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Re: [revelation-list] Comparing two scenes of heaven

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  • George F Somsel
    Actually, there is only one description of heaven in the Apocalypse which is that in chapter 4.  The description of the New Jerusalem is a description of the
    Message 1 of 7 , Apr 28, 2011
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      Actually, there is only one description of heaven in the Apocalypse which is
      that in chapter 4.  The description of the New Jerusalem is a description of the
      prototype of the Church which is continually "coming down from God out of
      heaven" and is never actually on earth.  There is actually quite a lot going on
      in chapter 4 if you know how to read it.  At the very beginning of the book
      "John" tells us that God / Jesus "signified" or "signed" the message.  That is
      to say that the descriptions we read are not simply those that some modern
      author might make in the course of telling the tale.  The descriptions
      rather ARE the tale.  The Apocalypse might be called a picture book.  Attention
      must be paid to each and every detail described if one is to understand what is
      being conveyed. 


      I'll begin with your "little door."  This is not simply an entrance into the
      heavenly throne room but is a part of the structure of the universe
      itself.  First of all, let us note that the word "door" here is a catch-phrase
      to tie chapter 4 to what has preceeded at the end of chapter 3 where Christ, the
      exalted ruler of the Church is pictured as standing outside the door of the
      Church and seeking entrance. The door is also somewhat reminiscent of the
      "windows of heaven" which are opened in the Flood Narrative.  Once it is noted
      that chapter 4 is securely tied to chapter 3, one notices another feature of the
      description in chapter 4.  That is the "Sea of Crystal" which stands before the
      throne.  The Sea of Crystal is "John's" designation for the "firmament" which
      forms a part of the creation of the world.  It is that which separates the
      waters which are above the firmament from those which are beneath the
      firmament.  Then there is the matter of the rainbow which is around the head of
      "the one seated on the throne."  This recalls the "bow" which God set in the
      heaven following the Flood as a sign of God's promise that he would never again
      destroy the earth with a flood.  In the Flood Narrative the bow is God's hunting
      or war bow while here it is signified in a less martial manner as the common
      rainbow (which the bow represented in the first place).  Note that all of these
      symbols place us firmly at the very beginning. 


      The thunders and lightnings which you mention are the standard depictions of the
      divine coming.  We shall see them mentioned again later in the book.  The
      meterological phenomena serve to announce the presence and the action of God.

      One of the main features of the scene is the Seven-Sealed Book which is in the
      hand of "the one seated on the throne."  This is a "modern" depiction of
      the Tablets of Destiny which were a part of the narrative of the Babylonian
      New Year's festival.  These contain the fate of the entire world throughout its
      history which then begins to unfold as the seals are opened.  Many, indeed most,
      understand this to be a scroll, but I think it possible that what we have is an
      early description of a codex.  Only a codex could reveal a part of its
      contents due to the fact that pages in the codex can be opened while other
      sections can remain sealed -- this is not true of a scroll.  The Church adopted
      the codex form quite early.   

      Much more could be said regarding the divine throne room and the things depicted
      there, and sometime it will be appropriate to


      "To talk of many things:
      Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
      Of cabbages--and kings"

      For now, however, I will conclude.

       george
      gfsomsel


      … search for truth, hear truth,
      learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
      defend the truth till death.


      - Jan Hus
      _________




      ________________________________
      From: David Brubaker <dave@...>
      To: revelation-list@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Wed, April 27, 2011 5:16:11 PM
      Subject: [revelation-list] Comparing two scenes of heaven

       
      I've never seen or heard any discussion of this topic, and I wonder if
      the more knowledgeable people here on this list know, or have
      opinions, about it. Also, do any of the standard interpretations say
      anything about it?

      There are two extended descriptions of heaven in Revelation, besides a
      number of brief glimpses throughout the story. The first scene
      (chapter 4) is at the beginning of the main part of the story and the
      other scene (new Jerusalem) is at the end. What interests me about
      them is that the two scenes are completely different, almost opposites
      in some ways. Even God is completely different in the two descriptions.

      Here are some of the differences:

      Ch4: God sits anthropomorphically and localized on His throne in the
      sky, alone, aloof, and separated from people. Only a few elders and
      some strange creatures are in the same room with Him.
      NewJ: God is omnipresent, providing light to the entire city, and He
      dwells with multitudes of His people down here on earth.

