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In One Hour Has Thy Judgment Come
Compiled October 8, 2021


Ancient authors sometimes described historic events in poetic terms, using the future tense to pretend that they were actually writing prophecy.

We know that the Seleucid Greeks gradually Hellenized the eastern Mediterranean, including Judea.  Their domination culminated in the desecration of Jerusalem's Temple in 167 BC, when Antiochus IV put a stop to the regular evening sacrifices and morning sacrifices.  These rites had been conducted in the Temple every day, as ordained in Exodus 29:38-42.

A few years later, a writer known as Daniel bemoaned this calamity as if he were foreseeing it in a dream.  His symbols included the broken “great horn” of a ram, representing the death of Alexander the Great, followed by smaller horns representing his Greek successor-kingdoms.

There came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land.  It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them.  It took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down.

Then I heard a holy one speaking, ‘How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilledthe vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord's people?’  He said to me, ‘It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be re-consecrated.’

Sure enough, after 1,150 days comprising 2,300 missed sacrifices, Daniel's “prophetic vision” came true.  The Maccabees achieved the re-consecration in a 164 BC event now celebrated as Hanukkah.

The Temple suffered a much greater disaster a couple of centuries later when a Roman army destroyed it and the rest of the Holy City in 70 AD.  The Sibylline Oracles, though written after the event, also spoke in the form of a prophecy.

An evil storm of war will also come upon Jerusalem from Italy, and it will sack the great Temple of God.

A leader of Rome will burn the Temple of Jerusalem with fire and at the same time slaughter many men and destroy the great land of the Jews.

Then what happened in 79 AD?

Did the God of Israel exact his revenge on the Romans?  Did he do so by destroying their rich port cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, near Naples?  Once again, the Sibylline Oracles suggested as much.

When a firebrand, turned away from a cleft in the earth in the land of Italy, reaches to broad heaven, it will burn many cities and destroy men.

Much smoking ash will fill the great sky and showers will fall from heaven like red earth.

Know then the wrath of the heavenly God!

The final book of the Bible contains another after-the-fact “prediction” of the eruption of Vesuvius.  Below I've quoted it on the right.  In the left column is a historical account:  a letter from an eyewitness, Pliny the Elder's nephew, using the conventional past tense.

Pliny the Younger

You request that I would send you an account of the death of my uncle.  He was at that time with the fleet under his command at Misenum.

The Mushroom Cloud

On the 24th of August, about one in the afternoon, my mother desired him to observe a cloud which appeared of a very unusual size and shape.  A cloud, found afterwards to come from Mount Vesuvius, was ascending, the appearance of which I cannot give you a more exact description of than by likening it to that of a pine tree, for it shot up to a great height in the form of a very tall trunk, which spread itself out at the top into a sort of branches; it appeared sometimes bright and sometimes dark and spotted, according as it was either more or less impregnated with earth and cinders.  He ordered the galleys to be put to sea.

...  He was now so close to the mountain that the cinders, which grew thicker and hotter the nearer he approached, fell into the ships, together with pumice-stones, and black pieces of burning rock.  Broad flames shone out in several places from Mount Vesuvius, which the darkness of the night contributed to render still brighter and clearer.

There had been noticed for many days before a trembling of the earth, but it was so particularly violent that night that it not only shook but actually overturned, as it would seem, everything about us.  The chariots, which we had ordered to be drawn out, were so agitated backwards and forwards, though upon the most level ground, that we could not keep them steady, even by supporting them with large stones.  The sea seemed to roll back upon itself, and to be driven from its banks by the convulsive motion of the earth; it is certain at least the shore was considerably enlarged, and several sea animals were left upon it.

On the other side, a black and dreadful cloud, broken with rapid, zigzag flashes, revealed behind it variously shaped masses of flame: these last were like sheet-lightning, but much larger.  The earthquake still continued, while many frenzied persons ran up and down heightening their own and their friends' calamities by terrible predictions.

We therefore resolved to quit the town.  A panic-stricken crowd followed us.  They went out then, having pillows tied upon their heads with napkins; and this was their whole defense against the storm of stones that fell round them. It was now day everywhere else, but there a deeper darkness prevailed than in the thickest night.

I absolutely refused to leave [my mother], and, taking her by the hand, compelled her to go with me.  I looked back; a dense dark mist seemed to be following us, spreading itself over the country like a cloud.

Revelation, Chapter 18

1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor.

2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul and hateful bird, 3 for all nations have drunk the wine of her impure passion, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich with the wealth of her wantonness.”

Flee!  Flee!

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; 5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6 Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds. 7 As she glorified herself and played the wanton, so give her a like measure of torment and mourning.  Since in her heart she says, ‘A queen I sit, I am no widow, mourning I shall never see,’ 8 so shall her plagues come in a single day, pestilence and mourning and famine, and she shall be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.”

9 And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and were wanton with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; 10 they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, “Alas! alas! thou great city, thou mighty city, Babylon!  In one hour has thy judgment come.”

11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo any more, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels and pearls ... 13 and slaves, that is, human souls.

14 “The fruit for which thy soul longed has gone from thee, and all thy dainties and thy splendor are lost to thee, never to be found again!”

15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, 16 “Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet, bedecked with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! 17 In one hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”

And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, “What city was like the great city?” 19 And they threw dust on their heads, as they wept and mourned, crying out, “Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth!  In one hour she has been laid waste. 20 Rejoice over her, O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!”

The End of the World

You might hear the shrieks of women, the screams of children, and the shouts of men; one lamenting his own fate, another that of his family; some wishing to die, from the very fear of dying; some lifting their hands to the gods; but the greater part convinced that there were now no gods at all, and that the final endless night of which we have heard had come upon the world.

A heavy shower of ashes rained upon us, which we were obliged every now and then to stand up to shake off, otherwise we should have been crushed and buried in the heap.  I might boast that, during all this scene of horror, not an expression of fear escaped me, had not my support been grounded in that miserable consolation, that all mankind were involved in the same calamity, and that I was perishing with the world itself.

As Pompeii, So Shall Be Rome

21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So shall the great city be thrown down with violence, and shall be found no more; 22 and the sound of harpers and minstrels, of flute players and trumpeters, shall be heard in thee no more; and a craftsman of any craft shall be found in thee no more; and the sound of the millstone shall be heard in thee no more; 23 and the light of a lamp shall shine in thee no more; and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall be heard in thee no more; for thy merchants were the great men of the earth, and all nations were deceived by thy sorcery.”

24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.



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