Study Guide

Book of Revelation Violence

Violence

"Beware, I am throwing [Jezebel] on a bed, and those who commit adultery with her I am throwing into great distress, unless they repent of her doings; and I will strike her children dead." (NRSV 2:22-23)

Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death. (KJV 2:22-23)

Jezebel is one of the false prophets that Jesus mentions by name. Not only will she be punished, but her children will be killed. Ouch.

I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider's name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth. (NRSV 6:8)

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth. (KJV 6:8)

What a lovely way to usher in the apocalypse. One of the Four Horsemen gets the power to kill through all kinds of lovely methods. For our money, we'd take the sword. Quick and painless.

[The evil locusts] were told not to damage the grass of the earth or any green growth or any tree, but only those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. They were allowed to torture them for five months, but not to kill them, and their torture was like the torture of a scorpion when it stings someone. And in those days people will seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them. (NRSV 9:4-6)

And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them. (KJV 9:4-6)

Nice. God lets the locusts torture people but not kill them (even though they're dreaming of death). Do the people notice that Christians aren't being tormented? Why aren't they jumping on that bandwagon?

The four angels were released, who had been held ready for the hour, the day, the month, and the year, to kill a third of humankind. (NRSV 9:15)

And the four angels were loosed, which were prepared for an hour, and a day, and a month, and a year, for to slay the third part of men. (KJV 9:15)

Holy crud. More murders. A third of the population gone. Just like that.

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 humankind 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; their tails are like serpents, having heads; and with them they inflict harm. (NRSV 9:17-19)

And thus I saw the horses in the vision, and them that sat on them, having breastplates of fire, and of jacinth, and brimstone: and the heads of the horses were as the heads of lions; and out of their mouths issued fire and smoke and brimstone. By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone, which issued out of their mouths. For their power is in their mouth, and in their tails: for their tails were like unto serpents, and had heads, and with them they do hurt. (KJV 9:17-19)

Another third of humanity is killed here. Between Death and the four angels, and these weird horses, there can't be too many people left alive, right? And why does God do it in thirds?

War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the Dragon. The Dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great Dragon was thrown down […] and his angels were thrown down with him. (NRSV 12:7-9)

And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the Dragon; and the Dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great Dragon was cast out[…] and his angels were cast out with him. (KJV 12:7-9)

For a passage about war, this one is surprisingly lacking in violence. The Dragon just gets thrown down to Earth. Michael and the angels barely break a sweat, too.

The angel swung his sickle over the earth and gathered the vintage of the earth, and he threw it into the great wine press of the wrath of God. And the wine press was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the wine press, as high as a horse's bridle, for a distance of about two hundred miles. (NRSV 14:18-20)

And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. (KJV 14:18-20)

Probably the grossest image in all of Revelation. The fact that we're given the exact measure of how much blood there was makes this just a tiny bit more disturbing. Luckily we're not quite sure how big a furlong is.

The fifth angel poured his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness; people gnawed their tongues in agony, and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and sores, and they did not repent of their deeds. (NRSV 16:10-11)

And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. (KJV 16:10-11)

Seriously? People are still not repenting? The murders? The locusts? The death angels? The wine press? The tongue gnawing? What is it going to take to convince you guys?

There came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a violent earthquake[…] The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. God remembered great Babylon and gave her the wine-cup of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found; and huge hailstones, each weighing about a hundred pounds, dropped from heaven on people, until they cursed God for the plague of the hail. (NRSV 16:18-21)

And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake[…] And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail. (KJV 16:18-21)

Rome has fallen. Giant hailstones have, too. Right on top of unsuspecting sinners who were probably running and screaming for their lives.

Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "With such violence Babylon the great city will be thrown down, and will be found no more; and the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flutists and trumpeters will be heard in you no more; and an artisan of any trade will be found in you no more; and the sound of the millstone will be heard in you no more; and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more; and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more; for your merchants were the magnates of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. And in you was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slaughtered on earth." (NRSV 18:21-24)

And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in thee: for thy merchants were the great men of the earth; for by thy sorceries were all nations deceived. And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth. (KJV 18:21-24)

Whoa, talk about spiking the football.

From [Jesus's] mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. (NRSV 19:15)

And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. (KJV 19:15)

So Jesus gets in on the violence a bit, too. Though the sharp sword from his mouth is probably his words, it's clear that they're fightin' words.

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. (NRSV 22:18)

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book. (KJV 22:18)

Um… oops.

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