Outline of the Book of Revelation

Sincere and intelligent Christians disagree on the interpretation of the Book of Revelation and the last day events. This article reflects what I believe best represents the Biblical evidence.

This article is divided into the following points:

Interpretive Principles Followed by the Author (Pastor Ron Jones)

Outline of the Main Points of the Book of Revelation

Theme of the Book of Revelation

Judgments of the Book of Revelation

Pictorial Outline of the Book of Revelation

Explanatory Outline of the Book of Revelation

Sound Books for Studying the Book of Revelation and the End Times

 

Interpretive Principles Followed by the Author (Pastor Ron Jones)

1. I believe that the best way to explain the Book of Revelation is to take an interpretive position on the last day events.

Otherwise, it is easy to get confused as one attempts to explain the relationships of all the different interpretive positions to the passages in this book.

This is especially important because these articles are written for the Christian who has little knowledge of these end time events and would have great difficulty in following an explanation of the Book of Revelation from many different viewpoints.

I believe that the interpretive position that is reflected in the Book of Revelation is a pre-tribulational, premillennial view. That is, I believe the Scriptures teach that Jesus will rapture the church before a seven-year tribulation breaks out on the earth. He then will return after the tribulation to set up a thousand year millennial kingdom on the earth followed by the eternal kingdom of the new heavens and the new earth.

I have added the end time events, which are not mentioned in the book where I believe they will occur from a pre-tribulational, pre-millennial view. These have brackets around them. I also have a separate chart with all the events and their order together.

[See Revelation and The End Times Events Chart.]

If you have a different view of the order of end time events, this article and outline should still prove to be useful to you.

2. I believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture using a historical-grammatical method for all the books of the Bible including the Book of Revelation. Conservative Christian pastors and scholars use this approach for interpreting the Bible.

We accept that the Bible is to be interpreted literally which is what we apply to any written work. Literal interpretation (as applied to any writing) is the method, which understands the meaning of a sentence to be in the usual, normal, and ordinary conversation and writing of that day.

Literal Interpretation includes the use of figures of speech, metaphors, similes and the like. There is plain literal and figurative literal.

Plain literal is taking the words and sentences to mean their plain sense without a metaphorical expression or any fictional elements unless they are indicated by the author somewhere in the context.

Figurative literal is taking the words or sentences as figures of speech if they are indicated to be figures of speech by the author somewhere in the context.

The Book of Revelation contains many figures of speech such as metaphors and similes (“And before the throne there was a sea of glass like crystal…”Rev.4:6). Yet it is still interpreted literally, understanding the words in the usual, normal, and ordinary conversation and writing of that day.

I also believe in the grammatical-historical method of interpretation, which is defined by Henry Virkler in his book, Hermeneutics, Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation (Baker Books, 1981, p.73). He writes,

“This method suggests that the meaning of a text is the author’s intended meaning and that the author’s intention can be derived most accurately by observing the facts of history and the rules of grammar as they apply to the text being studied.”

3. I believe the Book of Revelation is chronological.

It is a chronological sequence of events of the last days. There is a 1900+ year gap between chapter 3 and chapter 4, but it is still chronological.

It is described like a “theatrical play” of the last days that God has allowed John to see. Each “act” is unfolding chronologically with the judgments of God, yet there are “scenes” where the audience is introduced to major characters in the play and where they see the preparation for the judgments and the celebration of result of the judgments. There are also “scenes” where those in heaven worship God the Father and Jesus Christ for the incredible power and blessing displayed by them as they save those who will turn to them and judge Satan and unbelievers who continue to rebel against God.

4. Some of the last day events are not mentioned.

The primary focus of Revelation is on the tribulation period and what happens to the believers and unbelievers in the tribulation. Therefore, some of the last day events are not mentioned. This is the normal way Biblical prophecy is given.

[See "Interpretive Keys To Understanding Bible Prophecy"]

However, I also believe that there are clues in the book that demonstrate when a particular last day event has occurred. When these are combined with other end time prophecies, I believe that it can be reasonably determined from a pre-tribulational, pre-millennial perspective when these occur.

5. The Book of Revelation alternates between heaven and earth.

Before each of the three series of judgments, the seals (ch.6), the trumpets (ch.8-9), and the bowls (ch.15-16), John will see a vision from heaven introducing a celebration of the result of a judgment about to be released upon the earth or a vision of significant figures in the tribulation, or a symbolic representation of the reason for God's coming judgment upon the earth. Then it shows angels carrying out God's command in the series of judgments and their results on the earth.

