“That G-d that you’ve been praying to is gonna give you back what you’ve been wishing on someone else.” –Rav Robert Zimmerman
An examination of Revelation 18.
I’m amazed at the number commentaries on the Revelation of Yeshua (Jesus) that go beyond the relevant contextual qualification concerning the time of Yochanan’s writing to express the idea that it is in fact Yochanan who has conceived of this prophecy of his own fruition. He has not! Yochanan, as previously stated, is the scribe. The prophecy itself is the work of Yeshua, born of the mind of G-d. We are foolish to invest in interpretation that relies on the premise that it is Yochanan’s own agenda that is driving this prophetic work. This is after all the Unveiling of Yeshua and not the Revelation of Yochanan.
The destruction of Babylon has been alluded to already in chapter 14:8, a quotation of Isaiah 21:9. This judgement is against pride, wicked violence, greed and materialism and ultimately, relates to her rebellion against G-d. This judgement is praised by G-d’s people (15:3; 16:5, 7; 18:10, 20; 19:2) but mourned by those of the world who have adopted her evil consciousness.
This chapter’s lament (Doom song) echoes Ezekiel 27-28, which refers to Tyre (an allegory for the seat of Satan’s power: Ezekiel 28:11-19). This hymn of destruction also replicates the previous prophetic writings concerning Babylon (Isaiah 13; 14; 21; Jeremiah 50; 51). It is in fact impossible to fully grasp the weight of Yochanan’s record of this new doom song without familiarizing ourselves with the doom songs of Israel’s prophets.
As an analogy, Babylon reflects the seat of Satanic power: its destruction, which is ironically carried out by Satan himself via the kings of the previous chapter (17:16-18), all of whom are given authority by G-d, is the prequel to Satan’s destruction in chapter 20.
18:1 After these things I saw another messenger coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory.
“After these things” means, “After seeing the chronology of events explaining the coming punishment of the prostitute (Babylon).”
“Another messenger” means, “A messenger other than the seven who poured out the plagues.”
The fact that the messenger comes down from the heavens tells us that this messenger is entering the domain of the earth and that Yochanan is now viewing events from an earthly location.
The messenger is said to have, “great authority.” It’s interesting to note that while other messengers of G-d and in turn, the forces of evil are, “given authority”, this messenger, “has great authority”. The Hebrew words, “Rabah (Great)” and, “Gibor (Mighty)” are often paired, it is therefore possible that this messenger who holds great authority may be Gavriel (Mighty One of G-d). Or, given the fact that the earth is illuminated with his glory, he may be the Angel of the presence or even Yeshua Himself (Ezekiel 43:2).
2 And he cried out with a mighty (Gibor) voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a cage of every unclean and detestable bird.
Revelation 18:2 – 19:6, is a multi-voiced doom song over Babylon (the city representing the head of rebellion against G-d). It is inspired by the Biblical doom songs of old, and juxtaposes the temporary greatness of G-d’s enemies against the greatness of their destruction (Isaiah 14; 47; Jeremiah 30-31 on Babylon, and Isaiah 23; Ezekiel 26-27 on Tyre, a metaphor for Satan’s seat of power).
Although these are future events, Yochanan records them in the past tense because they’ve been firmly decided by G-d.
The mighty cry of the messenger indicates that all of creation hears what he says. He speaks the words of Revelation 14:8, which echo the words of Isaiah 21:9. “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!”
The messenger speaks of Babylon’s desolation under three headings:
3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the Rulers of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the businessmen of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.”
The nations (not believers in Yeshua) had consumed Babylon’s immoral life style and emulated it, in turn the Rulers had engaged her directly and brought her ideologies and sinful practices to their own lands: finally the businessmen who had trafficked in her wealth and sensuality had become rich from using both Babylon and those they marketed her riches to.
In any given generation there is a city of Babylon and an empire that thrives on her leadership. However there will be one last manifestation of this city and empire at the end of the age that will be unmistakable due to its reach across the entire globe, something that no kingdom or empire has ever achieved.
4 I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;
The new voice here comes from the heavens and identifies with the people of G-d saying, “My people”, therefore it is probably the voice of Yeshua, for no messenger nor any other being has the right to call the people of G-d, “My people” unless they are quoting G-d prophetically, which is the other possibility here. Verse 5 suggests that the speaker is someone other than G-d the Father.
The instruction of G-d to His people, “come out” is a common refrain throughout the Tanakh (OT): Genesis 12:1; 19:12; Numbers 16:23; Isaiah 48:20; 52:11; Jeremiah 50:8; 51:6, 45; Zechariah 2:6-7.
“Ho, Zion! Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon.” –Zechariah 2:7
It’s a theme that is also significantly represented in the New Testament: 2 Corinthians 6:14-15; Ephesians 5:11; 1 Timothy 5:22.
“Come out of her” means, not only physically escaping the city of Babylon but more importantly having nothing to do with her immoral practices (“So that you will not participate in her sins”). By keeping themselves separate from the immoral lifestyle of Babylon the people of G-d avoid the plagues that will come upon her.
5 for her sins (offenses) have been glued together and piled up as high as heaven, and G-d has remembered her iniquities (perverse distortions).
The phrase, “piled up as high as heaven” is an ironic allusion to the corporate sin of Babel (Genesis 11) and a quotation from Jeremiah 51:9.
“G-d has remembered her iniquities”. G-d is just and will not allow the crimes committed against His called out ones to go unpunished (16:19). We must remember that Babylon, the rulers who lusted after her, the people of the earth (Not Messiah followers) and the businessmen who profited by her are all unrepentant. Contrary to the teaching of some modern Christian scholars, there can be no forgiveness without repentance. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31, the unforgiveable sin) is understood to be the unrelenting refusal to admit that we are at fault and in need of G-d’s redemption through Yeshua. In other words, those whose end is eternal punishment have chosen their own fate through their consistent refusal of G-d’s mercy.
6 Pay her back even as she has paid, and double to her double according to her deeds; in the cup which she has mixed, mix twice as much for her.
Where verses 4-5 were addressed to G-d’s people, the following verses are directed toward those who are carrying out G-d’s judgements.
“Summon many against Babylon,
All those who bend the bow:
Encamp against her on every side,
Let there be no escape.
Repay her according to her work;
According to all that she has done, so do to her;
For she has become arrogant against Hashem,
Against the Holy One of Israel.” –Jeremiah 50:29
“And double to her double again, according to her deeds”. This is an unusual phrase, which is why it is usually rendered as, “pay her back double according to her deeds”, however the Greek text uses diploo followed by diplous, literally reading, “Double to her and double again”, making a total of four times the pay back.
The premise for the double payment is found in Exodus 22:4, 7 & 9, and refers to goods stolen either directly or from a guardian. Here however we are dealing with more than just stolen material possessions, to the contrary, we’re seeing repayment for stolen life, in this case the lives of the set apart ones of G-d. Therefore the twofold repayment is doubled, making it fourfold.
This punishment comes in the cup that Babylon had mixed for her victims. Her own sin gives back to her what she has intended for others. The principle of sowing and reaping is clearly at work. She is receiving her just punishment.
I’m reminded of the words of Rav Robert Zimmerman:
“That G-d that you’ve been praying to is gonna give you back what you’ve been wishing on someone else.”
