SEVEN CHURCHES, SEALS, TRUMPETS AND BOWLS. Most of Revelation is structured around series of sevens. Seven churches, seals, trumpets and bowls are prominent. Each series revolves around judgment. Christ appears in the midst of seven churches judging the fidelity of the church as well as individuals to Himself and God’s Word. As each of the seven seals is broken, an action of the Lamb’s wrath takes place. The seventh seal contains the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet contains the seven bowl judgments.
Structural Parallelism with Daniel 2 and 7
STRUCTURAL PARALLELISM. Daniel contains parallel sections, such as chapters 2 and 7, which both cover the reigns of the same four successive kingdoms, symbolically pictured with a statute and four beasts, respectively. Consequently, many point to the likelihood of parallelism in Revelation as well. For example, three different passages might be the same battle (16:14; 19:19; 20:8).
Three and one half years occur five times, referring possibly to the same period (11:2-3; 12:6, 14; 13:5). The implications of these parallels affect one’s chronological placement of events. For instance, the seven trumpets and the seven bowl judgments become the same events, as each affects:
1. The earth (8:7; 16:2)
2. The sea (8:8; 16:3)
3. The rivers (8:10; 16:4)
4. The heavenly bodies (8:12; 16:8)
5. The people of earth (8:12; 16:12)
6. The Euphrates (9:13:16:12)
7. The end (11:15; 16: 17)
Structure of the Wrath of the Lamb
The approached in this study understands the wrath of the Lamb, symbolized in the seals, trumpets and bowls as the telescoping of events in chronological order. Within the seventh seal are the seven trumpets and within in seventh trumpet are the seven bowls.
1st Antichrist, chapter 6
2nd War, 6
3rd Famine, 6
4th Death takes one-fourth of the world, 6
5th Martyrdom takes a great multitude that cannot be numbered from the world, 6
6th Disturbances in the heavens and on earth, 6
7th Silence in heaven and blowing of the seven trumpets, 8
1st One-third of earth burned up, 8
2nd One-third of the sea turned to blood, 8
3rd One-third of the rivers and springs of water turned bitter by Wormwood, 8
4th One-third of the sun, moon and stars turned dark, 8
5th Locusts from the Abyss that torment people for five months, 9
6th Two hundred million mounted troops that slay one-third of mankind, 9
7th Loud voices in heaven and the pouring out of seven bowls, 11
1st Ugly and painful sores on the people with the mark of the beast, 16
2nd Sea turned to blood and everything living in it dies, 16
3rd Rivers and springs of water become blood, 16
4th Sun scorches people with fire, 16
5th Kingdom of the beast plunged into darkness and sores on men, 16
6th Euphrates River dried up to prepare way for the kings of the East, 16
7th A severe earthquake collapses the cities and hundred pound hailstones, 17
Theories of Literary Structures of the Judgments
JUDGMENTS ARE SIMULTANEOUS
JUDGMENTS ARE CONSECUTIVE Seals——————> Trumpets—————>Bowls
Amillennialists hold that the Second Coming as seen in chapter 19 and chapter 20 doubles back to the start of a new parallel section, with Satan being bound (20:1-3) at the beginning of the Gospel Age instead of the Millennium.
The Beast persecutes the two witnesses (11:7) before he rises to power (13:1) and Babylon is fallen in 14:8, but later not yet fallen (17:1-5; 18:21). Parenthesis, instead of Parallels, are used to describe and fill in details that are needed for understanding events already seen or to be seen in the book (see outline based on chronology).
THE SEVEN CHURCHES. The seven parables of Matthew 13 along with the seven letters Christ wrote to the seven Churches in Revelation 2-3 unlock the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven during this present age.
Parables of Matthew 13 and Churches of Revelation 2-3
The above seven churches existed in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) in A.D. 90’s. They are characteristic of churches throughout the Church Age, as well as the seven periods of Church history. The above dates are arbitrary since the previous church period fades away, while the next one rises, and a remnant of each remains to the end of this present age. In six of the seven letters there is a reference to Christ’s coming; the Smyrna letter being the only one that does not contain such a statement. It is significant that the church suffering the most is not given a word of hope concerning the second coming. The reference in the letter to Ephesus does not have any hope attached, but it is a warning that Christ will come and remove their lampstand if she does not repent (2:5). Likewise, in the letter to Pergamum Christ calls for repentance (2:16). Both of these references are a condition coming in the Greek. Sardis, the dead church, also receives a conditional warning that if she does not wake up Christ will come (3:3). The believers in Thyatira and Philadelphia churches are exhorted to hold to what they have until Christ comes (2:25; 3:11). Both of these passages convey a future coming in the Greek. Finally, Christ announces His arrival to the Laodicean church: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.”
Thus, there is no imminency of Christ’s coming promised to the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira or Sardis. However, Christ informs the true believers in the Thyatira and Philadelphia churches that they can expect His coming and announces His arrival to the Laodicean church. Since Christ did not come during the existence of the historical Laodicean church, the seven letters must have a prophetic meaning.
Since Revelation is a prophecy, it would be poor hermeneutics to pull chapters two and three from the book and say that they do not have a prophetic aspect to them. The logical conclusion is that each letter is representative of a period in Church history, and any period, like the first century, is a composite of all seven churches.
CHRONOLOGY. The chronological order of the visions and events by the very nature of apocalyptic genre is difficult to establish. There is an amalgamation of seven churches, seals, trumpets, bowls, personages, dooms, and terrific things. Some are straightforward, like the seven churches, others encompass one another. Fourteen parentheses are strategically placed for thematic reasons that interrupt the chronology.