Armageddon and the “Kings from the East”

Probing Deeper into the Meaning of Strife

The Last Judgment by Michelangelo

And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon that great river Euphrates; and dried up the water thereof, that a way might be prepared for the kings from the rising of the sun. And I saw from the mouth of the dragon, and from the mouth of the beast, and from the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs. For they are the spirits of devils working signs, and they go forth unto the kings of the whole earth, to gather them to battle against the great day of the Almighty God (Revelation 16:12-14).

There are varied and different approaches to the Apocalypse today, especially the well-known fundamentalist, or futurist, modes. To be sure, these fundamentalist viewpoints largely miss the mystical and transcendent nature of this profound Scripture, and seek rather to impose geo-political war scenarios, and literal times and dates, amongst other things, precisely where Christ indicated that we are not meant to know such things, and this, also because they do no service to the meaning of salvation history. Yet we know that “It is not for you to know times or seasons” (Acts 1:7), while the Gospel of Matthew teaches us that:

And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that ye be not troubled. For these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there shall be pestilences, and famines, and earthquakes in places. Now all these are the beginnings of sorrows (Mt 24:6-8).

The extreme contrary to such futurism is known as preterism, and fairs a little better. Here, the Church’s wisdom teaches that we should first read a book as it is directed to its immediate audience and time, before we consider other layers. In this regard, there can be no real dispute as this being an initial layer of meaning. So as we realize that, the fundamentalists are seeing the very end of Church history in most of Revelation. The preterist view sees most, although not all, of the book fulfilled in the beginning of Church history, relating to the fall of Jerusalem, and the destruction of the Temple, as an image of the destruction of the world at the end. It also is a sign of the reality that the last vestiges of the Old Covenant are swept away in this self-same destruction of the ancient city and Temple, bringing into being the conquering of the old world by Christ through the New Covenant. Too, the diabolical imagery of beast and dragon, along with other images, is reflected in the immediate horror against the early Christians, the pagan Roman Empire. In this regard, the Book of Revelation serves ultimately not as a gloom and doom prophecy of permanent darkness, but as a stirring inspiration and comfort to the early Christians suffering under those turbulent and trying times.  They can, therefore, take hope that, in the end, Christ is victorious, no matter what pains and agony the Church goes through. For example, preterism sees the five months of trumpet five, first great woe, of Apocalypse 9, as a literal period of five months that it took for Rome to completely eradicate the city of Jerusalem. This is fine, in and of itself, but it is intrinsically useless to the meaning of salvation history, for if the time here were two months rather than five, or seven, or ten, or six, what difference would it make? Would salvation history be drastically altered if the time frame of the destruction of Jerusalem were not literally so? Of course, while the general event of the destruction of Jerusalem is important to salvation history, how long it takes can vary due to a variety of interpretations. “It is not for you to know times or seasons.”

Similarly, preterism leaves those seeking profound wisdom less than satiated with the delineated kings of the beast in Apocalypse 1 7:9-11. Here, the same kings are seen as merely Roman emperors: five died before St. John wrote the Apocalypse/ Book of Revelation (“Five have fallen”), one lived during his writing (“One is”), and one, and possibly two, came afterward (“And the other has not yet come. …And the beast which was and is not, even he is the eighth.”). Okay, fine. But would salvation history be drastically altered if only three emperors had fallen before St John wrote, that two concurrently reigned during his writing, and that three of four came after? I think not, for in the end, all that matters in this first great period of Church history, the age of the martyrs, is that these emperors, however enumerated, all share the same nature: to blasphemously claim divinity, and put to death any Christians not willing to pinch them incense. Too, if specific nations are not part of prophecy in New Testament Divine Revelation (again, [Matt. 24:6-8]), how much will it matter if particular kings not be listed…?

Hence, the point is not to dismiss preterism by itself, but to suggest that beyond this left-minded construct, deeper meanings may be possible in a more middle-of-the-road context, so to speak, meaning, in particular, idealism, or consideration of spiritual phases of Church history, if it were possible. Indeed, the Church is a middle of the road religion. She is not fully on the right or on the left. “We need to have the mind of a conservative and the heart of a liberal,” noted Peter Kreeft. This brings us to the subject of the Apocalypse Scripture we cited at the beginning: the kings from the east. So far, only literal extremes seem to be seen here for the “kings of the east,”  that is, China by many futurists, or fundamentalists, and the Parthians (a kingdom that was a threat to pagan Rome) by the preterists. Are these our only options? That is, what about idealism, or spiritual historicism? Let us probe it.

