This is a continuation of my series reviewing The Book of Revelation: Things Which Must Shortly Come to Pass by G. Erik Brandt. Today, I will be discussing Chapters 12 and 13 of the book, which itself discusses Chapters 12 and 13 of Revelation.
|"The War In Heaven"|
Revelation, Chapter 12, begins by describing "a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered." (Rev. 12:1-2). John continues: "And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born." (Rev. 12:3-4).
The Dragon is Satan. His enmity toward the woman should be familiar, because that is how the Bible begins, in the Garden of Eden, and God's proclamation that He would "put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15).
There is some debate on the identity of the woman, with some contending that the woman is the Church, and others saying it can't be so because the woman is pregnant, but the Church (the Bride of Christ) is supposed to be a virgin. However, Mary was a virgin, yet bore Christ. Thus, I don't believe that her being pregnant excludes her from being the Church. Since the followers of Christ will either be part of the remnant of the 10 tribes or be adopted into one of the twelve tribes, the distinction is moot: the Church is the righteous of Israel, and the righteous of Israel are the Church. This is represented by the diadem with 12 stars--one for each of the tribes of Israel.
In any event, as noted, Satan drew away 1/3 of the stars of Heaven--figuratively, one third of the hosts of Heaven. John writes:
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.(Rev. 12:7-9). After being case onto the earth, Satan turns to persecuting the woman. (Rev. 12:13). However, "to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent." (Rev. 12:14). That is, "the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days." (Rev. 12:6). This is in reference to the persecution of the early (or Primitive) Church, the apostasy and the period until the restoration. (See Acts 3:19-21). Brandt writes:
... the member of the Primitive Church literally fled, or were led away, to find refuge in distant lands. ... While the truth and authority were lost, the blood lines of Israel were preserved among the nations through the long dark night of apostasy.(See also Rev. 12:15-16 (noting that the woman escaped the flood sent after her by Satan)). Brandt quotes the following from Elder Erastus Snow about a portion of the elect having been hidden from Satan and their posterity preserved for the last days. Snow stated:
Their [Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob's] blood has permeated European society, and it coursed in the veins of the early colonists of America. This is the blood that has been foremost among those spirits who have come forth to accept the gospel, those who did not wait for the Elders to hunt them from the hills and corners of the earth, but they were hunting for the Elders, impelled by a spirit which then they could not understand; and for this reason were they among the first Elders of the Church; they and the fathers having been watched over from the days that God promised those blessings upon Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Ephraim.
And these are they that will be found at the front ranks of all that is noble and good in their day and time, and who will be found among those whose efforts are directed in establishing upon the earth those heaven-born principles which tend directly to blessing and salvation, to ameliorating the condition of their fellow-men, and elevating them in the scale of their being; and among those also who receive the fullness of the Everlasting Gospel, and the keys of the Priesthood in the last days, through whom God determined to gather up again unto himself a peculiar people, a holy nation, a pure seed that shall stand upon Mount Zion as saviors, not only to the house of Israel but also to the house of Esau.It is important to understand that the war in Heaven was a rebellion against God's plan ("the Word"--John 1:1), which was salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Satan instead advocated for "absolute eternal security at the sacrifice of our freedom." That is, under Satan's proposal, all would be forcibly saved, but all glory (and power) would be Satan's. If this reminds you of the premise of the various forms of socialism--using state power to force everyone to be "good"--then you will better understand Chapter 13 of Revelation. Brandt explains:
Subverting agency and applying principles of force would transform the children of God into lowly, subservient subjects, rather than individuals endowed with endless potential. Mankind would spent their mortal probation in passive, reactionary modes to be controlled or manipulated.And, like modern progressives, socialists, and communists, Satan's "real motivation was not the welfare or advancement of mankind, but a conceited hunger for honor and power. He desperately desired the grand honors and elevated station that would be bestowed upon the chosen savior." (See Isa. 14:13).
