“The Number of a Man”

By Steve A. Hamilton

“Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is six hundred and sixty-six” (Rev. 13:18).

Much ado has been made about the number 666 from the above passage out of Revelation 13:18. It is not our intent to disprove all the various theories as to the meaning of the number and hence the name that represents the beast. Rather, we will simply offer a solution that makes perfect sense.

The most important thing to keep in mind is the stated fact that the number represents the beast. The beast is the Roman Empire. The man’s name would not be an emperor as that would not reflect the Roman Empire unless the man’s name was the very embodiment of the empire. It would be difficult to pick one emperor that would be the designation for an empire that lasted over 450 years.

Hippolytus (170 A.D. to 236 A.D.), a second century Christian who died a martyr, provides an answer that fulfills the requirement for a man’s name that reflects the Roman Empire. Though Hippolytus cautions against any declaration of certainty on this matter, his insight is certainly worth the consideration.

“With respect to his name, it is not in our power to explain it exactly, as the blessed John understood it and was instructed about it, but only to give a conjectural account of it; for when he appears, the blessed one will show us what we seek to know. Yet as far as our doubtful apprehension of the matter goes, we may speak. Many names indeed we find, the letters of which are the equivalent of this number: such as, for instance, the word Titan, an ancient and notable name; or Evanthas, for it too makes up the same number; and many others which might be found. But, as we have already said, the wound of the first beast was healed, and he (the second beast) was to make the image speak, that is to say, he should be powerful; and it is manifest to all that those who at present still hold the power are Latins. If, then, we take the name as the name of a single man, it becomes Latinus. Wherefore we ought neither to give it out as if this were certainly his name, nor again ignore the fact that he may not be otherwise designated.” [Hippolytus, “Treatise on Christ and Antichrist,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, ed., Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, Vol. 5, Pg. 215. ]

It appears that Hippolytus was well versed with Irenaeus’ writings on this subject. Irenaeus (30 A.D. to 107 A.D.) was a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus says much the same things concerning Revelation 13:18 in his writings. He also cautions against supposing with certainty the identity of the name. Yet, Irenaeus connects the fourth beast in the book of Daniel to the name Latinus. The fourth beast being the Roman Empire.

“Then also Lateinos has the number six hundred and sixty-six; and it is a very probable [solution], this being the name of the last kingdom [of the four seen by Daniel]. For the Latins are they who at present bear rule: I will not, however, make any boast over this [coincidence].”  [Irenaeus, “Irenaeus Against Heresies,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, ed., Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, Vol. 1, Pg. 559. ]

According to Irenaeus, Lateinos is a most probable name of a man whose name calculates to 666 while at the same time refers to the Roman Empire. This name calculates to 666 using both the Greek and Roman isopsephia. Many names can calculate to 666 using but one lingual method. Very few names have succeeded using two different languages. Greek and Latin were the common languages spoken at the time John wrote the book of Revelation. It did not matter which language a reader at the time might have used to calculate the name. Both languages lead to the same answer. Though Irenaeus admits John never revealed the name if he even knew it, just the fact that dual lingual methods calculate to the same number provides confidence that the number 666 refers to Lateinos.

The Winepress of God’s Wrath

By Steve A. Hamilton

“So the first went and poured out his bowl upon the earth, and a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image.” (Rev. 16:2)

The date was 541 A.D. Roman Emperor Justinian was reigning in his 14th year from Constantinople when the plague struck the empire. By the year 542 A.D., the entire empire was fully engulfed by this horrific disease. Historian Procopius (c. 500 A.D. – c. 554 A.D.) gives this firsthand commentary about the disease that later became known as the Justinian plague:

“[542 A.D.] During these times there was a pestilence, by which the whole human race came near to being annihilated. Now in the case of all other scourges sent from Heaven some explanation of a cause might be given by daring men, such as the many theories propounded by those who are clever in these matters;… But for this calamity it is quite impossible either to express in words or to conceive in thought any explanation, except indeed to refer it to God. For it did not come in a part of the world nor upon certain men, nor did it confine itself to any season of the year, so that from such circumstances it might be possible to find subtle explanations of a cause, but it embraced the entire world, and blighted the lives of all men, though differing from one another in the most marked degree, respecting neither sex nor age. For much as men differ with regard to places in which they live,… in the case of this disease alone the difference availed naught. And it attacked some in the summer season, others in the winter, and still others at the other times of the year… I shall proceed to tell where this disease originated and the manner in which it destroyed men.

