Politics & Prophecy: A Lawyer’s View of the End Times
Part 1 – The Big Picture
by Gerald R. Thompson
In addition to knowing the main characters and places in the prophetic story, you need to know that some people, or groups of people, are often symbolically referred to as an inanimate object. Here is a list of some common symbols and their most frequent meanings as used throughout prophetic scripture (this is not a complete list by any means):
|Mountain||Kingdom (nation) or empire||Isa. 2:2-4; Jer. 51:25; Dan. 2:35; Ps.46:2-6|
|Waters / rivers / seas||Gentiles generally, or mixed ethnic groups||Rev. 17:1; Ps 72:8; Isa 42:15, 43:2|
|Head||King or national ruler||Rev. 13:3|
|Woman / Bride||The people of God, i.e., Israel or the Church||Rev. 12:17; 19:7|
|Harlot / Prostitute||Apostate religion||Rev. 17:3, 18|
|Beast||An evil nation or empire||Dan. 7:5-7; Rev. 13|
|Fish||Religious followers||Ezek. 29:4-5; Mat. 4:19|
|Stone / rock||Messiah or Christ||Isa. 28:16; Dan. 2:34-45|
|Stars||Angels||Isa. 14:12; Mat. 24:29; Mk. 13:25; Rev. 1:20; 9:1|
|Dragon / Serpent / Beelzebul||Satan, the “Lord of the Flies,”||Rev. 20:2|
Key Prophecy Examples
Ex. 1) Isa. 2:2 says, “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it.” Jer. 51:25 says, “Behold, I am against you, O destroying mountain, declares the Lord, which destroys the whole earth; I will stretch out my hand against you, and roll you down from the crags, and make you a burnt mountain.”
These verses are talking about two kingdoms: first, the Millennial kingdom of Christ; second, the kingdom of the Antichrist. Both use mountain as a symbol to represent a kingdom. However (and this is typical of the way prophecy works), the symbology actually functions at two levels. On one level, a future literal kingdom is represented by a figurative mountain.
At the same time, literal mountains figure prominently in the real world working out of God’s plan – such as Mt. Horeb, Mt. Sinai, the Mt. of Olives, etc. As we will see further on, the Jewish temple mount(ain), the Mt. of Olives, and the mountains of Israel all are key locations where end times prophecy will be fulfilled. So on a second level, literal mountains pre-figure the coming kingdom of Christ, which in its final form will be a mountain literally and figuratively.
This also explains why Christ is often referred to allegorically as a stone, a rock, or a cornerstone, as He is individually the foundation for the kingdom (mountain) of God.
Ex. 2) As per Rev. 17:1, the great prostitute (Babylon the Great) is seated on many waters, which we are told in Rev. 17:15 refers to peoples and multitudes and nations and languages. When we see Balaam’s prophecy concerning Israel in Num. 24:7 that “water shall flow from his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters,” we understand this to mean the descendants of Israel (his seed) will be scattered among many nations, foretelling the diaspora.
Thus we see in Ps. 65:5, “O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,” the obvious reference is to the peoples and nations of the earth. Knowing this symbology, we can also appreciate why God commonly uses the river of life or living waters as a reference to His life-giving spirit, for it nourishes all the nations of mankind. The nations symbolized as seas also explains why believers in God are sometimes characterized as fish, since they live among the nations of the earth but are distinct from them.
Ex. 3) Stars are often used in the scripture to indicate an innumerable amount, typically of someone’s descendants. Joseph’s dream, which caused his brothers to despise and sell him, depicted his brothers as eleven stars who bowed down to him. Gen. 37:9.
But when the Bible refers to stars which are falling or which have fallen, or uses the word stars together with the host of heaven or a similar context, it is talking about angels. Thus, when Judg. 5:20 says, “From heaven the stars fought, from their courses they fought against Sisera,” it is referring to warriors, i.e., the host of heaven, and therefore angels. Satan is referred to as a fallen star in Isa. 14:12-13. The demons, or angels who have been cast out of heaven (or will be cast down to earth), are referred to as fallen stars in Dan. 8:10 and Rev. 12:4.
