Bible Project Part 28 – Revelations 1 to 10

I AM FINISHED! IT IS DONE!

Had to get that out first. I have completely finished reading the Bible. However, I’ve made so many notes on Revelations that I’m splitting it into two posts. I should also say that Revelations didn’t disappoint, despite me expecting it to.

Hmm, and I’ve just noticed that in English the book is called Revelation, not Revelations. And it’s singular in Dutch too – De Openbaring van Johannes. Funny, I’ve always referred to it as Openbaringen, so I guess that shows how much attention I’ve been paying.

I get the feeling I’m going to be more or less summarising this entire Bible book, but it definitely is the most interesting of the lot, so I suppose that’s okay. God, you tease, leaving the best for last!

It starts by saying that this is the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God has given Him to show his servants what must happen soon, for the time is near. My inevitable first thought is ‘how soon is soon?’ Given that later on there is mention of a thousand year kingdom, I can’t help but think that even God thinks that a thousand years is a long time, and we’re now more than two thousand years after the birth of Jesus. There are more clues that tell me this was all meant to be a warning for far earlier times, which seals it to me as a giant pile of hog crap, but I’ll point those out when I get to them.

Anyway, the author, John, had something happen to him which I can’t quite translate, but it basically means he started hallucinating. The Bible Gateway says ‘I was in the Spirit’, so it is obviously *cough* divine in origin. He hears a voice, which tells him to write down what he sees and send it to the seven communities – Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.

What follows are individual messages for these communities. Several times it mentions the sect of the Nicolites, who are bad people, apparently, so there’s still schism in the church. Anyway, all the cities/communities are praised for the stuff they’ve done well, but told off for the things they could do better. It’s like an annual appraisal at work or something. The only interesting one to me was Laodicea, which is lukewarm – neither hot nor cold, so God will spit it out. And even that was mostly interesting because it reminded me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

In Revelation 4 God then proceeds to display an amount of wealth He has always told others to scorn: He sits on a throne surrounded by a rainbow which is like emerald, and around the throne are 24 more thrones for the 24 elders in white clothes with golden crowns. Before the throne is a glass sea, like crystal. There are also four animals around the throne – one like a lion, the second like a cow, the third with a human face and the fourth like an eagle. I don’t know why they have to be like an eagle and a lion – can they not just be a lion and an eagle?

Actually, probably because they all have six wings each and are full of eyes. They also have no rest, day nor night, because they spend their entire time saying ‘holy, holy, holy is the Lord, the Almighty, who was and is and is to come’. Seems harsh on those poor animals, but then animals never had many rights in the Bible, did they?

In Revelation 5 it gets properly interesting: to the right of Him who is on the throne there is a scroll with seven seals. An angel calls to ask who is worthy of opening the scroll, but no one in heaven nor on earth is. Except lo! Amidst the thrones and the four animals there is a lamb, as if slaughtered (!?!), with seven horns and seven eyes. And this lamb is worthy of opening the seal.

Okay, I know that it’s all symbolic, and the lamb is Jesus, who was slaughtered on the cross, but still, ew. And I don’t even want to imagine a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes. Also, what will it open the seals with? Its mouth? Does it lick them open? Does it also have seven opposable thumbs? The Bible doesn’t give such details.

We’re up to Revelation 6 now, and the lamb starts opening seals and releasing the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Not that the Bible calls them that, because that’s far too cool a name for a Bible author to have come up with. The Bible also doesn’t identify any of them apart from Death.

So the first seal is opened, and lo, there is a white horse, and its rider has a bow, and is given a crown, and he rides out, conquering and to conquer. I initially thought this was War, but by process of elimination I figured this must be Pestilence, because upon opening the second seal there is a russet horse. Or fiery red (according to the Bible Gateway) which is a bit more exaggeration than the Dutch version. Anyway, its rider is given the power to take away peace from earth, so that must be War. Plus he’s given a bloody big sword.

On opening the third seal there is a black horse, and its rider holds up scales. He speaks some sort of marketplace claptrap about the price of wheat and not spoiling the oil, so this must obviously *cough* be Famine.

At the fourth seal we finally have Death on his pale horse, hurray! No mistaking here, because as I said, they actually call him death. And these four are given the power over a quarter of the earth, to kill with the sword, with hunger, with the black death and with the wild animals of the earth. I guess that’s where Pestilence and Famine came from. I can also sort of see why Death is the fourth one, because War, Famine, Pestilence and Wild Animals doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

Upon opening the fifth seal the viewer (John, remember) sees the souls of those who have been slaughtered for the word of God, and they are all given a white garment and told to rest a bit until their number is full with their fellow servants and brothers who will be killed just like them.

