Important Differences Between True History and the Distortions of 'Conventional Wisdom'
by Mark E. Mountjoy
Truthseekers, apologists, polemicists, historians, Bible teachers—all have a stake in the accurate exegesis, interpretation and transmission of the message of Jesus Christ as he gave it in the Book of Revelation. But after two thousand years of neglect or abuse, misinterpretation or gross interpolation, the time has now come when it is necessary to look at, not only key texts in the Book of Revelation, but also cherished assumptions and even presuppositions which may (in reality) stand against the quest to correctly grasp how what Jesus said was originally intended to be understood. Besides misunderstandings on the side of conventional Futurist wisdom, conventional Preterist wisdom also rests on questionable assumptions about what Jesus says and means.
All parties, therefore, have a large stake in what the outcome of a rigorous audit of premises and claims conclude and all parties stand to benefit in more ways than may at first meet the eye. The blessings of what is truthful will always trump the perceived advantages of what is merely a myth or falsehood. What is really true is best if for no other reason than that observers will at once be able to see clearly who Jesus really is and make decisive choices effecting salvation and eternal life based on the most sensible and coherent evidence available.
Efforts to Distance the Book of Revelation
from the Pre-A.D.70 Jewish Religio-Political Scene
A myth current in the Christian world maintains that the Book of Revelation was written late—after A.D.70—because of the widespread apostasy plainly evident within six of the seven churches of Asia Minor. The argument goes as follows: Revelation could not have been written early; rampant error, laxity and syncretism is proof positive that it must have been written late in the first century. But this position is certainly not sustainable! Not in light of the doctrinal problems evident in Romans 16:17-19, not in light of the sexual indiscretions in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13, not in light of the false apostles and ministers of unrighteousness in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15, not in light of the menacing intrusions of Judaizers in the province of Galatia (Galatians 1:6-9; 3:1-4; 4:9-31).1 But that is not the end of it! Not in light of the cunning craftiness and the threat of systematized error in Ephesians 4:14 and not in light of the abdication of Christ as the head in favor of vain philosophies and the beggarly elements of the world in Colossians 2:8-19. None of these instances of straying, corruption and apostasy support the notion that the Church was in good stead and good health before 70 and only slid into ill weal and ill health near the end of the century: The facts, as they stand, show that the apostasy had set in early on—from the New Testament's own witness.
The Identity of the Sea Beast:
Connecting the Nine Dots
Revelation 13:1 presents challenges to the interpretor, challenges that test his or her willingness to connect what starts there with what concludes in Revelation 19:18-21. The assumption for many is that in Revelation 13:1-5 we are mainly dealing with Roman military might arrayed, if not against the Church as a whole, at least against Christians as individuals. The chapter itself seems to suggest the notorious cult of Roman emperor worship. It also suggests the mandatory conscriptive mark of the beast. Concerning what this phenomenon could possibly be, many have speculated that the image, mark, name and number of the beast—666—certainly points to Nero and no one else. But the problems with this seemingly natural assumption are many and insurmountable.
Let me explain.
First, it is impossible to historically prove Nero had any forty-two month rendezvous of any kind with Christians or the Church (no such history exists). Secondly, Josephus places Nero in the Balkans at the outbreak of the Jewish Revolt and his suicide on June 9, A.D.68. The revolt began in August of A.D.662 and ended in August of A.D.70—forty-two months later.3
But here's the problem: Nero committed suicide only twenty-three months into the war. How could Nero be the beast—who was to be destroyed after the war—when he died nineteen months before the war's end? How does this Neronian equation make any sense?
But other problems arise in connection with the idea of Revelation being about Nero and the Romans, to wit: It is impossible to harmonize the Roman protection of the Jerusalem church at Pella with a Roman desire to destroy the Church by the vehicle of emperor worship. If emperor worship is really the theme in Revelation 13, why do the Romans help the Church escape to safety in Revelation 12:6 and 14? Or, (to put it another way), why do the Romans offer the Church succor for three years and six months away from persecution when they are supposedly the authors of the persecution? The dots connect the beast who kills God's two witnesses in Revelation 11:7 to the beast who overcomes the saints in Revelation 13:7; the dots also connect to the same beast who dominates Babylon with his image, mark, name and number in Revelation 14:8-11. Furthermore, the dots connect the same beast as the one who martyred the saints (the victors seen walking on a sea of glass and fire in Revelation 15:1-4).
