Svetasv logo


Home Contact




A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Revelation 12

Kuruvilla Thomas
Bangalore
Published on 1 March 2019



Revelation 12 Timeline

Fig. 1


Introduction

This study treats Revelation 12 as a cryptochiasmus in order to arrive at a coherent reconfiguration of the text. Text that is structured as a cryptochiasmus must be rearranged based on certain principles to be correctly interpreted. A cryptochiasmus is a novel concept; see definition in [1]. If you wish to skip the technicalities of a chiastic parse, you may read starting from Section 4 of the Discussion section, which has the reconfigured text.

Many scholars have come to the conclusion that Revelation 12 is an interweaving of several prophecies into one narrative, and we concur. We show that this chapter is about 3 distinct kinds of women and their offspring during 3 distinct Periods. This prophecy gives us the crucial date of the start of the tribulation period before the Millennial reign of Christ. As we see in our reconfiguration of Revelation 4-22 [6], this chapter at the heart of Revelation is key to interpreting the book.


Note:
We will use the term "Judahite" to refer to the Israelites - primarily those of the tribe of Judah and their descendants - that remained after the Assyrian exile of the Northern Tribes; we will try to avoid the term "Jew" to avoid the confusion it introduces.


Discussion

1. Presuppositions

We base our parse of this difficult prophecy on the assumption that it refers to 3 Periods:

  1. The Period of Satan's fall from heaven and Eve's temptation (c. 4000BC).
  2. The Period starting from the first coming of Christ to the escape of Judahite Christians during the First Jewish–Roman War (4BC-73AD).
  3. The start of the tribulation period before Christ's Millennial Reign (2017 AD).

2. Parsing the chiasmus

We will use 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 First Coming of Christ and the escape of early Christian Judahites to the mountains Period 2 and the start of the tribulation period before 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 the woman in Period 1 is Eve and her child is Mankind, the woman in Period 2 is a God-fearing Judahite community 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 pregnant woman to be a sign in the heavens in the form of an alignment of stars and planets.

Vs 3-4a belong to Period 1. The "red dragon" sign in the heavens seems to portend Satan's fall.

Vs 4b-6 belong to Period 2. This passage covers the period from the birth of Christ, to his ascension, to the escape of the early Judahite Christians to the mountains.

Vs 7-9 belong to Period 1. Satan and his angels were defeated and cast down to earth.

Vs 10-12 belong to Period 3. An announcement in heaven of a period of tribulation before the start of Christ's Millennial Reign.

Vs 13 belongs to Period 1. Satan's fall to the earth and Eve's temptation.

Vs 14-17 belongs to Period 2. The early Judahite Christians are protected from the Roman Army during the First Jewish-Roman war.


Original text

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


From this parse, it appears that Revelation 12:1-12 forms a cryptochiasmus 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...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 cryptochiasmus [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)

(We choose the reverse order for our units so that we get another cryptochiasmus with the rest of the chapter (v 13-17). The rules of cryptochiasmi [1] 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. The dragon chases the woman after falling to earth.
v 14-17 - Period 2. The 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 multiply-applied cryptochiasmus 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 Sign of the Woman and The Start of the Tribulation Period (2017AD) (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 First Coming of Christ and the Escape of The Early Church (4BC-73AD) (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. A commentary on the reconfigured text

5.1 The Sign of the Woman and The Start of the Tribulation Period (2017AD) (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.

We believe that this sign is an alignment of heavenly bodies (portending Christ's Millennial Reign) that takes place on September 23, 2017AD at the constellation Virgo (the woman in this passage). The combination of ALL the elements of the alignment that occur at that time, as listed below, is unique:



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 proclamation in heaven announces the start of Christ's age and the triumph of true believers over their accuser, Satan (see also Job 1:9-11,Zech 3:1)("hurled down" here indicates defeat and is not a reference to Satan's original fall from heaven). There is no mention of any significant corresponding event in the physical realm, other than the sign of the woman in the sky.

