* This essay is dedicated to the faith and courage of five Semitic Christian martyrs: Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni, and Todah. One thousand eight hundred and eighty-seven years ago these five Jewish Christians (and untold others) were condemned by the Sanhedrin and executed under the unjust government of Simeon Bar Kokhba in A.D.133.
If investigators were surprised to discover substance and reality in the herald and promises and expectation of the Second Coming of our Lord in the lifetime of the first Christians, it is with utter fascination and intrigue that they meet with the news of yet another important episode in the eschatological epic: the Bar Kokhba War. This is an event that exploded on the scene and shook the early Roman Empire to its very foundations at the beginning of the seventh decade after the Destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.
This is a war whose purpose was to turn back the hands of time, and this is a war that incited the Jewish people, their Israelite compatriots, and Gentile sympathizers to fight as a unified whole, tooth and nail to win (by right of war) the long-awaited 'kingdom of Messiah' under the courageous, bold and daring leadership of a descendant of King David, Simeon Bar Kosiba, nicknamed "Bar Kokhba” the 'the Son of the Star.'
It has long been believed by Christians that the end of the world, in Biblical terms, was a 'single-point event'. In Amillennial author William E. Cox's words, a “punctiliar event,” that is, an incident not characterized by any stages, or processes, or progression.
According to the dominant thinking in the Christian world, it is an occurrence containing one resurrection of the dead, not two.1 In spite of the fact that the Book of Revelation clearly reveals seven seals followed by seven trumpets, followed by seven bowls, the majority opinion, epitomized in Amillennialism, is that the Apocalypse of our Lord Jesus “when it comes to pass” will be a 'punctiliar event: happening in a single moment of time, with history preceding it and the eternal state following it; no millennium of time, either figurative or literal, no earth unformed or history or physical reality as we now know it such as sees wars, and sufferings, sorrows, and pain. This is the most popular Christian conception of the Second Coming of Christ and of the future to follow it.
It is only when a certain (specific) national history is elevated above all other (general) historic considerations that the logic of New Testament eschatology can emerge, at least in its primordial form. This focus zeros in on the reality of the Jew's history and the reality of their Second Jewish Commonwealth. Such a classification is uniquely distinct and opposed to Roman, Western, or global human history.
It represents a landmark return to original premises assumed in prophetic texts. In addition, substance and shape were added to it when audience relevance and word studies expressing imminence, expectations, and certainties feed mounting evidence making the seriousness of the case for an early Parousia undeniable. In turn, this context holds together seemingly disparate themes into a seamless coherent whole from the seemingly intractable riddles of the Book of Revelation.
The Exegetical Handling of Revelation 20
At issue in the present claim that Revelation 20 leads from the A.D.70 Destruction of Jerusalem to the final downfall of the Jewish State is the counter-view that Revelation 20 is simply a symbolic depiction of the Inter-advent years. In other words, a description of the period between the Ascension of Christ ten days before Pentecost of A.D.30 till or to the presumptive Second Coming of Christ which has yet to unfold.
Others offer that chapter 20 is a restatement of Revelation 19. Either way, the operating assumptions which especially characterize Amillennialism are fully alive and operative.
Does the evidence of the narrative of Revelation 19 actually support the view that chapter 20 is merely a restatement?
I do not believe there is any evidence to support this claim at all. However, disregarding the progression of the text in favor of a traditional interpretation (which papers over the fact that victory over the ordeal of the mark of the beast initiates Revelation 20) destroys the true course of events that brought the Messianic aspirations of Biblical Judaism to its ultimate and catastrophic downfall.
These, therefore, are issues that pertain to the premises, construct, and claims of Atavist Eschatology: a narrative that explains the eschaton from the unleashing of the Seven Seals to the very downfall of the Jewish State in the second century of the Common Era.
This essay is, therefore, presented as an apology with documentation for the Final Jewish Revolt's inclusion as a more accurate realized eschatology than one that either stops short of the goal, on one hand,2 or runs ahead to a distant futurity, on the other.3 This is the nature of the issues which occupy us and will be addressed presently.
The Jews: Not Without Great
Hope After the First Great War
While it is absolutely true that the Parousia of our Lord occurred when the Temple and city were destroyed in the A.D.66-70 imbroglio, and it is true that the people who were killed stood before the judgment of God, those who survived, whatever their fate, were cast down into the blackest night over their failed hopes and dreams in their earnest bid to be free from Roman subjugation and rule over the Jewish State. However, it is untrue that the Jews saw the immediate future as a hopeless situation without a bright ray of hope in it.4
Were they disappointed? Yes!