7 To the degree that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in turn give her torment and sorrow;
This verse uses a Jewish poetry formula, coupling Babylon’s primary sins and then following them by coupling her forms of punishment in a rhythm that emulates the Psalmist formulas. Babylon has glorified herself (idolatry: sin against G-d) and indulged in luxury (at the expense of others: sin against others). This is a intentional affront to the Instruction of Yeshua to, “Love The L-rd your G-d with all your heart, mind and strength and… love your neighbour as yourself”. Therefore her actions are a type of anti-Torah. In turn she receives a coupling of torment and sorrow. Where she has tormented others she will receive four times the torment and where she has caused others sorrow she will receive four times the sorrow. This corresponds to her failure to observe the two commands that sum up the Torah. In place of friendship with G-d she has received just torment and in place of friendship with others she has received loneliness and sorrow.
For she says in her heart (core being), ‘I sit as a queen and I am not a widow (Is. 47:7-9), and will never see mourning.’
““Yet you said, ‘I will be a queen forever.’
These things you did not consider
Nor remember the outcome of them.
“Now, then, hear this, you sensual one,
Who dwells securely,
Who says in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one besides me.
I will not sit as a widow,
Nor know loss of children.’
“But these two things will come on you suddenly in one day:
Loss of children and widowhood.
They will come on you in full measure” –Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 47:7-9
The sin of Babylon is not merely immorality, it is ultimately the sin of idolatry, the root of all evil.
8 For this reason in one day her plagues will come, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for the YHVH G-d (Merciful Judge) Who judges her is strong.
The punishment of burning by fire is commanded in the Torah for the wayward daughter of a Cohen (Priest) who profanes her father (Gen. 38:24; Lev. 21:9).
The phrase, “for the YHVH G-d (Merciful Judge)” is a formula from the Tanakh and rests on the wider meaning attached to the Names of G-d. The phrase that follows, “Who judges her is strong.” conveys a sense of the certainty, power and means of right judgement. This is not some arbitrary act but a merited judgement carried out by G-d Himself.
9 “And the Rulers of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, 10 standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’
Verses 9-19 present three primary lamenting entities in succession:
Not wanting to be caught in her destruction, the rulers of the earth who had willingly adopted her immorality stand at a distance terrified of the torment they see and lamenting the fact that it all came about so quickly. What might this mean for them?
11 “And the businessmen of the earth weep and mourn over her, because no one buys their cargoes anymore— 12 cargoes of gold and silver and precious stones and pearls and fine linen and purple and silk and scarlet, and every kind of citron wood and every article of ivory and every article made from very costly wood and bronze and iron and marble, 13 and cinnamon and spice and incense and perfume and frankincense and wine and olive oil and fine flour and wheat and cattle and sheep, and cargoes of horses and chariots and slaves and human souls.
The businessmen in turn lament the fact that they can’t prophet from Babylon’s immorality any longer. Their cargoes had included every perceivable product and service including human trafficking. The trading in human souls is an allusion to treating human beings like the beasts of the earth, which is an abomination against the created order.
14 The fruit you long for has gone from you, and all things that were luxurious and splendid have passed away from you and men will no longer find them.
Babylon is likened here to a rejected woman, devoid of all luxury, abandoned by her lovers and left desolate. All her beauty has passed away and men no longer find her attractive. As King Solomon once wrote, “Beauty is fleeting and charm is deceptive but a woman who fears HaShem is to be praised”.
15 The businessmen trading in these things, who became rich from her, will stand at a distance because of the fear of her torment, weeping and mourning, 16 saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, she who was clothed in fine linen and purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls; 17 for in one hour such great wealth has been laid waste!’
Like the rulers before them the businessmen stand aloof for fear of receiving like punishment. They mourn the loss of her wealth but do not mourn her.
And every shipmaster (Pilot) and every passenger (Traveller) and sailor (steward), and as many as make their living by the sea, stood at a distance, 18 and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’ 19 And they threw dust on their heads and were crying out, weeping and mourning, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, in which all who had ships at sea became rich by her wealth, for in one hour she has been laid waste!’
Finally the cargo companies, pilots, travel agents and passengers weep as they watch her burn. They take their mourning a step further, throwing dust on their heads like the mourners of ancient Israel. However, they’re not mourning for Babylon, their great mourning is for themselves because they’re no longer able to profit from the cargo and travel industries that relied on Babylon’s (the city) existence.
20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you set apart ones and apostles and prophets, because G-d has pronounced judgment for you against her.”
The text now turns from the voice of the shipmasters to the voice of the writer. While the enemies of G-d mourn, the angelic host, the people of G-d and their leaders rejoice. This is not a vindictive rejoicing over the suffering of others, rather it’s an affirmation of justice spoken in the performance idiom of the prophets of ancient Israel (Jeremiah 27-28; 51:63-64).
21 Then a strong messenger took up a stone like a great millstone (donkey drawn) and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.
This strong messenger may be Michael (Who is like G-d), although it is impossible to know for sure.
The milestone mentioned here is an extremely weighty one that required a donkey or steer to pull it in order to grind wheat.
The prophet Jeremiah’s last words of prophecy spoke of this very thing:
“And as soon as you finish reading this scroll, you will tie a stone to it and throw it into the middle of the Euphrates, and say, ‘Just so shall Babylon sink down and not rise again because of the calamity that I am going to bring upon her; and they will become exhausted.’” Thus far are the words of Jeremiah.” –Jeremiah 51:63-64
Jeremiah’s name literally means, “My high place is Hashem”. We could say that the Scroll of Jeremiah receives its final fulfilment in the action of this messenger.
Yeshua also alludes to this picture of damnation:
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” –Matthew 18:6
The millstone is a metaphor for G-d’s judgement and the sea is a metaphor for Sheol (here, specifically Gehinom) and subsequently, eternal punishment.
22 And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer; and the sound of a mill will not be heard in you any longer;
Up to this point the lament has been concerned with external relationships, politics, trade etc., now the doom song turns to the inner workings of the city.
The cities losses are listed from the height of civilized society to the very necessities of life. Beginning with entertainment and the arts the lament then turns to the loss of craftsmanship and the simple processes of daily life once heard in the operation of the mill.
23 and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your businessmen were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery.
Not only will the city be devoid of physical light, it will also be devoid of all spiritual light. Whereas in the past there may have been believers still living within its borders, now they have left completely. The reference to bride and groom is a Hebraism relating to prosperity and wellbeing. Never again will either of these things be known in Babylon.
Jeremiah uses this same phrase in the message of Hashem’s judgement against Judah:
“Then I will make to cease from the cities of Judah and from the streets of Jerusalem the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land will become a ruin.” –Jeremiah 7:34
This is of course the antithesis to the coming wedding of the Lamb and His bride (Revelation 19:7-9).
The reason for these losses is the wicked trade that has been perpetuated by Babylon’s businessmen and the satanic witchcraft practiced by her populace.
The sorcery alluded to here is intended literally and relates to a resurgence of Babylon’s ancient witchcraft practices which G-d overrides:
“But these two things will come on you suddenly in one day:
Loss of children and widowhood.
