THE BOOK OF
O U T L I N E
Overview of the Book. Revelation furnishes us with an outline of prophetic events. We might wonder why this book is necessary given that we have Daniel and Isaiah in the Old Testament. There are a number of reasons, but it is well to remember that there is an aspect of prophecy that is peculiar to the revelation of Christ, and the New Testament. For instance, the judgment of the false church is something that is not disclosed in the Old Testament because the church was not revealed at that time. It is not addressed to any particular assembly or individual, but to believers as servants. The title of the Book in the KJV is wrong. It is not “the revelation of St. John”, rather it is “the revelation” (‘apokalupsis’ or, the appearing, unveiling) of Jesus Christ. The subject of the book therefore follows from its title. The subject is the official kingdom glories of the Lord Jesus Christ which will be manifest at His appearing.
An Earthly Book. The Book of Revelation is prophetic, and it fits in with Old Testament prophecy. However, Revelation fills a needed role in prophecy in that it deals with the professing church, which is not found in Old Testament prophecy. Revelation is a book of judgment. It has to do primarily with the earth, although there are several scenes that take place in heaven. Having to do primarily with the earth, Revelation does not give us Church doctrine, although it is written to the Church. This is because the Church is a heavenly thing. The Church is mentioned before and after the judgment, but in the context of the earth. In ch.1-3 the Church is on earth as a responsible witness. In ch.21-22 the Church is coming down out of heaven. Then, in the middle section of the book, which deals with judgments, the Church isn’t explicitly seen after ch.3 until ch.19 because she has been raptured! However, Revelation is written to the Church (Rev. 1:11). In fact, it is the only book of prophecy that is written to the Church. We need to listen to what the Spirit says to the churches in this book.
A symbolic book. Revelation is a symbolic book, but it speaks of literal events. We don’t take the symbols literally, but we take the events literally. There are some numbers (1260 days, etc.) that are literal. In order to know if something is literal, we need to have some other scriptures to back it up… we can’t have “private interpretations” (2 Pet. 1:20). Having read the whole bible (symbols from the Old Testament, etc.) we are able to understand these things. We interpret scripture in light of other scriptures.
A summarizing book. Revelation is the summing up of the ends of many prophetic subjects throughout the Word of God. If we don’t understand the Holy Spirit’s method of teaching prophesy we will run into trouble with Revelation. We learn these methods from reading Old Testament prophecy first; read Rev. 10, where the “little book” is figurative of Old Testament prophesies. One needs to have digested the Old Testament prophesies to understand what we have in Revelation. Among other things, one important thing we learn when reading Old Testament prophecy is what William Kelly called the “habit of prophecy”; the habit of going over a portion of the prophetic timeline in a series, then going back over the same ground again, and again. Often the student of prophecy can discern interruptions in that pattern, which are often parentheses within a series that provide valuable information helpful to understanding the rest of the series.
An outline. John is told
Written Within and on the Backside. In addition to the outline given in Rev. 1:19, a helpful continuation of that may be taken from Revelation 5:1; "And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within and on the backside, sealed with seven seals." When a sealed scroll is unsealed, it can be gradually unrolled. What you see first as the seals are removed is the writing on "the backside". Once unrolled, you can read what is written "within". The Book of Revelation is like that. Chapters 6 - 11 give us a chronological sequence under seven seals and seven trumpets that run from the beginning of the prophetic week all the way the appearing and reign of Christ. This straightforward sequence is like what is written on the backside of the scroll. Then in chapters 12 - 22 we have added details about persons and events that fit within the previously described sequence of events. This second section is like what is written on the inside of the scroll. In fact, the chronological sequence of events can actually be shown to begin with chapter 1 (historical), followed by church history (ch.2-3), followed by a scene in heaven (ch.4-5), after which the seals commence.1
A Chronological Arrangement. It can be helpful to see the sections of Revelation arranged chronologically. The chart below attempts to show that. I highly recommend getting familiar with an outline of prophecy from the Old Testament before reading revelation. I suggest reading some helpful ministry on prophetic events.
Black text = Events in chronological order
Red text = Events occurring in Parentheses or Appendices
Blue text = Opening and Closing
Red text = Events occurring in Parentheses or Appendices
Blue text = Opening and Closing
Will the Church go through the Tribulation? No. The Church will be taken out through the Rapture before the Tribulation begins. Here are three simple reasons why I believe the Church will not endure the Tribulation:
- The express statements of scripture. We read of the assembly in Philadelphia, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” Rev. 3:10. Surely, the "hour of trial" refers to the judgments of the Tribulation period. The Church will be kept out of it. Then in 2 Thess. 2:1-12 we find that the Day of the Lord (Appearing) cannot come until the great apostasy takes place, and the Antichrist is revealed, and that the Antichrist cannot be revealed until the Holy Spirit is removed from the earth! The Holy Spirit will not leave the earth until the Bride is raptured (Rev. 22:17). Therefore, the Church will not be on earth for the Tribulation! Finally, the we read in 1 Thess. 1:10 that Jesus has "delivered us from the wrath to come", referring to the Tribulation judgments, and in 1 Thess. 5:9 that "God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ".
