The Legendary Return of Nero … Fact or Fiction?
Whether fictitious or factual, when we see, think, or read of a famous or even infamous person we sometimes classify that person as, A Legend. Thus, we rank the life and exploits of actual people or fictional characters as, legendary, which Webster’s Dictionary defines simply as: “of or relating to a legend.” Defining legend as: a story from the past, regarded as historical although not (necessarily) verifiable. A legendary person, place, or event can be a documented historical narrative, e.g. the conquests of Alexander the Great, or a folklore figure like Paul Bunyan. Or a combination of the two, such as: The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.
In today’s culture saturated with movies and books and seemingly unlimited internet data, we generally think of a legend as fiction; or we exaggerate the feats of a real historical figure making them historic … creating a larger than life legacy. Many of us have seen movies or read books about legends. For example: Legends of the Fall (Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Julia Ormond); Legend of Zorro (Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones); Legend of Sleepy Hollow (original short story by Washington Irving); The Arthurian Legend (King Arthur); Legend of Zelda (famous Nintendo game series); the Legend of Hercules or Tarzan and many others. As a golfer, one of my personal favorites is: The Legend of Bagger Vance (Matt Damon, Will Smith, Charlize Theron).
The idea of a legend is even useful in naming aircraft, cars, motorcycles, and boats. Such as the Honda car model, Acura Legend.
Legendary fictitious figures certainly captivate our attention, but real-life people both past and present can actually compel us to compare our own aspirations and accomplishments with their achievements … with their enduring legacy. Haven’t we all at one time or another thought or said, “I want to be like him (or her) … when I grow up.” Sports legends come to mind like Michael Jordan or Larry Bird; or film legends such as John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. And political or military heroes who have shaped our world … George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower. As a rule, we prefer that our champions be examples of integrity whose lives we can emulate and extol as (role-model) legends. Or someone with a standard of excellence that we admire and wish to mimic like the Apostles Paul or John. And certainly those who influence our lives on a daily basis, like a devoted hard-working father or a selfless, loving mother who sacrificed so much for us. Most of all, Jesus.
Consequently, there aren’t that many antagonists or villains who are afforded legendary status. But there are a few exceptions, such as Nero. Keep in mind that the original derivation and use of the term, legend, applied primarily to actual historical figures or events, whether their enduring legacy was good or bad. In fact, the earliest most often used meaning was a literal inscription on a coin; with the obvious implication that for someone’s image or name to be inscribed on a coin, that person had really lived and was considered to be a legend in their own time. Or, in the case of the notorious Nero Caesar, a legend in his own mind.
Which brings us to one of the most astounding legends ever recorded, one that would last several centuries; but one that would eventually be lost to history or at the very least became irrelevant. In large part, this irrelevancy developed due to the notion that the Antichrist would be a man born in the generation that experienced the Rapture and subsequently the Great Tribulation. Which was also the understanding of the earliest generation of Christians, but ONLY because the final Biblical revelations (to Paul and John) about this man were given in the first century, no more than one generation after Christ arose from the dead.
Beginning, however, around the 6th century and continuing to the mid-20th century, the awareness that Antichrist (Nero) would return from the Abyss decreased in direct proportion to the waning anticipation that Messiah would (soon) return to the Earth, some seven years after he raptured the Church. Not until the rebirth of Israel in 1948, then more-so with the Six-Day War of 1967, have believers and unbelievers alike experienced a phenomenal resurgence in the interest of end-times prophecy.
When John wrote the book of Revelation, Nero had already died; nevertheless, the vast majority of first century Christians believed (knew) that this already infamous Roman Emperor was, in fact, the ruler-king foretold by Daniel, the man of lawlessness referred to in the present-tense by the Apostle Paul (just 2-3 years before Nero was crowned as Caesar), and the beast of Revelation that John said would return from the Abyss to continue his unholy reign on a global scale.
Please, if time permits, read the Eye of Prophecy articles under the category of Antichrist, as well as the book, Out of the Abyss … can the number of the beast be solved, 666? Combined, these sources will give you an abundance of documented detailed evidence and rationale that Nero is the Antichrist.
