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Particulars of Christianity:
313 Preterism

Preterism Part 6: Nero, History, and Biblical Details

Preterism Part 1: The Basics and Partial Preterism
Preterism Part 2: Olivet and the Transcendent "You"
Preterism Part 3: The Remaining "Proof Texts"
Preterism Part 4: Appealing to Josephus
Preterism Part 5: Uninterrupted Futurism into 2nd Century
Preterism Part 6: Nero, History, and Biblical Details
Preterism Part 7: Scripture and a Delayed Coming
Preterism Part 8: Brief Summary of Conclusions
Behold I Come Quickly
Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass
When Was Revelation Written?
A Throne of His Own

Addendum: "The Time Is At Hand"

Now we will take a comparative look at the history surrounding the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the Biblical details of the antichrist, his empire, and the returning Christ to see if the two match up. We will find two things. First, the two do not match up. There is great discrepancy between the historical events of those days and the Biblical prophecies. These stark differences clearly prevent us from accepting the Preterist theory that these Biblical prophecies came to pass in 70 AD. Second, in attempting to reconcile the two, Preterists completely twist, distort, and even reverse some of the relationships presented in the Biblical passages they claim to be finding fulfilled in the historical record.

As we have mentioned in depth earlier, Preterists will always at some point attempt to use the historical record to prove their theory. We will begin this section by analyzing one specific example of this practice. We will then use that example as a jumping point to demonstrate the clear discrepancies between the historical record and the details of the New Testament prophecies concerning the coming of the antichrist, the mark of the beast, and the return of Jesus Christ. We will start with a quote from II Thessalonians.

2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.

This passage, quoted by Irenaeus (120-202 AD) in his work Against Heresies, Book 5, Chp. 25, demonstrates why Preterists must identify some antichrist before 70 AD in order to uphold their theory that Christ returned in that year. As Paul writes here (and as Irenaeus understood had not yet happened by the second century AD), Jesus Christ cannot return until two things happen first. And Paul lists them. They are: 1. a falling away, and 2. the coming of the man of sin, the son of perdition. We know from Paul's description of this man and his activities that he is the antichrist spoken of elsewhere in the New Testament.

So, in order to say that Jesus returned in 70 AD, Preterists must identify an antichrist figure. And they acknowledge this necessity when they identify Nero. However, as we have said, that is not all they acknowledge when the identify Nero as the antichrist. By pointing to an actual historical figure, Preterists are conceding that the details of New Testament end time prophecy can and should occur literally in recorded history. As such, they subject the Preterist theory to criticism based on a comparison of history and Biblical prophecy.

In other words, if the details of Biblical prophecy can be used to identify Nero as the antichrist as Preterists claim, then theoretically they can also be used to disqualify Nero from being the antichrist. If Preterists can draw on Biblical details to support their theory then Futurists can also draw on Biblical details to refute it.

So what evidence to Preterists use to support their claim that Nero is the antichrist? Well, mostly their argument breaks down into two areas. First, they usually go to great lengths to demonstrate the extremely deprived and perverse character of Nero.

This is a highly fallacious argument though. It assumes that we can identify the antichrist simply by finding a man of exceptionally perverse character, as if there is only one such man who will stand out in human history. And such a comparison of historical figures is entirely too subjective. Who is to decide whether Nero is worse than Antiochus Epiphanes, or Hitler or the Pharaoh of the old testament, or any of a whole host of other historic figures from ancient times until now. Such an argument is completely worthless and would fall apart entirely without their second argument.

The second argument that Preterists use to demonstrate that Nero was the antichrist is actually quite compelling.

Revelation 13:17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18 Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Based upon this verse Preterists are quick to point out that, in the Latin, Nero's name does add up to the number 666. In the Latin alphabet, Nero was spelled N-E-R-O-N. The numeric values are assigned as follows in the Latin.

N = 50
E = 6
R = 500
O = 60
N = 50

This, of course, gives us a grand total of 666, the number of the antichrist. Further evidence that is sometimes offered is that some ancient manuscripts of Revelation 13 actually record the number as 616. And, if you subtract the last N from NERON, to give you NERO, then you arrive at exactly that number.

