There are several widely popular ideas about the BEAST spoken of by John in the Book of Revelation. Dispensational eschatology teaches that the BEAST is a yet futuristic character whose appearance coincides with that of a personal ANTICHRIST, the literal embodiment of the devil. But what does scripture, when properly understood and interpreted as a result of disciplined systematic theology, actually reveal?
In order to begin to rightly comprehend what John understood and what he was really attempting to communicate to his immediate contemporary audience (the original recipients of his epistle), Old Testament prophecy must be prayerfully examined.
The 16th chapter of the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel discloses God’s renunciation of Israel, and the use of certain descriptive terminology that parallels John’s use of similar terms. Ezekiel 16 also reveals God’s dismissal of Israel, along with the nullification of the old covenant, and its replacement with “an everlasting covenant” – vs.16: 60. It is clear from this passage when placed in proper context within the whole of the 16th chapter, that Ezekiel was contrasting the two covenants.
The descriptive verbiage used in several verses is consistent with that used by John in Revelation. When reading Ezekiel 16 it becomes obvious that God was angry at the Israelites for all the times they had committed (spiritual) adultery against him. He calls them a harlot, which is the same thing as a whore (John’s term).
Throughout Old testament prophecy God warns about judging Israel, and then speaks of blessing her. This is because there are two Israel’s. The first Israelites were his literal chosen ones, brought under covenant with Him at Mt Sinai. He speaks of divorcing Israel (His first bride) in the New Testament. That is the Israel that He judged in 70AD and the Israel He is speaking about in Ezekiel 16:59 – is the literal, physical Israelites.
However, in Ezekiel 16:60-63 the “New Spiritual Israelites” are introduced. The new bride is believing Jew and Gentile in one spiritual, universal body. There were not very many physical literal Israelites that believed in Christ; only a small remnant. They were the ones who came to the spiritual Mt Zion – “the heavenly Jerusalem”.
With this in mind, prayerfully consider the parable of the wedding feast delivered by Jesus recorded in Mt. 22. The wedding feast was preceed by God burning the city and people who killed the servants of the Son that God sent into the vineyard. History records that these events actually happened in 70AD.
In the parable, the wedding feast takes place right after the city is burnt (Mt. 22:7). God married His new bride, the faithful that “endured to the end” – those that made it to 70AD under the New Covenant of grace. That was anyone truly believing, Jew or Gentile, who were willing to come to the marriage feast (Mt. 22:9). But they had to have the right garments. Only those who had been baptized into Christ can be considered, because they were wearing white garments that had been washed in the blood of the lamb (Mt. 22:11).
70AD is when the kings and soldiers were killed and Revelation agrees that the wedding feast took place after the war. Rev. 19:17-18 states: “And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”
Rev 19:19 follows with: “and I saw the BEAST and the kings of the earth and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him that sat on the horse, and against his army”.
Several things are immediately important and imperative to rendering a proper interpretation of eschatology. It must be correctly established what or who exactly is this BEAST; who is He that sat on the horse; and who are the corresponding armies.
Dispensationalism teaches that the BEAST is ANTICHRIST’s world system. Many preterists believe the BEAST was one of two Roman Emperors, either Nero or Titus. But Nero died in 68AD, before Rev 19:19, where the beast was getting ready to make war against God and His army, and Titus survived that war (if indeed this is referring to the seven year war of 63-70AD).
What if the BEAST is apostate Israel?
By the time of Christ, Israel had split into several factions of religious persuasion. Typified by two dominant socio-political groups, Sadducee and Pharisee, the masses were more prone to following oral tradition than sound scriptural dogma. In fact, there was no unifying doctrine held by the Jews.
The Sadducees were not regarded highly by most common Israelites due to their political clout and pandering to Rome. The Pharisees claimed to represent the common Jew, but many of their leaders were corrupt through extortion and bribery. While Sadducees held to a conservative view of God, and considered ONLY the written scripture to be the inspired Word of God, Pharisees considered the Oral Torah equal to scripture.
Although it may seem that the Sadducees had it right, they rejected the notion of resurrection and completely denied the existence of a spiritual realm. So it is easy to conclude that the reason Christ so often rebuked these religious leaders, was that both were false prophets and led the people into spiritual harlotry. So it is not difficult to accept that Israel became the BEAST.
Most people agree that the man on the horse is Jesus Christ, because Rev 19:11-16 leaves no doubt about it. There is good evidence that the army on Christ’s side was Roman. This is because God’s 1st bride (Israel) had committed adultery, crucified Messiah, and killed his saints and apostles. Now God was using the Roman army as His agent to destroy Israel. According to recorded factual historical accounts, this war has actually already taken place.
Although it may contradict prevailing popular dispensational views, this is not at all a far-fetched idea. Throughout scripture God employed surrounding pagan armies to pronounce judgment against Israel. Several times God had Israel taken into captivity by such foreign agents of God’s wrath (Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian armies).
