Monday, 24 December 2012

Messianic Prophecy and the Birth of Christ



Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622


There is a trend in modern theology to downplay the "foretelling" aspect of prophecy, which instead emphasises the importance of the "forth-telling" role of the biblical prophet. This particular approach tends to confine the significance of various prophecies solely to their contemporary audience and the cultural milieu in which they were made. In the process, this robs a great portion of biblical prophecy of any possible future or eschatological context, and excludes the possibility of recontextualising the words of the Bible to fit events outside the time in which they were written. This trend is a relic of the influences of philosophical movements such as logical positivism and existentialism, which have filtered into theology resulting in presuppositions based on processes such as demythologizing the Bible (as espoused by Rudolf Bultmann), which denies the possibility of the miraculous.
Yet the "foretelling" element of prophecy (as well the appearance of heavenly apparitions - which are similarly dismissed today) was instrumental to the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah by the early Christian movement, and was a major driving force behind the spread of Christianity in the 1st century AD. For example, an explanation of the Servant Songs of Isaiah as a prophecy of the Passion of Jesus, was key to the conversion of the Ethopian eunuch by St. Philip the Evangelist, who would then go on to take Christianity to Ethiopia and found the Ethiopian Church.

Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:
 “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
  and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
  so he opens not his mouth.
 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
  Who can describe his generation?
 For his life is taken away from the earth.”
 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

(Acts 8:26-38)

When we look at the section of Isaiah which St. Philip interprets for the Ethopian eunuch more closely (which was written by the 6th century BC at the very latest), we can see that it is a very highly detailed prophecy which corresponds exactly to the Crucifixion of Jesus:

 Who has believed what he has heard from us?
  And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
  and like a root out of dry ground;
 he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
  and no beauty that we should desire him.
 He was despised and rejected by men;
  a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
 and as one from whom men hide their faces
  he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
 Surely he has borne our griefs
  and carried our sorrows;
 yet we esteemed him stricken,
  smitten by God, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
  he was crushed for our iniquities;
 upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
  and with his wounds we are healed.
 All we like sheep have gone astray;
  we have turned—every one—to his own way;
 and the LORD has laid on him
  the iniquity of us all.
 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
  yet he opened not his mouth;
 like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
  and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
  so he opened not his mouth.
 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
  and as for his generation, who considered
 that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
  stricken for the transgression of my people?
 And they made his grave with the wicked
  and with a rich man in his death,
 although he had done no violence,
  and there was no deceit in his mouth.
 Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him;
  he has put him to grief;
 when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
  he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
 the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.
 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
 by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
  make many to be accounted righteous,
  and he shall bear their iniquities.
 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
  and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
 because he poured out his soul to death
  and was numbered with the transgressors;
 yet he bore the sin of many,
  and makes intercession for the transgressors.

(Isaiah 53)

It is the detail of this prophecy in relation to the ministry and Crucifixion of Jesus that convinced the Ethiopian eunuch that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah. And in their attempts to spread the Gospel as widely as possible, the Apostles consistently pointed to the prophetic witness of the Old Testament. With this in mind during the Christmas period, I thought it would be appropriate to focus on a select few prophecies relating to the birth of Christ, which helped to confirm to the early Christians that Jesus was not only the Messiah foretold in Scripture, but also God incarnate:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
(Isaiah 7:14)

  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
  The people who walked in darkness
  have seen a great light;
 those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
  on them has light shone.
 You have multiplied the nation;
  you have increased its joy;
 they rejoice before you
  as with joy at the harvest,
  as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
 For the yoke of his burden,
  and the staff for his shoulder,
  the rod of his oppressor,
  you have broken as on the day of Midian.
 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
  and every garment rolled in blood
  will be burned as fuel for the fire.
 For to us a child is born,
  to us a son is given;
 and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
  and his name shall be called
 Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the increase of his government and of peace
  there will be no end,
 on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
  to establish it and to uphold it
 with justice and with righteousness
  from this time forth and forevermore.
 The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

(Isaiah 9:1-7)

  But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
  who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
 from you shall come forth for me
  one who is to be ruler in Israel,
 whose coming forth is from of old,
  from ancient days.

(Micah 5:2)

 I see him, but not now;
  I behold him, but not near:
 a star shall come out of Jacob,
  and a scepter shall rise out of Israel...

(Numbers 24:17)


 Thus says the LORD:
 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
  lamentation and bitter weeping.
 Rachel is weeping for her children;
  she refuses to be comforted for her children,
  because they are no more.”

(Jeremiah 31:15)

 When Israel was a child, I loved him,
  and out of Egypt I called my son.

(Hosea 11:1)

In addition to the above prophecies of the birth of Christ is the apocalyptic retelling of the story of the Nativity by St. John in the Book of Revelation, which describes the birth of the Messiah after the appearance of a "great sign" in heaven, and the pursuit of the Woman and Child by the Dragon, who also represents King Herod:

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
(Revelation 12:1-6)

If the three and a half year period described above is (even partially) based on events which took place during the Nativity of Jesus, then it could be used to date Jesus' birth to three and a half years before the death of King Herod. We must remember that St. John was one of the closest people to the Virgin Mary, having promised to take care of her to Jesus whilst they both stood at the foot of the Cross. Our Lady then followed St. John to Ephesus, where she stayed in the house that would later be discovered as a result of the writings of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich in 1881 (see here). So St. John was a unique authority on the events of the Nativity, having had direct access to a first-hand account of the events.
So given that the Book of Revelation states that the Woman Adorned with the Sun fled into the wilderness for a period of three and a half years after she was pursued by the Red Dragon, we can then go on to propose that this duration ended with the death of King Herod:

 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.
(Matthew 2:19-23)

If the dating of Herod's death to 4BC is correct (which is based on timing of a lunar eclipse in relation to this event described in the writings of Flavius Josephus), then this would place the year of Jesus' birth at around 7BC - which would further tie the Star of Bethlehem to the rare triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn which occurred during this year. However some scholars propose that Josephus may identified the lunar eclipse of the year 1BC in his writings, and not that of 4BC. This would put the date of death of Herod forward to 1BC, and the birth of Jesus to around 4BC - which would thus establish the Star of Bethlehem as a different set of astronomical events, such as the nova recorded by Chinese and Korean astronomers as appearing around the year 5BC, or the several conjunctions of Jupiter, Venus and Regulus which occured between 3-2BC. Either way, it is most likely that the "Star" of Bethlehem was an interconnected series of astronomical omens, rather than the appearance of just one single event.

Friday, 21 December 2012

2012 and the Mayan "Apocalypse"




Today, the 21st December 2012, marks the end of the 13th baktun on the Long Count Calendar, represented as 13.0.0.0.0 in the Maya system. Given that the "2012 phenomenon" has nothing to do with Catholic prophecy, I'm not overly concerned about the significance of this date - especially not in relation to any impending disaster. As we have discussed before on previous posts, I am open to the idea that other non-Christian cultures can sometimes possess the gift of prophecy. But the only way we can determine if a particular prophecy has genuine insight into the future is by examining it in retrospect - which in this case, we will be able to do so very shortly.
Most commentators agree that the Maya did not see this date as marking the end of the world, but rather that they viewed the turning of the cycles as a time of great change - the transition of one period into another would lead to renewal. Yet some texts connected to the end of the Long Count calendar, such as the Chilam Balam, did link this period to great upheavals that would result in the end of the world (which has some striking parallels to the mega-tsunami/Second Coming hypothesis I forward in my book Unveiling the Apocalypse - see the earlier post on this subject here). But I most certainly don't think that today's date has any relation to the mega-tsunami threat posed by the future collapse of Cumbre Vieja - especially since the era of peace/Second Pentecost must take place before the tribulation period and the Second Coming of Christ - which clearly has not happened yet.
As I discuss in the earlier post The Date of the End-Time: 2012 or 2087, there is a possibility that an alternative date can be derived from the Mayan system if actual 365 day years were used instead of the 360 days of the tun unit of measurement. But it would be very unwise for anyone to follow a set timetable of prophetic events, and the year 2087 is again of no relevance to Catholic prophecy and not something I would pay much heed to myself.
It is interesting though that at least one Catholic prophecy does refer to a date around the year 2012 - the Prophecy of Blessed Tomasuccio de Foligno (although I still cannot completely verify its authenticity) as a time of renewal for the Church. But this is not connected to any specific date, and allows for a more general time period up to the end of the year 2013.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The "Mark" of the Beast: Cancer Link to Cell Phones




The debate surrounding the impact of mobile phone radiation on human health has recently been reignited by the ruling in an Italian court that a man's brain tumour was directly caused by his heavy phone usage. The Daily Mail gives the following report:

A court has ruled that mobile phones can give you cancer in a landmark case that could open the gates for other victims to take legal action. Businessman Innocente Marcolini, 60, was diagnosed with a brain tumour after using his mobile phone at work for up to six hours a day for 12 years. Italy's Supreme Court found that there was a 'causal link' between his phone use and his illness...
Oncologist and professor of environmental mutagenesis Angelo Gino Levis and neurosurgeon Dr Giuseppe Grasso gave evidence supporting Mr Marcolini's claim. They argued that mobile and cordless phones emit electromagnetic radiation causing damage to cells and increasing the risk of tumours. But they added that many tumours don't appear for 15 years making short-term studies on mobile phone use redundant...
 
