The Revelation: A Reading of the Vision and Letter
of John to the Churches
Mark A. McDonald
Part One: The First Half of the Revelation
- Author, Introduction and Blessing: That it is John the Apostle
Who Wrote the Revelation
- Tachus: “Soon” or “With Haste” (Revelation 1:1) 20
- a) Were the Apostles Wrong About How Soon the End Would Come?
- b) The First Precondition
- c) The Second Reason that the Time Seems to be Quite Soon
- d) Parables of Delay
- e) The Calendar and the Six Day Theory
- f) The Seven Weeks of Years
- g) The Spread of Technology
- h) The Rapture and the Son of Lawlessness
- i) What it is that Will Occur Soon
- j) Three or Four Different Readings of the Millennium
- k) Carl Jung: Antichrist and Symbol
- l) What then Should We Do?
iii. Title, Greeting and the Introductory Vision (Revelation Chapter 1) 49
- a) Title and greeting 1:1-4
- b) 1:5-1:9
- c) 1:10-20
- The Seven Letters (Revelation Chapters 2-3) 57
- The Vision of the Throne and the Scroll (Revelation Chapters 4-5) 64
- a) The Throne (Revelation Chapter 4)
- b) Does the Rapture Occur at 4:1?
- c) The Scroll (Revelation Chapter 5)
- The Opening of the First Six Seals (Revelation Chapters 6-7) 80
- a) The First Four Seals (Revelation 6:1-8)
- b) Fifth and Sixth seals (Revelation 6:9-7:17)
vii. The Seventh Seal and the Seven Trumpets 94
- a) First Four Trumpets (Revelation Chapter 8)
- b) Fifth and Sixth Trumpets (Revelation Chapter 9)
- c) The Little Scroll (Revelation Chapter10)
- d) The Two Witnesses (Revelation Chapter11)
I.ii: Tachus, or “soon:”
Were the Apostles Wrong About How Soon the End Would Come?
God has given the revelation to Jesus in order to show to his servants what must “soon” occur. What it is that must soon occur is the coming of Jesus, as he says, “Surely, I am coming soon” (3:11). Yet what the second coming entails, and how to picture what it is that is said will occur, is of course very difficult. This difficulty of what is to occur is related to the ambiguity about how soon the end would come, as will be shown.
The nearness of the time is emphasized repeatedly in the opening and closing messages that frame the text (1:1; 22:6, 7, 12, 20). It is not said how soon, but only that “the time is near.” From the beginning, readers throughout the ages think of the coming of the kingdom as very imminent, in their own lifetimes, or shortly thereafter, before the present generation passes away (Matthew 24:34, Luke 21:32; 1 Peter 4:7). The Apostles “supposed that the Kingdom of God was to appear immediately” (Luke 19:11). Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians advises a different way of dealing with the world, because “the appointed time has grown very short” (7:29). Peter identifies the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost with that said to describe “the last days” (Acts 2:17; Joel 2:28-32). John himself, in the first letter, writes “it is the last hour” and “now many antichrists have come” (2:18). And it is something of a question whether Jesus himself did not expect the great tribulation, the time of the worst trouble ever for mankind, to coincide with the fall of Jerusalem and the desolation of the temple, which occurred as foreseen, in 70 A. D. Although he teaches that first the gospel must be preached throughout the world, it is not clear that Jesus did not share the expectation of the Apostles that the second coming was very imminent. Jesus himself taught that he did not know the day and the hour, apparently of his own return, when he says: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the son, but only the Father…” (Matthew 24:36). One possible meaning of this is that the day and hour depend in part on human choice and action, and the day is not prophesied because it is genuinely free, though it can be foreknown, if only by the Father (Mat. 24:36). Are some things set when Daniel receives his vision, but other things dependent on what mankind does when the Messiah arrives? Or was it set that, coming among sinful humanity, he would be killed, like the sacrificial lamb? And do end time events depend upon human actions at all, such as the allied response in World War II, and the saying “Never again?”
We are told that it will come by surprise, at an hour we do not expect, “like a thief in the night,” as when one is especially not looking. Unless the difference of two thousand years is negligible, the Apostles do seem to be wrong, to a man, about how imminent the judgment of the world is (Acts 2:16; 1:7). The scholars teach that when the end did not come as the Christians expected, the theory had to be altered to adjust for the delay. Those who disbelieve the promise of the second coming cite as reason for doubt the truth that it has apparently not happened yet. Peter writes that there will be scoffers in the last days who say “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4). We may see in hindsight that this is all just as it would be were the Revelation true, for “soon” to us may be a bit different from “soon” to eternity. The end times or the last days in one sense begin with the crucifixion, and continue as they have for two millennia. In this sense, it is now occurring, and has been, beginning with the mustard seed of the incarnation. The culmination of it is, however, “soon.”
Yet it can be argued that in the apocalyptic sections of Matthew (24), Mark (13) and Luke (21), Jesus does not assume that it will be very imminent, or literally within the present “generation,” because he knows that the gospel must first be preached throughout the whole world. “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come,” (Matt. 24:14). The parable of the talents in Luke is in answer to the expectation that the Kingdom was to “appear immediately.” In all three gospels, he tells them that they, the Apostles, will be hated and persecuted for the sake of his name. It is not clear in these chapters when he stops speaking to the apostles then alive, and of the events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem, and when he begins to speak of those into the future. Unless the event refers only to the destruction of the temple, it is simply wrong that “this generation will not pass away,” in both Luke and Matthew. The second coming has not yet occurred, nor have the sun and moon been darkened, and that generation has passed away. Hal Lindsey reads the line as meaning the generation that sees these signs, the fig tree sprouting, or Israel returned as a nation (1998, p. 27-28, 98). The word genea can also mean race or tribe. Henry Schaeffer reads genea as the generation of the spirit, which of course will continue to the end. He could also refer to the people Israel, to race or nation in that sense, including those without a land. Van Impe reads that generation refers to those born of the spirit in the church age, and this has not yet passed away. The next sentence, “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” suggests that he speaks also of the generation of the word. The generation of the Apostles has not in this sense passed away, but, as foreseen, has spread the gospel toward the ends of the earth. Yet he does speak to the present generation, and the fall of Jerusalem did occur to that generation, as well as the foretold persecution of the Apostles and the Church. The persecution he describes, where family members turn one another in before kings and governors for being Apostles of the gospel, is like what had occurred and would occur in the Roman persecutions, but it is also like what occurred in the inquisition and again is what occurs under modern tyrannies such as that in the Soviet Union prior to 1989, not to mention the German tyranny.
The First Precondition
The three apocalyptic sections do give a sense of the vast time that might be involved. In Matthew, Jesus says: “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come” (24:14). Jesus tells the Apostles of how they will be delivered up and persecuted in palaces and synagogues, and be hated for the sake of his name. They are specifically told not to be alarmed that nations rise against one another, and that there will be earthquakes, famines, and pestilences, but that “the end is not yet (outo)” (Mt 24:6), and “…the end will not be at once (eutheos)” (Luke 21:9). These various events would take some time to occur. In all three, Jesus teaches that when false ones come in his name, or they hear rumors of wars and disturbances, they are not to go after these, nor fear, because “the end” is not signaled by these things. These together describe events prior to the destruction of the temple, and it is not clear just when the account slides into events indicating the end times as distinct from the destruction of the temple. When they see Jerusalem surrounded, they are to know its ruin or desolation has come. The imperative to flee Judea, also in Matthew (24:16), refers in Luke explicitly to the time of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple (21:20-21). In Matthew, they are told to flee when they see the desolating sacrilege spoke of by Daniel, “standing in the holy place (let the reader understand)” or in Mark, “where it ought not be (let the reader understand)” they avoid saying in the temple. In Matthew, and Luke, the time of the desolating sacrilege set up in the temple seems to refer to this time of the fall of the temple in 70 A. D. In Mark, the tribulation follows the time when those on housetops are not to go down or look back, while in Luke, the time when Jerusalem will be trodden by the Gentiles intervenes between the desolation and the darkening of the sun and moon. As Josephus reports, such a sacrilege did occur under Antiochus, though he does not report a desolating sacrilege at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem. Jerusalem and the surrounding area did become desolate, like a cottage in a vineyard or hovel in a cucumber garden, a besieged city (Isaiah 1:8), as Hippolytus notes (p. 210). But this, the fall of Jerusalem, is also the time of the “great tribulation,” “such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall be,” a one time event. The text, with a leap that is like a lacuna or gap of a missing section, jumps immediately from the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. to the darkening of sun and moon and the coming of the son of man on a cloud. This has not yet occurred, though two millennia have passed. There may be a repetition of these events in the end times: the surrounding of Jerusalem and the flight of Jews from Judea, and the desolating sacrilege, so that it is true both that that literal generation would not pass away (24:34) before the destruction of Jerusalem and that the end was not yet.
Jesus foretold the destruction of the temple (Matthew 24:1-2; Mk. 13:1-3; Luke 21:5-7). It is said in his accusation that he said he could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days (Matthew 26:61; 27:40). John reports that, after overturning the tables of the moneychangers, the Jews asked him “What sign have you to show us for doing this?” and Jesus answered: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). (So, he did not say that he would destroy it, as in the accusation.) The Apostle, writing after the fall of the temple, says “But he spoke of the temple of his body.” Hence, when he was raised, the disciples remembered this saying. One wonders what they would have thought of these things when the temple was indeed destroyed, by Titus in 70 A. D, and of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A. D. The three gospels record this prophecy, as is likely, just before the temple falls. Josephus writes of a prophet also named Jesus who foretold the destruction in Jerusalem from 66 on, until he was killed prophesying (Antiquities, VI.v).
The time of tribulation in one sense begins with the crucifixion, is suffered by the Apostles and the church throughout history, and still this is different from the great tribulation to come in the end of days. While Jerusalem suffered to the extreme during the siege, the Jews suffered even worse under the Nazis. The tribulation in one sense would seem to coincide with the time of the Church from the fall of the temple until the persecution of the Jews by Hitler, as the time of the Gentiles, when the nations will overrun Jerusalem. It is also possible that the tribulation began there, with Hitler or Lenin, is not yet completed, and the time of the greatest trouble for all mankind is yet to come.
The statement in Luke reads: “And Jerusalem will be trodden down by the nations (ethnon) until the time of the nations is fulfilled” (Luke 21: 25-27). The angel tells John that the outer court of the temple is to be trampled by the nations for 42 months (Revelation 11:2), and this seems to refer to the same thing as when the time of the nations is fulfilled. This is one of the few recognitions in the New Testament of the prophecy of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. While the prophecy of the return of the Jews is prominent in the Old Testament, it is very strangely not mentioned directly in the New Testament, though it often seems to be assumed, as when the 144,000 are sealed. This, then, is a second thing said to occur before the end. The first two things that are fulfilled before the end– the preaching of the gospel throughout the world and the return of the Jews to Israel– may coincide. The time may be a short and a long period. The short period may in some way encapsulate the long, and also contain a repetition of things that occurred at the fall of Jerusalem, if Jerusalem is to be surrounded and fled and trampled yet another time.
The Second Reason that the Time Seems to be Quite Soon
Strangely, then, the New Testament does not otherwise mention the fulfillment of the prophecy of the return of the Jews to Israel from world-wide dispersion (Ezekiel 36, especially: 24; Jeremiah 3:18; Isaiah 11:11-12; Deuteronomy 30). When he asks how long, Daniel hears the man clothed in linen say: “a time, two times and a half a time…when the scattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end, all these things would be accomplished” (12:7; Revelation 10:6; 12:6). Conversely, the prophets do not directly foretell the preaching of the gospel of the Messiah throughout the world, though Isaiah (29:18-19) prophesies:
In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall exult in the Holy one of Israel.
Isaiah also prophesies (42:6-7; 49:6) that salvation is to come to the world through Israel:
I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations,
To open the eyes that are blind,
To bring out the prisoners from the dungeon,
From the prison those who sit in darkness…
I will give you as a light to the world, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.
Zechariah (8:23) writes:
Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’
With the popularity of the Kabbalah and the recovery of Maimonides, this has in a sense become so in our age, in a rediscovery of the wisdom of the Jews neglected through the Christian centuries. Daniel and Revelation together, or the story of the Jews and Christians together, makes possible a reading of the apocalyptic prophecy that has not otherwise been available.
The nations are to be saved through the salvation of the Jews (Is. 55:5; 56:7):
You shall call nations that you know not,
And nations that knew you not shall run to you.
…for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
The Old Testament does not say that it is the Messiah that, in a first epiphany, will start a universal religion that will bring the Hebrew God to the recognition of the whole world. So it may not be surprising that those remaining non-messianic Jews did not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Some believe that his death demonstrated that he was not the Messiah, since the reign of the Messiah was to be forever. It is difficult in prophecy to separate or distinguish the First from the Second Advent. Yet Maimonides recognized that both Christianity and Islam have brought the world to recognize the God of Abraham.
When Daniel asked the angel “How long,” he was answered that, paradoxically, these things would be accomplished when the power of the holy people was restored. Beginning with Moses: when the blessing and curse come upon them, and they recall these things among all the nations among which the Lord has driven them, and they return and obey the Lord, then…
…the Lord your God will restore your fortunes, and have compassion upon you, and he will gather you again from all the peoples from where the Lord your God has scattered you, if your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the Lord your God will fetch you, and the Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, that you may possess it; and he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. And the Lord thy God will circumcise your heart…
Deuteronomy 30: 3-6
The prophecy is repeated frequently (Ezekiel 36-37; Amos 9:14-15). It is explicit, as in Ezekiel, that it is a return from a second worldwide dispersion, in addition to the return from the Babylonian conquest. Isaiah writes: “In that day the Lord will extend his hand a second time to recover the remnant which is left of his people…” (Is. 11:11). The return of the Jews to Israel from a second worldwide dispersion is the most clear and amazing sign or indication that the time may indeed be for us quite soon. To repeat, it is strange that this prophecy, central to the vision of the end times in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah, is not directly mentioned but is implied in the Revelation.
As Van Impe notices, the restoration of the temple seems to be assumed in certain scenes of the visions of John, as when the temple is measured (11:1), or the portent seen in heaven of the seven angels with seven bowls coming out of the temple (15:6). The restoration of Israel as a nation is probably assumed in the sealing of the 144,000 in Chapter 7 and their gathering on Mount Zion in Chapter 14, and in the gathering of the nations of the world at Armageddon. The desolating sacrilege seems to assume the rebuilding of the temple, though, like the rapture, the sacrilege is also not mentioned directly in the Revelation. But the statements in the three gospels are consistent with the temple not being rebuilt until after the millennium.
The restoration of Israel is a truly amazing Twentieth Century occurrence– all the more because, though the process began in 1917, or even in the 1880’s, the mass immigration and restoration of the nation in 1947 were the result of persecution under the sort of tyranny peculiar to the Twentieth Century. The return of the Jews also results in the conflict with the Arab or Islamic world– reminiscent of the conflict between the sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. Mohammed teaches a descent from Abraham through Ishmael, and so the conflict central to our world is a return to the conflict of these sons of Abraham, both inheritors of the belief in one God. While it is said that no one knows the day and hour, we are, as Van Impe and others indicate, told in the parable of the fig tree (Luke 21:29-31; Mark 13:28) to know when the Kingdom of God is near. “As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is near” (Luke 21:30). Van Impe explains that the fig tree is Israel.
Parables of Delay
The period between the expectation of imminent return and the actual fulfillment of the prophecy is directly addressed as a recognizable period of delay. There are parables of delay (Matthew 24:48; 25:5), and warnings such as that against a wicked servant who, when the master is delayed, begins to beat his fellow servants (Matthew 24:49; Mark). Have the servants of Jesus done any such thing throughout history? In the Revelation, there is delay, of the four winds, until the sealing of the 144,000, when the multitudes too are shown having come out of the tribulation. Maimonides cites Habakkuk (2:3): “If he tarries, wait for him.” In 2 Esdras (4:36), the angel explains that the delay is until the number of those like yourself is completed.” When in the fifth trumpet, those under the throne ask impatiently “How long,” the answer is “until the number of their fellow servants is complete…” (6:11). With the sixth trumpet, the angel announces that “there will be no more delay,” but that in the days of the seventh trumpet of the seventh angel, the mystery of God will be fulfilled. The reason for the delay seems to be that the time must wait upon the sealing of the full number of the servants of God. This, then, is the reason that the time is not yet.
The foretold time is thought now to be quite soon, first, then, because the Gospel has been “preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations…” The second reason is the restoration of Israel as nation. Maimonides writes: “The days of the Messiah will occur when rule returns to Israel and they return to Palestine. This king who arises will have the seat of his rule in Zion.”
The Calendar and the Six Day Theory
A third reason that the time seems to be quite soon is the calendar, though it is amusing to note that we do not know what day it is. This is something like the recognition in astronomy that we do not know which way is “up.” In calendaration, the trouble is that the earth goes round the sun while spinning 365 1/4 times or so, while the moon goes round the earth by months that are not rationally divisible into solar years, with just over twelve months in each solar year. So, a day does not end at the same time when each annual revolution round the sun is completed. The early Hebrews and the Sadducees use the lunar calendar, while Enoch and the Pharisees followed the solar calendar. In addition to the difficulty of converting solar and lunar calculations, our dating, from the birth of Jesus, was not adopted until centuries later. According to the Byzantine calendar, Augustine thought that the latter part of the sixth millennium was then passing (XX.7). The Christian calendar was not set until Dionysius Exiguus, or “Dennis the small,” calculated the dates of Easter for the Pope and called the year from which he began 376. This calculation has no year zero, and is thought to be off by about four years. Herod king of the Jews when Jesus was born, who persecuted him at his birth and slaughtered the innocents in Jerusalem, is thought to have died in 4 B. C. The original calculation is thought to have mistaken the date of the birth by three to five years. The birth of Jesus is sometimes dated prior to 4 B.C. There was a supernova around 6 or 7 B. C. This supernova is a candidate for the Star of David, though it would not hover over the cave in Bethlehem. Another candidate is a conjunction of planets in 6 B. C., as the Babylonian magi may have known from astronomy to follow the star (Matt. 2:2). That would seem to mean that Jesus lived from about what we call 6 or 7 B. C. until 23 or 26 A. D. The death of Jesus is thought to have occurred at about 32 A. D., when he was 32 or 33 years old, with the anniversary of the crucifixion to occur some time between 2026 and 2033, the usual date being 2031-32. Our time is then the bi-millennium of his lifetime, and the date approaching is that of the bi-millennium of the crucifixion, the point of victory over death. The dating from the birth of Jesus was not common or popularized until the historian Bede, writing in the Eighth Century. Under Pope Gregory, a correction was needed to account for a buildup of the ¼ days, which are the cause of leap years. The Jewish calendar, adopted in the Tenth Century A. D., takes over our dating from the birth of Jesus, calling this the “Common era,” and setting the creation of the world at 3756 B. C. E. The Hebrew calendar posts a difference of about 240 years, so that the year 2000 is equal to 5761 of the world, and 2239-40 would be equal to 6000. It has been argued very convincingly that the Hebrew calendar is in error, including too few years in the Persian period. It is also suggested that the error was inserted intentionally to obscure the time of the true Messiah. According to the famous calculation of Bishop Usher from the generations in the whole Bible, the birth of the Messiah occurred in the year 4004 of the world. If the birth were actually in 4 B. C., as some suggest, the year from the Usher calculation would be perfect, the Messiah arriving in the year of the world 4000. The seventh day would have begun with the year 6000, in about our 1996. This need not be what has been imagined of the beginning of the world in order to be the beginning of the present “world,” and of our calculation, but it suffices that humanity from Adam began there.
There is what is called the six day theory. This teaching of the early church was apparently buried by the commentary of Augustine (City of God, XX.7). Augustine wrote that because the first resurrection is mistakenly thought to be future and bodily, rather than spiritual and in this life, this passage of the Revelation regarding the millennial reign of these is construed into “ridiculous fancies.” Some of the Chiliasts or millennialists imagined a thousand years of carnal pleasures. Augustine himself once held the opinion of the better sort of Chiliasts believing in a thousand year reign of the saints with spiritual joys consequent on the presence of God. The six day theory states that as the Lord created the world in six days, and a day is to the Lord as a thousand years (2 Peter 3:8; Psalm 90:4), so the world will endure six thousand years, with the thousand year reign of the saints or the millennium occurring in the seventh thousand (Irenaeus Against Heresies, III. 28). Van Impe (1998, p. 59-60) cites Barnabas (Epistle, XV):
For with him one day is as a thousand years…Therefore, children, in six thousand years shall all things be accomplished. And what is that he saith, and he rested on the seventh day, he meaneth this; that when his son shall come, and abolish the season of the wicked one, and judge the ungodly; and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars; then he shall gloriously rest on that seventh day.
Yet a day in the Bible is sometimes a day, so that none ever suggested that the forty days and nights were forty thousand years, etc. His raising of the temple in three days may be a prophecy of the millennium. Van Impe also cites the Talmud “The world is to stand 6000 years, vis, 2000 confusion and void, 2000 with the law, and 2000 the time of the Messiah” (1983, p. 59-60). Dr. Van Impe relates that the two thousand years of the scattering of the Jews till their return seems to be prophesied by Hosea, writing: “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him” (6:2). “Us” refers to the Jews, from whom the Lord has withdrawn until they “acknowledge their guilt and seek my face” (Hosea 5:15).
The Seven Weeks of Years and Seven Years of Days
According to the prophecy of the seventy weeks of years in Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27; Nehemiah 2:1-8) there were to be “Seven weeks” from the going forth of the word to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of “an anointed one, a prince” (9:25). Then it was to be rebuilt for “62 weeks,” or 434 years. Then after the sixty two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off, and shall have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” (9:26). In the conversion of lunar into solar years, it is difficult to transfer, for example, a prediction of 490 years from the rebuilding of the temple after the Babylonian conquest. Transferring lunar and solar years to their common denominator of days, Van Impe (1998, p. 167-168) conjectures that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey 483 years, or 69 weeks of years, after the call to rebuild the temple. Van Impe calculates that 1 Nisan 445 B.C. was March 14 according to our calendar, the Ides of March. The entry into Jerusalem is said to be on April 6, 32 A.D. (Ibid, p. 167-168). Here some 477 solar years are equal to 483 lunar years. There are fewer solar years than lunar in the same period, but if the years referred to by the weeks of years are solar rather than lunar, the period itself is longer. Enoch too is concerned with this calculation (Enoch 74, 75, 82). The final week is then divided into half, and for half a week this one “shall cause sacrifice and offering to cease,” before the desolation. This final week is treated separately, and will be considered later, in place below.
In both Daniel and the Revelation, there is a period of three and one half years, or 42 months, 1260 days, and this recurs in various contexts. It is the “time two times and a half a time” the saints will be given into his hand (Daniel 7:25), the time, two times and a half a time till “the end of these wonders,” “when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end” (Daniel 12:7). Then in the Revelation, this is the amount of time the two witnesses are granted power to prophesy clothed in sackcloth (11:3). Then after they are killed, their bodies remain unburied for “three and a half days” before they are raised (11:9; 11). “A time, two times and a half a time” is also the amount of time that the woman is nourished in the wilderness (12:14), and forty-two months the time that the Beast is given authority (Revelation 13:5). And in Daniel, the continual burnt offering is taken away and the sanctuary trampled underfoot for “two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings” (8:11-14), and there are 1290 days from the time sacrifice is abolished to the time of the abomination, and 1335 days through which the blessed persevere (12:11-12). This seven years of years– 2520 days divided into two periods of 1260 days or three and one half years– has been the basis of all the calculations of the American Protestants from the Disappointment through the Witnesses to the contemporary Baptists, and apparently even of Isaac Newton, and we will have occasion throughout to consider these things.
According to Van Impe, when Israel took Jerusalem in 1967, 2,553 years of foreign rule ended. The capture of Jerusalem in 1967 ended some 2,553 years of foreign control over that city, excepting the brief period under Antiochus when the Jews rebelled successfully, and purified the temple. This number reminds of the seven years of days, and the two periods of three and one half years which are, in the lunar calendar 2520 (7x 360) and in the solar 2555 (7x 365). It is 2,553 solar years from 586 B. C., when the temple fell, to 1967, and the year zero may throw off the calculation by a year or two. The attempt to calculate from the first destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon is complicated by disagreement as to what date this occurred, though 586 B.C. is often agreed upon. The Witnesses, beginning from 607 B.C., calculated to 1914, the year World War I began, and teach that a mystical kingdom was then established, following the reading of Mr. Russell (1988, p. 19). 607 B. C. is the date given for the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, the ten tribes scattered by the Assyrians. 607 is also the approximate beginning of the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity prophesied by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:12; Daniel 9:2). 607 – 2520 = 1913. 2520 – 586 = 1934, the year Hitler took power. The calculations are further complicated by the difference between the lunar and solar calendars, and the question of how to convert these. The Pharisees and Sadducees are said to have had a disagreement about the lunar and solar calendar. If the years are converted to solar years, 1277.5 is half of 2555 and fits the time from the fall of Jerusalem in 586 (If that is the correct date) to the building of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in 691. That the number of days in seven years be taken as years seems to be suggested from seventy weeks of Daniel Chapter Nine and the two thousand some days of Chapters 8 and 12. The 2520 lunar years are equal to 2555 solar years, which is very near to the period from the fall of the temple in 586 B.C. to the retaking of Jerusalem in 1967. The dates must be adjusted for the seasons and the year zero.
But it is some distance from the mere statement of a time two times and a half a time to two 3 ½ year periods amounting to seven years, suggesting seven years of years, and we may look further into these things in place below. It is, though, amazing that the seven years of years comes so near to convergence with the millennium and the end of the sixth day. This, then, is the fourth reason that the time seems to be soon.
