Structure of Revelation — A Preview
By Graham Dull
I’ve placed two Tables at the beginning of the article for easy reference.
Table 1 — Structure of Revelation
Revelation is divided into four major Prophetic Sections which I have labelled A, B, C, and D. It also has a Prologue and an Epilogue.
The Table shows the ‘ID’ (Identification), Section, Introduction, and the Passage of Scripture.
The Introduction to each Section is in ‘Column 3.’
Table 1 — Structure of Revelation
|(Pro)||Prologue||'God gave him to show' (1:1)||1:1 - 8|
|A||On earth — instructing the seven churches||‘I was in the Spirit‘ (1:10)||1:9 — 3:22|
|B||In heaven — revealing the bigger picture||‘I was in the Spirit‘ (4:2)||4:1 — 16:21|
|C||Babylon brought down||‘carried me away in the Spirit‘ (17:3)||17:1 — 19:10|
|C (Judg)||Judgement of Satan||‘white horse‘ (19:11)||19:11 — 20:10|
|D (Judg)||Judgement of Mankind||‘white throne‘ (20:11)||20:11 — 21:8|
|D||Jerusalem exalted||‘carried me away in the Spirit‘ (21:10)||21:9 — 22:11|
|(Epi)||Epilogue||'God... sent his angel to show' (22:6)||22:6 - 21|
Table 2 — Paired Sections in Revelation
The column labelled ‘First Section’ is paired with the column ‘Paired Section.’ (See Table 2.)
An Introduction defines the beginning of each Section. The Introduction is recorded ‘above‘ the Section. Example — ‘God gave him to show’ is the introduction to the Prologue.
Each Introduction has a counterpart. For example, the Introduction ‘God gave him to show’ is paired with ‘God… sent his angel to show.’
Each Section has a counterpart. Example — the Prologue is paired with the Epilogue.
Table 2 — Paired Sections in Revelation
|— — —||ID||First Section||Paired Section||ID|
|Introduction||'God gave him to show' (1:1)||'God... sent his angel to show' (22:6)|
|Introduction||‘I was in the Spirit‘ (1:10)||‘I was in the Spirit‘ (4:2)|
|SECTION||A||On earth — instructing the seven churches||In heaven — revealing the bigger picture||B|
|Introduction||‘white horse‘ (19:11)||‘white throne‘ (20:11)|
|SECTION||C (Judg)||Judgement of Satan||Judgement of Mankind||D (Judg)|
|Introduction||‘carried me away in the Spirit‘ (17:3)||‘carried me away in the Spirit‘ (21:10)|
|SECTION||C||Babylon brought down||Jerusalem exalted||D|
Structure of Revelation — A Preview
In order to gain an understanding of the Book of Revelation, it is necessary to acquire a knowledge of its literary structure.
The aim of this article is to outline its Structure and Parallels. An understanding of these will help reveal the basic divisions of the book, and will help to identify important relationships within the narrative.
Many readers come to Revelation with a sense of dread. We see in places a strict literary structure (for instance, the messages to the seven churches — these messages are very structured), but this structure is mixed with a confusing array of seemingly random statements and pronouncements. (Also adding to the confusion is John’s extensive use of ‘imagery’ — there seem to be angels and beasts coming at us from all sides. At a future date, I would like the opportunity to share regarding John’s use of imagery.) Combining all of the above together can lead us to distraction. And we may despair of ever coming to a real understanding of the book.
The good news is that the ‘Revelation of Jesus Christ’ is much more structured than we ever imagined. And when we understand the structure, we can more readily understand the substance.
I am indebted to Richard Bauckham for his insight into the parallels/parallelisms which define the major sections of Revelation. His book, “The Climax of Prophecy,” gives a common sense outline for ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ‘. I highly recommend his first chapter, “Structure and Composition.”
Throughout Revelation, John uses parallelism. He pairs together parallel phrases, and he does this extensively.
|Throughout Revelation, John uses parallelism.|
|He pairs together parallel phrases.|
|He does this extensively.|
What is parallelism?