They will come on you in full measure
In spite of your many sorceries,
In spite of the great power of your spells.” –Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 47:9
It is likely that Yochanan (being a Jew) would also see the sorcery as a representation of the impure practices introduced to the world by demons through sexual immorality, which is often paired with sorcery (1 Enoch 8-9; 2 Kings 9:22; Revelation 21:8; 22:15) :
“When Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” And he answered, “What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” –2 Kings 9:22
24 And upon her was found the blood of prophets and of the set apart ones and of all who have been murdered on the earth.”
This is an allusion to Jeremiah 51:49 which reflects the fact that Babylon is an icon representing the evil practice of the shedding of innocent blood (Murder). Babylon does not literally have all the blood of the innocent lying in her streets, however the very nature of her rebellion is the soil in which all murder and idolatry grows, having been seeded by Satan himself.
“Indeed Babylon is to fall for the slain of Israel,
As also for Babylon the slain of all the earth have fallen.” –Jeremiah 51:49
This judgement is similar in terms of meaning to the words of Yeshua spoken against the hypocrisy of the generation of Israel that lived at the time of His earthly ministry:
“But He said, ‘Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. For this reason also the wisdom of G-d said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of G-d; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’” –Luke 11:46-51 (Matthew 23:29-36)
Notice that it is a hypocritical generation that is held to account for the shedding of innocent blood.
In the present text the judgement is spoken against the enemies of redeemed Israel and of the servants of Messiah from the nations. It does not, as some foolishly suggest, apply to Israel as a metaphorical Babylon. We know this because at this point in the Revelation’s chronology all of the House of ethnic Israel has now been redeemed (Revelation 11:13).
The phrase, “And of all who have been slain upon the earth”, uses the Greek Sphazo, meaning to butcher, murder, slay. Therefore the better reading is, “And of all who have been murdered upon the earth”. This is a judgement against the one who brought murder to the earth in the beginning, Satan. It will be upon Him and his servants that this judgement will come to bear.
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
It’s as if Satan and all his minions were a speck of dust and G-d were an ocean of universes, keeping in mind that a speck of dust is reliant on the universe for its very existence.
An examination of Revelation 17.
17:1 Then one of the seven messengers who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I’ll show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters,
Any attempt to identify which messenger is responsible for this dialogue is pure conjecture. Even if one chooses to believe that this is the final messenger of the seven, it remains impossible to determine the specific identities of the seven, with the exception perhaps of the messenger who is over the waters. If the messenger speaking to Yochanan here is the messenger of the waters, then there is a tenuous connection to the city of Babylon as the city that sits, “on many waters”. The fact that the messenger says, “come here” could denote that the messenger is over Babylon, the harlot.
The judgement spoken of, with the exception of verse 16, is detailed in Chapter 18 of the Revelation.
The harlot is literally titled, “Babylon the Great” (v5). Add to this the description of, “sitting on many waters” and we have a clear indication of who the harlot represents. Remembering that the phrase, “sitting on many waters” is poetic language associated with the ancient city of Babylon.
“For HaShem has both purposed and performed
What He spoke concerning the inhabitants of Babylon.
O you who dwell on many waters,” –Jeremiah 51:12-13
The waters are given an added allegorical interpretation by the messenger in verse 15. Notice that they are part of the allegorical description of the harlot and beast, and are therefore part of the symbolism of the allegory, i.e. the harlot is the allegory for Babylon and the many waters are the allegory for Babylon’s subjects (v 15). It’s interesting to note that the Canaanite gods were also said to have been enthroned upon many waters.
As the book of Revelation continues it becomes more and more difficult to advocate for an allegorical interpretation of Babylon the city, because Babylon is itself the literal city represented by the allegory of the harlot. In fact, the primary suppositions behind the idea of a Roman Babylon are deeply rooted in the bigoted views of the protestant Church fathers and their hatred for the Roman Catholic Church.
The Scriptural evidence for a Roman Babylon is circumstantial at best, whereas the overwhelming Scriptural evidence for a literal Babylon is extremely convincing. This is not to say that the text is without allegory, however the allegory, like all good mashlim (parables), is clarified by the explanations given regarding who the allegorical characters and symbols represent.
The rhythm of allegory, like the rhythm of mashlim (parables), as testified to by the custom and practise of our Messiah Yeshua, is:
For example, Yeshua told the parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:36-44) concerning the end of days and explained that the sower is The Son of Man (Yeshua), the seed are the sons of righteousness and the tares are the sons of evil sown by Satan. However, the disciples didn’t fully understand the parable until they had received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2), it was following this that they eventually recorded their recollections of the life of Yeshua.
Here we are told the parable of the harlot and the beast followed by an explanation of who they are and must rely on the Holy Spirit to unveil any further meaning. Contrary to majority interpretation there is no further step required, therefore the harlot is Babylon and the explanation concerning the horns as rulers is intended to be mysterious in the sense that they are related to an ancient kingdom (Babylon) that, at the time of Yochanan’s writing, no longer existed. With the words of the prophets concerning Babylon in mind, Yochanan records the revelation of Yeshua as if outside of time, understanding that a resurrection of this ancient city and empire were more than possible in the plans of G-d.
If, as some say, the harlot is Rome, what is the mystery? Rome would be the first choice of any reader of Yochanan’s time, making it too obvious to be considered a mystery. The real mystery is how it could ever be possible for Babylon to rise again.
Throughout Scripture the harlot or whore is seen as a metaphor for those who are unfaithful to G-d (Nahum 3:4; Isaiah 23:17). In this instance the harlot is Babylon, the ancient Mesopotamian city, located fifty-five miles south of modern-day Baghdad, Iraq. It was located by the river Euphrates, which flows through modern Iraq.
At the time of Yochanan’s writing the Babylonian Empire had long since collapsed and had several successors leading to the Parthians, who posed the greatest threat to the Roman Empire.
The harlot is a counterpoint to the woman (ethnic Israel) of chapter 12. The imagery of the harlot reminds the Jewish reader of the too lustful sisters Ohilah (Samaria) and Ohobilah (Jerusalem) Ezekiel 23, who prostituted themselves.
2 with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”
The wine of her immorality is more than simple sexual sin, it is a metaphor for a consciousness of complete rejection of G-d’s Instruction and the enticing of others to do the same. Harlotry is first and foremost a sin against love itself. Here it is a sin against G-d, Who is Love Himself.
Drunkenness is a celebrated process that first delights, then confuses and finally results in illness, vomiting and weakness. This is exactly what will happen to the nations that buy into the Babylonian religion/ideology.
While Islam may not turn out to be the final manifestation of a Babylonian centric consciousness, it is worth noting that Islam fits the description. The religious ideology of Islam is an affront to the G-d of Israel, it is anti-Messiah and advocates for gross sexual immorality (multiple wives and sex with minors). It is a religion that has enticed and manipulated the Western world, using the West’s own drunken ideologies to further its goals. If I were to choose between the two interpretive possibilities of a Roman Babylon and a literal Babylon within the present world climate, I would choose the literal Babylon as a representation of the centre of the kingdom of Islam.
