conversely, Jesus is said to have many diadems on his head (Revelation 19:12). This is the time period during which the Dragon (i.e., the serpent, Satan, the Devil) was given authority over Roman Emperor Nero's Beast Kingdom (Revelation 13:2-4).
The elect were gathered out of Jerusalem (Luke 21:20-21) and escaped God's wrath (Revelation 18:4) in Pella, Jordan. The exact location of refuge was not disclosed in the New Testament in order to maintain security and secrecy among Christians. The Lord may have visited Pella, Jordan, which is located twenty miles south of the Sea of Galilee, when He cured the deaf man in Decapolis (Mark 7:31-37), or when He taught about marriage in Perea (Mark 10:1-12).
Lake of fire
A place initially intended and prepared for the Devil and his fallen angels (Matthew 25:41). However, it is also the final, and eternal place of punishment (Matthew 25:46, Jude 1:7) for all who trusted in their own good works (Revelation 20:14-15) and reject the perfect righteousness that can only be achieved by faith in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22).
Beast with 2 horns
Emperor Nero (54-68 AD), known by the populace and historians as a "tyrant, monster, social beast." Nero was recorded to have raped a virgin, married two men; one he castrated in order to look like a woman, and murdered his biological mother, Agrippina. Lastly, Nero "inflicted the most exquisite tortures [on] an immense multitude [of Christians]." Nero's officially recognized title, "Nero Caesar", equals 666 according to Jewish numerology (i.e., Gematria) (Revelation 13:18). Nero also appointed general Vespasian, who enlisted the service of his son, Titus, to suppress the Jewish rebellion in January 67 AD (Revelation 13:11) which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple in 70 AD.
Lawless one (or, man of sin)
General Vespasian and/or his son, Titus, who together orchestrated the Jewish-Roman war under Roman Emperor Nero (Revelation 13:11). Many Jews believed that the father-son duo would rule the world from Judea in fulfillment of their sacred writings. Vespasian was appointed by emperor Nero to suppress the Jewish rebellion in January 67 AD. The Jews believed that their 3rd (Herod's) temple must be destroyed first, and then Judea would become the center of world power under their false messiah, Vespasian, who was appointed emperor in Judea. When Vespasian became emperor after Nero's suicide on June 9, 68 AD, his son, Titus, took command of the Roman armies. Josephus reports that Titus "went into the holy place of the temple, with his commanders..." before it was burnt down. According to the Babylonian Talmud, Titus blasphemed God and also "took a harlot by the hand and entered the Holy of Holies and spread out a scroll of the Law and committed a sin on it. He then took a sword and slashed the curtain. Miraculously blood spurted out, and he thought that he had slain [God] himself." At the end of the 3-year war, the Romans made sacrifices to their eagle-ensigns and made Titus imperator at the 3rd Jewish temple. Titus would earn the title imperator at least fourteen more times. After his victory over the rebel Jews, a triumphal arch was built and dedicated to Titus on which he is exhibited sitting on an eagle (2 Thessalonians 2:3-5). Vespasian died in 79 A.D. Titus, his son, died only two years later in 81 AD which was two years after Mount Vesuvius erupted (2 Thessalonians 2:8).
Emperor Nero's tutor/advisors, Lucius Annaeus Seneca (54-62 AD) or Sextus Afranius Burrus (51-62 AD), are both likely candidates (2 Thessalonians 2:7). The "what is restraining him now" (2 Thessalonians 2:6) that Paul is referring to is likely the Roman government, headed by Emperor Nero and his aforementioned tutor/advisors. For it was not until the retirement/death of Seneca and Barrus, and the suicide of Nero later in 68 AD, that general Titus was "revealed" (2 Thessalonians 2:7). There is some evidence substantiated by a collection of letters showing that Seneca and the apostle Paul were acquaintances. Paul even alludes to either or both of their regeneration (Titus 3:5) in his letter to the Philippians when he wrote, "All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household" (Philippians 4:22). These individuals aided Nero in establishing his "quinquennium Neronis", that is, five years of superior governing and peace throughout the empire. The young Nero committed his most horrific acts against the Christians just two years after their retirement/deaths. Nero's severe persecution of the saints would have led to the apostasia (falling away, defection, apostasy) from the faith that Paul said would come first (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Nero also appointed general Vespasian, who enlisted the service of his son, Titus, to suppress the Jewish rebellion in January 67 AD (Revelation 13:11). It was general Titus who "exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea (a.k.a. Eusebius Pamphili), also confirms the fulfillment of this prophecy saying, "and how at last the abomination of desolation, proclaimed by the prophets, stood in the very temple of God, so celebrated of old, the temple which was now awaiting its total and final destruction by fire."
God's 2 witnesses
The apostles Peter and Paul were both executed by "the beast" (Revelation 11:3-7), Roman Emperor Nero. John's description of "fire comes from their mouths" (Revelation 11:5) is symbolic of the destructive power of the words of the Lord God Almighty (Jeremiah 5:14) which they preach or prophesy (Revelation 11:3). John uses similar language in his description of Jesus Christ who, "coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword" (Revelation 1:6, 2:16, 19:15, 19:21). Their martyrdom probably occurred on October 13, 64 AD during Nero's 10-year anniversary celebration as emperor of Rome. Church historian, Eusebius, records that their grave sites were located in Rome at the time of his writing.
Mark of the beast
The government-issued coin of the Roman Empire that was imprinted, or marked, with the deified image (Matthew 22:19-21) of then-emperor Nero, "the beast" (Revelation 13:16-18). The number of his name equals 666 according to Jewish numerology (i.e., Gematria). While all residents of the Roman Empire (i.e., the geo-political "world" in the 1st century A.D.) were forced to adopt the new currency, God's judgement was reserved only for those who worshiped the beast and rejected Jesus Christ.
Seal of the living God
The Holy Spirit (Revelation 5:6, 7:2-3, Ephesians 1:13-14, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22). Luke, the Gospel writer, stated that the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus Christ "in bodily form like a dove" at His baptism (Luke 3:22). In the Book of Revelation, the Holy Spirit is the antithesis of the mark of the beast on the foreheads of respective believers.
Sabz, S. (2015, January 8). Revelation decrypted. Retrieved from https://scienceandbibleresearch.com/last-days-revelation-decrypted.html