      Ch4: Out of God's throne come thunder, lightning, and voices. God is
      powerful and awesome, but in potentially dangerous and fearsome ways.
      NewJ: Out of God's throne comes a river of water of life. Quite a
      difference. God is powerful and awesome in loving and nurturing ways.

      Ch4: God doesn't do a single thing except sit on His throne. He
      doesn't even acknowledge those who worship Him continuously, day and
      night, forever. He is completely uninvolved with people until, as the
      story transitions to the next episode (opening the seals), He
      unleashes all sorts of havoc on earth.
      NewJ: God is deeply, closely, and lovingly involved with His people,
      providing all sorts of benefits. He dwells with His people and they
      see His face.

      Ch4: God's home seems to be small, like a room or a house, because
      John enters it through a door (4:1). It is also up in the sky.
      NewJ: God's home is a gigantic city, 1500 miles long, wide, and high.
      Instead of a door, it has twelve city gates and twelve foundations. It
      is down here on earth.

      Ch4: This heaven seems rather barren and stark. There's nothing there
      but thrones, crowns, some lamps, a door, and a sea of glass.
      NewJ: New Jerusalem is rich, beautiful, and opulent with streets of
      gold, adornment of all sorts of precious stones, the tree of life
      yielding fruits and healing leaves alongside the river of water of life.

      Ch4: A sea of glass is before the throne. John doesn't tell us any
      more about the sea of glass or its function, but it seems to be a sort
      of buffer zone or barrier between God's throne and any people there.
      NewJ: There is no sea of glass here. Conceivably, the statement "There
      was no more sea" (21:1) could be a cryptic and ambiguous way of
      pointing out the absence of the sea of glass, rather than the usual
      understanding that there is no normal sea. (That would make people
      happy who lament the lack of salmon, sushi, and surfing in heaven
      because of the absence of a sea.)

      It would be reasonable at first glance to think that all these
      differences are simply because God changes everything at the end.
      However, many of the changes from Ch4 to NewJ happen gradually and
      stepwise throughout the rest of the story, not at the end. Here are a
      couple examples:

      In Ch4, thunder, lightning, and voices come out of God's throne; in
      NewJ, the river of water of life comes out of the throne. In a brief
      scene midway in the story (14:2), John hears "a voice from heaven, as
      the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder." The
      voice of thunder is a sound from the Ch4 heaven, and the voice of many
      waters seems to be the sound of the river of water of life from NewJ.
      The voice of many waters also refers to the opening vision of the Son
      of Man in 1:15, but since Jesus is closely associated with living
      water and water of life, this is an additional connection to the river
      of water of life. So, at this point midway in the story, John hears a
      mixture of sounds from Ch4 and from NewJ, indicating a gradual or
      stepwise change.

      There is a whole sequence of changes in the lists that include thunder
      and lightning. 4:5 has thunder, lightning, and voices. 8:5 (the
      seventh seal) adds an earthquake to the list and changes voices to
      noises. 11:19 adds hail to the list. 16:18 makes the earthquake the
      greatest earthquake ever and 16:21 seems to make the hail even greater
      than the previous hail. However, it isn't obvious how this sequence
      then leads to the river of water of life.

      Another transitional element: In Ch4 there is the sea of glass
      separating people from God, and there is no sea of glass in NewJ. In a
      brief, odd scene (15:2-4) in the middle of the story, people are
      standing on a sea of glass, mingled with fire. The story doesn't say
      that this is the same sea of glass as in Ch4, but where else have you
      ever heard of a sea of glass? These people seem to me to be crossing
      the sea of glass to get closer to God; when they get across it, then
      there is no more sea of glass separating them from God.

      One more side point about the sea of glass: Could it be a divided and
      very subtle Biblical allusion? In Ch4, John sees across the sea of
      glass to God and His throne ("Now we see through a glass, darkly...")
      and in NewJ people see His face ("but then face to face").

      So, what do you all think? Has all this been examined and explained
      and I just didn't get the memo? Does it mean anything at all? I have
      my ideas about it all and have written some about it, but I kind of
      want to see what you have to say.

      David Brubaker




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    • e_s_c_h_a_t_o_n
      I think you make some very valid observations about the the heavenly temple and the New Jerusalem. Of course the New Jerusalem is seen coming down to earth in
      Message 2 of 7 , Apr 28, 2011
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        I think you make some very valid observations about the the heavenly temple and the New Jerusalem. Of course the New Jerusalem is seen coming down to earth in ch. 21, and is correctly understood as the church I believe.

