Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth
One of the challenges of reading Revelation is in trying to figure out the fundamental structure of the book itself.
The outline of the perspective I am the most familiar can be seen in this cahrt.
But that does not provide a complete view.
There are basic elements for an epistle, for instance, that generally make epistles recognizable. Revelation has those basic elements. But we know Revelation is more! A prophetic book also has some basic markers which can be seen in the prophets of the Hebrew Testament. Revelation contains those markers, in a general way. But, as has been established, Revelation is also an apocalypse, no question about it.
So, how do we navigate in this book?
For help, I turned to the Archaeological Study Bible, published in partnership with Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and edited by my favorite living theologian, Dr. Walt Kaiser.
Outline of the Book of Revelation
I sat with that outline for a while (it is in the introduction to Revelation, in the above study Bible), and liked it. Still, the more I thought, the more I saw how outlining this book to bring out its unique qualities could happen in another way. How about this one?
- Salutations from John and Jesus (chapter 1)
- From John (1:1-10)
- From Jesus (1:11-20)
- Word of the Lord: Letters from Jesus (chapters 2-3)
- Ephesus (2:1-7)
- Smyrna (2:1-11)
- Pergamum (2:12-17)
- Thyatira (2:18-29)
- Sardis (3:1-6)
- Philadelphia (3:7-13)
- Laodicea (3:14-22)
- HEAVEN REVEALED (chapters 4-5)
- Worship at the Throne (4)
- Worthy is the Lamb (5)
- First Oracle: The Seven Seals (chapter 6:1-8:1)
- Second Oracle: The Seven Trumpets (chapters 8:2-11:19)
- SATAN REVEALED (chapters 12-14)
- Conflict with the Woman (12:1-6)
- Conflict with Heaven (12:2-12)
- Conflict with The Woman’s Offspring (12:13-17)
- Collusion with the World (12:18-13:18)
- Conflict with Christ (14:1-13)
- Castigation of Christ (14:14-20)
- Third Oracle: The Seven Bowls (chapters 15-16)
- THE WORLD REVEALED (chapters 17-18)
- Babylon (17)
- Babylon’s Doom (18:1-19:5)
- THE FUTURE REVEALED (chapters 19:6-20:15)
- The Wedding of The Lamb (19:6-10)
- The Victory of the Rider (19:11-21)
- The 1000 Years (20:1-6)
- Satan’s Doom (20:7-10)
- Great White Throne Judgment (20:11-15)
- NEW REALITY REVEALED (chapters 21:1-22:5)
- New Heaven, New Earth, New Jerusalem (21:1-22:5)
- Valediction from John (22:6-21)
What I am hoping to do, with this outline, is to incorporate all three aspects of this book—it is a letter, but it is also prophecy, and it is written in the style of an apocalypse. There is symbology all throughout, but there is also teaching, warning, encouragement, and prophecy.
I am turning to three books and a website throughout this study, and not landing on a particular hermeneutical approach, but will explore the possibilities as we go along.
- Reading Revelation Responsibly: Uncivil Worship and Witness: Following the Lamb into the New Creation by Michael J. Gorman [Theopoetic, theopolitical, pastoral-prophetic hermeneutic]
- Revelation by Harry Ironside [A Pre-tribulation Rapture Dispensationalist]
- Hebrew Insights From Revelation by Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg [Textual-Historical approach]
- Early Church Fathers on the Apocalypse, particularly the two second century writers Justin Martyr and Iraneaus.
The Bible Project
With many thanks to a really wonderful resource on YouTube called “The Bible Project,” let us begin with an overview of the whole book. Because of its complexity and design, there are two videos!