(See here for the full article)


As I note in my book Unveiling the Apocalypse, the most high-profile long term study into the effects of mobile phone use on human health had concluded that there were no adverse side-effects due to  prolonged exposure to the microwave raditation from cell phones. The authors of the Danish report of 2006 - the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Copenhagen, reissued similar findings in October 2011, which seems to have been timed in order to quell the fears raised by the decision of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to elevate the status of cell phone radiation to "possibly carciogenic" in May during the same year.  The position of the Danish report has been upheld and accepted by the wider scientific community ever since the intial study was published in 2006. Yet these finding were called into question at the time by Dr. George Carlo, the former head of the Wireless Technology Research (WTR) program, which was commissioned to research the health implications of heavy, long term mobile phone use by the Celluar Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) in 1993. When the WTR came back with findings to suggest that there was indeed such a link to cancer development in long term mobile phone users, the CTIA attempted to shut down the WTR and discredit the work of Dr. Carlo. Carlo claimed the authors of the Danish report had approached him while he was still head of the WTR and conducting research for the CTIA, with an offer to manipulate the results of the report to show the cell phone industry in a favourable light. While Carlo rejected this approach, it seems that the CTIA did not.
Now evidence has emerged to support Dr Carlo's claims that the results of the 2006 Danish study (which naturally extends to the findings of the report issued by the same team in 2011) were indeed manipulated in order to debunk to link between cell phone use and the development of certain types of cancer. The same article from The Daily Mail quoted above, mentions how the findings of the Danish reports have been called into question by Prof. Denis Henshaw of Bristol University, who notes that the study was biased:


Denis Henshaw, Emeritus Professor of Human Radiation Effects, Bristol University said the [Danish] study was 'worthless', and the researchers themselves admitted non-users may have been misclassified which would bias the findings.
He said: 'This seriously flawed study misleads the public and decision makers about the safety of mobile phone use.'
Professor Henshaw has previously advocated cigarette-style warnings on mobile phone packets and urges more independent research.

He said: 'Vast numbers of people are using mobile phones and they could be a time bomb of health problems - not just brain tumours, but also fertility, which would be a serious public health issue. The health effects of smoking alcohol and air pollution are well known and well talked about, and it's entirely reasonable we should be openly discussing the evidence for this, but it is not happening. We want to close the door before the horse has bolted.'
(Op. cit.)

So it appears that the true extent of the long term impact of mobile phone use is being systematically buried by the cell phone industry, with little or no independent research being conducted by reputable scientists.
Given that cell phones (which many economicists believe will eventually supplant the use of credit and debit cards, and ultimately cash itself) meet all the criteria of the "mark" of the Beast prophesied in the Book of Revelation to the letter (argued at some length in my book and blog posts such as RFID Implants versus Cell Phones as the "Mark" of the Beast), the possiblity of a future cancer epidemic related to mobile phone use appears to be reflected in a passage of the Apocalypse detailing how those that bear the mark of the Beast are inflicted with terrible sores:

"Then I heard a loud voice from the temple telling the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.”
So the first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth, and harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image."

(Rev 16:1-2)

Many readers find the most troubling aspect of equating the use of cell phones with the mark of the Beast to be the implication that otherwise innocent individuals could be duped into accepting the number of the Beast, thus inadvertently putting their very souls in jeopardy. Yet the idea that accepting the mark of the Beast automatically and irreversibly condemns the recipient to eternal punishment in hell is a distinctly Protestant belief, and should be held separately from Catholic teaching. The idea that accepting the mark of the Beast would have an everlasting effect on the person's soul is actually based on the Protestant mentality of "once saved, always saved", which in turn is derived from the Reformers' cornerstone teaching of sola fides - justification through faith alone. Yet Catholicism emphasises the fact that good works, as well as faith, is necessary for salvation, and that the wounded nature of humanity means that we have to engage in a constant struggle against sin and frequently require the sacrament of confession - which forgives all sin perpetrated by the truly penitent individual. So for Catholics, even the theoretical concept of an extremely grave matter such as intentionally and knowingly accepting the mark of the Beast could be forgiven in confession if the person was truly contrite. And in order for a Catholic to intentionally and knowingly accept the mark of the Beast, the Church would have to explicitly define what the "mark" actually is. No matter what form this prophecy takes, the Church would still have to formally identify what the "mark" of the Beast was before it would become fact and therefore confessible as a sin (so I certainly wouldn't suggest confessing using a cell phone as a sin to a priest just yet - you might get a strange look). Think of the material on this subject as the "case for the prosecution". But in the meantime, it would definitely be a good idea to limit cell phone use for health and social reasons.





Friday, 16 November 2012

The Prophetic Symbolism of Our Lady of Knock





Although they were not accompanied by a verbal message (such as the other more famous appearances of Our Lady at Lourdes, La Salette, and Fatima), the highly symbolic imagery of the apparitions at Knock may have communicated a message in itself. If we examine the prophetic symbolism of this vision in closer detail, we find that the imagery of the Knock apparitions alludes to several biblical passages which have rather distinctive apocalyptic overtones. And when we analyse these apparitions in the context of the other important private revelations of the late 19th century, we find that the thematic content of each of these apparitions are mutually complimentary, and all point to the significance of the 20th century as the starting point for the unfolding of the eschatological events depicted in the Book of Revelation.
The apparitions at Knock, in County Mayo, Ireland, were witnessed by at least 22 villagers of varying ages (young and old) over a course of several hours on the evening of 21st August, 1879. Although they are not considered among the list of officially Church approved apparitions (since the Bishop of Tuam never made any definitive pronouncement), the shrine was visited on the centenary of the apparitions by Pope John Paul II in 1979, who conferred it with a rarely awarded golden rose, and elevated the site to the status of basilica. A token act which constituted the highest level of official support.
The vision itself took the form of a tableau vivant - a scene attempting to communicate a story through a "living picture", which was a commonly used practise in popular Catholic devotions of the time period. The below account is the original eyewitness testimony of Mary Byrne (who was 29 at the time of the apparitions), given to the first Commission of Enquiry established by the Diocese of Tuam, in 1879:


'I live in the village of Knock, to the east side of the chapel. Mary McLoughlin came on the evening of the 21st August to my house at about half past seven o'clock. She remained some little time.

I came back with her as she was returning homewards. It was either eight o'clock or a quarter to eight at the time. It was still bright. I had not heard from Miss McLoughlin about the vision which she had seen just before that.

The first I learned of it was on coming at the time just named from my mother's house in company with Miss Mary McLoughlin, and at the distance of three hundred yards or so from the church. I beheld, all at once, standing out from the gable, and rather to the west of it, three figures which, on more attentive inspection, appeared to be that of the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph and St. John. That of the Blessed Virgin was life-size, the others apparently either not so big or not so high as her figure.

They stood a little distance out from the gable wall and, as well as I could judge, a foot and a half or two feet from the ground.

The Virgin stood erect, with eyes raised to heaven, her hands elevated to the shoulders or a little higher, the palms inclined slightly towards the shoulders or bosom. She wore a large cloak of a white colour, hanging in full folds and somewhat loosely around her shoulders, and fastened to the neck. She wore a crown on the head, rather a large crown, and it appeared to me somewhat yellower than the dress or robes worn by Our Blessed Lady.

In the figure of St. Joseph the head was slightly bent, and inclined towards the Blessed Virgin, as if paying her respect. It represented the saint as somewhat aged, with grey whiskers and greyish hair.

The third figure appeared to be that of St. John the Evangelist. I do not know, only I thought so, except the fact that at one time I saw a statue at the chapel of Lecanvey, near Westport, Co. Mayo, very much resembling the figure which stood now before me in group with St. Joseph and Our Blessed Lady, which I beheld on this occasion.

