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The A-Team of the Apocalypse

April 2, 2013

Apocalypse is the first word in the Greek text of Revelation, a word that itself begins with the first letter of the Greek alphabet (alpha). This apocalypse (revelation) will reveal divine beings that are “the alpha and the omega” (the first and the last). In Rev. 1:8, the Lord God Almighty says, “I am the alpha and the omega;” in 1:17-18, the risen Jesus says, “I am the first and the last and the living one.”

When the alpha Jesus addresses the last of the seven churches, he introduces himself as “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation” (3:14). The word Amen was used at the beginning or end of a statement to verify the truth of its witness; Jesus is the Amen, the first and foremost faithful witness–and the final witness (at the final judgment). In 1:5 Jesus Christ is similarly described as the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” As the firstborn of the dead, the risen Jesus is the beginning (the arche) of God’s new creation; and as the risen Christ (king), he is the ruler (the archon) who gives the faithful (and final) witness against all the kings of the earth.

Near the end of Revelation (in 22:16), Jesus says he is the bright morning star (the aster). As the alpha star shining bright in heaven, the firstborn of the dead pioneers the way for others to become bright shining stars, after their faithful witness on earth is finished. Foremost among this new creation of (alpha) stars would be the seven stars Jesus holds in his right hand in 1:16; in 1:20 Jesus reveals that these stars are angels of the seven churches; so the seven asteres are seven angeloi. Since Jesus is the morning star, the preeminent Angel (of the Lord), these other stars are probably his foundational apostles and prophets, who have finished their faithful witness on earth and become part of the heavenly A-team. And their witness continues on earth through writings like this apocalypse (and the rest of the New Testament). The prophet (and apostle) John, who writes this apocalypse, will soon join them.

Recognition of this A-team helps the reader to recognize later reappearances in this apocalypse. In 8:10-11 a great star “falls” from heaven and embitters waters and rivers on earth. The name of the star is Apsinthos; the great alpha morning star is coming to earth, bright and burning like a torch, and bringing a further faithful witness against the “waters and rivers” (in 17:15, the “waters” are peoples and multitudes and nations that are under the spell, the seduction, of the great harlot city, Babylon). This heavenly alpha witness against the earth comes through prophets like John, described in 11:3 as witnesses who prophesy; in 11:6, their witness has power over the “waters” to turn them into blood (a similar metaphor as embittering waters, through faithful witness against them).

In 9:1 the star that “fell” from heaven (Apsinthos in 8:10) is given the key to the abyss (similar to 1:18, where the Jesus who died and now lives has the keys of death and Hades). In 9:11, this angel of the abyss is a king whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek is Apolluon. This great star is king over the flying “locusts” (akridon) who have been freed from the abyss. Since the meaning of Abaddon is destruction and Apolluon is destroyer, most interpreters do not see this angel as Jesus; but in 11:18 the final woe of the wrath of God (and his Christ) includes destroying the destroyers of the earth. This vision reveals an earlier witness against the destroyers of earth, via the rising “locusts,” who torment the earth (9:5), similar to the witnesses of 11:10, who torment those on earth.

Probably the most famous alpha in this apocalypse is Armagedon (16:16); it is the place where the kings of the whole world gather for the final “battle.” The place of that name could be the same place where the name King of kings and Lord of lords is–namely, on Jesus’ robe and thigh (in 19:16). The Hebrew name Armagedon (spelled Armageddon in English) is written in Greek letters in 16:16 and begins with a Greek rough breathing mark; thus it would be pronounced “Harmagedon.” Many see that the first syllable, har, sounds like the Hebrew word for mountain; and many then combine that with the place Megiddo in Israel. But in 17:9-10 the seven heads of the beast (empire) are identified as seven mountains, which are in turn identified as seven kings. So a mountain can symbolize a king. Taking a clue from that first syllable, one could then look at the second syllable: the Hebrew word mag (like the Latin word magnus) means great; and the Greek word for great (mega) is an important word used often in Revelation (as in 8:10-11 for the great star Apsinthos). The name “great mountain (king)” indeed fits the context; the focus is on the final battle between the heavenly kings–led by the great King of kings–and the earthly kings. And as the Hebrew Abaddon is the great king of the abyss, so the Hebrew Armagedon is the great King of kings (with the final syllable in both names possibly alluding to the Hebrew word adon, meaning ruler or lord). As in 19:15-16, this final battle envisioned in 16:16 is the final faithful witness (judgment) from the A-team in heaven against the kings and nations of earth.

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