Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XLIII)

May 12, 2010

As promised in my last post, I am going to tease out the meaning of the mirroring pairs in the second interlude of the the Book of Revelation (chs. 10-11).  As will be seen (i.e., in the italicized comments), there is quite a bit of illumination that emerges in approaching this section from a chiastic vantage point.

The following is the inverted parallel outline I laid out previously:

a (10:1-4) The little scroll opened 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 bittersweet prophesying 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 seventh trumpet has sounded and the kingdom is 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 in judgment

Here’s the way the pairs should be considered in parallel, to grasp how they play off each other:

Layer ‘a’:

a (10:1-4) The little scroll opened (Greek anoigo) and the thunders sealed

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

Initially, the ideas of “opened” and “thunders” grab your attention.  Also, the impression is left that the imminent pouring out of judgment in 11:19 is related to the opened scroll in 10:2.

Layer ‘b’:

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

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

The seventh trumpet is center stage in both parts of this layer and both mention God’s “servants, the prophets.”

Layer ‘c’:

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

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)

John’s call, largely echoing Ezekiel’s in Ezekiel 2-3, is bittersweet.  Apparently, that is because of the immediate celebration of the death of the two witnesses, which is followed by an apparent major revival (which I will discuss in my next post) after the resurrection and ascension of the two.  Since wording similar to “peoples, tribes, languages, and nations” (11:9; see 10:11) is used earlier in the book for the origin of believers (5:10; 7:9), it does not come as a complete shock that many among that group might be converted.  At this point in the book, though, it has not yet been stated that the earth-dwellers are the non-elect (see 13:8; 17:8).

Layer ‘d’:

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

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

In 11:1-2a, we see that, even during the conclusion of the “times of the Gentiles,” Jerusalem will still retain its identity as “the holy city” (the first mention of this phrase in the Apocalypse) in some sense, perhaps the presence of a rebuilt Temple there.  In 11:7-8, the first mention of “the great city” is related to Jerusalem (perhaps recalling Jesus’ words in Matt. 23:33ff.), wording that is later applied clearly to Babylon the Great (e.g., 17:18), implying that the evil side of Jerusalem is spiritually, in some sense, part of the great harlot.

Middle layer:

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)

Here we see, face-to-face, the duration of the two halves of the Great Tribulation period: the first three and a half years are the time of the two witnesses being protected (11:3-6).  After the Lord lifts their Divine protection, allowing the Beast to kill them (11:7), total control is taken over by the Gentiles (tois ethnesin) as part of the reign of terror of the Beast, which lasts three and a half years (11:2; see 13:5-7).

Concluding Note: As often occurs in chiastic structures, things are in the reverse order that you would expect in typical discourse.  This explains why the second half of the Great Tribulation (11:2) is mentioned before the first half (11:3).

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