Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LVIII)

June 23, 2010

After discussing “the earth-dwellers” in the last post, I am going to get into “the heaven-dwellers” this time.  This is where I will begin to tie things back together as far as the book where wording that can be paraphrased as “the heaven-dwellers” is found: in 12:12 and 13:6.  As a result, at first glance, these two passages do not call any real attention to themselves.  However, as will be seen, it does not require a tremendous amount of “sleuthing” to link up “the heaven-dwellers” with other wording in Revelation that establishes this group as the true antithesis to “the earth-dwellers.”

We will begin in the middle—by taking a quick look at 12:12 and 13:6—then spread out to bring in the counterpart wording both earlier and later in the book.  Initially, it is interesting to note that both 12:12 and 13:6 are found in the “prelude” section (chs. 12-15) to the climactic judgments of the bowls of wrath (ch. 16).  In my understanding, 12:12 is dealing with events that will take place just after the mid-point of the seven-year Great Tribulation period.  Then, 13:6 speaks of what will be happening during the course of the latter three and a half years of that period.  So, both uses are telling us about points in time that are fairly close together sequentially/chronologically.

In 12:12a, the reader encounters the interesting wording “… [R]ejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!” (HCSB).  The reason for the rejoicing is that the Devil has been cast out of heaven (12:9) and, no longer having heavenly access, is about to focus his fury on the earth for the brief time he has left before his judgment at God’s hands (12:12b).

At this point, it appears that there may be nothing more to this contrast than those in heaven vs. those on earth.  Upon reflection, however, since verse 12 begins with “Therefore,” there must be a direct connection between “the heaven-dwellers” wording in verse 12 and what immediately precedes it.  What is that connection?

In verse 10, Satan is called “the accuser of our brothers.”  It is those martyred “brothers” who are in view in verse 11, just before the “therefore” at the beginning of verse 12.  Thus, at the very least, the wording “the heaven-dwellers” is specifically talking about believing martyrs now in heaven, having proven to be victorious over the Devil through their faithful deaths (v.11).

If there is a specific group being referred to here, it is most likely to be the two witnesses and the 144,000—who are in heaven in 14:1-5, with the most obvious way for them to have gotten there is by martyrdom.  Those martyrs would certainly partly fulfill the Lord’s directive to “rest a little while longer until the number of their fellow slaves and their brothers, who were going to be killed as they had been, would be completed” (HCSB).

Since the 144,000 are Jewish, that might appear to give a Jewish coloring to the idea of “the heaven-dwellers.  However, when you consider the word translated “dwell” (Gk. skenoo), that appearance is called somewhat into question.  You see, this is the same verb used in 7:15, where Christ (i.e., “the Lamb”), is said to skenoo—“live with, dwell with”—the innumerable multitude of 7:9, who serve Him night and day in His heavenly “sanctuary” (Gk. vaos).  And, as we are about to see, that implication shifts even more significantly when we consider the usage of in 13:6.

In the immediately prior context of 13:6, the Devil is forced to shift his furious persecution from “the (Jewish) woman”—probably the large Jewish group converted in Jerusalem in 11:13, after the resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses—who is protected by the Lord (12:6, 14-16).  Satan then turns to “wage war against (i.e., persecute to the death) the rest of her offspring” (12:17, HCSB).  Since Jewish believers are being protected by God at that time, this group (see also 13:7) must be Gentile believers, likely also converted in 11:13 out of “the peoples, tribes, languages, and nations” (11:9) who were in Jerusalem to view the dead bodies of the two witnesses.

That sets us up to understand much better what is being referred to in 13:6.  At first, it looks as if the wording “those who dwell in heaven” is saying virtually the same thing as the equivalent phraseology in 12:12.  But, just before we’re told that the Beast (i.e., the Antichrist figure) is blaspheming “those who dwell (again, Gk. skenoo) in heaven,” we read a telling bit of information: “those who dwell in heaven” are referred to as “His dwelling” (Gk. skene, “tent, tabernacle, dwelling-place”).

Even if we are able to wink our way past the parallel wording between 12:12 and 7:15, it is now much harder to overlook in 13:6.  With the addition of skene in 13:6, it seems quite likely that this passage is indeed pointing back to the context of 7:15 to establish the other part of the identity of “the heaven-dwellers.”  Even if the 144,000 may be part of the group (see the discussion of 12:12 above), it is fairly difficult to get around the conclusion that the innumerable multitude who arrives in heaven in 7:9 is much of, even if not the entirety of, the remainder of the group.

There are major implications that follow from the above conclusions.  However, it is much too early to tease them out.  I will exercise some patience and hold onto those until after completing the entire discussion of “the heaven-dwellers.”

We will stop at this point for today.  When I begin the next post, we will backtrack to Revelation 7:15, then 5:9-10 and 1:5-6.  Then, moving forward, and playing off 7:15, we will consider the usage of naos (“sanctuary”) in 11:19 and naos and skene in 15:5, 8.  Finally, we arrive at 19:1, 6, the only other passage in the Apocalypse where the wording in 7:9 (Gk. ochlos polus, “great multitude”) is found.  Several other passages in that context—and in one parallel context—are worth bringing into play, then I will begin to draw together overall conclusions about “the earth-dwellers” and “the heaven-dwellers,” as well as how several prominent prophetic and eschatological streams all flow together into Revelation 7:9ff.

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