1. Introduction (1:1-20)
a. The Author of the Book (1:1-2)
b. A Blessing for the Reader (1:3)
c. Greeting (1:4-6)
d. A Reminder That Jesus is Coming (1:7)
e. The Eternal Nature of God (1:8)
f. Jesus Among the Churches (1:9-20)
2. Letters to the Seven Churches (2:1-3:22)
a. Ephesus (2:1-7)
b. Smyrna (2:8-11)
c. Pergamos (2:12-17)
d. Thyatira (2:18-29)
e. Sardis (3:1-6)
f. Philadelphia (3:7-13)
g. Laodicea (3:14-22)
3. A Vision of the Throne of God (4:1-11)
4. The Book With the Seven Seals (5:1-8:5)
a. The Sealed Book (5:1-4)
b. The Lion of the Tribe of Judah (5:5-14)
c. The First Seal (6:1-2)
d. The Second Seal (6:3-4)
e. The Third Seal (6:5-6)
f. The Fourth Seal (6:7-8)
g. The Fifth Seal (6:9-11)
h. The Sixth Seal (6:12-17)
i. An Interlude (7:1-17)
j. The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
5. The Seven Trumpets (8:6-11:19)
a. The First Trumpet (8:6-7)
b. The Second Trumpet (8:8-9)
c. The Third Trumpet (8:10-11)
d. The Fourth Trumpet (8:12-13)
e. The Fifth Trumpet: The First Woe-
f. The Sixth Trumpet: The Second Woe-
200 Million Horsemen (9:13-21)
g. An Interlude (10:1-11:14)
1) The Little Book and The Seven
2) The Measuring of the Temple (11:1-2)
3) The Two Witnesses (11:3-14)
h. The Seventh Trumpet: The Third Woe-
Judgment of the Nations (11:15-19)
6. Between the Plagues (12:1-14:20)
a. The Woman and the Dragon (12:1-17)
1) The Woman Delivers her Child (12:1-6)
2) The Great Spiritual Battle (12:7-12)
3) The Dragon Persecutes the Woman (12:13-17)
b. The Two Wild Beasts (13:1-18)
1) The Sea Beast (13:1-10)
2) The Land Beast (13:11-18)
c. Righteous Judgment (14:1-20)
1) The Lamb on Mount Zion (14:1-5)
2) The Three Angels (14:6-13)
3) The Harvest of the Earth (14:14-20)
7. The Seven Bowls of Wrath (15:1-16:21)
a. The Seven Angels (15:1-16:1)
b. The First Bowl (16:2)
c. The Second Bowl (16:3)
d. The Third Bowl (16:4-7)
e. The Fourth Bowl (16:8-9)
f. The Fifth Bowl (16:10-11)
g. The Sixth Bowl (16:12-16)
h. The Seventh Bowl (16:17-21)
8. The Triumph of Almighty God (17:1-20:15)
a. The Scarlet Woman (17:1-18)
1) Her Description and Crimes (17:1-6)
2) The Identity of the Great Harlot (17:7-18)
b. The Destruction of the Great Whore (18:1-24)
c. The Hallelujahs of Victory (19:1-10)
d. The Destruction of the Beast and the False
e. The Thousand Years (20:1-10)
f. The Judgment (20:11-15)
9. The New Heaven and the New Earth (21:1-22:5)
a. The New Heaven and the New Earth (21:1-8)
b. The New Jerusalem (21:9-22:5)
1) The Exterior of the City (21:9-21)
2) The Interior of the City (21:22-22:5)
10. Epilogue: Final Exhortations (22:6-21)
KEY VERSES AND PASSAGES
1:1 "...things which must shortly take place..." (see also 22:6).
1:3 "...for the time is near" (see also 22:10).
1:18 "'I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive
2:4 "'Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left
your first love.'"
3:19 "'As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be
zealous and repent.'"
4:11 "'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and
power; for You created all things, and by Your will they
exist and were created.'"
14:13 "...'Write: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from
now on."' '"Yes,"' says the Spirit, '"that they may rest
from their labors, and their works follow them."'"
19:16 "And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."
20:15 "And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was
cast into the lake of fire."
21:8 "'But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers,
sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall
have their part in the lake which burns with fire and
brimstone, which is the second death.'"
22:14 "Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may
have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the
gates into the city."
22:17 "And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who
hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. And
whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely."
22:18-19 The warning not to tamper with the Word of God.
The title Revelation (note that it is singular) is derived from
the Greek word apokalupsis, meaning "an uncovering, a laying bare,
making naked," according to Thayer. The book uncovers or unveils
through symbols, signs, imagery, and visions the immediate future
of the church (1:1 & 3, 22:6 & 10), including the persecution she
will face, the destruction of her enemies, and her ultimate triumph.
The book paints a true picture of reality by which the saints of the
first century and following could be comforted. Following are some
of the major views of the book.
1. Idealist (sometimes called "Philosophy of History").
Those holding to this view assert that the abundant symbols used
throughout the book are not meant to be understood to have any
particular meaning. Their purpose is to simply point out that good
triumphs over evil. Thus, John does not refer to any specific
events that will occur in the future; he merely conveys the same
message over and over again with the use of different symbols
"Symbols are understood to refer to forces or tendencies and may
thus be fulfilled over and over as those forces or tendencies are
repeated in history" (William Hendriksen in More than Conquerors).
