Svetasv logo


Home Contact




An Exegesis Of Revelation 12 Based On A Novel Chiastic Reconfiguration Of The Text

Kuruvilla Thomas K.
Bangalore (24/1/2019)


Abstract

This study treats Revelation 12 as a "Functional Chiasmus" in order to arrive at a coherent reconfiguration of the text. Text that is arranged in the form of a functional chiasmus must be rearranged based on certain logical principles to be correctly interpreted. A functional chiasmus is a new concept; see definition here [1].

This study also contains an exegesis of the rearranged text. If you wish to skip the technicalities of a chiastic parse, you may read starting from Part 4 of the Discussion section, which has the reconfigured text.


Notes:
We will use the term "Judahite" to refer to the Israelites living in and around Jerusalem in the 1st century who primarily were of the tribe of Judah; We will try to avoid the term "Jew" to avoid the confusion it introduces.




Revelation 12 Timeline

Fig. 1


Introduction

Many scholars have come to the conclusion that Revelation 12 is an interweaving of several prophecies into one narrative, and we concur. We show how these prophecies can be unravelled by treating the text as a functional chiasm. It appears that the chiasmus is one of the techniques used in the Bible to obfuscate prophecy until the time of its revelation comes.


Discussion

1. Presuppositions

One of the difficulties in parsing a functional chiasmus is that you need to have a rough idea of its contents to be able to parse it correctly which is a bit of a catch-22. In the case of this rather complex prophecy we based our parse on the assumption that it refers to 3 periods:

  1. The period starting from the fall of Satan from heaven to the time of Adam and Eve's temptation.
  2. The period starting from the advent of Christ to the escape of Judahite Christians during the First Jewish–Roman War (circa 66AD–74AD). The Christians fled to the mountains in the middle of that war when the Roman army began their siege of Jerusalem (the abomination that causes desolation) and they were protected from the Roman army for a 3 1/2 year period until the war ended.
  3. The advent of Christ reign on earth (circa 2000 AD)


2. Parsing the chiasmus

We will be using the NIV Bible for this parse.

Parsing this chiasmus involves dividing portions of the text into three categories as above. We will call the period of the Satan's fall Period 1, the arrival of Christ and the escape of early Christians to the mountains Period 2 and the start of Christ's millennial reign Period 3.

Parsing this chiasmus is complicated by the fact that the three periods are about 3 different unnamed women and their 3 unnamed offspring. We take the position that he woman in period 1 is Eve and her child is mankind, the woman in period 2 is the early Church and her offspring is Christ, and the woman in period 3 is a constellation of stars and her child is the "millennial reign of Christ".

Categorizing Revelation 12

Vs 1-2 appear to belong to Period 3. We take this woman and event to refer to a sign in the heavens in the form of an alignment of stars.

Vs 3-4a belong to Period 1. This may be another alignment of stars indicating Satan's fall.

Vs 4b-6 appear to belong to Period 2. It covers the entire period from the birth of Christ to his ascension to the escape of the early Christians to the mountains (70AD-74AD).

Vs 7-9 belong to Period 1. Satan was cast down to earth at that time.

Vs 10-12 belong to Period 3. The contents of this announcement in heaven appear to belong to the last time period. It appears to signify the start of a new age.

Vs 13 belongs to Period 1. because it refers to Satan's fall to the earth.

Vs 14-17 belongs to Period 2. This text gives us more details on the escape of the early Christians to the mountains.


Original text

We color-code the chiastic units of the original text (NIV) below for easy visual identification using: red Period 1, blue for Period 2 and green Period 3.


Revelation 12 1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4a Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.
4b The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”

13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.
14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.



3. Build the reconfigured text


From this parse, it appears that Revelation 12:1-12 forms a Functional chiasmus as below:
A1   1-2 Period 3. Sign in heaven...woman clothed with the sun...
  B1   3-4a Period 1. Another sign... dragons tail swept the stars out of the sky
    X   4b-6 Period 2. Dragon in front of woman...child who will rule the earth is born...woman fled
  B2   7-9 Period 1. Michael defeats the dragon. The dragon is thrown down to earth.
A2   10-12 Period 3. Announcement in heaven about the start of a new age...Devil has a short time.

We now reconstruct the phrases in the right order based on the chiastic structure above and based on the ordering rules of a functional chiasmus [1].

We lead with central pivot point 'X'. The corresponding subunits (For example; subunit A1 corresponds to A2) are placed contiguously to form units (For example, A1,A2 is a unit ) so that we get a list of such units.


The sequence selected for rearrangement is:

X  [B1,B2]  [A1,A2]        (1)

Note: We choose the reverse order for our units so that we get another functional chiasmus with the rest of the chapter (v 13-17).The rules of functional chiasmus allow this.

We have the following sequence when we include verse 13-17:
X         - Period 2
[B1,B2] - Period 1
[A1,A2] - Period 3
v 13 - Period 1. Dragon chases the woman after falling to earth.
v 14-17 - Period 2. Dragon attacks the woman who fled to the wilderness.