The Spread of Technology
A fifth reason is that, as Daniel was told, “Knowledge will increase” (Daniel 12: 4). The fruition of technology in the present century surprisingly makes many of the prophesied destructions and events seem rationally possible. The locusts (Revelation 9) are a bit like specialized drone planes, just now beginning to be used, while the horses are like the remote land vehicles sure to accompany the drones in any future war. It is just now possible for a 200 million man army to cross the Euphrates, or for the waters to be made wormwood, or for there to be a need to stop those destroying the world (11:18). It is also now possible to join genetic engineering with tyranny. Computers too, just now, make it possible to collect multiple pieces of information regarding every person on the planet. The need for security and the danger of terrorism make such imitations of omniscience seem necessary. Two terms: the development of nuclear, chemical and biological warfare and the spread of technology to many nations, coupled with the apparent inevitability of war among the nations in the human condition, seem plenty enough to lead us to the conclusion that there is cause for grave concern about the present time. The danger of imminent catastrophe is evident. Twice near the conclusion of the past century, in 1983 and again in 1995, there were near accidents in which computer defense systems seemed to indicate that a nuclear attack had begun. A man named Stanislaw Petrov may have saved more lives than anyone in history by a single action. Petrov was substituting at the Soviet post of firing a nuclear missile when there was an error in monitoring, due to the test of a missile from Norway. His instruments told him there was a missile coming from the United States, and his job was to fire one that would have hit the East Coast. On a hunch, he proceeded as though his instruments were in error, and did not fire. Though his hunch was correct, his career was destroyed for disobeying an order. When these events were made public, in the news, people hardly noticed. We continue under the proverbial sword of Damocles with hardly a shrug, since there is little we can do about it. The threat, if not the logical necessity, of chemical, nuclear and biological warfare are visible. These are possibilities in the created nature, unlocked by one of its creatures. The unseen hope is that the Savior will return before the earth and humanity are simply destroyed. It is just now possible that wars be as cataclysmic as those described in the Revelation, and science has just now become convinced of the vulnerability of the earth to asteroids and pole shifts, etc. This, the cataclysmic change of the earth in the past, was not previously known, before the geology of Sir Charles Lyell, and seemed miraculous. Stones do not fall from the sky.
Francis Bacon seems to have seen that the project of modern science is related to the increase in knowledge that was to precede the coming of the kingdom. In Chapter 93 of his New Atlantis, he writes:
“The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation,” so it is in all the greater works of Divine Providence; everything glides on smoothly and noiselessly, and the work is fairly going on before men are aware that it has begun. Nor should the prophecy of Daniel be forgotten, touching the last ages of the world:–“many shall go to and fro and knowledge shall be increased;” clearly intimating that the thorough passage of the world (which now by so many distant voyages seems to be accomplished, or in course of accomplishment), and the advancement of the sciences, are destined by fate, that is, by Providence, to meet in the same age.
The special increase in knowledge that results from the project of modern science may be the specific increase foretold in the Book of Daniel, as it would seem on hindsight to be. It is often thought that there was a direct line of the development of technology from the wheel through Archimedes and da Vince to engines and computers. But the great growth of technology in our world beginning in the Nineteenth Century was very much the result of a deliberate project begun in Renaissance Italy and continued among the French and English to investigate and pool knowledge, in a dedication to truth through science that rivaled the dedication of the religious of the past. To them we owe much about both our medicine and free government, expanding the Greek traditions. This development, specific to the West, was introduced very much as a response to the superstitious understanding of the causes, as the strength and authority of medieval custom crumbled and religious violence seized Europe.
Something else, though, also occurred in the development of the imagination of the West, as ideologies emerged from the ashes of the old regime joined to violent political movements. A void in the imagination was filled with new utopian theories based on the vision of nature characterizing modern natural science. Alexis de Tocqueville discusses this occurrence in his book On the French Revolution (III.1). These ideologies begin in the rejection of the tradition of faith, though they share surprising features in their envisioning of the future with the images of the Kingdom. Communism, or the extreme “left,” and Nazism, its opposite extreme, emerged from the German philosophy of the Nineteenth Century to spawn political movements covering a quarter of the globe, leaving a wake of some seventy to one hundred million dead in addition to those killed in war. Only the astonishing victory of liberty in the Second World War prevented these things from then becoming global. While Communism seemed, in 1990, to be ready to dissolve like the witch of the West, it yet persists, if in a less noxious form.
The success of modern technology results in the extreme importance of the preservation of liberty and the prevention of tyranny. Under free government, the powers of technology are both useful and annoying, but the people can prevent the more obvious abuses. The nightmare of modern man is if these powers, developed in liberty, should fall into the hands of unchecked tyrannies. Yet liberty is rare, and fragile.
The place of modern science in making possible the things foreseen in the Revelation reminds us of the account of Enoch of the cause of the depravity of mankind before the flood. The angels that then fell to earth and had intercourse with human women also gave mankind the forbidden knowledge and arts that lead to the metal weapons of war, drugs and cosmetics (Enoch VII-VIII). Azazel…
…taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were in heaven, which men were striving to learn (IX.6).
And the flood occurs…
…that all the children of men may not perish through all the secret things that the watchers have disclosed and have taught their sons (X.3).
What occurred, then, is that men were killed, and their blood cried up to the heavens as Abel’s did when Cain committed the first murder:
And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven… (IX.10).
Rousseau would have called Enoch as a witness to the thesis of his Second Discourse, on the harm to man due to the arts and sciences. A copy of the Book was found in a cave in Ethiopia in 1773, translated into English by Richard Lawrence in 1821, and then by R. H. Charles in 1912. What is especially intriguing for us is the repetition of the pattern of the days of Noah. The revealing of the secrets of electronics, biology, chemistry, nuclear physics has led to a circumstance where both the potential for destructiveness and for tyranny have reached Biblical proportions, many times worse than that unleashed by the metals and the weapons of war in the ages of bronze and iron. If at any time in human history, one were to say “there will soon be war” or “soon a tyranny,” they would have been correct. Yet now, with the powers of technology, tyranny and war cannot happen without great catastrophe. This may be part of the reason that there is less war per capita now than at any time previous in human history. The topic of the Apocalypse sometimes incites terror. Our fear need not be that he is coming, or that the apocalyptic things are true. Due to technology, the human population has just now exploded to cover the globe like mould on a piece of bread, also indicating the ripening of the time. Given human nature and nuclear, chemical and biological technology, the destruction would seem almost assured. What we have to fear is that He is not coming, to destroy those destroying the world (11:18). The impending doom is visible, the spiritual truth invisible.
Plato is notorious for considering mechanics to be a corruption of the “one good” of geometry, which is to turn our minds away from matter, as Plutarch reports in his Life of Marcellus. Technology makes reason a servant of ends not its own, usually the ends of wealth and power, which are the ends of the body. Were technology to serve reason, there might be much helpful and little wrong with it as an occupation for mechanical types, bringing some relief to the pain and toil of the human condition. Nor does modern psychology attempt an understanding of the hierarchy of ends based on the right ordering of the parts of the soul, which provides the basis for an objective ethics at the root of classical psychology. Our psychology is a set of techniques or instruments, to be used toward unexamined ends to which the science claims indifference. The very success of modern science led to a depravity of the human studies, the very studies which could address the question not of how to gain power over nature and man, but how to use these abilities well. There is nothing in modern science– no scientific knowledge– that suggests that we use technology for the relief of the human condition. Science gives us medicine, but the Church gave us hospitals, and humanity the intention to heal. The instrumental character of scientific knowledge means that it can be used for either good or evil, increasing powers toward ends which are most common by nature, such as wealth and power.
Usually, the current scientific understanding of the causes of things is thought to preclude the Biblical understanding, so that miracles are thought impossible, and the coming of the son of man nonsensical. Faith in our age may require an obscuring of certain truths that seem to argue against faith. Yet, while science refutes and replaces much of the mythic or superstitious understanding of the causes, it does not claim to understand the first or most important things any better than religion did, things like the purpose or the shapes of things, why is there order, how, and what each thing is, and each kind of thing, etc.
There is a very interesting study of the exodus by a recent archeologist from Jerusalem Jacobovich, shown on a program of the History Channel Exodus Decoded. He unravels the plagues inflicted on Egypt by considering these as natural consequences of the huge volcano that occurred about 1470 B. C. at Santorini. Each plague, how frogs would come from red water, which would kill their predators, up through the killing of the first born on the main floor of the Egyptian houses by a release of methane gas, and the exposure of the shoal across the Reed Sea, understood quite well, and for the most part truly. One would expect some of the swords, shields and bodies of the Egyptian soldiers to be found there at the Reed Sea (Ex 14:28, 30). The marvel is that these things coincided with the exodus, so that each consequence was helpful in the escape. What is amazing is that their exodus coincided with the natural events. There is no “super nature” or “supernatural” in the Bible, but, we might say, also a nature that is divine, and a nature that we do not understand. If one had perfect geological knowledge so as to predict Santorini, as geological and astronomical science may allow the prediction of a cataclysm by fire, still one could not from this predict the events of the apocalypse, any more than one could have predicted the exodus from the prediction of Santorini. These, the exodus and the apocalypse, concern the human and spiritual world.
In the same way as Jacobovich has presented the exodus, the judgments, especially the first four trumpets and bowls, may be considered as part of a single event. It is said, for example, that when an asteroid hit the Yucatan Peninsula 65 Million years ago, debris was thrown back up into space, only to then rain back down, igniting the atmosphere with the heat of the friction and burning about one half of the forests on the earth. In the second trumpet, something like a great mountain is thrown into the sea. In the first, fire, hail and blood rain down, and in the third a meteor seems to fall, poisoning one third of the waters and destroying one third of all ships. Then in the fourth trumpet, the sun and moon are darkened, as may also result from a meteor. The increase in knowledge has allowed us for the first time to see into the vastness of the galaxies and the age and motions of the earth, and to see how the things described by John are quite possible, and not in the least incredible.
The fruition of modern science and technology, political and philosophic modernity, the persecution and return of the Jews, and the Arab-Israeli conflict– these are, then, the principal constellations whose conjunction seems– far more than any astrological conjunction– to suggest that the time may indeed be quite soon.
A sixth reason that the time seems near is that Catholic prophesies converge to indicate the present time. The prophecy of Malachy, in which he lists the Popes from his time until the end, seems to conclude with the one to follow Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis I, though Malachy calls him Peter of Rome. The convergence of the three secrets of Fatima (See Appendix A) with the other five reasons is very ominous.
A seventh reason that the time seems to be near is the convergence of many other prophesies, from the Mayan calendar and Hopi prophecy to those of Merlin and Mother Shipton and Edgar Casey. The end of the Mayan calendar was of course 2012, though it was not said by the Maya just what this means. The Hopi, from a tradition that may be related, speak truly of the “gourd of ashes” and the end of the fourth world, looking forward to the beginning of the fifth world. They may also draw the prophecy out to describe a pole shift, as though the crossing of the galactic equator would result in the reverse of the cosmic polarity. The description in Luke following the signs in the sun and moon (21:25 ff) sounds much like what might be seen from earth if the poles were to gracefully shift: The surface would be disturbed, leading to roaring waves and universal panic, as described by Luke (21:26-28):
…upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
As will be discussed in place below, there are other descriptions from the prophets that sound like a pole shift and ruffling of the old crust that is not itself the end, but sets the end times in motion, or allows these things to occur. If a natural disaster, such as the eruption of the super volcano at Yellowstone, were to remove the U. S. from world politics, the events foretold might be allowed to occur.
Still, there are convergences in other ages, and it is amusing to think that, had we lived and wondered in the days of the Second World War, and known what was occurring around us, (as most did not), we might similarly think that the time appears to be at hand, though for different reasons. It is good, especially when we think something in the text to have been made clear, to think of and try to eliminate other possibilities. A good exercise might be to consider “why so” and “why not” on the question of whether Hitler is the Antichrist, for we hold that while this is not it, it is, like it. He is defeated much as the tyrant of Isaiah 14, his body burned. His holocaust resulted in the return of Israel as a nation. This might appear to be a New Jerusalem were it not for the ominous unresolved circumstances of world politics. Hitler indeed thought or planned “to change the times and the law” (Daniel 8:25), as did many modern revolutions, beginning with the French. The similarity of Hitler to the one described in Daniel would have appeared prominent, going forth to persecute many, and even putting down three kings, while the prophecy regarding the return of the Jews to Israel would have appeared less prominent. Yet Hitler never took Jerusalem, which remained under British and Palestinian control. Mussolini took and lost Rome for the Axis powers, so that Rome was quarantined, but spared. It is also possible that World War II is the destruction of one third of the world, which seems to be what is described in the trumpets, and that this precedes a third world war which will be an even more universal conflagration. Above all, no Christian reader, to my knowledge, ever predicted that the Nazis would be a cause of the restoration of Israel. And there may then have been something to the thought– though we often miss large historical motions due to our excessive concern with our own little life-span. “The end is not at once” (Luke21:9). The unfolding could easily cover two millennia, and it is not clear that what is prophesied is not a third millennium. The present Jewish calendar marks the end of the sixth day at what would be 2239. The present tensions among the nations could conceivably continue without resolution until then, and yet the prophecy be fulfilled. It does not seem that a large scale persecution aiming particularly at Christendom has occurred as it has with the Holocaust of the Jews– though many Christians were caught up in that, as our Pope John Paul II knows at first hand. While the martyrs under Communism are considerable in number, this seems only to foreshadow what is seen in the vision. Nor does it seem that the antichrist has yet appeared.
The Rapture and the Son of Lawlessness
The three apocalyptic sections of the gospels contain the best description of the rapture (Matthew 24:30-31; 39-43; Mark 13:26-27; Luke 21:27; and 17:20-37). In Matthew, “And then they will see the son of man coming in a cloud with power and much glory.” The sun and moon are darkened after the time of the “great tribulation” is spoke of, and just before the sign of the son of man appears in the heavens (24:29-30). As will be discussed in more detail below, it is sometimes taught that the rapture is distinct from this “coming of the son of man,” but this coming of the son of man is just what is said to be like the days of Noah in its suddenness. Then, it is written, “two men will be in the field, one is taken and one is left…” (Matthew 24: 32). This is especially explicit in Luke’s Gospel, as “the day the son of man is revealed” (17:30). The other great text on the rapture is from the letter of Paul to the 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18:
…For this we declare to you by the word of God, that we who are alive shall not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a cry of command, and with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we always be with the Lord.
Paul leaves record of an understanding of the time scope involved, when he writes to the Thessalonians (2 Thess. 2:1-12) that they should not become exited by reports that the day of the Lord has come, and it is time to gather:
Let no one deceive you in any way, for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
It seems here that the manifestation of the lawless one must precede the rapture (though it is still logically possible that “that day” refers not to the rapture but to the separate Revelation to all the world at the second coming, described in Chapter 19 of the Revelation, and that the rapture addressed in the first letter to the Thessalonians precede the revelation addressed in the second letter to the Thessalonians. But in Matthew, it is very clearly written “And when you see the desolating sacrilege…” (Mt. 24:15). This seating of the lawless one is not something that there will be mistaking about, though those who do not receive the truth are left to be deluded by the lie (2 Thess. 2:10-11). Paul, continuing, writes that “he who now restrains the mystery of lawlessness will do so until he (or it) is out of the way” (2 Thess. 2:7). Some teach that this “he” or it who now restrains is the church, whose presence in the world as the vessel of the Spirit prevents the manifestation of the lawless one, so that the whole church will be raptured before the man of lawlessness is revealed.
We, though, would then wonder for whom it is that the Revelation is written. It is addressed to his servants, to show them what will happen soon (1:1). The whole work is written for the church, about the church. It is about martyrdom, and the avenging of the blood of the martyrs. Those teaching the pre-tribulation rapture teach that the church will not be present on earth for any of 21 successive judgments described from chapters 6-18 of the Revelation. But if the man of lawlessness is seated at the middle of the 7 year tribulation period, the gathering of the dead in Christ and then the rapture may occur just after. Hence there are pre-, mid and post tribulation teachings about the rapture. These things will be discussed in place throughout, as in the sections on Chapters 4 and 11 below. But this is a third precondition, together with the preaching of the gospel throughout the whole world and the end of the time of the nations or Gentiles. This third does not seem yet to have occurred. The Thirteenth Chapter is especially about the revealing of this lawless one, and what the church is to do when he appears, namely: do not take the mark of the beast. We, then, are presently in the time between the return of Israel and the appearance of the one called Antichrist.
When Jesus appeared to the Apostles at Jerusalem, in the forty days after the resurrection, as described in the Acts (1:4) he told them to remain at Jerusalem to “wait for the promise of the father,” and that “before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” When asked if he would restore the kingdom to Israel at that time, he answers:
It is not for you to know times or seasons which the father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Samaria and to the end of the earth.
The times and seasons are not for them to know, but theirs is to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth, after which, as is said in Matthew and Luke, the end will come. In contrast with the apparent expectation of all the Apostles prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 A. D., John seems by the ninth or tenth decade to have an idea of the course of what is now to occur. In the Acts of John, as cited above, (p. 8), in response to the rumor that John was teaching that the empire of the Romans would quickly be rooted out and given to another, John himself told Domitian, “Thou also shalt reign for many years given thee by God, and after thee, very many others; and when the times of the things upon earth have been fulfilled, out of heaven shall come a King, …
What it is That Will Occur “Soon”
What it is that is said to be coming soon turns out in some ways to be a very difficult question. It is the latter days or the end times that is said to be coming soon, though there is some question as to just what this is. It is the subject of the revelation, and in these terms it is in a word the revelation of Jesus as Christ or Messiah upon the defeat of the beast and false prophet, after the great tribulation, the worst time in the history of mankind. First, it is questioned whether the prophecy refers to anything temporal and future at all. Second is whether what is foreseen is the end of the world or rather only the end of the age. And third, will the end then of the age be the end of the world, with time and eternity somehow joined, or rather the beginning of the millennial rule of the saints from Jerusalem, with the truly final end to come one thousand years later? An additional question is whether the rapture, for which we hope and wait, is not distinct from the second coming of Jesus, and whether the followers of the Lamb will not be taken out of the tribulation, the worst time in all human history. The question of the millennium, in both the punning and direct senses, is whether this will be a literal thousand year period. And will the Messiah himself reign in that thousand years? Further, what does it mean to say that the beast and false prophet are now to be defeated, and the Dragon bound, that is, prevented from deceiving the nations, only to be loosed a while at the end of the millennium, before being finally defeated, as in Chapter 20?
From the teaching of Jack Van Impe, what is said to be coming soon is not the end of the earth, nor even the end of humanity, but what is better termed the end of “the age,” or of the world as we know it, the inhabitable human cosmos of nations as it has come to be.
The question becomes very difficult because of the millennium and the question of how this event, the coming of the beast and the second coming of Jesus, is related to the resurrection, final judgment, New Jerusalem, new heaven, and new earth. Are these one and the same, or two different things, perhaps two different events that happen one thousand years apart?
The change of ages does appear to be accompanied by great destruction and tribulations that are very literal, appearing now to most readers as foreseeing the result of nuclear war, astronomical cataclysm or both. Peter is the most graphic, writing that “the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire” (2 Peter 3: 12). This destruction of fire may occur after the millennium, rather than at the defeat of the sea and land beasts. But it is not the end of the world or earth that is foreseen, and this is encouraging. It is the end of the aeon or age, as Paul writes to the Ephesians, of “not only in this age but in the age to come” (1:21); Matthew 14:39, 49; 24:3; 28:20; Hebrews 9:26). There is to be a fundamental change in the human condition, a millennial kingdom and then a New Jerusalem, in which the divine is present on earth and reigns. It is possible that this change is so fundamental that it can be considered an undoing of the fall of man or of the banishment of Adam and Eve from the garden of the Lord and the Tree of Life.
But this– that the revelation teaches the end of the world– is one of the first of the common opinions that are dispelled when one begins the study of these things. As Van Impe relates, “the earth endures forever” (Ecclesiastes 1:4). The Catholic mass includes the Trinitarian prayer of “World without end,” and the credo concludes “…of his kingdom there will be no end.” The reign of the Messiah is forever (Daniel 7:14; Revelation 11:15). It is good to have this said, that the earth will endure forever, because it is also said that the heavens and earth will pass away (Matthew 24:35; Revelation 21:1). The throne of the Lord is forever, while the earth and heaven will perish, growing old like a piece of clothing. “Like a mantle thou wilt roll them up, and they will be changed, But thou art the same… (Ps. 102:26-27). As Peter writes,
…according to his promise, we wait for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells (2:13)… The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up (2 Peter 3: 10).
There is a distinction, then, between the world or the present order of things that makes up an age and the world or the planet earth, just as there is another distinction between the planet earth and the material world. The former may perish while the latter remains. We now believe the material world to be some eight or ten billions of years older than the planet earth. It is not quite said that all the world or all the elements are burned, and in the Revelation, in the trumpets, one third is afflicted or burned, while in the bowls, no portion is specified, so that the destruction may well be total. The change may be similar to the destruction of the world through the flood. Here, the Lord said that the rainbow is to be a sign of the covenant “between me and the earth” “that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be flood to destroy all earth.” (Genesis 9:11-13). From this we say He has promised not to destroy the world again …by water! Yet it is not clear that the fire is not man-made. The change, including that after the millennium, is to be even more fundamental than that of the flood of Noah, when the earth was cleansed of violence and the Law of Noah given to all mankind. The world is to be changed, and there may be an analogy with the change said to occur in the resurrection of the body (1 Thess. 4). So this is what is not said to be coming soon, the end of the world or earth, though it is a very fundamental change, even more so than the end of the world by water in the time of Noah. The end of the present world is not an end of the earth, or of men on the earth, but an end of the present age. This appears to lead, in one thousand years, to a condition where, if descendants of the present nations continue, the fall of man has been undone. And is the eternal life of angels then mingled with that of men? The city of God, the New Jerusalem, is on the new earth (Revelation 21:24).
The Three or Four Different Readings of the millennium
Finally, to unite the themes of “what it is that is said to occur soon” with the theme of the delay and the teaching that “the end is not at once,” the time sequence presented in the Revelation is strange, especially in the nineteenth and twentieth chapters, giving rise to at least three very different readings. The beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (19:20), and then, apparently “one thousand years” later, the devil or Satan is bound and thrown into the pit (20:1-3). It is not explicit when the scene described in the opening chapter, when He comes on a cloud (1:7) occurs, the second advent of the Messiah, or where his feet touch the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4). In Chapter 14, he simply appears with the 144,000 standing on Mount Zion, and then the earth is reaped, and the winepress trodden outside the city. In Chapter 19, heaven is opened and John sees the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and the beast and his armies gathered to make war against him. The millennial reign of Chapter 20 is that of the saints beheaded by the beast and raised in the first resurrection. Yet he is to be loosed after a thousand years, deceiving the nations. It is after the thousand years that Satan will gather the nations that are at the four corners of the earth for battle. This battle occurs one thousand years after the battle through which the beast and the false prophet were thrown into the lake of fire, the battle of Armageddon. The devil is then thrown into the lake of fire where the beast and false prophet were already (20:10). This is followed by the last judgment, and then the new heaven, new earth, and New Jerusalem. The visions of Chapter 13, then, and the gathering at Armageddon of 16:16, would seem to pertain to a time one thousand years prior to the final battle and the last Judgment. If so, then what it is that is to occur “soon” is not the last judgment nor the New Jerusalem, but rather, the defeat of the beast and the millennial kingdom.
Difficulties in scripture may be there for a reason, even in order to prevent our resting with a certain reading. This device of intentional difficulty appears to be the case with the two accounts of the creation of man in the first three chapters of Genesis. Were birds created before or after man? Were the animals given to man for food? Who is it that Cain feared would kill him? How long is a day prior to the creation of the sun? For Christians, this section is at the opposite end of the Bible, even in a place corresponding to the last three chapters, so that one suspects that the two difficulties, at the beginning and the end, are related. Any interpretation identifying the present time with the end of days as a last judgment would seem to have to get around this thousand years, or to choose which end time is said to be at hand. If it is the time of the beast, it would seem to be also one thousand years prior to the final world war and the last judgment, which would come after the seventh day. If it is the latter, after the millennium, that is at hand, then the images of Chapter 13 and elsewhere may indeed have already occurred, as is said by those who think these things are about Roman emperors, such as “Nero Caesar.”
A literal millennium of the rule of the saints and the Messiah from Jerusalem would allow for the understanding of this post millennial loosing of the Dragon to be given during this time, after the defeat of the beast and false prophet. A thousand years might also allow for the recovery and development of medicine and technology, so that a city of this sort might literally descend from heaven: Who knows? It is difficult to tell in what way prophecy will be literally fulfilled, sometimes even after the events occur. Regarding the Messiah, this was not even clear to all after it occurred. While it was occurring, the Roman world barely noticed. The Jews who paid the most attention to the prophecies of the Messiah, and were most accurate about the time of his arrival, the Essenes, seem to have been the most mistaken about the deliverance of their nation. Might it be so regarding the events of the Revelation, that what it is that has occurred is not clear to all even when it has just occurred? Could Hitler have been the foretold beast, and Jerusalem be now re-founded? Yet it is especially said of the second coming, “every eye shall see him.”
There are three or four distinct ways that these things have been understood. In an 1881 edition of the Bible, William Smith outlines these three according to three periods of interpretation. 1) The Chiliastic reading of Irenaeus and Barnabas, introduced above, so called from the Greek word for one thousand. This understanding is said to characterize the first two centuries, from Jesus to Constantine. The expectation is for the second coming of Christ and a literal millennium. The best example of the chiliast reading may be that of Justin, about 155 A.D, in his Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 81. This is also the first reference to the Revelation in other writing:
…there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the Apostles of Christ, who prophesied by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place…,
But, 2) when Rome was no longer adversarial, Christians “…began to look on the temporal supremacy of Christianity as a fulfillment of the promised reign of Christ on earth” (Smith, p. 29). The world became Christian, when the Roman Empire under Constantine and his father Constantius ceased to persecute Christians, with the Edict of Toleration, and then Rome herself was made Christian. This is the great change that occurred with Augustine, and buried chiliastic or millennial interpretation for centuries. Augustine himself taught that no earthly kingdom can claim to represent the kingdom of God. Yet this needed then to be stated. A third reading that developed later is called 3) the figurative reading, of the millennium as “the reign of Christ in the heart of all true believers” (Ibid, p. 29). This reading of the presence of the kingdom is based on the sense in which what unfolds in the end times is a revelation of what is always so, and the eternal is more fundamental than even these horrors. Some would read the Revelation as being entirely symbolic, or as not in any way at all describing things that are to actually occur in the outside world. Often the images in the judgments, such as the smoke filled air of the fifth trumpet, suggest spiritual circumstances of the human soul, perhaps rather than a literal physical catastrophe. Sometimes there is hope that the violence of the scenes might be symbolic only, as appears plainly to be the case when the dragon pursues the woman with a stream of water from its mouth (12:15), or where the sword with which the one on the white horse will slay them is his word (19:15, 21). Similarly, Augustine teaches that the “first resurrection” of the twentieth chapter is spiritual, and not a literal resurrection after a literal beheading. And so the millennial reign, in which the Saints rule for 1000 years before a truly final battle and the last Judgment, need not be literally one thousand years (City of God, XX.7). He conjectures that by a thousand years, the writer meant either the last part of the millennium then passing or the completion of time, since 1000 is the cube of 10.
