A Skeptic’s Guide To Bible Prophecy
We tend see whatever we want to see whenever there is nothing else to see.
I had a, revelation recently. It came to me while I was trying to understand various people’s motivation for reinterpreting The Book of Revelation. As I talked to different pastors, teachers and philosophers over the past three months, it became more and more apparent to me that what we think we understand from the book is not what is actually in the book as much as what is in their hearts. There is a difference between seeking the truth and trying to invent it.
A Distant Understanding
I was twelve years old. I had just got done watching a film called “A Distant Thunder” on VHS. It kept me up at night for weeks. I had many terrible nightmares about the second coming of Christ, only that the nightmares didn’t have anything to do with Christ at all. It was largely preoccupied with the rather laughable literal interpretation about the last book of the Bible. It wasn’t until a decade later that I realized how utterly stupid that movie was. It was not until recently however, that I finally realized how remarkably silly many of the people trying to interpret The Book of Revelation were.
The Book of Revelation is one of the most feared books of the Bible, largely because it seems to foretell of a coming doom and final end of mankind. Now I don’t doubt the world will come to an end one day (for all things that have a beginning also have an end). However, I doubt very much that it is going to come to an end in quite the way Revelation tells it. For one, the specifics of John’s revelation seem to be rants based on wishful thinking based on the fact that he was exiled on the isle of Patmos by the Romans. It is no small wonder then that Revelation has an unhealthy preoccupation with the destruction of Rome in the midst of Israel.
If you think yourself a Bible scholar, then I should warn you that this post may draw your ire. For I’m going to elaborate in as much detail as possible why virtually every interpretation of the Book of Revelation is nonsense. I don’t need you to agree with me. But if you disagree, be prepared to defend your position at the end of this post. You have been duly warned.
The Chief Problems with Bible Prophecy
If I wrote in 2063 that a terrible clown will rule over the kingdom of the eagle for eight years and cause great suffering, would you believe that it is a prophecy or an anecdote? How about neither? Why would you treat something as a validated prophecy when the event being prophesied has already occurred before you read the prophecy? Yet many people continue to!
This is the chief problem with virtually all Bible prophecy. They do not teach us anything new about that which is to come. They all describe events that have already come to pass. I know what you’re thinking: The Book of Revelation supposedly describes events that have yet to come. What you fail to realize dear reader, is that the Book of Revelation is of no exception.
The Book of Revelation tells of the terrible tribulation of Christians during this age of Roman rule. It encourages them to remain faithful and tells of the subsequent destruction of Rome, specifically at the hands of Nero (the Anti-Christ). However, it’s not really a prophecy as much it is anti-Roman propaganda meant to support the Christians being brutally persecuted during that time. Finally, it uses historical references to Daniel’s lucid dream to complete the picture.
Almost everyone who has tried to interpret the Book of Revelation since then has failed to take into account three key things that are intrinsic to the ultimate purpose of the book:
- The specificity with which John writes about Rome as is - Everything from the description of the Beast of Revelation 13 (which we will cover in a bit) to the Great Whore that drank the blood of the Christian martyrs, to the number of the Anti-Christ are all references to the current situation as it was back then in Rome, not a future situation.
- The fact that Revelation never speaks about the spread of Christianity – A cult which was to be later adopted by Rome – an adoption which is responsible for the spread of Christianity throughout the world. Do you realise that is conspicuously missing from the Book of Revelation? Why is there no mention of this anywhere throughout the book?
- The fact that Christianity was under siege at the time – Anyone familiar with Rome’s history (or the history of Christianity) will note that at the time when John wrote Revelation, Christians were being severely persecuted because of what they believed. Revelation’s job was to reassure those beleaguered saints that their suffering was only for a time as the empire responsible for their terror is to be smitten from the earth. Those Christians could have easily caved and disavowed their faith. They had to be reassured that doing so would be spiritually fatal and that their fellow martyrs would be redeemed.
So Bible prophecy has three key problems:
1. They all foretell events that have already occurred.
Every prophecy that was foretold in the Bible is an event that had already occurred. All the prophets from Daniel right back to John were attributed prophetic status when they foretold of an event that as far as we’re concerned, happened before the writing. Therefore we have no way of verifying that this is indeed a prophecy or just a historical embellishment of the past.
2. They are heavily steeped in the events of their time.
The prophecies of the Old Testament age speak to events that occurred in both the Old and New Testament age. So we can rule those out right off the bat because of Observation 1 above. The prophecies of Revelation lack specificity to anything of relevance in our times as all the events there can be traced to specific events occurring during the time of ancient Rome.
