For most of our lives the idea of a war between the US and Russia was, to many, “unthinkable.” But over the past couple of years, with US policies toward Russia growing increasingly more threatening, the rhetoric more bellicose, the “unthinkable” transmuted into the “thinkable”…and finally…with Russian airstrikes on ISIS launched over US objections–now into the the “distinctly possible.”
With these wars and rumors of wars much in the air at present, and all of this taking place in conjunction with the recent blood moon tetrad, it is not surprising that a good many people’s thoughts are turning to the Book of Revelation these days and its visions of global cataclysmic destruction. A search turns up countless articles and videos on the subject, a large percentage of them uploaded or posted just within the past couple of months.
A lot of this, as you would expect, is being shared and posted by Christians, but strangely, perhaps, Jews now seem to be discovering Saint John’s Apocalypse as well. Consider the following:
Many revisionist historians and bible researchers have gone so far as to identify the international Zionist Movement as the true source of the “666” mark of the beast. Because the USA has been thoroughly controlled by Zionist neoconservatives, who are directly responsible for so much warmongering worldwide, anyone who aligns with them in spirit or in practice figuratively wears the badge of “666”. How so?
The Star of David has the number “6” written all over it. Not only is it a 6-pointed star known as a hexagram, it is formed by the 6 sides of two interpenetrating triangles. It also has 6 smaller triangles as well as 6 angles around its perimeter. In short the Star of David, which defines the Israeli national flag, represents the quintessential geometric form possessing “666” numerology.
You would not think the above words would have been written by a Jew, but if you go here and read the full article, you will see that it does indeed appear to have been authored by a Jewish writer. Moreover, the Book of Revelation is referenced not just in the two quoted paragraphs, but throughout much of the piece and quite obviously figures strongly in the writer’s thinking.
He/she also includes the following illustration to the above point–an image that has been making the rounds on the Internet for a year or so, but usually seen only on what commonly was referred to as “anti-Semitic websites”:
In addition, you can also go here to watch a video by an Israeli messianic Jew discussing a near-death experience by a Jewish teenager in Israel–an experience that the teenager supposedly underwent very recently. Messianic Jews, as I understand them, are Jews who have come to the conclusion that Jesus was indeed the Jewish messiah and have basically adopted the Christian faith though still retain some Jewish trappings, such as observing certain Jewish holidays or referring to Jesus by his Hebrew name (Yeshua). Though welcomed and embraced by Christians, they generally are despised by their fellow Jews in Israel.
The fellow in the video is a messianic Jewish pastor by the name of Steven Ben-Nun, and the case he discusses is that of a 15-year-old boy named Nathan, who supposedly was “clinically dead for 15 minutes.” During this time he is reputed to have learned of an upcoming Gog-Magog war to be fought between the US and Russia–which will last about two weeks and in which “more than a few million” will die. Nathan by the way identifies “Gog” as Obama*, and he also speaks of a soon-to-come messiah whom he does not name, but Ben-Nun makes note of the fact that the person described sounds a lot like Jesus.
The coming war, incidentally, means curtains for Israel, at least as Nathan tells it. Though the US and Russia fight each other, they will ultimately unite and, along with a number of other nations, attack Israel, and in the process the Jewish state will be destroyed. The boy’s near-death experience purportedly took place this past September, on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot no less, and therefore it also supposedly would have coincided with the final eclipse of the four-moon tetrad.
Yes…the whole thing is possibly a hoax, but that really is not the point. The interesting aspect to all this is the Jewish presenter, Ben-Nun, and the considerable credence he apparently places in the Book of Revelation. He comments extensively on the “two witnesses,” which is a direct reference to Revelation chapter 11.
The Apocalypse was written roughly 1,900 years ago by someone named “John,” presumably the disciple of Jesus. The book is heavily impregnated with symbolism and something of a mystique has come to surround it over the years and centuries as it has been interpreted by hosts of expounders who have viewed it as history or prophesy or both. Revelation also ties into the plot of my new novel, The Memoirs of Saint John: When the Sandstone Crumbles.
Basically it’s the story of an archaeological expedition into Syria, taking place with parts of the country under ISIS control. Central to the plot is the discovery of an ancient papyrus text containing a description of what sounds very much like a nuclear war and future destruction of the earth.
A carbon dating analysis places its composition at or close to the year 97 A.D. The scholars who are part of the archaeological team determine that it is an authentic text written by John, the disciple of Jesus, though written late in his life. They believe the writing of the text took place after John’s writing of the Book of Revelation. Or to put it in modern terms–it’s the sequel.
This latest book, along with my previous novel, The Memoirs of Saint John: No Greater Love, are the first two installments in what I hope will become a series of books in their own right–five altogether. Revelation plays mostly a peripheral role in these first two novels, but will increasingly emerge front and center as the series progresses toward its final denouement in The Memoirs of Saint John: Patmos (the title being a geographical reference to the island in the Aegean Sea where the Apocalypse was written).
Though the first novel, No Greater Love, remains available on Amazon, this new book cannot be purchased there. It has been published as an e-book only, and for that reason I am making download files available only at my own website. The problem with e-books is there exists no way at present of checking or verifying how many copies of your book any merchant may be selling. The e-book trade consists entirely of purchases and electronic file downloads at the retailer’s website. You could receive a notice at the end of the month saying, “Sorry, we only sold two e-copies of your book this month,” when in reality they sold a hundred.
