John's Symbolism in the Book of Revelation
Like the symbolism in Hebrew scriptures about the "battle in the valley of Jehoshephat," John used symbolism in the book of Revelation about "Armageddon" and the "opening of the seven seals." In part, John associated the first four seals symbolically with the "four horsemen of the apocalypse" – the conqueror on the white horse, the warrior on the red horse, the issuer of justice on the black horse, and the usher of death on the pale horse.
What is all that about? Well first of all, the word "Apocalypse" is a Greek word meaning to "uncover, reveal, or unveil" the truth that has been ignored, forgotten, misinterpreted and misunderstood, and the phrase apokalupsis eschaton literally means "revelation at the end of the aeon, or age."
Symbolic prophecies do symbolize what has been happening during the last 90 years as the end of the age has drawn nearer. However, they do not necessarily symbolize specific entities or events. In certain instances, they do, such as when the Euphrates river is mentioned, but these are mostly symbolic scenarios.
The “Valley of Jehoshephat,” for instance, merely symbolizes God’s Judgment. In, fact, Jehoshephat or Josaphat simply means "Yahweh (or Jehovah) Judges." And the prophecies about it speak of the deliverance of the prophesied judgment to the nations of earth.
In Christian terms, the “battle of Armageddon” symbolizes the same thing, when divinely inspired truth "fights" and prevails over the false beliefs and myths that divide humanity.
Of course, in the book of Revelation John obviously also foresaw literal war, death and destruction that Man's vain folly would cause. However, the “weapons” of God’s ultimate warfare are not carnal or lethal, and yet they are mighty through God for pulling down strongholds of abused and misused military power.
It is important to understand that the prophecies of the many wars and the "final war between good and evil" were written because they were foreseen, not because it was or is God’s will. The wars are Man’s fault, not God's. And the prophecies of wars have been and even now are fulfilled, and there need be no more blood shed to fulfill prophecies.
The events foretold and symbolized in prophecy have been played out as the passing age has been drawing to a close. This was particularly the case in the Twentieth Century, with the first and second world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and all the other violent and deadly wars, confrontations and even genocide that have occurred around the world ever since, including those in the Balkans, East Timor, Lebanon, Israel, Gaza, the West Bank, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, Seria and in other countries plagued by conflict, division, and violence.
However, just because all this bloodshed may have been foreseen, it does not need to continue. That prophecy has been fulfilled, because what was foreseen has already taken place, or is taking place now.
That is why it is important for everyone to understand prophecies like John’s symbolic vision of the angels and the dramatic opening of the seven seals and warring angels, because they are not necessarily literal events that will actually take place in this world.
That's important to know because President George W. Bush’s "religious" advisers led him to believe that his war in Iraq was "God's Will" and fulfills the prophecy of the warring "sixth angel" who "poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates..." (Revelation 16:12) They don't realize that even though that was clearly written because John foresaw that there would be much blood shed in Iraq, that chapter in Revelation is mostly symbolic.
John’s vision about the fall of Babylon will not be literally manifested. We will not actually see the "four horsemen of the Apocalypse," nor will we actually see the actual fall of a literal Babylon. We will see the end of "religious" military industrial imperialism, and the end of rule by the wealthiest few, but we will not see the end of a particular nation or city called Babylon because those that represent a wicked Babylon now will be transformed by the people, and healed.
You see, the "leaves" of the Tree of Life John referred to in the book of Revelation are for "the healing of the nations." But it is not a literal tree. It’s the ancient esoteric diagram that symbolizes and represents the one God and man’s relationship to God. And there is much evidence in the Bible that reveals that the Tree of Life is not an actual tree, and some biblical references to it that have been misunderstood.
"Out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the Tree of Life also in the midst of the garden..." (Genesis 2:9)
"She [Wisdom] is a Tree of Life to them that lay hold upon her..." (Proverbs 3:18-19)
"To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God." (Revelation 2:7)
"And he showed 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." (Revelation 22:1-2)
"Blessed are they that do God’s commandments, that they may have right to the Tree of Life, and may enter in through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)
The symbolic Tree of Life yields twelve aspects of God’s Wisdom. The great and wise Solomon's wisdom is expressed in Proverbs 9, which says: "Wisdom has built her house and She calls to all: Come, eat my food and drink my wine and you will live abundant life and walk in the ways of understanding."
