Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Apocalyptic? #5: The 7000 Year Drama and the 3 Women


A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head.

She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.



 (Revelation 12:1-2 NIV)


                                                                                                                                              

The Dedication Page of my book Revelation:  The Human Drama reads:



Adam had Eve.

God had Israel (and the first Jerusalem).

Jesus has the Church (the 144,000, the New Jerusalem).

I have Linda.



This is dedicated to my bride.



Of the women mentioned in that dedication, Linda is the only one who is not strictly alluded to in the Book of Revelation.  The three key women of the Revelation Drama are:  1) Eve, 2) Israel and 3) the Church.  These three women easily correspond to the three periods of human history considered in the previous post as Six Thousand-Year-Long Days.  They all experienced a struggle with the serpent/dragon.  There were two days WITHOUT THE LAW (from Adam to Abraham) corresponding to the woman Eve.  There were two days WITH THE LAW (from Abraham to Christ) corresponding to the woman Israel.  There were two days WITH CHRIST (from Jesus to Today) corresponding to the third woman:  The Church.  The seventh day, you will remember, is a World Sabbath, in which all of God’s children REST from their labors (i.e., the world to come, the New Heavens and New Earth, commonly referred to, simply, as Heaven). 
As in the Mirror Image, discussed from blogposts 2 through 4, John is writing in the middle age of 2000 years (from Abraham to Christ), looking back to the first age of 2000 years (from Adam to Abraham) and forward to the third age of 2000 years (from Jesus to Today).  John is instructed by the angel in Revelation 1:19 (NIV): “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is NOW and what will take place later.”  John is not instructed to write much about the past (the age from Adam to Abraham), but he sees himself nearing the END of the second period (from Abraham to Christ).  The “what is NOW” from John’s perspective is the End (or TELOS) of the second 2000-year era—the age corresponding to the woman Israel.  Revelation 1:1 (NIV) indicates that John is primarily charged with writing: “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must SOON take place.”  John is to be listened to by his audience, according to Revelation 1:3 (NIV): “because the time is NEAR.”  Those who attempt to place the vast majority of John’s Revelation in the present age (21st Century) are misreading the book.  “What will take place later” certainly includes the last two chapters of Revelation, as John describes the New Heavens and New Earth, with the New Jerusalem coming down from God (the 7th day, World Sabbath).  “What will take place later” also includes Revelation chapter 20 that will last more than 1000 years (the 5th and 6th day, with Christ)—including the time when Satan is confined to and, subsequently, released from prison until the Battle with Gog and Magog, Satan’s being cast into the Lake of Fire, and Judgment Day),
but everything before that in Revelation is referring to the last “week of years” from Daniel, the 3 ½ years, starting in 66 AD, before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD and the 3 ½ years after the destruction of the Temple until the 7-year war with Rome ends and Masada falls, in 73 AD. 
This is the “what is NOW” and the “what must SOON take place” from John’s perspective.  John repeats his consciousness of the “what must SOON take place” throughout Revelation.  John predicts that the "time" is "near" (Revelation 1:3, 22:10), that Jesus is "coming soon" (Revelation 3:11, 22:20), that the dragon’s "time is short" (Revelation 12:12), and that these things “must soon take place" (Revelation 22:6).


Just as there are multiple "ends" in Greek dramas and other entelechies, there are multiple "ends" in John's Human Drama.  The Greek trilogy has three "ends," one for each of the three dramas that comprise the trilogy-turned-tetralogy.  This is similar to the three 2000-year segments of the Human Drama, according to the previous post.  In Revelation, John is primarily preparing his 69 AD audience for the end of the Israel-as-bride entelechy, and looking forward to the beginning of the Church-as-bride entelechy.  The end of the Church-as-bride entelechy is, then, to be followed by the world sabbath in the New Heavens and New Earth.

