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Chapter 6 | Contents | Chapter 8


The Revelation -- Which Interpretation?
By Graham Pearce




A Review of Exploring the Apocalypse and the Future, Bro. P.W. Watkins


Like Bro. Whittaker's interpretation of the Revelation, the late Bro. Watkins' makes the prophecy Israel-centred, only more so than Bro. Whittaker. Some of the prophecy is applied to the nation of Israel in the past, but the important parts refer to the nation in the immediate future. The emphasis is on Israel becoming the world dominant power, tyrannically oppressing all nations, persecuting the saints, and blaspherning and fighting against Christ when he returns. His interpretation of the book of the Revelation is summarised in the diagram on page 78.


The central feature of Bro. Watkins' theory is that the various beasts in the Revelation, and also in the book of Daniel, refer to Israel. It will help us to appreciate what he is saying by summarising what the scriptures say about these beasts. This is set out in tabular form:


MODERN ISRAEL will be the little horn of Daniel's fourth beast (DAN. 7)


    -that has eyes and mouth speaking great things and a look more stout than his fellows;

    -that makes war with the saints and prevails against them;

    -that speaks great words against the most High, and wears out the saints of the most High, and they are delivered into his hand until a time and times and a dividing of time.



ISRAEL is the little horn of the goat (DAN. 8)

Pp. 98-9,109-112

    -that in the first century 'magnified himself' even to (against) the prince of the host, took away the daily sacrifice, cast down the place of the sanctuary, cast down the truth to the ground, practised and prospered;

    -will stand up against the Prince of princes; but... shall be broken without hand.


MODERN ISRAEL is the King (DAN. 8:25 & 11:36-39)

Pp. 113

    -who shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of Gods, and shall prosper until the indignation be accomplished.


MODERN ISRAEL is the Man of Sin (2 THESS. 2)

Pp. 56, 97, 99

    -who will oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, sitting in the temple of God showing himself that he is God;

    -whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming.


MODERN ISRAEL is the beast that arises out of the abyss (REV. 11)

Pp. 74, 123

    -and will make war against the two witnesses (special Christadelphians) and overcome them and kill them.


ISRAEL was the great red dragon (REV. 12)

Pp. 114-115, 168

    -that was cast out of heaven in AD 70;

    -that is the old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.


MODERN ISRAEL is the beast of the sea (REV. 13)

Pp. 58-60, 91-98, 185

    -whom all the world will worship;

    -having a lion mouth, blaspherning God, his name, and his tabernacle;

    -who will make war with the saints and overcome them;

    -who has power over all kindreds, tongues and nations.


MODERN ISRAEL is the 8th head of the beast (REV. 17)

Pp. 62-3, 104, 112-4, 120-

    -it was the 6th head, and after the healing of its deadly wound becomes the 8th head;

    -supported by ten horn kingdoms (Arabs) it will make war with Christ and the saints (v.14).


MODERN ISRAEL is the beast (REV. 19)

Pp. 178-9

    -who with his publicity agent (the false prophet) is taken by Christ and his army on white horses, and cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone; and shall be tormented day and night (Rev. 20:10).


Putting together all these references gives us an astonishing picture of how Bro. Watkins viewed Israel of the near future: its violence; its wickedness and

PAGE 78 (Diagram: Bro. Watkins' interpretation of the Revelation: Israel Is The Beast)


blasphemy against the God of Israel; its vast power and world supremacy; and its total destruction. Such a picture is entirely out of harmony with what the prophets tell us, and it just cannot be a true picture. We will set out the contrast between what Bro. Watkins said, and what the Bible says.

The Bible contrasted with what Bro. Watkins wrote:

1. The nation welcomes Jesus on his appearance.

The Master put on record just before his crucifixion, "Behold your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matt. 23:38-9). So faithless Jewry that crucified Jesus will not fight against him when he appears to them, but will be ready to accept him. The Psalmist had prophesied the same thing: "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my righthand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool .... Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Psa. 110: 1, 3). Both Malachi and Isaiah tell us that a work of reconciliation will have been started before Jesus is revealed: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:5, 6). The previous verse has instructed them to give heed to the law of Moses and its statutes and judgements. These scriptures give an altogether different picture to that provided by Bro. Watkins with Israel as the little horn speaking great words when the Ancient of Days comes and sits in judgement, and the beast (Israel) is given to the burning flame (Dan. 7:9-11).