3 And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns.
The phrase, “carried away in the Spirit” doesn’t necessarily indicate physical travel. In fact it is the least likely explanation. The key is, “in the Spirit” meaning that this experience happens both within and without of the normal understanding of time and space. It is a spiritual experience that happens to us in a corporal state within time resulting in us viewing through a glass darkly, that which is beyond time and space. Yochanan is not alone among the prophets regarding this experience, Ezekiel describes his experience in the following passages:
“The Spirit lifted me up and took me away; and I went embittered in the rage of my spirit, and the hand of HaShem was strong on me.” –Ezekiel 3:14
Notice that while Ezekiel had been lifted up in the Spirit, he remained embittered within his own spirit (ruach).
“And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of G-d to the exiles in Babylon.” –Ezekiel 11:24
The qualifying term here is, “vision”.
The woman is the harlot Babylon and the beast described here has been presented to us previously as a scarlet dragon (Rev 12:3) and as the beast rising from the ocean (13:1).
”Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great scarlet dragon (Taniym/devourer, tormentor) having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven crowns.“ –Revelation 12:3
“And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.” –Revelation 13:1
This beast is a composite of Satan (The Adversary) and the beast that rose from the ocean. The scarlet colour symbolizes torment and intent to destroy and torture. The colour scarlet is representative of sin (Isaiah 1:18) and is associated with the Hebrew name, “Edom” which literally means, “Red” and is born of the root Adamah (earth). Esau, who is called Edom because of his sin in despising his birth rite (Genesis 25:30), is known for his rebellion against G-d and his offspring become the objects of G-d’s judgement (Isaiah 34:5-6), thus the Dragon is seen as one who resists the purposes of G-d.
The seven heads and ten horns symbolize authority and established rule (temporary). This corresponds to the beast with ten horns in Daniel 7:7, 23-24.
We should note here that the beast carrying the harlot is a world empire that is a composite of satanic power and earthly idolatry, and is temporarily ruled by a central city of power (the harlot/Babylon). The seven heads and ten horns are therefore not part of a single city or location, rather they are representative of rulers and cities throughout the world. This fact alone negates the possibility that Rome is intended.
4 The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, 5 and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
“Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of HaShem,
Intoxicating all the earth.
The nations have drunk of her wine;
Therefore the nations are going mad.” –Jeremiah 51:7
It’s important to remind ourselves that the harlot is being used by G-d to fulfil His purposes. Babylon holds a gold cup of her abominations and Babylon herself is held as a gold cup in the hands of Hashem.
As stated previously, the nations are going mad after having purchased the lies born of the city of Babylon.
The name written on the harlot’s forehead is an anti-type for the name of the Messiah which is written on the foreheads of His elect (14:1). Her title pertains to her fate as well as her identity (Rev. 9:9; 14:11).
For the readers of Yochanan’s time the harlot imagery would have had a twofold meaning. First, those familiar with the Tanakh (OT) would see the relationship to texts speaking of those that resist G-d; and second, the pagan temple prostitutes of Yochanan’s time were often dressed in finery and displayed for all to see, they were priestesses who often wore decorative bejewelled plates across their foreheads with their specialties engraved on them.
The woman who rides the scarlet beast is also an anti-type for the priesthood of Israel. The High Priest of Israel wears the humble linen garment of a servant, whereas she wears the prideful purple garment of a ruler. The High Priest wears a breastplate over his heart that holds the precious stones of Israel’s tribes, whereas the harlot wears the stolen jewellery of the nations whom she has made drunk. The High Priest has a golden plate across his forehead with the words, “Kadosh HaShem” (Holy unto Adonai) written on it, whereas the whore wears a sign proclaiming her sinful acts and abominations, it might as well say, “Unholy and against G-d”. The High Priest offers a libation of living water from his cup, pouring it out as a prayer of supplication to G-d, whereas the prostitute of Babylon offers the wine of her anti-Messiah ideologies and immoralities to the nations, pouring it out in excess until no one can stand. She is also a symbol of royalty, the purple and scarlet robes are the robes of the rich and a common representation of royal garments at the time of Yochanan’s writing.
The mystery of her name is revealed by the messenger beginning with verse 7 and is attached to the beast she rides, a beast that is conceived of Satan himself. It is because of her connection to the inception of sin through the ancient snake that she is the greatest of harlots, the mother who birthed them all. She is the one from whose womb Satan has seeded abomination. She was inseminated at the tower of Babel and has been birthing prostitution ever since.
The word, “mystery” does not mean that Babylon is an allegorical name, to the contrary, it would have been a mysterious idea for anyone of Yochanan’s day to consider the ridiculous possibility that Babylon could ever rise again. As stated previously, Babylon can’t be the mystery because it is the literal entity that the allegorical harlot represents.
The phrase, “abominations and unclean things” is specifically used to describe idolatry in the Tanakh (OT). Therefore the gold cup in the woman’s hand is a symbol of idolatry. Idolatry is the root of all sin, it’s the sin that caused Satan’s fall. Therefore there is no mystery for the believer here. We recognise that idolatry is the mother of all sin.
Unlike the shameful nakedness of Oholah and Oholibah (Ezekiel 23), the expensive garments and jewellery adorning the harlot suggest great success in seduction.
6 And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the set apart ones, and with the blood of the witnesses of Yeshua (Jesus).
To the Jewish reader the drinking of human blood is the ultimate affront to Kashrut (Gen 9:4-6; Lev 7:26-27; 17:10-14).
The woman has enjoyed the process of drinking the blood of the set apart ones to excess. One only needs to look at the current world events and the beheading of Christians throughout the Middle East, with a concentration of bloodshed stemming from the centre of Iraq and working its way out under the title of militant Islam. The correlation is hard to miss. However, many are missing it. One only has to read the Jerusalem post or Hayom newspapers and the many articles from around the world concerning anti-Semitic attacks and murders and the correlation becomes clearer still. And yet, many, Christians included, are drunk on the deceptive rhetoric of world leaders enamoured by Islam.
When I saw her, I admired her (beauty) but greatly wondered. 7 And the messenger said to me, “Why do you wonder? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.
As with the rhythm of the parables, the messenger explains the allegory to Yochanan so as to be clear. This is the unveiling of Messiah, it is meant to be understood.
Yochanan admired the beauty of this woman but wondered what the plan of G-d was in all of this given that her actions were evil. On the other hand those who dwell on the earth (v8) simply admire the beast/Satan without even considering G-d’s purpose.
8 “The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction.
The beast is explained as an anti-type for G-d, with one profound difference. Where G-d is outside time and space and is now understood by the text to be present, described as the One, “Who was and is” eternally alive; the beast/Satan (evil world empire) is seen as one who was and is not and is about to return with the sole purpose of being destroyed, that is, eternally dead.
The beast is an empire seeded by Satan himself, an empire that once ruled the earth (who was), was unheard of at the time of Yochanan’s writing (now is not), and will rise again in the latter days for the sole purpose of being destroyed by G-d. Sounds like Babylon to me.
This beast will be released for a short time (Rev. 20:2-8) but he is on his way to eternal destruction in, “the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:9-10).
And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will have (great) admiration when they see the beast, because he was and is not and will come.
The security of the believer is again affirmed here with the knowledge that our names have been written for life in the Lamb’s book from before the creation of the world. Yeshua is our assurance that we will not be deceived by the beast. While those upon the earth who resist G-d will be in awe of this resurrected empire of Satan, we will see it for what it really is.
9 Here is the understanding that holds wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman sits, 10 and they are seven kings; five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; and when he comes, he must remain a little while.
