Revelation is a strange book. Apocalyptic and poetic, full of cryptic signs and mysterious symbols, it presents a Prophetic Reality view of the world, a veil lifted on the nuts and bolts of human life to reveal dragons and monsters, many-headed behemoths and war in heaven. It’s difficult to comprehend, and perhaps that’s why so many debate whether it’s about the past or the future; whatever the truth of that, however, it remains that Revelation has something to say in the here and now.
Take Revelation 16:13-14. The great antagonists of the apocalypse, the False Prophet, the Antichrist and the Dragon, suddenly spew forth ‘unclean spirits’, spirits that perform miracles and bend kings to their will and bizarrely look like frogs.
They’re the media wing and propaganda arm of the apocalypse. And something about the image freaks me out. I mean, frogs? Is that because frogs are an unclean animal in Jewish thought? Is it because they capture their prey with their tongues (which is a pretty concise definition of propagandists)? A reference to Egyptian gods and the Plagues of Egypt? In ancient thought, frogs were associated with coarseness, or thought to be poisonous. Maybe their use in Revelation relates to all four.
But let’s take a step back from the language and symbology. The frogs are ultimately a message, a message of false religion, hateful politics and general fear and accusation. The message is antichrist in its most literal sense – against Christ.
So the frogs are media and memes, propaganda and psyops, static that drowns out the words of God. And those forces are on the move, just like they’ve always been: snaking through the Garden, tempting in the wilderness, leaping towards Armageddon.
So when someone calls you to hate your neighbour, don’t listen; if someone tells you to cast the first stone, put it down; if the voice doesn’t sound like Jesus, ask yourself why.
Because the world feels like it’s on the brink of…something. Strange metaphorical creatures are on the move, doves and chaos monsters, the frogs of war. In times like this, when forces herd us towards war (whether that’s with guns and bombs or Twitter accounts and dark words), when so many competing voices constantly teeter on the edge of conflict, all I can do is turn back to the Gospel, to reclaim the words in red and pray to hear the voice of Christ above a cacophony of croaking. The frogs of war are out there; we don’t have to follow them into the abyss.