My biblical odyssey began sometime in the spring of 1993. On one lazy evening of that vernal season, I was lying in bed in a vacant mood, glancing with disinterest at the images on the TV screen while at the same time leafing carelessly through the pages of a popular magazine. As my bored gaze took turns looking at the television and then at the tiresome pages of the magazine, a curious advertisement caught my eye. The ad featured an invitation to obtain a free copy of a book authored by a Larry Wilson entitled Wake Up America: Revelation Is About to Be Fulfilled. Not particularly moved by the invitation, I paused long enough to recall the vague interest I had always had about the book of Revelation; an interest that was idle curiosity more than anything. At that time all I knew about the Revelation of St. John the Divine was that it featured four horsemen, with one of them riding a pale horse representing Death, supposedly. I knew nothing about its monsters out of the sea or anything else. Nevertheless, I dialed the toll-free number and left my mailing information on an answering machine. A few days later, I received a copy of Larry Wilson’s provocative paperback in the mail.
The front cover of the booklet had the appearance of a graphic novel featuring a dramatic and colorful drawing of a king with a long, flowing white beard, wearing a white robe and riding a mighty white horse as though charging into battle. Behind and below God Almighty on the white charger was an image of Planet Earth in outer space undergoing a meteorite attack. A huge meteorite had smashed into one of its oceans, making a splash of biblical proportions. As I would later learn by reading Larry’s book, a sizeable meterorite impacting one of our oceans is one in a series of destructive events outlined in Revelation that the Earth is to suffer, all part of a grand scheme setting the stage for the second coming of Christ. The giant space rock splashing into the ocean is to be the third of four initial calamities, each one different and more devastating than the last, that are to occur in rapid succession at the start of the Great Tribulation as foretold in the Revelation of St. John. Because of these disasters, a full one-third of the Earth was to be decimated and plunged into darkness (as I was later to learn later). At that time, however, I thought the image on the cover of the booklet to be somewhat corny—no more captivating than the cover of an action comic book. Looking at the cover, however, a distant childhood memory arrived unsummoned to mind; a memory, strangely, that was about the same thing.
I was in the first grade. A classmate was taunting me with a scary story about impending doom: he insisted that a giant rock from outer space was going to crash into the earth and kill us all. “That’s not ture,” I shot back. “Yes it is true, a giant rock from outspace is headed right for us and it’s going to crash into the world, and we’re all going to die!” We went back and forth for a while. I remember a feeling of intense fear swelling within me as I argued with that psychological classmate bully. I was as scared as a first grade kid could be, and I almost started to cry but I fought back any tears until the school bell saved me from further taunting. I then ran crying to my mommie. She was waiting for me after school. I hurried to her, and cried to her about this big rock from outer space and how it was going to crash into the earth and how we were all going to die. With urgency, I begged her to tell me it wasn’t true. She assured me it was not. I believed her—but then, I had to; she was, after all, my mother and I was, after all, deeply afraid of that space rock.
But now, as a grown man, here I was looking at that same story again. And this time coming not from a jeering classmate, but from the Bible—from the Word of God himself. I thought, It must be true after all. And then, dismissively, I thought, Nawwww…can’t be. Yet, I decided to read Larry’s book.
The introduction of Wake up America: Revelation is About to be Fulfilled explained how, in the biblical books of Daniel and Revelation, God had provided a road map, or schedule of events, leading to the end of the world. Although this end-time itinerary was to be found primarily in the books of Daniel and Revelation, all the other books in the Bible, all sixty-four of them, serve as a reference library to aid in understanding. The introduction went on to provide more details of God’s plan and insisted that those who embraced it would be saved. Larry sternly warned that to ignore the plan would result in eternal damnation, “according to the Word.”
The heavenly schedule of events, Larry assured the reader, included not only milestones to watch for as God’s plan unfolded, but encompassed a timetable based on a calendar provided in the Old Testament book of Leviticus, referred to as the Jubilee calendar. By plotting the biblical events according to this Jubilee calendar, one could determine with reasonable certainty where we (read: us, today) were in the chronology of God’s plan. As chance would have it, and as has been believed by many generations before us (each of whom also thought they were “it”), our generation is “it,” as in “last generation,” and is destined to endure the “end times,” also referred to as the Great Tribulation, or the Apocalypse. All of this was as new to me as it was thrilling and terrific. I found Larry’s reckoning to be compelling, and my personal interest in the “end times,” to put it lightly, skyrocketed. My immediate interest turned to understanding what events were next on the timetable. I needed to know what to watch for.
