Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LVI)

June 17, 2010

The only time I have ever been in Pittsburgh, PA, it was flying through the airport there.  I really wanted to see the “three rivers” that the area is known for, but the visibility from the plane was not good.  Oh, well.  I still believe that it is there.

There is also a sort of “three rivers” effect in regard to Revelation 7:9.  As I laid out in my last post, the very similar wording in Daniel 7:14 (“of every people, nation, and language”), Matthew 28:19 (“of all nations”) and Revelation 5:10 (“from every tribe and language and people and nation”) all flow together into Revelation 7:9 (“from every nation, tribe, people, and language”), making for a very “large” (i.e., highly significant) biblical “river,” so to speak.

So, what do each of these “tributary” echoes contribute to our understanding of Revelation 7:9ff.?  In the biblical—and chronological—order of the passages listed above, I will now briefly discuss the significance of each in regard to our understanding of the innumerable multitude arriving in heaven in 7:9 and its context.

First, Daniel 7:14 is describing those who will serve the Son of Man (i.e., a well-known pre-incarnate prophetic title of Jesus Christ), apparently at some point related to the “coming” of the Son of Man into the presence of the Ancient of Days (i.e., God the Father).  In recent posts, I discussed how the 144,000 partly fulfills this same passage, with the primary clue pointing in that direction being the use of the word “servant” (Gk. doulous), echoing the verb “serve” (Gk. douleuo, LXX) in Daniel 7:14.  However, it should not be overlooked that the innumerable multitude is also said to “serve” the Lord (Rev. 7:15).  It’s just that the Greek word for “serve” is changed to latreuo, which is perhaps best rendered “to serve worshipfully” (see also its usage in Rom. 12:1).  Given the context of the service of the innumerable multitude in the heavenly sanctuary, the change in terminology is completely appropriate in fulfilling the same prophecy in Daniel 7:14.

So, where do the above observations take things from a wider interpretive standpoint?  Simply put, as I understand it, the 144,000, in Revelation 7:1-8, and the innumerable multitude, in 7:9-17, though distinct groups (vs. the many commentators who conclude that both passages are speaking of the same group, just from different perspectives) are both fulfilling the prophecy in Daniel 7:14.  Coming to that understanding, though, does not require any more than to admit that the wording “those of every people, nation, and language” is capable of embracing both Israel and the Gentiles.  (in addition, it is not a small thing to note that Daniel 7 is still in the section of Daniel written in Aramaic, meaning that it has to do more focally with how Israel fits into the future of the Gentile world, such as the four world empires pictured as beasts in the earlier part of the chapter.)

Now, don’t jump on this too quickly!  That observation does not mean that Daniel 7:13-14 is completely fulfilled in Revelation 7.  There are a couple of other passages that echo it later in the Apocalypse (as I will explain in detail in future posts).  It does mean, however, that all the dynamics that have been anticipated for centuries since Daniel 7 was written, and since Matthew 24 cites it, are set in motion at this point at the end of the age.  In addition, at least a good portion of the reason why Daniel 7:13 is one of the two “theme verses” for Revelation, which are prominently quoted in Revelation 1:7, begins to become clear in chapter 7.

In regard to how the target group of Matthew’s statement of the Great Commission (i.e., “all the nations”) relates to Revelation 7:9, it seems to be way too much of a coincidence that the group arriving in heaven there (i.e., “from every nation…”) sounds precisely like what would be hoped to be the wider harvest of making disciples of “all the nations”: an innumerable multitude.  And, not only does this seem to be a focal part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission at the end of the age.  It also seems to me to be the most likely location of what is usually referred to theologically as the Rapture of the church.  (Why I understand that as being the case deserves an explanation.  It will also require more information to make my case as to how I see this location as still being pretribulational.  Be on the lookout for those discussions over the next several posts.)

The most complicated part of this wider discussion has to do with the way that Revelation 5:10 and 7:9—and several other passages spread through the middle chapters of the Apocalypse that employ similar wording—logically fit together.  Because it will take some space to explain it, I will begin that discussion in the next post.

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