Yes, Revelation is absolutely written in chronological order of events. But in 4 different places, the Holy Spirit has John start with an event and then taking you all the way to Second Coming before returning to where he left off and continuing chronologically.
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” Revelation 1:1-3 (KJV)
For many students of the Bible, the book of Revelation is the “holy grail” of prophetic information, if you’ll pardon the pun. There are those who are frightened of it, mystified by it, or just confused to the point where they kind of leave it off to the side and go back to inspirational scripture instead. I’ll grant you that Revelation is a tough nut to crack, but that said, born again believers who are armed with the Holy Spirit for discernment, a King James Bible, and a few simple “hacks” I’m going to give you today, Revelation just might become your favorite book in the Bible.
For starters, Revelation is divided into 3 main sections and they are as follows:
- Chapters 1-3: In the first three chapters of Revelation, we see John’s commission from Jesus Christ to write the book, followed by a listing of the 7 churches which he mentions by name. These 7 churches existed at the time John wrote Revelation, that’s historical. The 7 churches will exist in the time of Jacob’s trouble, that prophetic, and they also represent the 7 conditions of the church age over the past 2,000 years, that’s doctrinal. The last stage of the Church Age, the Laodicean Age, is where we are right now. The professing Church is lukewarm, mostly dead, and more concerned with building programs and budgets than they are with getting the gospel out. Jesus is locked outside, asking to be let back in. This is how the last days of the Church wind up right before the Rapture. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” Revelation 3:15,16,20,21 (KJV)
- Chapters 4-19: Chapter 4 starts out with John, the disciple that Jesus loved, being taken to heaven in type of the Rapture Paul reveals in 1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians, Titus 2 and other places. You will note that from Revelation 4 all the way to Revelation 19, the Church is not seen on the earth and when mentioned we find that the Church is safely relocated to Heaven. Chapter 4 is the joyous reunion of the Rapture saints, chapter 5 is the ceremony leading to the opening of the book of future events that Daniel was told to “seal up” in Daniel 12, and chapter 6 through 19 is everything you need to know about the 7 year period known as the time of Jacob’s trouble, also referred to as a time of “great tribulation” in Matthew 24 by Jesus. Revelation 19 ends with Jesus Christ on horseback returning with His raptured army of saints at the Second Coming. “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” Jeremiah 30:7 (KJV)
- Chapters 20-22: Revelation 20 shows us the binding of Satan for a thousand years, the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ as King on the throne of David from Jerusalem, and the Battle of Gog and Magog after Satan is released from the bottomless pit. Chapter 20 ends with the Great White Throne Judgment were the unsaved are given their “day in court” then found guilty and convicted, the Old Testament saints from Abraham’s Bosom are given rewards. Chapter 21 shows us the remade world that Peter prophesied about, and the John 14 “mansions” contained in the New Jerusalem where the Church, the Bride of Christ will live. Chapter 22 shows us eternity. “He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20 (KJV)
Now that you know this much, I bet your general understanding of Revelation has increased already. So how did we arrive at this knowledge? We got here by doing what Paul tells us to do in 2 Timothy, we “rightly divide” the scriptures to put everything in it’s proper place. Once done, many of the “secrets” of Revelation come swimming to the surface of our understanding, willingly revealing themselves to us. It is this rightly dividing that prevents us from falling into the error of confusing dispensations which always leads to wrong conclusions.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
For example, when we rightly divide Revelation we clearly see that chapter 3 shows us the end of the Church Age, leading into chapter 4 which shows us the rapture of the Church. Having this information prevents us from thinking that the Church is on earth during the time of Jacob’s trouble, and we wind up with the proper conclusion that it is a pretribulational rapture which removes us and not anything else. When you fail to rightly divide and make these necessary divisions, you will wind up in the doctrinal ditch of either mid-trib, post-trib, or no trib thinking.
Is Revelation written in chronological order? Yes, and here’s why
Once having mastered the 3 main divisions in Revelation, we now move on to the discussion of whether or not Revelation is written in chronological order. The easy answer to that question is, to quote D.L. Moody, “yes, a thousand times yes!” but there is a “catch” to coming to that conclusion.