Solomon's idea of Wisdom is that: "She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you can desire are not to be compared unto Her. Length of days is in Her right hand; and in Her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a Tree of Life to them that lay hold upon Her, and happy is every one that retains Her. The Lord God by Wisdom has founded the earth; by understanding has God established the heavens." (Proverbs 3:5-19)
By the way, another symbol John used in Revelations was the "star called Wormwood" which "falls from heaven and makes the waters bitter" (Revelation 8:11). It is not a giant asteroid that is going to collide with and wreak havoc on the earth. It is merely a planetary influence or a sort of consciousness that can tend to effect some people’s imagination and mental states negatively, especially if they are mentally unstable and/or prone to negative and destructive thinking. That’s why John referred to "bitter waters," because water is symbolically associated with imagination, intuition, and other mental aspects. He was speaking symbolically of a negative influence that creates bitterness in some people’s thinking and feelings.
Much of the world is infected with that bitterness and negative, destructive thinking. And we all need to shake it off, overcome it, and think and act in ways that are to the benefit of all.
Regarding the symbolism of the "the beast of Babylon," the "second beast," the "number 666," and the "dragon" referred to in John’s Book of Revelation, while lots of Christians are obsessed with that symbolism and many think they know what it means, they have been misguided.
The dragon is another symbol for "Satan," manifesting in the world, and the beast from the sea is John's symbol for the Roman Emperor, incited by the dragon to persecute the early Christians. There is, however, a question about which Caesar or Emperor John was referring to.
Many scholars say that the Emperor Domitian ruled during the time John was exiled on the Isle of Patmos when he wrote the book of Revelation. After all, it was in the ‘90s A.D. (C.E.) that Domitian had forced Christians to choose between the Christ Jesus or the Caesar as Lord, and he killed or persecuted those that didn't choose the Caesar as Lord.
Other scholars say that in Kabbalistic Gematria, numbers are assigned to letters, and 666 is the sum of the numbers of the name Nero Caesar in Hebrew, and some scholars suggest that is also the case in the language John was conversant in. In that case, the book would have been written earlier, in the 60s. But, most scholars date it no earlier than the 90s, not only because of the persecution, but also because John's message to the Christians in the "seven churches" or communities would indicate that they were fairly well established.
Whatever the case, there was a reason why John wrote that we must "have understanding" of the meaning of "the number of the beast," as John put it, because he used an esoteric number and symbolic code words because in those days it was extremely dangerous to criticize the Roman Emperor or Caesar.
But, whichever Caesar John was referring to, and however he assigned the number 666 to the “beast," it was a warlord emperor who played god but was a "Beast" because he hated and condemned anyone who did not recognize his "divinity," and he lived by the sword to rule by force of arms to enforce his will. That's the opposite of what a Mashiach or Christus does.
That is why the Christus Jesus said: "the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, is now already in the world." (1 John 4:1) He was talking about the Roman Caesar and Emperor-Warlord who regarded himself as the "Lord of Divinity," and that’s what John was referring to in the book of Revelation.
However, there were "many antichrists" in those times, as there are now. For John wrote earlier: "... as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time." (I John 2:18) That indicates that at that time John believed that the "end" was soon and imminent, as Paul did, even though there were both wrong about that.
Nevertheless, John knew that: "Every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist that you have heard should come; and even now is already in the world." (I John 4:3) "For many deceivers are in the world, who claim that Jesus Christ has not come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." (II John 1:7)
Those who denied or refused to believe that Jesus was a Christus, or Mashiach or Messiah — a spiritually anointed son of man and servant of God -- were regarded as "antichrists." For even though multitudes of Jews and Greeks accepted Jesus as a Mashiach or Christus and son of man, there were some religious Jewish authorities, chief priests and scribes, as well as most occupying Romans and Roman sympathizers who did not accept Jesus as anything but a rabble rouser.
It should also be recognized that by the time the Christian gospels were written, it was decades after the apostles had already been preaching by of word-of-mouth, and over time they became less and less tolerant of those who would not accept their story of Jesus. That’s why Paul wrote his epistles and distributed them in 50 A.D., condemning those claimed Jesus was not a Christ. And other apostles later followed suit, ignoring or forgetting that Jesus had said to simply ignore those who were not receptive to his message.