- The absence of the Church in Tribulation Passages. The scriptures that deal with the Tribulation either state that the Church will be kept out of it (Rev. 3:10), or they connect the Tribulation with Israel (Jer. 30:4-7; Dan. 12:1), the Gentiles (Rev. 7:9), or the faithful Remnant of the Jews (Matt. 24:3-29). The book of Revelation is primarily a book of judgment which foretells the judgments that God will pour out upon the earth in the tribulation period. It is written to "the seven Churches of Asia", in order that they should know what was coming on this world, and that the light of prophecy would have a moral effect on their conduct. The book is divided into three parts; "the things which thou hast seen" (Rev. 1), "the things that are" (Rev. 2-3), and "the things which shall be hereafter" (Rev. 4-22). Rev. 1-3 directly apply to the "churches". Within the third section, the chapters that deal with judgment falling on the earth are ch.6-19... not once do we read of the Church on earth in those chapters! We see the same thing with Daniel's seventy weeks; the Church was not on earth during the first 69 weeks, and neither will she be during the 70th week. She is only on earth in a parenthesis between the 69th and 70th weeks!
- The heavenly calling and hope of the Church as distinct from Israel. Believing that the Church will endure the tribulation comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about the Church, and how the Church is distinct from Israel. Israel was an earthly people, with an earthly calling, earthly hopes, and earthly blessings. The Church has a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), heavenly hopes (1 Thess. 1:10), and heavenly blessings (Eph. 1:3). By mixing up the Church and Israel (a fundamental error of Covenant Theology), and by confusing verses that apply to Israel with the Church, many well-meaning believers have come to the erroneous conclusion that the Church will endure the Tribulation judgments. We must see from books like Ephesians and Colossians that the Church is the unique companion of Christ, His body and His bride, whom He will have by His side for all eternity. The Tribulation judgments are the wrath of God. A man might punish his disobedient child, but it would not be fitting for him to discipline his bride! It is a totally different relationship. Apostate Israel is like a disobedient child. Apostate Christendom is like a immoral woman making false claims of relationship with Christ. They will be judged in the Tribulation... not the true Church of God.
Three Great Apostasies. There are three great apostasies which come together in the Book of Revelation: the Jewish Apostasy, the Christian Apostasy, and the Apostasy of Government.
Seven blessings. Remarkably, while Revelation is a book of judgment, yet there are seven blessings recorded in its pages:
- Rev. 1:3 – a Blessing for those that read, hear, and keep the words of the Book of Revelation.
- Rev. 14:13 – A blessing for those who have died in faith.
- Rev. 16:15 – A blessing for those who walk carefully and separate from the world.
- Rev. 19:9 – A blessing for those invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.
- Rev. 20:6 – A blessing for the heavenly saints who will live and reign with Christ in the Millennium.
- Rev. 22:7 – A blessing for those who treasure the prophetic scriptures in light of the Lord’s coming.
- Rev. 22:14 – A blessing for those who put their trust in the blood of Jesus.
Translation of Revelation. The KJV is based on the Received Text of Erasmus (1516) who lacked the best manuscripts. In some cases, he used the Latin Vulgate to guide him in assembling his Greek Bible. The book of Revelation is unique in that there are few early copies. For this reason it is highly encouraged to use a critical translation when studying Revelation. For example, in the last six verses of this book, Erasmus re-translated from Latin back into Greek to complete the text. Therefore, in the KJV, the text of Rev. 22:16-21 has gone from Greek → Latin → Greek → English!
- Scott, Walter. An Exposition of the Revelation of Jesus Christ and Prophetic Outlines. Pickering & Inglis.
- Darby, J. N. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. G. Morrish, 1940.
- Anstey, B. Outline of the Book of Revelation. Christian Truth Publishing.
- Kelly, William. Lectures on the Book of Revelation. Williams and Norgate, 1861.
- Kelly, William. Exposition of Revelation. Bible Truth Publishers, 1932.
- Hole, Frank B. Hebrews to Revelation. Scripture Truth Publications, 2007.
- Grant, Leslie M. Exploring the Revelation. Believers Bookshelf, 1990.
- Smith, Hamilton. The Revelation. Central Bible Truth Depot, 1931.
- Darby, J. N. Notes on the Apocalypse, Gleaned at Lectures in 1842. Translated from the French. London, 1849.
- Stanley, Charles. The Revelation of Jesus Christ: a Brief Exposition. Pickering & Inglis, 1923.