Genesis of Eden

Genesis Home

Extract from: Jones, Steve 1996 In the Blood: God, Genes and Destiny,
Harper-Collns, London.

NOTE: This extract is included as an essential reading for transforming the world. You are requested to purchase the book yourself as it is, without question, essential reading material.

The Paradox of Armageddon

'I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore. ' GENESIS 22:17

Armageddon is, given its reputation, a slightly disappointing place to visit. It is easy to find: on the plain of Jezreel, in Northern Israel, lie the vestiges of the city of Megiddo. Its name, altered in translation, is synonymous with the Last Days. The ruins are an apt icon of destruction. In its four-thousand-year history Megiddo was devastated and rebuilt twenty times.

Armageddon from the air: the excavated city of Megiddo, with its walls and great grain pit, a reserve against siege. The ruins date from the city's beginnings six thousand years ago to its destruction by the Assyrians in 722BC.

The city was founded by the Canaanites in about 400OBC. Two millennia later it was conquered by Tutmose 111, King of Egypt. Soon, it was under siege by the people of Israel as they moved into the Promised Land. King David himself built the sixteenth city to appear on the ruins of the old and, at the time of Solomon, Megiddo was twice the size of Jerusalem. Its downfall began with an invasion by the Assyrians. In 734BC, King Tiglath-pileser Ill conquered most of Israel, the kingdom north of Judaea. His successor finished the job by over-running the last enclave of the kingdom, Samaria, in 722 BC. The following year, the next in line to the Assyrian throne, Sargon, destroyed many of the monuments of the Kingdom of Israel (Megiddo included) and, as he recorded in a triumphant inscription, deported its people to Babylon. Naturally, their descendants longed to return.

That yearning became the dream of a gathering of the saved at Armageddon when the Messiah arrives. It is a vision with a genetical theme, for it involves a link between generations, a meeting of those alive today with their ancestors. Then, all will have the chance to be accepted into a land where 'there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away'. The Last judgment is, tool the final chance for evolution by natural selection; those without blemish will be saved and the imperfect cast, irreversibly, into darkness. The fall of Megiddo was the first of many disasters to strike Israel. Each gave rise to a new vision of apocalypse. Ezekiel - himself among the exiles wrote of a time when a valley of bones would join to form a great army, Daniel of four monsters with iron teeth and ten horns coming from the sea. John the Divine's Christian revelation has the star Worm- wood and a seven-sealed book. The followers of the Antichrist bear the number 666, the mark of the Beast.

Whatever the details of the plot, Armageddon is going to be an interesting event. Many have tried to predict when it might happen. In 1857, Fountain Pitts, a Tennessee Methodist, gave a sermon in the Capitol. For him, the timing was simple and depended only on that useful measure, the symbolic day (which could be adjusted to make those counted in Revelation fit any theory). Apocalypse - the end of history - had already arrived: 'The United States arose at the end Of 1290 symbolic days from the destruction ofjerusalem ... this reached from the burning of the Temple on the 189th day of the year 68AD to the 4th July 1776. Making the starting point at the occasion of the daily sacrifice, which happened, according to astronomy, at sunrise, three minutes past five o'clock AM on the day the Temple was burnt, the 1290 days run out at a quarter to three o'clock, Pm, on the 4th day of July 1776; and, from the best sources of information, the Declaration of Independence was proclaimed at that hour on the Glorious Fourth.'

Few claim that the winnowing of the human seed in a final judgment has already been completed without anyone noticing. Instead, the day when the saved will be sorted from the damned is usually equated with crisis. In 1666, the year of the Great Fire of London, every clap of thunder was seen as a harbinger of the Last Days. In the United States during the Cold War there were watches giving the time only as 'one hour nearer the Lord's return' and since then there have been more than four hundred books, plays or films that deal with the end of the world. In 1988, according to Gallup, eight out of ten Americans believed that they would appear before the Lord on Judgment Day.

