In which we tremble, for the END
is nigh! (and was, and ever shall be)
Within the bounds of Annandale,
The gentle Johnstones ride;
They have been there a thousand years,
A thousand more they’ll bide.
3000 YEARS OF THE ENDTIME
The Johnstones, whoever they are, will no doubt see out another thousand years. They need not fear that the END is nigh. It has been nigh for almost three thousand years!
The idea of an End Time and a Day of Judgment has been floating around in the world for about that long. It was one of the many doctrines emerging from that overheated hatchery of religious ideas in Mesopotamia and regions thereabouts. The Zoroastrians first trumpeted it abroad with enthusiasm, having incorporated it into their religion as an article of the faith around the 6th century BCE. It soon continued its merry way to emerge all over the place, not least in Judaism (the later stages), in Christianity and in Islam.
Crisis and catastrophe summed up what Zarathustra saw in the approaching End Time, when the armies of the powers of evil would be trampled down by the forces of righteousness. A vivid and colourful picture is painted in the Zoroastrian scriptures of the events to come. Molten metal (phew!) is to divide the servants of Ahura Mazda, the supreme god, from the 'worshippers of demons.' In a dramatic portrayal of events, we are told that a Saviour, Shaoshyant, is to appear at the end, when the dead will be raised, both righteous and wicked, from the places where they died. Bones will be brought forth from the earth, blood recovered from the waters, hair from the plants and life from the fire. Adults are restored as men and women of forty; children will be aged fifteen years.
The wicked are punished. The forces of evil, headed up by the Devil, Angra Mainyu (Ahriman), are vanquished, so that righteousness may inherit the earth; a cleansed and renewed earth. Paradise was once lost; now it has been regained for man. All sounds terribly familiar, doesn't it? As in the Jewish-Christian fables, we are right back where we started from, which again poses the question, Is it possible we may fall again? If not, then why did the first Fall happen? If evil is in the end vanquished by good, why not at the start? Truly the ways of Ahura Mazda are as inscrutable as the ways of Yahweh.
But, be that as it may, the Zoroastrians had introduced the world to a Great New Idea, one destined to have an enormous impact through its incorporation into the theology of Christianity and from thence into Islam. The eager, believing, ingenuous world lapped it all up! And people still do!
The dual concepts of the End Time and Judgment were seized upon by prophets and preachers far and wide. Here was meat indeed to suit the prophetic appetite. In no time flat the idea had spread through the civilized world in variant forms. The Stoic philosophers thought the world would be destroyed by fire, and afterwards renewed; the first is true enough. Seneca, the Roman, wrote of the destruction of all living things by fire and flood and the rebirth of mankind under happier conditions than heretofore. And all manner of prophets sounded forth from their soapboxes throughout that same Palestine from whence was to come Jesus the Nazarene. Prophecies of a coming Redeemer, Messiah or Saviour, which were by no means unique to the Hebrew religion, were mixed up with prophecies of Judgment and an endless procession of weird and wonderful ideas.
THE CERTAINTY OF FAITH
And as the world experienced each new wave of prophetic preaching, the people living at that time were sure that they were rapidly approaching the End. Certainly those prophetic utterances attributed to Jesus are clear on one issue - the End is very near. 'This generation shall not pass away,' said Jesus, 'until all these things be accomplished.' (Mark 13:30).
But time passed, as did this generation, and the things that were supposed to happen didn't happen, and the vision faded just a little, and the texts had to be re-interpreted. And they have been re-interpreting the texts ever since! None more so than that greatest of all examples of apocalyptic writing, the Book of Revelation (the last book in the Christian Bible). This work has so captured people's imagination that many who do not profess Christian faith still treat it with a sort of superstitious reverence.
It is, indeed, a dramatic work, with visions of angels going forth into the world with plagues, of a glassy sea mingled with fire, of a beast coming up out of the sea, of seals being opened, of those four horsemen riding forth, and of the new heaven and the new earth. Yes, a truly wonderful literary production, surely a high point in the prophetic tradition. And, say the believers, a work carrying the indelible stamp of revelation, a work revealing the heart and mind of GOD.
If this book contains the revelation of the truth as is claimed then it is curious, isn't it, that of all the books in the Bible this one has probably provoked more debate and dissension among the faithful through the centuries than just about any other book, with the possible exception of Genesis. But this is not all. It was not even accepted as divinely inspired by many of the early Church Fathers, and even after it became incorporated into the canon of the New Testament scriptures it was, and has remained ever since, a veritable battle-ground of conflicting theories concerning the End Time.
