Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LIX)

June 24, 2010

OK.  It’s on with my discussion of the group that can be accurately paraphrased as “the heaven-dwellers” in the Book of Revelation.  Last time, I made it through the two passages where the actual wording is found in the middle of the book: 12:12 and 13:6.  I also began to lay out the significance of 7:9ff. for this overall discussion.

Since finishing that last post, I have decided to begin this one in a different way, in order to pursue a somewhat more inductive approach.  I’m going to start with the first passage in the Apocalypse that relates to this topic, to attempt to lay a better exegetical foundation.

That initial passage is Revelation 1:5b-6a: “To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood, and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father…” (HCSB).

What, you have every right to ask, could this passage possibly have to do with a group known as “the heaven-dwellers?”  You may be thinking: “I can see this passage as the first glimmer of the group that goes on to reign with Christ in 20:4b, 6b, but I don’t get the connection with ‘the heaven-dwellers’ at all!”

I can understand that.  Hopefully, though, you will hang in here long enough for me to make my case.  You will not be disappointed.

To get back to Revelation 1:5-6, here John does three things: 1) identifies himself with the believers in the churches he is writing (note “us” and “our”); 2) attributes Christians’ spiritual freedom the shed blood of Christ; and 3) lays out the identity of believers as “a kingdom, priests to [Christ’s] God and Father.”  All three have significance for the study at hand, as I will point out as we move along.

The next passage for out consideration is 5:9-10.  This passage is clearly linked to 1:5-6 by: 1) its emphasis on the redemptive blood of Christ (v. 9); and 2) its statement “You have made them (i.e., the people redeemed by Christ’s blood in v. 9) a kingdom and priests to our God…” (v. 10, HCSB).  However, these verses also contain two additional very important elements: a) the origin of those redeemed by Christ’s blood as being “from every tribe and people and language and nation” (v 9); and b) the future role of these redeemed ones: “[T]hey will reign on the earth” (v. 10).

That leads us back to 7:9ff.  That is the next place in the Apocalypse where wording similar to 5:9 is found: “every nation, tribe, people, and language” (HCSB).  That wording is used to describe the background from which the innumerable multitude that has just arrived in heaven comes.   In other words—to cut through to the “link point” here—the innumerable multitude is, as of this passage, now “heaven-dwellers.”  And, since the Lord is said to “dwell” with the innumerable multitude in 7:15, using the Greek skenoo, which is part and parcel of the “heaven-dwellers” wording in both 12:12 and 13:6, the puzzle pieces about the identity of the “heaven-dwellers” is now rapidly beginning to fall in place.

Moving forward, if we take a quick peek at 11:19 and 15:5, both of which are set in heaven, we note multitude uses of naos (“sanctuary”) in 11:19 and 15:5, 8.  In addition, skene (“tent, tabernacle”) is found in 15:5.

This is territory I have overlooked in my previous study on “the heaven-dwellers.”  So, I am tip-toeing lightly here.  But, I do think these passages are related, so tip-toe on I will.

In 11:19, the mention of “God’s sanctuary in heaven” (HCSB) calls to mind “His sanctuary” in 7:15, where the innumerable multitude begin to serve the Lamb upon arriving in heaven.  So, when the “sanctuary” is opened in 11:19, the innumerable multitude of heaven-dwellers would be there—the Greek present tense of latreuo in 7:15 should be translated “continually serve.”

This point becomes even more obvious in 15:5.  Besides saying that the “sanctuary” in heaven was opened—saying essentially the same thing as 11:19—the term “tabernacle” (skene) is now added.  The only previous use of skene in Revelation is in 13:6.  Thus, my previous arguments about 13:6 also serve to make the case that, even if not specifically mentioned, the heaven-dwellers spoken of in 7:9, 15; 11:19; 12:12; and 13:6 are, based on very strong exegetical implication, present in 15:5

Now, we move on ahead to 19:1, 6.  Here we encounter the only two other uses of the Greek phrase ochlos polus (“great multitude”) besides in 7:9 in the entire Apocalypse.  Thus, there is a very high likelihood that the choir singing the original “Hallelujah Chorus” in heaven in 19:1, 6 is none other than the “great multitude” arriving in heaven in 7:9ff. (and spoken of variously in 11:19, 12:12, 13:6 and 15:5-8).

In that same context, in my understanding, the bride of the Lamb (19:7-9) and the heavenly armies following “the King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (19:11-16) are just different images for the great multitude mentioned in 19:1, 6.  The observation that the great multitude and the armies both wear white (Gk. leukos; 7:9 and 19:14) and that the bride and the armies both wear linen (Gk. bussinon) is not coincidental.  They are all one and the same.

If that is the case, my mind goes quickly to 17:14, where we find that those who are following the “Lord of Lords and King of Kings” are referred to as the “called and elect and faithful.”  Not only does this seem to be yet another mention of the heaven-dwellers, though.  It also sounds very much like intentional contrastive wording to the way the earth-dwellers are described just a few verses earlier: “those… whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world” (17:8, HCSB).

This is a good stopping place, so I am going to cease and desist at this point.  In my next post, I will put together my overall conclusions in regard to “the earth-dwellers” and “the heaven-dwellers.”  In addition, if that does not extend too long, I will tie those conclusions back to the how Daniel 7, Matthew 28 and the earlier passages in Revelation I’ve been discussing all flow together into 7:9ff.  As will be seen, the overall effect is huge!

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