Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XXV)

April 12, 2010

In my last post, I noted the parallelism between the beatitudes in Revelation 1:3 and 22:7.  It is far more than coincidental, and probably far more than simply a bracketing/bookends literary device surrounding the body of the book, although it certainly also plays that role.

The clue that seems to open up what is going on not only with 1:3 and 22:7, but with all the beatitudes in the Apocalypse, is that the elements found in 1:3 and 22:7 are in reverse order: a exhortation to application; b imminency of the end times events, in 1:3; and b’ imminency of Christ’s coming; a’ exhortation to application, in 22:7.  Such inverted parallelism often points to a wider chiastic structuring at work.

That certainly is the case with the reversed wording in 2:9 (a “Those who say they are Jews and are not, b but are a synagogue of Satan”) and 3:9 (b’ “those from the synagogue of Satan, a’ who claim to be Jews and are not”), as was seen in an earlier post in this series.  However, the difference here is that the chiasmus is trickier to detect and work with because it is spread throughout the entire book of Revelation.

Suffice it to say here that I am proposing that 1:3 and 22:7 are layer A of a “spread chiasm” imbedded in Revelation.  In the remainder of this post, I will lay out what I understand to be layer B: the interactive relationship between 14:13 and 20:6.

Consider the presence of the complementary ideas of death and resurrection (i.e., the only ones who can take part in resurrection are the dead) in 14:13 and 20:6:

(14:13) “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”

(20:6) “Blessed and holy is the one shares in the first resurrection!”

One of the things that initially seems quite odd about the seven beatitudes in Revelation is the fact that, after the first one is found in 1:3, the second does not show up until 14:13.  Why would that be?  Why would almost two-thirds of the book go by before that second beatitude makes its presence known?

Given the interplay of the death and resurrection wording in 14:13 and 20:6, I am prompted to ask how those ideas play out in the material near the locations of those two key passages.  In regard to 14:13, it appears that those who respond to the climactic preaching of the eternal gospel in 14:6-7 are the wheat harvest of 14:14-16 and the overcomers who are standing on the sea of glass in 15:2-4.  How did they get to heaven?  They were martyred by the beast (13:7), yet still conquerors because of “the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (12:11).

Those descriptions of the martyrs who had responded to the climactic preaching sound very much like the martyrs in 20:4: “the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of God’s word.”  This group “came to life (i.e., were resurrected) and reigned with Christ for 1,000 years.”  Thus, it appears highly likely that these martyrs are none other than exactly the same group who were told that their deaths were blessed in 14:13.

OK, you say.  I can see how Revelation 1:3 and 22:7 mirror each other as layer A of a larger chiastic structuring.  I even “get” how 20:6 and its context fulfills what was set in motion in the context of 14:13, with the two passages being layer B.  But, what about 16:15 and 19:9, as well as 22:14?  We will explore the relationship between 16:15 and 19:9 in the next post, then the intriguing role of 22:14 in the one after that.


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