The woman described in Revelation 12:1-2 represents all three of the women—Eve, Israel, and Church.  A “woman vs. serpent” metaphor informs all of John’s Revelation.  WOMAN #1, Eve (Adam’s bride), was the first to have a conflict with the Serpent (/Dragon) as she allowed the Serpent to deceive her, she disbelieved God, and she lost Paradise (the Garden of Eden).  WOMAN #2, the people of Israel, following in the tradition of Israel’s (/Jacob’s) grandfather Abraham, then, became God’s bride/wife (Ezekiel 16:8-14, 32-34, 43, 59-60, 62, Jeremiah 2:2, 32, 3:6-10, 12-14, 20, 31:31-33, Isaiah 50:1, 54:5-8, 62:4-5, Hosea 1:2, 2:2, 7, 14-16, 3:1-3, 9:1, Joel 1:8).  Like Eve, Israel turned her back on God and (once again being tempted by the serpent/devil/dragon) played the harlot (Ezekiel 16:32-34, 43, 59-60, Jeremiah 3:6-10, 20, 31:31-33, Hosea 1:2, 2:2, 7, 3:1-3, 9:1) and, as John is seeing in Revelation, she is in the process of being DIVORCED from God (as the prophets warned:  Jeremiah 3:6-10, Isaiah 50:1) at the time John writes in 69 AD.  She is the woman mentioned in Revelation 12:1-2 with the “crown of twelve stars on her head.”  The twelve stars are the twelve tribes.  The part of Israel who is the HARLOT is the woman dressed in scarlet in Revelation 17, Mystery Babylon.  The part of the woman who is the remnant and represents true Israel is the 144,000 “VIRGINS” referred to in Revelation 14:4:  These are they which were not defiled among women; for they are VIRGINS. These are they which follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.  Technically, the HARLOT is being divorced, but the VIRGINS are the bride of Christ in the next woman (II Corinthians 11:2, "I have espoused [or rather, betrothed] you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste VIRGIN to Christ."):  


This third woman—the Church—is described as the bride of Christ in Mark 2:19-20, John 3:29, II Corinthians 11:1-4, and Ephesians 5:25-27, in addition to Revelation 19:7-9 and 21:2, 9-11.  While this third woman in Revelation 12:1-2 has allusions to Mary the mother of Jesus (“She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth”), Mary should probably be counted as still being a representative of Israel (bride of God), since Jesus’ birth (the last Adam:  I Corinthians 15:45-49) actually begins the new (third) entelechy.  It is Jesus’ bride who, unlike Eve and Israel, actually resists the Dragon and is married to the Lamb who Himself defeated the Dragon through His crucifixion.  Notice how much of Revelation revolves around the “woman vs. serpent” metaphor.  Eve, an actual woman, engages in battle with the Serpent in Eden.  Israel, a metaphorical woman engages in battle with a metaphorical serpent (Satan).  The Church, a metaphorical woman, engages in battle with a metaphorical serpent (Satan/Devil/Dragon).  We will discuss, later, the conquest of the third woman and the end of the old heavens and old earth, but next, we turn to the major emphasis of John’s vision—the divorce of the second woman (Israel), the bride of God.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Apocalyptic? #4: The Week that Lasted 7000 Years


He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

(Revelation 20:2 NIV)

                                                                                                                                              

In my previous post, I discussed Daniel’s concept of a Week of Years.  Academics celebrate the notion of a week of years by taking a Sabbatical year (to rest?) every seventh year in which they teach at a given college or university. 

We are clearly familiar with the Sunday through Saturday Week of Days.  The Law of Moses prescribed, in the Law, a Year of Jubilee at the end of every Week of Weeks of Years (i.e. 49 years): 

“‘Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years. Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 10 the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each of you is to return to your family property and to your own clan. 11 The fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; do not sow and do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the untended vines. 12 For it is a jubilee and is to be holy for you; eat only what is taken directly from the fields.

13 “‘In this Year of Jubilee everyone is to return to their own property.’”  (Leviticus 25:8-13 NIV)



My daughter Auburn observed that, this year (2020, with the shutdown from the Coronavirus), the wild animals are enjoying a year of Jubilee, as they return to the land they had once owned—the abandoned streets in many cities.  Dolphins are returning to some canals in Italy.  Animals are reclaiming the national parks.  The skyline of Los Angeles is smog-free as the country lies in rest.  My wife, Linda, observed that she and I are now celebrating our marriage’s Jubilee.  We will have been married 50 years on June 13th.


