Friday, September 3, 2021

Apocalyptic? #30: Armageddon II—Vengeance on the Villains


Vengeance is mine: I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19 ESV)

Seal #5:  The Martyrs’ Prayer for Vengeance (Revelation 6:9-11 NKJV):

“When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. 10 And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth [Land]?” 11 Then . . . it was said to them . . . rest a little while longer, until . . . the number of . . . their brethren, who would be killed . . . was completed.

Vengeance Realized—Once Babylon the Great HAS FALLEN:


Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!(Revelation 18:9-11 NKJV)



Who is/are the major Jewish villain/s in the New Testament?  At least four of the Ten Kings of the Land were members of the High Priestly family.


A Refresher on the High Priests’ Role in Armageddon:
The High Priestly Family is referred to by John in several ways:  Harlot, Babylon, the second beast, the beast from the land, those who make war with the Lamb, the false prophet, two horns like a lamb, the mark of the beast, and the image of the beast.  A review is in order concerning this family and how they came to be the (illegitimate) high priestly family in Jerusalem.


Babylon:  Jewish historian Solomon Zeitlin reports that when Herod the Great was king of Judea, Herod himself wanted to succeed Antigonus as high priest, but he couldn’t because he was not of a priestly family.  He felt it to be politically dangerous to appoint a member of the [legitimate] Hasmonean family to a position of such great prominence . . . therefore, . . . he appointed Ananel (Hananel), a priest from the Babylonian Diaspora." This "Babylonian" priestly family was the one who ruled Judea and the Temple Cult throughout the New Testament period until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  This high priestly family engineered the crucifixion of Jesus, declaring in John 19:15: “We have no king except Caesar!'" 

Image of the Beast:
  This high priestly family should be understood to be the talking "image" of the beast who compelled people to “worship” Rome.  Zeitlin observes that the Jerusalem Jews “chose as head of the government the High Priest Ananus . . . who inherently was for peace . . . [secretly attempting] to make peace with Rome.”  With the two major high priests Ananus and Jesus effectively “worshiping the beast,” by John’s definition, (and even telling the other Jews to similarly worship the beast) there was no need for a non-talking Caligula-like stone image to be placed in the temple—the living, breathing, talking “image” of the beast was already firmly ensconced in the temple—the High Priest.

Those Who Make War with the Lamb: 
The high priestly family is identified throughout the New Testament as the Jewish entity most responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus (in league with the “kings of the earth/land”—"Roman" rulers, Pontius Pilate and Herod)—as well as the persecution of the church throughout the book of Acts.  In Acts 4:6, “Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest” imprisoned Peter and John and interrogated them for preaching about Jesus.  Again, in Acts 5:17-18, “the high priest” put the apostles in prison.  In Acts 7:1, the deacon Stephen was tried by “the high priest,” and became the first Christian martyr. His death-by-stoning was approved by Saul of Tarsus, who then proceeded to persecute the church with the written permission of “the high priest” (Acts 9:1).  Furthermore, the antagonism of the high priestly family toward Christians continued even to the time John wrote Revelation.  Just before John wrote Revelation, James, the brother of Jesus and some others were martyred by the authority of Ananus the high priest.  Ananus ordered this execution by stoning.  In a very real sense, due to his role in the martyrdom of Jesus’ brother, this Ananus can stand as a singular identity of the “second beast/false prophet,” just as Nero can stand as a singular identity of “the beast/number 666.” The fact that the names of James and Jesus were extremely well-known in Jerusalem in 62 A.D. is attested to by the archaeological discovery of the James Ossuary:

[The James Ossuary was] made known to the public in October, 2002. Ossuaries were used by Israel from about the second century BC until the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Over ten thousand such ossuaries have been discovered but only about one hundred contain inscriptions. Of these, only two have an identification similar to the one etched in the now famous . . . “James Ossuary.” The entire Aramaic inscription reads, “Jacob (James), son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” (Ya’akov bar Yosef akhui di Yeshua). [source:  Calvary Chapel | The James Ossuary: The Earliest Witness to Jesus and…]


I had the privilege of viewing the ossuary when it was exhibited to the public in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto in 2002, in conjunction with the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in that city.  There were early claims that this ossuary’s inscription was forged, but those claims have now been almost completely put to rest.  Since it was extremely rare that a “brother” would be mentioned in the inscription of an ossuary (only a very well-known brother would have been thus mentioned), this “Jesus” must have been a very well-known brother, indeed.  His brother James was also well-known. According to Josephus (Antiquities XX.IX.1): “Ananus . . . assembled the Sanhedrin of the judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or some of his companions] . . . he delivered them to be stoned.”