The sense of an imminent end was strongest among those building the weapons of destruction that would, if ever used, lead to fire from heaven ('The elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up'). Almost all the workers in the Pantex atomic bomb plant in Amarillo, Texas thought they were taking part in the preparations for the Second Coming. Even now, there is evidence of imminent doom. Chernobyl means wormwood': the Star predicted for the Last Days is, perhaps, rising in the East. The proximity of Saddam Hussein's Baghdad to the site of Babylon also consoles those with a mind for the apocalypse. There is, though, still room for argument about who will pass the final test. The Alabama Baptists (the church to which Bill Clinton belongs) have, using the most modern methods, calculated that 46.1 per cent of the state's population will go to hell, but others dispute this figure. Whenever the world might end, and whatever happens when it does, one prophecy is clear: all will be gathered together on the Plain of Armageddon.

How many might be there? Certainly, there are plenty of candidates. Even in Britain, in the brief period since records of death began in 1837, eighty million people have died. With the methods of science, it should be possible to estimate the numbers lining up for judgment from the world's beginning to its end. All true believers are certain that their own ancestors will spring from the grave on the Last Day. This modest assumption allows a simple but alarming calculation to be made. Perhaps - as the Millennarians say - the last trump will be heard in the year 2000. The exile from Megiddo was in 722BC. That gives about 2700 years - around a hundred and thirty human generations - in which to accumulate predecessors who will gather at Armageddon. The basic rule of sexual reproduction is that two individuals co-operate to make one. Everyone has two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents and so on back into history. Sex means that the number contributing to a pedigree doubles each generation. This, in its turn, implies that every sexual being has an enormous number of ancestors. Taken literally, this first law of sex suggests that, at Armageddon, a family reunion will involve two, multiplied by itself a hundred and thirty times, people; plus all those on the family tree between the living believer and that great assembly. The number is around ten thousand billion billion billion billion - ten with forty zeros after it. The Last Judgment is going to be a pretty crowded affair. There is, though, a problem. The number is greater by far than the world's population. In fact, it is far more than the number of people who have ever lived on earth.

Armageddon: springing from the grave for judgment. A small part of the enormous crowd who will be there, shown in Hans Memling's 1472 altarpiece in Gdansk.

The Registrar General of the Census Office in London once worked out that sixty billion people had died between 40,00O BC and 1983, which itself makes Apocalypse a squeeze - but not an impossible one; they would, with some difficulty, all fit into Scotland. The simple law of multiplied ancestry, though, predicts a solid ball of resurrected corpses far larger than the Earth itself. That is the paradox of Armageddon - there will simply not be room for the faithful to gather together.

Its solution is simple but strikes at the heart of beliefs about ancestors, kinship and genes. There were, when Megiddo was rebuilt for the last time, fewer than a hundred million people on earth - compared to the untold billions needed if every individual alive today could follow a separate line of ancestry into the past. This has a simple and unavoidable conclusion; that every inhabitant of the modern world can trace a path of direct descent from everyone at the time of Megiddo who has left descendants. Of course, many people of that time have no posterity today: either they or their heirs had no children. However, all those whose family line did persist for the necessary three millennia or so, whoever they were and wherever they lived, have an unbroken link with everyone (or almost everyone) alive today. As a result, we all share ancestors with everyone else; we are all relatives. Trace any family back far enough, and it merges with all the others in a common stream of descent flowing from a surprisingly recent past. There were just two kinds of people at the time of the first Armageddon; those who are the direct progenitors of all and those who - because they left no descendants - are the ancestors of none. A few distant people in a New Guinean valley or an African rainforest may escape the net of kinship; but a single indiscretion by an Arab trader or European explorer a few centuries ago would entangle thousands of his heirs, however remote, in its mesh today. Christianity, in all its varieties, has always been more concerned with deciding who will be among the Chosen than in working out the number of candidates queuing up for the exam. It has, from the beginning, been eager to increase the number who pass by converting them to the true faith. Evangelists are still at work proclaiming the gospel to the world's six billion people.

One church alone has taken the step - logical to any believer in resurrection - of preaching to the tenfold host of the dead. If the living can baptise their ancestors there will be a vast increase in the number who can pass the test of judgment day, as all those in a family tree leading back from a living believer will be among the elect. Salvation by hindsight is the doctrine of the most rapidly growing religion in the world, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - the Mormons. Their creed brings together, in a quite unexpected way, modern science and mystical belief. It has made the Mormons into one of the world's great genetical laboratories. As part of their attempt to recruit members, the Mormons are building a pedigree for the human race. In so doing they are weaving a web of kinship that will, they hope, tie their church to the multitude of those who died long ago. On the way, they have mapped out their own genetical pathways into the past and - quite inadvertently - have become an essential part of biology's attempt to map the genetic material of the present.