The true origin of any international tribulation is sin, which is separation from God. This is the message of Our Lady in so many modern apparitions. This is the message of our faith. Once man is separated from God, or at war with God—that is, lacking peace with God—so then man cannot have peace with his fellow man. Why? Because if man cannot love his Maker, who is an infinite Being of love, a family of immeasurable love, and an unfathomable mystery and beauty, how much more impossible will it be for man to love his fellow man, who is very sinful and imperfect.

Yet, man has not made peace with God to the degree that he does not accept the Gospel. Hence, when the Gospel is totally lost, man is in a position for incomparable strife. But, how does man lose the Gospel? Alas, the answer comes forth per the mystical words of the Sacred and Eucharistic Heart of Our Lord, according to the loving witness of his beloved disciple, Saint John:

Sanctify them in truth. Thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. And not for them only do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me; that they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one: and the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast also loved me.

Behold, this mystical text reveals a central mystery of the Eucharist, of communion, of unity: the efficacy of the Gospel in the world is intrinsically bound up with Christian unity. That is, to the degree that Christian unity is ruptured, the world will have difficulty believing in the Son; and to the degree that the world has difficulty believing in the Son, humanity’s peace with God will be ruptured; and to the degree that humanity’s peace with God is ruptured, humanity’s peace within itself will be ruptured. And so we are back to Armageddon.

Now, we ask, is there a way to probe Christian division in a manner that relates to the “east” (the “kings of the east”)? I believe, yes, and that the first step is to go back to the Old Covenant to look for a type. Here, we find that, in the Old Testament, the epic rupture of the unity of the Jewish Kingdom was between North and South, the North separating in schism, taking with it the majority, or ten of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, leaving the remnant kingdom consisting of two tribes in the South.

What of the New Testament? In this case, the East arises! For, in this same New Covenant history, the first great rift is not between North and South, but between East and West! Moreover, in this substantial, apocalyptic rupture of Christian unity, just as the schismatic North took most of the Twelve Tribes from the true, remnant Kingdom, the South, so the East were the schismatics who took the majority of the Apostolic Sees, four of five, from the See of Peter, leaving the Petrine behind in the West, yet the true Kingdom, remembering also that the twelve Apostles fulfill the Twelve Tribes in typology.

Later, of course, Christian disunity erupted into a far more catastrophic horror with Protestantism. Indeed, while recognizing that substantial scandal in the Catholic hierarchy paved the way for the radical and insane rejection of not only Peter (like the Orthodox), but of all the Bishops, and the Church’s Sacred Tradition, the prima causa of the world’s descent away from Christendom, and toward the modern age of near total godlessness in the former Christendom. This was caused, clearly, by disillusionment with the unfathomably confounded Gospel. For, when a message is unbelievably confused, as it was in Protestantism—myriads of competing factions in mass, mutually-conflicting interpretations, hating and betraying one another’s theologies, and universally excommunicating one another to perdition—what can we say except that the message will be rejected, or at least the Messenger. Hence, the world, beginning with so-called Enlightenment, and general age of solo-ratio, or reason alone, said to itself:

These Christians cannot get their message across about what Jesus ultimately meant, so we do not need Jesus. We don’t need Jesus, we don’t need Popes, we don’t need Bishops, and we don’t need Scripture. All we need is Reason.

In addition, if it were true that there were practically as many forms of Protestantism as there were Protestants, it is equally safe to say that there were practically as many forms of supernaturally dead infidelity as there were supernaturally dead infidels (deists and rationalists). Hence, merely natural religion according to reason, confounded ad infinitum like Protestantism, gave rise to a rejection of even religion itself, and a descent into merely worldly reason, an attempt to find the meaning and solution to human problems purely with reason, apart from religious considerations.