However, the point is that the "Antichrist" is not a specific person. It’s the base, egocentric mentality which was "already in the world" two thousand years ago. It is expressed in any human beings who exalt themselves above others, whether they believe their superiority is based on their nationality or religion or race or culture. It was epitomized by the Roman Caesar-Emperors who exalted themselves as the Divine Lord, but it also drove and has driven many other power-hungry, self-centered leaders who rule by the sword (gun and bomb) and kill people in order to gain or maintain power, wealth and domain at the expense of others.
Today the spirit of the Antichrist is the mentality that drives egocentric, ethnocentric, bigoted, hypocritical people who claim to be good and even "religious," but ignore or deny the wisdom of Jesus. For he criticized and rebuked the money lenders and the rich, as well as the hypocrites who claim to be religious, and instead advocated for the poor and the least of our brethren.
Today, however, right-wing "fundamentalist Christians" twist those scriptures (such as II John 1:7) to claim that the spirit of the Antichrist is served by anyone who does not believe that Jesus came "in the flesh" as God Himself, even though that's not what Jesus said.
Jesus said he was a son of man and a servant of God. And the term Christ is a title meaning an "anointed one," as does the title Mashiach or Messiah. It does not mean "God Himself," nor does it mean the Savior. For God alone is the Savior (as Isaiah wrote), and God is not a mortal, nor a man, nor a son of man, as Moses wrote. Jesus came in the flesh as we all do, but he became a spiritually anointed, enlightened Christ and a Sacrificial Lamb of God, who had realized, as we all can, that we are one with God and one with all humanity.
The fulfillment of prophecy is pretty straightforward, when you see it in a new light. But it is understandable how and why Christians have been misled, and understandable why there are many Christians who have postulated some very strange scenarios regarding prophecy.
For example, some believe that the "second beast" mentioned in the book of Revelation is a particular false prophet. They believe the "mark of the beast" will be placed on the followers of an individual Antichrist, a literal beast-king of Babylon. They believe that the false prophet will be a spokesperson for the Antichrist, and that the false prophet will cause people to take this mark, which will literally be placed in their hand or forehead, and the mark of the beast will be an "end times mark" required by the Antichrist to buy or sell and will be given only to those who worship the Antichrist.
Still others believe that any man who is accepted as the Jewish Mashiach or the Christian Messiah, would actually be the Antichrist. Some believe that the Antichrist-Beast is or will be some other person. And many others have different beliefs and expectations. It’s a chaotic, confused situation, because so many egocentric people think they know the truth, and they of course think that all others are wrong.
Actually, the "second beast" mentioned in the book of Revelation has probably been represented by the monarchs of all the military empires that have their roots in the Roman Empire which broke "in pieces," who have lived by the sword (gun and bomb).
Now, because many Christians misunderstand prophecies, they base their belief about the "beast" and an "Antichrist" and their belief that he will come to power and then be "revealed" on a section in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians (II Thessalonians 2:3-9). But, Paul erroneously believed the so-called "return" of the Christ and the so-called "end" was soon to come, in his lifetime. Paul was trying to prepare people for it, even though he was wrong.
Paul states that the Thessalonians should not allow themselves to be deceived, but that the Christ’s "second coming" would not come unless there was a "falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped." Paul states that the "man of sin" will "sit in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."
That, along with what is written in John’s book of Revelation, is why many Christians believe there will be an "Antichrist" who will rule the world prior to the "second coming" of the Christ Jesus. But Jesus will not "come again," and an "anti-christ" will not rule any more than it already has during the passing age.
Furthermore, "fundamentalist" Christians ignore that Paul also states that "the mystery of iniquity already works: only he who now lets will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming. Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders."
Notice that Paul was writing about "he who now lets," because he was talking about his time, and he was referring to the Roman Warlord Emperor and Caesar, just as John was in the book of Revelation. For the Emperor "Beast," whose name according to Hebrew Gematria was related to the number six hundred and sixty-six, held himself up as a "divine" ruler and could do "wonders" with all the financial and material resources and forces at his command. He was a "son of perdition," meaning that he was morally corrupt and totally indulged himself as a self-righteous, self-important ruler warlord who played god, and his worldly power totally corrupted him.
