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.5The 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.6See the Structural Outline given in our discussion of the Literary Structure of the book.
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 Johns 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.