We still have text for the periods in a non-contiguous form. We can treat this as a doubly applied functional chiasmus as below.


M1   X Period 2
  N1   [B1,B2] Period 1
   XX   [A1,A2] Period 3
  N2   v 13 Period 1
M2   v 14-17 Period 2

The sequence selected for rearrangement is:
XX  [M1,M2]  [N1,N2]        (2)


Translating this sequence (2) into the subunits of the first chiasmus, we get:

[A1,A2]  [[X], [v 14-17]]   [[B1,B2], v 13]        (3)

Further translating (3) into verse numbers, we get:

[[1-2],[10-12]]  [[4b-6], [14-17]]   [[3-4a,7-9],13]        (4)

We arrive at the reconfigured passage in the next section by rearranging the verses so they are in sequence (4).



4. Revelation 12 Reconfigured

The Start of Christ's Reign (c 2000)(vs 1-2,10-12)
1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”


The Advent of Christ and the Escape of The Early Church (1st century) (Vs 4b-6, 14-17)
4b The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.
14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach. 15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

The Fall of Satan and Temptation of Eve (c 4000BC?)(Vs 3-4a,7-9,13)
3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4a Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.
7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.


5. An exegesis of the reconfigured text.

The passage has been split into 3 sections as above for analysis.

5.1 The Start of Christ's Reign (c 2000)(vs 1-2,10-12)

1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

This woman appears to be an unusual alignment of stars (probably a combination of Virgo and other stars) that will "give birth" to the millennial reign of Christ.



10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. 12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”


A victorious shout in heaven announcing the start of Christ's age and the triumph of the true believers over Satan ("hurled down" here indicates defeat and is not a reference to the original fall from heaven.). There is no mention of any significant corresponding event on earth - other than the sign of the woman in the sky. There is also a warning of birth pains of this new age because the Devil has been given one last and greatest chance at mischief on earth.



5.2 The Advent of Christ and the Escape of The Early Church (1st century) (Vs 4b-6, 14-17)

4b The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. 5 She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter. And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne.”

The woman in this section is the early Judahite church and her child is Christ and his mission. The dragons attack may refer to either the efforts of Herod to kill the child Jesus or, because this is figurative language, may refer to his death only a few years into his mission. Christ ascended to heaven and will come back to rule the nations with a rod of iron.



6 The woman fled into the wilderness to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days. 14 The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the wilderness, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.

Across subunits of a chiastic unit, we often see a recapitulation of information. Here we have the woman fleeing to the wilderness for a period of 3 1/2 years from one subunit which amounts to the 1260 days mentioned in the second subunit. We take the position that this refers to the escape of the early church to the mountains [4] for 3 1/2 years when the Romans attacked Jerusalem at the very centre of the 7-year First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 AD) [3]. Jesus had warned his followers to flee to the mountains when they see the abomination that causes desolation standing in the holy place (the Roman army in Jerusalem). Please see our paper on "The Seventy weeks of Daniel" [2] for details of this period.



15 Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. 16 But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth. 17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

In our paper on "The Seventy weeks of Daniel" [2] we discuss a covenant between God and the Romans which permitted the Romans to completely annihilate the Judahites for a 7-year period (Michael will stand by - Daniel 12:1). We take the position that "the river from the mouth of the serpent" is a reference to the Roman army (see also Daniel 9:26) and the "earth opening its mouth to swallow the river" is a reference to the reinstatement of Michaels protection of the elect Christian Judahites who escaped to the mountains at the middle of the 7-year covenant period. After this repulse, the dragon sets off to war with the other offspring of the early church - Christians worldwide.

We find this event, the sacking of Jerusalem, mentioned in the majority of chiastic prophecies and we believe that the significance of this event is that it marks the complete end of the "old covenant".



5.3 The Fall of Satan and Temptation of Eve (c 4000BC?)(Vs 3-4a,7-9,13)

3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads. 4a Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth.

This may be a literal alignment of stars in the heaven or a figurative reference to the fact that Satan took a third of the angels with him when he fell. The seven heads and ten horns and sevem crowns may refer to the structure of Satan's kingdom of fallen angels and this structure may be reflected in some way in the heads and horns of the end-times beast kingdom mentioned in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13.



7 Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. 8 But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. 9 The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. 13 When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.

The woman in this section is Eve and her offspring is mankind. When Satan was dispatched to earth after his defeat in heaven, he went after Eve to lead her astray.




Conclusion

The main idea this paper introduces is a chiastic reconstruction of the text that shows that the passage contains three interwoven prophetic passages. We hope that we have shown that this allows a far more coherent and straightforward interpretation of this otherwise frustrating passage.

We have seen in our chiastic reconstruction of other prophecies in the the Bible that, in general, they consist of an interweaving of three different periods. This chapter contains 3 periods as well but it takes the triplet theme to another level. We have triplets of:






Related pages

Matthew 24
Mark 13
Luke 21
Luke 17:22-37
Functional Chiasmus