Study Paper No. 4 on the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation
The Gospel of John:
Elsewhere we have suggested that John’s Gospel and Revelation are linked by an elaborate pattern of consecutive or parallel correspondence.1 But there is another comprehensive pattern of literary linkage that overlays the two great books of John—a chiastic pattern.
A chiasm is a literary pattern that involves an inverted parallelism of words or ideas. In chiastic patterning, the beginning of one book contains clusters of shared vocabulary and themes with the end of the second book; and similarly, the beginning of the second book contains paralleled vocabulary and themes found at the end of the first book. The Gospel of John and Revelation are written throughout in an elaborate chiastic pattern, producing the effect of each book being a mirror image of the other. Together, the consecutive and the chiastic patterns constitute the warp and woof of the Johannine interweaving.
Now John’s use of chiastic patterning is not precisely ordered and mechanical, just as we observed with the consecutive pattern of correspondence. It is rather more artistic than mechanically predictable. Nevertheless, the overall pattern of chiastic correspondence is clearly one of John’s major structural devices.
Moving in reverse directions within John’s Gospel and Revelation, we will work our way forward in the Gospel and backward in Revelation, noting as we go in paralleled charts how the two books are joined together so as to enlighten and interpret each other by the use of this ancient literary pattern. The mirror imaging that occurs between these two books will describe a diagram much like the following.
John-Revelation Chiastic Correspondence Charts
John-Revelation: The Story Begins to Unfold
The verbal and thematic patterns expressed in the consecutive and chiastic correspondences point to a divinely intended joining of John’s Gospel and the Revelation. As the two charts are laid over each other, a wonderful story emerges. At the opening of his Gospel, John declares that He who was fully God in the beginning has come to tabernacle with men in His earthly sojourn (John 1:1-14). Then climactically at the end of Revelation, a loud voice in heaven rejoices that the tabernacle of God is with men forever (Rev 21:3). Redemption’s glorious climax of God dwelling with His people becomes the frame of these two books for the telling of the greatest love story ever, a story of a heavenly Groom and an earthly bride.
The story is dramatically recounted in the chiastic pattern joining the two books, and is bolstered by key elements from the consecutive pattern. Each crosspiece of the chiastic structure develops a portion of the inspired story the books tell. The following chart summarizes the story line developed in each crosspiece of the chiasm.
The Great Reversal:
The first crosspiece combines the opening chapters of the Gospel and the closing chapters of the Revelation to tell the story of the Son of Man as a Heavenly Bridegroom who leaves His Father’s house to dwell among men in search of a bride. He finds her in a wilderness and woos her to Himself, at last taking her to a pleasant garden in the city of God. The Gospel presents the Bridegroom; the Revelation introduces the bride.
This crosspiece is rich with wedding imagery. At the opening of the Gospel, Jesus and His disciples are invited to a wedding in Cana. At the close of Revelation, blessing is pronounced on all who are invited to the wedding of the Lamb. At the opening of the Gospel, John the Baptist rejoices to hear the voice of the Bridegroom (Jesus) who has the bride (the church). At the close of Revelation, Babylon is judged when the voice of the Bridegroom and bride is no longer heard. Jesus makes wine in both settings. First, He serves the good wine of the Gospel at Cana. Then in Revelation, when the harlot and her people are drunk, He serves the wine of the wrath of God (cf. John 2:10). The good wine of the Gospel is served before the wine of fierce wrath in the Revelation.
The second crosspiece joins the opening of Revelation with the close of John. It tells of the heroic Son of God, who comes from heaven as a Warrior King to lay hold of His Kingdom by vanquishing the Dragon. He rides forth upon a white horse to conquer His enemies with the sword of His mouth. Those who follow Him need not fear the warfare, for their King is the Lord of Life. Even if they should lose their lives in martyrdom, they will be raised to new life just like their conquering King, and will dwell forever with Him in the New Jerusalem, where there will be no more pain, sorrow, or tears.