However, they had every reason to expect in the near-term future what had happened in similar circumstances in the distant past: When the first Temple was destroyed, a seventy-year divine interval was permitted to elapse before God allowed his people to again rebuild their city and their Temple; such hopes were seen as both reasonable and legitimate on typological grounds.5
Jewish hopes and energies, then, in this inter-war interval were commandeered principally by the capable leadership and untiring efforts of Rabbi Joseph Ben Akiba. Born in the year A.D.18 (some say A.D.15 ) and 16 years old when Jesus was crucified, he was a kind of “anti-Paul”6 Diaspora missionary zealot. Like Paul, he created networks, raised and channeled financial support, encouraged synagogues, laid out a mission, and vision, and goals drummed up enthusiasm and support for the upcoming effort. When Akiba was 52 the Temple and Jerusalem went up in flames; therefore, he was certainly of the mind that the next event in the trajectory of Bible prophecy was a “do-or-die” event—the very last reasonable chance the Jewish nation could count on to see their Messianic hopes realized.
From a Jewish point of view, the complete destruction of the Temple apparatus left them with no choice but to believe the events ahead in the seventh decade as conforming with their preconceived understandings of Old Testament prophecies: a Torah/ Temple-centered and nationalistic kingdom of God. However, midway through the seventy years, not one but three violent Jewish revolts broke out: one in Cyrenaica, another on the island of Cyprus, and one far east in Mesopotamia.
The one in Cyprus was particularly gruesome in that over two hundred and forty-thousand Greeks and Romans were put to death; all these uprisings, however, were mercilessly put down by Rome and not without high costs on their own part.7 It seems that the loss of the Temple, disappointments about the kingdom of God, and positive developments in the progress of the Church in Israel may have been aggravating factors in the inter-war years, so let's look closer at what history tells us.
The Real Threat of Christianity as
the National Faith of Israel
When the First Great War failed, we are told, the Jews knew full well that they would have to wait another seventy years before anything could be changed. But while waiting for the "Ultimate Decision", the evangelistic progress of Christians in Israel was making serious headway, alarming the Rabbis.8
With the Temple completely demolished the Christians must have believed they could convince both leaders, Bible students, and ordinary people of Israel that Christ was the end of the Law and that what was to come was the end of the State as it was known and governed by the Law and statutes of Moses and the traditions of the elders.
This strategy must have had an impact. In fact, we are told, Christians continued to attend synagogues and were able to persuade others of the truth of Christ and the Gospel. The Rabbis saw this as a huge problem. What could they do to get Jewish Christians out of the synagogues? They came up with what seemed a perfect idea: legislation was written and enacted. This ingenious “solution” effectively barred Jewish Christians from the synagogues by requiring them to say an imprecation against themselves under the nickname 'Min' or collectively 'Minin.'9
Consequent to these steps, Christians or their sympathizers were excluded from the Synagogues while popular hatred against the saints was fed.
The benediction read, in part:-
“May the apostates have no hope unless they return to Thy Torah, and may the Nazarenes and the Minim disappear in a moment. May they be erased from the book of life, and not be inscribed with the righteous.”
The benediction had its intended effect: It barred Christians from the communal life of Israel; however, other hostile steps were taken to demonstrate that the Christian people had no legal right to exist in any recognized sphere. On legal grounds, exposure to the Roman courts was aggressively sought.
This hostile move was pursued in hopes that Christians might be found unworthy of having any claim to Judaism's protection and be put to death for treason and 'atheism.' But the charge had to be proved and, in many cases, before the Final War, the Romans refused to allow themselves to become entangled in what they perceived to be intramural technicalities of Jewish people.10
On these grounds, they were content to see the Christians merely as yet another strange sect of Judaism. It was only later when the Christians refused to accept or support Bar Kokhba and stood askance from the cause of the rebel State of Israel for the second time, it became evident and obvious, for the first time, that the Christians should be understood as a new and separate entity from the Jewish people; in fact, at that very same time, Christians lost the tenuous legal protection they had enjoyed from the beginning.11
Hatred of Jesus, the Hope for the Temple
and the Real Reason for Another Attempt Against the Romans in a Final War
From the above considerations, we can see that a number of devastating developments had transpired well before the 132 kick-off date of the final Jewish Revolt: Jesus had come a little more than a century before, and from Pentecost May of A.D.33 the rise of the Christians, testifying of Christ's resurrection from the dead and soon Parousia went out far and near. Before long Christians were everywhere: they were present in Jerusalem in significant numbers (Acts 21:20), in Judaea, too (Acts 9:31; 1 Thessalonians 2:14), and in the Diaspora (Acts 17:5-8; James 1:1 cf. 1 Peter 1:1).
