The Quintessential Protestant Polemic Identification of Vatican City as “Babylon the Great” is Not Based on Sola Scriptora, But it is Full of Real Hidden Dangers
by Mark Mountjoy
A hundred reasons could be offered up to prove that the New Testament nowhere supports the idea that the end of the world, the Second Coming, and the resurrection of the dead are past events connected to Jewish antiquity. And this is because, at first glance, it seems extremely easy to demonstrate that absolutely nothing we have heard about from history even comes close to resembling or suggesting that a judgment by God took place at any time in antiquity. And there is, after all, concrete proof of the end of days standing in front of all of our eyes: The existence of the central antagonist of the Book of Revelation, the epitome of evil, the Roman Catholic Church, “Babylon the Great harlot” from whom all must come out of in order that we “be not partakers of her plagues.” Surely her judgment is not afar off!
A Catholic Babylon is a Standard Notion
in Churches, Sects and Cults
Many millions of people in the Christian world do not hesitate to associate and identify Roman Catholicism with Babylon the Great in the Book of Revelation; this is understandable, but very unfortunate!
Now this idea was born when Roman Catholic officials began to aggressively crack down on any efforts to reform medieval Roman Catholic Christianity. There was no initial intention to split off and form a Protestant faction of Christians, but only to distance the existing Church from the widespread and questionable practice of the sale of Indulgences1 and they longed to find and study the Bible apart from the official capacities of the Roman Catholic religion which had, by then, entirely permeated European societies.
Catholic authorities reacted harshly to any thought that their lucrative sales and dogmatic teaching authority could be questioned by the Catholic priest Martin Luther and the other lay-people he rallied to his side. Catholic officials could not tolerate the idea that the Bible would become available to the common people and their Catholic teachings stood in danger of being set aside for fresh independent studies, but they felt angrier still that their authority would be transferred away from the official Magisterium and open up the possibility of a heresy “free-for-all.”
Martin Luther was determined to bring the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church to the attention of his countrymen and wrote a list of theses (95 of them!) and nailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Many rallied to his defense, but the Church’s response was not to negotiate, but to deny there was a serious problem and to initiate persecutions. To be fair to Catholics, there may have been, at the same time, or slightly before Luther’s efforts, impulses to renew the Church (but in light of Luther’s efforts, which were not under the Church’s oversight or in their control, this renewal movement became a Counter-reformation movement). And as the disputes heated up the competition between Church loyalists and the “Lutherans” became vicious; many people, who dared to question the Church, ended up being killed in horrific ways.
However, even in this, these Medieval atrocities still do not prove that Roman Catholicism is a concern, good or bad, of the New Testament. As it stands (and as we will see in a moment) the idea that the Church of Rome and the Papacy are complicit in the deaths of the prophets of the Old Testament, and the Apostles and saints of New Testament days runs directly contrary to the words, truth and authority of our Lord Jesus. It is very important for all sincere teachers in all the various Christian churches to be encouraged to discover if their belief in a Roman Catholic Babylon and future apocalypse corresponds, validates and legitimizes what Jesus, the Apostles and their clerks believed about the Great City, the Second Coming, the coming of the kingdom of God, judgment and the end of the world.
Is the Roman Catholic Church really the wicked and adulterous generation confronted and warned by Jesus’ itinerary? Is Vatican City really the mother and queen of religious adultery?
Is the 21st century European society really the locus and the focus of a possible future ten nation revived Roman Empire?
If not, in what way does this litany of assumptions, charges and allegations (which are possibly slander) distract and damage the advocacy, sense and intent of the New Testament apocalyptic narrative which is circumscribed and sanctified as a inviolable Divine edict and decree in the Book of Revelation?
Official Behaviours Led to These Accusations
When one looks at the obvious mendacity of Catholic officials towards those who championed getting rid of unscriptural practices and having the Bible made available in their own native languages, instead of the official Latin spoken only by the Bishops and priests and deacons, the response of the Church was not only unkind, but also murderous. People got tortured or burnt, strangled and drowned for trying to obtain the Bible in their own language!
Moreover, when one looks at the pomp and circumstance, the gilded artwork, the flowing robes and audacious slippers worn by many of the popes, not even to mention the golden chair, high and lifted up, that and all the scarlet and jewels and purple made and makes many think that the Roman Catholic religion is a cinch and fits John’s prophecy about Babylon the Great City to a “T.”
Besides this, many believe that the ghost of the Roman Empire inhabits and animates the Roman Catholic Church and she must be destroyed on account of all the harm she has done to Christians from the first century down till the supposed future Second Coming of Christ, at which time she will be stoned with one hundred pound hailstones and then burnt with fire and then replaced by the pure and holy Bride of Jesus. But what if all this is a plausible fabrication, but completely wrong?
Suppose the Roman Catholic Church is the wrong “person of interest”―the wrong suspect? And ponder if the deep and abiding biases that many Christians hold toward Catholics is really plausible but, ultimately, mistaken? If Christians are right about the Roman church being wrong, but wrong about the Roman Catholic Church being Babylon the Great and wrong about the Second Coming being in the future, and wrong about all the realities and blessings and benefits the New Testament surrounds it with, that would mean that these ideas about the role of the Vatican, the Pope and Catholicism could itself represent a doctrinal Trojan horse with its own set of hidden dangers!
