Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXIII)

July 15, 2010

In this post, I am lo0king at the usage of various terms in Revelation that relate directly or indirectly to “the heaven-dwellers.”  It is my sense that this further study will help greatly in specifying exactly how phrase “the heaven-dwellers” is to be understood in the Apocalypse.

As I laid out in the last post, the first term to be considered is the Greek martus, which is translated as “witness” or “martyr,” depending on the context.  In Revelation, it is found five times: in 1:5; 2:13; 3:14; 11:3; and 17:6.  In 1:5, 3:14 and 11:3, it is generally translated (and that is the case with the HCSB) “witness.”  In 2:13 and 17:6, it has more of the coloring of “martyr” and, even in 1:5, 3:14 and 11:3, it must be noted that the person(s) in question all were killed (i.e., became martyrs).

Since 1:5 and 3:14 refer to Jesus, they would not be referring to a group of human “heaven-dwellers.”  However, Antipas (2:13), the two “witnesses” (11:3) and the martyrs killed by Babylon the Great (17:6) certainly could all be included among “the heaven-dwellers,” though from different angles.

Next is the verb sphazo, which is rendered “to slaughter” or “put to death.”  In the Apocalypse, it is used in 5:6, 9, 12; 6:4, 9; 13:3, 8; and 18:24.   Of those inclusions, 5:6, 9, 12 and 13:8 refer to Christ as the Lamb who was “slaughtered.”  It is the beast who–appearance-wise, at least–is  “put to death” in 13:3 and people who put each other to death related to the second seal being removed from the scroll in 6:4.  The two uses that clearly relate to believers, however, are the martyrs under the altar in heaven in 6:9 and the wording “all those slaughtered on the earth” by Babylon the Great in 18:24.  Without question, the martyrs in 6:9 are among “the heaven-dwellers,” as are the martyrs in 18:24.  Perhaps a passage like 18:24 is telling the reader of Revelation who the souls under the altar in 6:9 were during their previous earthly lives.

Next is the usage of hagios (“saint”).   It is found 12 times in Revelation–in 5:8; 8:3, 4; 11:18; 13:7, 10; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6; 18:24; 19:8; and 20:9.  Of the 13, the only one that is not immediately relevant to this discussion is 20:9, which is set at the end of the 1,000 years.  The first three have to do with “the prayers of the saints,” but the passages do not explain who “the saints” are.  Three other uses speak of the “endurance” and “righteous acts” of “the saints” (13:10; 14: 12; 19:8).  Also, 11:18 says the prophets (see below), the saints and those who fear the Lord will be rewarded.

Things get a little trickier with the rest of the uses.  In 13:7, the beast kills “the saints” during his three and a half year reign of terror (see 13:5), meaning they are martyrs.  In 16:1-7, the earth-dwellers, who are the ones who worship the beast and his image (see 13:8, 14), are being judged for shedding the blood of “the saints,” definitely makes them martyrs.  In 17:6 and 18:24, Babylon the Great is held responsible for the deaths of the “saints”/martyrs.

After considering these passages, it is not possible to responsibly conclude that “the saints” in Revelation are all martyrs.  However, it is fair to say that the passages which clearly tell us their fate do depict martyrs.

After that, I listed apostolos (obviously “apostle”).  In the Apocalypse, it’s only used in 2:2; 18:20; and 21:14.  Of those three inclusions, 2:2 speaks of false apostles and 21:14 mentions the names of “the twelve apostles” being on the foundations of the New Jerusalem.  Thus, for the purposes of this study, only 18:20 has direct relevance.

The wording in 18:20 potentially has great significance: “Rejoice over her, heaven, and you saints, apostles, and prophets, because God has executed your judgment on her” (HCSB, italics mine).

I will deal with the second italicized word first: “apostles.”  This usage is quite amazing, given that John, the human amanuensis of the Apocalypse, is a part of that exclusive group, and probably the only apostle still alive when Revelation was written.  While some of his apostolic cohorts perhaps died natural deaths, we can be fairly certain that most (e.g., James–John’s brother, Paul and Peter) did not.  They were martyred.  Thus, the implication of in 18:20 is that they were the martyred “apostles” among “the heaven-dwellers.”

The first word I italicized in 18:20–“heaven”–has hit me like a sledge hammer.  I have not paid much attention to this wording in this context, but I am now calling that inattention into serious question.  Upon further reflection, I definitely feel that there is more here that deserves to be teased out.

Think about it: right after the mention of “heaven” in 18:20, we find listed “saints, “apostles, and prophets,” all of whom were killed by Babylon the Great.  But, because of the use of “heaven,” what we have here may very well be three of the groups who make up “those who dwell in heaven.”  And, it could easily be that this passage is effectively an expansion/clarification of 12:12, the first crystal clear mention of “the heaven-dwellers” in the book.

An additional important term is doulos (“servant,” “slave”), which has 11 uses in Revelation: in 1:1 [twice]; 2:20; 7:3; 10:7; 11:18; 15:3; 19:2, 5; and 22:3, 6.  The first use in 1:1 and the last use, in 22:6, speak of Christ’s servants in the churches.  Relatedly, 2:20 describes Christ’s servants in the church at Thyatira being tempted by the views and practices of the false prophetess, Jezebel.  Interestingly, the second use in 1:1 and the one in 15:3 parallel God’s servants John and Moses.  In 22:3, we encounter God’s servants in the eternal state.  In 7:3, the 144,000 are called God’s “servants.”  In 10:7 and 11:18, the wording is “[God’s] servants the prophets.  Of the remaining two uses, 19:5 is similar to 11:18 because it includes “you who fear Him, both small and great” (HCSB), while 19:2 directly refers to “the blood of His servants” on the hands of Babylon the Great.

Since the blood to be avenged was that of the martyred souls under the altar in heaven (see 6:9-11), that group must be included among God’s “servants,” as are Moses, John, his readers, the prophets and the 144,000.  Since some of those listed (e.g., Moses and John) did not die a martyr’s death, this group must include both martyrs and non-martyrs.

The final term I listed in the last post was prophetes (“prophet”), with its eight uses: in 10:7; 11:10, 18; 16:6; 18:20, 24; and 22:6, 9.  The initial inclusions, in 10:7 and 11:18, speak of “[God’s] servants the prophets.”  What is interesting about that wording is that 11:10 tells us the two witnesses are prophets.  In addition, 22:6 refers to “your brothers the prophets,” perhaps because John had been called to “prophecy” (Gk. propheteuo, the cognate verb) in 10:13.  Further, 22:6 refers to “the spirit of the prophets,” perhaps recalling the wording of 19:10 (“Jesus is the spirit of prophecy”).  Of the remaining three usages, both 16:6 and 18:24 refer to the blood of the prophets, while 18:20 seems to include the prophets among “the heaven-dwellers.”

Because I have been sneezing all day long, I do not feel well.  As a result, I am not going to draw wider conclusions from the study of the use of the above terms until the next post.  Thank you for your understanding–and compassion.

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