The Beast Will Return
(This is the third article in the series based on the book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666?)
Imagine that you are a citizen of Rome in 68 AD. Just three years earlier you had heard a wonderful message from a man named Paul, who had told you that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Messiah who had been prophesied to save both Jews and Gentiles. Many who had seen Jesus after he arose from the dead were still alive and were not afraid to proclaim his resurrection. Faith in Jesus had changed their lives.
Thousands of other Christians, including your father and three friends, had been slaughtered by direct orders of the ruthless Roman Emperor, Nero, who justified his deplorable behavior by accusing the Christians of starting the great fire in Rome. He influenced many Romans to set aside Roman law (innocent until proven guilty) and sanction the murder of Roman citizens who believed in Jesus Christ by telling them that, “Christians are the enemy of mankind.”
You, too, are in hiding. Although the persecution has subsided, your friends and family are still being arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and crucified or thrown to the wild beasts of the circus. You have read Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonica; and you know that Nero is the man of lawlessness Paul wrote about in II Thessalonians Chapter 2. Any day you expect that Nero will travel to Jerusalem and desecrate the Jewish Temple, as written by Paul 16 years earlier, predicted by Jesus a generation ago, and foretold by Daniel, the prophet, some 600 years past.
Suddenly, someone tells you that Nero is dead. His decadent excesses had caught up to him, and he had fallen out of favor with the powerful Roman Senate. This unrest, then rebellion, and finally insurrection against Nero had begun only a few months earlier. You’re stunned at this news; but you’re also relieved, perhaps, even ecstatic. You come out of hiding and praise the Lord for deliverance from this madman, who had been the first ruler in history to persecute a group of people simply because of their belief that Jesus was God. Nero’s brutality wasn’t racially, ethnically, or nationally motivated. Rather, he hunted down Christians because they believed that Christ arose from the dead and, therefore, they would not bow down to Caesar.
Yet you are also confused. You had no doubt that Nero was the man of lawlessness depicted by Paul. You were convinced that he was the ruler of Daniel Chapter 9, whose people would one day (in your generation) destroy the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, and then somehow regain the favor of the Jews by making a seven-year treaty with them. But abruptly, he’s gone. What now? You’re greatly relieved, but you’re also puzzled. Why had he died before these prophecies came to pass?
With apprehension you watch as three Roman Generals, Galba, Otho, and Vitellius claim the Roman throne as their own, only to die during a lawless 18-month civil war upheaval throughout the Roman Empire. You closely follow the exploits of another Roman General, Vespasian, and you voice your approval when the Roman Senate acknowledges him as the next legitimate Emperor in the summer of 70 AD. Your endorsement is confirmed in just a few months, as Vespasian restores some measure of sanity and stability to an empire traumatized by chaotic disorder.
The Rest of the Story
Then one day, seemingly from out of nowhere, you are handed a copy of a scroll written by a man named John, who had seen the risen Christ several decades after the Lord returned to heaven. That, itself, was amazing. As you read this incredible book, you are awe-struck with the magnificent final revelation of Jesus Christ, himself. You are spellbound by the spectacular apocalyptic events that you believe will soon take place, because the apostles who are still alive, as well as the entire Christian community fully expect Jesus to return any day. But that’s not all: John the Revelator was also given ominous visions that clearly convey the reappearance of what Revelation calls, “the beast.” And, just like that, you’re questions are answered, and your suspicion is confirmed: Nero is the ruler described by the prophet Daniel. He is the beast-king of Revelation; he is the Antichrist. Now you know the rest of the story!
You already know that Messiah Jesus will return. He, himself, said so, as did many other writers of the Bible. You know this is true because he proved all he said and did, and who he was by rising from the dead. Just like his resurrection and ascension to heaven, you know his return will be accomplished by the supernatural power and providence of God. And now you understand that the one who would dare to be “anti” Christ, who would arrogantly oppose the Almighty God and his Messiah, and who would vainly attempt to thwart the undeniable, unchangeable, inevitable purpose of God to judge the nations and establish his everlasting kingdom of truth, justice, righteousness, and peace on the earth, would also return to convince the world that he is a god, yes, even the true God. And that Satan, with God’s permission, would give this man power and authority to accomplish this evil plan … but only for a short time.
How do you know this with such certainty? Because that’s exactly what the book of Revelation tells you. First, it challenges you to ascertain (with wisdom) the meaning of the number and name of this man in Revelation Chapter 13. Then, it tells you something else even more astonishing; “The beast you saw was once alive but isn’t now. And yet he will soon come up out of the bottomless pit and go to eternal destruction. And the people who belong to this world, whose names were not written in the Book of Life before the world was made, will be amazed at the reappearance of the beast who had died” (Revelation 17:8).