The phrase, “understanding that holds wisdom” infers that this is something that the human mind, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, can come to understand; and that the evidence of these things can be seen in the physical reality of the real world (not just in the vision).
The seven heads are both physical locations and the rulers of those locations. At the time of the writing of Revelation five of those rulers have died and there is a current ruler in Yochanan’s time, if Yochanan intends a ruler of Rome then the ruler is probably Vespasian. However there is no certainty that the rulers are Roman. The fact that they could be rulers from any number of nations within the empire of the beast and that the Harlot is probably intended to represent the city of Babylon, makes the Roman theory very unlikely. The one who is to come remains unknown in spite of much conjecture.
Another view proposes that the hills and kings are empires, the five dead being, Old Babylon, Assyrian, New Babylon, Medo-Persian and the Graeco-Macedonian. The one that is would be Rome and the one to come could be any number of empires that have arisen since the fall of Rome.
11 The beast which was and is not, is himself also an eighth and is one of the seven, and he goes to destruction.
The beast is one of the previously mentioned kingdoms resurrected in the last days. The most likely candidate is the resurrected Babylon Empire (not to be confused with Babylon the city).
12 The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour. 13 These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.
The ten kings are yet to receive kingdoms as of the time of Yochanan’s writing. They receive their authority from the beast and reign for one hour, which is probably a metaphor for a time span rather than a literal hour. These rulers are given power for one reason, in order to submit that power to the beast (It’s interesting to note that Islam is an Arabic word meaning submission). If these kings are to reign just prior to the beast’s final destruction then they are yet future. Alternatively they may be rulers that have come to power since the writing of Revelation.
14 These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is L-rd of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.”
The reason that the Lamb will overcome is that He is G-d with us. This is seen in the title given Him by G-d the Father which finds its origin in Deut. 10:17. Those with Him will enjoy His victory but He doesn’t require their help. In fact their very identity is reliant on His authority over all things as given to Him by the Father. They are called (at their conception) and chosen (before the creation of the world) by Him and are faithful (eternally) as a result. Notice that the fidelity of the set apart ones is in direct conflict with the infidelity of unredeemed humanity.
15 And it was said to me, “The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.
The harlot Babylon (City) has power over many peoples and nations.
16 And the ten horns which you saw, and the beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire.
The children of hatred beget hatred even against those who are like minded. Hence in modern times Islamic extremists fight one another for the ultimate position of power i.e. ISIS the Islamic state are fighting IR the Islamic Republic of Iran. Here the ten rulers who have been set up for the purpose of submitting their power to the beast are used by the beast to defeat the harlot Babylon (The City) whom he also had empowered (given that she rides upon him). In other words, the Babylonian empire states stage a military coup against Babylon the city and her ruler/rulers.
Satan hates his own children. Yeshua reminds us that a kingdom divided against itself will not stand, He said this so as to make clear the unity and all surpassing power of G-d’s kingdom and so as to expose the self-defeating nature of evil.
It’s interesting to note that the punishment of burning by fire is commanded in the Torah for the wayward daughter of a Cohen (Priest) who profanes her father (Gen. 38:24; Lev. 21:9).
Though the harlot was once gloriously clothed, in contradiction to Oholah and Oholibah (Ezekiel 23), she is now, like them, left naked; and is burned as an unfaithful daughter (Unfaithful to G-d).
17 For G-d has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdoms to the beast, until the words of G-d will be fulfilled.18 The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.”
It is G-d Who is in control of all this. The Scriptures show that G-d often uses the wicked to accomplish His purposes (Exodus 10:1; Habakkuk 1:5-11). Although the power of Satan and of evil is spoken of often in Revelation, it is not an expression of dualism (the idea that good and evil are in balance), to the contrary, the Revelation shows just how ineffective and miniscule the power of Satan is and in contrast how incomparably awesome, immutable and overwhelming the power and person of G-d are. As I’ve said many times, it’s as if Satan and all his minions were a speck of dust and G-d were an ocean of universes, keeping in mind that a speck of dust is reliant on the universe for its very existence.
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
The greater tragedy is not the man who wastes his life in sinful action and then repents on his death bed, rather it is the man who, in the face of certain death, refuses to admit his faults and instead blames G-d for his predicament. “No one is blinder than the one who refuses to see."
An examination of Revelation 16.
Revelation 16 draws together the strands of judgement seen in the previous chapters, combining the seven seal judgements (5:1-9; 6:1-17, 8) and the seven judgements of the shofrot (Rams horns: 8:2-11:15) and illuminating their purpose as forerunners to the final seven judgements, the plagues that issue forth from the bowls of G-d’s messengers. What makes these final judgements unique is that they almost entirely reflect the last five of the judgements of Egypt—with the exception of the locusts and the blood waters, (although one could argue that the blood waters combine both the water judgement and the death of the firstborn)—and are all consuming, relentless, effecting not just a part (third) but all of the earth and its inhabitants (specifically those who have refused to repent and turn to G-d through His Messiah).
“HaShem said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, stand before Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Here is what HaShem says: “Let my people go, so that they can worship me. For this time, I will send all My plagues upon your core being, yourself, and on your servants and your people; so that you will realize that I am without equal in all the earth. For now I will stretch out my hand and strike you and your people with such severe plagues that you will be wiped off the face of the earth.” –Shemot/Exodus 9:13-15
16:1 I heard a loud voice coming from the Mishkan (sanctuary, temple) say to the seven messengers, “Go your way, and pour out on the earth (the entire world) the seven bowls of G-d’s wrath!”
The voice that Yochanan hears can only be that of HaShem. We know this because we have just been told in 15:8 that no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven judgements were completed. The fact that G-d’s voice issues from the Mishkan is yet another reminder of His presence with Israel in the desert as she escaped Egypt and journeyed to the Promised Land.
We must also note that while the messengers are intrusted with the bowls (a priestly function) and are responsible for pouring them out, they are none the less, “the seven bowls of G-d’s wrath”. We are prone to niceness (even a snake can feign niceness to get what he wants) regarding the love of G-d, often forgetting that His wrath is also born of His love.
2 So the first messenger went out and poured his bowl onto the earth (the entire world), and boils and painful sores appeared on all the people who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped its image.
First we observe that the plague is poured out over all the earth. Next we recognize that this plague is replicating the 6th plague of Egypt (Yochanan uses the same Greek word helkos, used in the Septuagint Exodus 9:9) on a global scale. Why? There is a clue in the fact that the first five plagues of Egypt, like the first of the judgements of Revelation, affected humanity indirectly. The 6th plague however began the 5 plagues that affected human beings directly. This is important because it shows a tipping point and the catalyst for the final hardening of Pharaoh’s heart and the hearts of the Egyptians. The same is true of Satan and the people of the entire earth in the present context.
We should also note that these plagues only affect those who, “had received the mark of the beast and worshipped its image.” Remembering that the beast is the world power that dominates the last days and receives its power from the Dragon (Satan). This was also the case in Egypt, while the Egyptians suffered the plague of the boils, the Israelites did not.
3 The second messenger poured out his bowl into the sea, and it became like the blood of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died. 4 The third messenger poured out his bowl into the rivers and springs of water, and they turned to blood.
