Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The End of Time?

I am sitting here at 5 AM in the morning trying to type something for today's post. I slept for about 12 hours because I wasn't feeling to well. Plus, I haven't slept well for weeks. So, I decided to get up and write something. I started to write my next entry on Judeo/Islamic/Christian relations. As I got started, my Mom woke up and started asking me what happened with the local elections.

Did I tell you my Mom lives with me? It's a long story, but I suppose that makes me one of those sad spinster types. Although, technically, my Mom lives with me and I don't have twenty cats, just a dog. So, maybe I don't fit the stereo-type exactly?

As usual, I digress. I was beginning to write my entry when we started having some discussions about the terror alerts and politics. Somehow, we got off on the subject of world warfare and such. My Mom asked me if I had heard about the new GPS chip that they are experimenting with putting in dogs and cats so owners can find them easier. I stated, yes, I had heard about it, but I heard that it is being used in humans in Mexico on a voluntary basis in order to thwart would be kidnappers.

My Mom says, "I don't like that. I think that is the mark of the beast."

Well, that pretty much put an end to trying to make my entry on the whole middle east situation. Now, my Mom is one of those people that keeps her religion to herself, generally, but reads many books on the subject. I often find little pamphlets and things sitting with her purse. We don't spend a lot of time talking religion. Based on discussions this evening, I think she thought that I might be atheist or something, so she didn't want to bring the subject up. (I lived away from the home state for many years, so she wouldn't necessarily have an idea about my personal religious beliefs. Also, I do not attend church on anything near a regular basis, so I suppose she might have some reason to wonder). I think we definitely were living in a "don't ask, don't tell" situation.

Well, I was a little surprised by that remark, to say the least. It was 5 AM. She goes on, "The bible says that you are not supposed to have the mark of the beast on you. Once you have the mark of the beast, you have taken sides with the anti-Christ. Of course, if you don't take the mark, you will not be able to buy gas or food and you may be killed. But, at least you will go to heaven. And we're talking about eternity here. Not just right now which is, you know..."

"About a minute in time," I supplied helpfully. What can I say, I egged her on a bit.

"Yes, today is about a minute in time compared to eternity. Much better to live an eternity to heaven than to sell your soul to the devil for right now and spend eternity in hell." My Mom is now standing in the doorway to my very small office. I am pretty sure at this point that I am not going to get to the follow up entry on the Middle East. It's hard to think about that while your Mom is telling you about Armageddon.

"Well, you know Mom, when I read the bible, I always thought that the mark would be an external mark."

"Some people think that, but the truth is, no one knows what that will look like. Maybe it's the mark that can't be seen? The mark by which the government will know you and control you. The bible says that we will be under one government over the whole world and a leader will take power that is charismatic and convinces people that he should be the leader for life. He will be the anti-Christ. He will use this universal mark to decide who lives and dies. Who gets to participate and who is a drain on society. If you don't take the mark, you will be an outsider and you can be killed. He will start a world war. Armageddon."

At this point, I am merely listening, staring at the computer screen. I have no idea what I am going to write and am pretty sure that I don't have time to go through all the research materials for the Middle East project before I have to actually get a shower and go to work. So, I just nod my head and say, "uh, huh" while she continues to talk.

"The bible says that people will turn against each other. We already have husbands killing wives, wives killing children, children killing their parents and each other. And, we are in the middle of a religious war over there [Middle East] as predicted."

"You know, Mom. People have been predicting the end of time for thousands of years. Even in current history, people thought that each war was the harbinger of destruction. During the US civil war, many people thought that the branding of the slaves was the mark of the beast and that, because it was brother against brother, and we were living in the "new" country that could be interpreted as the "New Babylon", that that was the end of times." You can look this up in some of he historical documents and religious texts of the time. Lots of people congregating and praying that they wouldn't burn in hell for eternity and couldn't decide if this anti-Christ was in the form of Abe Lincoln or Jefferson Davis. "Also, World War I, where we saw the industrialization of the military. Nepalm and other burning weapons. Plus, it was a world war with many nations involved. Some of the fighting was taking place in the area once known as Canaan, now Israel, where Jerusalem resides. Lots of people interpreted that as the omen of the end of the world. Especially when the League of Nations was created. A world unifying body."

