Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (LXXXVII)

August 22, 2010

Well, now that I’ve managed to work my way through the whereabouts of “the earth-dwellers” and “the heaven-dwellers” in the Book of Revelation, as well as how the various aspects of the inverted parallel outline of the book complement one another, the next area I’m going to explore is the theology of the book.  This is a wonderful opportunity to specify what the Apocalypse teaches that is distinctive (i.e., not found elsewhere in Scripture).

Almost everybody who has paid any attention at all to Revelation knows that tells the reader a tremendous amount about Christology and eschatology (the doctrine of last things).  However, as we will see in the new few posts, Revelation also has quite a bit to say about bibliology (the doctrine of Scripture), the doctrine of God, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, angels and demons, sin and salvation.

Actually, though, the most surprising part of the theological teaching of Revelation has to do with the church (or ecclesiology, as the formal theological category is called).  Since I am still correlating that material in my thinking, I am going to hold it until last—hopefully, “saving the best till last”).

Before beginning to deal with each of those areas of biblical/systematic theology seen in the Apocalypse, though, I am first going to deal with an angle that Revelation has in common with Genesis: that the early portion of each book proves to be what could be termed a “theological seedplot.”  What I mean by that is most, if not all, of the doctrinal areas in a full-blown theological treatment are found early on in both books—“right out of the chute,” as it were.

Let’s take a quick initial look at how that works in Genesis 1-3:

–         The doctrine of God (i.e., theology proper) begins with “In the beginning, God…” (Gen. 1:1).

–         The doctrine of the Holy Spirit begins with “the Spirit of God was hovering…” (Gen. 1:2).

–         The doctrine of Revelation (i.e., Scripture) begins with “And God said…” (Gen. 1:3).

–         The doctrine of mankind (i.e., theological anthropology) begins with “the image of God” (Gen. 1:26-27).

–         The use of the serpent by the Devil in Genesis 3:1ff. is the beginning of the diabolical side of the doctrine of spiritual warfare.

–         The doctrine of sin begins with Adam’s and Eve’s sinful choice in Genesis 3:1-7.

–         The doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of God’s people (i.e., the church) both begin with “the seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15).  The victory of “the seed of the woman” over “the seed of the serpent” begins the doctrine of salvation.

–         The remaining positive aspectof the doctrine of spiritual warfare—the holy angels—begins with Genesis 3:24.

OK, so what do we encounter when we get to the early portion of Revelation?

–         The book’s title (i.e., “the revelation of Jesus Christ”) speaks both of bibliology (Gk. apokalupsis, which is related to the type of biblical literature known as “apocalyptic”) and Christology (Rev. 1:1).

–         The wording “His slaves” (Rev. 1:1) and “churches” (1:4) are the first glimmers having to do with the church (ecclesiology) in the book.

–         There is also the first mention of “His angel” in Revelation 1:1.

–         The first mention of fallen mankind (i.e., both anthropology and hamartiology [the doctrine of sin] is in Revelation 1:5, in the wording “has set us [believing mankind] free from our sins.”

–         The first mentions of eschatology/last things is either “and made us a kingdom” in Revelation 1:6 or the collage of the prophecies of Daniel 7:13 and Zechariah 12:10, which will be fulfilled later in the book, in Revelation 1:7.

–         “God the Father” is the first mention of theology proper in Revelation 1:6.

–         The doctrine of the Holy Spirit begins with “in the Spirit” in Revelation 1:9.

–         The first mention of the Devil/spiritual warfare is in his buffeting of the church at Smyrna seen in Revelation 2:10.

Is it mere coincidence that the first and last books of Scripture share this “theological front-end load” nature?  That’s very doubtful.  There are also an amazing number of parallels between Genesis 1-3 and Revelation 20-22.  Further, Revelation 22:18-19, while applying directly to only the Book of Revelation, likely echoes the errors of Genesis 3:1-7, and thus effectively spans the entirety of the canon of Scripture by theological implication.  Finally—and the focus of a great deal of my recent study in Revelation—the categories of “the earth-dwellers” and “the heaven-dwellers” turn out to be the end of the Bible’s parallels to “the seed of the serpent” and “the seed of the woman” in Genesis 3.  With all these factors in play, is it not extremely likely that the reader of the Book of Revelation is intended by the Lord to see the end of the Apocalypse as the ultimate “happy ending” to the tragedy of the fall of the human race in Genesis 3?

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