On opening the sixth seal stuff gets real – a great earthquake, the sun goes black and the moon becomes as blood. And the stars of the sky fall to the earth like a fig tree drops its winter figs when shaken by a hard wind.

(And that’s where I call total bullshit, because everyone knows that the stars are anywhere from a few to thousands of light years away, and most of them are far bigger than the sun, and none of them can just fall down like that. And don’t say meteorites! Those are not ‘the stars of heaven’.)

And the heavens recede, like a scroll being rolled up (more bullshit!) and all mountains and islands are pulled from their place.

Then four angels stand at the four corners of the earth (bullshit!) and hold back the four winds of the earth, and another angel with the seal of the living God calls to them to not damage the earth until he finishes putting his seal on the forehead of the servants of our God. And there are 144,000 of them (which is where that comes from – now I know). The fun bit is that these 144,000 come from the tribes of the children of Israel (i.e. Jacob) – twelve thousand from each. Which is fun because you’d think that most of them are Jews, who (as far as I know) don’t hold to this bit of the Bible. And I’d wager that most modern-day Christians who believe in this shit are not descendants of any of Jacob’s sons.

Not that only those 144,000 go to heaven, mind you (misunderstanding!) – next up there’s an uncountable host of people in white garments who are basically the believers, and God will lead them to the source of the waters of life and will wipe their tears away.

Is that it, you ask? Good God, no! The seventh seal has not been opened yet! Upon opening that one there is half an hour of silence (?!?) and then seven angels appear and are given seven trumpets. Yet another angel takes a vat of incense and pours it out over earth, causing thunder and lightning, and then the seven angels make ready to blow their trumpets.

There’s always this constant symbolism going on – seven seals, seven horns, seven eyes, seven trumpets. Twelve thousand people from twelve tribes. We haven’t got to the threes yet, but they’re up next. It’s all a bit too pat for me, too neat.

Anyway, the first angel blows his trumpet and there is a hail of fire and blood, which burns a third of the earth and a third of the trees and all the grass (why not a third?). The second trumpet causes a giant mountain of fire to fall into the sea, and a third of the sea turns to blood, and a third of the creatures in the sea dies, and a third of the ships perish.

The third trumpet makes a burning star fall from the sky which falls on a third of the rivers on earth and on the springs. And the name of the star is Alsem (wormwood in English, apparently), and a third of the waters becomes bitter and many people die of it. (Not a third of all people, surprisingly.)

On blowing the fourth trumpet, a third of the sun is struck, and a third of the moon and a third of the stars, so a third of them are darkened, and the day lacks light for a third part, as does the night. (Again, total bullshit! You can’t darken a third of the sun! No, don’t give me that ‘God is almighty’ shit!)

Interlude – an eagle flies over the earth, crying ‘woe, woe, woe unto those living on earth, for the three trumpets that have yet to be blown’. (This is getting as surreal as a Monty Python episode, I tell you.)

Upon blowing the fifth trumpet another star falls to the earth and she (yes, she) is given the key to the pit of the abyss. (Do stars have hands? Is this a star like in Stardust? Does she look like Claire Danes?) Smoke rises up, then out come the locusts. Except they look like horses dressed for war, with golden wreaths on their heads, hair like women and teeth like lions, with cuirasses of iron, and the sound of their wings is like the sound of horse-drawn chariots going to war. Oh, and they have tails like scorpions. So they’re kind of not locusts at all, really. Anyway, they’re told not to touch the grass or crops of the earth, but to hurt people instead, five months long.

We’re on to the sixth trumpet, wohoo! This one unleashes the four angels who were bound by the river Euphrates, so they can kill a third of all people on earth. To do this they have riders on horses, with blue and sulfur-coloured armour. The horses have lion’s heads and they breathe smoke and sulfur, and their tails are like snakes. So again, not really horses then. But anyway, those people who aren’t killed don’t turn from their wicked ways (are they stupid? Must be Israelites) and continue to worship idols and practice fornication.

Another hiatus before the last trumpet, where yet another angel brandishes a book and calls with a voice like thunderclaps, but John isn’t allowed to write down the seven (!) thunderclaps, because that’s for the end of days. Never mind that that’s what he’s watching here. And then John has to eat the book that the angel is holding, which will be sweet on his tongue, but bitter in his stomach.

And that’s where I’ll stop for now, because that’s quite enough for one post. The end of the world is tiring stuff!

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