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Ten Descents in Revelation

The verb “descend” is used ten times in the Revelation, often describing something coming down from heaven. Is there a pattern in the order of these things that descend?

The ten things are the New Jerusalem as a city (3:12), an angel who feeds John the book (10:1), Satan, with great wrath (12:12), fire from heaven called down by the land beast (13:13), hail stones (16:21), an angelic herald who announces the fall of Babylon (18:1), an angel with a key and a chain to bind the devil (20:1), fire which destroys Satan and his rebel nations (20:9), the New Jerusalem as a bride (21:10), and finally, the New Jerusalem as a city (21:10).

Although the sequence of uses begins and ends with a reference to the New Jerusalem as a city, it does not appear that these ten items fit into a chiastic order without bending them out of shape.1My friend Peter Leithart gives it a go here (Descending), which is why I figured there might be a better solution. However, since there are ten items, perhaps they are configured in the same way as the Ten Commandments, that is, in two columns.2See God-in-a-Box

Forming
(Head – Adam – Priest)
Filling
(Body – Eve – People)
TRANSCENDENCE 1
Word from God
No false gods
2
Word to God
No false Oath
HIERARCHY 3
Man’s Work
Sabbath
4
Father and Mother
Fruit of Land and Womb
ETHICS 5
No Murder
Sons of God
6
No Adultery
Daughters of Men
SANCTIONS 7
No Theft
False Blessings
8
No False Witness
False Curses
SUCCESSION 9
Coveting Shelter
Formed House
10
Coveting the Sheltered
Filled House

In contrast to the Ten Words in Exodus 20, the sequence is given to us as two columns (top to bottom, twice), rather than in horiztonal rows (left to right, five times), perhaps to highlight the pattern as a de-Creation, a de-forming and a de-filling, the same acts committed upon Christ by the Jewish rulers. When He died, He was formless and empty, empty of blood, water and breath (spirit).

With this in mind, these ten descents become the Law of the Spirit coming down upon those in the Land who rejected the Spirit on and after the Day of Pentecost. He comes not to enlighten but to delude and confuse, just as the Lord did to the Midianites under Gideon.

Jesus was on the mountain of God as the advocate of those who believe, the true Israel, but also as the accuser of those who rejected Him. The latter have filled up their sins by slandering, persecuting and murdering His “Body.” And they have done so while worshiping “the beast,” the first century equivalent of the Aaronic golden calf: Herod’s Temple.

Corresponding the chart of descents below with the one above is enlightening.

Forming
(Head – Adam – Priest)
Filling
(Body – Eve – People)
TRANSCENDENCE 1
New Jerusalem
True name
2
Fall of Babylon
False name
HIERARCHY 3
Book as food
John as true prophet
4
Binding of Satan
Satan as deceiver
ETHICS 5
Satan tyrannises the Land
Satan as fire
6
Satan and rebels destroyed
Fire upon Satan
SANCTIONS 7
Land Beast’s miracles
Satan’s deception
8
New Jerusalem as Bride
Eve’s emancipation
SUCCESSION 9
Hailstones upon old city
Unfaithful Jerusalem below
10
New Jerusalem as city
Faithful Jerusalem above

The “Edenic” sequence of the Ten Words makes the purpose of this sequence of descents clear. What is announced in the first row is completed in the last row, which ought to remind us of Paul’s contrast between the two Jerusalems in Galatians 4:24-26.3See The Shape of Galatians for a detailed analysis. The true worshiper is given a new name and made a pillar in the new Jerusalem. The old Jerusalem is also given a “new name,” one which was apparently used by the Apostles, and which better described her hidden nature (1 Peter 5:13).

In Joshua 10, the Lord sent hailstones down upon a pre-Israelite Jerusalem under the rule of Adonizedek (presumably a priest-king like the righteous Melchizedek, its previous ruler, but who had turned to the dark side.) Hailstones are a “Land” or “harvest” version of a global judgment, the firmament waters crashing down upon the old order to bring it to an end. In contrast, the holy city above is described as having a radiance as clear as crystal (Revelation 21:11). The old “crystal sea” is gone (Revelation 21:1).

The old Jerusalem, which desired to be under the Law, and judged without mercy or compassion, was judged with that measure she used to judge others.


If you are new to this method of interpretation, please visit the Welcome page for some help to get you up to speed.

References   [ + ]

1. My friend Peter Leithart gives it a go here (Descending), which is why I figured there might be a better solution.
2. See God-in-a-Box
3. See The Shape of Galatians for a detailed analysis.

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