So varied have been the interpretations of this work that debate over it has occasioned the formation of whole new churches, splinter-groups that have departed from the mainstream (if there ever was such a thing!) of Christendom because they disagreed on vital questions concerning the Second Coming of Christ. Every tiny point in this book has been sifted and argued over and interpreted ad nauseum, in every which-way. The Book of Revelation may well be a great piece of imaginative literature but that is all it is; it is assuredly not a route-map for those who think they march 'onwards to Zion'.
THE APOCALYPSE IN CONTEXT
We must see the Apocalypse (as this book is often called) in its correct setting if we are to understand its essential nature. It was written in the white-heat of prophetic passion on the island of Patmos, off the coast of Asia Minor (mostly Turkey today) by someone called John, believed by many to be the Apostle, companion of James and Peter. (Others, however, demur and it is quite possible the author is not that same John whose name is attached to one of the Gospels.) From internal evidence it seems certain, although some would disagree, that it was written prior to the destruction of Jerusalem (70 CE).
Now when we read the Revelation of John we seem to be hearing again some of those fiery outpourings of rhetoric we find in the Old Testament prophets. Well, we are! Many Christians see the major prophecies of Revelation as yet to be fulfilled. I think they are wrong. Revelation, like all such writings, must be seen in the context of its times. It was, above all, almost wholly the product of the Jewish temper and in this regard it stood at the end of a long line of similar Hebrew writings. Indeed, it borrowed freely from these, and, for that matter, other sources, to paint its vivid word-pictures.
It is always of great interest to note how often amazing revelations direct from GOD prove to be, on examination, merely re-hashes of earlier revelations! So it was when Jesus was born, as I have discussed elsewhere, and so it is here. Is the deity being economical with his inspired outpourings? It would seem reasonable to any humble seeker after truth that the divine revelation would bring to the world something new and highly original, something never revealed before, not simply a regurgitation of yesterday's news.
In this sham of a book, predictions are repeated, almost word-for-word - as if they have come first-hand from GOD to John - without reference to their original sources. In fact, it is almost impossible to find one original piece of imagery in the book. Yet John says GOD gave him this special revelation! Specious, not special, is a better term to apply to such a dishonest work.
Take these few examples. In the first chapter we have the vision of 'seven golden candlesticks' (v.12). The prophet Zechariah beheld 'a candlestick....and its seven lamps thereon' (Zechariah 4:2). Among the candlesticks John saw 'one like unto a son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. And his head and his hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice as of the voice of many waters....' (verses 13-15). This is, quite simply, a composite picture manufactured by telescoping Daniel 7:9 and 13 and Daniel 10:6. In chapter four we have the description of a throne set in heaven and one seated upon it, and a rainbow about it. This comes directly from Ezekiel 1:26-28, as do the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1:5).
BEASTS AND ANGELS
I could multiply such instances many times over. Suffice it to mention one other interesting quotation. The image of the seven angels comes from the very curious book of Enoch, where they are called archangels but are seven in number. Now this book of Enoch, named after the legendary grandfather of Noah, was a work rejected by the Church Fathers altogether!
But let me return to those four living creatures (translated as 'beasts' in the AV but as 'creatures' in the RV). In Revelation 4:6-8, which very closely parallels Ezekiel, they are given as having the face or likeness of a lion, a calf, a man and an eagle ('ox' in Ezekiel becomes 'calf' but Ezekiel mentions the foot of a calf). By the second century, as John's writings circulated, the Fathers began to see in these creatures symbols of the Gospel writers. Like everything else concerning Christian doctrine, they disagreed among themselves as to which beastly apparition signified which supposed Gospel author. John was, said some, the eagle because he soars into the elevated regions of esoteric doctrine. Mark was the lion, a 'voice crying in the wilderness' but somehow this left out John the Baptiser who supposedly affected this role. Matthew was the man, because he gave out the human genealogy of Jesus. St Luke was the ox, for what reason we know not!