This shows that God is in control and that the tribulation period is his judgment upon the unbelievers of the earth.

6. The objects and beings that John describes are what John actually saw.

Some of those may actually appear to John as they will appear during the tribulation. Others may appear to John in a symbolic form to bring out a characteristic(s) of that object or being, but will not appear in those forms in the tribulation period.

For example, the antichrist appears as a beast in Rev.13:1-2 to bring out his power and ferocious character. However, he will not appear as a beast during the tribulation, but a man, a leader of people. On the other hand, the “locusts” described in Rev.9:3-10, may actually be seen by John as they will actually appear during the tribulation. John was describing something he had never seen before. Were these military war machines described by a 1st century man or demonic creatures? We can’t be sure, but it seems that this is how they will appear.

 

The Main Points of the Book of Revelation

I. The revelation of God to John and a warning to the churches to be ready for the Lord’s return Rev.1-3

II. The preparation for the tribulation in the throne room of God Rev.4-5

III. The judgments of the tribulation period sent by God upon the earth Rev.6-18

IV. The return of Jesus Christ to bring judgment for unbelievers and blessing for believers Rev.19

V. The binding of Satan, the 1000 year millennial kingdom, and the final judgments of Satan and all unbelievers. Rev.20

VI. The eternal kingdom of God the Father and God the Son which lasts forever. Rev.21-22

 

The Theme of the Book of Revelation

The Book of Revelation is a revelation God gave to John the apostle while he was on the island of Patmos revealing God’s plan for the last days.

The major theme of the book is revealed in Chapter 4-5.

It opens up with a scene in heaven. God the Father is on his throne and in His hand is a scroll, which is the title deed of the earth.

Jesus Christ then appears as the one who alone is worthy as the God-man who died for man's sin to take the scroll and thus take back possession of the earth.

In Gen.1 God gave to Adam and Eve possession of the earth and its direct control when he told them to subdue the earth.

However, because of Adam and Eve’s sin, they, the earth and its creatures, were all corrupted.

In order to redeem the earth and restore righteousness on it, Jesus Christ came to earth and died on the cross and resurrected from the dead. Forty days later he ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God.

In Rev.4-5, the time has come for Jesus, the one who died on the cross (symbolized by his appearance as a Lamb that was slain), to take back possession of the earth and rule upon it.

He does this by opening the scroll, which has seven seals.

In ancient times, title deeds to property contained seven seals. In order to take possession of property, all seven seals needed to be opened.

The Book of Revelation is a book chronologically organized around the opening of the seven seals by Jesus Christ during a seven-year tribulation period as he prepares to return and take possession of the earth and its inhabitants and set up his kingdom.

Each seal that Jesus opens represents a judgment as Jesus judges a corrupted earth populated by corrupted human beings and takes back possession of it through those judgments.

 

The Judgments of the Book of Revelation

Rev.6-18 describes the seven year tribulation period on the earth initiated by God.

We know from Dan.9:24-27 and Matt.24:3-31, and other Biblical prophecies that the tribulation is divided into two 3 � year periods. The first three � years the antichrist comes to power and makes a covenant with Israel and other nations. It looks like a covenant of peace. Then at the end of the first 3 � years he breaks the covenant and demands that Israel worship him or his image as god. Then a great persecution of Israel breaks out.

The seals, trumpets, and bowl judgments are described in the Pictorial Outline of the Book of Revelation in this section.

The Seven Seals The first six seals represent what happens during the first 3� years of the tribulation. They take us to the midpoint of the tribulation (Rev.6-8).

The seventh seal is opened and the second half of the tribulation begins. When the seventh seal is opened seven angels with seven trumpets appear.

The Seven Trumpets The seventh seal is actually the seven trumpet judgments.

In chapter 8, the seventh seal is opened and the seven trumpets begin. The intensity and devastation of Christ’s judgment upon the earth significantly increases. The second half of the tribulation is characterized by the judgments of the seven trumpets. As these trumpets were blown devastating judgments are released upon the earth and its unbelieving inhabitants (Rev.8-10).