        I think mentions of a heavenly temple, messenger, or vision can be seen as the beginning of a section in Revelation. The sequence proceeds chiastically and then closes with some of the same symbols we saw near the heavenly temple. That's what you point out with some of the same symbols in the NJ that we found in the heavenly temple. We can follow that pattern to make an outline of Revelation.

        The pattern is very similar to what we find in the first three chapters of Genesis. First we have seven days, and then we have a reverse pattern in the Garden of Eden. The animals are created on the fifth day, man on the sixth and God rests. Then man is placed in the Garden, he names the animals, etc. See the Hexameron by Anastasius of Sinacticus for more explanations.

        In Genesis we have the sequence of seven first, and then the Garden of Eden which corresponds to the temple/tabernacle. In Revelation we have the temple and then the sequence of seven.

        Alan Fuller
        http://www.lulu.com/arfuller


        --- In revelation-list@yahoogroups.com, David Brubaker <dave@...> wrote:
        >
        > I've never seen or heard any discussion of this topic, and I wonder if
        > the more knowledgeable people here on this list know, or have
        > opinions, about it. Also, do any of the standard interpretations say
        > anything about it?
        >
        > There are two extended descriptions of heaven in Revelation, besides a
        > number of brief glimpses throughout the story. The first scene
        > (chapter 4) is at the beginning of the main part of the story and the
        > other scene (new Jerusalem) is at the end. What interests me about
        > them is that the two scenes are completely different, almost opposites
        > in some ways. Even God is completely different in the two descriptions.
        >
      • David Brubaker
        ... I m going to have to take a closer look at Ressequie. Your article sounds interesting and rather unique too. Here are a few more observations about the
        Message 3 of 7 , May 2, 2011
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          Quoting Jon Newton <jonknewton@...>:

          >
          > What stands out in our comment was the narrative structure in Rev,
          > which is still being unpacked by scholars, e.g. Resseguie, see also
          > my article "Reading Revelation Romantically" in JPT 2009

          I'm going to have to take a closer look at Ressequie. Your article
          sounds interesting and rather unique too.

          Here are a few more observations about the narrative structure:

          The "story" aspect appears in several ways in the series of series of
          plagues (seals, trumpets, bowls) on the earth, in ways that both move
          the story along progressively and tie it together coherently with
          common elements.

          For instance, there is the increasing resemblance of the Revelation
          plagues to the plagues sent upon Egypt in Exodus leading up to the
          release of the children of Israel. The seals bear virtually no
          resemblance to the Exodus plagues, some of the trumpets bear
          significant resemblance, and many of the bowls bear even stronger
          resemblance.

          But there is another connection to the Exodus plagues that I don't
          often hear discussed. That is the parallel in the story structure
          itself--in Exodus, the plagues come one right after another until the
          next-to-last of the series is finished. Then between the next-to-last
          and last plagues, there is a sort of interlude when God gives
          instructions to Moses on how to prepare the people for the last plague
          so that they will be saved from it in the original Passover. Then
          comes the final plague. A similar story structure appears in the seals
          and the trumpets--all but one plague in the series occurs, then there
          is an interlude, and then the final plague of the series comes. Even
          the series of series follows that pattern--all but one of the series
          (seals and trumpets) happens, then there is a long interlude
          (12:1-14:20) before the final series (bowls). Of all the series of
          plagues and series of series of plagues, only the final bowls series
          does not have the characteristic Exodus-like interlude before its last
          plague.

          Another progression in the story as well as a tying-together factor is
          the sequence of what the Revelation story says about the wrath of God
          and the Lamb through these series. In the seals, the wrath of God is
          present but not explained in the text. "The great day of their wrath
          has come" (6:17) but Revelation doesn't tell us any reason for God's
          anger. We can make the natural assumption that it is because of sin,
          but it may be useful to note that there is no mention of sin, the law,
          or repentance in the whole seals section of the story, including the
          seals themselves and the interlude before the last seal.

          Then in the trumpets, Revelation says explicitly that God's wrath is
          about lack of repentance for sin. 9:20-21 lists a number of kinds of
          sin for which people have failed to repent.

