Structure of the Book of Revelation
The structure of the Book of Revelation is best described by using different levels, with increasing degrees of detail.
The view presented in this website operates on the theory that each of the three periods (Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls) represent a specific apocalyptic time period foretold by the prophets. As such, they start at different times -- but they overlap as they approach the final wrath of God and the visible return of Christ. I have called this view the Overlapping Model.
While these three apocalyptic time periods have different lengths of time, we observe that they all conclude with the same events: God’s wrath against the wicked,; the destruction of the Antichrist and his kingdom; and the establishment of the eternal kingdom of God on earth.
The Top Level Structure
Chapter 1 -- Preface:
The author informs us regarding himself; the purpose of the book; and his circumstances while writing the book.
Chapters 2 thru 3 -- Messages to the Churches:
Christ gives messages to the churches in advance of the End Times.
They include a mixture of commendations and rebukes; blessings and warnings.
Chapters 4 thru 22:5 -- Main Body:
The Main Body of Prophecy.
Chapter 22:6 to End -- Epilogue:
The author brings closure with final admonitions and encouragements.
The Structure of the Main Body
Dominating the Main Body of Prophecy are the first three parts, which I have called “Periods” (Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls).
These three periods encompass what is commonly called the "End Times".
Chapters 4 thru 8:1 -- Period #1: The Seals
Seal Introduction -- Chapters 4 thru 5
Seal Events -- Chapter 6 and 8:1
Seal Interlude -- Chapter 7
Chapters 8:2 thru 11 -- Period #2: The Trumpets
Trumpet Introduction -- Chapters 8:2 thru 8:5
Trumpet Events -- Chapters 8:6 thru 9 and 11:14 thru 11:19
Trumpet Interlude -- Chapters 10 thru 11: 13
Chapters 12 thru 19 -- Period #3: The Bowls
Bowl Introduction -- Chapters 12 to 15
Bowl Events -- Chapters 16 and 19
Bowl Interlude -- Chapters 17 thru 18
Chapters 20 thru 22:5 -- Christ Reigns on Earth
The Structure of Each Period
The three “periods” of Revelation (Seal Period, Trumpet Period, and Bowl Period) have the following characteristics in common:
Each period begins with an “introduction“:
The introduction prepares us for understanding the descriptions of the period that follows.
It summarizes and reveals God’s motivation for causing that period to happen.
It also introduces some terms that will be used later on.
The introduction to the Seal period is in chapters 4-5.
First, we see God presented as the king in heaven, sitting upon His throne. Then, He produces a seven-sealed scroll, which is handed to Christ (the Lamb). Those seals correspond to the seal events that we see in chapter 6.
Terms introduced: throne, 24 elders, seals (of the scroll), the Lamb.
The introduction to the Trumpet period is in chapter 8: 2-5.
This brief introduction depicts a “priestly angel” presiding over a sacrifice on the altar in heaven. The smoke of the sacrifice, representing the prayers of the saints, rises up to God. It concludes with this angel taking fire from the altar and hurling it to the earth. These things symbolize what is happening, from God’s perspective, during the trumpet period.
The introduction to the Bowl period is in chapters 12-15.
This lengthy introduction primarily describes the wickedness that will be on earth before the bowls of God’s wrath are poured upon the earth. However, it concludes with a preview of God’s wrath in chapter 14 and then the preparation of the bowls in chapter 15. This introduction shows that the wickedness justifies the wrath, as discussed in The Introduction to the Bowls.
Terms introduced: dragon, beast, false prophet, seven heads and ten horns, mark of the beast, great harlot, Babylon, bowls of wrath.
Each Period consists of Seven “Events”:
The introduction for each period is followed by a series of seven "Events". These event descriptions provide step-by-step details of what will take place during the period. The events are numbered to inform us that each series of events is given in chronological order. There are always seven events, and the number seven itself is also highly significant because it implies wholeness. That is, we may infer that each period represents the whole (or completion) of something.
Each Period includes an “Interlude”.
In addition to the introduction and the Seven Events, the description of each period includes another body of text that I have called an "Interlude". In each case, the interlude discusses the period from a broad perspective. This is necessary because there is some information about each period that pertains to the whole period, and thus cannot be properly described in terms of a single event.
The interlude for the Seal period is found in chapter 7.
It is embedded between the sixth and seventh seal events.
The interlude for the Trumpet period is found in chapters 10 through 11:13.
It is similarly embedded between the sixth and seventh trumpet events.
The interlude for the Bowl period is found in chapters 17-18.
It is embedded within the text of the seventh bowl event.
Understanding the association between a period, its introduction, its events, and its interlude greatly helps the interpretation process. For example, the discussion within the Trumpet Interlude should be regarded as part of the duration and purpose associated with the Trumpet Period.