Thursday, January 31, 2013

Revelation 18: The Fall of Babylon

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The Fall of Babylon (v. 1-24)

An angel comes down from heaven and declares that Babylon has become a dwelling place for various kinds of evil. Many people have ignored God and grown rich because of it and it will be destroyed. All of the plagues will hit is within a single hour and the whole city will be destroyed inside one day. A lot of people will be sad, but heaven will rejoice.

That's pretty much all that is in here, I scanned through a commentary to see if I was missing anything important, but it doesn't really look like it. There's just not much here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Revelation 17: Punishment for being Coerced

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The Great Prostitute and the Beast (v. 1-18)

One of the angels took John to see the judgement of the great prostitute. Many kings have committed sexual immorality with her. The woman was named Babylon the great and was hanging out with the beast. When John saw her he marveled, and the angel said he shouldn't marvel. The angel told John that the beast was about to rise from the bottomless pit and go on a destructive rampage.

So the whore of Babylon is hanging out with the beast, and the beast is about to go on a rampage. I wonder who will be at the mercy of this beast.

A quick note, the beast was described several times as being he who was, isn't, and will be, or some variation of that. The point is that he was killed, or mortally wounded but will be back. The was explained by Jamieson, Fausset & Brown.

v. 8 "the dwellers on earth who names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world..."

We've seen this idea before, but does this mean that we have no free will when it comes to getting into heaven? Our names are either in there, or they are not. If the names were chosen since the beginning of time there is nothing we can do to change things either way. Makes eternal torture seem all the more unfair.

The seven heads of the beast are the mountains on which the woman sits, there are seven kings, 5 that have fallen, one current, and one yet to come. The beast is an eighth, but it belongs to the seventh and goes on to destruction. The 10 horns are kings that will receive power for an hour with the beast.

I don't know what this all means, and I don't really care. It probably has to do with local politics at the time or something, I'm sure it just doesn't matter.

They will make war with the lamb and they will lose. The beast and the 10 horns will hate the prostitute, they will make her desolate and naked and then burn her up with fire. v17 "for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled."

What the fuck! Again, God is making people do bad things so that his plan can go forward and he can punish them. How can it be justice if people are being punished for doing things they were forced in to?

From Guzik:
God will sometimes use a wicked group (here, the ten kings) to be an instrument of His judgment against another wicked group (here, religious Babylon).
Of course, they were already wicked, so they would be punished anyway, so him making them work with the beast doesn't change their fate. I guess having the same punishment for every crime comes in handy sometimes.

What are today's lessons?

--Free Will & Justice--

Revelation 17:8 Whether or not we are saved was determined at the beginning of time

"And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast"

Revelation 17:17 God forced the kings to help the devil

"for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Revelation 15 & 16: Is the Apocalypse Almost Over?

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The Seven Angels with Seven Plagues (ch 15 v. 1-8)

There will now be seven angels with seven plagues, and once that is done the wrath of God will be finished.


John saw the people who had conquered the beast celebrating and singing to God. After the party was over, 7 angels were given bowls full of the wrath of God which they are supposed to pour out as seven plagues to mankind.

Let's have a party and kill people!

The Seven Bowls of God's Wrath (ch 16 v. 1-16)

The first angel poured out his bowl onto the earth, and anyone who had the mark of the beast was covered in harmful and painful sores.

So they are all like Job?

The second angel poured out his bowl into the sea, the sea became blood and everything in the sea died.

What did the fish do to anybody?

The third angel poured his bowl into the rivers and springs of water and they became blood too. Then the angel fell all over himself telling God he was good and just for doing this.

There is no way this kind of large scale devastation is just. Although I suppose the other side of the argument would be that God hand picked all of the good people out and killed those who are left. But we have the same problem as always, people are judged as good for worshiping God, not for actually being good.

The fourth angel poured his bowl on the sun and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. The people who were burned cursed the name of God, they did not repent.

The people who are being attacked by the almighty God are essentially giving him the finger here? That makes sense, if anyone was going to be swayed by these kinds of tactics you would think they have done so long ago.

From the commentary of Guzik
The failure of men to respond with repentance shows that knowledge or experience of judgment will not change man’s sinful condition. Those who are not won by grace will never be won.
I find this hilarious, because this entire book is all about winning people over by fear, not by grace.

The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast and his kingdom was plunged into darkness. The people complained but did not repent.

The sixth angel poured his bowl on the Euphrates and it dried up. Out of the mouth of the dragon came 3 false prophets who would perform signs to foreign kings to prepare for the final battle against God. They assembled at a place called Armageddon.

Again, we see the people who are fighting for the beast are being tricked! I'm sure later these people will be punished for following the beast, and yet right here we see that they have been sent a false prophet. They probably think they are on the side of good.

The Seventh Bowl (ch 16 v. 17-21)

The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice from the temple said "it is done!" There was lightning, thunder and a great earthquake. The earthquake was so great that cities were destroyed, there were even no islands or mountains to be found. Great hailstones that were 100 pounds each fell on people from heaven. they cursed God for the plague of hail, because it was so severe.

Out of all of this carnage, the hailstones were the ones people complained about. 

What are the lessons from today's reading?

Of course, the overall story here is the same as in the rest of Revelation, follow God or else this could happen to you, this entire book is about following God out of fear. But there was one verse that caught my eye apart from this, Satan sent out false prophets to gather an army. So there are people who will be tricked into fighting for Satan, and then later they will presumably be punished by God for it. I suppose I'll categorize this under justice


Revelation 16:13-14 People are tricked into following Satan

"And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Revelation 14: God Wants to Watch You Suffer

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The Lamb and the 144,000 (v. 1-5)

The Lamb was on mount Zion with the 144,000 who have the God's name on their foreheads. John heard a voice from heaven that was like thunder or rushing water. It was also like the sound of harpists playing on their harps singing a song before the throne. No one could learn the song except the 144,000. They were all virgins who "have no defiled themselves with women". They have never lied, they are pure and blameless. They have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God.