Basically, I was trying to point out to my Mom that we have had people crying out that this was the time of Revelations over history. I think I even recall the Crusades being touted as such. If you know a little history, the Europeans conquered Jerusalem and installed their own King. Effectively creating the "New Jerusalem" that is mentioned in the bible. That didn't last to long, but many a religious zealot was claiming the end was near.

My mom goes on, "Yes, but now we have globalized markets and the UN and other global organizations. It won't be long until we are joined under one ruler for the world. That didn't happen in those times. And, even those weapons were not capable of setting the world on fire. Now we have nuclear weapons and it only takes one crazy guy to set off the a nuclear weapons and start the world war with burning cities. This is what will allow people to create the one world body controlled by one man, the anti-Christ. A false prophet."

Now I'm kind of quiet because I am thinking about all the other times that people predicted the end of time. During World War II, we fire bombed the hell out of Dresden, Munich, Berlin and hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atom bombs. I'm betting there were a number of God fearing people in those cities that was sure this was the end of time. Even then, we were fighting in the deserts of Africa, Egypt, Palestinian Protectorate, etc. We were in Damascus and Jerusalem.

Is it me? Or, does it sound like every war fits the mold in some way for fulfilling Revelation's predictions. Of course, I have to agree on some subjects...

"Well, Mom, I suppose your right in a sense. We are in Iraq, where the city of Babylon once existed. I suppose some could construe that as the rebuilding of Babylon as prophesied in the bible."

Revelation Chapter 17:

3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
For the record, I am only pointing these verses out as a reference to the "end of the world" discussion and am by no means trying to equate the situation. As a student of history and literature, I've read the bible through a few times. It's been helpful in some conversations. Just indicating what the ultra religious may feel is the justification of their prophesies of Armageddon. The verse that predicts the single ruler over a global body, the anti-Christ, resides in this chapter as well:

12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfill his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

Frankly, I often refer to these versus as self fulfilling prophesies. In other words, we are always at war, there is always some city that might reflect the New Babylon and there is always some crazy bastard trying to pull together multiple nations under his demonic guise as the savior of the people. You could say that Napoleon even fit this description. Or, Hitler. Or, Stalin. Or, Mao Tse Dong. Pol Pot. The list is just about endless. Some believe that prophesy is directly related to New York, where the UN resides and reigns over the ten kings. Of course, there are only five permanent members of the security council with an additional rotating body of ten elected members. You can parse out the ten and say it fulfills the prophesy or add them together and say that fifteen doesn't equate. Better yet, that the five members hold such power, that it can never be overcome.

The bible goes on about Babylon:

1 And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory.
2 And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
3 For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.(...)

7 How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.
8 Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.
9 And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning,
10 Standing afar off for the fear of her torment, saying, Alas, alas that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour is thy judgment come.
11 And the merchants of the earth shall weep and mourn over her; for no man buyeth their merchandise any more:
13 And cinnamon, and odours, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing,

My Mom went on to say that she believed the time would come when the REAL false prophet would arrive and nuclear holocaust would be the Armageddon. She feels that there is no stopping the prophesy. That God has already written our future in the stars and we cannot avoid it. Maybe it will take another hundred years. Maybe it will be tomorrow. We don't know. So she says we should always be ready.

She was also surprised that I knew anything about what the bible says. Ahh..It is always good to keep your parents guessing.

Just to add a little spirit to the discussion, who do you think this could be construed as? Revelation, Chapter 19:

11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
19 And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.
20 And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
21 And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking, but this is just a discussion about the tenets of the religious zealots on "end of time" prophesies. So don't get your panties in a twist.

Who might we say fits this description in our little Armageddon play? Revelations 20:

1 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.
2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years
4 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

One aspect that isn't settled yet, is the coming of the New Jerusalem, which basically can only happen if there is truly "peace in the middle east". Jerusalem would have to be rebuilt, as described in Revelations, to meet the most important aspect of the prophesy:

1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
10 And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God,
11 Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal;
Honestly, if you search the internet, you can find all sorts of interesting connotations of world events relating to Revelations. I actually saw an internet site that compared New York to the "New Babylon", the September 11 World Trade Center destruction to the destruction of Babylon and the "weeping and wailing of merchants made rich" as the financiers who were thrown out by the towers' destruction.

