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A Chiastic Twist to Revelation 2 and 3

Kuruvilla Thomas K.
Bangalore (12/3/2019)


Abstract

This study treats Revelation 2 and 3 as a series of "Functional Chiasmi" in order to arrive at a clearer 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 a discussion of parts 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.


Introduction

Revelation chapter 2 and 3 are, for the most part, straightforward passages except for a a few issues with interpretation. For instance, it seems implausible that all members of a particular church have similar characters and that mere membership in a particular church grants certain privileges. Some of the promises to "the one who is victorious" seem to be addressed to one individual as they cannot, in our view, apply to a community. In addition, there is the question of why the "One who is victorious" section and the "Hear what the Spirit says" line are in reversed order in some epistles. We will show that with a consistent chiastic rearrangement of the messages to each of the churches, these issues can be addressed. Unlike the more complex chiasmi we see generally see (Daniel 9 [2] for instance), these are a set of simple single-unit chiasmi like the one we saw in Daniel 8 [4].


Discussion

1. Parsing Plan

We will divide each of Jesus' 7 epistles to the churches into 3 parts:
  1. The TITLE Jesus adopts for each church. For example, "These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. "
  2. The MESSAGE to the church. The body of the epistle.
  3. The PROMISE to the victorious ("To the one who is victorious,...") and the TAKE HEED ("Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.").
We treat each epistle as single-unit functional chiasmus with the MESSAGE section as the Chiastic pivot X.

2. Parsing the chiasmus

We will be using the NIV Bible for this parse.

We parse each of the 7 epistles based on the plan from the previous section to get the functional chiasmi below.


Categorizing Revelation Chapter 2

Epistle to Ephesus Vs 1-7
Vs 1 Title. Seven stars...Seven golden lamp-stands.
Vs 2-6 Message. Hard work and perseverance... Repent and revert to the first things...
Vs 7 Promise. The right to eat from the tree of life.

Epistle to Smyrna Vs 8-11
Vs 8 Title. First and the Last, who died and came to life again.
Vs 9-10 Message. Afflictions and poverty... you will suffer persecution for ten days...life as your victor’s crown.
Vs 11 Promise. Will not be hurt at all by the second death.

Epistle to Pergamum Vs 12-17
Vs 12 Title. Him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.
Vs 13-16 Message. You have remained true. Repent for following the teachings of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.
Vs 17 Promise. Some of the hidden manna...a white stone with a new name

Epistle to Thyatira Vs 18-29
Vs 18 Title. Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.
Vs 19-25 Message. Your love and faith, service and perseverance...repent of following Jezebel...hold on to what you have.
Vs 26-29 Promise. I will give authority over the nations...rule with an iron scepter...give you the morning star.

Categorizing Revelation Chapter 3

Epistle to Sardis Vs 1-6
Vs 1a Title. Him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
Vs 1b-4 Message. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief. Those who have not soiled their clothes will walk with me, dressed in white.
Vs 5-6 Promise. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life.

Epistle to Philadelphia Vs 7-13
Vs 7 Title. Him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut.
Vs 8-11 Message. You have little strength, yet you have kept my word.I will keep you from the hour of trial...hold on.
Vs 12-13 Promise. I will write the name of my God and the name of the city of my God...

Epistle to Laodicea Vs 14-22
Vs 14 Title. The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.
Vs 15-20 Message.Lukewarm...You say, "I am rich"...I stand at the door and knock.
Vs 21-22 Promise. I will give the right to sit with me on my throne,...



3. Build the reconfigured text

Because all the epistles have the same chiastic structure, we will show below the reconstruction of the epistle to Ephesus as an example and we will follow the same pattern for the other epistles.


We have Revelation 2:1-7 forming a Functional chiasmus as below:

A1   1 Title. Seven stars...Seven golden lamp-stands.
  X   2-6 Message. Hard work and perseverance... Repent and revert to the first things..
A2   7 Promise. The right to eat from the tree of life.

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

We usually lead with the pivot point but in this case, we will place central pivot point 'X' last as allowed by the rules of Functional Chiasmus [1] . The corresponding subunits (For example, subunit A1 corresponds to A2) are placed contiguously to form units (For example, A1,A2 is a unit ).


The sequence selected for rearrangement is:

[A1,A2]  X        (1)


Translating this sequence into verse numbers of Chapter 2, we get:

Ephesus: [1,7]  2-6        (2)


We repeat this for the other epistles to get:

In Chapter 2:
Smyrna [8, 11]  9-10            (3)
Pergamum [12, 17]  13-16    (4)
Thyatira [18, 26-29]  19-25   (5)

In Chapter 3:
Sardis [1a, 5-6]  1b-4            (6)
Philadelphia [7,12-13]  8-11   (7)
Laodicea [14,21-22]  15-20   (8)

We arrive at the reconfigured passage in the next section by rearranging the verses so they are in sequences (2)-(8).


4. Revelation 2 and 3 Reconfigured

We will color-code the chiastic units of the original text (NIV) below for easy visual identification using: green for the title and promise , dark green for promises addressed to one individual and blue for the chiastic pivot, which is the message.

Note that for a few verses, the King James Version is a better fit with this reconstruction. We will replace Rev. 2:24, 3:4, 3:5 and 3:12.with the KJV translation.



Revelation 2

Ephesus


1 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.

7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.



Smyrna


8 “To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again.

11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

9 I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.



Pergamum


12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

17 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.
14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.



