Saturday, October 27, 2007


In my last post I wondered about the meaning of "" in the book of Revelation. After thinking it over a bit, here's my take on it. I'd be pleased if anyone has any insights to add.

The first key is Revelation 1:8. Although the Revelator at one point is told "I will shew thee things which must be hereafter" (4:1), the Revelation is narrated from the point of view of the throne of God (described in chapter 4), which is the point of view of "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending... which is, which was, and which is to come." Thus, in this revelation of the world's destiny, we should expect an account that spans past, present, and future. An account of time and mortality from the viewpoint of eternity and immortality.

The second key is understanding the meaning of the number 7. This is probably the most common number in the book of Revelation. There are: 7 churches, 7 candles, a book with 7 seals, 7 angels with 7 trumpets (pictured above in the famous woodcut by Albrecht Dürer), the Lamb of God having 7 horns and 7 eyes, and the Dragon having 7 horns and 7 crowns, etc. Why is this?

The world, according to Genesis, was fashioned in 7 stages. Similarly, when this world is brought to an end, it will be unfashioned in 7 stages; thus, the breaking of the 7 seals, each unleashing plagues and destruction, undoing the creation that was wrought in Genesis. As Latter-day Saints, we understand the span of human history in terms of 7 "dispensations," and understand ourselves to be situated in the "dispensation of the fullness of times," the time when the world's destiny is being fulfilled and coming to completion. The number 7 is associated with temporality, the counting out of days. Seven becomes a symbol of the temporal, time-bound world, its beginning, its destiny, its ending.

So my take on 3½ -- the length of time in which absolute rule is granted to the Evil Powers to "trample the Saints" and persecute the Church of God -- is that roughly half of human history will be spent under such tyrannical, oppressive worldly government.

In the two millennia since the book of Revelation was written, there has been all kinds of speculation about who the anti-Christ of the book of Revelation specifically was. Educated (or uneducated) guesses have included: the Emperor of Rome, Pope Leo X, Martin Luther (each accused the other of being the anti-Christ), Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, Ronald Reagan, Saddam Hussein, and George W. Bush. My take is, there is no one anti-Christ. There is the spirit of anti-Christ. It is the spirit of worldly, totalitarian power. Just as we put on Christ by making ourselves humble, meek, and living the law of pure Love, we put on anti-Christ by grasping for worldly power and "security."

Do we all long for worldly security? Yes. Should we put that security above the law of Love? Never. We should rather die.

So "3½" is optimistic or pessimistic, depending as we see the glass half full or half empty. "Three and a half" means that the reign of Evil is limited. It is not more than half of human history. And it will come to an end, for which end the Saints of God struggle and pray. When the world says, "Hey, you've got to eat to survive, and you've got to play our game to eat," the book of Revelation informs us that "Here is the patience of the Saints" (14:12) that we resist and reject the mark of the Beast, that we respond by saying, "Then I won't eat."

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