Thus, when we get to the end of all prophecy and the new heavens and new earth have been established, we should not miss the symbology involved. The New Jerusalem, for example, will be a mountain both literally as a tall physical structure on the new earth and symbolically as the ultimate embodiment of the kingdom of God.
The new earth will not have any seas – both literally referring to the lack of any large bodies of salt water and symbolically referring to the lack of unbelieving nations. When the new heavens are referred to, there is also no mention of stars, which is consistent with there being no need of a literal sun or moon. Symbolically, the absence of any mention of stars is consistent with the absence of any fallen stars, i.e., fallen angels. And among people the concept of descendants (i.e., stars) will no longer have any meaning.
Keep in mind that not every use of a particular word needs to be symbolic. The Bible uses mountains, seas, stars, etc. as ordinary words with literal meanings far more often that it uses them symbolically. You have to examine the context, see if the object is portrayed as being an actor or a person, or as a collection of people, and determine whether the usage is symbolic or not. It takes practice, but the more you do it, the clearer things become.
Nothing God does is by accident. Egypt is often used in the Bible as a type of many kinds of great wickedness, both past (Ezek. 23:3) and future (Rev. 11:8). Similarly, there are parallels between the ten plagues God sent on Egypt in the time of the Exodus and the plagues and judgments He will send on the world in the end times. This is because these plagues (both past and future) are not random punishments, but each carries a specific moral significance. Looking at the past and future divine judgments together gives insight as to the significance of each plague and helps us understand what God is doing.
Note: Here plague refers to a sudden appearance or outbreak of something unpleasant in very large numbers or with unusual frequency, and is distinguished from the term pestilence. The word pestilence is used frequently in Ezekiel, but only once in Revelation (Rev. 6:8) and almost always means a viral or biological disease that spreads rapidly. But a biblical plague is almost always not a biological disease. Plague is commonly used in Revelation, but never in Ezekiel.
1st plague – water turned to blood. In Ex. 7:14-25 God turned the water of all the rivers (including the Nile), canals, ponds, and pools in Egypt to blood, killing all the fish. In Rev. 8:8, God will turn a third of the sea to blood, kill a third of all sea creatures, and destroy a third of all ships. In Rev. 16:3-6 God will turn the rest of the sea, as well as all the rivers and springs, to blood and kill everything in them.
The interpretation of this plague is given in Rev. 16:6, “For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” In other words, turning water to blood is a sign to those who have shed innocent blood. It is a judgment for it always kills sea creatures which are a major food source for people and also makes the water unusable for navigation or other purposes.
In ancient Egypt, the Israelites, the people of God, were enslaved and mistreated by the Egyptians. In the Tribulation, Jews and Christians alike will be persecuted and the Antichrist kingdom will wage war against them (Rev. 12:17; 13:7). There will be plenty of bloodguiltiness to go around, and the fact that water will become blood worldwide in the end times shows the extent to which the people of God will be persecuted and innocent blood shed.
2nd plague – frogs. In Ex. 8:1-13 God made frogs come up out of the Nile to swarm the land, buildings and the people, which frogs then soon died and stank. In Rev. 16:13, three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast and the false prophet. The purpose of these unclean spirits is to assemble the kings of the whole world for battle. Apart from two instances in the Psalms recalling the Exodus plague, these are the only times frogs are mentioned in scripture.
It highly suggests that frogs are symbolic of unclean spirits. And the purpose of unclean spirits is apparently to stir up wickedness and rebellion. In the case of Egypt, there were undoubtedly many unclean spirits in the land due to the great amount of idolatry present, which provoked the Egyptians into rebellion against the will of God. In the future, the purpose of the unclean spirits will be to stir up the nations into rebellion so that they will want to wage war against God at Armageddon.