The pivot of both the consecutive and the chiastic structure (John 12; Rev 12), which is the thematic center of the story told by the two books, tells of the great reversal that takes place as the Son is lifted up and Satan is cast down. John 12:28-31 and Revelation 12:9-10 are anchored by word combinations that occur nowhere else in either book. These passages constitute the literary axis of the two Johannine books. (See the consecutive chart.) Both passages concern the announcement of Christ’s kingdom. In John 12, Jesus rides into Jerusalem upon a donkey. The crowds proclaim Him “King of Israel” and the Pharisees worry that “the world has gone after Him” (John 12:13,15,19). The Revelation passage that corresponds to the Triumphal Entry of the Gospel opens with the announcement that “the kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15; cf. Rev 12:10). In John 12:32, the Son is lifted up. The matching declaration of Revelation 12:9 is that the Dragon is cast down to earth. As noted on the chart, both John and Revelation speak of Satan being cast out of heaven.
©2002 Warren Austin Gage, J. Randy Beck, Steven P. Carpenter
1 See Gage/White, “The Gospel of John: A Neglected Key to Revelation? Study No. 1 on the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation.”
2 It will be seen that the chiastic pattern comprehends several themes initiated in the beginning of the Gospel and concluded at the end of the Revelation. The darkness, which is the emblem of the power of chaos, is at war with the light in the opening of the Gospel (John 1:4-5). Only at the end of Revelation is the war finished, and the darkness at last is overtaken by the light (Rev 22:5).
3 The Gospel begins with the declaration that the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14), and Revelation concludes with the glorious announcement that in the consummation of all things God pitches His tabernacle forever among men (Rev 21:3).
4 The promise of John the Baptist at the river Jordan, that the Lamb of God would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29), is realized in the vision of John of Patmos, who sees the river of paradise flowing from the throne of God and the Lamb, with the curse of sin having been taken away (Rev 22:3).
5 It is noteworthy that the Gospel opens with a twofold invitation to “come” to Jesus. Revelation concludes with a similar twofold invitation to “come” to the Water of Life.
6 Peter’s promise in the Gospel that he would be a “stone” is serendipitously fulfilled in Revelation as he becomes a “precious stone!”
7 The Gospel account of Nathanael, the true Israelite, recalls a fig tree (John 1:48), the tree whose leaves could not hide the knowledge of God in Genesis. Similarly, Revelation foretells a vision of the tree of life, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations who make up the city of God (Rev 22:2). Furthermore, the promise to Nathanael, that he should see the heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man (John 1:51) is never fulfilled in the Gospel. Only in Revelation does John see the heaven opened and angels ascending and descending around a vision of the Lord of Lords (Rev 17:8-21:10).
8 The beginning of the Gospel and the ending of the Revelation are filled with wedding imagery. The wedding of Cana in the Gospel sustains many literary connections with the wedding of the Lamb in Revelation. John the Baptist describes Jesus as a Bridegroom in the Gospel’s beginning. But there is no description of the bride in the Gospel. John the Evangelist describes the bride of the Lamb at the end of Revelation. But there is no description of the Bridegroom in Revelation. The two books of John, like a husband and wife, require each other to be complete.
9 According to the wedding custom, the bridegroom should set forth first the good wine, and only afterward, when the guests are drunk, is the worse wine served (2:10). When the wedding of Cana (John 2:1) is read in light of the wedding of the Lamb (Rev 19:7), it is clear that Jesus observes the wedding custom respecting the order of wine service. Jesus makes wine for both weddings. As the steward of Cana testified, the first wine Jesus serves in the Gospel is “good” (John 2:10). But afterward in Revelation, when the whore and her followers are “drunk,” (Rev 2, 6), He serves them the wine of the wrath of Almighty God (Rev 19:15).