Parallelism exists where there is a similarity of structure in a pair, or series of related words, phrases, or clauses.
The majority of Christians will probably best recognise the use of parallelism in the Psalms. It is used as a poetic device. By means of ‘parallelism’ the initial and primary thought in the phrase is enlarged, and further explained and developed through repetition.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Note the similarity of thought between the first and second line. The second line parallels the first.
For example, “whom shall I fear?” parallels “of whom shall I be afraid?”
This is an example of ‘synonymous parallelism’ because the two thoughts expressed are similar.
“The Lord watches over the way of the righteous
but the way of the wicked will perish.”
Here is an example of ‘contrasting parallelism’ where opposite thoughts are expressed.
Note the contrast. Two groups are presented, the one group being the righteous and the other the wicked. The righteous are protected by God, while the wicked perish. The two distinct groups have contrasting destinies.
The poetic nature of the Psalms relies heavily on such parallelism. And parallelism is used extensively throughout the Psalms and other poetic books of the Old Testament.
In synonymous parallelism, the first and second lines express essentially the same idea. In contrasting parallelism, opposite ideas are presented. The repetition of the thought greatly enhances the meaning of what is being expressed.
Parallelism in Revelation
John uses parallelism throughout Revelation. He uses it frequently. He uses it at different literary levels. He uses it to structurally divide the narrative. He uses it to provide clear meaning to otherwise ambiguous passages — the second instance of the parallel amplifies the first.
In seeking to understand John’s use of parallels, we need to start with those which define the major divisions of the book.
At the very start of the essay, I have presented a table showing the ‘Major Structural Divisions of Revelation.’ (I have given labels to the different sections.) It includes a Prologue, a Prophetic Section A-B, a further Prophetic Section C-D which includes a Judgement Section C-D, and an Epilogue.
I will steadily work through these ‘upper level’ parallels which clearly define the structure of the book. Note that I will only give (in this article) the most important structural parallels — there will be still many more to come.
To define the Prologue/Epilogue seems a good place to start.
Rev 1:1a and 22:6b provide a structural parallel, and these verses define the beginning of both the Prologue and the Epilogue.
“The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place.”
“The Lord, the God who inspires the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.”
In the verses above, I have underlined the parallelism.
Five aspects are immediately clear in the parallelism. (1) God, (2) his messenger, (3) the act of showing, (4) his servants, and (5) the things that must soon take place.
The key thought is this
- God gave / him (Jesus) / to show / his servants / what must soon take place
- God sent / his angel / to show / his servants / the things that must soon take place
Because of this parallel, we can confidently determine the beginning of both the Prologue and Epilogue.
At a future time, there is a lot more which I have to share regarding this particular parallelism. It is sufficient to mention at this point that ‘further parallels‘ exist between (1:1a and 1:1b), between (1:1b and 22:16a), and between (22:6b and 22:16a). And I make further mention of these at the conclusion of the article.
|Who is the Angel?|
|By pairing and comparing this set of parallels, we can discover the name of the angel who is the ‘chief messenger’ of Revelation.|
|First Parallel (1:1a/22:6b), Second (1:1a/1:1b), Third (1:1b/22:16a), Fourth (22:6b/22:16a)|
|(If you have knowledge of the Greek, don't stray from the literal interpretation.)|
The ‘1:1a/22:6 Parallel’ defines the beginning of both the Prologue and the Epilogue.
The commencement of both Sections A and B are defined by the ‘1:10/4:2 Parallel.’
“I was in the Spirit”
“I was in the Spirit”
The parallel is clear. On both occasions John was in the Spirit.
Section A (1:9 — 3:22).
The first Prophetic Section begins at Rev 1:9 — and just one sentence into the narrative — John announces, “I was in the Spirit.” This phrase is the literary clue that John employs to show that a new Section had begun. I have labelled this ‘Section A,’ or ‘Prophetic Section A.’ (All Sections — A, B, C, and D are prophetic in nature.)