The war was severe, and it had eternal consequences. Every kind of sin (with the possible exception of sins involving death) were present in that premortal state, and there were many casualties. Repentance was in order for all who sinned, and forgiveness in that premortal life was available through Jesus Christ and obedience to the plan of salvation. This was not a war just of words and debate and forensics. It was a war of misdeeds, lies, hatred, pride, jealousy, remorse, envy, cursing, blasphemy, deception, theft, cajoling, slander, anger, and sins of almost every kind that are also known in mortality. The issues were so well defined that coexistence was not possible. Those who wholeheartedly supported Lucifer's rebellion became like him.(quoting Dr. Robert Matthews; underline mine). The final outcome of the war was that Satan and his followers were cast out from Heaven, losing their opportunity to obtain physical bodies. But that was not the end of the war, for Satan fights against righteousness here on earth. He cannot give up the battle because he is now obsessed with revenge; for he "was a murderer from the beginning," and "a liar, and the father of it." (John 8:44). Thus, he desires that all men become miserable like himself (2 Nephi 2:27), and "goeth up and down, to and fro in the earth, seeking to destroy the souls of men." (D&C 10:27). Thus, John warns: "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." (Rev. 12:12).
That Satan and his minions lack physical bodies does not stop their attempts to overcome the Saints. Moreover, Satan has the assistance of men and women in the mortal realm. As we shall see in Chapter 13 of Revelation, these mortal followers of Satan mirror to a great extent the infernal world.
Chapter 13 begins:
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy.
And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority.(Rev. 13:1-2). The Beast mirrors the dragon in having seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns. (C.f. Rev. 12:3). The ten horns, and the combination of features from a leopard, bear, and lion are the same as Daniel describes in his vision (see Dan. 7:7). The lion represented the Babylonian Empire; the bear represented the Persian-Median empires, and the leopard represented Alexander's empire and the subsequent Hellenic kingdoms. The Beast of John's vision is made up of parts of those empires, and likely represents both the Roman Empire and its successor states. That the Beast arises from the sea may have double meanings: the sea has traditionally been viewed a source of evil; and, later, we are told that the "waters" represent "peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues" (Rev. 17:15).
The heads, horns, and crowns represent earthly kingdoms, powers, and ideologies; the horns represent specific kings (see Dan. 7:24). Brandt notes that each of the seven heads had, upon it, "the name of blasphemy.." (Rev. 13:1). Thus, he suggests that the seven heads represented the Roman emperors who were deified as part of the Imperial cult, and committed blasphemies (including Caligula's attempt to place his statue in the temple in Jerusalem). However, I would note that in Daniel's vision, the beast representing the Hellenic kingdoms had four heads, and that Alexander's empire was split into 4 kingdoms upon his death. Thus, I would suggest that the 7 heads represents specific kingdoms, nations or empires that are successors to Rome.
While Brandt discusses the Imperial cult of Rome and its emperors in detail, he also notes that this is not the only blasphemous ideology.
Modern manifestations include often condescending ideologues commonly found in social progressive movements. Many of these activists are self described intellectuals with highly elite attitudes who achieve their goals through more surreptitious means. Tactically, they promote the "populist" cause, but strategically their ends are to establish new roles and powers in big, centralized governments. Carefully they cut away and dispose of individual freedoms for the "greater social good" or "social equality." In the process they take power unto themselves. Government becomes god with its own state religion, that of irreligion in the form of iconoclastic reasoning. Many modern socialists are not unlike the "kingmen" in the Book of Mormon (Alma 51, 60), who were also popular elitists that sought power and whose aims were "to destroy the church of God [or religion generally], and to destroy the foundation of liberty which God had granted unto them" (Alma 46:10). In the end this form of governance enables anti-Christ principles to take root in society. It slices away at man's inherent freedoms. Agency is subverted by degrees, rejecting the gift of self-governance and reliance in favor of secular, hedonistic doctrines.And, "[i]n the culminating events leading to the coming of the Son of Man, the 'ten horns' or Gentile nations will unify under a latter day beast (Dan. 7:8, 20) who will be like the ancient Caesars. These rulers will give their strength and loyalty to the Beast."