Luke writes directly enough that Jesus said “The Kingdom of heaven is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Lo here it is’ or ‘there!’ for behold, the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (17:20-21). Otherwise, the events are shockingly prophetic and literal. If it is to occur, it must occur in someone’s time. And so some, most notably Jack Van Impe, believe it to be clear that it is for our time, for reasons that will be discussed throughout. The fourth kind of reading, called the “futuristic” by Walvoord (p. 520), coincides with a recovery of the pre-Augustinian millennialism or Chiliasm. It looks to events in the future, and the literal emergence of a very terrible tyrant, the worst of all time, preceding the coming of Jesus on a cloud to defeat him, as was written. We sometimes wonder whether the readings called figurative and that which assumes that these events have already occurred are not calming delusions. These are perhaps better for children, and we are all in some sense children. The same might be said for the teaching that we will not see it for the snatching away, and the teaching that the work was not written by John, so that its strange theology need not be taken so seriously, or that the beast refers to the emperors of John’s time. The most plausible reading appears to be that the end of days and the things described in the Revelation are yet to come or future. These things occur not at once, but over a period of more than one thousand years, beginning from the time of the incarnation. The long period culminates in a short period of seven years. There will be certain cataclysmic events, like the plague of the Fourteenth Century in Europe, or the American Civil War, or the Second World War, which will lead many to think that this must be the prophesied day, and still “the end is not yet.” These things are, though, but the birth pangs (Matt 24:8).
The fourth kind of reading is called by Smith a “regular chronological interpretation,” and is traced to a Bereguard of the Ninth Century, preceding Joachim of Fiore. Joachim influenced the later Protestants by reading Rome as the Beast and Babylon, and devised a three part division of history into ages of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the later of which was to begin in the year 1260. It is following Joachim that Luther and Wycliffe thought of the Pope as the Antichrist (Ibid., p. 29). The thought of Joachim is interesting because it is at about this time that Christian Rome, together with the power of the kings of the nations, begins with new vigor to inflict the death penalty for heresy, and to make martyrs, with the persecution of the heretical sects of the Waldenses and Albigensian in France. The whole issue is difficult, because from the time that Christianity became the religion of Rome, it almost appears as though it had never occurred to anyone that it was possible to not kill heretics, until Luther. The popularity of the events makes us, in hindsight, embarrassed of our species, or its general representatives, and reminds us of the fragile blessing of civilization, won by peaceful reflection and the promotion of the liberal arts. The Protestant sects, with rare exceptions, also persecuted others on the basis of doctrine, and participated in persecutions of witchcraft and fringe sects. The people are much to blame, and the kings of nations participated in what became a persecution unrivaled until the Twentieth Century. To Calvin, Moore and others, the problem with persecution was not obvious. Luther and Calvin both deemphasize the Revelation. It is somehow especially the Americans, the Baptists, Witnesses and Adventists, who have tended to read and emphasize the book. Yet it is possible to step back and wonder whether this whole period beginning about 1215, nearly 1260 years after the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the empire of Julius Caesar, fraught with heresy and barbaric punishments, the end of the middle ages and the beginning of modernity, could not be seen as the beginning of the motion of the ascent of the Antichristian, which ascent has covered now nearly 800 years, leading up to the actual appearance of such a figure. The mission was to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth, teach repentance for the forgiveness of sins, to be baptized, and to warn mankind: “repent, for the kingdom of God is near.” There is little else the church is told by Jesus to do. He tells us to do the bread and wine in remembrance of him (Luke 22:19), and to love one another (John 13:11). We are surely not told to establish opinion by law, nor punish unbelievers. The mission resulted in a rather vast persecution from about 1215 until some time in the Seventeenth Century, the persecution of heretics and witches resulting also in many errors, and the making of some martyrs. The disruption to the soul of the Western world, required to set aright the resulting confusion, is staggering. The appearance of the holy things was joined to cruelty, resulting in rebellion and the reaction against the Christian as such– the anti-Christian ire that would inspire modernity. Everywhere men seek to be free, it has been against the power and authority of Christian convention. The reaction against the light may even be caused by the reaction against its reflection in convention, opinion, and the earthly city.
Eric Voegelin, in the New Science of Politics, traces what he calls a “Gnostic” theory at the root of modernity to this development in Joachim, which he identifies as the “immanentization of the eschaton,” an error of seeing the end of history in the literal temporal fulfillment of the kingdom (119-121). This results in attributing meaning to history, which by itself is not intelligible. He uses the word “Gnostic” to refer to the supposed insight of these movements into a course of history and its end, and means also to relate the contemporary ideologies to heretical Gnosticism. Heretical Gnosticism, as written against by Irenaeus, is a system of myth with more to do with the imagination than the intellect. Yet we are left with a question: do John and Jesus avoid this “immanentization” of the “eschaton?” Or is not the Revelation, if not the Catholic Creed, the Gnostic immanentization par excellence? The Creed concludes “He is coming again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and of his Kingdom there shall be no end.” History has a meaning, not in human but divine terms that extend from Adam through Noah, the chosen people, the incarnation, and the revelation. We lose, then the distinction of these modern movements, which, because they are materialist, invert the eschaton, which may as a matter of fact be imminent. The word Gnostic is derived from nous, the Greek word for intellect, the eye of the soul and light of the mind. John 1:4 and 9 read “In him was life, and the life was the light of men…the true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world…” We hold that this is somehow the very thing in man, or what we truly are, that is born out of the earth, by which Jesus said “you are gods, sons of the Most High” (John 10:34; 1:12-13; 3:6; Ps. 82:6). There is a sort of Johannine Gnosticism. Nous somehow implies its revelation in the end times.
To restate the matter: one way of attempting to understand these things would be to explain the millennial reign as having already occurred, for example in the rule of the saints and martyrs in the middle ages, which took over from the rule of Rome after Constantine, and in a sense lasted just about or a little over one thousand years. None can doubt that it is Christendom that set up hospitals all over the world, and caused humanity to become a bit more peaceful toward one another, mitigating the brutality of the ancient world, where the enterprise often seems to be conquest. It is sometimes read that the binding of Satan is what occurred at the resurrection, and so the gathering of the nations and the time when he is “loosed awhile” is indeed our time, and the end times. The difficulty here is that the beasts and the mark of the beast would have already occurred. Augustine writes: “Now the devil was thus bound not only when the Church began to be more and more widely extended among the nations beyond Judea, but is now and shall be bound till the end of the world, when he is to be loosed” (City of God, XX.8). It is true that the persecution of Christians ceased, from the early fourth to the thirteenth centuries, and so in this sense something was bound. To be clear, we think Augustine here confuses the casting out from heaven with the binding. From the time of the incarnation, for the earth, he has in a sense been loosed, making the martyrs that appear beneath the altar in the fifth seal (Revelation 6:9). At the same time, we are intrigued by the possibility that the millennial reign has been occurring, through the rule of his saints since the incarnation. The beast with the number 666 might then indeed have been Nero Caesar, as many commentators try to read this. Peter and Paul are two witnesses killed, and Jerusalem fell with the temple destroyed eight years later. But Nero is not seventh or eighth, never caused everyone to be marked, nor did all the nations gather to attack Jerusalem, but only the armies of Rome, and under a different emperor. Although the siege of Jerusalem was extreme, Hitler was far worse. The sun was not then darkened with the moon turned to blood, nor was there a worldwide earthquake.
One difficulty with the Augustinian account is that the devil is said to be active, as though “unbound,” in the letters to the churches (2:9; 13). The binding might seem to coincide with the end of the making of martyrs by Rome, but to be inconsistent with the unbound activities such as the pursuit of the woman who gave birth to the male child of Chapter 12, when he is described as having been cast down to earth.
The leading opinion of the scholars through the latter half of the Twentieth Century has been that John is referring primarily to the Roman Empire, and to Nero as the Beast, apparently referring backward to events thirty years prior to his banishment to Patmos. Richard Baukham has presented a reading based on this assumption, and the notes to the Oxford Bible of 1973 are written on the same basis. Richard Gunther, meanwhile, has posted a reading common to Protestants, from Joachim of Fiore through Wycliffe and Luther, which assumes that the Pope is the Antichrist and the events are those of what are now called the middle ages and the Reformation. Contrary to both these, it seems that the prerequisites above were not then fulfilled, and neither a millennial nor a messianic reign has yet come to be. The gospel had not yet been preached throughout the whole world, nor has there yet been a time of trouble such as never was “since there were men on earth,” unless this time referred to the circumstances of the Jews in the Holocaust. The literal restoration of Israel shows the way in which certain images of prophecy may be quite literal, and the question is always what to read literally and what symbolically. The resurrection can be understood symbolically to refer to the soul that is its image, to a passage of the soul that corresponds, as baptism corresponds to the Flood of Noah. Because of this, some say there is no literal resurrection, or that the teaching of resurrection was the voluntary or involuntary invention of the Apostles. Some too thought there was no literal Flood of Noah. Yet the teaching of Jesus to Thomas is that the resurrection is quite literal (John 20:24-29). The cosmos can be read by reading the soul, which in its mysteries might be evidence of the greater mysteries. That man is the image of God implies that the study of man is the key, for us, to contemplation of the whole.
Carl Jung: Antichrist and Symbol.
The thought of Carl Jung on this point is very interesting. In the context of a discussion of the image of God in the soul and the doctrine that evil is only a privation of being and good, he writes (1978, p. 42):
For anyone who has a positive attitude towards Christianity the problem of the Antichrist is hard nut to crack. It is nothing less than the counter stroke of the devil, provoked by God’s incarnation. For the devil attains his true stature as the adversary of Christ, and hence of God, only after the rise of Christianity, while as late as the Book of Job he was still one of God’s sons and on familiar terms with Yahweh…The coming of the antichrist is not just a prophetic prediction–it is an inexorable psychological law…The ideal of spirituality striving for the heights was doomed to clash with the materialistic earth-bound passion to conquer matter and master the world. The Renaissance [as a] spirit of the renewal of the antique spirit…was chiefly a mask… The subsequent developments that led to the enlightenment and the French Revolution have produced a worldwide situation today which can only be called “anti-Christian,” in the sense that confirms the early Christian anticipation of the “end of time.” It is as if, with the coming of Christ, opposites that were latent till then had become manifest, or as if a pendulum had swung violently to one side and were now carrying out the complementary movement in the opposite direction…
The psychological law to which Jung refers is called enantiodromia, an opposite development that attends things good in the world, where the balance of opposites is the rule. The shadow of the God image Christ is the Antichrist, and Jung understands the astrological age of the fishes or Pisces to portend a shift from one to the opposite. The Antichrist –as counter stroke of the devil provoked by the incarnation– may help us to understand Chapter 12 of the Revelation, in which the birth of the Messiah coincides with the defeat of the devil in heaven and his casting out onto the earth. Coincident with this astrological age is the balancing of two fishes, Christ and Antichrist. Jung considers St. Francis and Bernard, and the stirring that led to the struggle with heresies that characterized the second millennium of Christianity, Joachim and “the Holy Ghost movement, which some have rightly seen as the forerunner of the Reformation” (Aion, p. 87). The second half of the age of Pisces would then contain the development of the anti-Christian, culminating in the beginning of the new age of Aquarius, when the procession of the equinoxes enters into the next constellation, dated roughly as between 2000 and 2200 A. D. (Ibid., p.92; 94 n. 84).
Jung will be revisited on various points throughout. On the eve of World War II, in 1936, when Heidegger was delivering speeches for the Nazis, Jung wrote an article called “Wotan,” in which he considered what was then arising in Germany. He had begun to call attention to the rising problem as early as 1919. After the Second World War, in his essay “After the Catastrophe,” he recognizes the events that have occurred as “apocalyptic,” though he does not from here enter into a reading of the Revelation. Jung wrote: It is above all the Germans who have an opportunity, perhaps unique in history, to look into their own hearts and to learn what the perils of the soul were from which Christianity tried to rescue mankind” (p. 187). He was one of very few then alive who saw the diabolical aspect of the new German nationalism.
In Aion, Jung considers the connection between the motion toward the coming of the antichrist and the development of the Western world:
…until 1933 only lunatics would have been found in possession of living fragments of myth…After this date, the world of heroes and monsters spread like a devastating fire over whole nations, proving that the strange world of myth had suffered no loss of vitality during the centuries of reason and enlightenment…(1978, p. 35).
The dechristianization of our world, the Luciferian development of science and technology, and the frightful material and moral destruction left behind by the second world war have been compared more than once with the eschatological events foretold in the New Testament.
Jung then cites John in the second letter (4:3) regarding Antichrist…”of whom you have heard he cometh” (Ibid, p.36). He continues:
The antichristian era is to blame that the spirit became non-spiritual and that the visualizing archetype gradually degenerated into rationalism, intellectualism and doctrinarism, all of which leads straight to the tragedy of modern times now hanging over our heads like a sword of Damocles… Fortunately for us, the threat of his coming had already been foretold in the New Testament– for the less he is recognized, the more dangerous he is (Ibid, p. 86).
When a symbol is seen, as in a dream, the meaning is above our minds, and so unknown. This is different from seeing snapshots of visible scenes from the future, though this may also occur. An example can be seen in the fact that John writes of a world with horses and chariots, if strange ones, and locusts that look like futuristic fighter planes. Cavalry are arrayed for battle rather than tanks, etc. (9:17). Even the most literal of literalists has not considered a teaching that there will literally be horses and chariots in the battle. And so it seems we are not being shown something that is like a snapshot or photograph.
On the difference between a symbol and a sign Carl Jung writes, that a symbol refers to something unknown. Sign here means not a prognostication or indication, but like a stop sign, one image that refers to something easily apparent to common sense, one must for safety perform a certain action here, i. e., stop. When symbols are explained as though they were signs, such as saying that seven represents perfection, and this or that represents this or that, the explanation may be useful as a beginning, as are lists of dream symbols and their meanings. But as a replacement for knowledge, these interpretations are ridiculous. The symbols come from and lead to knowledge that is apparently in the soul, and can be recollected, as Plato’s Socrates explains regarding geometry (Meno 81b-e). While the knowledge is not ours, the access can be cultivated. The symbols help to awaken this knowledge in us, which in turn makes the images become intelligible. There is a faculty that is awakened, though, as we think, it is a mistake to call this knowledge. We can be mistaken in our relation to it, but it is like gaining access to a realm through a door. It may result from our participation in the death and resurrection. Al Farabi writes of the difference between madness and gnosis: the mad receive the “first intelligibles,” but “not as they really are.” Some are not equipped to receive them, but happiness is possible, he says, only when the “Active intellect first gives the first intelligibles.” Cults and fascist movements may be possessed by the “archetypes,” using images like swastikas and thousand year reigns as instruments in the pursuit of power, yet this is only possible because the archetypes or something like this is there, and can be found in the right way. There are things involved in the Revelation that most readers do not know about: We see the cities, like Rome, but do we see what Augustine calls the City of Man, contrasted with the City of God? We see the woman and the particular churches. But do we see the mystical bride? We see the particular persons or nations, which readers try to identify with the referents of the symbols in the Revelation. But do we see the movement of history and church history over the course of centuries and ages, and the fundamental questions involved? Do we see what must have occurred within humanity in order for the political movements of Nazism and communism to emerge?
In contemplating an image or symbol, there is some question as to what to see “literally” and what “symbolically” or allegorically. As Al Farabi writes, in a story regarding the works of Plato: A certain ascetic was forbid from leaving the city of a tyrant, so he pretended to be a reveling drunk. When the gatekeeper asked who he was, he said “I am so and so, the ascetic” He was thought to be joking, and so was able to pass without having lied in what he said. Farabi says that the writings of Plato are like this. If the revelation too is like this, it would mean something like the following: The images we are shown are symbols of high things that are real but unknown. Every once in a while, though, things are said that are shockingly literal, and in a way that would be impossible without prophecy. Scripture too is like this, and sometimes slips a truth past the gatekeeper of a tyrant.
What Then Should We Do?
It is often said that it will come as did the flood, while people are going about their usual human business (Mt. 24:37; Luke 17:26-27). “Watch, therefore…” (Mt. 24:42). Humans are of course terrified by the natural disaster foretold. Yet to each, it is no more terrifying than one’s own death. A secret truth may be that the body itself is not really afraid of death. Humans are always shocked by sudden deaths, as though surprised to learn that we are mortal. This may be because we never knew a time when we were not. The wonder, though, is that we are here at all, not that the gift is limited. It is very amazing, when we consider, that we, I now and you the reader, are here now and then. The miraculous opportunity of created life is more amazing than its limitations. Though we cannot but live our lives oblivious to the necessity of our own death, the terror of death itself is said to come from the imagination. Yet birth and death are ordinary, and not astonishing, like the apocalypse. And while measures that take into account certain possibilities are prudent, the most important things to be done in preparation are the same as any other time: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 3:2; Acts 2:38), and turn toward the Lord (Mt. 18:3; Acts 4:19). Love one another (John 12-14), for he who seeks to save his life will lose it (Matthew 10:39), but the one who lays down their life for their friend will gain life in the highest sense. Forgive, or we will not be forgiven (Mt. 6:14). Do not waste time, but live for what lasts! The moments we are alive are as if recorded in the book. We are to be watchful, pray that we be counted worthy to escape all the things about to happen, and to prepare to stand before the son of man (Luke 21:29-34). As in all times of catastrophe, it would be difficult for humans to retain the human character rather than turn on one another, and so we would be tested, and can prepare, by cultivating the human character and strengthening this against the animal.
When reading the Revelation, an obscuring of the purpose can occur, and this tendency is countered by a reading of the parable of Matthew (25:34-36). When the nations gather before the son of man, and he is separating sheep from goats, he will say to those on his right hand:
“Come, oh blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…”
Another way of saying this same thing appears in the Gospel of Thomas (59):
Jesus said, “Take heed of the Living One while you are alive, lest you die and seek to see him and be unable to do so.”
I.iii The Title, Greeting, and Introductory Vision of the Revelation
Title: “The Apocalypse of John” and 1:1-4
The most ancient form of the title is simply Apokalupsis Ioannou, “Apocalypse of John.” This is said to be most likely a title placed on the outside of ancient papyrus rolls generally, and probably not given to the work by the author. The first sentence probably functioned as the title given by the author. This reads: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants what must soon take place (1:1).” Since we have discussed, in the preceding chapters, the author John and the saying that these things will occur “soon,” and gathered much of what is said in the rest of scripture regarding these things, we will continue reading and commenting on the text.
In reading, it is important to consider to whom a work is addressed. The addressee of the Revelation is “the servants of God.” It is a private or select audience, of those already committed to the service of God. Unlike the gospels, the purpose is not, for example, to witness the story of Jesus to all mankind. It does not contain an apology arguing that Christianity ought to be allowed, or even a presentation of the gospel, the story of the death and resurrection, aiming to show or persuade the reader that Jesus is the Christ. This select audience and purpose may account for the strange absence of usual Christian themes in the text. It is addressed to the churches or the servants of God, and assumes certain things common to this audience or group of hearers. It is written to all the servants, rather than, like the seven letters, to particular churches.
The revelation is given by God to Jesus Christ, then to John by means of the angel, then to the churches or the servants, by way of writing, in order to show his servants what must soon occur. According to Aune, the genitive in Greek, “revelation of Jesus Christ” might mean either that he is the object of the uncovering or that the revelation, given by God, is his or belongs to him. The genitive of possession is consistent with the rest of the sentence, though the objective genitive is a possible reading, a possibility preserved by the English ‘of’ rather than ‘from.’ The revelation of Jesus is the second coming or presence, the “parousia” by which he destroys the beast and the false prophet. As nearly every recent commentary notes, the word apo-calypse more literally means “un-covering.” It means un-eclipsed, a double negative which does not mean the same thing as open. “Open” includes what has never been hidden. The word occurs only in the title and in the first line of the text. It is used elsewhere in scripture, by Paul (as at 2 Thess. 2:8), and once by Peter, sometimes to refer to high mysteries (I Cor. 12:1, 7; Galatians 1:13), though not in the sense of the second coming or the last judgment. Macarthur notes that the word occurs 18 times in scripture, “and always indicates that something has become visible to the eye” (1973, p. 4). Luke uses the word as it would be used here in the objective genitive: “on the day when the son of man is revealed.” The word might have been used at 11:19, where the temple in heaven is opened and the Ark of the Covenant seen, though it was not. Jesus made the uncovering known by sending his angel to John. John now addresses the book to the seven churches in Asia, as he was told in the vision to do.
Asia is the Roman province around the city of Ephesus where John lived after leaving Jerusalem, and before Domitian exiled him to Patmos. It is not said why the revelation is sent to these seven churches and not explicitly to all the churches or to the whole Church. It seems likely that John would be the leading elder or Bishop in the Church of Ephesus, and that he sends this letter to these seven churches to prepare them for what is soon to occur because these are under his care. Victorinus notes that Paul too wrote letters to seven churches, and taught that the churches are arranged by sevens (Commentary on the Apocalypse, 1.16). It is strange that the churches of Rome, Alexandria and Syria, are not addressed. The church at Jerusalem had been destroyed, when James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, just prior to 70 A. D. The people of the church had been commanded by a revelation before the war to leave the city. The seven letters address the seven churches under the care of John regarding the things which are, but then the great future revelation is no longer a part of the seven letters. It is addressed to these seven, but also to all, or to all the servants. Victorinus writes that seven is the typical number of the Church or all the churches, and cites Isaiah 4:1 “In that day seven women will take hold of one man…” (p. 345). In this way it becomes clear that the seven stars or the seven lamps before the throne may be not simply the seven churches of Asia, but the whole church.
[1:4] John delivers a greeting of grace and peace from God, here referred to as “the one who is and was and is to come.” As Richard Baukham relates, this is a name of God that is unique to the book of Revelation. It is said to be an interpretation of the three tenses of the divine eternity implicit in the name of God given in Exodus (3:14). A part of each of the tenses of the verb to be, for past, present and future are combined in Hebrew to form the name. The name occurs four other times in the book (1:8; 4:8, 11:17, and 16:5). The form of the sentence occurs also in a line of Hesiod’s Theogony, where the muses are said to reveal, “What is and what will be and what was before” (38). Hesiod, famously, prophesies the sixth age of man (Works and Days, 180 ff.), and the apocalyptic ending of the fifth age. Aune cites Plato’s Laws (715 e) and Timeaus (37 e) “For we say being was and is and will be.” The appellation is contrasted with that of the beast who “was, and is not, and is about to ascend from the abyss and go to perdition” (17:8). This is a very strange contrast, based on what looks like Greek thought, where being and non-being are first written about (Plato Republic 477a- 478d, etc.). The use of the verbs of being as nouns occurs first not in Greek philosophy but in the book of Exodus, at 3:14. Aune (Revelation, p. 31) gives examples of the use of ‘o on as a divine name in the Septuagint and among the Greek speaking Jews, and notes that John is the first Christian author to use this name, here in the Revelation. While the phrase does not occur in the Gospel or Letters of John, it is especially John who is able to receive an account in these terms. The Lord is, was “in the beginning” (John 1:1), and is to come, as it seems, when the son and the Kingdom of God comes. In the sense that the Lord is, the beast who is the Antichrist and incarnates the dragon is not (Revelation 17:8). The contrast of good and evil is somehow fundamentally related to the contrast of being and non-being. What is, or the natural articulation of things, may be the good of each thing, rather than only an essence abstracted from the imperfect things. That the good of things exists, and is more real than the changing things, is the proof of the existence of the divine. This proof is related to what is called the ontological argument presented by St. Anselm. When things become better, where does the good come from? Hence there surely is the divine, though we do not know what it is like. Let every city be unjust,still there is justice, by which these are measured. The imperfect shapes we draw in geometry are measured by the perfect, which hence exists, “in” space, and time, since these exist in it.
The primary meaning of the Kingdom includes a sense in which it is actual always, and so can be present now, “in the midst of you” (Luke17:20-21), “spread out upon the earth, and men do not see it” (#113; #2). The eternal Kingdom is now, yet not in the sense that it would be if men were seeing it or living in it. It may be man that changes, to reenter the harmony of all things that we somehow left, through what is pictured as the fall.
[1:4b] The Trinity is apparent in the greeting of the book of Revelation, which is from God, from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ. Baukham writes: “Revelation always avoids referring to God and Christ as a plurality,” with plural verbs and pronouns (cf. 11:15; 22:3-4). The singular shows the Johannine unity of the son and father. The seven spirits, sometimes identified with the sevenfold nature of the spirit (Isaiah 11:2-3), are not the same as, but are related to, the angels of the seven churches, who appear as seven stars (3:1), and the churches, which appear as seven lamp stands. The seven spirits appear as “seven lamps of fire, which are the seven spirits of God” (4:5). Aune (P. 34) identifies these with the seven archangels, “the seven angels who stand before God” (8:2). Moses is told on Mount Sinai to make a lampstand with seven lamps (Exodus 25: 31-40). The seven spirits are later said to be seven eyes on the seven horns of the Lamb seen standing as though it had been slain, between the throne and the four living creatures (5:6). In the book of Zechariah (4:10), prior to the beginning of the Christian churches, the seven lampstands are the eyes of the Lord which range through the whole earth.” It is possible that the churches are vessels of the spirit, horns being like kings (as at 13:1) or ruling powers or organizations. The distinction and relation of these two, spirits and lamp stands, is important for the question of the understanding of the churches in the Revelation. There is a sense in which the churches are authoritative, as vessels of the Holy Spirit, and a sense in which the churches are under a higher authority, and mortal, worthy of either praise or blame. The one like a son of man addresses the angels of the seven churches, and these are both praised and blamed, and they are told to hear “what the Spirit says to the churches.” Aune comments: “Since each of the proclamations is presented as the word of the exalted Christ, a close relationship between Christ and the Spirit is presupposed, one that is theologically similar to the fourth gospel, though not expressed in the same language (John 14:25-26; 15:26; 16:13-14). The son of man appears to John “in the midst” of the seven lamp stands, leading us to think of his presence in our midst, “Whenever two or more are gathered in his name” (Matthew 18:20).
