Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXXXVI)

August 18, 2010

At long last, we have finally arrived at the “twin peaks” at the center of the inverted parallel structure of the Book of Revelation.  This is layer J, which is composed of 12:18-13:18.

These side-by-side passages present two options: 1) in 12:18-13:18, the choice is to worship the beast (and, thus, the Devil), who is allowed (by the Lord) to appear victorious for three and a half years; or 2) in chs. 14-15, the choice is to receive the message of the eternal gospel (14:6-7) and, as a result, worship the Lamb.  Every single human being alive at that time will be in one or the other categories.  Relatedly, to pull back and take the ultimate “wide-angle lens” perspective, every single human being who has ever lived is in one of two categories spoken of in these passage: 1) the earth-dwellers, who are the non-elect (13:8), the focus of “the grapes of wrath” (14:17-20); or 2) the heaven-dwellers, who respond to the gospel and are part of the positive side of the harvest at the end of the age (14:14-16; see Matt. 13:37-43).

Here’s how J (12:18-13:18) pairs off:

a (12:18-13:1) A beast from the sea with 10 horns, seven heads and 10 diadems

b (13:2) The Devil gives his power and authority to the first beast

c (13:3) “The whole earth” amazed at the healing of the first beast’s apparent fatal wound

d (13:4) Unwittingly, “the whole earth” worships the Devil, because he’s given his authority to the first beast

e (13:5) The first beast granted (by God) authority to blaspheme and act for three and a half years

f (13:6-7a) The first beast allowed to blaspheme God and the heaven-dwellers, as well as “conquer” the saints (i.e., within the limits of the 42 months of 13:5)

f’ (13:7b-8) The first beast’s authority over “every tribe, people, language and nation,” along with the worship of the earth-dwellers, who are the non-elect

e’ (13:9-10) The endurance and faith of the saints to persevere through captivity or death

d’ (13:11-13) The first beast delegates his authority to the second beast, who has the world worship the first beast

c’ (13:14) “The earth-dwellers” deceived by the signs performed by the second beast, who makes an image of the first beast, who was “healed”

b’ (13:15-17) The second beast animates an image and requires every person on earth to worship the image and take the beast’s mark

a’ (13:18) The number of the beast: 666

Notice how the short-term (i.e., for 42 months) circumstances of the two overall groups which mankind is broken down into spiritually (i.e., the heaven-dwellers and the earth-dwellers) are spotlighted side-by-side at the center of the J structure (13:6-7a, 7b-8).

Now, we get our look at the chiastic arrangement of J’ (chs. 14-15):

a (14:1-5) The 144,000, who are the redeemed “firstfruits” of humanity, on the heavenly Mount Zion with the Lamb

b (14:6-7) The climatic preaching of the eternal gospel (see Matt. 24:14): fear God, give Him glory and worship Him!

c (14:8-11) The everlasting wrath of God to be poured out on Babylon the Great and those who worship the beast (i.e., the earth-dwellers)

d (14:12-13) The endurance of the saints, including those who die in the Lord

d’ (14:14-16) The harvest of grain (see Matt. 13:37-43), by the Son of Man on a cloud (see Dan. 7:13)

c’ (14:17-20) The harvest of the grapes of wrath (see Matt. 13:37-43)

b’ (15:1-4) Those who will not face the seven last plagues of God’s wrath: the victors on the sea of glass in heaven, singing of fearing, glorifying and worshiping the Lord

a’ (15:5-8) The heavenly sanctuary opened, the seven angels with the seven last plagues and the seven gold bowls filled with God’s wrath (to be poured out on “the earth-dwellers”)

The bottom line here is that, even though things may look completely hopeless for most of the last three and a half years (see 13:5) of the Great Tribulation, the climatic preaching of the gospel (14:6-7) will be responded (15:2-4) with a great harvest (14:14-16) and the beast worshipers/ earth-dwellers (14:9-11), as well as Babylon the Great (who is only introduced in 14:8) will receive God’s climatic wrath as their part of the final harvest (14:17-20).

Even though the end-times are not upon us yet, we see here the choices that have gone on throughout history: 1) worship God/Christ; or 2) by worshiping anything else having to do with the world system, effectively worship the Devil.  As I said at the beginning of this post, when the dust settles, there are only two kinds of people who have ever lived.  Whether you call them “the seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20) and “the seed of the serpent” (Genesis 3:15; John 8:44 [“of your father the Devil”]), “the earth-dwellers” and “the heaven-dwellers,” as we have seen in Revelation, the elect and the non-elect (as Rev. 17:8, 14 point us to theologically), or just plain believers and unbelievers, there are ultimately only two categories, from the beginning to the end of Scripture.

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