3. The events described are a recurring theme in history.
The events of Revelation (even Jesus’ signs of the end times) are not specific to any time (or the end times) for that matter. Children have always been disobedient to their parents. Kingdoms have always risen up against other kingdoms. There have always been wars and rumors of war. There have always been earthquakes in diverse places for billions of years.
Knowledge has always increased. Think about it. Man had to evolve to a level of intelligence before he could invent paper and writing so that a Bible could be written in the first place. Men have always wandered “to and fro” the Earth. It’s called “exploration”. That’s how we migrated out of Africa. We have always been giving into marriages. Nothing new there either.
There has always been indoctrination, war, famine and death (the four horsemen of the Apocalypse) because that’s how the sequence of events usually occur. First one nation tries to impose their beliefs on another. Then a religious war erupts, which causes the population to starve, which then leads to death. The four horsemen are an allegory of cause and effect.
There have always been great floods (earthquake born Tsunamis). The moon has always turned to blood (Lunar Eclipses – which we can scientifically predict with great accuracy). The stars have always fallen from heaven and consumed a third of all the earth (cataclysmic meteor strikes). I could go on, ad nauseum, but I think you are able to clearly see my point.
The End Times Fallacy
The only difference between then and now, is that we have 24-hour news channels that tell us when these things are occurring the instant they occur. When Emperor Qin united China, they had to wait centuries before they knew what happened in Europe. When Rome conquered Germany, they had to wait decades to find out what happened in Spain. When King Henry divorced the Church of England from Rome, the knaves only found out months later. When the island of Krakatoa exploded in 1883 – it was weeks before the rest of the world knew what happened. When the Titanic sunk in 1912, it took days to pass it all on.
When Lindsay Lohan gets busted, everyone in the world knows about it a fraction of a second before it happens, whether they want to know about it or not. Can you see a trend here? What’s the difference between the events that took place in Revelation some 2,000 years ago, and the events of today? Do you think the End Times have not happened before?
We think we are living in the end times, because of two key factors:
1. There are more people in the world.
The world’s population is several orders of magnitude greater (thousands of times more) than the population of the world during the times of the Bible. So when the events that have always occurred during the long history of our planet occur today, (war, famine, natural disasters, etc.) a much larger population is affected, increasing our perception of its severity.
Furthermore, our larger population today means that the probability of the occurrence of destructive human behavior (everything from disobedient children to war and genocide) are exponentially more probable. That’s just simple mathematics. However, you need to look no further than the Old Testament to see that war and genocide are nothing particularly new.
Just ask the Jews.
2. We are far better at communication.
The frequency with which we’ve been having earthquakes around the world has not changed in 6 billion years (or 6 thousand years – whichever you believe – it doesn’t matter). However, our capacity to notify each other about it has. What this gives us is the perception that there are more earthquakes with deadlier proportions happening around the world far more often.
The earthquakes haven’t increased. The reporting just got more efficient.
The same principle applies to indoctrination, war, famine, and death. Do you think if we had CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, PBS, SkyNews, BBC and Reuters back in the hey days of Israel that they could have committed so many genocides and gotten away with it? The entire world would be fixing to make war with Israel just like how they did when Germany lost its cool.
Wait, did I say Fox News? I’m sorry. They would have backed the Jewish genocide, not reported it.
There is a fourth problem with prophecy in general that I’ve already covered in a previous post, and it has to do with a little psychological phenomenon called “Cognitive Resonance”. As I’ve covered this before in more detail in that post, I will only reiterate the most salient point here: If you believe in prophecy, you will subconsciously do whatever is necessary to fulfill it.
It doesn’t matter if it is Bible prophecy or the prophecy of an Octopus about the outcome of World Cup matches. Your belief in the prophecy makes it come true. Your mind makes it real. Everyone knows that positive reinforcement creates a powerful psychological response. Wrap that inside a prophecy and you’re good to go. That’s precisely what Revelation is written for.
Revelation tells us about all the horrific things that will befall humanity during the end. But, the writer tells us towards the end, that for those of us who are faithful, we will survive the event and live on in paradise in heaven. This positive reinforcement compels us to believe. This is what has compelled the existence of so many deadly end time cults that have either tried to forcefully bring about the events of Armageddon and/or their journey to heaven:
- The Peoples’ Temple Massacre (Jonestown, Guyana – 1978)
- The Branch Davidian Massacre (Waco Texas, USA – 1993)
- Aum Shinrikyo Sarin Gas Attacks (Tokyo, Japan – 1995)
- The Heaven’s Gate Mass suicide (California, USA – 1997)
- Michael Travesser
There is so much fanaticism about end time events that there is now even a bona fide philosophical discipline dedicated to such study. It is called eschatology and it is a very popular subject among theistic scholars. But that’s not the part that’s really going to blow your mind. Cognitive Resonance shows up more prominently with respect to False Messiahs.