After Nero died in 68 AD his legend expanded, spreading throughout the civilized world. A great many believers and unbelievers throughout the Roman Empire were convinced that he would return. Obviously the non-Christians didn’t know or believe what Christians knew: that Nero wouldn’t reappear until the Rapture took place. But both groups held the common belief that Nero’s return would take place in the immediate or fairly near future. Some believed he hadn’t died; most knew for a fact that he had died, but would reappear at the appointed (by God) time. For nearly five centuries this astonishing, but very serious, belief was mainstream popular … so much so that several historians of the first five centuries recorded it.
It eventually became known as the:
NERO REDIVIVUS LEGEND
To this day, it bears the same name, retaining the specific ancient Latin term redivivus, alongside the more universal phrase of legend. There are no other traditions like this one in recorded history. Redivivus, is defined as: Living again, revived, or restored. As applied to Nero Caesar, it simply means: Nero will return.
*Note: Under no circumstances or conditions would I ever classify the resurrection of Jesus Christ and his promise to return to this earth as a mere legend; only because of the connotation that legend creates in our minds. To be sure, Messiah’s rising from the dead is a legendary supernatural reality; as will be the Rapture of his people any day now. Because Nero’s emergence from the Abyss will not be a true resurrection from the dead (rather, it will be a return in his original body that has been preserved by God in the Abyss, as explained at length in my book and articles), it should not be equated to the resurrected return of Christ. Nevertheless, the Nero Redivivus Legend does track with and confirm Biblical passages on the Antichrist.
But we need to emphasize that historians have attached the term legend to Nero Redivivus, apparently to establish a default disclaimer that the belief had any merit or truth to it. Not the known historical fact that many fully endorsed this premise in the first through fifth centuries; only that the legend, itself, was highly questionable to some … particularly the historians.
Early journalists tended to voice their opinion in addition to “reporting the facts.” Gradually interpretive journalism gave way to a division (the way it should be) between objective correspondent reporting and subjective editorial commentary. Even though today’s media is too often biased (based on their worldview, religious or irreligious affiliations, or their political persuasions), most field reporters are fairly impartial. “Just the facts, mam!” (Sgt. Joe Friday, Dragnet T.V. series). They leave the editorializing to the editorial specialists.
For example, in 422 AD the well-known 5th century Christian apologist and historian, St. Augustine wrote about Nero over 350 years after Nero died. This would be equivalent to a 21st century author writing about the Pilgrims arrival at Plymouth Rock (17th century). Equivalent in the time-lapse, and comparable to the established fact that the Pilgrims did find the new world they were looking for, despite conflicting accounts whether the northeastern or southeastern coast of America was their planned destination.
Here is what Augustine said: “Others, again suppose that he is not even dead, but that he was concealed that he might be supposed to have been killed, and that he now lives in concealment in the vigor of that same age which he had reached when he was believed to have perished, and will live until he is revealed in his own time and restored to his kingdom. But I wonder that men can be so audacious in their conjecture.”
Readily apparent in the last line of this quote is Augustine’s personal opinion that the Nero Redivivus Legend was just that: a (very questionable) supposition that Nero was not dead … he either didn’t die or had been revived after death. That he had been (bodily) concealed and preserved at the very age at which he died. With the most amazing feature of this pervasive, already centuries-old belief: he would return and be restored to his kingdom!
Despite St. Augustine’s editorial comment about Nero’s legacy, the startling fact remains that he conveyed the broadly accepted belief of many Christians; that Nero was not only the (once alive but isn’t now, Revelation 17:8) Antichrist of the first century, but that he would return as that same Antichrist beast immediately following the Rapture. By the time Augustine penned his report, the passionate anticipation of the imminent return of Messiah (with his antithesis the Antichrist to ominously follow) had dissipated somewhat, but was still an undeniable expectation among believers.
Here was my immediate reaction to this astounding report by St. Augustine during my Scriptural and secular research of the first century in preparation for my second book, Out of the Abyss:
I was totally blown away when I read this, as I had already been shown how to refit the piece of the puzzle that didn’t fit (meaning that the Antichrist will not be a modern-day man, rather that he had died in the first century and would reappear as the beast of Revelation) … many Christians for centuries after Revelation was written believed Nero to be Antichrist.”
