666 and The Love of Money Part 7

In this 7 part series, 666 and The Love of Money, we have been looking at the leadership in Israel and its corruption, especially in regards to their love of money. Instead of looking after the oppressed, the widow and the orphan they lined their own pockets. When we reach New Testament times we find that the wealthy Ananus Dynasty and their supporters – the judaizers, were determined to exterminate the influence Jesus and His teachings had on the believing Jews. Jesus called the Jewish leaders “vipers and snakes” and told them that their temple would soon be left desolate. While the apostles called their Jewish persecutors “beasts”, and John wrote in Revelation that the Jews were “the Synagogue of Satan”.

When Jesus was first arrested he was taken to Ananus the Elder’s home to be questioned as he had more influence than his son-in-law Caiaphas, the High Priest at the time. The family also sent Saul (later known as the Apostle Paul) to hunt down and kill the Christians.

It was the Ananus family that put Peter and John in prison. They also captured many of the apostles, imprisoned and flogged them.

It was High Priest Jonathan, son of Ananus who put Stephen to death by stoning, incited King Agrippa I to behead James the brother of John, and capture with the intention to kill the Apostle Peter. Then it was the son, Ananus the Younger who staged the event whereby they could declare that James, Jesus’ brother was blaspheming the name of the God of Israel and then they stoned, beat and killed him.

In 68 AD the Zealots took over the temple and with the help of the Idumeans the Chief Priest Ananus the Younger was murdered and they installed one of their own followers as High Priest.

This is when the Jewish nation spiralled towards self-destruction. The fanatical Zealots plundered the city, raped, starved and murdered any Jew who wanted to have peace with Rome. The Zealots also split into 3 different factions, with 2 of the factions using the temple area as their headquarters, and each of the 3 deranged factions fought and killed each other too.

Josephus wrote that the Zealots were zealous “for all that was vile — vile beyond belief.” In their “utter lawlessness,” “no one could equal the Zealots; . . . there was no crime in the records that they did not zealously reproduce.” [1]

Josephus also wrote “The entire City was the battleground for these plotters and their disreputable followers, and between them the people were being torn to bits like a great carcase. Old men and women, overwhelmed by the miseries within [the city], prayed for the Romans to come, and looked forward to the war without, which would free them from the miseries within.”


666 does not refer to Nero


So in conclusion, when John wrote about needing ‘wisdom’ to discern the beast kingdom by using ‘666’ it was not so that they would think of the Roman Emperor Nero. The Neronic persecution only affected Christians in the city of Rome for a short period of time. Nero was married to Poppaea Sabina and she had a close affiliation with Josephus and showered him with gifts. There is the possibility that she knew that the Jews hated Christians and that blaming the Christians in Rome for the Great Fire would protect the Jewish population in Rome. She also pleaded on behalf of the Jews when Agrippa asked Nero to demolish a wall that the priests had built to prevent his view into the Jerusalem temple from his palace.

The Poppaea who emerges from Josephus’ accounts is one who had influence over Nero, and compassion for the Jews…

The first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, mentioned Nero’s wife, Poppaea Sabina, in two stories in which she supported the integrity and sacredness of the Jewish Temple, and was also involved with the release of imprisoned Jewish priests. She is described as “theosebês” (“a worshipper of God”).

Josephus’ use of theosebês has sparked debate over the last few centuries and has led to a variety of interpretations about Poppaea’s connection to Judaism. This paper argues that by examining the actions of Poppaea through the lens of “eclectic religiosity,” much can be learned about her motivations in helping the Jewish people, as well as her possible involvement in protecting the Jewish population in Rome from persecution following the Great Fire of 64 CE. …

Nero’s blame upon a minority sect of Judaism, called Christians, has invited questions about the possible involvement of Poppaea because of her close affiliation with Josephus. Philippe Fabia, a year after suggesting Poppaea’s eclectic religiosity, surmised a possible connection when he wrote that since “Poppaea was on friendly terms with the Jews,” she may have suggested the Christians as an alternative to the entire Jewish population of Rome because Romans were unable to distinguish between Jews and Christians, and because the Jews hated the Christians…

Poppaea’s influence shielded Jews from imperial harm, and whether she wished to or not, her “eclectic religiosity” had made her a protector of the Jewish people.[2]

There is also no official record whatsoever of Nero persecuting Christians in Asia minor. In addition, Nero committed suicide on 9 June 68 AD and therefore could not be the beast in Rev 19:19 as that beast was assembled along with the kings of the earth to make war against God and his army in 70AD.

  • So why would John be warning the Asia Minor Christians in Revelation about Nero?
  • He didn’t!

However John warned them about the leaders of Israel, in particular the Jewish Synagogue of Satan who persecuted the saints throughout Israel and Asia Minor. His readers needed to be wise and not become fools by being led back into apostate corrupt Judaism to escape that persecution. In addition, if they went back into Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts at the temple then they would get caught up in the civil war that was developing between the peace loving Jews and the revolutionary zealots.

Countless multitudes from countless cities come, some over land, others over sea, from west and east and north and south at every feast. They take the Temple for their port as a general haven and safe refuge from the bustle and great turmoil of life, and there they seek to find calm weather. [3]

Many of the poorer Jewish priests joined the zealot factions as they believed that God was on their side as in the Maccabean War.

In finishing off, in much the same way that King Solomon did not use his gifts well while in his God-given position of power the leaders of Israel did likewise which gave rise to the revolutionary zealot civil war. Solomon became just like a Pharaoh of Egypt turning the nation of Israel into slaves for his own benefit and the leaders of Israel were guilty of the same sin. Misery was soon to come upon them when Jesus came back to judge the corrupt Jewish leadership and destroy the temple in 70AD. The rulers pretended that theirs was the kingdom under God, when in fact they worshiped wealth, possessions and a nationalist “maccabean” ideology instead of Yahweh. Judah became just like Sodom, Babylon and Egypt.

As a result the Jewish leadership had become fools and were guilty of lawlessness, murder, oppression and corruption. John along with the other New Testament writers made it clear that Jesus was coming in judgement in their own generation and He would use the Roman armies to take their kingdom away. While those who had been defrauded by the corrupt leaders would soon receive justice.

And I saw the beast (Israel) and the kings of the earth and their armies, assembled to make war against Him (Jesus) who sat on the horse, and against His army (The Romans).  And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.~ Revelation 19: 19-21


Further reading:

Revolutionaries in the First Century – Simon bar Giora leader of the Jews:
When Jerusalem had fallen and the city was destroyed, Simon, dressed in white robes, came out from hiding and surrendered to the Romans. Viewing him as the leader of the Jews, the conquerors took him to Rome as the chief trophy in Titus’s triumph. After the celebration, he was executed.


Footnotes:

[1] Jewish War 7.268–70

[2] Poppaea Sabina, Jewish Sympathies, and the Fire of Rome, Karl E. Baughman, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX, USA

[3] Philo, Spec. 1:69

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