This is probably heretical in some way. Just letting you know it’s extremely speculative.
I’m having the thought lately that much of the Revelation of John is not a “prophecy” in the sense that we understand the term, but rather a divinely inspired dream vision. If you look at the prophecies of Jesus and those of the prophets in the old testament, the character is often very different and much more verbally literal: “God says X will happen” or “God says stop the child sacrifices already you fucking assholes”. For example, when Samuel was called to God’s service:
3 Meanwhile, the boy Samuel served the Lord by assisting Eli. Now in those days messages from the Lord were very rare, and visions were quite uncommon.
2 One night Eli, who was almost blind by now, had gone to bed. 3 The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was sleeping in the Tabernacle[a] near the Ark of God. 4 Suddenly the Lord called out, “Samuel!”
“Yes?” Samuel replied. “What is it?” 5 He got up and ran to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you,” Eli replied. “Go back to bed.” So he did.
6 Then the Lord called out again, “Samuel!”
Again Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
“I didn’t call you, my son,” Eli said. “Go back to bed.”
7 Samuel did not yet know the Lord because he had never had a message from the Lord before. 8 So the Lord called a third time, and once more Samuel got up and went to Eli. “Here I am. Did you call me?”
Then Eli realized it was the Lord who was calling the boy. 9 So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.
10 And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!”
And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”
The highly metaphorical stuff is less common and generally confined to dreams, such as those of Nebuchadnezzar which God instructed Daniel to interpret. There’s also some in-between stuff like when Jacob (AKA Israel) calls his family together and says “Gather ’round kids, I’ma tell your futures.” Nobody acts like this is weird, but I don’t remember my grandpa doing this at Thanksgiving even after he’d started in on the vodka (although he made lots of keen observations about the country’s future based on his opinions of us). One thing that I’m 100% certain about is that such spiritual abilities have waned to near extinction. Try telling your pastor to drink poison to prove his faith (Mark 16:17-19). Stop him though if he actually goes for it like a proper aspie, don’t be a dick. It makes a lot more sense to observe that most of the spirit has gone from Christendom for one reason or another.
Now, in my experience with spiritual weirdness I can testify that these things don’t always translate. When you have a dream with some kinda meaning snuck in all telepathic-like, your brain automatically translates it into categories you can easily simulate. For example, jsl apparently got a dose of Aeoli’s magic brain a while back and, in his dream, the information was presented as him reading a blog post I’d written in the particular style he associates with me. This blog post was never written, nor had I written down the event, but the information about the event was presented as a blog post because jsl’s brain has a context for “Aeoli is telling me something” and so that’s the box it went in. If, instead, we spoke regularly on Skype or he listened to a podcast by me regularly, the information would probably have been force-fit into one of those boxes instead.
So if we think of John’s revelation as an inspired dream rather than a prophecy, there’s a lot more discernment required and a lot less certainty about what means what. Thus ends the longest disclaimer I’ve ever written. Shoulda gone to law school.
I think John’s revelation is about the abstract cycle of empire and the process of centralization into a one-world government. (The letters to the churches are pretty solid, so I’d consider those separately as prophecy.) If we look at it from this angle, then we can make a strong case to say that the apocalypse is something that’s happened a number of times, whenever the Glubb cycle gets kicked off somewhere and a group of elite hermeticists gets the idea to gun the engines and point the nose of the plane straight up forever. The Glubb cycle has so many predictable features that it was described in minute detail: it takes about 200-250 years, there are ten or so generations with such-and-such characteristics, and in the end ITZ all pessimism, poolside lulz, and Pepe memes.
Remember the context of the number 666? “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.” Let’s pretend this showed up in the guy’s head as “666”. Then I can interpret this bit as “If you have the sense God gave a mustard seed, calculate 6*6*6=216 to figure out how long until literally Hitler shows up to balance the books that the last nine generations have been cooking for fun and profit.” Fiddle with Glubb’s numbers and 216 years looks like a reasonable average. The nice thing about this number, numerologically, is that it gives you 12 generations (tribes?) of 18 years apiece (funny, that’s the number we use for adulthood, voting, and taxes…).
I should mention here that I don’t believe Hitler and the various reprisals were the end of the Faustian cycle, more like growing pains. You know, like the American Civil War and Reconstruction.
From here, we can make some easy intuitive leaps regarding some other symbolic elements. The whore of Babylon, for instance, would pretty clearly refer to the Babylonian Talmud and the transnational “Jews who are not Jews”. The Beast could easily refer to what we modern types would call “the system”. The Beast’s prophet could be a number of things, but I’m tempted to call it the propaganda complex which produces Glubb’s “Age of Intellect” because I hate the schools and I want them to become conscious like the Gnostics say corporations do so they can burn in Hell.
That they come from the sea clearly refers to the fact that melonheads are fish people originally from Mars living in the hollow earth’s crust beneath the sea, where they intend to resurrect Lavos with a Mammon machine running on loosh. Or maybe not, woo is fun but it’s still woo.
In any case, have fun with that lens but don’t but too much pressure on it or it’ll break.