This judgement represents the first of the public signs of Moses (who was drawn forth from the waters). The reason for its global repetition here is to remind the reader that these judgements are the beginning of the end for all humanity. They’re not taking place within the temporary inner courts of Satan’s palace (Pharaoh), rather they’re being loosed upon the whole earth in the sight of all humanity (The Egyptians). This plague also alludes to the death of the firstborn, a symbol of the final judgement.
In a literal sense it will mean that human beings will no longer have access to food from the sea and that those who choose to consume it will die as a result. Added to this is the fact that those who turn from the sea to the fresh water rivers and lakes for food will find the second of the blood judgements all the more distressing. And yet, as the text goes on to say, rather than repenting and turning to G-d they curse Him.
5 Then I heard the messenger of the waters say,
Apocryphal Jewish literature supports the concept of angelic beings assigned to the elements. In the book of Enoch the messengers of the waters are commanded by G-d to hold back the waters until Noah has completed the Ark (Enoch 66:1-2). 2 Baruch tells of angels with burning torches who are commanded to hold back their fire until the sacred vessels of the Temple could be hidden away (2 Baruch 6:4).
The following exert from Gill’s commentary is worth considering:
“Dr. Lightfoot thinks, and that not without reason, that since these angels appeared in the garb of priests, Rev 15:6 and since there was a priest appointed to take care of the wells, and fountains, and ditches about Jerusalem, that the people might have water at the feasts (Maimon, Cele Hamikdash, c. 7. sect. 15.), there is an allusion to him; and certain it is that there was such an officer; there was one Nechoniah, who was over the fountains and ditches (Misn. Shekalim, c. 5. sect. 1.); and in the same office was Nicodemon ben Gorion (Abot R. Nathan, c. 5. fol. 3. 2.), thought to be the Nicodemus mentioned in the New Testament.” —John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
Although it is impossible to know the name of this messenger, we do know that the messenger rather than being distraught at the destruction of the element he had been given oversight for, to the contrary calls out in praise to G-d, observing and approving of His justice.
“O Ha-Kadosh (The Holy One), the One Who is and was,
You are just in Your judgments.
6 They poured out the blood of your people and your prophets,
so you have made them drink blood. They deserve it!”
Rabbinical writings sometimes refer to G-d as, “Ha-Kadosh barukh hu”, The Holy One, blessed is He. The Aleinu prayer says, “We bend the knee, bow and acknowledge before the Supreme King of kings, Ha-Kadosh barukh hu (The Holy One, blessed is He).” This is a reference to G-d the Father.
We note that again here G-d is called the, “One Who is and was” but not, “will be” because He has now brought our reality face to face with eternity. From now on He simply is and was!
This psalm of praise and acknowledgement of G-d’s pure justice and victory over His enemies and the enemies of His people and prophets is similar to the words of the prophet Yishaiyahu (Isaiah):
“And I will feed them that oppress you (plural) with their own flesh; and they will be drunk with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all humanity will know that I, Hashem, am your (ethnic Israel) Saviour, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob (ethnic Israel).” –Yishaiyahu/Isaiah 49:26
Here, “Your people and your prophets” refers specifically to ethnic Israel (although in principle it also applies to Christians and those martyrs among the nations who serve the Messiah).
Note that the messenger says of the enemies of G-d’s people, “They deserve it!” This is hardly PC. Perhaps the love of G-d is violent, vengeful, and full of wrath, like the love of a Father who has watched his daughter being raped by evil men and left to die from her wounds. Perhaps the enemies of G-d’s people should now take warning before these days come upon them, for G-d Himself has said, “Vengeance belongs to Me!”
“Don’t avenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to the wrath of G-d: for it is written (Deut 32:35), Vengeance belongs to Me; I will recompense, says HaShem.” –Romans 12:19
Though we may be powerless to avenge ourselves, G-d is willing and able to avenge His children.
7 Then I heard the altar say,
The personification of the altar (of incense) is expected here in response to the just judgements of G-d. For it was from beneath the earthly sacrificial altar that the martyrs cried out for justice and their prayers were offered on the heavenly incense altar along with the prayers of the set apart ones (Rev 8:3-8) in a call for G-d’s vengeance on their enemies (Rev 6:10).
The messenger of Revelation 6 offers incense on the incense altar (Exodus 30:1) that stands before the torn curtain which once veiled the Holy of Holies. This curtain was torn at the point of Messiah’s death. It was torn from top to bottom as the action of a grieving Father tearing His garment. This has meant the unveiling (Revelation) of the Holy of Holies and means that this altar is now seen immediately before the throne of HaShem in the heavenlies.
It’s interesting to note that a small portion of the coals from the sacrificial altar, which was outside the Holy Place, were carried by “One who is worthy” (A priest) to the altar of incense, thus mingling the coals of the sacrificial altar with the incense being offered on the incense altar. (Mishnah. Tamid. c. 5. sect. 5)
We see in this a picture of the sacrificial death of the Messiah represented in the coals of the sacrificial altar, being the ignition point for the suffering prayers of the saints (set apart ones) represented by the incense. Therefore it is the unified voice of the Messiah and His set apart ones that cries out, personified in the altar of incense.
“Yes, HaShem, G-d of heaven’s armies,
your judgments are true and just!”
What you’ve done, though violent, vengeful and final, is none the less, just and true!
8 The fourth messenger poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was permitted to burn people with fire. 9 People were burned by the intense heat; yet they cursed the name of G-d, who had the authority over these plagues, instead of turning from their sins to give Him glory.
Here the sun is given authority to issue torment against global humanity (not a third). Perhaps the highest of the luminaries worshipped by Rome at the time of Yochanan’s writing is seen here as turning its power on its worshippers. However, at this point those suffering from the burning sun are aware of the fact that this torment is being directed by the One true G-d of Israel. Even with this knowledge they refuse to turn to G-d in repentance and choose rather to curse Him in their foolish pride. This solidifies the hardening of the hearts of humanity (Egypt) under the hardest of hearts Satan himself (Pharaoh).
Rav Shaul/Paul explained (1 Timothy 6:10), that the root of all sin is to love/worship something or someone other than G-d, this includes self-deification. Idolatry is the root of all sin and Satan was the first to entertain it. In the last days the children of Satan (Those who refuse G-d’s mercy) will cling to the root of sin returning the decaying fruit of their hatred to its source.
10 The fifth messenger poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom grew dark. People gnawed on their tongues from the pain, 11 yet they cursed the G-d of heaven because of their pain, and did not turn from their sinful deeds.
In previous chapters we have discussed the possibilities as to the central location of the throne of the beast, being the seat of earthly power over the world government that makes up its person (this is why the beast is called it rather than he). Two of the main possibilities are Babylon and Rome but it is difficult to know for sure. What is important is that whatever and wherever this Kingdom may be, there will come a time when G-d will pour out utter darkness upon it and in anticipation of eternal punishment people will gnash their teeth in suffering and turn their anger toward G-d. It’s worth noting that the darkness itself causes pain to those who resist G-d. This darkness, like the darkness that plunged Egypt into chaos, will give birth to an even more horrific judgement.
