The Altar of Burnt Offering, shown beside the Golden Altar of Incense (left) which was placed before the Tabernacle in the Jerusalem Temple
In a previous post I argued that The False Prophet spoken of in the Book of Revelation is to be equated with the Little Horn of the Book of Daniel - a figure which is modelled after the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who subjected to the Jews to fierce bout of persecution before Jewish independence was won by the Maccabean revolt. I go on to suggest that this prophecy of the forerunner to the Antichrist was fulfilled in the person of Adolf Hitler, who subjected the Jews to the worst case of religious persecution in history, before the creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948.
If this interpretation is correct, then it would follow that the "war against the saints" described in the Book of Daniel was a prophecy of the Jewish Holocaust:
"Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions. As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom."
We are told that the Little Horn makes war against the saints (who would have been identified with the Jewish people in its original context) and prevails over them; before the Little Horn is defeated and the kingdom is restored to them. The Book of Daniel states that the "saints of the Most High" will be given over to the Little Horn for "a time, times, and half a time" - or three and a half years:
He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.
This closely corresponds with the duration of the "Final Solution", when the Nazis began to exterminate the Jews in the concentration camps in January 1942, until the liberation of the last of the death camps in May 1945 - a period of roughly three and a half years.
While Dan 7 undoubtedly contains a reference to the restoration of Jewish independence after the persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes, it is clear that this situation parallels events that are to take place towards the end-time. And there is no greater parallel to this persecution of Jews before the restoration of their land in the 1st century BC than the events brought about by the Second World War. In Dan 10:14 the prophet is specifically told that his visions concern the fate of the Jewish people in the "latter times", towards the end of the world:
..."[I] came to make you understand what is to happen to your people in the latter days. For the vision is for days yet to come."
In Unveiling the Apocalypse, I forward the hypothesis that the Four Beasts of Daniel represent the major players in the Second World War, and that they are the same entities represented by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (see the earlier post The Four Beasts and the Four Horsemen for a fuller outline of this interpretation). In the book, I argue that these symbolic figures are also to be identified with the four "angels" referred to elsewhere in the Book of Revelation, who are released to kill a third of "mankind":
Then the sixth angel blew his trumpet, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar before God, saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” So the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, were released to kill a third of mankind. The number of mounted troops was twice ten thousand times ten thousand; I heard their number. And this is how I saw the horses in my vision and those who rode them: they wore breastplates the color of fire and of sapphire and of sulfur, and the heads of the horses were like lions' heads, and fire and smoke and sulfur came out of their mouths. By these three plagues a third of mankind was killed, by the fire and smoke and sulfur coming out of their mouths. For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails, for their tails are like serpents with heads, and by means of them they wound.
The term "angel" in the Bible is used in the sense of "messenger", and can refer to demonic as well as heavenly creatures. It is most likely that it is used in the former sense of the word in Rev 9, given that this portion of the Apocalypse tells us that these particular beings are agents of destruction. So it is no great leap of the imagination to connect these four "angels" with the Four Horsemen mentioned earlier in the Book of Revelation. And as I mention in the book, if we carefully study the original Greek, we find that it explicitly states that the armies of these four angels belong to the Horsemen (of the Apocalypse), rather than being an army composed of horsemen - "the army of the horsemen" rather than "the army of horsemen".
The fact that this passage tells us that the four angels were released to kill "a third of mankind" at first seems somewhat problematic in accepting this interpretation. But when we look to the original Greek version of this text, we find that a more literal translation of the phrase tou anthropou (translated in this English version as "of mankind") is "of the people". So the angels are released to kill a third of the people. And the use of the definite article suggests that it is a particular "people" or "race" being referred to in this passage. If it is a particular people being singled out here, then it would of course have to refer to the Jewish people - the native race of the author of the Apocalypse, and indeed of Christ himself.
As I point out in my book, the Jewish Holocaust claimed the lives of around 5.7 million people - about one third of the then 16,600,000 strong total Jewish population of the world. You can find the actual figures of the world's Jewish population as given in the 1946-47 American Jewish Yearbook here (scroll down to the first page), which states that one-third of the world's Jews had been annihilated in the Nazi extermination camps.
The chimera-like creatures depicted in the "second woe" are similar to the locusts of the "first woe", which I argue in the earlier post The Apocalyptic Locusts accurately describes the appearance of military aircraft, which were first introduced during the First World War. So they could represent the use of tanks during the Second World War - the Panzer being a key component of the Nazi war machine. The use of Panzers were central to the Nazi's blitzkrieg tactics, allowing the rapid invasion of countries such as Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the Soviet Union. The Nazi occupation of Europe (and subsequent round up of the Jewish population) would have been impossible without the use of these machines.
John's description of the armoured "horses" in his vision, with lion-like heads and "tails" with mouths which spew out fire could quite easily be a description of a tank, as seen from a 1st century AD perspective. The "tails" with fire-spouting mouths could refer to the serpent-like gun turrets, which would have looked extremely bizarre if one was given a glimpse of the future from the distant past. If John was indeed given actual visions of real-time future events, and he did see modern inventions such as the tank, it surely would have been a quite perplexing sight - armour-clad creatures being controlled by people as they would a horse, with "tails" that seemed to protrude from where their mouth should be located on their heads. If so, then this would be as accurate a description as we could hope for.
