Eschatology the Structure of Revelation

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.” (Revelation 1:1-2)

In the first chapter of the book of Revelation we can see several statements that summarize the contents of the book. In the first chapter verse 1 we read this statement. “God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place.” The book of Revelation was a vision that the Apostle John received while exiled on the Island of Patmos. John was told these things that the servants of Jesus Christ would know the things which must take place.

John was to write the things he saw and heard in a book and send them to the seven Churches. “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:11) These letters to the seven Churches state exaltations and admonitions to each Church.

Then in verse 19 we read, “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” (Revelation 1:19) Within these three verses we have an indication as to the contents of the entire book of Revelation. John was given a vision and the book of Revelation is a description of that vision. It was a description of “the things that which are” and “the things that will take place after these things.” This includes “the things which soon must take place.”

The great commentator Matthew Henry calls verses 1 and 2 the “substance and pedigree of the book” because Revelation is the book that God gave Jesus Christ, the Prophet of the Church, the One who through all revelation comes, who is the great trustee of divine revelation. Through Jesus John is describing the great events that will happen that depend wholly on the will of God. These events described in the book of Revelation can only be the object of God’s divine presence and can only come to our mind by the revelation given us by the Spirit of God.

The book of Revelation reveals to us what is and will be and enforces that man’s redemption is and has always been God’s purpose. Therefore the purpose of the book of Revelation is to reveal the events that will take place immediately before, during, and following Christ’s return to earth.

When looking at Revelation we must take the verses of each chapter in context. As an example verse 1 cannot mean that everything in the book would soon take place after the book was written. Some believe that they do happen shortly after the books writing. These people believe that the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70 marked the second coming of Christ. Also the passing away of heaven and earth and the establishment of a new heaven and earth. But the book of Revelation was written in 95 A.D. after the destruction of the Temple.

This would be difficult to accept as Jesus will return in the same manner in which He departed. “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

The Apostle Paul tells is at the coming of the Lord the dead in Christ will rise first and the followers of Christ will be caught up with them in the air. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17)

Also when the new heaven and earth come down it will be a place where there is no death, sorrow, crying, and pain. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. The one who spoke with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall. The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal. And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, according to human measurements, which are also angelic measurements. The material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:1-27)

“Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.” (Revelation 1:19) Looking at this verse as a description of the contents of Revelation as the things that were seen, the things which were current and the things which were about to take place. Scholars have argued it is a description of the main structure of Revelation. Looking at the contents of the book we see the same order is stated in the verse. The things that were seen are stated in Revelation 1:9 through 1:20. The things that are current are in Revelation 2:1 through Revelation 3:30. And the things which were to take place in Revelation 4:1 to Revelation 22:7.

In Revelation 4:1 Jesus calls John up to heaven. “After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like the sound of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” (John 4:1) Jesus is calling John up to show him was must take place after these things that were current at the seven Churches. This call from Jesus solidifies the point that 1:19 is descriptive of the book of Revelation. At first John saw Christ amidst the lampstands, then the contents of the letters to the seven Churches, which are current. From here we move to the vision of things that must take place after these things in 4:1 through 22:7.

Revelation 4:1 to 22:7 is seen as prophetic to the events that will take place before, during and after the return of Christ. The prophetic events in this third section of Revelation will only make sense if they are placed in chronological order.

The structures of the vision are noteworthy also. The Prologue of the book Revelation 1 is balanced against the Epilogue Revelation 22:10-21. The worldly Church in Revelation 2 and 3 is balanced against the Church Triumphant in Revelation 21 and 22. The vision of the Throne and the Judgment Scroll by the Lamb, Revelation 4 to 7, is balanced against the Second Coming of Christ, the doom of Babylon, the Antichrist, False Prophet and Satan, the Judgment of the Dead before the Great White Throne and the Destruction of Death and Hades. Revelation 17 to 19. The Seven Trumpets, Revelation 8 to 11, are balanced against the Seven Bowls of Wrath, Revelation 15 to 16. Revelation 12 to 14 is of the conflict between the Seed of the Woman and the Seed of Satan.

The Apocalypse is indeed “a well-balanced drama with a definite central fulcrum point.”

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, June 9, 2017

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