The Book of Revelation is the climax of the whole Bible. It brings God’s Word to its completion as its final words confirm (Revelation 22:18,19). Therefore it has a place of special importance in God’s Word. Every theme and revelation of the Bible has its roots and origins in Genesis, develops progressively and then comes to its completion in Revelation. The Book of Revelation therefore brings together these themes and shows how they will all come to their fulfillment.
It is of course a Book of Prophecy, and so in it all the various streams of Bible Prophecy are brought together, revealing how all things will come to their climax, and especially how God’s Plans and Purposes come to their ultimate fulfillment. Therefore the Book of Revelation is essential to understanding Prophecy.This is why Book 3 of this Series is devoted to it.
Its very name ‘Revelation’ implies it is written to clearly reveal what is to happen in the future. Throughout the Bible are scattered many different prophecies, but without Revelation we would have great difficulty fitting them all together to see in detail what is going to come to pass. It ties together all the prophetic threads and adds the necessary detail to complete what was missing in the previous prophetic revelation of God. It takes the former prophecies and combines them with new revelation based on John’s vision of the future, to present a coherant and orderly and chronological portrayal of the end-times. It shows exactly how and when the various prophecies will come to pass and fills in any remaining gaps of knowledge left by the incompleteness of previous revelation.
Therefore, as the ultimate word of prophecy, concluding and summarising the revelation of the Bible, we would expect Revelation to provide a systematic Framework into which all the various prophetic pieces are seen to be fitted. This is exactly what we find. The structure of the Book of Revelation provides confirmation of the overall Framework we have developed in this book. It is also the Book that gives us a detailed chronological Framework for the Tribulation.
Revelation 1:19 gives the outline of the whole Book: “Write the things
(1) Which YOU HAVE SEEN (1:1-19 - John’s vision of Christ)
(2) the things THAT ARE NOW (1:20-3:22 - the Church-Age)
(3) the THINGS THAT WILL TAKE PLACE AFTER THIS (after the Church-Age- chapters 4-22). As we read on, we see that the things after the Church-Age are:The Church raptured to Heaven as the Tribulation is about to begin (chap 4,5), The Tribulation on earth, a terrible time of evil and Divine judgement (chap 6-18) The Second Coming of Christ to end the Tribulation (ch 19), the Millennial (1000 year) reign of Christ and Final Judgement (ch 20), The Eternal State (ch 21,22).
Chapters 2 and 3 give an overview of the Church Age (‘the things that are now’). At the end of chapter 3, there is a clear change signalled by John being taken up to Heaven in 4:1 (a picture of the Rapture of the Church). This indicates we are now in the next stage of the revelation (‘the things that will take place after this’). Revelation 4:1 confirms this: “AFTER THESE THINGS (‘the things that are now’ -the Church-Age) I looked and behold a door standing open in heaven, and the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me saying, ‘Come up here and I will show you THINGS WHICH MUST TAKE PLACE AFTER THIS.” This proves the present Church Age ends after chapter 3 and that ‘the things that will take place after this’ (including the Tribulation) start in chapter 4. Thus the Church-Age ends before the Tribulation begins. The Tribulation is seen as a future dispensation that comes AFTER the Church-Age. This is confirmed by the resurrected Church (represented by the 24 elders) being in Heaven in chapters 4-5. Chapters 4-22 happen after the Church-Age.
The prophetic Framework as revealed by the structure of the Book of Revelation
1. THE RISEN CHRIST - His First Coming (chapter 1).
2. THE CHURCH AGE (chapters 2 and 3).
3. THE CHURCH RAPTURED AND IN HEAVEN (chapters 4,5)
4. THE TRIBULATION (chapters 6-18).
5. THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST (chapter 19).
6. THE MILLENNIUM (chapter 20).
7. THE ETERNAL STATE (chapters 21 and 22).