Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XXXIX)

May 4, 2010

After a few days of being out of town and fighting a bad cold, I am—realistically (something I hardly ever am accused of being, at least when it comes to the estimating of time needed to accomplish a writing task)—not going to be up to writing any longer posts this week.  So, I’ve planned several shorter posts on aspects of the second scene in the second interlude in Revelation (i.e., 11:1-13), in order to finish what I think needs to be said about the crucial significance of that passage.

The first will actually backtrack slightly to understand why 11:1ff. contains so much more specific detail in certain areas than the earlier part of the body of Revelation.  The second will deal with the wording “the holy city” (11:2) versus “the great city” (11:8), the first uses of both phrases in the book.  The third will explain the meaning and significance of the temporal wording “42 months” (11:2) and “1,260 days” (11:3).  The fourth will deal with the overall significance of the response of 11:13 (i.e., to the resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses) for the whole Book of Revelation.

To begin working my way down this agenda, you and I must grasp what took place when John was told: “You must prophecy again about many peoples, nations, languages, and kings” (10:11).  To be brutally honest, this is an area in which I have not done nearly enough thinking over the years in which I have worked with the Apocalypse.  But, I am doing my best to correct this deficiency at present.

If you do a quick once-over of Revelation, you will rapidly notice that, before John being called to this specific role as a prophet, there was virtually nothing about the “personalities” that, before it is over, turn out to be so critically important in the book.  By contrast, just as soon as John eats “the little scroll” and begins his new role, you read about the two witnesses (11:3) and the beast (11:7).  And, it continues much the same way on through the rest of the book.

What difference does this observation make for our understanding of the overall Book of Revelation?  Well, it explains in part why we move through almost all of the two of the three sequences of seven judgments in the Apocalypse—the seals and the trumpets—by the end of chapter 10, yet we essentially know nothing at that point about the primary personalities or the length of the end times.  Yes, the earth-dwellers—and the heaven-dwellers, though we have talked very little about them on this blog so far—are introduced all the way back in 3:10 and 1:5-6 respectively.  But, we do not find out who they really are “up close and personal” until the latter uses in the book, starting in chapter 11.

It is as if–and, in my thinking, this is the key difference–before John’s call to eat the scroll (which, as I move along, seems more and more likely to be the same scroll as the one being unsealed in 6:1-8:1), he is viewing things from the outside in.  In other words, he was only able to record what he saw from his own limited vantage point.  Such an “outsider” view accounts for the lack of detail about persons and time before his calling.

However, after John’s calling, he sees things from the inside out.  His internalization of the scroll, which include the bitter details of the end times before you get to the glorious “happy ending,” give him “insider” perspective, which comes out clearly from chapter 11 forward.

Before ending this first of my series of shorter posts, one other thing is worth mentioning.  At the end of John’s call to prophetic ministry in 10:11 is wording unique in the book: “… peoples, nations, languages, and kings.” The first three terms of this sequence are used repeatedly in Revelation (see 5:10; 7:9; 11:10, etc.)–but, not “kings.”

So, why “kings?”  Well, at the end of the book, the “King of Kings…” (19:16) defeating “the kings of the earth, and their armies” (19:19) would be enough to justify that wording.

However, I think the emphasis previewed by the word “kings” in 10:11 begins much earlier than the Second Coming of Christ.  As it turns out, the beast introduced in 11:7 (i.e., the Antichrist figure) is a king (developed in depth in ch. 13).  Also, the “Son… who is going to shepherd the nations with a rod of iron” (i.e., Christ; 12:5) is the King.

Thus, the second half of the Apocalypse is not just the ultimate “clash of the titans.”  It is the clash of “royal titans!”

Next time (XL): The most significant “Tale of Two Cities,” which, in the Apocalypse, begins in chapter 11.

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