Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XXXIII)

April 20, 2010

As I asked at the end of my last post, why is it that the Book of Revelation depicts “the bad guys” (beyond Satan, the Beast and the false prophet) in several different ways, instead of focusing everything on one consistent portrayal?  As you will see, that is a very good question… and, frankly, I’m not sure that I can answer it directly.

Well, you might ask, “How can you answer it?”  By pointing that essentially the same thing is done with “the good guys.”

You might then ask, “How does that help?”  My attempt at an “answer” to that follow-up: To show that, from the beginning, there have always really only been two kinds of people: those rightly related to “the ultimate seed of the woman” (i.e., Christ) and those who are the seed of the Serpent–almost certainly what Jesus is talking about in John 8:44 with the wording “You are of your father the Devil, and you want to carry out his desires…” (HCSB).

That spiritual choosing of sides started with Cain and Abel.  Abel is in the Hebrews Hall of Fame because of his faith (Heb. 11:4).  And, according to 1 John 3:12, Cain’s acted to murder his brother because he was “of the evil one,” i.e., Satan.

Seeing that ultimate spiritual reality played out in Revelation, at the opposite end of Scripture from the earliest chapters of Genesis, is–at least to me–a good enough reason for the face-off effect between “the good guys” (i.e., the elect) and “the bad guys” (i.e., the non-elect) in the Apocalypse.  Having said that, let’s move on to the various parallel–if also opposite–depictions.

By the way, a few years back, Emily Hunter McGowin did a paper at an E.T.S. meeting called “Getting in Touch with the ‘Feminine Side’ of the Apocalypse.”  I have just posted it on this blog site for your information, should you be interested to read a more in-depth–and highly documented–version of some of my reasoning here.  As you will see, I had more or less come to these same general conclusions way back then, but did not play out the full implications.  In retrospect, I think I was just too shell-shocked at the time with our findings and, thus, mentally and emotionally unable to pursue the matter further at that point.

But, I am in a position to be able to follow through to the next step now.  So, let’s take a look:

In roughly the first half of Revelation, there are two female figures: Jezebel, in the church at Thyatira, in 2:18-29, and the woman who bears the Messiah in 12:1-6, 13-17.  Jezebel is said to know “the deep things of Satan,” while the godly woman in ch. 12 is pursued by the dragon (i.e., Satan).

Later in the Apocalypse, we encounter the harlot, Babylon the Great, who is presently a pseudo-queen as the consort of the kings of the earth, the earth-dwellers (I will explain this momentarily) and the Beast (chs. 17-18), but who meets a sudden tragic end in judgment.  Later, we encounter the bride of the Lamb, who is only spoken of just before the Second Coming of Christ in judgment (19:7-8, before 19:11ff.).  Her full description awaits the eternal state of everlasting rulership alongside Christ (21:8-22:5).

But, there is one more two-sided depiction that deserves our consideration.  The armies of the kings of the earth (17:13-14a; 19:19) are countered by the armies of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (17:14b; 19:14).

By this point, it is almost impossible to argue that such head-to-head comparisons are not intended.  But, there is one issue here that is left for us to wrestle with: How does the individual person become part of these larger depictions?

Here’s where I am on that issue at present:

– The “earth-dwellers” living out in the world (see 1 John 2:15-17) get sucked into Babylon the Great by carousing with the world system (Rev. 17:2).  Those in religious settings get sucked in by Jezebel-like relationships (Rev. 2:20-24).

– The “heaven-dwellers” accept the invitation to go to the marriage feast of the Lamb (19:9), which is nothing more or less than the gospel of grace (22:14, 17).  In accepting that invitation, they actually are taken up into the larger figure of the Bride (19:7-8), just as unbelievers appear to be ultimately assimilated into the larger figure of Babylon the Great–which must be the case, if for no other reason than that Babylon the Great ends up receiving the exact judgment for the death of the martyrs in 19:1-2 for which the martyrs had prayed for in regard to the “earth-dwellers” in 6:9-11.

Next time, I am going to start discussing the overall literary structure of Revelation.  I will begin with the conventional structure, first laying it out, then working through its major implications.  After that, I will work with the grand chiastic structure of the book.

From either perspective, the Apocalypse is a literary masterpiece.  That both structures exist, and so beautifully complement one another, is mind-boggling!  That is why it took me so long to come to that conclusion myself back in the 1990s.  For some time, I just could not get my brain around it, though, eventually, the evidence just wore me down and convinced me.

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