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The Chronological Structure of the Book of Revelation

The Chronological Structure of the Book of Revelation

The book of Revelation can be approached as a chronological story. Viewing it chronologically helps to make sense of the various parts of the book. Like many Old Testament prophecies, there are details in these sections that are in some ways similar to ancient prophecy, but when we look at all these sections together they do not match any moment in ancient history.

When the book of Revelation is viewed chronologically, there are four parts in the structure of the book of Revelation, with the fourth part being the largest consisting of five chronological sections in which the events occur in sequential order.

  1. Part 1: John’s calling to prophesy about the end times (Rev. 1)John gave truths about Jesus’ majesty that formed the way he prophesied about the end times. These truths are also to equip us.
  2. Part 2: Jesus’ seven letters to the churches (Rev. 2-3)The instructions Jesus gave to these churches about overcoming sin also give insight into what the end-time church must overcome.
  3. Part 3: Jesus takes the scroll (Rev. 4-5)Contains the earth’s title deed and His plan to cleanse it. Jesus takes a seven-sealed scroll from the Father. The scroll represents the title deed of the earth and the battle plan to judge, cleanse and prepare the nations for Jesus’ rule over all the earth, while bringing the church to a mature bride who partners with Him in the plan (Rev 6-22).
  4. Part 4: Jesus’ plan (Rev. 6-22)Includes Great Tribulation judgments against the Antichrist. Jesus reveals His main storyline of love to cleanse the earth of evil. His plan is seen in five chronological sections describing the main storyline of the 21 judgment events (seven seals, seven trumpets and seven bowls) that are released on the Antichrist’s empire in sequential order.

After each chronological section, an angel explains to John why the events just described are necessary. The angelic explanations function as a parenthesis that puts the storyline on “pause.” They answer questions arising from the chronological sections: Why is God’s wrath so severe? What will happen to the saints? Angels explain to John what happens to God’s people including what Jesus will do to help them, and what the Antichrist will do to persecute them.

Five Chronological Sections of Jesus’ plan (Revelation 6-22)

The fourth part of the book of Revelation, Jesus’ plan, consists of five chronological sections. These sections include both events that are chronological and angelic explanations where John is given context and further information about the events and the spiritual dynamics associated with them.

  1. Chronological Section #1 (Rev. 6) – The seal judgments against the kingdom of darkness. Angelic Explanation #1 (Rev. 7). The church receives protection from judgments and falling away.
  2. Chronological Section #2 (Rev. 8-9) – The trumpet judgments against the Antichrist’s empire. Angelic Explanation #2 (Rev. 10-11). The church receives direction by increased prophetic ministry.
  3. Chronological Section #3 (Rev. 11:15-19) – Jesus’ second coming royal procession and the rapture leading to Jesus replacing all the kings and top governmental leaders on earth. Angelic Explanation #3 (Rev. 12-14)—the Antichrist’s violent confrontation with the saints deserves Jesus’ judgment and the replacement of all his evil governments. At the seventh and last trumpet (1 Thes. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:52; Rev. 10:7), Jesus will rapture the church and travel across the sky in a royal procession so that every eye will see Him (Rev. 1:7). After this, Jesus will enter Jerusalem and stand on the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4).
  4. Chronological Section #4 (Rev. 15-16) – Bowl judgments destroy evil infrastructures in society. Angelic Explanation #4 (Rev. 17-18). The seduction of Babylon’s evil religion will permeate and infiltrate all the structures of society, requiring that Babylon be totally destroyed.
  5. Chronological Section #5 (Rev. 19-20) – Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Rev. 19:11-21:8). Angelic Explanation #5 (Rev. 21-22). The restoration of all things, Acts 3:21, (Rev. 21:9-22:5).

11I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. 12His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns…15Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them…16And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS…19I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him… 20Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet…these two were cast alive into the lake of fire…21The rest were killed with the sword… 20:1Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. 2He laid hold of…Satan, and bound him for a thousand years3…so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished…4I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them…they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 19:11-20:4 NKJV)

While the book of Revelation can seem intimidating to study, the study of the book can be made much easier with a basic understanding of the main themes and symbols accompanied by an overview of the structure of the book. While every student of this book has some outstanding questions and there is some mystery to how the Lord will complete His redemptive purpose, the book of Revelation also includes a very unique command to “keep” the book and finishes with a strong warning about altering the book (Rev. 1:3; 22:18). These unusual warnings tell us that God intends for us to study the book in such a way that it affects how we live. With some basic tools that help us approach the book we can study it and receive from it the benefits the Lord intends us to receive.

This article originally appeared here.

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Samuel Whitefield is a preacher, teacher, and writer. He serves on the senior leadership team of the International House of Prayer of Kansas City and as a faculty member of the International House of Prayer University. He is the director of OneKing, a ministry that helps connect the global church to God’s plan for Israel and the nations. Samuel and his family share a passion to declare the beauty of Jesus until He is loved and adored on earth as He is in heaven.