The Year of Jubilee—a week of weeks of years (49/50)—shows the flexibility of the number seven pattern in the Bible as it operates beyond an actual week of seven days.  Likewise, the Old Testament Feast of Weeks (Exodus 23:16, Leviticus 23:15-22) which is celebrated by Christians on Pentecost occurs a week of weeks (49/50 days) after the Passover/Easter.  Daniel’s seventy weeks of years is another example.  So, it was perfectly logical for Jews to develop a Week of Millennia (7000 years) concept, and John in Revelation may be alluding to this concept.

____________________________________________



What is a millennium?   

It’s what Kellie Coffey's song at Disney’s Epcot called “a thousand circles ‘round the Sun.  A millennium is a period lasting 1000 years. A millennium is a period lasting 1000 years.  In the year 2000 A.D., we entered a new millennium in the western calendar.  We are now 20 years into that new millennium. 
Your ministers or churches or denominations may tell you that they are Premillennialists.  What does that mean?  It means that they interpret Revelation 20 to indicate that they expect the Parousia (commonly referred to as the Second Coming of Christ or the Rapture) to occur BEFORE (pre-) the 1000-year reign of Christ on Earth begins, during which time the devil will be bound in chains and thrown into the Abyss.  Your ministers or churches or denominations may tell you that they are Postmillennialists.  What does that mean?  It means that they interpret Revelation 20 to indicate that they expect the Parousia (commonly referred to as the Second Coming of Christ or the Rapture) to occur AFTER (post-) the 1000-year reign of Christ on Earth, during which time the devil will be bound in chains and thrown into the Abyss.  Your ministers or churches or denominations may tell you that they are Amillennialists.  What does that mean?  It means that they interpret Revelation 20 to indicate that they believe that the 1000-year reign of Christ on Earth, during which the devil will be bound in chains and thrown into the Abyss, IS A COMPLETELY SYMBOLIC TIME REFERENCE, indicating a very long period of time, perhaps even forever.  The “A-“ prefix negates the millennium, just as the A- prefix in Atheist negates Theism (the belief in God).



An argument in favor of Postmillennialists is that it has now been nearly 2000 years since John penned Revelation.  They do not wish to delay the coming of the New Heavens and New Earth for another 1000 years of human history on Earth.  Postmillennialism was popular around the turn of the 20th Century.  It was a belief that mankind was on an increasingly Christian trajectory.  Slavery had been abolished by the Civil War.  Prohibition promised to end the destructiveness of Demon Rum.  Inventions and scientific discoveries were booming, making life on Earth much easier and more enjoyable.  HOWEVER,  then came World War I and World War II, the end of Prohibition, the rise of secularism, etc.  This deflated the hopes of many postmillennialists.  Furthermore, it would take a twisted and forced reading of Revelation to make the Parousia come after the 1000 years.

By contrast, a very strong argument in favor of Premillennialists is that Revelation 20 (NIV) seems very clear that there would be a First Resurrection (at the Parousia?) FOLLOWED BY the 1000 year reign of Christ:

He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time. I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They[a] had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

HOWEVER, the frustration associated with reading premillennialists is that they are uncritical; they use no scientific method.  They are free to attach almost any meaning to any symbol. 

An argument in favor of Amillennialists is that it has already been nearly 2000 years since John penned Revelation.  They do not wish to delay the coming of the New Heavens and New Earth for another 1000 years of human history on Earth.  They want the Parousia to usher in eternity.  They point out that John was fond of writing symbolically—a seven headed beast was a symbol for seven mountains and seven emperors; the term “woman” was a symbol for Eve, Mary the mother of Jesus, Israel, and the Church.  For that matter, the “Lamb that was slain” was a symbol for Jesus.  HOWEVER, the frustration with reading amillennialists (who hold that the thousand-year period is completely figurative) is that there is definite evidence of Jewish teachings in the first century which predicted a literal thousand or two thousand year reign of the Messiah.



Actually, Jesus predicted that his Parousia would occur within one generation from the time of his teaching (Google:  "Stan.Point Parousia").  John still predicts at least a 1000-year reign following that time.



