Before considering an outline of this book, we should take note of two things. First, that the seals, trumpets, and vials mentioned in the book must not be interpreted to be historical sequence, as if the first seal introduces a series of historical events that are followed by events pictured in the trumpets, followed by events pictured in the vials. Rather, they are to be viewed as historical events running parallel. The seals, trumpets, and vials deal with events that began at the ascension of Christ and end in His personal return. The difference between them is the measure of intensity, or effect they have upon the world. The seals affect the earth by a tenth, the trumpets by a third, and the vials present total destruction. At any given period in history there may be seals broken, trumpets blown, and vials poured, but as the end approaches the total effect of the vials will be seen. Secondly, we must understand the time factor: “the things that must shortly come to pass,” (Rev. 1:1). The perspective is that of God’s dealing with time. The next major event in God’s calendar is the end of the world. And it will not be an interruption at the end, but will flow forth from all the events in history. Those things began to come to pass immediately after John wrote of them, and they are consummated at the end of time. Similarly, when Christ said, “Behold I come quickly” (Rev. 22:12), He did not say I come immediately, rather quickly, with all due speed. The events of history are the means by which Christ will return.
A Brief Outline
1. Introduction (Rev. 1:1-11). John received revelation from God (Rev. 1:1). He bear record of it (Rev. 1:2), and announces blessings upon the readers (Rev. 1:3). Greetings to the seven churches (Rev. 1:4-8) come from the seven spirits and Jesus Christ the Faithful Witness (Rev. 1:4-6). Behold He cometh and every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7, 8).
2. The vision of the glorified Christ and John’s task (Rev. 1:9-20). John on the Isle of Patmos was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:9, 10). He is commanded to write the seven churches (Rev. 1:11). He beholds the glorified Christ in the midst of the golden candlesticks (Rev. 1:12-16). He expresses fear, but is encouraged by the Living Christ to write the things he has seen (Rev. 1:17-20).
3. The letters to the seven churches (Rev. 2:1-3:22). He writes to Ephesus that they had lost their fist love and must repent and do the first works (Rev. 2:1-7). To Smyrna—they were in the midst of tribulation and Christ exhorts them to be faithful unto death and receive the crown of life (Rev. 2:8-11). To Pergamos—they lacked discipline and did not cast out those who held to the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitans; they were to correct that (Rev. 2:12-17). To Thyatira—they were given to mysticism by means of the woman Jezebel who taught them to experience the depths of Satan in order to enjoy grace; Christ said He would send judgment upon her and her followers and the church must triumph over her (Rev. 2:18-29). To Sardis—they had a reputation of being a living (successful) church, but they were spiritually dead; they were to repent and overcome (Rev. 3:1-6). To Philadelphia—they received an open door from Christ and were faithful in spreading the gospel (Rev. 3:7-13). To Laodicea—they were neither cold nor hot, hence Christ said He would spew them out of His mouth; He stands at the church door calling those who are alive to receive Him (Rev. 3:14-22).
4. The vision of God’s throne (Rev. 4:1-11). John was called to behold a throne in heaven; it reflected the glory of God (Rev. 4:1-3, 5, 6). The twenty-four elders surround the throne (Rev. 4:4). The four beasts adore God (Rev. 4:6-9). The twenty-four elders join in praising the Lord (Rev. 4:10, 11).
5. The vision of the book and its seals (Rev. 5:1-6:17). Attention is directed to the book in the right hand of God (Rev. 5:1). The question is raised, who is worthy to open the book? Silence indicates that no one is worthy, and John weeps. Only the Lamb as slain is worthy (Rev. 5:2-7). All heaven responds with jubilation (Rev. 5:8-14). The first seal is opened, a white horse (the gospel) rides forth conquering and to conquer (Rev. 6:1, 2); the second seal is broken and a red horse rides, taking peace from the earth (Rev. 6:3, 4); the third seal reveals a black horse, the rider of which has a balance in his hand and poverty and riches are described (Rev. 6:5, 6); the fourth seal produces a pale horse by which disease and death take one fourth of the earth’s inhabitants (Rev. 6:7, 8); the fifth seal shows the souls of the martyrs under the altar, crying for vengeance (Rev. 6:9-11); and the sixth seal brings earthquakes and heavenly signs of judgment so that the great in the earth cry to the mountains to fall on them (Rev. 6:12-17).
6. The vision of the sealing of the 144,000 (Rev. 7:1-17). Increasing judgment is pictured as four winds (Rev. 7:1). Before they are allowed to blow, the angels urge the sealing of God’s people (Rev. 7:2, 3). The number sealedis 12,000 from Juda, Reuben, Gad, Asar, Nephthalim, Manasses, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, and Benjamin, totalling 144,000 (Rev. 7:4-8). These same sealed ones are now pictured as a great number which no man could count, clothed in white robes before the throne in heaven (Rev. 7:9). They join the four beasts, the twentyfour elders, and the angels, crying, “Salvation to our God and to the Lamb (Rev. 7:10-12). One elder asks the identity of this throng and John answers that they are those who came out of the great tribulation and are glorified in heaven, being delivered from all misery (Rev. 7:13-17).
