John’s Revelation is an ascension text. As with the ancient temple of Solomon, it prepared the initiate to enter into God’s presence. Chapters 1-4 showed us John’s own ascension and the promises given to the individual who overcame all things. In the ensuing chapters, the ascension and the events tied to it turn from an individual experience to that of the nation of Israel and of the world, leading to the return of Christ in glory, the establishment of the Heavenly Jerusalem and the Heavenly Temple on the earth.
Battle between Chaos and Order
One of the major themes is the Chaos reigning on earth, and God’s destruction of it in the last day, by Restoring his own Order. This concept ties in with the ancient Semitic Creation Story. In the story, the Lord does not create the earth from nothing (creatio ex nihilo), but from pre-existing matter. Genesis tells us that the earth was void and without form. Darkness was upon it, and waters covered the earth. Anciently, darkness and waters were symbols of chaos. In the waters lived the dragon of chaos: Rahab. To bring order out of chaos, God would have to destroy the dragon, bring light to earth, and establish land.
As I’ve written elsewhere on my blog, Isaiah saw God destroy the sea dragon Rahab in the creation of the world. He brought forth light, and divided the ordered earth from the chaotic seas. Yet, we will note that these were not fully destroyed. Light shared half the day with darkness. The earth still is mostly covered with water. And chaos still runs rampant on earth, in the form of a second dragon, Leviathan.
The events occurring in Revelation tell of the chaos inflicted on earth by Leviathan the dragon. The dragon even pre-existed earth life, causing a war in heaven, losing and being cast out upon the earth as Satan (Rev 12:7-9). During the Millennium, the dragon would be bound, but again released for one last season of chaotic terror, before finally being cast into the eternal flames of Outer Darkness.
Along with the destruction of the dragon, we will see a change in the heavens and earth. There will be no more chaotic darkness, but light:
“And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 22:5).
“And the city (Heavenly Jerusalem) had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.
And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there” (Rev 21:23-25).
Even the waters will no more be chaotic:
“ And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev 21:1-5).
So, in John’s Revelation, we see a continuation of the big theme of the Bible that began with the Creation - overcoming chaos and restoring order.
The Seven Seals
There is a lot of speculation regarding Beasts, 666, and other creatures. I will not delve into them here, because we lose the most important concepts of John’s Apocalypse, returning individuals and the entire earth into the presence of God.
It is noteworthy to see concerning the seven seals on the book of earth’s history, only one being could open them: the Lamb of God:
“And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals.
And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, Who is worthy to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof?
And no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open and to read the book, neither to look thereon.
And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof...
And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
(Rev 5:1-5, 9-10).
Only Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, through his atonement, could bring order. Why? Because by Adam came the Fall and Chaos, only through Christ could man and earth be restored to Life and Order.
Seals of Chaos and Order
Chapter Six begins the opening of the seals, each describing a being or condition that represents either a form of chaos or order. In this theme of chaos and order, the being on the white horse going forth to conquer, represents God or Christ, moving forth to destroy the chaos that is upon the earth. His eventual victory over the various forms of chaos upon the earth ends in perfect order.
The second represents the chaos of war. The third represent the chaos of famine, as we are to see the shortage of the basics of life (wheat, barley, oil, wine). The fourth seal opened brings forth the chaos of Death:
“I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth” (Rev 6:7-8).
The fifth seal shows the martyrs of the ages begging for order to be brought forth to conquer the chaos. With the order, each form will take its proper place on earth, with the eventual destruction of all chaos, whether from nature or man-made.
The sixth seal represents great destruction. This occurs during time of great wickedness, when mankind is ripe for destruction, whether with Noah’s Flood, the great destructions at Christ’s death upon the Nephite nation, or the final destruction by wars among the Nephites and Jaredites.
We read of earthquakes, stars falling from heaven (asteroids and/or something man-made?), and even the Sun and moon being overcome by the chaos, being darkened by the times.