The Holy Spirit in the singular is present in the Revelation only as the one who addresses the churches, in the signing off at the end (22:17), and when John enters into the spirit (1:10, 17:3, 21:10). The Holy Spirit is not present as a character in the vision, except as the seven spirits before his throne, and in the speaking of Jesus to the churches, said to be “what the spirit says to the churches.”
[1:5-6] The greeting from God is followed by a greeting from John, or a dedication to Jesus. Jesus here is called faithful witness, first born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. The second three show some relation to the first three, was, is and is to come. In what sense is Jesus called the ruler or king of kings? He is not the king of all the kings in the book of Revelation. It may be that Jesus is king of spiritual kings, or priests, or that he ought be king of kings, or is the king of good kings. John then wishes glory and dominion “into the ages of the ages (eis tous aionas ton aionon) to he who loves us, freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to the Father.” The Revelation is addressed especially to the priests (14:4-5).
[1:7] That “He is coming in the clouds,” or in the same way in which he was seen to go (Acts 1:11; Daniel 7:13), is important also because in this way we might know that it is no man born of woman who will appear as the Messiah. It seems from this that we can know that anyone who enters the world in the usual way, as a child, and claims to be the Messiah, is a false Messiah. It is said that there will be many of these (Matthew 24:5; 24-27). And if someone says he is here or there, we are not to follow them, as his arrival will be unmistakable: “as the lightening comes from east and shines as far as the west, so will the coming of the son of man be” (Matthew 24:27; Luke 17:24), coming on all who dwell on earth (Luke 21:35). All the tribes will see “the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and with great glory” (24:30). Daniel sees a night vision in which “with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man” (7:13). That every eye will see him, too, means that he will not be here for a while and then be revealed, or gradually become known. One suggestion is that television, or some similar worldwide media might fulfill the prophecy.That they will look on him whom they have pierced is prophesied by Zechariah (12:10-11), when the Lord pours out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Here, all the tribes of the earth will wail because of him, the Messiah we rejected.
[1:8] Baukham notes that the eighth verse is one of only two places in the Revelation (with 21:5-6) where God speaks directly:
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, says the Lord God, who is, and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
[Ego eimi to A kai to O, archen kai telos, legei o kurios, o ov kai o en kai o erchomenos, o pantokratour]
He also says in Chapter 21 that He is “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” Other possible places are the unidentified voices, as at 16:13 and 18:3-24. John doesn’t say when the Lord said this, and it may indicate the divine presence as he is writing. Isaiah (44:6) had similarly written:
Thus says the Lord, the king of Israel
And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
I am the first and I am the Last;
Besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Who has announced from of old the things to come?
Let them tell us the things to be.
And again (48:12-13):
Harken to me, O Jacob,
And Isreal, whom I called!
I am He, I am the first
And I am the last.
My hand laid the foundation of the earth,
And my right hand spread out the heavens.
When I call them,
They stand forth together.
As in the opening chapter of the Revelation, it is the Lord and his Redeemer who say they are the first and last. In Isaiah, the name “the first and last” occurs in saying that the Lord announces the things to come, and calls the earth and the heavens to stand forth together.
The divisions of the first chapter that appear are A) verses 1-3, which might have been prefaced to John’s letter; B) 4-7, which is the greeting to the churches from John and the Lord; C) verse 8, then, stands by itself, following the greeting and preceding the story of the initial vision on Patmos (verses 9-20).
[1:9-11] John was on Patmos in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when he heard a trumpet-like voice behind him. Without saying who is speaking, John is told to write what he sees in a book, and send it to the seven churches, which the one speaking names. From what is said later (4:1), it appears that the voice is distinct from the one like a son of man, who speaks the messages to the seven churches. John then turned (epistrephe) to see the voice, or to see who it is that he heard. Aune cites Exodus 20:18 and Daniel 7:11, where, as commented by Philo, the Voice is paradoxically visible, and the prophets write the word that they “saw” (Isaiah 2:1; Aune, pp. 87-88).
It is first significant that John is seeing a vision rather than a dream. In light of Maimonides discussion of the eleven or twelve degrees of prophecy: John hears a voice and then turns to see, going from the ninth to the tenth degree of prophecy. When he sees Him, the one like a son of man, he falls at his feet as though dead, and is then addressed by the one who is “first and last, the living one who died and is alive for evermore, who has the keys of Death and Hades.” Maimonides writes that only Moses spoke to God without the mediation of the imagination, or in a vision rather than a dream, seeing that it is God who spoke to him. This may have occurred at line 8. Ezekiel sees in a vision, then like John falls on his face and is lifted up (1; 3:23; 8:3; 11:24; Isaiah 6:1). Maimonides writes that the other prophets do not hear the speech of God in a vision, but after a state of submersion, from vision into dream (Guide, II.46; Numbers 12:6-7). It is at this point of submersion, after hearing and prior to seeing Him, that John falls not into a sleep, as did Daniel (10:9), but “as though dead.” He is then touched by the right hand of the one like the son of man and told to write.
[1:12-16] John sees there seven lampstands, and “one like a son of man” in the midst of the lampstands. The one like a son of man does not say “I am Jesus,” nor does he address John in a familiar way, as one who he knew so well in life. He identifies himself by saying “I am the first and last, and the living one; I died, and behold, I am alive evermore.” John describes the appearance of each of eight parts of the one he sees: his clothes– robe and girdle; his head and hair; his eyes, his feet, his voice, what he held in his right hand, what issued from his mouth, and his face. The sharp two edged sword that issues from his mouth is the only thing that is not a part of him or his clothing, and one might guess that it is the “sword of the spirit, that is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17), two edged because it both kills and makes live (Hebrews 4:12). The vision is similar to the one seen by Daniel (Daniel 10:5-6), of a man clothed in linen with a golden girdle, eyes of fire and feet like burnished bronze.
[1:17-8] The churches are addressed by the one like a son of man who is the living one who died and is alive for evermore, who has the keys of Death and Hades. We do not usually think of this emphatic teaching of our faith, that Jesus is alive right now. “For evermore” is literally “into the ages of the ages,” something like millennia of millennia. The keys of Death and Hades are a mystery. These two are mentioned again together at 20:13, when Death and Hades, along with the sea, give up the dead in them. The key is the power then exercised, of opening them for that purpose. Death is the name of the rider on the fourth horse, and Hades followed him, and these come forth when the Lamb opens the fourth seal (6:7). Together these are given power over one quarter of the earth, somewhat as occurred in the Twentieth Century. And at the fifth trumpet, the angel is given the keys to the shaft of the bottomless pit (9:1), apparently by Him who has those keys.
[1:19] John is to write what he sees, that is, “what is and what is to take place hereafter.” The following section of letters to the seven churches describes things that, for John, presently are. The seven Churches of Asia are addressed, as Baukham notes, in the order in which a messenger, landing near Ephesus, would visit them. Paul visited Ephesus twice, though apparently none of the other of the seven churches. His letter to the Colossians is to be read at Laodicea, nearby, in the early sixties. John addresses a much later church, with different persons and problems, as would be if he wrote nearer to 90 A. D.
[1:20] The word mystery (mustarion) occurs four times in the Revelation (Aune, 106; 569-70), here, at 10:7, where the final event is called “the mystery of God,” at 17:5 and 7, where “mystery” is either part of the title of, or an adjective modifying Babylon. Then the word is used immediately to refer to the image of the “mystery of the woman and the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her.” The mystery of the Revelation is about the church, Babylon, the beast and the end times, when the time of delay is finished.
He explains only the seven stars in his right hand and the seven lampstands. These are the angels of the seven churches and the seven churches. In the midst of them is where Jesus said he is whenever two or more are gathered in his name (Mathew 18:20). He stands in their midst speaking this message to the churches– i.e., the vision presents an image which reveals the true or intelligible nature of what is actually occurring at this moment, even as some dreams present a picture in symbols of the present circumstances and condition of the soul of the dreamer. There is an explanation of the vision by one seen in the vision, one of the examples in scripture in which a symbol in vision is explained in the vision itself. A sort of algebra is set up on the occasions on which the text or vision is self interpreting. In reading the Revelation, certain things are explained in the text itself, so that it is possible to begin from these, and stray as little as possible from coherence with them. More examples occur in the Revelation (7:14-17; 17:7-18), in Daniel (7:16-27; 8:17-26; 9:22-27, and to some extent in Zechariah (4:5). Daniel receives the explanation of the vision of the fourth beast, the last world empire, which makes war on the saints. It is from these internal explanations that solid interpretation might begin. We are told what the stars and the lamp stands are (the angels of the seven churches and the seven churches). The seven torches are the seven spirits (4:5). The smoke of the incense is the prayers of the saints (5:8). We are told that the multitudes seen with white robes are those that have come out of the tribulation, and we are told what their white robes are (7:14). We are told what the two witnesses are (the two olive trees and lamp stands (11:4); what the heads and horns of the beast are: seven kings and ten kings, (17:9, 12); what the woman Babylon is: “The great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth” (17:18). We are also told what the waters on which she is seated are: the peoples and multitudes (not tribes) and nations and tongues (17:15). This algebra is the most solid basis from which to begin to read the Revelation. As in algebra, one might fill out the terms of an equation by beginning from the variables that are identified– the numbers that are given– so in the reading of the prophecy, the terms uncovered should cohere with the scriptural angelic explanations. The angelic explanation is also in symbolic terms, so that we are not relieved of the opportunity to try to see the meaning for ourselves. Yet from the beginning, the first term in the interpretation of the Revelation is that it concerns the churches.
The lampstand in the temple treasures commissioned through Moses in the wilderness is made of gold, with six branches, three on one side and three on the other side (Ex. 31-32). It has seven lamps, indicating that the stand is one of the lamps. It is to be lit with pure olive oil, and set up to burn continuously (Ex. 27:20), “as a sign of God’s presence” (Oxford note to Ex. 27:20). Zechariah sees a lampstand with a bowl on it, and seven lamps, with two olive trees by it, one on the left and one on the right. Zechariah asks what these are, and it is explained there that these “are the seven eyes of the Lord which range through the whole earth,” and the two olive trees are “the two anointed who stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zechariah 4:10, 14). In the work called the Gospel of Phillip, it is written:
It is from the olive tree that we get the chrism, and from the chrism the resurrection…The chrism is superior to baptism, for it is from the word ‘chrism’ that we are called Christians, certainly not because of the word ‘baptism.’ And it is because of the chrism that ‘The Christ’ has his name. For the Father anointed the Son, and the Son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us. He who has been anointed possesses everything. He possesses the resurrection, the light, the cross, the Holy Spirit. The Father gave him this in the bridal chamber; he merely accepted the gift. The Father was in the Son and the son in the Father. This is the kingdom of heaven (Nag Hammadi Library, p. 144).
The churches are the presence of the Lord lighting the world, and are in a sense the eyes of God in the world, among things, in one strange sense, not otherwise known by him. These two olive trees may be connected to the two witnesses who are two olive trees and two lampstands (11:4), and the seven eyes to the seven eyes of the seven horns of the lamb (5:6) – that is, the two witnesses are not individuals but churches (or something like churches), and the horns of the lamb are to the lamb as the horns of the beast are to the beast– the ten horns then being like diabolical churches or regimes. This too will be considered in place below.
Regarding the sense in which the churches are the eyes of the Lord in the world, I recall a certain sunrise at which I wondered if there were not a sense in which, were I not viewing, the cosmos itself would not see this sunrise from this particular perspective, at least in one sense–that the perception would not have been. I had just spent the whole night up talking with the girlfriend of a friend, while my own was away. The presence of the Lord lighting the world is through the church, and while in the fundamental sense, He is never not there, there is a sense in which He would not be right there in this way were we not there.
I.iv: The Seven Letters
[2:1-7] Each letter is addressed to the angel of each church, that is, to the stars rather than the lampstands. That the angel of each church is addressed in human language, praised and blamed, encouraged to endure, and told of a reward, seems to suggest that the angel of each church is something like the soul, opinion or mind of each of the churches. Though this might be strange, it is also strange that Jesus would address the angels through John. The messengers of each church may be mortal humans, not angels. Or, the addressing of the angels in mortal terms and through John may be the first hint or example of the closeness of the angels and men suggested later in the Revelation (19:10; 21:17).
Each of the first six churches or angels are addressed by him from one part of the introductory vision: some from an essential aspect or what he is, some from what he has, and some from what he does. Beginning with Ephesus, the address is: “The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven gold lampstands.” The seventh, Laodicea, is addressed from Jesus in part as described in the greeting (1:5). It is possible that a complete reading would demonstrate a particular connection between each church and the aspect from which each is addressed. In two instances, regarding Ephesus and Laodicea, the church is threatened from the aspect from which it was addressed. Ephesus might be addressed first and from this aspect because it is the leading church among the seven. The other aspects are 2) “the first and last, who died and came to life;” 3) “him who has the two edged sword;” 4) “the son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze;” 5) “him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars;” 6) “the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shuts, who shuts and no one opens;” and 7) “the Amen, the true and faithful witness, the beginning of God’s creation.” The fifth address is like the first, almost but not quite identical. Only in the case of the third is the connection between the aspect and the particular message evident: if those of Pergamum who hold the teaching of Balaam and of the Nicolaitans do not repent, he will come soon and “war against them with the sword of my mouth.” Following the aspect from which each is addressed, five of the seven are praised and then blamed. Two are not praised (Sardis and Laodicea), while two are not blamed (Smyrna and Philadelphia). The Ephesian Church is praised for patience, for testing and discovering false apostles, and for rejecting the teaching of the Nicolaitans. The Ephesians are blamed for backsliding, or having fallen from the love and works which they had and did at first, and threatened with the removal of their lampstand if they do not repent and return to their earlier works. For those blamed, a remedy is suggested, and a threat of what will occur if the prescription is not followed. Next, in the address to each of the churches, there is the statement familiar from the gospels: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.” The one seen in the vision is speaking to the churches and the spirit is speaking to the churches. The statement occurs in the first three prior to the promise that concludes each address, and in the last four just after the promise. The statement itself occurs in the gospels after parables, as after the parable of the sower (Mark 4:9), or after the parable of the lamp put on a stand (4:22). This sort of hearing is a “spiritual discernment,” an ability to perceive an esoteric meaning, apparently by the activity of knowledge or understanding of the hidden spiritual nature of things within each. The saying is not “he who has eyes, let him see,” in the analogy of sight which goes with the uncovering of the apo-kalypse. Rather, the analogy is of hearing, which goes with the authoritative communication of an account or of the word. Famously, the Gospel of Thomas, the 114 sayings of Jesus, opens with the saying that “whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death.” Salvation involves the opening of the spiritual perception that allows for the discernment of the parables, or the ability to hear, and see. Mark explains: “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples, he explained everything” (4:33).
This knowledge and faculty appears, according to the Socratic or Platonic account, to be in the soul or nascent mind of each, waiting to unfold (Meno, 81-86c), and to be related to rebirth and immortality (81c-d). One in whom the knowledge is awakened is able to discern, to the extent that it is awakened. And even while the knowledge is asleep, images based on the knowledge attract the mind, through the shimmering of the images of the imagination. Even while awake, it is not said that we know, but have access to or serve a knowledge that is the preserve of mankind. Hence it is possible to be at once both a Gnostic and an Agnostic. Indeed, we wonder how anyone who tells the truth could be otherwise.
Each of the seven letters concludes with a promise to the victors or to him who conquers (To nikon or ‘o nikon). The seven promises all relate to the coming kingdom. Four of the seven contain images or statements that recur later, in Chapters 19-22 where the kingdom is described. There is an eighth “He who conquers” (21:7). What is meant by conquest or victory is related to that which allows the Lamb to open the seven seals (5:5; 3:21), and this allows the victors access to the Kingdom or to an aspect of the Kingdom. The first of the seven promises is:
To him who conquers, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
This is, of course, the tree which, with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was in the midst of the garden (Genesis 2:9), “the paradise of God” (2:7). In the Kingdom, the leaves of the tree of life are given for the healing of the nations (22:2). The way to the garden or paradise of God is guarded with a flaming sword that turns in every way, and there is a Cherubim there. This is to prevent man, who has become “like one of us, knowing good and evil,” from living forever in his imperfect condition. Immortal life is the effect of eating from the tree of life. By following the Christ through death, the saints go as if through the eastern gate of the Garden of Eden, and are allowed then to eat from the tree of life. That is what the passage of rebirth or baptism is like, analogous to but not the same as death and resurrection (Romans 6). Wisdom, according to the Book of Proverbs, is “a tree of life to those who lay hold of her, and those who hold her fast are called happy” (3:18). The tree of life seems to have something to do with the pursuit of wisdom– which according to the Greeks is the cause of happiness– and to have something to do with political philosophy, or with the healing of the nations.
[2:8-11] Polycarp was head of the second Church at Smyrna, probably until his martyrdom in 155 A.D. Smyrna was chosen by the Roman Senate as the site for a temple to Tiberius, in about A. D. 26, and a temple of Rome was built there in 195 B. C. (Tacitus, Annals, IV. 56, Grant ed., pp.185-186). Like the sixth, Philadelphia, the church at Smyrna is not blamed. Rather, it is praised when it is told that he knows their tribulation or affliction and their poverty, and the slander of the Jews who oppose them. These are called a “synagogue of Satan.” It is said that the Christians at Smyrna were Jews uprooted from Jerusalem, and were poor for this reason. They are told of a coming affliction, when “the devil” will throw some of them in prison. They are told to be faithful even “unto death,” and he will give them the crown of life. The second “He who conquers” is that they will not be hurt by the second death (cp. 20:6).
Once, at a coffee shop counter, an anti-Semite cited this line in support of his teaching. The response was to gather every scripture of the New Testament regarding the Jews. The list was presented to him the following day, and he kept it. We remember the “race” of Jesus, his family, and the Twelve Apostles. Anti-Semitism or anti Jewish anti-Semitism (since the offspring of Ishmael, too are Shem-ites) is a like a strange delusion that came upon the Christian world. Salvation, and Christianity itself, enters the world through the Jews. Christian or European anti-Semitism begins in the early Jewish persecution of the Christians as a heretical sect. One also wonders about the reluctance of the Christian texts to blame or confront the Romans regarding the persecution of Christians. In First Century Rome, nothing of the sort could be suggested in writing, nor is there any objection to the deification of the Emperor in any of the writings.
[2:12-17] The angel of the church of Pergamum is addressed from he who has the sharp two-edged sword. It may be that this address is because he will with his word war against the Nicolaitans and those who hold their teaching. Those at Pergamum are said to dwell “where Satan’s throne is,” and are praised for fidelity even when one witness, Antipas was killed among them. Pergamum is blamed, though, for some “who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice immorality.” The teaching of Jezabel to the fourth church, Thyatria, is the same (2:20). One wonders what the connection between these would be, in some lost significance regarding idolatry and temple or cult prostitution. These are the minimal laws or necessary things, beyond which no further burden is placed by the early church on gentile Christians (Acts 15:28-29). In explanation of why it is said that Satan dwells there and that his throne is there, Pergamum is said to have been “a noted center of idolatrous worship,” Later, the fifth angel pours his bowl of wrath on the “throne of the beast” (16:10). The character of the teaching of the Nicolaitans is also obscure. Eusebius writes that Nicolaitius was a deacon, one of the seven appointed with Stephen. Accused by the Apostles of jealousy over his beautiful wife, he offered her to the apostles, in order to overcome the passion that is the cause of jealousy. The Nicolaitans, following his teaching that one ought “abuse the flesh,” apparently practiced free love, on the basis of this interesting and questionable understanding of the passion and its conquest. Victorinus writes that these held a heretical opinion according to which “food that had been offered to idols might be exorcised and eaten, and that whoever should have committed fornication might receive peace on the eighth day.” Irenaeus writes that in the opening of his gospel, John seeks “to remove that error which by Cerinthus had been disseminated among men, and a long time previously by those termed Nicolaitans, who are an offset of that “knowledge” falsely so called, that he might confound them, and persuade them that there is but one God who made all things by his word; and not, as they allege, that the Creator was one but the Father of the Lord another” (Against Heresies III, xi).
The third “to him who conquers” is more mysterious, and contains elements not mentioned later in the text:
To him who conquers, I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it.
The new name on the white stone is like the name inscribed on the rider of the white horse which no one knows but himself (19:11). This rider is called “Word of God,” and on his robe and thigh are inscribed the name King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The unknown name may likewise be a capacity or attribute of the Messiah, and so of the servants. The stone reminds of other symbols of the image of God in man, such as the philosopher’s stone or the “coping stone” of dialectic set at the top of studies by Socrates in the education described in Plato’s Republic (VII, 534e). It might be a pure image for thinking on, the knowledge of the divine in man, or the image of God in man. The stone (lithos) elsewhere in scripture is the stone rejected by the builders (Acts 4:11; Psalm 118:22), and the stone that smites the statue seen by Daniel. The Manna that came down from heaven in the wilderness did not give eternal life, but was provided by God to feed Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16:13-36). A jar of this manna was kept in the ark, so that the generations would see the bread with which the Lord fed them in the wilderness. The hidden manna is the body of Christ that is the bread from heaven (John 6:51, 57-58).
[2:18-29] The angel of the Church at Thyatira is addressed from the one who has eyes like flames and feet like burnished bronze, here explicitly called the son of God. Thyatira is blamed for those who tolerate Jezebel, a self-proclaimed prophetess who teaches idolatry and adultery, like Jezebel the wife of Ahab (1 Kings 16:31-32). She has been given time to repent, but refuses. She will be made ill, and her adulterers thrown into great tribulation unless they repent, and her children will be stricken dead. It would be interesting to hear if this actually occurred. It is said to be so that “all the churches know that I am he who searches mind (literally “kidneys”) and heart.”
[3:1-6] The angel of the church at Sardis is addressed from him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. Sardis is admonished as having the name of being alive, but being dead. They are encouraged to awaken and strengthen what remains. There are a few in Sardis who have not soiled their garments, who will walk with him in white. The fifth “he who conquers” is that he “Shall be clad thus in white garments, and I will not blot his name out of the book of life; I will confess his name before my father.” The book of life is another element of the kingdom, in the promises to those who conquer, as appears explicitly later in the Revelation, surrounding the description of the heavenly Kingdom (20:11-15).
[3:7-13] Philadelphia is addressed from outside the visual image of 1:12-16, from the holy and true one who has the key of David, who opens and shuts definitively (Isaiah 22:22). The key of David opens the Kingdom, as Jesus continues the Kingship of the line of David, interrupted in 607 B.C. He knows their works, and has set before them an open door. Philadelphia is the second church, after Smyrna, that is not blamed. And like Smyrna, Philadelphia is harassed by a Jewish or Judaizing group called a “Synagogue of Satan.” Beyond what is told to Smyrna, the church at Philadelphia is told that the false Jews will be made to bow at their feet, and will learn that he has loved them. Also unlike those of Smyrna, the Philadelphians are told:
I will keep you from the hour of trial which is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell upon the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
Does he here refer to the tribulation hour, or to some more brief and immanent period of tribulation, as the ten day period foretold to the Smyrnans? Are the persecutions of the Philadelphian church not counted as part of the great tribulation? Does the Philadelphian Church in particular still exist? Or is the trial coming on the whole world one which pertains to a more general church? Or does the vision not present the universal tribulation hour as coming within the lifetimes of the persons who then made up the Philadelphian church? Is it possible that the vision itself, too, expected the tribulation hour to come very soon? The persecution of Christians continued through the time of Justin and Ignatius, until the time just before Constantine, early in the Fourth Century.
The sixth promise reads as follows:
He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear…
Baukham reads the promise of becoming a pillar in the temple in light of the exclusion of the Christians from the temple of the Jews. The new name written on a white stone, in the promise to those of the church of Pergamum who conquer (2:17), may be the same as his own new name, here written on the victorious ones themselves.
[3:14-22] The seventh church, at Laodicea, is addressed from “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.” Following the parts of the introductory vision in each address, the Amen is from 1:18 of the introductory vision. The faithful witness is from 1:5 of the salutation, and the beginning from the Alpha, so that the statement proceeds in reverse from what is like a conclusion, through a middle, to the beginning. Laodicea is only blamed and in no way praised. The Laodiceans are told they will be spewed out of his mouth for being neither hot nor cold. Laodicea apparently considers itself to be rich and in need of nothing, while being “wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” The city, now in ruins, was a center of commerce, selling a well known eye salve, and had water from a hotspring that flowed lukewarm. The illusory fullness is similar to what is said by Babylon, when she denies that she is a widow (18:7). They are given the most elaborate counsel of any of the seven churches:
Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
The apparent wealth and actual poverty of Laodicea is to be remedied with refined gold or the true wealth of knowledge or wisdom. White garments, which Laodicea thinks it has but truly needs are the chastity and good actions (19:8) which are the best condition of the body, and cover for the nakedness or vulnerability of man that comes from having a body. Their blindness or need of sight would be remedied by an anointing salve which would bring spiritual sight, the sight of the eye of the soul (Matt 7:22). According to one ancient text, it is the word that is applied to the eyes of the soul as a medicine, because matter “strikes blows at her eyes, wishing to make her blind.”