The Seven Bowls The seven bowls are poured out in chapters 15 and 16. The seventh trumpet is the seven bowls. So, the seventh seal is the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet is the seven bowls.

Seven angels appear with seven bowls of plagues. These bowls are filled with God’s wrath. This means they represent God’s wrath. As each bowl is poured out, a plague is released on the earth, which is God’s wrath upon the unbelieving earthdwellers.

 

Pictorial Outline of the Book of Revelation

The Pictorial Outline of the Book of Revelation is a series of charts that visually complement this Explanatory outline.

Rev.1-7 Chart

Rev.8-11 Chart

Rev.12-15 Chart

Rev.16-18 Chart

Rev.19-22 Chart

For a better understanding of the Explanatory Outline below, right click the image of each chart, save it to your hard drive, and print it out. Follow the Explanatory outline and use the Pictorial Outline along with it. It will greatly help you understand what the Book of Revelation is revealing for the last days.

 

The Explanatory Outline of the Book of Revelation

I. God’s revelation to John and warning to the churches to be ready for the Lord’s return

Rev.1-3

[See Pictorial Outline of Revelation - Ch.1-7 Chart.]

A. God's revelation to John of the last days begins.

1. Chapter 1 describes God’s introduction of John into the vision of the last days he is to write down for others. This shows that the Book of Revelation is divine revelation written down by an apostle of Jesus Christ. It is authoritative.

B. Jesus Christ's warning to his churches to be ready for the last days.

1. Chapter 2-3 describes the exhortation of Jesus Christ to seven churches in Asia Minor who were under John’s apostolic care regarding their commitment to Christ in light of the revelation they were about to receive.

The Lord is warning certain first century churches to listen to him. Jesus says over and over, “He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

2. These churches were real. They were examples the Lord chose to remind all churches of all ages what the Lord desires for his churches. This serves as a warning to the churches to examine themselves and see if they fall into these sins and to purify themselves in preparation for the Lord’s return whether it happens in their lifetimes or not.

[The Pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church occurs between Chapters 4 and 5.]

[The Pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church is Resurrection of Church Saints. See 1 Thess.4:3-17 and 1 Cor.15:51-56. The church age ends with the Rapture of the church and the beginning of a seven-year tribulation period. Why resurrect these Christians now? Church age believers will inhabit the millennial kingdom as “rulers” with Christ. I believe this means that believers will be functioning as police officers and judges. We will need glorified bodies to perform that important service for our Lord.]

Please see the article "Why I Believe in the Pre-tribulational Rapture of the Church” for an explanation of the evidence for a pre-tribulational rapture.

II. The Preparation for the tribulation in the throne room of God

Rev.4-5

A. The throne of God is surrounded by 24 elders, the Holy Spirit, and four angelic beings. Ch.4:1-7

B. The four angelic beings and the 24 elders praise and worship God. Rev.4:8-11

Who are the 24 elders of Rev.4-5? I believe either all 24 represent the church or 12 represent the church and 12 the apostles.

[See the article “The 24 elders of Revelation 4-5.”]

C. The dramatic and unfulfilled call for one who is worthy to open the seals. Rev.5:1-4

To demonstrate the uniqueness of the Son of God as the only one worthy to open the seals and take back possession of the earth, God commands an angel to call out for anyone who is worthy ton open the seals. When no one is found, Jesus steps forward.

D. The presentation of Jesus as the Lamb of God who alone is worthy to open the scroll and the seven seals and take back possession of the earth. Rev.5:5-7

Jesus is the lamb of God who is worthy because he died on the cross to save people from their sins. He appears as a slain Lamb to emphasize his death as the sacrifice that showed caused his worthiness to judge mankind and rule over them as the God-man.

E. The celebration of the worthiness of the Lamb followed by praise and worship of God the Father and God the Son. Rev.5:8-14

This shows that God is in control and this is all part of his plan. That what is about to take place is for his glory and honor. Judgment has come.

III. The judgments of the tribulation period sent by God upon the earth

Rev.6-18

Chapter 6-18 describes the tribulation period, which consists of three sets of judgments symbolized by seals, trumpets, and bowls (completed by the Second Coming of Jesus Christ in ch.19).

This is a time of purification for Israel before her messiah comes and wrathful judgment upon unbelievers before their judge comes.

Many believers in Jesus Christ will die for their faith.

