Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XLIX)

May 25, 2010

It’s now time to get into the sectional discussion in Revelation 12-14.  I will begin today by looking briefly at 12:1-6, a passage that, for quite some time, was borderline baffling to me.  Fortunately, over my years of study of the Apocalypse, it has become much clearer–though I freely admit that I’m still not crystal clear on every detail!

As I noted in earlier posts, besides the more conventional outline, the Book of Revelation is also laid out in an elegant, and highly elaborate, inverted parallel manner.  Within that grand chiasm, 12:1-6 and 17:1-6 mirror each other as the ‘H’  layer.  Suffice it to say here that that pair can quite accurately be titled “Two ‘Women’ in the Wilderness: A Godly and a Godless Female Figure.”

Both passages are also internally chiastic.  The following lays out each micro-chiasm.

Revelation 12:1-6:

a (12:1) The woman clothed with the sun, moon and stars

b (12:2) The woman crying out in labor pains

c (12:3-4a) The great red dragon and his stronghold in the angelic realm

c’ (12:4b) The dragon’s desire to devour the newborn Messiah

b’ (12:5) The woman giving birth to the Messianic Ruler

a’ (12:6) The woman fleeing and being protected in the wilderness

Revelation 17:1-6:

a (17:1) The judgment of the great harlot

b (17:2) The woman’s illicit relations with the kings of the earth and the earth-dwellers

c (17:3) A woman sitting on a scarlet beast

c’ (17:4) The woman clothed in purple and scarlet…

b’ (17:5) Babylon the Great, mother of harlots and the earth’s abominations

a’ (17:6) The reason for the judgment: the blood of the saints and witnesses

The initially surprising thing about these two structures is that both midpoints focus on the evil dimension of wider history.  One passage looks all the way back to the early chapters of Genesis and sweeps forward to the birth and ascension of Christ.  The other moves through history from the first martyrs to the end of this age.

In the case of 12:1-6, the text calls to mind that the Devil led the first rebellion against the Lord and that, throughout human history, he has done everything he could to foil God’s plan, including the birth of the Messiah (12:3-4).  In the case of 17:1-6, the relationship that has existed throughout history between the “earth-dwellers” (i.e., the non-elect; see 13:8 and 17:8) and Babylon the Great, the “mother of harlots and of all the vile things of the earth” (i.e., in history) is brought to its end-time zenith by showing how Babylon and the Devil’s “favorite son,” the beast, get along famously (17:3-4).

In my next installment, I will give attention to the details of 12:1-6, including the fairly obvious allusion to Genesis 37:9 and its significance.

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