Though Laodicea is blamed and in no way praised, the way is open for them to take this counsel and repent. Those he loves, he reproves and chastens. The precedent to the seventh ‘to him who conquers’ shows how open the way is for Laodicea:
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice, and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the spirit says to the churches.
This line is one of two places (with 22:1-3; cp. 11:15) where the son and Father are both enthroned, and those who conquer also share in the throne. This is astonishing, and demonstrates that the Bride is a completion of the throne.
The seven letters are framed by the seven attributes of the sender and the seven promises to him who conquers. He who conquers will eat from the tree of life, not be hurt by the second death, receive the hidden manna and the white stone with a new and secret name. He will be given power over the nations and be given the morning star, be clad in white garments with his name in the book of life, confessed before the Father and his angels, be made a pillar in the temple of his God, with the name of his God, of the city of God the new Jerusalem, and have the new name of Jesus written on him, and he will sit with him on his throne. The seven things described separately as seven are really one, pertaining to the victors in all the churches in the New Jerusalem. In this way, the introductory vision and the letters to the seven churches set the topic and provide a base for the interpretation of the vision of the whole of the Revelation.
There is a common reading attempting to relate the seven letters to seven ages of the church. There seems to be not a line to support this: none of the descriptions correspond at all any more to one period than another. The attempts to relate the particulars are awkward, and again one suspects that a wrong turn in the argument has been carried over from a common source. Scofield explicates that the fore view of the church period must be in the seven letters, because “the church does not appear on earth after 3:22.” But this again involves assumptions, to be addressed in the following chapter. For the present, we note that the attempt produces a weak understanding of church history, and ignores the fundamental point: There is no church singular in the Revelation, and the seven churches are not authoritative in any final sense.
What is the relation of the seven churches, their angels, and their seven sealed letters to the sets of things that occur in sevens throughout the remainder of the text? After the seven letters, there follow five or six sets of things that occur in sevens. After the seven angels of the seven churches are addressed, there is (2) the scroll with seven seals, (3) seven trumpets blown by seven angels, apparently within the seventh seal. Then (4) there is a statement of the seven thunders, during the sixth trumpet, which is “sealed up.” Then, (5) apparently as part of the third woe or seventh trumpet, prior to the new heaven and earth, there occurs a series of visions (are there seven?) in the second half of the book, from Chapter 12 on, introduced and demarcated by a phrase such as “then I looked” or “then I saw.” These include (6) seven angels with statements or messages (Chapter 14), before (7) seven angels with seven plagues or seven bowls of wrath (Chapter 16).
I.v: The Vision of the Throne
And the Scroll
In the previous section of the seven letters, Jesus is the speaker, and writes what he is told to write. The remainder of the text, regarding what must take place “after this,” is narrated by John himself, each vision or sight often introduced with the statement “I looked” or “I saw…” In the fourth chapter, John sees a vision of the Lord on the throne, and twenty-four elders and four living creatures around the throne. The Lord has a scroll, and in the fifth chapter, the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures say that the lamb is worthy to open the scroll. In the sixth chapter, each of the four seals is opened, revealing one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The fifth seal reveals the martyrs under the throne, who are told to wait for the avenging of their blood until the number of their fellow martyrs is completed. With the opening of the sixth seal, the sun becomes black and the moon like blood, and everyone hides in the mountains from the wrath of the Lamb. Chapter 7, still within the sixth seal, then shows the devastation held back while the servants of God are sealed, and then the multitudes who come out of the tribulation. Finally in the eighth chapter, the seven seals are opened, showing seven angels with seven trumpet blasts that accompany another series of seven occurrences, patterned similarly with four catastrophes introducing three events. The events and visions that accompany the blowing of the trumpets take up the remainder of the first half of the book, through the eleventh chapter. The seventh trumpet is not blown until 11:15, and the first half of the book is completed with a vision of the Ark of the Covenant seen within the temple. As it seems, the seventh seal is to contain the third woe, and so must be understood to continue into the second half of the book, or even to make up the content or focus of the second half of the book.
[4:1] John looks and sees an open door in heaven. Jesus had just mentioned an open door to Laodicea. This was the door of the home of one who would let him in, to his house as to his soul, rather than, as now, an open door in heaven. Jesus describes himself as the door of the sheep in John’s gospel (10:7). Victorinus suggests that the door is the New Testament, and that since it is shown as being opened, it must have been previously closed to man. One wonders if it is the same way as the ascent of Paul, and if similar visions did not occur. Ezekiel describes his vision by the river among the exiles as occurring when “the heavens were opened” (Ezekiel 1:1, as at 11:19 of the Revelation). There are at least four major images in common between the visions of John and Ezekiel, which may be in one sense the highest of all recorded visions. Here, John is returned to the presence of the first voice, which he hears speaking to him like a trumpet (1:10). This voice is now clearly distinguished from the one whose voice is like the sound of many waters (1:15), though when John heard the former and turned to see, he saw the latter. The voice tells him “Come up hither, and I will show you what must take place after this.” The question is “after what?” The voice would seem to mean, after “what is,” as was described in the letters to the seven churches, “what is to take place hereafter” (1:19). “What must take place after this” is described from Chapter 4 on, through the opening of the seven seals in Chapters 6-11, and the seventh trumpet. The vision is to describe what is to take place after the current trials of the seven churches, into the future of the churches, and the world. Because the Lamb has conquered, the scroll can be opened revealing, and in one sense causing the events about to occur, events which lead to the coming of the kingdom.
[4:2] The text does not say that John went through the door, but that at once he was in the spirit seeing a throne in heaven, and one seated on the throne. The vision described in Chapter 4 is of what is: not of things that are future, but what is always. So, technically, it may belong among the things that are, as well as things that were and will be. The present tense is used. Even the part that seems as though it could at some time be otherwise, the twenty-four elders, is described in the present tense, as by the word “whenever” (4:9).
The vision of the Lord on the throne occurs in four other places in scripture. The prophet Micah sees the throne when prophesying to Ahab that the other prophets were lying, and that he would die in a battle with Syria (1 Kings 22:19-23). Isaiah sees the throne, and then prophesies the desolation of Israel (Is. 6). Ezekiel, most famously, sees the throne when he is sent to prophesy to Israel (Ezekiel 1:26-28; 10:1). And Daniel sees the throne of flames with fiery wheels, with other thrones placed (Daniel 7:9-10). Enoch too saw the throne, as crystal with wheels like the sun, when he ascended to intercede for the watchers (I Enoch 16.18). Paul, in the only other New Testament account of an ascent, does not say he saw the throne. Maimonides comments on the meaning of the terms “throne” and “seated” in his guide for the Perplexed (I. 9, 11). The vision of the throne is, as Aune relates, “frequently associated with prophecy…for prophets were thought able to join the assembly, to hear the deliberation of the council, and then to announce God’s word; according to Jeremiah (23:18), “For who has stood in the council of the Lord so as to see and hear his word?” (Aune, Revelation, p. 277).
The fourth chapter is the description of this vision of John, when he is taken as if into the heavens in the spirit. The one seated on the throne does not say or do anything, but appears like Jasper and Carnelian, like jewels, which are stones. Ezekiel calls the object of his vision “the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord (Ezekiel 1:28). Ezekiel saw “the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire” (1:26), and “something like a sapphire, in form resembling a throne” (10:1). Ezekiel saw “a likeness as it were of a human form” above the throne, appearing like gleaming bronze and enclosed fire above the loins, and fire below. Ezekiel too sees a rainbow around the throne. Isaiah saw a train of followers that filled the temple. Ezekiel saw the four living creatures under the throne, which is above a firmament that shines like crystal. The four living creatures are later identified as Cherubim (Ez. 10:20-22). Isaiah sees the Seraphim above the throne. John sees twenty-four thrones, and twenty-four elders crowned with gold crowns seated around the throne, and four living creatures around the throne. That they are seated is significant, since, as Aune reports “There was a widespread Jewish tradition that no one is permitted to sit in the presence of God” (Revelation, p. 291). They may be the same as those seen seated on thrones, to whom judgment was committed. It would be strange if these included the Twelve Apostles, as is sometimes suggested, if John was one, and he was seeing himself. He is addressed by one of the elders at 7:13. This seeing of the twelve occurs in Chapter 21, and is cited as a reason the work could not have been written by John– though this does not seem necessary. The twenty-four, though, are related to the twelve gates and twelve foundations (21:12-14), on which are inscribed the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Twelve Apostles. Victorinus, citing Matthew 19:27-28, identifies these as “the twenty-four fathers– twelve apostles and twelve patriarchs” (p. 348), such as Moses and Abraham. He also says these are the twenty four books of the old Testament, and in another place, at the end of his essay On the Creation of the World, he writes that these are the twenty-four witnesses of the days and nights, the angels of each hour, and are “older both than the other angels and than men.” Lightening, voices, and thunder issue from the throne. Before it are seven torches burning, and a sea of glass like crystal. Again, giving the interpretation on this point, the text says that the seven torches are the seven spirits of God. These are the same as those “seven spirits before his throne” which greeted John in the opening (1:4). Torches are also seen by Ezekiel moving to and fro among the living creatures (Ez. 1:13). There are also seven angels of the seven churches, seven angels with seven bowls in Chapter 16, and seven messengers in Chapter 14.
In the vision of John, around the throne, on each side, are four Zoa, or “living creatures.” Here the King James translation seems deficient in using the same word, “beast,” for the Greek zoa and Therion, the word for the beasts of Chapter 13. Zoa is “animal” or “living” (being). The zoa are “full of eyes in front and behind,” “full of eyes all around and within.” The first is like a lion, the second like an ox, the third “with the face of a man,” and the fourth “like a flying eagle.” In the vision of Ezekiel, the four “had the form of men, but each had four faces” (1:5-6), with the face of a man in front, of a lion on the right side, an ox on the left and an eagle at the back (1:10). Each of the Zoa has six wings, as do the Seraphim seen by Isaiah (Is. 6:2). Ezekiel’s Cherubim have four wings, with the form of human hands under two of the wings.
Our word “animal” could be used to translate zoa if our word would recover some of the original meaning of the Latin word anima, or soul, related to animate and animation, describing self-moving or ensouled creatures, in contrast with vegetable and other creatures which do not move themselves, though they are alive. In Hebrew, the equivalent is the “breath of life,” which includes all animals but no plants, and one wonders what the Hebrew equivalent in the vision of Ezekiel is that is translated as Zoa in the Greek. The Greek word is connected to the higher sense of the word “life,” higher than the meaning “ensouled,” the life of the light of the mind. These four animals are alive in this highest sense. So in the ninth line, the one sitting on the throne is “the one living to the ages of the ages.” Divine life as that of the Cherubim is symbolized, through animal forms, or thuriomorphically. This curious aspect of the image leads some to reflect on the subhuman, and wonder why it should be involved in the image, and the image itself is thought questionable on this account. Yet there may be some connection to the thuriomorphic images of the beast, both in Daniel and to come in the thirteenth chapter of the Revelation.
The mixture of the animal and the human, as well as the particular animals that appear, lion, calf, man and eagle, and the order in which they appear, all require explanation. Why are these four the appearances or embodiments of the Cherubim, as seen by both John and Ezekiel? Does it make any difference that the four animals pertain to each cherubim alike as seen by Ezekiel, while each of the four appears to John as one of the animals? That the carnivorous appears before the vegetarian, and the upright land animal before the eagle, may indicate the unseen thing being shown. And what does it mean that they are full of eyes, “before and behind,” or all over? Could they be all seeing, and could they be the same as the four angels at the corners of the world? These are alike four, though the cherubim are higher. We will see if another explanation emerges that will account for the reason that the animal is involved here in the appearance of the highest things. Victorinus relates each to a writer of the four gospels, in a traditional reading that is well known, though no reason for it appears. As a rule, we ought to refrain from settling on a certain explanation of an image for no more reason than a similarity of number or a suitable meaning.
The four Zoa sing day and night: “Holy holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” and whenever they sing this, and give glory, honor and thanks to the Creator, the twenty-four elders fall down before the one seated on the throne, and cast their crowns before the throne. The rule or participation in the throne of the twenty four elders is based on their sacrifice of rule in the recognition that the Lord is Creator, and the Zoa lead this worship around the throne. They sing that the Lord is worthy to receive glory and honor and power because He created all things, which are and were created through his will. The four Zoa will reappear in Chapter 14, where the new song is sung before them and the twenty-four elders, and again when one of the four gives the seven bowls of wrath to the seven angels (15:7).
Is the Rapture Portrayed Symbolically at 4:1 of the Revelation?
Is 4:1 a depiction of the rapture? From a common source within the American Baptist tradition, C. I. Scofield, Jack Van Impe, Jack Macarthur, Hal Lindsey, and others contend that the ascent of John here at 4:1 is synonymous with the rapture. The rapture is to occur before the time called the tribulation, the time of the worst trouble ever for mankind. By this pre-tribulation rapture, the church is preserved “out of the time of trouble.” The “tribulation” is taken to mean the series of 21 Judgments described from Chapter 6 through 18 of the Revelation. The assumption is that the tribulation refers to all 21 judgments of the seals, trumpets and bowls, and that the Church is raptured prior to the tribulation, or all events from Chapter 6-18 of the Revelation. Their picture is of a book describing the troubles Christians will avoid, and their message one of hope because the church will be taken up out of all these things. Hence the images of piles of empty clothing, and buses left driverless when the rapture occurs. The hope suggested by this teaching is both comforting and one basis for the very lucrative market in end times books and teachings. The elect are raptured, and the hundreds of thousands are brought to Christ by the preaching of 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes. No reason is given for this teaching, but it is based on the promise and the hope that we will be taken out of the tribulation. In this section, we will show that this version of the pre-tribulation rapture is not the teaching of the Revelation.
The rapture is not explicitly included in the Revelation at all, and this is surprising. Convinced that it must be there, the attempt is then made to place it where it may fit. Sardis, the third church addressed, was told that if they did not stay awake “I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you” (3:3). But the Revelation is also consistent with there being no rapture at all. The closest the text comes to including the rapture is the interjected statement of the Christ, “Behold, I come as a thief in the night,” very strangely at 16:15, amid the seven bowls of wrath, after the sixth, which gathers the nations for the battle at Armageddon. It is granted that when he comes like a thief, it is for the rapture, and there would be no reason for this to be inserted here if the church had been raptured already. He may come like a thief in that it is by surprise, rather than by stealth. It is argued that 4:1 is the only place that the rapture could fit. Our question is whether the text is quite that clear or quite that hopeful. Are these readers, usually committed to a literal reading and the authority of the scripture, not inadvertently adding something to the message that is not in the text? But, as the reader will see, the taking up of this question is very helpful in reading the text, and taking these preachers as a basis, the critical view of their teaching may leads us toward the heart of the Revelation.
The rapture is so called from the Latin word rapio, used by Jerome to translate the Greek arpazo-, a “snatching away,” (Van Impe, 1983, p. 12) to translate 1 Thessalonians 4:17: “And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” The word occurs in Revelation at 12:5-6, where the offspring of the woman is caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman escapes into the wilderness. Rapture is also the word for being taken up in the apprehension of beauty, in transcendent musings, as to be “rapt in secret study,” and this is what happens to John when he sees a door opened in heaven. He himself continued on Patmos, and what these readers mean is not that John is here raptured, but that the rapture is symbolically or allegorically included in the Revelation at this point. There is a similarity to the call to the dead witnesses in Chapter 11, and the same words, “Come up hither,” are used when these are called up in what, in the literal aspect, looks much more like the rapture than the call to John to ascend. We will argue that if the rapture is shown cryptically in the Revelation, it is here at 11:12, rather than at 4:1.
We must first see what is being said, and then we can answer each point in the argument. The attempt to show that the rapture of the church occurs at 4:1 begins (1) with a reading that the time of the churches is addressed in the seven letters and then the things shown from 4:1 on are what must occur “after this.” The reading is that this refers to after the age of the churches, and all things shown after this are assumed to be after the rapture. (2) The church does not seem to these readers to appear from Chapters 6-18 of the Revelation. None of the characteristics of the Church appear, while many characteristics of the Jews appear. Lindsey cites the difference between the statement of the letters, “hear what the spirit says to the churches” and the statement in Chapter 13: “He who has ears let him hear” (13:9). The Church seems to be gone. But (3) it seems that the twenty-four elders, shown crowned, could not appear this way prior to the rapture, and that they are or symbolize the church (Van Impe, 1982, pp. 53, 61-62). (4) The church of Philadelphia is told: “Because you have kept my word of patience, I also will keep you from the hour (ek tas horas) of trial about to come…” (3:10); Henry Schaeffer writes: “In Luke 21: 34-36 we have the promise of Jesus that the saved will be accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to stand before the son of man.” Similarly, the statement: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation” seems to suggest that those saved will be saved also out of the wrath of the day of the Lord. (5) It is the removal of the people of Christ that allows for the terrible events described in the visions to occur, so that the rapture at the very start of the tribulation seems to fit or to cohere with the picture of the whole. Paul seems to refer to this when he writes: “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-8). Similarly, (6) the best argument for the pre-tribulation rapture at 4:1 seems to be that of Hal Lindsey, (1973, pp. 78-79):
If Jesus’ historical illustrations refer to his coming for his people at the end of the tribulation, as some teach, then believers as well as unbelievers would pass through its horrors while doing their business as usual–…but none can live a normal life in the chaos of the tribulation…
When he comes by surprise, people will be going about their usual business, as in the days of Noah. This hardly seems possible if the tribulation were occurring around them. Lindsey also cites the pattern both in the stories of Noah and of Sodom and Gomorrah, where there was first a prophetic warning, then God helped his people to escape, and then destruction as judgment occurred.
The answers to these arguments should be considered, because there is no suggestion that the rapture occurs at 4:1 of the text, or that the church is not on earth for any of the things described in Chapters 6-19 of the Revelation. That the Church is raptured when John is called up to see his vision is simply not what is said in the text. It is thought that it must be implied, but rather the pre-tribulation rapture is contradicted by numerous considerations.
So, (1) Meta Tauta, or “after this,” is entirely consistent with either mid or post tribulation rapture, since it need imply no more than that what is to be shown occur after the present condition of the churches, at the close of the First Century. In the letters, he does describe things that will happen in the near future for these churches, such as the ten day ordeal coming for Sardis. But he does not describe the complete future even of the seven churches, nor end the description with their rapture. Nor is there any suggestion that these seven are the whole church to the exclusion of Rome, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. Does the church in Jerusalem even still exist as John is writing? The looming question is what of the Church in Rome, and what is the relation of these seven to the others, Alexandria and Antioch, etc. Some of these seven no longer exist, and yet the rapture was not yet. “After this” could easily mean the two millennia to follow, including the end of the end times.
(2)While the word “church” may not appear from Chapter 6 to 18, the word “Church” in the singular does not appear at all in the Revelation. The churches plural are not mentioned again until the closing of the letter (22:16), and the other churches are never mentioned unless it is here. The Church singular is the bride, and is never called the Church or identified as a “Church” in the Revelation. It is the New Jerusalem, and her bridal garment is the righteous deeds of the saints. The churches are lampstands, and there is no need of lamps in the New Jerusalem (22:5; 21:22) When Paul tells of the union, he reveals a mystery (Ephesians 5:28-32). As has been said, a symbol refers to something unknown.
While the word church does not occur, the 144,000 and the multitudes are a part of the church even if they were converts after the rapture, so that the church is of course present. These are followers of the Lamb, those with his name on their foreheads, as are those who refuse the mark of the beast, and some are slain. If this were to occur literally, the ten lost tribes would have to be found. The sealed are explicitly said to be from the twelve tribes, while those who refuse the mark of the beast would seem to be from all nations. Isaiah ( 27:13) prophecies:
…And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.
These may be anyone of us, especially since the ten northern tribes were disbursed. No other nation or group is referred to either in these chapters, except symbolically. The “Great city,” thought to be Rome, and the city “allegorically called Sodom and Egypt” are examples. Mt. Zion may be an exception. The characteristics of the church are the worship and witnessing of Jesus, the singing of the new song, literal and/or figurative celibacy, and these are exactly those targeted. What is not said is that this is the post rapture church, as Van Impe reads it, and given that no reference is made one way or another in the Revelation, there is no reason to assume it. That the 144,000 were faithless, then left behind, and then suddenly especially saints all before Chapter 7 seems unlikely. There is surely no reason to introduce the rapture in the text at 4:1. The text of course simply does not say that. No humans are seen in heaven around the throne in Chapters Four and Five except the twenty-four elders. So (3) an attempt must be made by these readers to identify the church symbolically with something that does appear, like the sea of glass (Lindsey) or the twenty-four elders, whom no one would otherwise argue are to be identified with the raptured part of the church. It is not said how the elders or anyone else in the scene arrived there. The enthroned elders may include the Apostles, or, strangely, John himself, if these are 24 because they are the twelve gates and foundations. They are the only men present, though they seem to have always been there, rather than to have recently arrived.
What is not seen in heaven around the throne is man, or general humanity. Many angels are seen, but no men, until the fifth seal is opened, and the martyrs are seen under the altar asking “how long?” Then in the sixth seal, the 144,000 are sealed and then the multitudes “from every nation…” are said to be those who “have come out of the tribulation”(7:1-9). These are like the people of Jerusalem on the first palm day, and sing the Christian song. Is the number of the martyrs now completed? As this is said in the fifth seal to be the cause of the delay, and there need be no more delay (6:9-11), and it is sworn by the angel that there will be “no longer time” (10:6). The throne scene does not stop at Chapter 5, but continues through the opening of the seventh seal. What we are shown then is the completion of the throne scene by the addition of mankind. Chapters 4-7 show the entrance of man into heaven. While these come “out of the tribulation,” the whole point of the scene is that they are not there yet in 4:1.
(4) The Philadelphia church, the sixth addressed, is told that he will keep them from the time of trouble. While the promise is delivered particularly to the Philadelphia church, it may, like other things in the seven letters, be addressed to the whole church. But this was for Philadelphia consistent with their suffering persecution from those who are not truly Jews, and may be consistent with a mid tribulation rapture, since they, or rather some future church, will be kept out of the worst of the tribulation, if only because they have been martyred. The things escaped may be the seventh bowl and trumpet. The things pertaining to the Christians that are taken up all occur in the sixth, whether seal or trumpet, and attention is drawn to the sixth seal, trumpet and bowl
It is said that in Luke 21:34-36 we have the promise of Jesus that the saved will be accounted worthy to escape all these things, and to stand before the son of man. The things they will escape are those of Matthew 24:4-26: Luke 21:4-19 and Revelation 6-19.
But in the text of Luke (21:34-36), Jesus tells the Apostles to watch at all times, and not to be distracted by cares of the world, to have that day come upon them suddenly like a snare, “for it will come upon all who dwell upon the face of the whole earth.” The Apostles are told to pray “that you may have strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the son of man.” He does not promise that all those saved will be accounted worthy to escape all these things, but rather that that day will come upon all who dwell on the face of the earth.
Do Peter and Paul fail to escape the wrath of God? I think they do escape the wrath, and yet they were martyred. To be martyred for refusing the name and number may be a supreme blessing, and it is these and no others who are said to come alive to reign with him in the millennium (20:4). It is not clear whether others martyred, as those in the fifth seal, are included here. He will make war on the saints and perhaps conquer some (Daniel 7:21. Revelation 13:7). I Thessalonians is entirely consistent with a mid-tribulation rapture. It may be required, as will be shown, because the dead in Christ will rise first, then “we who are alive” with the sound of the trumpet,” “the last trumpet,” which would seem to be that blown at 11:15 of the Revelation. Paul implies, or rather explicitly states, that the transformation of physical into spiritual bodies occurs at the seventh or “last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 16: 52) “…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” And not all will sleep, but some be raised alive, though this will not, unless Paul is wrong, occur before the seventh trumpet. The Church is on earth for the sixth seal, trumpet, and perhaps bowl, and their martyrdom and divine vengeance for their martyrdom is the theme of the Revelation. The suggestion is that they are not present for the seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl because some have been martyred for being Christians, while others might be taken up alive at this time.
The seventh trumpet is blown before the beast and false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire. But the raising of the dead, first of the martyrs in the twentieth chapter, appears to occur after, and the general resurrection after Satan is bound and cast into the pit where the beast and the false prophet were. Unless the trumpet blast was understood to continue through the millennium, all the way through Chapter 20 to the Last Judgment, there would seem to be a contradiction in scripture, between the account of John and that of Paul. The Church is on earth for the sixth seal, trumpet, and perhaps bowl, and their martyrdom is the theme of the Revelation. The suggestion is that they are not present for the seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl because some have been martyred for being Christians, while we hold hope that others might here be taken up alive.
The dead rise before the rapture (I Thess. 4-17), but not until after the millennial reign (Rev.20:5; 12-13). Unless the dead that are raised are the martyred witnesses, this contradicts both the pre- and mid tribulation readings. One way around this difficulty of the rapture and the millennium is to say that there are multiple resurrections, and the dead raised at the last trumpet are different from the dead raised after the millennium. The dead rise when Jesus rises, in 31-33 A. D. So, some of the dead may also rise when the martyred witnesses rise at the end of the sixth trumpet, and even more rise at the general resurrection at the end of the millennium. In this way Paul might yet be consistent with the twentieth chapter of the Revelation. Similarly, there are dead raised at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:52), dead raised before the millennium (20:4), and dead raised after the millennium (20:12), in addition to the spiritually dead who hear his voice and rise, (John 5:26) making four or five resurrections, not including those like Lazarus and the one raised by Elijah, and those like Enoch and Jesus, who were taken bodily into heaven.
And not all will sleep, but some will be raised alive, though this will not, unless Paul is wrong, occur before the seventh trumpet. What undermines the hope of a pre-tribulation rapture is the teaching that the dead will be raised before the rapture, though the dead are not raised until the last trumpet.
