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The Apocalypse: Hypothesis
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The Apocalypse: One Hypothetical Possibility:
Bruce Gore (2015)


For far too long anti-Catholics and/or disgruntled Catholic extremists , like the Dimond Brothers, have improperly proclaimed to the world that Rome (the Roman Church) is the “Whore of Babylon” described by St John the Apostle in the Book of Revelation (the Apocalypse).

I recently received, from a fellow Catholic, a link to an extraordinary video created by a Presbyterian erudite lecturer, named Bruce Gore, entitled: “The Fall of Jerusalem and the Apocalypse”.

Among other historically astonishing and informative food for thought, offered by Bruce Gore in his videoed conference, he spoke of one “hypothetical” possibility surrounding The Apocalypse (Revelation); which I took the liberty to transcribe and trust he would have no objection that I share with you now.

I sincerely wish to thank Bruce Gore for his splendid research and passionate work which “opened my eyes” to rarely discussed historical facts surrounding St John’s Revelation.


The Apocalypse: One Hypothetical Possibility

I don’t want to defend what I’m going to say right now. I don’t have time to defend it. I just want to say it as a “hypothetical” possibility.

You know that there are lots of different views of the meaning of the Book of Revelation, don’t you? But one that has always been with us, and I would say at least in the early years of the church's history may have been a dominate view, was that the Book of Revelation is not so much reporting events that are going to take place way out in the future; but as revelation repeatedly says, in its own terms, things that are about to happen.

It was probably written in about the year 65-66, certainly written under the persecution that was launched by Nero, and seems to be describing events that would be connected to this tumultuous moment in which you have both Jerusalem and also Rome sort of convulsed. And so if you read it in that light it’s at least an interesting hypothesis; and that’s the way I’m going to suggest it to you.

Alright, Revelation … it is in 4 major parts.

The first part is the introduction to Messiah. The Book of Revelation begins by saying “the Revelation of Jesus Christ”; which God gave Him to show His servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angels to His servant John, and so on. It’s the Revelation of Christ. You see, that’s the first thing we know about this book; it’s the Apocalypse, the unveiling of Christ and chapter 1 gives it to us.

The next part is, of course, the letters to the Seven Churches. John was responsible for 7 churches in Asia-Minor. They formed a mail route. You see the kind of horse-shoe shape that these cities formed. And these were the churches that John was responsible for:

  1. Ephesus,

  2. Smyma,

  3. Pergamum,

  4. Thyatira,

  5. Sardis,

  6. Philadelphia,

  7. Laodicia ... in that order.

And he writes letters to each one of them and highlights in each one of them the peculiar strengths and weaknesses of each. Each church, in a sense, represents a different kind of church, in my opinion.

The third part is, of course, the substantial Message (chapter 4 - 22:5). We’ll leave that for a moment.

The fourth part of the Book of Revelation is the Benediction-Conclusion; which we find way out at the end of chapter 22.

Alright, what’s the Message? If you read Revelation recently you know that Revelation is basically in 3 broad movements; each of them organized around a 7. There are many sevens in the Book of Revelation. But the 3 most prominent and conspicuous ones are:

  • 7 Seals (chapters 4-7);

  • 7 Trumpets (chapters 8-11);

  • 7 Chalices (chapters 12-22) ... or 7 bowels or vials.

The 7 Seals, 7 Trumpets and 7 Chalices, more or less, are the backbone of the organization of the Message of the Book of Revelation. The 7 Seals … what are they? There’s a scroll, you’re familiar with this, written on both sides but sealed with 7 seals.

If we lived in the Roman world in the first century it wouldn’t take us a nano-second to know that what’s being described there is a “last will and testament”. That’s the way wealthy royalty bequeathed their property. They would have a document written on both sides so that it could not be later amended and it would be sealed with 7 witnesses. And only in the presence of those 7 witnesses, after the death of the “testator”, could that document be unraveled.

