Chiasm in the Book of Revelation?

Darrell W. Johnson, (Discipleship on the Edge: An Expository Journey Through the Book of Revelation. Vancouver: Regent College Pub., 2004) proposes a chiastic structure (in this case an ABCBA) of the Book of Revelation (see his Appendix B, p. 391ff). He notes the bracketing around the “Great sign in Heaven” (Rev. 12-15). A former classmate of mine, Andriy Rozalowskiy said via facebook regarding the suggestion of chiasm, “Nice discussion point… but in the hands of some *everything* is a chiasm!” Point taken. But I think there is something to be said for Johnson’s observation. I do see a need to tweek his outline (he has 11:19-15:4 as the central section, but I think that misses the mirrored references to the 144,000 and the two witnesses and their antithesis in the two beasts). So here’s my own modification of Johnson’s outline (ABCDCBA):

A. 1:1-1:8 – “things which must take place” / Behold! I am coming” / I am Alpha and Omega…”

B. 1:9-3:22 – Jesus appears and speaks / use of “overcomes” (NIV “one who is victorious”) / Blessings promised

C. 4:1-11:18 – “After these things, I looked” / Throne / 4 Living Creatures / Seven seals & trumpets / 144,000 / Two witnesses

D. 11:19-12:17 – “A great sign appeared in Heaven”

C. 13:1-19:10 – Two beasts / 144,000 / Seven bowls / “After these things, I looked” / Throne / 4 Living creatures

B. 19:11-22:21 – Jesus appears and speaks / use of “overcomes” / Blessings fulfilled

A: 22:6-22:21 – “things which must take place” / “Behold! I am coming” / “I am Alpha and Omega…”

As you can see you have mirrored content on either side of 11:19-12:17. The prologue and ending contain the mirrored “I am the Alpha and Omega” with more content in the epilogue; “the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (arche and telos)”. But the epilogue also contains the added statement “I am the Root and the Offspring of David (see 5:5), and the bright Morning Star” (22:16) which may seem innocuous enough, but this is a key element, Johnson suggests, and I’m inclined to agree. The additional descriptor from Jesus here is profound, that Jesus, as the morning star, indicates a new day dawning with his appearing. Now, this works on two levels. His second coming (the longed for appearing of the bridegroom who promises “behold! I am coming soon”) will bring the fullness of the Kingdom, and the final victory, but his initial appearing indicates the “beginning of the end” for the enemies of God. The birth of Christ signals a new day approaching, breaking in, though not yet realized. So, what’s this got to do with chiasm? Well, look to the centre of Revelation, what do we see? The morning star appears to signal the darkest part of night is over, and dawn is coming. What is the “great sign in Heaven” at the centre of Revelation?… “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth… She gave birth to a son, a male child, who ‘will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.'” Who in their right mind ever read Revelation and thought the point of the book was Christmas? But there it is. The one who calls himself the “bright morning star” tips us off regarding the point of it all; that the arrival of Christ on Earth ushers in a new day when the dawn draws nearer, and closer to the inevitable fullness of day. Though the darkness is still not done away with, it’s fate is known, it’s end is inevitable. Though we see darkness still now, we know the dawn is coming, so we need not lose hope. John was writing to seven churches which needed a reminder. They needed to hear that the Lamb overcomes, and those who are joined to him overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the testimony (See 12:11). They needed to be encouraged to not cave to the coercive threat of violence (and even death) of the beast, or be lured by the temptations of the harlot, or be deceived by the false prophet.

So this should cause us to read Revelation differently. The symbols and weird visual imagery are confusing, and we often think of Revelation as about the Apocalypse (of course, apocalypsis – the Greek title of Revelation means not the end of the world specifically but simply revealing or unveiling). But the Book of Revelation is Christological- it’s about the Lamb who wins. The Lamb who was slain stands on the throne of Heaven and is worship by the Angels and the Elders gathered in heaven. When the Lamb appears everything changes. Weeping turns to worship. Darkness turns to light. Death turns to life. Chaos turns to a beautiful city. War turns to a wedding feast.

The blood of the Lamb and the testimony brings victory now and in the future. The victory promised to us is an extension of the victory of the Lamb, who has triumphed and purchased us with his blood and overcome death and lives forever (1:18). The purpose of Revelation is not a detailed chronological plan of the future, but a call to see the Lamb.

One Comment on “Chiasm in the Book of Revelation?

  1. Thank you for the Blessed messages each time and is strengthening my soul and to share with our people in India, we have much idolatry here, please pray for INDIA. In Jesus Love, Evangelist Babu.

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