So, (5), 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8 cannot refer to the spirit present in the church restraining the diabolical elements from emerging until taken out of the way in the rapture, though these might prevent world government and the worst of the evils to come. The presence of the United States seems to be all that now prevents these things from occurring. If it were removed, or if the Christians were removed from it, the unresolved elements in the development of Europe that once led to fascism might reemerge. Yet the presence of the spirit in the Churches did not prevent the emergence of Hitler or the holocaust of the Jews. It did, however, prevent the Nazis from taking over the whole world, or achieving world dominion, at least for a while. But, as the rise of the Nazi movement in America and even more in Europe has demonstrated, the trouble in the soul of the West has not yet been purged or overcome.
And this is consistent with the rest of the passage in the Letter to Thessalonica, which contradicts the thought that the Antichrist cannot appear until after the rapture. The Thessalonians are awaiting the Messiah, and are told not to be deceived “for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed…so that he takes his seat in the temple of God…” They seem, like those in Matthew (24:15) to be told that they will see the desolating sacrilege. The rapture seems to be what is shown in Matthew 24, after the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel is seen standing in the holy place (24:15), and those in Judea are to flee without going down from the housetop to get his things, nor him in the field to turn back to get his mantle. But this is the great tribulation, and it is not clear that even those fleeing are unaffected by it. The time of trouble describes the conditions under which they flee Jerusalem, and in Luke, a part of the prophecy is: “When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, know that its desolation has come near.” That generation did not pass away before they saw the destruction of Jerusalem. But it has just been said that after the sun and moon are darkened, the sign of the son of man will appear in the heavens, the tribes will mourn, “and they will see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; and he will send out his angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Those shown restraining in the Revelation are the four winds, in the sixth trumpet, restraining the four angels that are bound at the Euphrates, Kings of the East, or, all the armies of the world from advancing to gather at Armageddon. These are restrained until the full number of the martyrs has been reached.
The Church is on earth for the sixth seal, trumpet, and perhaps bowl, and their martyrdom and divine vengeance for their martyrdom is the theme of the Revelation. The Revelation is not about how God will keep the Christians from suffering. To repeat: the Revelation is from start to finish about the martyrs. It is written to the Churches, and if there is one teaching, even the last Biblical commandment, it is not to take the mark of the beast (14: 9-12). Its teaching is not to believe in order to avoid punishment. The pre-tribulation rapture applied to the Revelation requires that none of the Church will have to make this decision, to have loved their witnessing more than their own lives. It requires that the church is being told of events that do not really concern them, and that might have been known after the rapture. We, however, think that the Revelation is a warning to the Church of the last great persecution, this time of both Christians and Jews. But the mid-tribulation rapture, after the sixth or at the seventh trumpet, makes sense of why the Churches and servants (1:1, 4) are addressed in this to begin with. The Jews were warned in Daniel, the Christians in the Revelation, of an attack on the Biblical God, through an attack on His people. The suggestion is that they are not present for the seventh trumpet and the seventh bowl because some have been martyred for being Christians, and the hope is that others might be taken up alive at this time, in a mid tribulation rapture of sorts, in a tribulation beginning with the sixth trumpet or sooner, for it occurs between the sixth and seventh trumpets. He will make war on the saints and perhaps conquer some (Daniel 7:21; Revelation 13:7). When the churches are told the blessings for him who conquers, it was implied though not stated, that some, even of the saints or the elect, (Mark 13:22) might be misled and conquered.
In any case, it is in a way ridiculous to say that the Church is not there, since the 144,000 and the multitudes of Chapter 7 are a part of the church and the number of martyrs to be completed. The 144,000 are explicitly said to be followers of the Lamb. Van Impe means the pre-tribulation church, so that all the martyrs shown have been converted after the rapture, possibly from having seen the rapture occur and finding themselves left behind. But there is no distinction in the text between the raptured and the martyred church, unless those sealed are those raptured. In the fifth trumpet when the locusts are seen ascending from the bottomless pit, it is assumed that those with the seal of God on their foreheads are still on the earth, and are not to suffer from this (9:4), the fifth trumpet and bowl, which effect the kingdom of the beast. These are the same that appeared before the throne in Chapter 7. The church as the body of believing Christians, is there, then, in the seventh, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth chapters, as well as in the millennial reign of the saints beheaded for not taking the number, and then especially in the description of the New Jerusalem. What is not present in the Revelation is a picture of the raptured church as distinct from those that are martyred. Nor is there an explicit rapture, nor any effect of the example of persons having suddenly disappeared, other than those murdered.
Our conclusion must be that the Revelation is much darker than Van Impe and Lindsey assume, and its warning is not only for those other people, but for the Christians or for the Church. The preaching of the message of hope that we may not have to die or face death and martyrdom, should the end times come upon us, may then be a bit of a false hope, at least as far as the text of the Revelation goes. It is sometimes said that the Lord would not leave his church to suffer, but this was not the case for the Apostles and martyrs of other ages. Hippolytus writes that one reason that the prophecy is obscured is to avoid disquieting the minds of men (p. 210, #29).
The pre-tribulation rapture teaching, though, is very instructive regarding the probable distinction between the rapture and the revelation proper, the second coming, since those making this argument require the distinction. Hal Lindsey writes:
“One passage of scripture speaks of Christ’s coming in the air and in secret, like a thief coming in the night. Another part of scripture describes Christ’s coming in power and majesty to the earth, with every eye seeing him…Both of these can be true only if there are two separate appearances.”
The reading of Lindsey and others, Van Impe and Scofield, requires that the second coming is what is described at Matthew 24:30-31 when the son of man is seen coming on the clouds with glory, and the angels are sent out with a loud trumpet call to gather his elect from the four winds, or from one end of heaven to another–but that this is different from the rapture which comes like the flood of Noah, when “two men will be in the field; one is taken and one is left” (24:40). And when he comes, on a cloud and with glory, all his saints, or, ten thousand of his saints” are said to be or come with him (Jude 14-15; Enoch 1:9). Van Impe notes that it does not seem that the two would coincide, with the raptured ascending only to return at nearly the same time, or simply to be then gathered.
It is not clear, though, that Peter follows this division, as he has Jesus coming as a thief when the elements are dissolved and the earth burned (2 Peter 3:10). Yet he may write of the “Day of the Lord” as containing both, beginning with one and ending with another, all in the same day.
The same words, though, as those said to indicate the rapture at 4:1, “Come up hither,” are spoken in what does seem like the rapture, except that those who ascend have died. The two witnesses, having preached three and one half days and then lain dead and unburied three and one half days, ascend to heaven in a cloud. We will present an argument that these two witnesses are two large groups. It is not clear how these are related to the 144,000, or to those who complete the number of the martyrs, which was the cause for the delay at the fifth seal. The 144,000 appear again with the Messiah on Mt. Zion, after the witnesses are raised.
So, rather than say that the key to the Revelation is the distinction between the things that are and the things that will be, and then requiring that everything described after Chapter 4 be future and after the rapture, the key seems rather to be this: The Revelation is about the martyrs, the completion of their number and divine vengeance for the making of the martyrs. It foretells the most horrible persecution of all time, and warns the church not to take the mark of the Beast. The Beast is “allowed to make war upon the Saints and to conquer them” (13:7; Daniel 7:21). This is a warning to the church, a call for endurance, and pertains most directly to us, believers as we approach the end times. While we do pray to be found worthy to escape these things, we ought pray to endure the trial or test that would come upon all mankind if a worldwide earthquake revealed that most, when put to the test, are ravenous, like starving animals. And we pray especially for the strength and grace to refuse the mark.
It may be that the point in the prophesied end times at which the rapture occurs is not revealed, since “if the householder knew in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched… (24:43). It may be that we may have three accounts of the rapture, pre, mid and post, because it is not revealed “in what part of the night the thief is coming” (Matthew 24:43-44; Revelation 3:3), and we are simply told to be watchful. We, though, should be watchful at all times, and prepare. We should, prepare to be tested and to overcome the fear of death, and not take the mark.
The Scroll: Revelation Chapter Five
The scene of the throne is the setting of a drama that unfolds though the fifth chapter. First the scene is presented, in Chapter 4, and then in the fifth chapter, something is shown to occur. The one seated on the throne has a scroll, which none are found worthy to open. Then the son of man is found worthy by his having been slain, and ransoming mankind by his blood. The scroll can then be opened, and the body of the text from Chapter 6 onward is contained within this scroll.
[5:1-5] John saw the book or scroll in the right hand of the one seated on the throne. It was written on the front and on the back, as is the scroll given to Ezekiel (2:9), and sealed with seven seals. He saw a strong angel with a loud voice proclaiming “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” However, no one in heaven or on earth was able to “open the scroll or look into it,” because none were worthy. What this means, the sealing and opening of a writing, is not immediately clear, but John weeps because no one is found worthy. Daniel is told to seal up his writing until the time of the end (Daniel 12:9). Then one of the elders says to him, John, “Weep not; lo, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Judah is described as a lion. The Judah oracle (Genesis 49:10) is that the scepter and rod or staff would remain with this tribe until the Messiah comes, to whom the scepter belongs. Israel was not then a kingship, and so Judah remained the leading tribe until the Messiah, as is still the case, all Israelites now being called Jews. The Messiah is called the root of Jesse, as well as a shoot from the stump or branch from the root of Jesse, the father of the father of David. He is called this by Isaiah, in one of the clearest prophesies of the Messiah (11:1-11). Mathew traces the genetic line of Jesus to David through Joseph (1:16), and this would be by adoption or by law, though Mary is also of this line. No one has traced the lineage of Mary, though her parents Joachim and Anna are known, apparently of the tribes of David and Levi. But to return, to have conquered is what makes him able and worthy to open the scroll and its seven seals. It is possible that the scroll is the following vision, and that it is baptism or rebirth, following the Christ through death, that makes it possible to follow the opening and unsealing the text of the revelation. It is also possible that the opening of the seals is an unfolding of historical events that occur as a result of the incarnation and the conquest of the crucifixion– we shall have to see when we consider the seals.
Victorinus writes that the book is the Old Testament, the Torah scroll, and “to open the book is to overcome death for man” (p. 349). He writes:
The unsealing of the seals is, as we have said, the opening of the Old Testament, and the foretelling of the preachers of things to come in the last times, which, although the prophetic scripture speaks by single seals, yet by all the seals opened at once, prophecy takes its rank
(Ibid., p. 350)
That the scroll is written on front and back means that there is a hidden meaning. There is a fold in the text, so that the parts of the second half are behind certain parts of the first half. Chapters 7 and 14 go together, as do chapters 1 and 21-22. The seven trumpets and seven bowls also go together. The fold seems to occur at about Chapter 11, where a distinct break occurs between two halves of the text (11:19 / 12:1). We will see if other indications of this ordering emerge.
[5:6-10] John sees a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, standing among the elders between the four Zoa and the throne, as though it had been slain. As John explains, the seven are the “seven spirits of God sent out (apestalmena) to all the earth.” The seven horns are seven churches, and the churches are the spirits and the eyes of God, in a sense. Here we have an important clue to the meaning of horns and eyes related to the horns, and the image will reappear in the explanation of the beast below. “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” is what is said by John the Baptist in the Gospel of John when Jesus approaches (John 1:29; 36). Jesus is called the Lamb 28 times in the Revelation.
The slain Lamb went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one on the throne, and when he does this, the living creatures and the elders fall down before him, with bowls of incense that “are the prayers of the saints.” Here we have another important translation of an image in the text itself, incense being prayers. To fall down would not be proper before a man or an angel (19:10), and it is right to worship the Lamb along with the Father. These sing a “new song” (5:9), like the 144,000 (14:3). They are apparently not there yet before the throne here in Chapter 5. This song is related, though that song can only be learned by the 144,000. This song sings that the lamb is worthy to take the scroll and open its seals because he was slain and ransomed men for God, making them a kingdom of priests that shall reign on the earth. This is the gospel in essence, preached after the life of Jesus, and before the end time. If the new song of the 144,000 is not the same, it may be what priests or those like these sing regarding the gospel after the seventh angel blows his trumpet.
[5:11] John then looks and hears the voices of many angels, “numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,” who also sing that the Lamb is worthy, here to receive seven goods: power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory and blessing. John also hears every creature (Ktasma), those in heaven, on and under the earth and in the sea, say that four of these: blessing, honor, glory and might, should be to “Him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb.” This conspicuous absence and later presence of the humans in the vision of heaven may be central to the point of what is shown unfolding in the chapters to come: the entrance of men into heaven. The stage is set, and then through the seven seals and seven trumpets, the number of the martyrs is completed, before the seventh seal, the revelation of the Messiah at the Second Advent, and the last judgment lead to the New Jerusalem. The martyrs are a completion of the throne scene, when before the seventh trumpet John is shown those that have come out of the tribulation. They are thousands and myriads, like the angels (5:11). This reminds one of the teaching that each has a guardian angel in heaven, and that we somehow, in our true self, are that angel.
This too seems to be at the root of a mystery of the account of the seven days in Genesis. According to an old account, which we heard from George Anastaplo: following each day of the creation, it is written that the Lord “saw that it was good,” with the exception of the second day– the creation of the dome or sky separating the waters above from those below– and the sixth, the day of the creation of man. He does find that the whole is “very good.” (Genesis 1:31). The two, the heavens and man, are not yet complete, but are to be completed with one another. The suggestion is that what we are shown in Chapters 4-7 of the Revelation is the completion of these two, or the entry of man into heaven.
[5:13] “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever…” These four or five realms, heaven, earth, sea and under the earth, were introduced at 5:3, when no one “in heaven or on earth or under the earth” was able to open the scroll or look into it. The five realms appear in the passage about the last Judgment. Earth and sky fled away from his presence. The sea then gave up the dead in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead in them” (20:11-13). Death and Hades were then thrown into the Lake of fire. From this, we say that purgatory may exist, though it is not eternal.
The following out of the five realms allows us to try to see the arithmetic of the analogy at the root of the vision of the revelation. The picture is wholly allegorical, describing spiritual realms in images moved down one level, or one octave on the scale, in order to enter visible terms. This dropping of things down one level may be why Cherubim, a high kind of Angel, are here presented as three animals and a man. The Catholic Bible tries to explain: “these symbolize what is noblest and strongest wisest and swiftest in the creation.” Heaven becomes the sky, the place of those whose principle aims are worldly, the earth, and the place of the imagination the sea, or, as Jung might have it, the realm of the human collective unconscious. The father of Hamlet speaks to him from under the earth, that is, from purgatory (Shakespeare, (Hamlet, Act I, Scene v). The mind, then, can ascend through the visible images to the being that is their referent and source. This is a spiritual sight, a natural thing, but, like natural plants such as the mustard seed, it can also be cultivated. Its attainment may be the reason that the reading of the revelation leads to a blessing, even while we humans cannot see much consistently or bring back much of a clear, communicable account of these things. We may care too much about the effects of these things on our bodies and the visible world to read the Revelation.
A literalization or confusion of the realms seems to occur when the spiritual beings, angels and demons, etc. are presented as literally in the air, as drivers of U. F. O’s, inhabiting a heaven directly up above, a seventh layer beyond our known cosmos. While there are striking similarities, for example of Ezekiel’s Chariot to an interplanetary spaceship, or of the New Jerusalem to a space station, the suggestion is that we do not look for the spiritual beings among these, the “decorations in the heavens” (Republic, 529d). It is found amusing, to those who consider the presence of animals in the images of the Kingdom (Isaiah 11:6-9), that all creatures are here heard chiming in with the angels in their praise and blessing of the Lamb. Every creature in heaven, on earth and in the sea is seen praising the Lamb. Some hold out hope for the immortality of the animal souls from this passage, though the animals are not in heaven but on earth. It is sometimes said that all living remains in his presence, but only man has gone out from it with the fall, because our self-motion includes ethical self-motion, called “free will,” so that we might chose voluntarily to follow the Lord.
The scroll might be the unfolding of the revelation or the events themselves, and the opening of the scroll is only possible for one who is worthy. It is only Jesus, through his death and conquest of death, who is worthy to open the scroll. If it is possible for us to see it opened at all, it is through our participation in the death and resurrection. This seems to be the primary meaning of sealed and unsealed. Through our own penance and sacrifice, the way of the cross, the meaning of this and all things can become accessible. This is not certainty, but access, to the wonders of contemplation, elsewhere known as philosophy. If Socrates is here to be taken seriously, the knowledge we contemplate is not our own, but belongs to “the God.” But further, it is the death and resurrection that makes possible not only the reading, but the actual events themselves.
Daniel is told to seal up the vision, because it pertains to the time of the end (Daniel 12:9). So the scroll might be the book of Daniel. There is a certain sense in which the vision of the end times does not make sense, even to Daniel himself, until certain events, and the incarnation, occur. For Dr. Van Impe, this is the primary meaning of “unsealed:” the vision begins to make sense, for example, when Israel is restored, the Jews return from worldwide dispersion, and Israel takes Jerusalem. Hal Lindsey cites Dr. Scofield: “The book is so written that as the actual time of these events approach, the current events will unlock the meaning of the book.” Yet the primary meaning in the text is that the death and resurrection unseal what was sealed up by Daniel. It may also be that by our participation in his death and resurrection, we are enabled to read what prior to Jesus was sealed or unreadable. Both these would be so at once if the historical event of the Messiah unsealed what was yet sealed even for Daniel. It may be too that the events of the end times begin to occur with the incarnation, setting in motion what will be consummated over the course of millennia. It would then be the events themselves, rather than the prophecy of the events, that unfold when the seals are broken. If the two meanings of “sealed” are combined: it is the going through death with the Christ that allows for the seeing of the events as they unfold.
When asked why the third secret of Fatima (Appendix A) might be released after 1960, Sr. Lucy is reported to have said: that its meaning would be more clear after that time. At this time, the third secret was read, but not released until the year 2000. Now it is not clear whether the worst of times have not just passed or are about to come. The vision is of many martyred, though the faithful continue. The conquest of death by Jesus allowed for the seals to be opened, or for the consequent events of the now two thousand years since the Incarnation and crucifixion.
I.vi The Opening of the First Six Seals
The opening of the first six seals leads up to the sealing of the 144,000 and the appearance of the multitudes that come out of the tribulation. The Four Horsemen lead up to the appearance of the martyrs under the throne in the fifth seal, who are told that they must wait for the avenging of their martyrdom until the number of their fellow martyrs is fulfilled. This seems to be the best clue or foothold in reading the horsemen. The first four seals, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, seem to refer to things between the crucifixion and the tribulation, and to be related to the slaying of the martyrs shown in the fifth seal. The horsemen are each introduced by one of the four living creatures, who each speak in turn as the seal is opened. At the opening of the three remaining seals, no one speaks, but something is seen without intermediary.
[6:1-2] When the Lamb opens the first seal, the first living creature, the one like a loin, says “come.” John sees a white horse, “…and its rider had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” Lindsey (1973, p. 103), Van Impe, and others assume without cause that this is the Antichrist, apparently because they assume that the tribulation begins when this one rides out, and because he conquers. Van Impe considers this rider on the white horse to be a counterfeit Christ, and begins his reading of the signs in Matthew at 24:3 and the seals in the Revelation, with the warning that false Christs will come (1982, p. 77). But this is one of the very uncertain things in the revelation which are often treated as though they were clear. For the first appearance of the Antichrist, the description is rather sparse, and devoid of any identifying characteristics, and such a reading is corroborated by nothing else in scripture. Elsewhere in the book, the one who conquers and rides on a white horse is Jesus (19:11), and those who conquer are members of the churches. It is sometimes suggested, as by Victorinus, that the first horse is the first Advent. Yet this one has a bow, and when the crown is given to him, he rides out to conquer for its own sake, making him seem like an earthly conqueror, or like the Roman Empire in the period following the crucifixion. And this was, in a word, the aim of mankind during the late Roman Republic and early empire, until only very recently. Every King after the fall of Rome seems to aim at enlarging their kingdom through conquest, as though every kingdom must by nature seek to become the empire over kingdoms in a contest for the first place, or survival of the fittest sort of war of all against all, leading by necessity to empire. The first is the only horseman given a crown.
One wonders how these four horsemen might compare with the four beasts seen by Daniel, (Daniel 7) which “are four kings which shall arise out of the earth.” The horsemen may be four successive world rulers beginning with Rome, from the time following the events foretold to the seven churches. The beasts in Daniel’s vision also could be the same as the last four of the five world empires addressed in the statue in the Dream of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2). The bow may indicate the Medes or Parthian empire. But the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse may, like the four beasts, represent successive large periods or movements among humanity from the crucifixion over the next two millennia, and so the story from the churches of the Second Century and leading up to the appearance of the antichrist begins with the nations riding out under the principle of conquest.
What appears, then, is the possibility that the Four Horsemen, and indeed the seven seals, cover larger time periods, leading up to the seven trumpets contained in the seventh seal. The seven trumpets would then not coincide with the seven seals, but might occur according to the same pattern as the larger time scale, though in a smaller time scale. Later we will be considering a long and a short period of 1260 years and 1260 days, and the suggestion is to look for the same relation of large and short time periods. The Four Horsemen seem to coincide with the now two millennium long time period, and this long period, prior to the rapture and Van Impe’s 21 Judgments, seems to be what Jesus addressed when he told the Apostles:
And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places; all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs.
Again, Lindsey appears to err in reading the seals:
The first seal releases a dictator, the Antichrist, who ultimately succeeds in subduing the whole world. The second seal takes peace from the earth. Russia and her Arab confederates attack the young state of Israel, resulting in a wide-ranging war that lasts three and one half years. The third seal results in a worldwide economic collapse. The fourth seal precipitates a tremendous outbreak of death through famines, epidemics and civil violence. The fifth seal marks the beginning of the greatest persecution of all time–a period when believers will be slaughtered in the streets.
We say this only because Lindsey did so well with the book, and is so well respected. But there is no reason to think that the first horseman is the Antichrist, nor that the red horse is communist Russia, nor that their advance results in a three and one half year war under the seal, nor that the rationing is a resulting famine. Nor can the pale horse be placed in this scheme, if the first horse is the Antichrist and has passed to be followed by three other horses. This is so much so that some readers have thought the opposite: that the rider is the one who later appears on the white horse in Chapter 19. For “to conquer” might mean that the church rides out to spread the gospel after the incarnation. And this would fit with the description of him who conquered as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (5:5). There is especially no reason to think the martyrs that appear under the throne were killed in the coming worst persecution of all time. They appear, ask how long, and are told until their fellow martyrs complete their numbers. Lindsey’s reading requires that.this scene be a pause in the great tribulation, distinguishing these few killed at its beginning from the bulk to be killed throughout. He has simply misread the seals, from the old assumption that the horsemen are the beginning of the great tribulation. Much can be said for sticking to what is actually said in the text, and none of this is said. The rider on the White Horse of Chapter 19 is not called forth by one of the living beings, but is seen in heaven when the heavens are opened. All that is said here is that he had a bow, was given a crown, went out to conquer and did so. We do not know what this means.
[6:3] The second horse is introduced explicitly by the second Zoa, which would be the one like an Ox. The relation of the four living creatures to the four horses and riders seems important, and not at all clear. The horses are described before their riders, and are the primary subject of the vision. When the Lamb opens the second seal, “out came another horse, bright red…” He does not say “I saw, and behold” but only “out came…” Then, unlike the first horse, it is not said that he actually did go out, leaving open the possibility that at the time of John, he had not gone out yet. The rider of the second horse is allowed to take peace from the earth, so that men slay one another, and he was given a great sword, as the first had a bow. And why are these not reversed? One pictures this bow like one in cave paintings, or as a similar sign, and there is a bow in the vision of Fatima, though we do not know what it means. Is it the bow of the Medes and then the sword that of Mohammed? If the horsemen lead up to the martyrs, these may be understood by looking in hindsight for the makers of martyrs.
[6:5-6] When the Lamb opens the third seal, the third Zoa, the one with the face of a man, says “come.” He then saw a black horse, and its rider had a balance in his hand, and a voice from amid the four living creatures says “a quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, but do not harm wine or oil.” All three, grain, wine and oil, are used in sacraments, though the riddle of the phrase is not clear. Why grain but not wine and oil? It does seem that if we understood the third horse, we would understand this riddle. The announcement is of subsistence for the price of one day’s wage. The high price of grain reminds one of food shortage, and the scene is one of rationing, as though there were famine, or as though something had happened to the U. S. Midwest. If what occurred in the dust bowl of the thirties were to occur today, the result would be world wide famine. The third horse, then, is famine, striking food in particular and not other commodities like oil and wine. The balance may be for rationing or it may mean that this is retribution, as in the scales of justice.
[6:7-8] When the Lamb opens the fourth seal, and the fourth living creature, the one like an eagle, says, “come,” he sees a pale or pale green horse. “Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him…” Death and Hades, of which Jesus has the keys (1:18) are later thrown into the lake of fire, after giving up the souls these contain (20:13). Here, Death and Hades are given power over one quarter of the earth, to kill with sword, famine and pestilence, and by wild beasts of the earth.” The famine caused, as well as their control over one quarter of the earth, remind of something like the old Soviet empire, or the extent of Twentieth Century tyranny. Rome used wild beasts as a means of killing, and Genghis khan at the outbreak of the plague used pestilence, when bodies were catapulted into besieged cities. These sorts of means seem to fit what is here described. While one expects the fourth horse to be pestilence as the second and third were war and famine, the pestilence of the fourth horse, Death, is also accompanied by war and famine. As in the vision of Daniel, the fourth is the most terrible. It is possible, then, that the popular picture of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse, bringing war, famine and pestilence just before the end times, is a myth and an oversimplification, another of those things like “wars and rumors of war” which not even the text says are signs of the end times. Roman conquest would fit the first, the second the wars following the decline of Rome, the third indeed seems like a shortage of food that is unlike anything that has yet occurred, except in certain regions of Africa. Yet even here, food is scarce, but wine and oil not affected? In pattern, the third is like the depression that preceded World War Two. The fourth beast is exceedingly terrible, and not unlike the German ideologies that came to cover one fourth of the earth. Since the Nazis were apparently defeated, Marxist communism, which also arose from German philosophy, is what continues. The upshot, then, of the first four seals is the making of the martyrs seen in the fifth seal, and still the Beast has not yet appeared and the tribulation proper, the great tribulation, not yet begun. The long term and the short term readings approach one another if the pale horse pertains to the tyrannies of the Twentieth Century, and culminates in the pre-tribulation martyrs, those martyred before the great tribulation even begins, whose number is to be completed by the persecution of the Beast.
