“And the wild beast that was but is not, it is also itself an eighth king, but springs from the seven, and it goes off into destruction.” -Revelation 17:11-
It is no exaggeration that the present global financial crisis poses the gravest threat to the peace and security of the world since the Great Depression and the Anglo-American duo sit at ground zero of what could become the complete collapse of the entire economic and political system. Confronted with that stark reality it is more than timely to give consideration to the 13th and 17th chapters of Revelation, which preview the sudden and unexpected death of the present political powers. Specifically, Revelation 13:3, reads: “And I saw one of its heads as though slaughtered to death, but its death-stroke got healed, and all the earth followed the wild beast with admiration.” .
The Watchtower’s interpretation of that verse identifies the slaughtered head as the Anglo-American dual world power. This seems to be reasonable, especially in view of what the angel told John at Revelation 17:10. It reads: “There are seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet arrived, but when he does he must remain a short while.”
The five kings that had fallen before Revelation was written are those kings mentioned in the Bible that have dominated God’s people in the past, namely: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, in that order. The one that “is” was the Roman king that was ruling when John received the Revelation. The Roman king held domination by means of the Roman Catholic Church far beyond the time that historians mark as the fall of the formal Roman Empire. Finally, as a former Roman outpost, England gradually emerged in the place of the Roman king. And with the ascendancy of the British Empire in the late 1700’s London has held that position up to the beginning of the 20th century. The king that had “not yet arrived” (from John’s perspective) has proven to be the Anglo-American dual world power.
But the question to consider is whether the prophecy that calls for one of the heads of the wild beast to receive a deadly wound and then revive has been fulfilled yet.
In the Revelation’sGrand Climax book, published in 1988, the Watchtower has presented the case that the prophecy was fulfilled back during the First World War. According to the Watchtower’s commentary WWI was so devastating with its appalling loss of life and destruction of resources it was as if the old order came to an end and then miraculously came back to life again. But is that really true? Is it really in accord with the facts of history? Moreover, does it harmonize with prophecy? And can the answer be definitively determined? Without question World War One was a colossal disaster for the nations of Europe, but was it the actual fulfillment of the prophecy that calls for the leading power of the world to suffer a catastrophic, death-like experience?
Decidedly, the First World War was largely fought in the trenches of France. Unlike during the Second World War, civilian population centers and seats of government were not directly targeted. Unlike during the Vietnam War, there were no anti-war protesters marching in the streets, threatening to overturn the government. There was no social instability of any consequence in either London or Washington during or even after the Great War. The only European government that received anything comparable to what might be termed a death-stroke was Tsarist Russia and perhaps the House of Hapsburg and the Ottoman Empire. Certainly America was not shaken by its brief involvement in the war in Europe. Frankly, there is simply no historical evidence that would justify the Watchtower’s interpretation of the prophecy.
Because all the prophecies of the Bible are interrelated the task of any would-be-interpreter is to discover patterns in the overlay of related prophecy. Putting the pieces of prophecy together to see the larger picture might be likened to working a complex jigsaw puzzle. As with picture puzzles, it might initially seem as if all the pieces are in their right place, but as the puzzle progressively develops into its whole it eventually becomes obvious if some pieces are ill fitted. So it is, that years ago the Watchtower’s interpretations may have seemed plausible, but as the First World War recedes further and further into obscurity, it is now evident that some of the major pieces of the prophetic puzzle are askew.
One example of an ill-fitted piece in the prophetic puzzle is the Watchtower’s interpretation of the beast from the abyss—or in the case of the Watchtower’s interpretations—beasts (plural) from the abyss.
THE WILD BEAST THAT ASCENDS OUT OF THE ABYSS
Consider Revelation 11:7, which reads: “And when they have finished their witnessing, the wild beast that ascends out of the abyss will make war with them and conquer them and kill them.” According to the Watchtower’s explanation the beast that ascends out of the abyss is the entire political system, which supposedly came back to life after it was put into a death-like state as a result of the Great War of 1914. Similarly, Revelation 17:8 also foretells that a wild beast will ascend out of an abyss. It reads: “The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction.”
Inexplicably,the Watchtower has an entirely different interpretation of what is symbolized by the scarlet colored wild beast that emerges from the abyss. That symbolic monstrosity is said to be the League of Nations, which purportedly fulfilled the prophecy when it was plunged into a death-like state during WWII only to reemerge after the Second World War in the form of the United Nations.
But is it reasonable that God intended the beast that emerges from the abyss to symbolize two different political entities that are put into a death-like state on two separate occasions? Or is it not rather the case that the Watchtower has offered a private interpretation and violated the natural harmony that exists in God’s prophetic word?