To be clear, I’m not accusing Amazon of anything (or any other retailer for that matter). I am simply trying to start a trend whereby authors start selling their books directly to their readers. The emergence of e-books has revolutionized the publishing industry, in some ways for the better, in others for worse, but for the first time it really is possible for authors to publicize their books through social media and sell copies directly from their own websites.
So that’s what I have set up with the new novel. Interested readers can go here to learn more about the book, here to read an except, and here to download a copy. What you’ll find is not an “online store” in the traditional sense, however. You’ll see a PayPal button, to be sure, where you can make a donation (suggested donation $2.99), and you will also see links where you can download the book in the format of your choice, but what I have set up is an honor system. You don’thave to click the PayPal button in order to get the book. That may sound like a contradiction (aren’t you, after all, worried about potential abuses from retailers?), but I don’t really think it is so much.
I’m reminded here of the words of John F. Kennedy: “My father always told me that all businessmen were sons-of-bitches, but I never believed it until now” (words spoken during JFK’s wrangle with the giant steel companies). Kennedy may have been slightly overstating things with regard to “all businessmen,” yet I’m inclined more or less to believe the integrity to be found in the general public, or the book reading public at any rate, exceeds the level of probity that can be discerned (sometimes only with great difficulty) in retail giants selling sweatshop-produced apparel or other goods.
But the main thing to keep in mind is that what we’re witnessing now is a publishing revolution. The point at which traditional book publishers became irrelevant was reached several years ago–and the possibility now exists of reaching a similar juncture with giant booksellers as well (although independent book stores are still great places to hang out and purchase books).
So yes, it is a revolution. And revolutions, as it so happens, are very much part and parcel of Saint John’s Apocalypse as well. As one prominent biblical scholar put it, “It has been the book both of martyrs and of visionaries: the two groups which have so often saved the church from betraying its witness in compromised conformity to the world.” (Richard Baukham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, Cambridge University Press, 1993).
What follows is my own interpretation of the Book of Revelation. The piece you’re about to read was written almost exactly four years ago–after I had published the first novel in the series. The observations I made then, based upon Saint John’s text, have not only held up, they now, in some cases, can be seen in even greater clarity and vividness. Saint John of course talks about martyrs, those who died for Christ.
Four years ago when I wrote this, the martyrs in the Middle East were mainly Muslims (and some Palestinian Christians), but since the appearance of ISIS on the scene, large numbers of Christians have been murdered as well. I would also mention that what Nathan, the Israeli teen, had to say regarding a US military attack upon Israel, is consistent with what’s written in Revelation. This you will also see once you get down into the article.
One of the most deceitful, duplicitous comments I’ve heard from any US official, at least recently, was that made by John Kerry on December 3. At a European security conference in Belgrade, Kerry asserted that the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad would be a “boon for everyone.” He then added that were this to happen, the terror group, ISIS, could be defeated “in a matter of months.” Three days later, on December 6, the US coalition bombed a Syrian military post in the Deir-ez-Zor province. The airstrike killed four Syrian soldiers and wounded 12 others.
How interesting it might be!–if at a State Department press briefing some day one of the reporters were to inquire of John Kirby, “Have Secretary Kerry or President Obama ever had any conversations on what might happen should they one day push the Russians too far?”
*While I can’t lay claim to ever having had a near-death experience, I’m inclined to believe that the Israeli teen most likely has it wrong about Obama being “Gog.”
An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation
By Richard Edmondson
(first published in December of 2011)
With 2012 around the corner, I thought it might be “fun” (in a manner of speaking) to offer up my own personal interpretation on the Apocalypse of Saint John, also known as the Book of Revelation—the final book of the New Testament. To the jaded skeptics among us, prophecy is nothing more than dry, meaningless words on a piece of paper—unless you happen to be a biblical scholar with a faculty position at a prestigious university, in which case you study it solely for the insights it gives into religious communities of the first century or earlier. (Then you get a book publishing contract with Brill or some other academic publisher which in turn peddles your august, acceptable, guaranteed-to-offend-no-one-Jewish conclusions to the reading public.)
On the other hand, we have fundamentalists who believe in the idea of “biblical inerrancy.” Here I’m talking about those who’ve studied every word of the Old Testament, passionately concluding that God blesses those who bless the Jews, while pledging their eternal fealty to Israel. But there is, to be sure, another category of reader—one falling in between these two extremes. Neither fundamentalist nor skeptical, these are they at least open to the idea that prophecy contains some element of the paranormal.
Perhaps they’ve read a bit on Nostradamus and thought, “Gee, he sure got it right about Hitler” (or ‘Hister’ as the case may be), perspicaciously concluding that in the end the wise man or woman at least keeps an open mind about things not completely understood (as is certainly the case with Saint John’s Apocalypse). This is the audience for which this piece is intended.
First off let me say that interpretations of the Book of Revelation, probably numbering in the tens of thousands by now, have appeared through the centuries, on and on through time, since the book was written some 1,917 years ago. Is “mystery Babylon” the Rome of the first century? Was it the Soviet Union of the twentieth century? Is it the America of today?
All these have been suggested. More theories will doubtless continue to be ground out in the future. (For an overview of some of this, I would suggest my essay, “Apocalypse: Perspectives on the Book of Revelation from the Left, Right, and Center.” So from that standpoint, what I’m about to offer is nothing new.
