Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Finally, the New Testament is done, read in full.  This is not much of an accomplishment compared to the Old Testament mind you, but it still feels good to have that part of the project complete.

The last section of the New Testament, Revelation, is a combination of hilarious and intriguing.  It is the story of a vision/prophecy/revelation given to John that describes the way the world will end.  Unlike the rest of the New Testament it feels very much like an oldschool mythology lesson with incredible monsters and worldshaking events showing up on every page.  The first thing that happens is John sees seven golden lampstands surrounding some sort of being with eyes of fire, feet of burnished bronze and hair and skin of pure white.

"In his right hand he held seven stars and from his mouth came a sharp, two-edged sword and his face was like the sun shining with full force."

This monstrous thing then proceeds to narrate a series of letters John is to write to a variety of churches;  I would expect this to be tricky given the sword coming out of his mouth.  These letters contain specific information about the churches and individuals involved with them.  Why exactly an incredible man or beast like this would need John to send letters instead of just sending the information directly is unclear.

Then John is taken up to heaven to see how the world will end and his tale goes truly out of this world.  He meets a lamb with seven eyes and seven horns, the council of 24 elders that sit around God's throne constantly chanting God's praises and the host of angels heaven sends to crush its enemies.  He watches angels smash the earth, turn rivers and oceans to blood and burn the fields.  He is informed that specifically 144,000 people divided equally among the 12 tribes of Israel will be saved from the end of the world and that every other person will be destroyed.  When the carnage is complete God resurrects a few specific people and then throws the devil in a pit to be chained for 1000 years.

Of course, after the 1000 years the devil gets back out again.  When he does so he battles with Jesus and the angels and is destroyed and cast into the pit of flames, whereafter God resurrects the rest of the 144,000 people who have been patiently waiting, dead, for this 1000 years.

Regularly it is emphasized that this is all coming very soon.  Not only does John wish the second coming of Jesus to arrive as soon as possible, he assures us that in fact it is not far off.  This makes a lot of sense when you consider that in the earlier parts of the New Testament Jesus guarantees that he will return within one generation of his death such that not all his Disciples have perished.

I find all this hilarious because people take it seriously.  They profess to think that John really knew that the third angel specifically would destroy 1/3 of the sun, 1/3 of the moon and 1/3 of the stars.  In fact there are some fairly powerful people in the US government (there may be some elsewhere too, but I don't know of them) that recently suggested that there was no reason for the government to worry about how things would be a generation from now because the second coming of Jesus was obviously going to happen very shortly.  It was supposed to happen with a lifetime, it has been imminent for 20 centuries now according to believers, and yet somehow the world endures.

The idea that someone believes in a greater force in the universe that positively affects people's lives isn't outrageous.  It is mistaken, but it is easy to understand how that sort of thinking comes about.  The idea that someone really really believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible including the bonkers parts like Revelation is something I can hardly fathom.

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