12. Nero

Among those who seek to relegate the events of the book of Revelation to the distant past, no figure is more often held to be the Beast of Revelation than the Roman Emperor Nero. For those who ascribe to the Golden Rule of Interpretation, this may seem surprising. How could it be said with all seriousness that Nero fulfills the many details given concerning the Beast throughout Scripture? A simple reading of Scripture gives numerous aspects of this man which Nero fails to fulfill.

Caesar Nero

Caesar Nero 1

Ignoring the rest of Scripture for the moment, the book of Revelation alone reveals the following aspects concerning the Beast:

Outside of the book of Revelation, many more things are said of this figure. Here we mention Paul’s comments to show the utter unsuitability of Nero as the fulfillment of the Beast:

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, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2Th. 2Th. 2:3-4) [emphasis added]

It simply will not do to try and make the “son of perdition” be some other figure such as the Jewish high priest because this person, like the Beast, is the one exalted and worshiped above all else. And when did Nero “sit as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”? Not an image, not a proclamation or edict, but the live man sitting in the Holy of Holies?

Since it seems plain from a straightforward reading of Scripture that the Beast is a figure yet future, how is it that preterists find Nero to fill the bill? The answer, once again, is hermeneutics, the art and science of interpretation. By ignoring the details in the Word of God, the preterists are able to “shoe horn” Nero into what they believe is a fulfillment of these prophecies. They simply refuse to read the text in its literal sense because they are motivated to move the future back to the past and Nero provides their best chance of doing so.

In the ensuing discussion, we would ask the reader to notice a key weakness of those who argue for a Neronic fulfillment of the Beast passages of the book of Revelation. They place great emphasis on similarities which are lacking in objectivity or are subject to widely different possibility of fulfillment while minimizing objective details given in the text which simply do not fit Nero. Anyone who attempts to identify the Beast based primarily on numeric calculations concerning his name (gematria) while paying relatively little attention to the details of the text is headed for trouble.


Notes

1 Image courtesy of Mike McCorkle.

2 “According to Suetonius, he stabbed himself in the throat with a dagger. According to another version (recounted by Tacitus and almost certainly fiction) he reached the Greek islands, where the following year (69) the governor of Cythnos (modern Kļæ½thnos) recognized him in the guise of a red-haired prophet and leader of the poor, had him arrested, and executed the [death] sentence that had been passed by the Senate”—Britannica CD 99 Multimedia Edition, s.v. “Nero.”