WHAT IF ALL THREE POSITIONS ARE INCORRECT?



There is a 7000-year week doctrine, advanced by the Rabbis, back at the time of Revelation, that said that the entire history of man could be broken down into six days (with each day being 1000 years—or one millennium—long), followed by a Sabbath Day of Rest that would last eternally.  Actually, this view would equate to a premillennial view in the strictest sense (that there would be a First Resurrection (at the Parousia?) FOLLOWED BY the 1000 year reign), but should not be categorized as Premillennialist as that school is now constituted.


At about the time John wrote the Book of Revelation, a respected school of Rabbinic (Jewish) thought, the school of Elias, was teaching a peculiar interpretation of history that attempted to sum up all of human history--past, present, and future.  The German scholar, Paul Billerbeck, observes that, according to the school of Elias, humankind would exist on earth for a total of six thousand years.  Two thousand years would be spent without the Law; two thousand years with the Law; and two thousand years would be spent under the rule of the Messiah.  

The length of the first era (without the Law) is difficult to calculate.  The length of the second era (with the Law) is more calculable.  The length of the third era (With Christ) is much easier, placing the end of the 2000 years close to our generation.  Depending on when we place the Kingdom of Heaven’s beginning (with Jesus), we see such possibilities as the following:


2024 A.D.  From Jesus’ baptism, 2000 years later.

2034 A.D.  From Jesus’ resurrection, 2000 years later.

2070 A.D.  From Jesus’ parousia, 2000 years later.

2313 A.D.  From Constantine’s legalizing of Christianity in the Empire, 2000 years later.



The school based its interpretation partly upon the Biblical formula found in Psalm 90:4 that "a thousand years in [God's] sight are like a day that has just gone by."  According to the various calculations of the school, the Jewish people had been punished by God (i.e., had been under the domination of foreign powers) for a total of one thousand years, beginning with the 400 years spent in Egypt from the time of Joseph to the time of Moses.  Because Israel had been punished for one thousand years, Rabbi Yehoschua, from the late first century A.D., reasons that the messianic period (the earthly reign of the Christ) should last for two thousand years.  Along with other rabbis, he observes that Psalm 90:15 petitions God:  "Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble."  Yehoschua finds it striking that, according to his calculations, the Jewish people had been "afflicted" or had "seen trouble" for one thousand years--the formulaic "day" of the Lord from the earlier passage in the same Psalm.  Hence, he anticipates at least a "thousand years" messianic reign.  However, Yehoschua also observes that the word "day" in 90:15 is plural, whereas in 90:4 it is singular.  Therefore, Yehoschua opines that there should be "two" days of messianic reign, rather than just one.  Thus, the reign of the Christ, he thought, should last for two thousand years. (Paul Billerbeck, Die Briefe des Neuen Testaments und die Offenbarung Johannis, vol. 3 of Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch [Munich:  C. H. Beck'sche, 1961], 826-827.)


Since one "day" equals "one thousand years" in this system, the "seven" pattern of the Sabbath "week" is next called into play.  According to some calculations of Biblical history, there were approximately two thousand years from Adam to the beginning of the Covenant (the time of Abraham).  These years would amount to the "two days without the Law."  Furthermore, approximately two thousand years had passed from the time of Abraham to the first century A.D., when this school and its view flourished.  These years would be the "two days with the Law."  If the messiah comes soon, they speculate, the final two thousand years of history will be spent in the reign of the messiah (or Christ).  These six thousand years equal six days, according to the Psalm 90 formula.  And, six days was the amount of time which God took to create the world.  On the seventh day (Sabbath), God rested.  The school of Elias thus anticipated, according to Billerbeck, a "weltensabbat" (a cosmic Sabbath) when all humanity would "rest" from labor--beginning at the end of the six thousand years.


At least two New Testament writers (John and the author of II Peter) connect a "thousand year" formula to speculation concerning future divine activity.  II Peter warns, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.  . . . But the day of the Lord will come like a thief.  The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire" (II Peter 3:8 & 10).