This method approaches Revelation in a very vague and ambiguous
way, but it is certainly the least nerve-racking precisely because it
avoids the need for a detailed explanation. Most are not satisfied
with this one.
In this view the greater part of the book of Revelation
(chapters 4-19) occurred before the end of the first century.
In fact, Foy E. Wallace, Jr., wrote a book insisting that most
of the book was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D.
70. Although the majority of scholars claim that the book was
written in A.D. 96, Wallace argues for A.D. 69. Jim McGuiggan
sets the date of composition in A.D. 79; he also thinks
that chapters 20-22 have already occurred.
The strength of these views is that the fulfillment of these events
was immediate, a fact that some interpretations ignore altogether.
The weaknesses, however, are many; few subscribe to this view.
3. Historical Background.
"Its advocates see in Revelation a book written for the people of
that day, set in a definite historical background, and fulfilled in
the events of the first two or three centuries" (Homer Hailey,
from page 50 of Revelation: An Introduction and Commentary).
In this view the persecutors are the Roman Empire, and the purpose
of the book is to show the eventual triumph of Christianity over
this corrupt world government.
To accept this view means seeing the fulfillment of these things
as a sequence beginning shortly after the book was written but
ending after three or four hundred years. Of course, the eventual
outcome of the battle (and there is but one enemy) would be of
interest to the brethren under fire. This is the most reasonable
explanation for the book of Revelation.
4. Continuous-Historical (also called "historicist").
This view makes chapters 4-19 of Revelation "a forecast of the
church's history and fortunes from John's day until the end of
time, and thus some parts of the book have been fulfilled, and
some parts have not" (Hailey 49).
Such a view invites a wide latitude of interpretation, and the
explanations differ greatly depending on what century it is.
The chief criticism of this theory is: "What possible value could
the future history of the church be to troubled, persecuted saints
in the first century?" How would they even understand it?
5. Futurist. This is the pre-millennial view, the one enjoined in
the Left Behind series.
Ray Summers (no relation) gives an excellent summary of
this view which sprang (in modern times, at least) from
John Darby (1800-1882).
They hold that Jesus came to establish a visible rule on this earth
and that John the Baptist had this in mind when he preached that
the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Jesus set out His standards for
this kingdom, but the Jews rejected Him and His plans. The offer
was then withdrawn, and the kingdom was postponed until the
second coming. As a parenthesis in history Christ established
His church. The church is not a fulfillment of the Old Testament.
It is temporary and will come to an end with the "rapture," which
is the sudden miraculous removal of all true believers to meet
Christ in the air when He comes again. This "rapture" will not be
visible to the world at large. The public part of the second coming
of Christ will take place seven years later and is called "the
Revelation." The seven-year period mentioned corresponds to the
seventieth week of Daniel. The sixty-nine weeks closed with the
first coming of Christ (His birth), but when the Jews rejected
Christ, prophetic time ceased and does not begin again until the
During the seven-year period "the antichrist" will rule. The Jews
who have been restored to Palestine will make a covenant with
Him for the restoration of their worship. The temple will be
rebuilt at Jerusalem, the scattered tribes regathered, and the
sacrificial system re-instituted. After three-and-a-half years
Antichrist will break faith with the Jews. This will be followed
by great tribulation and suffering on the part of those who have
become believers after the "rapture." Antichrist will demand that
he be worshipped, and the refusal of Christians and good Jews to
do so will bring about the tribulation.
Most of the events of chapters 4 to 19 will take place during this
time period, and when the Christians are just about overwhelmed,
Christ will come to their rescue and overthrow Antichrist at
"Armageddon." He will then establish His earthly kingdom and reign
with His saints a thousand years. He will be the chief ruler, and
each follower who has been faithful will be given cities to rule
over in proportion to their faithfulness, just as the Lord promised
in the parable of the pounds (Worthy is the Lamb, summarized from
To establish this doctrine Scriptures must be taken out of
context, thus contradicting the thrust of the Bible in general and
certain verses in particular. This interpretation counts most of
the symbols in this book as literal (except expressions such as
shortly come to pass).
The book of Revelation was written to comfort Christians
concerning the things they would soon be enduring (persecution, torture,
and death). For that reason (that these were things that were near, at
hand, and would shortly come to pass), God was providing comfort for His
people. When tragic things happen, He is not unaware; therefore, He
tells them in advance what will happen. There are two facts of which
they must remain certain: 1) they will be vindicated; and 2) those who
oppose them (and therefore God) shall be punished.
These two points may seem academic to us, but our lives are not
(generally speaking) on the line. Faith is the victory, and the Lord
want these brethren to have faith; hence, the purpose for the book of
Revelation. The premillennial view makes no sense, if this purpose is
kept in mind. What is logical is that the book predicts the downfall of
Rome, the persecutor of the Christians.
*Send comments or questions concerning this survey to Gary Summers.[New Testament Survey Index]