Knowing this when you read Rev 19:19 it is quite likely that the BEAST is Israel, and its armies were on one side, and Jesus and his armies (Rome ? ), were on the other. This has only recently been debated when dispensational theory introduced it’s version of history in the nineteenth century. Their argument is based on several erroneous assumptions related to the time and reason of John’s being on the isle of Patmos (Rev.1:9). They hold that John’s writing of Revelation was around 95-96AD, placing it AFTER the seven year war (63-70AD). They claim that he was exiled there by order of Rome as punishment for preaching the gospel.
This is quite unlikely when one considers that Rome’s punishment for such preaching was death, not banishment. It is further absurd to accept that the Romans would have allowed John to write the Revelation if he was indeed there under arrest for preaching Christ, the very source of Revelation. Besides this, the letters to the “seven churches” (vs 1:20) mention specific church locations actually in existence during the period of 63-70AD. The details and instructions recorded in Revelation chapter 2 & 3 make better sense if written prior to or around 63AD, because Roman persecution during that time coincides with factual historic accounts.
Of course none of dispensational theory on John’s date of authorship is based upon any scriptural evidence. So, what does scripture reveal? Only this: “… in the isle of Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ”– Rev. 1:9.
The phrase “for the word of God” could be stretched to mean exiled for preaching the word, but that is NOT what is written. John could be communicating that he was on Patmos under God’s anointing to write the Revelation (for the word of God). John elsewhere (Jn. 1:1) declares that Christ is the WORD of God. So, he may be merely telling us that it was Jesus that had him on Patmos to write Revelation. Indeed, Rev. 1:11 supports this notion.
The panoramic history of the church is given in these seven letters, from Pentecost to the Parousia, from the Upper Room to the upper air. There are seven distinct periods of church history. Ephesus represents the apostolic church; Laodicea represents the apostate church. This prophetic picture is largely fulfilled and is now church history.
To each of four churches Jesus first gives a word of commendation, and then He gives a word of condemnation. That is His method, but the exceptions must be duly noted. There is no word of condemnation to Smyrna or Philadelphia. Smyrna was the martyr church, and He is not about to condemn that church. Philadelphia was a missionary church that was getting out His Word, and He didn’t condemn it. Conversely, He has no word of commendation for Laodicea, the apostate church.
There were many outstanding churches in the Roman Empire, but these seven outstanding churches were chosen for several reasons, one of which was that they were located in probably the most important area of the Roman Empire during the first century. Today many may not be conversant with the fact that in the first century letter-writing and travel were commonplace in the Roman Empire. There was extensive communication throughout the Roman Empire during that period.
In ancient times the heart of the great Hittite nation was located there. Ephesus was founded about 2000BC, as was Smyrna. Pergamum was founded later, and then Thyatira and Sardis even later, and they were made great during the time of Alexander the Great. The Anatolian civilization met the Greek civilization there. You can always tell the difference because the gods of the Anatolians (a more primitive people) were beasts, whereas the gods of the Greeks were projections and enlargements of human beings.
Since these are actual physical locations of churches that really existed at the time John received the Revelation, it reasons that these letters should be construed as quite literal. Yes, they are included in the greater context of scripture and thereby beleived to be the divinely inspired written Word of God, but so are every other epistle penned by other apostles whose ORIGINAL letters were directed to ACTUAL congregations. While much spiritual counsel can gleaned from them today, it is never-the-less very important that we scrutinze the initial rendering filtered through what the original audiences were meant to understand.
Because history records the persecution launched by Rome during 63-70AD and the effect it had on each of these seven specific churches, we can reasonably conclude that John’s being on Patmos and writing Revelation was at an earlier rather than later date.
To properly determine the identity of John’s BEAST, it is necessary to place the events he describes related to the Beast in the right time-table.
In Rev. 19:20 the BEAST was taken and with him the false prophet and they were cast alive into the lake of fire. If the BEAST is John’s identity of the corrupt Jewish religious system (antichrist’s system), then it is the Israelites who rejected Christ that were the ones cast into the lake of fire, which was the fire that completely destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD.
Notice that the veriage John uses is PAST-TENSE. He states “These both WERE cast into a lake of fire...” While it is true that John is relating his whole vision not necessarily in logic sequence of chronological order, his comminaction fluxuates between that which is literal and obviously mere figurative terminology. When his written account is read as prose, it isn’t hard to comprehend the striking similarity to the actual historic record related to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD.
What may be difficult to absorb is the distinct identities of the BEAST, the FALSE PROPHET, the ANTICHRIST, and the REMNANT. Many wrong assume that these are all different persons. But just as the Godhead is revealed in three distinct persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) so too is this Apostate image of Israel.
In the Old Testament prophets would frequently prophecy false prophecies because the kings did not want to hear the truth. In verse 20, the FALSE PROPHET Is a figurative term representing Israel’s religious leaders, propagators of false dogma,and regularly rebuked by Jesus.
In the Old Testament the Gentiles were considered unclean and beasts. In the New Testament, God divorced the Israelites that rejected Messiah and His Covenant, and His new people became the Gentiles, including the small remnant of Jews that believed in Christ and the New Testament, which covenant Ezekiel, declared as ETERNAL.