Billerbeck acknowledges that John may be aware of Yehoschua's interpretation of history.  Yet, John does not explicitly paint himself into a corner regarding time frames, as do Yehoschua and the school of Elias.  John does indicate that there would be at least one "thousand years" period.  During these thousand years, "the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan," would be "bound" and thrown "into the Abyss . . . to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended" (Revelation 20:2-3).  Following these "thousand years," however, John does not appear to promise an immediate end to human history.  Instead, "After that, [the dragon] must be set free for a short time" (Revelation 20:3).  John predicts:  "When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth [or 'land']" (Revelation 20:7-8).  An indeterminate amount of time follows the "thousand years" of the book of Revelation.  John's Revelation does not preclude the claim of Yehoschua and it is at least possible that John's vision partially corroborates the view of Yehoschua and/or the school of Elias.

My major professor in Hebrew at Indiana University, Henry A. Fischel, frequently asserts that New Testament writers knew Rabbinic teachings, Rabbinic writers knew Christian teachings, and they all knew Greek teachings.


Among those "Greco-Roman situations [which] were well-known" to John and, I think, also to the school of Elias are Greek dramas.  Elisabeth Fiorenza claims regarding Revelation:  "Interpreters have not merely acknowledged the dramatic character of the book but have maintained that Rev[elation] is patterned after the Greek drama." (Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, The Book of Revelation:  Justice and Judgment [Philadelphia:  Fortress Press,  1985], 166.)  Both Greek drama and the 7000-year-week of the school of Elias were possibly well-known to John.  There are indications that John is writing some important episodes of the "Human Drama" based upon an implicit dramatic pattern quite similar to the pattern taught by the school of Elias.  

W H A T   I F ? ? ?


What if this 7000-year week doctrine is essentially correct?  What if we are now living on the brink of the end of the sixth 1000-year-long day?  John describes a drama that fits neatly in those three 2000-year-long periods.  The topic of my next post.



Friday, April 10, 2020

Apocalyptic? #3: The Mirror Image of the Week


I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

 (Revelation 22:13—See also Revelation 1:8 and 11 and 21:10)

                                                                                                                                              

What a week!  As I begin writing this post, it is Friday, April 10, 2020—one of the most sobering Good Fridays in our lifetime, perhaps in Church History. 
This week began on Palm Sunday, with the world-wide church worshiping and celebrating at their homes, due to the lockout of churches.  We in Florida, cut down palm branches and celebrated in our garden.  The entire world is now on lockdown.  Many are experiencing extreme Confusion Stress
(see my book The 7 Cs of Stress), as we find ourselves confused and lost—not knowing if the Pandemic will soon (or ever) end or if the US and world economies will be able to withstand the extreme shock to our economic system that has resulted from our response to the virus. 
Just as the Israelites in Egypt hunkered down in their homes, awaiting the Passing Over of the Death Angel, before the great Exodus, we are hunkered down in our homes, awaiting the Passing Over of the Coronavirus.  Jesus’ disciples were scattered and in hiding, from Good Friday through the Sabbath, as they waited to see if they would be the next to be crucified.  
John’s audience in Revelation faced great Confusion Stress, as well, as they waited, in 69 A.D., to see what would happen next in the Roman War against the Jews that had begun in 66 A.D. (and would last for SEVEN years—until 73 A.D.), as Nero’s Roman army swarmed toward Jerusalem.  Even though John’s audience lived in Asia Minor (the location of modern-day Turkey), they were mostly Jewish Christians who had left the Land of Israel before the War began, but their families and countrymen were still in the Great City of Jerusalem that would soon be destroyed (next year, in 70 A.D.) by Rome.  Five years earlier, in 64 A.D., the Emperor Nero had started the Great Roman Fire, and blamed the event on the Christians, so that nowhere in the Empire was it safe for Christians and Jews to reside, including Asia Minor. 
John makes much of the fact that, in 69 A.D., they were living in the MIDDLE of the last WEEK of years, prophesied by Daniel:  “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of ABOMINATIONS he shall make
it DESOLATE, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the DESOLATE”  (Daniel 9:27).  (Daniel’s prophecy of the ceasing of the sacrifice was fulfilled in 70 A.D., as the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem Temple.)  Jesus had prophesied that this predicted “ABOMINATION” of “DESOLATION” would occur before his then-current generation passed away (Matthew 24:34).  And, there, in 69 A.D.—a little less than a “generation”—from the time Jesus spoke the prophecy, John was predicting its fulfillment.  (The standard length of a generation for Jews was 40 years, as in the generation that died in the Wilderness).  John and Daniel express the three and one-half-years—first half (and second half) of this WEEK OF YEARS—in several ways, besides the “midst of the week”:  


