Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XC)

August 29, 2010

Having now taken a look at the unique theology of Scripture and the distinctive teaching about Christ in Revelation, I am going to invest this post on the rest of the Trinity: the Father and the Holy Spirit—and, yes, there is a significant Trinitarian sense about the Apocalypse, even though it is titled up-front “the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1:1).

In regard to the Father, from the earliest verses to the end of the book’s prophetic/apocalyptic body, the Father is in evidence: Revelation 1:6 refers to “[Christ’s] God and Father; 22:5 says that all the light needed in the new creation will come from the Lord God (which 22:1, 3 identify as “God,” who is with Christ, “the Lamb.  He is referred to in four of the seven letters to the churches (2:28; 3:5; 3:12, 21).  His throne is mentioned repeatedly through the book, partly in reference to where the Father is, in heaven, but also in reference to His power.  In that regard, notice that the effects of judgment that grow in number until poured out climactically on Babylon in the Great begin in proximity to the Father’s throne (4:5; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18, 21).

In Revelation, God the Father is praised because of the original creation in chapter 4, as well as the re-creation of sinful mankind (i.e., their salvation) in chapter 7.  Chapter 10 tells the reader that “God’s hidden plan” will soon be completed.  In the latter portions of the book, God’s wrath is very much in view (e.g., 14:10; 15:1; 16:1) and His great white throne in 20:11ff. is the location of the final judgment.  Interestingly, in the working out of the Father’s plan, He places His seal/name on the 144,000 (see 7:3 and 14:1) and whoever does not have seal is clearly under God’s judgment (9:4).

One final—and largely overlooked—aspect of the depiction of God the Father in the Apocalypse has to do with the fact that, in chapter 11, just a few verses apart, there is said to be a “sanctuary” of His both on earth (v. 1) and in heaven (v. 19).  Aside from what the reference in 11:1 might imply about a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem—because that is the geographical location in that context (see 11:8 [“where also their Lord was crucified”]), it appears that the sense of “worshipers” in 11:1 is taken seriously, not just dismissed as “going through the motions” religiously.  If this implication is correct, then it is quite possible that the Jewish population of Jerusalem was being spiritually prepared for the “revival” of 11:13.

In turning to the teaching of the Apocalypse about the Holy Spirit, things are somewhat different.  Compared to Christ or the Father, at first glance, there is comparatively little about the Spirit in Revelation.  However, there may well be a previously existing biblical reason for that relative scarcity: 2 Thessalonians 2:7 speaks of “the restrainer”—whatever that means—holding back the emergence of “the man of lawlessness” (i.e., the Antichrist figure—the first beast of the Apocalypse) until “the restrainer” is taken out of the way, apparently by God.  Now, over the course of church history, there have been several possible understandings of what “the restrainer” is, one of which is the Holy Spirit.  Two arguments for that viewpoint are: 1) If the church is taken by the Lord before the worldwide hour of testing (see 3:10), the indwelling Holy Spirit will be taken with her; and 2) The analogy to Genesis 6:3, where the Holy Spirit left the world population to its just judgment just before the Flood.

Certainly, there is no way to know for sure whether the above is the reason for the relative scarcity of reference to the Spirit in Revelation.  However, lets’ just say it may be more than coincidence where the Spirit is not mentioned as you move through the book.  For example, after the Spirit is said to be speaking to each of the seven churches (2:7, etc.), there are only a handful of further uses until what I see as a “grand finale” final use.  Most of those inclusions through the middle of the book speak of John being “in the Spirit”: on Patmos, “on the Lord’s Day” (1:10); taken into the heavenly throne room (4:2); in the wilderness to see the great harlot (17:3); and on a high point to see the New Jerusalem (21:10).  The only other obvious usage is in regard to the second beatitude of the book in 14:13.

The “grand finale” mentioned earlier is in 22:17, where “the Spirit and the bride say ‘Come!”, which is the wonderful note of urgent evangelistic grace (i.e., “without cost”) upon which the Apocalypse ends.  Those who have taken the view that the gospel is not to be found in Revelation are sadly mistaken!

In closing, there is one other passage worth mentioning where the Holy Spirit is not directly mentioned, but in which the implication of His presence is quite strong.  Revelation 11:4 speaks of “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth” (HCSB).  That wording is, without question, an echo of several verses in Zechariah 4.  In that passage, the symbols stood for Zerabbabel and Joshua, the high priest, while in Revelation 11 it is the two witnesses who do miracles like Moses and Elijah who are in view.  However, the key verse of Zechariah 4 is just as true for the two witnesses: “‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts” (v. 6, HCSB).

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