10 The prophetic character of the wedding in Cana is suggested by Jesus’ words. The hour of which He speaks (cf. John 12:23) is the hour of His passion and death, when he will provide the wine of His blood for His bride. That hour prepares the way for and anticipates the messianic banquet of Revelation 19:9 (cf. Isa 25:6-8).
11 The proclamation of John the Baptist, of course, is not part of the account of the wedding of Cana. However, it is related to John 2:1-11 both thematically and by a pattern of inclusions. Both passages concern the wedding theme. Both describe Jewish purification custom (2:6 and 3:25). Finally, both employ the same Greek root word to describe the inferior (2:10) wine that follows the better, and the decrease (3:30) of John before the increase of Jesus.
12 Babylon is the city where the “light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer, and voice of the bridegroom and the bride is heard no longer” (Rev 18:23). The voice of the bridegroom, read chiastically with the Gospel, is the voice of Jesus (John 3:29). The friend of the Bridegroom is the prophet John the Baptist, who is described as a “bright and shining light” in which Jerusalem rejoiced for a season (John 5:35). Babylon is the city in which is found the blood of the prophets (Rev 18:24), and the city which silenced the voice of the Bridegroom (cf. Rev 11:8, 18:23). The conclusion is unmistakable that the Jerusalem of the second temple, the archetypical city of chaos, which is spiritually Egypt and Sodom (Rev 11:8), is likewise the “Great Babylon” of Revelation. In this light it is instructive that Jerusalem under Pontius Pilate was a “babel” of three languages, Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (John 19:20). Similarly, the Babylon of Revelation is divided into three parts (Rev 16:19). The theme of Jerusalem under the figure of “Babylon” will be well developed as the argument proceeds.
13 The love of merchandise is the connecting link between the second temple and Great Babylon (John 2:16 and Rev 18:3,11,15). The prophet Zechariah anticipated the day when the merchant (BH “Canaanite”) would no longer be in the house of God. The Lord’s accusation regarding “merchandise” in the temple constitutes the charge that the second temple was in truth a “Canaanite” sanctuary, a point that figures prominently in the theology of John’s Gospel.
14 Nicodemus is characterized in the Gospel as the one coming out of the night of the Old Jerusalem (3:2, 19:39) to Jesus, the Light of the World (8:12). Judas, on the other hand, leaves the Light to return to the darkness of Old Jerusalem (13:30). Revelation gives the sharply contrasting picture. There is no night in the New Jerusalem, the city of light, because the Lamb is its light (21:23-25).
15 The themes developed in these sections are the chief themes of the creation account in Genesis, continuing the pattern that the evangelist began by opening his Gospel “in the beginning” (1:1, cf. Gen 1:1) and by concluding his Revelation with a “new creation” (21:1). This section speaks of darkness and light (John 3:1, Rev 21:25), a Bridegroom and a bride (John 3:29, Rev 21:9), and a serpent of enmity (John 3:14, Rev 20:20:2).
16 The boastful claim of the whore of Babylon that she is not a widow and will never see mourning (Rev 18:7) is an allusion drawn from the destruction of the first temple of Jerusalem depicted in Lamentations (1:1). John uses devastating irony to portray the coming destruction of the “Babylonian” second temple using the dramatic colors of the destruction of the first temple of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. At the close of Jeremiah, the prophet foresaw the fall of Babylon for all the rapaciousness of her destruction of Jerusalem (51:49). But John identifies the true Babylon as the Jerusalem of the second temple, the city whose sins, like Babel’s ancient tower of rebellion, were piled up to heaven (Rev 18:5, cf. Gen 11:4). The pattern is complete. In his Lamentations, Jeremiah described the ruins of Jerusalem as desolate as a “widow,” she who had been great “among the nations” (Lam 1:1). The nations had dealt treacherously with her, despising her because they had “seen her nakedness” (Lam 1:8). Jerusalem had “fallen,” and so had lost all the “precious things” of her temple (Lam 1:10).
