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15:1  THE DOUBLE INCLUSIO

“And I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels having the seven last plagues; for in them is filled up the wrath of God”(Revelation 15:1). Chapters twelve through fourteen are unique in their critical importance in the book of Revelation. They constitute the two climaxes of the chiastic structure, thus giving the clearest focus on the overall theme of Revelation: the great controversy between good and evil. They also focus on the most difficult and critical decision of all history, which everyone who is living at the very end of time will have to make: to accept the seal of God or the mark of the beast.

These chapters are also unique in that they leave the linear time line of the rest of the book to give a broad historical overview of Satan’s war against heaven and God’s people. The uniqueness of this section is demonstrated by two sets of literary “brackets.” Chapter twelve begins by stating that “a great sign appeared in heaven” (Revelation 12:1,3). Thus begins the story of the “War in Heaven” which, when Satan was cast to the earth, became a war against "the Woman and...the rest of her offspring.” The culmination of his efforts are the image, mark and number of the beast, but the surety of his defeat is demonstrated with the vision of the 144,000 worshiping “before the throne,” then giving the “three angels’ messages,” and finally the ultimate outcome, the two harvests.

This section ends just as it began, with the words I saw another sign in heaven.” Although many heavenly visions are seen in Revelation, these are the only two places where the phrase “sign in heaven” is used. This phrase brackets Revelation 12-14, showing its critical importance. As if to give even further emphasis, this section also begins and ends with a vision of the temple of God opened in heaven (Revelation 11:19, 15:5). These kinds of brackets highlighting a particular passage are called a literary inclusio,[1] and they emphasize the importance of the material contained within them. Chapters 12-14 are bracketed by a double inclusio which looks like this:

 

{ Temple opened { sign in heaven—CHAPTERS 12-14—sign in heaven } Temple opened }

 

Chapters 12-14 have already been highlighted as the climax of the chiastic structure. It is as if God inspired John to use every means possible to super-emphasize the themes that are found in these three chapters that are the heart of Revelation. These themes include the war in heaven, the beasts from the sea and earth, the image, name, mark and number of the beast, the everlasting gospel, the hour of God’s judgment, the law, the sabbath, the 144,000, the three angels’ messages, and the "harvest" of both the saved and the lost. These are themes that every Christian needs to understand, especially as we approach the time of trouble when they will become life-and-death issues.

The chiasm with the double inclusio could be diagrammed like this: 

{{E-1  E-2}}

D-1           D-2

C-1                     C-2

B-1                                 B-2

A-1                                             A-2

At the beginning of the double inclusio chapters 12-14 departed from the chronological timeline to give an extensive elaboration of the great controversy. Now in chapter 15 the narrative returns to the timeline with the next great event: “the seven last plagues” through which “the wrath of God...is filled up.”

Continue to next section:    THE WRATH OF GOD



[1]  “In literature, inclusio is a literary device based on a concentric principle, also known as bracketing , which consists of creating a frame by placing similar material at the beginning and end of a section… Many instances can be found in the Bible.” Wikipedia contributors, "Inclusio," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Inclusio&oldid=612946496 (accessed September 7, 2014).

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