The third of "mankind" or perhaps more accurately "the people" were then killed by the plagues that issued from these creatures mouths - fire, smoke and sulphirc gases. And of course gas in the form of Zyklon B was the method of choice for the industralised slaughter of the Jews housed in the various extermination camps of Nazi-controlled Europe, with the bodies being disposed in the cremetoria and fire-pits.
It is perhaps then of some profound significance that the voice which commands for release of the four angels which will destroy a third of the people come from between the four horns on the Golden Altar before the Throne of God in heaven. The horns of the Golden Altar of Incense were sprinkled with blood from the sacrificial victim as a means of the forgiveness of sins. And the coals of the Golden Altar which were used to burn the incense were taken from the Altar of Burnt Offering situated outside the Temple in the Court of Priests, where the remains of the sacrifical victim was reduced down amongst the embers. So the coals of the Golden Altar of Incense were mixed with the sacrifical victim itself, whose sarcifice would be carried up towards heaven along with the suffion of aromas from the burning of the incense. This is the reason that the souls of the martyrs are seen under the Golden Altar earlier in the Book of Revelation, as it is from here that the remains of their sacrifice are carried toward heaven along with the smoke of the incense and the prayers of the saints:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne.
When the Lamb opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. Then I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them. And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.
It is of profound significance then that the term "holocaust" is derived from the Greek word meaning "whole burnt sacrifice".
We first find reference to the four "angels" with the powers of destruction called forth by the voice emanating from between the four horns on the Golden Altar in an earlier passage in the Apocalypse which is specifically connected to the sealing of the 144,000:
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. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed,
12,000 from the tribe of Reuben,
12,000 from the tribe of Gad,
12,000 from the tribe of Asher,
12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali,
12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh,
12,000 from the tribe of Simeon,
12,000 from the tribe of Levi,
12,000 from the tribe of Issachar,
12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun,
12,000 from the tribe of Joseph,
12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed.
The 144,000 are strangely differentiated from the rest of the marytrs mentioned later in Rev 7, who form an innumerable multitude. They are also composed of the twelve tribes of Israel, and are thus inextricably linked with the Jewish race and the people of Israel. Could the 144,000 therefore in some way represent the Jews killed during the Shoah?
The identity of the 144,000 is intimately bound to the earlier passage concerning the souls seen by John under the Golden Altar at the opening of the fifth seal:
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.
These are the souls offered as a burnt sacrifice (holocaust) to God, under the same altar from which the command was issued to release the four angels bound at the Euphrates - which we have already equated with the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Most scholars would concur that the souls under the altar here are those slain during the devastation unleashed by the opening of the first four seals and the arrival of the Horsemen.
The number 144,000 is highly symbolic. Twelve is the number of govermental perfection, and it is here multplied itself, and timed a thousand - a number which represents vastness and abundance. Hence we have the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles. And we find these same numbers repeated in the properties of the Heavenly Jerusalem.
It seems then of profound import that if we multiply 144,000 by another figure of deep symbolic importance in the Bible - the number 40, we get 5,760,000 - which corresponds almost exactly to the closest estimates given for the number of Jews during the Holocaust. The eminent British historian Sir Martin Gilbert estimated that around 5,750,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazi regime, and while other estimations vary up and down from this number, the overall figure is generally accepted as being just short of six million.
A fourfold multiplication of the number 144,000 is implied in the dimensions of the Heavenly Jerusalem given later in the Book of Revelation. In Rev 21, each of the four walls of the Heavenly Jerusalem are 144 cubits high - which is 144,000 reduced to its most basic form. And the length and breath is 12,000, which multiplied gives the total area of 144,000. So height of the walls multiplied by their number - 4 x 144 gives 576 - the above number corresponding to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust reduced to its nearest significant figure.
And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel's measurement.
A forty-fold multiplication of this number is then the four-fold multiplication of 144,000 taken to the next decimal place.
But the symbolism of the number 40 is the most significant part of this interpretation. It seems particularly apt then that we can acheive the exact number of deaths in the Jewish Holocaust by multiplying 144,000 by 40. Forty is the number of trial, purification, and renewal in the Bible. The earth was covered by the flood for 40 days to cleanse the earth of evil, after which time the world was born anew. The Israelites were made to wander in the desert for 40 years to make amends for rebelling against God by fashioning the Golden Calf. After the 40 years were over, the Israelites were permitted to enter the Promised Land and establish their home there. Elijah fasted for 40 days before his journey to Horeb, when he was given his mission to restore Israel from apostasy. Jesus went through his trial of fasting and temptation in the desert for 40 days before he commenced his public ministry. And Christ also spent 40 days on earth after his resurrection until he ascended into heaven. So the number 40 in this instance would symbolise this period of the trial and renewal of the Jewish people in the events brought by the Second World War.
See also the related posts:
Our Lady of Fatima and the Jewish Holocaust
The Prophetic Symbolism of Our Lady of Knock