The Book of Revelation: A Critical Examination
“This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has
insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That
number is 666.”
Book of Revelation is undoubtedly one of the most influential and controversial
books in Christendom. Since its
inception, it has inspired Christians with hope and fear of the “end of days”
or “Armageddon”. Throughout history, many Christians have
attempted to predict the end of the world,
inspired in part by the mysterious passages found in Revelation,
and modern-day Christians are no different. But does Revelation really contain
prophecies about the future? Or is it
simply a product of its own time? Are
Christians correct in applying the cryptic prophecies found in Revelation to
modern-day events or are they misinterpreting the historical context, just as
their predecessors did? In this article,
we will discuss these issues. After some
background information and a brief summary, we will analyze the text of
Revelation. Through the evidence
presented, it will be shown that the Book of Revelation has been erroneously
applied by Christians to the modern world, and that while it was indeed
originally written to warn its readers of a coming apocalypse, the historical
context demonstrates that the apocalypse was supposed to have occurred shortly
after the time the book was written, and not thousands of years later.
Before we discuss the content and historical context of
the Book of Revelation, it is prudent to mention some background information.
author identified himself as “John”,
and Christian tradition holds that this was none other than John the disciple
of Jesus. According to Robert H. Mounce:
“…it cannot be disputed that the Apocalypse was widely accepted
by the second-century church as the work of John the apostle.”
However, there was still
significant resistance to ascribing authorship to John. As the United States Conference of Catholic
Bishops (USCCB) concedes:
“Although he never claims to be John the apostle, whose name is
attached to the fourth gospel, he was so identified by several of the early
church Fathers, including Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian,
Cyprian, and Hippolytus. This identification, however, was denied by other
Fathers, including Denis of Alexandria, Eusebius of Caesarea, Cyril of
Jerusalem, Gregory Nazianzen, and John Chrysostom. Indeed, vocabulary, grammar,
and style make it doubtful that the book could have been put into its present
form by the same person(s) responsible for the fourth gospel.”
Furthermore, Biblical scholar
Bart Ehrman explains that Eusebius stated that some people believed that the
book had been written:
“…by a heretic named Cerinthus, who forged the account in order
to promote his false teaching that there would be a literal future paradise of
a thousand years here on earth.”
Moreover, even as late as the 4th-century,
many Christians either rejected the book of Revelation outright in favor of yet
another “apocalypse” known as the Apocalypse of Peter, or believed that
they should both be included in the canon. Hence, even though the book may have been
“widely accepted” by the 2nd-century as being written by John the
apostle, controversy surrounding its “acceptance” raged for centuries.
Given the uncertain authorship of the book of Revelation,
the issue of the approximate date it was written is also a matter of debate. According to the USCCB, the date of the composition
of the book “in its present form” was
around the end of the reign of the Roman emperor Domitian, who ruled from 81-96
CE. However, according to Mounce, it has also
been dated as early as the reign of the emperor Claudius (41-54 CE), and as
late as Trajan (98-117 CE), though he notes that the “majority of scholars” place its authorship “either during the reign of Domitian…or toward the end or
immediately after the reign of Nero…” On the other hand, Mack argues that neither
the reign of Nero nor the reign of Domitian can serve as the inspiration for
John’s book, but he still acknowledges a date of “around
the turn of the first century”. He
“Nero’s ‘persecution’ in 64 C.E. doesn’t work because (1) it was
not a persecution but an ad hoc, localized, scapegoating strategy that everyone
understood to be the action of a madman, and (2) in any case was highly
exaggerated by Tacitus, who reported it in order to discredit Nero. The second ‘persecution’ under Domitian…won’t
do either, although it was then that early Christian legend dated John’s
Revelation. Modern scholars cannot find
any evidence for a Domitian persecution.”
Thus, it seems prudent to date
the composition somewhere around the late 1st-century to the early 2nd-century,
with the time period during the reign of Domitian being a strong candidate, in
spite of the lack of evidence of any “persecution” during his reign.
Revelation begins with the author’s claim that he had
been shown the visions by an angel and that those who listened to the revelation
were “blessed”, since the time for the events he had seen was “near”.
addressed the “seven churches in the province of Asia”,
which were identified as the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira,
Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea. The author related his vision of “someone like a son of man”, an obvious reference to
who was certainly Jesus. According to
the author, Jesus said to him:
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will
take place later. The mystery of the
seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is
this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven
lampstands are the seven churches.”
What followed were words of
encouragement to each church as well as warnings to some people in those congregations. For example, the church in Pergamum was
commended for persevering in the faith despite persecution in the city “where Satan lives”,
but some in the congregation were also warned to repent for eating “food sacrificed to idols”, committing “sexual immorality” and for following the teachings of the “Nicolaitans”. Similarly, the church in Thyatira was
commended for its “deeds” but reprimanded for its tolerance of a false
prophetess named “Jezebel”, who
was enticing people to commit sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to
the addresses to the seven churches, the author described the incredible
visions which make Revelation the most enigmatic book in the New
Testament. First, the author described
his vision of God’s throne in Heaven, surrounded by twenty-four other thrones
with twenty-four “elders” seated
and “four living creatures” each of which had “six wings and was covered with eyes all around…” and
which were worshiping God.
the author described seeing a “scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals”. But the only one “worthy” to open the scroll
was the “lamb” (Jesus). As he broke each of the first four seals, the
legendary “four horsemen” were released one after
breaking of the fifth seal released “the souls of those who
had been slain because of the word of God…” According to the author, the souls asked God
how long it would be until He would judge the “inhabitants
of the earth and avenge our blood”, to which God replied that they
had “to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow
servants…were killed just as they had been”.
sixth seal was broken, the author described natural disasters striking the
earth, including a “great earthquake” and “stars” falling to the earth. Also, “the sun turned black” and “the whole moon turned blood red”,
and “every mountain and island was removed from its place”.
the author described seeing “four angels standing at
the four corners of the earth”, who “put a seal on the
foreheads of the servants of God”, who
numbered 144,000 people “from all the tribes of
(12,000 from each of the twelve tribes). The author also reported seeing a “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation,
tribe, people and language” that stood before God’s throne and the
“lamb”, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. One of the “elders” identified this
“multitude” as “they who have come out
of the great tribulation”.
the seventh seal was opened, but initially “there was silence in
heaven for about half an hour”, but then an angel took a “censer” filled with fire and “hurled it on the earth”, which caused “peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an
seven angels began sounding their trumpets.