He held the Book of Gospels, or the Mass Book, open in his left hand, while he stood slightly turned on the left side towards the altar that was over a little from him. I must remark that the statue which I had formerly seen at Lecanvey chapel had no mitre on its head, while the figure which now beheld had one, not a high mitre, but a short set kind of one. The statue at Lecanvey had a book in his left hand, and the fingers of the right hand raised. The figure before me on this present occasion of which I am speaking had a book in the left hand, as I stated, and the index finger and the middle finger of the right hand raised, as if he were speaking, and impressing some point forcibly on an audience. It was this coincidence of figure and pose that made me surmise, for it is only an opinion, that the third figure was that of St. John, the beloved disciple of Our Lord, but I am not in any way sure what saint or character the figure represented. I said, as I now expressed, that it was St. John the Evangelist, and then all the others present said what I stated.

The altar was under the window, which is in the gable and a little to the west near the centre, or a little beyond it. Towards this altar St. John, as I shall call the figure, was looking, while he stood at the Gospel side of the said altar, which his right arm inclined at an angle outwardly, towards the Blessed Virgin. The altar appeared to be like the altars in use in the Catholic Church, large and full-sized. It had no linens, no candles, nor any special ornamentations; it was only a plain altar.

Above the altar and resting on it was a lamb and around it I saw golden stars, or small brilliant lights, glittering like jets or glass balls, reflecting the light of some luminous body.

I remained from a quarter past eight to half past nine o'clock. At the time it was raining.'



You can find this account, along with the other 15 recorded eyewitness testimonies, at the official Knock Shrine website here. Note that in many of these original eyewitness accounts, the figures are described as being three dimensional (yet incorporeal) in nature - a fact which hugely discredits the theory that the apparitions were faked using a magic lantern. One of the witnesses, Patrick Hill, gave the following testimony which clearly describes effects which are impossible to duplicate through a projected image:


"The figures were full and round as if they had a body and life; they said nothing; but as we approached they seemed to back a little towards the gable."

Hill further went on to state that he had approached so close to the apparitions so as to be able to see the full detail in the eyes of the Virgin Mary, as well as the very lines of text in the book held by St. John. A statement which corroborates Mary Byrne's account above, who recounted how the apparitions "stood a little distance out from the gable wall". The projected image of a magic lantern on the Church gable would be quite incapable of producing such incredibly life-like images, and its light would have been blocked by any people in such close proximity. Additionally, the projected light of a magic lantern would be easily traceable back to its source, and would not have held up to two hours of scrutiny by more than 20 witnesses. Instead, these apparitions recall the three dimensional images of the appearances of Our Lady (and likewise also occasionally accompanied by St. Joseph) above St. Mark's Coptic Church in Zeitoun, Egypt, which were witnessed by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people over a three year period (see the previous posts Our Lady of Zeitoun and the Slaugther of the Innocents and Our Lady of Light and the Apocalyptic Nativity).

One of the most notable features of the Knock apparitions is the presence of other figures alongside the Virgin Mary - that of St. Joseph and St. John; with the central focus of the tableau being directed on Christ as the Agnus Dei - the Lamb of God. The depiction of Jesus as the Lamb of God is a distinctive feature of Johannine christology, and we find the only Scriptural references to Christ as the Lamb of God contained in the Gospel of St. John and the Apocalypse. Indeed this fact is one of the points used to argue in favour of common authorship of the Fourth Gospel and the Book of Revelation. So the figure of St. John in the Knock apparitions, pointing the attention of the witnesses to the Lamb standing on the altar of God, is highly apt here; reaffirming to the audience that the saintly figure is indeed that of the Beloved Disciple. The most immediate biblical passage reflected in the posture of St. John towards the Lamb standing on the altar is the famous Johannine verse recollecting the words of St. John the Baptist: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). But while we find the first depiction of Christ as the Lamb of God in the Gospel of St. John, the imagery behind the scene of the Lamb standing on the altar in the Knock apparitions is chiefly derived from chapter five of the Book of Revelation - when the Lamb of God opens the scroll with the seven seals, setting in motion the chain of events that unfold throughout the rest of the Apocalypse:


Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
(Rev 5)


The presentation of Christ as the Lamb of God is by far most frequently used in the Apocalypse. While Jesus is called the "Lamb of God" only twice in John's Gospel, the term "Lamb" is used for Christ well over twenty times in the Book of Revelation. So the Book of the Apocalypse is the most likely point of Scriptural reference which the Knock apparitions allude to. The presence of other motifs shared between the Knock apparitions and the Apocalypse helps to reinforce this conclusion. For example the altar which the Lamb is seen standing on in this vision almost certainly represents the Golden Altar of Incense frequently mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Given the importance of the altar in interpreting the significance of the Knock apparitions, it should be worthwhile examining this motif in the Apocalypse in more detail.
The Book of Revelation uses the imagery of the inner workings of the Temple in Jerusalem to portray events which the author witnesses as unfolding in the Temple of God in Heaven. In the Apocalypse, the altar is described as being located standing before the Throne of God, and is directly associated with the Altar of Incense, or Golden Altar, which stood before the Qodesh Haqodashim (the Hebrew word for the Most Holy Place, otherwise known in Latin as the sanctum sanctorum) in the Temple of Jerusalem.
The Jews considered the sanctum sanctorum of the Taberancle and the Jerusalem Temple to be the dwelling place of the Shekhinah (the Divine Presence), where the Presence of God (or the Holy Spirit) would rest over the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant. The sanctum sanctorum containing the Ark of the Covenant was covered by a curtain, separating it from the Holy Place of the inner sanctum, which contained the Menorah and the Golden Altar of Incense.




The Menorah and the Golden Altar standing in the Holy Place, seperated from the Holy of Holies by the Temple curtain.


The layout of the inner sanctum was closely modelled after the Tabernacle used by the Israelites from the time of the wanderings in the wilderness until the construction of the First Jerusalem Temple by King Solomon.


“And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place. And you shall set the table outside the veil, and the lampstand on the south side of the tabernacle opposite the table, and you shall put the table on the north side."
(Exod 26:31-35)



 
 
The Brazen Altar of Sarcifice (described in Exod 27) is to be distinguished from the Golden Altar of Incense. The Brazen Altar was located in the area immediately outside of the inner sanctum of the Temple/Tabernacle; and here in the open air of the Court of Priests the daily offerings were made. It was here that the sacrificial victim would be killed, its blood collected, and the remains offered as a burnt sacrifice. On Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the blood of the sacrificial victim (which was a number of various animals including a bull, goats, lambs and rams) was collected at the Brazen Altar to be used for the forgiveness of sins. It was taken from here to inside the Temple and sprinkled over the Golden Altar of Incense standing next to the Menorah in the Holy Place, as well as over the Ark itself (a practise which was alluded to in the Third Secret of Fatima - see here).
The symbol of the Lamb in the Book of Revelation is a synthesis of various elements taken from Old Testament typology. The Apocalypse combines the concept of atonement through sacrifice in the festival of Yom Kippur with the paschal lamb, whose blood was used during the Exodus at Pesach (Passover) to save the Israelites from the Angel of Death. The paschal lamb which was traditionally slain at around 3pm on the eve of Passover (14th Nisan) - which according to the Gospel of St. John, was the date of Christ's Crucifixion. So the Book of Revelation melds the sacrifices of Yom Kippur and Pesach together in order to portray Christ as the one "like a lamb" prophesied in the Servant Songs of the Book of Isaiah - the Suffering Servant whose sacrifice bears the sins of humanity in order to reconcile us with God.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter...

(Isaiah 53:4-7)


The use of the image of the Golden Altar in the Apocalypse is used to denote this sacrifice, which is added to by the suffering of the martyrs. It was at the Golden Altar where the blood of sacrifice was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. And in a further act of symbolism, the coals used in the Golden Altar to burn the incense were taken from the Brazen Altar, where the remains of the sacrifical victim would be mixed together with the coals. So the remains of the sacrificial victim in the coals brought to the Golden Altar were symbolically carried towards heaven through the aromas from the burning of the incense. This is the reason that the souls of the martyrs are seen under the Golden Altar of Incense in the Book Revelation, as this was considered to be the place where the offering was ultimately transmuted into the final form of sacrifice acceptable to God:


When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
(Rev 6:9-11)

When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.
(Rev 8:1-5)


The Lamb is seen standing on the altar in the Knock apparitions, because although its sacrifice has been carried toward heaven along with the smoke of the incense and the prayers of the saints, the victory of the Resurrection means that the Lamb has overcome death. Instead of the smoke of incense rising above the Golden Altar we see the Sacrifical Victim itself reemerge like the Phoenix raised from the ashes, and we are left with the final victorious image of the Lamb "slain, but standing":


And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
(Rev 5:6)

Here, the author of the Apocalypse describes the Lamb as standing in the midst of the Heavenly Temple, between the Throne of God, the Four Living Creatures and the 24 Elders - in the exact location that the Golden Altar was located in the Jerusalem Temple. But the image of the Lamb here is fused together with the other object in this location - the seven candles of the Menorah, which symbolise the seven spirits of God. Earlier in the Book of Revelation, we are told that the seven lamps on the Menorah symbolise the seven spirits of God. But now they are represented in the figure of the Lamb itself in the form of seven horns (which deliberately contrasts with the seven heads of the Dragon). The Lamb, emerging intact from His sacrifice at the altar of God now stands amongst the seven golden lampstands with the keys to Death and Hades in His hands (Rev 1:12-20), and is ready to open the scroll sealed with seven seals.


"Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation..."
(Rev 5:9)


The vision of St. John in the Knock apparition, standing with an open book in his hand and pointing towards the Lamb almost certainly references this exact passage. It was noted by the witnesses that the saint appeared to be attempting to forcibly impress a point on his audience whilst making these gestures. In doing so, St. John seemed to be warning those present that the Lamb was about to open the scroll with the seven seals, thus ushering in the events described in the Apocalypse.  The open book held in the hand of St. John recalls the opening of the scroll with seven seals by the Lamb, which we are told elsewhere in the Book of Revelation was given to St. John himself.


Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire. He had a little scroll open in his hand. And he set his right foot on the sea, and his left foot on the land, and called out with a loud voice, like a lion roaring. When he called out, the seven thunders sounded. And when the seven thunders had sounded, I was about to write, but I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said, and do not write it down.” And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay, but that in the days of the trumpet call to be sounded by the seventh angel, the mystery of God would be fulfilled, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me again, saying, “Go, take the scroll that is open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.” So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.”
(Rev 10)


In this "prequel" to the opening of the seven seals, we are shown how the scroll first comes to be sealed with the seven seals, which we are told are used to contain the secrets of the seven thunders. John is ordered not to write down the secrets of the seven thunders because they will be sealed in the open scroll held in the hand of the angel, after which it can only be opened by the Lamb. Immediately before this section, we are shown the vision of the sixth trumpet (and second woe), which recapitulates the release of the four (fallen) angels at the opening of the first four seals.

Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind.
(Rev 9:13-15)

Here, a voice from the Golden Altar (which is most likely that of the Lamb, who we are told earlier is standing in the area this object would be located in the Heavenly Temple) issues the command to release the four fallen angels, who like the fallen angels described in 2Pet 2:4 and Jude 6, have been kept bound in chains (see the earlier posts The Four Beasts and the Four Horsemen and The Jewish Holocaust in Biblical Prophecy which delve into this subject in more detail). Now that the angel of the first woe has opened the abyss however, these four fallen angels are free to emerge from their bondage (see also Tunguska, Pope Leo and the Opening of the Abyss). So in Rev 9 and 10, the contents of the scroll with seven seals are yet again linked to the actions of the four fallen angels (who like Daniel's four beasts, represent four warring end-time world powers).
If St. John was indeed warning that the Lamb was about to open the scroll sealed with seven seals in the Knock apparition, then the timing of this urgent message was impeccable. The apparitions took place in 1879 - just 5 years before Pope Leo XIII recieved his vision warning that the world was about to experience the "little while" given to Satan described in Rev 20:3, which would occur over the span of 100 years (the 20th century). Twenty years after the Knock apparitions, in 1899, Pope Leo would consecrate the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus just in time for the turn of the century, marking the exact moment when this period of trial would begin. And thirty years after these apparitions, in 1909, the Tunguska event would herald the fulfillment of the first woe of the Book of Revelation, when the Apocalyptic Locusts first emerged at the dawn of the First World War - which would be used to devastating effect at the outbreak of the Second World War thirty years later, in 1939:

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
(Rev 9:1-3)

A further link between the Knock apparitions and the Lamb opening the scroll with seven seals can be found in the presense of the angels surrounding the Lamb on the altar. Some of the witnesses to these apparitions reported seeing angels around the Lamb of God in the vision. As mentioned above, Mary Byrne's testimony detailed how the Lamb was surrounded by a number of star-like luminous objects:


Above the altar and resting on it was a lamb and around it I saw golden stars, or small brilliant lights, glittering like jets or glass balls, reflecting the light of some luminous body.


Another of the witnesses, Patrick Hill, described these star-like figures as angels:


Behind the Lamb a large cross was placed erect or perpendicular on the altar. Around the Lamb I saw angels hovering during the whole time, for the space of one hour and a half or longer; I saw their wings fluttering, but I did not perceive their heads or faces, which were not turned to me.


This vision of the Lamb surrounded by star-like angels is partially based on Jacob's dream of the ladder leading up to heaven, which in his Gospel, St. John associates with Christ Himself.
These angels should be identified with the seven spirits of God represented by the seven lights of the Menorah and the seven horns of the Lamb.


And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!
(Gen 28:12)

And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
(John 1:51)


Here St. John uses the imagery of Jacob's laddar to convey the fact that Christ is the only path to heaven, who he describes elsewhere as the door of the sheep-pen.


So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
(John 10:7-9)


But the image of the angels surrounding the Lamb in the vision of Knock is primarily based on the seven stars held in the hand of Jesus described in the Book of Revelation, which are associated with the seven lights of the Menorah standing before the Throne of God:


Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

(Rev 1:12-20)


In the earlier post The Seven Wandering Stars and the Heads of the Dragon, we have already went into some detail how this portion of the Apocalypse appears to be associated with an alignment of the seven classical planets - which is described as the key to the opening of the Abyss in Rev 1:18 and Rev 9:1. And just such an alignment of the planets occurred at the start of the "little while" granted to Satan (according to the vision of Pope Leo XIII) at the turn of the 20th century, in the year 1899 - twenty years before the Knock apparitions.
(It should be noted that the seven stars represent the seven archangels Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Remiel and Saraqael, which are in turn parodied by the seven fallen angels represented by the heads of the Beast. The first book of Enoch, on which the New Testament writings on this matter are largely based, details how the seven archangels have diabolical counterparts in the seven fallen angels who stand at the entrance to the Abyss. Therefore the seven classical planets can represent the seven archangels who stand before the Throne of God (Tobit 12:15), as well as the seven fallen angels with "blasphemous names" (Rev 13:1) - and can switch between these two aspects depending on the point of view).
So in addition to announcing that the Lamb was about to open the seven seals of the Apocalypse, the Knock apparitions also appears to included a reference to the seven stars/angels held in the hand of Jesus, which are the keys to Death and Hades (Rev 1:18). But the inclusion of the Holy Family in this vision, with the Virgin Mary being accompanied by St. Joseph, also appears to signify how Satan is to be ultimately defeated. The fact that Our Lady is wearing a crown in this vision points directly to the passage concerning the Woman Adorned with the Sun, who bears a crown of twelve stars:


And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
(Rev 12:1)


We have already went into some considerable detail elsewhere how this section of the Book of Revelation describes the final defeat of Satan, when he is cast from Heaven to earth. Using the story of the Nativity as template, chapter twelve of the Apocalypse elucidates how Satan is crushed under the feet of the Woman Adorned with the Sun - a victory which has been won by Christ's sacrifical death on the Cross:


And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
(Rev 12:10-11)


The final victory over Satan is won by the "blood of the Lamb", whose sacrifice is poured out on the altar before the Throne of God.


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Our Lady of Zeitoun and the Slaughter of the Innocents




Alongside Fatima, the appearances of the Virgin Mary in the village of Zeitoun near Cairo, Egypt from 1968-1972 are undoubtedly among the most important Marian apparitions in history. The most remarkable aspect of these visitations of the Virgin Mary is that unlike other apparitions, which are usually only seen by a select few visionaries, the appearances of Our Lady at Zeitoun were fully visible to everyone present - regardless of religious persuasion. And the estimated number of witnesses - at over a million people, means that these were the most widely seen Marian apparitions in the entire history of the Church. In the earlier posts on this subject (e.g. Our Lady of Light and the Apocalyptic Nativity), we noted how these apparitions appeared in locations traditionally associated with the flight of the Holy Family from King Herod's slaughter of the Holy Innocents. Given the fact that Our Lady began to appear in Egypt during the exact month of the implementation of the UK Abortion Act in April 1968 (which opened the floodgates to abortion in the Western world, culminating in Roe vs Wade in 1972), we are left with the inevitable conclusion that the entire raison d'etre of these apparitions was as a heavenly witness against the introduction of this modern day slaughter of the innocents.  When we look at some of the other Church approved Marian apparitions of the 20th century, we find that they were similarly timed to coincide with major world events that would ultimately result in worst cases of genocide the world has ever known. The Miracle of the Sun occurred in the same month as the rise of the militantly atheistic Soviet regime in October 1917 (the dangers of which were warned of in the Second Secret), while the apparitions of Our Lady at Banneux in Beligium appeared in the very same month that Hitler rose to power in Germany, in January 1933. Just as Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared in Mexico in 1531 to prevent the ritual human sacrifice that pervaded the indigenous religions of South America (earning her the title Protectress of the Unborn), the Virgin Mary appeared at the exact moment industrialised slaughter of unborn children began in the once-Christian Western world. The fact that she chose to appear in the very location of her own flight from King Herod's massacre of the infant children of Bethlehem, in a manner which exactly conforms to the prophecy of the flight of the Woman Adorned with the Sun in the Book of Revelation (suggesting that a second flight of Our Lady to Egypt would take place at the approach of the end time), doubly reaffirms the purpose of these apparitions.
While the significance of the apparitions at Zeitoun are greatly overlooked, there are many good resources to these Church approved apparitions available online. You can find some documentary clips on Youtube that give a brief overview of the events at Zeitoun, which I have posted below:







