The Scariest Things In The Book Of Revelation, The Bible’s Hallucinatory Fever Dream Of Apocalypse
The Bible has no shortage of creepy stories, but arguably, the scariest stories come from the Book of Revelation. Here one finds a plenitude of biblical horror stories in which we earthly beings are warned of the end days to come.
Scholars debate endlessly over the identity of who exactly wrote the Book of Revelation (some say it's John the Apostle, whose writings were known for swinging attention from Satan to Abaddon), but what can be agreed upon is there are plenty of terrifying visions in the Book of Revelation about the apocalypse.
According to the Book, we are in for some dark days: The skies will rain fire, angels will spit swords, mankind will be forced to retreat into caves for shelter, and we will be harassed by at least three terrifying dragons and beasts. Angels will sound seven trumpets of warning, and later on, seven plagues will be dumped on the world. At the end there's some redemption, but not before Earth is scourged over by the Heavens as punishment for straying from the Divine.
So, what's with all the fire and brimstone? Well, that's the thing: there's a lot of symbology in the Book of Revelation, and depending on which historical or theological lens you choose to view it through, all this terror can be interpreted in very different ways. The Book was also written at a time when Christians faced persecution from the Roman Empire, which was beginning to impose emperor worship; a little propaganda is nothing new when it comes to religion.
All of that aside, here are some things you missed in the Book of Revelation, and some new ways to consider the fire and fury of God's supposed wrath.
Angels Will Blow Seven Trumpets, Each Of Which Has A Terrifying ConsequencePhoto: Saint Sever Beatus / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
According to the Book of Revelation, the end of days will begin its descent upon humankind after a massive earthquake has moved all islands and mountains and reduced humanity to hiding in caves. Seven angels will then sound trumpets, each of which will basically raise all sorts of literal Hell.
First, hail and fire - mixed with blood for good measure - will begin to rain down on the earth, burning up trees and grass with it. Next, something resembling a burning mountain will crumble into the sea, turning sea animals into blood and destroying much of the sea life and ships.
Then, a star named Wormwood will fall from the sky, poisoning a third of all rivers and water. (Fun fact: Some people link this to disasters such as Chernobyl.) The fourth trumpet will strike out light from the sun and stars, and an eagle will cry out warning of the trumpet blasts yet to come. The fifth trumpet is one of the worst; it signals a falling star that brings a plague of evil locusts to torment non-believers.
The sixth releases four angels who themselves will release two hundred million horsemen to kill a third of mankind with plagues of fire, smoke, and sulfur from their mouths. Their horses have heads of lions and tails of snakes, and they also help destroy humanity.
Finally, the seventh trumpet leads into what makes the previous damage look like child's play: The seven bowls.
Seven Bowls That Look Like Offerings Will Actually Release Lethal PlaguesPhoto: Matthias Gerung / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
If the seven trumpets were scary, then the seven bowls are even more terrifying. While the trumpets are seen as "warnings," or events from which one could recover through redemption, the seven bowls are more final in nature: There is no recovering from these horrifying incidents.
When angels pour seven bowls or vials on the earth, they won't be the offerings they appeared to be. Instead, they will be filled with plagues that destroy pretty much anything and anyone left after the first round of trumpet devastation.
The consequences include oozing sores appearing on those with the mark of the beast; the seas and remaining rivers turning to blood (and thus killing all sea life); and then a massive heatwave scorching the earth and causing people to combust on the spot. Next comes darkness and the Euphrates River drying up to allow kings of the world to cross and meet to battle.
Finally, the last bowl brings a massive earthquake (yes, another one), and as the Book says, "Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake... The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath."
Historically, it's important to note that Babylon was commonly used as a symbol for Rome, and giving the city a God's cup of wrath and fury was a politically symbolic of the Christian church's struggle against the Roman Empire.
The Whore Of Babylon Will Ride In On Her Beast, Drunk On The Blood Of Saints And MartyrsPhoto: Bamberger Apocalypse / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
After Earth is basically mowed down by the Heavens (you know, in order to punish those straying from Christ), the survivors will receive a new visitor: The Whore of Babylon riding in upon a scarlet beast with seven heads and 10 horns.
She will be drunk off of the blood of slain saints and martyrs, and according to the author's prophetic vision, was said to have "BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH" written on her forehead. Here, the angel tells our prophet the seven heads represent seven hills upon which kings sit, and the 10 horns represent 10 more kings to come. He goes on to explain these kings will wage war against the Lamb (a.k.a. God), but that God will prevail.
This is perhaps one of the most blatantly politically motivated parts of the Book of Revelation, as it is widely accepted among scholars the Whore of Babylon represents the city of Rome; the seven hills are those of Rome; and the heads representing the 10 kings symbolize the Roman emperors seeking to steer worship towards them and away from the Christian religion.
An Angel Of Death Will Direct A Horde Of Freaky Locusts To Terrorize Any Man Lacking The Sign Of GodPhoto: William de Brailes / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
The plague of locusts comes on the sounding of the fifth trumpet. An angel with the key to the Abyss will fall to Earth. When the Abyss is opened, it will billow out enough smoke to blacken the sun and release a horde of locusts. It is believed it is Abaddon, or God's chosen Angel of Death, who releases the locusts.
These aren't just any locusts, either. The Book recalls the author's vision, stating, "The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle. On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces... Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’s teeth." They aren't allowed to harm the earth, but they are instructed to torture people who don't have the sign of God on their foreheads for a quick five months.
A Pregnant Woman Will Fight A Dragon With Seven Heads And 10 HornsPhoto: Martinus / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
At one point in the Revelation, a pregnant woman in white appears in the sky. However, before she has her child, an enormous red dragon with seven heads, 10 horns, and seven crowns on its heads will materialize in the Heavens as well, trying to steal her unborn child.
What will ensue, according to the author's prophetic vision, is a back and forth battle between the Dragon (a symbol and messenger of Satan) and the woman, who is protected by the Lamb, AKA God. Essentially, it is a tale of good and evil, when taken allegorically.
Historically, one can liken the dragon and the forces of "evil" to that of the Roman Empire and their attempts to persecute Christian worshipers, and the "good" of the Lamb prevails in this case. However, the author warns the dragon will forever be at war with the Lamb, implying Christians will always be at risk to fighting off those who don't share their beliefs.
The Apocalypse Starts With A Massive Earthquake Where The Sun Goes Black And The Sky SplitsPhoto: Beatus von Liébana / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
In the Book of Revelation, there is a scroll shown to the prophet, (that is our author, John), which has seven seals. As each seal is broken, something happens or appears, and it is on the sixth seal things start to go south pretty quick.
As written in the 6:12-17, it goes, "There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth... The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place."
Since the sky will be dark and essentially split open, and who-knows-what is going to happen next, mankind will be forced to clamor into mountain caves and crevasses to hide.
When the seventh seal gets broken, the heavens will go silent for half an hour, and then come the fateful trumpets.