In Rev 1:10, John stated that he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and the glorified Christ appeared to him. John clearly knew who it was because Christ identified himself with the following words. He said, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever!” (1:18)
Following Jesus self-introduction, he then gives John the messages to the seven churches.
The Section concludes following the message given to the last of the seven churches — Laodicea. This clearly is a fitting and appropriate place to divide the narrative. Section A is complete.
Section A is defined as Revelation 1:9 — 3:22.
Section B (4:1 — 16:21)
Following the messages to the churches, the narrative continues —
Rev 4:1, 2
“After this I looked… At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.”
“I was in the Spirit” (4:2) is the Parallel Phrase to Rev 1:10. This phrase is associated with the transition of the vision on earth (concerning the seven churches) to the vision in heaven (concerning the throne of God, and subsequently, how God and his agents are working for the redemption of mankind).
While the words, “I was in the Spirit,” are not quite the very first words of either introduction, they are markers that John has used to indicate that a transition has taken place. Notice below, how both parallels occur just a short way into the narrative.
Section A begins —
Rev 1:9, 10
“I, John, your brother and companion… On the Lord ’s Day I was in the Spirit.”
Section B begins —
Rev 4:1, 2
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven… At once I was in the Spirit.”
The ‘1:10/4:2 Parallel’ defines the beginning of both Major Sections A and B.
Another parallel defines the commencement of the Prophetic Sections C and D. It is the ’17:3/21:10 Parallel.’
“carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness.”
“carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high.”
On both occasions, John was carried away in the Spirit.
In the first instance, he was carried into a wilderness to view the demise and destruction of wickedness and the wicked. The wilderness appears to be an extremely appropriate backdrop for such an event.
In the second, he was carried to a great, high mountain where he views the eternal kingdom of God, and the glorious righteousness of those who dwell there. The grandeur of the mountaintop compliments the greatness of the kingdom.
Here the contrasting parallelism is the downfall of the wicked compared to the glorious eternal kingdom of God for the redeemed? What could provide more of a contrast?
Parallel 17:3/21:10 introduces the Prophetic Sections C/D.
Here is a summary of the “in the Spirit” Parallels
|A||1:10||“I was in the Spirit”|
|B||4:2||“I was in the Spirit”|
|C||17:3||“carried me away in the Spirit”|
|D||21:10||“carried me away in the Spirit”|
Additional Parallels introducing Sections C and D
Further parallels also help to define the introductions of Sections C and D. These reinforce and reaffirm that the “in the Spirit’ parallels are indeed major markers within the book.
I list them below.
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls/ came and said to me…”
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls/ full of the seven last plagues/ came and said to me…”
Also ‘Parallel 17:1b/21:9b’
“Come I will show you/ the punishment of the great prostitute.”
“Come I will show you/ the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
Again, ‘Parallel 17:5/21:10’
“Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes”
“the Holy City, Jerusalem”
The above parallels firstly introduce the angel/s who’s talking with John. On both occasions, he was ‘One of the seven who had the seven bowls.’
They identify two women — one a prostitute, the other a bride. They identify the two backdrops to which John is carried, one being a wilderness, the other a great high mountain. They name the two cities — Babylon and Jerusalem.
They contrast the adultery of Babylon with the holiness of Jerusalem.
Parallels set out side by side — Sections C and D
|Passage||Rev 17:1-5||Rev 21:9, 10||Passage|
|17:1a||"One of the seven angels / who had the seven bowls / came and said to me…"||"One of the seven angels / who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues / came and said to me…"||21:9a|
|17:1b||“Come I will show you / the punishment of the great prostitute…”||“Come I will show you / the bride, the wife of the Lamb…”||21:9b|
|17:3a||“Then the angel carried me away in the Spirit / into a wilderness”||“And he carried me away in the Spirit / to a mountain great and high”||21:10a|
|17:3b-5||“There I saw a woman… The name written on her forehead was a mystery: / Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes”||“and showed me / the Holy City, Jerusalem.”||21:10b|
These are contrasting parallelisms.