The Fathers could not be expected to know the true origins of these heavenly creatures. Not even Ezekiel's vision was an original insight given by the Ghost. Rather he had picked up through the Babylonians (captors of the Hebrews, remember) an old concept from Akkad. They had four species of genii (tutelary spirits, sort of pre-gods, still with us in the Muslim religion as jinn ). There was Sed, bull-like; Lamas, lion-faced; Natig', eagle-headed; and Ustar, the human creature. But the idea of four creatures was not distinctively Akkadian, but is found in places as far apart as ancient Egypt and distant India and China and is linked to the four 'fixed signs' of the Zodiac. In fact a whole new world of interesting possibilities opens up in studying these four creatures, for they figure in varying forms in esoteric literature. I cannot go farther here; suffice it to point out that once again I have demonstrated clearly that neither Revelation nor Ezekiel is 'inspired' but they present, as always, the usual re-hash of the flotsam and jetsam of past belief systems.
But Revelation is something more than prophecy. It is, in effect, a whole liturgy and belief system that could well have stood alone as the guidebook of the emerging Church, had the Gospels and Paul's writings never come into being. It is, in reality, a 'Gospel' of the cult of Jesus as practised by the Jerusalem Church, which, as you will remember, was the party opposed to Paul. As such it reflected the fact, already elucidated, that this was nothing more than a Jewish sect.
Now in this essentially Jewish work we find that Jesus is not mentioned all that often! And when he is, he appears primarily as the 'lamb slain' (not specifically crucified), a Redeemer, a Jewish concept. In fact, the writer of this book at times seems to be strangely unaware of the Resurrection! He is pre-occupied with the image of a suffering Messiah-figure and the fulfilment of the Jewish sacrificial system.
Christian dogma was by no means settled when this book was written, that is, a generation after the Master's death. It remained for Paul to preach the Cross far and wide. Further, the Jesus of the Book of Revelation has no life on earth and only lives among men after the Judgment. It is this sort of information that has lead some critics to doubt the historicity of Jesus. Certainly it remained for the Gospel writers to sketch in a life for their Lord.
666 AND ALL THAT!
But now I tell you a mystery. There is 'hidden knowledge' in this fascinating work, such as should please many a seeker after such novelties. But the 'hidden knowledge' is not quite as some people believe. Here, once again, the ordinary reader is prisoner to the translator and, for that matter, to all the scribes, editors, censors and others, through whom the texts passed down to our day. Just about everyone, even the irreligious, has heard of that famous Number of the Beast, the mysterious 666, in Revelation 13:18. Many volumes have been written purporting to interpret this number. They usually refer to the Hebrew practice of assigning numerical values to letters. From such considerations is derived the belief (for that is all it is) that 666 refers to the Hebrew word 'Balaam', adding up in this system to 666 and thus represents the 'false prophet' or 'the number of the world given over to judgment' or, well, under such a system all manner of things may be deduced, as the number 666 may be made up of various letter combinations!
But the Hebrews were not the only ones to assign numerical values to letters. It was common practice among the ancients, including the Greeks. Dr Paul Couchoud believed that we have here a clue, indeed, to the whole book but not quite the clue discovered by many zealous Christian believers. Couchoud believed that this clue was almost lost in transmission but not quite, for the marginal references in modern translations still quote the number 616 as an alternative in this verse.
John may have been writing from a Jewish perspective but he wrote in the Greek language, a point overlooked by the number-crunchers. He used Greek terminology, such as in 1:8, where he refers to Alpha and Omega. We must also remember that this book was floating around in something of a state of limbo for a long period from about 70 CE through to the early part of the fourth century, a great span of time. The number 616, which was no doubt the original version, soon lost its meaning because of the application by the early Christians of John's writings to the persecution of Nero (and thus, incidentally, confirming that the prophecies were intended for that era, not later ones).
In the Greek numerical system, the first eight characters of the alphabet, plus a special symbol for 6, represented the number 1 to 9. As John, then, sat working at his writings on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9), he looked out towards Asia Minor and saw within his purview one of the strong contenders for the faith of the people, the cult of Attis, a cult, like Mithraism, especially abhorrent to Christians for it so nearly resembled their own! The number 616, tattooed on the foreheads and hands of stubborn idolaters, translated, meant ATTIS (the Greek letters adding up as 1+300+300+5+10 = 616). It was even given in the dative case, as would be required in a votive inscription.
