Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXVI)

July 22, 2010

Instead of just drawing conclusions about “the earth-dwellers” and “the heaven-dwellers” in Revelation, I have decided to get a little more creative and describe the development of those concepts and key related ideas side-by-side through the book.  Because there is quite a bit to note in certain portions of the book, this is going to take a number of posts to complete.  However, since I have never “tracked” these concepts in parallel before, I expect this to be a very revealing study.

In this initial installment, I’m only going to deal with chapter 1.  But, in an attempt to be as complete as possible in my discussion of each of the sections in the book, I am going to look each section both in regard to how it moves in regard to the conventional outline of Revelation, as well as how it “pairs” with their chiastic counterpart in the latter part of the book.

I will do my best to keep this from becoming too confusing.  Toward that end, allow me to explain the mirroring effect of the inverted parallel pair in chapter 1 (and I will do so in each of the following related posts).

Without laying out the parallel sections in the whole book–which I have done a couple of times since I have begun this blog–I will quickly show how the A layer of that structure works hand-in-hand:

A (ch. 1) Introduction- Two things we see immediately help us with the “mirror” effect: the use of “servants” for John’s audience in 1:1 and the conceptual order of the first beatitude in 1:3:

a- Need for practical application of the Apocalypse: “Blessed is the one who reads and blessed are those who heed the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it…”

b- The imminency of Divine intervention: “The time is near!”

Then, its opposite at the end of the book:

A’ (22:6-21) Conclusion

Again, we encounter the use of “servants” for the audience in 22:6, but this time the order of the beatitude in 22:7 is flipped:

b’- Imminency: “Look, I am coming quickly!”

a’- Practical application: “Blessed is the one who keeps the prophetic words of this book.”

So, does it not now appear reasonably probable that the two sections are intended to be considered together?  Forging on…

In Revelation 1, I see no obvious hint of “the earth-dwellers.”  (In fact, it is not until we get to the middle of the book [12:12] that the explicit wording “the heaven-dwellers” comes into play.) However, if we read back our findings from the latter part of the book, it would mentioning the wording “every eye will see Him” in 1:7, because that wording would include not only those will repent and be saved at the end of the age, but everyone else alive at that time.  Further, there could be a hint of “the earth-dwellers” in regard to those who put John on the island of Patmos (1:9), though it should be noted that the usual behavior for which “the earth-dwellers” are known in the Apocalypse is their killing of believers–and, of course, John is still alive.

In regard to “the heaven-dwellers,” chapter 1 begins with references to Christ’s “servants” (Gk. douloi) and John, His doulos, a term that, later in the book, is seen as closely related to “the heaven-dwellers.” In my carefully considered understanding, though, the first significant terminology in the book of Revelation that clearly look ahead to “the heaven-dwellers” is in 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 does this wording have to do with “the heaven-dwellers,” you ask?  OK, let me say up-front that it’s a three-step process to get there:

Step 1– In Revelation 5:9b-10a, we run into much the same wording as in 1:5b-6a, but it goes further: “… You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation.  You made them a kingdom and priests to our God…” (HCSB).  The additional element here is that those for whom Christ died come from “every tribe and language and people and nation.”  This leads us to…

Step 2- In Revelation 7:9, we read of “a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language” who have arrived in heaven.  They are there because of “the blood of the Lamb” (7:14).  Thus, this is the same group spoken of in 5:9b-10a, which would also make it the same group in 1:5b-6a.  But, the clue that most directly links this passage to “the heaven-dwellers” in 12:12 and 13:6 is the wording describing their ongoing heavenly abode in 7:15: “The One seated on the throne will shelter (Gk. skenoo) them” (HCSB).

Step 3- In Revelation 12:12, in the wording “O heavens, and you who dwell in them,” the Greek word rendered “dwell” is skenoo. In 13:6, when it says “those who dwell in heaven,” the Greek term is again skenoo. Add to that the fact the only other use of skenoo in the book is in 21:3, referring to the eternal state, and it becomes very difficult to get around the conclusion that all three uses are speaking of the same group (i.e., “the heaven-dwellers”).  And, if 7:9ff., 12:12 and 13:6 are equated, then so are 5:9b-10a and 1:5b-6a.  That is how we get the equivalent to  “the heaven-dwellers” stretching all the way back to the opening verses of the book.

Quite a beginning, right?  Although it is not possible to see all this when you initially read the Apocalypse, it is all there.  If your eyes–and mind–are open, subsequent readings and re-readings fill in a lot of gaps.  You see, the principle of the progressive unfolding of Divine revelation, which is so obviously crucial in reading the whole Bible, applies just as directly to reading through the Book of Revelation.

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