In a nutshell, the end-time course of events, according to the books of Daniel and Revelation, may be generally sketched as follows: the start of the Great Tribulation would be signaled by a great global earthquake. A global meteorite shower, that is, one that would pepper the entire Earth as it rotates along its orbit through a meteor storm, is to follow, burning up one-third of the trees and grass on the globe. Next, a great meteorite is to splash into one of our oceans, causing a monumental tsunami that will destroy one-third of the sea creatures and one-third of all the ships at sea. The scene of this cataclysm is what was featured on the cover of Larry Wilson’s book. The fourth calamity will consist of another meteorite impact, this time on terra firma, causing all the rivers and fountains of water to become contaminated by pollutants leaking into watersheds due to the ensuing fractures of the tectonic plates caused by the meteorite impact. This fourth event is to lead to a fifth disaster, marked by the onset of a “nuclear winter.” Brought on by thick smoke from fires all over our planet, along with tons of ejecta shot into the atmosphere, this nuclear winter, like the one that killed off the dinosaurs, is to shroud one-third of the Earth in darkness.
A full one-third of humankind is to be wiped out by these initial catastrophic events, and civilization as we know it will be no more. Ad hoc rulers will then spring up here and there, attempting to restore order or gain control of the masses for exploitation. During this time, a process of “separating the sheep from the goats” will ensue, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth as people are forced into making difficult choices between God and family, erstwhile friend and foe. Perhaps during these awful times, a social context will present itself where the true meaning of Jesus’s mandate in Luke 14:26 will manifest. Many false prophets will appear, and eventually, the Devil himself is to make a grand entrance, masquerading as the returning Christ. Daniel and Revelation provide detailed clues that will allow one to distinguish the Great Impostor from the true Risen Lord. Watching for and recognizing these telltale signs will be critical for salvation.
However outlandish all this seemed, I was nevertheless fascinated. I had no idea that this kind of stuff was even in the Bible. At that time, I still believed the Bible to be the unerring word of God. This was the first time, however, that I had been exposed to a meaningful and compelling interpretation of it that had an immediate and practical impact on my present life and choices. My own efforts in reading the Bible, up until that time, invariably resulted in waning enthusiasm, with my inevitably putting the Bible aside for other, more captivating reading. Now, however, my interest in the Bible was of a different order: I was now impressed with a sense of urgency; I needed to know what the Bible’s message really is. This end-of-the-world business, with a roadmap to navigate through it provided by a merciful God for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, was of a new and vital nature. Far beyond dry words about God’s message and the life to live for the sake of the hereafter, this material was urgent, relevant, timely, and, well, alive.
Larry next provided his interpretation of the books of the Bible, starting with Daniel, chapter 2. This, too, was all new to me. In all my years as a Catholic, I had never even thought about interpreting the Bible. All I knew about Daniel was something about his being thrown into a den of lions that wanted to be petted by him instead of having him for lunch. What follows is a paraphrasing of Larry’s interpretations blended with my own studies. Any differences between our respective interpretations will be touched upon only as necessary to the telling of the story in this book—which means that the differences will make no difference at all.
I include this outline of Daniel 2 and 7 so that the reader may have an idea of where I was in my studies and how I understood these chapters in Daniel at that time. The book of Daniel figured large in my overall experience with the Bible. As succeeding chapters will show, I began my biblical quest for truth with Daniel 7. That crusade ended when I read, or I should say really read, those few verses in Daniel 9, as I mention in the introduction. My biblical odyssey, then, began and ended with those two chapters of the same Old Testament book. Thus, after ten years, I ended up right about where I started—as though having been thrown for one big loop.
For readers who are familiar with the eschatology of the book of Daniel and for those who may have their own views as to the correct interpretation of what Daniel 2 and 7 say, I urge you not to bother distinguishing your own understanding from that presented here. What is submitted here is not put forward as definitive—that is, as the “correct” interpretation. Rather, it is one possible exegesis that may be demonstrative of the sort of worldview one may arrive at by way of what Daniel and Revelation may be understood to mean. Regardless, Daniel and Revelation are fascinating as literature, and, to my literary taste, beautiful and enduring works of art—especially the book of Daniel. In short, Daniel tells one helluva story.