7. The vision of the seven trumpets (Rev. 8:1-9:21). The seventh seal actually becomes seven trumpets (Rev. 8:1-9:21). The seventh seal actually becomes seven trumpets (Rev. 8:1). Silence in heaven represents the prayers of the saints that arise to God as they anticipate the coming of judgments (Rev. 8:1-5). The first trumpet sounds and judgment is cast upon the earth; trees, and grass as a third part are burned (Rev.. 8:6,7); the second trumpet brings fiery destruction to the inland waters and rivers (Rev. 8:10, 11); the fourth trumpet brings destruction to a third part of the sun, moon, and stars, and terrible woe is pronounced (Rev. 8:12-13); the fifth trumpet opens the bottomless pit, releasing locusts as scorpions to sting men, but not to kill them (Rev. 9:1-12); the sixth trumpet releases the four angels which held back the hoards of men beyond the Euphrates. They come with power to kill and deceive and not repent (Rev. 9:13-21).
8. The vision of the angel and the little book (Rev. 10:1-11). A mighty angel comes from heaven, adorned in clouds and shining face, covered by a rainbow. He has in his hands a little book (Rev. 10:1, 2). This book contains the remaining judgments that must still be brought to pass (Rev.10:17). Hence, John is commanded to take the book and eat it. It is sweet to his taste, but bitter in his belly (Rev. 10:8-10). They represent the prophecies that John must yet bring to the people (Rev. 10:11).
9. The vision of the two witnesses (Rev. 11:1-19). John measures the temple, excluding the court which is for the gentiles (Rev. 11:1, 2). Power is given to the two witnesses to prophesy for 1,260 days (Rev. 11:3). They are the anointed servants of God and have power to destroy the enemy with the word out of their mouth (Rev. 11:4-6). The beast makes war with them and kills them, leaving their dead bodies upon the streets of Jerusalem for three and a half days (Rev. 11:7, 8). The wicked celebrate the defeat of these witnesses (Rev. 11:11-13). The seventh trumpet is blown and the kingdom of heaven is revealed in its victory as the temple of God that is in heaven (Rev. 11:14-19).
10. The vision of the dragon and the woman (Rev. 12:1-7). Satan is pictured as a red dragon who in the Old Testament days attempted to devour the man child as soon as the woman (the church) would bring Him forth (Rev. 12:1-4). When Christ is born, He is caught up into heaven (Rev. 12:5). The woman fled into the wilderness where God prepared a place for her (Rev. 12:6). A reference is made to heaven where Michael and the dragon (Satan) fought. Satan was defeated and cast to the earth and his fallen angels with him (Rev. 12:7-9). Heaven rejoices in the defeat of Satan, but the inhabiters of the earth and sea are warned of his great wrath (Rev. 12:10-12). The dragon persecutes the woman who gave birth to the man child and she receives wings to flee into the wilderness. The serpent tries to drown her, but the earth swallows up the water and the dragon fights with her seed (Rev. 12:13-17).
11. The vision of the anti-Christ (Rev. 13:1-18). A beast arises out of the sea having seven heads and ten horns with crowns upon each head. He is partly leopard, bear, and lion. The dragon (Satan) gives him power and authority (Rev. 12:1, 2). One of his heads is wounded (Rev. 12:3). The masses of people worship him even though he blasphemes God (Rev. 12:4-6). He makes war upon the saints and persecutes them. This causes people everywhere to worship the beast (Rev. 12:7-10). A second beast arises out of the earth. He appears as a lamb with two horns, though he speaks as a dragon (Rev. 12:11). This vision explains how the anti-Christ succeeds in getting all men everywhere to worship the beast. He does wonders and miracles and pleases men (Rev. 12:12, 13). In delight, the people make an image to the beast and give life to the image, so that all who do not worship the beast are exposed and killed (Rev. 12:14, 15). He devises a mark on the right hand and forehead, so that without it one cannot buy or sell. His number is 666 (Rev. 12:16-18).
12. The victory of the Lamb and the defeat of Babylon (Rev. 14:1-20). The Lamb is presented as standing on a mount with 144,000 who had the Father’s name on their forehead (Rev. 14:1). All are singing a new song before the four beasts and the twenty-four elders (Rev. 14:2, 3). They are described as virgins who are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb. They are without fault, and in their mouth is no guile (Rev. 14:4, 5). An angel announces the everlasting gospel. All are to fear God and give Him glory (Rev. 14:6, 7). Another angel announces the fall of Babylon (Rev. 14:8). The third angel follows, announcing that all who have the mark of the beast shall drink the wrath of God and be tormented with fire and brimstone (Rev. 14:9-12). Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; they shall rest from their labors and their works shall follow them (Rev. 14:13). The Son of man is pictured on a cloud, having a sharp sickle (Rev. 14:14). An angel calls to Him to thrust in the sickle and reap. He does that (Rev. 14:15, 16). Another angel comes out of the temple and cries to Him to thrust in the sickle again. This time He gathers grapes in the winepress of God’s wrath (Rev. 14:17-20).