Once again, in spite of the knowledge that G-d is pouring out these judgements, the people of the earth (Those who have refused Messiah) continue to curse G-d and refuse His offer of salvation. At this point, as with Pharaoh before them, the people of the earth have been given over to the hardness, hatred and evil inclination of their own hearts (core being). Those who have embraced idolatry and hatred with reckless abandon mistake love for weakness and mercy for deception; they reach a point of no return because they’ve lied to themselves for so long that they’re unable to recognize truth in any form.
12 The sixth messenger poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water dried up, in order to prepare the way for the kings from the east.
In the ancient past the majority of Israel’s greatest enemies (with the exception of the Egyptians) had come from the East. At the time of Yochanan’s writing it was the Parthians that Rome feared along with the myth of the resurrected Caesar’s (Nero) return to claim his eternal rule over Rome.
Yochanan’s readers may also have been aware of the historical victory of Cyrus the Persian when he conquered Babylon by diverting the Euphrates River and drying up the river bed so that he could invade the city.
The drying up of waters is of course a familiar sign for the Jewish reader who is aware of the many instances in the Tanakh where G-d shows His power and might through the division, withholding and drying up of waters. (Exodus 14:21; Joshua 3:17; Isaiah 11:16; Jeremiah 51:36; Zechariah 10:11). However, unlike the many positive uses of this sign, it is used here in a contrary manner as a means of allowing access to the Eastern armies so that they can invade the west.
13 And I saw three unclean winds that looked like frogs; they came from the mouth of the dragon, from the mouth of the beast and from the mouth of the false prophet.
These three winds or breaths are not spirits themselves but rather the intent and breath of the spirits of those from whom they emanate. The Dragon (Satan), the Beast (Evil world power) and the Prophet (Anti-Messiah: mentioned here for the first time). This unholy trinity unites its collective influence to deceive the world through an ideology of hatred toward G-d and His people. This will bring to mind many regimes and Empires throughout the centuries, most recently the Nazis and presently Islam (a religion based on an ideology of hatred, subjugation and domination: it is also noteworthy that Islam is as testified to by its own holy writings, anti-Messiah).
These winds or ideologies have the appearance of the unclean frog. This amphibian once plagued Egypt and now plagues the hearts and minds of humanity.
It seems that in his letter to the Thessalonians Rav Shaul/Paul the apostle is prophesying the very thing we are reading about in Revelation 16. By the Holy Spirit He is looking forward to the revealing of the Anti-Messiah, the prophet who speaks for the beast (World power) and for Satan (Dragon). He begins by warning against spirits/winds of falsehood and deception (the frogs):
“To the end that you will not be quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit (breath/wind), or by word, or by letters pretending to be from us, saying that the day of HaShem is now at hand; 3 let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, 4 he that opposes and exalts himself against all that is called god that is worshipped; so that he sits in the temple of G-d, setting himself up as G-d.”
–2 Thessalonians 2:2-4
14 They are miracle-working demonic winds which go out to the kings of the whole inhabited world to assemble them for the War of the Great Day of Adonai-Tzva’ot (YHVH of Heavens Armies).
These winds are a sort of unholy spirit that powers genuinely miraculous signs and wonders. Signs and wonders that convince rulers that they are invincible against G-d and His armies. There purpose is to fool humanity into believing what their itching ears want to hear, that they are the masters of their own destiny (idolatry). This is of course a familiar refrain in many of our films and T.V. shows, it permeates our media and fills our colloquialisms. We have become certain that we are in control, despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary.
We’re now witnessing the event horizon of the end. The purpose of all these deceptions is to gather the enemies of G-d against His Messiah and His people for the final battle between Good and evil. Even now everything is under G-d’s control, evil remains a speck of dust and Good, in G-d, an ocean of universes.
15 “Look! I am coming like a thief! How blessed are those who stay alert and keep their clothes clean, so that they won’t be walking naked and be publicly put to shame!”
Amidst the turmoil and chaos the voice of Messiah is heard clearly above the din. “My beloved friends in the midst of all this chaos and trouble, stand strong in Me, keep your clothes clean in Me, don’t let yourself be caught naked when I come like a thief to rescue you.”
“Now as to the times and the ages, brothers and sisters, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of HaShem will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labour pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief;” –1 Thessalonians 5:1-4
Notice that like the Israelites in Egypt, followers of Yeshua will not be in darkness.
“So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and there was thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. 23 They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.” –Exodus 10:22-23
“But the day of Hashem will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” –2 Peter 3:10
This statement of warning is issued now as an opportunity for those who are reading Messiah’s revelation but have not yet received His gift of eternal life. It is written now, before the days when these events will take place so that those who are reading it will repent before it’s too late.
16 And they gathered the kings to the place which in Hebrew is called Har Megiddo.
There is no “H” in the Greek alphabet, therefore the Greek “Armageddon” (Which Yochanan records as being a Hebrew proper noun) is most likely an attempted transliteration of the Hebrew Har Megiddo, meaning Mountain of Megiddo or, Mountain of crowding, gathering and gashing (Judges 5:19).
Zechariah 10:11 prophecy’s regarding the valley of Megiddon in the latter days saying:
“And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born. 11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad-rimmon in the valley of Megiddon.”
Hadad Rimmon was the place in the Jezreel valley near Megiddo, where the righteous king Josiah lost his life. The Jezreel valley has been a valley of meeting, bloodshed and conflict from ancient days. It boasts archaeological remains spanning from the fourth century BCE to the Persian conquest of the 7th century CE.
It was in the Jezreel valley that Deborah and Balak defeated the enemies of Israel at the L-rd’s hand (Judges 4-5) and Gideon defeated the Midianites with only 300 men (Judges 6-8). It has also been the sight of modern battles such as the defeating of the Turks by Napoleon (1799) and General Allenby (1918).
Whether the final battle takes place in the Jezreel valley or upon the mountain that overlooks it, or both, the point is that all the world is gathered against G-d, His Messiah and His people.
The prophet Joel tells us that it is in fact G-d that causes the armies of the world to gather against Him and His people:
“Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations,
And gather yourselves there.
Bring down, O Lord, Your mighty ones.
Let the nations be aroused
And come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat (Synonymous with the Jezreel valley/valley of Megiddo),
For there I will sit to judge
All the surrounding nations.” –Joel 3:11-12
In other words, G-d manipulates Satan and his spirits in order to bring about the completion of His (G-d’s) redemptive plan.
17 The seventh messenger poured out his bowl on the air, and a loud voice came out of the Temple (Mishkan/Tent of meeting) from the throne, saying, “It is done!”
The air was thought of as the abode of the demonic, an environment filled with powers and principalities that opposed G-d. In this context Satan has been cast from the mid heavens (Rev 12:9) and bound beneath earth’s outer atmosphere. Therefore the seventh plague attacks the root cause of man’s rebellion, the Prince of the air and his demonic hordes and unclean spirits.
“You formerly walked according to the way of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.” –Ephesians 2:2
The voice, as before, is The Father G-d. The phrase, “It is done” has no correlation to the words, “It is finished” spoken by Messiah on the cross. In fact the Greek is better translated, “It is performed”.
18 There were flashes of lightning, voices and peals of thunder; and there was a massive earthquake, such as has never occurred since mankind has been on earth, so violent was the earthquake.
The voices, lightning and thunder are familiar elements of a theophany (Manifest meeting between G-d and humanity).
