All of us have experienced, at one time or another, a sense of déjà vu, a feeling that what we are doing or seeing is something we have seen or done before. This can happen in our dreams or our waking moments and can raise in us troubling questions about where dreams end and reality begins. This phenomenon is evident in Revelation 21:9-10: One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, `Come, I will show you' . . . And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high.
The attentive reader can look back to 17:1-3 to see where something similar to this happened before: "One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, `Come, I will show you' . . . Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit into a desert." John expresses no such déjà vu. He never says, "This happened to me before," as he did, for example, in 4:1, when he identified the voice speaking to him as the "first" voice that he had heard earlier (in 1:10). Here he simply takes things as they come. Later, when the angel has shown him all there is to show (22:8-9), John falls down to worship the angel exactly as he did before (19:10). Again he is told not to do so, but to worship God alone. Yet nothing is made of the fact that this is happening for the second time or that John has not learned his lesson.
These features suggest that the repetition is for our benefit, not John's. The repetition establishes for the reader a sharp contrast between two cities personified as women—Babylon the prostitute and Jerusalem the bride. The framing of the two visions with similar introductions and conclusions could lead us to expect that the visions themselves will parallel each other in form or structure all the way through, so as to keep the contrast between the two cities always before us. But this is not the case. Aside from the introduction and conclusion, parallels are few.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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