Part One: Saving the ‘Literal’ Level
Damien F. Mackey
The term “Antichrist” does not occur anywhere in the Book of Apocalypse (Revelation).
A friend has written, and sent to me, the following brief review of a no-doubt fascinating book by Emmet O’Regan, entitled Unveiling the Apocalypse. The Final Passover of the Church (2011):
This is my summary of the book Unveiling the Apocalypse by Emmet O’Regan
O’Regan’s basic thesis is that many of the events narrated in the Apocalypse have taken place in the 20th century but he also outlines what has not yet taken place and locates fairly exactly where he thinks we are currently positioned. In brief he holds that around 1900 following upon Leo’s vision we had the “unbinding” of Satan after the millennium. On this point, he notes that Augustine had two interpretations of the millennium in The City of God the first of which became largely forgotten. The latter, more common interpretation is that the millennium represents an indeterminate amount of time following the binding of Satan at our Lord’s Passion. The other interpretation he proposed is that the millennium stands for the Sabbath millennium i.e towards the end (but not exactly at the end) of six thousand years from creation the unbinding would happen. In his day the Septuagint genealogical interpretation was common which meant that the Sabbath millennium would be around 500AD. It was Bede who calculated 3992 years based on the Hebrew text – since adjusted slightly by others. O’Regan points out that an unbinding of Satan around the time of 1900 fits with the Sabbath millennium. Now O’Regan himself does not hold to a young age for man so he sees this as being of “prophetic” significance rather than literal but he really likes it (whereas I would take it more literally).
Now, there has also been interesting new research done by Kevin Symonds in his new book on the St Michael prayer and Leo’s vision (which I have already recently read). It turns out saying it happened on October 13th 1884 is one of those made up facts. In fact we don’t know a lot for sure about the content of the vision, but Symonds concludes that we can say one took place. The earliest accounts that place a time frame for Satan’s period of greater freedom are 50-60 years not the commonly cited 100. O’Regan has a fascinating take on this as one of the accounts of the vision (though we must be cautious) depicts God as saying to Satan that they would “talk later.” So for the next sixty years Satan “gathered the nations for war” as it says in the Apocalypse and we had the worst wars humanity has ever seen. O’Regan speculates that around the mid century Satan probably re-bargained for another 50-60 years with a different strategy – a more direct attack on the Church. Hence from 1960 everything has gone up in flames within the Church and Pope Paul himself said the smoke of Satan had entered. This … parallels Job, a type of the Church, who was first attacked Satan by losing all his friends and property. Satan then bargained again and sent an outbreak of sores on Job himself. O’Regan argues that around the years 1999/ 2000 we had the casting down of Satan from heaven (which is the context of the discussion regarding the eclipse). It appears that prior to this final casting out Satan always had some access to the heavenly court in order to accuse humanity of its sins hence “the accuser of our brethren has been cast out”. Now, as O’Regan says, the problem most people have is after the year 2000 the situation in the world hardly began to ameliorate itself. Hence such an idea comes across as self evidently incorrect to most (after all it was after that time that homosexual marriage became legalised everywhere etc not to mention the current situation in the Church). O’Regan points out this is what we should expect. For it says in the Apocalypse that upon the casting out of Satan the heavens should rejoice but “woe to the earth” for in his fury at being cast down he lets forth a flood upon the earth against the woman. O’Regan argues that is where we currently find ourselves – enduring this last outpouring of Satan’s wrath.
Now, if he is correct, this has helped me figure out another puzzle (though this is not discussed in his book). I have had trouble figuring out Sr Lucia’s words that the battle against marriage and the family will be the devil’s last battle. It seems clear to me after all that Antichrist is not yet here but supposedly we are in the midst of this last battle. However, I now see from O’Regan that after Satan is cast to earth his power is then transferred to Antichrist. So the devil’s last battle and the last battle are not the same thing.
So, what we are currently waiting for, according to this account, is the appearance of the two witnesses to restore the Church (which he says are the holy pope and emperor) and the preaching of the Gospel to all nations through them. Towards the end of this period the Antichrist will arise and fight against them and after Antichrist is defeated then the end will come.