Now, this same beast is seen in his agony in Revelation 16:2,9-11 when the angels of disease and water and fire and darkness inflict the evil fourth kingdom with festering sores, bloody waters and scorch the beast's men with the heat of the sun and black darkness. It is still the same beast who carries Babylon the Great into destruction in Revelation 17:3 and 8. In fact, the Son of Perdition is not the sixth ruler of the fourth kingdom at all, but the eighth. And he is chosen as the city stands on the brink of oblivion (Revelation 17:12 and 27). And, having fulfilled his purpose is condemned to be slain, his troops and their horses to be food for the fowls of the air and beasts of the field (Revelation 19:15-21).
Does Roman history tell us Rome's armies ended in defeat in the deserts, hills, cities and mountains of Israel in or around A.D.70? They do not!
Instead, history tells us of Rome's celebrations in A.D.71—pageants, parades, a galla, celebrations of soldiers and citizens, lictors and legions—in Rome itself and in cities and provinces all over the Roman world (Wars 6.5.6:153-7:162). This is how the circumstances of the First Jewish Revolt came out for the Romans so that if is claimed the Romans lost in the drama, history itself proves that interpretation to not only be mistaken, but utterly false.4
If Revelation 20 is Antecedent to the Book of Revelation
A Wedge is Driven Through the Entire New Testament
For many Christians Revelation 20 is nothing short of a proverbial "exegetical bear." It begins with Satan being bound and ends in a war and Satan being consigned to the lake of fire; it alludes to the saints being seated with Christ Jesus in high places and it hints at the resurrection the Gospel promised and the new birth affords. But when it speaks of those beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and when it specifically spells out that they refused to worship the image or receive the name, number or mark of the beast, that, in and of itself, excludes a general consideration of the Gospel, baptism into Christ and the new birth and obligates us to appraise the chapter within the parameter of events more closely parallel to the Jewish war and its aftermath.
The reason for this narrower focus is because Revelation 20:4 only harks back to developments that initially began in Revelation 13:18. This important fact should make everyone stop and think twice about any assumption that the chapter has any earlier events in mind.
"And [the false prophet] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.15 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed.16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:14-17).
That those who resisted the beast could not have suffered so as far back as the ministry of Jesus should make us pause, too. That Satan and his minions clearly inhabited the 'house' of the generation of Jesus' day (and the Book of Acts clearly attests to that grisly fact) should make us seriously question this popular assumption. But if Revelation 20 is not about the forty years leading up to A.D. 70, what is it about? Full Preterist biases and resistance to the notion that anyone from the generation of Jesus' day actually lived past A.D.70 is a stumbling block to many; however, more than ninety-seven thousand contemporaries of the time of our Lord's earthly ministry survived the war—and some actually lived long enough to see the disappearance of the Jewish State.5
And so, the more likely the evidence mounts that the chapter speaks of the aftermath of the A.D.70 Destruction of Jerusalem, the more the likelihood increases that sending Revelation chapter 20 back into a A.D.30—70 framework automatically erases and obliterates the Second Temple, its priesthood, the sacrifices, tithes and oblations—in fact, the entire Semitic backdrop of all of the New Testament (from the cross forwards), is instantly removed! Make no mistake about it, this is a serious mistake! And so, either we test and abandon this notion altogether or stick with it and endanger the stability and integrity and sense of the flow of ideas and the interpretive superstructure and sense of the Book of Revelation as it leads up to the war that will bring the Second Jewish Commonwealth to its Waterloo in history: the Bar Kokhba Insurrection.
And so, as the facts of Revelation 13:14-18 and 14:9-12 and Revelation 15:1-2 and 16:2, 10-13 and 19:19-21 stand, Revelation's 20's fourth verse virtually guarantees that it is the aftermath of the failure of the First Jewish Revolt, not its antecedent.
Why is this Conversation Important and Why Does it Matter?
Some might have noticed that, already, differences in preterist approaches have arisen and parties have been formed around certain stances. Some might be asking why the particulars of Preterist claims matter at all so long as we all agree Jesus came back already (as he frequently promised he would). I believe it matters deeply because a lot of "proof" being set forth as so-called "evidence"for the validity of an already fulfilled New Testament eschaton is actually—upon closer inspection—no real proof at all. The proof of the pudding is in the eating! And if the "proof" offered does not even come close to squaring with any historical facts—facts anyone can obtain simply by letting their fingers do the walking on Google, well, people are not going to be so easily led to believe Preterists really have a defendable case. Right now Full and Partial Preterists do not have solid case that can take some hard blows to the abdomen and still come out the winner!