They will then return with him along with other OT and church age believers to judge the earth (Rev.19 on white horses) and set up his millennial kingdom.

A. The first six seal are opened and God’s judgment begins. 1. Chapter 6 describes what happens on the earth when the first six seal judgments are unleashed which begin the tribulation and end at the 3 � year midpoint.

2. Chapter 7 describes a “preview” and celebration in heaven of what will happen to believers on the earth when the sixth seal (which are the seven trumpets) is opened and the “great tribulation” (the last 3 � years) begins.

Rev.7 also shows the sealing of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (who will preach the gospel during the last half of the tribulation) and the introduction of the souls of the tribulational believers who have died for Christ who praise God and give him glory.

B. The seventh seal judgment, which is the seven trumpet judgments, is opened.

[See Pictorial Outline of Revelation - Ch.8-11 Chart.]

1. Chapter 8 describes the opening of the seventh seal, which results in seven angels being introduced who will sound seven trumpets of judgment.

Rev.8:1-4 The golden censer of the prayers of the tribulation saints which introduces the trumpet judgments as God's answer to their prayers.

Rev.8:5-9:21 The first six trumpets are blown and the resultant judgments occur on the earth.

2. Chapter 10 describes an announcement in heaven by an angel that God is about to complete His plan with the sounding of the seventh and final trumpet.

Rev.10 The Angel and the scroll predicts that the judgment of the seventh trumpet will be sweet and bitter.

3. Chapter 11 describes two miracle-working prophetic witnesses God raises up to preach during the last half of the tribulation and the heavenly celebration at the sounding of the seventh trumpet.

Rev.11:1-14 The two miracle working witnesses who will preach the gospel for 3 � years. A great celebration in heaven of what will be accomplished by the 7th trumpet which is the final series of judgments..

Rev.11:15-19 The seventh trumpet is sounded and the twenty four elders celebrate God’s power and sovereignty which is about to be displayed.

Note: At this point, there is a pause in the judgment narrative in order to introduce the key players involved in the tribulation.

[See Pictorial Outline of Revelation - Ch.12-15 Chart.]

C. The key players in the tribulation period are introduced.

1. Chapter 12 describes Satan attempt in the past to destroy the Jesus, the messiah, and his attempt in the tribulation to destroy messiah’s people Israel.

It begins by picturing Israel as a great woman with twelve stars (the 12 tribes of Israel) who is pregnant with Jesus the messiah (symbolic of Mary being pregnant at Jesus’ first coming).

It pictures Satan as a great red dragon who wants to destroy the messiah. He is assisted by a third of the stars of heaven, which represent the demons who allied themselves with Satan.

Satan’s plan was to destroy Jesus when he was born. He attempted this through Herod’s slaughter of the male children, but failed.

The messiah accomplishes his ministry of dying on the cross and ascends to heaven (v.5).

Rev.12:6 fast forwards to the midpoint of the tribulation period when Satan attempts to destroy the believing Israelites and thwart God’s final redemptive phase by having no believing Israelites in physical bodies to enter the millennial kingdom.

At the midpoint of the tribulation, Satan is thrown out of heaven with no more access to God (which he had in Job 1-2) and he comes to destroy Israelites who have become Christians for the last 3 1/2 years.

Satan breaks his covenant with Israel and begins to persecute them. So God prepares a safe place in the desert where they can hide for the last three and a half years of the tribulation.

2. Chapter 13 describes the roles of the antichrist and the false prophet during the last 3 � years of the tribulation.

Rev.13 The antichrist and the false prophet are introduced having power and authority from Satan, the dragon. They are given 3 1/2 years to use great power and authority during the last half of the tribulation.They will put the mark of the beast on all unbelievers.

3. Chapter 14 describes the announcements and warnings to those living on the earth during the last 3 � years regarding salvation.

Rev.14:1-5 introduces a new group of God's people. They are 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will preach the gospel during the last half of the tribulation. Many will be won to Christ through their ministry and will be blessed by dying for Christ.

4. Chapter 14 ends with a great celebration of the final defeat of the kingdom of the antichrist called "Babylon" which will occur as a result of the final trumpet judgment.

5. Chapter 15 describes a celebration of the coming victory of the sovereign God and the appearance of the seven angels with the seven bowls of judgment.

D. The seven bowls (which is the seventh trumpet) are poured out upon the earth.

[See Pictorial Outline of Revelation - Ch.16-18 Chart.]

