Many dear Christians find this very interesting book of Revelation extremely difficult. If we stick to the purpose of the book, it is called the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev 1:1) and therefore this book is about Jesus Christ as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. In the gospels, the Lord Jesus was presented as a meek and lowly servant, as stated in the Old Testament Prophets. However, the prophets also stated that He will come again and reign on the earth. We only need to look at the last book of the Old Testament – Malachi, in chapter 4. The apostles also presented Christ as the humble servant, but at the same time as the blessed Son of God. It is therefore no wonder that Revelation is the very last book of the Bible, and presents Christ in all His glory and majesty, and not as the meek, lowly servant. The purpose of this article is just to divide the book of Revelation and provide a brief outline for more personal study.
There is often a key to unlocking a book of the Bible, whether it is to divide the book, or whether it is to find some themes and threads that run throughout the book. Usually, the ‘key’ is found in the first chapter of the book, and it is no exception that this key is found in Revelation chapter 1, and in verse 19, which says, “Write therefore what you have seen, the things that are, and the things that are about to be after these.” Before that, chapter 1 presents the Lord Jesus Christ as the Judge and these descriptions from verses 13 to 17 present one who is not lowly or meek, because that has already taken place and He was rejected, but One who is in His almighty glory and splendour. John, the writer of Revelation, was the disciple whom Jesus loved and was leaning on the bosom of the Lord in the gospel of John. This scene is vastly different, as even John himself became as dead when he saw what he saw (verse 17). However, praise God, John was encouraged and there was no reason for him to be afraid.
Why do we need to read the book of Revelation? Well, it is definitely about the Lord Jesus Christ, but also there is a blessing to those who read it, in Revelation 1:3. Chapter 1 is an introduction to what is coming, and verse 7 presents to us the certainty that He is coming, and every eye shall see Him. Verse 11 is a very important and dividing aspect of the book, as it mentions seven different locations, in which the churches of Asia minor were located, known today as Turkey.
Revelation was the last book written, perhaps around 95 A.D when John outlived the other apostles, but only for the purpose of what God was going to reveal to us. We can also safely mention that the gospels and epistles of John were written probably somewhere between 90 and 95 A.D. However, I accept that there may be many different views and opinions about the time of writing, but I trust that we agree on the purpose of writing.
I will give an outline of the book of Revelation now. Chapter 1, as mentioned, is an introduction and should prepare our hearts to receive the words and to read this book. The number seven is very prominent in this book. For example, there are seven churches, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, etc. If we count how many ‘sevens’ there are, or how many times the number ‘seven’ is mentioned, we may come up with something to the power of seven, but this is not supposed to be a lesson in mathematics. We know for sure that the number seven is the complete and perfect number. To conclude this section, chapter 1 presents the things which John had seen (refer back to verse 19).
Chapters 2 and 3 present the second division of the book of Revelation, and the second part of chapter 1:19, the things that are. These two chapters present a prophetic and moral history of the seven churches that were in Asia minor at the time. It is also interesting to note that it presents a decline in the Christian profession, known as the system of Christendom. Let me explain this clearly. The Christian profession is comprised of every single person claiming the name of Christ, i.e. everyone who says that they are born again Christians. This does not include people who clearly state that they are not Christian and are outside of the Christian profession. In this, there are those who are true believers, and sadly, those who are not true, those who have not accepted Christ as their Saviour (see Matthew 7:21-23), but are going along with the flow. I am not judging, because it is wrong of me to do so, and it is never my duty or responsibility to judge who is or who is not a Christian, but only the Lord knows those who are His and He only judges. Please read 2 Timothy 2:19-21 carefully, and also compare some of the parables on Matthew 13, which is in another article that is posted on this website.
Going back to Revelation 2-3, this presents a prophetic and moral decline of the condition of the professing system of Christendom. In Acts 2, it began as a powerful church and had a great testimony, but once evil teaching and conduct crept inside, it began to lose its first love, as the Lord gave the message to Ephesus (Rev 2:4). Ephesus was the church that had the highest truths presented to them by the apostle Paul, and we can read all about this in the epistle to the Ephesians. However, Paul gave the elders at Ephesus a warning towards the end of Acts 20 before he left to Jerusalem. We see that from losing the first love, there is a gradual decline until we get to Laodicea, the last church in chapter 3, where it is said to be lukewarm. None of us enjoy lukewarm water, and we spit it out immediately, and this is what the Lord warned them about, being neither cold not hot. May we heed the warning and not be lukewarm in our behaviour. There is an interesting church mentioned in chapter 3, which is Philadelphia. This comes from the word Phileo, meaning love, and the church was characterised by brotherly love and faithfulness to the word of God. Therefore, there was a promise made in verse 10, that they will be kept out of the hour of trial which is about to come. Is this not a reference to the great tribulation that is about to come upon the earth? May we be found faithful and diligent, in brotherly love, awaiting the Lord to come for us and take us out of this hour of trial.
The last division of this book is from chapter 4 to the end. This is the third part of chapter 1:19, the things that are about to be after these. It is very interesting that chapter 4 opens with the words “Come up here”. This was spoken to John, one who clearly belongs to the Lord Jesus, and straightaway John was taken up, which is a picture of the rapture. I like these words, “come up here”. It is a comfort that the Lord wants us up with Him. Chapters 4 and 5 show a scene in heaven after the rapture of the church (the true believers in Christ who have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them), full of praise to the Lamb who was slain, but is alive. A number of hymns sung are from chapters 4 and 5, full of praise to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God.
Chapters 6 to 19 present the judgements that will be on the earth, known as the great tribulation. Much of this is symbolic, and difficult to understand and grasp, so I will not even attempt to explain it here. Perhaps this can be for more private study. I will mention that there is the common view about the great tribulation, where we may all agree on the seven seals, trumpets and bowls that will be brought upon the earth. There will also be two beasts, one political leader, and one religious leader, and those who are still on the earth will be forced to receive a mark on their hand or forehead. This is all found in chapters 12-14. I am not going to attempt to outline the order of the future events after the great tribulation. Chapter 20 to 22 present the Millennium and the Eternal State. Chapter 20 also shows the final judgement of the dead. Chapter 21 to 22:5 presents the new heaven and new earth, after all before had passed away. When the Lord sets things right in His kingdom, there will be no sorrows, and death will not exist anymore. Truly, we can say with the hymnwriter, “What a day, glorious day, that will be”! Chapter 22:6 presents the last words, where the ending is very beautiful from verse 18 to the end, a comfort and encouragement that the Lord Jesus will come quickly, and truly let the Spirit and the bride say, come! May we be encouraged and comforted, and always watching for the coming of our beloved Lord.