time (=1 year+), times (=2 years+) and half a time (=6 months=3 ½ years)” (Daniel 7:25, 12:7 and Revelation 12: 14)


twelve hundred sixty days (divided by 3 ½ [years]=360 days, one year)” (Revelation 11:3, 12: 6)

“thousand three hundred five and 30 days (divided by 3 ½ [years]=381.4 days, one year)” (Daniel 12:12)


forty-two months (divided by 3 ½ [years]=12 months, one year)” (Revelation 11:2, 13:5)


three and half days (translate ‘days’ into ‘years’)” (Revelation 11:9, 11)



My observation:  From the perspective of THE MIDDLE OF THE WEEK, this WEEK OF YEARS is MIRROR-IMAGED. 
It is chiastic. 
Think of the 7 Golden Lampstands of the Menorah in Revelation.  A visual mirror image.  The first lampstand could represent Sunday; the last lampstand, Saturday.  John saw three and one-half years on either side.  John was helping his audience see history THROUGH THE MIRROR.  We could say that in the analogy of the WEEK OF YEARS, John was writing on Wednesday (hump-day) of that WEEK OF YEARS.  The SABBATH (or 7th day) will be a day of rest for the Christians, just as in the CREATION WEEK, the SABBATH (or 7th day) was a day of rest for God.  After the excruciating Friday Jesus experienced prior to Easter, Jesus rested before his resurrection on Sunday, to begin a brand new era.  Fridays are extremely significant.  What happened on Friday in Creation Week?  God made man in His image.  What happened on Friday before the first Easter?  Jesus was crucified to save mankind. 
I do not know if we are now experiencing another Friday.  As I discussed with my sister Marilyn, I have thought (as she did) of the poignancy of the whole world being in our homes, for this season.  I'm not a big fan of modern-day prophets, but I certainly appreciate the fact that Jesus told us:  "You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why don't you know how to interpret this present time?" (Luke 12:56).  In the next few posts, I will extend the discussion of the “seven” form beyond the Menorah, the week, and the week of years.  John thinks consistently about the number seven entelechy:  seven churches, seven letters, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven plagues, seven heads on the Dragon and the Beast, etc.  We’ll dive more deeply into the seven entelechy of Revelation in the next post.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Apocalyptic? #2: Reading Revelation through the Mirror


I am the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Ἐγὼ [I AM] τὸ ἄλφα [ALPHA] καὶ τὸ Ω [OMEGA], πρῶτος [PROTOS] καὶ ἔσχατος [ESCHATOS], ἡ ἀρχὴ [ARCHE] καὶ τὸ τέλος [TELOS],

(Revelation 22:13—See also Revelation 1:8 and 11 and 21:10)

                                                                                                                                              

