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Revelation Structure (outline)

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  • e_s_c_h_a_t_o_n
    The Revelation of Jesus Christ has many interpretations, from future events to past history, to an idealistic description of the Gospel and the kingdom of God.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 29, 2013
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      The Revelation of Jesus Christ has many interpretations, from future events to past history, to an idealistic description of the Gospel and the kingdom of God. One thing is for sure. Revelation is the last book in the Bible. Genesis is the first book of the Bible and starts with the world's creation. Revelation portrays the end of creation and the
      beginning of a new creation. It has many allusions to other Bible texts and can perhaps be seen as a summary of scripture.

      Another factor to consider is that it is probably not so important how modern interpreters understand the Apocalypse as how those to whom it was originally understood it. Revelation was written to the seven churches in Asia, and not just the section directly addressed to
      the churches in chapters two and three, but the entire book (22:16).

      Although many of the symbols encompass the entirety of creation, the message concerns those things in the churches.

      Just as there are many interpretations of Revelation, there are also many outlines of the structure of Revelation. Most outlines refer to the fact that there is a repeating series of seven in the text. We can find the following sets of seven in the text.


      The seven churches - chapters 2-3
      The seven seals - chapters 6-8:1
      The seven trumpets chapters 8:2-11
      The seven bowls or vials - chapter 16


      As we get into the sixth and seventh judgments of the seals, trumpets and bowls it sounds like the world is ending. The beginning of these series also have something in common.


      Prior to the first judgment there is the heavenly throne or tabernacle, or there is a heavenly messenger. We can find a heavenly messenger in chapter one before the churches as well. So lets add these chapters to our outline as well.


      The seven churches - chapters 1-3
      The seven seals - chapters 4-8:1
      The seven trumpets chapters 8:2-11
      The seven bowls or vials - chapter 15-16


      The only chapters we haven't accounted for are chapters 12-14 and 17-22.


      The seven churches - chapters 1-3
      The seven seals - chapters 4-8:1
      The seven trumpets chapters 8:2-11
      12-14
      The seven bowls or vials - chapter 15-16
      17-22


      First let's look at the end of Revelation, chapters 17-22. Here are a couple of vital clues.

      At the beginning of the section we have a heavenly messenger, one of the angels from the vials section (17:1). Near the end we have another one of the angels from the vials(21:9). That would seem to infer that there is a series of introducing angels associated with the vial angels. Upon close inspection we can find the angels at 17:1, 18:1, 18:21, 19:17, 20:1, 21:9.


      In the later chapters of the book of Daniel he sees visions and then is offered explanations by the angels. In Revelation the vial angels offer explanations to John. So I will call 17-22 the explanations section.


      You may notice that we only have a series of six angels instead of seven. However, there is an angel at the beginning of a thousand period, but no angel at the end of this period. Where does this thousand year period come from? It is at this point we can turn to the early church for an answer.


      The Epistle of Barnabas, a late first or early second century Christian document, describes the relation of history to the days of creation.


      >>...The Sabbath is mentioned at the beginning of the creation [thus]: "And God made in six days the works of His hands, and made an end on the seventh day, and rested on it, and sanctified it." (Gen. ii. 2.) Attend, my children, to the meaning of this expression, "He finished in six days." This implieth that the Lord will finish all things in six thousand years, for a day is with Him a thousand years. And He Himself testifieth, saying, "Behold, to-day will be as a thousand years." (Ps. xc. 4; 2 Pet. iii. 8.) Therefore, my children, in six days, that is, in six thousand years, all things will be finished. "And He rested on the seventh day." <<


      Then Barnabas gives the same events given in Revelation 20:10-15.


      >>This meaneth: when His Son, coming [again], shall destroy the time of the wicked man, and judge the ungodly, and change the sun, and the and the stars, then shall He truly rest on the seventh day (Heb 4:4)... Barnabas XV<<


      Other church fathers like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus relate the thousand years and the days of Genesis to Adams downfall. God said in the day he ate of the forbidden tree he would die (2:17), and yet he lived nearly thousand years (Gen 5:5). This was taught several hundred years earlier in the ancient book of Jubilees (4:29-30).


      >>And at the close of the nineteenth jubilee in the seventh week in the sixth year thereof Adam died and all his sons buried him in the land of his creation and he was the first to be buried in the earth. And he lacked seventy years of one thousand years for one thousand years are as one day in the testimony of the heavens and therefore was it written concerning the tree of knowledge. On the day that ye eat thereof ye will die For this reason he did not complete the years of this day for he died during it. Jubilees 4:29-30<<


      This shows a non-literal interpretation of the Genesis day as well as the thousand years, and the 6000 years.

      The first century Jew Philo of Alexandria said this about eternal life and Genesis 2:17.

      >>(16) What is the meaning of the expression, "Ye shall surely die?" (#Ge 2:17). The death of the good is the beginning of another life; for life is a twofold thing, one life being in the body, corruptible; the other without the body, incorruptible. Therefore one wicked man surely dies the death, who while still breathing and among the living is in reality long since buried, so as to retain in himself no single spark of real life, which is perfect virtue. But a good man, who deserves so high a title, does not surely die, but has his life prolonged, and so attains to an eternal end. Philo - questions 1<<

      And Jubilees says this about the 6000 years.