The first trumpet sound caused “hail and fire mixed with
to fall to the earth, causing a third of the earth, trees and grass to be
burned up. The second trumpet caused “something like a huge mountain” to fall into the sea,
causing a third of the sea to be turned into blood, and killing a third of all
sea-life and destroying a third off all ships. The third trumpet caused a “star” known as “Wormwood” to fall on a third of all rivers and springs,
causing the water to turn “bitter” and killing many people who drank the water. The fourth trumpet caused a third of the sun
and moon and a third of all stars to turn dark.
As a result, “a third of the day was
without light, and also a third of the night”.
this was just the beginning, as the more severe disasters were yet to be unleashed. According to the author, he heard an eagle
call out in a loud voice:
“Woe! Woe! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because
of the trumpet blasts about to be sounded by the other three angels.”
When the fifth trumpet was blown, a star fell from the
sky and opened the “Abyss”, from
which rose smoke which darkened the sky. Also coming out of the “Abyss” were locusts
which were commanded to torture “people who did not have
the seal of God on their foreheads” for a period of five months.
The sixth trumpet released four angels, which had been
bound at the Euphrates River, to kill “a third of mankind”. They were accompanied by 200,000,000 “mounted troops”,
whose “horses” expelled fire, smoke and sulfur from their mouths. Unfortunately, the survivors of these three demonic
“plagues” still refused to repent of their sins (which included “worshiping demons” and “idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood”,
murder, “magic arts”, “sexual immorality” and
Before the seventh trumpet was sounded, the author stated
that he was told to “measure the temple of
God and the altar”, but to exclude the “outer court” because it was under “Gentile” control. It was also foretold that the Gentiles would
“trample” Jerusalem for 42 months, and that “two witnesses” would
torment the unbelievers with droughts and plagues during that time. But the “beast that comes up from
the Abyss” would eventually kill them, and the unbelievers who
suffered under them would rejoice for three and a half days,
after which time, the “witnesses” would
be resurrected and ascend to heaven. Following this miraculous event, a powerful
earthquake would strike the city, killing 7,000 people and the survivors would
finally praise the “God of heaven”.
Finally, the seventh trumpet was sounded and “God’s temple in heaven was opened”, with
the Ark of the Covenant inside, and there was lightning, earthquakes and hail. Following this event, the author described
seeing a pregnant woman “clothed with the sun”,
giving birth to a male child. As she gave birth, a “red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on
its heads” attempted to “devour” her son,
but failed to do so, as the child was “snatched up to God and
to his throne”. Meanwhile, the
woman sought refuge in the “wilderness” for a period of 1260 days.
Following these signs, the author described a war in
heaven between Michael and his fellow angels and the dragon and his angels. The dragon and his cohorts were defeated and
fell to earth, and the dragon then pursued the woman. But, having failed once again to destroy her,
he turned his attention towards her “offspring”, the
people “who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about
Next, the author described the emergence of one of the
most terrifying and controversial figures in the Bible, the “beast”. According
to the author, it had:
“…ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and
on each head a blasphemous name.”
This “beast”, which came out of
was joined by another “beast” which came out of the earth and “had two horns like a lamb”. The second beast made the people of the earth
to worship the first beast by performing false miracles, such as causing fire to
rain down from heaven and creating an image of the first beast which could
speak and kill all who refused to worship it. All people received a “mark”, without which they could not buy or sell. This “mark” was “the name of the beast or the number of its name”, which
But soon, the time for judgment came. The author described seeing the “son of man” using a “sickle” to “harvest” the earth and an angel using a sickle to gather
the earth’s “grapes”. The “grapes” were thrown into “the great winepress of God’s wrath” and “blood flowed out of the press” for a great distance.
But this was not the end, and seven more plagues struck
the earth. The first plague caused sores
to break out on those people who had worshiped the “beast” and had received its
mark. The second plague turned the sea into blood
and killed all marine life (or what was left after the previous plagues). The third plague turned all rivers and
springs into blood. The fourth plague brought intense heat from
the sun to burn people, but they still refused to repent. The fifth plague brought darkness to the
beast’s kingdom. The sixth plague dried up the Euphrates River
to allow the “kings from the East” to
march with their armies and gather at Armageddon. The seventh and final plague caused an
earthquake more terrible than the world had ever seen to strike the earth,
causing great destruction.
Finally, a rider on a white horse descended to earth
followed by the “armies of heaven” to
meet the armies of the “beast” in a final battle between good and evil. As a result of the battle, the “beast” was
captured and along with the “false prophet” (the
second beast) was “thrown alive into the
fiery lake of burning sulfur”. Also, the army of the beast was completely
destroyed and “all the birds gorged themselves on their
As for the “dragon”, he was bound in the “Abyss” for 1000
years. Meanwhile, the souls of those who had died
for their “testimony about Jesus” were
brought back to life so they could reign with Jesus for the thousand-year
After the end of the thousand-year period, Satan was once
again released so he could lead the people of “Gog
and Magog”, whose number was “like the sand on the
seashore”. But this army was also destroyed and Satan
was finally thrown into the “lake of burning sulfur” to be “tormented day and night for ever and ever”.
Finally, the final judgment took place. All souls were judged according to their
deeds. Death and Hades were then thrown into the
fire as well as any person “whose name was not found
written in the book of life”. As for the righteous souls, they would dwell
with God in the “new Jerusalem” for
eternity, and there would be “no more death or
mourning or crying or pain”.
Having recounted his vision, the author finished his work
with the warning:
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming
– Analysis and Historical Context
Having summarized the content of the Book of Revelation,
let us now conduct a analysis of its controversial “visions” about the “end
times”. There is little doubt that
devout Christians believe every word of Revelation, and thus, it is not a
surprise that, throughout history, many of them have used the text to try to
pinpoint the exact time when the “prophecies” would be fulfilled. Some have even attempted to identify the “beast” (the “Antichrist”) and
accused certain people of being the “Antichrist”! As Tom Sine, an Evangelical Christian,
“One of the favorite guessing games during the last two
millennia has involved the attempt to identify the real Antichrist. Many early Christians identified the Roman
emperors (especially Nero) with this consummately evil figure. During the period of the Crusades, many
nominated Saladin, the head of the Muslim forces at this time. Other Crusaders identified the Jewish people
as a whole with the Antichrist and, with that justification, slaughtered
thousands of them as they made their way out of Europe to the Holy Land to
battle Saladin and his ‘demonic’ forces.”