Obviously—and perhaps this needs no pointing out—humanity’s perspectives on the Apocalypse have changed with the onward march of history, evolving in a somewhat cervical line of progression, reflecting world events, as empires have risen and fallen. Some of the interpretations appear quite silly now looking back, indeed even at the time they were given—and here I’m thinking especially of Christian Zionist writers like Hal Lindsey who published books in the latter half of the twentieth century. But I’m also reminded of the words of Allan Boesak, the great South African theologian, who used the Apocalypse with almost artistic effect, as something of a cris de coeur, a cry of the heart, in the struggle against Apartheid:
In South Africa, John’s warning has become chilling reality. The state of affairs even at this time in our history is painfully clear—the continued racism, exploitation, and oppression; the continued inhumanity of the system; the incredible violence of the state and the ongoing terrorization of the innocent. Our children are shot in the streets like dogs; our pregnant women are beaten and kicked by laughing soldiers; the judicial system finds torturers not guilty and declares murdering policemen free from all blame even if the evidence is there for all to see.
Boesak understood that John was addressing the political situation in his day, and that his direct reasons for writing Revelation were the tensions between the arrogant world power of that time—Rome—and those who would adhere to the teachings of Christ. But he also viewed the Apocalypse as prophecy, arguing that “no prophecy receives its full and final fulfillment in one given historical moment only, or even in a series of events.”
On the contrary, if the prophecy is an “expression of an undeniable truth which comes from God, it will be fulfilled at different times and in different ways in the history of the world.” This minister of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church put forward a “contemporary-historical understanding” of Revelation, and contended—rightly I would say—that in the apartheid government of South Africa, “the beast” had raised its head again.
Even now, knowing what we know about the South African “security forces” and what they do to black people during a state of emergency, when one suddenly is confronted with these killing machines in action, one cannot believe that human beings could actually do this to each other. I remember well my feeling when I saw the photographs of Steve Biko in September 1977, tortured to death by the South African security police—that young, vital, intelligent face, twisted beyond recognition, bereft of humanity. That feeling is what John of Patmos must have experienced. “When I saw her I marveled greatly.” Indeed, this is the mysterium iniquitatis.
Here Boesak is referring to Revelation’s 17th chapter where “the woman on the beast” makes her appearance, a woman “drunken with the blood of saints and martyrs.” What can you say when finally confronted face to face? When we today see photos, for instance, of the charred bodies of those incinerated in Gaza or Fallujah, or when we hear the lies coming out of the mouths of Western leaders, we, like John, “marvel”—that is to say, we shake our heads in disbelief, for indeed evil of that magnitude, existing at such staggering levels, is sometimes hard to believe.
Or as I wrote in a poem a while back, “Learning the hard way, you find it a tad more than unsettling that one of the smilers thought the deaths of half a million Iraqi children was ‘worth it.’”It is the mysterium iniquitatis, or the “mystery of evil,” as Paul puts it in 2 Thess. 2:7—that famous passage of the New Testament in which the apostle discusses a coming, future “man of perdition.” And so with all of that in mind, I humbly offer the following.
It is strictly my own interpretation of a very oblique and mysterious text that for more than 19 centuries now has challenged humanity’s imagination. This is an exegetic endeavor, and therefore perhaps only of an academic nature. But more importantly, there is no compelling reason to regard it as any more, or less, valid than that of, say, Boesak, Daniel Berrigan, Julia Esquivel, or many others who have (with different conclusions) engaged in similar exercises in decades past.
Joined at the Hip Like Two Grossly Deformed Twins
The pivotal chapter of the Book of Revelation is chapter 13. Here it is we meet two beasts—a beast from “the sea” (in Hebrew ha’yam) and a beast from “the land” (in Hebrew ha’aretz). So basically we have YAM and ARETZ, or ERETZ, as the case may be. The first to make its appearance is YAM. What does John tell us about this beast?
For one thing, YAM is a world military power. “Who is like the beast?” people all over the earth will ask themselves. [13:4] “Who can make war against him?” For another thing, it gets its power from “the dragon,” who clearly is identified, in the previous chapter, chapter 12, as Satan. [12:9]
Another thing about YAM is that it has seven heads (as well as ten horns), although we are told that one of its heads “seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed” [13:3]—indicating perhaps that YAM did lose one of its wars at some point in the past. Be that as it may, we are informed that YAM is quite haughty and proud of itself. It clearly believes it is the greatest nation on earth, or as John starkly puts it, YAM “was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies.” [13:5]
Another striking thing about this beast is that people worship it. They worship both the dragon “because he had given authority to the beast,” and they worship the beast itself. [13:4] YAM, as is to be expected, also inflicts death on a massive scale:
He was given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them. And he was given authority over every tribe, people, language, and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.
He who has an ear, let him hear. If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity he will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword he will be killed. [13:7-10]
John concludes his description of YAM by commenting, “This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of the saints (i.e. followers of Christ).” [13:10]
If we take strictly the historical view, the one favored by modern day scholars, we can see that in this chapter, and in his description of YAM, John clearly is referring to ancient Rome. But this presents our modern day skeptics with something of a dilemma, because if YAM is Rome, then who does the other beast, ERETZ, represent? What other power in the first century rivaled that of Rome? Parthia perhaps? Hmmm…somehow it doesn’t seem convincing.
