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Basic Visions of the Book of Revelation - Keneth Strand

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The book of Revelation is a remarkably well-constructed literary piece, containing a mu1tiplicity of neatly intertwining patterns. Such patterns are more than simply demonstrations of aesthetic taste and compositional skill, and they also transcend the useful purpose of serving as mnemonic devices. Indeed, in a forth- right and forceful way they highlight various aspects of the book's theological message.
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  Andrews University Seminary Studies Spring 1987 Vol. 25 No. 1 107-121. Copyright 1987 by Andrews University Press. THE EIGHT BASIC VISIONS IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION KENNETH A. STRAND Andrews University The book of Revelation is a remarkably well-constructed literary piece, containing a mu1 iplici ty of neatly intertwining patterns. Such patterns are more than simply demonstrations of aesthetic taste and compositional skill, and they also transcend the useful purpose of serving as mnemonic devices. Indeed, in a forth- right and forceful way they highlight various aspects of the book s theological message. In broadest scope, the entire Apocalypse is structured into an overall chiastic pattern in which prologue and epilogue are counterparts and in which the intervening major prophetic se- quences or visions are also paired in a chiastic or inverse order. This broad chiastic structure and its significance I have treated on several previous occasions,l and they need no further elaboration for our purposes here, except to notice two specific features: (1) Aside from the prologue and epilogue, there are eight major prophetic sequences-four that precede and four that follow a line drawn between chaps. 14 and 15 2) The visions preceding the chiastic dividing line have basically an historical perspective (that is, they relate to the Christian era), and the visions after the chiastic dividing line depict the eschatological-judgment era. With respect to the first item above, it should be emphasized that there are indeed eight major prophetic sequences in the lE.g. editions of The Ofien Gates of Heaven (Ann Arbor, MI 1969 and 1972) and of its successor, Interfireting the Book of Revelation (Worthington, OH 1976, and Naples, FL 1979); also Apocalyptic Prophecy and the Church, Part I in Ministry October 1983, pp. 22-23. See especially the discussion in Interpreting pp. 43-51 and the diagram on p. 52. The exact divisions between blocs of text in the Apocalypse have in several instances been modified slightly in the present article from the way they have been given in earlier publications.  I PROLOGUE 8:2-11:18 11819-14r20 Trumpet Evil Powers Warnings Opposing Cod and His (7 Trumpet.) Saintr 15:l-16;17 Bowl Plagues (The 7 Lao Plagues ) 16:18-18:24 Evil Powere Judged by Cod VII r VIII 19:l-2134 EPILOGUE Cod 8 1:5-22:s Judgment Finale Christ's 2d Advent, the Millennium, the White- Throne Church ( New Heaven and New Earth ; Holy City, Jerusalem DIAGRAM 1 THE CHIASTIC STRUCTURE OF THE BOOK OF REVELATION  B SIC VISIONS IN THE BOOK OF REVEL TION 109 Apocalypse, not seven, as various interpreters have assumed.* Con- cerning the second item, several qualifications should be noted: In the second through fourth visions, each historical sequence con- cludes with a section that portrays the time of eschatological judgment; and in the subsequent visions, which in their essence furnish an enlargement on that eschatological-judgment era, there are two kinds of material that pertain to the historical era- explanations (which must obviously be made in terms of the prophet's own perspective in history); and exhortations or appeals (which have value only prior to the eschatological judgment and which would, of course, be meaningless at the time of the final eschatological judgment itself . These qualifications concerning exceptions to the main thrust or coverage of the visions on each side of the chiastic dividing line should not, however, be con- sidered as crossover'' materials. These data are important parts of their own sequences, are in proper position as they stand, and speak significantly to the contexts in which they are found. More- over, they are discrete and meaningful units as to nature, place- ment, and/or purpose, within their own specific visions. For convenience, the comprehensive chiastic structure of Reve- lation into prologue, epilogue, and eight visions is set forth in outline form in Diagram 1, which includes also my suggestions as to the textual boundaries and general topics of the various visions. In this diagram and throughout the remainder of the discussion in this article, the term visions will refer to these eight complete prophetic sequences, not to individual visionary experiences of lesser extent. Also, Roman numerals will be used to identify the visions in sequence. The present study has two main purposes, and the data per- taining to each of these will be presented in separate articles: First, the present essay analyzes. briefly some parallel patterns in the ?Such interpreters have apparently drawn the conclusion that because seven is a significant number symbol in Revelation-occurring, for instance, in four explicit septets: the churches, seals, trumpets, and bowls-there is also supposed to be a total of seven basic visions. For examples of the seven-vision approach, see Ernst Lohmeyer, Die Offenbarung des Johannes (Tiibingen, 1926); John Wick Bowman, The Drama of the ook of Reuelation (Philadelphia, 1955) and Revelation in ZD 4:64-65; and Thomas S. Kepler, The ook of Revelation (New York, 1957). Loh- meyer and Bowman find septets, as well, within all of their seven major visions, though they lack agreement even as to these seven visions themselves. Kepler, on the other hand, finds only a total of ten subsections (called scenes ) within his seven major visions (major visions whose textual boundaries vary only slightly from the seven major visions outlined by Bowman).  DIAGRAM 2 VICTORIOUS- INTRODUCTION SCENE INTERLUDE ICTORIOUS- INTRODUCTION SCENE BASIC PROPHETIC DESCRIPTION ESCHATOLOGICAL CULMINATION BASIC PROPHETIC DESCRIPTION PARALLELING STRUCTURES IN REVELATION S EIGHT MAJOR VISIONS VICTORIOUS- VICTORIOUS- INTRODUCTION INTRODUCTIO SCENE SCENE BASIC BASIC INTERLUDE INTERLUDE :SCHATOLOGICAL ESCHATOLOGICAI CULMINATION CULMINATION V VICTORIOUS- INTRODUCTION SCENE BASIC PROPHETIC DESCRIPTION INTERLUDE :SCHATOLOCICAL CULMINATION VICTORIOUS- INTRODUCTION SCENE BASIC PROPHETIC DESCRIPTION INTERLUDE ESCIUTOLOCICAL CULMINATION VICTORIOUS- INTRODUCTIOB SCENE BASIC PROPHETIC DESCRIPTION INTERLUDE SCHATOLOCICAI CULMINATION V VICTORIOUS- INTRODUCTION SCENE BASIC PROPHETIC DESCRIPTION
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