This eventually paved the way for ideologies and systems of thought that, especially in politics, utterly betrayed even reason, and became dark, particularly the diabolical left and right. More specifically, communism, based on atheism, denied God’s very existence itself, contrary to Vatican I that asserted that reason testifies to God’s existence, and, in addition, proposed a hyper-corporal-works-of-mercy solution to poverty, except one that forcefully and viciously used the state as the instrument of “mercy,” like Judas, who complains that the expensive jar could have been sold for much and given to the poor, yet himself ultimately was planning to betray all that is of God, yes, the God-man, in exchange for mere money.

Secondly, Fascism and Nazism seemed to swing to the contrasting scene of the woman with the alabaster jar, the Pharisaical scene, where instead of Judas, a Pharisee complains—judges persons: what kind of persons they are, who they are, and that they are sinners, unworthy of mercy. This implies bigotry, superiority complexes, and judgmentalism. All the more did Nazism exhibit supreme bigotry, where it regarded its own Arian race as supreme over others (Pharisees considered themselves superior to Gentiles, the downtrodden, and the “immoral”), and exploded vile hatred of a “kind” of people, the Jewish People [the Holocaust!]. Nazism was very much a twisted, secular perversion of Pharisaicalism.

Certainly, too, out of these depraved systems of secularism of the early twentieth century—which a pope at the time was lamenting and warning against as a rising threat—two world wars ascended, which were minimally minor “Armageddons”. In the introductory portion of the film, “The 13th Day,” the narrator, taking on the voice of a young Sister Lucia (eldest Fatima visionary), says mystically of World War I, “the innocence of the world was spent.” Of course, horrible wars have happened since practically the beginning of human history. Nevertheless, materialistic power was able to amplify the proud, angry, and bitter hearts of man in these world wars in ways that transcended any wars before in recorded history. Never before did you have an Armageddon-like scenario: a great many nations gathered together in practical apocalyptic conflict with the blood flowing like rivers to the tune of casualties in the tens of millions.

Again, it all stems from this: without God in our minds and hearts, man progressively makes war with himself. God wants us to know Him through the teachings of the Catholic Church, and to love Him in the practice of the Ten Commandments, animated by the power of the sacraments. To the degree that man lacks these goods, his ability to love God and man deteriorates, so that when virtually all truth and grace is absent, the most terrible atrocities await man. And, as we have seen, the Catholic Gospel begins to be lost through Christian division which, in turn, creates disillusionment with the Gospel which, in turn,  leads to loss of faith.

Hence, the mystical meaning of “apocalypse,” that the rivers are dried up to prepare the way for the “Kings of the East” in the sixth bowl of wrath, can be seen as this: the ultimate seed of the great loss of peace in humanity, leading to the modern godless times, is the first great loss of Christian unity. Hence, if the North is a type of  source of division of God’s Kingdoms of Old, then clearly the East fulfils this anti-type since she is the parallel “schismatic,” taking most of the Apostolic Sees with her, just as her precursor took most of the Twelve Tribes. Hence, “out of” the source of Christian division—“the Kings of the East”—“arises” apocalyptic war.

Now, I also feel that the theology here can be probed for a deeper analysis. More specifically, let us look at the beast, the dragon, and the false prophet imagery, as well as the frogs, next.

The Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet, Apocalypse 13
It seems appropriate that the dragon, beast, and false prophet can image a diabolical Trinity. In fact, this works well, not only in the context of preterism, but also idealism. Let us explore it. Clearly, if the dragon is the “father of lies,” the beast can be seen as the incarnation of these lies in human history in any age that is largely opposed to God. The false prophet can then image these lies, spoken between the dragon and beast, in much the same way in which the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. For reference, in the article on the Ecclesiology of the Loaves and Fishes

I saw the two horns of the false prophet as the two great lies of the fall themselves, recycled in all ages of sin, summarizing, in their principles, all that has ever been wicked or will be:
Anti-Baptismal Disposition: The antithesis of the Baptismal disposition: no faith, no repentance.  Seek not to know, love, and serve God in this life. Rather, believe as you wish and do as you wish. Don’t listen to God or any claimed revelation from God, whether by man or book. Decide for yourself what is true. And don’t do what God has told you to do, or what any claimed Revelation of God has told you to do. Rather, do what you want, whatever is convenient. You will be better off in all these things.

Anti-Marital Disposition toward God: As for seeking your ultimate fulfillment in marrying your Creator in the next life, rubbish! Rather, seek your ultimate fulfillment in figurative fornication with the creation, in this life—materialism—seeking your ultimate goal in this world, rather than the next!