Obviously there is a ton of imagery here. The voice he heard from heaven turned into harp music, I didn't quite follow that. Is the idea that it is a heavenly language and only the 144,000 can learn it? Is it a song? I don't get it. At any rate, God has taken these virgins as 'firstfruits', I don't know what that means, but I don't care for it.

The Messages of the Three Angels (v. 6-13)

An angel flew overhead who told everyone that they should fear God and worship him because the hour of his judgement is at hand.

Ruling by fear again. It really does seem to be the point of this entire book, but this verse is explicit.

Another angel followed declaring that Babylon is fallen and that Babylon is "she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality"

This seems to just remove all personal responsibility for anything sexual. It's a variant of "the devil made me do it".

A third angel followed them saying that anyone who worships the beast and has a mark on their hand or forehead will drink God's wrath and taste his full anger. They will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and the lamb. They will be tormented night and day and have no rest.

So not only will you be tortured forever, God an his angels will watch. They are apparently sick and twisted assholes. The very idea that they want to watch you be tortured is horrifying. Furthermore, what gets you into this predicament? Wearing the mark of the beast. Why would you get the mark? Well, it was necessary for commerce, and God let the beast rule the earth for 3.5 years. What is the average person supposed to do?

From Guzik's commentary
No one will “casually” or “accidentally” take the mark. The connection between worshipping the beast and taking the mark will be clear enough.
This is bullshit. Having the mark was necessary to do any kind of commerce. And the beast was allowed for rule for 3.5 years. If I was living during this time I would have no choice but to get the mark. I live in an apartment, I can't grow my own food, I'd starve to death. Wow, the next line in the commentary:
Although, receiving the mark may seem innocent enough to those who dwell on the earth. In their eyes it may not seem like much more that a mere pledge of allegiance and devotion to the Antichrist and his government. It was the same way in the first few centuries of Christianity, when burning a pinch of incense to an image of Caesar, and pledging “Caesar is Lord” was regarded as an innocent act of civic duty to the ancient pagans.
This once again proves my point from yesterday. Is it reasonable to punish people for their actions when they don't understand what they are doing? I argue that it is absolutely not okay to do this.

The Harvest of the Earth (v. 14-20)

There are some angels on a cloud, some have sickles, the angel "who has authority over the fire" tells them to  harvest the earth as it is ripe. They do and they put the people into a great winepress from which blood flowed as high as a horses bridle for 1600 stadia (about 184 miles)

What. The. Fuck. This is not a God of love. Only a sadistic monster would set up a world where this happens. Yes, I know, I'm choosing this fate by not following your God who I don't believe in. It's all irrelevant. This is twisted.

The commentary writes a fair bit about this section, about how God's perfect wrath is being shown here and what not. quite frankly, I am very disgusted reading this chapter, and more so reading the commentary. I scanned it quickly, but I don't think there is anything to be gained by reading it carefully. I can totally understand why I was told not to read Revelation as a child. It's disgusting. Christians should be ashamed to have this in their holy book.

One more thing, if anyone out there is like me and has never seen a winepress, here is a picture of one (taken from
I gotta say, it seems pretty damn gruesome to me.

What are the lessons from today's reading?


Revelation 14:7 Worship God out of fear

"Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come"


Revelation 14:9-10 Have the mark required for commerce nets you God's wrath

"If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God's wrath"


Revelation 14:4 Girls are gross

"It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins..."

Revelation 14:8 You are not responsible for your sexual immorality

"Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality."


Revelation 14:10-11 God wants to watch you suffer

"and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever"

Revelation 14:20 God's punishment is sick and twisted

"And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse's bridle, for 1,600 stadia. (about 184 miles)"

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Should you be held accountable for actions you don't understand?

This week my reading included Revelation 13 in which the entire world worshiped the beast which represented Satan. A quote from the Christian commentary really caught my eye:
As people worship this beast and bow down before his government, it may be that they do not know they are bowing down to Satan himself; but it is worship of Satan none the less. 
It got me wondering about justice and if it is really fair to judge these people if they are unknowingly worshiping Satan. I look at the situation here and I think it is pretty clear that these people aren't really at fault. They are up against an incredibly powerful being, which they are worshiping because they feel they have little choice, and as the Christian puts it, they aren't really even aware of who they are following. And yet it would seem that they deserve punishment, as they are indeed worshiping Satan, even if they don't know it.

This is a theme that has come up in the bible at least a few times, but as far as I can think of, the best other example is Adam and Eve with the fruit in the garden of Eden. They are punished for eating the fruit, which granted them knowledge of good and evil. Of course this means when they were committing the sin, they didn't understand that it was bad, they had no knowledge of evil. So it is really unfair for them to be punished for it.

This idea permeates Christianity, I can definitely remember being afraid of accidentally sinning. "What if I break some rule I don't know about and wind up going to hell?" I'm sure I wasn't told that this could happen explicitly, but I was clearly picking up on the attitudes of those around me, as the quote above demonstrates. The message is that if you break a rule you deserve punishment, regardless of how well you understood what you were doing.

Luckily, this is not the way we handle things in court system. I remember a court case from years ago where one child killed another doing some kind of pro-wrestling style maneuver. Obviously the child didn't get tried for murder, he had no idea that his actions would lead to the death of the other kid, they were just playing around. Would it make sense for that child to spend almost his entire life in prison? I hope you would agree with me in saying no.