There are two short books on this subject which are freely available on the Zeitoun website which I will link to here. The first, Our Lord's Mother Visits Egypt in 1968-1969 is written by Pearl Zaki, who witnessed these events first hand. The second is the more widely circulated When Millions Saw Mary by Francis Johnston. But sadly, the most popular works on this subject have failed to make the connection between the timing of these apparitions and the introduction of abortion in the Christian west - a coincidence which was only first noted in Unveiling the Apocalypse.
I was prompted to revisit these apparitions in light of the deeply unsettling news that the first abortion clinic in Ireland is about to be opened right here in Belfast today by Marie Stropes International, allowing a private company to profiteer from the slaughter of unborn children (read the Belfast Telegraph article on this story here). While abortion remains illegal in the Republic of Ireland, where Catholic teaching still thankfully has a great deal of influence on such matters, the six counties of Northern Ireland are controlled by the British government - which was the first western nation to sponsor this great evil. Up until now, the Abortion Act did not extend to cover Northern Ireland and abortion clinics here were non-existent. Women from Ireland wishing to procure an abortion were forced to travel abroad - providing a difficult and costly obstacle which helped to save countless lives. Now that this abortion mill has been established here in Belfast, it opens access to abortion for women from the Republic of Ireland also, effectively granting the entire island easy access to the extermination of its own children.
We can only pray that this utterly abhorrent practise will be overturned. That the eyes of the mothers of these children will be opened to the realisation of their actions and recoil from the true horror of what they are about to inflict. I would particularly like to invoke Our Lady of Zeitoun for the protection of these innocent and completely defenceless lives, here, and throughout the world. And in Ireland, I would like to beseech Our Lady of Knock, whose appearances parallel the Zeitoun apparitions in many ways.
Like Our Lady of Zeitoun, the Knock apparitions manifested themselves on a Church building, and were fully visible to all present, yet were not accompanied by a verbal message. The apparitions took place on the gable wall of the Church of St. John the Baptist in the small village of Knock in County Mayo in 1879, where the Virgin Mary appeared along with St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist - who was seen preaching with a large open book in his hand, beside the image of the Lamb of God on an altar, with a large cross behind Him.



The gable wall of the Church of St. John the Baptist, the location of the apparitions in Knock.



We will delve behind the symbolism of this apparition a little further in the next post, but for now it is worth noting further parallels with the Zeitoun apparitions in the fact that the Holy Family were present (Our Lady and St. Joseph, along with Christ as the Lamb of God), which recalls the flight to Egypt. The figure of St. John, the Beloved Disciple (who authored both the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation) with an open book beside the Lamb of God appears to point to his vision in the Apocalypse, where the Lamb opens the seven seals of the scroll described in Rev 5 - the same scroll which we are told was given to St. John in Rev 10. Given that the Holy Family were seen in this vision accompanied by the author of the Book of Revelation, this would seem to point us to the scene in the Apocalypse which re-enacts the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt in Rev 12, where we are told that the Woman Adorned with the Sun is pursued by the Red Dragon who wishes to consume her Child; but she is led by God to a place of refuge in the wilderness. So it seems that the apparitions in Knock were in many respects a precursor to the appearances of Our Lady in Egypt.
With these comparisons in mind, I would like to invite readers to pray to Our Lady of Knock to protect the unborn children of Ireland, and to Our Lady of Zeitoun for the souls of the unborn throughout the world who have fallen victim to this holocaust, the greatest of all modern evils.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Seven Wandering Stars and the Heads of the Dragon



La Bête de la Mer - a medieval tapestry depicting the Dragon transferring his throne, great power and authority to the Beast from the sea, as described in Rev 13:1-2.


The symbolism behind the seven heads of the Dragon and Beast is one of the most enigmatic portions of the Apocalypse. The imagery of both the Dragon and Beast of Revelation is lifted largely from the beast with ten horns described in chapter seven of the Book of Daniel, and transposed onto the template of the seven-headed water dragon found in the mythology of the Ancient Near East. In the Ugaritic myths found in the Ras Shamra literature of the early 2nd millennium BC, this seven-headed creature was known as Lotan - which was equivalent to Levithan/Rahab in Hebrew cosmology, and also associated with Tiamat of Babylonian mythology. And if we look back to the Book of Daniel, we find that the combined head count of the four beasts also gives seven (the beast like a leopard has four heads, which along with the heads of the other three beasts gives seven in total).  The Apocalypse combines the four beasts of Daniel in order to form its own unique monstrous amalgam in the Beast from the sea, which is heavily laden with symbolic import. The Beast from the sea described in Rev 13 is a composite formed from each of the beasts in Daniel. The beasts like a leopard, bear and lion are merged together with that of the beast with ten horns to form a single entity:

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.
(Rev 13:1-3)

The four empires represented by the four beasts in the Book of Daniel are thus moulded together to form a single, all-encompassing world empire. An empire which is at first controlled by the woman/Babylon (who rides the Beast as if it were some kind of mounted steed  - to be steered in the direction of her choosing). But the woman/Babylon is then stripped of her authority by the ten kings (who are represented by the ten horns) - whose purpose is to hand over their power to the Beast itself (Rev 17:13, 17).
The Book of Revelation's presentation of the Beast with seven heads was undoubtedly originally intended as a critique of the imperial cultus. Rome was famed in the ancient world as the city of the seven hills. The limits of the ancient city was seated on the Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal and Viminal hills (Vatican hill, situated across the Tiber, was not counted as one of these - which confounds some recent Protestant interpretations depicting the papacy as the Beast). So the city with seven hills was almost certainly in mind here - a fact which is reinforced by the Beast's association with the whore of Babylon in the narrative of the Apocalypse. Another canonical writing, the First Epistle of St. Peter, also uses the term "Babylon" as a cipher for ancient Rome:

She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son...
(1Pet 5:13)

Just as ancient Babylon held the Jewish people in captivity, so too did the Roman Empire hold control over the Holy Land at the dawn of Christianity. So the term "Babylon" became synonymous with the current ruling world power in the Judeo-Christian psyche - and it is this sense of the word that we should bear in mind when attempting to discern the eschatological implications of the term. "Babylon" is "the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth" (Rev 17:18) - a symbol of the contemporary superpower. The identification of the Beast with Rome can also be ascertained from the ordering of the four beasts presented in the Book of Daniel.

The Apocalypse tells us that the seven heads of the Beast also represent seven kings - five who have fallen, one who is (at the time of St. John's writing), and one who is to come. The Beast itself, who is an eighth king, and at the same time one of the seven, is associated by scholars with the Nero redivivus legend:

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great prostitute who is seated on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth have committed sexual immorality, and with the wine of whose sexual immorality the dwellers on earth have become drunk.” And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her sexual immorality. And on her forehead was written a name of mystery: “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth's abominations.” And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
When I saw her, I marveled greatly.
And I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of the martyrs of Jesus.
When I saw her, I marveled greatly. But the angel said to me, “Why do you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while. As for the beast that was and is not, it is an eighth but it belongs to the seven, and it goes to destruction. And the ten horns that you saw are ten kings who have not yet received royal power, but they are to receive authority as kings for one hour, together with the beast. These are of one mind, and they hand over their power and authority to the beast. They will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.”
And the angel said to me, “The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. And the ten horns that you saw, they and the beast will hate the prostitute. They will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh and burn her up with fire, for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. And the woman that you saw is the great city that has dominion over the kings of the earth.”
(Rev 17:6-18)

