Structure of Revelation -- A Preview
Part 1 -- Structure of Revelation

Structure of Revelation -- A Preview

Part 1

By Graham Dull

Structure of Revelation

Revelation is sub-divided into four major Prophetic Sections. It also includes Two Judgement Scenes and a Prologue and Epilogue. This makes a total of eight sections.

All the sections are set forth in pairs, giving a total of four pairs.

Prologue/Epilogue

The Prologue and Epilogue are paired.

The Prologue (1:1-8) is introduced with the phrase 'God gave him to show' (1:1).

The Epilogue (22:6-21) is introduced with 'God... sent his angel to show' (22:6).

These phrases are similar.

'In the Spirit' Parallel Sections

Another set of paired sections are introduced by the words 'In the Spirit.'

The first section (1:9--3:22) is introduced with the phrase 'I was in the Spirit' (1:10).

The second section (4:1--16:21) is introduced with 'I was in the Spirit' (4:2).

The First reveals scenes on earth -- Jesus (as the great high priest) gives instruction to the seven churches.

The Second reveals scenes in heaven -- Jesus receives authority to work on behalf of his people to bring them into his eternal kingdom. While at the same time, he destroys the enemies of righteousness.

'Carried me away in the Spirit' Parallel Sections

The 'Carried me away in the Spirit' Sections are paired.

The first section (17:1--19:10) is introduced with the phrase 'carried me away in the Spirit' (17:3).

The second section (21:9--22:11) is introduced with 'carried me away in the Spirit' (21:10).

The First reveals the demise of Babylon -- the great prostitute is brought down.

The Second reveals the exaltation of Jerusalem -- the glorious bride is established for all eternity.

The White Judgements Parallel Sections

Two judgement scenes are described. They too are paired.

Two judgement scenes fit into the narrative. They fit in between the 'Carried me away in the Spirit' sections.

The First (19:11--20:10) is the 'White horse Judgement' and it is introduced with the expression 'white horse' (19:11).

The Second (20:11--21:8) is the 'White throne Judgement' and it is introduced with the words 'white throne' (20:11).

The First is primarily concerned with the judgement of Satan and his affiliates. Its placement in the narrative is immediately following the 'Carried me away in the Spirit' section concerning the demise of Babylon. Babylon's progressive demise now becomes its complete annihilation during this judgement. This order of events is appropriate, because following this judgement, Babylon is no more.

The Second Judgement Scene concerns the judgement of Mankind 'as individuals,' and determines whether or not each enters the eternal kingdom of God. Its placement in the narrative precedes the Section describing the establishment of God's holy city, the New Jerusalem. This order of events is appropriate, because the judgement of mankind must precede entry into the kingdom of God -- or alternatively being cast into the lake of fire.

The Prologue, Epilogue, the 'In the Spirit'/'Carried me away in the Spirit' Parallel Sections, and the two Judgement Scenes together make up the complete Book of Revelation.

Major divisions of Revelation --

  • Prologue (1:1-8)
  • An 'In the Spirit' Section (1:9--3:22) -- The First
  • Another 'In the Spirit' Section (4:1--16:21) -- The Second
  • A 'Carried me away in the Spirit' Section (17:1--19:10) -- The First
  • First Judgement Scene (19:11--20:10)
  • Second Judgement Scene (20:11--21:8)
  • Another 'Carried me away in the Spirit' Section (21:9--22:11) -- The Second
  • Epilogue (22:6-21)

All the divisions are clear except for the apparent discrepancy between the verses assigned to the last two sections. Note that the interweaving of Revelation's text accounts for the discrepancy.

A summary of the parallels are --

  • 'God gave him to show' (1:1)
  • 'God... sent his angel to show' (22:6)
  • 'I was in the Spirit' (1:10)
  • 'I was in the Spirit' (4:2)
  • 'carried me away in the Spirit' (17:3)
  • 'carried me away in the Spirit' (21:10)
  • 'white horse' (19:11)
  • 'white throne' (20:11)

A summary of the introductions in their actual order of occurrence are --

  • Prologue (1:1-8) 'God gave him to show' (1:1).
  • 'I was in' (1:9--3:22) 'I was in the Spirit' (1:10).
  • 'I was in' (4:1--16:21) 'I was in the Spirit' (4:2).
  • 'Carried me away' (17:1--19:10) 'carried me away in the Spirit' (17:3).
  • Judgement (19:11--20:10) 'white horse' (19:11).
  • Judgement (20:11--21:8) 'white throne' (20:11).
  • 'Carried me away' (21:9--22:11) 'carried me away in the Spirit' (21:10).
  • Epilogue (22:6-21) 'God... sent his angel to show' (22:6).

These form the major divisions in the narrative of Revelation.

The Prologue, Epilogue, the 'In the Spirit'/'Carried me away in the Spirit' Parallel Sections, and the two Judgement Scenes together make up the complete Book of Revelation.




Literary Structure

In order to gain an understanding of the Book of Revelation, it is necessary to acquire a knowledge of its literary structure.

The aim of this article is to outline its Structure and Parallels. An understanding of these will help reveal the basic divisions of the book, and will help to identify important relationships within the narrative.

Many readers come to Revelation with a sense of dread. We see in places a strict literary structure (for example, the messages to the seven churches -- these messages are very structured), but this structure is mixed with a confusing array of seemingly random statements and pronouncements.

(Also adding to the confusion is John's extensive use of 'imagery' -- there seem to be angels and beasts coming at us from all sides. At a future date, I would like the opportunity to share regarding John's use of imagery.)

Combining all of the above together can lead us to distraction. And we may despair of ever coming to a real understanding of the book.

The good news is that the 'Revelation of Jesus Christ' is much more structured than we ever imagined. And when we understand the structure, we can more readily understand the substance.

I am indebted to Richard Bauckham for his insight into the parallels/parallelisms which define the major sections of Revelation. His book, "The Climax of Prophecy," gives a common sense outline for 'The Revelation of Jesus Christ'. I highly recommend his first chapter, "Structure and Composition."


Parallels/Parallelisms


Throughout Revelation, John uses parallelism.

  • He pairs together parallel phrases.
  • He does this extensively.

What is parallelism?

Parallelism exists where there is a similarity of structure in a pair, or series of related words, phrases, or clauses.

The majority of Christians will probably best recognise the use of parallelism in the Psalms. It is used as a poetic device. By means of 'parallelism' the initial and primary thought in the phrase is enlarged, and further explained and developed through repetition.

First Example

Psalm 27:1

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"

Note the similarity of thought between the first and second line. The second line parallels the first.

For example, "whom shall I fear?" parallels "of whom shall I be afraid?"

This is an example of 'synonymous parallelism' because the two thoughts expressed are similar.

Second Example

Psalm 1:6

"The Lord watches over the way of the righteous
but the way of the wicked will perish."

Here is an example of 'contrasting parallelism' where opposite thoughts are expressed.

Note the contrast. Two groups are presented, the one group being the righteous -- and the other the wicked. The righteous are protected by God, while the wicked perish. The two distinct groups have contrasting destinies.

The poetic nature of the Psalms relies heavily on such parallelism. And parallelism is used extensively throughout the Psalms and other poetic books of the Old Testament.


Section Summary


In synonymous parallelism, the first and second lines express essentially the same idea. In contrasting parallelism, opposite ideas are presented. The repetition of the thought greatly enhances the meaning of what is being expressed.

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Structure of Revelation -- A Preview

Part 2

Parallelism in Revelation