It is ever a grave mistake, fostered especially by the hellfire preachers, that the Bible's prophets wrote about dim distant futures. Not so! Their prophecies were almost wholly directed at events near at hand, events affecting their own and coming generations. It was but a mere few years previously that the Emperor Claudius had introduced the worship of Attis and his mother, Cybele, to Rome. Attis was the god 'wounded by a sword, wounded unto death,' the god who 'was, is not, yet will appear,' and whose death and resurrection were commemorated on 24 March and 25 March each year. And it was Cybele who was clearly being pictured by John as 'great mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.' The official title of Cybele was Magna Mater Deum - 'the great mother of the gods.'
Like the Hebrew prophets of old, this latter-day Jewish prophet was not here peering into a crystal ball and seeing some dim distant future of the world in our twentieth century - as some falsely preach - or any other distant century. John saw before him a current rival faith to that of his Lamb Slain and of Yahweh, the god of Israel. All his invective, all of his colourful prophetic upwelling spleen, was poured forth against the dangerous foe, the enemy present in his own day.
PERSECUTIONS AND THE END TIME
But times change and dangers pass and it was not long before a new threat arose, the massive persecutions launched by some of the emperors, especially Nero. And soon the Christians were interpreting John's prophecies as being directed against that evil man. And the message of John came to be re-interpreted many times over as the centuries passed.
John expected his Lord to come soon, not in the far future. Remember that it was Jesus himself who supposedly said that 'this generation' would not pass, until the prophecies came to fruition. But this generation did pass, and later generations passed, and nothing happened. Nothing will. 'Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow . . .' In the apt words of Dr Couchoud: 'From century to century this tomorrow beats an elusive retreat.' Elusive it may be, but belief is stubborn. Men and women are loath to give up their fond delusions. The nearness of the End is probably being preached by a thousand preachers around the world even as I write this.
In 1976, a Portsmouth (England) businessman, Ernest Digweed, died and left his entire estate to Christ, with instructions in his will to place the capital in government bonds at 12.5%. According to Mr Digweed, Jesus is due back in 1999 and would then have a nice little nest-egg to help him in his work, about $700,000 in all.
Back around 1,000 CE there were great numbers who believed they were about to face the End Time (even though the dating system itself was purely an arbitrary one). As the dreadful date loomed before their frightened eyes, fanatics appeared in many parts of Europe, warning, yes, banging that same old drum, 'the End is nigh.' The populace were advised to wind up their earthly affairs, so as to be ready for the great day. Jerusalem was felt to be the appropriate site for the re-appearance of Christ in the clouds so in the year 999 a vast army of pilgrims, selling up homes and possessions, tramped en masse to the Holy City, there to await his Coming. Great buildings, including the cathedrals and churches, were left to decay as all classes, rich and poor alike, trekked to the east, intoning Psalms and gazing skyward in case the Son of God should appear.
By the time the year 1,000 had arrived the pilgrims had increased in number, spurred on by fanatical preaching. They were terror-struck at the sound of every thunder-storm that passed or at the sight of a falling star. The year came and went but Christ failed to appear. The prophecies had to be recast yet again. First one date, then another, all calculated after 'careful study' of the Apocalypse and the Gospels, would be adopted, then abandoned. The onset of plague, or any natural disaster, was sufficient to send people scurrying to the Book.
The Zoroastrian saviour is expected to re-appear in the year CE 2398, according to some calculations, but while we await his appearing there are many other dates for us to consider. Through the years new prophets have arisen, blazed for a time, then fallen back into oblivion. One of the followers of John Wesley, George Bell, prophesied that the world would end in 1763, on February 28 of that year, to be precise. His preaching caused a panic among the 'lower classes,' ever susceptible to the prophet's rantings, none more so than the Methodists themselves, many of whom were terror-struck at the thought of Christ's Appearing. Between 1800 and 1834 especially, a great number of prophets arose, each pronouncing boldly and, of course, with certainty, 'the End is nigh.' Perhaps all this was an inevitable reaction to the rising rationalism of thoughtful and intelligent people. Or perhaps it was just a new turn of the old wheel of religion, one still turning today!
The USA especially was home to many of these prophets. Chief among the zealots was William Miller, a farmer's son, poor in formal education but fanatical in devouring all manner of printed works, especially the prophesies of the Bible. Following his marriage, Miller went from faith to atheism and, in time, back to faith again. Along the way he was involved in an adventurous life of soldiering and other activities. He was once thrown from an army wagon, and suffered severe brain concussion as a result. Like Paul before him, he thus had an 'infirmity in the flesh.' It is amusing, if a trifle unkind, to speculate that brain-concussed Miller gave to the world a new and important church, just as sun-maddened Paul did so long ago.
