A Handful of Mud: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (X)

March 9, 2010

Well, I have had still more “brainstorms” since my last post.  However, I am going to stay the course and complete the discussion of how the chiastic structuring of Matthew 24:29-31 compares to what we see in the Book of Revelation.  Next, I am going to explore the possible origin of Paul’s statement “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” in Acts 14:22.  Then, I plan to do at least one post on the intriguing wording in Revelation 1:9: being “your brother and partner in tribulation, kingdom and perseverance in Jesus” (HCSB).  The italicized wording has confounded me ever since I began to study Revelation seriously, well over 20 years ago.  The recent research I have done, in Matthew 24 and Daniel 7 in particular, has brought me to the brink of some insights on that verse that I would like to play out.

The following is the inverted parallel structure of Matthew 24:29-31 with which I have been working.  In a previous post in this series, I discussed its internal pairings and their meaning.  In this post, my goal is to “compare notes” with what verses 29-31 get across through their elegant structuring and how that stacks up with what we find in the Apocalypse.

a (24:29a) Immediately after the tribulation (thlipsis) of those days

b (24:29b) Phenomena mentioned in Joel 2:30-31, as being before the “Day of the Lord” (2:31)

c (24:30a) The “sign” seen… in heaven

d (24:30b) The Son of Man

e (24:30c) “Will mourn” (Greek kopsontai) (Zech. 12:10)

f (24:30d) “All the tribes (Greek phulai) of the earth” (Dan. 7:14)

e’ (24:30e) “Will see” (Greek opsontai) (the idea is there in Zech. 12:10 [LXX], but a different Greek word is used, so Jesus’ choice here is clearly intentional)

d’ (24:30f) The Son of Man

c’ (24:30g) “Coming on the clouds of heaven” (Dan. 7:13)

b’ (24:31a) [Jesus] will send out His angels with a loud trumpet (also in Joel 2:1, where it declares the coming of the “Day of the Lord”)

a’ (24:31b) [Jesus] will gather His elect from the four winds

In the ‘a’ layer, the “gathering of the elect from the four winds” (Matt. 24:31b) takes place immediately after the milder, but still substantial “tribulation” of the course of the church age (see 24:9a).  In Revelation, the only usage of “the four winds” is in 7:1.  In that context, the “elect” may be either the 144,000 of 7:4-8 or, more likely, those now in the heavenly throne room from “all nations…” in 7:9ff.

Interestingly, there is a strikingly similar description to Matthew 24:29b in Revelation 6:12ff.  Further, just on the other side of the interlude in Revelation 7 is the beginning of the trumpets sequence, starting in 8:2.  Is it a coincidence that the effects in the ‘b’ layer in Matthew 24:29-31 bracket Revelation 7?  Is it a coincidence that both part of the pair in Matthew 24 echo passages in Joel 2?  Both seem to be far more than coincidental.

In the ‘c’ layer, the “sign seen in heaven” (Matt. 24:30a) is the Son of Man “coming on the clouds of heaven” (24:30g).  In Revelation, “One like the Son of Man” is seen in 1:13.  However, in 14:14, “One like the Son of Man was seated on the cloud,” which is the only such wording in the book.

In layers ‘d’ and ‘e,’ as well as at the ‘f’ midpoint (Matt. 24:30b-f), “all the tribes of the earth” will both “see” and “mourn” (i.e., in true repentance, based on the background in Zech. 12:10) the Son of Man.  Though this wording might refer to the actual Second Coming of Christ passage in Revelation 19:11ff., the decisive problem is that there is absolutely no hint of repentance anywhere in that context.

Thus, it could well be that the fulfillment in Revelation works somewhat differently.  In between the places where it says in so many words that most of the world population refuses to repent (9:20-21; 16:9, 11), the response of many in Jerusalem to the resurrection of the two witnesses—fearing God and giving Him glory (11:13) is the equivalent of the stated expected response to the preaching of the “eternal gospel” in 14:6-7.  In addition, it is certainly no coincidence that, when the two witnesses ascend to heaven (after having been dead for three and a half days, by the way [11:11]), it says that “they went up into heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them” (11:12, HCSB).  That wording is strongly reminiscent of Jesus’ own ascension, which Acts 1:9 tells us took place until “a cloud received Him out of their sight.”  Also, since it is emphasized that the “enemies” in 11:12 actually “watched” (i.e., saw, as in Matt. 24:30), then become believers in 11:13, may be further evidence for this possible viewpoint,

One other part of the wider attempt to interpret Revelation is that the positive response of many in Jerusalem in 11:13 may also be what Romans 11:25-26 is talking about when it says that, after the fullness of the Gentiles have come in, then “all Israel will be saved.”  Did Paul have in mind Zechariah 12:10 when he wrote Romans 11:25-26?  That is a tough question, but certainly one to be considered carefully—as I will do in continuing this series of posts.

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