In the spring of 1906, a few days after the San Francisco earthquake, Ellen White was traveling home to Elmshaven, north of San Francisco, from Mountain View, the long-time home of Pacific Press, south of the city. San Francisco was on her route home, so she stopped there and surveyed the damage, becoming one of the many witnesses to the great disaster:
Yesterday, on our way home from Mountain View, we stopped to take a view of the destruction in San Francisco. Notwithstanding some of the buildings were of the most stable kind and were supposed to be proof against disaster, the city is a ruin. In some places the buildings are sunken into the ground. This city presents a most powerful picture of the inefficiency of human devising and human skill to withstand the carrying out of the Lord's mandate. (21 MR 91.2)
What sets Ellen White’s account apart from those of her contemporaries is the cryptic, but clearly prophetic statement regarding the future significance of that event:
Let all who would understand the meaning of these things read the eleventh chapter of Revelation. Read every verse, and learn the things that are yet to take place in the cities. Read also the scenes portrayed in the eighteenth chapter of the same book. (21 MR 91.4)
So there is a connection between Revelation 11 and the deadliest natural calamity to strike the west coast of America[i]. But if we look at Revelation 11, except for verse 13—which mentions a great earthquake—on the surface there is not much similarity between the San Francisco disaster and what is described there. Or is there? Let's see if we can begin to unravel this prophetic warning from the messenger of the Lord.
Before we get started, we should follow the counsel of the prophet and “read every verse” of Revelation 11. Take a prayerful look at it, and also read Revelation 18. I do not doubt the importance of what I write about these chapters and their connection to the San Francisco earthquake. But it is still merely my own interpretation, my own personal view. It is essential for each of us to take our understanding directly from the Word through the power and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit by careful, prayerful personal study. While I hope you all will hear me out, I hope more fervently that each one will personally, prayerfully study Scripture in order to learn the truth as the Holy Spirit reveals it.
Speaking of Revelation 11, the prophet says; “Read every verse and learn the things that are yet to take place in the cities.” According to Ellen White, “every verse” of this chapter has an important bearing on future events. It describes things that are “yet to take place,” things that, ominously, will be similar to the great San Francisco earthquake.
Let's look at the beginning of Revelation 11 which gives us the context.
And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles. (Rev 11:1-2)
The house or temple of God, the church, is being measured or judged. Or, in the words of Peter, “The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God.” 1 Peter 4:17. This is the same time “the hour of His judgment is come.” Revelation 14:6. All are arraigned before the bar of God. When? Judgment “is come” so the “when” would be now, and at all times subsequent to 1844. Don’t even bother with the unbelievers; their time to be “measured” will come later.
Judgment day: It's here and it starts with you and me, God's church. Do we believe it? Are our knees knocking like Belshazzar’s on his judgment day? We all should be weak-kneed given the times and the magnitude of the issues before us. It would be good for us to feel our great need of His sustaining and transforming power. “Who is sufficient for these things?” 2 Cor. 2:16. The implied answer is: “Only the soul who relies on Jesus.”
There is stormy weather ahead for us and for the Two Witnesses:
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. . . And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. . . And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. Rev 11:3-8.
The “Two Witnesses” are the Old and New Testaments, the Bible. They testified “clothed in sackcloth” during the 1,260 prophetic days/literal years of papal domination, from 538 AD to 1798, when Scripture was locked away in churches and monasteries, untranslated from the ancient languages.
In chapter 15 of Great Controversy, Ellen White recounts how the slaying or silencing of these Witnesses was accomplished during, and following, the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France. It was during this time that the Bible was proscribed by France's revolutionary government and atheism made the religion of the state. “Egypt” typologically represents atheism—because of Pharaoh’s boast that he did not recognize the Lord (Ex. 5:2)—and the typological significance of “Sodom” is too obvious to need elaboration.
During these years of atheism, France reduced marriage to the same low status it has in America today - a civil contract that could be undone at will.[ii] The revolutionaries also implemented a new calendar, effective for about 12 years, containing a 10 day “week” to remove the divinely created seven-day week. It is significant that atheistic France intentionally thought to alter the same two institutions given by God at creation – marriage and the seven-day week with its Sabbath of rest.
