Revelation 20 Question - Nark, Leolaia, Alan, Blondie, Drew, Others

by rassillon 22 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • greendawn

    I tend to believe that those killed by the sword may include those that were psychologically killed or assassinated by the viciousness of the persecution directed against them by the beast. It does not mean just a total death, a physical death. Many faithful Christians were not physically martyred.

  • Leolaia

    stevenyc....The writer was definitely talking about contemporary expectations. It is commonly thought that there must have been a terrible persecution during the time of Domitian (when Revelation was traditionally written), but this does not seem to necessarily be the case. Rather, the author utilized current ongoing rumors about a devastating return of Nero (in which he would come with the Parthian army to finish off Rome) and used it to interpret the vision in Daniel 7 to predict how the world would end in the near future. Much of Revelation could be construed as a midrash of Daniel and Ezekiel. In its original setting, the fourth beast of Daniel 7 was construed as Greece with the final horrific king (after a succession of ten kings = ten horns) being Antiochus IV Epiphanes who defiled the Temple with idolatry. Since by the first century AD the fourth beast was interpreted to be Rome (cf. 4 Ezra 12, which acknowledges that this newer understanding is not the one that was given to Daniel himself), the author of Revelation set out to explain the origins and activities of this beast. The beast which is not described except for its horns in Daniel is a amalgam of the three earlier beasts in Daniel 7, and it has seven heads and ten horns....the heads representing the kings of Rome (i.e. the Caesars) and the ten horns representing not a succession of kings as in Daniel (this being taken over by the seven heads) but the vassal kings of the Roman Empire who receive their authority from the beast. Daniel 7 equivocates between Antiochus being the "little horn" and the "beast" (i.e. the beast is slain when Antiochus is brought to his end), and in Revelation, Nero takes the place of Antiochus...and the Nero redivivus rumor is utilized to construe the final "eighth king" as "one of the seven" (17:11), who was once killed but who will return once more to destroy Rome (17:16). And like Antiochus, this Nero redivivus figure will unleash a "great tribulation" (cf. Daniel 12:1-2) and slaughter those who remain loyal to God, and on whose behalf will have an idolatrous figure erected (13:14) which is a reflection of the "abomination of desolation" that the army of Antiochus had erected in the Temple.

    The crisis that seems to have produced Revelation is John of Patmos' opposition to the Emperor cult which was popular in various cities in Asia Minor and for which local officials were starting to enforce obligatory worship (more pronounced under Trajan). The letters of the Asian churches in Revelation address the subject of idolatry that Christians were beginning to partake of....but John insisted that no Christian loyal to Christ would participate in such worship or accept the sacrifical food of such rites. He criticized various churches for having a lax attitude towards paganism and he warned them that they will be judged accordingly. The clearest allusion to the Emperor cult is the description of the harlot in ch. 17 which utilizes motifs of the cult of Roma, who was depicted as a goddess reclining on the seven hills of Rome and who personified the city of Rome.

  • stevenyc

    Fascinating stuff Leolaia, thanks for your reply. Can I ask, as regards to "rumors about a devastating return of Nero", where could I find more information.


  • Narkissos
    those who refuse the Beast's mark (i.e. all those who remain loyal to Christ) are put to death by the Beast. And conversely, all those who bear the Beast's mark (everyone great and small, slave or free, rich and poor) are put to death by the one "faithful and true" and his legions.

    That is, if you consider 20:1-6 as the continuation of 19:11-21, as the text now stands. But then you have to deal with the narrative problem of the "nations" which Satan deceives after the millenium -- where do they come from if everybody has been killed before the millenium?

  • Leolaia

    Narkissos....I think I touched on that in my post at the bottom of the first page of my thread. I suspect that the present text represents a redaction of originally distinct visions, one of which is a midrash on Ezekiel and the other of which is not (the passage mentioning Gog of Magog would thus not derive from the same oracle that concerns the Beast). I've presented in an earlier thread an analysis that indicates how the two apocalypses may have been spliced together in ch. 20...note how each of their own distinctive characteristics (e.g. #1 is allusive of Daniel while #2 is allusive of Ezekiel, the references to Satan/Devil and the Lake are found only in #2, while the Beast and martyrdom motifs are found only in #1, etc.) and are internally consistent:

    Version #1: "Then I saw some thrones, and I saw those who are given the power to be judges take their seats on them. I saw the souls of all who had been beheaded for having witnessed for Jesus and for having preached God's word, and those who refused to worship the Beast or his statue and would not have the brand-mark on their foreheads or hands; they came to life, and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were over. Then I saw a great white throne and the One who was sitting on it. In his presence, earth and sky vanished, leaving no trace. I saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of his throne, while the Book of Life was opened, and other books were opened which were the record of what they had done in their lives, by which the dead were judged" (Revelation 20:4-5a, 11-12).
    Version #2: "Then I saw an angel come down from heaven with the key of the Abyss in his hand and an enormous chain. He overpowered the Dragon, that primeval serpent who is the Devil and Satan , and chained him up for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and shut the entrance and sealed it over him, to make sure he would not deceive the nations again until the thousand years had passed. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will come out to deceive all the nations in the four quarters of the earth, Gog and Magog, and mobilize them for war. His armies will be as many as the sands of the sea; they will come swarming over the entire country and besiege the camp of the saints, which is the city that God loves. But fire will come down on them from heaven and consume them. Then the Devil, who misled them, will be thrown into the Lake of Fire and Sulpher, where the Beast and the False Prophet are, and their torture will not stop, day or night, forever and ever. Then the sea gave up all the dead who were in it; Death and Hades were emptied of the dead that were in them; and everyone was judged according to the way in which he had lived. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the Burning Lake. This Burning Lake is the second death; and anybody whose name could not be found written in the Book of Life was thrown into the Burning Lake" (Revelation 20:1-3, 7-10, 13-15).

    stevenyc....I actually posted the exact quotes in this forum a while back, but trying to find it in the mass of nearly 8,000 posts I've made will prove to be difficult, since the search facility of this website has been "currently redeveloped" for the past 3+ years, and Google only searches a small fraction of my posts. I'll let you know if I find it, but you can find references to this idea in both pagan and Jewish writings.

  • Leolaia

    stevenyc....After an hour of browsing my posting history, I found some of the quotes:

    "I am entering on the history of a period rich in disasters, frightful in its wars, torn by civil strife, and even in peace full of horrors. Four emperors perished by the sword. There were three civil wars; there were more with foreign enemies; there were often wars that had both characters at once. There was success in the East, and disaster in the West. There were disturbances in Illyricum; Gaul wavered in its allegiance; Britain was thoroughly subdued and immediately abandoned; the tribes of the Suevi and the Sarmatae rose in concert against us; the Dacians had the glory of inflicting as well as suffering defeat; the armies of Parthia were all but set in motion by the cheat of a counterfeit Nero. Now too Italy was prostrated by disasters either entirely novel, or that recurred only after a long succession of ages" (Tacitus, History 1.2).
    "About this time Achaia and Asia Minor were terrified by a false report that Nero was at hand. Various rumours were current about his death; and so there were many who pretended and believed that he was still alive. The adventures and enterprises of the other pretenders I shall relate in the regular course of my work. The pretender in this case was a slave from Pontus, or, according to some accounts, a freedman from Italy, a skilful harp-player and singer, accomplishments, which, added to a resemblance in the face, gave a very deceptive plausibility to his pretensions....Thence the alarm spread far and wide, and many roused themselves at the well-known name, eager for change, and detesting the present state of things. The report was daily gaining credit when an accident put an end to it. Galba had entrusted the government of Galatia and Pamphylia to Calpurnius Asprenas. Two triremes from the fleet of Misenum were given him to pursue the adventurer: with these he reached the island of Cythnus. Persons were found to summon the captains in the name of Nero. The pretender himself, assuming a studied appearance of sorrow, and appealing to their fidelity as old soldiers of his own, besought them to land him in Egypt or Syria. The captains, perhaps wavering, perhaps intending to deceive, declared that they must address their soldiers, and that they would return when the minds of all had been prepared. Everything, however, was faithfully reported to Asprenas, and at his bidding the ship was boarded and taken, and the man, whoever he was, killed. The body, in which the eyes, the hair, and the savage countenance, were remarkable features, was conveyed to Asia, and thence to Rome" (Tacitus, History 2.8).
    "He met his death in the thirty-second year of his age, on the anniversary of the murder of Octavia, and such was the public rejoicing that the people put on liberty-caps and ran about all at city. Yet there were some who for a long time decorated his tomb with spring and summer flowers, and now produced his statues on the rostra in the fringed toga, and now his edicts, as if he were still alive and would shortly return and deal destruction to his enemies. Nay more, Vologaesus, king of the Parthians, when he sent envoys to the senate to renew his alliance, earnestly begged this too, that honour be paid to the memory of Nero. In fact, twenty years later, when I was a young man, a person of obscure origin appeared, who gave out that he was Nero, and the name was still in such favour with the Parthians that they supported him vigorously and surrendered him with great reluctance" (Suetonius, Nero 57).
    "For so far as the rest of his [Nero's] subjects were concerned, there was nothing to prevent his continuing to be emperor for all time, seeing that even now everybody wishes he were still alive. And the great majority do believe that he 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" (Dio Chrysostom, Oratio 21.10; written c. AD 88).
    "Rome will also rule over Egypt, guiding it toward a single goal, then indeed the most great kingdom of the immortal king will become manifest over men...Then implacable wrath will fall upon Latin men, three will destroy Rome with piteous fate....Alas, wretched one, when will that day come, and the judgment of the great king immortal God? Yet, for the present, be founded, cities, and all be embellished with temples and stadia, markets and golden silver and stone statues so that you may come to the bitter day...Then Beliar will come from the Sebastenoi[i.e. from the line of Augustus Caesar], and he will raise up the height of mountains, he will raise the sea, and he will raise up the dead, and perform many signs for men" (Sibylline Oracle 3:46-67).
    "Then a great king will flee from Italy like a runaway slave unseen and unheard over the channel of the Euphrates, when he dares to incur a maternal curse for repulsive murder [i.e. Nero] and many other things, confidently, with wicked hand. When he runs away, beyond the Parthian land, many will bloody the ground for the throne of Rome. A leader of Rome will come to Syria who will burn the Temple of Jerusalem with fire, at the same time slaughter many men and destroy the great land of the Jews with its broad roads...Then the strife of war being aroused will come to the West, and the fugitive from Rome will also come, brandishing a great spear, having crossed the Euphrates with many myrids. Wretched Antioch, they will no longer call you a city ... Great wealth will come to Asia, which Rome itself once plundered and deposited in her house of many possessions. She will then pay back twice as much and more to Asia, and then there will be a surfeit of war" (Sibylline Oracle 4.119-148).
    "One who has fifty as an initial [i.e. Nero, N=50 in gematria; compare the gematria in 666 = NERON KAISAR] will be commander, a terrible snake, breathing out grievous war, who one day will lay hands on his own family and slay them, and throw everything into confusion, athlete, charioteer, murderer, one who dares ten thousand things. He will also cut the mountain between two seas and defile it with gore. But even when he disappears he will be destructive. Then he will return declaring himself equal to God. But he will prove that he is not...The one who obtained the land of the Persians will fight, and killing every man he will destroy all life so that a one-third portion will remain for mortals. He himself will rush in with a light bound for the West, besieging the entire land, laying it all waste...The poets will bewail thrice-wretched Greece when a great king of great Rome, a godlike man from Italy, will cut the ridge of the isthmus. Him, they say, Zeus himself begot and lady Hera. Playing at theatricals with honey-sweet songs rendered with melodious voice, he will destroy many men, and his wretched mother. He will flee from Babylon [i.e. Rome], a terrible and shameless prince whom all mortals and noble men despise...He will come to the Medes and the Persians, those whom he first desired and to whom he gave glory....Effeminate and unjust, evil city, ill-fated above all. Alas, city of Latin land, unclean in all things, maenad, rejoicing in vipers, as a widow you sit by the banks, and the river Tiber will weep for you, its consort...A man who is a matricide will come from the ends of the earth in flight and devising penetrating schemes in his mind. He will destroy every land and conquer all and consider all things more widely than all men. He will immediately seize the one because of whom he himself perished [i.e. attacks Rome]...There will come upon men a great war from the West, blood will flow up to the bank of deep-eddying rivers...Woe to you Babylon, of golden throne and golden sandal. For many years you were the sole kingdom ruling over the world. You who were formerly great and universal, you will no longer lie on golden mountains and streams of the Euphrates [i.e. the Tiber]. You will spread out flat by the turmoil of an earthquake. Terrible Parthians made you shake all over... In the last time, one day the sea will be dry and ships will then no longer sail to Italy" (Sibylline Oracle 5.28-34, 101-105, 167-179, 434-448).
    "One day, the people will say, 'Your great power, o city, will fall,' knowing that the fated evil day is immediately at hand. Then fathers and infant children will mourn together, regarding your most piteous fate. Mournful, they will raise dirges by the banks of the Tiber....When the blazing matricidal exile returns from the ends of the earth, he will give these things to all and award great wealth to Asia. Then you will mourn, doffing the garment of leaders, with its proud purple border, and wearing a garment of mourning. O proud queen, offspring of Latin Rome. No longer will you have the fame of your pride...He himself will destroy the overbearing threat of the Romans. For the empire of Rome, which then flourished, has perished, the ancient queen over the surrounding cities.... Celebrate, if you wish, the man of secret birth, riding a Trojan chariot from the land of Asia with a spirit of fire. But when he cuts through the isthmus glancing about, going against everyone, having crossed the sea, then dark blood will pursue the great beast" (Sibylline Oracle 8.60-64, 70-76, 140-157).
    "Beliar will descend, the great angel, the king of this world, which he has ruled over since it has existed. He will descend from the firmament in the form of a man, a king of iniquity, a murderer of his mother, this is the king of this world, and will persecute the plant of the twelve apostles of the Beloved will have planted; some of the twelve will be given into his hand. This angel, Beliar, will come in the form of that king, and with him will come all the powers of this world, and they will obey him in every wish...And the power of his miracles will be in every city and district, and he will set up his image before him in every city. And he will rule for three years and seven months and twenty-seven days....Then the Lord will come with his angels and the hosts of the saints from the seventh heaven, with the glory of the seventh heaven, and will drag Beliar and his hosts also into Gehenna" (Ascension of Isaiah 4:2-14).