Moving on, one can find profound meaning in the shore, the sea, and the earth. More specifically, the dragon takes his position on the shore, the (first) beast in the sea, and the false prophet (second beast) on the earth. We have seen in that same article just referenced that the earth is like a foundation, the Church, the pillar and “ground” of truth. (1 Tim. 3:15) The sea is a place of chaos, heresies and lies, tossing man to and fro. The shore would seem to be somewhere in the middle—part lies and part truth.

In this view, the devil, who takes his position on the shore (conclusion of Apocalypse 12) can be seen to hide behind half-truth, confounding the world with ideologies and ideas that have some truth and some falsehood, much like the extremes of right and left, each of which has some good and some bad. From this, total godless indifference arises: the beast from the sea. This could image the objective reality of godlessness. It has no foundation, only lies, and in the end, it will be tossed and drowned to its death.

This is in contrast to the second beast, the false prophet, who, rather than taking residence in the sea, like the first beast, arises from the earth. How would we see this? Well, it is initially very problematic. Why? Well, it is an issue because the earth is a true foundation of truth and grace, whereas the false prophet, on the other hand, who images the very lies of the fall themselves, is in no way a foundation.

In fact, the lies of the false prophet, which govern the beast from the sea, appropriately lead to the death and annihilation of the sea. Ah! But alas, this is perfect imagery! What does the dragon do except present his lies as good? Yes! That is exactly how the dragon portrays his ultimate lies from the fall! He presents his complete lies as though they are the complete truth! Hence, the false prophet, the fullness of deception, presents itself as the fullness of truth and stability: it stands on the earth and masquerades as though it has its origin in truth (it comes out of the earth). Therefore, the result is that the total lies of the devil, which spell both physical and spiritual doom for humanity, (the objective sea of death, the first beast) are presented as a supreme foundation for prosperity and peace (the subjective lie of placing them upon the earth, the second beast). Expectedly, the deception takes root in humanity, harshly verbalized in the same Apocalypse 13: “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with it? “ (Apoc. 13) Translation: “Behold, we have a supreme materialistic power and grandeur, and we have no need of God or religion. What will stop us from the ultimate paradise, or utopia?” Interestingly, this strikingly resembles Babel, where God says, “There will be nothing they shall not be able to do.” (Gen11:6)

The Frogs, Unclean Spirits
I would now like to offer what I feel to be a profound interpretation of our initial Scripture quotation from chapter 16 that supports where we have gone so far, and this, an analysis of the frogs, or unclean spirits, which emerge from the mouths of the diabolical trinity in the concurrent scene of the kings from the east (the sixth bowl of wrath). Obviously, we have to interpret Scripture in light of other Scripture and Tradition. Toward that end, we ask, have we seen frogs before in Scripture?

Absolutely! More specifically, frogs were considered divine by the Egyptians. Hence, man, looking down upon a mere animal, elevates it in delusion to a higher place in the hierarchy of existence than himself.

This is utterly profound. How? In the sense that if the man puts himself in the place of the frog relative to God, we get Lucifer and self-deification. What do we mean? We mean that, if man descends down to the place of the frog, and likewise puts God down to his former place, then the parallel situation introduces the first lie of the fall—“you shall be like gods, knowing good and evil”—meaning, if man elevated the frog immeasurably above himself, then, when man is a frog, he elevates himself immeasurably above God! Hence, man is deifying himself by associating himself with the frog.

Secondly, the frog has a peculiar a nature: it is amphibious, that is, able to live on land or water. From the standpoint of our earth/sea analogy, we saw that man can only truly live in peace and prosperity on the “earth,” the foundation of the truth and grace of God, which are the teachings and sacraments of the Church. On the other hand, we also saw the contra-positive: without the earth of truth and grace, man will drown in the ocean of lack of love and truth, tossed to and fro by the deceptive and harmful ideologies, ultimately slaughtering one another without the foundation of morals.

Hence, per the first deception above—man telling himself that is he like a frog—he is deluded and deceived into thinking that he can live, spiritually, on the earth or the water. Bingo! Man thinks he can live without God and morals and still have the foundation of peace and prosperity. He won’t drown: the lie of the false prophet above!