These words from Revelation were cited in the previous post to illustrate the concept of entelechy (a process that has a beginning, a middle, and an end) and to introduce our discussion of the end. 
In this post, they are cited to indicate that entelechies (the one in Revelation, included) are frequently mirror images.  If the same person is BOTH the First AND the Last, BOTH the Beginning AND the End, we can visualize a single person looking into a mirror.  The individual appears BOTH Outside the mirror AND Inside the mirror as equidistant images of the VERY SAME INDIVIDUAL.  Think of a jump rope, with identical handles on either end.  Envision matching bookends, with correspondingly identical books arranged between them by twos.  One matching book on one end matches the other matching book at the other end, and so on, until you reach the two matching books in the middle, standing next to each other. 
Look at your own image in a mirror.  Your matching ears are on the opposite sides of your face, with your matching eyes and matching cheeks next, and your nose with its matching nostrils in the middle.  Further down your body, you have matching little fingers at opposite sides of your matching hands, working their matching ways through your other fingers to your thumbs, bordering matching wrists, forearms, elbows, upper arms, shoulders, and matching sides of your chest in the middle.  Likewise, your little toes to big toes, calves, knees, thighs, hips, to your navel.  The biological world, from bats to birds to butterflies, from rhinos to scorpions, continues the pattern.  This mirror image arrangement has fascinated humans for thousands of years.  Today, we call a word, such as “rotor” that has its letters arranged in mirror image (spelled the same way, backwards and forwards) a palindrome.  Just two months ago (on February 2nd, 2020) we experienced a date that is symbolized as a palindrome in both American and European dating systems.  In the American system we abbreviate it (by month/day/year) as 02/02/2020.  In the European system we abbreviate it (by day/month/year) as 02/02/2020.   Either way, it is a palindrome, a mirror image.  Now, consider the opening words of the Gospel of John in the Greek:  Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God”).  Notice that the word καὶ (“and”) stands right in the middle.  Then, on either side of καὶ are the words ὁ Λόγος (“the Word”), in mirror image.  Then on either side of ὁ Λόγος are the words ἦν (“was”) in mirror image.  Finally, although not exactly the same words, on the ends are the prepositional phrases Ἐν ἀρχῇ (“in the beginning”) and πρὸς τὸν Θεόν (“with God”).  Scholars agree that John intentionally was writing in mirror image, here.  Jesus used this mirror image construction in Matthew 23:12: “But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  The human mind operates on this mirror-image principle.  The technical or scholarly terms for this phenomenon are “chiasm” or “chiasmus” or “chiastic.”  The first three letters in these words are:  CHI.  Chi is the Greek letter that resembles the English letter X.  It is the first Greek letter in the word Christ, and therefore it became an abbreviation for “Christ” in the word “Christmas/Xmas” (Google: “Stan.Point Merry Xmas Atheists”).  Since the letter Chi (X) is a mirror image with two arrows pointing to each other, it became the symbol for this phenomenon:




“Chiasm was used as a literary device in the ancient world, in Babylonia, Israel, Greece, and Rome. It fell out of use, however, and in modern times the existence of chiasms in ancient literature was only recognized by a few scholars in the 18th and 19th centuries. This changed in the middle of the twentieth century, when Nils Wilhelm Lund wrote Chiasmus in the New Testament. ‘Since these seminal studies the study of New Testament chiasm has blossomed, until today recognition of chiastic structure is common in full-scale commentaries and other scholarly works. The study of Old Testament chiasms has likewise begun to come of age.’”  http://www.conservapedia.com/Chiasmus.



Lund offered a ”chiastic” outline of the Book of Revelation in 1942, but his observations were considered too revolutionary by the herd mentality of Revelation scholarship, at the time.  His chiastic outline of Revelation is reproduced below, courtesy of https://creationconcept.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/on-the-chiastic-structure-of-revelation/.  



According to https://amazingdiscoveries.org/S-deception-Revelation_prophecy_chiasm_eschatological, “Biblical writers and prophets often used forms of poetry to write down their messages from God.”  Chiasm was one of those poetic forms, as I argue in Chapter 5: The Poetics of Revelation from my book Revelation:  The Human Drama.  Greek scholar John Kirby claims that Homer’s two great epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey are written as mirror images of each other.  And I assert that the Book of Revelation is written in mirror image to the rest of the Bible:




“Kirby claims that it is a ‘fact that rhetorically . . . [the] plot-trajectories [of the Iliad and the Odyssey] are mirror-images of one another.’  If Homer could produce works that are mirror-images of one another, then John could produce a work that is the mirror-image of an entire corpus of literature--the Judeo-Christian scriptures.  I believe that this is precisely what John does in Revelation.

     To take the rhetorical device of chiasmus to ‘the end of the line,’ a book may be written that is the mirror image of all previous sacred literature.  If the prior literature details the history of humankind, then John's book might in mirror-image account for the remainder of human history by going back-to-the-future, so to speak:

1.  If Genesis begins with the words, "God created the heavens and the earth," John can close with a description of God's "new heaven" and "new earth" (Revelation 21-22).