In Matthew 24:4-5, Jesus warned about the coming of false messiahs claiming to be Christ. In case many of you think this is a budding development, try to bear in mind that the Messiah Complex is something as old as time itself. The ancient Egyptians wrote about a mythical messiah (Horus, the Sun of God), and so have many other ancient religious sects in history.
Since then, the Messiah complex has visited almost every ancient civilization. It’s not because of cross-cultural plagiarism as much as it is simply because the messiah doctrine is a very good story. It’s fun to believe in something like that, because it gives purpose and definition to one’s suffering. Jesus’ warning about false messiahs would therefore ultimately predicate the occurrence of many such individuals in history. That’s just cognitive resonance at work.
Just look at this list of prominent false messiahs in the last 40 years:
- Jim Jones
- David Koresh
- Shoko Asahara
- Michael Travesser
- Marshal Applewhite
- …and there are many others.
As world populations exponentially increase the probability of the occurrence of what appear to be end time events, one should also expect to see a corresponding increase of end time messiahs – mostly white men who claim to be the Christ returned to earth to save mankind. They will seclude themselves from civilization in the middle of nowhere, forsaking all of their belongings, friends and family in anticipation of Armageddon and the end of the world. Then when it doesn’t happen, they’ll kill themselves or commit an act of terrorism to ensure it does.
The fifth and most frustrating problem with Bible Prophecy, specifically that which is contained in Revelation, is that it appears to be deliberately cryptically written. This we are told is to hide the meaning of the scriptures from those who do not truly pursue it. If that were true, then the purpose seems to have been defeated, as there are many different interpretations.
And that’s when the crap hit the fan.
Today, there are two basic camps of interpretations about the outcome of Revelation. The first (and more popular) camp believes that Christ will return before the terrible events of the tribulation (which means Christians won’t suffer through it). The second camp believes that Christ will return after the tribulation (meaning that Christians will have to suffer through it).
To make matters worse, these people will both look at exactly the same passage of scripture and give you two very different interpretations of it, sometimes changing their minds along the way. It seems that if God really intended the Book of Revelation to be of any use to anyone, that He is hiding the truth from even the faithful. Now, that’s not very useful, is it?
The reason why there is a clear split in the interpretation is bound in the fact that both interpretations can be substantially backed by scripture. In fact, whenever Bible scholars find themselves backed into a corner on any particular subject regarding this specific time line, they will quickly cough up another passage of scripture and then reinterpret the entire thing.
This is how they moved from believing that Christ will return after Israel was retaken in 1967, to believing that Christ will return after the temple was rebuilt, to believing that Christ will return after the Dome of the Rock was razed (inciting a Holy War with the Muslims) to believing that Christ will return after Israel is attacked by a Muslim nation as an act of war.
The really frightening thing though, is that many Christians are actually excited about starting a Holy War with the Muslims just so that the events of Revelation will unfold. Aside from the obvious lunacy of this expectation (it is clearly yet another spurious interpretation designed to fit an agenda), what if they get their holy war, and Christ still doesn’t return? What then?
All of these reinterpretations can be validated in Revelation. In fact, you can literally custom build your own interpretation of Revelation on the fly (just pull something out of your ass) and I guarantee you that there will be scripture there than can be used to lucidly and succinctly validate your interpretation. Christian apologists do this exact sort of thing all the time. In fact, that is precisely how modern Christians only recently invented the idea for the Rapture.
The Rapture Concoction
The Rapture event is not described anywhere in Revelation. In fact the word “Rapture” doesn’t appear anywhere in any translation of the Bible. What’s really going to blow your mind, is that the idea of a Rapture is not even in the Bible. Yes you read correctly. The idea of Christ coming back in the sky and meeting with the resurrected dead in the air was invented.
In Scotland, circa 1830, a young girl named Margaret MacDonald had what she claimed to be a vision of Christ coming back to claim the saints. A minister by the name of John Darby apparently claimed her story and preached it throughout the United Kingdom and the United States, appropriating the word “Rapture” to aptly describe that specific end time event.
Then, another minister by the name of Cyrus Ingerson Scofield took Darby’s preaching, and scoured the Bible for scriptures that could be used to back it up (this is intellectual dishonesty at work). He came up with the rendering found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, to validate Darby’s Rapture doctrine. It then became a fixture in Christian dogma. The rest is history.
