The Scribblings of a Madman
Someone once told me the Book of Revelation was the scribblings of a madman. It looks like a jumble of randomly selected Bible symbols with no obvious purpose or logic. Some dismiss it. Others become obsessed with it. But it comes with an instruction manual—all previous Scripture.
As with the books of the Old Testament prophets, familiarity with the Torah is crucial when it comes to reading the Revelation. It allows the reader to be “in on the joke,” that is, aware not only of the symbolic allusions to previous events and persons in the Bible, but also conversant in the rhythm built into the text, the “Creation/Covenant shape” of every stanza, every cycle, and indeed of the entire book.
Using the patterns found in the books of Moses, we can make sense of both the contents of Revelation and the order in which that content appears. It suddenly becomes apparent that these “scribblings” are the most compact, intricate, multi-layered, symmetrical and structured body of writing one could ever imagine. It has the appearance of something that was grown rather than written. It is irreducibly complex.
This enigmatic piece of literature, like the rest of the Bible, is a “fractal.” It has a crystalline structure, one within which every piece is a miniature of the whole, yet the unique character of each piece informs its location in the work. The book is sevenfold, thus the very first stanza is a sevenfold title, yet being the title, this piece finds itself at the very beginning.
Reading the text aloud, even in an English translation which keeps fairly closely to the order of the words in the Greek, reveals the sing-song nature of the text. This is a song written in cycles, in waves, in revolutions, like wheels within wheels. The book begins with Christ and ends with His bride, but the progress is not linear. Rather, it radiates outward from the “solar” brightness at the center.
These words sound from deep in the heart of the source of all things. They are from the mouth of the One who spoke all that is. And they interpret the world for us in the language of God. They show us the world of men as God sees it. Everything has meaning, and multiplied meaning that echoes in increasing circles. Everything is symbolic. Everything is word.
Creation – Initiation
The revelation (Initiation)
of Jesus Christ, (Delegation)
which God gave him (Presentation)
what must take place (Vindication)
without delay. (Representation)
- The first line in the first stanza of this first cycle alludes to the creation of Light on Day 1. However, this apocalypse is the tearing of a veil. The flesh of Christ which was torn on earth resulted in the tearing of the veil in the Temple. This revealing is the response of heaven to that event: the opening of heaven to reveal the flesh of a Man enthroned. The works carried out in the human body of Christ, as described by John in His Gospel, would now be carried out in His corporate body, the Church. As circumcision was a “revealing,” a bloody nakedness fulfilled in the death of Christ, so this final revealing would cut off the cutting off, bring an end to the Circumcision. Like Ezekiel, whose structure the Revelation follows, this book is a prophecy concerning the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the “cosmic house” which had represented all creation before God as a sacrificial substitute but was now obsolete. Worse, it was a house filled with demons.
- Line 2 is the usual place for circumcision, the cutting of the sacrifice, the setting apart of the Man of God for service. In Tabernacle terms, it is the Veil in the Temple.
- This is followed by a reference to the seven-sealed scroll, which appears at step 3 in the structure of the book.
- The Lampstand appears at the center, like the governing lights at the center of the Creation Week.
- The servants in line 5 allude to prophetic testimony and martyrdom, which is the subject of this book. Just as Christ defeated the serpent in the Garden, so the Firstfruits Church would destroy the resulting Judaistic dragon in the Land, the “brood of snakes” which sought to murder the Church as Cain murdered Abel.
- The imperative in line 6 refers to Covenant Sanctions. The blessing and curses of the Law of Moses must be poured out upon Israel for the sake of the testimony of Jesus Christ. He would be vindicated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the shaking and reordering of the powers of Rome. Once again, in the entire book, it is at this point that Jesus is seen with a flaming sword in His mouth, the Covenant Oath.
- Rather than simply “soon,” the final word does not mean that Christ could return in judgment at any time. It means that the time was up. The Son of Man was coming before the apostles had preached in all the towns of Israel (Matthew 10:23). The position of this word is also important. In the fivefold Covenant sequence, it appears at Succession, which refers to the future given to the faithful, while the wicked are cut off at Sanctions. Jesus was coming to give an inheritance to those who were faithful in their testimony, thus this is what we find in the final section of the book: a description of the age in which we now live.
- This first sentence, as mentioned, is a microcosm of the entire book. Although it recapitulates not only the Creation Week, the Covenant process, and also the furniture of the Tabernacle, perhaps the most crucial lens is the “praxeme” of sacrifice. What Christ reveals is the refining fire which will soon come, a fire which He Himself kindled by His Spirit at Pentecost, one which would shortly incinerate the wood, hay and stubble, and refine the saints like pure gold. All the hidden things would be revealed through this fiery trial, most importantly, who was the true High Priest, and who was the true King of the Jews.
|The Revelation||Creation||Light & Darkness||Ark of the Testimony||Sabbath
|of Jesus Christ||Division||Waters Above
& Waters Below
Death of Christ
|which God gave Him||Ascension||Dry Land,
Grain & Fruit Plants
& Golden Table
Flesh on the Altar
|Lamb with seven
horns and seven eyes
|to show||Testing||Governing Lights||Lampstand||Pentecost
|Spirit sent||Seven Seals
|to His bond servants||Maturity||Swarms / Hosts / Clouds||Incense Altar||Trumpets
of True and False Churches)
|what things must take place||Conquest||Springs, Land animals
Sacrifices, High Priest
Harlot and Bride
|without delay.||Glorification||Rest and Rule||Shekinah||Booths
(Glory of the Nations)
Land and offspring
the nations are
no longer deceived
Division – Delegation
- The theme of the second stanza is Delegation, which means that every line has two coordinates. To explain, line 1 of stanza 2 must somehow combine the themes of Creation and Division, Day 1 and Day 2, or the Ark hidden behind the Veil. So, quite brilliantly, the verb is “signified,” which means shedding light in a veiled way, as the prophets did. Like the parables of Jesus, the Revelation makes sense only to those whose eyes are opened by the Spirit of God, and it is written this way to confuse, infuriate and condemn those who refuse the Spirit (Matthew 13:10-16).