The New Testament is called a "new" Testament … for a reason. It's a document that was generated and authorized based on the death of the testator, namely Christ Himself. And the entire New Testament, is sort of, its underpinning is that Christ is the one who is creating this new covenant, New Testament based on His death and His resurrection.

How does the "new" covenant era get started? It gets started as the “seals” are broken and it unleashes the events that surrounded this “last” generation, that generation. So, that’s the inauguration of the covenant.

The “Trumpets” are instruments of announcement. Trumpets sound in order to make announcements to people. And so they are, in a sense, the announcements both of the dreadful judgements that are coming but also the redemption that is coming in this “new” covenant era. And then, the “Chalices” actually represent the execution of these.

So, we have the covenant itself. We have it announced in the Trumpets. And we have it executed in the Chalices. That’s kind of the basic imagery of the book.

The 7 Seals, of course, give us exactly what was happening in the Roman world at that time.

  1. The “White” horse is Messiah, as we find in chapter 19. He’s going our as a King conquering and to conquer He’s on a “white” horse. He must reign until He has put every enemy under His feet, you see. He’s the conquering Lord of history, riding out onto the pages of history … and that’s the first one.

The other three are descriptive of the tumultuous times.

  1. The “Red” horse = wars and rumors of wars.

  2. The “Black” horse = the famine, especially in Jerusalem.

  3. The “Pale” horse = the pestilence and plague that comes in the face of famine.

The last 3 of the seals, on the other hand, are the redemptive side. So, we have the judgement side, in a sense, in the first four, and now the redemptive side.

  1. The fifth seal is: the cry of the martyrs for vindication. Already there have been many, many Christian martyrs; whose blood is crying out from under the altar for vindication. “How long, oh Lord, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood”. And they were told to wait just a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters who were to be killed with them was completed and they were given white robes and told just to anticipate. Now this is the moment when their lives and deaths were to be vindicated in history.

You have the sixth seal which is:

  1. The collapse of political authority. It’s described apocalyptically as the “sun turned dark”, the “moon turned to sack-cloth”, the “stars in the sky fell to the earth”.

That is typical Old Testament prophetic language to describe the collapse of the political order; essentially into anarchy.

The same type of descriptive language is used by Isaiah to describe the fall of Babylon, for example. It’s the sort of thing you find.

It is not describing actual, you know, celestial events. It’s describing apocalyptically and symbolically a time of great collapse here of the ordering powers in history. And so that’s exactly what happened with the collapse of Jerusalem, with the upheaval in Rome. You see, this is exactly the way it would have seemed.

Chapter 7 is an interlude. Chapter 7 is the protection of God’s people. It’s very interesting. In Chapter 7 you’ve got two groups of people. The first … 144,000 who are from all the tribes of Israel … sealed. Sealed means they’re protected. They go into a time of great tribulation.

Out the other end of the tube are an innumerable crowd that no one can number of every nation, tribe, language and people.

You have a kind of Jewish population going in and an explosion to a Gentile population coming out of a time of great tribulation. And all of that is sort of laid out. It's saying that this moment in history is the moment when, in a sense, now God’s people are going to take on an entirely different look, you might say, demographically, you know. It’s no longer going to be largely Jewish. It’s now going to be catapulted, as it were, to all the nations, people, and languages of the world.

And finally, the seventh seal is actually, itself, the Trumpets which are brought next. These announce the “new” covenant. Again we have a 4 and 3 kind of arrangement.

The first 4 talk about a catastrophe on land, on sea and in the air (chapter 8). The catastrophe on land and sea is largely described in terms of fire, in terms of blood, in terms of the sea running rich with blood, the air is filled with smoke.

If you’d been standing there seeing Vespesian (Roman Emperor's campaign against Jerusalem 67-68) come you would have said that’s what’s being described, that’s exactly what’s going on. They’re coming from the north; and indeed the text says that these forces will come across the Euphrates, from the north, heading for Jerusalem. So, you have a rather stunning kind of description of what actually took place there.