Now, if accusations against Roman Catholicism are a Trojan horse, rejecting these erroneous notions will do something immediately: It will make room in minds and hearts by clearing the way for a brand new look at the New Testament; meaning that by turning away from old wives tales about Catholics what the New Testament says, without the obsctruction or hinderance of rumor and hearsay will be a terrific game-changer because it will make all the difference in the world about how we perceive what the Book of Revelation advocates and says about itself; we will discover that there is something about allegations against the Roman Catholic Church that may be deflecting our attention away from the real significance of the New Testament, after everything is said and done!
Now, the belief that Roman Catholicism is a subject at all in the New Testament, upon investigation and thorough reflection is more apparent than real. And this is mainly because such a notion does not bother to begin an investigation by examining Jesus’ words in the Synoptics and John in order to lay a foundation for prosecutorial charges (if there are any) against the Roman Catholic religion.
Using the Gospel According to Matthew as a basic blueprint for our search we can sketch an outline of Jesus’ indictment against those who killed or were made subject to imputation of the deaths of the prophets, scribes and apostles of God.
This survey starts in Matthew 8:10-12 and 10:5-36, in Matthew 14:1-13, 15:1-9; 19:27-30 and 21:33-46, in Matthew 22:1-14 and 23:1-39. Matthew chapter 23 is a long and serious indictment and we should not pass over it lightly. Matthew chapters 24-25, if looked at as a culmination and outcome of Jesus’ assessment of the situation of his time and the culpability of the crimes, anchors the destruction of, not Rome (or the Vatican), but Jerusalem, and Jerusalem only.
The issues surrounding Jesus’ arrest and his testimony before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrim further attests that his Second Coming as the exalted Son of man has a direct relationship with the fate of Jerusalem and Judæa instead of Rome and Italy and this important fact should be noted as such.
With the Danielic proof Jesus offered to Caiaphas (who, by the way, was not a Pope), Christ’s fate was sealed and he was then hastily sent to be retried by Pontius Pilate, but when he was found innocent, fresh manifestations of political corruption saw to it that the verdict led to the release of Barabbas, and for the one without fault, horrific scourging, crucifixion, and the death that paid for the sins of the world.
None of this can properly or fairly be imputed upon or attributed to the Vatican or placed on the shoulders of Roman Catholics.
Furthermore, after the resurrection of our Lord, the Aristocratic/Levitical priestly showed themselves to be shameless liars when they paid the soldiers to lie about the resurrection of the Lord:-
“Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day” (Matthew 28:11-15).
The deception about the reality of Christ’s resurrection cast a shadow over what was the greatest event in Jewish history and made it an issue of dereliction of duty and theft. And so, that same leadership and that same city remained the epicenter of focus in regards to crimes which have wrongfully been attributed to Medieval and modern Roman Catholicism.
In Acts, the epistles of Paul, the writings of Hebrews, James, the Apostles Peter and John and Jude and, finally, the Book of Revelation do not easily comport to the idea that first century Christians, in general, or the seven churches of Asia Minor, in particular, were concerned about a Catholic mendacity or clerical hierarchy located in Italy at all.
And so, to make the New Testament speak of the downfall of Catholicism is fraught with real handicaps and genuine dangers for Bible believing Christians: It introduces false claims contrary to the words of him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). It imports a holding pattern that has remained static, stationary, completely unmovable for better than four centuries now.
Now this holding pattern, however, is directly against the immediacy so evident in the Scriptures (see The True Parameters of a Non-Catholic, Judæao-centric NT Apocalyptic chart below).
Choosing to believe prophecies couched in Daniel 7:7-27, and Revelation 17:1-18 and 18:1-20 and 19:1-4 represents the downfall of Catholicism, if it is really not so, means a seemingly plausible assumption conceals a true reality.
But plausible assumptions wrongly give Christians permission to vehemently defend blatant falsehoods when it reaches as far as bold denials of the guilt of first century Jerusalem Aristocracy of Sadducees and Pharisees, and when it extends to falsifying the immediacy and imminence of the Second Coming.
There is no possible connection to be made of a last days in connection to the Middle ages and trying to make this work out in futuristic terms is nothing but an exercise in futility and is not without its own devastating and embarrassing ramifications! Namely, it NEGATES the prophecies everyone in the New Testament gave, including Jesus and Peter, Paul and John!
We simply cannot accept evil surmisings (i.e., a thing suspected; imagined upon slight evidence). If we let this go; if we sweep this under a rug, what will it costs us the credibility of the entire New Testament?
Should we not examine and reject whatever is false? To rewrite history to say first and second century Christians struggled with Catholicism or worse—that the first fifteen centuries of Christianity didn’t even matter—such an outlook is an astronomical claim to make and accept!
Christianity Emerged from the Synagogue, Not the Papacy
To begin this study, it should be noted that Christianity began twenty centuries ago, not five hundred years ago. And it was born into a now obscure and complex religio-political Semitic environment which had developed over a period of almost fifteen centuries. This society was in no way Catholic or even very similar to Catholics in beliefs, practices or aspirations.