The Roman world was also affected significantly by Pauline evangelism (2 Corinthians 11:23 cf. Revelation 7:9). Thus, by the time of the Destruction of Jerusalem, critical components of the Jews' way of life and understanding of reality had been altogether questioned, turned upside down, or disregarded in the eyes of many who chose to be Christians instead of Jews. Just as significant, essential institutions of the Jew's world had collapsed or been eliminated altogether by the civil war, the Roman siege, or the War of the Destruction itself.
Thus, in what mattered most (as far as they were concerned) there was nothing left but hope in the face of hopelessness: there was no longer a Temple, sacrifices, oblations, or a functioning priesthood. The hub around which the lives of the Jewish people revolved since the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and Zerubbabel was gone in toto! Indeed, none wanted to prophesy because people were afraid to speak of it since the prophecies of the success of the First Jewish Revolt failed so miserably.
The one and only hope that could dispel the intractable dilemma was the prospect of a future complete and utter overthrow of the Romans and the unqualified victory of the Jews. Bound up in these notions were the renaissance of their glorious city and Temple and state as well as the falsification of every idea set forth by the Christians that Jesus was, indeed, the Christ of Israel and Savior of the world.
These goals and aims could only be done in one united, well-financed, well-armed, and well-coordinated effort. Therefore, if the precedent of type and anti-type was correct the stakes behind what was planned cannot be overstated. Nor can there be any doubt that the Jews did not have real alternatives with which to entertain. If they did nothing, the Christian mission in the Jewish State would continue to escalate and Roman domination would remain unchanged to what end and for how long? God only knew!
Something had to be done, and the beginning of the seventh decade after the War of the Destruction was automatically seen as that proper and most fitting time: this was the logic behind the final Messianic Jewish Revolt and the timing of its planned execution.
Simon Bar Kokhba: A Mysterious Figure
We are told that the revolt started in the Valley of Rimmon, in the northern part of Palestine.12 It was headquartered in Sepphoris, in Galilee (a.k.a.) 'Beth-ter.' According to what is said in Jewish history, Shimeon Bar Kosiba (for that was his name) was from a town called Kosiba, Judaea. He is said to have been a descendant of King David and was born in A.D.115.
We have no idea when Akiva met him; however, in 132, Shimeon was mere 17-year-old planning to lead the whole nation of Judah and Israel against the superior and capable forces of Hadrian and the entire Roman Empire. A look at his purported feats of miraculous powers may offer a clue to why it was believed he was capable of being both a king and a messiah in dire and unpromising circumstances such as these.
This "Messiah" claimed to be a luminary from heaven sent to give Israel its long-awaited hopes. According to Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, Bar Kokhba claimed to be a star that fell from heaven(!!!). He represented himself to be someone who had come on a mission to save the Jews from their miseries. Rabbi Akiva claimed for him the Star Prophecy of Numbers 24:17,
"Rabbi Simon ben Yohai said, “Rabbi Aqiba my teacher, expounded the passage 'There shall go forth a star (KWKB) out of Jacob [Numbers 24:17' as follows: There goes KWZBA out of Jacob.”' Moreover, Rabbi Aqiba is actually quoted as saying about Bar-Kokhba: “This is the King Messiah.”13
Together with his own claims and that of Rabbi Akiva, Bar Kokhba bewitched the desperate people of Israel to do that which was unlawful for them to do, as we shall see below.
Extant lore about Israel's very last worldly king describes him as a figure who was possessed of superhuman strength (even though Rabbi Akiva's enmity for Jesus led him to declare that supernatural signs were not a measure of the Messiah) nevertheless Bar Kokhba used such powers to convince the courageous, the naïve, and the churlish that he himself should be commander, king-Messiah and soon-to-be victorious savior of the Jewish State come at last.14
Accounts of Bar Kokhba's physical prowess tell of his pulling up cedar trees whole with their roots and bouncing off Roman missiles with his knee, this man of war was seen in a supernatural light as one more than capable of defeating the Romans.
But his signs and wonders only drew attention to himself and his own strength and were very different from the behavior of our Lord because they were not acts of compassion toward the sick, the dead or the diseased, yet Bar Kokhba's bizarre feats convinced over 900 towns and villages of the Holy Land to rally to his banner.
Bar Kokhba was able to blow fire from his breath. In this curious feat, Bar Kokhba is said to have emitted flames of fire from his breath through a straw.15 Was this to show that he was from heaven? Or was this to show that he was somehow divine? We do not know. We do know, however, that Bar Kokhba stood up to God and denounced his help or harm (and the people followed suit). Israeli military strategist Yehoshafat Harkabi remarks that Bar Kokhba led his troops in a chant denouncing Divine help or hindrance when he chanted,
“O, Lord God of Hosts, do not stand at our right hand, nor be against us, for You, O God, have abandoned us. We ourselves shall be victorious over the enemy”16
What was Bar Kokhba asking God to do here? “Do not stand at our right hand” means “do not assist us” and “nor be against us” means exactly what it says—do not oppose us, don't hinder what we want to do. “We ourselves shall be victorious over the enemy” is a boast to God that the Israel people were perfectly capable of defeating the Romans on their own.