Thus, given the strong
influence that Revelation has on Christians, an examination of its content is
worthwhile. Through this analysis, we
can discover undeniable evidence that those Christians who believe that the
events described in Revelation will eventually come true (and in doing so,
resort to silly theories about the Antichrist and the “end of days”) are
barking up the wrong tree.
We can begin our discussion by analyzing how Revelation
actually begins. The first few chapters
provide a major clue as to the context in which the book needs to be
interpreted. As stated in the summary,
the author addressed the “seven churches in the province
and offered words of encouragement and warning to the people in those
churches. Some were commended for their
faith in trying times, while others were warned of severe punishment for their
sins. However, it needs to be stated
that even though the author directly addressed these seven churches, he was
probably also addressing all Christian congregations in general.
So what can the address to these churches tell us about
the actual purpose of the book? It seems
clear that the author was concerned about the syncretism of Roman and Christian
practices that was being observed among some people in these churches. As Professor Craig R. Koester of the Luther
“Three of the seven churches – Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira –
were dealing with internal conflicts over acceptable and unacceptable forms of
Christian faith and practice. […] John opposed those who encouraged Christians
to eat meat offered to idols and practice immorality, urging Christians to
maintain a distinctive identity.”
Hence, the author’s opposition
to the mixing of Roman and Christian practices probably served as one reason
for writing his book. Why else did he
threaten the sinners in these churches with divine punishment? In fact, the warnings to repent were crystal
“Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will
fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”
Would it be fair to claim that
this prophecy will be fulfilled in modern times? Of course, the answer is “no”. The churches were warned that if they did not
cease their abominable practices, they would suffer punishment during the
second coming of Jesus. Indeed, the phrase
“with the sword on my mouth” was used again by the author
in reference to the final battle between the “armies
of heaven” and the armies of the “beast” (Revelation 19:15, 21). Therefore, the warning to the churches was of
the impending return of Jesus. To
the author of Revelation, the Christians who were practicing immoralities were
followers of the “beast”, and were doomed to imminent destruction. Of course, this never occurred.
One of the first visions of the coming tribulation that
the author recounted was the emergence of the “four
horsemen”. As with the other
figures of Revelation (like the Antichrist), the “four horsemen” have been the
subject of much speculation by some Christians. Yet, the reality is far less
interesting. Scholarly analysis, rather
than mindless fear-mongering, shows that the author of Revelation was simply
borrowing an already widely-known Biblical concept, albeit with some
changes. As Robert Mounce explains:
“The imagery comes from Zechariah’s visions of the variously
colored horses in 1:8-17 and 6:1-8. As
usual, John modifies his sources with great freedom. In Zechariah the colors (red, sorrel, white,
black, and dappled gray) appear to have no special significance. In Revelation they correspond to the
character of the rider and symbolize conquest (white), bloodshed (red),
scarcity (black), and death (pale, livid).
In Zechariah they are sent out to patrol the earth, while in Revelation
their release brings disaster to the earth.”
Furthermore, some scholars have
also identified possible parallels in the imagery of the “four horsemen” with
the ancient Egyptian “rite of the driving of
the calves”. According to John H. C. Pippy:
“The colors of the four horses – white, red, black and grey –
would have special significance to the ancient Egyptians in that they would
remind them of the annual rite of the driving of the calves…”
On the other hand, some
scholars simply see a link between the “four horsemen” and Roman imperial
power. In short, whichever way we look at them, the
horsemen were used by the author of Revelation as symbols of the coming
tribulation (which never came), but they were not at all a new concept. Moreover, those who attempt to apply these
symbols to modern times are only misinterpreting the author’s actual intention.
Moving on, what about the visions of disasters striking
the earth due to humanity’s refusal to glorify God? Revelation speaks of locusts, earthquakes,
stars falling from the sky and other terrible catastrophes striking mankind for
refusing to believe in the Christian message.
Were they too just borrowed by the author from previous ancient
documents? The answer is a definite
“yes”. For example, the Roman poet Ovid
(d. 17 C.E.) used similar imagery in his famous work Metamorphoses,
as Professor Bruce Louden of the University of Texas at El Paso explains:
“…Ovid employs a considerable number of traditional motifs, also
used in Revelation, frightening omens and eerie events. Trumpets sound in the heavens to presage the
assassination of Julius Caesar…much as in the later Revelation the seven trumpets
sound to mark the onset of various disasters (Rev. 8:2-9:21, 11:15-19). Each episode has an earthquake...a crime that
is seen as a religious outrage…a bloodied moon…divine tablets that have a
record of human events decreed by fate…and a Caesar who transcends death…”
Hence, the portents of doom in
Revelation were simply “motifs” that were commonly used in the ancient world. The author did not actually have an actual
vision which was meant to give him some “secret” knowledge from Jesus.
Another example of the author’s use of ancient “motifs”
is the sign of the “woman clothed in the
sun” and the “red dragon”, as
described in Revelation 12. As
previously mentioned, the “woman” is most certainly a reference to the Church
and not to Mary. Of course, the “child”
that she gave birth to was the Messiah (i.e. Jesus), and the “dragon” that
tried to “devour” him was Satan. Yet these
“signs” were most probably based on the author’s knowledge of ancient pagan
myths. For example, many scholars point
to the similarities between the imagery of Revelation 12 and the myth of the
birth of the pagan god Apollo. As
Professor Pheme Perkins of Boston College explains:
“The ‘woman clothed with the sun’ would easily remind the
audience of the Roman use of the story of the sun god, Apollo. […]
The Apollo myth said that Python was seeking to kill Leto, who was
pregnant with Apollo, Zeus’ son. Zeus
has the north wind rescue Leto by carrying her off to an island. Poseidon, the sea god, then contributes to
rescuing the woman by covering the island with waves.”
Similarly, John Pippy sees
parallels between Revelation 12 and the “woman clothed with the sun” and
Egyptian mythology regarding the goddess Nut.