Frankly, as I pointed out before, these are almost self fulfilling prophesies that can be related to many times during history. Babylon and Jerusalem have been destroyed and rebuilt many times. Of course, Jesus hasn't arrived again, yet, and we certainly haven't known a thousand years of peace, so who knows? Of course, we can fulfill these prophesies again with some really horrible outcomes if we aren't careful. There are some crazy people in the world and a few of them have nuclear capabilities.

One part of the prophesy talks about the "red dragon". My Grandmother always told me she thought that was the Communist Chinese. Maybe. But it seems that we have tamed them with financial support. The other might even be North Korea. I have read some older books that refer to native Arabs as "red" men from their dark skin and time in the sun.

I often think that this is one of those scary stories, like a Steven King novel, that you should read while the lights are on and somebody else is in the house with you. When you are brought up in the church, you are taught to fear God and believe in his word. A little like our Islamist counterparts. Even if you leave the church in some manner, that first indoctrination stays with you and keeps picking at the superstitious part of your brain.

Generally, my rational mind keeps me from wondering down these paths, but every once in awhile, the superstitious me, prods me in the back and says, "What if?"

My Mom finally got off the subject and went to bed. Said she had to get up in the morning and go shopping. Me, I decided that this was the strangest conversation I had ever had at 5 AM and decided, if I was going to have to think about it, I would write it and see what the rest of you think.


Robert said...

The book of Revelation ("Apocalypse" likewise also means revelation) was written to an audience quite familiar with Christian persecution under Nero, and then under Domitian.

Revelation is seen by many as a 'secret code book' of sorts. I reject that view.

There is a load of symbolic language in Revelation which makes things tough, though.

But we must remember that Revelation was written to inspire hope to a Church under persecution.

For the symbols, we see words and numbers. For instance, 6 as imperfection. 666 is ultimate imperfection, as well as the numerical equivalent of Nero's name.

Beasts are Roman emperors, horns represent power, etc.. etc.. etc...

Kat said...

Robert..that is an excellent reminder about when Revelations was written and Nero being the ultimate imperfection (right up there with Caligula) since he was a sick puppy.

I suppose then that Rome and the Ceasars must be considered the "world ruled by one man" who comes as a savior and ends up being the anti-christ. Certainly, the edges of the Roman empire had to be considered "the world" as they knew it. And of course, there were many kings that paid tribute and hommage to Rome. I suppose if I lived in that time, I would have believed that, too.

So, if we follow that to the ultimate conclusion, the prophesied New Babylon to be detroyed would be Rome and the New Jerusalem would be Vatican city? It sure is filled with treasures and many gates, studded with gems and covered in Gold. Dressed as a bride for the lamb.

Hmm...very interesting.

Tammi said...

I'm like you on Religion. It's mine and it's personal. I share when appropriate. Mom worries as I don't attend church, but when we lapse into conversations like you shared with your Mom she feels a bit better.

Regarding the book of Revelations, I studied it pretty intensly in High School and the first bit of college. To the point that it really started to effect me. So I stepped back and just realized that personally, I'll just live life so that I have no regrets and no misgivings. When it happens, it happens.

But the images and code can be so confusing and actually terrifying to those that get caught up in it. My ex-brother in law is obsessed with it, to the point that he pushes his fears off on his children. That's tough to offset.

This war in Iraq has triggered some thought along the lines your mother shared, however - there is no real knowing. My neice brought it up during her visit and wanted me to pull out the Bible and figure out when the end of the world will be. I had to explain that while Aunt Tammi is good - she'll never be that good! ;-)

Anyway - wonderful, thought provoking post as always.

Nas said...

