Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XXXIV)

April 21, 2010

As I said in my last installment, I am going to begin dealing with the literary structure of Revelation for an unspecified number of posts—which could go on for a while, given that there are all kinds of issues in this area of study.  Now, I freely admit that I am not going to address every single issue related to the literary structure of the Apocalypse.  However, I do hope at least to hit the high points in regard to both the conventional and grand chiastic outlines of the book,

First, I will take a look at the movement of the conventional outline, explaining why I see the divisions that I do.  In addition, I will seek to lay out the interpretive value of the outline—which will probably be more than you, the reader, might expect.

The place to start is the preview basis for the conventional outline, which is Revelation 1:19: “Write the things you have seen, the things which are, and the things which shall take place after this.”  Just as Acts 1:8—“Jerusalem… Judea and Samaria… the ends of the earth”—previews the movement of the Book of Acts, the same is the case here.

In simple terms, here’s how the outline that plays out from Revelation 1:19 unpacks through the book.  “The things you have seen” unquestionably looks back at the vision of the Son of Man in 1:12-18.  “The things which are” almost certainly refers to the seven mini-letters to the churches in Asia Minor, which deal with the spiritual realities in each congregation (chs. 2-3).  “The things which shall take place after these things” appears to be speaking of the rest of the body of the book, starting with 4:1 and extending to 22:5.  That seems even more likely when it’s noted that 4:1 begins with “after this” (see 1:19).

Thus, if asked someone asked you to give them an easy-to-understand outline for the Book of Revelation, this is the one I would suggest that you use:

I. Introduction (1:1-8)

II. “The things you have seen”: John’s initial vision of the Son of Man (1:9-20)

III. “The things which are”: Christ’s letters to the seven churches (chs. 2-3)

IV.  “The things which shall take place after this”: The future events, all the way to the eternal state (4:1-22:5)

V. Conclusion (22:6-21)

When I get to the macro-chiastic outline of the Apocalypse, I will go deeper into the content of the Introduction, John’s first Son of Man vision, the letters to the seven churches and the Conclusion.  The remainder of this post and at least the next (I’m hedging, because I could get into the next post, get revved up and need an additional installment), however, will be given over to breaking down the body of the book.

As you read through the body of the Book of Revelation, you immediately notice a number of natural sectional breaks:

–         The heavenly throne room and the scroll (chs. 4-5)

–         The opening of the seven seals on the scroll (6:1-8:1)

–         The sounding of the seven trumpets (8:2-11:19)

–         The preview of characters and coming events critical to the remainder of the book (chs. 12-14)

–         The pouring out of the seven bowls of wrath (15:1-16:21)

–         The filling in of details about Babylon the Great, her primary relationships and her judgment (17:1-19:5)

–         The second coming of Christ and the 1,000 years (19:6-20:15)

–         The new Jerusalem and the new heavens and earth (21:1-22:5)

In the next post, I will get into the presence of what, for lack of a better term, is usually called “interludes” in the unsealing and trumpets sequences (see ch. 7 and 10:1-11:14).  If we choose to use the idea of “interlude” in the earlier part of Revelation, then we should probably refer to chs. 12-14 as a “prelude” to the bowls of wrath and 17:1-19:5 as a “postlude” to that same section.  I will attempt to do justice to why each of those sections is where they are.


2 Responses to “Mud on the Wall: Brainstorming the Apocalypse (XXXIV)”

  1. Duncan said

    Boy miss a couple days and one misses a lot.
    Below is a very interesting chart produced by Ian Boxall that looks at parallels between Ezekiel and Revelation [Ian Boxall, The Revelation of Saint John, Black’s New Testament Commentaries General Editor: Morna D. Hooker, (Peabody MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 255]. Parallels between the two books are often acknowledged; I have never seen such an extensive chart, however. If correct (and I think it is) it means that Revelation does not just have some parallels with Ezekiel, it means Revelation actually follows the sequence of Ezekiel as a structural outline. Below is the chart (I hope it does not get messed up in translation), I have a two part article on it here:
    and here:

    Revelation 1—————–Ezekiel 1

    Revelation 4—————–Ezekiel 1

    Revelation 5—————–Ezekiel 2

    Revelation 6—————–Ezekiel 5-7

    Revelation 7:1-2————-Ezekiel 7:2-3

    Revelation 7-8 ————–Ezekiel 9-10

    Revelation 10—————Ezekiel 2-3

    Revelation 10-13————Ezekiel 11-14 (echoes)

    Revelation 11:1-2———– Ezekiel 40

    Revelation 13:11-18——– -Ezekiel 14

    Revelation 17—————Ezekiel 16, 23

    Revelation 18—————Ezekiel 26-28

    Revelation 19:11-21———Ezekiel 29, 32 (39)

    Revelation 20:1-3———–Ezekiel 29, 32

    Revelation 20:4-6———–Ezekiel 37

    Revelation 20:7-10———-Ezekiel 38:1-39:20

    Revelation 20:11-15———Ezekiel 39:21-29

    Revelation 21-22————Ezekiel 40-48


    • boydluter said


      This is very interesting! I will try to get Boxall’s commentary. I have seen it and briefly skimmed parts of it, but that’s it.

      Blessings, Boyd

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