The fact is that Paul did not realize that the "end" was not coming, nor did he understand that the Christ Jesus himself would not return. But then, Paul, being the first one to "publish" and distribute his writings, wrote his epistles long before John wrote his gospel reporting that Jesus said he had to "go away and be seen no more on earth" in John 14:17-20 and John 16:7-15.
The problem has been that even though the writings of the apostles who wrote the epistles and books that made it into the official Christian canon contained much of the truth that Jesus taught, they also contain statements that contradict it. And most of the disciples and apostles of Jesus did not understand that Judeo-Christian prophecy would not be fulfilled during their life time. Most of them though it was going to be imminent, and did not realize that it would not be until the end of the age Jesus ushered in, more than two thousand years later.
In the 20th Century many people started to figure it out. But unfortunately there are many thousands of different false interpretations of the Torah and Tanakh and the Bible, and especially of John’s Book of Revelation. And as Jesus said, there have been and are now many false shepherds and false prophets who are dividing people and leading their blind flocks astray.
Part of the reason for that is because even the most divinely inspired writers were only human, and human beings tend to have opinions and personal judgments, as even the modern son of man does.
For example, John wrote that God would put it into the hearts of the people of earth to give the "beast" power to rule until prophecy is completely fulfilled. But that is not completely accurate. John wrote that to make it sound as if God could do that, even though it was not God that put it in the hearts of the people to give power to the "beast of Babylon," then or now.
The Culprit was and is the Tempter-Accuser-Deceiver, in all its forms, which is especially expressed by men who lust for power, wealth and domain, fight for it, and gain it by hook or by crook. That is why it is the power of money and the power of the sword (gun and bomb) that has enabled such men to rule in both "democratic" nations and totalitarian nations.
That’s why humanity is divided and in conflict, because it was and is deluded Man, not God, who pits human beings against one another. For at its worst and most harmful, the Tempter-Accuser-Deceiver is like Adolph Hitler, who told the German people they were superior and destined to conquer and rule the world in the name of the Lord for a thousand years, while he judged, condemned and committed genocide against certain groups of people he judged as not worthy to live — like Jews, homosexuals, people of different color, gypsies, etc.
In a less harmful form, the Tempter-Accuser-Deceiver is like a partisan politician who is divisive and judges and slanders dissenters and critics who disagree with him, and fights for power over them rather than reconciling with them and working with them cooperatively and collaboratively.
But, when prophecy is completely fulfilled and after the coming new reformation, it will be very unlikely that such divisive demagogues will be able to dupe people and rise to power any more by appealing to the ego, pride and prejudices of their people.
Of course, right-wing "Christian" critics will initially claim the judgment of the modern son of man is wrong. Many already have. In fact, they’ve already accused him of serving Satan because he states that God is the Divine Light-Energy-Source of our existence. But it's the truth, and since their false accusation is based on Paul’s mention of "Satan" as an "angel of light," let's see about that.
If we examine the context in which Paul wrote that phrase, we can see that it is not about some entity called "Satan" becoming an entity of light. To put it in context, Paul was talking about deceitful hypocrites: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness." (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
Ironically, Paul was not only talking about false apostles. He was talking about good apostles, including the Gnostic apostles. But even so, Paul's words are appropriate today in describing hypocrites who masquerade as Christians. For deceitful hypocrites who actually serve Mammon while claiming to serve the Lord are false apostles, false prophets, false shepherds and wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they are an "abomination," which is what Jesus actually said, and he predicted the hypocrites would claim to "do many wonderful works in the name of the Lord."
Furthermore, the accusation critics make simply ignores the fact that it is written throughout the Bible, that "God lives in light," that "God is Light," and that those who have really witnessed God are "children of Light." (Exodus 24:10, Psalm 104:2, I Timothy 6:16, Isaiah 2:5, Isaiah 9:2, Isaiah 60:19, I John 1:5, etc.)
The Bible is full of references to God being the Divine Light. It is even written that a genuine servant of God is "sent to bear witness of that Light ... the true Light which lights every man [and woman] that comes into the world." (John 1:8,9) And again, that is how we are "made in God’s image," because "God is Light" and we are "children of light," just as the Bible says.