- There are two districts — one a wilderness, the other a great high mountain.
- There are two women — one corrupt, the other pure.
- There are two cities — one to be destroyed, the other eternal.
There are four major prophetic sections in Revelation
Judgement Scenes — ‘Judgement C, D’
I have not yet included the two Judgement Scenes of ’19:11—20:10,’ and ’20:11—21:8.’ I will include these in due course.
Interweaving of the Narrative
It is necessary to note an important method by which John links the major sections of the narrative together. He links the sections by providing an ‘interweaving of the narrative.’
This particular feature is so well recognized within Revelation that generally all commentators will refer to it. It is a feature which is impossible to miss.
John repeatedly uses this technique of interweaving throughout the book.
Here is an example.
The Epilogue is interwoven with Section D
John commences his Epilogue just a fraction before he completes his Prophetic Section D.
Prophetic Section D comprises Rev 21:9—22:5 >>
at which point it is interrupted by the beginning of the Epilogue at Rev 22:6, 7 >>
then Section D continues again at Rev 22:8-11, and here concludes >>
allowing the Epilogue to continue to the end of the book Rev 22:12—21.
See the following table.
Interweaving of Section D and the Epilogue
|Section D — Main||21:9—22:5|
|Epilogue — Beginning||22:6, 7|
|Section D — Ending||22:8-11|
|Epilogue — Main||22:12—21|
The Table above shows how the sections alternate. Section D — Epilogue — Section D — Epilogue.
Verses 6, 7 of Revelation 22 could easily be moved down ‘so that they follow verse 11,’ and this re-arrangement would unite all of Section D, and likewise unite all of the Epilogue.
This re-arrangement would produce the following result.
Section D would combine together (21:9—22:5) and (22:8-11)
and this narrative would be followed by the Epilogue (22:6, 7) and (22:12—21)
Such an arrangement would sit comfortably. But John has chosen to ‘interweave these passages together.’
How can we clearly identify which verses belong to Prophetic Section D, and which belong to the Epilogue?
The division between the two is recognized because of two sets of parallels.
The first identifies the ‘endings of both Prophetic Sections C and D.’
The second defines the ‘beginning of the Epilogue‘ by means of the parallelism linking it to the Prologue.
We will examine these one at a time.
Prologue/Epilogue Parallel Set (1:1a/22:6; also 1:1b/22:16)
This set of parallels unites the Prologue with the Epilogue.
First Set 1:1a/22:6
The verse which commences the Prologue (1:1a) is parallel to the verse which commences the Epilogue (22:6). (This we have noted earlier.)
Both verses state the same essential message that God sent his messenger to show his servants the things which must soon take place.
Clear parallels do link the introduction and the conclusion of the book. This is a structural principle of the Book of Revelation.
This principle identifies certain verses (22:6, 7) as indeed belonging to the Epilogue, as they tie the Epilogue and Prologue together.
Thus the Prologue and Epilogue are easily recognised through Parallel 1:1a/22:6.
Second Set 1:1b/22:16
There is a second parallel united to the previous one. It is closely related in content. It is found in (1:1b) in the Prologue, and (22:16) in the Epilogue.
In the Prologue it is stated that God sent his messenger to John. In the Epilogue Jesus sent his messenger to the churches.
God sent his messenger (1:1b), Jesus sent his messenger (22:16).
Revelation begins with the statement that God sent his messenger, and ends with the statement that Jesus, in turn, sent his messenger.
The parallel helps to identify which passages actually belong to the Prologue and the Epilogue.
I have more to say regarding this ‘parallel set’ at a future date. It is sufficient for the moment to recognise that the parallel helps define the Sections in Revelation.
Prophetic Section C/ Prophetic Section D Parallel (19:9, 10/22:8, 9)
This parallel unites the ending of Prophetic Section C with the ending of Prophetic Section D.
There is a clear and unambiguous parallel between the words in 19:10 and 22:8, 9.
