Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LI)

June 1, 2010

Maybe it’s getting 50 posts on Revelation under my belt—I’m not sure.  But, I sense that this post is when I need to break out of my more or less relentless “march” through the Apocalypse and do some “outside the box” thinking/writing.  So, here goes… .

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten back to trying to figure out the ongoing mystery of how the apparent “theme verses” (or sermon texts, if you will) of this book, Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10, which are cited back-to-back in Revelation 1:7, play themselves out in the book.  Earlier in this lengthening series of posts, I spent quite a bit of time on that topic, but I still was not completely satisfied with what I noodled out at that point in time.  So, I now have come to a juncture where I’m going to take another run at it, hoping to do a more complete job of “connecting the dots.”

I will also have to refer back some to Matthew 24, on which I also have done a number of posts in this series.  Increasingly, I am coming to realize that the outworking of the Daniel 7 and Zechariah 12 citations in Revelation are in accord with angles already laid out in the Olivet Discourse, virtually “filtered through” that message, you could say.

As I have previously opined about Daniel 7, the thing that I had overlooked all those years is that nothing in that passage speaks directly of the “coming” of the Son of Man being to earth.  In that context, He “comes” from somewhere else (in heaven) into the presence of the Ancient of Days (apparently God the Father) in the heavenly throne room.  That sounds very much like Revelation 4-5, beginning with the observation that only the One seated on the throne (the Father) is mentioned in chapter 4 and the Lamb/Lion comes into view in chapter 5.

The other fairly obvious background passage for Revelation 4, and somewhat for ch. 5) is Ezekiel 1-2.  Besides everything about the living creatures in chapter 1, which corresponds with Revelation 4, the prophet is even called “son of man” in Ezekiel 2—which, though Christ is the “Lamb/Lion” in Revelation 5, is still a key point of correspondence, since this is the same figure described as Son of Man in 1:12ff.

The scroll in chapter 5 apparently introduces what will become largely new material when it is open, but that is not the case until chapter 8.  In the meantime, the unsealing sequence in chapter 6 plays out in amazing parallelism the various preliminary signs before the Great Tribulation (which I understand as being seven years in length) mentioned in Matthew 24 (see my earlier posts on this).

However, chapter 7 takes us back both to Daniel 7 and another very important O.T. prophecy later in Ezekiel: the valley of dry bones in chapter 37.  That is not terribly surprising given that, as noted above—and as Beale argues quite persuasively, the primary prophecy behind Revelation 4-5 is Daniel 7, and Ezekiel 1-2 play a strong secondary role.

The echo of Ezekiel 37, to me, is found in the military formation (a la Numbers 2) inferred by the way the tribes are listed in Revelation 7:4-8.  This would look back at the wording in Ezekiel 37 that the dry bones animated form a “vast army” (v. 10).  But, the only way for the bones to be fully animated is for the “breath”/”spirit” (Heb. ruach; Gk. pneuma [LXX]) to indwell them.  And, that would have to be referring to Israel coming under the New Covenant spoken of in the passage just before this one (i.e., Exek. 36) in some corporate sense.  The fact that the term “sealing,” which is used three times in the New Testament for the work of the Holy Spirit in regard to the permanency of His presence, also infers the same thing.  Also, the fact that the tribe of Levi is listed with the other tribes in the military arrangement, which was not allowed by Moses according to Numbers 2, appears to indicate that Israel is here no longer being viewed under the Mosaic legislation, inferring they are now under the New Covenant.

No, there is nothing in Revelation 7:4-8 which indicates that the 144,000 “see” (cf. Rev. 1:7) the Son of Man in any sense at this point, as would be expected from Daniel 7.  But, the reference later in the book that focuses on the 144,000 helps us here.  In 14:1ff., they are said to be with the Lamb and to follow Him wherever he goes.  Certainly, that means they have seen Him.  And, the wording in 14:4—“they were redeemed (Gk. agorazo; cf. 5:9) from the human race as the firstfruits for God and the Lamb” (HCSB) points us in the direction of a key conclusion.  Though, as 7:4-8 makes clear, the 144,000 retain their Jewishness in some sense, now being under the New Covenant, they also are to be considered at least as much part of the wider “human race” (14:4), thus being referred to here as the “firstfruits” of the harvest at the end of the Great Tribulation (see 14:14-20).

This is a very important point theologically, one which I will come back to again in future posts.  Suffice it to say for now that it is my position that, for all eternity, there will be only one people of God, but it will be made up of two distinct peoples.  This conclusion is not based on current theological debates within evangelicalism, though I am well aware of the currents of thought of the past couple of decades.  Instead, as I look at Revelation 21:12, 14, I don’t see any other way to take it.  If you have never considered that passage carefully, in the New Jerusalem, its 12 gates are said to contain “the names of the 12 tribes of the sons of Israel” (v. 12, HCSB).  Then, in verse 14, the 12 foundation stones of the eternal city are said to contain “the 12 names of the Lamb’s 12 apostles” (HCSB).

Think about it: these words in Revelation 21 obviously mean that an awareness of the reality of Israel still exists in eternity future.  Thus, Israel has not been superseded by “the new Israel” or “the spiritual Israel,” as held by so many in classic Covenant Theology ranks.

On the other hand, it must be taken just as seriously that wording relating to both Israel and the church are found together in the New Jerusalem.  Thus, older dispensationalism’s view that, in the eternal state, Israel would occupy the new earth and the church the new heavens cannot be considered valid either.

Based on this description in Revelation 21, the proper biblical balance must be somewhere in between the two classic polarized viewpoints.  And, again, I say that from an exegetical, not a theological, perspective.  Revelation 21 leaves the very strong impression that Israel and the church will be together for all eternity future, though they will, in some sense, also retain some distinctiveness.

How will that work itself out in practical terms?  At this point, I don’t know.  But, if I figure it out as I am blogging my way through Revelation, I will lay out my thoughts on it.  Deal?  Deal.

I will pick up with my discussion of the innumerable multitude in Revelation 7:9ff. in my next post.

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