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Web Extra: Need proof that the end is nigh? It sure looks that way from New York City.

Revelations From Babylon

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Strange forces are at work in the world today. Powerful and fearsome forces.

Biblical forces.

In the Book of Revelation, John described a vision he had of the end of the world. Since the book was written, probably sometime between AD 81-96, the prophecies of John have been used to forecast the endtime. He writes of thunder, plagues, war and death, of eerie, otherworldly messengers and monsters, and of the coming of the Antichrist.

And from where I'm sitting, what John foretold is starting to look pretty familiar. Perhaps a little too familiar.

I'm sitting in New York City, and I think the end is nigh.

It began in late summer. A strange disease began afflicting New Yorkers (not Yankee fever). It was a rare virus, carried by thick hordes of mosquitoes that descended upon the city. At first, authorities here thought it was simply encephalitis, a potentially fatal brain disease, and a handful of people, mostly the very young and the elderly, succumbed. Then it was revealed that the insect-born disease was West Nile virus.

The West Nile virus has its origins where you might think, in North Africa. The disease had never before been found in this hemisphere. How did it get to America?

I think John may have known. In Revelation Chapter 9, he wrote:

"And the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to earth, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit; he opened the shaft of the bottomless pit, and from the shaft rose smoke like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun and the air were darkened with the smoke from the shaft. Then from the smoke came locusts on the earth, … They were allowed to torture [the people] for five months, but not to kill them, … And in those days people will seek death but will not find it."

Replace locusts with mosquitoes, and I think that's the best explanation for how an alien disease began attacking our shores. Time to be a little nervous.

John called the locust plague the first woe. There were to be two more. Not long after New York began to be afflicted with the deadly West Nile virus, news came from two places, Turkey and Taiwan of great, devastating earthquakes. Again, I'll let John tell the tale, from Chapter 11:

"At that moment there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven."

This is not good.

Next John goes on to describe two evil beasts that come and make the people of the earth forsake God and worship in sin. One beast is from the sea, and the other is like a lamb.

The beasts, it turns out, are in Brooklyn.

As I write this, as the millennium clock ticks ever closer to Armageddon, there is an exhibition in the Brooklyn Museum of Art that contains a 14-foot shark suspended in formaldehyde, and a lamb preserved the same way. The beasts share exhibition space with a portrait of the Virgin Mary that features a dollop of elephant dung on it, the work of art that has had thousands of people snaking in lines around the museum. Some have protested, saying these people are forsaking God, worshipping in sin.

Uh-oh.

After the beasts come seven angels with seven plagues. These are the things we have to look forward to in the next few weeks: sores, the rivers and seas becoming blood, fire, darkness, drought and monster frogs. John says, "These are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty."

It's only a matter of time. New York is Babylon, and the end is near.

John describes the figure who is the source of his vision in frighteningly familiar terms:

"At once I was in the spirit, and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne! And the one seated there looks like jasper and carnelian, and around the throne is a rainbow that looks like an emerald. … Coming from the throne are flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and in front of the throne burn seven flaming torches."

If that's not a dead-on description of Dick Clark in Times Square, I don't know what is.

Be afraid.

Be very, very

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