I think I'll end this post with wise words from Marcy Darcy "If you give a gun to a chimp and it shoots someone, you don't blame the chimp"

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Someone Smarter than Me Probably Knows This

Reading the bible is hard. It is a very old book, so much of what is written in there can be difficult to interpret. Who knows what figures of speech have been lost to time. Add to that the fact that it has to be translated into our language, and the possibility of misreading the real intent of the text becomes fairly high. When a Christian comes across a passage that seriously challenges their preconceptions, their first instinct is often that their understanding of the passage must be wrong. To determine that their understanding is indeed wrong takes a lot of work, and often they will simply assume that such work would yield answers and simply move on without giving it a second thought. This seems like a terrible thing.

But in the interest of fairness I tried to come up with an analogous situation for me to come across. The best example I can think of is in the realm of quantum mechanics. There are a lot of things in quantum mechanics that are really counter-intuitive. It is quite possible that I could read a fact about quantum mechanics which doesn't sound right to me. I would assume that I am most likely wrong and my knowledge of quantum mechanics is lacking. Chances are that I would not go to the trouble to learn enough about quantum mechanics to fix these gaps in my knowledge, I would simply assume that such a search would lead to an answer and be on my merry way. I don't really think anyone would begrudge me for this.

Am I being unreasonable to the Christian, or is there a significant difference in these 2 situations? The more I think about it, the more I think the problem here is that I haven't given enough information. One the surface, it seems that these 2 situations are the same and show that I am being unfair, but I think if we add more details to make 2 people more analogous, and the expectations of them will turn out roughly the same.

I think a key factor is how the Christian came across the confusing verse. If someone (perhaps an atheist like myself) approaches them and shows them the verse out of the blue, I think it would be reasonable for the Christian to just shrug it off and assume that an experienced theologian would have an answer. This situation feel analogous to a random person like myself coming across a confusing fact about quantum mechanics and just moving on with their life. If either person gets curious and pursues the matter further, great. But I don't think they should be expected to follow every confusing thing they come across in life, our time is limited after all.

On the other hand, if the Christian came across the verse reading the bible on their own, or perhaps during a bible study, I think it would be somewhat reasonable to expect them to reflect on the problem and try to find a real answer. If they are doing these things, they are presumably trying to better their understand of the bible and their religion. I think it would be somewhat disingenuous of them to continue on 'studying' other parts of the bible when they have already come across an interesting item and they have ignored it. This seems analogous to a physics student who comes across a difficult section in their textbook which they don't understand, and instead of going to the trouble to figure out the details, they just turn the page and keep on going with the next section. I think we can all agree that this is a description of a bad student.

The last group that I want to think about is any Christian who is trying to "spread the word". These are people who are out actively trying to get people to convert to Christianity, and honestly probably the group of people I was thinking about in my first paragraph. For them, I think it is reasonable to expect that they actually have an answer (or at least are willing to go out an seek an answer) for the troubling things that come up in the bible. It is simply not okay for this group to completely ignore difficulties with their religion and assume that other people have the answer that they don't. This would be analogous to me trying to go around and convince people that quantum mechanics is correct. If I were to take on a role as a teacher, you would definitely expect me to understand these details. Once again, we see that if we alter these two situations to make them truly comparable, there is no real difference in expectation.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Revelation 13: Blasphemy is the Worst Sin

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Since this is a continuation of last time, let's copy over the explanation of what each character is supposed to represent according to Guzik
  • The woman, representing Israel
  • The dragon, representing Satan
  • The man-child, referring to Jesus
  • The angel Michael, head of the angelic host
  • The offspring of the woman, representing Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation
  • The beast out of the sea, representing the antichrist
  • The beast out of the earth, representing the false prophet who promotes the antichrist

The First Beast (v. 1-10)

John saw a beast rising out of the sea with 7 heads, 10 horns, and a diadem on each horn, and blasphemous names on the heads.

What does it mean to have blasphemous names on it heads? Is it like in world of warcraft where everyone's names are hovering over their heads? And what kind of blasphemous names? Like naming your warrior Barabbas? Cause I totally have never done that, I swear!

Guzik says that this speaks to the beasts character. Makes sense to me.

The beast was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear's, its mouth was like a lion's. The dragon gave authority to the beast. One of the heads of the beast had a mortal wound, but then it was healed, the whole earth marveled and followed the beast. They worshiped the dragon and the beast and asked who could fight against the beast.

This I find quite interesting. The people saw the beast heal itself of a mortal wound and then started worshiping it. It really seems that rule by fear is just the way it was back then. Do these people even like the beast, or are they just terrified and worshiping it because they think it will help them from getting killed. When they ask who could fight against it, are they hoping for someone to rescue them from needing to worship this monster?

Apparently the beast described as a leopard, bear, and lion to connect it to Daniel 7. Guzik says that the wound is supposed to establish him as an antichrist, as he is using the tools of Jesus. 
As people worship this beast and bow down before his government, it may be that they do not know they are bowing down to Satan himself; but it is worship of Satan none the less. 
I love this quote, it once again shows the twisted nature of this worldview. Worshiping Satan is bad even if you don't know what you are doing. How can you hold someone accountable for something they did if they didn't understand their actions?

The beast was given a mouth and started saying haughty and blasphemous things. It was allowed to rule for 42 months. It blasphemed against God and those residing in heaven. It conquered the saints and everyone on earth worshiped it. Anyone who is still alive, let him hear "If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain."

It is interesting that so much attention is put on the blasphemy. This evil being has taken over the world, and his biggest crime seems to be that he is blaspheming. It's mentions blasphemy 3 times. It also mentions that some people are killed, but in a matter of fact way, and in such a way that it sounds like it is all according to plan. It doesn't even come off as the beast is doing this and he is bad, it read more like there are some people who need to be killed and he's doing what he is supposed to do.

Apparently some would say a more apt title than "antichrist" would be "blasphemer". Once again, this simply cracks me up. If his worst crime is saying bad things about someone (especially someone strong enough to take care of himself), then I am not terribly bothered by it. Also, a quote about the 42 months
The beast continues without restraint by God for a period of forty-two months - the familiar three and one-half years. The duration of the period shows that the beast has full reign for the first half of the final seven years, and that during the whole time he is still under God’s authority.
Again, we see acknowledgement that even the 'evil' characters in this story are performing according to God's plan. So anything that they do which is evil is ultimately the responsibility of God.

Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.

How much faith can they have if they are worshiping the beast? From verse 8 "all who dwell on earth will worship it"

The Second Beast (v. 11-18)

A second beast rose out of the earth, it had horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon. It makes the inhabitants worship the first beast whose mortal wound was healed. It performs great signs including making fire come down from heaven.

That this guy is a prophet for the beast does make sense. He does similar things that the prophets for Jesus did, but he's working for the other side. What is the deal with the mortal wound? It has now been mentioned twice, so it is clearly important.

He tricked people into making an image of the beast, then breathed life into the image so it could kill people who don't worship it.

Breathing life into the idols is pretty cool, having the idols kill people though, not so great.

He marks everyone's right hand or forehead with the number of the beast, no one can buy or sell unless they have this mark. The number is 666 (footnote: 616 in some manuscripts)

When it says everyone, it clearly doesn't mean everyone as those who don't have the mark can't buy or sell. It is frustrating to me that we can't trust the words that are in here.

I just love numerology
“That as 12, the square root of 144, is God’s number, so 25 is the square root of antichrist’s number 666; and by this enigmatical expression we are taught that antichrist should be a political body, that should as much affect the number 15, as God seemeth to have his church affected the number 12.” (Poole)
What are the lessons from today's reading?

Revelation 13:5-6 Blasphemy is apparently the beasts biggest sin

"And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven."

Revelation 13:10 Even the beast is following God's plan

"If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain..."

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Revelation 12: More Crazy Stories

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The Woman and the Dragon (v. 1-6)

A great sign appeared in heaven.

Is this significant? What follows is some crazy stuff that happens up in the sky. Is the fact that it starts off by saying it is a "great sign" an indication that the claim is not that these things happen up in the sky, but rather that it is some kind of cosmic light show? Is this the equivalent of God saying "this is just a special effect"?

Again, we will get help from Guzik to understand this stuff. Apparently there will be 7 signs,
  • The woman, representing Israel
  • The dragon, representing Satan
  • The man-child, referring to Jesus
  • The angel Michael, head of the angelic host
  • The offspring of the woman, representing Gentiles who come to faith in the Tribulation
  • The beast out of the sea, representing the antichrist
  • The beast out of the earth, representing the false prophet who promotes the antichrist
So that is helpful. And remember, I read the passage myself first and write down my thoughts, then I dig through the Christian commentary and insert the blue bits afterwards :)

A pregnant woman appeared in the sky, clothed with the sun, feet on the moon, a crown of 12 stars on her head. She was in the process of giving birth. Another sign appeared in the sky, a great red dragon with 7 heads, 7 diadems (crowns essentially) and 10 horns. The tail of the dragon knocked down a third of the stars in the sky. The dragon positioned himself so that when the woman gave birth he could eat it. She gave birth to a male child who would rule all nations with an iron rod, but the child was caught up to God, the woman fled into the wilderness where she would be nourished for 1260 days.

So...drugs? As to what all of this means? I have no idea.
“From the similar description given in 13:1 and the parallel references in Daniel 7:7-8; 7:2, it is clear that the revived Roman Empire is in view . . . The seven heads and ten horns refer to the original ten kingdoms of which three were subdued by the little horn of Daniel 7:8, who is to be identified with the world ruler of the great tribulation who reigns over the revived Roman Empire.” (Walvoord)
Apparently some people think the dragon knocking out a third of the stars means that a third of the angels were on Satan's side. Some people think the dragon trying to kill the child was fulfilled by Herod trying to kill Jesus. The wilderness establishes that the woman is not Mary, but instead Israel. Apparently the 1260 days connects it to some prophecy from Daniel.

Satan Thrown Down to Earth (v. 7-17)

There was a war in heaven, michael and his angels against the dragon and his angels. Team dragon lost and was cast down to earth.

A lot of fiction says this war happened way in the past and Satan was cast down to hell. Apparently in the bible it happens at the end times. Strange.

The dragon is called Satan and the devil, the ancient serpent, and the deceiver of the whole world.

So is this the serpent from Genesis?

A voice from heaven says that the salvation of the kingdom of God has come as the accuser has been thrown down, he had accused them day and night before God. They have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and they were willing to sacrifice their lives to get it done. Those in heaven should rejoice, however woe to those on earth as the devil will cause great wrath as his time is short.

Wait, so there was a battle in heaven and some angels gave their lives? What is the deal with the accuser? I just find this whole thing confusing.

When the dragon realized he was on earth, he pursued the woman. She was given wings of an eagle so she could get away to a place where she could be nourished for "a time, and times, and half a time". Then the serpent created a river to capture her in the flood, but the earth helped the woman by swallowing up the river. This angered the dragon so it went to war with the rest of her offspring, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.

I just...I don't...what?! Is she supposed to be Eve, or maybe Mary? Why is this crap in the bible?

I'm gonna be honest. The Christian commentary got a fair bit preachy in there and I basically just skimmed it. I didn't see anything terribly interesting in it. I think the bulleted list up above which says what each element of the story is supposed to represent is probably good enough here.

What are the lessons from today's reading?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Revelation 11: God Rules Through Fear and Violence

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The Two Witnesses (v. 1-14)

John was given a measuring rod like a staff and instructed to measure the temple of God and the alter and the people who worship there. However, he was told not to measure the court outside, as it will be taken over by the nations as they trample the holy city for 42 months.

So John is supposed to measure the temple and alter with a staff? And he's supposed to use it to measure the people who worship there as well? And as to the holy city being trampled, I keep coming back to the question of why, why would God's plan include his holy city being trampled?

