Many people think the Book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, is too difficult to understand. They may have even tried to read it, but were put off by its symbolism and complexity.
On the other hand, Revelation is the only book of the Bible that promises a blessing to those who will read it, or even hear it (many people could not read when the book was written).
Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. - Revelation 1:3
So the book is meant to be understood. Even its name indicates that it should make sense. “Revelation,” comes from the Greek word apokalupsis (“apocalypse”). Apocalypse is often used to mean “great disaster,” but it actually means “unveiling.” When a beautiful new statue was dedicated, it would have a covering on it until the big moment in the ceremony when the covering would be removed, and the statue would be revealed in all of its glory. What is the main thing revealed by this book? Some might think it is “antichrist,” or “the Tribulation.” But it is really Jesus! And the key to the book is found in the first chapter (1:19):
“Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”
We have developed a new chart to help you study the book. You can download it and print it out here:
You might also want to view (and/or print) our Notes and Outline of the Book of Revelation to help you in your studies:
OVERVIEW OF THE BOOK:
The top section of the chart is based on this key verse. Using the book’s own outline, the first chapter is about “What you have seen.” It is a vision of “The PERSON of JESUS CHRIST.” He is seen in his resurrected glory and power, guiding His Church, and preparing to return to Earth as King of Kings.
Chapters 2 and 3 are about “What is now,” a vision of “The PRESENCE of JESUS CHRIST in this age.” It contains messages to seven actual churches in Asia that prefigure seven periods of church history, from the early Apostolic Church to the present time. At the end of this age the “Rapture” will occur. This is when Jesus will return for those in His Church who are true believers. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11; 1 Corinthians 15:50-58).
The majority of the book (chapters 4 through 22) is devoted to the third section, “What will take place later.” This is a vision of “The PROGRAM of JESUS CHRIST for the future.” The Tribulation (chapters 6 through 19) is described. It is a 7-year period of time that Daniel and Jesus predicted (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:9-28). Future events also include the Millennial reign of Christ (chapter 20), and the New Heaven and New Earth (chapters 21-22).
MAJOR ASPECTS OF THE FUTURE
Revelation predicts three aspects of the future. In Chapters 4 and 5 it describes The Scene in Heaven, around the Throne of God. These chapters – and several other places in the book – remind us that the dreadful events that unfold on earth are all under the omnipotent control of God.
The majority of the book (Chapters 6 through 20) explains The Scene on Earth. During these years the world will suffer the judgments of “The Tribulation” period, and at the mid-point of this time, the Beast (Antichrist), will have an image of himself set up in the newly-rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. This will usher in “The Great Tribulation” or the last 3 ½ years of the 7 year covenant. At the end of this period Jesus will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He will fight the battle of Armageddon, and then set up His righteous kingdom on Earth that will last for 1000 years.
Finally, in chapters 21 and 22 the Revelation gives a brief description of The Scene on the New Earth after God creates a New Heaven and New Earth.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE TRIBULATION
The main purpose of our Chart of Revelation is to help Bible students follow the events that are described during the seven years of Tribulation. One cannot read chapters 6 through 19 in a strict chronological fashion. It is like a modern newscast where one major story dominates the news. At the beginning of the program there might be a brief summary of the entire issue for the sake of those who are just tuning in. Following that, there will be any number of special reports by different authorities, eye-witnesses, and commentators. The various reports will have certain things in common, but will add details from their various perspectives.
The Seven Seals (chapter 6 and 8:1) give the overview of the whole seven years: the introduction of the false messiah, a great world war, incredible famine, plagues and pestilences, and the persecution and martyrdom of believers. The Seventh Seal (8:1) brings “silence in Heaven for about a half-hour.” It is a place-holder for The Seven Trumpets (8:2-11:19), which are apparently seven intense judgments of the Earth during the second half of the Tribulation, also known as The Great Tribulation. The Seventh Trumpet (11:15-19) is the first of seven different places in the Book of Revelation that describe some aspect of the Battle of Armageddon. These six places are marked on the chart with a black dot. Finally, leading up to Armageddon, The Seven Vials of God’s wrath (chapters 15 and 16) are poured out.
Many additional side-stories are interspersed between these major divisions of the Tribulation period. Looking at the chart, you can see information about the 144,000 sealed Jewish believers, the Tribulation martyrs, the plight of Israel during the Great Tribulation, the role of Satan, the Beast, the False Prophet, and the “Mark of the Beast” are all discussed.
Finally, the judgments associated with Armageddon are considered from the viewpoint of non-believers (14:14-20), the adulterous woman (false religions – chapter 17), and Babylon the Great (18:1-19:6), the final evil world empire.
THE HAPPY ENDING
As mentioned above, the last three chapters of Revelation are the good news about the thousand-year reign of Christ (The Millennium – Chapter 20), and the ultimate New Heaven and New Earth (chapters 21-22).
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.