If you read the entire passage in context, you will see that the scripture has absolutely nothing to do with the events of Revelation. It was written in response to concerns voiced by members of the church at Thessalonia about what happens to the soul after death. It was written to those church members as a comforting allegorical parable – not end time prophecy.
This is how some Christian apologists dishonestly concoct new ideas, inventing the story as they go along and then capriciously pick and choose spuriously unrelated scriptures at will to validate an interpretation that they invented to suit their agenda. It has happened so often in Christianity, that most of what is being taught in church today is complete and utter, rubbish.
The Second Coming / Armageddon Incongruity
The Valley of Megiddo where Armageddon is supposed to happen.
When Revelation talks about the second coming of Christ, it was wishful thinking. The Jews had long believed at that time that the prophet Jesus would return from his ascension, conquer Rome and liberate his people from their suffering. This was something they hoped to happen between 62 and 70 AD when the Romans destroyed their holy Temple – not 2060 AD.
In fact, they even picked the place where the event would occur. It is an open field near Jordan called Megiddo. However the ancient text translates literally to “Har’megiddo”, and thus the English bastardization of the word, which we indiscriminately throw around to mean ultimate war: “Armageddon” was born. That word doesn’t even exist in the Hebrew tongue.
This is why the Bible constantly refers to those times as the “last days”, because the authors were certain that the terror being visited upon them by Rome represented the finality of the world as they knew it. They were being systematically wiped out! It is only natural that they would think so. If the prophecies were referring to future kingdoms, then none of them fit.
This is why there is such great incongruity between religious scholars who are attempting to rationalize Revelation and why there are so many different interpretations floating around. They’re literally trying to make sense of future events from a book that was not intended to do any such thing, that was written to the early Christians, not to Christians living today.
But the worst part about all of this, is that there are many Christian apologists who openly concur with this idea, (that Revelation isn’t directed at the future) yet they continue to hold on to it anyway! That’s the part that really blows my mind – although it really shouldn’t. That is the true power of hope. People will hold on to any kind of hope, irrespective of its faults.
Of course, there is an apologist agenda. The Council of Nicea already decided in 362 AD that the Jesus character was divine, (a teaching rejected by some of the orthodoxy up until that time) which would naturally mean that the words of Revelation had to be retooled to speak to future events. The problem is, because history repeats itself, Revelation is constantly misread.
Speaking of history repeating itself;
Have you ever wondered why John’s Revelation seems eerily similar to Daniel’s dream? That sort of thing happens in the Bible all the time. Stories get repeated and inherited each time with minor changes happening here and there. This is how ancient traditions are passed along thereby keeping a culture alive. Each time it is passed down, a bit more is added to it.
For example: Noah’s Ark is a retelling of a much older myth from the Epic of Gilgamesh, about a Sumerian kingdom that predated the Jews. The story of Jesus and his twelve disciples is a modified retelling of the story of Joseph and his twelve brothers, with the betrayal, sacrifice and redemption themes remaining intact. Even the name of the hero remained the same. It’s just that the Hebrew translated as Joseph and the Greek/Latin translation gave us “Jesus”.
Either way, each time, the tale literally grew in the telling.
It is no small coincidence then that Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 are essentially talking about the same thing. The only difference is that whereas Daniel’s dream quickly leaps from the appearance of Beast #4 to the sudden appearance of the Hebrew Messiah, Revelation 13 onwards stretches the story out in far greater detail, adding bits to it that Daniel “didn’t” see.
Whereas Daniel lived a couple thousand years before John, Daniel’s story would not have had the life experiences to embellish his story in as much fine detail. John, having seen the Roman empire first hand, goes on to add specific qualities to Daniel’s story, such that Beast # 4 fits the existing, reigning Roman Empire and the vile, murderous emperor at its helm precisely.
Almost every proponent of modern Christianity ignores this connection between the two stories simply because it hampers the effectiveness of the overall message of Christianity. The few historians who are cognizant of the obvious retelling continue to be ignored as their discovery is drowned out by the sensationalism that furiously drives the movement forward.
But nothing exemplifies this retelling better than the Beast of Revelation 13.
Ok. So Bible prophecy seems to have a thing for frightening imagery – that is if you’re the type of person who interprets the Bible literally – like the clowns behind the “Left Behind” series and the “A Thief in the Night” movies. The first thing you need to know is that Bible prophecy is allegorical in nature. One should never attempt to interpret its content literally.
Revelation is no exception.
