REVELATION’S SCROLL: GOD’S DIVORCE DECREE

PMT 2013-045 by Ken Gentry

Seven sealed scrollThe 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. [1]. 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).

Footnotes:

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.


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5 thoughts on “REVELATION’S SCROLL: GOD’S DIVORCE DECREE

  1. Vince December 28, 2013 at 12:03 am

    I am an ‘Optimistic’ A-Millennarian… that is one who is A-Mil with a ‘Post-Mil’ Hope…! Although I understand the Scriptural veracity to what you’re saying about Israel in this article, how do we reconcile Paul’s views of some type of restoration in Romans 11… Is there not a ‘Mystery’ surrounding them regarding a wholesale, or ‘National’ awakening concerning Jesus as Messiah…? I myself am not one who believes all ‘Eschatological Timing’ revolves around a piece of contemporary ‘Sand’ in the Middle East; but as one who is Reformed in Theology, I cannot believe that they have returned to that ‘Land’ without the Providence of a Sovereign God… They didn’t return after two thousand years of ‘The Diaspora’ without God’s involvement… To me, there’s a Mystery yet to be played out by them, and whatever it is, it is Designed by The Lord Himself…? Even The Puritans believed that God had a future Plan for Physical Israel… What say you Boither Ken…?

  2. Kenneth Gentry December 28, 2013 at 8:17 am

    As a postmillennialist I believe Israel will also be saved. And following John Murray’s exposition, I believe it will be en masse according to Rom 11. The divorce of Israel is an image of judgment. It speaks of the rejection of geo-political Israel as central to God’s kingdom, while ethnic Israel still has the biblical expectation of salvation.

  3. Vince December 28, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Wow… The more I dialogue with you Bro… the more I see that we have in common… How cool is that… Too bad you’re so far away, I’d ask you come and Preach at our Church Home… That would be very cool…!

  4. Steve Crain February 4, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Dr. Gentry, I have long pondered the “elders” presented in Revelation 4 and 5. It has occurred to me that “elders” refers specifically to the members of the Sanhedrin. As the representatives of Israel, headed by the high priest, they passed judgment on Christ. Here the “elders” seem to signify the heavenly Sanhedrin who submit to the Great High Priest. The Jewish Sanhedrin brought false charges and false witnesses against Christ, but this court will judge righteously. The 24 elders seem to possibly signify and and verify the charges against Israel by having two witnesses from each tribe as required for the death penalty (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15). The penalty for adultery also being death (Leviticus 20:10). Is there any validity to this possibility?

  5. Kenneth Gentry February 4, 2014 at 9:43 am

    I like your thoughts. They are very close to mine. I believe these 24 elders represent the old covenant faithful who surround God’s throne in heaven as he exercises judgment upon unfaithful Israel in AD 70.

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