This is the time at which the "Lion of the tribe of Judah", the Messiah, triumphs so that the seals on the scroll can be opened (Rev 5:5); after this, tribulations progressively intensify as the 4 horsemen are gradually loosed (Rev. 6:1-8). Before the start of Christ's reign, the Devil is given one last chance to win people over during a short period of intense worldwide trouble and deception.



5.2 The First Coming of Christ and the Escape of The Early Church (4BC-73AD) (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 Period is the the God-fearing Judahite community at the time of Christ's birth, and the child is Jesus Christ. The dragon, or Satan, tries to kill Jesus soon after his birth through Herod's "massacre of the innocents". Though Satan failed in that attempt, he was eventually instrumental in Jesus' crucifixion (see John 13:27). Christ was resurrected and ascended to heaven and he will rule the nations with a rod of iron during his Millennial Reign.



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.

Christian Judahites escaped to the Transjordanian mountains [4] for 3 1/2 years when the Romans attacked Jerusalem at the midpoint of the 7-year First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 AD) [3]. Jesus, in Matt. 24:15-16, warns his followers to flee to the mountains when they see the abomination that causes desolation (the Roman army in the spring of 70AD) standing in the holy place (Jerusalem). (See our paper on "The Seventy weeks of Daniel" [2] for details on this period.) The "two wings of a great eagle..." text indicates that the Judahites had divine assistance in their flight and at their refuge (see Isaiah 40:30, Exodus 19:4).

The 'woman' is protected in the wilderness for a period of 1260 days, which is around 10 days less than the 3 1/2 years (according to the Hebrew calendar of that particular period) - the 3 1/2 years seems to include a 10 day journey to the wilderness. For a more detailed analysis of these time periods, see the appendix of our paper of the "70 weeks of Daniel" [2].



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 Titus which permitted the Romans to completely annihilate the Judahites for a 7-year period during the First Jewish-Roman war. The "river from the mouth of the serpent" is the large Roman army sent to finish off any remaining Judahites towards the end of this war. (Bodies of water represent a multitude of people, see also Daniel 9:26. The Romans can be thought of as Satan's representatives because, through their pagan gods, they worship Satan and do his bidding.) The "earth opening its mouth to swallow the river" refers to the reinstatement of God's protection (the "earth" represents the spiritual world) for the sake of the "elect" - Christian Judahites who escaped to the mountains. After this repulse, the dragon sets off to war with the other offspring of the early church - Christians worldwide.



5.3 The Fall of Satan and Temptation of Eve (circa 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 an ancient sign in the sky portending Satan's fall with a third of the angels. The seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns seems to reflect the structure of Satan's kingdom of fallen angels and red seems to be the colour of Satan. The 7 "heads" may be 7 divisions of Satan's kingdom of angels and the 7 crowns represent the position of leadership of those divisions. But because Satan has 10 horns or 10 "leader" angels, they must share power in some way.

This structure is reflected in the heads and horns of the end-times Beast kingdom mentioned in Dan. 7:19-25, Rev. 13 and Rev. 17:7. The 7 heads also correspond to the 7 "historical kings" of Rev 17:10; they were sent to the Abyss and re-emerge to form the Beast (Rev. 17:8) [5].



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 Period is Eve and her offspring is mankind (the word translated as "male child" here, can also be translated "Man"). When Satan was dispatched to earth after his defeat in heaven, he went after Eve to lead her astray. With this, Satan begins his campaign to win human souls.




Conclusion

With this chiastic reconstruction of the text, we have shown that the passage is about 3 distinct Periods and while most chiastically structured passages have 3 Periods, this chapter takes the triplet theme much further:




References

[1] A Definition of Cryptochiasmus
[2] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of "The 70 Weeks Of Daniel"
[3] First Jewish–Roman War (66–73 CE) by Wikipedia
[4] Flight to Pella by Wikipedia
[5] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Revelation 4-22 Part 2
[6] A Chiastic Reconfiguration Of Revelation 4-22 Part 1










Related pages

Daniel 9
Mark 13
Luke 21
Luke 17:22-37
Cryptochiasmus