“Nut plays an important role, not only in events surrounding the
daily birth of the sun-god at sunrise, but also in the sun-god’s struggle
against evil forces which strive to destroy him before he can complete his
reign in the daytime sky…”
Those people who are expecting
the fulfilment of these “signs” in modern times are likely to be disappointed. Indeed, as mentioned above, Revelation was
addressed to the Christian communities in the author’s time and thus, the
“motifs” that spoke of disasters befalling the earth were supposed to be
fulfilled in the time and locality of the author. This fact can be readily seen by the clear
parallels to Roman myths. Additionally, the
practice of Roman paganism is also hinted at in the text. For example, as previously mentioned,
Revelation 9 prophesied the release of 200,000,000 demon horsemen from the
Euphrates River, who would be allowed to kill one-third of mankind for their
sins of demon and idol worship, sexual immorality, magic and theft. The references to Roman paganism are hard to
An even clearer reference to Rome can be seen in the
description of the temple and the city of Jerusalem in Revelation 11. In his vision, the author claimed that he was
told to measure the Temple but to avoid measuring the outer court because it
was “given to the Gentiles”. This is significant because it was only
during the Roman occupation of Jerusalem (before 70 CE), when the Temple still
existed and functioned as the center of Jewish religious practice, that there
were clear divisions between Jewish and Gentile activities in the Temple. The “outer court” was accessible to all
people, regardless of religion, whereas only Jews were allowed in the inner
addition, Revelation 11:2 referred specifically to the Jewish-Roman War (“[t]hey will trample the
holy city for 42 months”). As Dr.
Duncan McKenzie states:
“The siege of Jerusalem ended in early September of AD 70, resulting
in the shattering of the power of the Jews.
If you count back 1,290 days (43 months) from the beginning of September
AD 70, it takes you to February AD 67.
This was the time that Titus marched his forces up from Egypt through
the length of the Holy Land to rendezvous with his father in Ptolemais.”
In other words, the author of
Revelation was utilizing “retrospective prophecy”, to use Louden’s terminology (see
note #94), to “predict” the Roman attack on Jerusalem and the subsequent
occupation. This “prophecy” will simply not be
fulfilled in modern times, as fanatics so energetically maintain!
Up to this point, we have seen ample evidence of the
historical context in which the Book of Revelation must be interpreted. References to the Roman Empire and the
particular circumstances facing the Christian communities are undeniably
present in the text, and the only reasonable conclusion is that the book was
written for that time and locality. It
has no relevance to modern times. Based
on this undeniable conclusion, we could end our discussion here, but no
discussion of the Book of Revelation would be complete without an examination
of the most famous (or infamous) and terrifying figure in Revelation: the “beast”
of the sea, better known as the “Antichrist”.
As has already been mentioned, the Antichrist has been
the subject of much speculation and finger-pointing by fanatical Christians for
centuries. Catholic popes,
American presidents and other world leaders,
and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),
have all been accused at one time or another of being the Antichrist. But given the evidence seen thus far of
Revelation’s clear historical context, the reality is that while the
finger-pointing by Christians is definitely foolish and absurd, the fact is
that the real “Antichrist” (at least as far as 1st-century
Christians were concerned) was indeed an actual historical figure. This figure was none other than the Roman
Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (reigned 54-68 CE).
Nero was infamous even in Roman sources for his alleged
excesses and tyrannical behavior. Many
Romans blamed him for the great fire of Rome in the year 64, and historians
like Tacitus and Suetonius alleged that he shifted blame for the fire on the
Christians, who at that time were a relatively little-known religious movement. As a result, the first official Roman act of persecuting
Christians began. However, it is interesting to note that the
Jewish historian Josephus accused other historians of greatly exaggerating the
stories of Nero’s merits and abuses, due to their own biases. While acknowledging that Nero had killed his
wife Octavia and his mother Agrippina, Josephus wrote:
“But I omit any further discourse about these affairs; for there
have been a great many who have composed the history of Nero; some of which
have departed from the truth of facts out of favor, as having received benefits
from him; while others, out of hatred to him, and the great ill-will which they
bare him, have so impudently raved against him with their lies, that they
justly deserve to be condemned.”
Whatever the merits and abuses
of Nero actually were, the fact remains that in the last years of his reign, he
had become very unpopular and revolts had broken out against his rule. According to the Roman historian Suetonius,
Nero eventually committed suicide by stabbing himself in the throat.
As for the evidence in Revelation that points to Nero
being the Antichrist, the first clue is found in Revelation 13, when the
“beast” emerges from the sea. As
mentioned in the summary, the author of Revelation described the beast as
having ten horns and seven heads, and each head had a blasphemous name. Moreover, one of the heads had a “fatal wound” which had been healed. We will come back to this shortly.
clue is found in Revelation 17, where an angel explained to the author the “mystery” of the seven heads of the beast. The angel explained that the heads are “seven hills” on which the “great prostitute” sits, but they are also seven
kings, five of whom have fallen. One
head was currently ruling and the other had yet to come. Also, an eighth king would come, who “belongs to the seven”.
Though scholars disagree as to the identities of the seven
heads of the beast, they all agree that the heads represent the Roman Empire in
one way or another. Some scholars
identify each head with successive emperors (such as Augustus, Tiberius,
Caligula, Claudius, Nero and Vespasian),
but as Mounce observes, this theory has some flaws (emphasis in the original):
“It regards Augustus as the first emperor although his
predecessor, Julius Caesar, took the title Imperator, and was reckoned
by many writers (both Roman and Jewish) as the first emperor. A second problem is the omission of the three
rival emperors who ruled briefly between Nero (A.D. 54-68) and Vespasian (A.D.
Instead, Mounce posits the
theory that the use of the number seven is actually symbolic, and represents
the “the power of the Roman Empire as a historic whole”, and
not specific emperors. Even so, he acknowledges:
“Certainly the terrors of the Neronian persecution in A.D.
64…would be a more likely historical expression of Antichrist.”
Thus, even if the seven heads
do not specifically refer to individual emperors, it is clear that the Roman
Empire was the intended target of the author’s caricature. This provides support for the Nero/Antichrist
connection, as we will now see.
can be little doubt that the “wounded” head refers to Nero, who was known to
have committed suicide by stabbing himself in the neck. Also, the miraculous healing which the head
of the beast had undergone has clear links to a Roman myth regarding the
reappearance of Nero, known as “Nero redivivus” (“resurrected”). As Louden explains:
“For a number of reasons, there was strong popular belief that
Nero would return from the dead.”
In addition, he states:
“Popular belief, supported by the three stories of the Returned
Neros, contributed to the expectation that he would come back.”