2. The restoration of Israel a slow process, under Divine guidance.

The restoration chapters in Ezekiel, chapters 34-37 and onwards, show a slow process with God's guidance of Israel, not a time of warfare between God and Israel. In chapter 34 the bad shepherds of Israel are replaced by the good shepherd; in chapter 35, Edom, the enemy of Israel, is rebuked; in chapter 36 the land is made to blossom and Israel is given a new heart; in chapter 37 the restoration is a step by step process from the dry bones scattered in the open plain, bone coming to bone, flesh coming on the body and then life from the spirit of God. We are not concerned with any sequential timing between chapters but only (i) it is a time of God's favour to Israel and their land, and (ii) there is a slow process of reconciliation. This has no similarity with the situation Bro. Watkins gives.

The contrast is very apparent in the way he handles the great siege of Jerusalem. In fulfilment of Zechariah 12 and 14, Bro. Watkins has all nations gathered together against Jerusalem; and the outcome is that Israel destroys all the nations, then becomes a world power terrorising the world, and as the beast and ten horns, fights against Christ. How completely different is the truth. Zechariah 12 tells us that when the nations are gathered against


Jerusalem, God 'opens his eyes upon the house of Judah' (a figure for care and favour), v.4, and pours upon the house, of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem "the spirit of grace and supplications", v. 10. So they come to look on him "whom they have pierced" and mourn (v. 10). That a writer can ignore the words of scripture in this way is sad, and a danger to our community.

Joel provides the same picture as Zechariah in the siege of Jerusalem. "I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land" (Joel 3:2). Here is God's care and favour to his people in distress, not a state of antagonism. After the destruction in the valley of Jehoshaphat by 'thy mighty ones', Joel adds, "The LORD also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the LORD will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel" (v.16). For 'hope' the margin gives 'place of repair'. This is the opposite of Israel glorying in its own strength and fighting against Christ.

3. Israel is weak, not powerful when Christ returns.

The prophets show Israel in a state of weakness when Christ reveals himself; not a tyrannical world power, persecuting the saints and fighting against Christ. Moses in his prophetic song sees them at the end of the days, "For the LORD shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left" (Deut. 32:36). Then God pours out vengeance on his enemies, "and will be merciful unto his land and to his people". Isaiah through various chapters shows also that Israel is weak at this time. Isaiah 41:14; "Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel". Isaiah 43:2, 3; "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee". We might add the testimony of Jeremiah. He gives the same situation regarding Israel at this time. Thus Jeremiah 31, "Hear the word of the LORD, 0 ye nations ... He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd doth his flock. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he" (vv. 10, 11). In the previous verses they come from the north country, and the coasts of the earth, the blind and the lame, the woman with child; God leads them with weeping and supplications. Such is Israel in the latter days, weak, oppressed, captive, accepting the care of their Saviour.

4. Israel and Babylon.

The idea that the nation of Israel is so powerful that as the Beast of Revelation


17 it destroys the latter-day Babylon and then attacks Christ, is not what the prophets say. They present a picture that is the reverse of this. Israel is a captive people in the latter-day Babylon, needing God, through Christ, to deliver them. So says Zechariah: "Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD . . . deliver thyself, 0 Zion, that dwelleth with the daughter of Babylon ... For behold I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD Of Hosts hath sent me" (Zech. 2:6, 7, 9, 10). Israel in captivity in Babylon receives help from Christ to deliver herself. Micah says the same: "Be in pain, and labour to bring forth, 0 daughter of Zion ... thou shalt go even to Babylon; there shalt thou be delivered; there the LORD shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies" (Micah 4: 10). The context of Micah 4 shows that this is the nation of Israel in the latter days. Isaiah in his 14th chapter is even plainer; "For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land" (v.1). The next verse says "they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors". Then comes the important verse: "Thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! The golden city ceased!... He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth". Nothing could be plainer. It is not the nation of Israel in the future who is the dominant world power, oppressing nations; it is the latter-day Babylon, Babylon the Great. Israel is in captivity and when redeemed, rejoices over Babylon. As Zechariah 10 tells us, Israel is strengthened by Christ to deliver themselves from the enemy.

So Bro. Watkins picture is altogether wrong. His whole concept is far removed from scripture truth. He has turned things upside down. This being so, it would not be profitable to use much more space on following in detail his various propositions and themes. We will therefore, conclude this chapter with four more illustrations of inappropriateness in his presentation.

Four more illustrations of inappropriateness:

1. The little horn of Daniel 7.

"I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots" (Dan. 7:8).

In Bro. Watkins' theory the ten horns are ten Arab kings, and Israel is the little horn that plucks up three of the ten. Let us note the sequence in v. 8. The 10 horns are there --'I considered the horns' -- and the little horn comes up afterwards. But is this what has happened in the Middle East? It is not. In general Israel and the Arab nations have come into being side by side, but in detail at least six of the Arab nations received their independence -- became horns -- after Israel became independent. They are Kuwait, Yemen, Morocco,


Tunisia, Libya and Algeria; Jordan and Syria obtained their independence about the same time as Israel. It is just not true that the Israel horn arose after the ten Arab horns. Nor is it true that Israel has 'plucked up by the roots' -- totally destroyed -- three Arab States in order to establish itself.