          Finally, in the bowls "the wrath of God is ended" (15:1). Interesting
          sequence about wrath--no reason is stated for wrath, wrath is a result
          of unrepentant sin, wrath is ended.

          David Brubaker
        • e_s_c_h_a_t_o_n
          It appears to me that the wrath is for the whoredom of Babylon (Rev 16:19, 17:1, 18:3,) and in other places persecution of the saints (6:10, 20:4). Alan Fuller
          Message 4 of 7 , May 3, 2011
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            It appears to me that the wrath is for the whoredom of Babylon (Rev 16:19, 17:1, 18:3,) and in other places persecution of the saints (6:10, 20:4).


            Alan Fuller
            http://www.lulu.com/arfuller

            --- In revelation-list@yahoogroups.com, David Brubaker <dave@...>
            > Finally, in the bowls "the wrath of God is ended" (15:1). Interesting
            > sequence about wrath--no reason is stated for wrath, wrath is a result
            > of unrepentant sin, wrath is ended.
            >
            > David Brubaker
            >
          • Jon Newton
            Good insights, David Resseguie, I and others see a more conventional plot in the narrative of Revelation. In my article, I see it building up to a climax
            Message 5 of 7 , May 4, 2011
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              Good insights, David

              Resseguie, I and others see a more conventional "plot" in the narrative of Revelation.

              In my article, I see it building up to a climax like a play or novel, which ends with a wedding (hence my attention to the romance element)


              (Dr) Jon Newton


              --- On Tue, 3/5/11, David Brubaker <dave@...> wrote:

              From: David Brubaker <dave@...>
              Subject: Re: [revelation-list] Comparing two scenes of heaven
              To: revelation-list@yahoogroups.com
              Received: Tuesday, 3 May, 2011, 2:03 PM







               









              Quoting Jon Newton <jonknewton@...>:



              >

              > What stands out in our comment was the narrative structure in Rev,

              > which is still being unpacked by scholars, e.g. Resseguie, see also

              > my article "Reading Revelation Romantically" in JPT 2009



              I'm going to have to take a closer look at Ressequie. Your article

              sounds interesting and rather unique too.



              Here are a few more observations about the narrative structure:



              The "story" aspect appears in several ways in the series of series of

              plagues (seals, trumpets, bowls) on the earth, in ways that both move

              the story along progressively and tie it together coherently with

              common elements.



              For instance, there is the increasing resemblance of the Revelation

              plagues to the plagues sent upon Egypt in Exodus leading up to the

              release of the children of Israel. The seals bear virtually no

              resemblance to the Exodus plagues, some of the trumpets bear

              significant resemblance, and many of the bowls bear even stronger

              resemblance.



              But there is another connection to the Exodus plagues that I don't

              often hear discussed. That is the parallel in the story structure

              itself--in Exodus, the plagues come one right after another until the

              next-to-last of the series is finished. Then between the next-to-last

              and last plagues, there is a sort of interlude when God gives

              instructions to Moses on how to prepare the people for the last plague

              so that they will be saved from it in the original Passover. Then

              comes the final plague. A similar story structure appears in the seals

              and the trumpets--all but one plague in the series occurs, then there

              is an interlude, and then the final plague of the series comes. Even

              the series of series follows that pattern--all but one of the series

              (seals and trumpets) happens, then there is a long interlude

              (12:1-14:20) before the final series (bowls). Of all the series of

              plagues and series of series of plagues, only the final bowls series

              does not have the characteristic Exodus-like interlude before its last

              plague.



              Another progression in the story as well as a tying-together factor is

              the sequence of what the Revelation story says about the wrath of God

              and the Lamb through these series. In the seals, the wrath of God is

              present but not explained in the text. "The great day of their wrath

              has come" (6:17) but Revelation doesn't tell us any reason for God's

              anger. We can make the natural assumption that it is because of sin,

              but it may be useful to note that there is no mention of sin, the law,

              or repentance in the whole seals section of the story, including the

              seals themselves and the interlude before the last seal.



              Then in the trumpets, Revelation says explicitly that God's wrath is

              about lack of repentance for sin. 9:20-21 lists a number of kinds of

              sin for which people have failed to repent.



              Finally, in the bowls "the wrath of God is ended" (15:1). Interesting

              sequence about wrath--no reason is stated for wrath, wrath is a result

              of unrepentant sin, wrath is ended.



              David Brubaker






















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