The Beast's power comes from Satan (Rev. 13:2), who works through mortal agents. Satan's "goal is to captivate and destroy the souls of men, which is more easily achieved when his servants wrest control in governments, religions, or other powerful institutions."
He [i.e., Satan] employs political, religious, media, and economic influences to further his purposes and to discredit or subvert the moral foundations of society. "What Satan calls from the abyss is not government, but the [terrible] abuse or government, the omni-competent state."
Brandt goes on to discuss secret combinations, of which we are warned of many times in the scriptures. It is through these secret combinations that the Beast and others like him obtain power. "By oath, threat, and terror, order is kept in their society. They intimidate, punish, and even kill members who might seek to leave or expose the secret organization."* * *Today in countries throughout the world, wicked men have already combined in sordid cabals to obtain wealth and dominions.
The devil's goal with these secret societies is not just wickedness, violence, or murder for money and power. No, his end goal is to gain control, the absolute and complete management of institutions and government; and through them, the regulation and therefore the manipulation of societies and individuals.
Moreover, "[e]ven well intended political ideologies or programs that purport to serve the greater good or build 'better societies' will, in the end, lay the groundwork for secret societies to gain control, if they require people to relinquish their freedoms."* * *Once in power, Satan uses his servents to pervert the right ways of the Lord, to harden the minds and hearts of the people against that which is good. [Citations omitted]. His agents work to change laws, history, culture and traditions so as to turn policy against the followers of God, so that the citizens of society being to fight against righteousness. The minds of the people are changed so that good becomes evil and evil good. [Citation omitted].
One of the more interesting parts of the prophecy is that one of the heads of the Beast was wounded to death, but the wound was healed and caused the world to wonder after the beast. (Rev. 13:3). Brandt notes that the Greek word used for "wounded" means "slaughter," and thus the wound and its healing is suggestive of Christ's death and resurrection, and underscores how the Beast will be an impostor and imitator.
The wounded head likely represented Nero, the Roman emperor most infamous for his persecution of the early Saints. When Nero committed suicide, his death plunged the Empire into a year-long civil war. One of the major parties was the Stoics who would have restored Rome to its Republican form of government, thus "killing" the Beast at that time, but instead Vespasian was victorious and ascended the throne, restored imperial rule, and strengthened the Empire and the Imperial cult.
But as is common in prophecy, events immediate to the prophet may also have a greater spiritual significance, or play out in a grander scale later. Brandt notes that:
Many anti-Christs do and will hold power in the latter days, but the one anti-Christ who will gain a seat as the leader among the leaders of the nations will be a modern version of Nero. He will be a person in the likeness of this ruthless rule, whose disposition will be exceptionally malevolent.Brandt seems to take the common view that the mortal wound to the Beast's head represents a mortal wound to a particular person, which will be miraculously healed. (John West, in his book, Fry The Brain: The Art of Urban Sniping and its Role in Modern Guerrilla Warfare offers a scenario where such a ruler could seem to die and be miraculously healed without the need for an actual miracle, by use of a body double that is assassinated, with the real person then showing himself unharmed later).
I'm not so sure. As noted earlier, the heads represent kingdoms or nations. Obviously, Nero was not miraculously healed, but it was the Roman Empire that survived a seemingly certain death. Thus, the mortal wound could represent an empire that seems to have died that comes back into power and authority. Also, while the "resurrection" of this head appears to be part of the end times, the wounding of the head may occur earlier. I am reminded of how Germany seemed mortally wounded at the end of World War I and then sprang back to challenge the whole world only a couple of decades later. We have plenty of kingdoms and empires that seem to have been killed off in the last century that could recover power: Britain, Germany, Turkey (i.e., the Ottoman Empire), Russia, etc. It could even be in reference to a yet future United States that recovers from what should have been a mortal wound.