Of course, these utterances really amounted to blasphemy and affronted God's dignity in no uncertain terms. Therefore, it is no wonder that in Ezekiel's prophecy of Gog and Magog, God was able to say in truth, “I am against thee O Gog.” After losing a war to the Romans because of their own sins and iniquities, transgressions and abominations seven decades earlier, these people had the temerity to request God “stand aside while we do this”—we'll beat the Romans; build a Temple, we'll offer sacrifices and mint coins; we'll name the state after a man God blessed (e.g., Israel, etc).
Bar Kokhba's presumptuous behavior was not limited only to his atrocious and arrogant attitude towards God, it also extended toward a brazen despite for the commandments of the Law. In fact, he mutilated two hundred thousand Israelites in defiance of the Torah.17 The urge to mutilate men who needed all their strength to fight a war finds precedent in the First Great Revolt. It was during the first revolt when Simon Bar Giora caused his followers to receive a wound on their right hands—
“Nay, some of their right hands were debilitated by the reverence they bare to their general in these his fatal calamities. . .” (Josephus' Wars 3.8.6:386 cf. Revelation 13:16-17).
It seems very evident that, in both wars, there was a definite disregard for the Laws of God and a determination to injure, despite Biblical injunctions to the contrary.
“Bar Kokhba” Appeared When
Israel Needed Him Most
No extant records exist about a deputation to interview or qualify Bar Kokhba as one candidate from among many. We do not know what the process was of choosing him above any other claimant, or even if there were others. What we do know is that the situation of a burgeoning Judaean State Christianity was seen to be getting out of hand and in desperate need of a reversal; Bar Kokhba and his war was seen as the remedy needed to do address this “problem” at exactly that time.
Gruber observes this and I have personally talked with a Messianic Jewish minister and been told the Jewish Christian problem was one of the main worries of the Rabbis of the inter-revolt years. Running out of options to stop the Jewish Christians from getting the upper hand in Israel, Bar Kokhba was someone they desperately needed as a rallying point to deflect the Jewish people away from Jesus once and for all. And so, it was seen fit to announce the bandit Simon to be 'King' and 'Messiah' by the Greatest Rabbi of All Time.18
That Joseph Ben Akiva was a celebrity and a voice respected by all and sundry gave the naïve and desperate masses confidence they probably otherwise would not have granted to Bar Kokhba.
And as we said at the outset, all Jews (save the Jewish Christians) had hope and faith that their centuries-old Mosaic system was only temporarily inoperable. It was not in their wildest imagination or their darkest fears that they could foresee that their age (for all practical purposes) had passed into oblivion never to be seen again!
Therefore, the announcement of Bar Kokhba's kingly Messiahship was precisely what the people expected to hear and what they wanted desperately to believe: a warrior Messiah who would “get things done” and defeat the Romans militarily. This is one of the key items Jesus of Nazareth was faulted for because he refused to be swayed or compelled to do it.
Now here was Bar Kokhba talking the talk and 'chomping at the bit' to walk the walk; the people, therefore, were beholden to him and ready to comply with his every wish!19
Jews From all Over the
World Streamed into Jerusalem
Surviving reports from antiquity give the impression that multitudes and droves of Jews from every direction converged upon Jerusalem:-
“Hadrian came to Jerusalem and found it in ruins except for one small Christian church, he gave orders that the whole city be rebuilt, save for the Temple. When the Jews heard of this they streamed thither from every direction, and before long the whole city was rebuilt. But once again an evil spirit entered into them and agitated them, and they rebelled against Rome. They set over themselves a commander called Bar Kokhba. . .”20
Alexander's report is, in fact, quite similar to what we read in John's prophecy of the situation,
“Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, and shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth, Gog, and Magog, to gather them together to battle: the number of whom is as the sand of the sea” (Revelation 20:7-8).
According to Alexander the Monk, they rebuilt the city and Temple in no time at all and appointed Bar Kokhba king over themselves. A bristling excitement must have been felt by all as the prospect of a brand new Jewish State, Temple, and priesthood directly under Jewish Law and control was coming into being before their very eyes.