To conclude, the seduction of the frogs tells humanity that they can preserve the foundation of peace and prosperity without regard for God, and His truths and laws, and merely with materialistic power and dominion, with merely secular means. The CCC corroborates this, in saying that the modern form of secular messianism is a perverse lie of the “antichrist.”

The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope can only be realized beyond history, through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of “millenarianism” especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism. (CCC 676)

The Ten Horns “Burn Up the Harlot”
For concluding imagery, we can revisit the New Babel article ( Drawing from this article, the imagery of the harlot seated upon the beast with ten horns, who eventually burns her up and consumes her, (Apocalypse Chapter 17), perfectly and vividly portrays our preceding theology. How?

Well, firstly, for recollection, we have seen that the harlot is the symbol of the very second lie of the fall itself—materialism, or the anti-Spouse of God—that part of humanity that does not want a spousal relationship with God, but only a frivolous and brute relationship with the world, and its goods. Then, we also saw that whereas the decadence and illusory prosperity in this godless harlot can last for a time, eventually the negation of God’s morality and truth brings corruption, and man, not having peace with God, all the more becomes an enemy of his fellow man. Hence, all the more has every corrupt empire, or godless society, suffered collapse.

This is astonishingly manifested in the harlot, who, after riding the beast in the first scene unharmed, suffers destruction at the hands of the “ten kings,” who “burn her up” and “eat her flesh.” How might we see this? Well, for brevity, I have already, but have not been able to track down that a particular ECF sees, in the ten horns of the beast and dragon, the ten commandments, over which they make war. This would very compellingly provide a solution to the mysterious sense in which the one form of evil, the ten horns, destroys the other, the harlot. Well, if we think about it, it really makes sense, as follows:

Godless empires that are decadent, materialistic, and blasphemous (the harlot, man fornicating figuratively with the world, instead of marrying God) almost always have a “fornicating partnership” with the negation of the Ten Commandments (the ten horns of the beast). That is, they care neither for God (no true religion, no care for God), nor for their fellow man, and the human-to-human moral law (disrespect of authority, drunkenness, abortion, gossip, sexual immorality of all kinds, greed, dishonesty, and the like …). Too, for a time, the fraternity lasts, just like the fornicating and drunken teenager enjoys his illusory lifestyle. But lo and behold, eventually, the corruption (the negation of the Ten Commandments, the ten horns of the beast.) starts to catch up with the materialism and decadence (the harlot), just as the teenager begins to suffer the consequences of immorality (addiction, failed relationships, selfishness, and so forth).

Then, it slowly burns her up and eats her, as Apocalypse (The Book of Revelation) 17 reads. However, this actually enables us to conclude a beautifully positive note: as the kingdom falls, the text of the Scripture reads:

These [the ten horns] shall fight with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, because he is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and they that are with him are called, the elect, and faithful.

For God hath given into their hearts [the ten horns] to do that which pleaseth him [burn up the harlot]: that they give their kingdom to the beast, till the words of God be fulfilled.

Here, again, is a difficult passage: how can evil “carry out the will of Christ”? The profundity is seen in the way that God is able to use evil for good. For, by allowing the world to see the true fruits of its blindness in epic tribulation, resulting from its immorality and corruption (the ten horns burning up the harlot), the world is able to see the error of its ways, repent, and come home. In this way, the Lamb conquers both the Woman and the ten “kings,” for in the fall of the harlot, the society sees the fruits of the antithesis of the Decalogue, and comes back to God.

This is indeed the hope that the Church is trying to have in the midst of the modern turmoil and darkness: that even if a terrible chastisement must yet come in our age (per Fatima, many other approved Private Revelations) because of the sin of the world, burning up our current materialistic utopia of wonder and prosperity with the consequences of so many evils—abortion, euthanasia, greed, sexual immorality of all forms, and so forth—the Lamb will conquer this great antithesis to the Ten Commandments, and bring spiritual peace to humanity, at least for a time.

O New Eve of the Heavens, may your Immaculate Reign Come Soon!

Scott Pauline About Scott Pauline

Scott is a Catholic revert, blessed to have had his story shared in This Rock Magazine in 1999. He is currently attempting to complete a book on the meaning of salvation history in light of analogies from Apocalypse, and other scriptures, and Tradition, a great portion of which can be found at: He is happily married to Linda since 2009 and resides in Portland, Oregon.