Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXX)

July 28, 2010

We have now come to Revelation 7.  In the book’s conventional outline, which unpacks from 1:19, chapter 7 is the “interlude” in the unsealing of the scroll (6:1-8:1).

Chapter 7 is also Layer E of the chiastic structuring of the Apocalypse.  In the first “half” of the book, E is chapter 7.  Its mirror image (E’) is 19:1-10.

In this layer, the material having to do with “the earth-dwellers” is very limited.  There is nothing at all evident about them in chapter 7, which focuses on two groups of believers: the 144,000 (7:1-8) and the innumerable “multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (7:9-17).

In my considered opinion, the only possibility of even an inference about “the earth-dwellers” in chapter 7 would have to do with those among the great multitude who die via martyrdom before being taken to heaven in 7:9 (see 1 Thess. 4: 14-17).  In that case, they would have been killed by “the earth-dwellers.”

By contrast, in the broadest use of the phraseology “the heaven-dwellers,” it appears that the 144,000 and the innumerable multitude should both be included.  No, the 144,000 are not taken to heaven at the same time that the innumerable multitude is–what I understand to be the so-called “rapture.”  However, as far as I can tell, that is because their “sealing” on earth takes place at basically the same point in time when the innumerable multitude is taken, meaning that the 144,000 are still unbelievers when the other “heaven-dwellers” go to heaven–is that redundant enough for you?

When we move to E’ (19:1-10), both groups are in evidence.  In the immediately previous section of Revelation (16:17-chapter 18), it becomes quite clear that Babylon the Great is being punished for what 6:10 had said would come upon “the earth-dwellers.”  Therefore, when the great multitude singing the original “Hallelujah Chorus” praises God because He has “avenged the blood of His servants” on Babylon the Great (19:2), it might as well be speaking of “the earth-dwellers.”

In my understanding, the more individualistic, present-tense way of describing these non-elect people (see 13:8; 17:8) is as “the earth-dwellers.”  When thinking of them corporately and throughout history, though, the wording Babylon the Great becomes the wide-angle lens through which they are viewed.

As far as “the heaven-dwellers” are concerned, since 19:1, 6 are the only other uses of “great multitude” in the Apocalypse besides 7:9, it is virtually certain that the choir singing the Hallelujah Chorus is none other than “the heaven-dwellers,” seen initially in the earlier “pair” passage of Layer E (chapter 7).  It is my contention that the bride of the Lamb (19:7-8) is also to be understood as speaking of the group called “the heaven-dwellers,” as are the armies in 19:14, given that both the great multitude and the armies wear white (7:14; 19:14) and the bride and the armies both wear linen (19:8, 14).

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