“It started from the Aegyptians who dwell in Pelusium. Then it divided and moved in one direction towards Alexandria and the rest of Aegypt, and in the other direction it came to Palestine on the borders of Aegypt; and from there it spread over the whole world, always moving forward and travelling at times favourable to it. For it seemed to move by fixed arrangement, and to tarry for a specified time in each country, casting its blight slightingly upon none, but spreading in either direction right out to the ends of the world, as if fearing lest some corner of the earth might escape it. For it left neither island nor cave nor mountain ridge which had human inhabitants; and if it had passed by any land, either not affecting the men there or touching them in indifferent fashion, still at a later time it came back; then those who dwelt round about this land, whom formerly it had afflicted most sorely, it did not touch at all, but it did not remove from the place in question until it had given up its just and proper tale of dead, so as to correspond exactly to the number destroyed at the earlier time among those who dwelt round about. And this disease always took its start from the coast, and from there went up to the interior. And in the second year it reached Byzantium in the middle of spring, where it happened that I was staying at that time. And it came as follows… They had a sudden fever, some when just roused from sleep, others while walking about, and others while otherwise engaged, without any regard to what they were doing. And the body shewed no change from its previous colour, nor was it hot as might be expected when attacked by a fever, nor indeed did any inflammation set in, but the fever was of such a languid sort from its commencement and up till evening that neither to the sick themselves nor to a physician who touched them would it afford any suspicion of danger. It was natural, therefore, that not one of those who had contracted the disease expected to die from it. But on the same day in some cases, in others on the following day, and in the rest not many days later, a bubonic swelling developed; and this took place not only in the particular part of the body which is called “boubon,” that is, below the abdomen, but also inside the armpit, and in some cases also beside the ears, and at different points on the thighs.

“Up to this point, then, everything went in about the same way with all who had taken the disease. But from then on very marked differences developed; and I am unable to say whether the cause of this diversity of symptoms was to be found in the difference in bodies, or in the fact that it followed the wish of Him who brought the disease into the world. For there ensued with some a deep coma, with others a violent delirium, and in either case they suffered the characteristic symptoms of the disease. For those who were under the spell of the coma forgot all those who were familiar to them and seemed to be sleeping constantly. And if anyone cared for them, they would eat without waking, but some also were neglected, and these would die directly through lack of sustenance. But those who were seized with delirium suffered from insomnia and were victims of a distorted imagination; for they suspected that men were coming upon them to destroy them, and they would become excited and rush off in flight, crying out at the top of their voices. And those who were attending them were in a state of constant exhaustion and had a most difficult time of it throughout. For this reason everybody pitied them no less than the sufferers, not because they were threatened by the pestilence in going near it (for neither physicians nor other persons were found to contract this malady through contact with the sick or with the dead, for many who were constantly engaged either in burying or in attending those in no way connected with them held out in the performance of this service beyond all expectation, while with many others the disease came on without warning and they died straightway); but they pitied them because of the great hardships which they were undergoing. For when the patients fell from their beds and lay rolling upon the floor, they, kept patting them back in place, and when they were struggling to rush headlong out of their houses, they would force them back by shoving and pulling against them. And when water chanced to be near, they wished to fall into it, not so much because of a desire for drink (for the most of them rushed into the sea), but the cause was to be found chiefly in the diseased state of their minds. They had also great difficulty in the matter of eating, for they could not easily take food. And many perished through lack of any man to care for them, for they were either overcome by hunger, or threw themselves down from a height. And in those cases where neither coma nor delirium came on, the bubonic swelling became mortified and the sufferer, no longer able to endure the pain, died. And one would suppose that in all cases the same thing would have been true, but since they were not at all in their senses, some were quite unable to feel the pain; for owing to the troubled condition of their minds they lost all sense of feeling.

“Now some of the physicians who were at a loss because the symptoms were not understood, supposing that the disease centred in the bubonic swellings, decided to investigate the bodies of the dead. And upon opening some of the swellings, they found a strange sort of carbuncle that had grown inside them.

“Death came in some cases immediately, in others after many days; and with some the body broke out with black pustules about as large as a lentil and these did not survive even one day, but all succumbed immediately. With many also a vomiting of blood ensued without visible cause and straightway brought death. Moreover I am able to declare this, that the most illustrious physicians predicted that many would die, who unexpectedly escaped entirely from suffering shortly afterwards, and that they declared that many would be saved, who were destined to be carried off almost immediately. So it was that in this disease there was no cause which came within the province of human reasoning; for in all cases the issue tended to be something unaccountable. For example, while some were helped by bathing, others were harmed in no less degree. And of those who received no care many died, but others, contrary to reason, were saved. And again, methods of treatment shewed different results with different patients. Indeed the whole matter may be stated thus, that no device was discovered by man to save himself, so that either by taking precautions he should not suffer, or that when the malady had assailed him he should get the better of it; but suffering came without warning and recovery was due to no external cause.

“And in the case of women who were pregnant death could be certainly foreseen if they were taken with the disease. For some died through miscarriage, but others perished immediately at the time of birth with the infants they bore. However, they say that three women in confinement survived though their children perished, and that one woman died at the very time of child-birth but that the child was born and survived.