Since the interpretations given here, and the associated timetable, are quite different from those that I personally favour (which does not necessarily mean that O’Regan is wrong), I should like to give my reasons for why I must disagree with O’Regan (as here summarised).
Failure to recognise the “literal” level
Whilst I myself have not read O’Regan’s book, and so am dependent upon my friend’s summary of it, I have read this type of book before, this same sort of approach to the intriguing Book of Apocalypse. That is:
“O’Regan’s basic thesis is that many of the events narrated in the Apocalypse have taken place in the 20th century …”.
The most notable book of this type that springs to mind is Fr. Herman Kramer’s engrossing The Book of Destiny (Tan, 1975).
Years ago my friends and I were completely hooked on it. What a fascinating read!
I have referred to it briefly in, for instance:
John the Evangelist and Vincent Ferrer
Fr. Herman B. Kramer … has brought some connections between St. John and St. Vincent Ferrer in his captivating study on the Apocalypse, The Book of Destiny (Tan, 1975). According to Fr. Kramer’s interpretation of the Apocalypse, each chapter [can] be linked literally to an important era of Christian history. For instance, Revelation chapters 8 and 9 Fr. Kramer aligned with, respectively, the Great Western Schism (C14th-15th AD) and the Protestant Reformation (C16th AD).
Perhaps Fr. Kramer’s lynchpin for all this was his identifying of the Eagle, or angel of judgment, of Revelation 8:13, or 14:6, with St. Vincent Ferrer, OP. (ibid., pp. 208-9):
By a wonderful co-incidence a great saint appears at this stage [the Western Schism] in the history of the Church. His eminence and influence procured for him the distinction of an eagle flying through mid-heaven. This was the Dominican priest, St. Vincent Ferrer. When in 1398 he lay at death’s door with fever, our Lord, St. Francis and St. Dominic appeared to him, miraculously cured him of his fever and commissioned him to preach penance and prepare men for the coming judgments. Preaching in the open space in San Esteban on October 3, 1408 he solemnly declared that he was the angel of the judgment spoken of by St. John in the Apocalypse. The body of a woman was just being carried to St. Paul’s church nearby for burial. St. Vincent ordered the bearers to bring the corpse before him. He adjured the dead to testify whether his claim was true or not. The dead woman came to life and in the hearing of all bore witness to the truth of the saint’s claim and then slept again in death (Fr. Stanislaus Hogan O.P.).
[End of quotes]
With all due respect to the supposed testimony of this briefly resuscitated woman, the entire Book of Apocalypse (consisting of 22 chapters) right up to approximately the early verses of chapter 20, at least, belongs to an era – Saint John’s own era – when the old Judaïc system was still in place. I explained this in my:
Book of Revelation Theme: The Bride and the Reject
Here is a small part of what I wrote there (emphasis added):
What has exacerbated the whole exegetical problem of properly interpreting Revelation on a literal level is, I believe, the conventional opinion that St. John wrote this Apocalypse in hoary old age, in c. 95 AD, about a quarter of a century after Jerusalem had been destroyed. Hence many commentators are loath to see any relevance for Revelation in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Protestant and Catholic writers alike accept the late 95 AD date of authorship (Protestant Thomas Foster sharing this view in common with Opus Dei and Fr. Kramer).
However, with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, there has emerged a new scholarship of great expertise as typified by Fr. Jean Carmignac, showing that the books of the New Testament literature (esp. the Gospels), were composed much earlier than was originally thought.
And the signs are that the entire New Testament, including Revelation, pre-dates 70 AD.
I believe that there is abundant evidence in the Apocalypse to indicate that it was written early. In fact the reason that prevented my writing this article initially was: Where to start? There is so much! My effort in the end had been greatly assisted by my finding Gentry’s preterist interpretation on the eve of commencing this article.
The whole Book of Revelation is focussed upon the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. The Temple; the golden altar; the 24 elders keeping watch at Beth Moked in the north from where an attack might come (and general Titus did in fact take Jerusalem from there, at the city’s weakest point); the sabbath restrictions; etc., etc.
