Rob Dalrymple, «These Are the Ones», Vol. 86 (2005) 396-406
The thematic features relating to John’s depiction of the righteous in the
intercalations of Rev 11,3-13 and 7,1-17 as well as how these features might
affect our understanding of Revelation 7,1-17 are examined. Four foci pertaining
to the righteous are explicitly present in the account of the Two Witnesses (11,3-
13). All four foci, also, materialize in the description of the 144,000 (7,1-8) and
the Great Multitude (7,9-17). However, when we examine Rev 7,1-8, we find that
John only incorporates the first two of the four foci (Divine Protection and
Witnesses) while in the account of 7,9-17, only the latter two appear (Enduring
Persecution and Vindication of the Righteous). If, however, we read Rev 7,1-17
as the account of one group, then the thematic parallels with the intercalation of
Rev 11,3-13 are retained.
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These Are the Ones â€¦ (Rev 7)
In Revelation 7,13 John inquires as to the identity of the countless multitude
whom he sees. An elder responds, â€œThese are the ones who come out of the
great tribulationâ€. Admittedly a first reading of Revelation 7 may lead one to
the conclusion that the uncountable multitude (the Great Multitude) from
â€œevery nation, all tribes, peoples, and tonguesâ€ (7,9) (1), is in contrast with the
144,000 Jews listed in 7,4-8 (2). In this paper, however, I will examine the
thematic features relating to Johnâ€™s depiction of the righteous in his account
of the Two Witnesses in Rev 11,3-13 (3) and how these features might affect
our understanding of Revelation 7,1-17 (4).
Why should the account of the Two Witnesses influence our reading of
the accounts of the 144,000 and the Great Multitude? I suggest two factors
strongly contend that 10,1â€“11,13 parallels 7,1-17. First, both sections serve
functionally similar roles. That is, they are both intercalations (interludes, or
parentheses) in the midst of their accompanying series of judgments (5). In
fact, in both instances these intercalations occur after the disclosing of the
sixth item in each series. Furthermore, each appears closely related to that
sixth item. 7,1-17 relates directly to the sixth Seal by answering the question
of 6,17: â€œwho is able to stand?â€ (cp. 7,9; and perhaps 7,1) (6). The relationship
of the intercalation of 10,1â€“11,13 and the sixth judgment is less clear. A good
case, however, exists that it relates directly with the words in the closing of
the sixth Trumpet, which reiterates the peopleâ€™s failure to repent. Richard
(1) All translations are the authorâ€™s. John uses this expression, though varied, seven
times (5,9; 7,9; 10,11; 11,9; 13,7; 14,6; 17,15). For a defense of the view that each of these
expressions, though variant, intends to refer to all the nations of the world, see: R.
BAUCKHAM, Climax of Prophecy. Studies in Revelation (Edinburgh 1993) 326-337.
(2) I might query â€œA first reading for whom?â€ That is, can we be certain that in the late
first century early Christian interpretive milieu, the readers would have necessarily
understood Israel in a woodenly literal manner? I hesitate to accept this suggestion due to
the consistent practice of the NT, and especially the seven letters of Revelation 2â€“3 (cf.,
2,9, 17; 3,9, 12), of applying OT Israelite language to the NT communities. Even in this
text, those of the great multitude from every nation perform functions befitting Israelite
priests (7,15; cp. Exod 19,6, 10, 14; Ezek 37,26-28).
(3) The account of the Two Witnesses in 11,3-13 is part of a larger unit of 10,1â€“11,13.
(4) In a sense, this paper builds off an assertion made by Kenneth Strand more than
twenty-five years ago, when he inquired as to whether or not Revelation contained a
â€œpattern which shows correlation(s) between sections in a first part of the book and sections
in the last partâ€ (K. STRAND, Interpreting the Book of Revelation [Worthington 1979] 44).
The difference is that Strand wishes to compare a portion of Revelation with its chiastic
counterpart; whereas, I am viewing the portrait of the righteous as a development within a
larger setting. That is, I am analyzing Johnâ€™s depiction of the righteous in terms of a
thematic growth and development â€” though due to limited space the present work is
limited to only these two sections within the first half of Apocalypse.
(5) Schussler Fiorenza, comments on chapters 10â€“11, â€œthey have the same structural
function within Revelation as the interlude of chapter 7â€ (E. SCHUSSLER FIORENZA,
Revelation. Vision of a Just World [Minneapolis 1981] 74). See also: P.E. HUGHES, The
Book of Revelation (Pillar NT Commentaries; Grand Rapids 1990) 92.
(6) SCHUSSLER FIORENZA, Revelation, 65-66. HUGHES, Revelation, 95.