“Now in those cases where the swelling rose to an unusual size and a discharge of pus had set in, it came about that they escaped from the disease and survived, for clearly the acute condition of the carbuncle had found relief in this direction, and this proved to be in general an indication of returning health; but in cases where the swelling preserved its former appearance there ensued those troubles which I have just mentioned. And with some of them it came about that the thigh was withered, in which case, though the swelling was there, it did not develop the least suppuration. With others who survived the tongue did not remain unaffected, and they lived on either lisping or speaking incoherently and with difficulty.

“Now the disease in Byzantium ran a course of four months, and its greatest virulence lasted about three. And at first the deaths were a little more than the normal, then the mortality rose still higher, and afterwards the tale of dead reached five thousand each day, and again it even came to ten thousand and still more than that. Now in the beginning each man attended to the burial of the dead of his own house, and these they threw even into the tombs of others, either escaping detection or using violence; but afterwards confusion and disorder everywhere became complete. For slaves remained destitute of masters, and men who in former times were very prosperous were deprived of the service of their domestics who were either sick or dead, and many houses became completely destitute of human inhabitants. For this reason it came about that some of the notable men of the city because of the universal destitution remained unburied for many days.

“And it fell to the lot of the emperor, as was natural, to make provision for the trouble. He therefore detailed soldiers from the palace and distributed money, commanding Theodorus to take charge of this work; this man held the position of announcer of imperial messages, always announcing to the emperor the petitions of his clients, and declaring to them in turn whatever his wish was. In the Latin tongue the Romans designate this office by the term “referendarius.” So those who had not as yet fallen into complete destitution in their domestic affairs attended individually to the burial of those connected with them. But Theodorus, by giving out the emperor’s money and by making further expenditures from his own purse, kept burying the bodies which were not cared for. And when it came about that all the tombs which had existed previously were filled with the dead, then they dug up all the places about the city one after the other, laid the dead there, each one as he could, and departed; but later on those who were making these trenches, no longer able to keep up with the number of the dying, mounted the towers of the fortifications in Sycae, and tearing off the roofs threw the bodies in there in complete disorder; and they piled them up just as each one happened to fall, and filled practically all the towers with corpses, and then covered them again with their roofs. As a result of this an evil stench pervaded the city and distressed the inhabitants still more, and especially whenever the wind blew fresh from that quarter.

“At that time all the customary rites of burial were overlooked. For the dead were not carried out escorted by a procession in the customary manner, nor were the usual chants sung over them, but it was sufficient if one carried on his shoulders the body of one of the dead to the parts of the city which bordered on the sea and flung him down; and there the corpses would be thrown upon skiffs in a heap, to be conveyed wherever it might chance. At that time, too, those of the population who had formerly been members of the factions laid aside their mutual enmity and in common they attended to the burial rites of the dead, and they carried with their own hands the bodies of those who were no connections of theirs and buried them. Nay, more, those who in times past used to take delight in devoting themselves to pursuits both shameful and base, shook off the unrighteousness of their daily lives and practised the duties of religion with diligence, not so much because they had learned wisdom at last nor because they had become all of a sudden lovers of virtue, as it were–for when qualities have become fixed in men by nature or by the training of a long period of time, it is impossible for them to lay them aside thus lightly, except, indeed, some divine influence for good has breathed upon them–but then all, so to speak, being thoroughly terrified by the things which were happening, and supposing that they would die immediately, did, as was natural, learn respectability for a season by sheer necessity. Therefore as soon as they were rid of the disease and were saved, and already supposed that they were in security, since the curse had moved on to other peoples, then they turned sharply about and reverted once more to their baseness of heart, and now, more than before, they make a display of the inconsistency of their conduct, altogether surpassing themselves in villainy and in lawlessness of every sort. For one could insist emphatically without falsehood that this disease, whether by chance or by some providence, chose out with exactitude the worst men and let them go free. But these things were displayed to the world in later times.

“During that time it seemed no easy thing to see any man in the streets of Byzantium, but all who had the good fortune to be in health were sitting in their houses, either attending the sick or mourning the dead. And if one did succeed in meeting a man going out, he was carrying one of the dead. And work of every description ceased, and all the trades were abandoned by the artisans, and all other work as well, such as each had in hand. Indeed in a city which was simply abounding in all good things starvation almost absolute was running riot. Certainly it seemed a difficult and very notable thing to have a sufficiency of bread or of anything else; so that with some of the sick it appeared that the end of life came about sooner than it should have come by reason of the lack of the necessities of life. And, to put all in a word, it was not possible to see a single man in Byzantium clad in the chlamys, and especially when the emperor became ill (for he too had a swelling of the groin), but in a city which held dominion over the whole Roman empire every man was wearing clothes befitting private station and remaining quietly at home. Such was the course of the pestilence in the Roman empire at large as well as in Byzantium. And it fell also upon the land of the Persians and visited all the other barbarians besides.”[i]

Procopius describes a worldwide plague that matches the first bowl of wrath. “A foul and loathsome sore came upon the men.” His graphic detail of what is believed to be the bubonic or black plague leaves the reader with the amazement that such horror actually took place just as John had prophesied in the book of revelation.