And what of this other beast? What does John confide to us about it? Well first off, we learn that ERETZ has two horns—“like a lamb,” as John puts it—but that at the same time it speaks “like a dragon.” [13:11] Again, recall that the “dragon” has been identified as Satan. We also learn that ERETZ exercises “all the authority of the first beast,” but at this point we equally note something curious going on: while it holds equal authority with YAM, one of its primary functions seems to be impelling and inciting the inhabitants of the earth to worship the first beast. [13:12] And how does it go about this? Well one way is by erecting an “image” and giving it the power to speak. Follow closely:
And he [ERETZ] performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. [13:13-15]
Those who have studied ancient history know that in the first century there were charlatans and con artists around who would rig up statues to make it appear as if they were speaking. In such manner were large numbers of the public duped into believing they were witnessing oracles delivering messages from the gods. It was a convenient method of propagating just about any political view you cared to foster upon a gullible, unsuspecting public.
And if we’re adopting the rigidly historical view of the Apocalypse so studiously adhered to by our erudite university scholars, then this, we can see, is the social phenomenon John references. But if we’re taking the Boesakian “contemporary-historical understanding” of the book—namely that “no prophecy receives its full and final fulfillment in one given historical moment”—then what happens? The charlatans and con artists who rigged up statues in the first century find their counterparts in the charlatans and con artists who today own the media. And what, after all, are televisions and cinema screens other than talking “images”?
At this point it’s important to note that while there are some differences between them, YAM and ERETZ are essentially alike as two grossly deformed conjoined twins.
One other little thing John confides about ERETZ is that it forces all people to “receive a mark” on either their foreheads or their right hands. Should they fail to do this, or for some reason refuse, they will not be able to buy or sell anything. [13:16-17] And finally, John closes his description of this second beast with a comment somewhat similar to his closing remark about YAM:
This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666. [13:18]
I’m not going to get into the business of trying to name the anti-Christ, which seems to be the man spoken of here, but I will offer up some observations about the number 666—though we’ll save those for later. For right now, let’s backtrack, shall we? Still in the Book of Revelation—but let’s go backwards…to chapter 6.
The Four Stages of Bestial Evolution
In chapter 6 we meet what in popular usage have come to be known as “the four horsemen of the Apocalypse”—i.e. a series of riders, each mounted on a different colored horse. The first horseman, on a white horse, wears a crown and carries a bow. We are told he “rode out as a conqueror, bent on conquest.” Next is a rider on a red horse, carrying a large sword, who is “given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other.” As for the third rider, mounted on a black horse, it is interesting to note that he seems to be a bit of a capitalist. Here is what the text says:
When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse. Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s wages, and three quarts of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” [6:5-6]
Finally we meet the fourth rider—and a companion. Mounted on a “pale” horse, the fourth horseman is named “Death,” and he is followed close behind by “Hades.” Hades was the Greek name for the land of the dead. It finds its compliment in the Hebrew word Sheol. The text tells us that Death and Hades “were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” [6:8]
One way of looking at the four horsemen is by viewing all four as symbolic of the same beast, though at different stages of its evolution. This is not specific to either YAM or ERETZ. This can apply to any beast which may arise and imperil humanity at any point in time. Notice that the first horseman, “bent on conquest,” is not so different from any territorial-expansionist state that ever barked out its belligerence at its neighbors in this age or that.
History has seen lots of these. More fearsome and bloody is the second horseman, while the third, driven by profit, is totally without pity. Finally comes the last—a carrier of darkness, releasing destruction and annihilation upon “a fourth of the earth.” What John is giving us here is an outline or diagram of the four stages of bestial evolution. He is showing us how an entity evolves from a non-beast, into a partial beast, and finally into a fully-fledged beast of death.
Study the history of any beast that has ever arisen and you will notice that it followed similar stages of development.
A Preview of Coming Attractions
Now let’s move forward again and quickly cover the latter chapters of the book, for here is where things start getting interesting. You’ll recall that in chapter 13 we were introduced to two beasts, YAM and ERETZ. Keep them in mind because things are about to get hot and one of them is going to fall.
In chapter 14 three angels stroll calmly out upon the stage of the Apocalypse, and all three, but especially the last two, have something striking to tell us. The first angel says, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” [14:7]
Fear and worship God. This in reality is the most important message of all, and I want strongly to emphasize that, but at the same time it’s about what we’d expect to hear from an angel. So let’s move to the other two angels, for they also have something worthwhile to say, and their messages pertain directly to the two beasts, YAM and ERETZ:
Second angel says: “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.” [14:8]
Third angel says: “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.” [14:9-10]
So one of the beasts has fallen, while the other is still left standing. But wait! When did this happen? It hasn’t. At least not yet. What the angels are giving us here is “a preview of coming attractions,” as they used to say in Hollywood. (I think they just call them “trailers” now.) The key question here is which beast falls and which remains standing? Look closely at what the third angel says about the mark on the forehead and the hand. Remember our discussion on chapter 13? This was a characteristic of ERETZ. On the other hand, “Babylon the Great” is code for YAM.
YAM is the beast that will fall.