So the Beast of Revelation - the eighth king who at the same time is one of the seven (i.e. Nero), is clearly expounded as the appearance of a future Nero-type figure. Nero was the first persecutor of Christians and according to tradition, was responsible for the destruction of Rome by fire and the deaths of Ss. Peter and Paul - which reflects the deaths of the Two Witnesses at the hands of the Beast in Rev 11:7-8. It is for this reason that Nero's name is the numerical equivalent of 666 once transliterated into Hebrew (see the earlier post Hebrew 666?). Following this pattern, the Beast to come will be the last persecutor of Christians, martyring the Two Witnesses who inaugurate the Second Pentecost, and will ultimately be responsible for the destruction of the world by fire.
So the seven heads of the Beast certainly represents seven Roman emperors, one of whom is Nero - who foreshadows the Beast to come. But the exact ordering of the emperors John refers to in the Apocalypse is disputed, and largely hinges upon the date in which the Book of Revelation was first written. If we are to assume that the five kings who had already fallen refers to the first five Roman emperors, then the sequence would begin with the first emperor, Caesar Augustus. The five who had fallen would then be Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero - which would possibly identify the king who "now is" (at the time of the writing of the Apocalypse) as the "caretaker" emperor Galba. This is where the complications begin however, since there was a rapid succession of emperors in the wake of Nero's suicide. In the power vacuum which followed Nero's death, a number of contenders were left vying for control over the empire - which they would pursue with murderous intent. In January 69AD - known as the year of the four emperors, Galba quickly seized power after the death of Nero, but was assassinated after a reign of only four months in a coup led by Otho. Otho was to reign as emperor for just three months, before committing suicide after losing the Battle of Bedriacum to Vitellius. Vitellius in turn was killed eight months later by Vespasian, in December 69AD, before Rome once again settled into a more stable level of leadership.
Some scholars (such as S.S Smalley) therefore suggest that the three short-lived pretenders or "caretaker" emperors should be left out of this sequence, making the sixth emperor who "now is" Vespasian, who ruled between 69-79AD. The king who "has not yet come, and when he does come he must remain only a little while" would then refer to Vespasian's son Titus, who was the commanding officer during the destruction of the city and Temple of Jerusalem in 70AD. The significance of this "king" who was yet to come, would thus lie in the fulfilment of the preterist aspect of the prophecies related to the abomination of desolation in the Book of Daniel:

“Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary."
(Dan 9:24-26)

Note how the Book of Daniel similarly describes the person who is to destined to destroy the city and Temple of Jerusalem as a "prince who is to come". As the son of the Roman Emperor, Titus would have been the equivalent of a prince during the sack of Jerusalem, and only became "king" after his father's death in 79. Titus did indeed "remain only a little while" as Emperor, as he died prematurely after only two years on the Imperial throne, having succumbed to an unknown illness.
Another possibility is that Julius Caesar should be considered to be one of the five kings who have fallen, giving a sequence of Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula and Claudius. It should be helpful to view a list of the relevant Roman Emperors and their regnal dates below:

Julius Caesar - Dictator of the Roman Republic 49-44BC

Caesar Augustus - First Roman Emperor 27BC-14AD
Tiberius 14-37AD
Caligula 37-41AD
Claudius 41-54AD
Nero 54-68AD
Galba, Otho, Vitellius - Pretenders to the Imperial throne in 68-69AD
Vespasian 69-79AD
Titus 79-81AD
Domitian 81-96AD
Nerva 96-98AD


If we consider Julius as being the first in this sequence, the king who "now is" would then be Nero, with the king yet to come being Galba (Vespasian would have to be ruled out in this instance, given the fact that he ruled for a period of ten years - which could hardly be described as "a little while"). A weakness of this hypothesis is that Julius was not technically an emperor - rather, he was the "perpetual dictator" of the Roman Republic. The true founder of Imperial Rome was Caesar Augustus, who was the first Roman Emperor. In addition, the fact that the Apocalypse alludes to the Nero redivivius legend (which held that a Nero-type figure would one day return to the Imperial throne) implies that this particular emperor has already died, and thus cannot be the king who "now is". Also, interpreting Galba as the king yet to come is robbed of any real prophetic significance, given the fact that he was swiftly succeeded by two other short-lived emperors. Focusing on Titus as the king yet to come would have a substantially greater layer of prophetic meaning, since this emperor was the fulfilment of the prophecies of the destruction of the Temple by Daniel and Christ.
If the Apocalypse was composed on the island of Patmos during a persecution under Domitian (between 81-96AD), as was believed by St. Irenaeus, then the ordering of the five "kings" who had fallen would be different again. If the pretender emperors were to be included, then the sequence of the five fallen kings before the one who "now is" would begin with Galba - which would make little sense. Why should the list of kings begin with a short-lived caretaker emperor? If the pretenders are left out, then the five fallen kings would be Titus, Vespasian, Nero, Claudius and Caligula. As to why Caligula should be first on this particular list, defenders of the Domitianic date for the composition of the Apocalypse propose that Caligula was the first emperor to bear the religiously antagonistic characteristics embodied by the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes - who is depicted as the prototype and forerunner to the Antichrist in early Christian literature. So while the internal evidence best fits the reign of Vespasian for the composition of the Apocalypse, there is also a good case for dating it to the reign of Domitian.

As we shall see, it seems that the relationship between the seven heads of the Beast with seven rulers of the Roman Empire is only of secondary importance in discerning the symbolism of the seven heads of the Beast. In Unveiling the Apocalypse (p170), I argue that the seven heads of the Beast may have another layer of interpretation here, and that they also represent the seven planets or "wandering stars" known to the ancients - the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. In the book, I propose that the narrative of the struggle between the Red Dragon and the Woman Adorned with the Sun in Rev 12 is a dramatisation of the signs in the sky described at the opening of the sixth seal in Rev 6, and that this narrative points to actual astronomical phenomena that is observable in the heavens. So the astronomical phenomena described at the opening of the sixth seal is one and the same as the "great sign in heaven" in Rev 12, which heralds the moment when Satan is expelled from heaven and cast to earth at the end-time, upon which event he transfers his great power and authority to the Beast/Antichrist in Rev 13.

When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.
(Rev 6:12-13)

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days.
 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.

(Rev 12:1-9)

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority. One of its heads seemed to have a mortal wound, but its mortal wound was healed, and the whole earth marveled as they followed the beast.
(Rev 13:1-3)

In Rev 12, the Woman Clothed with the Sun represents the Sun itself, while the Moon under her feet represents Satan - the Ancient Serpent whose head is Crushed under the heel of the Woman's offspring in Gen 3:15. At the same time this event, which describes the Moon/Dragon under the Woman's feet intent on devouring her Child, symbolises a solar eclipse - the Sun becoming "black like sackcloth" in Rev 6. The Moon/Dragon is Red in colour - an event which occurs during a lunar eclipse - is to be equated with the Moon becoming "like blood" in Rev 6. And the Dragon sweeping a third of the stars from the sky in Rev 12:4 is the same as the meteor shower described at the opening of the sixth seal. The twelve stars around the Woman's head represent the twelve tribes of Israel who are granted the Seal of God at the opening of the sixth seal, to counteract the inhabitants of the earth being given the mark of the Beast:

Then [Joseph] dreamed another dream and told it to his brothers and said, “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall I and your mother and your brothers indeed come to bow ourselves to the ground before you?” And his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the saying in mind.
(Gen 37:9-11)

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
 12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
 12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
 12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.

(Rev 7:1-8)

During his eschatological discourse in Matt 24, Jesus also mentions that the appearance of the "sign of the Son of Man" coincides with these astronomical events - which is most likely to be equated with the planetary conjunction associated with the Star of Bethlehem:

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."
(Matt 24:29-30)

In the Book of Revelation, the Star of Bethlehem is alluded to in the "great sign" that appears in heaven in Rev 12:1 - which is immediately followed by a vision that recounts the Nativity of Jesus in terms of apocalyptic symbolism.
In Unveiling the Apocalypse, I suggest that seven heads of the Beast described in Rev 12 represents the remarkable alignment of the seven classical planets - the seven "wandering stars" known to the ancients, which occurred at the turn of the millennium - on May 5th, 2000 (just days prior to the publication of the Third Secret of Fatima). During this event, which took place shortly after the appearance of the other astronomical phenomena associated with the opening of the sixth seal that occurred at the turn of the millennium (see the post Signs in the Sky), the seven classical planets - the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, were all aligned in the solar system - an event which was soon followed by a great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on 31st May, 2000. Given that it is thought by a large number of theologians that the Star of Bethlehem was actually a remarkable series of planetary conjunctions, it is no great leap then to suggest that the "sign of the Son of Man" mentioned by Jesus above would relate to a similar event, and that an alignment of the seven classical planets would constitute such a major sign. Christ explicitly stated that there would be signs in the Sun, Moon and stars in the lead-up to the end-time, as well as an incredibly destructive tsunami:

“And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves..."
(Luke 21:25)