Well Kat, perhaps the saying, "just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not after you" would fit here. In the sense that just because many have predicted the end of the world at a certain time, or taken certain events and tried to fit them to the book of Revelation in the past, does not negate that the book, AS PROPHECY, may still be valid. To draw this conclusion would be similar to an irrational conclusion that since most if not all scientific theories were revised - I believe right now the talk is about Hawking revising his on black holes - that science itself is worthless.

I don't know if these "chips" are the mark of the beast. I tend to doubt it. But I think that the reason people began to see them that way is tied to the fact that the book does state that you won't be able to buy or sell without this mark. Until our age, and our current technology, how could this be done on a worldwide scale?

The book is understandable. In fact, in the first verse it makes it clear that it is to be 'shown to his servants.' It doesn't say that is to fool or trick us. If read literally, everything in the book is explained either from the Old Testament, or is explained by the author in the book itself. Of course, one must be conversant with the Old Testament - which the Jews at that time would have been.

A couple of interesting bits of trivia: Whereas 6 is treated throghout the Old Testament and Revalation as incomplete, 7 is considered as wholly complete - divine. There are 7 blessings in the book of revelation, beginning with the first verse, which offers a blessing to the reader (the only book in the bible which promisses a blessing for the reader). There are dozens more, but that one is kind of fun.

By the way, one point of prophecy still to be fufilled prior to the Armegeddon is the rebuiding of Herod's temple. Which must be built on its origional site, now occupied by a Muslim temple in Jerussalem. The day you see that come down, and construction start on a new temple is the day that we should all perhaps take a closer look at this book. Although, if I recall, that may be around the midway point of the Tribulation (I just don't recall all the details) so perhaps waiting for that sign might be pushing the envelope a little. Or as Mark Twain (was it?) said when caught reading the Bible on his deathbead, "I'm looking for loopholes."

Kat said...

Tammi..I had a second cousin like that. Kind of crazy, end of the world to the point where he took his family off into the netherlands of the US and built himself a little compound. Basically went whole hog on the fundamentals of Christianity. Made his kids dress a certain way and home schooled them. Two of them grew up and left, never looked back. The third is a little screwy. His wife finally left him and went back to practice law.

Nas...I didn't realize that about the seven blessings. I only noticed the seven plagues. Guess that's what gets some people, the scary part.

When I read Revelations, I often think of Nostradamus's predictions. Sort of vague, with just enough mention of actual places and events to make you think they could be real.

My personal belief is that the end of the world is a long way off (hopefully). Thought, I must wonder if the reason some people are so "anti-globalization" is that it predicates the scary part of the Revelations.

Personally, I am hoping that globalization leads more towards the Star Trek version of unity and super development of technology. Of course, this could mean that we are destined to destroy the world, but hopefully not.

I'm an optimist, after all. LOL

Nas said...

Personally, over the last 10 years I've come to put my faith more in God than in people and our technology. Not that I'm against either - or am anti-globilization. In fact, I have hopes that the internet allows such freedom of press, and thought, that dictatorships and oppressive governments will find it as corrosive as time. More so, in fact, as time compresses into the nano second world we've moved to, so that what has taken ages to wear down the pyramids may only take decades or less to wear down dictatorships.

But that's on the macro scale. On the micro, it is God that will change hearts, not world courts, free trade, or the internet per se. In this respect, I believe Bush has it right with his initiatives to allow contracts to go fairly and without prejudice to faith based groups, because its true what he says that it is the person who puts their arm around your shoulders, and offers support (much more than the government grants) which make differences in people's lives.

Uhm, I actually have a web site, which I don't promote much because its really just a place for me to keep my notes in an organized manner on a class we were taking, at, where you can find more notes on Revelation in general, and the number seven in particular, as follows:

Consistently, when the number 7 is used in the Bible, it signifies completeness, fulfillment, and perfection. This number is used throughout the book of Revelation in words and in format. For example:

The book is divided into sections of seven.

Seven Seals

Seven Bowls

Seven Trumpets

Within the book of Revelation Jesus makes seven "I am" statements.

There are seven letters to seven churches in the book

There are seven Blessings.