Chapter Seven brings us to a moment of order among the chaos. God shall gather 144,000 specially chosen men. These are described as 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel, except for the tribe of Dan, who seems to be replaced by the two shares of Joseph in Ephraim and Manasseh. Whether these are literal descendants of ancient Israel, or are through the adoption of baptism (as explained by Paul), we do not know for certain. These men will be sealed up as servants of God, entering among the group of the divine sons of God, as with the 24 who sit on thrones in God’s presence.
Some believe that these are the only ones who will be admitted into the full presence of God, but we’ve already discussed other beings who are in God’s presence. Also, we may note that along with the 144,000 chosen, we find a multitude of people of all nations, who also stand before the throne of God and praise him (Rev 7:9-10). Clearly, there will be many who through the atonement of Christ who will stand in God’s presence.
Latter-day revelation instructs us that this event will be called Adam-Ondi-Ahman (possibly meaning “the place where Adam met God”), and is based upon an ancient event. Three years before his death, Adam gathered the righteous of his seed together. He prophesied of the future, and his children praised him and blessed him. Then, Jesus Christ appeared, returning Adam and his righteous children back into the presence of God (D&C 107:53-57).
In the last days, prior to the glorious 2nd Coming of Christ, this event will occur again. Traditionally, the event will take place in northwest Missouri, in the hilly farmlands near a place called Adam-Ondi-Ahman. LDS belief is that while this event will be secret to the world, many righteous will be involved. How could such an event be secret, if there are tens of thousands of people suddenly showing up in a remote part of the state? Perhaps it will occur as does certain modern sacred assemblies for temple dedications (Nauvoo, Palmyra, etc) have occurred. In such, those determined worthy by their bishops receive a ticket to observe via satellite broadcast from their chapel. Hundreds of thousands could watch and be a part of such an event, yet not flood the hilly farmland with so many people there would not be enough food or shelter to manage them all.
Some believe that the 144,000 chosen will be high priests that are sent on a final mission, possibly to the heathen nations (China and other locations that do not allow Christian proselytising) during and after the coming of Christ to Armageddon (D&C 45:51-55).
Prior to the Millennium
We find that until the wicked are finally destroyed and the earth goes through its first change, chaos will reign on earth. Chapter 8 sees the opening of the seventh seal, which opens up the events leading into and through the Millennium. The event begins with a “silence in heaven “ for ½ hour. Whether it is a literal ½ hour, or means another period of time (if God’s day equals 1000 years to us, then ½ hour = 21 years in man’s time), we do not know. What could this event be? Perhaps there will be some event that knocks out the satellite communications around the world. Maybe the world will get so dangerous that planes will essentially be grounded. For those wicked who profess Christ with their lips but do not truly serve him, perhaps it means God will no longer hear their prayers. It will be, after all, during this period that many will “curse God and die” (D&C 45:32) and “And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them” (Rev 9:6)
John receives a book, which he is to eat. This is symbolic of him reading or internalizing the book, which tells him of the future and his mission to yet preach. As mentioned in the previous lesson (45), this is a common ascension rite event. In the Ascension of Isaiah, the prophet is given a book and prophesies as he reads from it. And in the very first chapter of the Book of Mormon, we find that the prophet Lehi was given a book by the Lord, from which he prophesied of the destruction of Jerusalem in his day (ca 600 BC). This is one way in which God shows that while there is evil and chaos in the world, he is still the grand chessmaster, and will win the final game.
Two Prophets in Jerusalem
According to John, from beginning to end, Armageddon and the destructions will last about 3 ½ years. During that time, Jerusalem will be besieged by a litany of nations, primarily described as those lands which now contain the nations of Islam. Among the destruction and chaos, God will establish order by sending two prophets. These prophets will minister during the 3 ½ years, performing great miracles and prophesying to the people of the earth. At the end of their ministry, they will be killed. The kings of the earth will rejoice and send gifts to one another, leaving the prophets’ bodies to rot in the street. After 3 ½ days, half of Jerusalem will fall to the enemies of the Jews, and will be on the edge of total destruction. At that moment, while the world looks on, the two prophets will resurrect, ascend to heaven, and then begins the Lord’s final work to destroy chaos.