      >>And the angel of the presence who went before the camp of Israel took the tables of the divisions of the years from the time of the creation of the law and of the testimony of the weeks of the jubilees according to the individual years according to all the number of the jubilees according to the individual years from the day of the new creation when the heavens and the earth shall be renewed and all their creation according to the powers of the heaven and according to all the creation of the earth until the sanctuary of the Lord shall be made in Jerusalem on Mount Zion and all the luminaries be renewed for healing and for peace and for blessing for all the elect of Israel and that thus it may be from that day and unto all the days of the earth. Jubilees 1:29<<


      So the origin of the thousand years is in relation to the six days of creation and six thousand years of history. The seventh period is the true Sabbath of rest. The association of the thousand years with the series of angels shows this relationship. Our updated outline looks like this:


      The seven churches - chapters 1-3
      The seven seals - chapters 4-8:1
      The seven trumpets chapters 8:2-11
      12-14
      The seven bowls or vials - chapter 15-16
      The seven explanations - chapters 17-22


      We have only chapters 12- 14 left. 12:1 and 15:1 start with a scene in heaven near God's throne. 13 ends with beasts on their way to destruction and a call for wisdom. 14 ends with a judgment upon the city like we find near the end of chapter 16. The factor used for dividing 14 from 13 is that there is series of angels in chapter 14 like we have in the rest of the sections of Revelation. 14 begins with the 144,000 and a voice from heaven. The symbols here are like the heavenly symbols in chapters 4,5 and 15, so we know that 14 is the beginning of a section. We find angels giving announcements in verses 14:6, 14:8, 14:9, 14:15, 14:17 and 14:18. The angels aren't identified with numbers as in the trumpets and vials, except for the third one (14:9).


      We see that the third angel in the sequence is identified as the third angel, so we can have confidence about the sequence of angels in the rest of the chapter. Like the explanations, we have 6 angels instead of seven.


      In the fifth explanation we are told of a coming "little season." This is the same term used in the fifth seal. There is then a second harvest after the sixth announcement. Presumably this is the harvest of the little season as described in the fifth seal (6:11).


      In the third explanation we Christ riding on a white horse. In the third announcement we have Christ riding on a white cloud. Very similar imagery is used.


      Our updated table.


      The seven churches - chapters 1-3
      The seven seals - chapters 4-8:1
      The seven trumpets chapters 8:2-11
      12-13
      The six announcements 14
      The seven bowls or vials - chapter 15-16
      The seven explanations - chapters 17-22


      Now we have only chapters 12 and 13 to deal with. 12 begins in heaven near God's throne. Chapter 13 starts with a dragon on earth watching a beast come out of the sea, so it is unlikely to be the beginning of a section. It is logical to link the two chapters into a section. We don't have introducing angels as in the rest of Revelation, so we must use the symbols to link the events to the rest of Revelation. For instance 8:12 and 12:4.

      12:4 sounds similar to the fourth trumpet with a third of the stars cast down or darkened.


      In the fifth explanation (20:1) and fifth trumpet (9:1) we have the bottomless pit and defeat of Satan. We have a very similar thing in chapter 12 (12:16). Based on similarity of keywords and events I propose the following divisions:


      12:1 throne
      12:2 first
      12:2 second
      12:3 third
      12:4 fourth
      12:9 fifth
      13:1 sixth


      The section ends with the mysterious 666 and a call for wisdom.


      Since this section deals extensively with Satanic beasts that is what I will call it. Here is our completed outline.


      The seven churches - chapters 1-3
      The seven seals - chapters 4-8:1
      The seven trumpets chapters 8:2-11
      The satanic beasts 12-13
      The six announcements 14
      The seven bowls or vials - chapter 15-16
      The seven explanations - chapters 17-22


      All of the sections are divided by angels except for the Satanic beasts.


      I'm sure there will many objections to this outline. Many interpreters call for a division of sections between chapters 19 and 20. However, there is a definite reason why this shouldn't be.


      In chapter 20 (20:10) we are told that the beast and false prophet are in the lake of fire. That's where they were thrown at the end of chapter 19 (19:20). That dictates that chapter 20 has to follow 19 in sequence.


      In the 19th century John Darby, the father of dispensationalism, taught that after the churches, Revelation should be understood as a sequential series of events in the end times. That is a relatively idea. In the very first commentary on Revelation, back in the fourth century, the church father Victorinus wrote about the seventh trumpet:


      >>1. "And when He had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour."] Whereby is signified the beginning of everlasting rest; but it is described as partial, because the silence being interrupted, he repeats it in order. For if the silence had continued, here would be an end of his narrative. <<


      Victorinus says Revelation repeats in order. That was the view until the last few hundred years.


      One objection to a repeating order is that the judgments progressively increase in severity. For instance, the judgments in the trumpets only on a third, whereas the vials affect the entirety. However, notice that all the stars fall in the sixth seal and it precedes both the trumpets and vials.


      Another objection is that the beast and false prophet aren't introduced until chapter 13, so earlier judgments couldn't be the same as the later ones. The reader needs to understand that these things are symbols that are not to be taken literally. Dispensationalists claim to understand the Bible literally, but they don't expect seven headed beasts with ten horns to be walking around on the earth in the end times.


      In my outline I have let the text itself naturally divide the book without preconceived notions.


      In this outline I haven't explained many of the symbols and events found in Revelation. In my opinion the best book for that is a first or second century Christian book call the Shepherd of Hermas. It was part of some early New Testament canons along with the Epistle of Barnabas. It is where the symbols of Revelation meet the parables of Jesus.


      Remember, Jesus said the Apocalypse concerns "these things in the churches."


      Rev 22:16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
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