The Four Horsemen, then, may result in the deaths of the martyrs whose souls are seen under the altar when the Lamb opens the fifth seal. The text seems chronological in this sense. Baukham suggests that because the blood sacrifices on the altar of burnt offering was poured out under the altar, these martyrs are here seen as sacrifices (p. 1294). These ask the Lord how long it will be before their blood is avenged. They are given white robes and told to rest a while longer,” until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren should be complete.” This number is then completed through the tribulation, so that we can see that the Four Horsemen are distinct from the tribulation, or at least from the three woes of the tribulation. The sixth seal is then an avenging of the souls of the martyrs seen at the opening of the fifth seal. It seems difficult to underestimate how much the events in the Revelation are about martyrdom and the avenging of the martyrs. It is difficult to believe the prophecy would not strike peril into the inquisitors who sentenced women and heretics to burn. The theme of the first seven letters, regarding persecution, is continued in the vision of the future of the church.
If the Four Horsemen occur before the tribulation, then the usual understanding of these –as being unleashed at the start of the crisis that is the end times– is mistaken. War, famine and pestilence are foretold, but these things are not especially signs of the imminence of the second coming. Rather, these are things that will occur at various times between the crucifixion and the second coming. Or rather, it could be said that the end times begin with the coming of the Messiah and continue for over two thousand years. The end times in this sense refers to the time between the first and second appearance of the Messiah. We see something like the succession of four empires seen by Daniel, only after the incarnation, and these have led to the making of martyrs, through their preaching of the word and their witnessing. But the wrath of the Lamb is for the making of the martyrs. Wheat, oil and wine (18:13) are used in the holy service, though not barley, and the sale of these could have something to do with the merchants of the mysterious Babylon (18:23). Indulgences sold forgiveness, a kind of Simony (Acts 8:18-24), though not especially for a days wages. Wine and oil are parts of the sacraments excluded by Protestants. The Eucharist and then the whole chrism is no longer held to be a sacrament, though it is not clear how this would relate to the obscure request to not harm wine and oil. If the famine of the third horse is symbolic of a spiritual condition, it may be that of modernity which precedes the pale horse of Twentieth Century totalitarianism. In the vision of Fatima, it is as though the underworld was opened in 1917, and this was prepared by a great spiritual famine. The Four Horsemen are how the first group of martyrs were slain, and so might consider for the first horse the conquering Roman Empire, followed by three other makers of martyrs leading up to the pale green horse. The breakdown of the Roman Empire was followed by war between nations, and Islam brought the sword and some martyrdom. The Crusades, the plague and famine of the middle ages led to the famine of modernity, and to the fourth, Twentieth Century totalitarianism.
The famine of the third horse would then be symbolic of spiritual famine. He may be introduced by the Zoa with the face of a man because this epoch appears to have a human face, being ostensibly Christian. The sale of wheat and barely might represent simony, the giving of sacraments for a price, even the price of obedience.
We must admit that the reading here is not sufficient, and return to the solid point that the Four Horsemen lead up to the martyrs shown in the fifth seal. Cohering with the assumption that the things in the Revelation refer to Rome from the time of John foreward, the four horsemen are how the martyrs of the fifth seal were made. The second possibility might be that the four horsemen are the same as the four world empires leading up to Rome. A third possibility is that much broader time scales are referenced, so that we cannot yet see, as would be the case if six more thousand years were involved, and we were still somewhere in the first or second horseman.
[6:9-11] The fifth seal presents a theoretical difficulty in that the martyrs desire that their blood be avenged on the earth. This does not seem to fit with the Biblical reservation of vengeance to the Lord (Deuteronomy 32:35) nor with the forgiveness of the Messiah even for those conducting the crucifixion, and the teaching to pray for those who persecute us. Before the seven trumpets are blown, an angel is shown taking a golden censer of incense mingled with the prayers of the saints, and throwing it onto the earth. It is the avenging of the blood of the martyrs that brings about the seven trumpets and apparently the end of the age and the destruction of the old earth. Ought we not rather repent this desire for vengeance, and could these terrible things be avoided if we would forgive?
After a parable about a widow who annoyed an unjust judge until she was avenged on her adversary, Jesus, as recorded at Luke 18:7, taught:
And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night onto him, though he bear long with them? I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the son of man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
The elect are those chosen by God, or called, and refers to Israel as the chosen people (Is. 44:1), the Messiah as the elect of God (Is. 42:1), and to the 144,000 as well (7:4), though the elect would seem also to include the Apostles and all the saints. The 144,000, may, though, be a very specific group of Israeli end time Christian martyrs.
This question of the mystery of divine vengeance is very difficult. But one might begin to unravel this complexity with the suggestion that such a teaching might be to misunderstand a metaphor, or, a symbol. After Cain slew Abel, it is said that the voice of his blood cried to the Lord from the ground (Genesis 4:10). Enoch too writes of the call of the martyrs for vengeance, and shows how the martyrs and the avenging of their blood is central to the plot or what is occurring in the apocalypse or Revelation, leading to the new heaven and new earth (Enoch, 47):
And in those days shall have ascended the prayer of the righteous,
And the blood of the righteous from the earth before the Lord of Spirits.
In those days the holy ones who dwell above in the heavens
Shall unite with one voice, and supplicate and pray…
On behalf of the blood of the righteous which has been shed…
And the hearts of the holy were filled with joy;
Because the number of the righteous had been offered,
And the prayer of the righteous had been heard,
And the blood of the righteous been required
Before the Lord of Spirits.
There is a truth noted in murder mysteries, that bodies tend to rise. It is possible that the scene of the martyrs calling for vengeance is symbolic of the natural reaction of the human world to the murder of saints. After something like the Holocaust, even the Quaker or the most principled pacifist becomes reconciled to the necessity of violence or force–the rod of iron– to prevent some from harming others by force. While we might try to forgive the Nazis, the avenging of the holocaust involves bringing Nazi Germany down with force and even holding them accountable in courts. Similarly, the alternative to nuclear war may be to simply allow the nations to devour Israel in a nuclear attack, and there is no good reason, when the destruction is weighed, to allow this to occur. So it is that we might find the world heading toward Armageddon like a train that “Won’t stop going,” and circumstances might lead us even to find ourselves among the armies of the nations gathering at Armageddon. It is easy to think, from outside, that “well, we just won’t do that,” but the necessity of the circumstance is evident in the particular. That is, when the computer is invented, the economy collapses and terrorism threatens, we begin to see how some of the particulars described might be not only possible, but indeed occur of necessity. We often think that it was fortunate that the West chose to use the economic reductionists or the communists against the biological reductionists, or the Nazis, because, while taken as economic science, Marxism is not serious but imaginary. Things held in common get less care, and an economy is ruined. But it is biologically possible to harm the tree of life even at the branch of humanity, and bring about a world that it might be better had not existed at all. And things in this direction are what we would have seen, had the Nazis rather than the Communists been given seventy years as Russia saw under her Communist tyrants.
But to return, this vengeance is noted by some, such as Jung, who appeals to the peculiar psychology of John and the repression of the image of the evil side of God. The popularization of Jung’s teaching wishes to say that He is really both good and evil. The Satanists too have some such reasoning, that the devil is only a manifestation of God, and evil therefore a part of his will. One is reminded of what is said about Judas, that while it was set that one such would come, still, woe to him by whom it comes. This theoretical difficulty appears blatantly in the text when it is said that God put it into the minds of the ten kings to enact the diabolical schemes of the Beast (17:17). This is extremely difficult, but calls for us to step back from the metaphor of God willing everything that occurs to look at how human and whole societies can store up wrath for themselves by their own injustice. A man commits a murder, then is killed in an unavoidable accident: this, the argument wants to say, may not be divine vengeance, but accident, though it must have the appearance of divine vengeance. America imports slaves and allows cruel slavery. This built up a national guilt and judgment that led to the civil war. It is not that God willed all those innocents to die unjustly for the sins of their grandfathers, nor that the killing of innocents is by this justified, but that a nation cannot have the injustice of slavery without building up wrath or provoking the reaction that in the nature of the soul is as if necessary. Justice turns out to be more important by nature than modern science imagines. As Colonel Mason said in the Constitutional Convention: since nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the “next world,” they must be punished in this world. “By an inevitable chain of causes and effects Providence punishes national sins, by national calamities.” (Madison, Notes of Debates, August 22, 1787). America aborts millions of fetuses, but then must suffer not only the lack of soldiers and citizens that would otherwise have been born, but also a decreased awareness of why murder is wrong. Whether one who aborted a fetus should find that they lack social security or an heir, or be killed by one who does not know why murder is wrong, is likely to be a matter of chance. A man in a tragedy kills, or is angry with his brother, as Achilles was with Agamemnon for his insult, and it costs him the life of his friend or brother by the necessary connection of the human events. The same was shown in the recent movie American History X. For his murder, the lead character lost his own friend, his younger brother. This is like divine vengeance, because it is based on the nature of the soul and right, which in the beginning was tragically violated. In this way, the persecution of the church in the end times may be because we have participated in the making of martyrs, and this crime has led to the growth of the anti-Christian reaction, which in turn unleashes Twentieth Century totalitarianism. It is not that God punishes the women and children who had nothing to do with it, unjustly willing that they be killed for the sins of previous generations. What did Anastasia have to do with the burning of Huss? It is that men cannot kill one another, let alone the saints of God, without the most grievous consequences for the ecumenae, the human or the inhabitable world in the future, because of the nature of things, or because the soul is the way it is and things are the way they are, and we disregarded this. Similarly, and finally, the secret truth is that what we do to one another is done to our true selves. This is just as we cannot be forgiven unless we forgive, as is explained after the Lord’s Prayer. If the soul is immortal and our deeds written in the book of life, how will the cruel avoid eternal torment? They will, in the presence of God, see their actions in their true light, and hence be tormented with what they have done to themselves. What is done is done, and they have extinguished by choice the part of man that repents, seeing itself in the light of the divination of the good. It would be better if they had gone out of being, and the saints may plead for them. It is not accurate to take literally the image that God then hates these souls and makes the saints view their eternal torment, extending the metaphor beyond the bounds of its meaning. We plead for their souls, though there is a natural satisfaction in the destruction of every sort of tyranny, ancient or modern, and judicial punishment of its deeds.
There is a scene at the conclusion of the work called the Didache, purported to be a teaching of the Twelve Apostles, very important for this argument. Here the Apostles petition for the damned, and Jesus answers regarding the difficulty of this request. Stephen, when he is stoned, prays that the sin of his persecutors not be held against them, as Jesus does his own persecutors. As has been noted, a difficulty of the Revelation is that the whole theme is that of divine vengeance for the murder of the martyrs. That vengeance belongs to the Lord, but not to man, is along the lines of the same point: the martyrs in history pray for their persecutors, while the martyrs in the revelation ask how long it will be before their murders are avenged. One suggestion, then, to resolve this paradox of the revelation is that the forgiveness is literal and the request for vengeance symbolic. It is not Abel, but his blood that cries from the ground. Humans cannot murder the saints of God without the gravest of consequences as the Nazi assault on the people of God and its aftermath reveal. Look at what has occurred to the German nation, how this was the result of the abomination, and how the nation has begun to heal, and yet remains near to danger. The Apostles ask that their sin not be held against them, but the vengeance of the Father, not upon human ethical failings but upon inhuman cruelty, is what occurs. What we do to others is, especially, what occurs to our true selves. If we do not forgive others, we will not be forgiven.
In the vision of Fatima, Mary looks down into Hell, saying to the Children, “this is hell, where the poor sinners go…” This was 1917, when in a political sense Hell opened, and unlimited means of modern politics made possible the ideological tyranny that covered one quarter of the globe. An idea, those of ideological tyranny, opened the way for millions to partake in unprecedented cruelties. This might be described as a possession by a diabolic spirit, and the days of the antichrist will be similar though worse.
The Sixth Seal
[6:12-17] The opening of the sixth seal results in the blackening of the sun and reddening of the moon in an earthquake accompanied by meteors or shooting stars. This, rather than the darkening of one third of the sun and moon at the fourth trumpet, seems to be the event foretold by the prophet Joel (2:10-12; 3:4; 4:15; Is. 13:10; 24:23). Jesus describes this in Matthew (24:29-31) and Luke (21:25-6). In Matthew, it occurs “immediately after the tribulation of those days” described in 24:5-28. After the wars of kingdoms and nations, famines and earthquakes, the martyrdom of Christians, and the preaching of the gospel throughout the whole world, the end will come. Those in Judea are told to flee when they see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by Daniel, and then the worst tribulation ever occurs, the one shortened for the sake of the elect (24:21-22). Jesus emphasizes false Christs, and the assurance that his return will be obvious, “as the lightening comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the son of man” (24:27). After the tribulation the sun will be darkened, the moon not give its light, stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven are shaken. Then the sign of the son of man appears in heaven, all the tribes of the earth mourn and see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven, and he sends out his angels with a trumpet call to gather his elect from the four winds, or from one end of heaven to the other. In Matthew, there follows the teaching that we do not know the time, and then the warning against the example of the bad servants when the master was delayed. One began to beat his fellow servants (25:48). In Luke, Jesus also begins from his prophecy of the fall of the temple, when asked for a sign of when these things would occur (21:6-7). He tells the Apostles of their persecution to come even before the wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes, terrors and great signs from heavens. When they see Jerusalem surrounded, they are to know that its desolation has come near, and those in Judea are told to flee. “Jerusalem will then be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” In Luke, the desolating sacrilege and even the tribulation seem to occur surrounding the fall of Jerusalem, which happened in 70 A. D. The strange statement “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” appears to us to be a gap in history of more than two thousand years. There appears the possibility that, as with the desolating sacrilege of Antiochus, the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A. D. may be a pre-figuration of the later end time event of the surrounding of Jerusalem after the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. This would make some sense of why the prophecy of the fall of Jerusalem leads in the account directly to the description of the Second Advent. After this strange statement there occurs the statement that appears to coincide with the opening of the sixth seal in the Revelation:
And there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And they will see the son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when you see these things, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.
Luke 21: 25-28
In the Revelation, following the signs in the sun and moon, the sky is rolled up like a scroll, as would occur in a large earthquake. Isaiah too saw the stars falling from the sky, and “the skies roll up like a scroll” (Isaiah 34:4). Victorinus writes: “And the heaven withdrew as a scroll that is rolled up. For the heaven to be rolled away, that is, that the Church shall be taken away” (loc. cit., p. 351). By this he means either that the church and hence the current access to heaven will be gone, or else he means the rapture, and this is then another place where the rapture may occur, as when earth and sky flee before the judgment (20:11).
Everyone, or rather, the kings, the great, generals and the rich, the strong and “every one, slave and free,” who is able hides in caves and rocks amid the leveled mountains, calling to the mountains and the rocks to fall on them and hide them from the face of “him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb.” Are those hiding open to the wrath of the lamb because of the martyrs seen when the fifth seal was opened? Victorinus writes: Mountains and islands removed from their places intimate that in the last persecution all men departed from their places; that is, that the good will be removed, seeking to avoid the persecution” (Ibid., p. 351).
The notes to the Oxford (1977, p. 1499) text assure the reader: The great earthquake and cosmic catastrophe are not to be understood literally, but represent social upheavals and divine judgment in the Day of the Lord.” We are not at all to fear that we will literally be unable to stand before the great day of the wrath of the Lamb (6:17). To say the least, there is nothing in the text to suggest this, and it can appear little more than another addition to the account based on wishful thinking. The Day of the Lord is what is prophesied, whether one believes it or not. It is prophesied in part because it is unbelievable. Isaiah (2:10-21) wrote:
Enter into a rock, and hide in the dust from before the terror of the Lord and the glory of his majesty…and the pride of men shall be brought low…In that day men will cast forth their idols of silver and gold…to enter the caverns of the rocks and the clefts of the cliffs, from before the terror of the Lord…
One wonders whether something like this scene might occur in a pole shift. Amos (8:8-9) writes:
Shall not the land tremble on this account
And everyone mourn who dwells in it,
And all of it rise like the Nile,
And be tossed about and sink
Again, like the Nile of Egypt?
And on that day, says the Lord God,
I will make the sun go down at noon,
And darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning,
And all your songs into lamentation;
We can try to translate the prophetic vision into our Copernican universe, and see that this is what would appear if the pole were to shift at noon Jerusalem time, or just before dawn in Central America. Modern Geology understands both plate tectonics and meteor impacts, as were not previously understood. Again, until the Twentieth Century it was not thought that meteors impacted earth, and stones that fell from heaven were generally revered, as at Mecca and Ephesus (Acts 19:35). Isaiah writes:
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of Hosts in the day of his fierce anger (13:13).
Behold, the Lord will lay waste the earth and make it desolate,
And he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants… (24:1)
…the earth staggers like a drunken man, it sways like a hut (24:19).
In the second and third chapters of Joel, this time is also described, after telling how the Lord will pour out his spirit on all flesh, so that many prophesy, dream and see visions, he writes:
And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.
Amos (5:18-20) writes:
Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
Why would you have the day of the Lord?
It is darkness, and not light;
As if a man fled from a lion,
And a bear met him;
Or went into the house and leaned with his hand against the wall
And a serpent bit him.
Is not the day of the Lord darkness and not light,
And gloom with no brightness in it?
The possibility that it is the witnesses that are a torment to the people of the world is interesting in light of the teaching that it is the reflection of Christianity in the law, custom and the human world that makes it possible for the anti-Christian to develop. Because human things are both good and evil, or at least bad, at the same time, human institutions of every kind require constant cleansing, by the integrity of those who uphold the honor of each institution. The American constitution is one way, as Madison writes, to oblige the government to control itself. Non-Christians believe, from the example of persecution and the inept attempt of Christians to govern and apply Christianity as a law onto the people, that these things are implied by Jesus and his teaching. Jesus is not a legislator, but the savior, and these are different: Legislators are notoriously violent without exception. Moses and Mohammed are examples. This is as though violence is done to nature in cultivating the higher nature. Christianity is not a law but salvation. To make a law out of the light is to inform the rejection of the law (Romans 7:8-12), or to inflame the opposite of the law in the attempt to be free of the law. The suppression of philosophy and political philosophy, the pursuit of wisdom, has left the Christians with unwise government and artless shepherding.
[11:7-12] When they finish their testimony, the beast that ascends from the bottomless pit will make war on them and kill them. This phrase is nearly repeated at 13:7, which also addresses a 1260 day period, as 42 Months (13:7). If this is the same 1260 days, then the story of the two witnesses may be inserted by the chronological reader at 13:7, and the two sections are elaborations of one another. Their bodies will lie “three and one half days” in the street of the city where their Lord was crucified, which would be Jerusalem. The 3½ days may be days after 3 1/2 years, or even, if the witnesses are the churches, 1260 years and then 3 1/2 years. The city where this occurs is referred to symbolically, as Sodom or Egypt, cities that represent the corruption of the world or the imprisonment in the things of the body. It is not allegorically called Babylon, though that is the other name in the text that might be used allegorically to refer to what Augustine wrote of as the earthly city. Babylon may be Rome, while the scene here is Israel. Then, after three and one half days, they stand up on their feet, terrifying those who saw them. Then these hear a voice from heaven saying “Come up hither!” and in the sight of their foes they went up into heaven in a cloud. Here something like the rapture occurs, though it is for these after being raised from martyrdom. Victorinus writes, “Therefore their preaching is three years and six months, and the Kingdom of the Antichrist is as much again.” If so, these two are killed, resurrected, raptured, and in this way escape the three and one half year period of the worst tribulation, though they are not taken up until after the three and one half days. There are two three and one half year periods that pertain to the tribulation and the seven year reign. It may be that the rapture of the church occurs just before the latter 31/2 years or “days” of the seven year tribulation, at the outbreak of the worst of all times. The description just prior to the pouring of the bowls may be the same, as the 144,000 appear on Mount Zion, and then in heaven by the fiery sea of glass with harps singing the song of Moses and of the lamb.
The number 1260, which is the number of days in 3 1/2 lunar years, appears for the first time in the Revelation here. The number appears for the first time in scripture in Daniel (7:26), as a “time, two times and a half a time,” thought to be 3 1/2 years in Chapters 11 and 13, and is here first the period that the outer court of the temple is to be trampled by the Gentiles. When one asks “For how long”? is the vision of the burnt offering, the abomination, and the giving over of the sanctuary to be trampled underfoot,” he is told, For two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings,” either 2,300 or 1150 days. “Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.” This is said to refer to the 164 B.C. desolation of Antiochus (Scofield, p. 1078). The cessation of offering and the abomination are again described as 1/2 of the week for which he will make a “strong covenant with many” (Daniel 9:27). In the context of weeks of years (Daniel 9:24) this is thought to be a period of 3 1/2 years, 1/2 one week of years. “A time two times and a half a time” is how long before the end of the “shattering of the power of the holy people,” and “the accomplishment of all these things” (Daniel 12:7), and 1290 from the time the continual burnt offering is taken away and the abomination set up (Daniel 12:11).
Seven years of 360 days would be 2,520 days, of 365 day years, 2,555. As Van Impe indicates, in 1967, on June 5-10, when the Jewish army won the six day war, “the holy city was in Jewish hands for the first time in 2,553 years.” Strangely, 1260 years from 586 B. C. is also very close to the date of the building of the Dome of the Rock on the site of the temple (691 A. D.), figuring 1/2 of the solar years (1277.5). The Witnesses count from 607 B.C. to 1914, and the lunar calculation of seven years of years from 586 B.C. lands on 1934. This may be the long period that ended when the time of the rule of the Gentiles over Jerusalem ended. The conclusion of Daniel refers cryptically to an additional period of thirty and then forty-five more days (Daniel 12:11-12). It is possible that the days refer to both a large period of years and / or a small period of days, in which the same pattern is encapsulated. The large would be seven years of years, or 2,520 years, and the small, literally seven years or 2,520 or so days. It may be possible to reason from one to another, that is, from the large to the small period by analogy, so that for example there will be a time when Jerusalem is occupied, as by the United Nations, and a brief but severe martyrdom that equals that of the previous centuries, an abomination of desolation set up in the middle of the week, in a rebuilt temple, and so on.
The time referred to as 1260 days, or 42 months, or a time, two times and a half a time occurs twice more in the Revelation, as the time the woman is nourished in the wilderness (12:14) and the time that the beast is allowed to exercise authority (13:5; 12:17; 13:7-10).
Amid a fine History of the city of Jerusalem, Hal Lindsey joins the description of the temple with the witnesses and Daniel 9:27. The temple is a future rebuilt temple, and the Antichrist is thought by the Jews to be the messiah because he rebuilds it. Lindsey prophesies:
Antichrist will make and later break a covenant with the Jewish people of the tribulation period, allowing them to reinstitute animal sacrifices…The only place a God-fearing Jew would venture to offer sacrifice.
If the seven trumpets are to be read as describing the same time period, or times simultaneous with the visions seen with the opening of each of the seven seals, then the rapture of the church, symbolized in the slaying and rapture of the two witnesses, may be the same as the multitudes who have come out of the great tribulation, or their martyrdom. The literal suggestion would be a holocaust of the Christians or Jews and Christians. It is possible or consistent to read that the 144,000 who appear with him on Mount Zion in Chapter 14 have survived, and gather on Mount Zion in hope of the return. The three groups would then be the Jewish Christians, the Eastern and the Western Christians.
The “Come up hither” of 11:12 might describe the rapture, consistent with the reading that the two lamp stands are the churches rather than two particular prophets. If the seventh trumpet were the great tribulation, the worst time in the history of mankind, the martyrs and those raptured between the sixth and the seventh would escape the tribulation.
According to the teaching of Victorinus, cited also above, the Revelation is to be read by looking not to simple chronology but to the meaning of parts gone over repeatedly: The chronological reading, though, is not consistent, so that the fact that an element described in the text later than another does not imply that it literally comes afterward in time, though it is a temporal event that is foretold. The text goes over different aspects of seven parts at different times. As Jack Van Impe notes, 6-11 is in some sense repeated in 12-18 (Revelation Revealed, p. 154-155). The rapture appears to occur between the sixth and seventh parts, at 11:15, between the sixth and seventh trumpet, and again between the sixth and seventh bowl, just after the Kings of the east march toward a dried up Euphrates, right where he says “Lo! I am coming like a thief! …blessed…” (16:15). The three sixes, though, each concern a great martyrdom.
The Epistula Apostolorum or Letter of the Apostles is astonishingly consistent with the mid tribulation rapture that appears from the text of the Revelation. Again, this letter claims to be from the Twelve Apostles, and the Ethiopian translation contains a preface listing John first among the authors. We wonder if it was not transcribed and in part written by John. In the section numbered 16, Jesus is asked, “O Lord, is it perhaps necessary again that we take the cup and drink?” He said to us, “Yes, it is necessary until the day when I come with those who were killed for my sake.” Then, after the description of the beginning of the tribulation period in sections 34-35, in the section numbered 36, the letter reads:
And we said to him again, “O Lord, will the Gentiles then not say, ‘Where is their God?’ He answered and said to us, “Thus will the elect be revealed, in that they go out after they have been afflicted by such a distress,” And we said to him, “Will their exit from the world (take place) through a plague that has tormented them?” And he said to us, “No, but if they suffer torment, such suffering will be a test for them, whether they have faith and whether they keep in mind these words of mine and obey my commandment. They will rise up, and their waiting will last (only a) few days, that he who sent me may be glorified, and I with him…
Jesus then told them also to tell the Gentiles, who are also to be saved, to believe in him and escape “the plague.” He then addresses some who escape the distress of death, but are then taken to prison under torture. Asked if these will suffer as do unbelievers, he answers: “Believing in my name they have done the work of sinners; they have acted like unbelievers.” So it appears that some are martyred, but others remain, only to be tortured, the true and false or partial Christians, who may avoid martyrdom because they are willing to compromise their faith and do not hold to the warning, but then suffer anyway in the persecution of everything related to the Biblical God. It may be worse for us to balk at martyrdom, since it may be even physically worse for those who do not suffer martyrdom. The mark of the beast may be accompanied by various torments worse than a simple death, so that to take it is no earthly advantage in any case.
