Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXXX)

August 9, 2010

In the inverted parallel structure of Revelation, Layer D is made up of Revelation 6 on the front end and 19:11-21 in the latter half.  In my understanding, it is very significant to notice that chapter 6 occurs prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation, as I will explain momentarily.  What is seen in 19:11-21, of course, is the Second Coming of Christ.

In case you have not previously read any of my material in which I argue the case in some detail for the Great Tribulation beginning with the trumpet judgments, I will briefly summarize the two major biblical reasons here: 1) Given the nature of ancient scrolls, in which seals were all placed side-by-side on the outer lip of a scroll, if the end-times events are the content of the scroll—which seems virtually certain—then those end-times events cannot begin until all the seals are off the scroll (i.e., after 8:1, when the trumpet judgments are about to begin; and 2) Given that the martyrs under the altar are told by the Lord that the judgment of “the earth-dwellers”—which 3:10 says is the focus of “the hour of testing (i.e., the Great Tribulation)–has not yet begun (6:9-11), but 8:13 says that the remaining three trumpets will be “woes” upon “earth-dwellers,” the logical inference is that the Great Tribulation starts at some point between 6:9-11 and 8:13.  Taking these two points alongside one another, the most likely overall conclusion is that the Great Tribulation will start with the onset of the trumpets.

The following is the chiastic breakdown of Revelation 6:

a (6:1-2) The first seal: A rider on a white horse who went out as a victor (Gk. nikon) to conquer (nikese)

b (6:3-4) The second seal: A military slaughter (Gk. sphazo)

c (6:5-6) The third seal: A severe partial famine on the earth

d (6:7-8) The fourth seal: The authority of Death and Hades to kill over a fourth of the earth

d’ (6:9-11) Martyrs in heaven (i.e., “the heaven-dwellers), asking God for the vindication of their blood upon “the earth-dwellers”

c’ (6:12-14) Severe cosmic effects (see Joel 2:28-32, especially vv. 30-31)

b’ (6:15) Among the powerful of the earth, the military commanders, hide

a’ (6:16-17) Fear of the wrath of the One seated on the throne and the Lamb that is about to begin

Before beginning my brief analysis of Revelation 6, it should be noted that what is seen here is strongly parallel to Matthew 24:1-31.  Even the chiastic structuring is very similar, as can be seen in several posts I did toward the beginning of this now lengthy series on Revelation.

In the first half of this passage (i.e., a, b, c, d), it appears that the wording is intended to get across the idea that the powers of the unbelieving world (i.e., “the earth-dwellers”) are being victorious (note the ironic use of nikao in 6:2, which is more often used for believers as “overcomers”), including through military “slaughter” (a word used elsewhere for the killing of the martyrs).  The wording of Death and Hades having authority to kill over a fourth of the earth related to the fourth seal (d; 6:7-8) is particularly distressing until it is recalled that Christ controls “the keys of Death and Hades” (1:18).  Then, with the fifth seal (d’; 6:9-11), the tone of the passage turns completely: it is not a lack of power to judge “the earth-dwellers” on the Lord’s part, only timing (6:11).  The sixth seal (c’, b’, a’; 6:12-17) describes dramatic cosmic upheaval in terms that clearly are intended to fulfill Joel 2:30-31 (and the ‘punch line’ of that wider passage, as Peter noted in his sermon in Acts 2, is that the one who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, so this passage is, in fact, an implies gospel presentation).

Now, we arrive at D’ (19:11-21), where we see the Second Advent.  The obvious similarity with Revelation 6 is that, in both, God intervenes in regard to the tyranny of human powers.  The most significant difference is that His intervention in 19:11-21 is climactic (i.e., the end of the Great Tribulation), not transitional (i.e., to the beginning of the Great Tribulation, as is the case in 6:12-17).

The following is how 19:11-21 (D’) breaks down structurally:

a (19:11) A rider on a white horse who is faithful and true and judges/makes war in righteousness

b (19:12-13) The One with many crowns, whose robe is stained with blood and whose Name is the Word of God

c (19:14-15) The armies of heaven, wearing white linen (i.e., “the heaven-dwellers”), following the rider on the white horse, who will strike the nations, “shepherd” them with an iron scepter and trample the winepress of the wrath of God

d (19:16) The name on His robe and thigh is King of Kings and Lord of Lords

d’ (19:17-18) The great supper of God, where the birds will eat the flesh of kings, commanders, and mighty men—the small and the great

c’ (19:19) The armies of the earth arrayed against the rider on the white horse (Christ)

b’ (19:20) The beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire

a’ (19:21) The rider on the white horse kills the armies by the sword from His mouth

It is fascinating that the outworking of events in 19:11-21 is, in fact, a kind of “mirror” of chapter 6.  You see, in 6:1-8, the tyranny of powerful earthly leaders was being played out in warfare, among other things.  By contrast, in 19:17-21, the powerful earthly leaders are “blown away” completely by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (19:16).  The second half of chapter 6 says that the judgment of God will descend upon “the earth-dwellers” in His perfect timing (vv. 9-11), then the cosmic signs preceding His judgment begin to be poured out (vv. 12-17).  By contrast, in 19:11-16, we see those who will be part of that judgment described (i.e., Christ and His heavenly armies), just before the final judgment is unleashed.

In 19:11-21, “the heaven-dwellers” are those heavenly armies, who, like the bride (because they are the bride!), were white linen (see 19:8).  “The earth-dwellers” are all those who join the Devil, the beast and the false prophet in seeking to make war against Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, whether they be “kings,” “commanders” “mighty men,” “free” or “slave,” “small” or “great” (19:18).  The non-elect, who are “the earth-dwellers” (13:8; 17:8) include all these categories.

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