“At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!”
For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”
Then he told me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, because the time is near. Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy.”
Four distinct points are made in this parallel.
- John fell down at the feet of the angel and attempted to worship him. (19:10) (22:8)
- The angel said, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you…” (19:10) (22:9)
- The angel then said, “Worship God!” (19:10) (22:9)
- The angel makes a statement concerning the “prophecy” of the book. (19:10) (22:10,)
John is forbidden to worship the angel, he is admonished to worship God. With this identical experience, John closes the narratives of both Prophetic Sections C and D.
This parallel clearly identifies the ending of Section D. And it affirms that Section D and the Epilogue are indeed interwoven. (Refer again to the previous Table.)
More Examples involving the Interweaving of the Narrative
Interweaving of the narrative is a technique which John frequently uses. It affects the structure of the narrative.
Here are two more examples.
John presents six seals (6:1-17), he inserts a narrative (7:1-17), then after this break, he presents the seventh seal (8:1).
John presents six trumpets (8:2—9:21), he inserts a narrative (10:1—11:14), then after this break, he presents the seventh trumpet (11:15-19).
I would like further opportunity at a future date to share more regarding the interweaving of the narrative which John utilizes so frequently.
Sufficient at the moment is to acknowledge that such interweaving exists.
Two Judgement Scenes (19:11 — 21:8)
These form a Transitional Section which occupies Revelation 19:11 to 21:8.
This is a significant Structural Transition. It fits between Sections C (Babylon) and D (Jerusalem). It is a transition from one to the other.
It portrays two judgement scenes. It concludes the judgement on Babylon, and prepares the way for God’s Holy City which is without any trace of sin.
They are introduced by the ‘Parallel 19:11/20:11.’
19:11 “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.”
20:11 “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.”
In the first judgement there was a ‘white’ horse, in the second a ‘white’ throne. White is significant in Revelation, it relates to God, purity, and judgement.
There is another judgement scene in Revelation which corresponds also in this respect. It occurs in 14:14 and it describes “a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man.”
In each of these passages, there is someone seated on something ‘white’ — seated on a white horse, seated on a white throne, seated on a white cloud.
The two scenes that are relevant to the Transitional Judgement Section are 19:11 and 20:11.
Judgement C (White Horse 19:11—20:10)
The ‘White Horse’ judgement scene begins with 19:11. I have labelled it ‘Judgement C’ because it relates specifically to the ‘Prophetic Section C.’ The two sections share common themes, so it is appropriate that they share the common Label ‘C.’
It is all about judgement.
Revelation 17:1 pronounces judgement on the great prostitute. This pronouncement comes at the very beginning of ‘Section C.’
One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the punishment of the great prostitute…
‘Judgement C’ begins with ‘the rider on the white horse’ carrying out this judgement.
I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war.
A significant battle takes place. The rider on the white horse conquers. It is with justice that he judges.
Further significant and climactic events are recorded in Revelation 19:20. The pronouncement is made that the beast and the false prophet were captured and both of them were thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulphur.
Likewise the devil was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur (20:10).
But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped his image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur.
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.
This judgement destroys the Devil and all his agents.
Following their defeat by ‘the rider on the white horse,’ this confederacy of the devil, the beast, and the false prophet cease to exist. They are not heard of again.
This judgement occurs within the section labelled ‘Judgement C.’
Judgement D (White Throne 20:11—21:8)
Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them.
God is seen seated on his throne. And the dead are judged (v 12).
In contrast to ‘Judgement C’ wherein Satan and his agencies are destroyed, ‘Judgement D’ relates solely to mankind and determines who may be counted worthy to enter the everlasting Kingdom of God. Revelation 20:12, 13 describes this judgement.
Revelation 20:12, 13
The dead were judged according to what they had done… 13… each person was judged according to what he had done.
Verse 15 gives further detail.
If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
For mankind, there are two possible outcomes — to enter the kingdom of God, or receive the same fate as the Devil had received as recounted in ‘Judgement C.’
