Apocalypse2: The Book of the Apocalypse to John

With the Last Vision, now that apocalyptic last battles have been fought, the many “nasty” and “uncomfortable” parts of the apocalyptic process have come to an end. In a new heaven and a new earth, presented in the picture of the “Wife of the Lamb”, the holy city, New Jerusalem, has come down out of heaven, from God. “It is done” once more sounds from the throne (21:6), from Him who is Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. And once more one of the seven angels of the bowls of wrath carries John away “in the Spirit”, to show him this city in which the Lamb will dwell with the Lord God Almighty: temple and lamp for the light of God. Here, the Tree of Life has its place on either side of the river flowing through the city, its wall measured after a man’s measure, that is, an angel’s.

As already mentioned, the Conclusion in many ways mirrors the Introduction to the book (also see “The Writer”, according to Note 2 here).

Let’s now look some more at the “apocalyptic process” in those visions.

[1st Throne Vision, 4:1-7:8] The first four of the seven seals, opened one after the other, have a terrestrial impact, with consequences for the earth and its inhabitants. The fifth seal is rather “earthly”, in the picture of souls cowering under the altar who have not come to terms with their destiny on earth; but they are given white robes and told to “rest a little longer” (6:11). With the sixth seal, sun, moon and stars become more active – and on earth people sense where the wrath they endure is coming from: originating from the One sitting on the throne and from the Lamb (6:16). The servants of God are to be sealed upon their foreheads, to the number of 144,000 – twelve times twelve thousand (7:1ff), before with the opening of the seventh seal “the earth or the sea or the trees” will be harmed further (7:3).

[2nd Throne Vision, 7:9-11:14] Earlier, the picture of the “slain” souls “under the altar” (in the fifth seal) called up the image of the “outer” altar, the altar of sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple. Now, when the great multitude is standing before the throne and before the Lamb, with the “golden altar” we are brought into the Temple proper with its “inner altar” on which fragrant incense is burnt (8:1ff). With the seventh seal, this inner temple room is opened, and fire from the altar thrown on the earth. The trumpets blow destruction upon the earth, the sea, the waters, and on sun, moon and stars, involving a third of everything. With the fifth trumpet, a star falling from heaven opens the bottomless pit on earth, and in the smoke rising from the shaft the first woe descends on earth, bringing torture but not death (9:1ff). After the sixth trumpet and its death and wounding (and people not changing heart and mind), which is the beginning of the second woe, John plays a part in the sealing of the thunders (10:1ff). He is told to eat the scroll which the angel had brought down (wrapped as he was in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, having a face like the sun), as well as to measure “the temple of God” and the altar and those who worship there. But even the two witnesses (the “two olive trees” and the “two lampstands”) do not make any difference to those of “the city where their Lord was crucified” (11:8).

[3rd Throne Vision, 11:15-13:18] The forces of the kingdom of God, of the heavens (as the Gospels might say) now make themselves felt both in the heavens and on earth, in the “kingdom of the world” – and “the temple in heaven is opened” (11:19). After a cosmic woman, heavy with child, has been threatened by a dragon rampant in heaven and has moved to the earth (while her child is caught up to God and to his throne), the dragon and his angels are brought down to earth by Michael and his angels – there to pursue the woman who is helped by the earth, and to make war on the rest of her offspring (!). A beast rising out of the sea (one of its heads having a mortal wound which was healed) receives power and throne and authority from the dragon (13:1ff), blaspheming God and conquering Christians, on earth enslaving all those “whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb that was slain”. The other beast rising up from the sea, supporting the first beast mightily, enforces its reign with fire and signs (13:11ff); a (living and speaking) image of the first beast brings death and causes all people to be marked on the right hand or forehead – with the beast’s name or the number of his name (the number 666) which allows one to exist economically on earth. Before the second beast appears, the first call for endurance is heard (13:10). In this vision, adversary forces appear also in heaven and on earth, whereas human beings allied with the world’s progress are seen to have a connection with the Lamb already from before its beginning – the first beast appearing “wounded” but “healed”.

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