Wednesday, May 7, 2014

"Was Nero the Antichrist?"

* These are the notes from a Bible study I did in September 2004.  The question was posed, "Was Nero the Antichrist?" and here is my answer.

1.     The need to define terms correctly!  What have you heard about "the Antichrist?"

2.     There are four (4) verses that use the term "antichrist"

  1. 1 John 2.18
  2. 1 John 2.22
  3. 1 John 4.3
  4. 2 John 7

*Note: None of the references to "antichrist" are in the book of Revelation even though the apostle John wrote both the Epistles of John and Revelation.

3.     Basic Bible study notes on the four texts mentioning "antichrist"

  1. 1 John 2.18-19

* you "heard" that antichrist is coming; (not necessarily true)

* even now many antichrists have arisen (plurality of antichrists)

* they (the antichrists) went out from the church

  1. 1 John 2.22

* liar = one who denies that Jesus is the Christ

* antichrist = one who denies the Father and the Son

  1. 1 John 4.3

* antichrist identified with a "spirit"

* this "spirit" does not confess Jesus

* "heard" antichrist is coming

* according to John antichrist is now already in the world

  1. 2 John 7

* antichrists identified as deceivers

* antichrists have gone out into the world (from the church)

* antichrists do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh (proto-gnosticism)

4.     Attributes of antichrists according to John

  1. Antichrists are contemporaries of John in the first century

-1 John 2.18-19
-1 John 4.3
-2 John 7

  1. Antichrists are multiple: a multiple movement

-1 John 2.28: many antichrists have arisen
-2 John 7: many deceivers have gone out into the world
-1 John 4.3: the spirit of antichrist (does not confess Jesus)
-1 John 2.22

            John clearly applies the conception of the one antichrist (ho antichristos)
            to the generic tendency to promote lies about the identity of Christ.
                                    Kenneth Gentry He Shall Have Dominion, p. 373

  1. Antichrists were religious leaders who went out from the Christian church.  They
arose from the inside of the church (cf. Acts 20.29-30).

-1 John 2.18-19
-2 John 7 (cf. vv. 10-11)

  1. Antichrists work by deception

-1 John 2.22: liars
-2 John 7: deceivers

  1. Antichrists were recognizable: this was one of John's purposes in writing (1 John

-Examine the teaching
-Certain doctrinal errors are labeled "antichrist"

     *Question: Does Nero fit these attributes?  No.

5.     Gary DeMar points to a two-fold problem with identifying "antichrist":

  1. Treating divergent biblical references as if they refer to the same person thereby creating a composite figure that is not found in Scripture, and
  2. Mistaking the time period in which these divergent figures are to appear.
Gary DeMar Last Day Madness, p. 221

      *The point here: Antichrist is wrongly equated with the Beast of Revelation
            (See The Truth About Antichrist and His Kingdom by Thomas Ice and Timothy
            Demy, pp. 8,9, and 21 for an example of this fallacy.)

6.     Revelation 13: The Beast

  1. The Beast as empire (general): vv. 1-2 (cf. Daniel 7.17)

  1. The Beast as a man (specific): v. 18

  1. The Beast persecutes the church from the outside: v. 7 and 15 (cf. Rev. 20.4)

*Question: What about the language "every tribe and people and tongue and nation  
                  was given to him" (v. 7)?

  Answer:  This phrase echoes Daniel 5:19, in which we are told that "all the peoples,
                 nations, and men of every language feared king Nebuchandnezzar."  Yet
                 Nebuchandnezzar's empire did not extend far beyond the Fertile Crescent,
            an area somewhat smaller than the Greek or Roman Empires.  Thus,
            although the language used is universal, it can have a limited application
            to the  known political world of the writer's time.
            James Nance "The Anti-Christ and the Beast" p. 114

7.     Indicators that the Beast was Nero

  1. Relevance of Revelation for original audience John wrote to
-1.1,3 and 22. 6,7,12,20: language of soon/near (bookends of the writing)
-historical churches being addressed in chapters 2 and 3

b. Interpreted imagery of Revelation 17 (see verses 3,7, 9-10): Seven heads equal:

i.               Seven mountains: Seven hills surround Rome

Suetonius and Plutarch record for us that in the time of Domitian the festival of Septimontium ("the feast of the seven hilled city") was held annually in December to celebrate the seven hills enclosing Rome.  Archaeologists have discovered the Coin (or Medallion) of Vespasian that exhibits a picture of the goddess Roma as a woman seated on seven hills.
                                    Kenneth Gentry Before Jerusalem Fell, p. 149

ii.              Seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while (Rev. 17.10)

1.     Julius Caesar (49-44 BC)
2.     Augustus  (31 BC-AD 14)
3.     Tiberius  (AD 14-37)
4.     Gaius (Caligula) (AD 37-41)
5.     Claudius  (AD 41-54)
6.     Nero  (AD 54-68)
7.     Galba (AD 68 [June]-69 [January])

                         *This listing of emperors is detailed in the Roman historians Suetonius
                          (AD 70-160) Lives of the Twelve Caesars and Dio Cassius (AD 150-235)
                           as well as the Jewish historian Josephus (AD 37-101).

c.   Persecution time frame of Revelation 13.5: 42 months (3 1/2 years)

*Nero persecuted the Christian church from November AD 64 to June 9th AD 68
 (Just a few weeks over 42 months)

d.     The number 666

* Hebrew spelling of Nero's name equals: NRWN QSR

* The recognized numerical equivalents for the letters of the time of the apostle John yield the following:
            N=50                        Q=100
            R=200                        S=60
            W=6                        R=200
                        Total = 666


Suggested Bibliography

1.     DeMar, Gary. Last Days Madness. Smyrna, GA: American Vision. 3rd Ed. 1997.  Chapter 11 "Identifying Antichrist" and chapter 12 "Identifying the Beast."
2.     Gentry, Kenneth. The Beast of Revelation. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. [1989], 1994.
3.     Gentry, Kenneth. Before Jerusalem Fell. Atlanta, GA: American Vision. Revised Ed. 1998.
4.     Gentry, Kenneth. He Shall Have Dominion. Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics. 1992. Pages 370-378 on antichrists and the Beast.
5.     Gentry, Kenneth. Perilous Times: A Study in Eschatological Evil. Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Press. 1999.
6.     Nance, James. "The Anti-Christ and the Beast" in And It Came To Pass [The Third Annual CEF Symposium: Preterism]. Moscow, ID: Canon Press. 1993.