Seven Bowls of Wrath
And it’s fall, as you will see, will be particularly ignominious. But before we get to that, let’s look at chapter 15. Here is where things start getting really bloody, and initially it’s ERETZ that takes a hit:
And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. [15:2]
It is also in chapters 15 and 16 that the angels return—and this time they’re not simply leaving messages. One by one a total of seven angels step forward to pour out seven bowls of God’s wrath upon the earth. With the first three bowls we get plagues, disease, and rivers and oceans turning to blood. [16:2-4] Interestingly, the pouring of the fourth angel’s bowl results in what would appear to be intense solar storms:
The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was given power to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him. [16:8-9]
Then comes the fifth angel, bringing the downfall of YAM:
The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. [16:10-11]
They “refused to repent”—sounds a bit like YAM’s pride, doesn’t it? What happens next is less ambiguous. The sixth angel clearly has ERETZ in his sights:
The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East… [16:12]
In Genesis 15:18, the eastern border of the land of Israel is given as the Euphrates River. We go on:
Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet… [16:13]
The false prophet, remember, is the one whose number is 666.
They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. [16:14]
So it seems ERETZ is deliberately fomenting a war against “the kings of the East” and trying to enlist other nations in the fight. But how much help will it get from YAM? Remember YAM has fallen. Or has it? In the next chapter we begin to see that despite being “plunged into darkness,” YAM has not been overthrown (at least for now) so much as it has been harnessed—by ERETZ.
Finally comes the seventh angel, and we get a massive earthquake “such as was not since men were upon the earth.” [16:17-18] Keep that earthquake in mind.
The Woman on the Beast
In chapter 17 we meet “the great prostitute,” a woman riding a beast—a woman “who sits on many waters,” and with whom “the kings of the earth committed adultery.” But it isn’t just kings. We are also told that “the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries” as well. [17:1-2] Meaning perhaps they had become intoxicated with something other than just wine.
Perhaps also her words. But what do we make of the fact that she “sits on many waters”? Could it possibly mean she occupies many nations? And who the heck is this woman? Have we seen her before? Perhaps a line-by-line analysis here will serve us well:
Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert. [17:3]
The “me” referred to is John. Being ‘carried away in the Spirit” means he is having a vision.
There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns. [17:3]
Remember in our discussion of chapter 13—YAM was described as having seven heads and ten horns. He was also said to be constantly uttering “proud words and blasphemies.” The beast the woman is riding on is none other than YAM. Okay. But who is the woman? Who is this whore riding upon YAM?
The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. [17:4]
This may seem off the subject, but please bear with me. In the book of Exodus, God gives Moses instructions how to make a tabernacle. The tabernacle is to be the “dwelling place” of God, and as per his instructions its curtains are to be blue, purple, and scarlet—bound together by fasteners of gold. The court inside the tabernacle is to be decorated in the same colors—blue, purple, and scarlet—as also the clothing of the priests. This clothing includes an ephod, a robe, an embroidered coat, a mitre, and a girdle—all made of fabric of the same three colors: blue, purple, and scarlet.
And then there are offerings to be made at the tabernacle, including offerings of “fine linen.” Again blue, purple, and scarlet are the colors specified. It would appear, then, that these are God’s favorite colors. In fact, the words “blue,” “purple,” and “scarlet” appear together a total of 26 times in the book of Exodus (25:4; 26:1, 31, 36; 27:16; 28:5, 6, 8, 15, 33; 35:6, 23, 25, 35; 36:8, 35, 37; 38:18, 23; 39:1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 24, and 29). And something else to note as well: every time they appear, it is always in the same order: with blue first, followed by purple, then scarlet. In addition, the word “blue” also appears by itself a total of 7 more times (28:28, 31, 37; 36:11; 39:21, 22, and 31).
It would seem that out of God’s preferred colors, one especially is his favorite—blue.
As I said above, the curtains in the tabernacle are to be fastened together with gold fasteners. But that’s not the only gold in the enclosure. There is more. Lotsmore. The ark was overlaid with pure gold, as were the rings at its corners through which were to be inserted poles to carry it; in addition there was a table, a candlestick and various vessels, cups, dishes, etc., to go upon the table, carved cherubim, and a mercy seat, the seat upon which God was to sit—all of it, every bit of it, of gold. And even beyond that, gold and precious stones were woven into the priestly garments as well. Also to be worn by the priest was a breastplate of gold upon which were set a number of precious stones, including emerald, sapphire, diamond, amethyst, and more.
The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. [17:4]
Are you beginning to see? The woman seated astride the beast is ERETZ, only this time she comes to us in the guise of a prostitute. Like the priests in the tabernacle, we see her decked out in gold and precious stones. She even drinks from a golden vessel:
She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. [17:4]
ERETZ has become a whore, but not just any whore, as John makes clear. She is the mother of all whores:
This title was written on her forehead:
BABYLON THE GREAT
THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES
AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH [17:5]
In the Rome of the first century it was customary for prostitutes to write their names on their foreheads. It was sort of the equivalent of hanging out your sign and offering your goods for sale. John is using this as a device to emphasize his point that ERETZ has become a prostitute. But let’s look one more time at the clothing in which the prostitute is adorned. Notice the colors…all of them among the prominent colors of the tabernacle:
The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. [17:4]
Purple, scarlet, and gold, yes, but one color is missing—blue. The favorite color of all. This in essence is a counterfeit ERETZ, and her kingdom/state (regardless what color it may put on its flag) is a counterfeit state. But that doesn’t stop it from killing people.
