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Daily Archives: June 21, 2010

Who is the False Prophet of the Apocalypse?

Statue of Annaz in Bom Jesus, Braga, Portugal
Image via Wikipedia

The false prophet is Annas, the high priest, who was responsible for condemning Jesus to die. Annas was the first Jewish high priest appointed by Rome. He was appointed by Quirinus, governor of Syria, after the Herodian dynasty was removed from Judea. Moreover, it seems Rome was particularly interested in Annas and his family. Josephus says that his five sons were appointed high priests, and this honor was not bestowed upon any other priestly family. In many ways Annas was Rome’s man in Jerusalem.

Luke begins the account of Jesus by saying “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar… during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas the word of God came to John…” (Luke 3:1-2). While it is unusual to use the singular priesthood for both Annas and Caiaphas, it is accurate, because Annas was the true power behind his son-in-law, Caiaphas. Annas held the office for ten years, 6 AD to 15 AD. He would have been the reigning high priest when Jesus at 12 sat in the Temple astonishing his listeners (Luke 2:42-47). The fact is that, of the 60 years between the time the Empire of Rome assumed power in Judea in 6 AD and the outbreak of the Jewish war with Rome in 66 AD, the Annas family reigned in the office of high priest for 44 of those years—and Annas was the power behind the office held by his sons or son-in-law. No man in Jerusalem was as powerful as Annas. We must keep in mind, however, that although Rome removed men from the office of high priest to replace them with another, the law of God says the man appointed held the office for life. So even though Annas was removed from his position by Rome in 15 AD, the Jews would have considered him the high priest for as long as he lived.

The only time we hear of the false prophet specifically in Revelation is when he is judged or had been judged (Revelation 16:13; 19:10; 20:10) by God. It seems we are expected to know who John is writing about. We know a false prophet speaks lies and draws people away from God, and this is exactly what the 2nd beast in Revelation did. He looked like a lamb (one of the saints of God), but he spoke like a dragon, (satan [meaning enemy], devil [meaning slanderer] serpent [meaning subtle] compare Revelation 12:9 where a dragon is called a satan, devil and a serpent). This second beast in Revelation 13:11-18 deceives those on the earth (verse-14). He looked like a man of God, but he acted and spoke like the enemy of God. He deceived men through wonders or miracles (same Greek word is used in Revelation 13:13-14). There, they are called lying wonders (i.e. no really miracles at all) in 2Thessalonians 2:9.

Notice that the second beast exercised the first beast’s power (Revelation 12:11)—i.e. he was the executor of that power, or the national leader—and caused all on earth (earth in prophecy means Palestine or the land of the Jews) to worship the first beast. How does Scripture say the first beast was worshiped? He is worshiped by saying or believing in one’s heart “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” (Revelation 13:4). In other words no one believes God can or will do anything about their predicament (cf. John 11:48). The false prophet simply led people away from God and into the realm of influence of the beast. This was what the false prophet did. This is what the second beast of Revelation 13 did. He spoke blasphemies against God, that is he made the word of God of no affect in the lives of God’s people (cf. Romans 4:14; Galatians 3:17). By magnifying his own goals he removed the power of the word of God in the lives of the Jewish people (cf. Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:13).

Power was given him to wage war against the saints (Messianic Jews in this context) according to Revelation 13:7 (compare Daniel 7:21, 25; 8:24-25). Throughout his career, Annas made it his personal vendetta to harass Messianic Jews. He was behind three specific persecutions in the 1st century AD.[1] The first began with the stoning of Stephen, the second began with the slaying of James the Apostle, and the final one included the killing of James, the Lord’s brother, but the final one also included an empire-wide persecution that sparked the writing of the general epistles (James, 1&2 Peter, 1, 2 & 3 John and Jude). There is a common theme in those epistles alerting the church of false teachers (antichrists) who had arisen and were dividing the flock. There was a great organized effort on the part of Annas to divide and destroy the church in the Diaspora.[2] Paul had spoken of false brethren, and the general epistles speak of those who have crept in without the knowledge of the Apostles. On Annas’ word the conspiracy was executed a few years before the outbreak of the Jews’ war with Rome. This is the 42 months mentioned in Revelation 13:5 and the time, times and half a time (3 ½ years) mentioned in Daniel 7:25. In the end however, just as the word of God testifies (Revelation 13:9-10), Annas was killed with a sword at the outbreak of the war with Rome at the hand of one of the rebels.[3]

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[1] See my study on The First Three Persecutions of the Church

[2] The Scriptures say the mouth of the Beast (i.e. the false prophet, Annas) would have power over all tongues, kindreds and nations (Revelation 13:7). This refers to his influence over the Jews of the Diaspora. The synagogues of the Diaspora existed through the influence of the high priest in Jerusalem. Jews couldn’t build a synagogue in any nation without the permission of Caesar. The high priest sent envoys to Rome to lobby for permission to have places of worship built for the Jews living throughout the Empire. Notice:

“Conversely, our sources indicate that some of the imperial edicts permitting the synagogue congregations to practice their “sacred rites” and “native customs” came about as the result of envoys from the Jewish high priest. This suggests that the head of the Jewish cult supported the religious practices of the synagogues, evidently seeing them in league with the central shrine.” [See “Synagogue FAQ’s” under the heading : Temple-Synagogue Relationships.]

It is difficult to believe, if the synagogues of the Diaspora existed through the influence of the high priest at Jerusalem, that Annas wouldn’t use this power to his advantage and exercise his influence in those synagogues wherever they would be found in the Empire. By his word he could have the synagogues create civil unrest against the churches such as what occurred in Thessalonica and Corinth when Paul was evangelizing those cities. Similarly, he could influence the synagogues to plant false brethren in the local churches in their communities like had done in Jerusalem years earlier in the persons of Ananias and Sapphira and others (Acts 5:1-11, 13). The general epistles concern themselves about this very subject matter, indicating that there was an organized effort going on throughout the Empire to divide and conquer the flock. Annas was waging war with the saints (Revelation 13:7).

[3] See Josephus: Wars of the Jews 2.17.1-10.

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2010 in Prophecy, Religion

 

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