The story starts with Babylon and its greatest monarch, King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled Babylon from 605 to 562 BC. Known for his famous Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned by name around ninety times in the Bible. He is infamous for conquering Judah and destroying Jerusalem in 586 BC. After he razed Jerusalem, King Neb captured a horde of Hebrews and took them to Babylon, where they were committed to a life of slavery. The prophet Daniel, a youth at the time, was among those taken captive. Once in the custody of the Babylonians, it would not be long before Daniel would have an opportunity to demonstrate his prophetic prowess.
Chapter 2 of Daniel tells us how Nebuchadnezzar had a nightmare that deeply troubled him. He had forgotten the contents of the dream, however, and therefore assembled his sorcerers and soothsayers, demanding that they tell him what the bothersome dream had been about. Being mere human charlatans, Nebuchadnezzar’s magicians, astrologers, and Chaldeans could not tell him this, much less interpret the dream. They pled for the king to relate the imagery of the dream, and they in turn would happily provide an interpretation. The king was infuriated. He demanded that they tell him what he had dreamt, and when they could not do so, in enraged frustration this despot ordered that all the wise men in Babylon be executed—immediately!
Daniel by that time had already acquired a reputation for being a wise man, and was therefore doomed. When Daniel heard about the slaughter of the soothsayers, he called out to his keepers, “I can show the king the dream and its interpretation!” The keepers must have thought, Oh, really? Undoubtedly anticipating some fun watching what the king would do with this audacious Hebrew slave, the king’s keepers decided to take Daniel over to him. The answer to the riddle of the king’s dream, however, was itself revealed to Daniel in a dream of his own, and to the astonishment of all, Daniel not only told King Nebuchadnezzar what his forgotten dream was about, but what it meant.
Daniel told the King Nebuchadnezzar that in his forgotten, nightmarish dream, the King had had a vision of a great statue of a man-king constructed of various materials: a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet made from a mixture of iron and clay. The King’s memory must have been restored at this point, and surely it was with intense interest that he now listened to this lowly Hebrew slave. Daniel explained how the statue and its parts represented successive world-ruling kingdoms, starting with Babylon as the head of gold. Other kingdoms, represented by the differing materials of diminishing value, would follow by way of conquering its predecessor kingdom, thus depicting the predatory nature of these entities. Almost certainly, King Neb was not pleased by the news that his kingdom would not last forever but would be conquered by another kingdom lesser―read, inferior, weaker, less powerful―than his. Those in attendance at Daniel’s audience with the monarch, all of whom would laugh heartedly at all of the King’s jokes, must have wondered in astonishment at the audacity of Daniel, the Hebrew slave who dared tell King Nebuchadnezzar that he was going to be defeated and his kingdom destroyed.
Be that as it may, the king’s displeasure did not make any difference. As history confirms, Babylon was vanquished by the Medes and Persians, and they, in turn, fell to the Grecian armies of Alexander. Greece was later conquered by the legions of Rome. The interpretation of the dream included the astonishing forecast, perhaps chilling to some but warmly welcomed by Christians, that when the last of the kingdoms would be ruling the Earth, “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed.”
Obviously, and in keeping with world history, Rome ruled for many centuries, but rules no more. Notwithstanding whatever Western powers may be presently at the helm of global dominion, the final kingdom of Heaven has not yet been established. I was certain, however, that as Rome followed Greece, the United States would surely be overcome, perhaps by that heavenly kingdom. With my curiosity thus provoked, on I read.
The story in Daniel 2, with the successive world empires it tells about, is repeated and amplified by the monster drama of Daniel 7. The parallels are easy to draw; they appear obvious. As in Daniel 2, where successive world empires are represented by materials of diminishing value: gold → silver → brass → ending in iron/clay, an unnatural mixture, in Daniel 7 we are treated to the same development, but this time represented by successive animals arising “out of the sea.” Each animal, or creature, in turn is increasingly distorted as compared to the last, with a corresponding loss of identity with any known animals.
