Before we get rolling, we should take a quick overview of the book of Revelation. Many people looking at Revelation have decided that the visions recorded there are all serial, that is sequential. Others say "No it cannot possibly be sequential because there is too much hop-scotching around." Some say Revelation is entirely symbolic, representing in symbols the conflict between good and evil.
I believe Revelation is a mosaic containing aspects of all three. We might compare them to Acts in a play, You might say: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, etc. along with flashbacks to other concurrent or past events. In Revelation within the multiple Acts, there are also what I like to call the zoomed in views, and the zoomed out views. Views that provide additional detail into certain areas, and views that provide a more panoramic view.
There are what I call interludes in which God provides amplification of certain details that are contained within the sequential portions of the book.
It is my firm conviction that the book in general moves in a sequential fashion beginning with chapter 4, a scene surrounding the opening of an important scroll.
Revelation can be broken down into a number of sections. Let me quickly outline those for you.
In the first section, John provides an introduction as he sees Jesus Christ in vision on the Isle of Patmos.
Messages to the Seven Churches
Jesus begins by giving seven messages to seven churches of Asia. The churches are listed in the order that a rider taking messages to the various churches would arrive at them if he left from the first church listed (Ephesus) and progressed to the last church listed (Laodicea).
The Seven Seals
The second scene begins with chapter 4 in which we have John being taken in vision to heaven. He is shown a throne room scene. In this scene, a Lamb, symbolizing Christ, is the only one found worthy to open up a scroll sealed with seven seals. The seven seals are a sequence of events that start with seal one and end with seal seven.
Rule of Sequences
Part of the rules of scriptural interpretation is that within a given sequence, like the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven last plagues, a higher numbered event cannot occur until a previously numbered event has occurred. For example, the fifth seal follows the fourth seal, rather than proceeding it. God is a God of order, and He gave us these sequences within the order that they will occur. Even though this seems like a straightforward rule, many seem to arrange the sequences to their own liking. For example, when the Persian Gulf war began, many people began claiming that this was Armageddon. In fact, my wife was walking in a shopping mall in Riverside, California, when a woman jumped up onto a bench and began proclaiming at the top of her lungs that this war was Armageddon. As most of us realized afterwards, the Gulf war was not Armageddon, nor could it have become Armageddon! Why not? Because the gathering of the armies at Armageddon takes place after the sixth of the seven last plagues. And those plagues have obviously not begun yet. Additionally as we study further, we will see that there is a whole series of events leading up to the seven last plagues, that will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, wake up a world slumbering in a spiritual malaise.
The Sealing, Plagues and Witnesses
We then jump to a scene in which the sealing takes place. This also introduces us to what I call the Great Tribulation. The Great Tribulation begins with the seven Trumpets sequence, which are then followed by the seven last plagues recorded in Revelation 15.
In between those we have the story of the angel planting his left and right feet on the land and sea and making a declaration regarding the seventh trumpet. This is a very important declaration.
We have a scene in which the two witnesses prophesy.
Chapters 12, 13, and 14 tell a story of a pure woman giving birth to a man child, a scene in which Satan is thrown down from heaven to earth, Satan pursues the woman, the woman flees and is hidden away.
Of Beasts and Marks
Chapter 13 introduces what we might call the Beast section. We have two beasts, one a seven headed beast and the second having two lamb-like horns. Both are allowed to persecute the saints, the first directly, the second in support of the first. The mark of the Beast is introduced as well as the number of the Beast.
Amazingly enough, some theologians say that the mark, image and number of the Beast, has no relevance to modern times, that it is too obscure or has already happened in the past. God would not make these declarations for the end of time to have them ignored. They are extremely important and we will be looking at them in detail.
Three Angels Messages
Chapter 14 brings into view the 144,000 as well as angels with three important messages. The first says that the hour of God's judgment has come, the second that Babylon has fallen, and the third that all who accept the mark of the Beast shall be eternally lost.
A harvest scene is also mentioned where Christ harvests the earth of the good and an angel harvests the earth of the wicked.
Chapter 15 and 16 covers the seven last plagues.
Beauty and the Beast
Chapter 17 is probably one of the least understood chapters in Revelation. However, it provides several keys, that when properly understood, help unlock the mystery of Revelation. It brings to view another scarlet colored beast with an iniquitous woman riding on it. This woman is known as Babylon, Mystery Religion. In this story, the Beast from the Abyss on which she rides eventually destroys Babylon.
Come Out of Babylon
In chapter 18, God calls His people out of Babylon and talks about Babylon's quick destruction, and those lamenting at her burning.
In chapter 19, the saints are rejoicing over Babylon's destruction and are looking forward to the wedding feast of the lamb.
The War of the Lamb
The end of chapter 19 brings to view a rider on a white horse, going out to do battle with the kings of the earth that are gathered together to do battle on the great day of the Lord Almighty. The birds of the air are called to feast on the carcasses of those who are gathered to wage war against God.
The Final Destruction of the Wicked
Chapter 20 has Satan being tied up and cast into the bottomless pit, the abyss, for 1,000 years. At the end of the 1,000 years, the wicked are resurrected to meet their final judgment before God's throne.
The New Jerusalem and Eternal Life
Chapter 21 and 22 describe in some detail the New Jerusalem, a city whose builder and maker is God as well as the re-creation of heaven and earth. Truly, at this point, God has again chosen to dwell with men.