It can therefore be reasonably determined that it is God’s 1st bride, Israel, that became the harlot, the BEAST, the FALSE PROPHET, and ANTICHRIST in John’s Revelation.
In retrospect, Rev. 19 is the beginning of the story of the wedding feast. God’s servants (the new church comprised of New Testament believers) invite the fowls (gentiles) to gather unto the supper of the great God. Prior to this, in verse 17, the ones that rejected Him are killed, and later (vs.21) the fowls are filled with their flesh (a euphemism for taking their place, completely replacing them).
Whether these events are to be interpreted literally or figuratively continue to fuel debate. But when prayerful consideration is given, the following should become quite clear. The text says that the fowl dine on the flesh of kings, captains, and horses (according to verse 18).
If this were to be taken as strictly literal, and to happen yet in our future, then it is doubtful that birds would be dining on kings and horses. Kings no longer go to war literally; they send their soldiers. There are also very few kings today, and their horses have been long since replaced by Humvees and tanks. If we are to take bible prophecy literally, these facts pose a major contradiction.
Identifying the BEAST of Revelation 13:1-10 as various forms of the entity ‘Israel’ helps place the SECOND BEAST in perspective.
We also know who the GREAT WHORE is because she was wearing the exact description of what the high priests wore in Rev 17:4. If one compares Exodus 28:5-6 with Matthew 23, it reveals why Jesus also told the high priest in that they were guilty of all the righteous blood shed on the earth from Abel to Zacharias.
In Rev 17:6 it says the WHORE was drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Christ. The high priest’s garments included “Holy to the Lord” written on their foreheads of their head piece. They had become evil and in Rev 17:5 it said upon her forehead (the whore) was a name written: “Mystery Babylon the Great”, the mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth. God had put the opposite name on the high priest’s forehead, and He also caused an opposite MARK on those who were once his people.
“Before faith came, we were kept under the Law, shut up unto the faith which
should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster
to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith
is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” – Gal. 3:23-25.
God intended Israel to stop practicing the Law, which was in place to merely lead them to the Savior (Messiah). Since God had fulfilled the Law through Christ, He wanted Israel to accept Jesus as their Messiah, and His better covenant, but they rejected Him and the New Testament, and chose instead to remain under the Old Covenant. So now that MARK that represented the Law which had been tied to their forehead and hand to represent their commitment to holiness, had now become a symbol of the exact opposite.
When you consider these things, it is not hard to accept that this prophecy has already been fulfilled (especially when you look further into the number of the BEAST and it’s first-century connection). Israel was judged under the Law, and the Law demanded that their adulterous wives be stoned. God had His adulterous bride, Israel, who had been time after time given ample opportunity to repent, stoned in 63-70AD.
“The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave His voice;
hail stones and coals of fire” – Psa.18:13.
The Romans used catapults that shot 100lb white stones which destroyed much of the city of Jerusalem in 70AD. It is clearly recorded in Flavius Josephus’ “Wars of the Jews,” which is the most detailed account of the Roman siege of Jerusalem in existence.
Book V, Chapter VI, Section III states: “The engines, that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived; but still more extraordinary ones belonged to the tenth legion: those that threw darts and those that threw stones were more forcible and larger than the rest, by which they not only repelled the excursions of the Jews, but drove those away that were upon the walls also. Now the stones that were cast were of the weight of a talent (100lbs), and were carried two furlongs and further. The blow they gave was no way to be sustained, not only by those that stood first in the way, but by those that were beyond them for a great space. As for the Jews, they at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was of a white color, and could therefore not only be perceived by the great noise it made, but could be seen also before it came by its brightness; accordingly the watchmen that sat upon the towers gave them notice when the engine was let go, and the stone came from it, and cried out aloud, in their own country language, THE STONE COMETH so those that were in its way stood off, and threw themselves down upon the ground;”
Compare Josephus historical account with Ezekiel’s prophecy.
“Thus says the Lord God: ‘Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children which you gave to them, surely, therefore, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved, and all those you hated; I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy. I will also give you into their hand, and they shall THROW DOWN YOUR SHRINES and break down your high places. They shall also strip you of your clothes, take your beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare. They shall also bring up an assembly against you, and they shall STONE YOU WITH STONES and thrust you through with their swords. They shall BURN your houses WITH FIRE, and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women; and I will make you cease playing the harlot, and you shall no longer hire lovers. So I will lay to rest My fury toward you” – Ezk. 16:36-42.
Several things stand out in this passage that coincides with the historical account of the siege of Jerusalem in 70AD. The destruction of the Temple is alluded to by the phrase, “they shall throw down your shrines”- vs 39. The 100lb. stones catapulted by the Romans concur with the phrase, “they will stone you with stones” – vs. 40. Finally, the complete and utter destruction of Jerusalem by fire is too similar to the phrase found in vs. 41, “they shall burn your houses with fire, and execute judgments on you”, to be mere coincidence. Israel, the BEAST of Revelation, was judged in 70AD and their identity as the chosen people of God came to an END.
For more related information please read the article: “666”