Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XLV)

May 17, 2010

Well, I finally managed to finish—for now—what I wanted to deal with in regard to the second scene in the second interlude in Revelation (i.e., ch. 11).  So, it’s now time to move on to chapters 12-14, the next seemingly “odd” section of the conventional outline of the book.

To me, these chapters have presented some of the more confusing problems for understanding in the entire book over the years.  More recently, I have begun to think I am starting to “get” the ways things work.  To make a long answer short, that sense of “strangeness” has more to do with the alternate chiastic structuring of the Apocalypse than any other single factor.  The other significant aspect seems to be that this apparently over-lengthy “prologue” to the bowls of wrath sequence actually is intended to leave the dramatic/emotional impression on the reader that the bowls have been delayed (i.e., pushed back as far as possible).

Allow me to get the last one out of the way first.  Upon extended reflection, I do think the “push-it-back, push-it-back way back!” understanding is valid and serves a very important purpose.  It makes sense to me for this reason: reading the sequence of the bowls actually playing out in Revelation 16, it “feels” like things are moving very quickly—and, here’s the key observation—it seems like it’s all hitting very rapidly, right before “the end” (i.e.., the Second Coming of Christ).

You may ask: ask “How do you know that, given that the Second Coming is not described until you get to Revelation 19:11ff.?”

My answer: It’s somewhat more complex than that.  You see, if you do side-by-side comparisons of where certain key Greek terms are used, you quickly realize that 14:18-20, 16:14, 16, 17-21 and 19:11ff. all describe the same wider confluence of climactic events, leading up to the Second Coming, just from different angles.  In other words, the end of the “prologue” (14:18-20), the sixth and seventh of the bowls of wrath (16:14-21) and the actual coming of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (19:11ff.) are kind of like a lot of parallel passages in the Synoptic Gospels: enough similar to where you “get it” very clearly that they’re looking at the same event, but enough different to call attention to the need to make allowance for three different vantage points.  (When I get to Rev. 14:14-20, I’ll expand on this.)

What is the “bottom line” of concluding that the pouring out of the seven bowls of wrath in chapter 16 takes place near the Second Coming?  In my current understanding, it is so that the bulk of the second three and a half years of the Great Tribulation (see 13:5-7, in particular) will look like the Beast is truly in control—until all heck breaks loose, so to speak, with the pouring out of the bowls of wrath.  In other words, when the bowls of wrath finally come, the judgment related to them is swift, spectacular and decisive.

Now, let me get back to the way the grand chiastic structure of the Apocalypse affects the sectional structuring of chapters 12-14—actually 12-15, as will be seen momentarily.  The following sets forth the parallel pairs in each of the layers near the middle of the book:

Layer H:

(12:1-6) A woman, the dragon, her Messianic son and her flight to the wilderness from the dragon, who tried to kill her son and her

17:1-6) A woman in the wilderness, in relationship with the Beast and kings, guilty of killing many of God’s people

Layer I:

(12:7-17) The woman in the wilderness protected from the dragon, who is kicked out of heaven and his “last hurrah” is limited to displaying his wrath on the earth (unable to get at the newly introduced “heaven-dwellers” [12:12])

(ch. 16) The climactic wrath of God poured out on Babylon the Great—who, in chapters 17-18, turns out to the other woman in the wilderness, made up of the “earth-dwellers” (i.e., those who refuse to repent in 16:9, 11 [see 9:20-21, which plays off 8:13] and who are guilty of the blood of God’s people [see 6:9-11])

Middle Layer:

(ch. 13) This section gets down to the question: “Will you worship the Beast—and the Devil who empowers him?”  At the very center of the inverted sectional structure (which I will discuss in a later post), are these words: “Here is the endurance and faith of the saints” (13:10, HCSB).

(chs. 14-15) This section centers on: “Will you believe in, and worship, the Lamb… or be judged and in torment enterally?”  At the heart of this mirroring structure (also to be discussed in a later piece): “Here is the endurance of the saints, who keep the commandments of God and the faith in Jesus” (14:12).

To Michelle Lee (now Barnewell), it was way too much of a coincidence that such similar wording appeared at the centerpoints of the “twin peaks” sections of the Book of Revelation.  The longer I study the above phenomena, the more I agree.  It is definitely purposeful futuristically, intended to depict the central practical/personal choices to be made at that point in history.  However, I have come to realize that there are definitely preterist/idealist applicational angles implied here, also.  (More about those observations in later posts.)

The other fascinating things to notice here are: 1) in 13:9, we read: “If anyone has an ear, he should listen,” wording found at the end of each of the letters to the seven churches in chapters 2-3; 2) the second beatitude of the book is found in 14:13, over 13 chapters after the first (see 1:3); and 3) both 13:10 and 14:12 mention “saints,” which points us back to the original context of the citation of Daniel 7:13 in Revelation 1:7, as well as Jesus’ handling of Daniel 7 in the Olivet Discourse.  In my mind, all of this is quite significant—but that is also subject matter for other days.

This at least gives you a “helicopter overview” grasp of the prologue to the bowls of wrath section of the Apocalypse.  I will begin taking apart the various sections and explaining them in my next installment.

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