Once again, I'm using Guzik as a source of Christian commentary. Apparently in Ezekiel 40-43 there is an extended passage where the temple is measured, this denotes ownership, protection and preservation. The measurement in Ezekiel included the outer courts, so I guess that is why the difference here is mentioned. The outer courts are being abandoned by God I guess.

"When this temple is measured, it shows that God knows its every dimension, and He is in charge."
I thought God was supposed to be omniscient.
God is in charge. This is one of the glorious, mighty themes of the Book of Revelation. Revelation 11:17 again uses the title Almighty for God. The Greek word for Almighty is pantokrater, and it describes “the one who has his hand on everything.” Nine out of the ten times this word is used in the New Testament, it is used in Revelation. This temple will be the scene of great horror and great glory, but God is in charge of it all!
We see this again and again, Guzik points out why I am disgusted by the book, but then seems to see it in some kind of positive light. It's very puzzling to me. The temple will be a scene of great horror and God is in charge of it. Right, that's why I think he's a monster!

God will give authority to 2 witnesses to phophesy for 1260 days. They will be dressed in sackcloth.

This isn't a big deal, but this is nearly 3.5 years. Why the random bit of precision? Just struck me as odd.

These are the 2 olive trees and 2 lampstands that stand before the lord of the earth.

Apparently this is referring to some other prophecy? Otherwise it makes no sense.

I was right, apparently this was mentioned in Zechariah.

If anyone harms them, fire pours out of their mouths and consumes their foes. They can keep it from raining while they are prophesying, they can turn water to blood, the can cause every kind of plague.

Interesting list of powers. What does it say about God that these are the powers he gives his spokesmen?

When they are finished, the beast will rise from the bottomless pit and kill them. Their bodies will lie in the street for 3.5 days. Those who are still on earth will rejoice and exchange presents over them, as they were a torment to those left on earth, but then God will raise them from the dead and freak everyone out. They will then ascend to heaven and there will be an earthquake which causes a tenth of the city to fall and kill 7000 people. The remaining people give glory to God.

I feel like a broken record, but this is the God of the bible, he wanted the people to worship him, and had no qualms about killing 7000 of them and freaking the rest of them out to the point that they would "give him glory" to make him stop. This is simply not a god of love.

The Seventh Trumpet (v. 15-19)

The seventh angel blew his trumpet and loud voices from heaven said that now the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, he shall reign forever and ever.

Well this is interesting. Very early on in the blog (which I can't seem to find now), someone posted in the comments that the kingdom of God could just refer to the Christians who are in power. It's a kingdom on the earth which is controlled by God's followers. This seems to go against that interpretation as it says the kingdom of the Lord starts during the apocalypse.

The 24 elders praised God and chanted, then God's temple in heaven was opened and the ark of the covenant was seen in the temple and lightning thunder, and earthquake, and heavy hail were unleashed.

What are the lessons from today's reading?

Revelation 11:13 God rules through fear and violence

"And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Revelation 10: An Intermission at the Apocalypse

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The Angel and the Little Scroll (v. 1-11)

Then John saw another angel come down from heaven on a cloud with a rainbow over his head. His face was like the sun, and his legs were like pillars of fire. He was holding a little scroll in his right hand, his right foot was on the sea and his left foot on land, his voice was like a roaring lion. When he called out the seven thunders sounded.

I have no idea which details here are important or what any of it means. The seven thunders jumped out to me, but as with the rest of this, I have no idea what to make of it.

Again, Guzik. Some people say that this angel is supposed to be Jesus, others think it is angel of the lord Michael. The little scroll represents authority of some kind. The place where he put is feet represents his authority over all of the earth. The seven thunders are apparently the voice of the lord, from Psalm 29.

When John heard the seven thunders, he was going to write down what they said, but a voice from heaven told him not to. Then the angel raised his right hand to heaven and swore to God that there would be not more delay, but that the seventh trumpet would be sounded as announced.

So this angel is promising God that there would be no delay, does that mean he is interrupting the process to do what he's doing?

Apparently the delay is an act of mercy as it allows more time for repentance. I wonder if this is something that Guzik just made up, or if something comes up later mentioning this. Because I would think that it is too late to get the seal from God at this point.

There is apparently much discussion about the fact that John was told not to write down what God said. What was he instructed not to tell us, some think it is a message that some stuff will not be revealed until then.

John was told to get the scroll from the angel, and when he did the angel told him to eat it, it will be sweet in his mouth but bitter in his stomach. He was then told he was to prophecy to many people.


The scroll represents the word of God. The fact that he is told to eat it but not forced is important because no one can have the word forced upon them, they must take it willingly. I would argue that in this situation he really had no choice. The analogy of a gunman asking you for your wallet and then saying it was your choice seems apt to me here. John was really not in a position to say no. Also, what is the relevance of the word of God being bitter in your stomach?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Revelation 9: God Loves Torture

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The Seven Trumpets [cont] (v. 1-21)

The fifth angel blew his trumpet which made a star fall to earth, which was a key to the shaft of the bottomless pit. The angel opened the pit, and smoke rose like that from a great furnace which darkened the air and blocked out the sun. Then locusts with the power of scorpions came out of the smoke. They were told not to harm grass, trees, or other plants, but only people without the seal of God. They were allowed to torment those people for 5 months but not kill them, those people will seek death but will not find it.

So now God has gone beyond killing people and he is torturing them. Why would he spend 5 months making them wish they were dead and not allowing them to die? I suppose this doesn't sound like such a bad thing to people who have rationalized the idea that their good god tortures people for all eternity, but to me this is something that could only be done by a complete monster.

Again, Guzik. The star that fell from heaven was probably an angel, perhaps Satan himself. About the locust "Their purpose and period is expressly governed by God, and the purpose of all this to bring repentance " I'm disgusted here.