Another aspect of the myth was that Nero would return
with an army from the east, originating from Parthia. In fact, two of the “Returned Neros” (i.e. impostors who had claimed to be the
revivified Nero) had actually managed to win the support of Parthian
rulers. As Professor Ben Witherington of the Asbury Theological
“…Terentius Maximus, who was the impostor in A.D. 80, actually
managed to win the support of a pretender to the Parthian throne. But…the most important of these impostors is
the one who arose during the reign of Domitian in about A.D. 88-99 (Suetonius,
Nero 57.2) and appears to have won the support of the Parthian king Pacorus
So, the myth of a revivified
Nero coming to conquer Rome with Parthian support was commonly believed around
the time Revelation was written. Thus,
it is not surprising that Revelation contains a clear “prophecy” of armies from
the east coming to fight for the beast:
“The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river
Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the
Commenting on this verse,
“…the historical context of John’s imagery favors the
interpretation of the kings as Parthian rulers.”
In fact, the myth of Nero
leading an army from Parthia was widely known even to non-Romans and invariably
found its way into Jewish and Christian circles as well. Scholars have long known that the myth of
“Nero redivivus” is found in apocryphal works like the Sibylline Oracles
and the Ascension of Isaiah. As for the former, Mounce explains that
(emphasis in the original):
“The tradition that Nero, although dying by his own hand, would
return from the East leading a great army of Parthian warriors is preserved in
the Sibylline Oracles (4:115-39).”
apologists could somehow prove that a Parthian army led by Nero was not what
the author of Revelation had in mind, but rather some Russian or Middle Eastern
(Islamic) army in modern times, they must still ask themselves some logical
questions: what modern army would need the Euphrates River to dry up first
before it could advance on the Holy Land?
What modern army, using technology like helicopters and airplanes, would
be held back because of a river, as the Book of Revelation claims? The fact is that when the Book of Revelation
was written, the Euphrates River served to separate the Roman Empire from the
Parthian Empire. It was a natural
barrier which served to keep Rome safe from a Parthian invasion. Hence, given that the first two clues provide
strong evidence of the Nero myth in Revelation, there is little doubt that the
author of Revelation had Nero in mind.
But there is one more clue which identifies Nero as the
Antichrist and it is found in arguably the most famous verse of Revelation:
“This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate
the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.”
have struggled to decipher the meaning of the number “666”, but it has come
to symbolize pure evil, so much so that even random occurrences of the number
have led some people to make drastic, life-altering decisions! But as with most other concepts in
Revelation, the mystery of “666” is grounded in the historical context in which
the book was written, so the fear and apprehension that it generates among some
Christians is simply the result of ignorance.
Scholars have known for some time that the number is actually the result
of “Gematria” which, as
Witherington explains, is:
“…the practice of assigning numerical values to letters of the
alphabet, a favorite practice not only of Jews but also of people in the
the number represents a man’s name, as stated in Revelation 13:18. Who was this man? There is virtually unanimous agreement among
scholars that it was clearly Nero. As
“Given the allusions to Nero in Revelation 13, it seems likely
that 666 corresponds to Nerōn Kaisar, which is the Hebrew form of the name Nero
fact can be easily demonstrated and leaves no doubt that the author of
Revelation had Nero in mind. Koester demonstrates
how scholars have calculated the “mark of the beast” from Nero’s name:
“When written in Hebrew letters the name is nrōn qsr. The calculation is as follows: nun (50) +
resh (200) + waw (6) + nun (50) + qof (100) + samech (60) + resh (200) = 666.”
The link with Nero is made even stronger when
we consider that some manuscripts of the Book of Revelation state that the
number of the beast is not “666” but “616”. While this variant form of the beast’s number
is only found in a small number of manuscripts, scholars have suggested a
possible reason for its usage. As
Witherington explains (emphasis in the original):
“…if the Latin of Nero rather than the Greek form (Neron)
is transliterated into Hebrew, the numerical value of the name becomes 616.”
the third clue in Revelation is most likely referring to Nero. And when examined together, all of the clues we
have discussed point in the direction of Nero being the Antichrist. Moreover, Nero’s status as the Antichrist
further strengthens the argument that Revelation was written from the viewpoint
of late 1st-century Christians, and has no relevance to modern
times. Those Christians who try to
interpret the Book of Revelation in the context of modern times are barking up
the wrong tree.
In this article, we have discussed
the Book of Revelation, its influence in Christian circles and the enigmatic
prophecies it makes. For almost 2,000
years, it has been the subject of speculation, fear and hope, as well as
foolish and vain attempts to determine when the events foretold will occur (the
latter has inevitably led to childish finger-pointing and the demonization of
non-Christians). However, in our
discussion, it has been demonstrated that the Book of Revelation was written in
the context of its own time and thus cannot be interpreted in a different time,
thousands of years later. The
“prophecies” contained therein were meant to be fulfilled in the time and
locality of the Roman Empire and not in modern times. Hence, fanatical Christians like Pat
Robertson, Hal Lindsey and Joel Richardson, like their predecessors, are
engaged in a silly “guessing-game” which they will eventually lose. These pseudo-scholars simply play on the
ignorance and fears of their congregations, and will probably continue to do so
until the end of time (whenever that will be). In a way, one could argue that these
so-called “men of God” are the ones who represent the spirit of the
“Antichrist”, since they engage in lies and deception,
which in the end only serves to mislead their own followers (and sell many
books)! The truth of the matter is that
the Book of Revelation has no relevance to modern times. The author’s “prophecies” never came true. The Roman Empire was never destroyed by Jesus
(in fact, it did not fall for another 300 years). Nero, the “Antichrist”, never returned with
an army from Parthia, and the 1,000-year reign of Jesus never occurred. Those Christians who still remain hopeful
that these events will occur in the future are bound to be disappointed.
Allah knows best!
 The word “Armageddon”
appears once in the Book of Revelation (16:16), and is actually a combination
of two Hebrew words (Har and Meggiddon), the latter of which is the town of
Megiddo. The phrase means “Mount Megiddo”
and is thus a reference to the actual site of the final battle between good and
evil, and not a term to signify the end of the world as used in modern parlance
 As Bart Ehrman states:
most of the millions of people who believe that Jesus is coming back soon, in
our lifetime, don’t realize is that there have always been Christians who
thought this about their own lifetimes.