From Caves along the Dead Sea, instructions for the Feast of Tabernacles for a date as late in the war as A.D. 133 strongly suggest (with other clues) that a Third Temple had been successfully built at an earlier time when the Jews clearly had the upper hand. These letters have been preserved in the Judaean desert for over one thousand eight hundred years.21
However, there is more involved in the case of a successful rebuilding and reinstitution of the sacrifices and the oblations after the statutory passing of the epoch in the Autumn of A.D. 70: it would be the setting up of an “abomination of desolation”—even if the Levitical priests submitted the correct animal sacrifices, and offerings and tithes to God, that ministry and age had already passed away in A.D.70; therefore, their actions represent a detestable act against the will of heaven.
Our reasoning comes from two principal sources: prophecies from Isaiah and Daniel. In Isaiah 66:3 we have this prophecy:
“Thus saith the Lord, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: what kind of a house will ye build me? And of what kind is to be the place of my rest? For all these things are mine, saith the Lord: and to whom will I have respect, but to the humble and meek, and the man who trembles at my word? But the lawless who sacrifices to me a calf to me is like one who kills a dog, and he who offers fine flour, like one who offers swine's blood; he who has given frankincense for a memorial like a blasphemer... And these have chosen their own ways, and their abominations which their soul wanted; so I will choose mockeries for them and repay them their sins, because I called them and they did not answer me, I spoke and they did not hear, but they did what was evil in my sight and chose the things I did not desire" (Isaiah 66:1-4).
The implications of these verses become crystal clear when we consider the prophecy of Daniel regarding the scattering of the power of the Holy People.
“And one said to the man clothed in linen, who was over the water of the river, "When will be the end of the wonders which thou hast mentioned? And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was over the water of the river, and he lifted up his right hand and his left hand to heaven and swore by him that lives forever, that it should be for a time of times and half a time: when the dispersion is ended they shall know all these things” (Daniel 12:7).
By surrounding and routing the Church, the Jews in 132 despised and cast aside the perpetually effectual sacrifice of Jesus, theirs and the world's one and only true Christ and High Priest (Hebrews 7:24-27 cf. 9:11-12). Whereupon they turned to their sacrifices and oblations and set up a third “abomination of desolation” according to the prophecy of the Prophet Isaiah.
Rejecting Jesus Christ, in this brazen public protest, was an 'abominable' thing; they, in this their delusion, craved and aspired to an imperfect shadow that had, in reality, already fulfilled its purposes and vanished forever 62 years earlier!
Now, their folly was even greater and more audacious and contumelious when they told God they did not want him to have anything to do with it!22 One might say that the Jews' efforts were doomed to destruction by foreordination (and by their actual conduct) from the very start!
The Immediate Christian Reaction
If we read the prophecy of the downfall of the Gog as an allusion to the second-century downfall of the Jewish State, attention should be paid to the reaction of the people occupying the land ahead of the turmoil. In an examination of the text, one gets the distinct sense that the second-century Christians were caught off guard and were completely unaware of the significance of this incursion (Ezekiel 38:10-13).
Indications in Ezekiel show that second-century Christians knew not what to make of Bar Kokhba's aims! This interesting prophecy reads as follows,
“And [Gog] shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates, to take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land. Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? Hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? To carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?" (Ezekiel 38:10-13).
From this condition of the Holy Land, we can determine that this conflict not only begins in the aftermath of the A.D.66-70 commotions but also that this is a post-inter-revolt setting significantly different, architecturally, from the fortified cities and villages which were so characteristically uniform in the first century.
In fact, in the above prophecy, the inhabitants, do not know that it is an invasion to establish Israel as a sovereign nation apart from Roman hegemony. They do not know Gog came to set up a third Temple, they do not realize he intends to institute the sacrifices and oblations and function under the self-deception and false pretenses of a Messianic Jewish State.
In other words, Ezekiel 38:13 reveals complete Christian ignorance about the purpose and nature, and aims of the final Jewish revolt even when it had commenced! This tells us that the fulfillment of this prophecy (and thus of Revelation 20:7-15) took second century Christians by complete surprise; they did not know what to make of it, nor did they apparently foresee that brutal persecution of the Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land would break out anew in this war of pride, presumption, and sinister aims.22
Dramatic Initial Victories
Saw Whole Roman Legions Disappear
The Bar Kokhba Revolt, unlike the first revolt, was embarked upon with careful preparation. And like the stunning victory of the Zealots against the Romans at the hallowed Beit Horon where more than five thousand Romans lost their lives sixty-six years earlier, the upshot of initial Jewish victories in A.D.132 was nothing short of bold, encouraging, and spectacular. Poul Borchsenius describes what happened,
“At many places in the country, the resistance groups took the offensive and attacked the soldiers of the Tenth Legion. Swift, hard blows—and then they withdrew to their concealed bases and underground hiding places. The Romans underestimated the seriousness of the rebellion. Further, their most important bases, Caesarea, was partly destroyed and out of use. Rufus certainly expected to be able to quench the sparks with the troops he had on the spot. But he was mistaken. Time after time small Roman detachments were wiped out by the furious Jews. And the rebels' first successes naturally encouraged their countrymen, so that the fire spread and whole country would soon be ablaze. And then Akiba suddenly came into action. He received the sign for which he had been waiting so long. The Messiah had come! The Son of the Star was proclaimed Messiah by Akiba. The decisive weight fell heavily into the balance, and the scale shot down. The great war began.”23
The spectacular beginning of the Bar Kokhba Rebellion led the hopeful Jews to believe it would also end well. Such a beginning, therefore, sparked more enthusiasm and a flood of new recruits, overwhelming Roman resources all at once. It is easy to see how this new challenge was not merely a problem for the officials of the Roman Empire to think about but a dramatic setback for the second century Christians as well.