It did not believe in the virgin birth of our Lord, Roman Catholics do.2 It did not believe in Jesus as the Son of God, Roman Catholics do.3 It did not believe the Apostle Peter was given the keys to the promised kingdom, Roman Catholics do.4 It did not believe in the altar of the Cross, Roman Catholics do.5 It did not believe in our Lord's glorious resurrection from the dead, Roman Catholics do.6 It did not believe the Apostles were filled with power from on high by the Holy Spirit of God on Pentecost, Roman Catholics do.7 It did not believe the bread and the wine are the body and blood of our Lord, Roman Catholics do.8
The idea that Mary has any role as a mediator between God and mankind is a serious flashpoint between Christians because it has no basis at all in the Scriptures, but continues to pervade Catholic and Orthodox ecclesiastic tradition. A study of its source is all important and coming to terms with its legitimacy should be a high priority for all.9
The historical truth is this: All the ideas and practices that set Roman Catholicism off as different and alien from Second Temple Judaism, are precisely Christian beliefs and traditions.
These distinctive ideas arose and were established in a one hundred year period of gestation and development, so that, if Roman Catholics are not our Christian brothers and sisters, they cannot be disowned as our Christian cousins (all Christians being, basically, 75% alike on almost every important tenet one could think of).
At that time in the Church's history the term “Roman Catholic” would have been unthinkable, and even the term καθόλου (katholou, i.e., universal) was first used by Bishop Ignatius in A.D.110, when the church was only 77 years old. By that time Christians were a poorly organized, fledgling group of disparate communities overwhelmed by Romans and Jews and other pagans on every hand. So these early historic realities beg for, not only proper questions, but also relevant answers since no first or second century Christian would have conceived of the Christian church, of Jerusalem, or of Rome as being “Babylon the Great.”
And so, the idea that the Roman Catholic Church is a central antagonist in the Old and New Testament has misinformed Christians for about 500 years now.
This Reinvention Destroys Sense, Sequence and
Goals of the Book of Revelation Timeline
A litany of Roman Catholic deviations leads many people to strongly assume that this historic Church, because of errors, behaviors and certain clothes is Babylon the Great. Catholics even deny Bible eschatology, but accept Amillennialism, which, upon reflection, can be seen as a mismatch, a discrepancy. Amillennialism is adverse to almost anything the Apostles taught (where at first glance it seems to generally comport with the overall gist of it). Look at what else is questionable: The splendid and uncomplicated role of Jesus as the sole mediator between God and man, in Catholicism has been all but replaced by a sacerdotal view of the Virgin Mary that finds no basis anywhere in the Old or New Testament.
The sacrifice of the Mass, likewise, rejects the finality expressed of Jesus’ passion in the Book of Hebrews where it is hammered home that what the Lord did was “once and for all.”
Our aim is not to prove that Catholic deviations do not matter, our motive is to demonstrate that these errors cannot cancel what the Bible says about first century Jerusalem and the important events surrounding her fall, judgment and destruction.
Not a Concern Among the Seven Churches of Asia
Babylon the Great covers passages in the Book of Revelation from chapters 11 through 19. With such a large swath of passages devoted to Babylon’s downfall it has to make one think that the seven churches of Asia in the prologue of Revelation were having issues and troubles and persecutions that were directly connected to that city. But was it coming out of Rome, really? Or was the trouble emanating out of the N sector of the Diaspora (Asia Minor), Jerusalem and Judæa?
If we stick with the details of the text (Revelation 2:9 and 3:9) they do not point west in the direction of Rome, but southeast in the direction of Jerusalem.
A Second Coming Against the Roman Catholic
Church Cannot Make Sense, Even in Seven Church Ages
Belief that the Book of Revelation devotes itself to prophecies related to the destruction of the Roman Catholic Church, as we saw above, come at the stiff expense of the precious context.
But this difficulty is still true, even if we try to conceive of the seven churches, not as actual local churches in the Anatolian Peninsula, but as so-called “periods” of church history stretching from the distant past to, perhaps, a distant future. How would that work? It can’t!
It can’t because we see a definite conflict in the Word of God’s insistence that the Second Coming was near, but it never pleads that it should also be understood to be beyond the generation of Jesus’ day, no not once!
Let’s look closer at this. In the prologue all seven churches are warned, point blank, that the coming of the Lord was, basically around the corner; that idea was reiterated four more times in Revelation chapters 2 and 3.
Now imagine if the Lord was going to come only in the seventh church age of “Laodicea,” how does it make sense that he also promised to come back in the “first age” of Ephesus (Revelation 2:5) or the “third age” of Pergamos (Revelation 2:16) or the “fourth age” of Thyatira (Revelation 2:24-25), or the “fifth age” of Sardis (Revelation 3:3) or the “sixth age” of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:9-11)?
Take a few minutes to think about what we are really saying here!
And Jesus, in his address to the so-called Laodicean “last church,” fails to promise to come back at all! So much for the Second Coming in the so-called “seventh age” of Laodicea!
Therefore, the theory of a Second Coming at the very end of the seventh stage of a modern day luke-warm (Laodicean) church collapses under the heavy burden of its own weight as soon as we compare and reflect upon what the Scriptures positively say and what the church age theory tries to make the seven churches of Asia falsely mean.10
Defies the Early Parousia Expectation and Reduces
It to a Mistake, a Rumor and a Platitude
Tagging the Roman Catholic Church, arresting Catholics and putting them in orange jumpsuits and making them stand trial as the guilty is a bad mistake for another reason: Over and over the New Testament insists that the Second Coming was coming soon; was at hand; was near; and would shortly come to pass.
