Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XLII)

May 11, 2010

In order to support the point I was making in “Mud… XLI,” I need to preview material that I had originally planned on delaying until I was completely finished with discussing the various aspects of the conventional outline of the Book of Revelation.  However, I have decided not to go any further than necessary at this point in laying out the grand chiastic structure of the Apocalypse.  And, even what I put forward here will probably have a distracting effect to you, the reader.  That, however, cannot be completely avoided.  So, here goes—but, first a confession of what I have learned from two of my former students.

In some respects, I owe more than they know about having the courage to consider wider chiastic structures to Drs. Michelle Lee (now Barnewell) and Sung Yul (Victor) Rhee.  Maybe I was the one who originally taught them about the prevalence and significance (for enhanced interpretive understanding) of inverted parallelism in the Bible, but they both went beyond me in their own work.  Victor’s insights in Hebrews emerged while doing PhD study at Dallas Seminary, and are now widely published.  Michelle’s macro-chiasm of Revelation “hatched” while doing her PhD work at Notre Dame, and was published in an article in Novum Testamentum in the late 1990s.

It was the “first draft,” so to speak, of Michelle’s work that got me to seriously consider both the true possibility of Revelation being a grand chiasm and the massive ramifications of taking that perspective.  I admit that I was initially stunned… and resistant.  In my mind, it was one thing for smaller books like Ruth and Philippians—both of which I had previously published grand chiastic studies of—to be structured that way from beginning to end.  But, Revelation… it seemed too complex to even consider… until Michelle convinced me.  It was all there; none of the parallelism was forced (though I have fine-tuned some of it over the decade plus since).

For my purposes here, what follows is simply the breakdown of the passages in Revelation in my slightly modified inverted parallel outline of the book:

A (ch. 1)

B (chs. 2-3)

C (chs. 4-5)

D (ch. 6)

E (ch. 7)

F (chs. 8-9)

G (chs. 10-11)

H (12:1-6)

I (12:7-17)

J (ch. 13)

J’ (chs. 14-15)

I’ (ch. 16)

H’ (17:1-6)

G’ (17:7-18)

F’ (ch. 18)

E’ (19:1-10)

D’ (19:11-21)

C’ (20:1-10)

B’ (20:11-22:5)

A’ (22:6-21)

As you can tell from the italicized portion above, Revelation 10-11 and 17:7-18 are intentionally paralleled to one another.  To slightly oversimplify, you could title the two sections “The Lord and His Own, the Beast and ‘the Great City’ (I and II).”

In addition to the overarching inverted parallel structuring of the book, both passages are internally chiastic.  I will begin with 17:7-18:

a (vv. 7-10) Mystery of the woman and the beast; seven heads, seven hills (i.e., Rome), seven kings; the “earth-dwellers” astounded by the beast

b (vv. 11-13) The beast and the 10 kings with one purpose

c (v. 14a) The Lamb/Lord of Lords and King of Kings will overcome (Greek nikao) them.

c’ (v. 14b) The overcomers are with Him: the called, elect and faithful

b’ (vv. 15-17) The harlot made desolate by the beast and the 10 kings

a’ (v. 18) “The rest of the story” of the mystery: The woman is “the great city” ruling over the kings of the earth.

The reason I handled 17:7-18 first is because, when the chiastic outline of chapters 10-11 are laid out and interpreted, the “aha!” moments will hit more quickly (i.e., the light bulb in your brain will click on).  For just one example, the first use of “great city” is in 11:8, but its wider meaning is only finally unveiled in the ‘a’ layer of this structure (i.e., 17:7-10 and 17:18), then blown up in even much more detail in chapter 18.

Now, quickly, on to the internal parallelism in Revelation 10-11:

a (10:1-4) The little scroll open and the thunders sealed

b (10:5-7) God’s plan to be completed related to the seventh trumpet, as the prophets announced

c (10:8-11) John called to prophecy concerning many “peoples, nations, languages, and kings”

d (11:1-2a) The sanctuary in “the holy city” trampled under by the Gentiles

e (11:2b) The duration the trampling of the holy city: “42 months” (i.e., the second three and a half years of the Great Tribulation)

e’ (11:3-6) The length of the ministry of the two untouchable witnesses for the Lord: “1,260 days” (i.e., the first three and a half years)

d’ (11:7-8) The beast allowed to kill the two witnesses and their bodies desecrated in “the great city,” where their Lord was crucified

c’ (11:9-14) Those from “peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations” celebrate the death of the two witnesses, until their resurrection and ascension brings on a great revival (i.e., fearing and glorifying God)

b’ (11:15-18) The kingdom about to come and the rewarding of the prophets and saints, those who fear God

a’ (11:19) The heavenly sanctuary opened and the thunders, among other effects waiting to be poured out

I have no more time to write right now.  So, I will work my way through the interpretation of the chiastic pairs in Revelation 10-11 in my next post.  Thank you for your patience!


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