Discharged from the war, William Miller returned to the side of the angels and began studying his Bible intensely until, after fifteen years of wrestling with the problems of prophecy, he concluded that the world would end in 1834! At first he kept the knowledge to himself but one day he had the opportunity to fill a vacant pulpit in a nearby Baptist church. Soon a movement was under way, following Miller's prophetic preaching, drawing members from established churches (and no doubt some of these from that same Baptist church, which must have regretted having invited the interloper to preach there!).
Believing that, as described in Matthew 24: 29,30, heavenly portents would signal the nearness of the end, Miller must have been heartened when, on 13 November 1833, a great meteoric shower occurred, some 250,000 'falling stars' being counted at one meteorological station between midnight and dawn. Miller had by now set a 're-calculated' date which he proclaimed as being in April 1843. Imagine his delight when in the spring of that year a great comet appeared in the skies, so bright that it could be seen at high noon. Other signs followed. Rings appeared around the sun and 'mock suns' occurred from time to time. It sure was a good year for portents.
The movement grew in zeal and numbers as the great Event approached. April came and went. No Christ. Quite amazing! Where could he be? At first the faithful were shaken in their resolution but, as always, this mood did not last long! It was difficult to be precise over such dates, said the leaders. Try again. It would be some time in either 1843 or 1844; be faithful, it was Nigh. At length a brave and bold Miller published a newly re-calculated date - 21 March 1844.
Hysteria reached a peak as 21 March approached. Special 'ascension robes' were made, crops left unattended, farms and homes sold up. In Salem, scene of those notorious witch burnings, a large band of the faithful marched in their ascension robes to Gallows Hill to watch for Him. (Speaking as a keen photographer, how I would have loved to have captured on film the spectacle of those Gallows Hill Gullibles!)
Others went to the graveyards so as to be with departed loved ones when they rose from their graves. One man, waiting for his first wife to rise, was deserted by his slighted second wife after the expected event didn't take place. He was, she thought, altogether too anxious to meet up with his first love. Some of the more anxious ones climbed trees and perched on rooftops so as to be closer to Him. Some even constructed wings and, on the stroke of midnight, on 21 March, tried to fly 'into the arms of GOD.' They flew instead into the unyielding dust of the ground and broke a limb or two.
Perhaps the highlight of these amazing antics was provided by a drunken halfwit known as Crazy Amos, in the village of Westford, Massachusetts. A group of the Millerites, complete with ascension robes, had gathered in a house to await the great event. Now this Crazy Amos had a trumpet and, on hearing the tumult in his neighbourhood, rushed into the street, sounding forth for all to hear. This was Gabriel and the Day of Judgment had arrived. The Millerites rushed into the streets, expecting to be caught up into the air, only to be disappointed. Midnight passed and once again their hopes were dashed. But not their naïve faith in the Prophet.
In the face of all this one might have thought the movement would have been killed stone dead. Not so! From the remnants of this discredited rabble arose the Seventh Day Adventist Church which, in time, was to become a large denomination. It spawned a number of offshoots, for dissension is never far away from the Christian message. And as it sought to feed man's spiritual life, it established a not inconsiderable offshoot which manufactured foodstuffs to nourish the bodies of the faithful (while they wait for his coming).
And, no doubt purely as a happy coincidence, this activity has produced a nice tinkling sound in the tills of the church over many long years. So these people are not all that naïve after all. Oh, and just by way of making a passing remark, belief in the 'near return' of Christ is very strong still in this same church, even although a century and a half has passed since Miller's day. Faith, once planted, is a persistent weed.
More Prophets were yet to come. The next one of any importance was Charles Taze Russell. Born in 1852 in Pittsburgh, Russell was originally a Congregationalist pastor. In time he separated from that church to form his own independent body, eventually known as the Witnesses of Jehovah. They've been a pestiferous presence on people's doorsteps ever since. Russell, too, was caught up in the fever over Christ's Second Coming and he, too, did a bit of calculating. The date he arrived at was 1874. (All these dates, and earlier and subsequent dates, announced by innumerable prognosticators only proves once again how uncertain is that certain message of the Christian scriptures!)