I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. [17:6]
Muslims of course revere Jesus. Some Muslims probably in reality are truer followers of Christ, or at any rate his teachings, than millions of Christian Zionists, who worship Talmudic Jews, who in turn revile Jesus. The woman, in essence, is drinking the blood of martyrs, whose ranks are growing in ever greater numbers. Upon laying eyes upon the sight, John, as we noted above, marvels in astonishment. It is at this point we hear from the angel John is with, and he offers up some interesting comments concerning YAM—the beast upon which the whore rides:
The beast which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast because he once was, now is not, and yet will come. [17:8]
Rome…to YAM…to Mystery Babylon…nurtured by the dragon, they are all essentially one and the same beast, are they not? The angel additionally informs us that under the influence of YAM, a number of “kings” of the earth are being organized for a great war—kings who will “give their power and authority to the beast.” But which beast are they actually giving their power to? YAM or ERETZ? Remember, YAM has been harnessed and saddled and is now being ridden by the great whore, ERETZ, and as John notes [17:3] he has become scarlet-colored.
Let’s leave John and the angel for the moment and return briefly to the subject of colors—not scarlet, not blue, but let’s specifically talk about the color purple this time. Interestingly, it was the favored color of the Roman ruling classes. Purple dye could be obtained only from the murex shellfish and it was extremely expensive. If you wore purple clothing, you were immediately recognized as well-to-do. Another interesting thing to ask ourselves is what two colors combine to create the color purple? But wait!—YAM, as John tells us [17:3], is not purple (or blue or red or white), but instead has become scarlet. And it has been harnessed by the scarlet whore. The once-proud beast, humiliatingly, has become a beast of burden.
Now let’s get back to John and the angel, because the latter is about to relate something very interesting. It seems the beast, YAM, is not particularly content at having been reduced to its lowly station in life:
The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. [17:16]
Finally, the angel confirms exactly what we suspected above: that the “many waters” upon which the prostitute sits represent occupied lands and peoples.
The waters you saw where the prostitute sits are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. [17:15]
So Why Do Christian Zionists Believe As They Do?
The question arises as to why Christian Zionists, who presumably have studied the Book of Revelation and shaped their political views accordingly—that is to say, on what they perceive as its prophecy of the future—why they fail to pick up on some of these things? After all, it’s there in black and white. Anybody who cares to do so can pick up the book and read it, and CZs supposedly are big readers of the Bible, particularly well-versed, so we are told, with regard to its prophets.
So why do they not see YAM and ERETZ in the light I have shown them and in fact as John has shown them—as twins of evil in control of the world? Why do they not see the woman on the beast and make the connection to the Book of Exodus? Why do they not put 2 and 2 together and figure out which global powers today have progressed along the four stages of beastly evolution? Why O why, pray tell, do they not see these things?
Well certainly mass media indoctrination has a great deal to do with it, and of course there’s a lot that could be said on that subject, but the short answer is simply: because they don’t want to see them.
The Final Destruction of YAM
It comes in chapter 18—YAM’s final downfall and destruction. “After this,” says John, “I saw another angel coming down from heaven.” [18:1] He then gives us the angel’s words:
Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great. She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird. For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries. [18:2-3]
As may be expected, the merchants and kings are quite distraught by this turn of events:
When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her. Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry: Woe! Woe O great city, O Babylon, city of power! In one hour your doom has come. [18:9-10]
In one hour? So is YAM destroyed in a nuclear war? We don’t know. John doesn’t say, and of course such things as nuclear bombs were beyond his comprehension. What he does tell us is this:
Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: “With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.” [18:21]
Maybe it’s an earthquake. All we know for sure is that at three separate points [18:10, 17, 19] the text emphasizes the destruction occurs in “one hour.” In any case, the Apocalypse has reached a major turning point: one beast has fallen; the other remains standing.
The Anti-Christ and the Number
First off, we should keep in mind that the word “anti-Christ” appears nowhere in the Book of Revelation, although the party with the number 666 does seem to fit the bill. Nonetheless, let me reiterate—I’m not going to try and name him, her, or it. Why? Because it’s a losing proposition…for the simple reason that you never know when someone even worse may come along.
Back when I was growing up in the 1960s, people were in the streets chanting “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?”—and you know?—back then, napalming Vietnamese children and destroying their homes and villages seemed pretty anti-Christ-like, I have to tell you. Now, however, looking back on it, LBJ—notwithstanding his numerous reprehensible actions—seems relatively benign compared with presidents who came along later.
So like I say, bad as things are, you never know when something even more monstrous may come stumbling down the road out of the mist. So for that reason, I’m not going to try and decode the number 666. But I will share some thoughts on the subject in general.
In ancient times names were sometimes converted into numbers by means of taking letters of the alphabet and giving them numerical values as follows: the first nine letters of the alphabet were represented as 1-9; the second nine as 10-90; with the remaining letters falling into the 100s. In Hebrew, this process is called Gematria, while in Greek it is referred to as Isopsephy, and such name-to-number conversions were computed in both alphabets. The same thing probably was done utilizing the Latin alphabet as well. Thus, you can simply take the name of your favorite anti-Christ candidate, spell it out in Greek, Hebrew, or Latin (or even English for that matter) and see if it tallies to the correct number.