One of the most profound things mentioned repeatedly in Revelation is its terrifying beasts. The first thing you should notice about these beasts, is that they are composite animals. That is your first giveaway that the animals aren’t real. As to what all of these crazy animals may actually represent depends on which side of the fence you sit in terms of the interpretation.
The Beast of Revelation 13
Before you read any further, read Daniel 7:2-7. Notice the similarities. Notice that the beast in Revelation 13:2 is a composite of the four beasts of Daniel 7:2-7. Revelation 13 describes a beast that has a leopard’s body, a lion’s mouth, a bear’s feet, with seven heads, ten horns, each of which has a crown on its head with a name written in its head that was blasphemous.
In Daniel 7, he writes about his dream of four beasts coming out of the waters. These beasts, like that of Revelation 13:2 are also composite beasts. The first is a lion like beast with wings. The second is a bear like beast with 3 ribs in its mouth. The third is a leopard like beast with four heads and wings and the fourth is a terrible beast with ten horns. Sounds familiar right?
Daniel 7:17 makes it abundantly clear that the beasts are Kingdoms. But this is where it gets interesting. From this point onward, all theologians are split as to how precisely to treat the interpretation of which kingdoms the beasts make reference to exactly. The first beast seems be pretty straight forward. The others however, are ample playground for one’s imagination.
Beast #1: Lion with wings and human personality
This image of a lion with wings and a human head is all over dozens of artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia (now modern day Iraq). When you read Daniel 7:4, it screams Babylon at you. Most people would agree that Daniel 7:4 refers explicitly to the ancient kingdom of Babylon. However, those who believe Daniel’s dream refers to future kingdoms may think otherwise.
The futurist school of thought stretches the interpretation of this first beast a little further. The idea is that the composite lion with wings represents two kingdoms, one that will give birth to another. The idea is that the two kingdoms are the United Kingdom (the lion) and the United States (ergo the wings). You’ll have to really stretch your imagination to see that one.
Like I said, people seemed to be pulling it out of their posteriors.
In fact, after this first beast, this is where everyone’s imagination starts to run wild, with each purveyor contending that his interpretation is the correct one (complete with scripture to back it up). You will find so many different permutations of these interpretations that it makes you wonder what good is the word of God if it serves as total confusion more than edification?
Beast #2: The Bear like Beast
Whereas Beast #1 seemed like a clear fit for Ancient Babylon, the next three beasts are anyone’s guess, because they don’t fit any known kingdom without stretching your mind a bit. The popular interpretation is that Beast #2 is Medo-Persia, simply because Xerxes liked to use massive, slow moving armies with a deadly blow, not unlike a Bear, as in Daniel’s dream.
You see how historicist apologists broke their own rule to make that interpretation? They start out by making a clear and obvious link between lion with wings and Babylon, but then the Bear with ribs in its mouth, raised up on one side becomes a Kingdom that has no similar link like the lion with the wings. Why do they change the interpretive technique at this point?
Because they have to make it fit.
The specifics of how they come to the conclusion that Bear = Medo-Persia is irrelevant. The point is that some futurist interpreters believe that the Bear represents the former Soviet Empire. While that does seem like a better fit, that leaves us with a quandary: Which recent kingdom represents the lion with wings? Their take is that it is the British and US Empires.
OK. I can see the British Kingdom as a Lion (a lion is on their coat of arms), and I can see how the United States, being emergent from the UK as being the winged portion of the composite animal (an eagle is prominent on the US Government seal). But that interpretation is using just a little too much imagination and far too much suspension of cogent reason and logic.
Beast #3: The Leopard like beast
The empire of Greece followed that of Medo-Persia. Therefore it is no surprise that a four headed winged leopard would coincide with Greece. The historicist interpretation suggests that the wings symbolize the speed of Greece’s ascension to power, while the four heads represent the four kingdoms that evolved out of Greece. Now this is where it gets interesting.
One interpretation suggests that the four heads of the leopard represent four of the main states of Greece that evolved out of the empire, namely: Athens, Sparta, Thebes and Macedonia. Yet another interpretation suggests that the four heads represent four kings that came after Alexander the Great, namely: Casander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy.
If you look around enough, you will likely find enough alternative interpretations of four of something to represent the four heads of this third beast to make you dizzy. Everybody has their two cents on the subject, and again, they each contend that they have the only correct interpretation. Do you see a trend evolving here with the sheer multiplicity of interpretations?
Beast #4: The Terrible Beast
The Grecian empires are followed by Rome. We all know about Rome’s vile history so we need not account for it here. More importantly is the fact that this final beast had ten horns – a fact that is literally repeated verbatim in Revelation 13. The only difference is that in Revelation 13, this beast has seven heads as well as 10 horns. What could this symbolism possibly mean?
