Many writers and commentators have noted that the disaster sequences in the book of Revelation associated with the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls have structural parallels. I have previously written that I believe the seals to relate to events contemporaneous with John the Revelator, in particular the pressures of living under occupation. Let me broaden that to include the pressures experienced by ordinary citizens living in a situation dominated by powerful elites (as suggested by Laurie Guy in his ‘Making Sense of Revelation’). And I wrote that the trumpets relate to events around the entry into the Promised Land at the end of the Exodus, events that were described as judging the sinful behaviour of the existing occupants of the Land but which would also have been experienced as challenging by the invading tribes of Israel. And finally, I wrote that the bowls relate to the plagues of Egypt, a judgment on Egypt as an enslaving power but that caught up the slave populace in its embrace as well. In light of this, I suggested that the book of Revelation is a revisiting of Israel’s history, and has as its end-point a re-entry into Eden (now envisioned as a heavenly city). But I don’t want to suggest that there is a linear timeline that unfolds on this journey. Rather, as we await the revealing of the kingdom of God – the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven – then the people of the Lamb should anticipate encountering any of these catastrophes. But, as the people of the Lamb, these difficulties that so often caught up Israel in their embrace will not destroy us. Instead, we will conquer through the word of our testimony, and by the blood of the Lamb, and by not clinging to life in the face of death (Rev. 12: 11). And the final result is the kingdom established in the new Jerusalem to the point that it comes down out of heaven for the healing of the rest of creation.
One of the structural parallels that links the seals and trumpets is the pattern of four plus two, with an interlude and then another one. That is, an interlude occurs after the first six. Then the seventh is enacted. In the case of the seals, the seventh seal is followed by silence in heaven for half an hour. Similarly, six trumpets are sounded, and then an interlude takes place before the seventh trumpet is sounded. I believe that this pattern of four plus two (six), and then a final one is not just a stylistic feature of Revelation. I believe that the creation story in Genesis 1 and the first few verses of Genesis 2 also exhibits a four (inanimate creation as well as plant life) plus two (animate creation, with a suggestion of sentience?) aspect in the first six days of creation, followed by God resting on the seventh day. If John the Revelator has indeed drawn on the creation story as a model with which to structure his judgment sequences, then perhaps the judgments associated with the seals, the trumpets, and the bowls should be interpreted as re-creative events that have as a goal the restoration and healing of God’s good creation through purgation of evil.
This pattern of six plus one has, of course, been noted and used by others. In particular, Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote his famous Tractacus Logico-Philosophicus with seven chapters, the seventh stating – in clear resonance with the creation story – Whereof one cannot speak one must be silent. I question whether Wittgenstein, a Jewish philosopher, was influenced by the silence in heaven of Revelation 8:1. I do believe he was influenced by Genesis 2: 1 – 4. Interestingly, C.S. Lewis inserts an half hour silence into ‘The Horse and His Boy,’ a major theme of which is a return from exile. I believe that the Narnia books are strongly influenced by the book of Revelation. In this instance, I reckon that ‘The Horse and His Boy’ is Lewis’ fantasy treatment of the seals of Revelation, even if seals are only mentioned once in the book itself.
Filed under: apocalyptic, Genesis, John the Revelator, Revelation, sequences, Uncategorized | Tagged: bowls, C.S. Lewis, four plus two plus one, healing creation, Ludwig Wittgenstein, seals, sequences, silence, silence in heaven, trumpets | Comments Off on Sequential links: Revelation and Genesis