Fire in the Ice

Hee Youl Lee’s A Dynamic Reading of the Holy Spirit in Revelation is a complicated monograph on the role of the Spirit in Revelation. Lee argues that the book is organized by a sixfold plot (introduction, setting, complication, resolution, evaluation, moral)_ that functions at four levels (heaven, earth, abyss, lake of fire). 

The plot is “the way of witness to the word of prophecy for the conversion of the nations, opposed by the evil powers and engendered by Jesus and his witnesses through the guidance of the Holy Spirit in accordance with God’s will, given promise of the rewards for the witnesses as well as of the judgment against the evil ones in the four levels of space . . . along the sixfold and four-level scheme” (160). At each stage of the plot and at each level, Lee’s aim is to show the prominence of the Spirit.

As I say, complicated. But along the way Lee provides some nice observations on particular texts.

He ponders, for instance, the significance of the fire mixed with the sea of glass in Revelation 15:2, and suggests this: “The narrator gives to phrase-linking clues, that is, ‘in front of the throne’ in 4:5; 4:6 and ‘sea of glass’ in 4:6; 15:2 to help readers to imagine the identity of fire. With these clues, it is not hard for the implied readers to find out that fire in 15:2 can be identified with the fire of the Divine Spirit in front of the throne in 4:5. Both ‘burning fire’ and ‘sea of glass’ are located in front of the throne. In 15:2, both are mingled to be ‘sea of glass mixed with fire,’ beside which conquerors in the messianic war are standing with harps o God in their hands” (101).

Lee draws a number of conclusions about this blurring of the boundary between lamp and sea, fire and glass (101-2), and I’d like to add a couple of suggestions. First, the sea before the throne of God is the heavenly archetype of the bronze sea at the temple, which was among other things the sea of nations. A sea infused by the fire that comes from the Spirit is Gentile world inflamed by the Spirit. Perhaps more importantly for Revelation, the sea of glass represents the firmament, and throughout the book, as I’ve explained elsewhere, the firmament is progressively shattered. A firmament infused with fire is a firmament melting under the heat of the Spirit, a firmament that will end up shattered into 100-pound chunks of hail (Revelation 16). The firmament boundary between heaven and earth melts and shatters as it is infused with the fire of the seven Spirits of God.

We could extend the reflection Christologically, because after chapter 5 the torches of the Spirit end up as the eyes of Jesus the Lamb. As He gazes through the firmament with His Spirit-burning eyes, He breaks the dividing wall between God and man; by the fire of the Spirit, He removes the boundary so that the bride can descend from heaven to earth.

Lee’s difficult book throws up a number of similar reflections. And the book demonstrates the importance of pneumatology in Revelation, a somewhat neglected topic in the literature.

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