We can imagine there to only be one way in which the entire world will see these prophets lay dead in the streets, and then resurrect: it will be on television.
There are those who believe that God’s revelations to mankind ended with the book of Revelation, which we’ll discuss more in-depth at the end of this lesson. However, this event proves that God’s work is not over. He will call prophets again in the last days, and they will prophesy. These are just two of the prophets that will be called, as the Lord will call many throughout the world to call the wicked to repentance prior to the final judgment.
The Temple was Opened
Revelation 11:19 to end
At this moment huge earthquakes, a hailstorm that covers the earth, and other disasters. Above all, God opens his heavenly temple, revealing the ark of the covenant. In the Tabernacle of Moses and in Solomon’s Temple, the ark was the base of God’s Mercy Seat or Throne. In essence, God now prepares to bring all of earth’s inhabitants into his presence, whether they want it or not. At this point comes the end of the wicked in a final destruction.
John replays many of the chaotic issues he has seen. He will portray the Mother of Harlots, an organization that leads people away from an orderly life of righteousness and into believing they can do evil works and still be saved (ch. 17). Some have believed this to be the Roman Catholic Church, but while an imperfect organization (along with all other organizations on earth), the RCC has done an admirable job of teaching righteous work and faith on Christ. It would be difficult to imagine Mother Theresa or Pope John Paul II as part of an evil cabal. I would be surprised if this religion were to change so dramatically as to sell its soul. Perhaps a greater probability will be that of economic systems that preach economic salvation to mankind, regardless of the sins they may commit.
In chapter 16, we see Christ saving the Jews at Armageddon, and returning in glory, trampling through the wicked of the earth as part of his effort to rid it of chaos. The dragon (Satan or Leviathan) is bound for the Millennium, eliminating chaos. As noted before, there would be no more night, no more death, no more disease or destruction. At least not until the end of the Millennium, when the dragon would be loosed one last time, given the opportunity to spread chaos once again, leading to a final conflagration, where the wicked would forever be cast out.
Babylon falls in chapter 18, along with the Mother of Harlots in chapter 17. Babylon is symbolic here. Anciently, King Nimrod, and later King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon sought to create their own heaven. Each desired to be God. Isaiah compared Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylon in this manner:
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (Isaiah 14:4-23).
Today, we also consider this a prophecy regarding Satan, also called Lucifer. This ties to the concept of the divine council of heaven, where God Elohim ruled through his divine sons, known as those who were the divine congregation that sat on the north side of God’s mountain. This ties in with the 24 holy elders sitting in God’s presence that John describes, as well as the 144,000, who would also worship in God’s presence. The difference is that the wicked seek to overthrow God with chaos. There is an order in heaven, which the dragon sought to overthrow in his heavenly war, and for which he was cast out, just as the King of Babylon was cast down into obscurity.
In fact, Nimrod built his Ziggurat, an ancient mountain-like temple also known as the Tower of Babel, in order to reach heaven and kick God out! He literally sought to replace God. Nebuchadnezzar desired to emulate Nimrod, and even began rebuilding the Tower.
The pattern continues today, as many people seek great power and privilege. They do so not with humility and thanks to the God that provides such things, but because of narcissistic and chaotic self-love. It is a pattern we see continually today in all economic levels of American life.
It differs significantly from the humble, yet exalted, experience of the other divine and enthroned beings who are worthy of worship, yet insist all worship goes to God. In seeing the final return of Christ and the magnificent change from absolute chaos to holy order upon the earth, John fell to worship the mighty angel before him. Yet, the angel forbade him:
“And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev 19:10).
This angel was John’s “fellow servant” and one of the brethren with a testimony of Christ. Clearly, angels (Greek for “messenger”) are of the same substance as men. They are former mortals made holy in Christ, and obviously worthy of worship, even though they will refuse it.
The White Horse again
John 19:11 brings again the being on the white horse that opened the first seal - he would go conquering. The great being is Jesus Christ, who would conquer chaos and evil. The earth would change from its present state to one of glory. Satan, the dragon, would be bound for a thousand years. The wicked would be destroyed off the face of the earth, for they will not abide order, only chaos.
