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.
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...
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.”
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."
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
Galba, Otho, Vitellius - Pretenders to the Imperial throne in 68-69AD
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 (see the post The Fall of Satan, which shows how the eschatological fall of Satan in Rev 12 is to be differentiated from his primordial fall from grace).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 (see the post Our Lady of Light and the Apocalyptic Nativity).
In Unveiling the Apocalypse, I suggest that seven heads of the Beast described in Rev 12 could represent 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..."
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.
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..."
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 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.”
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...
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.
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.
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.
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 UniversityThe 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."
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."
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.”
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 (see The Year of the Dragon, Ezekiel's Vision of the Fall of Satan, Fr. Gobbi's Prophecy of the Chastisement of America, The Prophecies of La Salette and the Turn of the Millennium, John Paul II - The Triumph of Mary and the Great Jubilee, The Third Secret and the Turn of the Millennium and St. John Bosco's Prophecy of the Turn of the Millennium). 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.
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.
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."
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...