However, there are two points that we want to bring up here. First, why are we using the Latin numbers instead of the Greek? The New Testament was written in Greek including Revelation. So what cause do we have to look to the Latin? Perhaps simply because Nero was Roman and the Roman language was Latin. But this conversion from Greek to Latin is itself an unfounded assumption and the main reason for the use of Latin is simply because if we use Latin "Nero works."

On this point we should note that in his work Against Heresies, Book 5, Chapter 30, Irenaeus discusses potential names for the antichrist. In that section, three names are examined by Irenaeus: Evanthas, Lateinos, and Teitan (Titan). For each name he uses the Greek, not the Latin alpha-numeric system, even though the name Lateinos is derived from the term Latin. Here are those names translated numerically using the Greek alpha-numeric system.

Evanthas (E=5, U=400, A=1, N=50, TH=9, A=1, S=200) Total=666
Lateinos (L=30, A=1, T=300, E=5, I=10, N=50, O=70, S=200) Total=666
Teitan (T=300, E=5, I=10, T=300, A=1, N=50) Total=666

This demonstrates that the early orthodox Christian church expected to use the Greek alpha-numeric system, not the Latin. And for further proof, here is how the name Nero adds up using the Greek system instead of the Latin.

Nero (N=50, E=5, R=100, O=70) Total=225
Neron (N=50, E=5, R=100, O=70, N=50) Total=275

Even with the additional "N" at the end, Nero does not add up to 666 when using the Greek system.

For reference, the Greek alpha-numeric system is listed below.

Alpha [Aa] (a) = 1
Beta [Bb] (b) = 2
Gamma [Gg] (g) = 3
Delta [Dd] (d) = 4
Epsilon [Ee] (eh) = 5
*** [V'] (-) = 6
Zeta [Zz] (z) = 7
Eta [Hh] (ay) = 8
Theta [Qq] (th) = 9
Iota [Ii] (i) = 10
Kappa [Kk] (k) = 20
Lambda [Ll] (l) = 30
Mu [Mm] (m) = 40
Nu [Nn] (n) = 50
Xe [Xx] (ks) = 60
Omocron [Oo] (o) = 70
Pi [Pp] (p) = 80
*** [o] (-) = 90
Rho [Rr] (r) = 100
Sigma [SsV*] (s) = 200
Tau [Tt] (t) = 300
Upsilon [Uu] (oo) = 400
Phi [Ff] (f) = 500
Chi [Cc] (ch) = 600
Psi [Yy] (ps) = 700
Omega [Ww] (O) = 800

Second, by quoting Revelation 13 in order to identify Nero as the antichrist, Preterists also automatically uphold that the beast of Revelation is another term for the antichrist. We wholeheartedly agree that this is the case and we only point it out in order demonstrate that Preterists cannot therefore ignore any of the details found in Revelation describing this beast. In order for the Preterists to be correct, Nero would have to fit all of these details as well.

So, let's look at some of those details.

II Thessalonians 2:2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come,except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders

From this passage in II Thessalonians we learn that the day of Christ cannot come unless the antichrist comes first. We also learn some important details about the antichrist.

1. We learn in verse 4 that he will sit in the temple of God.
2. We learn in verse 8 that he will be destroyed by Jesus Christ at his return.

Revelation 16:12 And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared. 13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. 15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. 16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.

From verse 13 we know that the above passage is talking about the beast. We have already shown that II Thessalonians states the antichrist must come before Christ's return. And we have also shown that by theorizing Nero was the antichrist, the Preterists' are already assuming this term "beast" is another term for the antichrist.

Here in Revelation 16 we see another detail concerning the antichrist.

3. The antichrist is responsible for gathering kings of many nations. This departs from Preterist theory because by pointing to 70 AD, Preterism only has Rome gathered against Jerusalem. This is one nation with one king, not many kings from nations around the world.
4. These kings of many nations around the world and their armies are gathered to a specific geographic location, Armageddon.