Christians Alarmed by the Jew's Victories
When, apparently, the news was circulating in the Empire that the Jews had liberated their land and put the Romans to shame and route, the Christians, thinking the A.D.70 Destruction was their last and final hurdle, now stood in doubt of what this latest setback might soon mean. The finality of the Aaronic system of things and a presumptive victorious Bar Kokhba and a full-fledged and militant Jewish State loomed as a distinct and terrifying possibility and threat. A glimpse of the horror and dismay may be felt from the following quote,
"Perhaps the best approach to this problem is to put oneself into the position of the author of this epistle [i.e., the Epistle of Barnabas]. He wanted Christians to believe that the old Temple in Jerusalem, even when it had stood there, had had no value; and that there was no point in looking forward to its restoration. Just imagine how he would have reacted to the news that the Romans were putting up a temple to Jupiter (or planning to put one up) on the Temple Mount! Would he not have pointed to this as proof positive that the Jewish Temple was finished once and for all? Indeed later on, when Bar Kokhba had been defeated and Jerusalem destroyed for the last time, that was exactly the line taken by Christian authors. One after another they reasoned that the fate of the Jewish sanctuary proved that the old Israel had been rejected and Christianity had emerged triumphant.
The failure of “Barnabas” to make the same argument is striking. Even more startling is his need to invoke the prophecy from Enoch about the ultimate downfall of the people and the city and the sanctuary. Apparently, things were not going his way, and he needed to shore up his belief by a prophecy of things to come.
I think, therefore, that the most likely explanation is this: the author of Barnabas found himself in a quandary about an event that upset his deepest beliefs. So he tried to prove to himself—and his readers—that it had all been foreseen, and that it would not last. There were prophecies still to be fulfilled (he urged) showing that the present events were merely a temporary aberration. In any event, (he said) neither holiness nor the Shekhina had ever dwelt in the Temple; and ancient prophecies tell us that it will ultimately be destroyed forever. So the hope of the Jews that it will be rebuilt is really meaningless.
The event that would fit all this most exactly would be a decree by the Emperor Hadrian ordering the rebuilding of Jerusalem. The prospect would excite eager anticipation among the Jews, but trepidation and dismay among the Christians. The author of the Epistle sets out to allay the alarm in the Christian ranks, as we have demonstrated. To be sure, he speaks haltingly, because events seem to be going the other way. But his faith buoys him up.”24
Gedaliah Alon, Yehoshafat Harkabi, Yigael Yadin, and other Israeli historians and archaeologists are telling us a story rarely told in Christian circles. It is the tale of a doomed renaissance sponsored by the greatest rabbi of all time: Joseph Ben Akiba.
It is also, in a Biblical sense, the story of the defiance of the dispossessed Jewish State against the obvious implications of the statutory judgments of God's Son displayed during the First Great War.
Between the First Great War and the Bar Kokhba Revolt they had a house "swept clean and garnished" but they did what they could to make life impossible for the Christians of their country. They did this by removing them from their synagogues. They did this by taking steps to strip them of legal protections under Roman laws. Having achieved these aims they foolishly stepped off the precipice into the oblivion of a final Jewish war which was never destined to be anything but a colossal debacle (Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 cf. Revelation 20:7-15). A fair exegesis of Revelation chapters 13 through 20 (i.e., A.D.66-136) shows that the fortunes of the Jewish State were destined to take this final tragic course before disappearing, abruptly, from world history.
A related essay: Second Century Israel: Should Christians Agree on Prophetic History?
1 The resurrection of those Semitic Christians who were victorious over the Beast and his imprimatur on their bodies (Revelation 20:4-6) cannot be reconciled into the resurrection described in Revelation 20:10-15. In other words, there are two resurrections described in Revelation 20, one immediately after the Destruction of Jerusalem (described in Revelation 20:4-6) and one immediately after the downfall of the Jewish State (Revelation 20:10-15). There is no logical or Scriptural connection between Revelation 20:4 with any events in Acts chapter 1 or 2.