Another historian who lived during the Justinian plague was a Syrian known as John of Ephesus. He too writes a rather lengthy firsthand narrative of the plague. What follows is a portion of his writings that describes the number of victims and the symptoms of the plague:

“When thus the scourge weighted heavy upon this city, first it eagerly began (to assault) the class of the poor, who lay in the streets. It happened that 5000 and 7000, or even 12,000 and as many as 16,000 of them departed (this world) in a single day. Since thus far it was (only) the beginning, men were standing by the harbours, at the crossroads and at the gates counting (the dead). Thus having perished they were shrouded with great diligence and buried; they departed (this life) being clothed and followed (to the grave) by everybody.

“Thus the (people of Constantinople) reached the point of disappearing, only few remaining, whereas (of) those only who had died on the streets – if anybody wants us to name their number, for in fact they were counted – over 300,000 were taken off the streets. Those who counted, having reached (the number of) 230,000 and seeing that (the dead) were innumerable, gave up (reckoning)and from then on (the corpses) were brought out without being counted.

“… Not only those who died, but also those who escaped sudden death (were struck) with this plague of swelling in their groins, with this disease which they call boubones, and which in our Syriac language is translated as ‘tumours.’ Both servants and masters were smitten together, nobles and common people impartially. They were struck down one opposite another, groaning.

“… Another sign would separate those to be snatched away from those who would survive and remain (waiting) for either death or life. It appeared in this way: three signs became visible in the middle of the palm of a man’s hand in the form of black pocks which did not depart (from the skin) but (remained) deep (in it). They were like three drops of blood deep within. On whomsoever these appeared, the moment they did so the end would come within just one or two hours, or it might happen that (the person) had one day’s delay. These (signs) were (to be found) on many (people).”[ii]

John of Ephesus provides an additional identifying description that correlates the Justinian Plague to the bowls of wrath. The pandemic as described resulted in dead bodies in such numbers that the living were unable to keep up with the burial of the dead. Putrefied bodies lay everywhere. After all available burial space was utilized, the dead were either buried at sea or disposed in mass graves. John of Ephesus describes how an appointed government official named Theodorus organized the mass burial:

“He took along many people, gave them much gold and had very large pits dug, in everyone of which 70,000 (corpses) were put. He placed there (some) men who brought down and turned over (corpses), piled them up and presses the layers one upon another as a man might heap up hay in a stack. Also he placed by the pits men holding gold and encouraged the workmen and the common people with gifts to carry and to bring up (corpes), giving five, six and even seven and ten dinars for each load.”[iii]

“What more is there to say? – also on those pits into which people were thrown and trodden upon, while men stood below, deep as in an abyss, and others above: the latter dragged and threw down (the corpses), like stones being thrown from a sling, and the former grabbed and threw them one on top of another, arranging the rows in alternating directions. Because of scarcity (of room) both men and women were trodden upon, young people and children were pressed together, trodden upon by feet and trampled like spoiled grapes.”[iv]

“How and with what utterances, with what hymns, with what funeral laments and groanings should somebody mourn who has survived and witnessed this “wine-press of the fury of the wrath (of God)?”’

“Those who trampled stood (below) and when a man or a women or a young man or a child was put (down) they would tread (them) with their feet to press them down and to make place for others. The (corpse) which was trampled sank and was immersed in the pus of those below it, since it was after five or as much as ten days that (the corpses) reached (this place of) pernicious prostration.”[v]

The mass graves were dug outside the city of Constantinople in just the same manner as depicts a massive winepress but of human bodies. The bodies brought to the graves were in various states of decomposition. “People thrown in great heaps torn open one upon another with their bellies putrefying and their intestines flowing like brooks down into the sea.”[vi] These bodies were like busted grapes as they were pressed in a human winepress. Certainly, this historian made the connection between the events occurring in his time to those recorded by John in the book of Revelation!

John of Ephesus paraphrased a line from Revelation 14:19-20. The actual passage reads: “So the angel thrust his sickle into the earth and gathered the vine of the earth, and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trampled outside the city, and blood came out of the winepress, up to the horses’ bridles, for one thousand six hundred furlongs.” In fact, John of Ephesus reiterates the human winepress analogy at least three times in his testimony. This is strong evidence that correlates the bowls of wrath to the Justinian plague!

“Then the second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it became blood as of a dead man; and every living creature in the sea died” (Rev. 16:3).

The second bowl of wrath continues the same morbid depiction of human decomposition. “Blood as of a dead man” could only be an illusion to the decay of the human body. This time the plague was spread upon the sea.