In these troubled times, John inserts a specific warning for the followers of Christ in the latter-days.
If any man have an ear, let him hear.
He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints.(Rev. 13:9-10). This warning should be considered with other pronouncements of the Lord commanding the Saints to "avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." (Romans 12:19). As I've mentioned several times before, the wicked will be destroyed by their own actions, natural disasters, and the wrath of the Lord at His Second Coming. We do not want to fall into the same error that destroyed the Nephite nation where they got caught up on an endless cycle of revenge and violence that unified their enemies and led to their loving killing over loving Christ.
I don't see this as a call to passivity, but, rather, that our wars and conflict should be defensive, not to exact a penalty or revenge. Again, I will use World War I as an example--it was humiliations that Britain and France sought to visit on Germany that paved the way for the rise of Nazi fascism and World War II. And it was the magnanimity toward the losers that marked the successful end to the Civil War (i.e., the readmission of the Confederacy into the Union) and World War II (i.e., the rebuilding of Germany and Japan).
Getting back on topic, John relates that the Beast is assisted by a second beast--a false prophet. John describes this second beast thusly:
And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon.
And he exerciseth all the power of the first beast before him, and causeth the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed.Brandt notes that the fact that the second beast arose from the land, rather than the sea, suggests that this second beast is a local or regional leader; and probably one of the leaders of one of the world's great religions. In any event, "John's message is a warning that from among the world religions and local governments, personalities will arise and align themselves in support of the latter day beast."
We can expect that modern false prophets will endeavor to use religious, legal and political persuasions to turn the people against the righteous and righteous principles. The latter day servants of the beast in positions of power will exercise authority to enforce the mandates of the anti-Christs in power. They will have power to legislate, pass judgment, to charge, summon, arrest, try, and prosecute those who will not conform to their laws and edicts. The targets of such persecutions will inevitably include all who faithfully remain true to Christ.Interestingly, this second beast causes the world to worship the first beast, partly through the exercise of miracles:
And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.(Rev. 13:14). Christ, Himself, warned: "For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect." (Matt. 24:24).
All of the major religions are currently awaiting a prophet or messiah. Christians, of course, are looking forward to the Second Coming. Muslims are looking for the return of "Christ," who will prepare the way for the coming of the Mahdi. Jews are still awaiting their Messiah. And Hindus look forward to the next incarnation of the Krishna. I've seen good arguments for the false prophet being the Muslim "Christ," and the Beast as the Mahdi and a resurgent Caliphate, but I think we should be open to the possibility that whatever or whomever arises may seem to satisfy all religions, but, especially will target Christianity ("the very elect").
The portion of Chapter 13 of John's Revelation that most people focus on are the latter part that discuss the mark of the Beast and the number of the Beast. John writes:
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.(Rev. 13:16-18).
The mark of the Beast is open to multiple meanings. As an initial matter, it is obviously a demonic equivalent to those Saints that have been sealed to the Father in the forehead (see Rev. 7:3). That is, just as the Lord marks His own, Satan will similarly mark his followers. (If you have ever been in the presence of Evil, there is a very perceptible aura about it). As Brandt points out, when a person drinks the "wine" of spiritual Babylon, "the Spirit of the Lord withdraws and the spirit of the devil enters in."
In time, people's countenances begin to reflect the gods they worship. As slaves to sin they become restless, mischievous, and deceitful. They become as a "troubled sea" and can find "no rest day nor night" (Rev. 14:11; Isa. 57:20-21). Eventually, they die "as to things pertaining unto righteousness, being dead unto all good works" (Alma 5:42 (40-42)).However, John is probably describing a physical mark. Brandt mentions some historic examples of such markings, and what would have informed John and the people of his day. Brandt notes that the Greek word for "mark" signifies a "stamp, etching or engraving," and that "[i]n John's day it was a form of branding used on slaves and animals to identify the owner." Slaves were branded this way on the palm of the right hand or on the forehead directly above the eyes. However, it was not just slaves that were marked thusly. Religious tattooing and branding was common in the ancient world to indicate their branding, and soldiers often marked themselves with the sign of their commanding general to show ownership. And, of course, we have the example of the Amlicites in the Book of Mormon who, upon dissenting from the Nephites, marked themselves on their foreheads.