2 Some Christians avert that all prophecies conclude in the year A.D.70 while the Jewish State continued to exist for almost another seventy years. They als0 assert that Jewish persecution against the Church finally ended in 70 when, in fact, the Israelite State executed Christians in the second century according to prophecy (Micah 3:1-3, 9-12). See this link for the historic fulfillment of this prophecy: 135 AD: Romans destroy and plow Jerusalem.
3 Some interpreters run ahead and proclaim that Revelation 20:7-15 foretells a global universal judgment of all mankind. They are able to do this by disregarding the contextual, social, and historical parameters of the world of Jesus and the Apostles.
4 The Anchor Bible Dictionary (Volume I, p. 603), and any standard Jewish history source will attest that the Jewish people did not accept the results of the A.D.70 Destruction as final. The inter-revolt synagogue did not go forward without the notion and hope that a reversal, in their favor, would happen within seven decades, according to their assumptions about Bible typology.
5 The hope for a Third Temple was considered reasonable by the Jewish people because they interpreted the prophecies of the Old Testament to that effect. The Christians, on the other hand, following the lead of the Apostles, rejected the notion that a Temple would ever again be necessary. The Hebrew writer is very clear that those realities had served their purpose (Hebrews 8:4; 10:1 cf. Revelation 21:22). In the second century Barnabas argues against the need for a Temple or sacrifices in the following words,
"For He hath made manifest by all the prophets that He wanteth neither sacrifices nor whole burnt offerings nor oblations, saying at one time; What to Me is the multitude of your sacrifices, saith the Lord I am full of whole burnt-offerings, and the fat of lambs and the blood of bulls and of goats desire not, not though ye should come to be seen of Me. Or, who required these things at your hands? Ye shall continue no more to tread My court. If ye bring fine flour, it is in vain; incense is an abomination to Me; your new moons and your Sabbaths I cannot away with. These things therefore He annulled, that the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ, being free from the yoke of constraint, might have its oblation not made by human hands" (Epistle of Barnabas 2:4-6).
The Jewish revolt of the second century was designed to clear the Romans from the Land of Israel and re-establish all the sacrificial realities the New Testament and Christians had proclaimed were expired.
6 "The Talmud says, "To what may Akiba be compared? To a peddler who goes about from farm to farm. Here he obtains wheat, there barley, and in a third place, spelt. When he comes home he arranges them all in their respective bins. So Akiba went about from scholar to scholar, getting all the traditions he could; and then he proceeded to arrange them in an orderly granary." Rabbi Akiba's Messiah, p. 27.
7 Yadin, Bar Kokhba, p. 21 “Says Dio, the Romans did not pay much attention to these activities; but when the whole of Judaea rebelled and even Jews throughout the world joined hands with the rebels (as did many non-Jews who helped because of their lust for booty)—thus causing the Romans a lot of trouble. . .”
8 The Rabbis were faced with the snowballing prospect of more and more Jews turning to Jesus of Nazareth for physical healing and salvation and hope for eternal life, jumped at the chance to excite the people with fatal theo-nationalist hopes. Gruber writes, “Gamliel had taken a wait and see attitude towards the new sect. A century later more Jews were following Yeshua. More it seems, than were following the Rabbis. It was time to act.” Rabbi Akiba's Messiah, p. 164.
9 The upshot of the 'Birkat ha-Minim' otherwise known as the 'Nineteenth Benediction' is that it calls for the damnation of Christians, saying they have no hope or share in the world to come because they believe Messiah has come already.
10 The Romans had a similar "hands-off" attitude towards Jewish disputes as we see evinced in Acts 18:15.
11 "By the second century C.E., both Judaism and Christianity were trying to distinguish each from the other in the eyes of Rome, as both had unique political concerns. Judaism by then had attained legal status in the Roman world as a religion and did not want Christianity, with its loyalty to a King other than Caesar, to be associated with it. The church, now largely Gentile, also wanted to obtain legal status in the eyes of Rome so that it would not be identified with the Jews, who had rebelled against Rome under Bar Kochba. Once it was clear to Rome that Christianity was not a sect of Judaism, Christianity was regarded as an illegal sect and was no longer under the protective umbrella of the legal status of Judaism" (Source: http://remember.org/History.root.classical.html). Gruber adds this, "The Romans were not interested in theological disputes. They were interested in control. Rome related to those it had placed in power. "Now so long a Christianity was regarded by the Romans as a mere sect of Judaism, it shared the hatred and contempt [of the Romans towards the Jews], indeed, but also the legal protection bestowed on that ancient national religion. . .So soon as it was understood as a new religion, and as, in fact, claiming universal validity and acceptance, it was set down as unlawful and treasonable, a religio illicita; and it was the constant reproach of the Christians: 'You have no right to exist.'" When the Talmidei Yeshua were kicked out of the synagogue by the Rabbis, they could no longer legally establish before the Romans the Jewishness of their religion. That put them on trial for their lives. "Any Judaeo-Christian who was expelled from the Jewish community was by law bound to sacrifice to the emperor and to take part in idolatrous practices. If he refused, he was punished as an 'atheist'" (Rabbi Akiba's Messiah, p. 161).