In any other situation such repeated warnings would be perfectly clear without having each successive Christian generation read imaginary messages between the lines. But what the early Second Coming message is now taken for is a rumor or a platitude. A rumor, because it spread from the Apostles and disciples that John might live to see the Second Coming (John 21:22). That was just hearsay, as even the text says, but the Second Coming of Matthew 10:23, and 16:27-28, and 19:28-30 and 21:40-45 and 22:1-14, and 23:29-39 and 24:29-34 and 25:31-46 and 26:64 WAS NOT A RUMOR, BUT PROPHECY. Rumors can fail (no reason for alarm) but prophecies cannot fail without detrimental consequences.
The earliest Christians really needed the Lord to return to bring the Jewish fanatical nationalist Zealots and the murderous robber Sicarii to heel, but now the Second Coming is a platitude: Sunday in and Sunday out, Christians are continually reminded that, “He shall come again!” “He shall come again!” “He shall come again!” without any real New Testament context, stipulations or actual social emergency leads to jaded cynicism. Such a pointless platitude comes with zero advantage of knowing when that coming might supposedly be—but as far the Church is concerned it really could be in four or five billion years or more!
Making the Apocalypse About Catholics Knocks
Christians Off the Path of Actual Jewish Salvation History
The path of Jewish civilization is where the source, shape and circumstances of the New Testament can be sought and found. From the Jewish mikveh ritual ablution (water baptism) to the shewbread of the priests (bread of communion), from the wine of the priests (wine of communion) to the table of thanksgiving (the love feasts), one can find, not only corollaries, but also contrasts. Types, anti-types, shadow and reality, foreshadowings and prefigurements and interpretive sciences such as Peshat and Pesher, Aggadeh and Sod and Midrash abound.
The Jewish category of the Pentateuch (the five books)—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, has its New Testament counterpart—Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the Acts of the Apostles.
The epistles of Paul to seven churches—Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colosse and Thessalonki, followed by three letters to individuals: Timothy and Titus and Philemon, are followed by his unnamed, but apparent protégé, the Hebrew writer. The remaining letters, James, Peter and John and Jude and the Book of Revelation, are written to the Twelve Tribes of Israel and have an unmistakable Jewish slant to them. These last form a very vociferous and highly charged section of the New Testament which corresponds to Midrash (commentary) mainly against the Christians’ Jewish nationalist countrymen who were ready to play a dangerous game of hardball with all, alike.
But the difference between these writings and what the Jewish people esteem is this: They are contained in the Word of God rather than being exterior to it. And, indeed, these are divinely inspired commentaries of the Law, the Prophets and of sacred history and of the Apocrypha ALL pointed to the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
That demonstration, and that demonstration alone would be his orchestration of the end, not of the Catholic age, but of the Jewish age, once and for all. So the recognition of the Jewish civilization which has passed on and of the truly impending Second Coming which overtook it does not bring on instability, but stability.
But it does more: It immediately eases the deleterious and debilitating effects of “millenial mania” that inflicts so many with its lifelong roller-coaster of ups and downs in search of an elusive and never ending quest for Bible prophecy fulfillment.
A Catholicc Babylon Conceals All the Evidence
Which is in the Crucible of Bible-days Judaism
Belief in a Trinitarian God and in the Son of God, once upon a time, was widely rumored to have its origins, distinctly in the world of the Romans. But with the 20th century discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, manuscripts written by Jewish hermit sectarians in the Judæan desert nearly 2,100 years ago, that all changed. Suddenly it was discovered that the concept of the Son of God was, not a Roman idea, nor a Roman Catholic notion borrowed from paganism or outright invented from thin air, but an intramural concept completely latent and normative in sectarian Second Temple Judaism.
Besides this, serious studies in the Old Testament easily attest for the plurality of personas within the One Godhead. So Christianity, as it turns out, finds its source and foundation, not in pagan notions and affairs, but Jewish Law, ritual, apocalyptic and other ideological constructs. Therefore, what was controversial in Christianity and what caused conflict and the parting of the ways was not, in the final analysis, the material, but the interpretation of the material, specifically around the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth.
There Was A Land on Fire
Revelation 6:12-17 presents a debacle which, at first glance appears to be a ridiculous exaggeration because the Roman Empire was not lit by fire anywhere near the first century, nor even in the second or third centuries. But when we recall what the Lord said in Luke 23:27-31 all of a sudden the context of Revelation 6 and 7 and 8 has to be relocated, not willy-nilly anywhere in history we might like, but in the lifetime of the daughters of Jerusalem and their children. This point of contact, in other words, anchors the book in reality and history.10
Revelation chapter 7 describes an account of the sealing of the one hundred and forty-four thousand Israelites and this adds substantive weight to this hunch by showing God marking his servants in lieu of upcoming events which will purge Judæa by the deaths of many ten thousands.
But Revelation 8 describes astral catastrophes which end up burning up large sectors of the land and ruining rivers and streams by poisoning them with contaminated waters. This happens, first of all, when the angel poured out a volley of hail and fire and blood (8:7); this burnt up trees and grass.