But wait! What is the correct number? Is it 666—or 616? Most surviving early texts of Revelation give the number of the beast as 666, and that is the number most commonly accepted today. However, a few manuscripts render it as 616. You can read a little more about this here. The discrepancy is most likely due to scribal error, but even after you opt for one number or the other, you still face the question of how to spell the name. Do you spell it using vowels as we normally would in modern English? Or without vowels as was the case with ancient Hebrew?
Or if we employ the Greek alphabet—the question of which letters to include again arises. Do we stick to the 24-letter Greek alphabet or do we also include such letters as the stigma and the sampi, now for the most part obsolete but which, at various times, were used to signify letters and numbers? The agreed-upon method was probably known to both John and his intended audience, but we have no way today of knowing what it was. Any methodology you choose will in fact yield some names, but to my way of thinking it’s largely an exercise in self-amusement.
I’d like to move on to the subject of the anti-Christ himself, or more specifically beliefs about the anti-Christ. In the Catholic Church there is a long-standing tradition that the anti-Christ would be a Jew from the tribe of Dan. This belief is based in part on Revelation 7:5-8, where 12 tribes of Israel are listed but Dan is omitted. An early church father who discussed this in his writing was Irenaeus, who served as bishop of Lyons in the latter part of the second century.
Irenaeus, by the way, was also aware of the textual inconsistency with regard to the number—he believed 666 was indeed the correct number. And below, in one rather remarkable paragraph from his treatise Against Heresies, we find the bishop discussing the anti-Christ’s tribal identity as well as the numerical disparity:
These men, therefore, ought to learn (what really is the state of the case), and go back to the true number of the name, that they be not reckoned among false prophets. But, knowing the sure number declared by Scripture, that is, six hundred sixty and six, let them await, in the first place, the division of the kingdom into ten; then, in the next place, when these kings are reigning, and beginning to set their affairs in order, and advance their kingdom, [let them learn] to acknowledge that he who shall come claiming the kingdom for himself, and shall terrify those men of whom we have been speaking, having a name containing the aforesaid number, is truly the abomination of desolation. This, too, the apostle affirms:
“When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction shall come upon them.” And Jeremiah does not merely point out his sudden coming, but he even indicates the tribe from which he shall come, where he says, “We shall hear the voice of his swift horses from Dan; the whole earth shall be moved by the voice of the neighing of his galloping horses: he shall also come and devour the earth, and the fullness thereof, the city also, and they that dwell therein.” This, too, is the reason that this tribe is not reckoned in the Apocalypse along with those which are saved.
“The city” of course is Jerusalem. In the above passage, Irenaeus mentions three scriptural passages—I Thess. 5:3, Jeremiah 8:16, and the same passage from Revelation I mentioned earlier—7:5-8—where the tribe of Dan is omitted. The first passage, from Thessalonians, does not specifically point to Dan, however, the latter two do. Dan is fingered in other biblical passages as well. Let’s have a look at Genesis 49:1, 16-17:
And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days…Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that his rider shall fall backward.
It is equally worth noting that the biblical figure Samson, he who gives his name to the famous Samson Option, was also from the tribe of Dan. A website that has compiled a considerable amount of research on this subject is Watch Unto Prayer. Check out their article The Lost Tribe of Dan, by Janet Moser. You can also find much else of interest at that site as well.
The 7 Churches and the Synagogue of Satan
St. John’s Apocalypse also is the source of the term “synagogue of Satan,” a phrase which seems to be gaining a great deal of currency on the Internet these days. A Google search for the term returns 1,610,000 hits. Do the same search on Yahoo and you turn up even more—4 million. Depending on how you look at it, this could be cause for grave concern, especially if you’re Jewish.
Given quite a number of elements—the fact, for instance, that Jews hold positions of power far disproportionate to their numbers; the lies constantly peddled by the Zionist media; and AIPAC’s subversion of our electoral process, to name only a few—given many things of this nature, there likely are more than a modest number of Gentiles these days ready to lash out and view all Jews as part of the same collective evil.
This is something about which I’ve thought a great deal, and the more I think about it, the more I’ve come to feel it’s a trap we need to avoid falling into at all cost. Succumbing to a malicious, blanket hatred of that nature will strip us of our humanity—which will not save us in the end but will in fact doom us. With all that being said, I would like at this point to discuss the context in which the term “synagogue of Satan” is mentioned, for the term occurs twice in the Apocalypse, both times in the portion of the book comprising the “seven letters to the seven churches,” which is to say in chapters two and three.
What we have here is Jesus appearing to John and instructing him to write individual letters to seven churches in Asia Minor. Four of the churches—in Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, and Sardis—receive both praise as well as criticism in their letters, while one, Laodicea, has pretty much royally screwed up and comes in only for criticism. However, two of the churches, Smyrna and Philadelphia, are exemplary and are offered nothing but praise. Coincidentally (or not) these are the same two churches undergoing persecution from what John calls the “synagogue of Satan” [2:9 and 3:9].
It’s important for us to remember that the earliest Christians were Jews. Gentiles did not enter the faith in significant numbers until mid first century. We should also recall that in 66 AD the Jews of Palestine launched a revolt against Rome that culminated in the destruction of the Temple and much of the city of Jerusalem. Jewish Christians by and large did not participate in this armed insurrection, led by Jewish terrorists known as Sicarii and now called the First Jewish Revolt, and in failing to join the struggle they earned for themselves the wrath of mainstream Jewry.