A minor point as well, the locusts were told not to harm the grass, but all of the grass burned up last chapter.

The locusts looked like horses preparing for battle, they what looked like crowns of gold on their heads, they had human faces with women's hair, lions teeth, they had breastplates of iron and their wings made the noise of chariots rushing into battle. Their tails had the stings of scorpions.

Why even call them locusts?

"Why would God call them locusts if they are not literal locusts, but demonic spirits who swarm and destroy like locusts? Among other reasons, because locusts are agents of God’s judgment. This is a consistent Old Testament figure in passages like Exodus 10:4-14; Deuteronomy 28:38; 1 Kings 8:37; 2 Chronicles 7:13; Joel 1:4, and Amos 4:9."

The answer to the angel who is king of the bottomless pit, whose name is Abaddon in Hebrew and Apollyon in Greek.

This supposed to be hell right?

The sixth angel blew his trumpet and the "four angels who had been prepared for the hour" were released

Presumably this is the 4 horsemen

They had 200,000,000 troops with which they used to kill a third of mankind. They wore breastplates the color of fire, sapphire and sulfur, the heads of the horses were like lion's heads with fire, smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. The tails of the horses were like serpents.

I'm starting to think that John was high even if he had intended this to not be taken literally.

The remaining people did not repent of their works, they did not give up worshiping demons or idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood. They did not repent of their murders, sorceries, sexual immorality, or their thefts.

I guess the message here is that even under these extremes, non-Christians will still not give up their sinful ways or something. Basically this is just more demonizing of outsiders. 

Pretty much what I expected 
In general, mankind shows no repentance, despite the presence of some pretty overwhelming “signs and wonders.”
 I'm not really sure how I would react to seeing this kind of thing. I would never worship a God this terrible, but I would sure as hell pretend to if I thought it would save me.
It is amazing to see how quickly things return to “normal” after some calamity such as an earthquake. We are so quick to forget God’s lessons, even the lessons that come in judgment.
It's amazing to me that he would even compare the events described in Revelation to an earthquake. Natural phenomenon compared to demons set loose to kill a huge portion of the people on the planet.

What did we learn today?

Revelation 9:5-6 God loves Torture

"They were allowed to torment them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torment was like the torment of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death and will not find it. They will long to die, but death will flee from them."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Is the Universe Fine Tuned for life?

Yesterday I talked about the idea that the Earth is fine tuned for human life, today I wanted to discuss the idea that the universe itself is fine tuned. The idea of course being that things have been fine tuned for us, and therefore it must be the work of a creator God of some fashion. As I argued yesterday, the sheer number of stars and planets out there pretty much destroys this idea when it comes to the earth being fine tuned, every planet is a potential place where life could form, and with so many in the sky it is inevitable that everything will work out somewhere. Things are not so easy when it comes to the fine tuning of the universe.

The argument goes that there are a handful of fundamental constants of the universe that are just perfect for the universe to unfold in such a way that life could exist. Via a quick google search, I landed on the following page which says the constants are:

  • Ratio of Electrons to Protons
  • Ratio of Electromagnetic Force to Gravity
  • Expansion Rate of Universe
  • Mass Density of Universe
  • Cosmological Constant
If any of these constants were every so slightly different from what they are, life would be impossible and therefore the odds of this happening randomly are incomprehensibly low. Therefore, there must be an intelligent God out there pulling the strings so that everything will come out just right. Obviously, I think that apologists jump to the God conclusion too quickly, they claim that God is the only possible answer to this puzzle, I think there are several other reasonable possibilities.

1. All of this is built on the assumption that there is only 1 universe, it is certainly possible that we are part of a larger multiverse, and each universe within the multiverse has a different set of universal constants. Alternatively, it is possible that our universe will eventually collapse into a singularity and there will be a new big bang, creating a new universe with new universal constants. In this case, we are merely one link in a chain of universes, and perhaps many of those links do not indeed have life. In this possibility, the argument becomes pretty much a carbon copy of what I said yesterday. We exist in the universe where we are possible and observe it and say that it is amazing, when really there are many other potentially empty universes that we just can't see. Ancient people didn't know there were other planets, maybe we are in an analogous position today.

2. Fine tuning argues that we are lucky these constants are exactly what they are, but this assumes that it would be possible for them to be any different. Maybe due to things that we don't understand these constants just have to be exactly what they are. Let me try to explain this idea with an analogy, suppose we are looking from above at a piece of glass with a marble on it, and we are considering the odds of that marble sitting exactly where it is sitting. If we want to do a calculation, we could simply figure out how far we will allow the marble to move before we consider that in a different place, compare that to the area of the glass, do a quick division and then give the percentage chance of the marble being in this exact place. What is the hidden assumption here? That the marble is sitting on a flat pane of glass. Suppose instead that glass is in the shape of a bowl, and there is a unique spot in the center that is the lower than all the others. In this case, there is no chance that the marble is sitting anywhere else on the glass, no matter where we set the marble, it will roll to the middle. (since we viewed it from above, we could not tell that the glass was curved) Perhaps the universal constants are the similar, we might ask why the ratio of protons to electrons isn't different, the correct answer might be that due to the way protons and electrons are created, this is simply impossible. We didn't get lucky that the marble was in the exact center of the glass, if it was placed anywhere else it would always roll to that spot.

3. Perhaps apologists are incorrect that a slight change in the universal constants would prevent life from forming. Indeed, Victor Stenger has done computer simulations and has concluded that if these constants are out of the range that apologists claim are required for life to be possible, we still wind up with a universe where life can exist.

The real point here is that the fine tuning argument is supposed to be an argument which proves that God exists. It absolutely fails this task. It relies on several assumptions that it never proves. It's points to a bunch of constants that seem pretty remarkable and then asserts that the only way these constants could be this way is if God set them up. The reality is that we simply don't know why those constants are what they are, but our lack of knowledge does not point to God. As with many apologetics, the fine tuning argument boils down to an argument from ignorance. I, for one, am not impressed.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Is the Earth Fine Tuned for Life?