2.  If the first human ‘action’ was the anecdote of a ‘fall’ in the battle of woman vs. the serpent, John can penultimately describe the ‘conquest’ of the bride, the ‘new Jerusalem’ over the dragon (Revelation 19-20).

3.  If the second book of the Old Testament, Exodus, describes the ‘plagues’ upon Egypt which propelled Israel to the ‘Promised Land,’ John's antepenultimate act can be the ‘plagues’ upon the ‘land’ (of Israel?) which propelled the Jewish church from Palestine (Revelation 15-18).

4.  If the Jewish prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea) present Israel/Zion as the wife of God who played the ‘harlot’ and who therefore was threatened with ‘divorce,’ John might precede his ‘plagues’ with the telos of this threat--the ‘divorce’ scroll with seven seals, as seen by J. Massyngberde Ford (Revelation 6-11).

5.  If the Gospels present a mortal Jesus who is the servant of God, John might precede his ‘divorce’ of Israel/Zion with a picture of the exaltation of the Lamb in Heaven (Revelation 4-5).

6.  If the church in dispersion (to whom John is writing) was informed largely through the ‘epistles’ of Paul and others, John might begin his book exactly where the church is, with ‘epistles/letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor’ (Revelation 1-3).

     That ‘middle’ section (Revelation 12-14) omitted in the foregoing sequence may give evidence of a somewhat symmetrical form internal to Revelation as well.  It is in this section that John spells out his representative anecdote and builds his two major equational clusters.  I have not attempted to be overly precise in these divisions, but it is fascinating that the structure which falls into place is a ‘seven’ structure, surely a very plausible structure for a man who thinks consistently in terms of the number ‘seven.’  The structure adumbrated is only preliminary, however.  The most compelling argument on its behalf is John's obsession with ‘beginning’ and ‘end.’  God and the Lamb are both referred to as the ‘alpha and omega,’ the ‘first and the last,’ the ‘beginning and the end.’  It is ‘qualitatively’ significant that John ends his book with a ‘new’ creation.  If the ‘end’ is thus a ‘mirror-image’ of the ‘beginning,’ the chiastic impulse must be examined to see if it is operative in Revelation.”



Actually, there are two types of entelechy, each illustrated by two different mythical snake designs.  One is a circular design—the Ouroboros—that has a snake’s head swallowing its tail.
  This is active in Revelation, as we will see in future posts, but not what this post is about.



The second snake is a chiastic snake—the Amphisbaena—that has a snake with a head on both ends of the snake.  This is the mirror-image snake. 
As we look at Revelation, we will see that the two heads are two creations.  Genesis 1-2 is at one end, with the first Creation (Heaven and Earth).  Revelation 21-22 is at the other end with the New Creation (New Heavens and New Earth).  Next, Genesis 3 is at the first end with the Fall of Man because of the Serpent, and his subsequent death.  Revelation 19-20 is at the other end with Man’s conquest over the Serpent/Dragon and regaining eternal life.  Next, the Book of Exodus is at the first end with the Ten Plagues that propelled God’s people from Egypt to the Promised Land.  It is counterbalanced in Revelation 15-18 by the Seven Last Plagues that propelled God’s people out of the Land of Israel.  Next, the Old Testament prophets—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Hosea—predicted that God would divorce Israel.  It is counterbalanced in Revelation 6-11 by the Lamb opening the seven seals (which refers to the Jewish seven-sealed DIVORCE SCROLL) as God progressively divorces Israel, in favor of the Church, the bride of Christ.  Next, moving from the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Gospels at the first end describe Jesus’ existence in his Earthly life.  It is counterbalanced in Revelation 4-5 by the picture of Jesus, now in Heaven, being worshiped, at God’s right hand.  Finally, moving from the age described in the Gospels, the Epistles of Paul and others speak to the churches in the world.  It is counterbalanced in Revelation 2-3 by Jesus sending epistles/letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor. 

This is how you read Revelation through the mirror.  In future posts, we will break down each part of Revelation more thoroughly, but this is the structure you must understand in order to understand Revelation.