Revelation consists of a Prologue (1:1-8), the Vision itself (1:9-22:7) and an Epilogue (22:8-21). The Vision falls into four recognizable divisions, each starting with an episode in which John came to be “in the spirit.”
The first vision begins with John on the isle of Patmos where he “came to be in spirit.” This describes how his visionary experience began but also serves to mark out the first major section or vision of the book.
Of relevance is the clause, “I came to be in spirit,” and the location, “on the isle of Patmos.”
This is followed by his first vision in which he hears a voice like a trumpet; he next turns around and sees the glorified “Son of Man” walking among seven golden lampstands. The lampstands represent churches to which the Risen Christ sends seven “letters” with corrections and instructions for each church (Revelation 1:9-3:22).
The second division begins when John saw “a door opened in heaven” and heard the same trumpet-like voice summon him to “come up here.” Then he once again “came to be in spirit” and received a vision of the Divine Throne at the center of the Cosmos.
The second division is characterized by three sevenfold series, the seven seals, seven trumpets and the seven “bowls of wrath” (Revelation 12:1-16:21). A lengthy section inserted between the trumpet and bowl series presents the great cosmic enemies of the Lamb that wage war on his people: the Dragon, the Beast from the sea, the Beast from the earth, and Babylon (Revelation 12:1-14:20).
John sees all the visions of this second division while located “up here” before the Divine Throne. The contrast between locations is deliberate; the local situation in Asia viewed from exile on Patmos versus the Cosmic situation seen from the perspective of the Divine Throne. Call it, the Microcosmic compared to the Macrocosmic view.
The third division begins when John is “carried away in spirit” into the Wilderness by one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls of wrath (17:1-21:8). A different Greek verb is used. John now finds himself “in the wilderness” where he sees a vision of the city, the Great Harlot, Babylon.
In this third division, John watches the judgment of the Lamb’s enemies unfold but in reverse order from their introduction: Babylon (17:1-19:10), the Beast from the earth and the Beast from the sea (19:11-21), and the Dragon (20:1-10). This structure should warn us not to assume the book’s chapters are laid out in a neat chronological sequence.
In the fourth division, John again is “carried away in spirit” by one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls of wrath, at this time to a “high mountain” from which he watches another “city,” the New Jerusalem, descending from heaven to the earth (21:1-22:7).
The four divisions also form two distinct pairs, the first two by the clause, “I came to be in spirit” and the “voice like a trumpet” that summoned John to see the first two visions.
The second pair is characterized by the clause, “he carried me away in spirit,” the guidance of one of the seven angels who had the bowls of wrath, and the vision of a city; Babylon versus New Jerusalem, also, the Great Harlot versus the Bride of Christ.
On some level, each member of either pair runs parallel to its partner. The first pair provides a look at the present reality of the churches in Asia and a cosmic view from the perspective of God’s throne. The second pair parallels Babylon and New Jerusalem.
Outline of Revelation
The Purpose of the Revelation (1:1-3)
John’s Salutation to the Seven Churches (1:4-9)
DIVISION I – Inaugural Vision of the Risen Christ (1:8-3:22):
Jesus in the Midst of the Churches (1:10-20)
Seven Messages for Seven Churches (2:1-3:22)
DIVISION II – The Church in Hostile Territory (4:1-16:21):
The Divine Throne and the Sealed Scroll (4:1-5:14)
The Seven Seals (6:1-8:5):
The First Six Seals (6:1-17)
The Sealing & Numbering of God’s Servants (7:1-8)
The Innumerable Company of the Redeemed (7:9-17)
The Seventh Seal (8:1-5)
The Seven Trumpets (8:6-11:19):
The First Six Trumpets (8:6-9:21)
The Opened Scroll & Commissioning of the Church (10:1-11)
The Measuring of the Sanctuary (11:1-2)
The Two Witnesses (11:3-13)
The Seventh Trumpet (11:14-19)
God’s Victorious People vs. Satanic Forces (12:1-14:20):
The Son’s Victory over the Dragon (12:1-11)
The Defeated Dragon Pursues the Woman & her Seed (12:12-17)
The Beast from the Sea (13:1-10)
The Beast from the Land (13:11-18)
The Firstfruits & the Harvest (14:1-20)
The Seven Bowls of Wrath Culminate in Final Judgment (15:1-16:21)
DIVISION III – The Destruction of Gods’ Cosmic Enemies (17:1-21:8):
The Fall of Babylon, the Great Whore (17:1-19:10)
The Destruction of the Beast & False Prophet (19:11-21)
The Binding, Release and Judgment of Satan (20:1-10)
The Great White Throne of Judgment (20:11-15)
Transitional Passage: The Descent of New Jerusalem (21:1-8)
DIVISION IV – New Jerusalem: Bride of Christ & City of God (21:9-22:7)
EPILOGUE – Final Warnings, Exhortations, Salutations (22:8-21)