France’s reign of terror and atheism was relatively brief—the bodies lay in the street for only three and a half prophetic days/literal years, from 1793 to 1797. But a similar assault on the Bible, on the sanctity of marriage, and on the Sabbath as occurred in revolutionary France will be repeated. Indeed, it is being repeated even now in today’s America.
A little more than a year ago, on June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of the United States issued its landmark decision on same-sex marriage.[iii] On that day, five of the nine justices of the court, like the revolutionaries of France, openly defied the word of God and thought to overrule it by sanctioning same-sex marriage on the basis of it being, in their view, a fundamental, constitutionally protected right. Of course nothing could be further from the truth or from the intentions and clear wording of the men who framed the United States Constitution. But in the face of almost all human history, and over the warnings and objections of the four dissenting Justices--Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Chief Justice Roberts--the will of the five was imposed on the American people. In his dissenting opinion Justice Scalia observed:
This [decision of the five composing the majority] is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government. Except as limited by a constitutional prohibition agreed to by the People, the States are free to adopt whatever laws they like, even those that offend the esteemed Justices’ “reasoned judgment.” A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy. . . [iv]
They [the majority] are certain that the People ratified the Fourteenth Amendment to bestow on them the power to remove questions from the democratic process when that is called for by their “reasoned judgment.” These Justices know that limiting marriage to one man and one woman is contrary to reason; they know that an institution as old as government itself, and accepted by every nation in history until 15 years ago, cannot possibly be supported by anything other than ignorance or bigotry. And they are willing to say that any citizen who does not agree with that, who adheres to what was, until 15 years ago, the unanimous judgment of all generations and all societies, stands against the Constitution.[v]
The judgment of the court in this case was not merely an historic and patently unconstitutional decision. As Justice Scalia pointed out, the practical effect of the decision is to stigmatize every citizen who holds a Biblical view of sexual morality as an irrational, ignorant bigot and an opponent of the Constitution - no trifling accusation.
The decision promotes both (1) an atheistic worldview, in which the created sexual order is despised as irrational, ignorant and bigoted, and (2) Sodomite behavior. This decision therefore stands as an ominous marker that today’s America is becoming a prophetic “Egypt” and “Sodom.”
Just as revolutionary France repudiated the Bible and idolized human reason in its place, the five judges of the Supreme Court have substituted their “reasoned judgment” for the word of God. They have made their own flawed morality the nation's standard of morality. Effect follows cause. Today we are seeing the same developments here in America that convulsed revolutionary France.
Due to a combination of moral declension, ignorance, apathy and fear, no grass roots movement has materialized to undo what a lawless Supreme Court has done. But when a backlash does come, and according to the scriptures it will (See the second half of Revelation 13), it will be the people themselves who become despotic, and, following the example of the Supreme Court, they will overturn America's Constitutional protections of conscience and freedom of religion.
The Constitution of the United States acknowledges and gives effect to these self-evident truths - the right of every man to enjoy the fruits of his own labors and to obey the convictions of his own conscience. These two principles are twins and they are combined and summarized succinctly by Christ Himself who said; “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.” Matthew 22:21. So long as Caesar or the State stays within its proper sphere of authority and respects the rights of conscience of its citizens, the citizens can freely fulfill their duties to the State.
This congenial relationship works for any nation that is willing to live by the principles that undergird it – biblical morality. But when a nation rejects and tramples on the morality of scripture it will not be long before it will also trample on the rights of conscience of its citizens. The same moral law that governs sexual relations between a man and a woman and sanctifies their unselfish love in marriage also sustains and sanctions the congenial corporate relations of “We the People”. Only a people who are in submission to the morality and law of scripture are truly liberated to accord others the freedom they themselves gratefully enjoy. Only those who live by the Word, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” are liberated to respect and protect the rights of conscience of their weaker neighbors.
But when a false morality takes hold of our leading judicial minds we see the results: The same document that was intended to protect the freedoms and rights of conscience of its citizens is wrested to impose a false morality on the nation, stigmatizing those who stand on the law of God and who conscientiously cannot agree.
Should we be surprised that our freedoms of religion and speech are casualties of the experiment to re-engineer human sexuality?
Regarding the identity of Babylon: A woman in scripture is often used as a symbol of the church; an impure woman of an adulterous church and a pure woman of the faithful people of God. In the book of Revelation we see both. To the extent that the unfaithful churches of the West – Europe, North America, New Zealand and Australia - have turned from the Word of God and have thought to change that Word in regard to the Sabbath and marriage, the twin institutions established by God in Eden, they have become Babylon, the harlot, “that great city.”