[11:14-19] When the third woe is announced, the seventh angel blows his trumpet, introducing the scenes that conclude Chapter 11. Voices in heaven are heard proclaiming: “The Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.” There is a sense in which, prior to the seventh trumpet, the Lord did not reign, and the return of the fullness of Providence is what occurs. This may sometimes occur when humans invite the Lord to come and reign. But what occurs at the seventh trumpet is a fundamental change. The twenty-four elders give thanks to the Lord God Almighty, who is and was– omitting the future because it has now come to be. The thanksgiving is because “thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign.” The name “Almighty” may be the only Biblical teaching of the Providence of God, which is otherwise described mysteriously. The Bible does not teach that God is the cause of all things by willing them to occur– as nearly all believers assume. This may even be a pagan idea, an imagination that attends the image of a corporeal God, rejected by some of the philosophers. Socrates, in Plato’s Republic, rejects that the divine is the cause of anything but the good, changes shape, lies, or takes on various forms (Republic, II, 377c-383c). This section of Book III of Plato’s Republic is called a theology, and this is the first use of the word theology, or the coining of the term, which is of course not used by Jesus. Jesus seems to teach this point about Providence in Luke (13:1-5} regarding the fall of the tower: “were these the 21 most unjust men in Israel?” This is as if to imply that had it been the will of God, he would not have missed. The Lord’s Prayer can be read as implying that it is a prayer if the will of God is ever done on earth as it is in heaven. This is more often read as a submission to whatever misfortune does occur (Matthew 6:9-10). But the imagination of Providence as the intentional cause of all that occurs may be natural to man, and so present in all human societies in some way, evident in Christians sometimes to an extreme. We attempt to use God to bring about our own good fortune, rather than to serve God, in a sense regardless of fortune. What of when we pray for others, rather than ourselves, and for both say only the Lord’s Prayer? It is written that He knows what we truly need before we ask, and the Spirit intercedes. This fact, though, about common humanity, led Machiavelli, apparently, to teach that for mankind, God is fortune. The teaching of the non-Socratic philosophers, as in the poem of Epicurus On the Nature of things, was that men devise religion because they are in fear, not knowing the causes of things. As there is a sense in which the Lord is not provident, as a puppeteer of the universe, so too there is regarding omniscience, a sense in which the Lord might say to us “I have not known you,” and of sins forgiven that they are “forgotten,” etc., contradicting omniscience. The common opinion of Providence does not account for how it could be that the Lord at one time in human history would begin to reign. Our suggestion is that the evil done by humans to one another would not occur if the Lord did reign directly in this way, and that it is prophesied that in the future, the Lord will reign in a way that will prevent the sort of evils that now occur, if not also the misfortunes that mar the human condition. If the Lord reigned in this sense, the evil would be punished, and this is the first thing that happens when the Lord begins to reign: the Kingdom of the Antichrist is destroyed and the beast and false prophet thrown into the pit. This reign is in contrast to the rule of the nations, as at 11:17-18, the saying of the twenty-four elders at the blowing of the seventh trumpet is:
We give thanks to thee Lord God almighty, who art and who wast,
That thou hast taken thy great power and begun to reign.
The nations raged but thy wrath came,
And the time for the dead to be judged,
For rewarding thy servants, the prophets and the saints,
And those who fear thy name, both small and great
And for destroying the destroyers of the earth.
The first half concludes with the revealing of the Ark of the Covenant in the temple when God’s temple in heaven was opened. The section concludes as it began, with the opening of heaven. There is thunder and lightening, and an earthquake, as at the opening of the seventh seal, with the addition of hail.
There is a special prayer when we pray that the Lord come reign, given the sense in which, because of man, He does not reign, and so the terrible things that have occurred could occur. His reign begins after the martyrdom, and is the beginning of the end for the world ruler who caused, or will cause, the martyrdom.
In explaining why, in his reading, the king returns both in Chapter 11:15 and in 19:16, Van Impe (1982, p. 154-155) writes:
…Chapters 6 through 11 and 12 through 19:15 run concurrently, or side by side during the tribulation hour. Chapters 12 through 19 are but a repeat of the events described in Chapters 6 through 11.
This seems to conflict with the chronological reading, but to be on the right track of the principle of the ordering, evident in what appears to be a fold in the text, when the account of the trumpets breaks into the series of visions that begins with the ingesting of the little scroll. It is in a way natural for the introduction of the seventh seal to encapsulate the whole of the seventh seal, including the trumpets and bowls, and so for the end to appear here in the middle, as the introduction to the seventh trumpet encapsulates the seventh trumpet. But that is not what the text means by the coming of the kingdom. The temple and the ark are seen rather than the city of God coming down from heaven. What we are shown here is not the end but rather the introduction of the seven trumpets. The seven bowls of wrath come out of the temple in heaven, as do the fifth through seventh angels, so that these are contained in the temple shown in heaven here, when the seventh trumpet is blown. The section from 11:15-11:19 is then only the introduction to the seventh trumpet, as is clear if one considers that no woe is yet involved in this section.
The seals and trumpets have little in common except the important pattern of 4/3. They do not seem at all to describe the same time periods. They may describe different time scales. The seven trumpets occur temporally within the seventh seal, and therefore following the first six seals. The seven bowls, though, are much more obviously related to the seven trumpets, not only in pattern but also in content: The first four of each consider the striking of roughly the same realms: earth, sea, fresh water sky. The last three of each concern the throne of the beast, the Euphrates and then, sky.
There is some clue to the pattern 4/3 within the seven seals, trumpets and bowls if one considers the seven days of the creation and the six day theory. The sections 5-7 are a set as are the two millennia after the incarnation together with the seventh day. The Seventh millennium would be very bad if not for the defeat of the beast and the false prophet, even as would have been a thousand year Nazi reign. Those who think, with Hobbes, that tyranny is only monarchy misliked (Leviathan XIX), or with Machiavelli that the difference is only that history is written by the victors, so that whatever is done will be praised for those who win and maintain the state (The Prince XVIII) – these might rather go live in such an age as that they nearly helped to bring about with their shocking as well as their more moderate and mundane teachings about kingship and tyranny. We, rather, think that there is a soul, and that its nature is the principle of the regimes in political science. Hence kingship and tyranny are understood with reference to the nature of the soul. But there will be a millennial reign instead. The pattern 4/3 then is also like the pattern of the first four thousands of years, before the Messiah, and the last three, after the Messiah has come. The sixth concerns the creation of man, and concludes with the fulfillment of the number of the martyrs and the entrance of man into heaven, making good the second and sixth days.
Of twenty-two chapters, 11 is the central number, though the numbering is not in the original text. There are chapter breaks at 2-3 and possibly 8-9, 15-16 and 21-22 where there are not section breaks, and some chapters contain multiple visions introduced separately with “then I saw.” A certain symmetry is apparent in that Chapters 7 and 14 both concern the 144,000. Chapter eight is the seven trumpets of the seventh seal; Chapter 16, the seven bowls of the seventh trumpet. A fold in the text indicates a tight internal structure. This structure in turn suggests certain comparisons of the images. The bulk center, dividing my Greek text in half, is at 12:10, and the numerical line center is at 12:8.
 Van Impe interprets this “Come up hither” as synonymous with the rapture and the twenty four elders as representing all believers (Revelation Revealed, 53-54, 155). He reads the events of the tribulation as occurring entirely after the church has been evacuated. This reading is questionable, and is given without reasoning, and yet a great deal of his reading may depend upon it. The reading carries on an American Protestant tradition. If this is the rapture, why is John the only one to ascend, or why should no clearer mention be made of the twenty-four elders ascending at this time? One would think that so central a part of the end times and apparently of the message of Jesus for the church or the servants of God would be described more clearly, as perhaps it later is. But the vision seems to occur in the present tense, first at a time when no one was found that could open the scroll, then when one was found who had conquered. So now the scroll can be opened or revealed to John. Again it would be strange if he were one of the elders, as it is that he is one of the apostles and foundations.
 On reading the Revelation, a friend once asked something like “What is with all the farm animals” in the images. One is reminded of the allegory through animals of Enoch (86-90). Human things are described in terms of animals, one or two levels lower in being, so that invisible things can be described in visible terms.
 Lives of Saints, ed. Joseph Vann, 473-479.
Final Mysteries Unsealed, x, 99, 124, 151, 166: “It is only within the last centuries that God has been unsealing the mysteries of this book and Daniel’s dream” (124). “Daniel was ordered to preserve the message in written form so that future generations would be able to make sense of the events when they transpired (151).”
 Hal Lindsey, There’s a New World Coming, p. 21.
 The Witnesses, and other groups as well, assume that the 144,000 is a group of their own correct sect, the “John Class.” Like the assertion that Jesus began his invisible rule in 1914 (1988, p. 19), no reason is given for these assumptions. They are taken as first principles, and not questioned, and there are clearly other possibilities. The hypothesis of the sects are where each must be questioned, for while they say and do many true things, they are each based on an assumption that something in scripture corresponds to something in our world, and these assumptions are notoriously difficult, various, and often mistaken. Why should we assume that the 144,000 are followers of Mr. Russell? Why assume that our group must be given authority over our minds? It is right here, we think, that Christians should sacrifice the attachment to our own things, rather than raising their own flags to salute themselves, transporting political sectarianism into our ministry. Without hypothesis taken as first principles, neither the sects nor the ancient churches could exist as they do, and the divisions within Christendom would be more like the differences between the orders following the various saints, such as Francis or Dominick.
 This line connects the storm in Shakespeare’s King Lear (III,iv, 9-11) with the Apocalyptic storm
 The book called 4 Esdras, appended to the Catholic Bible, is thought to have been written in part (Chapters 3-14) by a Palestinian Jew that was a contemporary of John late in the First Century. Whether the writer knew or did not know the Apocalypse of John, the work is remarkable for the account and interpretation of various points regarding the end times. In addition to the appearance on Mount Zion, some of these are: the explanation of “out of the sea; “when the number of those like yourself is completed;” That it comes by necessity, as travail in labor; that very little time remains; The Messiah is presented as a lion; the sea and land beasts are compared to Leviathan and Behemoth; the mountain carved without human hands; the seventy esoteric books; the scarcity of man in the tribulation, and the testing of the elect. The accounts sometimes seem at slight variance, as in that of those who meet him on Mount Zion, though 144,000 could also appear as a vast unnumbered multitude. He takes up the question of intercession, collecting the examples, as when Abraham petitioned the Lord for Sodom (2 Esdras 7). The work does not seem to know of Jesus of Nazareth as either the false or true messiah, but looks to the second coming, as do the Jews who are not Christians. Certain points seem curiously reversed, and might support the deception that the Beast is the messiah, such as on “out of the sea,” or on the drying up of the Euphrates.
 The R. E. M. song “It’s the End of the World as You Know It” begins: ”That’s great, it starts with an earthquake…”
 Baukham writes: ” …the two prophets are modeled on Moses and Elijah (both on both, not one on each; c. f. 2 Kings 1:10-12; 1 Kings 17:1; Ex 7:14-24).
 Malchizadek is very mysterious. He does the sacrament of bread and wine at Jerusalem in the time of Abraham, before Jerusalem was even a city (Genesis 14:17-20). There is a very interesting argument that he might have been Shem, the son of Noah, whose dates do overlap with Abraham. He spoke, and may have introduced, the name Most High.
 It is not said that the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Babylon. This omission is a clue, since it implies that the Ark was hidden or taken somewhere for its protection. According to Jeremiah, as reported in 2 Maccabees, the Ark was sealed in a cave near the tomb of Moses, visible from the place at Mt. Nebo where Moses surveyed the Holy Land. There it is written: “The place shall be unknown until God shows his mercy. And then the Lord will disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord and the cloud will appear… (2 Mac. 2:4-8).
 An example of such a reading is that assumed in a recent article when it is written: “Texts like Luke-Acts (Acts 1:6-8) show us that some Christians chose to delay the end indefinitely by creating a lengthy period of the church and its ministry before the end would be able to come…“ April D. DeConick, “What’s up with the Gospel of Thomas? in Biblical Archeology Review, Vol. 36 no. 1, 2010, p. 84.
 Stories of modern martyrs are collected in the book Jesus Freaks, credited to dc Talk and the Voice of the Martyrs.
 Maimonides, “Laws of Kings and their Wars.” In The Days of the Messiah, p. 173.
 The peculiar character of Twentieth Century tyranny– whether it is of the left or the right– appears inseparable from the revolt of the modern mind against the medieval imagination. Surprisingly, these extreme opposites, communism and fascism, have a number of characteristics in common, in addition to the total power held by the ruling element, from which their common name is derived. Both arose out of the German philosophy of the Nineteenth Century–though the direct connection is more clear in the case of Marx. Both involve the rule of an idea or theory, which outlives any particular tyrant. Both begin in atheism, following the enlightened modern rejection of the medieval world. Both are historicist, rejecting the idea of a permanent human nature while understanding man to be a product of historical processes (and so both reject the idea of natural rights that are unalienable). Both are reductionist, reducing political science to biological or economic science, and both focus on one thing, whether race or class, as the most important of the human things. Both replace common sense ethics and ancient tradition with a new ethical principle, based on class or race. Both are “utopian,” looking to a future condition considered to be a perfection, occurring at the end of history for the Marxists, or lasting for 1000 years, for Hitler. Both are universal, or aim at world rule. Finally, both tyrannies killed millions of their own subjects in a genocide, aimed at racial purity, or a “classicide,” aimed at eliminating the economic class of the bourgeois. These two things, the future condition and the killing of vast numbers of certain kinds of persons, are theoretically related in both these ideologies. That is, Marxist communism is not about holding hands and sharing things, especially with the “bourgeois.” Marx calls the violence of the revolution “philosophy in action,” (“A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel,” in Tucker, The Marx and Engels Reader, 59-60), a “spiritual” violence, and describes this as an inversion of religion 53-54). It is as if an inverse religious sacrifice were projected into the political realm, as the means for the attainment of the promised utopia. This future condition betrays the outline of an inversion of the Christian vision of the Kingdom, whether it is imagined as one of racial purity of the fascists or of the return of the alienated human essence, its contemplation in the products of labor, and the universal communist condition. The inversion of the imagination in the course of modernity– culminating in the political result of German philosophy– reveals, more than anything else, the character of the diabolic or the anti-Christian. That this should occur in our age is another of the astonishing convergences that lead some to think that the time is indeed for us very near.
 Pereq Heleq, In The Days of the Messiah, p. 168.
 Ibid, p.166. Maimonides states the Jewish position most clearly when he writes that Jesus was prophesied about by Daniel, not as the son of man who comes with the Ancient of Days (at 7:13), but rather where it is said that “outlaws of your people shall rise up in fulfillment of vision, but shall fail” (11:14). He does not suggest, for example, that Jesus is the one who tried to change the times and the law. Maimonides writes that as Rabbi Akiba was wrong about ben Koziba, in the early Second Century rebellion, when “all the wise men of his generation imagined him to be the messianic king…When he was slain, it became clear that he was not.” “All the prophets declared that the Messiah will redeem Israel, save them, gather their disbursed, and strengthen their obedience to the commandments. But he caused Israel to perish by the sword and to have their remnant scattered and degraded. He replaced the Torah and led astray most of the world to serve a God besides the Lord” (pp.172-173). We think that when the Messiah appears at the Second Advent, the Jews will look on him who they have pierced, and then there will be agreement.
 How would the Magi know by seeing his star in the East that a king of the Jews had been born? The priests told Herod about Micah 5:2 identifying Bethlehem as the city, and this allows Herod to slay the innocents. The wise men, then, are not wise to tell a tyrant about the Messiah. Jesus escapes when an angel warns them to flee, and they go into Egypt, or perhaps to the Jewish community in Ethiopia.
 David R. Reagan, “What Year is it?” p. 10 cites Mitchell First, Jewish History in Conflict: A Study of the Major Discrepancy between Rabbinic and Conventional Chronology, pp. 135-137.
 Van Impe writes: “Some cultists declare that He came in 1914 or 1918 as an invisible spirit. Nonsense! The Bible declares that he shall return as he left” (1987, p. 8). The teaching was changed to say within the lives of those alive in 1914, and then something was to happen in 1975. Something, though, did happen in 1914: the beginning of what might be a series of three world wars. Many things may be calculated. The key is to understand the meaning, and we do not. The Fatima vision occurred in 1917.
 R. H. Charles, The Book of Enoch, 1966 p. xvi. The Sadducees counted by a solar year, Enoch presents a 364 day year, divisible by sevens or weeks, though still off by a day and a quarter.
 Sir Francis Bacon, Atlantis, 93.
 Daily Mail, Oct. 7, 1998; BBC News, Oct. 21, 1998; Washington Post, Feb 10, 1999.
The Prophecies of St. Malachy, Edited by Peter Bander.
 The Mayan calendar ends on December 12, 2012. Their astronomy knew that on that date, the rising sun on the winter solstice would align with the black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The Hopi prophecy includes the “gourd of ashes,” developed near their land in Arizona. The prophecy seems to indicate that this coincides with a reversal of the magnetic field around the earth, and a possible pole shift or switch of North and South. See Thomas E. Mails, The Hopi Survival Kit, pp. 207-219.
 Alvarez, Leo Paul S. de, University of Dallas.
 In C. G. Jung, Civilization in Transition, Collected Works Volume X .
 Damocles was a courtier at Syracuse under Dionysius, who spoke so much of the happiness of being a king or tyrant that Dionysius had him seated for a meal beneath a sword that hung by a hair.
 Jung frequently explains this principle, for example: “I do not regard the symbol as an allegory or sign, but take it in its proper sense as the best possible way of describing and formulating an object that is not completely knowable. It is in this sense that the credo is called a symbolum” (Aion, p. 73).
 Al Farabi, “The Political Regime.” In Medieval Political Philosophy, p. 35. Modern psychology cannot distinguish between genius and madness, nor does it even try.
 Al Farabi, “On Plato’s Laws” in Medieval Political Philosophy, pp. 84-85.
 Cited in Biblical Archeology Review, Vol. 36 no. 1, 2010, p. 85.
 David Aune, Revelation, vol. 1, pp. 3-4.
 Eusebius II, xxiii.
 Ibid, III, v. 3.
 Macarthur, Jack. Revelation. Eugene, Oregon: Vernon L. Iverson Co., 1973, p. 13.
 Baukham, Richard, “Revelation,” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, pp. 1287-1306.
 The beast is not called Antichrist in the Revelation, and the word does not occur in scripture except in the letter of John: “Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know it is the last hour” (1 John 18). John seems to be wrong about this, unless the last hour covers thousands of years. John seems to have extended the idea to include the teachers of the Jerusalem heresy that Jesus was not divine: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? (1 John 2:22; 4:2-3; 2 John 7). This is the Antichrist, he who denies the father and the son.” John seems to use the word to describe heretical Christians, rather even than false Christs (pseudochristoi, Matthew 24:24). These are plural, whereas the beast is singular or dual. One wonders whether John had yet seen the days of Nero when he wrote this letter. He must have heard of Caligula.
 Plato, Republic (497b). Not one city was then worthy of philosophic kingship.
 Ibid, (473a-b).The lines drawn on a baseball diamond, for example, between any two objects, such as home and first, are close enough, but not exactly straight. This imperfection, however, can be measured, and so implies the existence of mathematical truths in space. Is it not the same for virtue and the good?
 The Gospel of Thomas, in The Nag Hammadi Library, p. 130; 118. The Gospel of Thomas may itself be or be derived from the postulated source of the above saying and other sayings common to both Matthew and Luke, called Q, by the scholars who reasoned that it must have existed (Helmut Koester, Introduction to the Gospel of Thomas, in The Nag Hammadi Library in English, p. 117).
 As Eden is thought to be a condition of harmony that only man comes out of, so the Kingdom exists and is found when man reenters the harmony
 Yarbro Collins, Adela. “The Apocalypse,” in The New Jerome Bible Commentary, p. 1000.
Jack Van Impe, from the television show Jack Van Impe Presents. Dr. Van Impe is one of the foremost readers of the Revelation and Daniel together. His television show is a distillation of over fifty years of reading and preaching on the revelation in relation to the political events of the present time. His understanding of the prophesied alliances and alignments of the nations seems to me unsurpassed. Many of the suggestions in his teaching seem most probable, and we will have occasion to follow his account at various points below. A flaw appears to be the failure to separate the visible and invisible things, where these two might, or should be separate. An example is in his identification of the heavens with the visible cosmos, and hence the spirits of the air with physical extraterrestrial beings. He generally does not comment on Fatima, and does not understand the significance, for his topic, of the history of philosophy, or the most fundamental thought of man on man. The fundamentals of his teaching are: 1) The prophesied time is that of the end of the age (aion) and not the end of the world, but rather, scripture teaches a “world without end,” even as we say in the mass. 2) The five sections of the image are five world empires, preceded by the Egyptian and Assyrian and beginning with the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar. From the head that is Babylon, the image continues through the Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires, through the division of the Eastern and Western empires, and the ten toes of a revived Roman Empire. 3) The European Union is the revived Roman Empire prophesied in the image of the second chapter of Daniel. 4) The church was in error to follow Augustine against the millennialists, in teaching that there would not be a thousand year reign of the saints. 5) There will be a literal rapture of the Christians before the tribulation. 6) The return of the Jews to Israel in 1948 and their taking of Jerusalem in 1967 are the fulfillment of the prophecy of the return of the Jews from worldwide dispersion and the beginning of the generation of the end times as prophesied by Isaiah and Ezekiel, and Daniel. And finally 7) That the time of the antichrist is ushered in with a three wave assault outlined in Ezekiel 38 and 39, leading to the battle of Armageddon.
 Oxford note to Revelation 1:9-20; Hebrews 4:12 reads: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The word taken in makes active a division in the soul which is penance, and spiritually painful. This division can lead to forgiveness or mercy which bridges or even cures the more fundamental division, as that between that in us which follows law and that which follows sin.
 Most dreams consist of the dreamer themselves in this or that circumstance, while not recognizing that they are dreaming. A rarer sort of dream is like a vision of a symbol, without the dreamer being personally involved in the circumstance that is seen. Famously, it is written that the dream is 1/60th of prophecy (Guide, II.36).
The Gospel of Thomas in The Nag Hammadi Library in English, pp. 118-130. Jesus says the same thing in the Gospel of John: “he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
 Adela Yarbro Collins, “The Apocalypse (Revelation),” in The New Jerome Bible Commentary, pp. 996-1016.
 The reference is to the women who, by the counsel of Balaam, enticed the men of Israel into the worship of Baal (Numbers 31:16; 25: 1-5). In the Book of Numbers, Balaam is a non-Israelite diviner called on by the Moabite Balak to curse Israel. The Lord refuses to allow the curse, because the Israelites are blessed. Balaam delivers an oracle to Balak about “What this people will do to your people in the latter days.” The Oracle of Balaam is said to be one of four places in the Pentateuch or first five books where the end of days is addressed (Drosnin, Michael, The Bible Code, pp. 85. The four places are Genesis 49:1-2; Numbers 24:14-17; Deuteronomy 4:30; Deuteronomy 31:29). The Oracle of Balaam to Balak includes the statement: I see him now; I behold him, but not nigh: a star shall come forth out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; It shall crush the forehead of Moab, and shall break down all the sons of Seth. Edom shall be dispossessed, Seir also, his enemies, shall be dispossessed, while Israel shall do valiantly. By Jacob shall dominion be exercised.” The Oxford note suggests that the prophecy was fulfilled in the time of David, referring to 2 Samuel (8:2, 13-14). The connection between the Balaam and Balak of the Book of Numbers and the Balaam and Balak of the Revelation is not clear. The Oxford text explains the difference between the diviner sympathetic to Israel and the diviner guilty of treachery against Israel, and the Oxford notes suggest a difference between an early and a priestly tradition (note to Numbers 31:8).
 Baukham, Richard, “Revelation,” in The Oxford Bible Commentary, pp. 1287-1306.
 Victorianus, “Commentary on the Apocalypse of the Blessed John” Roberts, A., and Donaldson, J. The Ante-Nicene Fathers Grand Rapids; Eerdmans, 1985-1987. (Vol. VI, pp. 341–360).
 This line is often read as an indication of Christian anti-Semitism, and has an incorrect ring to us, who have seen the Holocaust of the Twentieth Century. I once met a man at a coffee shop counter who cited this line as justification for his zealous anti-Semitism. The next day I brought him a paper with every reference to the Jews in the New Testament, which I had looked up from a concordance. Being the nation that gave birth to the Messiah and the nationality of all the apostles and the early saints among the women, Christian anti-Semitism seems strangely forgetful or unreflective. It is as though some dark cloud of ignorance were spread over mankind, until the Holocaust. For if there is such a thing as ethnic or national or cultural superiority, the Jews would be among the first to consider, perhaps along with the Greeks. And yet here, this line of scripture, is a place where the recovery of the memory of the historical context makes the text appear in a different light. The Temple– under the influence of the Romans, even in the reign of Augustus, where Herod is king of the Jews– is deeply corrupt. From the slaughter of the innocents to the Murder of John the Baptist, through the Crucifixion and the stoning of Stephen to James the Just, right before the destruction of the temple, the Jewish polity, in both the rule of the Jewish Kingdom and the temple, to say the least, contains grave difficulties. The Essenes and many of the more spiritual Jews had left Jerusalem for the desert. Still, the persecution of the Christians by a faction of the temple, as a heretical sect that ought be stomped out, had a deep historical impact and should not be forgotten. The disappearance of Christian Jews who follow the Law of Moses seems to have been one result. Although the Gentiles need not convert to Judaism in order to become Christians, the Jews who become Christian need not set aside Mosaic Law. There are certain details of the severity of law, where one might be persuaded by Jesus, like the command to stone the adulteress (John 8:3-11). No nation is immune to the evils of persecution.
 Watchtower, Revelation, Its Grand Climax at Hand, p. 66.
 Authoritative Teaching, translated by George W. MacRae, in The Nag Hammadi Library in English, pp. 278-283.