Mormonism originates in the prophecies of one man, Joseph Smith. To some Americans, there has always been an inexplicable gap in the Bible, in that none of it happens in the United States. Joseph Smith, the first Prophet of the New World, did what he could to put this right. He was born in Vermont in 1805. The country was in a state of religious ferment. Joseph Smith himself was visited at the age of fourteen by God the Father and God the Son, both of whom warned him of the dangers of false prophets. Smith was much interested in digging in Indian mounds in search of treasure. He could not believe that they had been built by the despised red inan. Soon, he became acquainted with an angel, Moroni, who chose him to receive an extraordinary document, written in an unknown script on golden plates and buried in one of the mounds. It was accompanied by magic spectacles ('peepstones') made of three-cornered diamonds. For the unbeliever to look at the plates was death, but the chosen were able to translate the message using the spectacles. Over many nights, Joseph Smith dictated the contents of the plates to his astonished family. Moroni had brought a missing book of the Bible, the Book of Mormon. It contained clues about the origins of the Americans. Smith read too in some Egyptian inscriptions that came to his attention, that Christ himself had visited the New World, his presence remembered in the tale of Quetzalcoatl the Plumed Serpent.

Much of their ritual is concerned with binding or sealing - believers to their relatives and their ancestors. Every Mormon bride is sealed to her husband in an elaborate ceremony, stepping through a veil into a symbolic hereafter. For the rest of her life she wears a white under garment (with a cut in the maritally appropriate place) representing the costume given by God to Eve.

Joseph Smith, too, saw the material value of dead souls and, like Councillor Chichikov, used it to fulfil a natural desire to increase his own flock. His idea came from an other-wise enigmatic statement of St Paul: 'Else what shall they do which are baptised for the dead if the dead rise not at all. Why then are they baptised for the dead?' As Jesus had preached to the departed while he was in the tomb, why should not those anxious to recruit members to the Latter-Day Saints do the same thing? One of Smith's most remarkable revelations involved the baptism of the dead. As a result, billions of people - all of them deceased long ago - have gone through the sealing ceremony. Their posthumous welcome into the Church arises from Smith's vision of 'proxy ordinances'; by welcoming those who had died before Mormonism began it would be possible to recruit millions of souls. Unknown to him, his ingenious scheme was to give a new insight into human inheritance.

The dead are in the spirit world. Although they can accept the Mormon message they cannot receive the ordinances themselves. Instead, a living Mormon briefly takes their name and goes through a sealing ceremony on their behalf. Some enthusiastic Latter-Day Saints have had a myriad identities during their lives, taking them on and shedding thein as their original owners are recruited into the Church. 'I'he process is based not on a general acceptance that the dead are linked to the living, but on the most painstaking genealogical research. It ties as far as possible every past member of the human race to a specific person alive today. Because many Mormons cannot trace their descent with any certainty the search includes everyone - Jew, Christian, or pagan. The Church insists that all it is doing is allowing the dead to make up their minds. They are free to reject the offer. This avoids the danger of other religions taking exception to the posthumous abduction of their ancestors. The Mormons are falling behind in their holy work. Sixty million people die each year, but only five million or so are posthumously baptised. As part of their mission to the dead the Mormons have generated the most extensive collection of family records in the world. Their archives contain the names of almost ten billion people, most born after 1500 - More than sixty billion individuals have had names of their own since huinans - and language - evolved a hundred thousand years or so ago. One sixth of those names are already in the Mormon vaults. Sooner or later, all who bore them will be offered membership of the Latter-Day Saints. Much of the information comes from censuses and records of births and deaths. The Church has poured tens of millions of dollars into microfilm. There are already two miles of it in their archive, and fifty million more exposures are made every year.

Inside Granite Mountain, the Mormon Archive. A small part of the hundreds of millions of names stored here, away from the eyes of the public - and the Flood due in the Last Days.