RAMONA LOWE
THE BOOK OF REVELATION ARTIST
   The Book of Revelation with commentary by Dr. Henry M. Morris and paintings by Ramona Lowe
The paintings are a work in progress and the finished pieces are highlighted in red on Page 2


Page 7

Chronological Framework of Revelation

As indicated in the previous section, the literal view of Revelation accepts the book as truly prophetic, built around a chronology beginning with the time of its writing about A.D. 100, and extending on to eternity, in the new earth.  Prior to the establishment of the new heavens and the new earth, which inaugurates the ages of eternity, there is identified a final period of a thousand years on the present earth – the millennium (Revelation 20:1-7).

Prior to the millennium, the world is to be ruled by a satanically-controlled man identified as the “beast.”  This period of totalitarian world rule under the beast is predicted to be just “forty-two months” before he is defeated and the millennium begins (Revelation 13:4, 5; 19:20).  Before that period is still another period of  “1260 days,” marked by the unrestrained prophesying and miraculous works of  “two witnesses” (Revelation 11:3), whose influence is finally overcome by the “beast” as he consolidates his world power (Revelation 11:7).

These two periods – 1260 days and forty-two months – are obviously consecutive and each corresponds to a period of three-and-a-half years, each composed of twelve months containing thirty days each.  Thus there is to be a final seven-year period of earth history immediately prior to the millennium.  The last half of this period apparently contains the events described in Chapters 12-19.  Correspondingly, the first half of the period is outlined in Chapters 4-11.  The plagues called down on earth during the days of their prophecy by the two witnesses are detailed in Chapters 6-10, then summarized in 11:6.  The first gives the scene as viewed from heaven, the second as from earth.  Chapters 4 and 5 describe a great scene in heaven immediately preceding this epochal seven-year period on earth.  At this grand assemblage are gathered all the redeemed (Revelation 5:8-13), singing the praises of the Lamb of God, the Redeemer.

Since such an assemblage can only take place when Christ returns to gather His own people to Himself in the heavens (John 14:2, 3; I Corinthians 15:51-57; I Thessalonians 4:16, 17), it becomes clear that the seven years of plagues and judgments on the earth, described in Chapters 6-19, are prophesied to take place only after the coming of Christ to raise and receive His redeemed ones.

This leaves only Chapters 2 and 3 to deal with the time from A.D. 100 to the resurrection of the saints.  It is appropriate that these chapters consist of letters to seven representative churches, churches whose needs and problems would embrace in essence all the needs and problems of all the churches of the Church Age.

Additional reasons will be developed later to further justify this chronology.  Summarizing, the framework of Revelation seems to be as follows:

 

Chapters 1-3 Church Age         Unknown Duration

Chapters 4-19         Period of Judgment         Seven Years

Chapter 20 Kingdom Age          One Thousand Years

Chapters 21, 22 Eternal Age          Endless Years

 

The chronology of Revelation thus looks forward to all the future ages.  A complete picture, however, must also look back to the past.  The close connection of Revelation with Genesis has already been noted, and the events catalogued in Revelation comprise only a part of God’s complete chronology of all the ages from creation to consummation.

In this broader framework of chronology, there appear to be five major ages of the cosmos, with each of these separated from the others by a profound convulsion of the whole creation.  These are all illustrated in the diagram.

 

The Seal of the Seven

 

A unique aspect of the Book of Revelation, a feature which needs to be noted as a whole before we begin studying specific passages, is its remarkable “seven-ness.”  Note, for example, some of the many systems of seven components found in Revelation:

        1.  Seven churches (Revelation 1:4, 11, 20)

        2.  Seven Spirits (Revelation 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6)

         3.  Seven candlesticks (Revelation 1:12, 13, 20; 2:1)

            4.  Seven stars (Revelation 1:16, 20; 2:1; 3:1)

        5.  Seven lamps (Revelation 4:5)

          6.  Seven seals (Revelation 5:1; 5:5)

          7.  Seven horns (Revelation 5:6)

             8.  Seven eyes (Revelation 5:6)

          9.  Seven angels (Revelation 8:2, 6)

     10.  Seven trumpets (Revelation 8:2, 6)

     11.  Seven thunders (Revelation 10:3, 4)

     12.  Seven thousand (Revelation 11:13)

     13.  Seven heads (Revelation 12:3; 13:1; 17:3, 7, 9)

     14.  Seven crowns (Revelation 12:3)

     15.  Seven angels (Revelation 15:1, 6, 7, 8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9)

     16.  Seven plagues (Revelation 15:1, 6, 8; 21:9)

     17.  Seven vials (Revelation 15:7; 17:1; 21:9)

     18.  Seven mountains (Revelation 17:19)

     19.  Seven kings (Revelation 17:10, 11)

This unusual format can hardly be accidental.  The word seven appears in Revelation more than in any other book of the Bible and, in fact, more than in all other books of the New Testament put together.  It was not just a pedagogical device utilized by John, since John was merely recording what he had seen and heard.  The book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ” – not “the revelation of St. John,”  as many have called it (note Revelation 1:1, 2).