I was in a discussion with someone on twitter recently and the topic of fine-tuning came up. He argued that both the earth and the universe were fine-tuned for humans. I want to discuss the earth first because it is an easier argument, so it seems natural to start there.

There are many things about the earth that are just right for humanity to survive here. We are the right distance from the sun, there is the right amount of water on the planet, there's even jupiter in the solar system which seems to help reduce the number of asteroid impacts that we have to deal with. I'm sure there are many other things about our planet that are set up just perfect for life. This is interesting and cool, but does it point to God?

Let's suppose that we have this laundry list of conditions that have to be just right for life to exist on our planet. Let's also suppose that the odds of any given star randomly ending up with all of these conditions is about 1 in a billion (I have no idea how we could determine odds like this, but the real point is just that it is incredibly unlikely). If there are also a billion stars out there, maybe the fact that this 1 in a billion coincidence happened somewhere isn't quite so amazing anymore.

So how many stars are really out there? According to wikipedia, our galaxy has somewhere between 200-400 billion stars. But that is just one galaxy out of many, if you go to, you can see many pictures like the one below which shows a huge number of galaxies, each with a huge number of stars within.

If each star represents a chance for intelligent life to evolve, the fact that it happened somewhere is actually not terribly remarkable. And wherever it happens is the only place where those intelligent beings are going to be able to look at their surroundings and say "wow, it's amazing that all of these unlikely things have happened here that allow us to exist!" But if they only consider their own solar system, if they don't consider the trillions of other stars that (as far as they know) don't have intelligent life, then they are really cherry picking the data.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Revelation 8: All Heaven Breaks Loose

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The Seventh Seal and the Golden Censer (v. 1-5)

The lamb broke the 7th seal and there was silence in heaven for a half hour.

Seems like this half hour of silence has some significance, but I can only guess at what it I will. Maybe it is that everyone stops everything to watch to see what will happen, like a moment where everyone is fixated on a single thing and the room is silent, except this is such a huge event that moment drags out...for a half hour. Another guess, it is like a moment of silence when someone dies, except it is the whole world, so it stretches out way longer than normal.

I did pretty good on this one, Guzik seems to agree with my guesses. (And again, I'll use him as a source for the Christian commentary today unless otherwise stated)

Then seven angels are given trumpets, and another angel is given a censer. They burn a bunch of incense on a golden altar in front of the throne, and put fire in the censer and throw it down at the earth. It causes thunder, lightning and earthquakes.

It's on!

The Seven Trumpets (v. 6-13)

The first angel blows his trumpet, hail and fire were mixed with blood and thrown upon the earth. A third of the earth and a third of the trees were burned up. All grass was burned up.


The second angel blows his trumpet and something like a great mountain on fire fell into the sea. A third of the sea became blood, a third of the sea creatures died, and a third of the ships were destroyed.

I find the phrase "something like a great mountain" very interesting. It would seem to indicate that John is describing something that he can best identify as a mountain, but he knows is not actually a mountain. It seems to me to indicate to me that he is trying to be as accurate as possible, so if you ever want to argue that when he says X it was really Y, you have to be arguing that he was wrong, and thought it was really X. For example, when he says that a star fell from the sky, you can safely argue that he thought it was a star but it was really an asteroid. When he says he saw a creature with six wings, I would argue he's telling us what he thinks he saw.

The third angel blows his trumpet and a great star (named wormwood) fell from heaven blazing like a torch. It fell on a third of the rivers and on the springs of water. A third of the water became wormwood and people died from the water because it was bitter.

Isn't wormwood what absinthe is made of? That stuff makes you hallucinate. Maybe that explains this whole thing.

The fourth angel blows his trumpet and a third of the sun, moon, and stars were struck so that a third of their light would be darkened. So a third of the day and a third of the night would be kept from shining.

How the hell do you darken a third of the sun?

Then John looked overhead and saw an eagle crying woe to people on the earth.

Wait, so eagles can talk? Also, they can fly above heaven?

What did we learn today?

I usually use this space to isolate verses which I will put in the overview, but today I pretty much just want to reference the entire reading. God is a violent monster. He's raining destruction down on people on such a massive scale it is hard to imagine. How anyone can call him a loving God is beyond me. I suppose if people can spin noah's flood to be a good thing they will be able to do the same here, but I just don't see it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Revelation 7: Heaven is Serving God Night and Day

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The 144,000 of Israel Sealed (v. 1-8)

Then John saw 4 angels standing on the corners of the earth, holding back the wind so that not wind would blow anywhere on the earth.

I thought I was reading a science textbook for a second there. Clearly the bible should be used as a primary source in science class in high school.

Again, today I will be relying on Guzik's commentary. He says that the 4 corners of the earth means the 4 points of the compass. I don't really know what that means, is it just north, south, east, and west? That doesn't really describe points on the earth. I suppose north and south could be the poles, but for east and west we really don't have something like that. At any rate, this clearly seems like they are trying to cover up the ignorance of the writers of the bible to me.

The winds are supposed to be the destructive force of God's judgement. Potentially the 4 horsemen he just unleashed. So basically, according to this interpretation, God unleashed the 4 horsemen, and then sent some other angels to hold them back until it was time for the to begin their reign of destruction. Why wouldn't God just wait to unleash them until the time is right?

Then John saw another angel with the seal of the living God who called to "the four angels who had been given power to harm the earth and sea" (presumably the 4 horsemen we met last chapter). He told them not to harm anything until "we have sealed the servants of our God on their forehead". 144,000, 12,000 from each tribe.