This is an extremely important issue in view of the fact that during the Lord’s day when the vision is fulfilled, the eternal destiny of every living soul on this planet will be determined on the basis of whether they admire and worship the resurrected wild beast or its image. Such is the nature of Judgment Day. By contrast, in regards to the salvation accorded to the anointed sons of God, Revelation 15:2 refers to “those who come off victorious from the wild beast and from its image and from the number of its name…” Also, Revelation 20:4b speaks of those who are martyred “for speaking about God, and those who had worshipped neither the wild beast nor its image and who had not received the mark upon their forehead and upon their hand.”
Those judged adversely “wonder admiringly” at the resurrected beast. Revelation 13:8 says of them: “And those who dwell on the earth will worship it; the name of not one of them stands written in the scroll of life of the Lamb who was slaughtered, from the founding of the world.”
Revelation 14:9-10 is even more to the point. It reads as follows: “And another angel, a third, followed them, saying in a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the wild beast and its image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he will also drink of the wine of the anger of God that is poured out undiluted into the cup of his wrath, and he shall be tormented with fire and sulphur in the sight of the holy angels and in the sight of the Lamb.’”
Also, Revelation 17:8b issues the very same judgment concerning the scarlet-colored beast from the abyss, saying: “And when they see how the wild beast was, but is not, and yet will be present, those who dwell on the earth will wonder admiringly, but their names have not been written upon the scroll of life from the founding of the world.”
The Scriptures teach that anyone who accepts “the mark” of the beast is disqualified from receiving salvation when the kingdom of God replaces man’s corrupt political system. It is evident that the mark of the beast is intended to represent Jehovah’s irreversible condemnation. Revelation also expresses that judgment another way by saying that their names are excluded from the symbolic book of life.
The judgment will result in mankind being separated into two distinct camps. Those with the mark of the beast can by no means lose the mark. They are doomed. It is as if everyone who compromises with the resurrected political beast receives an irremovable tattoo that identifies them in the eyes of God as deserving of death. That is evident from the judgment of God that calls for “a hurtful and malignant ulcer” to come to be “upon the men that had the mark of the wild beast and that were worshipping its image.” (Revelation 16:2)
With the foregoing in mind, the question is—when does this judgment take place? Has it already begun, as Jehovah’s Witnesses have been led to believe? In regards to the verse above, the Revelation’s Grand Climax commentary states that the nations have already been put under compulsion to worship the beast and that mankind has been cursed since 1922:
“Mankind has been put under compulsion to accept the mark of the wild beast, with the intent that “nobody might be able to buy or sell except a person having the mark, the name of the wild beast or the number of its name.” But there is a price to pay for this! Jehovah regards those who accept the mark as being stricken with “a hurtful and malignant ulcer.” Since 1922 they have been marked in public as having rejected the living God.”
Now consider what the October 1, 1983, Watchtower magazine had to say in regards to the scarlet-colored beast ascending from the abyss:
“That symbolic “wild beast” was known at first as the League of Nations. It descended into the abyss of inaction during World War II of the years 1939-45 and then ascended out of the abyss in the form of the United Nations after that war. So since 1945 a perilous situation prevails that might affect the seeker after life eternal on a Paradise earth. He may be deceived into taking a course that will disqualify him for having his name written on “the scroll of life.”
Incredibly, just as the Watchtower has two different interpretations for the beast from the abyss, they also have assigned two different dates for the beginning of the final judgment of the world—both 1922 and 1945! But regardless of the embarrassing contradiction, if either date is correct the real question is—why is God so capricious? Does the impartial Judge of all the earth callously blot a person’s name out of the book of life simply because they were once casual supporters of an impotent institution like the League of Nations that no longer even exists? Moreover, is it reasonable that everlasting condemnation should come upon those who might have “wondered admiringly” over the political system in the aftermath of WWI; or that some may have praised the United Nations since 1945?
If the Watchtower’s interpretations are correct it would mean that everyone who has supported the League of Nations or the United Nations since 1945 have already been doomed to everlasting death! In reality, the Watchtower’s teaching is blasphemous because it makes Jehovah’s judgments arbitrary and petty. But as Paul might say: Never may that happen! Given that the symbolic mark of the beast is permanent and results in irreversible damnation, it is not possible for anyone with the mark of the beast to ever repent and gain Jehovah’s approval. Clearly, then, no one has the mark of the beast yet. Otherwise, it would even be impossible for anyone who has ever supported the political system in the past to repent and receive salvation. What would be the point of preaching the good news of salvation to a world that had been irrevocably condemned to everlasting destruction? But the fact that even large numbers of Jehovah’s Witnesses were formerly quite active in supporting the present political system—even serving in the military—proves that the Watchtower’s interpretations are in error.