Then there’s more evidence, as you read Revelation 17: 9-11: This beast was one of seven kings (emperors), five of whom had already fallen, one reigning when the revelation was given to John, and the seventh to follow, but his reign would be very brief. Then an eighth king, who came from and was one of the five who had fallen (because the passage tells you the beast had already died), was, in fact, the scarlet beast, himself. Then you go back to Revelation 13 and by adding the numbers in Hebrew that correspond to the Greek name of this ruler, you arrive at an exact match to the number six hundred and sixty-six. And only one of the seven kings (five already dead) bears this number: Nero.
And then you put it all together: A few years earlier Nero had ordered the conquest of Israel, and that is exactly what his troops led by Vespasian and later by Titus accomplished; although Nero had died before the Roman armies conquered Israel and destroyed the Temple, just like Daniel and Jesus said would happen. And exactly what Paul had predicted would happen did happen. (II Thessalonians 2:8). Jesus would kill the man of lawlessness (Nero), meaning that in his sovereignty, the Lord would see to it that Nero was struck down.
Your passion for the imminent return of Jesus is renewed. Your brothers and sisters in Christ share your enthusiasm: Jesus glorious appearance will be soon, very soon, any hour of any day. After reading the book of Revelation you understand that, in a counterfeit attempt to duplicate the resurrection and return of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ, the beast (Nero) will also reappear from the Abyss, for that is exactly what Revelation is saying. And just like the resurrection of Christ is the cornerstone reality of your faith and hope, so will the “miraculous” return of Nero from the grave capture the attention of those left behind at the Rapture. They will give him their allegiance and even worship him for one reason, and one reason alone: (Rev 13: 3-4). Not because he is a political, social, or economic genius; not because he is a great charismatic leader, but because he returns from the grave.
So you tell your unsaved friends about all of this; you tell them now is the day of salvation. But you also tell them: If they put off their decision to choose God’s salvation through Jesus, to remember what you told them about the Antichrist. That they need not be so amazed at his reappearance, because the Bible said this would happen. There’s no reason for them to react in wonder and amazement, because God had this planned all along … to give Satan and his man of sin and the false prophet one last chance to triumph over the truth, over the Kingdom of God. To give those who are left behind one last chance to choose eternal life over eternal death, though they would probably lose their life on this earth for such a choice.
I fully understand why today’s students of Bible prophecy find it so difficult to refit the prophetic puzzle with the correct piece concerning the Antichrist. First, it’s much more natural to conclude that the Antichrist will be a contemporary man just like all past tyrants who arrived on the stage of history. Secondly, therefore, to out-of-hand, dismiss the possibility that the Antichrist could be a man who died 2000 years ago.
But why need it be so incredible, so preposterous? Why is it so difficult to accept, especially when the Book of Revelation tells us that it will happen that way; and why so unlikely in light of all the other phenomenal events presented in Revelation? Why is it so easy to accept the power of God behind the miraculous resurrection and return of Christ, but not the supernatural intervention of Christ in killing the man of lawlessness (Nero in 68AD), reviving him, banishing him to the Abyss (that’s where the beast ascends from), and then at the appointed time allowing him to reappear on the earth. For God, what is so hard about that?
We need to fully realize that the Book of Revelation was written specifically to the seven churches identified in Chapters 2 & 3, and, in general, to all believers alive at that time. Revelation was not specifically written to our generation. Of course it was written for our generation and whatever generation is alive at the return of Christ (hopefully our generation), because Christ hasn’t yet returned; therefore, all the unfulfilled prophecies of the second coming of Christ are obviously still applicable. But this is more than just a matter of semantics or splitting hairs, i.e. to versus for.
Question: In the context of the first century, why is it so important to isolate and emphasize to whom the final revelations of Jesus Christ were given? Answer: It has everything to do with the passionate anticipation of the first century Christians: The Imminent Return of Christ!
If the imminent return of Christ was true for the first century believers (which, of course it was), then there must have been a first century man to exactly fit the description of the little horn of Daniel, the man of lawlessness, the beast, and the Antichrist. Because if Jesus had returned to take his people home (Rapture), then the Great Tribulation would soon have followed, as would the Antichrist who instigates and leads the great rebellion against God and Messiah. We need to fully grasp this. That’s why I’ve asked you to return to the first century with me.
