Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXXI)

July 28, 2010

We continue our guided tour of the usage of “the earth-dwellers” and “the heaven-dwellers” in the Book of Revelation.  In the standard outline of the book, chapters 8-9 extends “the things that will take place after these things” (1:19) by the sounding of the first six of the seven trumpet judgments.  In the inverted parallel outline of the Apocalypse, chapters 8-9 form the front half of Layer F.  Its counterpart section in the latter part of the book (F’) is chapter 18.

What leaps off the page about “the earth-dwellers” in this section is found in 8:13, where this prophecy is made: “Woe!  Woe!  Woe to those who live on the earth, because of the remaining trumpet blasts that the three angels are about to sound!” (HCSB).  In other words, the impact of the final three trumpet judgments will be especially intensified upon “the earth-dwellers.”  And, that is saying something, given that 3:10 has already made clear to the reader that the focus of the entire “hour of testing” (i.e., the Great Tribulation) is to test “the earth-dwellers.”  So, what else can this wording mean that the heat on “the earth-dwellers” is being turned up even further?!

While 8:13 is the only obvious reference to “the earth-dwellers” in this section, further reflection has helped me grasp that there at least two other passages here that likely refer to “the earth-dwellers” in other ways: 1) those “who do not have the deal of God on their foreheads” (9:4, HCSB), in this context, only calls immediate attention to the fact that they are not part of the 144,000 (7:3-8), but, in the light of the fact that “the earth-dwellers” turn out to be the non-elect (13:8; 17:8), it must be recognized that the bulk of those not sealed by God are “earth-dwellers; and 2) those who do not repent (9:20-21) after the massive onslaught of the sixth trumpet judgment, in retrospect, must be seen as “earth-dwellers,” also.

The section of Revelation in which chapter 18 is located is where the relationship between “the earth-dwellers” and Babylon the Great clarifies.  From the end of chapter 16 to the beginning of chapter 19, it is made increasingly clear that Babylon the Great is being judged and punished by the Lord for the very things that the first half of the book leaves the strong impression that “the earth-dwellers” would be judged.

A very interesting clue that “the earth-dwellers” and Babylon the Great are extremely closely related, if not two ways of looking at the exact same group (which, by the way, I think is the case), is found in the use of “woe” in Revelation 18.  If you will recall 8:13 (see above), which is found in the corresponding chiastic “pair” (i.e., Layer E), it is stated that woes will accompany each of the last three trumpet judgments.  And, while the first two of the three are stated to have taken place (9:12; 11:14), all that is said directly about the third is that it “is coming quickly” (11:14, HCSB).  Since the use of “woe” in 12:12 has to do with the angry actions of the Devil, I am led to believe the repeated use of “woe” in chapter 18 (vv. 10, 16, 19) reveal the judgments described in E’ (ch. 18) to be an extension of the third trumpet judgment.

In regard to “the heaven-dwellers” in Layer E, all that is present in chapters 8-9 is inference: those whose do have God’s seal on their foreheads (vs. 9:4) and any who do repent (vs. 9:20-21) would be “heaven-dwellers.”  In E’ (ch. 18), “heaven, and you saints, apostles, and prophets” (v. 20, HCSB), as well as “the blood of prophets and saints, as well as all those slaughtered on earth” (v. 24) certainly speaks of “the heaven-dwellers.”

At the moment, I am not completely sure what to do with two passages in Revelation 18: 1) “Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in her sins, or receive any of her plagues” (v. 4, HCSB); as well as 2) “human bodies and souls” (v. 13).

The first seems to be a call to those in the churches in chapters 2-3 to separate themselves from the Nicolatians, as well as those holding the teachings of Balaam and the false prophetess Jezebel, which were apparently first century A.D. forms of Babylon the Great.  If they did so, they would prove they were “heaven-dwellers.”

The second seems clearly to be referring to slaves, of which roughly half the population of the Roman Empire was in the New Testament era.  However, given that many of the Christians in the churches in Ephesus and it surrounding cities in that age were slaves (see Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-25), it seems possible that there is an inference that they are “heaven-dwellers,” who have also been abused at the hands of Babylon the Great.

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