Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Deuteronomy 28/30 Pattern in the Revelation to John

We’ve spent about a year so far in Sunday School going verse by verse through the Revelation to John. My main interpretive approach has been that we should read the book as we read the other prophetic books: Just as, say, the prophecies of Jeremiah had immediate application to Jeremiah’s day, and thus need to be read “preteristically” in order to be understood properly, so, also, Jeremiah is a book for the ages, to instruct God’s people in all times, and so needs to be read with that end in mind as well.

It is not entirely wrong to characterize the book as being "about" judgment on Israel for killing her king - who is now resurrected and ascended at the right hand of power. That the king she murdered is now resurrected and sitting at the right hand of power means that it is definitely "Oh, oh" time for Israel (Acts 2.36-37). But while not entirely inaccurate, it is not entirely accurate either. The pattern of judgment for Israel is not “merely” Deuteronomy 28. The pattern is instead what I call the Deuteronomy 28/30 pattern – judgment, then repentance and return. The restoration in Dt 30 is absolutely integral to understanding both the purpose and effect of the judgment detailed in Deuteronomy 28. The pattern of judgment, then restoration is integral to the entire witness of the Scriptures, both in God's dealings with corporate entities as well as with individuals (see, e.g., Ro 11.28-32, Heb 12.4-11, & etc.).

In connection with the Revelation to John, we see this pattern as well in the overthrowing of the Harlot-City (which is Jerusalem, Rev 11.8 & etc.). There is, to be sure, a physical quality to this overthrow in the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Roman beast in 70 A.D. (Rev 17.16-18). But the greater defeat for Satan is not the physical annihilation of the Harlot City -- indeed, annihilation would in a sense be ultimate victory for Satan, as the Bride would destroyed, and so she could not be a consort for her Lord (which is why God created her in the first place). Rather, the greater defeat for Satan is the restoration and transformation of the Harlot into the Bride of the Lamb. This is the both/and nature of the Deuteronomy 28/30 pattern.

So here’s the movement that I see in Rev 19: The final defeat of the Harlot is described in vv. 1-4. Then, suggestively, the text immediately shifts in vv. 5-11 to describing the Bride of the Lamb, who is now prepared for the betrothal/wedding ceremony. Verses 12-21 then tell us how the Harlot is transformed into the Bride. (There is, obviously, a huge Hosea theme going on here.)

First, for Israel, while the demonic beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire, the kings of the land of Israel, that is, those who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image (counterfeits of the godly marks on forehead and hand, Rev 13.16, 14.9, cf., Rev 7.3, 9.4, 14.1, Ex 13.9. 16, Ex 28.38, Dt 6.8, 11.18) are “killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse” (Rev 19.21).

So, too, the Gentile nations are slain by the Rider in the same manner: “Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter’” (Rev 19.15).

Now, of course, the “sword that comes out of the mouth of the rider of the horse” is the Word of God. Is 49.1-7 (esp. v. 2, cf. Is 11.4), Eph 6.17, Heb 4.12, Rev 2.12, 16. Acts 2.37, 5.33, 7.54 (cf., Lk 24.32). Of interest also is that the “rod of iron” by which the King disciplines and rules the nations directly (Ps 2.9 and Rev 12.5), and through his people (Rev 2.9), is the Word of God (cf., Mt 28.18-20). Christ's kingship is exercised by the preaching of the word; that is Christ's rulership over the nations.

But we already know that God conquers not merely by killing, but by killing and resurrecting – Ro 6.4, 6, 8, Gal 2.20, Col 2.20, 3.3, 2 Tim 2.11, 2 Co 5.14, 17. This is the Deuteronomy 28/30 pattern for Israel in general, but also for every Christian individually as well.

But back to the message of the Revelation, we would seem to see this restoration worked out in history as well. As the late Richard John Neuhaus observed in the February 2005 issue of “First Things”:

“Scholars generally agree that in the first century there were approximately six million Jews in the Roman Empire . . . That was about one tenth of the entire population. About one million were in Palestine, including today’s State of Israel, while those in the diaspora were very much part of the establishment in cities such as Alexandria and Constantinople. . . . Some scholars have noted that, by the fourth or fifth century, there were only a few hundred thousand, at most a million, people who identified themselves as Jews. What happened to the millions of others? The most likely answer, it is suggested, is that they became Christians.”

Judgment, then restoration. The Harlot-City of the “adulterous generation” that Jesus spoke to (Mt 12.39, 16.4) becomes the New Jerusalem of purity and glory. But the glory of the new is greater than mere restoration, for it encompasses both Jew and Gentile (Is 49.6).


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