Wicked Priest:
 John in Revelation never referred to the Jewish priesthood as “priest,” possibly because John’s nomenclature refused to allow honorable terms (such as priest) to be given to the non-Christian Jews.  Instead, John reserves the title “priests” for identifying Christians.  In Revelation 1:6 and 5:10, Christians are called kings and priests.  By contrast, the Jerusalem high priestly family was considered the “wicked priest” by John the Baptist’s former community in Qumran (in the Dead Sea Scrolls).  Still, John gave “priestly” hints regarding them: 

Second Beast/Beast from the “Land”/Two Horns like a Lamb/False Prophet/Fire from Heaven:
 Revelation 13:1-17 introduces a second beast (not identical to, but similar to the Beast (of Rome).  While the first beast (Rome) arises out of the (Mediterranean) “sea,” this second beast arises out of the “land” (of Israel).  While the first beast has ten horns, the second beast has “two horns like a lamb.”  The “priests” were those who sacrificed the “lambs” at the temple.  Compare these two horns of a lamb with the seven horns of the Lamb (Jesus: our “perfect” sacrifice) in Revelation 5:6. The “lamb” reference has been seen by Revelation scholars as indicating that this beast is performing a primarily religious (for that matter, a sacrificial) function.  The beast from the land is also identical to the “false prophet” (16:13, 19:20, and 20:10), another religious office epithet. While it is true that one prophet—Elijah—called down “fire from Heaven” (II Kings 1:10-12) upon his enemies, later, in II Kings 18:38, he asked God to send fire to consume a sacrifice (the much more common situation of fire coming down from heaven).  This phenomenon of fire from heaven consuming sacrifices is recorded in I Chronicles 21:26, II Chronicles 7:1, Judges 13:20, and is implied in the “strange fire” of Nadab and Abihu incident in Leviticus 8-10.  In Jewish folklore, the way God demonstrated that Abel’s sacrifice was acceptable, but Cain’s was not is that he sent fire from heaven to consume Abel’s but did not do so for Cain’s (Ginzberg I:107 and V:137).  From a Jewish perspective, sacrifices should only be offered on fire that came down from heaven, so Josephus (in the common assumption among Jews that the existing fire on the altar had been sent from heaven) comments that the fire on the altar at the temple was kept constantly burning: “[T]he custom was for every one to bring wood for the altar, (that there might never be a want of fuel for that fire which was unquenchable and always burning)” (Wars II.XVII.6).  Who was in charge of this fire?  The high priests.  Therefore, when Revelation 13:13 says that the second beast “performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men,” John is identifying the high priest as the second beast.

The Mark of the Beast: 
When Revelation 13:16 refers to the mark of the Beast on the right hand and forehead, the allusion is to the Jewish practice of wearing phylacteries on their hand and forehead, based upon Deuteronomy 6:8, 11:18, and Exodus 13:9 and 16.  The chief enforcer of such Jewish practices (including sacrifice) was the High Priest. 

:  John repeatedly cites Psalm 2, describing, the Jewish leaders (whom Acts 4 identifies as the chief priests) and the Gentiles (whom Acts 4 identifies as Pilate and Herod) plotting together against the Messiah.  This alliance between the High Priestly party of Judaism with the Gentile leader Pontius Pilate to crucify Jesus amounted to ultimate harlotry/porneia.  She had conspired with pagan governmental authorities (Pilate and Herod) to crucify Jesus.  She had committed adultery/PORNEIA with the Beast/Rome!  The Old Testament harlot, Israel/Zion, is guilty of harlotry only to the extent she seduces and enters into alliances with her heathen neighbors.  On page 30 of my book Revelation:  The Human Drama, I point out:


J. Massyngberde Ford points out, "The harlot . . . is . . . a Jewish OT theme depicting Jerusalem . . . Babylon is . . . presented as a prostitute . . ., as is the faithless Jerusalem." Reflecting on the teachings of Qumran, Ford concludes, "These texts together with the OT ones indicate that the harlot in Rev 17 is Jerusalem, not Rome.  . . . [T]he harlot depicts particularly the condition of the high priesthood."