Though the first century CE was no stranger to earthquakes, Yochanan specifies that there has been no earthquake like it since the creation of humanity. This is a catastrophic future event felt throughout the world, an unmistakable final quaking of the earth.
19 The great city was split into three parts, the cities of the nations fell, and G-d remembered Babylon (Bavel: the sight of the tower of Babel) the Great and made her drink the wine from the cup of his raging wrath.
The great city is the city at the centre of the beast’s kingdom. The splitting of it into three parts is further illustrated in the following chapters. Bavel (Confusion: from the root meaning “to mix”) or Babel was the sight of humanity’s first great corporate rebellion against G-d (Genesis 11). Here it has come full circle and like its namesake its idolatry will dissolve into its own futility suckling on the wine of G-d’s wrath.
20 Every island fled, and no mountains were to be found. 21 And huge 25kg hailstones fell on people from the sky. But the people cursed G-d for the plague of hail, because it was such a terrible plague.
Here we’re shown the vast extent of the judgement as it reaches to the ends of the earth causing Islands to sink and be destroyed and mountains to explode and implode in catastrophic seismic events. Again we’re reminded of Egypt and the plague of hail, only this plague is greater still. However the people of the earth continue to resist G-d, cursing and blaming Him rather than recognising that it is their sin that has brought destruction upon them.
The greater tragedy is not the man who wastes his life in sinful action and then repents on his death bed, rather it is the man who, in the face of certain death, refuses to admit his faults and instead blames G-d for his predicament. “No one is blinder than the one who refuses to see.”
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
These traditions direct our gaze toward HaShem through Messiah Yeshua and remind us that we are practicing the living faith of the dead.
A contemplative look at Simchat Torah
On the face of our Kehilah’s Aron Ha-kodesh (Torah Ark), we read the words, “Ha-D’var Emet”, The Word of Truth. The Torah is The Word of Truth. Yochanan 1 reminds us that Yeshua our Messiah is The Word of Truth, therefore as we celebrate the ketvi (written) word of HaShem we are also reminded of the living Word and Author of the Torah, Yeshua our Mashiyach.
As we say the brachot and open the Ark, the Torah is revealed and its clothing is illuminated. The Torah is clothed as both King and Priest.
At its head are twin crowns which represent the unity of G-d and His King Messiah, the Priesthood and the Kingship of Israel: the High priest wore a type of crown with the words, “Kadosh HaShem” engraved upon it and the King of Israel, a crown made of precious metal.
The Torah Scroll is covered in a velvet garment representing both the priestly garments and the royal garments of the king of Israel. Embroidered on the Torah cover are the words, “From Zion shall go forth the Torah and the Word of HaShem from Jerusalem!” The New Testament explains that the Torah came through Moses and grace of redemption through the Mashiyach Yeshua. This is an extension of truth rather than a division of it. Therefore we understand that the humility of Moses and the victory of Yeshua have combined to reveal the fullness of the Torah, Who is Yeshua, Or Ha-Olam (Light of the world).
At either side of the singular crown embroidered on the cover are two pillars. These pillars are born in the protection of HaShem over Israel, the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night as she wandered through the desert toward the Promised Land. These pillars are also representative of the two pillars of 1 Kings 7, Jachin (He will establish) and Boaz (In him is strength). We understand therefore, that it is in the Torah, The living Word of Truth, Yeshua, we find security and strength.
Over the cover rests a shield. This is the breast plate of the High Priest that contains the stones of the twelve tribes of Israel. This plate is worn over the heart (Lev), the core being, as a symbol of the Priest’s role as intercessor for Israel. This is brought to perfection in our great High Priest Yeshua. The shield is also symbolic of G-d’s protection of Israel and her king. This is echoed in the Magen David (Shield of David: Star of David).
Beside the shield hangs a Yad (Hand) pointer which is used to direct the reader through the text without the human hand needing to touch the scroll itself. The Scroll is sacred and the human hand is unclean, the yad acts as an intermediary. In Messiah and through His hand we have direct access to the Instruction of G-d.
Each of the items of outer clothing are removed and beneath is the scroll which is surrounded by a sash representing the Priestly sash and the girdle of the king. This is undone and the scroll is rolled out for the reading of the final portion of the Torah (V’zot Ha-Berachah: This is the blessing), concluding the Torah cycle. However, this is not an ending but a beginning because the reading of the last portion is immediately followed by the reading of the first portion B’reshit (Beginning).
In many congregations it is customary for everyone to have an opportunity to make aliyah, going up to the bema to read from the Torah, however there are two specific roles to be played, first the Chatan Torah (Groom of the Torah) reads from the last portion of the Torah beneath a tallit which acts as a Chuppah (Wedding Covering), then the Chatan B’reshit (Groom of the beginning) reads from the first portion of the Torah in order to begin the cycle anew. A custom has also developed where the Scroll is rolled out and held by each of the members of the shul with the text facing away from the bearer and toward all the other members of the community so that everyone is seen both imparting and receiving the Torah. This is yet another wonderful reminder of our Messiah the Word of Truth, Yeshua, Who lives in us to impart His Word to others and lives in our brothers and sisters that they might impart His Word to us. Thus we are reliant on one another, the Torah binds us together in loving instruction through the living Word Yeshua our Mashiyach.
Notice the seemingly back to front roles of the Chatan Torah and the Chatan B’reshit. Shouldn’t the beginning come first? This is another reminder of the eternal nature of The Word of Truth, Who knows the end from the beginning and Who dwells both within and without time and space. He is the Tav and the Aleph, the end and the beginning. We are also reminded of The Creator as we begin again with the words, “B’reshit bara Elohim”.
As each person is called forth to read, we pronounce the Torah blessings and are reminded again of the formula that begins our prayers, “Baruch ata Adonai, Elohaynu melekh ha-olam, asher kidishanu b’mitzvotav…” In these words we understand the nature of salvation and redemption through the Light of the World (Yeshua). We pray, “All blessing comes from You Hashem our G-d, Ruler of the universe (All things), Who sanctifies us by Your right actions…” Notice that it is not our right actions but His that sanctify us.
After the latter reading we dress the Torah and take turns carrying it as we dance around the shul seven times signifying the complete work of Hashem in all things. As we dance and sing with simchah (Great joy) we are reminded that it is the Word that holds the Universe together. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with G-d and the Word was G-d, He was with G-d in the beginning.” –Yochanan 1:1
We shower the yeladim (children) with blessing and candy to remind them of the psalmist’s words, “Your Torah… sweeter than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19).
This wonderful day that (In Eretz Israel) is combined with Sh’mini atzeret (The eighth day), the day after Sukkot, reminds us of the eternal simchah (Joy) that awaits us in the Olam Habah (World to come) when HaShem and His Word will dwell with us in eternal celebration and light.
These traditions direct our gaze toward HaShem through Messiah Yeshua and remind us that we are practicing the living faith of the dead. Our forefathers passed this on to us l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation) so that we might take on the responsibility to do the same.
As you celebrate Simchat Torah this year 5776, may you know the revelation of Yeshua the Mashiyach, may you see Him illuminated as Ha-D’var Emet, and may you be redeemed by His loving sacrifice for you and be reconciled to Hashem in eternal mercy and joy.
Chag Simchat Torah Sameach lekulam!
© 2015 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.