A Handful of Mud: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (VII)

February 27, 2010

When I completed my last post on the use of Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10 in the chiastic structure of Matthew 24:3-31, I fully intended to immediately compare what I found there with the Book of Revelation.  In the short time since, though, I have decided to delay that study by one post.

The reason for that decision was that, after the unexpected things I discovered in the inverted parallelism of Matthew 24, I decided to poke around in a similar manner in Revelation 1, where, of course, this whole line of inquiry began.  It was the striking side-by-side citation of those same two Old Testament passages, Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10, in Revelation 1:7—the only uses of the OT in the whole book long enough to be considered true citations—which got me wondering what the relationship was between Revelation 1:7 and Jesus’ choice to quote the two passages together in Matthew 24:30.

Well, I think I can safely say that it was a good decision to wait on the comparison of my findings in Matthew 24 with the wider Book of Revelation, given what I have found in my structural analysis of Revelation 1, as you will see momentarily.  In fact, I will now have even more that is insightful from the Apocalypse to compare with Matthew 24.

As I begin, I must say that it’s not like the idea of chiasm related to Revelation is a new concept to me at all.  In the late 1990s, I played off—and slightly adjusted—a very well thought-through overall chiastic structuring of the Apocalypse developed (and later published in the international journal, Novum Testmentum) by my former graduate assistant, now Dr. Michelle Lee, while she was at Notre Dame in doctoral study, in chapters in two separate books.  Along the way, I realized that there were in fact smaller and medium-sized chiastic structures at points throughout the book.

Getting to the passage at hand, at some point along the way, I had even noted what I had taken for a (much less detailed) set of chiastic pairings in Revelation 1.  However, after what I found in Matthew 24, going back to look more carefully at the first chapter of the Apocalypse was really an eye-opening experience.  I hope you feel the same excitement that I did as you read my findings!

Here’s the inverted parallel structuring I have detected in Revelation 1, with some brief explanations of how the pairings in each layer work together following:

a (1:1) The revelation of Jesus Christ, to show His servants what must quickly take place

b (1:2-3) What John saw, he testified to and you are blessed if you keep/apply it

c (1:4a) John, writing to the seven churches

d (1:4b) Grace and peace to you from the One who is, who was and who is coming

e (1:5) Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and…

f (1:6) He loves us, set us free from our sins by His blood and has made us a kingdom and priests to the Father, to whom be eternal glory and dominion, Amen!

g (1:7a) “Behold, he is coming on the clouds and every eye will see Him, including those who pierced Him.”

f’ (1:7b) All the families of the earth will mourn (in repentance) over Him—with certainty!  Amen!

e’ (1:8a) I am the Alpha and the Omega (which Jesus clearly calls Himself in 22:13)

d (1:8b) The Lord God, the One who is, who was and who is coming

c’ (1:9-11) John on Patmos, commanded to write to the seven churches

b’ (1:12-18) The vision of the Son of Man, which John “saw” (the word is in a sort of bracketing effect in vv. 12, 17), a vision which literally sets up most of the rest of the book (i.e., “the prophecy” in v. 3)

a’ (1:19-20) The command to write what John had just seen, the current circumstances in the seven churches (i.e., his servants [also in v. 20]) and what will take place after this

Although I think that the two outer layers (‘a’ and ‘b’) are reasonably clear, there can be no doubt (beyond the person who simply exhibits a hidebound bias against the existence of larger chiastic structures anywhere in the Bible) that layers ‘c’ (focusing on John, the author), ‘d’ (focusing on God, apparently the Father) and ‘e’ (focusing on Jesus) are intended mirroring pairs.  What that leaves us with, in the middle of the larger chiastic structure, is quite striking and, if I dare say, not seemingly difficult to interpret at all.

Layer ‘f’—which is hard to get around, if, for no other reason, the twin concluding “Amen”—certainly appears to mean that those of “the families of the earth” who repent (the tone of the original context in Zech. 12:10) will do so because Christ died for them and has already declared that they will be part of the group who will be a kingdom and priests (note: some take this wording to mean “royal priests”) to the Father.  The midpoint of the overall structure (‘g’) leaves the impression that the conversion of the group in ‘f’ is closely related to the “coming” of the Son of Man, but that the significance of it being in the center may be that much of the whole book of Revelation is related to that “coming” (which, as we saw in Dan. 7:13 and Matt. 24 is somewhat different than it is often popularly conceived).

That will be a topic of multiple future posts here.  Before that, though, as promised, in my next post, I will make the comparison between what was learned from the structuring of Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation.  Hold on to your hats!  While it may not “blow your minds,” it is definitely expanding mine!

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