In Revelation, once the Babylonian character of the second temple is revealed, the judgment of Babylon the Great is seen to be in fact the judgment of second temple Jerusalem. John borrows Jeremiah’s description of the ruin of the first temple to predict the character of the destruction of the second. Revelation’s Babylon denies that she is a “widow or will ever see mourning” (Rev 18:7). That is, the second temple boasts that she will never suffer the fate of the first temple. But John foresees the day of divine wrath when the “nations,” who had been familiar with her, will despise her, having “seen her nakedness” (Rev 17:16, 18:9). Thus Great Babylon will “fall” (Rev 18:2). And they will mourn the loss of all her “precious things” (Rev 18:11-18). Just as the destruction of the first temple was incomparable for sorrow (Lam 1:12), so the ruin of the second temple for sorrow will be incomparable (Rev 18:18). Just as the abominable practices of the religious leaders of the first temple brought about its destruction (Ezek 8), so the abominations of the religious leaders of the second temple will require a like judgment.
17 The Samaritan woman’s past bears a striking resemblance to the whore of Babylon!
18 There is masterful artistry at work in the selection of a Samaritan woman to symbolize the New Jerusalem. The heavenly Jerusalem is one city, but it is composed of two peoples, Jew and Gentile. It is built on the foundations of the twelve apostles to the nations, but its gates are named for the twelve sons of Israel (Rev 21:12-14). Its inhabitants include thousands upon thousands “from every tribe of the sons of Israel” and a “great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev 7:4, 9). Just like the New Jerusalem, the Samaritan is one woman, but she is part Jew and part Gentile. The Samaritans were Jews who had intermingled with their Gentile neighbors. Thus, the Samaritan woman traced her ancestry back to Jacob, like the Jews, but she was also related by blood to the nations.
19 In both the Gospel and Revelation an angel descends from heaven and waters of earth are “troubled.” The multitude of the sick gathered at the pool of Bethesda is compared to Babylon as a dwelling place of every unclean spirit! The collection of the infirm near the precincts of the second temple brings to mind the bias of the Law of Moses against the infirm or the unclean having entry into the sanctuary (cf. Deut 23:1, Lev 21:21-23). The instruction of the Mosaic Law required that the second temple be preserved from defilement (Lev 21:23). The nature of the true Temple, however, is such that the Lord Christ heals the infirm and cleanses the defiled. The Gospel account of the healing of the woman with the issue of blood, who was both infirm and unclean, illustrates the better nature of the true Temple of Jesus’ body, which cannot be defiled (Luke 8:43-48). The same point is exemplified in the account of the healing of the paralytic man in John 5:2-9.
20 The religious leaders of the second temple charge Jesus with deceit (John 7:12, 47), while John attributes the true deceit to the beast (Rev 13:14). Deceit is the characteristic of the beast in Revelation, and the charge of the religious leaders against Jesus in the Gospel (7:12, 47). The basis of the beast’s deceit is that he had been “resurrected,” that is, he is “the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life” (Rev 13:14). The boast of the beast is in truth the claim of Jesus (“I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” Rev 1:18). We have seen the significance of the temple theology in John’s writings. The allegation that Jerusalem is spiritual Babylon colors the second temple with Daniel’s bestial imagery. The description of the beast, that he had been dead and was now alive forevermore, is thus a clue to his identification when seen in the light of temple theology. In fact, the temple of Israel had been destroyed and thus the second temple represented a kind of resurrection (implicit is the claim that the temple would endure forevermore, cf. Matt 24:1-3). The destruction of the second temple, by this logic, will be the destruction of the beast. It will be the final exposé of draconic deceit.
21 There is an ancient and widely diversified history of the excision of the account of the woman taken in adultery from manuscripts of the Gospel of John. The issue of Jesus’ allegedly negligent attitude toward the requirements of the Mosaic law (John 8:5) as well as His refusal to condemn a notorious adulteress (John 8:11) may account for the challenge this passage presented to the church, reflected in the confusion of the manuscripts. Nonetheless, the pattern of concentric correspondence provides strong attestation for the passage, both respecting its authenticity and the accuracy of its placement within the Gospel context.