The word “sea” is often used symbolically to mean people of the world in prophetic scriptures (Ref. Psm. 65:7; Isa. 17:12; 57:20-21). John writes that “every living creature in the sea died.” A literal translation from Greek into English reads, “every soul of life died, the things in the sea.”[vii] Though a vast number of people died in the plague, many physically survived the horror, but no one survived untouched. Procopius related how care takers suffered a greater burden then those who died. John of Ephesus claimed many survivors went insane. Survivors were demoralized to despair. Life would never be the same again. Perhaps in that sense, “every soul of life died.”

“Then the third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood” (Rev. 16:4).

The third bowl of wrath continues the same notion of blood signifying the same presence of the plague. The bowls are not differing plagues, as many assume, but the same plague being distributed to different locations. Commentaries on the Justinian Plague often express an amazement how fast this plague spread. After all, rodents that were believed to have spread the plague would need time to travel to the whole known world. Yet, this plague was everywhere in less than 2 years. The reason for the unusually fast spreading plague was the fact that God commissioned angels to pour out their bowls in different locations. It spread fast because God spread it!

This time the plague found its way inland from the coast. Rome itself lays inland along the river Tiberis. This certainly would alert Christians that the city of Rome was on the Lord’s radar. The third bowl signifies the idea that the plague was geographically everywhere in their water sources.

The Roman empire for some 400 years was thirsty for blood. “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets.” In exchange, God has “given them blood to drink. For it is their just due.” (Rev. 16:6). The New American Standard Version says, “For they deserve it!” God literally gave them what they thirst for in a most appropriate manner. Their water sources were contaminated by the blood of their own people.

“Then the fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds” (Rev. 16:10-11).

The sores reappear in the pouring out of the fifth bowl of wrath. This time the plague is poured upon the throne of the beast, assumedly the city of Rome itself. The intent of the punishment was to cause the Romans to repent. However, it caused them to blaspheme God while they gnawed on their tongues in pain. The gnawing on their tongues is likely an innuendo to the scarcity of food. The Romans did not repent so their punishment was not only due, but it was just!

Justinian’s Black Plague continued in earnest for 3 years followed by a famine (famine likely being the 4th bowl of wrath). It is believed that the city of Constantinople alone lost approximately 60% of their population. Many towns in the Roman empire became uninhabited. Though not entirely due to the plague, the city of Rome was deserted five years after the first bowl of wrath was poured out. The Roman empire along with the city of Rome were crushed in the winepress of God’s wrath.

[i] Procopius, History of Wars, vol. 1, XXII & XXIII, p. 451-473.

[ii] John of Ephesus, Pseudo-Dionysius of Tel-Mahre Chronicle Part III, Witold Witakowski, Liverpool University Press, 1996, p. 86-88.

[iii] Ibid, p. 91.

[iv] Ibid, p. 95

[v] Ibid, p. 96.

[vi] Ibid, p. 89.

[vii] The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, Alfred Marshall, Zondervan Publishing House, 1975, p. 1002.

Timing the Book of Revelation

Timing is everything for the proper interpretation of the book of Revelation. Various theories have developed concerning the interpretation of the book of Revelation that have ignored when it was written or when it concludes. These theories take advantage of the symbolic nature of the book to express ideas that are beyond the scope of the book itself. We are directed to confine ourselves to the things written in the book without adding to it or taking away from it (Rev. 22:18-19). Identifying the beginning and ending points in the book of Revelation will ensure we do not step outside our given guidelines.

Timing the Beginning Point

The Apostle John, the author of the book of Revelation, opens the book defining when the prophecies will begin. In the very first sentence he writes, “things which must shortly take place.” Two sentences later he adds, “for the time is near.” The prophecies in the book of Revelation began shortly after John wrote the book. In fact, the first observable prophecy was near to the time he finished writing the book.

A little later in the first chapter Jesus tells John, “Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this” (Rev. 1:19). The emphasis is not on past events. A prophecy is not prophetic if it reveals those things that already took place. It would defy the very definition of the word prophecy. John declared, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy (Rev. 1:3).

According to many historical sources, John wrote the book of Revelation about 97 A.D. This date will serve as the starting point for all prophecies contained in the book of Revelation. The first observable prophecy in the book of revelation was recorded in the opening of the 5th seal. “When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held” (Rev. 6:9). In the year 107 A.D., less than 11 years after John wrote the book of Revelation, Emperor Trajan was persecuting Christians unto death.

“Pliny the Second… seeing the lamentable slaughter of Christians, and moved therewith to pity, wrote to Trajan, certifying him that there were many thousands of them daily put to death, of which none did anything contrary to the Roman laws worthy of persecution.”[i]

Ignatius, an early church father, an Elder of the church in Antioch and a disciple of the Apostle John, was martyred, reportedly in the ninth year of Trajan’s reign.[ii] Trajan himself examined Ignatius and sentenced him to be fed to wild animals in the amphitheater of Rome.