A second debacle was a mountain thrown into the sea and the sea became blood, and a third disaster came in the form of a star which fell down to earth and poisoned the rivers and fountains of water (Numbers 5:11-31).
These are not random, coincidental acts of nature, but deliberate Acts of God to try the world and bring it to the test to see what it would do.
In a fourth catastrophe a third part of the sun and moon and stars was smitten, so that a third part of the day was darkened and a third part of the night was darkened, too. What effect did these things have on the Roman world? Can we even say? If, after the war, the Romans mourned the loss of laborers and the devastation of agricultural assets the vastness of this punishment would justifiably be said to be universal, but there is reason to think these catastrophes have a more specific target (see Wars of the Jews 7.5.5:139-145).
“But what afforded the greatest surprise of all was the structure of the pageants that were borne along; for indeed he that met them could not but be afraid that the bearers would not be able firmly enough to support them, such was their magnitude; for many of them were so made, that they were on three or four stories, one above another. The magnificence also of their structure afforded one both pleasure and surprise; for upon many of them were laid carpets of gold.
There was also wrought gold and ivory fastened about them all; and many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of contrivances, affording the most lively portaiture of itself; for there was to be seen a happy country laid waste, and entire squadrons of enemies slain; while some of them ran away, and some were carried into captivity; with the walls of great altitude and magnitude overthrown, and ruined by machines; with the strongest fortifications taken, and the walls of the most populous cities upon the tops of hills seized on, and an army pouring itself within the walls; as also every place full of slaughter, and supplications of the enemies, when they were no longer able to lift up their hands in way of opposition.
Fire also sent upon temples was here represented, and houses overthrown and falling upon their owners: rivers also, after they came out of a large and melancholy desert, ran down, not into a land cultivated, nor as drink for men, or for cattle, but through a land still on fire upon every side; for the Jews related such a thing they had undergone during this war.
Now the workmanship of these representations was so magnificent and lively in the construction of the things, that it exhibited what had been done to such as did see it, as if they had been there really present.
On the top of every one of these pageants was placed the commander of the city that was taken, and the manner wherein he was taken.
Moreover, there followed those pageants a great number of ships; and for the other spoils, they were carried in great plenty. But for those that were taken in the temple of Jerusalem, they made the greatest figure of them all; that is the golden table, of the weight of many talents; the candlestick also, that was made of gold, though its construction was now changed from that which we made use of: for its middle shaft was fixed upon a basis, and the small branches were produced out of it to a great length, having the likeness of a trident in their position, and had every one a socket made of brass for a lamp at the tops of them. These lamps were in number seven, and represented the dignity of the number seven among the Jews; and the last of all the spoils was carried the Law of the Jews.
After these spoils passed by a great many men, carrying the images of Victory, whose structure was entirely either of ivory or of gold. After which Vespasian marched in the first place, and Titus followed him; Domitian also rode along with them, and made a glorious appearance, and rode a horse that was worthy of admiration . . .”11
This long quote from Josephus Wars of the Jews plainly shows that the disasters and upheavals, the flame and sword and bloodshed and rivers of destruction were peculiar to the Land of the Jews and not the whole wide world or even the expanse of the Roman Empire itself. How would the Romans be able to enjoy such entertainment, mirth and celebration if they, too, were included in the melee? Conventional wisdom is fond of thinking of the disasters of the Book of Revelation in very broad terms, but the majority of the texts, starting in Revelation chapter 6, makes it clear that it is talking about Jerusalem and the Holy Land around it and belonging to it, or the people in the Jewish Diaspora (the οἰκουμένην) associated with it, nothing more, nothing less and nothing else!
Revelation chapter 9 proves this truth again. In Revelation 9 three additional woes are sounded, all of which read like something out of outrageously imaginative Science fiction: locusts ascending from a nether furnace (9:3) determined to torment the men who have not the seal of God in their foreheads (9:4 cf. Revelation 7:3). The period of torment was a mere five months.
In 9:12 God unleashed four angels at the Euphrates River who bring 200 million demons. But where do these demons march off? Which direction do they go? Do they go east from the Euphrates to the Orient? No, they go west to the Holy Land to kill the people with fire and smoke and brimstone!
These are the hints within the situation that let us know who these people are because, doubtless their God has commanded them not to engage in four specific things: Murder, fornication, sorcery and thievery. These were the laws of God contained in the Law of Moses. These were mandates for the people of Israel, but the Roman people had no such laws of conduct from God, yet the survivors refused to repent of their murders, fornications, sorceries and stealing.
This all means that these punishments were designed to urge Jewish rebels to stop doing these very things, but failed to accomplish its goal in this, which leads to the very next chapter: Chapter 10.
The Seven Thunders (Delayed)
Revelation chapter 10 represents an enigmatic twist in a book which is already rife with riddles. Yet if we are intent on deciphering it, we believe the Book of Ezekiel, from which it strongly alludes, will extend some help. From the seven seals and six trumpets that have been dispensed before it (in Revelation 6, 8 and 9) this chapter introduces something new: Seven Thunders. But what Revelation 10:1-4 indicates is that these calamities (whatever they are) were withheld, delayed, not to be poured out in the context of that immediate first century situation. Verses 8-11 comports with this and seems to indicate to us that John would survive the Destruction of Jerusalem and have a ministry to his countrymen in the post-A.D.70 era that would lead to what the Seven Thunders were intended to accomplish: the Finished Mystery.
