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The Reformation Herald Online Edition

Surviving in the COVID Era

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From Boastful Atheism to Blind Religion
Part 1 of 3
Walter Lukic
The cosmic war transferred to the earth

From ancient times until now, rarely has a literary work been produced—whether based on a true story or on the author’s imagination—that did not somehow feature positive and negative characters, a protagonist and an antagonist, or at least a foil. Cinematography also has not escaped this fundamental pattern of character distinction: In almost every Hollywood production the screenplay writers introduce to the viewers an assortment of “good guys” and “bad guys,” heroes and villains. This pattern seems to be so pervasive in human society that we feel justified in proposing that no society known to us has ever existed without some sort of character differentiation. To be sure, the “good” characters are not perfect; they are still human beings with some weaknesses and frailties. Yet, the authors, historians, artists, screenplay writers, and the rest of humans seem to be unable to think about men and women without placing them somewhere on the scale of morally approving or disapproving conduct.

In this article we will propose a broader thesis: The existence of good and evil in this world and the conflict between the intelligent beings representing either good or evil predates the existence of the planet earth and of the human race. By means of divine revelation contained in the Bible, we are informed that the highest created being—an angel by the name of Lucifer (later known as Satan)—started a war in heaven by becoming envious of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. We further learn that Satan and his angels lost the “Star War” and were thrown down to the planet earth, the only place in the universe where they succeeded in planting their rebellion.

The first humans, Adam and Eve, trusted the fallen angel, Satan, more than they trusted God. Satan’s offer to Eve seemed irresistible: Eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and assume the divine prerogative of defining moral truth. By mistrusting God and by her desire to become God-like, not in character but in power, Eve sinned and became, like Satan, a fallen being. Through Eve, Satan shrewdly brought about the downfall of Adam. From the moment the first humans discovered and experienced evil, there has been no peace on planet earth, but instead, an unrelenting war between the followers of God and the followers of the archdeceiver. In that war the humans who have sided with Satan and his rebellion have persecuted and killed those who have pledged their allegiance to God and His government. Chapter 4 of Genesis informs us that the first conflict took place between two brothers—Cain and Abel, and that the issue in dispute was the true worship of God. Because God accepted Abel’s animal sacrifice and rejected Cain’s offering consisting of the produce of the land, Cain became angry and killed his brother, Abel.

The dark force pendulum

The plotline of human history and of the great controversy between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan, is somewhat complex and twisted. And here is the reason: There is no genuine and lasting unity among the forces of Satan. Humans motivated and guided by selfish ambition and pride can never achieve the true bonding of hearts and minds—neither permanent unity of action, nor universal peace. Only on some rare occasions when coerced by a major external force (a powerful world ruler) or when attempting to defy a divine ordinance (building the tower of Babel), has the faithless human society achieved for a short period of time some semblance of unity and common purpose.

This lack of unity on the side of the dark force should not, however, lead us to a belief that the war between good and evil has ever diminished in its intensity. To the contrary, it only increases as the world history moves to its consummation. Although the human actors within Satan’s army are generally in discord due to their various ideologies and interests, the polar opposites within that force arise and enter the world stage and then gradually wane just as the phases of the moon or the seasons in a year. These players only replace each other—they never relent. Thus, the war against God and His true followers never ceases.

This curious phenomenon might be illustrated by the swinging motion of a pendulum. A pendulum is a weight suspended from a pivot so that it can swing back and forth under the influence of gravity. Like a pendulum that never rests at its equilibrium position due to the gravitational force, so Satan’s antagonistic force never leaves his army in a resting position. It rather makes the dark force oscillate in various amplitudes from one extreme position to another. Let us explore briefly this puzzling historic pattern and discover two things: Where is the pendulum right now and in which direction is it moving?