Further proof that "Satan" is not a real person or even an actual entity, but merely a symbol or the spirit or mentality of greedy, selfish, self-centered, materialistic man, was indicated when Jesus "rebuked Peter, saying, Get behind me, Satan." He was merely admonishing Peter for focusing on "the things that be of men" rather than on "the things that be of God." (Mark 8:33 and Matthew 16:23)
Now, there is another issue with regard to the "dragon" in John’s book of Revelation, because even though it symbolizes the Roman Caesar back in John’s time, it also symbolizes self-righteous, self-important, power-hungry, divisive, destructive leadership today as well. For when John was in the realm of the spirit and foresaw the fall of Babylon, there was a good reason that he used the symbolism of the "red dragon with seven heads."
That "creature" or dragon with seven heads symbolizes a seven-fold power of destruction, and that symbolism is not just in John’s book of Revelation. There a many myths about a seven-headed dragon. It’s the same in Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Japanese, Celtic, Scottish, Cambodian, Indian, West Asian, East African, and Mediterranean mythology. But the Babylonians not only adopted the Egyptian conception of the power of evil as being seven demons, but they also seemed to have fused the seven into one and given the dragon seven-fold attributes, just as John later did.
Ironically, the forces of good and light are also seven-fold, such as the yogic seven chakras which are opened with the realization of the divine reality, and it’s the same with the "seven seals of revelation" which are opened to reveal the divine reality, which are also mentioned in John’s book of Revelation.
In esoteric terminology and symbolism, seven is the number of the physical manifestation of either good or evil. (And, by the way, the term "esoteric" merely means that which is not readily known by many, but is known only to those who are privy to such information.)
Regarding the manifestation of evil, in ancient times many different peoples regarded the seven evil forces either as natural forces of destruction, or as "devils, demons, and evil spirits" with evil powers waiting to tempt and possess human beings. They were supposedly the "adversaries" of humanity and can supposedly expel God, or common sense, and even occupy or possess the human body and mind. That’s why religious clergy have always had, and still have, rituals of atonement and requirements for redemption, and claim that they can eject the demons and devils from "possessed" victims and restore the Holy Spirit of the Divine Protector, or God.
The truth, however, is that it's all superstition. No one is "possessed" by anything from without. Evil and spiritual darkness is not something out there that can come in. It comes from within, from the ego that has become separated from its goodness. Similarly, goodness and spiritual light is not something that comes from without. Good and spiritual Light comes from within, from the spirit-soul and root of our being.
When we have a "single eye" to see, we can see the truth, that God is One, and that we are one with God, and with each other. And the son of man who tells you that and now fulfills prophecy is not the Christ, but bears the testimony of the Christ and bears witness to the Divine Light of God within. And he glorifies God and the Ancient One (aka the Christ-Avatar-Budda, etc.) who is in heaven with God.
Moreover, as Jesus foretold, the son of man divides humanity into "sheep" and "goats," because he issues judgment, exposing and rebuking those who are doing wrong, and praising those who are actual servants of God and humanity. And this judgment will be as much for Jews and Muslims as it is for Christians, and all others.
Even though the symbolism in prophecies represent very important aspects of the spiritual and material reality and the fulfillment of prophecy, they are all, nevertheless, symbols, most of which were never meant to be taken as actual, literal things or places or events.
There will be no Superman-Warlord God who will come out of the clouds in the sky, riding a white charger to the sound of a trumpet, to kill or conquer his enemies. The son of man who fulfills prophecy comes from your midst and is of your brethren, and he delivers the message of judgment so that it may be seen in a flash, like lightning.
The truth is like a stone. It’s solid. As the prophet Daniel envisioned, the stone of truth will shatter the image of the most powerful "religious" warrior emperor-king, and it shall become as a great mountain that shall fill the whole earth. When that happens we will be able to start changing and improving things, and rebuilding from the foundations of our religions and governments.
The new kingdom of God will not be established on earth overnight, however, and it won’t be by magic. It will be by our working very hard to bring about reconciliation, forgiveness and compromise, by making amends, by enabling and ensuring the cooperation and collaboration and consensus of all the people of the world, and by being courageous enough to establish the kind of political and religious reforms that are needed to really improve our world.
With mutual respect and a spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, we and our offspring will make this world what it is destined to become, a realm of peace and justice and prosperity for all.