The Seals, and Trumpets, and Bowls
We do not recognize the events of Revelation chapter 7 and 8 and 9 in antiquity, but that does not mean it did not happen then. After all, Revelation was delivered early and claims its prophecies were immediate, we should think, then, that what it says at least involves events early on and at the front end of the appearance of Christianity, and not backwards, at the back end of history or of time as we know it. To argue for the latter is to make a evident and monumental mistake.
It is only in Revelation chapter 12 where things begin to make sense and where we actually find historical corollaries that seem surprisingly convincing.
A Manchild Caught Up to the Throne of God
Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus records the strangest event from the autumn of A.D.66 which causes us to sit up and take particular notice. All of what they say is contained in the little chapter which has caused untold angst and confusion amongst interpreters.
If the Virgin Mary is suddenly pictured here, just after the chaos of Revelation 11 and the war of Revelation 13, this, in itself, is somewhat bewildering. Not only do Christians interpret the vision to describe the glorious Virgin, the Theotokos, but also she is heavy with child, none other than Christ our God. But this does not make sense in light of the context of turmoil and devastation and war, does it?
Neither Joseph or Mary or our Lord were facing war in those twilight years of the first century B.C. Herod's health was waning and his sons were conniving; calculating how they might obtain superior grants in his will and testament. But on no account was Mary or Joseph on the run, let alone separated from Jesus when he was obviously most vulnerable.
Nor was Jesus caught up to God’s throne and given a rod of iron in the B.C. years decades prior even to his passion on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. How, then, does Revelation 12 make sense?
The chapter employs even more metaphors and it, thereby, introduces even more confusion: Satan and Michael match up in an apparent showdown in the sky, and in the midst of all this the Virgin Mary escapes with her life to be nourished, in safety, in the Wilderness for three years and six months! It doesn’t make any sense! Satan was cast out of heaven long before the Book of Revelation was written; long before the Virgin Mary was born and long before Jesus was incarnated as God in Christ: professors know this and interpreters know this.
But all this makes sense, but only if we reject that the woman is the Virgin Mary and if we go a step further and consider that the woman is the Jerusalem Church, the Mother Church of Christians. And it makes sense if we leave primordial antiquity and even the first century B.C. behind and skip up to the fall of A.D.66.
The Mother Church Flees into Wilderness
Traditionally Christians believe the virgin Mary was born on 8 September 18 B.C., just a few years after Herod begin remodeling the Second Temple (which was originally built by Zarubbabel and cleansed (but not beautified) by Judas the Maccabee). If the Theotokos was born in 18 B.C., when did she died and how old was she when she died? According to Hyppolitus of Thebes Mary lived for 11 years after the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, which means she died in A.D.41 at the age of 59.
Ancient Christians commemorated the death of this glorious person on 15 August every year as door Catholics and Orthodox Christians today, however, the death of Theotokos in the 40s means that the scene we are examining in Revelation chapter 12 occurred some 21 years after she left this earth; and increases the chances that it is very doubtful that John’s vision in this chapter is all about her!
What it was very likely has to do with a sacred entity that was not protected by an assumption into heaven, but by arrangements (see Revelation 12:6 and 14) prepared for it in the Judæan wilderness. But see Ecclesiastical history quotes about the Jerusalem church’s flight to Pella before the beginning of the Jewish civil war:-
“Some scholars believe that the escape of the woman’s offspring into the wilderness in Revelation 12:6, 14–17 uses mythological language to describe the flight of the Jerusalem church to Pella. While Revelation 12 is difficult to interpret, there does seem to be a historical basis for the events it describes. The dragon’s attempt to destroy the Jewish Christians, first in Zealot-controlled Jerusalem, and then while crossing the Jordan during the winter floods, came to naught. Instead, the Gentile churches of the Decapolis rescued and aided the Jewish-Christian refugees. With the Jerusalem church safe, the dragon next gave his attention to making war against the rest of the saints (12:17). While a bit fanciful, such a reconstruction must be taken into consideration, since others have little to commend them.”12
The reality and historicity of the Jerusalem church's flight to the Decapolis corresponds to John’s prophecy, but disconfirms the idea that Revelation 12:1 is about the Virgin Mary. In the first place, whoever the woman is, she is not assumed into heaven (only her son is!) Furthermore, she is kept in safety apart from her son, for a period just under four years.13 This does not describe the Virgin Mary and the infant days of our Lord Jesus in the Holy Land!
Michael and Satan Combat over the Second Temple
Couched in Revelation are what, at first seems to be inexplicable symbols. But these turn out to be metaphors of things we can recognize as a prodigious vision of an incredible historical account. Even Jewish people at the time interpreted heavenly battalions arrayed over their capital, swords drawn and combat ready as something foreboding nothing but victory against the hated Romans.
But had they not seen this before? In 2 Maccabees 10:29-31 five men from heaven came down and surrounded Judas the Maccabee and slaughtered 20,500 Greeks, besides 600 horsemen). And in 2 Maccabees 5:1-4 we read:
“About this time Antiochus made his second invasion of Egypt. And it happened that overall the city, golden-clad horsemen charging through the air, in companies fully armed with lances and drawn swords—troops of horsemen drawn up, attacks and counter attacks made on this side and on that, brandishing of shields, massing of spears, hurling of missles, the flash of golden trappings, and armor of all sorts. Therefore all men prayed that the apparition might prove to have been a good omen.”
