II Esdras 11,12,13

[11] 1 ON THE SECOND NIGHT I had a vision in a dream; I saw, rising from 2 the sea, an eagle with twelve wings and three heads. I saw it spread its wings over the whole earth; and all the winds blew on it, and the clouds 3 gathered. Out of its wings I saw rival wings sprout, which proved to be 4 only small and stunted. Its heads lay still; even the middle head, which was 5 bigger than the others, lay still between them. As I watched, the eagle rose 6 on its wings to set itself up as ruler over the earth and its inhabitants. I saw it bring into subjection everything under heaven; it met with no 7 opposition at all from any creature on earth. I saw the eagle stand erect on 8 its talons, and it spoke aloud to its wings: 'Do not all wake at once,' it said 9 'sleep in your places, and each wake up in turn; the heads are to be kept till 10 the last.' I saw that the sound was not coming from its heads, but from the 11 middle of its body. I counted its rival wings, and saw that there were eight of them. 12 As I watched, one of the wings on its right side rose and became ruler 13 over the whole earth. After a time, its reign came to an end, and it disappeared from sight completely. Then the next one arose and established 14 its rule, which it held for a long time. When its reign was coming to an 15 end and it was about to disappear like the first one, a voice could be heard 16 saying to it: 'You have ruled the world for so long; now listen to my message 17 before your time comes to disappear. None of your successors will 18 achieve a reign as long as yours, nor even half as long.' Then the third wing arose, ruled the world for a time like its predecessors, and like them disappeared. 19 In the same way all the wings came to power in succession, and in turn disappeared from sight. 20 As time went on, I saw the wings on the left side also raise themselves up to seize power. Some of them did so, and passed immediately from 21 22 sight, while others arose but never came to power. At this point I noticed that two of the little wings were, like the twelve, no longer to be seen. 23 Nothing was now left of the eagle's body except the three motionless heads and 24 six little wings. As I watched, two of the six little wings separated from the rest and took up a place under the head on the right. The other four 25 remained where they were; and I saw them planning to rise up and seize 26 27 power. One rose, but disappeared immediately; so too did the second 28 vanishing even more quickly than the first. I saw the last two planning to 29 seize the kingship for themselves. But while they were still plotting, suddenly one of the heads woke from sleep, the one in the middle, the 30 31 biggest of the three. I saw how it joined with the other two heads, and along with them turned and devoured the two little wings which were planning 32 to seize power. This head got the whole earth into its grasp, establishing an oppressive rule over all its inhabitants and a world-wide kingdom mightier than 33 any of the wings had ruled. But after that I saw the middle head vanish 34 just as suddenly as the wings had done. There were two heads left, and they 35 also seized power over the earth and its inhabitants, but as I watched, the head on the right devoured the head on the left. 36 Then I heard a voice which said to me: 'Look carefully at what you see 37 before you.' I looked, and saw what seemed to be a lion roused from the forest; it roared as it came, and I heard it address the eagle in a human 38 39 voice. 'Listen to what I tell you', it said. 'The Most High says to you: Are you not the only survivor of the four beasts to which I gave the rule over 40 41 my world, intending through them to bring my ages to their end? You are the fourth beast, and you have conquered all who went before, ruling over the whole world and holding it in the grip of fear and harsh oppression. You have lived long in the world, governing it with deceit and with no 42 regard for truth. You have oppressed the gentle and injured the peaceful, hating the truthful and loving liars; you have destroyed the homes of the prosperous, and razed to the ground the walls of those who had done you 43 no harm. Your insolence is known to the Most High, and your pride to the 44 Mighty One. The Most High has surveyed the periods he has fixed: they 45 are now at an end, and his ages have reached their completion. So you, eagle, must now disappear and be seen no more, you and your terrible great wings, your evil small wings, your cruel heads, your grim talons, and 46 your whole worthless body. Then all the earth will feel relief at its deliverance from your violence, and look forward hopefully to the judgement and mercy of its Creator.'

