Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Mark of the Beast

The Mark of the Beast is Sydney Watson's sequel to In the Twinkling of an Eye. I was somewhat disappointed when I read Beast, because I had hoped to learn of the fate of our anti-heroine, Rachael Cohen, who had been left behind after her newly converted family were raptured up into heaven. But sadly, Mrs. Cohen does not make an appearance in this book. There's not a trace of her. One wonders....

The reader finds him/herself in the 7 year Tribulation period, and Lucien Apleon, who we discover is the antichrist, is revealed to be Jewish on page 69. But thankfully there are also some more noble Jews imagined in this novel. For example, a "Rabbi Cohen" is a character in this book who is chosen to be the first high priest of the new Temple in Jerusalem. His acquaintance, Ralph Bastin, who is a bit of a wet blanket, says to him, "I wish, dear Cohen, you, and your dear people could see how futile all this work is! I do not want to hurt you by speaking of Jesus of Nazareth. .... And that, dear Cohen, will be the end of your beautiful temple -- it will be destroyed in Judgment, and soon -- all too soon -- it will be cursed and defiled by the abomination of desolation...." (p. 83).

Ralph goes on in describing the horrors of the tribulation period to Rabbi Cohen:

"I could weep with very anguish of soul, dear friend, at all that you, and every truly pious Jew will suffer; when, at the end of the three years and a half ... the foul fiend whom you are all trusting so implicitly, will suddenly abolish your daily sacrifice of the morning and evening lamb, and will set up an image of himself, which you, and all the Godly of your race, will refuse to worship. Then will begin your awful tribulation, 'the time of Jacob's deadly sorrow.' It is in your own Scriptures, dear friend, if you would but see it." (p. 84).

Eventually Rabbi Cohen sees the truth of Ralph's words, after he witnesses the desecration of the temple by the antichrist. "Brethren, of the House of Israel, the Lord our God is one God. I am no Mehushmad, but in common with many of our rabbis, I have read the Gentile New Testament, and there, in the words of the Nazarene Prophet, ... He prophesied exactly what has come to pass this morning in our beautiful Temple." (p. 182).

The two witnesses in Jerusalem, said to be Elijah and Enoch reincarnated (or something like that!), are both depicted as Jewish. Which makes sense. Sort of. Well, maybe Elijah. But Enoch? Jewish? That's a bit of a stretch. Or so thinks Wandering Jude. But then again, judge for yourself.

There is a fair amount of intrigue and suspense as many Jews flee from Jerusalem in the wake of the antichrist's abomination of desolation. (For those readers not "in the know" about these things, the abomination of desolation is where the antichrist will supposedly sacrifice a pig on the altar in Jerusalem, ala Antiochus Epiphanes). The fleeing Jews include Rabbi Cohen, his daughter Miriam, and her boyfriend Isaac Wolferstein. This is termed "the flight of the Believers" (p. 204). Around the same time, Miriam "turned unto God and unto the Messiah who was so soon to come to deliver His people and to set up His kingdom" (p. 203). Eventually both Miriam and Isacc are tortured to death by the antichrist and his followers.

At the end of the tribulation period, Jesus returns to earth (the Second Coming) and a large number of Jews still living believe in him.

Final Thoughts:

(1) Wandering Jude wants to point out that designating the Antichrist as Jewish is an old tradition in Christianity. It was popular during the 1970s to speculate that Henry Kissinger might be the Antichrist. Nowadays it's less popular to aim the Antichrist accusation toward a Jew, but it still happens occasionally in some fundamentalist circles.

(2) In case you didn't realize it, the Beast (from the title of the book) and the Antichrist are synonymous. At least in this novel and in most dispensationalist theological treatises. And the mark of the Beast is the number 666 placed on the foreheads of all who would buy and sell during the Tribulation period.

(3) Is it only Wandering Jude who thinks that dispensationalist novelists (and theologians) take an almost gleeful "I told you so" attitude in describing the horrible persecution that Jews will (supposedly) face during the 7 year reign of terror called the Tribulation period? Let's see, how bad will it get for the Jews? Really bad. Heh heh. Really really bad. Sydney Watson, of course, wrote before the Shoah occurred, but his description of the Tribulation was chillingly prescient. Except that Jesus didn't come back in 1945. Unless you think that Eisenhower was Jesus.

(4) The event described at the end of the novel, where Jesus returns and all the remaining Jews convert to Christianity, is a commonly described event in evangelical apocalyptic novels and theological textbooks. It's based on a rather loose reading of Zechariah 12:10 ("they shall look on him who they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only son"), as well as Romans 11:26 ("and so all Israel shall be saved; even as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer; He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob"). One problem is that the New Testament says that the passage from Zechariah was already fulfilled when Jesus hung on the cross. Another, even bigger problem, is that it's quite unfair to expect a particular religious or ethnic group (take your pick) to make an unbiased and unpressured decision to change their religion after being hounded and tortured and murdered for seven long years. Wandering Jude thinks that's undue pressure, not exactly what you want in a sincere religious conversion. And besides, many of Wandering Jude's Jewish friends and relatives would more than likely respond to the Second Coming (after those aforementioned 7 years of terror) with a certain hand gesture that is widely used in the Bronx but is considered obscene in most other parts of North America.
And who could blame them?

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