The book of Revelation is divided into four main literary units, each marked off by John’s entry “into the Spirit” (1:94:1-317:321:10).  Each division can be subdivided into smaller units (e.g., the series of Seven Trumpets).

The book has literary structure and purpose, but it is a mistake to assign any chronological sequence to its structure. There is an overlap between different sections; a final judgment scene is presented more than once. All three of the series of the sevenfold judgments climax with a final judgment scene.  The sixth seal produces celestial and terrestrial upheaval on the day of the Lamb’s wrath (6:17-21), the seventh trumpet results in the final judgment (11:15-19), and the seven bowls complete the wrath of God (15:1), with the seventh ending with celestial and terrestrial upheaval (16:17-21). Yet both Beast and Babylon reappear in the next chapter.

Key themes are repeated in different sections, each with its own emphasis. Thus, for example, the ascent of the Beast/Satan from the Abyss/Sea occurs in Revelation 11:713:1, and 20:1-7. The final “battle,” singular, when all nations are gathered against the saints occurs in Revelation 11:712:17, and 13:7. In each case, the battle is described with language from Daniel 7:21 (“the horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them”).

Certain themes are expanded with each new repetition. For example, in the vision of the Throne John hears a description of “lightning, voices, and thunders” around the Throne (4:5). This is repeated in 8:511:18, and 16:18, but each time with an added element. Thus, in Revelation 8:5 and 11:18, an earthquake is added; in 16:18 the greatest earthquake of all time occurs, plus a great hail storm.

The employment of overlap and repetition argues against visions and chapters being in chronological sequence. The following outline is only one of several ways this next division can be divided and subdivided.

Outline of the Second Division (4:1 – 16:21)

The Throne, Scroll and the Lamb (4:1-5:14)

  1.  [The One Sitting on the Throne (4:1-11)]
  2.  [Lightning, voices, thunders (4:5)]
  3.  [The Sealed Scroll (5:1-5)]
  4.  [The Victorious Lamb (5:6-14)]

The Lamb opens the Seven Seals (6:1-8:1)

  1.  [The sealing of God’s servants (7:1-8)]
  2.  [The innumerable multitude (7:9-17)]

The Seven Trumpets (8:1-11:19)

  1.  [Silence in Heaven (8:2-6)]
  2.  [Lightning, voices, thunders; an earthquake (8:5)]
  3.  [The first six trumpets sound (8:7-9:21)]
  4.  [The little scroll (10:1-11)]
  5.  [The temple & the two witnesses (11:1-14)]
  6.  [The first six trumpets sound (8:7-9:21)]
  7.  [The seventh trumpet sounds (11:15-19)]
  8.  [Lightning, voices, thunders; an earthquake (11:19)]

The Son versus the Dragon (12:1-14:20)

  1.  [The Woman & the Son (12:1-6)]
  2.  [The Dragon & the Seed of the Woman (12:7-17)]
  3.  [The Beast from the sea & the saints (13:1-10)]
  4.  [The Beast from land, image & mark (13:11-18)]
  5.  [The Lamb & the 144,000 on Zion (14:1-5)]
  6.  [The fall of Babylon announced (14:6-12)]
  7.  [The winepress of the wrath of God (14:13-20)]

The Seven Bowls of Fury (12:1-13:18)

  1.  [The Sea of Glass (15:1-8)]
  2.  [The Seven Bowls poured out (16:1-17)]
  3.  [Lightning, voices, thunders, mighty earthquake, hail (16:18-21)]
  4.  [Downfall of Beast & Babylon (16:19-21)]

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