    Note that in Revelation Nero dies and then is brought back to life by the Dragon (ch. 13) apparent facsimile of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; this is a Christian version of the Nero redivivus legend.

  • Gill

    You 'literalists' are so funny when you're trying to interpret some blokes 'magic mushroom' dream!!

  • drew sagan
    drew sagan
    I smile, but that last is the fear that basically holds so many JWs captive: "What if they are right, this time?"

    It's like you can read minds or something AudSoul! The first few weeks of questioning the JWs i was in morbid fear that they actually did hold the keys to this book and if I went against it I was dead meat. But that's all over know. As regards to the book of Revelation and chapter 20, wheh! What a topic. From my own study in the subject (which has not been much) I have moved over into the amillinneal view that littletoe is talking about. Leo makes some great points about Revelation, Nero and Rome which I think also help one understand the context of the book. For the most part I haven't gone over much in the book of Revelation the past year so I really don't have much to offer. A good reminder when it comes to JW teaching is to gather it all togeather and toss it in the garbage can. If you look at my posts over the past year you can see i've evolved in my thinking, letting more and more of it go as time passes. I'm finally starting to shift on a number of 'major' issues, like the trinity.

  • fullofdoubtnow
    You 'literalists' are so funny when you're trying to interpret some blokes 'magic mushroom' dream!!

    Yes Gill, I think he might have been chewing a few "Patmos mushrooms" while he was in the cave. No one can have THAT vivid an imagination!

  • Leolaia

    Or the visionary aspect of the book is a literary device required by the apocalyptic genre, which affords the author a veneer of divine inspiration. If one examines the whole gamut of Jewish apocalyptic literature (cf. the dream visions of 1 Enoch, the visions of Daniel, the visions of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch which are roughly contemporaneous with Revelation), one can easily see that this was the usual vehicle for expressing one's own interpretation of older prophecies or casting one's eschatological predictions based on current events. The consecutive "eagle vision" and "man of the sea vision" of 4 Ezra 11-13 is thus a conscious exegesis of Daniel 7, just as Revelation 13 is a different retelling of that same chapter. It is not too common to find a "vision" that does not allude to and utilize material from older texts. Revelation, in fact, is the most allusive book in the NT and almost every other verse transplants some phrase or motif from the OT. It is for this reason that I do not regard Revelation as a pure reporting of wacky drug-induced visions, as it were, but rather an edited collection of oracles that consciously interpret older prophecies and skillfully weave disparate strands of traditional material into new compositions.

    Here's one comment on this in the literature:

    "When one compares the material of this Apocalypse with the material of which previous apocalypses were composed, and particularly with the Book of Daniel and apocalyptical portions of other Old Testament books (Ezekiel, Joel, Zechariah, Isaiah), it becomes evident that apocalyptical ideas, symbols, imagery, and language constituted a common stock of material from which the whole class of apocalyptical writers freely drew. Each writer in his turn, and according to his ability, contributed something additional to this common stock, at the same time that he revamped the older material for his new book. The successive authors of apocalyptic are not to be denied originality in thought, style, and method, but neither shall we fail to recognize that they made large use of kindred material which was available. Their method was reasonable enough. No one should complain of it. To generations that were indifferent to what we call plagiarism, old material that was repeated, retouched, explanded, freshly combined, and freighted with a message more or less new, had all the interest and value of original productions..... For this reason, probably, as well as because the apocalyptical genius did not generally run to de novo production, the writers of this type of literature freely possessed themselves of and employed the apocalyptical material that existed in their day. The author of the New Testament Apocalypse, being one of the latest writers of his class, found abundance of earlier material to his hand. He took what he found useful, wherever he found it, and made it serve his puyrpose. Of the 404 verses which compose the Apocalypse, 278 have ideas, words, and phrases found in the Old Testament. Of these, 46 are from Isaiah, 31 from Daniel, 29 from Ezekiel, 27 from the Psalms, and a lesser number from Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, Joel, Zechariah. The Book of Daniel, in proportion to its length, furnishes much the largest contribution to the Book of Revelation -- the two great apocalypses, one Jewish, the other Jewish-Christian; three hundred years apart in date of composition, but most alike in content, spirit, point of view, and purpose" (Clyde W. Votaw, "The Apocalypse of John: Its Content, Arrangement, and Sources of Material," Biblical World, 32:1, 1908, pp. 46-48).

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