Parenthesis - The Key to Revelation
In the book of Revelation there are four 'parenthesis' passages.
Simply put; a parenthesis passage is inserted within the main text of the book. It's purpose is to elaborate on or explain what has preceded it or what follows it.
Such is the complexity of this book, these parenthetic passages offer an explanation of what has happened or of what is about to happen.
When this book is considered in this way its interpretation makes more sense.
Revelation 7 v 1-17: Focus on People
Revelation 10 v 1 – 11 v 13: Focus on Places
Revelation 12 v 1 – 14 v 20: Focus on Purposes
Revelation 17 v 1 – 19 v 10: Focus on Powers
Parenthesis 1: 144,000 Sealed
Revelation 7 v 1-17
1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree.
2 Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea:
3 “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
4 Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.
From the tribe of Judah 12,000 were sealed,
from the tribe of Reuben 12,000,
from the tribe of Gad 12,000,
6from the tribe of Asher 12,000,
from the tribe of Naphtali 12,000,
from the tribe of Manasseh 12,000,
7from the tribe of Simeon 12,000,
from the tribe of Levi 12,000,
from the tribe of Issachar 12,000,
8from the tribe of Zebulun 12,000,
from the tribe of Joseph 12,000,
from the tribe of Benjamin 12,000.
The Great Multitude in White Robes
9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying: “Amen!
Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!”
13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 Therefore, “they are before the throne of God and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’ nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’ ”
In this first parenthesis we can summarise the following points:
There will be 144,000 Jews sealed and marked by God to go through the earth and preach the gospel. These sealed Jews are protected by God and cannot be hurt by the beast or the Antichrist.
As a result of their preaching millions will be saved during the Tribulation. Praise God!
These saints who ‘come out of’ the Great Tribulation will remain on earth and reign with Christ for 1000 years in his Millennial Kingdom.
Parenthesis 2: The Angel and the Little Scroll
The two witnesses
Revelation 10 v 1 – 11 v 13
1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars.
2 He was holding a little scroll, which lay open in his hand. He planted his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land, 3 and he gave a loud shout like the roar of a lion. When he shouted, the voices of the seven thunders spoke.
4 And when the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write; but I heard a voice from heaven say, “Seal up what the seven thunders have said and do not write it down.”
5 Then the angel I had seen standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven.
6 And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said,
“There will be no more delay!
7 But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets.”
8 Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more: “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
9 So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll. He said to me, “Take it and eat it. It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’ ”
10 I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it. It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.
11 Then I was told, “You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”
Second parenthesis continued - Revelation 11 v 1-13
The Two Witnesses
1 I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers.
2 But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.
3 And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.”
4 They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.”
5 If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.
6 They have power to shut up the heavens so that it will not rain during the time they are prophesying; and they have power to turn the waters into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want.
7 Now when they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up from the Abyss will attack them, and overpower and kill them.
8 Their bodies will lie in the public square of the great city—which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt—where also their Lord was crucified.
9 For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial.
10 The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth.
11 But after the three and a half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and terror struck those who saw them.
12 Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on.
13 At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed.
Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
14 The second woe has passed; the third woe is coming soon.
In this second parenthesis we can summarise the following points:
Two witnesses – perhaps Moses and Elijah.
The witnesses are feared as they wreak havoc on earth.
The witnesses are overpowered and killed – their bodies lie on the street.
The witnesses are raised to life and rescued to heaven in full view of men.
Parenthesis 3: The Woman and the Dragon
Revelation 12 v 1 – 14 v 20
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.
4 Its tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth. 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 sceptre.” 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.
Third parenthesis continued – Revelation 13 v 1-18
The Beast out of the Sea
1 The dragon stood on the shore of the sea. And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. It had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on its horns, and on each head a blasphemous name.
2 The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.
3 One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was filled with wonder and followed the beast.
4 People worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?”
5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months.
6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven.
7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation.
8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
9 Whoever has ears, let them hear. 10 “If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.”
This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.
The Beast out of the Earth.
11 Then I saw a second beast, coming out of the earth. It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. 12 It exercised all the authority of the first beast on its behalf,
and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed.
13 And it performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people.
14 Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived.
15 The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.
16 It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads,
17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.
18 This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man.
That number is 666.
Third parenthesis continued – Revelation 14 v 1-20
The Lamb and the 144,000
1 Then I looked, and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.
2 And I heard a sound from heaven like the roar of rushing waters and like a loud peal of thunder. The sound I heard was like that of harpists playing their harps.
