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A Basic Outline of Revelation

• Daniel Baker

Posted in Bible, Book of Revelation, History of Redemption, New Testament, Sermons

Now that we've looked at some of the big picture aspects of Revelation we're ready to zoom in just a bit closer. If we were on Google maps, we would be going from the state view to the city view. We'll hold off on the street view until the sermons themselves! Our goal for this post is to give a brief description of the major sections of Revelation. As you'll see, there are seven sections that describe similar events in slightly different ways (and sometimes radically different ways).

Introduction (1-3)

In these opening chapters John introduces himself (1:1), identifies his audience ("seven churches that are in Asia," 1:4), and calls people to respond to this word which is ultimately from God himself (1:3-8). He then raises our eyes to Christ himself in a glorious unveiling (1:9-20). Chapters 2-3 give seven letters to seven different cities in Asia Minor: Ephesus (2:1-7), Smyrna (2:8-11), Pergamum (2:12-17), Thyatira (2:18-29), Sardis (3:1-6), Philadelphia (3:7-13), and Laodicea (3:14-22). If you saw these cities on a map, you'd notice that this order forms a circle, which is one of the reasons it is felt that this letter was a circular one. It was meant to be read in one church and then sent to the next one.

Heaven and the Seven Seals (4:1-8:1)

The second major section opens with the most detailed look at the throne of God to be found in the Bible (4:1-11). It is a scene of awe, wonder, mystery, and profound holiness. Yet, this gives way to a tension as a book is found but no one worthy to open it (5:1-4). Christ is then identified as worthy to open the book "and its seven seals" because of his shed blood and accomplished redemption (5:5-14). We then read of wave upon wave of heavenly worship. The seven seals are opened in an order that will be repeated several times in the book. We'll read of the first five fairly quickly, though the violence and terror they represent is profound (6:1-11), a long section devoted to the sixth seal (6:12-7:17), and then a quick look at the seventh (8:1), which will lead right to a new section, this time the seven trumpets. In chapter seven we'll see a beautiful picture of all the redeemed before the throne of God (7:1-11) where "they will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them...for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd" (7:16, 17).

The Seven Trumpets (8:2-11:19)

The seven trumpets are described just as the seven seals close (8:2). Again the first five come fairly quickly and again they are terrifying in their destruction (8:7-9:12). The sixth trumpet will bring global devastation, speak of the destruction of "the holy city" (11:2), and introduce us to "my two witnesses" (11:3) and "the beast" (11:7). The seventh trumpet takes us to the end of it all as more worship occurs before the throne of God (11:15-19).

The Woman and the Dragon (12-14)

At the beginning of chapter twelve, we go back before the time of John to the birth of Christ (12:1-5). He describes a son born to a woman who is violently opposed by "a great red dragon" (12:3). There is a kind of anti-Trinity in these chapters led by that dragon. He is joined by "the beast" (13:11) and eventually a "false prophet" (16:13), in some ways duplicating Christ and the Holy Spirit, respectively, though in a demented and perverted manner. It is the "dragon" who is the evil behind all evil that continually opposes God and his purposes (and people). Yet, eventually this dragon and all of his followers will be thrown into the lake of fire and allowed to torment no more (20:10). Eventually we will sing the song of the redeemed: "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of the brethren has been thrown down....And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony" (12:10, 11).

The Seven Bowls of Wrath (15-16)

The bowls of wrath follow a break in the pattern (15:1-8) where we hear "the song of Moses" (15:3-4) and prepare for the last of the sevens that brings global devastation and horrific torment. These bowls of wrath bring sores, water turned to blood, withering heat, wrenching pain to the beast and his followers, Armageddon, and then the fall of Babylon "the great city" (16:1-21). This final bowl of wrath sets up the next section that describes more specifically the fall of Babylon.

The Fall of Babylon and the Return of Christ (17-19)

Now the anti-Trinity is joined by a woman that counters the woman of 12:1. This new woman is "Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and the abominations of the earth" (17:5). There is talk then of kings and kingdoms that "wage war against the Lamb" (17:14), but then a great angel will cry, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!" (18:2). Her destruction brings songs of salvation from the multitudes of heaven (19:1-7), and then there is the announcement of the "marriage supper of the Lamb" (19:9). The marriage that happens is nothing like we would expect for it begins with the bridegroom, Christ himself, descending to earth in judgment, fury, glory, and total domination (19:10-21). There is a show of force by the beast, the false prophet, and their followers, but it is pointless in the face of Christ's supremacy. They are thrown into the lake of fire (19:20).

The New Heavens and New Earth (20-22)

The last section has generated perhaps the most discussion out of them all, because it is here that we get the proof text for the millennium (20:1-6). In July we'll give a sermon to different approaches to the millennium. The basic views are that a millennium is coming when Christ's reign shall be global and absolute in an unprecedented way (Classical Premillennialism or Dispensational Premillennialism). Another view is that we are in the millennium now and the church shall increase in its pervasiveness and dominance until Jesus returns (Postmillennialism). The view that we'll basically be preaching from is the Amillennial view, which says that the millennium is the church age in which we live now. It extends from Christ's ascension until his eventual return. Satan's influence during this time is not eliminated, but it is significantly reduced to allow for the gospel of grace to bring salvation to multitudes. After the millennium passage we come to the great white throne judgment, the new heavens and new earth, the new Jerusalem, and numerous pictures of the redeemed with the Godhead forever. Note that our final estate is not in heaven. It's on earth! If we die now we'll join Christ in heaven, but after the final resurrection of the body, we'll be with God on earth forever. Of course, it is a heavens-and-earth removed of the curse of Adam—both in the created world around us and more importantly in our own bodies and souls. The last portion of Revelation is an appeal to respond with all vigilance and humility to the prophecy just given (22:6-21).

Amazing and Sobering

The book of Revelation is both amazing and sobering. We ought to be amazed at the splendor of God and our future with him, but also sobered by the terrors of his coming judgment(s). Seeing this overview of the book helps us to do that.

We'll do one more post to get us ready for Revelation this Sunday. For that one we'll cover some of the basics like who wrote it and when it was written.

Daniel B.

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