The next section deals with 7 spiritual figures, or events, leading to the Third Woe.
Only the first 3 of these events appear in this chapter.
1. A woman, clothed with the sun, the moon at her feet, and stars on her head; crying out in labor. According to the SAB, “Catholics say [she] is Mary; Protestants say she is Israel, the church, or Eve”. Whatever floats your boat; apologists come up with all kinds of crazy explanations for the total nonsense in this book.
3. The child, who is destined to rule the world with an iron rod, is taken up to heaven to escape the dragon.
After this, the woman flees to the wilderness, where god cares for her for 3 ½ years. What’s up with the 3 ½ years? Believers say it comes from Daniel. Remember those screwy passages (Dan 7:25 and 12:7) about time and half a time that I didn’t waste time (haha) trying to understand because they made no sense? I barely recall them. But apologists have concocted an explanation to equate them to the 3 ½ years mentioned in Revelation.
Now there’s a War in Heaven between opposing angels, with Michael leading one side and the dragon (who turns out to be Satan) leading the other. Of course, the ‘good guys’ win, and the losers are banished to earth. Drumroll and victory song – the winners are saved by the blood of the lamb. But watch out, because now the devil is angry. He pursues the woman, but she has been given wings and flees the dragon, to a place where she will be protected for (you guessed it) 3 ½ years. The furious dragon tries to drown her by spewing water from his mouth, but the earth swallows it up. So he declares war on her children – those who keep god’s commandments.
Honestly, how could anyone believe this sh*t? It’s right off the sci-fi and fantasy shelf at the library. Or maybe from Greek mythology – how are these monsters in the bible any more real than, say, the hydra or chimera? Can’t resist including this last link, which is what I thought of when I read about the dragon…
This chapter describes the next 3 events leading to the Third Woe:
4. A leopard-like beast with 7 heads and 10 horns (he must be related to the dragon) rises up out of the sea, and the dragon (Satan) gives it authority. Written on each head are words that blaspheme god. One of the heads is wounded, but then miraculously healed, and the world worships its power.
5. Blasphemy – the beast is given the authority to do whatever he wants for – wait for it – 42 months! It slanders god and all who dwell in heaven. Then the beast wages war against god’s holy people and conquers the whole world, and everyone worships the beast (except for those whose names are written in the Book of Life because they are saved by the blood of the lamb…. etc etc). There’s a little prophesy in v 10 stolen straight from Jeremiah 15, indicating predestination (I think). And an admonition that believers should endure persecution patiently. Yup, brainwash believers into subservience!
6. A second beast, (often depicted as goat/mountain sheep/bison), arises from the earth, and commands people to worship the first beast. He orders people to make a statue of the first beast, which he then gives life to so that it can speak.
The statue commands people to worship it or die. It requires everyone to be marked on the forehead or right hand, and “…no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name.” (v 17). (Well – which is it??) And then we are told that only the wise can solve the meaning of the number of the beast, which is 666. Or, in some manuscripts, 616. (Well, which is it?) Can’t an omnipotent god get anything consistently right?
According to Wikipedia, people do all kinds of calculations and mind-twisting to try to interpret this number. These usually fall into three categories: Using gematria to calculate the number of a world leader’s name, in order to match it with the number of the beast; associating the number of the beast with the duration of the beast’s reign, in order to compare the length of reign to an entity, such as a heathen state, Islam, or the Papacy; or applying corresponding symbolism for the Antichrist and antichristian power. I’m not even going to get into this discussion; you’re on your own. But it’s the stuff of horror movies and superstitions. When looking for interesting stuff, I found a site with 666 jokes, and a batshit crazy conspiracy theory site with a bunch of stuff about the ‘mark of the beast’ about halfway down the page (enjoy!)
Now the last event leading to the Third Woe:
7. The lamb stands atop Mount Zion along with the 144,000 lucky lottery winners who have marked foreheads because they are so special.
There’s music playing (harps and a choir made up of those 144,000 people). We are told that they are virgins who have not defiled themselves with women. They are perfect and blameless, and are a special offering to god and the lamb. So I think – wow – another negative and misogynistic message about sex; the implication that anyone who has sex with a woman is defiled. Or perhaps, as the SAB wryly points out, these chosen ones could be gay men – who have not ‘defiled’ themselves with women. Haha.
And are these the same 144,000 from chapter 7? I looked at a random apologist interpretation. The first thing I noticed is that the verse about virginity is not interpreted as literal. It’s interpreted that the men are either virgins, or are married and have not had sex outside of marriage. Maybe. But that’s pretty convenient, because otherwise, only virgins (or gays) would be saved. (Can you imagine?) The apologist also believes that these are two separate groups of people, since the ones in chapter 7 are Jewish (12,000 from each tribe of Israel, remember?), while those in this chapter are Christian (offered to the lamb).
Now 3 angels fly through the sky carrying messages. The first says ‘glory to god’ etc. (And fear him – don’t forget the fear, because he’s gonna judge everyone.) The second shouts that Babylon has fallen because of her immorality (fornication). According to the apologist, the Babylon referred to here is not a literal city or state; it is the world system that opposes the church and Christians, and is symbolic of the evil world. The third angel warns that anyone who accepts the mark of the beast or worships the beast or his statue will go to hell and burn in sulphur while the angels and the lamb watch (because god/Jesus likes to watch the torment? Pretty sadistic!).
Finally the point of all this – Christians should obey and endure persecution patiently. And if they die in the process, they will be blessed in the afterlife (v 12-13). Now tell me, how is that any different from the teachings of other religions that encourage suicide bombs, or flying planes into buildings???
But it gets worse yet – v 14-20 depict the ‘harvest of the earth’. I had to read them a couple of times till the meaning sank in, but if I had any doubt, my apologist site confirms what I thought I had read. These verses depict “Christ’s judgement as a grain harvest… and the wrath of god as a grape harvest…”
The sickle represents judgement (the Grim Reaper?), and the grapes are non-believers. The blood may be interpreted as the juice from the grapes, or the actual blood of the victims in the final battle. So god/Jesus comes in and thwacks everyone down with a sickle, then tramples people in a winepress to squeeze out the last drop of human blood. So much for the ‘god is love’ school of theology. I should have seen this coming; it’s pretty much what Jesus described in the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13:24-29 and 46-43). And the whole scene is reminiscent of Isaiah 63.