I went on to say: “…contemporary scholars have endorsed Augustine’s opinion as a reinforced reason to dismiss the early believer’s view of Nero as credible. Though the scholars extend deep respect for the Christians who held this belief (meaning in the first five centuries or so), they are deeply puzzled why anyone, especially a believer, would entertain such an idea.
Permit me to comment on Augustine’s opinion as to the validity of this belief … First, the conjecture of the early Church would be confined to Nero’s return as the Antichrist. I’m sure that Augustine didn’t mean to dispute the Biblically documented prophecy that Antichrist would return from the dead or possibly from some other state or place where he has been kept alive (Revelation 17:8, i.e. the Abyss). As we will later see, the bottomless pit is NOT the place of the dead.
Second, as suggested earlier in this book: Is it any more audacious to maintain that Nero could recover from a fatal wound, than a modern man doing the very same thing? A resurrection is a resurrection, as those left behind will see and classify it. No matter who performs this feat; it’s pretty impressive…
You may want to think of it this way: Instead of a revived Roman Empire, there will be a revived Roman Emperor!
Recently, a few prophecy scholars have partially abandoned the idea of a revived Roman Empire or blended it with and in favor of an Islamic tribulation kingdom, with a messiah type imam surfacing as the Antichrist. Again, I hold these prophecy students in high regard; however, this demonstrates the risk of a kingdom theory to replace kings as the seven heads (Referring, here to the seven heads of Revelation 17 revealed as seven kings to John … not kingdoms). Will the kingdom be the European Union, the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, a Romanized Europe and Middle East, or an Islamic Confederation? I vote for none of the above.
Whatever form that a modern ten-toed collated tainted version of the 4th world kingdom (Rome) assumes, the single most prominent factor that will make this end-time confederation Roman in appearance is the return of a Roman Emperor. (Pages 187-188).
My conclusion that Nero was and will reappear as the Antichrist is based upon what I firmly believe to be irrefutable connective and correlative evidence between all Scriptural passages on the Antichrist and 1st through 5th century church history, not the least of which was the overwhelmingly dominant view held by many Christians. Furthermore, it’s deductively evident that the Christian’s awareness of Nero Redivivus was much more than just a legend to them.
Thus, I made it clear in my book, Out of the Abyss: This discernment or disclosure given to me by the Lord is nothing new (original) and certainly not revelatory. Yet it is new to the contemporary study of prophecy in the sense that it is a restoration of the prevalent early Christian belief that the Antichrist (Nero) would return from the Abyss very soon after the Rapture resurrection and transformation of dead and living believers, respectively. In essence, a retroactive refit of Antichrist to the prophetic puzzle that had been inaccurately assembled.
Depiction of Christ’s Second Coming
Secular Endorsement of Nero’s Legend
There’s more: Not only did Christians subscribe to this Biblically supported premise of Nero’s return; so did thousands upon thousands of non-Christians throughout the Roman Empire as well as in Parthia, a nation descended at the time from the ancient Persian Empire. They longed for and actually expected Nero to return as Emperor; that his reinstatement as Caesar would magnify and realize their ardent desire for a Pax Romana (world peace and utopia) beyond their wildest dreams.
Naturally, the secular populace didn’t tag Nero as a man of lawlessness or a beast; those labels would have been fighting words to them. However, I don’t think the appellation of anti-Christ would have bothered them in the least. Until the Roman Emperor Constantine turned Christianity into the state-religion in the 4th century—that morphed into the cultic Roman Catholic Church—they would have applauded the idea of Nero as the “Antichrist.” For the reason that most Romans and people from other nations had little toleration for Christians, to the extreme that many hated these Christ followers.
Before and after Nero, some Roman Caesars were proclaimed as deities, but only after their death. However, Nero demanded divine honors during his reign, including the minting of coins with the inscription (legend): “Almighty God” and “Savior.” Also as the Greek god Apollo playing the lyre. Rulers from past and succeeding empires were sometimes considered gods, but with a lower case “g” that afforded them divine status along with (many) other gods. Nero boasted (and will do so again upon his return) that he was both Savior and Almighty God … meaning the one and only.