Revelation 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war...15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God..19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. 20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. 21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

In Revelation 19 we find the returning Christ. Verse 11 tells us that he has come to make war. We find in this passage a few more details concerning the antichrist.

5. Verse 20 tells us that the antichrist will be alive when he is thrown into the lake of fire.
6. Verse 19 tells us that the antichrist and the kings gathered with him are there to make war against the returning Christ, and, of course, they are defeated.
7. Verse 21 tells us that the antichrist's armies will be slain when he is defeated along with the armies of the nations gathered with him.

This passage also confirms a number of our previous details from II Thessalonians and Revelation 16.

1. It confirms that the antichrist and his armies will not be alone when they surround Jerusalem on the day of Christ's return. There will be armies and kings from many nations with them.
2. The antichrist is destroyed by Christ at his second coming.

Remember, by appealing to Revelation 13's description of the number 666 to confirm Nero was the antichrist, Preterists have upheld that the details concerning the antichrist will be literally fulfilled and as such can be historically verified.

Now, let's compare recorded history surrounding the Roman siege of Jerusalem with each of our 7 Biblical details. Let's assume for this test that Nero is the antichrist and see if that theory holds up.

Our first detail concerning the antichrist was from II Thessalonians 2:4. It said that the antichrist would sit in the temple of God. Does history record that Nero sat in the temple of God? No. Did Nero ever even visit Jerusalem? No.

So, Nero fails to meet detail #1. But let's continue.

Our second detail was from II Thessalonians 2:8 and Revelation 19:15,20. It tells us that the antichrist will be defeated by Christ when Christ returns.

Was Nero defeated by the returning Christ? Well, look in any encyclopedia and you'll quickly find out that Nero committed suicide on June 9, 68 AD. This is two years before 70 AD. That puts Nero's death two years before the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple. That's also two years before Preterists claim Jesus returned.

So, Nero fails to meet detail #2. However, based on this information, we also know that Nero fails to meet detail # 5. Revelation 19:20 tells us that the antichrist will be thrown alive into the lake of fire. Since Nero died in 68 AD, he could not have been thrown live into the lake of fire.

Detail #3 is derived from Revelation 16:13-14 and 19:19. These passages tell us that the antichrist gathers kings and armies from all over the world to battle against the returning Jesus Christ. Detail #4 tells us that these armies gathered to a specific location, Armageddon. Did Nero gather armies and kings against Jerusalem or Jesus? No. Did Nero ever gather armies from many nations in Armageddon? No. There is no record any such events in history.

True, the Roman army did besiege Jerusalem, but that is just one army from one nation with one king, and it was not at Armageddon. Nor was this destruction carried out under Nero's reign. Rather it was under Vespasian that Jerusalem fell and the Temple was destroyed. If Nero was the antichrist, this would mean that Christ defeated him only to let his two successors succeed in his purposes. Furthermore, Vespasian did not die until 79 AD, and Titus, who succeeded him as emperor, lived until 81 AD. Since both of them survived the Preterists hypothetical return of Christ in 70 AD with their power intact, neither of them could be the antichrist either.

So, Nero fails to meet details #3 and 4. We have already shown that Nero's suicide rules out his fulfillment of detail #5. Let's move on to detail #6.

Detail #6 says that the antichrist and the armies he has gathered have come to make war against Jesus Christ. Now, of course, we have already shown that Nero never gathered the armies of many nations. However, the point of this detail is to demonstrate a very significant difference in the Preterist view of the end times and the return of Jesus.

The Preterists believe that Jesus Christ returned in judgment against Jerusalem and the Jews who still attempted to practice the Old Covenant in order to prove that the New Covenant had been inaugurated and the Old Covenant had passed away. To accomplish this, Preterists assert that Jesus gathered the Roman army to besiege Jerusalem and destroy the Temple.