Daniel tells us that the saints take the kingdom from the little horn. Many of the saints are Jews; all are "Israelites indeed"; they are the coming rulers of the nation of Israel. It does not make sense to say that the rulers of Israel take the kingdom from their own nation, which is what is involved in Bro. Watkin's saying the nation of Israel is the little horn.

2. The manchild and dragon of Revelation 12.

For Bro. Watkins the dragon is the nation of Israel at the time of Christ's birth. The dragon is in heaven, which he says means that Israel was blessed of God. The man child caught up to heaven and to God's throne is the Christian community at this time. The text tells us that the man child makes war on the dragon and casts it out of heaven. Does this detail fit the history of the time? Did the disciples of Christ make war on the nation of Israel and cast it out of 'heaven'? Could Israel be described as a great red dragon with seven heads and ten horns? Could Israel at the time be described as that old serpent, called the devil and satan which deceived the whole world? This does not sound reasonable and cannot be compared with the sober detailed fulfilment provided by the continuous historical interpretation at the time of Constantine (see Chapter 5).

3. The harlot and the beast of Revelation 17.

In explaining this chapter, Bro. Watkins has the harlot as the apostate Roman Catholic system, and Israel as the beast. Israel is said to have been the 6th head of the beast, which after its deadly wound was healed (Revelation 13) becomes the 8th head of this chapter. The Roman empire is the 7th head of the beast. This is saying that the beast of Revelation 17 is both the Roman system and the nation of Israel. This is not credible. Israel and the Roman empire are totally different constitutions; they cannot be represented by different heads on the same beast. Again, the beast that carries the harlot is the beast that ascends out of the abyss, and Bro. Watkins said this is an identification of modern Israel, emerged from the abyss of nations. So we have the nation of Israel carrying the Papacy and the Catholic Church. Surely this is confusion.

4. Ezekiel 38 will not be fulfilled until Revelation 20:8 is fulfilled.

Bro. Watkins believed the conditions described in Ezekiel 38:8-14 are "kingdom conditions". He wrote "The people are enjoying the blessings of his (Christ's) beneficient reign". This means that the invasion of the land from the north by this great confederacy is after Babylon is destroyed, after the various beasts and the ten horns have gone, after the false prophet has been cast into the lake of fire, after the dragon, the old serpent, etc., has been bound in the


abyss; and the kingdom has been established. But where can this great confederacy come from? It cannot possibly exist if all the various symbols of opposition to Christ used in the Revelation have already been overcome!

Ezekiel three times emphasises the magnitude of this invasion: (1) "a great company, and a mighty army; a cloud to cover the land"; (2) "Art thou not he of whom I have spoken in old time by my servants the prophets of Israel, which prophesied many years that I would bring thee against them"; (3) "Behold, it is come, and it is done, saith the Lord GOD; this is the day whereof I have spoken" (Ezek. 39:8). So Ezekiel's invasion is emphatically The Great Day of the LORD, about which other prophets have spoken. It just cannot be some strange extra event after the kingdom is established.

A study of the text in Ezekiel shows that Israel is not "enjoying the blessings of Christ's beneficient reign" at this time. It is only as a result of the destruction of the great confederacy -- that is afterwards -- that Israel comes to fear and obey God. So reads Ezek. 39:7 "So will I make my holy name known in the midst of my people Israel; and I will not let them pollute my holy name any more". And later in the chapter "So the house of Israel shall know that I am the LORD their God from that day and forward" (v.20). Chapter 40 and onward describes in detail the setting up of the Kingdom -- the building of the temple, the law giving, the division of the land, and the institution of worship.

What will be the effect of this anti-Jewish attitude?

The nation of Israel is God's nation, despite their continuing blindness and unbelief. After centuries of chastisement ('I will correct thee in measure') God is now working toward their restoration to favour and obedience -- "for mine holy name's sake" (Ezek. 36:22). This is a foundation principle of Christadelphian faith. We are linked with the nation in the common Hope of Israel. We Gentiles have been adopted into the Commonwealth of Israel, with the prospect of being part of the House of David (2 Sam. 7) that will rule over the nation. Though like the prophets we mourn at the unbelief and wickedness of 'our' nation, our attitude should be that of Daniel of old in his prayer for his people (Daniel 9).

Already in Christadelphian circles some are turning away from, or are indifferent to, this foundation element of the Truth. It is inevitable that this presentation of Israel by Bro. Watkins will encourage and increase this wrong attitude, and lessen our sympathy for the Jews. It is likely to develop among us the hostile attitude that is so common in the world.