The true and living God of the Bible declared that there should be no other (man-made) gods before or alongside him. But the vain creation of such gods (whether by the pagans or by religions such as Islam) is not technically blasphemous. Scripture is clear: It is dangerously stupid to create false gods, but actual blasphemy (as also defined by Webster’s) is claiming to be God or claiming to possess his attributes, such as omnipotence. That is exactly what Nero did during his reign as Caesar, and will do again during his Antichrist-beast rule during the Tribulation. “Then the beast was allowed to speak great blasphemies against God…” (Revelation 13:5).
At least three Nero imposters stepped forward and proposed or pathetically led rebellions against Rome, not long after Nero died. At least one of these Nero pretenders was approved by the Parthians who adored Nero and who almost went to war with Rome … believing that one of these imposters was, in fact, Nero. This was solemn business to them—much more serious than a modern-day sighting of Elvis by one or more Elvis groupies!
Between Nero and Vespasian, three pseudo-emperors (who many historians do not accredit as bona-fide Caesars due to the civil-war upheaval in Italy) assumed the throne: Galba, Otho, and Vitellius. The latter two lauded Nero far beyond what any normal successor would do, to the extreme of divine eulogies of Nero, rebuilding his statues, and staging his Greek plays during their coronation and very brief reigns.
Historian Lactantius contended that the circumstances surrounding Nero’s death were such that Nero suddenly disappeared; that even the burial site was nowhere to be found. He suggested that with reasonable speculation it was conceivable that Nero might have been transported to a distant region, preserved and reserved for a future purpose.
In Out of the Abyss, I commented on Lactantius’ historical report on Nero: One can only wonder whether Lactantius was completely serious or partially facetious; however, little did he realize that he had tapped one of the most fascinating reservoirs in the Bible… Here I was referring to the Scriptural fact that the Antichrist beast would reappear from the Abyss, with the all too obvious conclusion that he had to have been placed in the Abyss (by Christ) before he could be released from such a distant region.
Another ancient historical quote, this time from the Greek philosopher and historian Dio Chrysostom: “Seeing that even now everybody wishes (Nero) were still alive. And the great majority do believe that he still is, although in a certain sense he has died not once but often along with those who had been firmly convinced that he was still alive.”
This account strongly reflects the general mentality of Roman citizens as having been quite pleased with Nero; that they would have permitted him to reign indefinitely. Moreover, did you catch his phrase, the great majority?
I facetiously compared the Nero Redivivus Legend to Elvis sightings, to demonstrate that people do long for their legendary icon to come back to them. But the difference between Nero and Elvis is monumentally huge. There really is no comparison with their respective legends. For one thing, none of Elvis’s followers have staged an uprising against the government, such as occurred in the early decades after Nero’s departure! For another, there really aren’t that many who (whether out of fun or folly or fact) really believe Elvis will someday revisit them. As opposed to the very serious belief of the greater majority of Romans (and Christians in the Roman Empire) that Nero would return in their lifetime.
As seen in this report from Dio Chrysostom, there were two basic views regarding the Nero Redivivus Legend: (1) He had not actually died, nor would he die. Many said he had escaped to Parthia and would return to Rome with a large army; thereby, victoriously reclaiming his rightful position as Caesar. (2) He had died, but had been revived and concealed in a special place, for an extraordinary return at the appropriate time. Obviously unbelievers would have known virtually nothing about the book of Revelation. Thus, unwittingly, the second view they held was correct; as it reflected the Scriptural account of the origin and destiny of the Antichrist king-beast of Revelation and Daniel.
One of Many Nero Sculptures
In spite of Nero’s inhumane cruelty, especially against Christians, during the last few years of his regime, most of the Roman (secular) populace admired him and missed him after what they perceived as an untimely death (32 years of age). This was more than a brief nostalgic bout of grief. Remembrance of Nero incorporated a concoction of adulation, idolization, and veneration that encompassed a longing that he could and would arise from the dead! To such an extent that a legacy developed like no other before or since: his legendary return … it was just a matter of time.