Thyatira


18 “To the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
These are the words of the Son of God, whose eyes are like blazing fire and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star.

29 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
19 I know your deeds, your love and faith, your service and perseverance, and that you are now doing more than you did at first.
20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. 21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. 22 So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am he who searches hearts and minds, and I will repay each of you according to your deeds.
24 [(KJV) But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden.]





Revelation 3

Sardis


1a “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.

5 [(KJV)He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.]

6 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
1b I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.
4 [(KJV) Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.]



Philadelphia


7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

12 [(KJV)Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.]

13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.



Laodicea


14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.




5. A discussion of the reconfigured text.

With this reconfigured text, we can say that all the text below the "hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” phrase applies to ALL the churches and not just that specific church. (Although it is possible that at time these letters were sent, the message to each church was more relevant to that church). All the warnings, encouragements, calls for repentance, prophecies and promises below this "call to heed" line apply to all Christians who should attempt to divine the portions that are relevant to them with sincerity. We do not believe that these portions of the letters are intended for any particular denomination or even a particular historical period as some have interpreted it.

Four of the promises to "the one who is victorious" - in the letters to Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea - appear before the "hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” phrase because we believe that these promises apply to one particular individual and not to Christians in general and this explains the reversed order of sections in these letters.



We will not go into a detailed analysis of the text because there is already good commentary available on these chapters but we will comment on a few passages where we feel we have something of interest to add.


Chapter 2

2:9 ...I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.

The destruction of Jerusalem c.70AD and the slaughter of the Judahites living therein is mentioned in almost every important chiastically arranged prophetic passage we have seen. (For example, Daniel 9 [2] and the Olivet discourse [3]). We believe that this is an important event because it signals the complete end of the old covenant. The Judahites of the time either converted to Christianity and fled Jerusalem or died and so the modern day "Jew" cannot be of the ancient Israelite tribe of Judah. Also, the "Jews" of today, to a large extent, follow a version of Judaism corrupted by the Satanic teachings of Babylon (through the Talmud and Kabbalah) and this makes them Pharisees who are of the "synagogue of Satan" and not pure adherents of Judaism.
So the "Jews" of today are not Judahites by race or by religion.



2:26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations— 27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’—just as I have received authority from my Father. 28 I will also give that one the morning star.

From the epistle to Thyatira onwards through chapter 3, the promise to "the one who is victorious" comes before the "hear what the Spirit says to the churches" phrase. Our position is that these promises are addressed to one individual. The iron scepter will be wielded by a world king, a human ruler who represents Jesus during is millennial reign(See Psalm 2, esp vs 9). The morning star appears to be one of the highest heavenly ranks previously held by the likes of Lucifer and so it is unlikely that this lofty title will be given to all believers.



Chapter 3

3:9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.

As we have seen earlier in this discussion, the "Jews" of today are not of the ancient Israelite tribe of Judah and their religion is a mix of Judaism and Satan worship. Also, in our analysis of Daniel 8 [4], we wrote about the powerful Satanic bloodlines that control this world. Modern day "Jews" are well represented in these bloodlines and in the western power structure in general. When Jesus' millennial reign begins, these "Jews" who, to an extent, represent the "elite" of Satan's reign will fall at the feet of true Christians who are the elite of Jesus' reign.



3:10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

As we have seen in our analysis of the Olivet discourse [3], there are two times of tribulation. One at the start of Christ's reign (c. 2000AD) and the more apocalyptic one at its completion(c. 3000AD). It is unlikely that the "hour of trial" that the Christian will escape in this verse will be the first tribulation because that would contradict other passages (Like Rev. 2:10). It's more likely to be a reference to the rapture of Christians that keeps them away from second, greater tribulation.



3:21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.

This verse further bolsters our position that these promises to the victorious in the last four epistles are made to an individual, a future king of the world who represents Jesus.



3:15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Most interpretations of this passage take "lukewarm" to mean passionless, "hot" to mean zealous and by extension, "cold" to mean anti-Christian or Satanic. This reading of the passage leads to the unsettling, unlikely conclusion that Jesus prefers the Satanist to passionless, phlegmatic personalities
We prefer the interpretation that both hot and cold are good in the same way that both hot and cold water have their uses. "Lukewarm" refers those who do not possess any special qualities - they are just plain water. In the Christian context "lukewarm" refers to people who do not have the Fruits of the Spirit that make stand out from the rest of the world - people who are like salt without saltiness (Matthew 5:13).



3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

This passage is addressed to a church, to people who are already Christians. But their worldly wealth made them self-sufficient, not needing God, and blind to their shortcomings. This is a call to Christians to repent of this attitude and return to the fellowship of Christ.




Conclusion

Although this passage can be interpreted without a chiastic rearrangement, the reconfiguration certainly helps to clarify a few points of confusion. We hope we have convincingly addressed the issues we bought up in the introduction.


Some of the issues raised in this discussion have eschatological implications: .

References

[1] A Definition of Functional Chiasmus by Kuruvilla Thomas K.
[2] An Exegesis Of "The 70 Weeks Of Daniel" Based On A Novel Chiastic Reconfiguration - by Kuruvilla Thomas K.
[3] An Exegesis of "The Olivet Discourse" in Matthew 24 Based On A Novel Chiastic Reconfiguration Of The Text by Kuruvilla Thomas K.
[4] An Exegesis Of Daniel 8 Based On A Novel Chiastic Reconfiguration Of The Text by Kuruvilla Thomas K.






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