Did you know that Rome was built on seven hills? So we have our seven heads – or do we? An alternative interpretation sums up the heads of Daniel’s beasts (1 for the lion + 1 for the bear + 4 for the leopard + 1 for the monster = 7 heads) since it is obvious that Revelation’s terrible beast is nothing more than an enhanced plagiarism of the one shown in Daniel 7.
However, Daniel never gives us any further clues as to which kingdom this fourth terrible beast is – but John does. He goes on to describe the whore of Babylon, clothed in purple that drinks the blood of the Christian martyrs and the Antichrist that emerges out of this kingdom that will cause a great tribulation for Christians living during this terrible period in history.
Well if you know anything about ancient Rome’s history, you’ll know that Revelation 13 is a dead giveaway for the fact that Daniel’s fourth beast and the terrible beast of Revelation 13 both refer to Rome – not modern day Rome (which is now a shadow of its former glory) but the ancient Roman Empire – the one in which the early Christians lived under persecution.
This is the only Rome that spilled the blood of the Christians. It is the only one that had relations with all the kingdoms of the world (Because it was a bona fide political and military powerhouse at this time). Furthermore, we also know that purple (scarlet in the Bible) is the color of Rome’s aristocracy. This was no prophecy. This was merely historical documentation.
This is the only beast that all of the many interpretations seem to unanimously agree upon. It doesn’t matter what twisted logic is used to interpret this text. Why do I say that? Because:
People see whatever they want to see
The pursuit of truth is often hampered by the invention of it – particularly when the truth needs to fit your belief. Either way, whether you’re historicist or futurist, technically, both interpretations can work. There are two tiny technicalities with how the scripture is written that makes all of the beast interpretations fit, whichever side of the fence you prefer to sit:
This is where prophetic scripture is written in structural parallels that directly mimic each other thematically (look it up, son). Daniel chapters 2, 7, 8 & 11 mirror each other thematically. If we use that technique, then the bear beast automatically becomes Medo-Persia, the four headed leopard beast becomes Greece, the last unknown beast becomes Rome by virtue of its order.
Whatever thematic parallels people want to associate with these animals and their kingdoms become irrelevant thereafter. Such is not significant either way. It is also very likely that these similarities in Daniel were the result of a second translation of the book. One part was written in Aramaic (chapters 2 – 11), and rest is in Hebrew (Chapters 8 – 12), hence the correlations.
If you stretch your imagination just a little bit, then Daniel 7 can become future kingdoms. However, the theme of deliverance is one that is ubiquitous in Hebrew culture. It’s been around since their “exodus” from Egypt (which quite curiously, is not recorded anywhere in Egyptian history – but never mind) and so it persists as the “Second Coming” theme today.
Therefore futurist interpretation naturally incorporates this theme of redemption, which is subsequently is how we came to inventing the Rapture doctrine. The point is that the desire to stretch one’s imagination to make a Bible prophecy fit is a tell tale sign of wishful thinking. Futurist interpreters want it to be true, so they make it fit, by obscuring the original message.
The Antichrist Triangulation
Revelation tells us that the Anti Christ is a man whose name (i.e. title) is blasphemous to Christianity by definition and whose number we are told is 666. What you don’t realize, is that the Hebrew language uses letters that each carry a numeric value. It is a common practice among ancient Jews to use numbers to refer to the name of a person without spelling it out.
Just add up the numbers of the person’s name in Hebrew.
So is this Antichrist a future political despot? No. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence to demonstrate quite clearly that the Antichrist is a man that has already lived – and died – over 2,000 years ago. His name was Nero Claudius Caesar Agustus Germanicus – or just Nero for short. He was simultaneously the most feared and the fiercest ruler of the Roman Empire.
- The name “Nero” in Hebrew is spelled (and I’m using English pronunciation to substitute for Hebrew letters): Nun, Resh, Waw, Nun, Qof, Samekh, Resh.
- The values of each of those letters is: Nun (50) + Resh (200) + Waw (6) + Nun (50) + Qof (100) + Samekh (60) + Resh (200) = 666
- An older version of the Book of Revelation also had the sum as 616 (instead of 666) because the second Nun (50) was optional. Either way, both numbers are treated as representatives of the Devil in Hebrew culture.
- An ancient Hebrew text (that never made it into the Canon of the Bible for obvious reasons) known as the Ascension of Isaiah made direct reference to Nero as the Antichrist. Click here to read it for yourself. Scroll down to Chapter 4 and verse 2. It refers to a demon (Beliar – also referred to as Belial or Ba’al in other texts) that takes the form of a lawless king who killed his mother. As we know from Roman history, Nero commits matricide in order to eliminate her as an indirect threat to his rule over Rome as emperor.
