Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXXXII)

August 11, 2010

The F Layer of the inverted parallel macrostructure of Revelation is made up of 8:2-9:21 (F), on the front end, and chapter 18 (F’), in the second half of the book.  An obvious connector between these passages is that 8:13 speaks of three “woes” coming upon “the earth-dwellers,” and with the nature of the third woe never clearly stated, it must be significant that chapter 18 repeats “woe, woe” three times in regard to Babylon the Great (which, apparently, is a corporate image for “the earth-dwellers,” parallel to the bride of the Lamb being a corporate image for “the heaven-dwellers”).

Here’s the “mirroring” breakdown of 8:2-9:21 (F):

a (8:2-5) The prayers of the saints, the impact of which are thrown to the earth as thunder, rumblings, lightning and an earthquake (which will be finally poured out on Babylon the Great; see 16:17-21)

b (8:6-12) The first four trumpets: Impacting one-third of each targeted aspect

c (8:13) “Woe, woe, woe!” upon “the earth-dwellers” during the three remaining trumpets

c’ (9:1-12) The fifth trumpet (and the first “woe”): Torment for five months upon all those who do not have the seal of God (i.e., who, by implication, are “the earth-dwellers”)

b’ (9:13-19) The sixth trumpet: Killing one-third of the human race

a’ (9:20-21) Those who do not repent of their idolatry, immorality and the like (who, as you move further in the book, prove to be “the earth-dwellers”)

The ‘a’ sublayer here (8:2-5; 9:20-21) appears to imply that the effects poured out from heaven to earth were designed for the unrepentant.  The ‘b’ passages (8:6-12; 9:13-19) both strongly emphasize horrific impacts upon the proportioning of one-third of whatever is targeted.  The ‘c’ midpoint verses (8:13; 9:1-12) focus on the beginning of the “woes” predicted for “the earth-dwellers.”

Chapter 18 (F’) is structured in the following inverted parallel manner:

a (18:1-3) An angel with great authority speaks of fallen Babylon being a dwelling place for demons, bringing God’s wrath by seducing all the nations, including the merchants and kings of the earth

b (18:4) “Come out of her (i.e., Babylon the Great), my people, so that you will not share in her sins”

c (18:5-8) Babylon, who thinks of a herself as a queen, has piled up sin and “her plagues will come in one day”

d (18:9-10) “Woe, woe, the great city… for in a single hour your judgment has come.”

e (18:11-13) Weeping over the lost merchandise related to Babylon the Great: luxury items, animals and “human bodies and souls” (i.e., slavery)

e’ (18:14) “All your splendid and glamorous things are gone” forever.

d’ (18:15-17a) “Woe, woe, the great city… because in a single hour she was destroyed.”

c’ (18:17b-19) Onlookers wonder “Who is like the great city?” and she was destroyed in a single hour

b’ (18:20) “Rejoice over her (i.e., Babylon), heaven and you saints, apostles, and prophets (i.e., “heaven-dwellers”), because God has executed your judgment on her!”

a’ (18:21-24) A mighty angel speaks of Babylon being thrown down, including much that looks “good,” because the merchants, nobility and all the nations were deceived by her and because she killed the prophets, saints and all martyrs (i.e., in history)

In chapter 18, ‘a’ (18:1-3, 21-24) clarifies that what looks good and seductive externally about Babylon the Great is actually demonic.  The ‘b’ pairing (18:4-8, 20) warns God’s people to make a clean break with Babylon the Great, given her utter brutality in killing “heaven-dwellers”.  Then, ‘c’ (18:5-8, 17b-19) and ‘d (18:9-10, 15-17a) makes it clear that, no matter how regal or great Babylon may seem, her deserved destruction will arrive very swiftly.  Interestingly, at the heart of the chiastic structure (‘e’; 18:11-13, 14), we encounter the merchandise of worldly greed and brutality that Babylon had provided her conspirators, which they would never have again because of her just judgment.

After looking very closely at the internal structures of these two passages (8:2-9:21 and ch. 18), it is worth asking again, “How do they fit together?”  Simply expressed, it appears to me that 8:2-9:21 depicts God’s judgment poured out on the earth and the non-elect from the angle of “the earth-dwellers,” including the first two woes, while chapter 18 describes the climactic wrath of God (i.e., the final woe[s]) upon the non-elect, who are here pictured as “Babylon the Great,” the great city in rebellion against God (which also calls to mind Babel in Gen. 11, as well as Nebuchanezzar’s egomaniacal statement in Dan. 4:30).

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