Structure of Revelation -- A Preview
Part 2 -- Parallelism in Revelation
Structure of Revelation -- A Preview
By Graham Dull
Parallelism in Revelation
John uses parallelism throughout Revelation.
- He uses it frequently.
- He uses it at different literary levels.
- He uses it to structurally divide the narrative.
- He uses it to provide clear meaning to otherwise ambiguous passages -- the second instance of the parallel amplifies the first.
In seeking to understand John's use of parallels, we need to start with those which define the major divisions of the book.
At the very start of the essay, I have already presented a summary of the major sections which structurally divide the book.
The Major Structural Divisions of Revelation are defined by these four pairs --
- The Prologue/Epilogue
- The 'In the Spirit' Parallel Sections
- The 'Carried me away in the Spirit' Parallel Sections
- The two Judgement Scenes
I will steadily work through these 'upper level' parallels which clearly define the structure of the book. Note that I will only give (in this article) the most important structural parallels -- there will be still many more to come.
To define the Prologue/Epilogue seems a good place to start.
Rev 1:1a and 22:6b provide a structural parallel, and these verses define the beginning of both the Prologue and the Epilogue.
"The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place."
"The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place."
In the verses above, I have highlighted in italics the parallelism.
Five aspects are immediately clear in the parallelism. (1) God, (2) his messenger, (3) the act of showing, (4) his servants, and (5) the things that must soon take place.
The key thought is this --
- God gave / him (Jesus) / to show / his servants / what must soon take place (1:1a)
- God sent / his angel / to show / his servants / the things that must soon take place (22:6b)
Because of this parallel, we can confidently determine the beginning of both the Prologue and Epilogue.
At a future time, there is a lot more which I have to share regarding this particular parallelism. It is sufficient to mention at this point that 'further parallels' exist between (1:1a and 1:1b), between (1:1b and 22:16a), and between (22:6b and 22:16a). And I make further mention of these at the conclusion of the article.
Here is a question for another day
Who is the Angel of Revelation 1:1? What is his name?
By pairing and comparing this set of parallels, we can discover the name of the angel who is the 'chief messenger' of Revelation.
First Parallel (1:1a/22:6b), Second (1:1a/1:1b), Third (1:1b/22:16a), Fourth (22:6b/22:16a)
These parallels plus the chiasm of Revelation 1:1, 2 enable us to identify the Angel.
UPDATE -- The article has now been written -- Select the link below to learn his identity.
The '1:1a/22:6 Parallel' defines the beginning of both the Prologue and the Epilogue.
The 'In the Spirit' Parallel Sections
The commencement of the First and Second 'In the Spirit' Sections is defined by the '1:10/4:2 Parallel.'
"I was in the Spirit"
"I was in the Spirit"
The parallel is clear. On both occasions John was in the Spirit.
First Section (1:9--3:22)
The First Section begins at Rev 1:9 -- and just one sentence into the narrative -- John announces, "I was in the Spirit." This phrase is the literary clue that John employs to show that a new Section has begun.
In Rev 1:10, John stated that he was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and the glorified Christ appeared to him. John clearly knew who it was because Christ identified himself with the following words. He said, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!" (1:18)
Following Jesus self-introduction, he then gives John the messages to the seven churches.
The Section concludes following the message given to the last of the seven churches -- Laodicea. This clearly is a fitting and appropriate place to divide the narrative. The First 'In the Spirit' Section is complete.
It is defined as Revelation 1:9--3:22.
Second Section (4:1 - 16:21)
Following the messages to the churches, the narrative continues --
Rev 4:1, 2
"After this I looked... At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it."
"I was in the Spirit" (4:2) is the Parallel Phrase to Rev 1:10. This phrase is associated with the transition of the vision on earth (concerning the seven churches) to the vision in heaven (concerning the throne of God, and subsequently, how God and his agents are working for the redemption of mankind).
While the words, "I was in the Spirit," are not quite the very first words of either introduction, they are markers that John has used to indicate that a transition has taken place. Notice below, how both parallels occur just a short way into the narrative.
The First Section begins --
Rev 1:9, 10
"I, John, your brother and companion... On the Lord 's Day I was in the Spirit."
The Second begins --
Rev 4:1, 2
"After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven... At once I was in the Spirit."
The '1:10/4:2 Parallel' defines the beginning of both the First and Second 'In the Spirit' Sections.
The 'Carried me away in the Spirit' Parallel Sections
Another parallel defines the commencement of the 'Carried me away in the Spirit' Sections. It is the '17:3/21:10 Parallel.'
"carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness."
"carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high."
On both occasions, John was carried away in the Spirit.
In the first instance, he was carried into a wilderness to view the demise and destruction of wickedness and the wicked. The wilderness appears to be an extremely appropriate backdrop for such an event.
In the second, he was carried to a great, high mountain where he views the eternal kingdom of God, and the glorious righteousness of those who dwell there. The grandeur of the mountaintop compliments the greatness of the kingdom.
Here the contrasting parallelism is the downfall of the wicked compared to the glorious eternal kingdom of God for the redeemed? What could provide more of a contrast?
Parallel 17:3/21:10 introduces the 'Carried me away in the Spirit' Sections.
Here is a summary of the "in the Spirit" Parallels
(1:10) "I was in the Spirit"
(4:2) "I was in the Spirit"
(17:3) "carried me away in the Spirit"
(21:10) "carried me away in the Spirit"
Additional Parallels introducing the 'Carried me away in the Spirit' Sections
Further parallels also help to define the introductions of the 'Carried me away in the Spirit' Sections. These reinforce and reaffirm that the "in the Spirit' parallels are indeed major markers within the book.
I list them below.
"One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls/ came and said to me..."
"One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls/ full of the seven last plagues/ came and said to me..."
Also 'Parallel 17:1b/21:9b'
"Come I will show you/ the punishment of the great prostitute."
"Come I will show you/ the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
Again, 'Parallel 17:5/21:10'
"Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes"
"the Holy City, Jerusalem"
The above parallels firstly introduce the angel/s who's talking with John. On both occasions, he was 'One of the seven who had the seven bowls.'
They identify two women -- one a prostitute, the other a bride. They identify the two backdrops to which John is carried, one being a wilderness, the other a great high mountain. They name the two cities -- Babylon and Jerusalem.
They contrast the adultery of Babylon with the holiness of Jerusalem.
- There are two districts -- one a wilderness, the other a great high mountain.
- There are two women -- one corrupt, the other pure.
- There are two cities -- one to be destroyed, the other eternal.
I have not yet included the two Judgement Scenes. I will include these in due course.
The First (19:11--20:10) is the 'White horse Judgement' and it is introduced with the expression 'white horse' (19:11).
The Second (20:11--21:8) is the 'White throne Judgement' and it is introduced with the words 'white throne' (20:11).