It's not without significance that the head of the largest of these churches, Pope Frances, has repeatedly signaled his endorsement of gay culture and identity, even if he has not yet endorsed actual sodomy,[vi] while at the same time denigrating Christian Fundamentalists - those who take the Word of God as it reads. His hostility to Fundamentalists is at its root, hostility to the Two Witnesses. The Bible is in the cross-hairs of both Egypt/Sodom and the anti-Christ, as they forge the apparently invincible global world order depicted in the Apocalypse as the Image of the Beast which all must worship or be killed. (See, Rev. 13). Babylon, as she tightens her grip on the consciences of men, uses all the means of coercion that she can muster including false accusations of disloyalty and treason, the very things that she herself is guilty of before God. But as in Revolutionary France, according to this same prophecy, she does not relent even in the face of the record of sacred history. Ancient Babylon, Sodom and Egypt stand as lessons of the consequences of warring against God and flouting His word.
So, what exactly is Revelation 11 telling us today? Look out. The scenes of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the social convulsions of Revolutionary France, the twin Sodoms of modern times, are about to be repeated in America's cities and for the same reason: “Men have made void the Word of God.” In light of this, with David we should be on our knees praying, “It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.” Psalms 119:126.
The beast that ascends from the bottomless pit will yet again try to put these Two Witnesses to death. And when that happens, you and I will be, as in the Dark Ages, without our Bibles. Now would be a good time for us to commit as much of the Bible to memory as possible so that when our Bibles are confiscated (and taken down from the Internet) we will still have its treasure hidden in our hearts. A sad day it will be for us because we understand what it means: The final call to come out of Babylon has by most been slighted. The final warning to not receive the mark of the Beast and his image, a false Sabbath and a false morality, has been rejected.
But for the residents of Egypt/Sodom/Babylon, it will be a day of rejoicing. As her citizens were elated on June 26 a year ago, when the Two Witnesses were dealt a body blow, in the future they will celebrate their death with greater enthusiasm, sending gifts to each other and, I will venture to guess, flying their flags and lighting up their buildings in rainbow colors. But next time, the festival, like Belshazzar's feast, will come to a sudden end.
How do we know that this will be? Like at Belshazzar's feast, the bloodless hand of the Spirit has traced Babylon's doom in large letters for all to see on the walls of prophecy. Let's read that wall for ourselves, read “every verse” of it as the prophet admonishes us, and be warned so that, standing free in the love and fear of God, we are not among those who are “partakers of her sins and receive of her plagues.” (Rev 18:4).
Mark Shipowick is a dual Canadian and American citizen who lives in Summers County, West Virginia. He is a lawyer by training, admitted in Ontario, Canada, and New York State, but also does a health outreach ministry and builds. Mark has a strong interest in prophecy and religious liberty, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTES AND REFERENCES:
[ii] See GC, p. 270: “France presented also the characteristics which especially distinguished Sodom. During the Revolution there was manifest a state of moral debasement and corruption similar to that which brought destruction upon the cities of the plain. And the historian presents together the atheism and the licentiousness of France, as given in the prophecy: "Intimately connected with these laws affecting religion, was that which reduced the union of marriage--the most sacred engagement which human beings can form, and the permanence of which leads most strongly to the consolidation of society--to the state of a mere civil contract of a transitory character, which any two persons might engage in and cast loose at pleasure. . . . If fiends had set themselves to work to discover a mode of most effectually destroying whatever is venerable, graceful, or permanent in domestic life, and of obtaining at the same time an assurance that the mischief which it was their object to create should be perpetuated from one generation to another, they could not have invented a more effectual plan that the degradation of marriage.”
[iii] Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 135 S. Ct. 2584; 192 L. Ed. 2d 609 (2015)
[iv] Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, Scalia J Dissenting, Page 5.
[v] Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, Scalia J Dissenting, Page 7.
[vi] To my knowledge, Pope Francis has not explicitly sanctioned same-sex relations. As of today's date he has only gone so far as to issue multiple sympathetic statements regarding the mistreatment of the LGBTQ community. And his point should be well taken by Fundamentalist Christians that we have often not reflected the redemptive love of Christ to the gay community.