In Daniel, chapter 7, we first encounter a lion, representing the golden age of Babylon. Replacing the majestic lion, we are then met by a ravenous bear representing Media/Persia, Babylon’s successor. The bear is somehow raised up on one side, like a hunchback, lending it a clumsy aspect. It is also busy eating; it has a bunch of ribs in its mouth. As compared to the lion of Babylon, the hungry, lopsided bear presents a step down in pride and dignity. Then, however, next comes a winged, four-headed leopard—an unnatural creature if ever there was one, to be upended only by the fourth beast that arises out of the sea—a ferocious animal with iron teeth. Like the unlikely joining of clay and iron that we saw in Daniel 2, this hideous monster offers not a hint of being identified with any known representative of the animal kingdom.
According to what may be the majority view, the four sea creatures represent the same four empires ruling successively, as depicted in Daniel 2: Babylon, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and then the Romans—however, with the addition of mysterious information about Rome. This fourth kingdom, Rome, as represented by the dreadful and terrible beast with iron teeth, sprouts ten horns representing the ten separate states that the Roman Empire would fragment into after its fall.
From among these states, yet another ruling power is to emerge, markedly different from the initial ten. Symbolized as a “little horn,” it would start small, subdue three of the existing states upon its ascension, and grow to become almighty: it would rule the Earth and “think to change the times and laws.” This kingdom would wield its power and dominion for “a time and time and the dividing of time,” or 1,260 years, as I would later come to understand. Moreover, this was to be an evil entity whose purpose would be to lead the saints astray. How ominous. Who might this Little Horn power emerging from the fragments of a crumbling Roman Empire be?
When assembled together (as I have roughly, at least, put forward here), and as do many Bible devotees, Daniel 2 and 7 comprise a rather straightforward historical narrative. The whopper for me in all of this, however, came when I learned how the Little Horn of Daniel 7, that evil entity that would rule for 1,260 years, is none other than the Church of Rome—read, the Catholic Church—my Catholic Church! I was shocked. Believing the Bible to be the word of God, I couldn’t believe what the Bible appeared to be saying. Many people put the Catholic religion down for many reasons, but finding it singled out in the Bible was a bit overwhelming. I was born a Roman Catholic, and I was still a Catholic. And, however negligently I practiced my religion, it was still mine and not for the taking, dammit! Not only that, but I believed it was the correct religion above all others. That was all the truth I needed to know up until then. My biblical journey, however, was only just beginning. I was now determined to see if all of this was really true. I needed to really study Daniel and Revelation, and the rest of the Bible, and whatever other source materials were out there, because if it were true, I now demanded to know. And so, to work I went, accompanied by my radical, newly awakened interest in the Word of God.
A standard Christian Bible has a total of sixty-six books. A Catholic Bible, however, includes an additional four books from the Apocrypha, for a total of seventy.
What I provide here is a general synopsis that is at best but one interpretation of what are vexing Bible passages that students of Holy Scripture from all walks have labored to understand for ages. While other interpretations differ on some events and the order of them, the basic sketch provided here is a fair representation of the general, biblical scheme, including Larry Wilson’s as well as my own understanding that I formulated in the mid-nineties. As I write, mid-2016, I do not know Larry’s current views, and I have long since abandoned mine altogether in this regard.
In Luke 14:26, Jesus is quoted as saying, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”
 Those ten years of Bible study, with Daniel 7 and Daniel 9 as book-ends, were then followed by ten more years of studies in biblical skepticism and critique culminating in the book you now hold in your hands.
To learn of Daniel’s exploits in gaining the reputation as a wise man, I refer the reader to the first chapter of the Book of Daniel.
Daniel 2:19. One wonders—if the king had forgotten his dream, how did he recognize it when told what it was? Upon listening to Daniel tell it, it must have simply rung true by way of gut feeling.
That the prophecies describing these strange events were given to Daniel centuries before their supposed occurrence was not lost on me, and only added to my enthrallment. There were issues, however. Historically, as Rome fell, it did not fracture into exactly ten substates. To this historical fact, a nonliteralist insisting nevertheless that Rome is indeed the political entity referred to might say, “The Bible means ten, more or less.” To a literalist, however, ten and only ten is what the Bible says, and ten it must therefore be. For many others, however, the question as to whether Rome satisfies the prophecy remains unsatisfied, just as the mystery of the prophecy’s answer remains unsolved.
As already mentioned, opinions vary. While the correct interpretation of chapters 2 and 7 of Daniel remains debatable, that the Church of Rome is implicated appears to be the majority view.