The apocalyptic books of the Bible: Daniel and Revelation

For the students of world history and its ultimate direction, the most interesting, most challenging, but also the most rewarding books in the Bible are the books of Daniel and Revelation. In these two books God reveals to humanity the entire course of world history in the form of prophecy. Here we find the inspired prophecies foretelling the future from the time a prophetic revelation was given to the recording prophet until the end of the world. We call this type of prophetic utterance an apocalyptic prophecy because of its broad sweep of time, its focus on the cataclysmic events culminating in the second coming of Christ, and its unconditional nature (what was prophesied will surely come to pass). In this article we will not be able to offer even a cursory survey of the content of these two amazing books. Our focus will rather be on some apocalyptic prophecies that depict the evil forces in their pendulum-like historic movements as they oppose God and His people.

Every student of the apocalyptic prophecies must understand and apply some basic rules of interpretation in order to understand the meaning of the symbolic or figurative language employed by the prophet. One of the most important principles of biblical interpretation is the principle that the Bible interprets itself. Various figures of speech, including metaphors, similes, imagery, types, parallels, allegories, and analogies are used as teaching tools.

In 2 Peter 1:19–21 we read: “ We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

In verse 20 particularly, we find support for the principle that the Bible interprets itself. This means that somewhere within the pages of the sacred Scripture the symbols, the time periods, and the geographic or personal names employed in symbolic texts are explained or defined. It is our task to search them out and place them together as a meaningful whole.

When we apply this fundamental principle together with some other principles of Bible interpretation, we can fruitfully explore the cryptic language of the apocalyptic prophecies and discover the existence and the work of Satan’s chief agents through whom he strives for world supremacy.

The two dark forces (beasts) of the book of Revelation

The two most successful but ideologically opposed forces employed by Satan, particularly in the end time, are depicted in chapters 11 and 13 of Revelation, respectively. Although these two world superpowers derive their authority and deadly force from the same evil source, the human agents carrying out the principles and policies of these two powers are not the same. Consequently, these two powers can be and have been in a deadly struggle for world supremacy. Yet they both have one thing in common: They are opposed to God, His Word, and His people.

Let us introduce now these two dark forces that are represented in the book of Revelation as the “beasts.” We find their description in chapter 11 of Revelation. In the text that we are about to explore, one force (beast) is introduced implicitly and the other one explicitly. It is beyond the scope of this article to provide a more complete interpretation of the relevant parts of this chapter. We will limit ourselves to presenting the basic meaning of the key verses and direct the reader to other sources for a more detailed exposition.

“And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will” (Revelation 11:3–6).

The supremacy of the first evil force: Two witnesses, the apostasy, and divine judgments

These four verses cover a long period of time during which the first dark force ruled the world supremely. This period precedes the ascendance of the second evil force that will be introduced in verse 7. During a long period extending over of 1,260 prophetic days or 1,260 actual years, God will empower His two witnesses to prophesy or to bear faithful witness, yet dressed in sackcloth.

What is the meaning of these cryptic words? Here is a brief interpretation. Much of the language in Revelation is borrowed and adapted from the Old Testament. A day in an apocalyptic prophecy stands for a calendar year of 360 days. Scriptural support for the principle that one year is represented by one prophetic day (year-day principle) is found in Numbers 14:34 and in Ezekiel 4:5, 6. Who are the two mysterious witnesses? We propose that God’s two witnesses signify primarily the scriptural witness in the Old and New Testaments. The two witnesses are represented also as the two olive trees and the two candlesticks standing before God. This language is employed in the book of Zechariah 4:2, 3, although Zechariah saw only one lampstand and his two witnesses were evidently Joshua and Zerubbabel.

How do we know that the two witnesses in Revelation 11 represent the Scripture consisting of the Old and New Testaments? The word “witness” in the New Testament is derived from the Greek verb which means to be a witness or to bear witness. From this comes our word , a person who in life and death testifies to or bears witness to his or her faith in God.

In John 5:39 (RSV) Jesus said of the Old Testament scriptures: “it is they that bear witness to me.” In His prophetic speech on the Mount of Olives, Christ said: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all the nations, and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14). Christ obviously referred in this place to the New Testament.

