Structures of Revelation

Interpreters who take an allegorical approach often deny there is any chronological structure intended in this book. Lenski says, “all history is covered, but not as we read history, only as God sees it.” Hendriksen dismisses both the historical and futurist interpretations on the assumption that the book is a symbolic word of encouragement for the early Christians suffering persecution and a general assurance of the ultimate triumph in Christ.

A SIMPLE STRUCTURE OF REVELATION. There are diverse structures to Revelation, which range from simple to complex. The book contains a large number of repeated phrases, some of which are significant marks of progressive thought.

The first and simplest of these structures is built upon the phrase “in the Spirit,” which occurs in four places.

1:10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit Isle of Patmos
4:2 At once I was in the Spirit Throne in Heaven
17:3 Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit Desert on Earth
21:10 And he carried me away in the Spirit Mountain High and Great

The Holy Spirit transported John to new scenes of action where spiritual realities and future events were disclosed to him. The first pair of transports are introduced by “a great voice” (1:10; 4:1) and the second pair by “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls” (17:1; 21:9).

The first pair contrasts earth and heaven, the writer was suffering physical exile for faith on earth and then is transported to heaven where he sees the hosts of the redeemed and Christ break the seals of destiny.

The second pair contrasts the desert and mountain, the prostitute and the bride, corruption and purity, doom and destiny, despair and delight. This second pair gives a double outcome of the book.

In addition, the reader of Revelation needs to pay attention to a second phrase, “I saw . . . .” This phrase occurs thirty-three times in the NIV. In the majority of instances, this expression introduces a new item into the vision. John saw over sixty visions of notoriously elusive things that were very difficult for him to describe.

Additionally, a third phrase, “peals of thunder”, marks a division (4:5; 8:5; 11:19; 16:18; 19:6). In each case, this phrase is connected with some terminal activity, and with the altar, temple or throne in heaven.

SCENES ON EARTH AND HEAVEN. There is an earthly and heavenly structure, in the sense, that scenes switch back and forth from earth to heaven. The following visions take place in heaven:

1. Opening of the seven-sealed scroll (4:1-5:14)
2. Vision of the little scroll (10:1-11)
3. Measuring of the Temple (11:1-2)
4. Prophecy of Christ’s future reign (11:15-19)
5. Vision of the sun-clad woman (12:1-17)
6. Vision of 144,000 saints and the Judgment Day (14:1-20)
7. Vision of the sea of glass around the throne (15:1-8)
8. Vision of the hallelujah chorus (19:1-6)
9. Marriage of the Lamb (19:7-10)
10. Judgment of the Great White Throne (20:1-15)

SONGS OF REVELATION. No less than twenty expressions of praise can be counted, though not all are called songs in this book. The essence of worship pervades the entire Apocalypse. They breathe a sense of awe at the power of God exercised in judgment, redemption and establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth.

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