Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XXXVI)

April 27, 2010

In my last post, I laid out my thoughts about the role of the “interlude” in Revelation 7.  In this installment, I will take a run at doing the same thing for 10:1-11:14.

Like chapter 7, this “interlude” is found between the sixth and seventh elements of their sequence (i.e., this time the trumpets, previously the seals [i.e., successive seals taken off the scroll]).  Like chapter 7, it consists of two scenes.   Unlike chapter 7, which spotlighted two groups of God’s people, 10:1-11:14 is more “individualized,” focusing on a new role for John (ch. 10), then the ministry, death and life again of two amazing witnesses for the Lord (11:1-14).

But, before proceeding further, there is another issue that should be taken up.  It has to do with whether the unsealing and trumpets sequences are dealing with the same events/period of time, or not.  (There are also those who hold that all three groups of seven—the seals, trumpets and bowls—describe the same events, though even a cursory reading of the three reveals the bowls of wrath to be dramatically different.)

Making a case for such repetition is much easier to do with the seals and the trumpets.  Both of those sequences have six items, then an interlude and a final item.  If you choose to look no further than that, the “twin” 6-1-1 arrangements might convince you.  Or, if you are predisposed to look at the seals and trumpets that way because of your confessional background or Christian college or seminary training, it may seem a natural understanding to hold.

However, there is more that is clearly different about the two sequences than that is similar.  For example, from the standpoint of the predominant Old Testament passages behind each section, the first six seals follow closely Jesus’ ideas in Matthew 24:3ff., but the sixth seal also strongly echoes Joel 2:28ff.  By contrast, the only one of the first six trumpets that seems to have an O.T. base point is also Joel 2, but the earlier part of that chapter, where the prophesied locust plague is described.

Before it is assumed that this common O.T. reference point argues that the two seals and trumpets are speaking of the same thing, though, think about this: In Joel, the locust plague is paralleled to the judgment of the end-times Day of the Lord.  In Joel 2:31, it expressly say that the phenomena listed there will occur “before the coming of the great and terrible Day of the Lord.”  In other words, a careful consideration of Joel leads the reader of Revelation to the conclusion that the events in 6:12-17 will happen just before the beginning of the Day of the Lord, while the locust plague in 9:1ff. will occur sometime after the Day of the Lord begins.

Another significant difference between the seals and the trumpets sequences which should be noted is the fact that the proportion “one-third” related to judgment is found throughout the trumpets sequence (8:7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12; 9:15).  By contrast, there is only one proportional expression (“one-fourth”) in the unsealing sequence, in 6:8.  And, actually, it does not speak of the destruction of a full “one-fourth” of the earth, just widespread killing in that segment of the earth.  Thus, it must be concluded that the judgments related to the sounding of the trumpets will be, in fact, far more severe that those related to the unsealing of the scroll.

Next, if the imagery of the scroll, which is introduced in Revelation 5, is followed, the scroll is not open for viewing until after all seven seals on its outer seam are removed.  That being the case, the unsealing sequence, though clearly quite severe, is not yet the end-times judgment contained inside the scroll, which begins to be poured out with the sounding of the seven trumpets.

Finally, the only time marker of any sort in the unsealing sequence is when the martyrs are told to wait “a little while longer” (6:11) for the judgment of the “earth-dwellers”—who killed the martyrs!—to begin.  In 8:13, it seems fairly clear that the judgment of the earth-dwellers has, by that point, already begun, but it will further intensify with the remaining trumpet judgments.  By contrast,  11:2 (“42 months”) and 11:3 (“1,260 days”) both contain wording that appears fairly specific, which must be explained.

As I have worked on this installment, I have decided to do another post on the second interlude in Revelation.  Along with exploring the time references in 11:2, 3, I still have some other linkages to make in my thinking that will undoubtedly prove to be enough to take up another full posting.  So, this subject will be continued in “Mud on the Wall (XXXVII).”

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