- You can verify that Biblical scholars also confirm this in Bulletin 170 of The American Schools of Oriental Research (1963)
- Also verified by the New Jerome Biblical Commentary
- Also validated by Professor Felix Just Ph.D. of the Society of Jesus. Checkout his website here. (WARNING: his website was not built by a professional web designer. Guard your eyes and the gaudy colors.)
Now in ancient Rome, the Emperors were literally referred to as deities. That is part of the reason why after Rome adopted Christianity as Roman Catholicism, the day of worship was moved from Saturday to Sunday (a point of contention for Seventh Day Adventists), since that is the day on which worship is made to the emperor of Rome. That’s why the name written on the forehead of the terrible beast was blasphemous. The Emperor of Rome was worshiped as a god, and we all know from the 10 commandments, how God feels about that sort of thing.
The Beast Forgery
Every other beast interpretation is based on futurist agenda. The one specifically targeting the Pope is based on Seventh Day Adventist propaganda. It is no small wonder then that most of the really bad Apocalyptic Christian cults out there seem to be spawned out of the Seventh Day Adventist movement as they wage a silent war against the Roman Catholics.
Now I’m not defending the Catholics – I’m not Catholic myself. I’m just stating a fact. Here’s the proof:
- The Seventh Day Adventists contend that the title of the Pope is Vicarus Filii Dei (Latin: “Vicar of the Son of God“).
- When you sum the roman numerals from that title, (where the ‘u’ is a ‘v’), you get 666.
Of course, this is rubbish. Why? Because:
- The Pope’s title is actually Vicarus Petrus (Latin: “Vicar of Peter“)
- The SDA contention was taken from a document called the Contribution of Constantine.
- The document has long been proven to be a forgery. (Guess who forged it?)
- It has never been used, ratified or authorized by the Catholic church.
- You can prove it for yourself here and here.
Therefore, the Antichrist is not:
- The Pope
- Adolf Hitler
- Bill Gates
- George Bush
- Kim Jung-Il
- Barack Obama
- [insert your favorite political figure here]
- …or anyone else that lived after the fall of Rome.
The Mark of the Beast
In “A Distant Thunder”, the mark of the beast is portrayed as a barcode that is stamped onto the hands and forehead of each person. We already know that we should never try to interpret Bible prophecy literally because it was written allegorically to obscure it from the Romans. That’s why all futurist interpretations of this aspect of Revelation are intrinsically flawed.
The Mark of the Beast is obviously not a literal mark. Rather it is spiritual in nature as evidenced by Revelation 9:3-4 which talks about a counter balancing Seal of God “in their foreheads”. Notice that the seal of God here is in the same place that the Mark of the Beast would have been placed. This makes it pretty obvious that no one is going around stamping these marks.
Therefore the Mark of the Beast is not:
- A Barcode – because the extra long lines at the front, middle and end do not translate to the number 6. I know this because I’m a software engineer by day.
- Sunday Worship – because Sunday worship doesn’t enable you to buy or sell as shown in Revelation 13:16-17. Once again, this is nothing more than Seventh Day Adventist propaganda.
- A Radio Frequency Identification chip – because it can work almost anywhere in your body, so long as it is inserted just under the skin – not just your right hand or forehead.
- Any other futurist nonsense – because none of them take into account the full description of this mark or the intended allegorical significance of Revelation 13.
The Truth About Revelation
So if none of what we understand in Revelation is true, then what is the book for? Simply to bolster the faith of the Christians that were undergoing severe persecution in Rome at the hands of its most vicious emperor. The Book of Revelation was written under the context that Rome would be the final empire upon earth based on John’s interpretation of Daniel’s dreams.
In John’s mind, Rome fit the bill as the last terrible beast. This is the reason why nothing in Revelation speaks to anything specific to our day and age beyond the times of the terrible persecution of the Christians in Rome. Now Rome is no longer a one world government. It has been reduced to a tiny autonomous state in Italy called the Vatican. It was toppled by its own undoing – not by that of any supernatural messiah. It exists now only as a relic of the past.
John could not write the book of Revelation as explicitly as he wanted to. As such, he had to rely on the use of an old Hebrew poetic technique that relied heavily on metaphors to get the message across without being discovered. That’s why he wrote Revelation in a language that only the Christians of the time would understand. That’s why he uses symbolism that only those Christians would follow. That is why it is so difficult to understand it in context today.
