Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LX)

June 30, 2010

The time has come to draw conclusions in regard to use and development of the groups I have paraphrased as “the earth-dwellers” and “the heaven-dwellers” in the Book of Revelation.  Because of limited time right now, I am only going to lay out my conclusions on “the earth-dwellers” in this post, then do so for “the heaven-dwellers” in the next installment.

First, it should be observed as being crucially important that the “hour of testing” (a.k.a. “the Great Tribulation” of Rev. 7:14) is designed by the Lord to test “the earth-dwellers” (3:10).  Even though that key verse does say that the “hour of testing” will be global, it is specifically intended by God to focus on “the earth-dwellers,” who 13:8 and 17:8 tell the reader very clearly are the non-elect.  When that reality is faced, it should not be nearly so hard for the reader to at least consider the viability of the pretribulational exegesis of 3:10–at least for the first part of “Great Tribulation,” immediately after the Rapture.

The Lord’s answer to the “prayer” of the martyrs in 6:9-11 strongly infers that the “hour of testing” (3:10) focused on “the earth-dwellers” has not yet started at that point.  Then, the “woes” forecast for “the earth-dwellers” from that point forward in 8:13 certainly indicates that the “hour of testing” has either begun, or is doing so at that point, during the trumpet judgments.  That being the case, the only passage in between 6:9-11 and 8:13 that looks like a “rapture” (i.e., the Lord taking His people to heaven) is 7:9ff.

The next two uses of “the earth-dwellers” wording is in 11:10 (twice), telling of the celebration related to the deaths of the two witnesses at the hands of the beast (i.e., the Antichrist figure of ch. 13).  At first glance, this usage appears to be more or less equivalent to “the peoples, tribes, languages, and nations” who also view the dead bodies of the two witnesses (11:9).  However, given that 12:17 and 13:7 seem to refer to Gentile believers who are being persecuted by the two beasts, and the entire mass of other Gentile believers appear to have gone to heaven in 7:9ff., there may instead be a contrast in wording between 11:9 and verse 10, instead of a comparison.

Interestingly, in chapter 13, there is a very similar side-by-side usage of “every tribe, people, language, and nation” (13:7) and “the earth-dwellers” (13:8) in the context of the persecution of “the saints” (v. 7).  This parallel usage of terms, along with “the saints,” lends credence to the idea that, in chapter 11, there is a large group of Gentiles saved at the same time that the primarily Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem fear God and glorify Him–the content of the eternal “gospel” in 14:6.  If this is the case, the unique wording “those who sit on the earth” in 14:6 turn out to be a group who, outwardly, look just like “the earth-dwellers,” but are actually capable of responding to the gospel.

Relatedly, the unusual wording “the earth and those who live on it” in 13:12 could easily be taken as nothing more than a variant wording of “the earth-dwellers.”  However, upon reflection, it may well be the rough equivalent of the wording “the whole world” in 3:10.  If that is the case, “the earth and those who will dwell in it” would be made up of “the saints,” who end up being martyred (12:12), and “the earth-dwellers” (13:8).

The only other uses of “the earth-dwellers” in Revelation are in 17:2, 8.  The latter use more or less parallels 13:8, stating that “the earth-dwellers” are the non-elect, which is why they worship the beast.  The earlier use establishes the very close relationship between “the earth-dwellers” and Babylon the Great, which entity has only been introduced in ch. 14 and only developed from 16:17 forward–just a few verses before 17:2.

Next time: I will get into my conclusions about “the heaven-dwellers” in the Apocalypse (and possibly my conclusions about how the two interact).

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