This was a prominent view among conservative Christians in the early
twentieth century, in the late nineteenth century, in the eighteenth century,
in the twelfth century, in the second century, in the first century – in fact,
in just about every century. The one
thing that all those who have ever thought this have had in common is that
every one of them has been demonstrably and irrefutably wrong” (Forged: Writing in
the Name of God – Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are,
(New York: HarperOne, 2011), p. 106).
 Two examples should
suffice. First, the prominent fundamentalist
Christian Hal Lindsey who, in the 1970s, wrote the best-selling book “The Late,
Great Planet Earth”, warned fellow Christians that a nuclear war involving the
Soviet Union, China, the European Union and the United States was imminent and
would occur before the end of the 1980s (Ehrman, op. cit, p. 105).
the controversial televangelist Pat Robertson predicted in May 1980 that the
end of the world would occur by the end of 1982. According to author David John Marley:
to his calculations, by 1980 the Antichrist was at least twenty-seven years
old. Also, based on his understanding of
the Old Testament, the battle of Armageddon would start in 1982, and seven
years of intense suffering would follow” (Pat Robertson: An American Life,
(Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.), p.62).
 Revelation 1:1, 1:4 and
 Robert H. Mounce, The
Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), p.
 Ehrman, op. cit.,
this is true, then Christians have inadvertently accepted a book written by a
Gnostic Christian into their canon!
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Cerinthus was:
Gnostic-Ebionite heretic, contemporary with St. John; against whose errors on
the divinity of Christ the Apostle is said to have written the Fourth Gospel” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03539a.htm).
 Ehrman, op. cit.,
 As Burton Mack
Revelation of John of Patmos was associated with the writings of the Johannine
school solely because of the common name.
And even after it was blessed for posterity by inclusion in Athanasius’
list of apostolic writings, there were doctors of the church who questioned its
authenticity and groused about its theology” (Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth, (San
Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995), p. 197).
 Mounce, op. cit.,
 Mack, op. cit.,
 However, as we will
see, even though Nero’s reign was probably not the backdrop for the composition
of the book, the infamous emperor still served as a source of inspiration and
had a role to play in the prophecies, especially concerning the advent of the
 Revelation 1:4 (New
Nicolaitans were apparently a heretical sect, but not much is known about
them. The Catholic Encyclopedia states
that they were:
sect mentioned in the Apocalypse (2:6-15) as existing in Ephesus, Pergamus, and
other cities of Asia Minor, about the character and existence of which there is
 Revelation 4:4. The identity of these “elders” has puzzled
scholars. According to Mounce:
no exact counterparts are to be located in Jewish literature, it seems best to
take the twenty-four elders as an exalted angelic order who serve and adore God
as the heavenly counterpart to the twenty-four priestly and twenty-four
Levitical orders (1 Chron 24:4; 25:9-13)” (Mounce, op. cit., pp. 120-121).
 Revelation 4:6-8. The first creature was “like a
second creature was “like an ox”, the third creature “had a face like a man” and the fourth creature
was “like a flying eagle”. According
to Mounce, they were “angelic beings” and it is clear that the author was referring to the “seraphim” of Isaiah 6:2 (Mounce, op.
cit., p. 125).
 Revelation 6:1-8. The first horseman rode a white horse and “rode
out as a conqueror bent on conquest”. The
second horseman rode a red horse and “was given power to take
peace from the earth”. The third horseman rode a black horse and “was
holding a pair of scales in his hand”.
Finally, the fourth horseman rode a pale horse and “was
named Death, and Hades was following close behind him”, and “they
were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and
plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth”. See the
analysis section for a discussion of these “horsemen”.
 Revelation 8:1-5. A “censer” is defined by the Catholic
vessel suspended by chains, and used for burning incense at solemn Mass,
Vespers, Benediction, processions, and other important offices of the Church” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03519c.htm).
describes “Wormwood” as follows:
called Wormwood after the strong bitter taste of the plant of that name. In the OT wormwood was used as a symbol of
bitterness and sorrow”
(Mounce, op. cit., p. 181).
wormwood itself is not poisonous, its bitter taste suggests death” (Ibid.).
other words, it seems that the “star” known as “Wormwood” would contaminate the
drinking water, causing death when consumed.
 Revelation 9:3-5. The “king” of these locusts was identified as
“Abaddon” in Hebrew and “Apollyon” in Greek, the meaning of which is “the
Destroyer” (Revelation 9:11).
number of the mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand. I heard
soldiers of death are not human but rather “demonic horsemen” (Mounce, op. cit.,
 Revelation 11:2-6. According to Mounce, these “witnesses” are
not two individuals but rather represent “a symbol of the
(Mounce, op. cit., p. 217).
 Revelation 11:11-12.
 Revelation 11:13. This would signal the end of the “second
the “third woe” was yet to come (Revelation 11:14).
 Revelation 12:1-2,
5. The woman gave birth to the Messiah,
who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter”. However, scholars view the woman to be
symbolizing “the messianic community, the ideal Israel” instead of Mary, the
mother of Jesus (Mounce, op. cit., p. 231).
 The dragon is Satan
 Revelation 13:1. As we will see later, the “beast” provides
clear evidence of the historical context in which the Book of Revelation must
 Revelation 13:12-15.
13:17-18. The number 666 is assumed by
many Christians to be a literal mark of the “Antichrist”, but as we will see
later, it is actually a “code word” that the author of Revelation used to refer
to an actual historical figure which his congregation would have easily
 Revelation 13:16-18.
 Revelation 16:12,
15. See note #1 for the meaning of
 Revelation 16:17-18.
 Revelation 19:11-19.
 Revelation 20:4. The rest of the dead were not to be
resurrected until the end of the thousand-year period (Revelation 20:5).
 Revelation 20:12-13.
 Revelation 20:14-15.
 Tom Sine, Cease
Fire: Searching for Sanity in America’s Culture Wars (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), p. 55.
in contemporary times, this “guessing game” has continued, with many fanatics
even accusing the current president of the United States, Barack Obama, of being
the Antichrist! See the following:
contemporary example is the current popularity among some Christians of the
“Muslim Antichrist” theory, propounded by authors like Joel Richardson. See the following:
seems that these lunatics have not learned from their own history. It does not require much foresight to see
that they too will be proven wrong eventually!
we will see shortly, however, while the majority of Christians who engage in
these “guessing games” are always (not surprisingly) wrong, it is clear that
the early Christians who identified the Roman emperor Nero as the Antichrist
were actually right, because the author of Revelation was clearly pointing to
him. The internal evidence from the Book
of Revelation makes this undeniable.