[12] 1 2 While the lion was still addressing the eagle, I looked and saw the one remaining head disappear. Then the two wings which had gone over to him arose and set themselves up as rulers. Their reign was short and 3 troubled, and when I looked at them they were already vanishing. Then the eagle's entice body burst into flames, and the earth was struck with terror. 4 So great was my alarm and fear that I awoke, and said to myself: 'See 5 the result of your attempt to discover the ways of the Most High! My mind is weary; I am utterly exhausted. The terrors of this night have completely 6 drained my strength. So I will now pray to the Most High for strength to 7 hold out to the end. 'Then I said: 'My Master and Lord, if I have won your favour and stand higher in your approval than most men, if it is true that 8 my prayers have reached your presence, then give me strength; reveal to me, my Lord, the exact interpretation of this terrifying vision, and so 9 bring full consolation to my soul. For you have already judged me worthy to be shown the end of the present age.' 10 11 He said to me: 'Here is the interpretation of your vision. The eagle you saw rising from the sea represents the fourth kingdom in the vision seen 12 by your brother Daniel. But he was not given the interpretation which I am 13 now giving you or have already given you. The days are coming when the 14 earth will be under an empire more terrible than any before. It will be ruled 15 by twelve kings, one after another. The second to come to the throne will 16 have the longest reign of all the twelve. That is the meaning of the twelve wings you saw. 17 'As for the voice which you heard speaking from the middle of the 18 eagle's body, and not from its heads, this is what it means: After this second king's reign, great conflicts will arise, which will bring the empire into danger of falling; and yet it will not fall then, but will be restored to its original strength. 19 'As for the eight lesser wings which you saw growing from the eagle's 20 wings, this is what they mean: The empire will come under eight kings 21 whose reigns will be trivial and short-lived; two of them will come and go just before the middle of the period, four will be kept back until shortly before its end, and two will be left until the end itself. 22 'As for the three heads which you saw sleeping, this is what they mean: 23 In the last years of the empire, the Most High will bring to the throne three 24 kings, who will restore much of its strength, and rule over the earth and its inhabitants more oppressively than anyone before. They are called the 25 eagle's heads, because they will complete and bring to a head its long series 26 of wicked deeds. As for the greatest head, which you saw disappear, it 27 signifies one of the kings, who will die in his bed, but in great agony. The 28 two that survived will be destroyed by the sword; one of them will fall by the sword of the other, who will himself fall by the sword in the last days. 29 'As for the two little wings that went over to the head on the right side, 30 this is what they mean: They are the ones whom the Most High has reserved until the last days, and their reign, as you saw, was short and troubled. 31 'As for the lion which you saw coming from the forest, roused from sleep and roaring, which you heard addressing the eagle, taxing it with its 32 wicked deeds and words, this is the Messiah whom the Most High has kept back until the end. He will address those rulers, taxing them openly 33 with their sins, their crimes, and their defiance. He will bring them alive 34 to judgement; he will convict them and then destroy them. But he will be merciful to those of my people that remain, all who have been kept safe in my land; he will set them free and give them gladness, until the final day of judgement comes, about which I told you at the beginning. 35,36 'That, then, is the vision which you saw, and its meaning. It is the secret of the Most High, which no one except yourself has proved worthy to be 37 told. What you have seen you must therefore write in a book and deposit it 38 in a hiding-place. You must also disclose these secrets to those of your people whom you know to be wise enough to understand them and to keep them safe. 39 But stay here yourself for seven more days, to receive whatever revelation the Most High thinks fit to send you.' Then the angel left me. 40 When all the people heard that seven days had passed without my 41 returning to the town, they assembled and came to me. What wrong or injury have we done you,' they asked me, 'that you have deserted us and 42 settled here? Out of all the prophets you are the only one left to us. You are like the last cluster in a vineyard, like a lamp in the darkness, or a safe 43 44 harbour for a ship in a storm. Have we not suffered enough? If you desert us, we had far better have been destroyed in the fire that burnt up Zion. 45 We are no better than those who perished there.' Then they raised a loud lamentation. 46 I replied: 'Take courage, Israel; house of Jacob, lay aside your grief. 47 The Most High bears you in mind, and the Mighty One has not for ever 48 forgotten you. I have not left you, nor abandoned you; I came here to pray for Zion in her distress, and to beg for mercy for your sanctuary that has 49 fallen so low. Go to your homes now, every one of you; and in a few days' time I will come back to you.' 50 So the people returned to the town as I told them, while I remained in the field. I stayed there for seven days in obedience to the angel, eating nothing but what grew in the field, and living on that for the whole of the time.