The high priestly family, especially Ananus, now again attempts to give Jerusalem to the Romans.             


Great City Divided into Three Parts:  John writes in Revelation 16:19 (NKJV): “Now the great city [Jerusalem] was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon [i.e., Jerusalem] was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath.”  Josephus writes concerning Jerusalem: “The city was fortified with three walls” (Wars V.IV.1).  When Titus prepared to attack:

[He] thought it best to make his assault upon the monument of John the high priest, for there . . . the first fortification was lower, and the second was not joined to it . . . here also was an easy passage to the third wall through which to take the upper city, and through the tower of Antonia, the temple itself (Wars V.VI.2). 


The Cities of the Nations Fell: 
From the Jewish perspective (which was also John’s perspective—see Apocalyptic?  #9:  Revelation 1:1-3 Commentary), the “cities of the nations” are the cities located among the Gentiles in which Jews lived.  The word (ἒθνοι) translated “nations” is the same word that is translated “gentiles” and the same word that is transliterated “heathen.”  According to Josephus, Agrippa had warned the Jews:

“[W]hen the Romans have got you under their power, they will . . . burn your holy city, and . . . the danger concerns not those Jews that dwell here only, but those of them who dwell in other cities also; for there is no people upon the habitable earth which have not some portion of you among them, whom your enemies will slay, in case you go to war . . . and so every city that hath Jews in it will be filled with slaughter” (Wars II.XVI.4).


By the time John wrote (in 69 A.D.), Agrippa’s warning had already been fulfilled.  The Jewish population of several “cities of the nations” HAD ALREADY FALLEN!  The city of Cesarea, in allegiance to Florus, promptly massacred 20,000 Jews “and all Cesarea was emptied of its Jewish inhabitants” (Wars II.XVIII.1).  Likewise, Scythopolis killed 13,000 (Wars II.XVIII.3), “Askelon slew two thousand five hundred [2500] . . . Ptolymais two thousand [2000] . . . Tyre also put a great number to death . . . those of Hippos and . . . Gadara did the like . . . as did the rest of the cities of Syria” (Wars II.XVIII.5).  Even the city of Alexandria (in Egypt), which had long been a safe haven for Jews in the Roman Empire, attacked (with two Roman legions) and killed 50,000 Jews (Wars II.XVIII.8).

The Plague of Hail Transformed into War Terminology: 
In Exodus 9:13-35, the plague of hail referred to an occurrence in nature.  Not so, for John.  John’s reference is to a war phenomenon.  John writes in Revelation 16:21 (NKJV): “And great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent. Men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, since that plague was exceedingly great.”  According to Wikipedia, “The Roman talent consisted of 100 . . . (pounds) . . . The gold talent is reported as weighing roughly the same as a person, and so perhaps . . . 110 lb.”  (This gives new meaning to the phrase “worth your weight in gold!”)  In a description remarkably similar to Revelation 16, Josephus explains:

The engines that all the legions had ready prepared for them, were admirably contrived . . . and those that threw stones, were more forcible and larger than the rest . . . .  Now, the stones that were cast, were of the weight of a talent, and were carried two furlongs (1/4th of a mile) and further . . . .  [T]he Jews . . . at first watched the coming of the stone, for it was . . . white . . . and . . . could be seen before it came . . . the watchmen . . . cried out “THE STONE COMETH.”  . . . But the Romans . . . by blackening the stone . . . destroyed many of them at one blow (Wars V.VI.3).


The largest of such Roman engines, the Jews nicknamed “Nico” (Wars V.VII.2), the word that forms the first part of the

name “Nicolaitans” in the letters to the seven churches.  It means “conqueror” and when you add the concept of “laity,” you produce the term “Nicolaitan,” meaning “Conqueror of the People,” which John probably saw as the equivalent of the Hebrew term “Balaam = bala am = he has consumed the people.”  The plague of (hail) stones falling out of the sky from the Romans did indeed help them “conquer” the Jews, while the “porneia”—the adultery between Jewish Christians such as the Nicolaitans and Balaamites and the Beast/Rome—had the effect of “conquering/killing/consuming” the “people” of God (Christians).

In my next blogpost, we will turn from the Roman prosecution of the Battle of Armageddon to the Jewish prosecution of the Battle of Armageddon AGAINST EACH OTHER, in the Civil War that was going on that produced the Plague of Famine in Jerusalem.

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