We are not beyond such marks today. For instance, it is not uncommon for those serving in the military to obtain a tattoo indicating their branch of service or particular unit, and women sporting the infamous "tramp stamp" certainly indicate something about themselves. Brandt also explains:
Today many tattoo themselves with various symbols, patterns and words to show loyalty or devotion, to fit in, or make a statement, all the while desecrating their bodies with a literal mark. By their very deed they express something about who they are and what influences their lives. Body piercing, an ancient and accepted form of self-marking, is also popular today.And although Brandt doesn't reference this, I would observe that in the stories about "spirit cooking" that have circulated about some on the left, they often have cut marks on their hands, which also act as marks to identify them to one another.
John mentions an economic aspect to the mark--that no one could conduct business absent a mark. Brandt notes that the Greek word for mark could also refer to seals attached to commercial or official documents bearing the name of the emperor.
Coinage and treasury income was stamped with the mark of the imperial beast, and the emperor and provincial leaders kept a tight rein on this wealth. Most commerce and contracts were validated by the "mark of the beast," or the seal or approval of the emperor. Thus, no one conducted significant business without being part of the establishment.
John's point is that those who control the wealth have the power to influence policy in accordance with their desires. Rome's super rich rewarded loyalty and discrimination against those who opposed their designs. In the Book of Mormon, we find a similar practice in the era when the Gadianton robbers controlled the government, the courts, and much of the commerce. This diabolical secret combination exercised authority to accumulate wealth and to thereby control society.I'm not going to engage in fruitless speculation as to how people will be marked and how it will be used to control commerce. I would note that, although it does not involve a physical mark on the hand or forehead, we are already seeing such economic coercion today by means of social and economic ostracising of those that are not "politically correct". Social justice warriors stand ready to destroy careers and businesses over incorrect thoughts. Businesses have been fined and sued for not wanting to celebrate gay marriage.
And perhaps there won't be a physical mark. Certainly it is not necessary: just connect an identity to a government list. China has already rolled out a system that assigns a "social credit score" measuring their trustworthiness; a low score being punished by such things as not being able to buy property, board aircraft, or enroll your children in private school. Combined with China's rollout of massive facial recognition systems, China stands on the threshold of being able to deny people with low social credit scores from any meaningful economic activity. China is exporting this technology, and it is under development in Western nations. Reports have just come out that Google and Amazon are partnering with police and the military to improve public surveillance. So the mark of the Beast may not be a physical mark, but rather the biometrics of our faces and fingerprints.
Finally, many people are drawn into trying to figure out the meaning of the number of the beast (666). Brandt notes that many cultures have indulged in numerology of some sort or another; it is inherent in some ancient languages where letters also served double duty as numbers. "6", he explains, is often associated with a deficit or imperfection. So, "666" would represent the consummate embodiment of evil. But, as Brandt also explains, the meaning of this passage was probably self-evident to the members of the Church to whom he wrote. For instance, the Emperor Titian's name, translated into Greek, would equal a sum of 666. (Titian destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and so would be a good candidate for the time). "Therion," the word John uses for "beast" equals 666, and the first letters of the names of the Roman emperors from Julius Caesar to Vespasian also add up to 666. Nero's name (i.e., "Caesar Nero") can also be used in a couple of ways to come up with a sum of 666 or multiple thereof. But it is probably fruitless to try to use the number to predict the latter day Beast. As Brandt points out, "[i]n the proper hour the Lord will make manifest the servants of the devil and their doctrines to the benefit of those in tune with the Holy Spirit."