[13] 1 2 THE SEVEN DAYS PASSED; and the next night I had a dream. In my dream, 3 a wind came up out of the sea and set the waves in turmoil. And this wind brought a human figure rising from the depths, and as I watched this man came flying with the clouds of heaven. Wherever he turned his 4 eyes, everything that they fell on was seized with terror; and wherever the sound of his voice reached, all who heard it melted like wax at the touch of fire. 5 Next I saw an innumerable host of men gathering from the four winds 6 of heaven to wage war on the man who had risen from the sea. I saw that 7 the man hewed out a vast mountain for himself, and flew up on to it. I tried to see from what quarter or place the mountain had been taken, but I 8 could not. Then I saw that all who had gathered to wage war against the 9 man were filled with fear, and yet they dared to fight against him. When he saw the hordes advancing to attack, he did not so much as lift a finger 10 against them. He had no spear in his hand, no weapon at all; only, as I watched, he poured what seemed like a stream of fire out of his mouth, a 11 breath of flame from his lips, and a storm of sparks from his tongue. All of them combined into one mass ---the stream of fire, the breath of flame, and the great storm. It fell on the host advancing to join battle, and burnt up every man of them; suddenly all that enormous multitude had disappeared, leaving nothing but dust and ashes and a reek of smoke. I was dumbfounded at the sight. 12 After that, I saw the man coming down from the mountain and calling 13 to himself a different company, a peaceful one. He was joined by great numbers of men, some with joy on their faces, others with sorrow. Some came from captivity; some brought others to him as an offering. I woke up 14 in terror, and prayed to the Most High. I said, 'You have revealed these marvels to me, your servant, all the way through; you have judged me 15 worthy to have my prayers answered. Now show me the meaning of this 16 dream also. How terrible, to my thinking, it will be for all who survive to 17 those days! But how much worse for those who do not survive! Those who 18 do not survive will have the sorrow of knowing what is in store in the last 19 days and yet missing it. Those who do survive are to be pitied for the terrible 20 dangers and trials which, as these visions show, they will have to face. But perhaps after all it is better to endure the dangers and reach the goal than to vanish out of the world like a cloud and never see the events of the last days.' 21 'Yes,' he replied, 'I will explain the meaning of this vision, and tell you 22 all that you ask. As for your question about those who survive, this is the 23 answer: the very person from whom the danger will then come will protect in danger those who have works and fidelity laid up to their credit with the 24 Most High. You may be assured that those who survive are more highly blessed than those who die. 25 'This is what the vision means: The man you saw rising from the depths 26 of the sea is he whom the Most High has held in readiness through many ages; he will himself deliver the world he has made, and determine the lot 27 of those who survive. As for the breath, fire, and storm which you saw 28 pouring from the mouth of the man, so that without a spear or any weapon in his hand he destroyed the hordes advancing to wage war against him, 29 this is the meaning: The day is near when the Most High will begin to 30 bring deliverance to those on earth. Then men will all be filled with great 31 alarm; they will plot to make war on one another, city on city, region on 32 region, nation on nation, kingdom on kingdom. When this happens, and all the signs that I have shown you come to pass, then my son will be 33 revealed, whom you saw as a man rising from the sea. On hearing his voice, all the nations will leave their own territories and their separate wars, and unite in a countless host, as you saw in your vision, with a common intent 35 to go and wage war against him. He will take his stand on the summit of 36 Mount Zion, and Zion will come into sight before all men, complete and fully built. This corresponds to the mountain which you saw hewn out, 37 not by the hand of man. Then my son will convict of their godless deeds the nations that confront him. This will correspond to the storm you saw. 38 He will taunt them with their evil plottings and the tortures they are soon to endure. This corresponds to the flame. And he will destroy them without effort by means off the law --- and that is like the fire. 39 40 Then you saw him collecting a different company, a peaceful one. They are the ten tribes which were taken off into exile in the time of King Hoshea, whom Shalmaneser king of Assyria took prisoner. He deported them 41 beyond the River, and they were taken away into a strange country. But then they resolved to leave the country populated by the Gentiles and go 42 to a distant land never yet inhabited by man, and there at last to be obedient 43 to their laws, which in their own country they had failed to keep. As they 44 passed through the narrow passages of the Euphrates, the Most High performed miracles for them, stopping up the channels of the river until they 45 had crossed over. Their journey through that region, which is called 46 Arzareth, was long, and took a year and a half. They have lived there ever 47 since, until this final age. Now they are on their way back, and once more the Most High will stop the channels of the river to let them cross. 48 'That is the meaning of the peaceful assembly that you saw. With them too are the survivors of your own people, all who are found inside my sacred 49 boundary. So then, when the time comes for him to destroy the nations 50 assembled against him, he will protect his people who are left, and show them many prodigies.' 51 'My lord, my master,' I asked, 'explain to me why the man that I saw 52 rose up out of the depths of the sea.' He replied: 'It is beyond the power of any man to explore the deep sea and discover what is in it; in the same way no one on earth can see my son and his company until the appointed day. 53 Such then is the meaning of your vision. The revelation has been given to 54 you, and to you alone, because you have given up your own affairs, and 55 devoted yourself entirely to mine, and to the study of my law. You have taken wisdom as your guide in everything, and called understanding your 56 mother. That is why I have given this revelation to you; there is a reward in store for you with the Most High. In three days' time I will speak with you again, and tell you some momentous and wonderful things.' 57 So I went away to the field, giving worship and praise to the Most High 58 for the wonders he performed from time to time and for his providential control of the passing ages and what happens in them. There I remained for three days.