Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XXIV)

April 12, 2010

The subject at hand is the seven beatitudes that are spread throughout the Book of Revelation.  In this post, I am going to address the question that is almost always asked, then proceed beyond the typical explanation that ends wider interest in the blessings statements of the Apocalypse.

What I called “the question that is almost always asked” is why are there seven blessing statements?  The obvious answer is that seven is the number of completeness or perfection in the Bible.  It also is the number of the seals upon the scroll in Revelation 6-8, of the trumpets in chs. 8-11 and the bowls of wrath in chs. 15-16 (and possibly of several other aspects of the books, depending on the commentator counting the particular elements).

That’s generally about it, as far as the overall explanation of the presence of the beatitudes in Revelation is concerned: there is the perfect number of blessing statements or God’s blessings on His people will be complete with these particular blessings, or some similar idea.  But, are those neat and tidy—and very simple and obvious—explanations, which are true as far as they go, sufficient to explain the phenomena of the seven beatitudes of the Apocalypse?

Maybe you are saying to yourself, “Come on, why do you think there has to be more going on with the beatitudes in Revelation?”  Well, since you asked—pardon me for putting words in your mouth, but it’s always more fun to have thinking readers who are challenging my thought process along the way—I  am indeed convinced that there is quite a bit more than the simple explanation(s) above for two general reasons: 1) their unusual placements throughout the book (e.g., the first being found in 1:3 and the second not until 14:13); and 2) the relationships between the content of certain specific blessing statements of the seven to each other.

It was those two things that first drew my attention to poke around beyond the typical observations (see above) about the seven beatitudes in Revelation about 20 years ago.  Then, with each opportunity to work with the book in a fresh way over the years, I have ended up asking yet further questions and, over time, developing at least some helpful hypotheses in regard to the striking phenomena I just mentioned.

To just begin to lay out the kind of thing I have in mind here, let’s look at the first and sixth of the beatitudes side-by-side:

(1:3) “Blessed is the one who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it, because the time is near!” (HCSB).

(22:7) “Look, I am coming quickly!  Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic words of this book.”

Notice that these verses contain essentially the same ideas, but in reverse order:

(1:3) a The need to hear/heed the prophecy; b The imminent fulfillment of the prophecies

(22:7) b’ The imminent coming of Christ; a’ The need to heed the prophetic words

At the least, what we have here is a bracketing effect around the body of the Book of Revelation.  The exhortations to listen and act upon the words of the book are fitting bookends for the Apocalypse, as are the reminders that the events of the book, including the coming again of Jesus Christ, could happen very soon.

In closing, though, I will “tease” things a tad in looking ahead to future posts.  You, see the reversal of elements (i.e., the abb’a’ arrangement of 1:3 and 22:7, face-to-face with each other) likely points to there being more going on here than meets the eye at first glance.  I will pick up at this point in a not too distant future post.


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