Had not God sent his heavenly troops to assure John Gaddi, Simon Thassi, Judas Maccabeus, Eleazar Avaran, and Jonathan Apphus of his commitment to the protection and continuity of Judea? Later on, the Prophet Jeremiah stretched out his hand and gave Judas a golden sword and said,
“Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with which you will strike down your adversaries” (2 Maccabees 15:15-16).
So imagine what the Jews thought when they looked up and saw the spectacle of clashing troops in the towering clouds over Herod’s Temple:-
“Such prodigies had happened, as this nation, which is superstitious enough in its own way, would not agree to expiate by the ceremonies of the Roman religion, nor would they atone the gods by sacrifices and vows, as these used to do on the like occasions. Armies were seen to fight in the sky, and their armor looked of a bright light color, and the temple shone with sudden flashes of fire out of the clouds. The doors of the temple were opened on a sudden, and a voice greater than human was heard that the gods were retiring, and at the same time there was a great motion perceived, as if they were going out of it, which some esteemed to be causes of terror.
The greater part had a firm belief that it was contained in the old sacerdotal books, that at this very time the East would prevail, and that some that came out of Judea would inherit the empire of the world . . .” (Dissertation 3.5.15)
This is amazing! but it says that the appearance of armies of soldiers in the clouds, far from convincing the Jews that Jesus, along with Michael the Archangel, just showed up and, in the twinkling of an eye, translated the Christians, taking some of them into the clouds. In other words, what was witnessed in a autumn prodigy over Herod’s Temple could have easily been misinterpreted and taken as proof that the Jews could easily win their war with the Romans with direct help from Almighty God.
The Identity of the Sea Beast
So we see, above, that both Josephus and Tacitus affirm that the heavenly omen of soldiers did, in fact, take place. It makes sense, then, that the Jews took courage and launched their fated rebellion against the Roman Empire, and here is where things get tricky. Roman Catholic Bibles and commentaries uniformly (and incorrectly) allege that the Sea Beast of Revelation 13:1ff can be nothing other than the Roman Empire itself. This is precisely why we read in the New Testament Confraternity Version commentary on Revelation 13 we read:-
“2-Ver. 1. The picture of the first beast is based on the seventh chapter of Daniel. This beast is the figure of the kingdoms of the world, kingdoms founded on passion and selfishness, which in every age are antagonistic to Christ and seek to oppress the servants of God. Imperial Rome represents this power” (Apocalypse 13:1-2 NTCV, p.634).
The Roman Catholic Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has reviewed all Catholic materials, papers, journals, commentaries and, of course, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. All literary and doctrinal materials read by Roman Catholics have to go by a review process from the RCCDF and the Catholic interpretation of the Book of Revelation is no exception. The RCCDF is sure that this entity is Imperial Rome but, as we have explained, concluding this throws the Book of Revelation into total disarray and, in fact, one cannot exclude the Hasmonean Empire from the list of the four principalities without incurring dangerous notions about the Roman Empire as it relates to the Bible prophecy timeline; its role in the last days and its defeat by the sons of light. Now, however, mistakes identifying the Romans as “the sons of darkness” (in the past) spelled total disaster (as the Jews themselves found out twice!).
Despite the RCCDF’s unanimity that this entity is none other than the Roman Empire enraged as it rises from the turbulence of the sea, the real story goes on a hard right on a Y that leads far and away from such a seemingly plausible conclusion.
This means, from a narrative continuity standpoint, that the issues broached in Revelation 11:8 and the fleeing of the woman into the wilderness in chapter 12 precede a dangerous Roman onslaught that Revelation 13:5 invisions has lasted no more than a mere forty-two months.
But we know that the first long break in Roman hostilities against Christians happened the year A.D.313, 248 years after Nero first accused, arrested and burnt Christians under the pretense that they were guilty of arson.
Now, 248 years and three years and six months are entirely dissimilar time periods and cannot be made to agree with the set time for the rule, authority and power of the Sea Beast named for us in Revelation 11:2 and 13:5. And so we see, again and again, that the Bible story keeps making hard rights on Ys while the traditional Catholic story about the Roman Empire, or the Protestant story about Catholics makes hard lefts at that same Y. So at the V (which is where supposition and facts diverge) the Bible narrative has a decided slant towards a Semitic antagonist and one that was entirely relevant during the first century of Christianity amidst the reality of Jewish nationalism and its bellicose propensities in the name of the pursuit its own messianic and territorial ambitions.
Without documentation that can justify putting the Romans or Catholics in the middle of the drama, it is understandable that so many Christians feel that the Book of Revelation defies a logical explanation, but importing and imposing alien topics, is what overshadows and complicates the study of the book, not what the book plainly declares about itself.
For the sake of brevity we are going to have to wrap this talk up and list it as Part One. We want to go much further, but now is not the time. However, with a fuller knowledge of the circumstances of the truth of the judgment and destruction of Jerusalem we are led to believe it is an inseparable event from the Apocalypse and Epiphany of our Lord, we will, naturally, deny and repudiate attempts to read into it a Roman Catholic narrative.