 Steven J. Friesen, Imperial
Cults and the Apocalypse of John: Reading Revelation in the Ruins (New
York: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 136.
is also possible that the author specifically referred to these seven churches “because
of some specific relationship to emperor worship” (Mounce, op. cit., p. 45).
 Craig R. Koester, Revelation
and the End of All Things (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.,
2001), p. 57.
 Just like some fanatics
have accused world leaders, both past and present, of being the “Antichrist”,
others have attempted to link them to the “four horsemen”. For example, conservative author David
Harsanyi has claimed that the “horsemen” actually represent the “debt”,
“dependency”, “surrender” and “death” that have become ubiquitous with Barack
Obama’s reelection as the President of the United States (http://www.theblaze.com/books/obamas-four-horsemen-the-disasters-unleashed-by-obamas-reelection/).
 Mounce, op. cit.,
 John H. C. Pippy, Egyptian
Origin of the Book of Revelation (Raleigh: Lulu Enterprises Inc., 2011),
 Mounce, op. cit.,
p. 140. This is probably the best
explanation, since much of the imagery in Revelation can be shown to correspond
to the Roman Empire.
 Bruce Louden, “Retrospective
Prophecy and the Vision in Aeneid 6 and the Book of
Revelation.” International Journal of
the Classical Tradition, 16, no. 1 (March, 2009): 15.
the Book of Revelation to the Roman poet Virgil’s (spelled Vergil by Louden) Aeneid,
Professor Louden identifies the literary techniques known as “retrospective
prophecy” and “the vision”. The former,
according to Louden:
divides time into three different periods:
1. the period of time which serves as the
present for the narrative’s characters (but is past time for the author and his
2. the period of time which is in the future
from the perspective of the narrative and its characters (but is still in the
past time for author and audience);
3. the period of time which is in the future
from the perspective of the author and his original audience (as well as for
the narrative and its characters” (Ibid., p. 7).
latter is defined by Louden as:
genre of myth in which the protagonist is removed from the mortal plane, an
otherworldly guide accompanies him, who reveals to him a larger truth, the ‘big
picture,’ previously unknown to him. He
is a transformed man as a result” (Ibid., p. 3).
conclusion is that, like the “retrospective prophecies” in Aeneid 6, the
“prophecies” of disasters and the end of the world in Revelation were meant to
occur in the immediate future of the audience, even though most of the book was
concerned with events that had already occurred (beginning with the Roman
occupation of Jerusalem as a result of the Jewish Revolt). This, he concludes,
allows for a “responsible” interpretation of the Book of Revelation (Ibid., p.
16). Thus, Christian fanatics like Pat
Robertson and Joel Richardson, who try to apply the prophecies in Revelation to
modern times in a vain attempt to demonize those who do not believe in their
religion, are hopelessly misguided and are bound to be proven wrong, as were
 Pheme Perkins,
“Revelation”, in The Collegeville Bible Commentary: New Testament, ed.
Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1989), p.
story in Revelation 12 is remarkably similar.
The woman gives birth to the Messiah, and is pursued by the dragon. The child is saved by divine intervention and
the woman finds safe haven in the wilderness and is protected by miraculous
occurrences (i.e. the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the water released
by the dragon).
course, there were variations of the pagan myth. See the entries under “Apollo” and “Leto” in
Pierre Grimal, A Concise Dictionary of Classical Mythology, ed. Stephen
Kershaw (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1990), pp. 48-51, 244.
 Pippy, op. cit.,
is also interesting to note that, according to Pippy, Nut was sometimes
depicted with twelve sun-disks (which represented the hours of the day) and
sometimes with stars and solar-disks (Ibid.).
The parallels with the woman in Revelation 12 are obvious.
 In addition to standard
paganism, the Roman Empire also encouraged the worship of the emperors, which
is also condemned by the author of Revelation.
 This is one reason why
attempts by some modern Christian fanatics to link the events of Revelation to
the Islamic world fail miserably.
Muslims simply do not worship idols!
In fact, it could be argued that Muslims are more opposed to idolatry
than Christians, since the presence of statues of Jesus, Mary and saints is
tolerated in many churches.
 Reza Aslam, Zealot:
The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Random House, 2013), pp.
there were three courts: the outer court or the “Court of Gentiles”, the “Court
(which was the furthest Jewish women were allowed to go), the “Court
of the Israelites”
(which was the furthest Jewish men could go) and the “Court
(which was restricted to priests and Temple officials). Beyond the “Court of Priests” was, of course,
the “Holy of Holies” where only the High Priest could go.
claims that the outer court was a reference to the Church, and thus, not a
reference to the Temple divisions prior to the outbreak of the Jewish-Roman War
(Mounce, op. cit., p.214).
However, there is no support within the text for this claim. Rather, it is clear that the outer court is a
reference to the “Court of Gentiles”.
 Duncan W. McKenzie, The
Antichrist and the Second Coming: A Preterist Examination, Vol. 1: Daniel and 2
Thesslanonians (USA: Xulon Press, 2009), p. 224.
notes that the one additional month was due to Titus and Vespasian’s month-long
stay at Ptolemais where they were gathering their forces for the eventual
assault on Jerusalem (Ibid.).
 Louden, op. cit.,
reference to the 42-month “trampling” is, according to Louden:
specific reference to the duration of the Jewish Revolt”.
In fact, retrospective prophecy is also
clearly utilized with reference to the “fall” of the dragon and his “angels” to
earth (Revelation 12:9) after a battle with the archangel Michael. Since the fall had already occurred thousands
of years earlier, how could it then occur in the future? The answer is “retrospective prophecy”.
 Sine, op. cit.,
 The subsequent
persecutions by later emperors tended to vary in severity and length. In fact, in some cases, while Christian
versions of history allege great acts of persecutions, no historical evidence
of any actual persecution can be found.
This is true in the case of the emperor Domitian, whose reign probably
coincided with the writing of the Book of Revelation. As Professor Paul Trebilco of the University
of Otago, New Zealand states:
particular, there is no evidence that Domitian demanded greater divine honours
than his predecessors, and there is no evidence for widespread oppression and
persecution of Asian Christians by Domitian” (The Early Christians in Ephesus from Paul
to Ignatius (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), p. 343).
course, the practice of worshiping the emperors would have been anathema to
Christians as well as Jews, and it is not surprising that writings from both
groups severely condemned this practice.