John says in Revelation 11 that the two witnesses were “olive trees” and “lampstands.” In biblical times the oil of the olive was used as the primary fuel for lamps. How do we apply this symbolism to the Bible? In Psalm 119 verses 105 and 130 say respectively: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. . . . The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”

By putting together the available scriptural evidence we can see clearly that the “two witnesses” which are the “two olive trees and the two candlesticks [lampstands]” refer to the Holy Scriptures consisting of the Old and New Testaments. These two scriptural witnesses bear witness to Jesus Christ and serve to God’s people by providing spiritual light represented by the two olive trees (olive oil) that supply fuel to the lampstands.

We are also told that these two witnesses will prophecy for 1,260 days/years “clothed in sackcloth.” Sackcloth in the Old Testament was worn by individuals who were showing repentance (Jonah 3:6–9; Daniel 9:3). Therefore, these two witnesses preach for repentance and their message will not be popular, since those who heard their message would be in “torment,” as we will see in Revelation 11:10.

Revelation 11:5, 6 use the imagery of the historic events involving two great spiritual and national leaders—Elijah and Moses. Elijah brought heavenly “fire” to consume military units commissioned to execute him, and further, he also did “shut heaven” so that there was no rain for three and a half years (1 Kings 17; Luke 4:25; 2 Kings 1). Moses was an instrument in God’s hands endowed with a power “over waters to turn them into blood,” effectively bringing one “plague” after another upon Egypt. We also recall that Moses and Elijah appeared together with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1–8).

We conclude that Elijah and Moses, representing the Old Testament witness, stand here for the retributive judgments executed by the word of God upon the rebellious world during the 1,260-year reign of the first dark force. We will identify this force as an apostate Christian church which exercised control over the political leaders in the Dark Ages from a.d. 538 until 1798. We may ask a question: How do these two witnesses—the Old and New Testaments—have power to send plagues? The answer to this question is found in Revelation 22:18: “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.” Tampering with the word of God either by distorting or opposing it by adding to it or taking away from it, will surely be visited by the plagues threatened upon the apostate worshipers as recorded in the book of Revelation. Whoever rejects the message of love written in the Holy Scriptures will be deprived of the protection of the loving God and will bring upon themselves the terrible plagues.

Since the first months of 2020, the entire world has been reeling from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Millions have been infected by this human coronavirus and hundreds of thousands have died. The larger part of the world has been under a massive lockdown which seriously disrupted the world economy and affected almost every aspect of individual and community life. This pandemic, however, pales in comparison with the plagues that afflicted the world in the Middle Ages. From the Plague of Justinian (a.d. 541) to the bubonic plague known as the Black Death (1347), and some other plagues that ravaged Europe and the Mediterranean Basin, historians estimate that between one third to over one half of the European population perished. But infectious diseases were not the only plague during the Middle Ages. The Great Famine of 1315–1317 caused the death of untold millions in most of Europe over an extended number of years and had a major impact on the economic growth and prosperity enjoyed until that time.

The emergence and reign of the second dark force (beast)

It is amazing to discover the accuracy with which the book of Revelation anticipates and plots world history. The very next verses in Revelation 11 introduce the second dark force that will play a decisive role in world affairs at the time of the end.

Revelation 11:7, 8 says: “And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.”

The second beast introduced here appears on the world scene at about the same time when the two witnesses we spoke about shall have finished their testimony. We have learned that these two witnesses prophesied clothed in sackcloth for a period of 1,260 days or years. That period of suppression of the Holy Scriptures and of their testimony ended in 1798 when the political arm of the dominant Christian church became incapacitated. In February of 1798, the French revolutionary army had taken captive the head of the Roman hierarchical church, the pope Pius VI, thereby terminating the temporal power of the church. We will speak more of this event later when we identify the same power as the sea beast of Revelation 13.