We hope interest in this will spread abroad and become a subject of mutual interest among other Christians; if this study has enlightened or enriched you, please share it with others who might be assisted in their edification, study and research by it.
1 LETTERS OF INDULGENCE Early printed materials and objects of dispute during the Reformation
“As soon as money in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory’s fire springs.” Proverb said to be from Johann Tetzel. The issue of letters of indulgence was a very common practice in the Catholic Church just before the Reformation. After confessing or doing other godly work, the faithful received a decree exempting them from punishment for their sins. Letters of indulgence were bought en masse on certain occasions. As such, Pope Nicholas V. issued a ‘complete indulgence’ in 1451 and used the money he collected for these to finance the war against the Turks. The Mainz letters of indulgence, which were produced following that in 1454/1455 around the same time as the invention of printing, are among the earliest documents ever printed. A space was left free in the type area to enter the name of the issuer of indulgence and the sinner as well as the current date, and so such letters of indulgence can be seen as the first ever printed forms. Johannes Gutenberg was also supposed to have produced such relatively simple broadsheets before or parallel to printing the Gutenberg Bible. In the 15th and 16th centuries, huge quantities of them were printed, some of them with graphic illustrations.
The well-known preacher Johann Tetzel stood for the institutionalised trading in indulgences in Central Germany from 1516 as the sub-commissioner and later general sub-commissioner for the bishopric of Meissen. By selling letters of indulgence for charitable acts en masse, the Catholic Church partially financed the building of the new St. Peter’s Basilica, the foundation stone of which was laid in 1506. Furthermore, the local sovereign and the preacher issuing the indulgence also profited from the sale. Martin Luther sharply criticized trading in indulgences. It was more than anything else this questionable practice of absolution, which was far removed from God and yet permitted by Church law, that prompted Luther to write his 95 theses. These brought in a radical reform of the Church and even the Catholic Church later banned trading in indulgences and threatened those who dealt in them with ex-communication from 1570 onwards. Source: https://mediengeschichte.dnb.de/
2 All Christians believe Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, although Catholics will insist that Jesus had no half brothers and sisters, other Christians have better Scriptural evidence that she did (Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3) and that the idea of that Mary had normal conjugal relations with Joseph that resulted in the birth of other children takes nothing away from her feminine, Christian or saintly sanctity in the least.
3 All Christians believe Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the second Person in the one God of Israel. Only cults will dispute that Jesus is the eternal Son of God.
4 Christians may disagree on what Peter's being given the keys to the kingdom stands for; some Christians will go so far as saying the kingdom of God never materialized. This, of course, is an area of contention.
5 All Christians agree that the cross is where Jesus paid the price for our sins; nobody thinks that happened when he was born, or when he was baptized or when was in the Garden of Gethsemane or when he arose from the dead.
6 There is no difference in the Catholic belief in the resurrection of Jesus and any other church's belief in this. The only groups who contest the resurrection and try to represent it in a different way than the Gospels do are cults.
7 All Christians believe their church started on the day of Pentecost in A.D.33, but this is really true if we think of Christianity as a mustard tree: All branches lead to the same trunk and the single trunk leads to the same root, which began on the day of Pentecost.
8 The idea of Transubstantiation is a hotly contested, contentious issue between Catholics and Protestants, but (from an Atavist point of view) the practical penalty of taking the bread and wine unworthily seems no different than saying that the items were real enough to lead to damnation; so what’s the difference?
9 The veneration of the Virgin Mary and appeals to her for comfort, help, forgiveness or salvation seem overblown, unneeded and unwarranted and to have their source in ancient Arabian Callyridianism and are inimical to the claims the New Testament makes for the Melchizedekian Priesthood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5 and Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:10, 11, 15, 17 and 21). See more about Callyridianism here.
10 The writings of Clarence Larkens, The Greatest Book of Dispensationalism Truth in the World champions the view that Jesus' Second Coming will happen in the “age” of the Laodicean church when in the Book of Revelation that Church never received such a promise, yet all the others did!
11 Women of Jerusalem and their children would not be alive even 200 years after the time of Christ, so we can consider this a marker that no event in the Book of Revelation would start or finish as long as 600 years after the book was penned, but the destructions the Romans celebrated (in Josephus’ Wars of the Jews 7.5.6: 139-152) point to the reversals that happened between Revelation chapters 6 and 19, which have to do with the destruction of the Holy Land, the Second Temple and the Destruction of first century Jerusalem, not the Roman Catholic Church.
13 The Jerusalem church escaped from the Jewish sedition agaianst the Roman Empire in October/November of A.D.66 and, while they were away in the Wilderness of Judæa, the revolt against Rome transformed itself into a grisly civil war between three competing factions of Jews: the Jerusalem pro-Roman Aristocracy, the Zealots under John of Gischala, a Levitical Priest and tyrant messianic pretender, and Zealots under Simon Bar Giora, a strongman who was also a tyrant and a messianic claimant. It was Simon, not John, who commanded a fatal wound of loyalty on the right hands of his followerers, and it was he whom the Jerusalem Aristocracy decided to admit into the city in the twilight days before the Romans closed in and made it impossible for anyone to leave (see Revelation 17:13-17 cf. Josephus’ Wars of the Jews 4.9.11:566-12:577).
High and Low Context: Cultural
Context of the Biblical World