‘Judgement D’ defines the judgement of mankind, and it determines who shall enter the Kingdom of God.
‘Judgement D’ therefore belongs to ‘Prophetic Section D’ (Revelation 21:9 to 22:11), which section defines God’s perfectly pure eternal kingdom.
Judgements C and D — Concluding Parallel 20:10/21:8
A Parallel ends the Judgement Sections.
‘Judgement C’ concludes with these words.
Revelation 20:10 “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”
The devil, the beast, and the false prophet are thrown into the ‘lake of burning sulphur.’ That is the only option available to them.
‘Judgement D’ concludes with these words.
Revelation 21:7, 8 “He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.”
There are two options available to mankind — (1) to inherit God’s kingdom, or (2) to go into the ‘lake of burning sulphur’ along with the devil.
‘Judgement C’ focuses on the judgement of the beast, the false prophet, and the devil.
‘Judgement D’ focuses on the judgement of mankind, as to whether or not their names are written in the ‘book of life.’ Those found worthy will share in the inheritance of God (21:7).
So far throughout this article I have identified many of the Parallelisms which define the structure of Revelation. Parallelisms introduce (define the start) of the Prologue and Epilogue — the Major Prophetic Sections A, B, C, D — and the two Transitional Sections labelled Judgement C, and Judgement D.
Parallelisms also conclude (mark the close) of all four Sections within ‘Prophetic Section CD.’
It is through these parallels that we discern the structure of the book. If we do not recognise them, the narrative is thrown into confusion.
Parallelisms do more than define the correct divisions in the narrative.
John has used them more extensively than that. And he has used them for different reasons.
He has used them systematically — they are not thrown around haphazardly.
John has carefully and specifically included them in the narrative to provide clarity. When the Parallelisms are brought together they bring heightened understanding to the text.
They can rule out erroneous teachings. They can define the truth of the teachings of Revelation.
- Seperate the sections of the narrative
- They identify the primary focus within sections
- John uses them extensively
- John uses them systematically
- They rule out erroneous teachings
- They define truth
As Parallelisms in Psalms bring deeper meaning to a passage, so it is in Revelation.
Parallelisms which bracket the various Sections (whether they introduce, or conclude them) are like ‘titles and subtitles’ which tell us what a particular Section is about.
If we ignore these titles (or themes) we are apt to read all sorts of nonsense into the passage. Allowing these ‘Structural Parallels’ to define the principle thrust of the passage will direct us to a correct understanding of the text.
I pose two questions below. I don’t intend to give an answer here. That must wait for another occasion.
I use as my example: The 1,000 years of Revelation chapter 20
(1) Considering the ‘Judgments 19:11 — 20:11’ and ’20:10 — 21:8;’ what is specifically spoken about in Rev 20:1-6, and what is specifically spoken about in Rev 20:11-15?
(2) Could it be that the thousand years of Rev 20:1-6 relate predominantly and specifically to the judgement of Satan by Christ and the Saints? We must admit that there are quite a few interpreters who read a lot of events into the thousand year period — ‘events’ which simply are not spoken about in the text.
The use of Structural Parallelisms sheds a lot of light on the content.
Non-structural Parallels shed light on one-another. Parallel phrases are used in the Psalms for this very purpose. Also in Revelation, parallel phrases amplify the meaning of one other.
The author of Revelation does not merely use parallelism to define structure. He uses it extensively to bring meaning to the text.
John intended that we unite and compare the parallels. In this way, much of Revelation (which seems so unfathomable in this twenty-first century) can be correctly understood.
I close this section by sharing just one example of a Non-structural Parallel.
The 21:5-8/22:12-15 Parallel
This Parallel is Non-structural.
In Rev 21:5-8, God is the speaker, and these are his last words in Revelation. Having four verses, it is a passage of considerable size. It is a passage of significance. It occurs at the very end of the Transitional Section ‘Judgement D.’
