When building a house we first have to clear the ground by knocking down any existing structures that cannot be incorporated into the overall ground plan. I did that, to a certain extent, in the post titled Knocking down faulty foundations. The next construction step is to lay a solid foundation complete with a reliable cornerstone from which all the dimensions of the house can be measured and built. Jesus is the foundation and cornerstone, and I described this in my previous post titled Unlocking Revelation.
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11 NIV
Before starting to build the actual house we need something more; a floor plan. However, this won’t help us much if we don’t know how to interpret its symbols, perspectives and diagrams. Revelation’s ‘language’ is symbols, colours, sounds and characters. If we don’t realise this then we will, at best, misinterpret this wonderful inspired book.
The book of Revelation is to be understood as an unveiling both of Jesus himself and of principles, events, and characters, both heavenly and earthly, by means of appropriate symbols.
The book is written in seven sections, each of which run parallel to one another. Each part covers the same time period from the first to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the same time, each has a different focus and level of detail. Additionally, they are arranged in an ascending climatic order; William Hendriksen calls this arrangement ‘Progressive Parallelism’. A way of comprehending this is to visualise a seven transparent floor-plans, stacked together.
So, here then is the floor plan of the book of Revelation, its literary structural schematic:
I strongly suggest that you mark Revelation in your Bible with these seven parts and then read through the whole book bearing in mind that each time you start a new part you are returning to the period of Christ’s first coming.
Before concluding this post I need to explain why I and others have come to the seven-part structural plan of the book of Revelation. The logic is as follows:
The first chapter is an obvious introduction and the remaining two chapters of Part One equally obviously consist of seven letters to specific church congregations. The seven churches represent all churches throughout the ages. The start and end points of the second part are also easy to identify. After a depiction of God in the very centre of all things we find Jesus, the lion of Judah, who has become a slain lamb (Rev 4:5-6). This is a clear reference to the start of the great saga of salvation, the life and death of Jesus the Messiah. As we read the rest of this section we become aware of moving along a time line of sorts, culminating with the great judgement of God at the second coming of Christ. Part Three closes with another depiction of the judgement at the second coming of Christ (Rev 11:15-18).
Although Part Four, Chapters 12 to 14, is a strange and fascinating collection of seven scenes, it also starts with a clear reference to the birth of Jesus (Rev 12:5) and ends with an equally clear depiction of the second coming judgement (Rev 14: 14-20). Part Five again ends with the great judgement at the second coming of Christ.
Part Six is just one chapter (Chapter 19) and focuses on a wedding; the engagement (betrothal) occurred when Jesus came the first time and it is consummated at His second coming. The seventh, and final part of the book starts at Chapter 20 with an overview of the entire church age (the so called Millennium) and ends with a wonderful description of the eternal state following the Final Judgement.
You can also deduce the parallel nature of the seven parts by noting the symbolic time periods that reoccur in different sections. For instance, the 42 month period (42×30=1260 days) in Chapter Eleven (Part Three) occurs again in Chapters 12 and 13 (Part Four). Another clue is that the trumpets of Part Three (Chapter Eight) effect the same natural elements described in Part Five (Chapter Sixteen) as devastated by the Bowls of Wrath… and so on.
So this is the structure, the seven part floor plan, of the book of Revelation. In my next post I am going to give you a panoramic overview of the entire book and after that each post will unpack the detail of Revelation. I am looking forward to getting into the substance of the book with you now that the foundations and structural elements have been laid.
See you at the building site!