If John were to write in plain language like much of the rest of the New Testament and Roman Soldiers got a hold of it, he would have surely been put to a premature death. But as is, the Book of Revelation would appear to them to be little more than the gibberish ramblings of a mad man on the verge of insanity. They would just ignore it and pass it along to his friends.
However, the Book of Revelation accomplished its job so well, that now we have a runaway train in Christianity (only one of many) where people have looked into the book and failed to account for the obvious purpose of its construction. The reason why this happens is that in order to sell Christianity to the world, there has to be an eternal hope to look forward to.
…and what better book to do that than Revelation.
Daniel’s dream became particularly useful in this context because it had the same message. Daniel’s dream and John’s vision both end where all Messiah doctrines end – the overthrow of a world government (which Rome was at the time) by a supernatural messianic figure. Of course, that never happened. When it didn’t, everyone who read Revelation after that kept looking for Jesus to return – but he never did and he probably never will if this keeps up.
Consequently, the chain reaction built up over the next 2,000 years, with various religious sects coming out of the woodwork, all claiming that their current times were the last days, dragging out Revelation further and further, reinterpreting the book each time to fit the events of their time, each pathetically flogging a dead horse that is well over 2,000 years old.
Each time someone tries to predict when Jesus will return, they are disappointed. The early Christians were disappointed and today’s Christians will continue to be disappointed, because all of these hopes are based on a past event. The expectation of what should happen after the event is based on an ancient myth that is as old as religion – far older than Christianity.
Anyone who has studied eschatology can tell you emphatically that apocalyptic philosophy is neither unique to Judeo-Christianity nor was it invented by Christianity. These mythological trappings predate Christianity by at least 3,500 years, just like the messiah complex and the redemption doctrine. They are all old myths that are ubiquitous to every religion of every age.
So, let’s check off what we’ve learned so far:
- Wars, rumors of war – We’ve always had wars. That’s human nature. Population increase naturally increases the probability of war.
- Earthquakes in diverse places – We’ve had earthquakes for as long as the earth is old. Their frequency hasn’t changed. Our reporting of them however, has gotten better.
- Men’s hearts wax cold – That’s nothing new. The Jews have committed acts of genocide documented in the Old Testament. Their religious justification is irrelevant.
- Four Horses of the Apocalypse – Allegory of cause and effect of indoctrination, war, famine and death – a common trend in any war of any age in the history of man.
- The Antichrist – is Nero, who’s name in Hebrew adds up to 666 – which is based on a Hebrew technique of speaking in code. Roman Emperors were worshiped as deities – hence the Christian blasphemy.
- Daniel’s 4 Beasts – Iconography and symbolic poetry referring to old kingdoms and their characteristics.
- Terrible Beast – is a composite of Daniel’s beasts. It refers to Rome in its hey day as a one world government. Today’s Rome is a shadow of its former glory.
- False Christs – are a function of Cognitive Resonance. Furthermore, the messiah complex predates Christianity and is ubiquitous to every religious cult in history.
- The Second Coming of Christ – was expected before 70 AD. Rome was perceived to be the last great empire before Christ returned.
- Armageddon – Same as above. The word is an English bastardization of the name of an open field near Jordan where many battles of old have been held.
- Rapture – is a recent post-biblical invention designed to market Christianity. It is based on a scriptural passage that has nothing to do with Revelation.
- The Tribulation – refers to the persecution of the Christians in Rome. It is not a future event.
- Return of God’s Kingdom – is based on an old myth predating Christianity. The study of eschatology shows that it is universal to every religion that has ever been.
I didn’t mean to tinkle on your hope, douse your enthusiasm or otherwise drench your faith in the harsh light of truth. But facts are facts. Revelation is neither a prophetic book nor is it directed at people in our time. It was meant for the Christians undergoing tribulation in ancient Rome under the leadership of its vilest of emperors. It did its job. Now we move on.
However, I concede that today’s interpretation of Revelation is a testament to the uncanny power of hope. For with hope, that is how we strive for things that we have not yet seen. Hope powers our will to survive. The only problem with the profusion of hope is that when it misfires, we tend to see whatever we want to see whenever there is nothing else to see.
Modern Christian interpretation of The Book of Revelation is a classic case where our innate propensity for hope has misfired. It doesn’t mean that modern Christians have nothing else to hope for though. With the same hope, you can simply assume that I’m wrong and that your religion is still valid. You are after all entitled to believe in whatever you want to believe.
For isn’t that the whole point of faith?
■ E-mail: accordingtoxen[at]gmail[dot]com