Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XXVI)

April 12, 2010

This is my fourth posting on the seven beatitudes in the Book of Revelation.  If you are not familiar with those blessing statements, they are found in 1:3, 14:13, 16:15, 19:9, 20:6, 22:7 and 22:14.

So far, I have proposed that, due to their obvious similar wording—in reverse order, no less—1:3 and 22:7 form layer A of a spread chiasm and, because of the complementary logical relationship of death and resurrection, 14:13 and 20:6 constitute layer B.  My subject for this installment is layer C, which is made up of 16:15 and 19:9.

An initial disclaimer is in order: the material being dealt with in the chiastic layer is more subtle to comprehend in its parallelism than the two outer layers.  However, as will be seen, the parallelism is there, especially based on the intertextual echoes from elsewhere in Scripture, a characteristic that rises to a saturation effect in Revelation, beyond any other part of the Bible.

Here are the two beatitudes in initial side-by-side comparison:

(16:15) “Blessed is the one who is alert and remains clothed, so that he may not go naked, and they see his shame.”

(19:9) “Blessed are those invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb!”

Admittedly, at first glance, the anticipated parallelism is not obvious.  Actually, the first factors that appear to relate the two are not in Revelation, but in Matthew 24-25 (the Olivet Discourse).

What caught my eye in regard to Revelation 16:15 initially was the part of the verse before the blessing statement: “Behold, I come like a thief.”  Yes, that wording is found elsewhere in the Apocalypse (3:3), but, for me, the reference to the coming of the thief in Matthew 24:43 is what popped into my mind.

Something very similar happens when I read Revelation 19:9.  The mention of a “marriage feast” Greek gamos) there brought to my mind the parable in 25:1-13 and its reference to a “wedding banquet” (also gamos; 25:10).

Interestingly, in those contexts at the end of Matthew 24 and the beginning of chapter 25, the applicational angle that is emphasized is “be alert!” (Greek gregoreo; 24:42, 43; 25:13).  Is it just chance that Revelation 16:15 also exhorts the reader to “be alert?”  Extremely unlikely, especially given that the only other uses of gregoreo in the Apocalypse are in 3:2, 3.

Further, in Matthew 24:42, 44 and 25:13, the contextual emphasis on alertness is because no one knows the time of the coming of Christ.  Is it not very interesting that the blessing statement in Revelation 16:15 is placed right smack dab in the middle of the description of the run-up to the Battle of Armageddon (16:14, 16).  The words there function as a preview to Christ destroying the armies of the world at the time of His Second Coming in 19:11ff., immediately after its paired blessing statement in 19:9.  Again, it just seems to be way too convenient, unless what we have here is, in fact, intended parallelism.

Back to the actual side-by-side comparison of Revelation 16:15 and 19:9—there is a clothing reference in both contexts.  In 16:15, the concern is to keep your clothes (on) and not be found (spiritually) naked.  Just before 19:9, the mention of the Lamb’s bride wearing (presumably a gown of) fine linen yet again seems to be far too much of a coincidence.

That is especially true when it is realized that everyone who gets invited to the marriage feast of the Lamb (19:9) turns out to be a part of the Lamb’s bride (19:7-8).  How do I know that, you ask?

Well, to make a much longer discussion short (see my article, “The ‘Earth-Dwellers’ and the ‘Heaven-Dwellers’ in Revelation: An Overlooked Interpretive Key,” in the journal Faith and Mission [2001]): 1) the “great multitude” singing the Hallelujah Chorus at the beginning of chapter 19 is the same as the “great multitude” in 7:9ff., given that these two contexts are the only two places in the Apocalypse where that wording is found; and 2) The group in 7:9ff. is wearing white, while the “armies” following Christ in His return is said to be “wearing pure white linen” (19:14) and the bride of the Lamb is wearing “fine linen, bright and pure” (19:8).  Based on that “clothing” data, my conclusion is that the great multitude, the bride and the armies following Christ at the Second Advent are one and the same group, simply being viewed from three different literary angles.

One other issue should be raised before leaving the C layer: 18:4 (“Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in her sins, or receive any of her plagues.”) is the midpoint between 16:15 and 19:9—27 verses after 16:15 and 28 verses before 19:9.

Is it coincidental that this wording is found at the midway point of the middle layer of the spread chiasm of the beatitudes of the Apocalypse?  Hardly.

In a slight change of plans, I have decided to explore what is between 16:15 and 19:9, as well as the intriguing role being played by 18:4, in my next post.  Then, I will get to the “capstone” beatitude (i.e., 22:14) in the following installment.

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