In the parallel passage of Rev 22:12-15, Jesus is the speaker. The passage is approximately the same size as the previous one. This passage occurs near the end of Revelation (in the Epilogue). Its position plus its parallelism would also indicate that it has a high significance.
Points relative to the parallelism are these —
- God is speaking
- Jesus is speaking
- God says — I am making everything new
- Jesus says — I am coming soon
- God says — I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End
- Jesus says — I am the Alpha and the Omega… the Beginning and the End
- God says — Those who are victorious will inherit all this
- Jesus says — That they may have right to the tree of life
- God excludes from the kingdom — the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters, and all liars
- Jesus excludes from the kingdom — the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood
|God's Pronouncement||Jesus' Pronouncement|
|Rev 21:5-8||Rev 22:12-15|
|GOD DECLARES HIS ACTIONS||JESUS DECLARES HIS ACTIONS|
|He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." He said to me: "It is done.”||"Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”|
|NATURE OF GOD||NATURE OF CHRIST|
|“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”||“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”|
|A SPLENDID INHERITANCE||A SPLENDID INHERITANCE|
|“To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”||"Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”|
|EXCLUSION AND DEATH||EXCLUSION AND DEATH|
|“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death."||“Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”|
God and Jesus Christ make parallel announcements before the close of the Revelation. They are solemn announcements. Both God and Christ declare their part in bringing the sin problem to an end — recreating and making all things new, and bringing God’s people into his glorious eternal kingdom.
GOD AND JESUS DECLARE THEIR ACTIONS
God recreates and makes everything new. He creates a new heaven and a new earth. (Rev 21:1) Having completed this work, God announces triumphantly, “It is done.” Jesus declares, “Behold, I am coming soon! And my reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.”
Note that the creating of everything new is dependent upon what God has done. The kingdom is totally God’s doing. No one else has created the kingdom. He alone has created it anew.
Whether we enter into the kingdom, or into death is dependent upon what we have done. It is our choice. It is a very personal and individual choice to be made by ourselves alone, and it certainly cannot be determined by anyone else. The choice is ours to make whenever we are ready to make it.
Will we choose Jesus Christ to be our Lord and Saviour?
Appeals are made throughout the book of Revelation inviting us to make the wise choice and choose life. Note that at some point that choice we make will be permanent. (See Revelation 22:11)
NATURE OF GOD AND CHRIST
God declares his eternal nature, revealing that he is the ‘Alpha and the Omega.’ Likewise, Jesus declares his eternal nature.
A SPLENDID INHERITANCE
God extends an invitation to those who are thirsty, and calls for them to come and inherit the kingdom. Who wouldn’t be thirsty for a kingdom such as this?
Jesus extends the invitation to all who would care to wash their robes, and joyfully come and enter the city.
EXCLUSION AND DEATH
God excludes from his eternal kingdom, those who are wilfully wicked. Jesus also excludes the wicked from that same inheritance.
The two lists are very similar. By and large both describe the same sins. Note that ‘all liars’ in one list parallels ‘everyone who loves and practices falsehood’ in the other. (Parallels are to be found everywhere in Revelation.)
God has spoken, Jesus has spoken — and the book of Revelation is about to conclude.
There is a final invitation (22:17), and a final warning (22:18, 19).
The book closes with Jesus’ words, and John’s response.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Rev 22:20)
“Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” (Rev 22:20, 21)
(The following was written in October 2011 — except for the inserted note written in January 2015.)
(Written in January 2015)
This Note was inserted while retyping the article.
My experience in writing ‘Structure of Revelation — A Preview’ goes back about three and a half years. This is long time. More so, when it is realized that I’d completed writing the article on the 24th October 2011.
Why then, am I only now publishing it?
I had never intended to be so slow, but events intervened such as normal work commitments, troubling health issues, and a computer crash wherein a service repair technician accidentally wiped all my data which he had previously backed up. The computer incident set me back with a variety of projects I had been doing.
This article was lost. I recently searched and found a printed copy — which I am now retyping, and editing to make it more readable.