Furthermore, the above-listed “sevens” are only the ones that are directly identified by their association with the actual word seven (Greek hepta).  One can discover many other similar groups of seven things in the book, but these have to be searched out by direct study of the various words and associations.  For example, note the following fascinating groups:

20.   Seven beatitudes (the statements beginning with “Blessed…” (Revelation 1:3;

   14:13; 16:15; 19:9; 20:6; 22:7; 22:14)  

21.   Seven years of judgments (Revelation 11:3; 12:6; 14; 13:5)

22.   Seven divisions of each of the letters to the seven churches (see commentary on

   Revelation 2)

                                    Five Ages of the Cosmos

 

 Primeval                                                                                                    New (Renewed)

    Earth                                                                                                              Earth

Gen. 1:1, 31                                                                                                      Rev. 21:1

2 Pet. 3:5                                                                                                         2 Pet. 3:13

 

(Probation)                                                                                                      (Perfection)

 

Curse Imposed                                                                                             Curse Removed

on Earth                                                                                                               From Earth

(Gen. 3:17;                                                                                                        (2 Pet. 3:10;

Rom. 8:21,22)                                                                                                       Rev. 22:3)

 

                              Antediluvian                                          Millennial

                                   Earth                                                   Earth

                            Gen. 6:5, 11-13                                        Rev. 20:2, 6

 

                               (Humanistic                                            (Theistic

                                 Anarchy)                                              Monarchy)

        

                           Catastrophic                                              Catastrophic

                           Destruction                                            Reconstruction

                           of  “Good” Earth                                 of “Good” Earth

                           (The Inundation)                                (The Tribulation)

                           (2 Pet. 3:6;                                    (Ps. 148:4; Isa. 40:4

                           Ps. 104:6-9)                                                   Rev. 6-19)

 

                                                                Present

                                                                 Earth

                                                                2 Pet. 3:7


                                                             (Nationalistic

                                                               Oligarchy)

 

The relationships suggested in the chart will be discussed and amplified later as needed.  It is obvious, however, that the chronology of the Book of Revelation deals primarily only with the second “leg” of this cosmic chronology, as the earth is returning from its present state of bondage and decay to its intended state of eternal perfection.

 

23.   Seven “I am’s” of Christ (Revelation 1:8, 11, 17, 18; 21:6; 22:13, 16)

24.   Seven doxologies in heaven (Revelation 4:9-11; 5:8-13; 7:9-12; 11:16-18; 14:2, 3;

   15:2-4; 19:1-6)

Many similar associations of seven can be found in this remarkable book as one studies in depth.  For that matter, there are many other numbers also prominent in Revelation (666,  144,000, twelve gates, four horsemen, ten kings and 1000 years).

An obvious question is, Why?  Why is the Book of Revelation so permeated with this emphasis on numbers?

Actually, this same phenomenon is found throughout the Bible, though not usually to the same extent as in Revelation.  Perhaps this is not as surprising as some might think.  The natural world is constructed in such a way as to be describable in mathematical terms and God’s inspired Word and His created world are consistent with each other.

In fact, the numerical phenomena in the Bible are so abundant that many authors have written extensive volumes on the subject.  Unfortunately, none of these writers have evaluated the numerical features they describe on any kind of sound statistical basis, and they often seem to be subjective and arbitrary in their identification of specific mathematical patterns, so that one must be cautious and selective in making use of them.  Although the phenomenon is undoubtedly real and meaningful, the present “state of the art” of the interpretation and application of biblical numerology is still too tentative for much confidence.

In the special case of the book of Revelation, however, the mathematical apparatus is clearly intentional and meaningful, so that to ignore it would be to miss much of the message of the book.  Consequently, the various numbers and the reasons for their use will be discussed as we encounter them while proceeding with our verse-by-verse study.

But the remarkable “seven-ness” of the book needs special recognition right at the outset.  Why are there so many “sevens” in this last book of the Bible?

Although this question is not discussed explicitly in the Book of Revelation itself, almost certainly one of the primary reasons is to emphasize that this is the last book of the Bible!  In fact, the book closes with a grave warning against anyone who would pretend to add anything further to God’s inspired Word (Revelation 22:18).

The number “seven” has always been regarded as representing fullness or completion.  This is true not only in the Bible but among almost all peoples throughout history.  Seven is the “lucky” number, the “perfect” number.

The emphasis on seven as a number of fullness is understandable, of course, in terms of the weekly calendar by which we order our everyday lives.  Again, most nations throughout history have followed the seven-day week.

But this fact does not really answer the question, for it does not explain why nations ever started following a seven-day week in the first place.  The seven-day week has no astronomical basis, as do the month and year, nor does the number seven have a physiological basis like the number ten.

The only real explanation why people have always followed a seven-day week and why the number seven has always symbolized fullness and completion is the divine decree of Genesis 2:3: “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”  Once again, to understand Revelation we must return to Genesis.

God completed His mighty work of creating, constructing and energizing the entire cosmos and all its creatures in the very first seven-day period of history.  Because of sin and the curse, He has ever since been accomplishing His mighty work of redeeming and saving the creation.

One day this work also will be completed, though it has taken far longer than seven days.  Much of this latter work was preparatory, getting the world ready for the coming of its Redeemer to pay the price for its deliverance and restoration.  The Old Testament, beginning with Genesis, describes the history of this preparation, and the New Testament details the coming of the Savior, the payment of the price, and the establishment of a great witnessing community of His redeemed people under the leadership of chosen apostles.

Eventually, this great work of “the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:14) will also be completed, and God’s eternal Rest will begin.  The Book of Revelation, inscribed through the last of the apostles at the very end of the Apostolic Age, provides guidance for His people through all the other ages to come, focusing especially on the great climactic events that will bring God’s work to completion and fullness.  The Apocalypse, therefore, above all else, is designed to assure us that what God has said is true.  What He has promised, He will do.  The Book of Revelation is real, future history as sure as Genesis is real, primeval history.  Its characters are real and the events it prophesies will indeed come to pass.  God will finish His work.

           

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