The 'Seven Lamps & Seven Spirits before His Throne' (Rev 4:5)

The Seven Golden Lampstands and Seven Stars (Rev 1:12 & Rev 1:16)

The Lamb in the throne room has seven horns, and seven eyes (Rev 5:6)

There are seven angels who stand before God, given the seven trumpets (Rev 8:2)

Seven thunders (Rev 10:3)

Sign of the red dragon with seven heads and seven crowns (Rev 12:3)

A beast from the sea with seven heads

Interestingly, the Gospel of John (the author of Revelation) also works with a number of sevens (seven miracles, seven parables, etc.) And Paul wrote to seven churches (unless you count the book of Hebrews, although he did not identify himself as the author here, yet he always did in each of his other writings).

chelle said...

Yes most people through out the ages have tried to come up with some way in which their current catastrophe fitted the Revelation senario, however it has only ever fitted one section or portion. The prophecy that need to be fulfilled are really quite specific and cannot really be applied to other times in New Testament history. Some prophecy such as Israel getting their nation back have only ever occurred once (the Bible says that the end will come within a generation of that what is the average lifespan of a person?). They cannot be taken singularly they must be looked at as a succession of events which will be unique to only one time in New Testament history. Israel got it's nation back in the 1940's it has not happened at any other time since the people were robbed of their nation 2000 or so years ago. Babylon the great will be rebuilt. Suddam Husein began that process on the origional site of that ancient city when he was in power. Around a decade ago it was conveniently discovered that the dome of the mosque is actually built next to the origional site of the Temple and therefore paves the way for an agreement which will bring about the rebuilding of the temple (the mosque and Gods temple side by side? the abomination of desolation?). Israel will be surrounded by her enemies there will be a 7 year peace treaty signed with the endorsement of the temple being rebuilt (Gods enemy is not his children that have been misled it is the spiritual powers behind that deciet but those people still have a choice). When the apostles asked Jesus when this would happen he gave them signs to look for and called them the birthpains and said the end would come quickly when we saw them and asked us to be vigilant and to watch for them, wars, famine, freak weather conditions, earthquakes around the world and the sea's will rise up and roar. Yes all of these things have happened throughout history but just take one moment and look at the last 2 years where we have had an increase in eathquakes, freak weather conditions (Sydney Australia does not have tornadoes ever however just 2 nights ago it was hit with a series of them), the wars and the famines go on and we have had 3 incredibly significantly serious tsunami in the last 2 years (the seas will rise up and roar) Whatever your beliefs may be about Jesus when you read the prophecy that have already occured and the timing of everything it is very difficult i believe to deny that something significant is happening and if the Bible is the inspired word of God written so long ago but is fulfilling itself today then we had better start looking to this God and listen to what else He say's such as maybe His escape plan is real. Here is the bottom line as i see it, God is love and He created us to be his family, the tree of knowledge of good and evil was in the garden because he did not want slaves or robots but family, love cannot exist without a choice. We chose curiosity over our relationship with God and when we did we abdicated our position of CEO of this world and gave it to another an ambitious angel who thought he could do it better than God. We crowned him that's why bad things happen to good people we made him the king of this world and he hates God (whats the best way to hurt someone who has children, through their children of course, God is not vulnerable to satan in anyother way). God came and was born into the body of a man and fulfilled the laws by which He created this world and the manner of it's existance so that quite simply all we had to do is believe he did it for us. So we, like a grape vine could be regrafted into the vine of life, our Father in Heaven. When He did this he destroyed the power of satan over all of those of us who accept His precious gift and from that time to now has been a time of decision making but the time is running out there has never been a prophecy in the Bible that missed it's mark there are only some left yet to be fulfilled but they will be and i dont know if it will be tomorrow or 500 years from now but i do personally believe my grandchildren who have yet to be born may see it. We will all live eternally everyone of us the destination will be of our own choosing with or without our Father in Heaven that is the bottom line. It is nice if you have read the Bible a couple of times but i challenge you to study it leave not one page undisected you will be amazed at what you find it will blow your mind and i can see you are just the sort of person who could commit to doing just that. Go with an open mind or be sceptical black is black and white is white the truth will always win out. The truth is that part of your brain the enemy has convinced you is just superstition may be the most logical rational and inspired part of your thinking. God speaks to us all unfortunately only some listen.