Jehovah is the God of justice. His judgments are not random. His judicial decision decrees the sentence of permanent death for every person who worships the wild beast or its image after the point at which the beast revives and its image miraculously comes to life because doing so at that time will demonstrate an unequivocal rejection of Christ as ruler. That is the basis for the judgment to come.
The notion that the Anglo-American head of the beast suffered the prophetic death-stroke during the First World War is simply not based in reality. It is a fiction. Likewise, the Watchtower’s assertion that the mere formation of the United Nations after WWII was somehow the beginning of the awesome judgment of Jehovah is absurd. Furthermore, it is unreasonable that God would judge mankind based upon their attitude towards the now-irrelevant League of Nations or its presently enfeebled successor—the United Nations Organization.
Not only that, but how is it that no one may buy or sell without acknowledging the United Nations, as the Watchtower implies is the case? There is nothing in modern history that would mark such a profound and definitive turning point such as is described in prophecy. It is therefore apparent that the circumstances surrounding the death and revival of the head of the symbolic wild beast is a totally unique circumstance that will mark the future commencement of the great day of judgment.
With reference to that day, Revelation 17:8a reads as follows: “The wild beast that you saw was, but is not, and yet is about to ascend out of the abyss, and it is to go off into destruction. And when they see how the wild beast was, but is not, and yet will be present, those who dwell on the earth will wonder admiringly…”
The cryptic expression above uses three different tenses of time—past, present and future. The point at which the prophecy speaks in the present tense is during the Lord’s day, during the brief interlude when the beast “is not”—immediately beforeit ascends out of the abyss. Since there is nothing in history that matches what Revelation describes, it should be apparent that we are facing the future catastrophic collapse of the Anglo-American dominated system—a calamity that has no precedent in ancient or modern history.
Doubtless, the downfall of America will rock the world to its very foundation and call into question whether the present global civilization will be able to continue in existence at all. The terrible death stroke upon the Anglo-American system may perhaps seem as if civilization is coming to an immediate end. This unique and terrifying phenomenon is described in prophecy by the unsealing of the sixth seal: “And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and a great earthquake occurred; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the entire moon became as blood, and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as when a fig tree shaken by a high wind casts its unripe figs. And the heaven departed as a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and every island were removed from their places. And the kings of the earth and the top-ranking ones and the military commanders and the rich and the strong ones and every slave and every free person hid themselves in the caves and in the rock-masses of the mountains. And they keep saying to the mountains and to the rock-masses: ‘Fall over us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?’” (Revelation 6:12-17)
The Watchtower has acknowledged that it is reasonable that Revelation’s seven seals are unsealed in rapid succession. The problem that confronts Jehovah’s Witnesses’ antiquated 1914-centric interpretations is that it is obvious that the apocalyptic events unleashed by the opening of the sixth seal have not yet taken place. Nevertheless, the Watchtower’s Revelation’s Grand Climax commentary diminishes the uniqueness of the events betokened by the unsealing of the sixth seal by insisting that the prophecy has been partially fulfilled by the occurrence of literal earthquakes and metaphoric temblors in society since 1914.
But the Watchtower ventures into the realm of absurdity by thus suggesting that the First World War initiated the terrible day of Jehovah’s wrath. Supposedly the tectonic tumult that brings about the collapse of the mountain-like institutions and causes the political firmament to go into eclipse has already begun. If, though, the horrific events initiated by the opening of the sixth seal have not yet occurred, as they surely have not, it also becomes apparent that the five preceding seals have not been unsealed either.
Since Satan himself is depicted in Revelation as a seven-headed dragon, it is evident that his invisible cosmocracy has been manifest through the corresponding seven heads of the beast-like political apparatus on earth. And although it has already been stated in the previous chapter it seems worth repeating here that the seventh head that is slaughtered to death is merely a reflection of the blow that Satan himself receives as a result of Christ ousting him and his angels from heaven.
More than likely the Devil’s wrath will provoke the use of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. Apparently, it is at the stage when all seems lost and civilization is poised to simply unravel and disintegrate, that the mortally wounded beast makes a seemingly miraculous recovery, so as to appear as the savior of the world.
“AND ITS NUMBER IS SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SIX”
The coming crash of the present system will serve as the pretext for implementing an earth-wide totalitarian regime. The 13th chapter of Revelation foretells that after the beast is revived from its sword-stroke, the image of the beast comes alive so as to “cause to be killed all those who would not in any way worship the image of the wild beast.”
