A Handful of Mud: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (II)

February 19, 2010

Last time, I began by noting how much I love brainstorming, which I defined as “throwing mud on the wall and seeing what sticks.”  This series of posts is intended to do just exactly that in regard to certain passages in, and issues concerning, the Book of Revelation.

The first subject in the spotlight in this series of posts is John’s unusual citation of Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10 in Revelation 1:7.  If you have not read my previous post, the reason that is unusual is that,  even though there are (c0nservatively) several hundred “echoes” of (i.e., fairly obvious allusions to) the Old Testament in the Apocalypse, the passages from Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10 are the only two long enough to be considered true quotes.  And, of course, there’s the part about them both being in the same verse.

Since the first few verses of Revelation (1:1-7) appear to be John’s own words, prefacing his descriptions of the visions (and mini-letters, in chs. 2-3) that make up the vast bulk of the Apocalypse, a natural question emerges: What was John seeking to accomplish in choosing those verses and placing them where he did–as, effectively, the stated-up-front “preaching texts,” if you will, for this amazing biblical book?

The most natural–and probably the best–understanding is that John is inferring that the fulfillment of these two great OT prophecies are, at least, a very large part of what Revelation is about.   But, if that is the case, it raises another important question: Are those two passages–Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10 really significant enough prophecies to play that kind of role in the Book of Revelation?

It will be helpful to look in the contexts of both passages for some insight in answering that question.  But, there is more direct way to get to an answer: listen to the words of Jesus in the Olivet Discourse.  You see, at an absolutely crucial juncture in His message answering the apostles’ questions about the destruction of the Temple (see Matt. 24:2, 3), His “coming” and “the end of the age” (v. 3), Christ puts these two passages together in a very striking manner.

In fact, that is the most logical explanation of why John chose these passages to place at the “jumpin’ off place” of the Book of Revelation.  Why do I say that?  You see, the action in the book begins with John telling of being on Patmos and then seeing a vision of the glorified Christ, who is specifically called “One like the Son of Man” (1:13, HCSB).

Now, seeing that would undoubtedly have made John think of seeing Jesus glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration many years before (Matt. 17:1-8).  However, the wording “One like the Son of Man” causes us to realize that John, without question, had at least Daniel 7:13 on his mind at that point and when he wrote down what we have as the Book of Revelation.  And, it is easy to overlook the fact that, just as John was there as an eyewitness on the Mount of Transfiguration, so was he present as an “ear-witness” when Jesus gave the Olivet Discourse, which is recorded in Matthew 24.

Upon reflection, it seems quite obvious that these following words from Matthew were on John’s mind when he wrote Revelation 1:7: “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (24:30-31, HCSB).

The mentions of “the Son of Man” and Him “coming on the clouds” are from Daniel 7:13 and the latter wording is repeated in Revelation 1:7.  The mentions of “all the peoples of the earth” and “mourn” apparently look back to Zechariah 12:10 and both are effectively cited in Revelation 1:7.

In my next post, I will begin to probe the question of how these two great OT prophecies are used in Matthew 24.  Then, we will pursue the question of my major curiosity: How are Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10 actually fulfilled in the unfolding visions of the Apocalypse?

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