3rd plague – gnats. In Ex. 8:16-19 God turned the dust of Egypt into gnats which covered the land, the people and animals. I think the significance of the plague has less to do with gnats than it does with dust. God made man from the dust of the ground and to dust we shall return, and in a certain sense all men are like dust to God. Gen. 3:19. In Zeph. 1:17 God promises to pour out the blood of mankind like dust when the Great Day of the Lord (Armageddon) comes. I conclude that gnats and dust both symbolize that God will bring the wicked to nothing and obliterate their existence.
4th plague – flies. In Ex. 8:20-32 God sent swarms of flies to cover the land, buildings and people of Egypt, but the land of Goshen (where the Israelites lived) was spared from the plague. The primary significance of this plague seems to be that it was an indication of decay and death. Flies are usually associated with carcasses. Symbolically, flies represented the moral decay and sinfulness leading to death characterized by the Egyptians, but not the Israelites.
Certainly there will be much death and decay in the Tribulation, whether from fish dying in the oceans or people being slaughtered. This will all be brought about because of the activity of Satan and his agent, the Antichrist. It is no accident that another name for Satan is Beelzebul, literally, the Lord of the Flies. Mat. 9:34; 12:24. Satan is the lord of death and decay, whereas God is the God of the living. The Lord of the flies will be on the rise in the end times, and God will judge him.
Actually, I think Satan’s title as Lord of the Flies is a bit of divine humor, since in God’s kingdom the only things Satan can rule over (death and decay) are the things that aren’t good for anything, things no one really wants, and things that won’t exist in eternity. Yet, it’s the best Satan can do. So when it is said Satan is Beelzebul, what he has really is a kingdom which amounts to nothing.
5th plague – livestock die. In Ex. 9:1-7 God killed all the livestock of Egypt (donkeys, camels, herds, and flocks), but not one livestock animal of the Israelites died. Symbolically, this plague represented a stripping away of man’s wealth and substance as a judgment for his sins. In ancient times, wealth was a function of livestock. Both Abraham (Gen. 13:2) and Isaac (Gen. 26:12) were regarded as wealthy in large part because of their flocks and herds.
Now, as in the future, wealth is represented by more diverse goods, such as precious metals, jewels, expensive cloths, costly wood, metals, minerals, spices, wines, foods, slaves, and oil in addition to cattle and livestock. See Rev. 18:12-13. God will not hesitate to take this all away during the Tribulation. Thus, Rev. 18:17 says, speaking of Babylon the great, the great city, “For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.” The things sinful men treasure are not the things God values. See, Matt. 6:20.
6th plague – boils. In Ex. 9:8-12 God causes boils (bumpy, red, pus-filled lumps) to appear on the skin of people and animals. Very unpleasant – I daresay a form of torture. I take the meaning to be this: boils are an outward manifestation (on the body) of the sin and wickedness of the heart. In other words, boils are a sign to the wicked that their spirits are full of vileness, disease and corruption.
Thus we see in Rev. 16:2 that, “harmful and painful sores came upon the people who bore the mark of the beast and worshiped its image.” I assume the same thing is going on – an outward manifestation of inward wickedness – since receiving the mark of the beast is a form of ultimate rebellion against God deserving the most extreme punishment forever. Rev. 14:9-11. It is ironic that acceptance of the mark of the beast on a person’s body will inevitable lead to God marking them on their body as well – and not in a good way.
7th plague – hail mixed with fire. In Ex. 9:13-34 God sent heavy hail mixed with fire upon all the open areas so that any man or beast not sheltered died. The Egyptians were pre-warned, so that anyone who wanted to seek shelter could – only those who did not regard the warning perished. The hail did not fall in the land of Goshen, however. An obvious punishment of random death and peril for the wicked while sparing the righteous.
This plague will be revisited in the Tribulation twice. First, in Rev. 8:7 (the 1st trumpet), when hail and fire mixed with blood will burn up a third of the earth. In this instance, no one is mentioned as being killed. Second, in Rev. 16:21, at probably very near the end of the Tribulation (the 7th bowl), when hailstones weighing 100 pounds each will fall on people and kill them. The context suggests that only the wicked will suffer this plague, although that could be because the righteous will be persecuted almost to the point of extinction by the time the 7th bowl is poured out.