Timing the End Point

The ending of the prophecies in the book of Revelation is also definable. With the exception of Chapters 19 to 22 that clearly refer to the end of time and the judgement to come, John’s vision tells us that point when the prophecies end. It is described for us in Revelation chapters 17 and 18.

“And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!”’ (Rev 18:2). Babylon in this prophecy is the city of Rome. In the previous chapter, the woman that rides the beast is called, “Babylon the great” (Rev. 17:5) and is further identified as “that great city which reigns over the kings of the earth” (Rev. 17:18). The city of Rome was the capital of the Roman empire.

The destruction of Rome in this prophecy was so complete that it’s ruin was described as desolate. “They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate’” (Rev. 18:19).

Arthur Ogden, a well-known preterit among churches of Christ insists that Rome could not be the symbolic Babylon because it was called the “Eternal City” and “it has never been destroyed.”[iii] However, history would disagree.

There are at least two historical references that state Rome was destroyed. Procopius of Caesarea (c. 500 – c. 554 A.D.) was a historian who wrote this description of Rome as it existed in 546 A.D. “In Rome he suffered nothing human to remain, leaving it altogether, in every part, a perfect desert.”[iv] This quote is believed to derive from his book, History of the Wars. Therein, Procopius wrote in some detail, “As for the Romans, however, he kept the members of the senate with him, while all the others together with their wives and children he sent to Campania, refusing to allow a single soul in Rome, but leaving it entirely deserted.”[v]

Marcellinus Comes was a chronicler in Constantinople (d. 534 A.D.). An unknown writer wrote in his chronicle, The Chronicles of Marcellinus, this statement about Rome: “Everything that had belonged to the Romans was carried away, and also the Romans themselves were led into Campania – captives. And after this devastation, Rome was so desolate, that, for forty days or more there was to be seen in it not a single inhabitant, but only wild beasts.”[vi] The word desolate is the same word the Apostle John used to describe the end result of the symbolic city of Babylon (Rev. 18:19).

Edward Gibbons in his work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, echoed the same understanding that Rome was destroyed and abandoned. The Gothic king Totila took Rome in December, 546 A.D. and decreed “that Rome should be changed into a pasture for cattle.”[vii] The remaining citizens of Rome were taken captive “and during forty days Rome was abandoned to desolate and dreary solitude.”[viii] After which a Roman general “visited with pity and reverence the vacant space of the eternal city.”[ix]

The eternal city was first given that nickname by “the Roman poet Tibullus in the 1st century BC.”[x] The designation was nothing more than a romantic idea of a beloved city with the hope for a long existence. The nickname has nothing to do with the reality of history.

Regardless, Rome that is called Babylon in the book of Revelation says it “shall not be found anymore” (Rev. 18:21). Obviously, Rome still exists to this day. However, the original site with its antiquity laden structures have not been reconstructed since the destruction took place. The sight remains an archaeological treasure not to mention the 3rd most significant tourist site in the world.

Much of the prophetic description given in the book of Jeremiah (Jer. 50 and 51) to describe Babylon’s destruction is similar to the description of Rome’s destruction in the book of Revelation. It seems the Apostle John is literally describing Babylon as it prophetically alludes to Rome in the book of Revelation. It should not trouble us that a phrase that historically depicts Babylon as not being found is applied to Rome as an empire.

Further, it should be argued that Rome was the capital and embodiment of the Roman Empire. As Rome goes, so does the empire. The Roman empire was never resurrected after Rome fell in 546 A.D. The Roman Empire certainly has never been found anymore.

These facts should serve as ample evidence for the ending point of the prophecies through chapter 18 in the book of Revelation. If the book of Revelation is basically chronological in order, then all the events or circumstances from Revelation chapters 6 through 18 should be found between the years 97 A.D. and 546 A.D. Any interpretation outside these dates for these chapters would add to the things contained in the prophecy of the book of Revelation. Ignoring the things historically contained within these dates for these chapters would take away from the words of the prophecy in the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:18-19).

Surely, the Lord is coming quickly (Rev. 22:20)!

[i] John Foxe, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, William Byron Forbush, ed., Chapter II

[ii] “The Martyrdom of Ignatius,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Alexander Roberts, D. D., ed., Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, Vol. 1, p. 129.

[iii] Arthur M. Ogden, The Avenging of the Apostles and Prophets, Ogden Publications, Somerset, KY, 1991, p. 443, 446.

[iv] John Miley, Rome as it was Under Paganism and as it Became Under the Popes, J. Maddon and Company, London, 1843, vol. 2, p. 196.

[v] Procopius, History of the Wars, VII, xxii.

[vi] Miley, vol. 2, p. 196.

[vii] Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Robert Maynard Hutchins, ed. in chief, Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1952, vol. 2, p. 57.

[viii] ibid

[ix] ibid

[x] “Rome,” Wikipedia.