As indicated, Christians were equally convinced of Nero’s reappearance, but their knowledge was based exclusively on Scripture beginning with the future ruler whose armies would destroy the Temple as foretold by Daniel. Then the man of lawlessness as revealed by Paul in his present tense description to the Thessalonians; then the past tense revelation to John that the beast had already lived and died (Revelation 17). Plus another future tense prediction that the beast would reappear from the Abyss.
Certainly the Christian longing was not for Nero’s reappearance; but for the awesome return of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Rather the emergence of Antichrist Nero from the Abyss would have confirmed that Yeshua had raptured his people from the earth, which was the precious and passionate hope of all believers. Thus, by far, the greatest expectation of the Christians was the imminent return of Christ, to complete their salvation through bodily transformation of both dead and living believers to their new and everlasting bodies in heaven.
Yet, it was also evident that it was important for the Christians to know and, therefore, warn their unbelieving family and friends that Nero would also return. That if their loved ones were among those left behind, they need not be so amazed at either the Rapture or the Post-Rapture return of a Roman Emperor. Certainly not to the point of worshiping the beast, his statue, or receiving his mark. Rather, to realize beyond any doubt whatsoever that Nero was, in fact, The Antichrist. With the equally obvious recognition that their only eternal hope was in the TRUE MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST.
Now that we in today’s world have rekindled the blessed hope of Messiah’s imminent return, we, too, should correctly identify (as the early Christians did) the returning Antichrist. In doing so, we will have set the record straight to counter accusations by unbelievers after the Rapture such as: “What did they know, those Christians?” Or, “So much for their Bible prophecies. They were all so wrong … they had no idea that Nero would return from the grave.”
On the contrary, if they see that Scripture was right all along, that Christians before the Rapture did get it right after all; it’s likely that they will give second thought before blindly accepting the man of lawlessness as their superman.
Things to Ponder
“But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb … they found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes … Then the men asked, ‘Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead…!’” (Luke 24:1-6).
Often in the early Church, one Christian would say to another: “He is risen!” And the other Christian would respond, “He is risen, indeed!”
Said Peter to a vast crowd in the first and probably greatest sermon ever given: “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand….” (Acts 2:32-33).
This is a wonderful time of the year. Jews celebrate the Passover—deliverance from Egyptian bondage, and entrance to the Promised Land. For millions of Jews, the Passover saying, “Next year in Jerusalem,” has become a reality, prophetically fulfilled as the Scriptures promised.
Christian Jews and Gentiles remember the resurrection of our Passover Lamb, Messiah Jesus; who delivers us from the bondage and penalty of our sins, passes us over from the coming judgment of God Almighty, and who promises everlasting life with him and the host of heaven.
The second coming of Christ is far beyond a legend, either fact or fiction. It is a magnificent reality … every bit as certain as when Jesus was born in Bethlehem; taught, healed, and performed incredible miracles in Israel; though completely sinless, was unjustly convicted, condemned, and crucified; buried in a tomb; then arose from the dead … the greatest miracle of all time. Thus, fulfilling hundreds of Old Testament prophecies of his first coming.
Glorious Return of Jesus Christ
Messiah’s imposter, Antichrist Nero, will also return to the earth, but not in the glorious fashion of our risen Lord, nor the transfiguration of Christian saints at the Rapture. Still, those who belong to the world will perceive the beast’s reappearance as an even greater achievement. They will believe the lie that Nero is Savior and Almighty God; and sadly, ever so sadly, that belief will doom them for eternity.
For those alive now and for those left behind at the Rapture, who do you say that Jesus is? Is he the Messiah … Son of Man and Son of God? According to God’s Word, we all must make that choice, and the choice will determine our destiny.
When the beast returns, he, too, will give people a choice. Those who choose to take his mark and bow down to him, will seal their eternal fate in the Lake of Fire. If any refuse him, they most likely will be put to death. But at the moment of death, they will be raised to life in a brand new body, equipped to be with our magnificent Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, forever and ever and ever.
Hallelujah to the Lamb of God!