1. Chapter 16 describes the seven angels pouring out the seven bowls of God’s wrath and the judgment it brings upon those who have taken the mark of the beast.

2. Chapters 17-18 describe the fall of the great city of Babylon which was the center of the false religion of the antichrist. It fell when the seventh seal was poured out.

[See Pictorial Outline of Revelation - Ch.19-22 Chart.]

IV. The return of Jesus Christ to bring judgment for unbelievers and blessing for believers left on earth at the end of the tribulation.

Rev.19

At the end of the tribulation period, just before Jesus returns, there is a great celebration in heaven called the Marriage Celebration of the Lamb.

This is where the bride of Christ, believers, are presented in white robes to Christ as the ones who have been united to Him in the Spirit.

A. Jesus Christ returns to the earth with his bride. 1. Chapter 19:1-9 describes the celebration in heaven over the destruction of the false religion of the antichrist and the celebration of the union and presentation of Jesus Christ and His church.

2. Chapter 19:11-21 describes Christ’s return to the earth with his church and his angels to destroy the armies of the antichrist and unbelieving mankind and set up his millennial kingdom.

See Zech.14:1-7 where Jesus returns to save Jerusalem.

[There are other events that take place at this time which are not mentioned here. For those see the "The Second Coming Judgments of Christ in the article "End Times Written Outline."]

V. The binding of Satan, the 1000 year millennial kingdom, and the final judgments of Satan and all unbelievers.

Rev.20

A. Satan is bound for a thousand years while Christ reigns on the earth.

Chapter 20:1-3 describes the binding of Satan for a thousand years

B. Resurrected believers are placed on thrones to reign with Christ

Chapter 20:4-6 describes the resurrected believers who will reign with Christ during the 1000-year millennial kingdom

1. Rev.20:4 Those who had been given authority to judge seated on the thrones are the non-tribulation saints who have been resurrected, OT and NT believers.

2. Rev.20:4 Those who had not worshiped the beast are the tribulation believers who died and are now resurrected to reign with Christ along with the OT and NT believers.

C. Christ reigns for a thousand years on the earth. Revelation 20:6

See Zech.14:8-21 for Zechariah's prophecy of this millennial kingdom.

[For more information on evidence for a literal 1000 year millennial kingdom, see the article "Why I Believe in a literal 1000 year reign of Christ"]

[For characteristics of life in the millennial kingdom from OT prophecies, see the article "Life in the Millennial Kingdom."]

D. Satan is released and leads the final rebellion against Jesus Christ.

1. Chapter 20:7-10 describes the release of Satan and his gathering of human armies to destroy Christ the King at the end of the 1000 years.

E. Satan is finally judged and is cast into the lake of fire.

1. Satan is cast into the lake of fire. Rev.20:10

F. The present earth and heavens are melted down and the great white throne judgment of all unbelievers appears.

1. Chapter 20:11shows the heavens and the earth being eliminated in preparation for the new heavens and the new earth.

See 2 Pet.3:7-11 for the prediction of the melting down of the earth.

2. Chapter 20:12-15 describes the Great White Throne Judgment of all unbelievers who have ever lived.

VI. The eternal kingdom of God the Father and God the Son will last forever

Rev.21-22

God creates the new heavens and the new earth, which is the dwelling place of his eternal kingdom.

A. The new heavens and the new earth are created.

1. Ch.21:1 describes the new heavens and the new earth which are created by God.

2. Ch.21:2-8 describes the general conditions existing in the eternal kingdom of God.

B. The New Jerusalem comes down from heaven and the reign of God begins.

1. Ch.21:9-21 The beauty of the New Jerusalem is described.

2. Ch.21:22-27 The glory of God the Father and God the Son lights the New Jerusalem.

2. Ch. 22:1-5 The River of life flows from God's throne.

C. Final exhortations and warnings to those reading the book of Revelation.

Rev.22:6-21

 

Sound Books for Studying the Book of Revelation and the End Times:

The Revelation of Jesus Christ by John Walvoord

Major Bible Prophecies by John Walvoord

Daniel by John Walvoord

The Bible and Future Events by Leon J. Wood

Revelation 1-11, MacArthur NT Commentary, by John MacArthur

Revelation 12-22, MacArthur NT Commentary, by John MacArthur