This, I think, is what is reflected in the term “synagogue of Satan.” Jewish Christians began to be persecuted and expelled from their synagogues. As a result, the Jewish presence in Christianity was a flame which diminished, growing smaller and smaller, dying out finally sometime after the Third Jewish Revolt in 135 AD. But in the middle of the last decade of the first century, when the Apocalypse was written, Jewish Christians were still most likely a fairly strong presence. These in a sense were the original self-hating Jews.
Thus when we look at the seven churches, we have to consider that a good many of their members, perhaps even most, were Jews. Likewise today a good many of those speaking out against the criminality of the state of Israel are Jews. It is important to make distinctions like that. And in fact, this is precisely what John is showing us in his letters to the seven churches—the importance of making distinctions.
Before we get to the World War, let’s meet some additional characters who will play a role. As I said above, chapter 12 is where the dragon is positively identified as Satan. The same chapter is also where we meet [12:1] “the woman clothed with the sun,” who seems to be a chief nemesis of the dragon, or at any rate he expends a great deal of effort trying to destroy her.
Also described as having “the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head,” the Woman Clothed with the Sun, we are told, is pregnant and about to give birth to a son. [12:2] The dragon stands before her, ready to devour the child, however, the child [12:5] is “snatched up to God” the moment he is born, while the woman herself is given…
the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time out of the serpent’s reach. Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus. [12:14-17]
What’s obviously being prophesied is the coming of Christ. The words “a time, times and half a time” have most often been construed as meaning a year, plus two years, plus a half year—or in other words, half of a seven-year period.
In the Apocalypse, Jesus is referred to in what seem to be contradictory terms—as a “lamb” on the one hand, but also as a being who will “rule with a rod of iron” on the other. In 5:12, the lamb, we are told, “was slain” while in 19:15 the man with the iron scepter “will rule.” It seems to be a deliberate effort on John’s part to contrast the “past Jesus” with the “future Jesus,” the implication of which is that the Jesus to come will no longer be a turn-the-other-cheek nice guy.
The war starts in chapter 19, and as before, it begins with a proclamation from the angels:
After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation, glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” [19:2]
What we’re seeing here is another preview of coming attractions. The angels announce [19:7] “the wedding of the Lamb,” at which point they leave the stage, whereupon Jesus appears [19:11]—riding on a white horse and wearing a robe “dipped in blood.” His eyes are like “blazing fire” and he is followed by “the armies of heaven.” [19:12-14] Perhaps these latter are “the kings of the East,” though we don’t know; the text doesn’t say.
But suddenly an angel appears, “standing in the sun,” who thereupon calls out to the birds of the earth: “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, of mighty men, and horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, small and great.” [19:17-18] The birds, we are clearly given to understand, are going to be devouring a great deal of carrion flesh.
In the next verse, the scene shifts. The beast appears, and once again we see it in the guise of ERETZ:
Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh. [19:19-21]
The Healing of the Nations
Chapter 20 is mainly a sort of “mopping up” operation in which the dragon is seized and thrown into the abyss, while the martyrs who had given their lives for Christ are rewarded. Then in chapters 21 and 22 a “new Jerusalem” descends from the heavens. The King James Version puts it best, I think:
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away. [21:4]
John is allowed to see what the new Jerusalem will look like, and it is truly a happy ending to the story. Again from the King James version:
And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. [22:1]
The Apocalypse and Muslim Eschatology
Studies in comparative religion can be quite interesting, particularly under the category of eschatology (doctrines concerning the last or final matters), and the question arises as to how the Apocalypse compares with Islam’s view of the final or end times. Muslim eschatology is not a subject I happen to be well versed upon, but the videos of Islamic scholar Imran Hosein would suggest that both Islam and Christianity share considerable overlap in their view of the end of the current age.
In the one below he predicts the coming of a “defining moment” in which Israel will be recognized as having supplanted the United States as the dominant world power. Or in other words, Hosein is predicting precisely what the Apocalypse prophesies about YAM.
In Matthew 24:32-33, Jesus says, “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” What the Book of Revelation offers essentially is a lamp, or guidepost, to help us see when the leaves of the fig tree are turning.
One other thing I’ll say before closing. Given that John obviously attached a fair bit of significance to numerology, we might ask ourselves what portents, if any, his book might offer with regard to the numbers “9” and “11.” Moreover, what specifically do we find if we turn to Revelation 9:11? Chapter 9 is perhaps one of the strangest and weirdest chapters in the entire Apocalypse.
In verses 1-10, we are told of a plague of locusts which will rise out of the earth’s abyss, along with enormous clouds of smoke, causing such torment that people will wish to die but they will not be able to find death. Verses 7-10 give us a physical description of the locusts—human faces, long hair, yet bodies shaped like horses “ready for battle,” and with tails resembling those of scorpions. Then we come to 9:11:
They had as king over them the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon
The Hebrew word Abaddon and the Greek word Apollyon both mean “destroyer.” Pertinently also, the locusts, with their wings, make a sound that could perhaps be conceived of as a helicopter—or as John describes it, “the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.” Finally in 9:12 we read:
The first woe is past; two other woes are yet to come.