12 The History of the Jews Volume I: The Son of a Star, p. 172.
13 See Yadin, Yigael, Bar Kokhba, p. 23. See also Gruber notes, "Rabbi Akiba's declaration of Bar Kokhba as the Messianic King was consistent with the one consuming goal of his life: to bring Israel under the authority of the Rabbis. To that end, his choice of Bar Kokhba was not a mistake. More than symbolically, it was the crowning touch. Bar Kokhba was Rabbi Akiba's Messiah” (Rabbi Akiba's Messiah: The Origins of Rabbinic Authority, p. 193).
14 Akiba denounced the miraculous as a way to discern the true Messiah: "[He] redefined the Messianic Age. He separated the supernatural and the exceptional from the Messianic Age and from the role of the Messiah. It was no longer necessary for God to demonstrate through signs and wonders who His Anointed was, because "No proof can be brought from a carob-tree." This stands in marked contrast to the declaration of Yeshua: ". . .the very [miraculous] works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me." (Ibid, p.166).
15 "Another aspect of Ben Kosiba's career that becomes understandable when we know that he was recognized as the Messiah, is the description of a miracle fraud:That famed Barchochebas, the instigator of the Jewish uprising, kept fanning a lighted blade of straw in his mouth with puffs of breath so as to give the impression that he was spewing out flames." [Jerome, Against Rufinus 3.31] (Source: livius.org).
16 Harkabi, Yehoshafat, The Bar Kokhba Syndrome, p.41.
17 The Law of Moses (in Leviticus 19:28) not only forbids tattoos, it does not allow cutting of the flesh; therefore Bar Kokhba was flouting the Law of God when he had two-hundred thousand Israelites cut off one of their small fingers.
18 It is said that Rabbi Joseph Ben Akiba was the greatest of all Rabbis and that he had twelve thousand pairs of students. He was the main driving force behind the foment of revolt in second century Israel, but approval of him by God has to be questioned when each of his students was said to have been slain in a choking plague by God between Passover and Pentecost and the man he proclaimed as "Christ" and "King" of Israel drove the nation into oblivion through misguided actions and unwise declarations to the Most High God.
19 Borchsenius writes of Bar Kokhba, "His was the hero whose name was on everyone's lips, and eyes sparkled when Shimeon's name was mentioned. He became the personification of the liberation movement in Israel, and crowds gathered around him when he suddenly appeared in the villages with his band of brave men" The History of the Jews Volume I: The Son of the Star, p. 185.
20 The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age, p.446.
21 Preserved remains of Bar Kokhba's letters were discovered in the twentieth century (in 1961) - Click this link for examples: https://www.livius.org/sources/content/oriental-varia/four-letters-of-bar-kochba/
22 This new and final Jewish persecution against Christians by this newly empowered Jewish State was a development that helped embitter the early Church against Jews and was not soon forgotten. Within one hundred and eighty-nine years of this war Christian supremacy in the Roman Empire would turn the tables against the Jews and their synagogues by legislation and policies designed to diminish or hamper Jewish power.
23 See Poul Borchsenius, The History of the Jews Volume I: The Son of the Star , pp. 178-179, There is no surviving stage by stage account of this fatal debacle, but we do know that Bar Kokhba's war began with spectacular wins. Five Roman legions apparently fell prey to the fury of the Judaean State: The doomed legions were VI Ferrata, X Fretensis and XXII Deiotariana, IX Hispana and XXII Deiotariana. The XXII Deiotariana was apparently annihilated, caught in a valley, perhaps near Beit Guvrin. (Source: http://www.zionism-israel.com/dic/Bar_Kochba.htm).
24 The Jews in Their Land in the Talmudic Age, p. 451. This sudden three and a half year reversal of Bible prophecy back towards the theocracy of the Law and the Temple seems to be what is foretold in Revelation 20:7-9. The Bar Kokhba government and his second century Jewish State brought to completion the entire course of salvation history to the eve of the triumph of Christianity. How did the Church succeed? She did so by God's intervention against Bar Kokhba and Rabbi Akiba and the unqualified falsification of Jewish messianic hopes in those A.D.132-136 fatal aspirations and misguided and tragic military efforts.