Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cosmic Christmas - Part One (Revelation 12): The When?

When you think of Christmas, I am sure that you think about blood red dragons that eat infants, right? Or maybe you think about the earth opening up and swallowing Satan’s vomit. How about a serpent being thrown out of heaven and never being allowed to return? I am sure you think about these things rather than mundane things like Christmas trees, Santa Clause, and stockings hung with by the chimney with care.

If you don’t think about dragons and serpents, maybe you should. I believe that Revelation 12 is an artfully crafted masterpiece that captures the essence of Christmas almost better than any text in the entire Bible. So, over the next few weeks, I want to explore it. Take a look at the who, what, when, where, and why of Revelation 12, and at the same time focus on the true meaning of the Christmas season.

For now, let’s just orient ourselves into this part of Revelation and the general picture of what is going on. The chronology of the book of Revelation is hotly contested like just about everything related to this wonderful book. I will dive into this topic deeper at a later date, but a cursory explanation is needed right now. The book starts off with a prologue focusing on Jesus himself walking among the seven churches (1). This chapter introduces us to the main character and explains to us that it is Christ who commissions John to write down his visions and impressions. From there we move into seven letters from the risen Lord to seven literal churches of the first century (2-3). After that the cosmic drama begins. We first get a glimpse into the very throne room of God, where the Father is being worshipped and we learn that all of things about to be recounted are under his sovereign control (4). Then, Jesus steps forward and we learn that he is the only one who is worthy to set the end time events in motion. It is here that he begins to open the seven-sealed scroll (5). This begins three sets of seven judgments. The first set is called the seal judgments (6).

After we learn about this series of afflictions, we have our first pause in the chronology, often called an interlude (7). Here, we are introduced to the 144,000. They are set apart and sealed before the judgments even begin. Therefore, this event must take place before the seal judgments begin. Also, at the end of this interlude we see the immeasurable multitude in heaven after the completion of the time of tribulation. This must take place after the subsequent series of judgments that are still to come. So, the chronology is interrupted. That leads us to an important question. How many times in the book does this happen? If we can agree on a few of these interludes, what about others that we don’t agree on? This is something we will explore later.

After this first interlude, we return to our chronological sequence. We see a list of the trumpet judgments which end up being worse than the seals before them (8-9). Then we meet our second interlude (10-11). An angelic Paul Bunyan appears and gives John a scroll and asks him to eat it. First, it is sweet, but then it turns bitter in John’s stomach. This scroll contains the account of the witnesses, their ministry, death, and resurrection. Now, however you view these witnesses, it is generally agreed that the start of their ministry is at the beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel. In other words, their protection described in chapter 11 begins before the seal judgments begin. So, we see another break in chronology from the three series of judgments.

Let’s skip ahead to where we are sure that the chronology picks up again. That is with the seven bowl judgments in chapters 15 and 16. That leads us back to our initial question. Where does chapter 12 fit in the chronology? In my opinion, which you will quickly see in the following month, chapters 12-14 form a third interlude. The beginning of chapter 12 goes back to before the coming of Christ and this break extends to chapter 14 which takes us all the way to final judgment. So, that is how I view chapter 12, as a break from the basic chronology of Revelation and as a bird’s eye view of salvation history.

Now, we are ready to take a look at this complicated, but beautiful chapter of Scripture. Over the next week I want to look at the “Who?” We will focus on the pregnant woman, the dragon, and the child, and see if we can determine with certain who these characters are, and why we are introduced to them.

1 comment:

  1. I'm right there with you my friend. Interesting.