Fourfold Structure of Revelation

Photo by João Silas on Unsplash
The book of Revelation consists of a prologue, the vision proper, and an epilogue. The vision itself falls into four recognizable divisions, each commencing with John finding himself “in the spirit” where he receives visions in specific locations. For example, the first vision began with John on the isle of Patmos where he “came to be in spirit” and saw a vision of the one “like a son of man.” - [
Photo by João Silas on Unsplash].

The second literary unit begins with John seeing “a door opened in heaven,” and the voice from his first vision summoning him to “come up here.” Once again, he “came to be in spirit” and received a vision when he found himself before the Divine Throne at the center of the Cosmos. The second literary division is characterized by three sevenfold-series, the seven seals, trumpets, and the seven “bowls of wrath” (Revelation 12:1-16:21).

In the first division, the local situation in the province of Asia is viewed from the perspective of John’s exile on the isle of Patmos. In the second, the vision is from the perspective of the Throne.

The third division begins with John “carried away in spirit” into the wilderness by one of the seven angels who had the seven “bowls of wrath.” A different Greek verb is used than in the first two divisions - “carried away” instead of “came to be.” John found himself “in the wilderness” where he saw the “Great Whore,” Babylon - (Revelation 17:1-21:8).

In the third division, John witnessed the judgment of the enemies of the “Lamb” unfolding, but in reverse order from their introduction in the second division - Babylon, the “beast from the earth,” the “beast from the sea,” and the “Dragon.”

In the fourth division, again, John was “carried away in spirit” by one of the same seven angels, but this time to a “high mountain” where he saw another “city,” the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven to the earth.

The four divisions form two distinct pairs. The first pair is characterized by the clause, “I came to be in spirit”; the second by the clause, “he carried me away in spirit.” The first pair looks at the present reality of the churches in Asia; the second compares two cities - “Babylon” and “New Jerusalem.”

Outline of Revelation

PROLOGUE - (1:1-8): 
     The Purpose of the Revelation - (1:1-3
     John’s Salutation to the Seven Churches - (1:4-9

DIVISION I – Inaugural Vision of the Risen Christ - (1:8-3:22): 
     Jesus in the Midst of the Churches - (1:10-20
     Seven Messages for Seven Churches - (2:1-3:22

DIVISION II – The Church in Hostile Territory - (4:1-16:21): 
     The Divine Throne and the Sealed Scroll - (4:1-5:14
     The Seven Seals - (6:1-8:5): 
          The First Six Seals - (6:1-17
          The Sealing and Numbering of God’s Servants - (7:1-8
          The Innumerable Company of the Redeemed - (7:9-17
          The Seventh Seal - (8:1-5
     The Seven Trumpets - (8:6-11:19): 
          The First Six Trumpets - (8:6-9:21
          The Opened Scroll and Commissioning of the Church - (10:1-11
          The Measuring of the Sanctuary - (11:1-2
          The Two Witnesses - (11:3-13
          The Seventh Trumpet - (11:14-19
     God’s Victorious People vs. Satanic Forces - (12:1-14:20): 
          The Son’s Victory over the Dragon - (12:1-11
          The Defeated Dragon Pursues the Woman and her Seed - (12:12-17
          The Beast from the Sea - (13:1-10
          The Beast from the Land - (13:11-18
          The First-fruits and the Harvest - (14:1-20
          The Seven Bowls of Wrath Culminate in Final Judgment - (15:1-16:21)

DIVISION III – The Destruction of Gods’ Cosmic Enemies - (17:1-21:8):
     The Fall of Babylon, the Great Whore - (17:1-19:10)
     The Destruction of the Beast and False Prophet - (19:11-21)
     The Binding, Release and Judgment of Satan - (20:1-10)
     The Great White Throne of Judgment - (20:11-15)
     Transitional Passage: The Descent of New Jerusalem - (21:1-8)

DIVISION IV – New Jerusalem, City of God - (21:9-22:7)

EPILOGUE – Final Warnings, Exhortations, Salutations - (22:8-21)




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