I am happy to share a great article with our visitors. This is written by my friend Robert Cruickshank Jr. While there are some minor points with which I would differ, I must say that overall, this is outstanding research and well presented. There will be two parts to his article.
Revelation 20 / The Beast / Leviathan / Was Nero the Beast – Part 1
Robert E Cruickshank Jr.
The Beast Who Was
In his written debate with K. Don Preston (whose approach to the Millennium is very similar to mine), Jonathan Campanik challenged Don this way: “If the beast is Nero…this means the martyrs began reigning when Satan was released (AD66/67), during his ‘short time’ (Rev. 20:3) to ‘deceive the nations’ (20:8) until AD 70. But again, the saints reign during the Millennium (Rev. 20:4, 6), not after the Millennium and during the Satanic rebellion. There is no possible way around this dilemma for Mr. Preston. His position is dead in the water from the very outset.”
Similarly, Duncan McKenzie put the challenge this way: If the AD 30 resurrection of Matthew 27 is in fact the “first resurrection” of Revelation 20, then we’d have to look for “a pre-AD 30 historical situation to produce the martyrs of the beast that come alive” in AD 30.
The problem with this line of argumentation is the tendency to identify “the Beast” solely with Nero Caesar and/or first-Century Rome.
In reality, we do have a “pre-AD 30 historical situation to produce the martyrs of the beast that come alive” in AD 30. In fact, we have many of them. The reality of it is that, anytime God’s People stayed true to Yahweh amidst foreign oppression, and sometimes even their own apostate leaders, they were resisting “the beast.”
This situation is repeated many times, over and over again, throughout the Old Testament. The beast imagery, that John uses in Revelation, is speaking about so much more than merely Nero himself and/or the first-century Roman Empire. The beast imagery, that John sees in his vision and communicates to his readers, has deep roots in, both, the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple literature. The beast, of which John speaks, had not only a pre-AD 70 history, but a pre-AD 30 history as well.
This is evident when John is told: “The beast which you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise out of the Abyss” (Rev. 17:8). This means that the beast had a history. It had a past. The Beast wasn’t currently on scene when John had his vision, but it was about to make a reappearance–not a first appearance. The beastly power from the past was “about to” manifest itself once again. This means that Nero and/or Rome was merely that latest manifestation of this beastly power. And when John spoke of one beast rising out of the Abyss or sea (Rev. 11:7, 13:1, 17:8), and another coming up from the land (Rev. 13:11), his original audience would have recognized the imagery immediately.
Consider the words of 1 Enoch 60:7-8: “On that day, two monsters will be parted—one…named Leviathan, in order to dwell in the abyss of the ocean over the fountains of water; and the other…called Behemoth, which holds his chest in an invisible desert…east of the garden of Eden… they were separated on this day and were cast, the one into the abysses of the ocean, and the other into the dry desert.” (1 Enoch 60:7-10).
The similarity of language is unmistakable and is used purposely so John’s readers could instantly make the connection. As Joseph Poon writes: “The allusion to Leviathan and Behemoth is explicit in Rev 13, as in this chapter the beast coming up from the sea and the beast coming up from the land are clearly stated.”
Adela Collins concurs, writing: “Support for the hypothesis that Rev 13:1 and 11 are alluding to Leviathan and Behemoth comes from the fact that the association of the two beasts with the sea and the land, respectively, was fairly widespread in apocalyptic literature… This association of the beasts with the land and sea is also attested in rabbinic literature,” and she adds, “this is a fairly standard motif.”
These are well known symbols of chaos in Biblical times and in the ancient world. The imagery abounds in, not only the Hebrew Bible, but in Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian and Ugaritic literature as well. In his excellent little booklet, Leviathan and Behemoth: Giant Chaos Monsters in the Bible, Brian Godawa surveys the usage of this imagery across the board, and characterizes the two beasts as “ancient mythological memes and motifs” that symbolized chaos and disorder.
G.K. Beale speaks of the “Jewish tradition,” in particular, which “held that on the fifth day of creation God created Leviathan to be in the sea and Behemoth to dwell on the land…these two beasts,” continues Beale, “were symbolic of the powers of evil and were to be destroyed at the final judgment.”
As motifs, memes or symbols of the powers of evil, oppressive rulers and apostate leaders were often characterized through the usage of this very imagery throughout the Old Testament. More often than not, it is the Leviathan imagery in particular (the sea beast language that John applies specifically to Nero and Rome) that takes the lead in this regard.
As renowned biblical scholar Andrew Angel points out, in his monograph Chaos and the Son of Man: While the “beast from the sea represents Rome,” and the beast from the land represents a “local authority” demanding emperor worship, “Revelation 13 is a creative reworking of the Leviathan and Behemoth myth…to describe the contemporary persecution of the church under the power of Rome and local authorities …” Angel concludes: “Revelation 13:1-18 clearly draws on…the myth of Leviathan and Behemoth.”
This is precisely why David Chilton titled chapter 13, of his commentary, “Leviathan and Behemoth.” Thus, John is applying a well-known, historical motif to the current situation being faced by him and his readers .
The bottom line? John is introducing nothing new in Revelation with his usage of the beast imagery or Levithan language. The beast that was “about to come up” out of the Abyss had a past, it had a history. This was not its first time on the scene. Again, it was “about to” make a reappearance. The sixth king (Rev. 17:9), Nero, was about to become the latest human vessel used by this ancient beastly power. This being the case, this would not have been the first time God’s people encountered this beast, and this is a key point.