Is a Judgment Day Coming Upon God’s People?

God’s word is infallible (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As such, every word is inspired of God. God wrote the Bible via inspired men through the Holy Spirit. There are no contradictions in scripture. If a contradiction seems to exist, that alone is proof of error. For example, if I take the position that only non-Christians are subject to God’s Judgment and I find a single verse in the Bible that says otherwise, that is proof that my argument is wrong.

2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (NKJV) Paul wrote the second letter to the Corinthian Brethren. The pronoun “we” would specifically include the Apostle himself and the brethren he is writing. That means Paul expects to stand before Christ in the Judgment to come along with all Christians that ever lived (a necessary inference). In fact, Paul implies that if he had done anything wrong while he lived, he would deservedly receive punishment as his reward at that time.

Paul repeated this understanding in Rom. 14:10. He wrote to the Brethren in Rome saying, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (NKJV) In no uncertain terms, Paul says we will all be judged by Christ. Again, the “we” includes Paul and all the Brethren in Rome. In fact, Paul implies that Brethren who show contempt for other brethren will receive a deservedly just punishment at that time.

Was Paul the only Apostle to hold such a radically confrontational position? Doesn’t Paul know that Christians do not sin (1 John 3:9)? Doesn’t Paul know that Christians who live righteously all their lives already know they are going to heaven? Doesn’t Paul know that everyone in Paradise automatically gets to go to Heaven? (I write facetiously.) Obviously, Paul knows more on this subject than we know.

The Apostle John agrees with Paul’s statements concerning the Judgment to come. “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world” (1 Jn. 4:17; NKJV). The pronoun “we” would include John himself needing boldness in the day of Judgment. Why would John and the Christians that he writes need boldness on the Judgment day unless there is a chance that some of them could be eternally lost?

The Apostle Peter would agree that Christians will be judged on the judgment day. He wrote, “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God” (1 Pet. 4:17; NKJV)? Peter expects to be part of the house of God (i.e. the Church) that will be judged on that great day. Notice the judgment begins with Christians of which Peter includes himself. He implies that beginning hasn’t taken place yet. In other words, judgment is not an ongoing process as people die. Judgment is a time specific event in the future.

In the explanation of the Parable of the Tares Jesus makes this statement, “The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:41-42; NKJV). Though Jesus does not say the event He is referring to is the Judgment, it seems rather logical that it could only be the Judgment as the Christians that are gathered out of His kingdom are thrown into the fire “at the end of this age” (Matt. 13:40).

Jesus and three apostles affirm that Christians will be judged on the Judgment Day. So how is it that some people claim that only non-Christians will be subject to the judgement?

Some well-meaning members of the church will turn to Romans 8:1 where it says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” In error, they infer that the Greek word translated here for condemnation (katakrima) means judgment. However, that Greek word does not carry the idea of judgment. Rather it is ‘“the sentence pronounced, the condemnation” with a suggestion of punishment following”’ (Vines Complete Expository Dictionary). To infer “condemnation” here means judgment is to be deceptive.

Scriptures are quite clear that everyone will give an account for themselves on the Judgment Day (Acts 17:31; Rom. 14:11-12; Heb. 9:27). All it takes to lose our soul is to commit one unrepentant sin (Jas. 2:10). Is it not possible for Christians to die in their sins? Peter warned the brethren “to make your call and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10). That implies that brethren can fail to make their call and election sure! Brethren do err (Jas. 1:18). We can’t say brethren who err never were Christians to start with because these passages call them brethren; a term that denotes Christians. Nor can we say that their sins remove them from the Church. Christ is the only one who can add us to the Church (Acts 2:47). Sins separate us from God, hopefully only for a time, but sins do not remove Christians from the Kingdom. Removal from the Kingdom takes place for those who deserve it at the Judgment Day (Matt. 13:41). Notice again that Christ will “gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness.” Obviously, erring brethren must be in the Kingdom in order for the Lord to remove them from the Kingdom.

There are three parables that further illustrate that Christians will be removed from the Kingdom on the Judgment day.

In the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matt. 22:2-14), the church is likened to a wedding feast. Both good and bad people composed the attendees. Yet, the King only removed the man who was unprepared (i.e. without garments) and cast him into outer darkness.

The Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30) illustrates a servant of the Lord who sinned by omission. We find him giving an account of himself before he is removed into outer darkness.

In the Parable of the Dragnet (Matt. 13:47-50) the church is likened to this dragnet. Good and bad people are gathered into it. “At the end of the age,” they are separated.

Remember, Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:21-23; NKJV)! The interesting thing about this glimpse into the Judgment Day is the fact that those who are protesting their verdict are Christians that don’t have a clue until this moment that they are wicked. The “many” in this predicament confess Christ as Lord. They could prophesy, cast out demons and perform miraculous deeds. For a first century Christian to do those things, they had to be a member of the Lord’s Church that was given said gifts by an Apostle. Obviously, they erred along life’s road. Yet, they were unaware of their final fate.