If the seven heads of the Beast represent the seven classical planets, this would explain the "blasphemous names" on each head of the Beast - given the fact that in the Greco-Roman culture of the first century AD, each of the planets were named after pagan gods in the Roman pantheon:

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads.
(Rev 13:1)

What blasphemous "names" could there be other than the names of pagan gods? The Sun was named for the solar deity Sol, who was equated with Helios in the Greek pantheon, and closely associated with Apollo. In the later Roman empire the Sun was worshipped as Sol Invictus - the unconquerable Sun, whilst in earlier times it was revered under the title Sol Indiges. The Moon was named for the Roman goddess Luna, who was the equivalent of Selene in Greek mythology. The king planet Jupiter is named after the chief deity in the Roman pantheon, who is associated with Zeus. Mars is the Roman god of war, and identified with the Greek god Ares. Venus, the Roman goddess of love was the counterpart of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Mercury, the messenger of the gods, was Hermes in the Greek pantheon. And Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture and time, was equated with the Greek Titan Cronus. Each of these names could certainly be considered to be "blasphemous" to God, given the fact that they are names of pagan gods, and consequently in breach of the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me." (Exod 20:3).
There is yet more evidence to suggest that the seven heads of the Beast represent the seven classical planets. In Rev 17, we are told that each of the heads of the Beast also represent seven "hills". The Greek word usually translated as "hill" in this instance is όρος oros, which can also mean "mountain". While oros can certainly be translated as "hill", this word is used elsewhere in the Apocalypse in the sense of "mountain" - which was used to symbolise strength and kingdom in the contemporary apocalyptic literature of this time period. The term "hills" is used in many modern translations in order to further connect this verse to the seven hills of Rome. But it should be more accurately rendered as "mountain" - a translation which is faithfully given by the English Standard Version below:

"This calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated..."
(Rev 17:9-14)

The "seven mountains" referred to here undoubtedly alludes to a passage in the First Book of Enoch, which describes a vision of "seven stars like great burning mountains":

I saw the treasuries of all the winds: I saw how He had furnished with them the whole creation and the firm foundations of the earth. And I saw the corner-stone of the earth: I saw the four winds which bear the earth and the firmament of the heaven. And I saw how the winds stretch out the vaults of heaven, and have their station between heaven and earth: these are the pillars of the heaven. I saw the winds of heaven which turn and bring the circumference of the sun and all the stars to their setting. I saw the winds on the earth carrying the clouds: I saw the paths of the angels. I saw at the end of the earth the firmament of the heaven above. And I proceeded and saw a place which burns day and night, where there are seven mountains of magnificent stones, three towards the east, and three towards the south. And as for those towards the east, one was of coloured stone, and one of pearl, and one of jacinth, and those towards the south of red stone. But the middle one reached to heaven like the throne of God, of alabaster, and the summit of the throne was of sapphire. And I saw a flaming fire. And beyond these mountains is a region the end of the great earth: there the heavens were completed. And I saw a deep abyss, with columns of heavenly fire, and among them I saw columns of fire fall, which were beyond measure alike towards the height and towards the depth. And beyond that abyss I saw a place which had no firmament of the heaven above, and no firmly founded earth beneath it: there was no water upon it, and no birds, but it was a waste and horrible place. I saw there seven stars like great burning mountains, and to me, when I inquired regarding them, The angel said: 'This place is the end of heaven and earth: this has become a prison for the stars and the host of heaven. And the stars which roll over the fire are they which have transgressed the commandment of the Lord in the beginning of their rising, because they did not come forth at their appointed times. And He was wroth with them, and bound them till the time when their guilt should be consummated even for ten thousand years.'
(1Enoch 17-18)

1Enoch is a Jewish apocalyptic text written in the first century BC, which was a clear influence on the writers of the New Testament. So the author of Revelation would have almost certainly had this text in mind concerning the "seven mountains" which are symbolised by the heads of the Dragon. The above passage in the Book of Enoch concerning the seven mountains/stars/angels who are kept in chains until judgment day was directly quoted in the Epistle of St. Jude, which helps us to establish the true identity of these seven stars:

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.
 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
(Jude 1:5-15)

St. Jude explicitly states that these seven stars in the Book of Enoch (which represent seven fallen angels) are "wandering stars". A statement which specifically and unequivocally identifies these seven stars/mountains with the seven classical planets. For the ancients, the "wandering stars" were the seven visible planets, which unlike the fixed constellations, freely roamed the night-skies in their own orbit. Indeed the English word "planet" is directly derived from the Greek word πλανήτης, planetes - which means "wanderer". And it is this word which is used in the original Greek of the Epistle of St. Jude: ἀστέρες πλανῆται, asteres planetai ("wandering stars"). The fact that the mountains/stars in the Book of Enoch are represented by precious stones could further suggest that these stars are in fact planets, since the seven wandering stars were often associated with gems and precious metals in antiquity.
Furthermore, the Second Book of Enoch (which is widely considered to be of different authorship to 1Enoch) mentions the seven stars created by God - which it explicitly identifies as the Sun, Moon and five visible planets:

On the fourth day I commanded that there should be great lights on the heavenly circles.
On the first uppermost circle I placed the stars, Kruno (Cronus/Saturn), and on the second Aphrodit (Aphrodite/Venus), on the third Aris (Ares/Mars), on the fifth Zeus (Jupiter), on the sixth Ermis (Hermes/Mercury), on the seventh lesser the moon, and adorned it with the lesser stars.
And on the lower I placed the sun for the illumination of day...
(2Enoch 30:3-5)

According to the First Book of Enoch, the seven "mountains" (which also represent seven stars) stand at the end of the earth - at the very edge of the abyss which "burns day and night". And when we look back to the Book of Revelation, we find that the seven stars held in the right hand of Jesus are similarly connected to the abyss, or "bottomless pit" - which represents hell itself:


 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
(Rev 1:9-20)

Here, Christ tells St. John that the seven stars he holds in his right hand are the keys of Death and Hades. Importantly, this motif recurs again in the narrative concerning the angel who possesses the key to the bottomless pit/abyss in Rev 9 and Rev 20:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
(Rev 20:1-3)

And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. He opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, and they were given power like the power of scorpions of the earth.
(Rev 9:1-3)

Here, we are told that the keys of Death and Hades which Christ holds in his right hand are given to the angel who binds Satan for "a thousand years". But after the "thousand years" are completed, the angel must release the Devil again "for a little while" - an event which is further detailed in Rev 9, when the horde of demonic locusts appear after the abyss has been opened. As we already noted in the earlier post Tunguska, Pope Leo XIII and the Opening of the Abyss, this "little while" for which Satan is released appears to be connected to the prophecy of Pope Leo XIII. During this reported vision, Pope Leo was told that Satan would be granted greater power for a period of 75-100 years - an era which the majority of commentators equate to the horrors of the 20th century. In the above post, we discuss how the 20th century did indeed open with a star falling to earth (the Tunguska event in 1909), accompanied almost immediately after by the appearance of the "apocalyptic locusts" - which I suggest in the book was the invention of military aircraft.
So this "little while" for which Satan would be released - before his final expulsion from heaven after his defeat by the Archangel Michael in Rev 12 - is marked by an angel being given the keys to the "bottomless pit", which we are specifically told in Rev 1 is the seven stars held in the hand of Jesus. And when we study Rev 1 in a little more detail, it appears to communicate the exact positioning of the seven stars which are the keys to the abyss.
In Rev 1:20, Christ states that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and that the seven lampstands are the seven churches themselves.

As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.

So the angels stand over the churches as the light that stands over the lampstands, and in a corporate manner they are also representatives of the seven churches, personifying their character or prevailing spirit. It is therefore important to note in this context that the seven "lampstands" mentioned in Rev 1 is based on the seven candelabra of the Jewish Menorah - which stood before the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem, following the stipulations given in Exod 25:31-40.



Titus' Victory Arch in the Roman Forum depicts the seven-branched Menorah, having been carried off as spoils from the Temple in Jerusalem during its destruction in 70AD - an event foretold by Jesus


The seven candelabra of the Menorah are a distinctive feature, and notable for their perfect alignment. So if the seven stars held in the right hand of Jesus are to be equated with the seven angels of the seven churches, then it would logically follow that these stars in the hand of Christ are in perfect alignment - just like the seven lamps of the Menorah. Indeed the Menorah itself is highly reminiscent of an astronomical orrery depicting an alignment of the planets.