Then you have what are called the “3 Woes” (chapter 9).

The “First Woe” is said to be “locusts”. This is destruction; diabolic, anarchic destruction from within.

These creatures that are said to come out of the abyss; and you have to know a little bit about the local lore to appreciate this but I’m just going to give you the real short version. This is descriptive of a complete breakdown of any kind of ordered life together inside the city (Jerusalem); as if it had been invaded.

It is said to have lasted precisely 5 months; which happens to be the length of time of the siege was carried on in Jerusalem. And I think it basically represents the complete collapse of any sort of social order within the city, feeling very diabolical as if these creatures (Vespesian’s 60,000 roman soldiers) were coming right out from hell itself.

At the same time, the “Second Woe” (this is, by the way, chapter 9 of Revelation) are horses, fire breathing horses that are coming from the north across the Euphrates. These are the Roman forces, of course, coming now and coming from the north to attack. So, you see, you’ve got destruction from inside, destruction from outside and then another interlude (Chapters 10-11:14).

And this interlude is not the protection of God’s people it’s the “witness” of God’s people. The text that I recited to you a moment ago is in this context. John is told to “eat a scroll”. The Christian “witness” is not something we speak it is something we “are”. You are what you eat. You eat the scroll. It becomes you … your DNA is filled with the word of God. We aren't simply people delivering a message … we are a message, you see. And John is now called to go and preach that message.

And then we hear in chapter 11 of the “2 witnesses”.

The “2 witnesses” in Jerusalem; which are of course the “law” and the prophets Moses and Elijah. This was the witness against God’s people. This is the great warning to them; that if they were “unfaithful” to their covenant responsibility … sooner or later God would judge. Deuteronomy 28, Leviticus 26 … it’s spelled out in graphic terms. And so … this is it … these are the witnesses.

They’re killed. Their bodies are left dead in the street. Everybody is rejoicing: “look we escaped this, we’re going to win!” But, no … God raises them to life. This is in fact the moment when that witness against them is going to be fully realized.

And, by the way, it’s in chapter 11 that we are told expressly that Jerusalem is the city under discussion here. “… the city where their Lord was crucified”, John says. And he says it is “figuratively” called Sodom and Egypt but it is in fact the place of Christ’s crucifixion. It can be no other place than Jerusalem.

And then the “Third” (Woe) is regime change (chapter 11:15-19). This is a wonderful text that we sing every year in “the Messiah” … the kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ. This is the moment when King Jesus, having ascended to the throne, having declared to his followers all authority is given unto me, is now, in a sense, making good on the promises that He Himself made.

It’s called in Revelation “the wrath of the Lamb.” You don’t think of lambs as being very wrathful do you? But, that's precisely the term used. The lamb that had been slaughtered in Jerusalem now comes back for those who repudiated him … in wrath, you see. And so … it’s regime change. And that’s taken place.

Alright, the Third is the 7 Chalices (chapters 12-22 - Executing the Covenant). Three little stories that run up to this. Chapter 12 and 13 give us; first of all in chapter 12 ... the woman and the dragon. The woman is said to give birth to a son who will rule the nations with a rod of iron. He is caught up to heaven but he is attacked, just at his birth, by a dragon that has 7 heads and 10 horns. You will recall that. It’s a red dragon.

My own opinion is that it’s descriptive, apocalyptically, of Herod; the whole family was hostile to the birth of Christ starting with the first of the 7 Herods, the 7 heads of this red dragon. The color red was in fact the family color of the Herods, just by way of an interesting side point. And so they attack but they don’t win. They attack God’s people. They attack all the way through trying of course to get this victory but God’s people are protected. They’re carried into a safe place. All of that is in chapter 12.

Chapter 13: the “2 Beasts”. There’s a beast from the sea, a beast from the land. The beast from the sea stands for “Gentile” power. The sea always stands for Gentile authority in the “old” Testament and through the “new”.