The Millennium would be a time for goodness upon the earth. Here, decent men would live in peace and joy, being ruled over by the holy ones who are given thrones to reign with Christ on earth for a thousand years (Rev 20:4).
At the end of the Millennium, Satan would be loosed for a season. During this time, he shall seek to re-establish chaos on earth, and bid those on earth to follow him. Some will choose to follow him, and wilfully reject Christ. In a final war, called Gog and Magog, people will have to choose whether they wish to fight for Christ, or fight on the side of the usurper, Satan. In the final battle, the wicked will finally be destroyed and cast into eternal hell fire.
The final judgment will occur. The Book of Life will be brought forth. It will be opened to see if one’s name is found in the Book of Life. Those within are all who have been made guiltless through the atonement of Christ. Through this process called justification, all those who shall receive a kingdom of glory will find their names in the book. These shall all escape the second death, forever to be removed from God’s presence.
Then, we shall be judged by all the other books, “according to their works.” Through the process of sanctification, the Lord shall see how holy we have become. For the most valiant in testimony, they shall receive a crown of full glory in the Celestial realm. Those who were honorable men upon the earth shall receive a lesser, but still great glory in the Terrestrial realm. Those who only repented because they did not wish to suffer eternally for their sins will receive the least kingdom of glory. These are all described in detail in D&C 76. (see also 2 Cor 12:1-4). The wicked will be cast forever into Outer Darkness, the place where chaos always reigns.
At this time, the earth itself will be changed again. Only the most righteous will dwell on the earth, which has now been celestialized and turned into a heavenly temple itself (see D&C 130:9-11). The righteous will stand forever in the presence of God, residing in his perfect order in peace and harmony.
John’s final curse
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev 22:18-19).
For many Christians, who understand this from only a modern reading of it, it seems that John is ending the Bible with these last final verses.
However, when we look at it from an ancient viewpoint and with all the data, we see that is not the case. Let’s look at some of these issues:
1. The Revelation was written around 93 AD, during a time when Gnostics and other Christian sects were on the rise. Many of these sects wrote their own sacred texts and then placed the names of prophets or apostles on them to give them credence. Some sects went as far as to change the original text, adding or subtracting information that made the text seem to support their beliefs. It was common in John’s day to add a curse at the end of a particular book written, in order to prevent others from changing it.
2. The Revelation was written around 93 AD. Saint Jerome did not compile the Bible into its current canon for about another 300 years. John could not have been talking about the entire Bible, because it did not yet exist! According to tradition, he had not yet written his epistles or Gospel of John, showing there were still more things to add that would end up in the Bible. He was only speaking about his own book, the Revelation.
3. John curses any man who would add or subtract from his book. But he does allow for God to make any changes he would care to make. Remember, in chapter 11, John foresees two prophets who would make a major prophesy in the last days. Such prophesies would be important enough to possibly be made part of scripture, otherwise, John would not have noted the prophesy they were to make. There would be future prophesies made that would not be a part of the Bible, yet still authorized of God.
Conclusion of Biblical Proportions
This ends the lessons for the New Testament. I hope you have enjoyed them, learned from them, and have found new ways to understand scripture through them. I hope you will see them not as an end point, or the final word, but only a beginning to searching for the important and deep meanings to be found, line upon line, precept upon precept. Remember, the Bible begins with mankind in God’s presence, and ends with mankind returning to God’s presence through the atonement of Christ. This is perhaps the most important message of the Bible. It also happens to be one of the main messages of the Book of Mormon, which coincidentally happens to be the next study year for the LDS Sunday School Gospel Doctrine course. I hope to see you here.
Order out of Chaos - Joel’s Monastery blog: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2010/07/gospel-scholarship-order-out-of-chaos.html
The Book of Revelation as an ascension/theophany text: http://joelsmonastery.blogspot.com/2011/11/new-testament-gospel-doctrine-lesson-45.html