Jehovah’s Witnesses Got It Right. The Great Multitude. All Pain Will Cease. The Seventh Seal.
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Revelation 7:17b (NIV)
I went through a phase around 8th grade where I obsessed over allegorical books. The vampire and zombie fads had not come to fruition, and the collective fanaticism over Pokemon had just subsided. Most guys my age moved on to sports, girls, and reality television. I turned to books. But not just any books. Allegories. Stories that appeared to be about one topic on the surface but turned out to have real life parallels to history. The best and most read example for 8th graders? Animal Farm. A bunch of animals stage an indigenous revolution to oust the humans from a farm, and the newly formed structure involves much of the same servitude as before, just with pigs in charge now. And the allegory? The Russian Revolution in the 1910s. And George Orwell made that metaphor clear without even one mention of the word “proletariat.” Go back and read the book if you haven’t. Don’t watch the movie. The movie is just awful. The book is fantastic.
There is a reason that middle school teachers across the country assign this book as required reading; it clearly demonstrates the ideas of metaphor and allegory to young audiences. And it is also entertaining. Pigs walking around on hind legs running a farm? Hilarious. Maybe just to me.
So are passages of the Bible clearly metaphorical, or are we meant to take every single word literally? Does the story of Creation refer to the Big Bang, serving as both a metaphor for that as well as the? Is it possible that Revelation is just a fever dream on the part of John’s, meant to show us the ultimate foolishness of our present behaviors?
Let’s see about the latter part.
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. (7:1)
Four angels descend onto Earth and block the “four winds” of the Earth until they cease. Then, 144,000 Christians have a mark placed on their forehead to protect them from much of the devastation that will occur. They are thus “sealed.” Then, a great multitude of people from all over the world bow down and worship God. Finally, the seventh seal is broken on the scroll, bringing forth dead silence in Heaven for about a half hour. Seven angels approach, each with a trumpet, and stand in wait to doll out the next round of plagues. To begin this process, an angel takes a golden censor, lights it on fire, and hurls it down to Earth. Then, the angels prepare to blow their horns…
That first verse alone screams “metaphor,” because well, there are no “four winds” of the Earth. My logical problem with Revelation – yes, I only have one – is that most non-Christians are at least partially aware of what it says. So let’s say that the Rapture happens (which is never said to occur in the Bible, by the way). How then are only 144,000 of the 5 billion left behind convinced by what the Revelation has to say about the matter? If a third of the world’s population disappeared overnight, and then all these weird plagues started happening, and the government issued a mark to buy or sell goods – I just find it surprising that only .02% of the people out there would put the pieces together.
So, it’s a metaphor. There.