The land stands for “Jewish” authority; the land of Israel. We think of the land as God’s people. The sea is the Gentile world. “2 Beasts” … you might say that corrupt politics married to corrupt religion. The two of them support each other in chapter 13.

We wonder: “who are these guys”? We’re told definitively who the Beast of the Sea is … because his name is, the number of his name is, “666”, right?

You know, the people in the early church did not have to spend five minutes figuring that out. Because in the ancient world letters had numeric values.

And all they had to do was do a little bit of mathematics to figure out that the one name that had the meaning, the number, “666” was the name Nero.

And so it was virtually universally understood in the early years of the church that Nero was the “666”. We don’t remember that so well because we’re not familiar with the ancient language or the number value of the letters, but there you are. That’s the “2 Beasts” in chapter 13.

In chapter 14 are the “2 Harvests”. The harvest of “the Grapes of Wrath”; of course, chapter 14 Steinbeck got his wonderful title from that. There’s also the harvest of God, of redemption. So, that’s the picture there.

This is all describing what God is doing, in a sense, in the background leading up now to what we have at this point … the Final Judgements … the 7 Chalices … poured out in chapters 15-16.

This leads us then to the later part of Revelation which I’m calling “The Tale of Two Cities”.

In the later part of Revelation beginning in 17 and going through 22 you have 2 cities described. The first of these is said to be a “Harlot” city. It is said to be Babylon. It’s said to be the “Great” city. By the way, the “Great” city implies that there is only one not multiple, I mean how many “the Great city” can you have? And we’ve already been told in Revelation that the “Great” city is the city where also their Lord was crucified (11:8).

So, the “Great” city has got to be Jerusalem.

And Jerusalem is called the “Harlot” city because it was once the wife, the spouse of “Yahweh” (God). You can’t be a harlot, an adulteress, in a sense, unless you have once been in the status of a legitimate and faithful spouse, you see. That’s why it cannot be Rome, as some people would say, because Rome was never a faithful spouse of “Yahweh”, in the first place, so how could it become an adulteress? Jerusalem was. And so, Jerusalem is the one that turns away. And this is the “old” Jerusalem (Babylon) described in graphic terms.

In chapter 17 and chapter 18 the merchants of the earth throw dust on their heads: “Woe to us. What will we do?” because Jerusalem had been a center of worldwide commerce of immense wealth; and now the city was destroyed, and fortunes were lost, and people who had been involved in international trade with Jerusalem were destroyed and devastated, and wiped out by this “Great” city. It happened, in history, just the way it is described there in chapter 18.

On the other hand, the other city that is described at this time is the “new” Jerusalem.

A “new” Jerusalem implies an “old” Jerusalem, doesn’t it? This “new” Jerusalem is said to be the “wife” of the “lamb”. This is the one that is the faithful wife. She’s described as this wonderful creation coming down from heaven. This is not describing a space station ... as I’ve actually heard people suggest. This is describing something that comes from God. It is God’s doing. It is God’s creation. It is a pure temple. It’s a cubic structure because the inner sanctuary of the temple was a cube in shape. And so, it is symbolically standing for the people of God. There's no need for a temple there because, friends, we are the temple. We are the dwelling place of God and His presence on this earth.

I wish I had a lot more time to unpackage this but you get the flavor for it. My suggestion to you ... this is it by the way, we’re done. My suggestion to you is, if you have an interest in this, go home, while it’s fresh in your mind, read straight through the Book of Revelation. It will take you about 50 minutes.

Some of you know that when I was young and crazy I memorized the whole Book of Revelation. And I did it. And I found that I could recite it out loud in about 50 minutes. If I can do that then you can read it in about 50 minutes, right?

Just don’t get lost in the details. There are lots of details. Don’t get lost in them. Just read it for the big picture, the big gestalt … just let it happen to you; thinking about the extraordinary events of the first century. And I think you'll find it, at least, an intriguing hypothesis.

 


You can view Bruce Gore's full video "The Fall of Jerusalem and the Apocalypse" at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJVZTFuyAXE

 

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