In this regard, Muslims would be on the side of the Christians and the
Jews. To worship any being other than
God would be the most atrocious of sins.
Similarly, the one who accepted such worship would be condemned by God
to eternal damnation in Hell.
 Flavius Josephus, Antiquities
of the Jews, 20:8:3.
course, it could be argued that Josephus himself was guilty of his own
biases. After all, his primary
benefactors (Vespasian and Titus) were loyal to Nero during his reign.
 Chris Sandoval, Can
Christians Prove the Resurrection? A Reply to the Apologists (Canada:
Trafford Publishing, 2010), p. 292.
Vespasian was the “current” emperor, then the Book of Revelation must have been
written during his reign (69-79 CE), but as we noted above, most scholars place
the composition of the book during the last years of the reign of Domitian. Although the theory that each head represents
a specific emperor is probably erroneous (see note #113 for clarification),
Sandoval is correct when he refers to an eight emperor who was to rise from the
seven, as per Revelation 17:11. This can
only be referring specifically to Nero, even if the seven heads do not
necessarily represent a specific emperor starting from Augustus (the successor
of Julius Caesar).
 Mounce, op. cit.,
Mounce does acknowledge that if the line of emperors starts with Caligula, who
was the first Roman emperor to “[provoke] a crisis over emperor worship…”, and skipping the three
minor emperors between Nero and Vespasian, we would arrive at the reign of
Domitian as the sixth emperor (one more was to come, and the eight was to be
one of the seven). Also, Mounce cites
the theory posited by J.H. Ulrichsen, that since the ten horns of the beast
also represent Roman emperors, then it is possible to arrive at Domitian’s
reign by starting with Caligula and including the three minor emperors (Ibid.,
fn. 42). Since it is generally accepted
that the Book of Revelation was written around Domitian’s reign, and not of
Vespasian, this theory is plausible.
Mounce also refutes the theory that the seven heads represented seven kingdoms (such
as Egypt, Nineveh (Assyria), Babylon, Persia and Greece, with Rome being the
present kingdom), since the Greek word in question is used throughout the New
Testament as referring to a “king” and not a “kingdom” (Ibid., p. 317). Not surprisingly, Christians have posited
the “seven kingdoms” theory from time to time.
Even in the present-day, some believe that the “reformulated” Soviet
Union will be the “revived head” of the beast (http://www.musingsaboutgod.com/whoare.htm)! Other Christian fanatics, not wanting to be
outdone by the sheer stupidity of their brethren, have proposed that the
“revived head” will be an Islamic kingdom (http://tribulationperiod.com/blog/?p=4247)!
to Mounce, the “seven kings” of Revelation:
the entire period of Roman domination regardless of the exact number of
emperors. The important point is that
the end is drawing near.”
interpretation is also posited by Professor Brian K. Blount, of the Union
seven heads are the seven hills and the seven emperors (17:9). The beast therefore is not one emperor as
such but, as seven represents completion, the entire sense of Roman rule…” (Revelation: A Commentary
(Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), p. 246).
 Mounce, op. cit.,
Nero who had been "wounded to death" but "his deadly wound was
healed" and he still lived (13:3)—Nero redivivus.”
actually committed suicide when he was overthrown in 68 AD, but many believed
he was still alive and would one day return to retake Rome with the help of an
army from Parthia (Tacitus, History 2.8ff; Suetonius, Nero 57)” (Sandoval, op. cit.,
 Louden, op. cit.,
some scholars have argued that the term “redivivus” is actually incorrect,
since it was more commonly believed that Nero had not actually died. Hence, these scholars prefer the term “Nero
(David Andrew Thomas, Revelation 19 in Historical and Mythological Context
(New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 2008), fn. 25, p. 99). In any case, it is clear that it was widely
believed that Nero, alive or dead, would return to reclaim the throne of Rome. This was the backdrop for Revelation’s caricature
of the “beast”.
 Louden, op. cit.,
p. 14; Mounce, op. cit., p. 298; Sandoval, op. cit., p. 292.
 Ben Witherington, Revelation
(Cambridge: The Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 2003), p. 178.
 Revelation 16:12. The armies would then gather at the place
known as “Armageddon” (Revelation 16:16).
See note #1 for an explanation of the meaning of this word.
 Mounce, op. cit.,
 Louden, op. cit.,
p. 14; Mounce, op. cit., p. 298.
Ascension of Isaiah also refers to Nero, specifically identifying him
with “Belial”. As such, Louden states:
thus draws on these earlier traditions, combining them together, in figuring
Nero as fully demonized”
(Lounden, op. cit., p. 14).
For the text of the Sibylline Oracles, Book 5, see the
the Ascension of Isaiah, see the following:
a discussion of the references to Nero in the latter, see the following:
 Mounce, op. cit.,
 Witherington, op.
cit., p. 176; See also Louden, op. cit., p. 10.
 Koester, op. cit.,
Pippy is of the view that the number 666 corresponds to the Egyptian god
Seth. (Pippy, op. cit., p.
98). But this theory seems unlikely, as
it makes far more sense for the author of Revelation to target a Roman emperor
who was infamous in Christian circles rather than a god of the Egyptian pantheon.
 Witherington, op.
cit., p. 177.
Demar offers a possible scenario for how “616” crept into some manuscripts:
Latin copyist might have thought that 666 was an error because Nero Caesar did
not add up to 666 when transliterated into Latin. He then changed 666 to 616 to conform to the
Latin rendering since it was generally accepted that Nero was the Beast. In either case, a Hebrew transliteration nets
666, while a Latin spelling nets 616.
Nero was the ‘man’ and 666 was his number” (Left Behind: Separating Fact from
Fiction (Powder Springs: The American Vision, Inc., 2009), p. 147).
the other hand, Mounce posits that neither “666” nor “616” were specifically meant
to represent Nero, though this view seems to be in the minority. In his view, the author “intended
only his intimate associates to be able to decipher the number” (Mounce, op. cit.,
p. 262). Of course, if the meaning of
the number was only meant to be known to the author’s “associates”, it has no
relevance to modern readers and the secret has gone with the author to his
as stated, this is the minority view and most scholars agree that the
Antichrist was Nero. As Witherington
gematria does not merely assert that Nero is the Beast: it demonstrates that he
 Of course, according to
Revelation, it should have already occurred!
 According to John 8:44,
Satan is the “father of lies”.