Now I know it will not surprise you to discover - as are all still here today (sinners and saints alike) - that Christ did not return in 1874. Well, not quite, or perhaps he did after all! You see, Russell had a streak of rat-cunning. He wasn't about to shed the mantle of Prophet. He came up with a brilliant idea, a new one - the Return of Christ had been invisible! Thereafter Christ had ushered in his reign but the actual end of the present world order would occur in 1914.
TRY ANOTHER DATE (OR PULL THE OTHER LEG)
So Russell was still putting his credibility on the line by setting another date, albeit well into the future! Just forty years into the future in fact. It is with some satisfaction that I report that Pastor Russell lived just long enough to see - yes, the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. Surely this was the prophesied END? I guess Russell was still a trifle puzzled when he died in 1916. Certainly it was a huge war; it must have seemed like the end to many people. Tragically it was indeed the End for several million humans. But this, too, passed and the End was still nigh - somewhere nigh.
Now Russell's successor, Judge Rutherford, took over and, believe it or not, in 1925 he was confidently telling people that 'millions now living will never die.' Sixty-five or more years later millions of those people are well and truly dead. But does all this stop the Witnesses in their tracks? I think not.
Recent outbreaks of prophecy-mania remind us once again that those who do not understand history are condemned to to re-live it. The American Christians and their admirers elsewhere are obsessed with the Second Coming (which surely tells us something about their insecurities). No sooner had the Iron Curtain been rent asunder in Eastern Europe than a group of ravers, one such being known by the amazing title of the End-Time Handmaidens (Inc, of Arkansas), moved in to convert the ungodly!
Two years previously, in 1988, an American seer, Edgar Whisenant, published 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will be in 1988. (The word rapture, so beloved of many of the fundamentalists, does not even occur in the Bible! It is part of the jargon of these doomsayers; it refers to believers being caught up in the air to meet Christ.) Over four million copies of this revealing work were sold or given away before the author woke up one morning with lots of filthy lucre - and a big headache. He had made another amazing discovery - it was 1 January 1989, and, surprise, surprise, the rapture had not occurred!
But did Mr Whisenant slink off, never to be heard from again? Oh, no, like so many of those who had gone before, he did a bit more calculating to correct a 'mistake' he had made (misunderstood the calendar, we are told). This resulted in a new and exciting work (co-authored by Greg Brewer) published in mid-1989, The Final Shout - Rapture '89. Well, as I was compiling these notes I noted it was already 1990 and still the End had not come. Will be Whisenant keep making new calculations and producing new editions of these gripping texts? Probably not; he must be so rich by now he probably never needs to work again and can laze about in the sun awaiting the Coming.
AND STILL THEY COME
Lastly, there's that lady down Montana way, known as Mrs Prophet; well, Elizabeth Clare Prophet, to be precise. Aptly named, this 50-year-old seer. She convinced some 2,000 or so followers, members of her Church Universal and Triumphant, that the END was nigh. It would be particularly tense, she said, around 23 April 1990.
The disciples were to take up residence in underground shelters in Paradise Valley, equipped with supplies to last them over a long period, while the Battle of Armageddon raged overhead. (I'll return to this battle in a moment.) Well, strangely, 23 April passed without any dramatic turn of events in the world. Perhaps it was all invisible? I guess it doesn't really matter much that she is wrong, though. The believers still follow, including some in our own country. 'As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be . . .'
I mentioned the Battle of Armageddon. The Jehovah's Witnesses get themselves into quite a lather of excitement over this battle, and they are not alone. It has been the subject of many books, not to mention hundreds of thousands of sermons. Now one would expect to find an extensive description in the Bible of this supposed great final clash between the forces of righteousness and the forces of evil. (Depending, of course, on your viewpoint as to who is on the righteous side and who is on the evil!) Not so! Just one reference in one verse - Revelation 16:16, where the writer refers to a battle to take place at (more correctly, as in the RV) Har Magedon, said to mean the hill or mountain of Megiddo.
There is no mountain in Megiddo, as it happens, but some think the place referred to is at Mt Carmel. This could be the correct location as it is there that the evil spirits meet together, according to the Mandeans. Or perhaps John is once again trading in Old Testament currency, for it was at Megiddo that the Jews had a victory over the Canaanites (Judges 5:19). As good a name as any to attach to the Last Battle of all. And about as fictitious as the rest of the drama of the End of the World.
Oh yes, the world will surely end one day, but you and I will not be around to see it eaten up by an all-too-friendly sun. That's a long way off.
© Mark Owen, 1991 - http://www.piperpost.net