PMT 2013-045 by Ken Gentry
The seven-sealed scroll in Revelation 5 seems to represent a “certificate of divorce” handed down against Israel by the enthroned Judge who was seen in Revelation 4. In Scripture marriages are based on a covenant contract, so that in biblical days the Jews wrote out divorce decrees (Dt 24:1, 3; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8; Mt 5:31; 19:7; Mk 10:4). The following evidence suggests that the scroll in Revelation 6 is a bill of divorce (a deeper reading of Revelation strongly compels such a conclusion).
First, Revelation emphasizes two particular women, who obviously correspond to one another as opposites, as positive and negative images: the wicked harlot (Rev 17–18) and the pure bride of Christ (Rev 21). They correspond to the earthly Jerusalem, the place of Christ’s crucifixion (Rev 11:8), and the heavenly Jerusalem, which is holy (Rev 21:10), as I will show in a later email.
Revelation’s drama presents the revelation and execution of the legal (Rev 15:3; 16:5–7) judgment on the fornicating harlot (Rev 17:1–19:3) and the coming of a virginal bride (Rev 21). This bride take’s the harlot’s place after a marriage supper (Rev 19:7, 9). Philip Carrington explains: “The Harlot has disappeared, the Bride is taking her place. It is impossible any longer to maintain that the Harlot means Rome; the antithesis must lie between the old Israel and the new, the false Israel and the true, the Israel that is to appear so soon as the New Jerusalem” (Carrington, The Meaning of the Revelation, 294.)
Navigating the Book of Revelation (by Ken Gentry)
Technical studies on key issues in Revelation, including the seven-sealed scroll, the cast out temple, Jewish persecution of Christianity, the Babylonian Harlot, and more.
Second, the Old Testament background for this image derives from Ezekiel, John’s main source. . Israel’s judgment appears in Ezekiel 2:9–10 as written on a scroll on the front and back. This corresponds perfectly with Revelation 5:1. In Ezekiel 2–9 the prophet outlines Jerusalem’s devastation, which corresponds with Revelation 6ff. In Ezekiel 16 the prophet presents Israel as God’s covenant wife, who becomes a harlot (see also Jer 3:1–8; Isa 50:1), while trusting in her beauty and committing fornication. This corresponds to John’s Jerusalem-Babylon image (Rev 18). As her jealous husband (Ex 20:5; 34:14; cp. Nu 5:14, 30), God casts Israel out and judges her for this evil conduct.
Third, following the “divorce” and the judgments flowing from it, John sees a new “bride” coming out of heaven (Rev 21–22). In Revelation’s drama, God does not take his new bride until he legally judges his current harlotrous wife. John himself presents the image of the harlot, bride, and marriage feast — we are not reading this into the text eisegetically. Thus, the divorce imagery fits the book’s dramatic flow.
The fornicating harlot’s judgment starts after the Lamb (Christ) receives the seven sealed scroll from God. God the Father turns over the judgment to Christ, who will open the scroll, thus having judgment authority committed to him (Rev 5:4–7; cp. Jn 5:22, 27; 9:39; Ac 10:42; 17:31). At his trial leading to his condemnation, Christ tells Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin that they shall see the “Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mt 26:64). This fits well with Paul’s allegory in Galatians 4:21–31, wherein one wife is cast out (Hagar who represents the Jerusalem below) and another is taken (Sara who represents the Jerusalem above).
Recalling that Revelation’s theme is Christ judgment coming against the Jews who crucify him (Rev 1:7), we note that the leading image for Christ in Revelation is that of “the Lamb that was slain” (Rev 5:6, 12; 13:8; see also: Rev 5:8, 13; 6:1, 16; 7:9–10, 14, 17; 12:11; 14:1, 10; 15:3; 17:14; 19:7, 9; 21:9,14, 21; 22:1, 3). His blood gives victory to his people (Rev 1:5; 5:6–9; 7:14–16; 12:11; 15:2–3; 19:2; 21:9; 22:3).
1. Ezekiel greatly influences Revelation, even providing the outline for it. See: Carrington, The Meaning of Revelation, 64.
Four Views on the Book of Revelation (ed. by Marvin Pate)
Helpful presentation of four approaches to Revelation. Ken Gentry provides 50 page commentary on Revelation.