As it is, in the full light of Roman history, and what Preterists usually say—about the Roman armies, about Nero, about Jewish persecution supposedly ending in A.D.70, about all Bible prophecy ending in A.D.70, about the millennium of Revelation 20 beginning before the Book of Revelation was even written, before the beast and the false prophet arose, before the tribulation began and before anyone was captured or killed for refusal to transgress in that way—these conventional notions, these sayings, these myths, make the whole academic enterprise look like jumble of ill-conceived claims and a less than promising foray of Bible believing enthusiasts who (seemingly) have failed to thoroughly check what they say is true with all of the available facts.
Because of this, from the outside it looks as if Preterists are, in fact, grievously deceived—grievously deceived into believing a long cherished future hope is now past, deceived by an elusive interpretation of the Bible and history, a history that not only cannot be supported by any evidence, but was never believed by the historical Christian church in the first place!
If the former was the other way around and the later remained the same, there would be no worries, but that both things are true—that neither history nor Church tradition support the core claims of Preterists—is something that should be very troubling and something that should be of serious concern to any Preterist.
This essay is written because of these very concerns. And it is written in hopes that this situation can be remedied by research and a modification or abandonment of some arguments, presuppositions and illogical lines of reasoning as quickly as at all possible.
The pre-70 Christian church scene and its direct connection to the affairs of six of the seven churches of Asia is a reality curious Futurists need to grapple with (not Full or Partial Preterists), but a Jewish identity for the beast and false prophet and Revelation chapter 20 dealing with the aftermath of the Destruction leading up to the second century disappearance of the ancient Jewish State is something Futurists and Preterists need to reconsider as ancient history will not justify the present claims that are being made. The bottom line for all this is not whether or not any ideology is right or wrong, but rather: Is Jesus of Nazareth the way, the Truth and the life and how can his sayings be seen and understood as genuinely truthful?
Can we rethink our positions and come to terms with the prophecies of Christ and the history that supports what he said as it really happened?
 See, Smiles, Vincent M., The Gospel and the Law in Galatia, Paul's Response to Jewish-Christian Separatism and the Threat of Galatian Apostasy, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1998.
 Masada was raided in August of A.D.66 and the sacrifices and oblations on behalf the Roman Empire were simultaneously discontinued in Jerusalem, thus declaring war against the Romans. See: http://www.livius.org/ja-jn/jewish_wars/jwar03.html
 Calculating the forty-two months from August A.D.66 to August A.D.70 overreaches forty-two months. Calculating the rule, authority and power of the beast from Marheshvan 8 A.D.66 (when they signally defeated over five thousand Romans at Beit Huron) to Passover (14 Nisan) A.D.70 is more exact and gives us more promising results (See Wars 2.19.9:555 for the Jew's spectacular win and then the imprisonment of the two million, seven hundred thousand and two hundred Jewish pilgrims 42 months later in Wars 6.9.3:420-429).
 Ninety-seven thousand people (Wars 6.9.3:420) survived the destruction of Jerusalem; everyone alive during Jesus day was not killed by A.D.70 by any stretch of the imagination. Archaeologist Yigael Yadin writes, "The existing Jewish communities in exile were reinforced by new refugee—among them militants who survived the First Revolt. . ."but even at that time—according to Dio—'they purposely made of poor quality such weapons as they were called upon to furnish, in order that the Romans might reject them and they themselves might this have use of them'. (Bar Kokhba pp. 17, 19-20). This attests that prisoners from the First Great Revolt actually helped supply weapons from Roman munitions factories and also participated in the Second Revolt.
* It important to note that the Romans were not in Jerusalem from Cheshvan 8 A.D.66 to the Destruction on Av 9 A.D.70. Their siege of Jerusalem only began in Adar of 69 with the bombardment of the city with one hundred pound stones thrown from catapults (see Wars 5.6.3:269-274). What does this mean, then? It means that all the events, sacrilege and atrocities that happened in the city from around the Feast of Trumpets (1 Tishrei A.D.66 to 9 Av A.D. 70 were carried out by the Zealots (not the Romans).
**See: The Calendar of Christ and the Apostles for a discussion of date calculations.
Other articles supporting our Second Century Christian theology:
The Roman Empire continued its success and expansion and consolidation long after the Destruction of Jerusalem—especially under Trajan and Hadrian. See: The Emperor Hadrian's Wall