You may wonder by now who is the “beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit”? This new evil power appears to be different from the dark force we just encountered in Revelation 11:3–6, which ruled the world for 1,260 days or 42 months, as recorded in Revelation 13:5. Since the first beast we have just surveyed sustained a mortal wound at the end of 1,260 years (Revelation 13:3), that beast cannot at the same time ascend from the bottomless pit or abyss. Referring to the new entity, Revelation 11:7 uses the Greek word which means a wild, ferocious animal, or a beast. As we have learned from Daniel 7:17, a beast in the apocalyptic prophecies stands for a kingdom, a state vested with military force. Therefore, we need to identify another major dark force that will appear on the world stage sometime at the end of the 18th century.

As we will see in the following verses of Revelation 11, the second dark force will exhibit extraordinary hostility toward the two witnesses that are identified as the Holy Scriptures. We have no doubts, therefore, that this new beast or political force was an agent of Satan that he used to destroy the Bible, its divine truths, and its witness to Christ. A bottomless pit or an abyss stands in the Bible for the abode of the fallen angels, the demons (see Luke 8:31; 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6). Bottomless pit is mentioned also in association with the fifth trumpet (Revelation 9:1–11) as a place from which come out smoke, demonic locusts, and horsemen, that torment men for a period of five prophetic months. This demonic horde is under the command of a king—the angel of the bottomless pit who is no other than Satan himself. From this abyss, Satan sends out his agents to harass, persecute and destroy God’s saints, or those who dwell in heaven. Interestingly, Satan himself will be chained to this abyss during the millennium (Revelation 20:1, 2).

Without any hesitation we identify in the beast of Revelation 11:7 that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit as Revolutionary France. It is truly a fascinating experience to unlock the symbolic code of the apocalyptic prophecy and then to discover how that prophecy finds its fulfillment in the actual historic events. No other event in the modern history of the Western world has had such a dramatic, profound, and lasting effect on the course of the Western Civilization—and ultimately the history of the world—as did the French Revolution. More than any other single factor, it changed the world by giving birth to the spirit of modern nationalism, modern universal conscription, and establishment of large national armies. The French Revolution, spreading over a period of ten years (1789 to 1799), introduced to France democracy, citizens’ equality before the law, abolished the privileges of nobility, made an end to royal dictatorship by “divine right.”

At the same time, the French Revolution served as an inspiration and a catalyst for a series of political and social movements that pushed the continental Europe and the regions beyond into a sea of revolutionary activities. Professor R.R. Palmer of Princeton University, a respected specialist in the period, summarizing the essence of the entire revolutionary period made this historical generalization: “It is argued that this whole civilization was swept in the last four decades of the eighteenth century by a single revolutionary movement, which manifested itself in different ways and with varying success in different countries, yet in all of them showed similar objectives and principles. . . . All of these agitations, upheavals, intrigues, and conspiracies were part of one great movement.” It is noteworthy that Professor Palmer a few pages later made another statement confirming the validity of the biblical prophecy. Quoting from a work of a contemporary Polish revolutionary, Kollontay, he says: “The Polish revolutionary, Kollontay, in a book written after the failure of Kosciusko’s uprising, declared that the whole period since 1750 was like an ‘earthquake,’ which had given ‘a new aspect and a new importance to democracy.’ ” (Ibid., p. 17). In Revelation 11:13 John described the events of the revolutionary times with these words: “And the same hour was there a great earthquake, and the tenth part of the city fell. . . . ”

We will revisit this text and say more about its meaning in the second part of this article. We will explore the course of the French Revolution and its deadly combat with the two witnesses in the city “which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt.” More light will be shed on the longstanding power struggle between the revolutionary movements sharing the worldview of the French Revolution and the dark force of the apostate Christianity. As this great battle unfolds before our eyes, we will indicate the current position of the dark force pendulum and the direction in which it is moving.

References
1 R.R. Palmer, D. Armitage, The Age of the Democratic Revolution, Updated Edition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014, pp. 6, 8.