22 The scene in the second earthly temple depicts the scribes and Pharisees seeking to destroy the adulterous woman as a way to accuse, and thus destroy, Jesus (8:6). The accusers wait to cast stones at her (8:7), wanting to stone Jesus as well (cf. 10:31). In heaven, the dragon stands before a woman in labor, hoping to devour her Child (Rev 12:4). The conflict leads to war in heaven, and the dragon-accuser is cast out of the heavenly sanctuary (Rev 12:7-12).
23 In the dramatic account of the Gospel, before Jesus forgives a flagrantly immoral woman (8:11), He first confronts her accusers, whom He shows to be morally incompetent to charge an adulteress. As a result, the accusers leave the temple precincts (8:9). The exit of the scribes and Pharisees from the temple because they could not “cast the first stone” constitutes their implicit acknowledgment of their own “adulteries.” Their exit constitutes a second “temple cleansing” (John 8:9), and corresponds to the accusers who are cast out of the heavenly sanctuary (Rev 12:8-12).
24 The religious leaders, who were so zealous of protecting their place in the second temple (John 11:48), are associated with the followers of the dragon, for whom no place was found in the heavenly sanctuary (Rev 12:8). The significance of the “place” as a sanctuary is later suggested in the chiastic correspondence of John 14:1 (“I go to prepare a place for you”) and Revelation 12:6 (“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared for her by God”).
25 The charge of the Jewish leaders that Jesus had been begotten of fornication (John 8:41) suggests the nature of the quarrel between the two temples. Revelation responds to the moral characterization, identifying the temple as the site of the true fornication (Rev 14:8).
26 The Lord charges that the devil had begotten the religious leaders, which accounts for their deceit (John 8:44), a charge bolstered by the deceitful operation of the devil as depicted in the visions of John (Rev 12:9).
27 The plot of the religious leaders to kill Lazarus is paralleled with the beast’s war against the light of God in the killing of the two witnesses. The identification of the two witnesses relates to their claim to give light as lampstands (Rev 11:4). In the Gospel both John the Baptist and Jesus are called lights (John 5:35 and 8:12), and both are called witnesses (John 5:33-36), a word which is the fundamental characterization of the witnesses of Revelation (Rev 11:3). Moreover, the two witnesses of Revelation are associated with the power of Elijah and Moses (Rev 11:6). John is questioned by the Jews as to whether he is Elijah (John 1:21), while Jesus is asked to do the works of Moses (John 6:30-31). But the Jerusalem of the second temple refuses their witness and extinguishes their light.
28 Ironically, it appears that the saints in heaven require the truth of the word of God for their sanctification, even as do those upon earth.
29 The encounter of Jesus with the Roman cohort is noteworthy for the emphasis John places upon Christ’s deity. Jesus identifies Himself to the band of about four hundred soldiers by using the theologically significant “I am” formula (John 18:5-6). This statement constitutes Jesus’ claim of deity, a point made clear by the fact that the entire band of four hundred falls backward and down to the ground in response (John 18:6). The irony of the encounter is clear. The four hundred soldiers are arresting God – the very One before whom, in another venue, the twenty-four elders fall down as a token of worship (Rev 4:10).
30 The Gospel account describes seven discouraged disciples (five are named along with “two others”), including and led by Peter. Filled with doubt and wracked by denial, they abandon their calling to be followers of Jesus and return to their prior calling as fishermen (21:3). In all of this they largely represent the spiritual challenges of the seven churches of Asia, also suffering doubt and denial (2:1-3:22).
31 Just as Jesus appears on the shore of the sea of Galilee, calling out across the waters to seven of His disciples and inviting them to return to their first love (John 21:15), even so Jesus appears to His disciple John on Patmos, addressing an appeal to seven of His churches across the waters, and likewise inviting them to return to the love they had at first (Rev 2:4).
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