3 And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders. No one could learn the song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth.
4 These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. 5 No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless.
The Three Angels
6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people.
7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
8 A second angel followed and said, “ ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand,
10 they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.
They will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.
11 And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”
12 This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
13 Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labour, for their deeds will follow them.”
Harvesting the Earth and Trampling the Winepress
14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand.
15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud,
“Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.”
16 So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle,
“Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.”
19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath.
20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.
In this third parenthesis we can summarise the following points:
The inhabitants of earth are forced to receive the mark of the beast.
Receiving his mark seals their eternal doom.
The 144,000 sealed Jews preach the gospel and millions are saved as a result.
The inhabitants of earth are harvested for the final judgement – Great White Throne.
This parenthesis is a preview of these events in advance of the seven bowls being poured.
Parenthesis 4: Babylon, the Prostitute on the Beast
Revelation 17 v 1 – 19 v 10
1 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute, who sits by many waters.
2 With her the kings of the earth committed adultery, and the inhabitants of the earth were intoxicated with the wine of her adulteries.”
3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness. There I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names and had seven heads and ten horns.
4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries.
5 The name written on her forehead was a mystery: Babylon the great the mother of prostitutes and of the abominations of the earth.
6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. When I saw her, I was greatly astonished.
7 Then the angel said to me: “Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides, which has the seven heads and ten horns.
8 The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and yet will come up out of the Abyss and go to its destruction.
The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.
9 “This calls for a mind with wisdom. The seven heads are seven hills on which the woman sits.
10 They are also seven kings. Five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet come; but when he does come, he must remain for only a little while.
11 The beast who once was, and now is not, is an eighth king. He belongs to the seven and is going to his destruction.
12 “The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast.
13 They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.
14 They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”
15 Then the angel said to me, “The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages.
16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire.
17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled.
18 The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.”
Fourth parenthesis continued - Revelation 18 v 1-24
Lament Over Fallen Babylon
1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendour.
2 With a mighty voice he shouted:
‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’
She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.
3 For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.”
Warning to Escape Babylon’s Judgment.
4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.
6 Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Pour her a double portion from her own cup.
7 Give her as much torment and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn.’
8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
Threefold Woe over Babylon’s Fall
9 “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.
10 Terrified at her torment, they will stand far off and cry:
‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, you mighty city of Babylon! In one hour your doom has come!’
11 “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore—
12 cargoes of gold, silver, precious stones and pearls; fine linen, purple, silk and scarlet cloth; every sort of citron wood, and articles of every kind made of ivory, costly wood, bronze, iron and marble;
13 cargoes of cinnamon and spice, of incense, myrrh and frankincense, of wine and olive oil, of fine flour and wheat; cattle and sheep; horses and carriages; and human beings sold as slaves.
14 “They will say, ‘The fruit you longed for is gone from you. All your luxury and splendour have vanished, never to be recovered.’
15 The merchants who sold these things and gained their wealth from her will stand far off, terrified at her torment. They will weep and mourn 16 and cry out:
'Woe! Woe to you, great city, dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet, and glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls!
In one hour such great wealth has been brought to ruin!’
“Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off.
18 When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’
19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out:
‘Woe! Woe to you, great city, where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth!
In one hour she has been brought to ruin!'
20 “Rejoice over her, you heavens! Rejoice, you people of God! Rejoice, apostles and prophets! For God has judged her with the judgment she imposed on you.”
The Finality of Babylon’s Doom
21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:
“With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again.
22 The music of harpists and musicians, pipers and trumpeters, will never be heard in you again.
No worker of any trade will ever be found in you again. The sound of a millstone will never be heard in you again.
23 The light of a lamp will never shine in you again. The voice of bridegroom and bride will never be heard in you again.
Your merchants were the world’s important people. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.
24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people, of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.”
Fourth parenthesis continued - Revelation 19 v 1-10
Threefold Hallelujah over Babylon’s Fall
1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, 2 for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
3 And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:
5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!”
6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
9 Then the angel said to me,
“Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!”
And he added,
“These are the true words of God.”
10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus.
Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”
In this fourth parenthesis we can summarise the following points:
The figurative ancient city of Babylon – Rome – is doomed.
The inhabitants of the earth mourn over the destruction of Babylon.
The Antichrist, the beast and the false prophet lose their power base.
The Lord Jesus Christ, who was once despised and rejected by men will be exalted to the highest place of honour. He will at last be recognised for who he is - and always was!
King of kings and Lord of Lord's - Hallelujah!
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