Try out the new BibleStudyTools.com. Click here!

Revelation 1:19

the things which you have seen
This phrase introduces the key verse for interpreting the main sections of the book. The things which you have seen includes those things revealed to John prior to addressing the seven churches (Revelation Rev. 1:1+).1

the things which are
The things that attend John’s present time, which are set forth in the letters to the seven churches found in Revelation Rev. 2:1+ and Rev. 3:1+.2

the things which will take place after this
The things yet future to John’s time, constituting most of the remainder of the book, from Revelation Rev. 4:1+ onward: Rev. 4:1+, where the voice of a trumpet summoned the seer to heaven to see ‘the things which must come to pass hereafter.’ ”3 The conjunction καὶ [kai] can be translated by “and,” “even,” or “both.” The question arises as to whether there are three divisions or only two?

Does Christ give John a chronological outline as a key to the visions in the book? Many think he does. If so, are there three divisions: “seen,” “now,” and “later”? Or are there two: “seen,” i.e., “now” and “later”? In the latter case, where does the chronological break take place in the book?4

The passage may be rendered: “Write the things which thou sawest, both the things which are and the things which shall be hereafter.” Such a rendering is grammatically possible, though it is not favored by the majority of expositors. If correct, it means that Revelation relates only to the present and to the future, not to the past at all.5

The threefold division seems most natural and has been favored by most interpreters:

The advantage of this outline is that it deals in a natural way with the material rather than seizing on incidentals as some expositors have done or avoiding any outline at all, as is true of other expositors. It is not too much to claim that this outline is the only one which allows the book to speak for itself without artificial manipulation and which lays guidelines of sufficient importance so that expositors who follow this approach have been able to establish a system of interpretation of the book of Revelation, namely, the futurist school.6

See the Structural Outline given in our discussion of the Literary Structure of the book.

after this
Literally, μετὰ ταῦτα [meta tauta] , “after these [things],” plural.

Notes

1 “I favor understanding ‘the things which you have seen’ as linked to Rev. Rev. 1:2+, and thus to be the authority to write John’s Gospel . . . , though others see this as indicating chapter Rev. 1:1+. . . . Allowing my understanding of ‘the things which you have seen,’ then, the first chapter becomes very much part of chapters Rev. 2:1+-Rev. 3:1+.”—Monty S. Mills, Revelations: An Exegetical Study of the Revelation to John (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1987), Rev. 1:19.

2 Some see this phrase as being descriptive of the things John saw in the previous phrase: “Write therefore what things thou sawest and what they are, . . . even what things are about to happen hereafter.”—E. W. Bullinger, Commentary On Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1984, 1935), 159.

3 Merrill C. Tenney, Interpreting Revelation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1957), 39.

4 Alan F. Johnson, Revelation: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1966), 33.

5 Tenney, Interpreting Revelation, 39.

6 John F. Walvoord, The Revelation of Jesus Christ (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1966), 48.

Read Revelation 1:19