To date none of Jehovah’s Witnesses, nor anyone else for that matter, have been martyred or persecuted for refusing to bow before the United Nations. Clearly, neither the Anglo-American power, nor the United Nations, has sought to coerce all of mankind into recognizing their authority.
At some point, however, under critical circumstances far beyond the scope of any previous crisis, the United Nations stands poised to become the eighth king of prophecy; imposing its rule to the extent that “it puts under compulsion all persons…that they should give these a mark in their right hand or upon their forehead, and that nobody might be able to buy or sell except a person having the mark.”
The scripture goes on to say: “Here is where wisdom comes in: Let the one that has intelligence calculate the number of the wild beast, for it is a man’s number; and its number is six hundred and sixty-six.”
In further confirmation that Judgment Day will involve the idolization of a political image, Isaiah 41:1-5 echoes the prophecy of Revelation concerning the sword stroke upon the beast: The first verse reads: “Attend to me in silence, you islands; and let national groups themselves regain power. Let them approach. At that time let them speak. Let us come up close together for the judgment itself.”
What are the circumstances under which Jehovah calls the national groups “together for the judgment itself”? Apparently Jehovah’s allowance for the national groups to “regain power” coincides with the beast returning from the abyss. So, Jehovah is speaking to the nations during Judgment Day. Without question, Jehovah’s calling the nations to judgment is a fear-inspiring development. But just how the national groups were gathered for the judgment in 1914, as the Watchtower teaches, is anyone’s guess. The Watchtower offers no explanation.
While it is evident that Cyrus, whom Jehovah refers to as his anointed liberator, serves as a pattern for Christ during the parousia—the similarities between the warrior Christ of Revelation and Cyrus being obvious—the application to 1914 is dubious, at best. For example, Isaiah 41:2 states: “Who has roused up someone from the sunrise? Who proceeded in righteousness to call him to His feet, to give before him the nations, and to make him go subduing even kings? Who kept giving them like dust to his sword, so that they have been driven about like mere stubble with his bow?
In view of the Watchtower’s interpretation of the preceding verse, what evidence is there that Christ subdued the kings of the earth in 1914? Frankly, there is none. The nations have continued on as they have pleased since the time when Christ was supposed to have subdued them with his figurative bow and sword.
Isaiah’s prophecy also parallels the making of an image of the beast in the vision of Revelation, in that, after God calls the nations to judgment, the terrified national groups busy themselves fabricating and venerating a crude idol. Isaiah 41:5-7 states: “The islands saw and began to fear. The very extremities of the earth began trembling. They drew near and kept coming. They went helping each one his companion, and one would say to his brother: ‘Be strong.’ So the craftsman went strengthening the metalworker; the one doing the smoothing out with the forge hammer him that is hammering away at the anvil, saying regarding the soldering: ‘It is good.’ Finally one fastened it with nails that it could not be made to totter.”
Seeing that there are unmistakable similarities between the prophecy of Isaiah and Revelation, specifically with regards to the nations fabricating what amounts to an idol in response to a traumatic global event, and that through Isaiah Jehovah specifically calls the nations “to come up close for the judgment itself,” it should be apparent that the establishment of the United Nations in 1945 simply could not have initiated Judgment Day.
Furthermore, contrary to what Jehovah’s Witnesses presently believe, the downfall of the seventh world power and the emergence of the eighth king is a sequential event. Expressed differently, the sword stroke upon the seventh head of the beast is what gives rise to the eighth king. Moreover, the eighth king has not yet begun to rule. Since the eighth king “springs from the seven,” evidently the Anglo-American king not only breathes life into the image and commands the world to worship the image, but the seventh king also takes a back seat to his Frankenstein-like creation.
The present, ongoing global financial collapse gives us some inkling of how the present governmental system may be brought down and replaced by a form of global communism.
In that way everyone on earth would be brought into a situation that no one could buy or sell without acknowledging the image of the beast. The one hour allotted to the eighth king coincides with the hour of test Jesus referred to in the third chapter of Revelation, where he promised the faithful: “Because you kept the word about my endurance, I will also keep you from the hour of test, which is to come upon the whole inhabited earth, to put a test upon those dwelling on the earth.”
The test that is coming upon the world will force all men to demonstrate their allegiance either to Satan’s “miraculously” resuscitated political beast or to Jehovah’s kingship. That is when the angel announces to the world: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of the judgment by him has arrived, and so worship the One who made the heaven and the earth and sea and fountains of waters.”