A 1766 astronomical orrery used at Harvard University

The ancients are known to have constructed devices to measure the motions of the planets, as was attested by the discovery of the Antikythera mechanism in 1900. The Antikythera mechanism, which was discovered in a shipwreck dating to the 1st century BC, is widely acknowledged to be the most sophisticated technological innovation in antiquity, and considered by many to be the earliest known example of an analog "computer". This device was primarily used for calculating the movements of the Sun, Moon and five planets - which some archaeologists have proposed were represented on the front panel of the mechanism by a series of precious gems and metals - much in the way the mountains composed of various gemstones in 1Enoch above may also have represented certain attributes of the planets.
In his De Re Publica, the Roman historian Cicero mentions that the Greek polymath Archimedes had constructed two different machines for predicting the movement of the planets. So there were a number of various devices used for measuring the motions of the planets contemporary to the composition of the Apocalypse, and a perceived relationship between the Menorah and an astronomical orrery is conceivable even in a 1st century AD context. Indeed, an association between an orrery and the Jewish Menorah was made as early as Clement of Alexandria, who writing circa 200AD, stated that the purpose of this seven-branched candelabra was to depict the movements of the seven wandering stars:

The lamp, too, was placed to the south of the altar of incense; and by it were shown the motions of the seven planets, that perform their revolutions towards the south. For three branches rose on either side of the lamp, and lights on them; since also the sun, like the lamp, set in the midst of all the planets, dispenses with a kind of divine music the light to those above and to those below.
(Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 5:6)

And we know from the writings of the 3rd century BC Babylonian astronomer Berossus that the ancients placed immense symbolic importance in the occurrence of planetary alignments. Berossus believed that an alignment of the planets in the constellation Cancer would signal the end of the world:

Berossus... affirms that the whole issue is brought about by the course of the planets. So positive is he that he assigns a definite date both for the conflagration and the deluge. All that the earth inherits will, he assures us, be consigned to flame when the planets, which now move in different orbits, all assemble in Cancer, so arranged in one row that a straight line may pass through their spheres. When the same gathering takes place in Capricorn, then we are in danger of the deluge.
(Berossus Babylonica, cited in Seneca, Naturales Quaestiones, 3. 28 7-3. 29)


So a planetary alignment would surely also be considered an important celestial herald for the writers of the Bible.
The combined textual evidence presented above thus suggests that the seven stars held in the hand of Jesus - which represent the keys of the bottomless pit described in chapters 9 and 20 of the Apocalypse, are in fact an alignment of the seven classical planets. So the theory I present in the book - that the seven heads of the Dragon described as being part of the "great sign seen in heaven" in Rev 12 represent the alignment of planets on 5th May 2000, appears to have a wealth of supporting evidence. The only way we can identify it as such, is by the close proximity of this event to the appearance of the other astronomical and geophysical phenomena described at the opening of the sixth seal in Rev 6 - an earthquake, solar and lunar eclipses and a meteor shower, all occurring at the turn of the millennium, and accompanied by the "blood, fire and columns of smoke" mentioned in the Book of Joel - which corresponds to the events of 9/11 (see the earlier post The Two Towers and the Sixth Seal). Signs which both Joel (and by extension Acts) associates with the arrival of the Second Pentecost towards the end of the world - an event which occurs at the end-time defeat of Satan:

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.
“And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls."

(Joel 2:28-32)

There is further significance here in that the earthquake and solar eclipse of August 1999 was centred on modern Turkey - near the ancient site of the seven churches of Asia Minor, which are equated with the seven stars held in the hand of Jesus. This ties us back to the fact that the seven churches of Asia Minor are situated around the "throne of Satan" - just as the seven mountains/stars/angels in 1Enoch are located at the entrance to the abyss:

“And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write: ‘The words of him who has the sharp two-edged sword. “‘I know where you dwell, where Satan's throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells."
(Rev 2:12-13)

But if the appearance of the eschatological astronomical phenomena heralds the end-time defeat of Satan (when he is cast from heaven to the earth and transfers his power and authority to the Beast) this would suggest that the planetary alignment of the year 2000 signified the closing of the abyss by the angel bestowed with the keys to Death and Hades. This was the end of the period when Satan would be unleashed "for a little while", and was ultimately the answer to the St. Michael Prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII after he received his vision of the 100 years of Satan's power. But if the "little while" that Satan is unleashed towards the end of the world described in Rev 20 is to be equated with Pope Leo XIII's vision of the 100 years of Satan's power, and the planetary alignment of 2000 signified the closing of the abyss, then we would expect the opening of the gates of hell to have occurred 100 years earlier. So if the seven stars held in the hand of Jesus are the keys to Death and Hades, and they represent a planetary alignment, we would also expect that event to have transpired at the beginning of the 20th century. And when we look back for any similar celestial events at the turn of the 20th century, we find that a alignment of the seven classical planets took place on 2nd-3rd December 1899, just six months after Pope Leo XIII's consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in June 1899 and at the very cusp of the turn of the century.
We have already noted in a previous post that Pope Leo XIII considered this act of consecration to be the greatest act of his pontificate, and suggested that it was this event which signified when the 100 years of Satan's power would begin - the turn of the 20th century. Pope Leo XIII's consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart was urged by Bl. Mary of the Divine Heart, after she had received a vision of Jesus asking her to contact the Holy Father with this request. At first, the Pope had refused to acknowledge Bl. Mary's entreaty, after he received a letter sent by her superior in June 1898. But upon a second letter, the pontiff inexplicably changed his mind and swiftly began preparation to conduct the consecration. Bl. Mary of the Divine Heart died on the feast of the Sacred Heart, just two days before Pope Leo performed the consecration, which had been deferred to the following Sunday from the actual feast day itself. The consecration of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1899 is thus nicely paralleled by the Act of Entrustment of the world and the new millennium to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, carried out by Pope John Paul II in October 2000 - which was preceded by the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco Marto on 13th May, and the publication of the Third Secret on 26th June. So the 20th century was framed by devotion to the Two Hearts of Jesus and Mary. It is also worth noting the close proximity of the beatification ceremony of the shepherd children and the Act of Entrustment to the planetary alignment on 5th May.
But why would this prophecy concerning the "opening of the Abyss" by the angel given the keys of Death and Hades, and the "little while" given to Satan towards the end of the world, be so closely associated with a pope? We might find some answer to this in the Gospel of Matthew, where we find the only other instance of a motif concerning the conferral of otherworldly keys - which were given to the very first Pope - St. Peter himself, and by prophetic extension to each of his successors:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
(Matt 16:18-19)

As we have noted throughout several detailed posts, there are numerous prophetic convergences centring on the turn of the millennium - most of which concern the end-time defeat of Satan and his final explusion from heaven. But while Satan has been defeated by the Archangel Michael, the Book of Revelation tells us that the Dragon transfers his power and authority to the Beast once he has been cast to earth - who rises from the sea at the precise moment of the fulfilment of the prophecy of the Mark of the Beast, and continues to pursue the Woman/Church on the earthly sphere:

And when the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
(Rev 12:13)

But with Satan defeated in heaven, the time is at hand for the coming of the Second Pentecost, when the Woman is given the two wings of the great eagle (who represent the Two Witnesses of Rev 11) in order to escape the pursuit of the Devil:

But the woman was given the two wings of the great eagle so that she might fly from the serpent into the wilderness, to the place where she is to be nourished for a time, and times, and half a time.
(Rev 12:14)

At this moment - which is marked by the astronomical phenomena which heralds the opening of the sixth seal, the Book of Revelation tells us that the saints are given the seal of God in heaven, in order to counteract the fulfilment of the prophecy of the mark of the Beast on earth.
It is also interesting to note that the Crucifixion of Jesus appears to have been accompanied by the darkening of the Sun (Mark 15:33); and on the most likely date of the death of Christ - 3rd April 33AD, there was a lunar eclipse visible in Jerusalem, which turned the Moon blood red (as we have already noted above, this symbolises the head of the Serpent being crushed). It appears that St. Peter pointed to these events in quoting Joel during his sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2:20, which mentions the Sun being turned to darkness and the Moon to blood. So the descent of the Holy Spirit during the first Pentecost had followed the Crucifixion of Jesus (with the defeat of Satan through His sacrificial death), and was accompanied by the darkening of the Sun and the Moon turning to blood. Events which directly parallel the Second Pentecost, which also occurs after the eschatological defeat of Satan, at the darkening of the Sun and Moon, and stars falling to earth. And as the Book of Daniel explicitly states, the delivery of God's people during the Second Pentecost can only take place after the victory of the Archangel Michael over the Devil:

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book."
(Dan 12:1)

This was the exact time of tribulation pointed to by Jesus in his eschatological discourse, which would be marked by the appearance of the "signs in heaven":

"For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be..."

 ...“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
(Matt 24:21, 29)

The sheer number of prophecies pointing to this time period, and the astounding level of accuracy of their content, surely puts these prophetic convergences beyond the realm of coincidence...