The Organization of the
you see, write in a book. Revelation 1:11
Revelation is a book of symbols.
is an apokalupsis, a mystery given in
the language of symbols. Jesus told John to write what he sees in a book. This
is a clear indication that, for the most part, the contents of the book are
visual, things that John actually saw. John refers to his experience in
receiving this book as a vision: “What you SEE, write in a book.” Vision is
defined as an act or power of perceiving what is not actually present to the
eye, whether by some supernatural endowment or by natural intellectual
acuteness. Another definition is a mental view or image.
cannot be sure of how John actually experienced the vision. John tells us he was
in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, which suggests that what happened to him was
supernatural—in the spiritual realm and not the material realm. Was he in a
trance and experiencing a dreamlike vision? The word vision in Greek gives the
impression of physical sight, so did John see pictures projected in the air or
on the wall of his cell? We cannot know and it is best if we do not speculate;
but, we accept his testimony that he saw things in the forms of symbols and he
recorded those things in a book we call the Book of Revelation that is now part
of our Bible.
Book of Revelation is Organized
book written by John is not a series of unconnected ramblings; it is organized
into a structure that supports the interpretations of the symbols and gives
meaning to the overall Revelation. The Revelation is not one continuous sequence
from beginning to end; instead, it is a series of distinct visions, each being
one division of the overall prophecy. It must always be remembered that the Book
of Revelation is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and, as such, we must always be
looking for how and in what connections Christ is revealed in the different
divisions of the prophecy. The vision is laid out in groupings of symbols
according to topics or subject-matter and not necessarily according to
Book of Revelation is divided into seven basic divisions.
Chapters 1–3. In these chapters we see the glorified Christ and the
letters to the seven churches of Asia. Christ is revealed as the great head of
his church that is symbolized by the seven lampstands. And in this section He
sends letters to the angels of each of the seven identified churches of Asia
with special messages relevant to each church.
Chapters 4–7. Here we have the vision of heaven and the throne of God.
Christ appears here, not as the head of His church, but as “a Lamb as though
it had been slain”. In thee chapters He ascends to the throne and receives the
book sealed with seven seals. We see Christ as the Lord and Redeemer, receiving
the Kingdom He earned by His redemptive work. On His throne, he proceeds to
exercise His authority by successively opening the seals of the book.
Chapters 7–11. These chapters contain the vision of the seven trumpets.
The purpose of a trumpet in prophecy is to sound a loud, far-reaching warning to
men and nations to take heed to their ways. In this division, Christ appears as
a mighty angel, ministering at the golden altar and receiving much incense
through the prayers of the saints.
Chapters 12–14. These chapters contain the vision of the four animals,
which are a great red dragon, the leopard-like beast of the sea, the lamb-like
beast of the earth, and the Lamb on Mount Zion. Christ is revealed in His body,
the church, first as the woman, the man-child, and the rest of her offspring;
and, second, as the Lamb on Mount Zion.
Chapters 15–18. In these chapters we find that the rule of rebellious
mankind reaches its height under the reign of the woman on the scarlet beast.
The outpouring of the seven vials, seven bowls of God’s wrath, overthrows the
kingdom of the beast resulting in the fall of Babylon. In this division Christ
is seen as One like the Son of Man.
Chapters 19–20. Here is seen the marriage of the Lamb and the joys of
heaven that follow. Christ is seen under four titles: The Faithful and True, The
Word of God, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Chapters 21–22. Here is the vision of the new heaven and new earth. In
this division there is no symbolic representation of Christ. However, we are
told that the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of the Holy City,
and that the Lamb is the light thereof. Finally, at the very end we hear the
voice of Christ affirming once more that He is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning
and the End, the First and the Last.