Detail #6 is based on Revelation 19:20-21 and it tells us that this Preterist notion is wrong. Jesus was not prophesied to gather the Roman army for the purpose of destroying Jerusalem. Instead, the end time prophecies depict many armies gathered by the antichrist against Christ. The returning Christ is then recorded as defeating the armies of the antichrist as they come to attack Jerusalem. He is not depicted as in agreement with their destruction of the city. So, in their attempt to align history with prophecy, Preterists have reversed detail #6. Nero never gathered nations and armies to wage war against Christ.

Now, Nero certainly did persecute Christians with a vengeance. And perhaps Preterists would attempt to portray this persecution as a fulfillment of detail #6. However, both detail #7 prevents us from accepting such a theory.

From Revelation 19:21 we derive detail #7. Detail #7 tells us that the armies from all nations gathered by the antichrist to make war against Jesus Christ are defeated and slain specifically by the sword of the returning Jesus Christ.

When was Rome defeated? Not in 70 AD. After the fall of Jerusalem and after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, Rome continued to flourish for at least another 2 centuries. In fact, it was not until the 4th century under Emperor Constantine that the capital of the Empire was moved from Rome to Constantinople. Clearly, Rome did not fall under any circumstance related to the events of 70 AD. And clearly, since the armies of Rome were not slain by Christ when they besieged Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, Nero (who himself died 2 years earlier) does not meet detail #7. His armies were not destroyed by the returning Christ.

Nero fails to meet every Biblical detail concerning the antichrist. As such, he could not have been the antichrist as Preterists suggest. And since there is no reason directing us to use the Latin alphabet to calculate the name of the antichrist, even that supportive evidence is inconclusive.

Nero was not the antichrist. Preterists are wrong. Without an antichrist that meets the Biblical details, II Thessalonians 2 tells us that Christ could not have returned in 70 AD.

And there are other details that Preterist theory cannot account for. While they identify a literal antichrist in Nero, they have no False Prophet, a figure that is listed side by side with the beast in Revelation 19:20. And they have no mark or image of the beast either. If Rome was the antichrist's empire and Rome's monetary system could not have been the image and mark of the beast. Like the Roman Empire, the Roman monetary system continued for centuries after the Preterists' supposed return of Christ in 70 AD. In order to accept that Rome fulfills these prophecies we would have to accept that Jesus did not bring an end to this empire or this ungodly currency system when he returned.

And in addition, just as Rome continued as an empire well past the year 300 AD, it continued to persecute Christians until it was legalized under Constantine. So, we would also have to believe that the returning Christ did not bring an end to the persecution of Christians.

So, even though Revelation 19:15 states that when Jesus returns he would "should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron," Preterists want us to believe that the first 2 centuries of this rule oversaw and permitted the continuation of the mark of the beast and the cruel persecution of Christians.

This comparison of the details of Biblical end time prophecy to the details of recorded history demonstrate that Nero could not have been the antichrist and that Jesus Christ could not have returned in 70 AD. In fact, we have no record of these 7 details ever coming to pass in the nearly 2 millennia since then. This leaves us with little choice but to continue to expect a future occurrence of the following events.

1. The antichrist sits in the temple of God.
2. The antichrist is destroyed by Jesus Christ at his return.
3. The antichrist gathers many kings and armies from many nations.
4. Those kings and armies gather at the specific location of Armageddon.
5. The antichrist lives to be thrown into the lake of fire.
6. The antichrist and the kings and armies with him gather to make war against Christ and are defeated.
7. The antichrist's armies are slain by Jesus Christ when he returns.

And this is not to mention the absence of anything in the historical record that would indicate a resurrection of the dead at that time or a gathering together of the elect as spoken of by Jesus in Matthew 24:30-31. Preterism does not match up with the historical details we do have on record and it requires us to simply assume the occurrence of too many other vital details that are not on record at all including the return of Christ. Based on the record of history we can only conclude that Preterism is false.

Having proven that the antichrist cannot be found in the pages of history, we end this section of our study with a very appropriate quote from the apostle Paul, which appropriately applies to Preterists today.

(NKJV) II Thessalonians 2:1 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition.

Now that we have examined Preterism in light of history we will now move on to one final aspect of this Preterist/Futurist debate.