Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XXXVII)

April 29, 2010

It has been a busy time the last few days–no time to write!  As a result, I’m a tad “rusty” in regard to the topic I was in the midst of when I ended “Mud on the Wall XXXVI”: the “interlude” in the Trumpet judgments (Rev. 10:1-11:14).  So, I would appreciate your gracious understanding as I ease my way back into the subject.  Thank you!

The first new angle I think of in looking at this subject is how the words related to the fourth trumpet (8:13) are fulfilled: “Woe!  Woe!  Woe to those who live on the earth (i.e., “the earth-dwellers,” because of the remaining trumpet blasts that the three angles are about to sound” (HCSB).  It took me quite a while to figure out how this gets played out in the biblical text.  It is quite interesting, though, and I hope that when the light bulb goes on for you, it is as exciting to you as it was for me!

Most of the problem for me was that the only other place in the rest of the trumpets sequence where “the earth-dwellers” are mentioned is in 11:10 (twice).  However, what I failed to see was that “people who do not have God’s seal on their foreheads” (9:4) in the outworking of the fifth trumpet and the rest who did not repent (9:20-21) related to the sixth trumpet are simply variant ways of describing the earth-dwellers.

The seventh trumpet is a little trickier, but I ask you to follow my thinking.  Recall that 8:13 said that the woes related to the last three trumpets would come upon the earth-dwellers.  Well, even though it is said that “the time has come to destroy those who destroy the earth” (11:19)–presumably yet another name for the earth-dwellers–the related destructive effects (i.e., “lightnings, rumblings, thunders, an earthquake, and severe hail”) are not actually deployed until 16:17-21, and upon Babylon the Great.

This is certainly yet another way of arguing that, in the end, the earth-dwellers and Babylon the Great turn out to be effectively the same group of people–though there also appear to be additional aspects (e.g., the world system) invested in the wider concept of Babylon the Great.  So, if you have read my previous posts on Babylon the Great, please add this idea to what I argued there.

Now, we have finally arrived at the second interlude (10:1-11:14), which, like the first interlude, is composed of two scenes.  In this case, chapter 10 recounts John’s call as a prophet, while 11:1-13 describes the ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of two “witnesses” for the Lord (who sound very much like a Moses figure and an Elijah figure, to say the least).

We begin with chapter 10, where the first question is what is the scroll in the hand of the huge and mighty angel?  In the flow of the book, it makes sense that it is the scroll from which Christ removed the seven seals (6:1-8:1) to open.  However, the fact that the Greek uses the term biblaridion here (“little scroll”), as opposed to biblion in 5:1ff., rules out that idea for many students of the Apocalypse.  However, it should be noted that, since the angel is so large, it may simply be that the scroll looks very small by comparison–and at a distance, requiring a different Greek term to describe how John sees it.

If that seems like a forced explanation, think about this.  Although I am taller than average man at 6’1″, what a basketball looks like in my hand versus what it would like in the hand of Shaquille O’Neal or Dikembe Mutumbo–at a distance–would be considerably different.  It might appear to be the size of a volleyball… or maybe even a softball.

Whatever this scroll is–and I think it is slightly more likely to be the earlier scroll and that it contains the remainder of what we call the Book of Revelation–John is commanded to take it from the angel and eat it (10:8-10).  Clearly, this is reminiscent of the Lord’s almost identical command to Ezekiel (2:8-3:3), the only real difference being that the scroll was sweet to Ezekiel (3:3), but sweet only in John’s mouth, while bitter in his stomach (10:10).

What are we to understand by this clear allusion?  Perhaps it is that, like Ezekiel’s ministry, not that many people proportionately would listen to John, but he must keep on proclaiming God’s prophecies.  Perhaps, like Ezekiel, John was called to be a prophet not long before the “end”–in Ezekiel’s case, the destruction of Jerusalem; in John’s case, the end of the age).  Perhaps it is even that resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses in the presence of the (presumably rebuilt) temple in Jerusalem (Rev. 11:1-2, 8, 11-12) is being parallelled to the removal of the Shekinah glory of God in Ezekiel 10-11.

Whatever the case, John is now called to articulate that which will deal with “many people, nations, languages, and kings” (Rev. 10:11).  That assignment gets under way in 11:1-13.

I’m going to have to stop here for today.  I really need to get some other things done now.  But, I will be back soon with “Mud on the Wall XXXVIII,” which will delve into the second scene in the interlude of the trumpets sequence (Rev. 11:1-13).

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