- Line 2 of stanza 2 is an angel sent from heaven, from the “waters above” to the “waters below,” like the lightning (Psalm 104:4; Hebrew 1:7).
- The lens of the Tabernacle furniture helps us with the position of John in this architecture. He is the Bronze Altar, and his witness is a kind of Levitical Firstfruits. The greatest Old Covenant prophet, John the Baptist, testified of Christ’s comings on earth, and John the Apostle would be the last trumpet concerning His coming from heaven in judgment. Both were Levites.
- The three Ethics lines contain legal witness, legal word and legal testimony, that is, ear, eye and mouth.
- Jesus was at line 2 in stanza 1: Division. Here he is at Conquest.
- The final line refers to the office of Representative, of Image, of God, the man who sees as God sees, and speaks on earth for the one in heaven. This was Israel’s intended role among the nations, and she failed in the book of Judges just as Adam failed to enter into God’s rest.
Ascension – Presentation
- This stanza might be sevenfold, but a fivefold structure seems more natural. This means that it is a scroll yet to be opened. Only when read aloud and enacted in history does the fivefold structure become sevenfold, as the Covenant Ethics become threefold: Law Given, Law Opened, Law Received.
- At Ascension, these words are given to the saints as if they are assembled at Sinai. Jesus is the voice speaking from heaven as a better Moses.
- Once again, there is a reference to time in the final line. Deliverance from Jewish persecution, Judaizing doctrine and Herodian/Neronic rule was at hand.
Testing – Purification
and who was
and who is to come, (Priesthood)
- John now has “transcendent” authority, being filled with the Spirit of God as a human lampstand. This first line contains the triune formula, radiating from the Sanctuary (John) to the people of God (Churches) to the nations (Asia). This is the Garden, Land, World structure of Israel but now given to Gentiles.
- Grace and peace are the heaven and earth facets of line 2, but line three is also interesting. It is obvious that Christ is the present, the past and the future, but the same triune formula orders these three. This explains why it begins with the present rather than the past. Jesus speaks from the Sanctuary in heaven (with the Father). He is no longer the bloody mediator on the Land (a “son of the herd”). But He is soon coming to free His bride (purified and gathered by the Spirit).
- The seven spirits are the central line of the central stanza in this cycle, which might explain the multiplication. As this heptamerous “wave form” increases, these seven spirits are seen in the seven lampstands and then in the seven pastors of the churches of Asia.
- The triune formula which shaped the Priesthood line then shapes the entire Ethical section: Priesthood, Kingdom, Prophecy. Each begins with “from.”
- At line 6, the firstborn of the dead is the High Priest making his way out of the Holy of Holies just as Jesus exited His grave. The Covenant sign was thus changed from circumcision (womb, Land) to baptism (tomb, Sea).
- The final line is misinterpreted because the Greek word for “earth” also means “land.” These kings are the kings of Israel and the oikoumene which surrounded her as an extended “Land.”
Maturity – Transformation
To him who loves us (Genesis)
and has freed us from our sins (Exodus)
by his blood (Leviticus)
to him be glory and dominion (Joshua)
forever and ever. Amen. (Judges)
- The theme of Maturity is witness, or martyrdom, which is a legal response to the hearing of the Gospel. The Law has been given, opened, and is received here in a better generation of Israel, a re-generation. These legal witnesses are the Trumpets whose testimony will bring down the walls of the great city which exalted itself above the knowledge of God.
- The freedom of this new Israel is the result of a better Passover.
- The sacrificial blood is that of Christ, but the allusion to Numbers concerns false witness, that of King Balak and his false prophet Balaam, a recurring theme in the Revelation, used not only to point out sin in the church in Pergamum, but also the full grown sin of “Judaizing prophets,” false apostles who troubled the Church.
- The fatherhood of God is an important theme in Deuteronomy. Likewise, prophets were “fathers” to kings, as seen in Joseph and Samuel.
Conquest – Vindication
- The Creation motif is the prime lens here, but the Day of Atonement is also in view. The High Priest disappeared into a cloud of fragrant smoke, just as Jesus was taken up into the glory cloud, the Tabernacle-chariot of God. But when He returned from offering the blood, the Land was cleansed from sin. Jesus would soon return to remove the ungodliness from Jacob.
- Eyes usually appear in line 4, but here the reference seems to be the same kind of “open eyes” received by the disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, which relates to the breaking of bread.
- A common theme at line 5 is music but here there is wailing, which ties it to another theme found in line 5: plagues on the Land. Later in the book, the Judaizers, with imperial power, are represented by swarms of locusts and scorpions.
- Since Conquest corresponds to Oath/Sanctions, this stanza ends with the Covenant Oath, the legal witness of the “Amen.”
Glorification – Representation
- Christ speaks here as the Lord God, since He is no longer a servant but the fully qualified representative and judge.
- The position of the Omega relates it to the “cutting off” of circumcision. As the Seed, Jesus ended the genealogies and the shedding of sacrificial blood. In conquering death, He ended the end.
- The repositioned “is, was, coming” now seems to reverse the order: Spirit, Son, Father. Christ has sought His bride, but here he approaches the Father with His bride in tow to present her as a chaste virgin, and then inherit not only the Land, but the World. The threefold “promise” at Ascension is now, at least in the structure, His actual possession.
If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.