Of course, Jesus didn’t return in the first century, you say. But, what if he had? He certainly could have. The first century Christians confidently expected that he would. This is more than just a “what if” question. For the imminent return of Jesus to be a total reality, completely relevant to the believers alive when Revelation was written, then the ruler in the book of Daniel, the man of lawlessness found in II Thessalonians, and the newly described beast-king of Revelation (all descriptions of the same man, Antichrist), had to be a contemporary in and of that generation! Do you see that? What makes it even more remarkably accurate (Nero as Antichrist) is the mindboggling fact presented in Revelation 17; that is the beast who had died would return from the Abyss. And this return could have been in the first century, second century, tenth century, 20th century, or it could be next week.
It’s all part of God’s plan, the order of which is: Rapture, reappearance of the beast, the seven-year treaty with Israel (orchestrated by Nero and igniting the onset of the Tribulation), the glorious appearance of Christ to save the world from annihilation and to defeat the Antichrist and his armies, binding Satan in the Abyss for one thousand years, and the beginning of the Millennium reign of Christ and his people. Just like Revelation tells us … this man, from the moment of his death and confinement to the Abyss, has been waiting to be released. He may not know why he’s in the Abyss or the details of his next assignment; one that God will allow Satan to accomplish through the beast for some 3 ½ years.
It’s a matter of waiting for God to set things in motion. We’re waiting for the Rapture. Satan is waiting for God to release Nero, who will be Satan’s resurrected superman. The waiting began in the first century, and has continued through the ages, one day, one generation at a time. Satan is a mighty (fallen) angel, but he can’t see into the future, and doesn’t have the power to select a man (on the spur of the moment) who needs to be completely qualified and totally ready to assume the role of Antichrist immediately after the Rapture, which (through the ages) Satan has had no idea when it would take place. Just like Satan had to wait to take action when Jesus, the Son of God, was born as a man; so will he need to wait until Messiah’s antithesis is released from the Abyss.
Even if Satan did have the power to instantly choose and groom the right (or is it wrong) man for the job, he will be severely limited in the number of applicants. Why? Because he will need to interview only those who are in the Abyss. And in all of Scripture, there is only one man who comes from, therefore, had to be placed in the Abyss … Guess who? Thus, God actually made it easy for Satan, much easier that deserved. Whenever the Rapture would occur, the man who would be Satan’s messiah was already in place, ready to emerge from the abyss and rise from the sea. Satan, however, has had plenty of time to practice … just google Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Stalin, and Hitler. For that matter, Satan had ample opportunity to train Nero during the fourteen years of Nero’s reign.
For me, and I trust for many others, the text of Revelation 17 is indisputable. Meaning, how else can the words be understood? After John saw the vision of the beast, the angel told John not to be amazed. Why? Because the angel told John that he would explain the meaning of the beast. Of course, the image of a beast is symbolic, but not the interpretation or meaning. The angel said he would explain the “mystery.” Once a mystery is explained, it’s no longer a mystery. There should be (and is) only one way to comprehend what the angel is telling John.
And what does the angel say? The beast (man) that John had just seen had been alive but was now dead. AND this same man would “reappear” from the Abyss. AND, the reappearance of the beast would stun the world, but only those who belong to the world (meaning those who would eventually take the mark of the beast and seal their eternal fate) would be amazed at the return of the beast, “who had died.” There are other passages in Scripture that accurately refit the prophetic puzzle and confirm that Nero is the Antichrist, but none of them will be of much significance unless we fully realize that the Antichrist had already died even before the book of Revelation was written, and that he would reappear at the onset of the Tribulation. And this astonishing return will irresistibly seize the attention and eventually the allegiance of so many of those left behind.
Next week’s article will discuss the infamous number of the Antichrist.
Things to Ponder
– In my book, Out of the Abyss, I refer to Enoch and Elijah as examples of men who were removed from the earth without dying. Then a strong case is made that Moses was revived (shortly after his death) and will return with Elijah as the two witnesses of Revelation Chapter 11. These examples were utilized to confirm the premise that after Nero’s death, he was revived by Jesus and dumped in the Abyss, body intact. What other historical precedents in the Bible do we have to illustrate that a person can die but then return to life for a period of time?
– Do you see the value of looking through the lens of first century Christians to better understand that Christ and Antichrist had to be at least generational contemporaries? Nero was born just 3-4 years after Jesus ascended to heaven. Yet, the most important thing to grasp is that the Antichrist comes from the Abyss, which means that he first was sent to the Abyss. Christ could have returned at any time, but before he could have returned in the 1st (or 2nd, 3rd, so on) century, the beast would have already been confined to the Abyss. Otherwise, the prophetic sequence of events as depicted in Daniel and Revelation is all wrong. Right?