As we look over the book of Revelation, one thing is quite clear; it is divided into two major sections:
Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.
We know that there are two sections, the first of which comprising “what is now” and the second “what will take place later”. It should be obvious that when Jesus is quoted here as referring to “what is now” He is referring to “now” when He said it to John and not when you read it today. I marvel at how many scholars miss this simple, elementary and blatantly obvious fact of grammar. Thus, “what will take place later” means any time after He said it; this could be in a few hours, a few days, or a few centuries or millennia; it is an indefinite period of time.
The textual break between these two comes between 3:22 and 4:1. The seven churches that John is directed to write to exist as this scene unfolds; John knows these churches himself. He writes down the message for each and sends them off to their destinations: Present action.
So far, then, we have two sections in the book: chapters 1-3 being “what is now” and 4-22 “what will come later”.
As we look through the book, we also notice something else; it is comprised of a series of visions, and not one long continuous vision. I’ll point out the distinctions as we go along, but for now we should note that there are seven visions in total. Seven… what and interesting number! Seven is the number of completeness; The Revelation is comprised of seven visions, thus it is the complete revelation of Jesus Christ to the seven churches, thus we can say it is the complete revelation to the whole church.
The break points of the seven visions are as follows:
- Christ in the midst of the lampstands (1:9-3:22)
- The throne in heaven and the seven seals (4:1- 7:17)
- The seven trumpets (8:1-11:19)
- The persecuting dragon (12:1-14:20)
- The seven bowls (15:1-16:21)
- The fall of Babylon (17:1-19:21)
- The great consummation (20:1-22:21)
Before I wind up this relatively short post, you might find it interesting to note how many times the number “seven” appears in this list of seven visions. Since seven is the number of completeness, what do you think we can glean from its being here so often?
As at least one person has commented already, numbers in Revelation are very important. I’ll put together a Bonus Post on the symbolic significance of numbers in this book just as soon as I have an extra few minutes; be looking for it soon. Our next post will begin our investigation of the Revelation text; see you then!