There’s a lot of talk these days in Christian circles about a coming apocalyptic “seven year tribulation”…and, of course, “the rapture.” Most of this teaching comes from what I believe is colossal misunderstanding and misapplication of Scriptures, developing over the course of 1700 years of mistranslations and false propaganda by Church leaders. In other words, I think it’s total crappola and that the fruit of this is a lot of unnecessary fear for millions of people worldwide (and a source of laughable entertainment for a lot of others). For one example, the rapture was never a teaching or belief in the Church until the 1800s, but now it’s considered orthodox theology that any “good Christian” should not question.
Another example is the entire book of Revelation. Revelation is a book written at the “mystical” (symbolic) level of Hebrew understanding, which means that it should not be taken literally. None of it. I might add that people disagree over whether Revelation has already been fulfilled or is yet to be fulfilled. I say BOTH. That is the Jewish view on Scriptures—multiple layers and cycles of fulfillment. It is quite obvious looking at the state of affairs in this world that we have a ways to go before “It is finished.”
When it comes to what to take literally in Revelation, most Christians pick and choose—they take everything literal that supports the apocalyptic tribulation teaching but run into trouble trying to literalize all of the crazier pictures (i.e. woman riding the beast, people standing on a sea of glass mixed with fire, dragons and beasts with seven heads). Bearing that in mind, let’s consider an excerpt from Revelation 16:17-20:
Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” …and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.
When in doubt, use reason. Do you really think it’s possible for an earthquake to make the cities of the nations fall, and to make every island and every mountain disappear? Me either! What I fully suspect is that this is not a real earthquake, but represents something else. But what?
I’m going to keep this simple. If you want to know how I put all this together, which was not out of a rabbit’s hat, you might have to do some of your own homework. A great place to start is to follow words throughout the Bible to see if they are defined at a spiritual level somewhere. Google can be a great help too! I have found some really helpful websites on Biblical symbolism, and I even have put together some of my own.
Let’s look at some of the word meanings of this passage. First of all, the “earth” throughout Scriptures represents the “called out” in Bible code. The called out are those who have been, like Israel was called out of Egypt, called out of unbelief (by no smarts or power of their own) during this lifetime and given faith in God. The “seas” represent the uncalled out who are not given faith in this lifetime. “Called out” might include all the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), or it might include all religious people; I don’t know exactly who God categorizes as His called out. For this blog, we’ll focus on Christianity as at least part of the called out.
The meaning of earthquake in Bible symbolism is a revolution or a changing of current established (think: corrupt) order. There is no doubt in my mind that there are corrupt elements of Christianity that need to be changed before the Kingdom of God can come to earth. Just study the history of the Church (add in today’s Church) and you’ll find it rife with inequitable treatment of others, gross materialism, and all kinds of corruption. Need an example? While cappuccino-sipping Christians in multimillion dollar mega-churches are clapping their hands to fancy worship bands complete with fog machines projecting from jumbotrons all over the U.S. on a given Sunday morning, hundreds of millions of orphans and widows are in the process of starving and/or dying of treatable illnesses. My point is not that it’s BAD to sip cappuccinos while clapping to fancy bands, but it is bad if 30%-70% of your church’s tithing income goes for all these fancy fixings but only 2% or less goes to help those in need. Not to mention, the latest statistics show that only about 5% of churchgoing people actually tithe. Now, I’m not a big fan of the modern application of tithing anyhow, so I hope that these 95% of folks are doing their part somewhere else.
Or how about this? Rather than embracing and affirming homosexuals as infinitely valued children of God, many self-righteous, hypocritical Christians—loveless and full of all kinds of addictions—are participating in the tormenting, bullying, or blatantly rejecting of many of these dejected people to the point of utter depression and even suicide. Just a couple of examples of hundreds. Is it any wonder why 1 Peter 4:17 says that judgment must begin with the house of God first?
The “city” referred to is “Babylon.” This is not literal Babylon; throughout Scriptures, Babylon is a symbolic reference that began with the Tower of Babel. I am not positive what Babylon stands for (there is SO MUCH online about it), but it is an old system of corruption an/or idolatry that must be overthrown in order for God to bring peace and harmony back to earth. You can get a great idea of some of the things Babylon stands for just by reading Revelation, but whatever it is specifically, Babylon must be overthrown!
Lastly, mountains in Scriptures symbolize kingdoms, and islands are said to represent governments. Whether these are religious kingdoms and their ruling bodies or secular ones, I do not know—maybe both.
So then, I think that this earthquake is going to be the leveling of all corrupt systems, but not a literal earthquake. And perhaps this shaking up and leveling will start with the called out, who will in turn become the instruments of peace they were meant to be—restoring justice, peace, and love in the newly established Kingdom coming to the earth AND the seas in the next age. There is no real sense of fear about this except in the way it is going to rip out the rug from under those who have become too comfortable and too complacent about their privileged lives. Perhaps that includes me.