Apart from their late dating of St. John’s Revelation preventing commentators from recognising the obvious, that “Babylon” is Jerusalem, this path they have taken leads them into other awkward anomalies as well. It is commonly believed that St. Paul had already completed his missionary activity and had been martyred well before St. John the Evangelist wrote the Book of Revelation. Paul is given the credit for having established the seven churches to which John later wrote. This view forces commentators into making such strange observations as Fr. Kramer’s: “… St. John could not have interfered in the administration of the churches in the lifetime of St. Paul” (op. cit., pp. 7-8).
Oh, no? Was St. Paul (who even refers to himself as a very late arrival on the scene, I Corinthians 15:8) greater than St. John, the Beloved Disciple of Our Lord?
St. Paul himself would answer us an emphatic: ‘No’! Of his visit to Jerusalem after his 14 year absence, he tells us: “… James, Cephas and John, these leaders, these pillars, shook hands with Barnabas and me …. The only thing they insisted on was that we should remember to help the poor …” (Galatians 2:9, 10).
St. John was by no means subservient to St. Paul; but apparently gave orders to the latter.
All the Apostles had a hand in establishing the churches throughout Judaea and Samaria, as Jesus Christ had commanded them, and then “to the ends of the earth”, which St. Paul boasted had been achieved even in his day (Colossians 1:23).
And Our Lord told the Apostles, “solemnly”, that they would not have completed “the rounds of the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Matthew 10:23).
[End of quotes]
Biblical exegetes down through the centuries have noted various genuine levels of scriptural interpretation, the first (not necessarily the most important) of which being the literal (concrete) level. Now, this is the very level that many pious and, indeed, well-educated commentators, lacking a really solid grounding in the Scriptures and their era, can tend to skip over, leaving things quite vague and unreal.
Like a Theology without an underpinning solid philosophy.
I had this well in mind when I wrote, in my recent:
Isaiah 53 and the afflicted Hezekiah
The “figure” becomes far less “mysterious”, I would suggest,
if he is to be grounded in some literal flesh and blood person of Isaiah’s day.
Such Christians as those who tend to relate solely to the New Testament, having an extremely poor knowledge of – even sometimes seeming to be virtually allergic to – the Old Testament, will immediately identify Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” as Jesus Christ the Messiah, without any consideration that the ancient prophet might have intended, directly and literally, some younger contemporary of his – such as King Hezekiah of Judah, as I suggested in the earlier section: Hezekiah seems to fit Isaiah 53.
Now, whilst I could never accuse Pope Benedict XVI of discounting the Old Testament – he who in his book, Jesus of Nazareth (2011), is at pains show how the Old Testament prefigures and leads to the New Testament – and that Jesus Christ cannot be properly understood without the Old Testament – also writing along such lines as (p. 202):
What is remarkable about these [Four Gospel] accounts [of Jesus’ crucifixion and Death] is the multitude of Old Testament allusions and quotations they contain: word of God and event are deeply interwoven. The facts are, so to speak, permeated with the word – with meaning; and the converse is also true: what previously had been merely word – often beyond our capacity to understand – now becomes reality, its meaning unlocked [,]
– Benedict does, nevertheless, seem to bypass any possible ancient identification of Isaiah 53’s Suffering Servant in this next statement of his (I had previously quoted this):
“In Isaiah, this figure remains mysterious: the Song of the Suffering Servant
is like a gaze into the future in search of the one who is to come”.
The “figure” becomes far less “mysterious”, I would suggest, if he is to be grounded in some literal flesh and blood person of Isaiah’s day: one who also points to “the one who is to come”, who perfectly fulfils Isaiah’s prophecy, but who also re-interprets it, thereby, in the words of Benedict, ‘unlocking its meaning’.
Along somewhat similar lines, the prophet Job has remained “mysterious”, and “like a gaze”, without any known genealogy; or era; or country, unless he be “grounded” in his more historically-endowed alter ego, Tobias, son of Tobit. See my:
Job’s Life and Times
And somewhat similar again is the common tendency to lift the Book of Apocalypse (Revelation) right out of its contemporary era, and interpret it almost wholly as a prophecy pertaining to our times, without realising that its “ground” is the C1st AD, though it also “gazes” prophetically into our day with which its shares some striking parallelisms.
But by no means can Apocalypse’s literalness be applied to the modern age.