If I was going to engage in speculation about the meaning of Revelation, I would never have taken up the task of blogging on the subject. There has been too much speculation already.
Do you really want to hear more about how everyone from Osama Bin Laden to President Obama is the Antichrist? Do you want to continue freaking out about having the numbers “666” on a social security card, credit card or driver’s license?
No doubt you’ve heard similar speculation about the beast of Revelation. I would like to suggest to you that the identity of the beast of Revelation is quite clear. Revelation contains clues intended to make his identity easy to discover.
One of those clues is found in Revelation 17. There the angel says to John, “I will tell you the mystery of the woman and the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and ten horns.” (Revelation 17:7). “The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits…” (Revelation 17:9). It is well-known Rome sits on seven hills.
To further clarify the angel states, “…and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.” (Revelation 17:10). I’ve blogged before about why I think Revelation was written before 70 A.D.. Now consider what the angel is saying here about five kings having fallen.
Nero was Caesar from 54 A.D. to 68 A.D. He was the sixth emperor of the Roman Empire (“five had fallen”): Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero.
The angel continues, “…the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remains a little while.” (Revelation 17:10). Following Nero’s suicide, Galba become emperor, but only ruled for 7 months (“a little while.”) during 68 A.D. and 69 A.D.
The next verse can seem strange at first: “The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth, and is one of the seven…” (Revelation 17:11). It was a common belief among Romans that Nero would come back to life. This is referred to as the Nero Redivivus legend. And indeed Roman historian Tacitus records that in 69 A.D. a man with a similar appearance to and claiming to be Nero appeared and led a rebellion within the empire.
To those living in the Roman Empire in the 64 A.D. the identity of the beast of Revelation as Rome generally and specifically Nero Caesar would have been quite clear, just as it was intended. GS.