WRITER: The Apostle John ( 1:1 )
DATE: A.D. 96
THEME: The theme of the Revelation is Jesus Christ ( 1:1 ), presented in a threefold way:
- As to time: "which is, and which was, and which is to come" (a href="default.aspx?reference=re+1:4" url="/revelation/1-4.html"> 1:4);
- As to relationships--the churches (1:9-3:22), to the tribulation (4:1-19:21), to the kingdom (20:1-22:21);
- In His offices--High Priest (8:3-6), Bridegroom (19:7-9), King-Judge (20:1-15).
But while Christ is thus the central theme of the book, all of the events move toward one consummation, the bringing in of the covenanted kingdom. The key-phrase is the prophetic declaration of the "great voices in heaven" ( Revelation 11:15 ), lit, "The world kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ has come." The book is, therefore, a prophecy ( Revelation 1:3 ).
The three major divisions of Revelation must be clearly held if the interpretation is to be sane and coherent. John was commanded to "write" concerning three classes of "things" ( Revelation 1:19 ):
- Things past, "the things thou hast seen," i.e. the Patmos vision, 1:1-20.
- Things present, "the things which are," i.e. things then existing--obviously the churches. The temple had been destroyed, the Jews dispersed: the testimony of God had been committed to the Churches ( 1 Timothy 3:15 ). Accordingly we have seven messages to seven representative churches, 2:1-3:22 . It is noteworthy that the church is not mentioned in chapters 5-18.
- Things future, "things which shall be hereafter," lit. "after these," i.e. after the church period ends, 4:1-22:21. The third major division, as Erdman (W.J.) has pointed out, falls into a series of six sevens, with parenthetical passages, making, with the church division, seven sevens.
The six sevens are:
- The seals, 4:1-8:1.
- The seven trumpets, 8:2-11:19.
- The seven personages, 12:1-14,20.
- The seven vials (bowls), 15:1-16:21.
- The seven dooms, 17:1-20:15.
- The seven new things, 21:1-22:21.
The parenthetical passages are:
- The Jewish remnant and the tribulation saints, 7:1-17.
- The angel, the little book, the two witnesses, 10:1-11:14.
- The Lamb, the Remnant, and the everlasting Gospel, 14:1-13.
- The gathering of the kings at Armageddon, 16:13-16.
- The four alleluias in heaven, 19:1-6. These passages do not advance the prophetic narrative. Looking backward and forward they sum up results accomplished, and speak of results yet to come as if they had already come. In Re14:1, for example, the Lamb and Remnant are seen prophetically on Mount Sion, though they are not actually there till Re20:4-6.
The end of the church period (2-3.) is left indeterminate. It will end by the fulfilment of 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 . Chapters 4-19. are believed to synchronize with Daniel's Seventieth Week ((See Scofield "Daniel 9:24). The great tribulation begins at the middle of the ") week," and continues three and a half years ( Revelation 11:3-19:21 ). The tribulation is brought to an end by the appearing of the Lord and the battle of Armageddon ( Matthew 24:29 Matthew 24:30 ; Revelation 19:11-21 ). The kingdom follows ( Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:5 ); after this the "little season" ( Revelation 20:7-15 ), and then eternity.
Interpreters of the Revelation should bear in mind two important passages: 1 Peter 1:12 ; 2 Peter 1:20 2 Peter 1:21 . Doubtless much which is designedly obscure to us will be clear to those for whom it was written as the time approaches.