Revelation: Chapter 13 continued, The First Beast. (Edited).

 C.) The beast is blasphemous — blaspheming God, his name, and his tabernacle. I suggest here the word tabernacle may refer to the church, which is in concert and analogous to the signs, symbols and details found in Daniel 7.

       D.) The authority of the first beast is over “every tribe, tongue, and nation.” This undoubtedly refers to the Roman Empire and its establishment over the colonized world prior to the beginning of the Christian age. Note that the prophet warns of its fall in v.10 (incidentally this is another indication that the city “Babylon” to be introduced soon is in fact the city of Rome, which is also referred to later as the “harlot”). This is given as a comfort in the coming days for the saints that would come under its trials. The persecutor will not be around indefinitely. The first beast then is the empire of Rome and is given power over every tribe, tongue, and nation. The ten horns signify ten kings as the reader is told in Revelation 17. Some suggest the 10 horns may signify the term of the Roman Republic when it was governed by two consuls, two praetors, two censors, and four tribunes – and when citizens still had a vote. It was managed that way until the crowning of Julius Caesar as Imperator. But all of that falls short of the point.

      E.) The seven heads indicate seven kings as we are specifically told in verse 10. The idea of ten and then seven “kings” is problematic to some folks. But, if we continue the tact we took earlier, we can at least relate these numbers to identifiable rulers within the Roman Empire. In chapter 17 the beast upon which “Mystery Babylon” is seated also is described as having seven heads and ten horns, and we are told: “There are also seven kings…” “…five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come.” So, seven rulers are indicated, if we hold to the form here. “And when he comes (the seventh) he must continue a short time. And the beast that was, and is not, is himself also the eighth, and is of the seven and is going to perdition.” “I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound as healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.”

The consensus is the head that appears mortally wounded refers to the myths surrounding Nero “reviving” after his death, and returning as another emperor – known then as Nero Revididus (v.3). To call later emperors a “new Nero” or “Nero revived” was not uncommon. Yet to have this agree with the signs about the heads in chapter 17:10, the order of the Emperors of Rome must begin with Augustus. Some alternate theorists suggest the count might begin with Pompey, who seized control of Rome for a period – but who was never listed as emperor at all. This theory would render Nero as either the sixth or the eighth. There is more trouble here with simple mathematics than is really necessary.

The bottom line is that Nero was the sixth emperor of Rome as noted in the historical notes. As some of these commentators desire that Domitian should appear in slot ten, they begin their list of ten kings with Augustus (the first “official” emperor of the empire), to end with Domitian at that point. They have the overwhelming majority of the historians on their side. Yet, they can only continue from this point by including Galba, Otho, and Vitelius as counted together as a single “king.” This is obviously uncomfortable, unreasonable and (wait for it) unnecessary. This listing is the pearl of wisdom for latter date theorists and many modern scholars. If you cannot see that it is strained, by jumping counts and lumping three short term emperors together, please read the text again. However, as it is started or put together, it is still appropriate to an early date for the composition of the book. Even though it breaks into pieces all rules of order, reason and thoughtful examination. Should I mention (again), that God is not the author of confusion.

Considering all the mysterious accounting and ponderous mathematics, I would suggest that a natural interpretation takes the list of emperors exactly as it appears both in recorded history and in the historical section listed here. Beginning with Julius Caesar (who, whether historians, teachers, philosophers, archaeologists, preachers, students, commentators and groups of Christians like it or not – was the “official” and first appointed Emperor of Rome), thereby landing Nero as the sixth, Galba seventh, Otho eighth, and with Vitelius as the ninth emperor (see the list of the emperors at the beginning of the comments). Exactly what license is there to do anything else? (Rationalization is the process by which we take things that are contrary and do not make sense – that which is irrational; and turn them into things which appear to be rational and perfectly sensible.)

Otho is listed as the eighth because… That was his actual position on the list. Vespasian would end up in tenth place for the very same reason. The disruption of the government and civil war following the death of Nero ended in 69AD, when Vespasian returned to Rome from Judaea, to dispatch the last of the three interim rulers – in ninth place: Vitelius. With Vespasian last on the list of “ten kings,” this non-exaggerated time line lands you right in the middle of the civil wars in Rome. The wounded head is prophetic of Nero and his death, and of the civil unrest and short reigns up to Vespasian’s; and so, some have noted. Or it might be indicative of the short and destructive reign of Vitelius when Rome itself was also burned eight months prior to the fall of Jerusalem. It may, to put it simply, refer to it all.

Using Vespasian as the ninth “king” by counting from Octavius (when the empire took its finished form), rather than from Julius Caesar, will land you in the same place – only with Titus as the destroyer of Jerusalem and Judaea. It is awkward and ignores the line of emperors given by both Roman historians and the official recorders of Rome. But, that has not stopped anyone from putting together a theory or two, or ignoring what the earliest records state.

By using the natural historic accounting, it ends up at the destruction of Jerusalem, and the time line does not extend beyond Vespasian. One thing is certain: count as you may, irrespective of a theory, no matter which of the early rulers of Rome you might choose to begin with, if you ascribe to this level of interpretation, you must place the events to have occurred in the first century,  about twenty-five years or so, prior to its close.