So the 4 horsemen have been told to wait until they mark 12,000 from each tribe, presumably so that they will avoid the coming destruction. Doesn't this mean that at most, there can only be 144,000 Christians at the time of the apocalypse. Further, last chapter didn't God say he is waiting until "their brothers should be complete"? That sounds to me like it means we are waiting until the numbers grow to 144,000. If I'm interpreting this correctly, that means there can never be more than 144,000 true Christians, otherwise the apocalypse would have already started.

Guzik tries to get around this by saying that it is mysterious what these 144,000 people are being marked for, but it is some kind of protection, but that protection isn't limited to these people. The holy spirit is also a seal of protection or something. Clearly seems like a later justification.

One other detail I picked out is that apparently Jehovah's witnesses claimed that their entire group would be the 144,000. This of course fell apart once their numbers exceeded 144,000 people.

A Great Multitude from Every Nation (v. 9-17)

John then looked around and saw a multitude of people from every nation wearing white robes crying out that salvation belongs to God. An angel then said that these are the people coming out of the great tribulation, they have washed their robes in the blood of the lamb.

So these people are clearly Christians. I bet this is the passage the people use to say that the apocalypse can't happen until Christianity is spread to every nation.

The multitude is protected by God's presence, and they will never be hungry or thirsty again. They are before the throne of God and they serve him day and night.

Is it just me, or does this seem like a really crappy afterlife? And why would an omnipotent God need to be served by a bunch of followers?

"Heaven is not only a place of rest from earthly toil but also a place of privileged service"

Yeah, I'll pass

What did we learn today?


Revelation 7:15 Heaven is serving God day and night

"Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple"


Revelation 7:1 The Earth has 4 corners, where wind originates from

"After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Revelation 6: God is a Violent Monster

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The Seven Seals (v. 1-17)

Today we are reading about the 7 seals upon the scroll from last chapter. Jesus will break the first 6 (presumably he will break the 7th in a future chapter), and each one releases something.

When he broke the first seal, a rider with a bow on a white horse emerged. He was given a crown. He came out conquering and to conquer.

The more I read Revelation, the more I think that they are using the word conquer differently than we use it today. What the hell could it mean that he "came out conquering"? He is surrounded by angels, elders, cherubim, and he is standing next to God and Jesus. What exactly is he conquering right now? Actually, since I'm thinking about it, why not look at some alternate translations! NIV says "he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest", BBE says "he went out with power to overcome", there are a few others along those lines. This makes a lot more sense to me.

Again, I will use Guzik as my main source for the Christian commentary today. Apparently there is much debate about this first rider. Some think he is Jesus, others think he is the anti-Christ. That is quite a range. From the perspective of him being the anti-Christ, we have the following quote:
This final satanic dictator over men will be the more terrible than all previous dictators were. He will rule over men as a false Messiah, and lead man in organized rebellion against God, in the pattern of Nimrod, his first predecessor. He is the one often called the antichrist.
I guess this is as good a time as any to ask a question about the very idea of the apocalypse. Why do we need it at all? How could a loving God unleash such things on the world? I suppose it's not terribly different from Noah's flood in this respect.

The second seal released a rider on a red horse. He was given a great sword and was permitted to take peace from the earth so that people would take one another.

I guess this is War. It makes me wonder what it means to remove peace from the earth. Presumably there are people on the earth who want to fight each other, but aren't for some reason. Is War (with God's blessing) simply removing those reasons? Somehow screwing up some uneasy peace treaty that the people had set up. Or is he simply manipulating their brains to make them go and fight despite their previous reasons for making peace? In either case, God seems to be a violent monster, in the worst case he is also messing with free will.

I love the way they deal with this problem
Peace between men and nations is a gift from God. It is not the natural state of relations between men.
So God isn't manipulating people to cause war, he is removing the peace that he had given them. Again, we see the twisted worldview that religion brings to us.

The third seal released a rider on a black horse with scales in his hand. He said "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!"

What? The scales suggest Justice, or Injustice perhaps? Is wheat not supposed to be three times as valuable as barley? I don't understand the oil and wine thing.

Apparently the scales indicate a need to carefully measure food, these prices are about 12 times what they should be, they indicate scarcity and famine. The oil and wine indicate that nice things are still available to those who can afford it, I don't really get the point of this.

The forth seal had death riding a pale horse, and Hades followed him. They were given authority over a fourth of the earth to kill via sword, famine, pestilence, and by wild beasts.

The 4 horsemen have free rein on a forth of the earth? Brutal.

Power is given to the horseman, and given by God. Though all hell is breaking loose on the earth, God is very much in control. He still holds the scroll and opens the seals.
Umm...yeah, that is the problem I have with all of this.

The fifth seal contained those who had been slain for the word of God. They cried out asking God when he would avenge them who killed them and still dwell on the earth. They were given a white robe and told to wait a little longer until there were more of their brothers on earth, who would also be killed in the battle.

Wait, did I read that right? God is waiting to increase the number of his followers a little more, and once there are enough they will all die in the battle?

Breaking the 6th seal caused and earthquake, the sun became dark, the moon became like blood, the stars fell out of the sky, the sky vanished, and the mountains and islands were removed from their places. Everyone on earth from kings to slaves went and hid from God in caves.

This whole thing makes sense from the perspective of earth basically being a snowglobe with the various celestial bodies on the dome. Given what we know of cosmology, it makes no sense whatsoever. 
It is best to regard these pictures as real, but poetic. John isn’t using technically precise scientific language, but he simply describes what he saw.
The events described here are clearly ridiculous, and yet Guzik still wants to consider it true, so he say it is real, but just that John is describing things as he understands them. Some of it I suppose you can find a legitimate explanation for, comets producing "falling stars", a sudden storm blocking out the sun, but what about the mountains and islands being removed? Oh, it's poetic, great non-answer.

What did we learn today?


Revelation 6:4,8 God is a violent monster

"...Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another...they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth."

--Free Will--

Revelation 6:4 God messes with free will

"...Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another..."
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