8th plague – locusts. In Ex. 10:1-20 God sent a swarm of locusts on Egypt which covered the land and ate every plant in the entire country so that nothing was left. Essentially, the locusts were an army of destroyers to strip the earth bare – destroyers doing God’s bidding against the wicked.
In Rev. 9:1-4 God will send what symbolically is described as a great swarm (dark cloud) of locusts. In sharp contrast to Exodus, the locusts are instructed specifically not to harm any plants, but only to sting and torture people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. Thus, another army doing God’s bidding against the wicked, but only to torment, not to destroy. And in this case, the locusts are probably not literal, but symbolically represent demon hordes, as is evident from the fact they originate from the bottomless pit, the jail cell for fallen angels. Also, the physical description of them in Rev. 9:7-11 makes it clear these are not literal locusts.
By this time, you have probably picked up on the fact that the future plagues are similar to the historic plagues, and carry similar moral significance, but each one is executed in a distinctly different way than the prior instances. That is why I say there are parallels between the plagues of Exodus and the plagues of Revelation – not that the Exodus plagues will be repeated in the end times.
I think it a true rule to say that God never does the same thing twice in exactly the same way. He is never limited or constrained by the way He has done things before, so if we think we can predict the way God will act because of some prior exercise of discretion, we will almost always be wrong. Yes, when it comes to following a law or keeping a promise God will act in predictable ways. But when it comes to discretionary actions He exercises that discretion differently each time. And the act of imposing judgment in this present life is always discretionary with God, because He always retains the discretion to impose no judgment at all.
9th plague – darkness. In Ex. 10:21-29 God covered Egypt with a profound darkness for three days, so that no one could see each other or even get up. However, there was light in Goshen. This works symbolically on two levels. First, the wicked are covered in much sin – the inward darkness is exposed. Second, the darkness represents extreme separation from God and foreshadows hell as a place of perpetual darkness. If you think about hell as an eternal separation from God (rather than as an eternal punishment) it is easy to miss the point that God is light (1 Jn. 1:5), therefore to be separated from Him is to be plunged into profound darkness, which is inescapably a punishment.
Thus, it should be no surprise that when the Antichrist kingdom arrives, God will plunge it (the kingdom of the beast) into darkness for a time. Rev. 16:10. The scripture doesn’t say for how long. But it is a direct parallel to Exodus and is a judgment on an evil empire for all the same reasons.
In a separate event, the sun, moon and stars will all be partially darkened as a sign to the whole earth that Jesus is ready to return. See Rev. 8:12; Mat. 24:29. Since Jesus will return “with great glory” (Mat. 24:30), most probably meaning with much light, it sets up a striking contrast. The world will be overshadowed with darkness at the point in time when the rebellion against God will be at its zenith, and that is just when Jesus will burst through the darkness with much light to defeat the forces of evil. Don’t tell me God isn’t interested in theatricality.
10th plague – death of firstborn. In Ex. 12:29-32 God killed the firstborn (sons) of the Egyptians and all their livestock, but the firstborn of Israel (who had been protected by blood on the doorposts and lintels) did not die. The purpose of this plague was to deny the wicked the firstfruits of their offspring (the strongest and best). See Ps. 78:51; 105:36.
In the end times, God is going to perform a type of anti-plague. Rather than destroying the firstborn of the wicked, He will save the firstborn of the nations. By this I mean the 144,000 of Israel, discussed at length later. Suffice it to say at this point that the 144,000 will be the firstfruits of Israel, namely, the first among the Jews to turn to Christ. In addition, Israel is God’s firstborn son among the nations. Exo. 4:22. So the symbolism of the firstfruits and firstborn is maintained, but instead of destroying the firstborn of the wicked, God will raise up the firstborn of the righteous.