Characters and Themes – One Beastly Man


We continue or discussion on this Beast of Revelation. Under consideration is Nero, Emperor of Rome. As we saw in the previous discussion that the Biblical clues to the potential identity of the Beast were as follows;

  • Ruler of a Nation set on Seven Hills
  • This would be Rome
  • The sixth head was alive at the time of John’s writing
  • Nero was the sixth emperor of Rome
  • The 7th (Galba) would remain for a “short while”
  • Galba’s reign lasted about 6 months
  • The number of his name is 666 (six hundred and sixty-six
  • NRWN QSR (King Neron) adds up to 666
  • Some translations state the number as 616
  • Nero was also known by his Latin name of NRW QSR (King Nero)


Born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, Nero dies a ruthless and quite wretched man, though that was not always the case. But his rise to power and all that he did makes him truly a beastly character. His bright red beard, very rare in those days and in that culture, set him apart. The connection to the evil of the “red dragon” and his unique appearance even correspond. But it was his beastly actions that separated him from many of the others.

On a side note, you will probably note that many argue that Revelation could not be about Nero because it supposedly wasn’t written until much later (95 AD) under the rule os Domitian. This comes from a quote by Ireneaus in which it is argued he states that John saw the vision during Domitian’s reign. The quote itself has some very troubling translation issues, but even given that, note that one of Nero’s names was Domitius.

But what of his character and the concept that he must also rage war against the saints and received a wound to the head. As for his “mark” we will deal with that in a later post. I will actually be using a bullet format for the information presented for ease on the reader. This could easily turn into a very long and drawn out post. As the reader, that it not how this blog operates. For further study I would again recommend Dr. Kenneth Gentry’s, The Beast of Revelation.

Below are some bullet points discussing the beastly nature of Nero

  • Josephus, Seutonius and Apollonius referred to him as “the beast”
  • He was known to run around the city of Rome in animals skins raping and pillaging
  • Seutonius said his cruelty and evil disposition were evident even at an early age
  • Seutonius commented that he forced 400 senators and 600 knights to fight to the death in the arena
  • He practiced sodomy and castrated a servant boy named Sporus and “married” him
  • He practiced homosexual rape torture
  • He attempted to kill his mother at least seven different times despite scheming with her to kill his father and half-brother
  • He killed his mother, brother, two wives, aunt and several other relatives – including possibly his adopted father – Claudius
  • Pliny the Elder described him as “the destroyer of the human race”
  • He executed one of his two closest advisers and forced the other to commit suicide

Until the point at which he had his two advisers killed his rule, though by modern standard horrific, was actually in line with the the previous Caesars. When he eliminated his advisers it was like he had eliminated his conscience.


Rev 13:7 Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation,

Another clue as to the definite identity of the Beast is what he was to make war against the saints. Below you will discover how brutal a war against the saints Nero brought.

  • Paul referred to being in his presence as “escaping the lions mouth”
  • Clement l wrote in the first century that the Christians were “slain, tortured and suffered inhuman indignities”
  • Eusubius declared “Nero was the first of the emperors to show himself an enemy of the divine religion”
  • Severus claims Nero “was the first to try and abolish the name of Christian”
  • Seutonius wrote that Nero “punished and afflicted the Christians…”
  • Blamed Rome’s fire on the Christians leading to intense persecution starting in late November 64 AD lasting to his death in early June 68 AD – 42 months
  • Those directly impacted included Peter and Paul who were executed under the order of Nero
  • John was exiled, tarred and feathered and boiled in oil

Tacitus listed the following punishments as those perpetrated by Nero against the early Church

  • Wrapped in animal skins and ripped apart by dogs. This was a popular to kill the smallest of  children
  • Lit on fire while crucified
  • Drawn and quartered
  • Had Christians tied to the front of the tusks of elephants and have them charge each other
  • De-boweled while alive
  • Sawn in two with palm branches – a very long lasting and brutally painful penalty

The most horrific stories of Nero’s brutality involved the lighting of His garden parties. It was known that in order to light his three and four day garden parties he would have Christian impaled with large wooden posts, and while still alive, struggling for breath, would have them covered in flammable tar and oil and light them on fire. He would place the posts along the outskirts of the large palace garden and along the roads to light the way for his guests.

Quite often the events listed above would be done in front of rather large audiences in the arena. he would end these events with tortuously long musical performances that attendees could not leave under the penalty of death, including the ruling Senators of Rome. His arrogance and pomposity saw no bounds and was nearly as great as his pure evil.


Rev 13:8 and all who dwell on earth will worship it

Emperor Worship was not uncommon at the time of Nero. In fact, all of the preceding Emperors demanded some level of worship. Many took names of Gods and demand their images be placed in places of worship. Here are but a few examples.

  • Emperor worship started as early as Julius Caesar – choosing to call himself Jupiter Julius, taking the name of a god
  • Augustus denied worship of himself in Rome but demanded it elsewhere under the penalty of death
  • 11 cities in Asia fought for the right to build a temple to Tiberius
  • Gaius (Caligula) had his head placed on statues of Jupiter and demanded the same salute given to Jupiter to apply to him. he also attempted to place a statue of himself in the temple in Jerusalem, which many believed was the “abomination of desolation.”
  • The senate voted Claudius a god, but Nero had it annulled

But what of Nero? Remember that the Beast represented the Nation and was represented by the seven heads or rulers of that nation. So, even if one ruler did not meet the demands the other may have, but that is not the case with Nero. His previously mentioned arrogance and pride led him to promote his “godhood” like no previous ruler of Rome.

  • Called himself Apollo at the urging of Seneca and had himself appear as Apollo on coins
  • Suetonius claims Nero called himself Hercules
  • Nero had a statue of himself placed in the Temple of Mars
  • Carvings referring to Nero as “God and Savior” are found in Ephesus, Salamis and Cyprus
  • Province governors were expected to bow before his statues and artistic renderings when they paraded before them

So, every part of the Roman Empire (those who dwell on the earth) was impacted by the demand to worship the emperor.

Please note, and this is important to remember, the Roman’s had no problem with religioun. They were, in fact, a very religious society. They had a religion for eveything! The problem with the Christan’s was not that they worshipped some “illegal” god, since no religion was outlawed per se. The problem was that the Christians worshipped Jesus only. If they would pay homage to both Caesar and Jesus there would have been no problem. But the exclusivity of the Christian faith is what caused the great persecution and tribulation faced by the early Church at the hands of Rome, especially Nero.

So, does Nero qualify? Most definitely! In fact, no other character qualifies under every classification in the way that Nero does. Just by limiting our selves to the passages in question leaves us with little doubt that the Beast in question was Nero.


One Response to “Characters and Themes – One Beastly Man”

  1. 1 Revelation 13 (Part 4: Nero’s Bestial Character) « Pursuing Truth at 2909 (Minneapolis)

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