The apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We have also fallen short in our failure to carry out our mandate in what Christ commissioned us to do. If we can lead just one person to Christ each year – think of what that would accomplish.
A cursory knowledge of world history and a glance at a world map would show that much of the world that had been evangelized is no longer Christian. Moreover, elementary knowledge of American history will show that much of our Judeo-Christian heritage has been and is currently being attacked and erased.
In the meantime, many Christians here in America and elsewhere look to current events as “signs of the end” or as “the beginning of birth pangs.” All this as we are passively standing by in the face of the most blatant and brazen beginnings of persecution. One only has to read the accounts of Eusebius, which I include my book, to see how Christian persecution looks.
Gone are the days, here in America, when Christians are respected, or when the rest of the world looks up to America as a Christian nation. Europe is apathetic, and much of Eurasia and Asia are now Muslim or otherwise non-Christian. Africa? Central and South America? Possibly God’s new remnant. God always saves a remnant.
It is arrogance, as well as ignorance to believe that we in America are so central to God’s plan. We have become paralyzed to action and are now subject to the heathen world as we are being browbeaten into submission and ever more silenced. Much of that is from the acceptance of the “fact” that these things must take place as we await the coming Great Tribulation.
After a biblical repudiation of many of the more widely accepted explanations of futurism at a recent Sunday School class called “Rapture Disrupted,” a distraught woman asked a question of the teacher why he was taking away all of the prophecies from her. What an astonishing question, yet a glimpse into the futurist’s mind.
“Our prophecies,” as this woman suggested, are to what she was clinging. That attitude permeates the thoughts and minds, as well as the speech of so many people as they look to Jesus’ coming back to rescue them from this mean and nasty world. They are awaiting the rapture to take them away from the coming great tribulation. That mindset has frozen them in place.
It can honestly be stated that I have never read or heard anyone of the futurist persuasion equate Jesus’ prophecy of the Great Tribulation with the great persecution that the Bible definitively states occurred beginning with the stoning and killing of Stephen (Acts 8:1). As we have previously stated, the book of Acts sheds much light on the great persecution.
The great persecution began, not only with the killing of Stephen but at the feet of Saul, who became, after his conversion, known as the great apostle Paul. We should emulate him, not before, but after his conversion. Following his footsteps throughout Acts, we see that he boldly and unashamedly proclaimed the gospel to the world, suffering much persecution in the process at the hands of the Jews and Romans.
The theological and historical aspects of what Paul accomplished and underwent are immensely significant. They did not take place in a vacuum. It is reasonable to assume that Christians elsewhere experienced similar treatment at the hands of the Jews and Romans as they attempted to stomp out Christianity – literally. It reached a climax under the brutal and debauched Emperor Nero, who, in an attempt to stave off blame for the fires that leveled a sizable portion of the city of Rome, shifted that blame onto the Christians.
The book of Acts ends during the reign of Nero (54-68), who would eventually martyr Paul and Peter, as well as myriad others. All of that should be taken into consideration when one reads that God-inspired account. Then read the human account of the persecution in Eusebius’ works, which we previously referenced. Of course, it is all spelled out in my book, The Harlot of Revelation and the Great Tribulation.
That persecution, the great persecution, the time of distress of Daniel 12:1, which began at the feet of Paul with the killing of Stephen, lasted until the year 313 – 280 years! That is when Emperor Constantine, who was himself a Christian, signed the Edict of Milan, formally ending it and granting Christians the right to live as human beings.
There is no reason to place a mythical interpretation onto the words of Jesus or to doubt that the great persecution of Acts 8:1 was the Great Tribulation that He prophesied in Matthew 24:21. However, that doubt does exist and is the offshoot of futurism based on Irenaeus. It is all available for the reader to see for himself.
The Bible was authored by many writers over centuries, but it all tells a central story. That story is that everything points to Christ, what He did at the cross, and His resurrection. Throughout the Old Testament, God called the Israelites a harlot because they turned their backs on and forsook their true husband – Him. The harlot, in that respect, does not appear in the gospels at all. However, Jesus certainly alludes to the religious leaders as such in His indictment of them in Matthew 23, particularly in 23:34-38.
Do not overlook the fact that the prophecies by Daniel consistently point to that momentous time in history – of Christ, the cross, the resurrection, and the great tribulation. The fact that Daniel clearly talks about the time of distress in the same breath as the resurrection, which is then repeated by Christ and quantified as the great tribulation, later definitively identified as the great persecution, speaks volumes.
Moreover, those events, from the time of Christ’s crucifixion to the year 70, which clearly fulfill both His and Daniel’s prophecies, and which, as we said, clearly are identified as such in Acts 8:1 as the great persecution – to merely dismiss them out of hand and look to the future for a different Great Tribulation is not only contemptuous but utter folly.
Think about this: in Revelation 13, John talks about “the number of the name of the beast.” The reader should recall that we spent considerable time discussing that when we examined Irenaeus’ writings. What the reference to the number tells us is that something was going on such that stating the name itself of that person would have been dangerous – even suicidal.
The angel gave John the identity in numerical code to protect him and the other Christians from the great persecution that was ongoing under the diabolical reign of Nero. Numerous books explain gematria, the practice of assigning numbers to letters so that a number for a name can be attained. It is a practice used in Hebrew and Greek, and the name in both Hebrew and Greek gematria for 666 is Nero.
There is considerable literature available about Nero. He was a despot, worse than Nebuchadnezzar, Antiochus Epiphanes, or Domitian; worse than Mussolini, Hirohito, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Kim, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, or Saddam. The debauchery he practiced is legendary. He was the worst of the worst, and it is for that reason that John gave his depiction of the beast as a number. Although Nero was long gone when Irenaeus wrote, the persecution was still going full bore, so he would not dare state who it was – but he should have known about gematria and been able to figure the name out for himself.
The fact that Nero’s name adds up to 666 puts the writing of Revelation before 70AD. The fact that John was told to measure the Temple in Revelation 11:1-2 also puts the date before 70. The Roman Empire, epitomized by Nero, was the beast. That solves that riddle. The woman on the beast, the harlot, is the Israelites of Judea, epitomized by Jerusalem and the Temple. That solves that riddle. The Bible describes them throughout the Old Testament, as they worshipped other gods and killed the prophets – like a harlot. They, who condemned Jesus to death and had Him crucified, and who killed Stephen and the other prophets and persecuted the church, continued to behave as the harlot. That is why we see the harlot in Revelation.
Understanding the concept of the harlot and recognizing that the events of 70AD are second only to the coming of Christ and His resurrection solves nearly all of the mystery of prophecy and eschatology. The symbolism of Revelation is then less difficult to decipher. The beast from the sea of Revelation 13 is the beast the woman is riding upon in Revelation 16-19, personified as the beast from the land, whose number is 666, Nero. The woman ready to give birth to the child in Revelation 12 is the Jewish nation of Judea about to give birth to Christ – with Satan, the devil, the red dragon standing at the ready, waiting to devour Him – only to fail at the resurrection! Hallelujah! Christ, the Lord God Almighty reigns!