(Written in October 2011)
Throughout my life God has blessed me, but never before has he blessed me as he did just a few days ago. I awoke in the morning with a new understanding of the Book of Revelation. I knew immediately that Thursday 20th October 2011 was the best day of my life. I studied while I was preparing breakfast, I paced the house barely able to wait for an appropriate time to start phoning my friends to share the news.
Two weeks before, on the 6th of October, I’d sent an email to several friends, entitled “Time/Eternity.” I included this attachment — “Time Eternity a02.doc” It contained the following —
Attachment to an Email — (written 6th October 2011)
“I believe one reason ‘The Revelation of Jesus Christ’ is so little understood today is because it has for so long been largely ignored by the church. The book of Revelation has essentially been left to radical elements to interpret and to do whatever they want with the book. If there is a vacuum something is going to fill it. A clear and correct teaching of the Revelation of Jesus Christ is required to counteract falsehood. I believe that sober men guided by the Spirit of God need to come forward and present its truths.
I have been blessed this year.
In February I discovered John Stott. I now have several of his books. Since then he has passed away (27th July 2011), aged ninety. John Stott is an Evangelical Anglican. His book “What Christ thinks of the Church – An Exposition of Revelation 1-3,” is the best thing I’ve read on the seven churches of Revelation. Most of his presentation may not be particularly new to me, but he presents his message powerfully and right to the point.
Another Anglican, Richard Bauckham is having an even greater impact on my life. I had never heard of him prior to a few weeks ago. I have read nothing more of his than the first chapter of his book “The Climax of Prophecy.” The chapter title is “Structure and Composition,” and it suggests a common sense outline for the book of the ‘Revelation of Jesus Christ.’ I cannot believe that the church has not recognised this basic structure of Revelation throughout the whole of its 2,000 year history, it is so simple. Applying this outline, in just a few weeks, I have learned heaps about Revelation chapters 19 to 22, in which chapters I have been concentrating my study. I know that with God’s guidance, I am on my way to learning much more.
When I sent this email, I had no idea what God had in store for me just two weeks later. I knew I was blessed, but I never expected the blessing which I received on 20th October 2011.
The evening before, my church pastor challenged me. He said to me, “You are reading Hebrew parallelism into Revelation!” This was clearly something which he thought I should not do. I gave no response, I had none. But my thought was, “I do see Parallelism in Revelation.”
Thursday morning I awoke knowing that ‘a major missing key’ to the interpretation of Revelation is the carefully structured and profound way John uses Parallels.
Now (Monday 24th October) I cannot wait until I have written a more complete article on the subject. But I must share this today, it is just a preview. I title it “Structure of Revelation — A Preview.” There is much more to come.
As God chooses to bless me, I will present a future article entitled “Structure of Revelation.”
This is only the beginning of what God has given me to share — the best is yet to come.
‘First Set’ of Parallels
I have mentioned them earlier, and said that I would refer to them again briefly at the end of the article.
These parallels are related — they form a Set.
(1:1a/1:1b), (1:1a/22:6), (1:1b/22:16), (22:6/22:16)
John has placed these parallels in the narrative in a very deliberate pattern.
In the future, I will examine them in greater detail.
All I will say here is this. If any one of them were removed, it would upset the structure which John intended. They form a set and can only be considered as such.
This ‘set of parallels’ firstly introduces the book of Revelation, and secondly it beautifully ties together the Prologue and the Epilogue.
|1:1a||1:1b||God, Jesus, servants||He, angel, John|
|1:1a||22:6||God, Jesus, servants||God, angel, servants|
|1:1b||22:16||He, angel, John||Jesus, angel, you|
|22:6||22:16||God, angel, servants||Jesus, angel, you|
This ‘set of parallels’ contains profound revelations yet to be revealed.
My conclusion is this — Interpreting Revelation according to its structure will greatly increase our understanding of it.
Scripture texts are from the NIV (New International Version — 1984 edition)
Author: Graham Dull
Life from God .com