addition to these seven divisions, it can also be seen that the Revelation is
made up of five distinct series or groups each containing seven elements. Each
group is separate and distinct from the others: The Seven Churches, Chapters
2–3; The Seven Seals, Chapters 4–8; The Seven Trumpets, Chapters 8–11; The
Seven Visions of Chapter 14; and, The Seven Vials or Bowls of God’s Wrath,
addition to these five series or groups there are other visions introduced along
the way that have a special bearing upon what follows the appearance of each
vision of Christ in the midst of the seven lampstands in Chapter 1 introduces
the letters to the seven churches.
vision of the throne in heaven, Chapters 4 and 5, introduces the seven seals.
vision of the sealing of the 144,000 in Chapter 7 pertains to the day of wrath
(6th seal) and the restraining of the four winds while the elect are
vision of the angel at the golden altar introduces the seven trumpets.
vision of the mighty Angel whose face was like the sun, Chapter 10, introduces
the era of the Seventh Trumpet.
vision of the measuring of the temple of God, Chapter 11, precedes the sounding
of the seventh trumpet.
vision of the sun-clothed woman in Chapter 12 leads to the vision of the
ten-horned beast that rose up out of the sea and the two-horned beast that rose
up out of the earth in Chapter 13.
vision of the company standing on the sea of glass in Chapter 15 introduces the
vision of the woman on the ten-horned beast in Chapter 17 gives further details
on the reign of the beast.
vision of the fall of Babylon in Chapter 17 helps us to know more about the day
vision of the marriage of the Lamb in Chapter 19 introduces the coming of Christ
in judgment to execute vengeance on His enemies and then to reign with His
saints for 1000 years.
finally, the vision of the New Jerusalem appears in Chapter 21.
five groups of seven series deal with two different realms
five groups of seven series deal with two different realms: the church and the
unregenerate world. The church is symbolized by heaven and the unregenerate
world is symbolized by the earth.
first series, the letters to the seven churches concerns spiritual matters
pertaining to the church. The letters are not visions as are the other four
groups. Instead they are given in ordinary language and not in symbols, although
they do contain many figurative expressions.
seven seals is actually an all-inclusive series as the three remaining series
are contained within the scope of the seven seals. The seals extend from the
time Christ ascended into heaven and occupied the throne of God down to the
sabbath-silence in heaven at the opening of the seventh seal. The seals are
differentiated from the other series by the fact that each seal is introduced by
an action of the Lamb whereas the progressive stages of the other series are
introduced through the intervention of angels.
trumpet series is characterized by warnings in the form of catastrophic events.
God’s intended goal in this series is to bring men to repentance.
visions of Chapter 14 give us a look into the spiritual side of creation as it
approaches the time of the end.
vials are an expression of God’s wrath occurring during the days of the angel
that comes out from the altar in Chapter 14.
organization of the Book of Revelation as discussed here will be the outline or
pattern for our study. We will follow a chapter by chapter and verse by verse
methodology in this study. There may be incidents where we will refer to
something in a later chapter of the book, but that will be for the purpose of
clarifying a particular point we are considering at the moment.
date of the Revelation
closing this lecture, I want to take just a moment to comment on the date of the
writing of the Revelation. There are essentially two schools of thought among
Revelation theorists as to when John wrote the book. The Preterists believe the
Revelation is a vialed commentary on the persecution of the Church prior to the
destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in 70 a.d. Of necessity, the Preterits
date the Revelation to some time prior to 70 a.d. Historicists and
Millennialists agree that the date of the Revelation had to be some time close
to the end of the First Century a.d.
know from Revelation 1:9 that the Apostle John was a prisoner on the Isle of
Patmos. Patmos is a small, rocky island of about 50 square miles in the Aegean
Sea lying off the coast of Asia Minor SW of Ephesus and almost 50 miles due west
of Miletus. Christians were considered criminals during the reign of Emperor
Domitian, who reigned from a.d. 81–96. It is believed that John was banished
to Patmos in a.d. 95 and was probably held prisoner there for 18 months.
Jesus told John to write the things he has “seen, the things which ARE, and
the things which will take place after this”, the “ARE” indicates the
present time in which John was on Patmos and it identifies the date for the Book
of Revelation and the commencement of the visions as near the end of the First