Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXIX)

July 27, 2010

Revelation 6 continues the part of the conventional outline of the book summarized as “the things that will take place after these things” in 1:19.  Chapter 6 constitutes the preparatory steps for the opening of the scroll that is seen in the Lamb’s hand in chapter 5.  In this chapter, six of the seven seals on the scroll are lifted, leaving only the seventh seal (8:1) for the scroll to be completely open for viewing.

From a chiastic perspective, chapter 6 is Layer D of the inverted parallel structure.  Its corresponding section (D’) in the second half of the book is 19:11-21.  At first glance, the most obvious parallels between the two passages are: 1) the rider on the white horse wearing a crown (6:2) and Christ riding a white horse, wearing many crowns (19:11-12); and 2) the references to “the kings of the earth” and “the military commanders” first in 6:15, then in 19:18, 19.

As far as the reader’s understanding of “the earth-dwellers” is concerned, 6:9-11 provides a major breakthrough.  In that passage, the reader is informed that “the earth-dwellers” are held responsible for the deaths of the martyrs now in heaven.  Looking back to the previous statement about “the earth-dwellers” in 3:10, you now come to realize that the reason the Lord is going to judge “the earth-dwellers” is because they are responsible for the deaths of the martyrs.  Over the course of the book, it will be that responsibility for the deaths of many of God’s people which will link “the earth-dwellers” so closely with Babylon the Great (see 16:5-7; 17:6; 18:20, 24).

Although it is not possible to make the connection at this relatively point in the Apocalypse, in retrospect, it is highly probable that the mention of the “kings of the earth” (6:15) is to be taken as related to “the earth-dwellers.”  It is just such “kings” who are intimately connected to Babylon the Great (17:2) and who stand against Christ and His army in 17:12-14 and 19:17ff.  The passage in 19:17ff. is also where I understand “the earth-dwellers” to be evident in Layer D’ (19:11-21).

One of the most fascinating aspects of this latter observation is that, in my studied understanding, chapter 6 takes place during the course of this age, prior to the beginning of the so-called “Tribulation” period.  My reason for holding that position is that I believe that the content of the scroll is the end-times events, but that the scroll is not open for viewing until after the seventh seal has been lifted in 8:1.  In other words, the “hour of testing” in 3:10—which wording refers to the same period as “the Great Tribulation” in 7:14—must begin with the onset of the trumpet judgments in chapter 8.  What this tells us is that judgment-worthy acts of “the earth-dwellers” began well before the end of the age.  It is only much later in the book, however, that it is realized that “the earth-dwellers” are considered responsible for the deaths of all godly martyrs throughout all of human history (18:24).

Interestingly, over time, I have come to realize that 6:9-11 also supplies tremendous insight in regard to the presence of “the heaven-dwellers” in the D Layer (i.e., ch. 6).  You see—and I must admit that this seemingly obvious point eluded me for a long time—it only makes sense that these martyrs are part of the group called “the heaven-dwellers” since these “souls” are already under the altar in heaven (v. 9).

As we look at 19:11-21 (D’), the representation of “the heaven-dwellers” there is “the armies” following Christ who are “wearing pure linen” (19:14).  That is the same garb as the bride of the Lamb (see 19:8), which is appropriate because both depictions are of the same group: “the heaven-dwellers.”  Thus, we come to understand that, when Christ returns, “the heaven-dwellers” will be with Him… and in more than one role (i.e., armies and bride).

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