Where would these erring brethren be in Hades? If they were in torment they would already know their fate just like the rich man (Lk. 16:19-31). Since they died in the first century, the only possible location they could be in is Paradise. Just because Christians find themselves in Paradise is not a guarantee they will go to Heaven. The thief on the cross is another perfect example (Lk. 23:43). Just because the thief went to Paradise does not imply his eternal destiny. Theft was a sin under the Old Law. The thief on the cross will have to account for his conduct just like anyone else on the Judgment Day.

In the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16), most of the laborers thought it wasn’t fair to give those who worked less the same reward. Some in the Church think it is unfair that erring brethren should await the Judgment in comfort if their final reward is Hell. The upset laborers told the landowner, “you made them equal to us who have borne the heat of the day.” The landowner responded, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” We need to stop and think who we are that would think God must conform His will in any respect to our preconceived notions. The only reason we would object to Paradise not being exclusive to Heaven bound Saints is because we see the Lord’s mercy toward those who will eventually lose their soul as somehow wrong. God’s ways are not our ways (Isa. 55:8).

God has not lied to anyone concerning Paradise. There is no scripture that connects Paradise as the exclusive waiting place for the saved. We are the ones who reason that if Torment is for the lost then Paradise is for the saved. But that is our assumption based on logic; not truth. Isn’t it better to accept God’s word as truth? “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Rom. 3:4).

We have learned that everyone must appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive our just reward or punishment. On the Judgment Day, Christ will separate the good from the bad out of His Kingdom. All this will occur at the end of the age… not at death. A Judgment Day is coming for God’s people!

By Steve A. Hamilton

For Stomach Sake

Many people like to use 1 Timothy 5:23 as justification to drink alcohol. After all, Timothy is being told to drink wine by the Apostle Paul. To those who use this line of thought, it makes no difference how much wine is being drank or the reason for its use; all that matters is the sanction being given to Timothy to drink an intoxicating beverage.

First of all, we should point out again that the word wine as used in the English versions of the Bible does not necessitate the assumption that it is alcoholic. In fact, Paul recognizes that Timothy doesn’t even consume wine. Paul tells Timothy, “No longer drink only water…” (NKJV). Timothy apparently was abstinent in regard to wine. The same was true concerning John the Baptist (Lk. 1:15). Also, the apostle James “drank neither wine nor fermented liquors.”[i]

Timothy, like all Disciples of Christ, believed in keeping oneself pure in body and spirit (1 Tim. 5:22; Rom. 8:10-13; 1 Cor. 6:19-20; 1 Thes. 5:23). Timothy, as a protégé of Paul, would have been sensitive to the conscience of other brethren. Paul instructed the Romans in this regard by saying, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak.” (Rom. 14:21).   Further, if Timothy has any aspirations to become an Elder one day he is well aware of the restriction placed upon those who serve in that office (1 Tim. 3:2-3; Tit. 1:7).  Timothy didn’t drink wine!

It also makes little sense for Paul to instruct Timothy to violate his abstinence from fermented wine. Those of us who ardently restrain ourselves from alcohol would be highly offended at the suggestion to drink a glass of wine for some medical benefit. Paul knows Timothy well enough not to make such a blunder in his advice. Rather, Paul advices Timothy to “use a little wine for stomach sake…”  (1 Tim. 5:23). Paul doesn’t say “drink” wine but to “use” or “take” a little wine. That sounds very much like a doctor’s prescription. Paul is not sanctioning the drinking of an alcoholic beverage even if it was fermented. He says to take a little wine!

It happens to be recorded in ancient history that unfermented wine was used for medicinal purposes. Pliny, a Roman historian (A.D. 24-79), in his book Natural History, reports, “Ten quarts of white must and half that quantity of water are kept boiling till a considerable amount of water is boiled away… This drink is given to invalids [from aegris meaning the sick] for whom it is feared that wine may be harmful.” Later in his book he states that fermented wine was also used for medical purposes but makes this observation, “Wines are most beneficial when all their potency has been overcome by the strainer.”  Athenaeus (A.D. 280) specifically recommends the use of unfermented wine for the stomach. “Let him take sweet wine, either mixed with water or warmed, especially that kind called protropos, the sweet Lesbian glukus, as being good for the stomach; for sweet wine does not make the head heavy” (Athenaeus, Banquet, pp. 24).

Given these statements, it becomes painfully obvious that Paul was not and would not recommend an alcoholic beverage to Timothy for his frequent infirmities. Rather, Paul was recommending a little bit of unfermented wine (boiled must that is most likely mixed with water) for his stomach problems. Such a remedy for soothing heart burn or indigestion would be consistent with such a recommendation from Paul.

[i] Eusebius quoting Hegesippus, Ecclesiastical History, II, 23, 5.