Many people have written to me over the years saying that they thought Revelation went in chronological order, but then appeared to veer way off course in multiple places everytime they thought they had it figured out. Well…that’s because it does! But as with most things in the Bible, when you rightly divide it out, the confusion melts away quickly and is replaced by everything finally being seen “decently and in order” as God wrote it. Here’s the secret.
Yes, Revelation is absolutely written in chronological order of events. The Church Age, the Rapture of the Church, the time of Jacob’s trouble, Armageddon, the Thousand Year Reign of King Jesus, Gog and Magog, judgement, new heaven and new earth, eternity. But in 4 different places, the Holy Spirit has John start with an event and then taking you all the way to Second Coming before returning to where he left off and continuing chronologically. Here are the 4 places where John takes you on a round trip ride though the time of Jacob’s trouble:
- TRIP #1 Revelation 5-6: As we said earlier, Revelation 4 is the joyous reunion of the saints in Heaven immediately after the Rapture of the Church. Chapter 5 shows the unsealing of the book of prophecy, and chapter 6 is the very beginning of the Tribulation when Jesus unleashes Antichrist. But now look all the way down to the bottom of chapter 6 and what do you see? Amazingly, you see Jesus Christ at the Second Coming! This “break” starts in verse 12 where in your King James Bible you see the paragraph marker denoting a new thought or subject. Everything from verses 12 – 17 are the exact same events that you will see when you arrive, chronologically, at chapter 19. Then in chapter 7, John having made his first round trip returns to the timeline and tells us about the 144,00. “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” Revelation 6:12,13 (KJV)
- TRIP #2 Revelation 8-11: Starting in chapter 8, we see judgment, lots and lots of judgment. But did you notice that the Seal judgments that started in chapter 6 do not conclude until chapter 8? That’s because chapter 7 is what they call a parenthetical chapter where the Holy Spirit is giving us additional information we need to know before proceeding on the timeline. This same parenthesis happens again in chapter 10. Now flash forward all the way to chapter 11 verse 15 and what do you see? We see the end result of what will be at the Second Coming in chapter 19! John has now taken us on round trip number two through the time of Jacob’s trouble. Again, please note the paragraph marker(s) in this section denoting something new. “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, Saying, We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned.” Revelation 11:15-17 (KJV)
- TRIP #3 Revelation 12-14: The third round trip though the time of Jacob’s trouble starts in chapter 12 and concludes in chapter 14. Again you will note that John, after having given us more chronological information, concludes this trip by bringing us to the Second Coming 5 chapters before the Second Coming happens chronologically on the timeline. Again, we see the paragraph marker in our King James Bible starting in 14:17, again in 14:18, and presto! see Jesus slaughtering His enemies at the Battle of Armageddon. “And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.” Revelation 14:18 (KJV)
- TRIP #4 Revelation 15-19: The Holy Spirit has John make one last round trip in these 4 chapters. The first trip showed us the Seal Judgments ending in the Second Coming. The second trip showed us the Trumpet Judgments leading to the Second Coming. The third trip showed us the activities of Antichrist,and Israel fleeing to Selah Petra leading to the Second Coming. The fourth and final trip shows us the Vial Judgments, and when John takes us to the Second Coming, this time it is happening in chronological order, or in “real time” as we say in the tech business. Again, note the paragraph markers wherever you see them, they are very important in understanding where the divisions are taking place. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” Revelation 19:11-14 (KJV)
Here we shall conclude today’s look at the amazingly awesome and awe-inspiring book of Revelation
Don’t you just love bullet points? I sure do, makes everything so much easier to understand. And I promise you that if you will study out these 7 simple points, comparing scripture with scripture, that your understanding of Revelation will increase dramatically. But please also know this, too. The Bible, unlike any other book, cannot be “figured out” apart of the instructive leading of the Holy Spirit. You get the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation, are “sealed” until the day of redemption, and He leads us into all truth, knowledge and understanding. But if you don’t have the Holy Spirit to lead the way and make complex doctrines simple, you cannot receive it. Some of the brightest minds that have ever lived were unable to understand the bullet points on this page.
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 (KJV)
We hope this study will be a blessing to you all, please comment in the section below to share your thoughts and insights.
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