Previous Section: Overview of the Book of Revelation



Perhaps no single issue plagues the correct interpretation of book of Revelation than its structure. A prewrath understanding of the book of Revelation warrants a fuller discussion than the simple outline given in the introduction. The outline is re-printed below:


Chapter 1 – Prologue
Chapters 2-3 – The Seven Churches
Chapter 4 – Heaven
Chapter 5 – The Large Scroll
Chapter 6 – The First Six Seals


Chapter 7 – Deliverance


Chapter 8 – Seventh Seal Events [Trumpet Judgments 1-4]
Chapter 9 – Completion of 70th Week [Trumpet Judgments 5-6]


Chapter 10 – The Little Scroll
Chapter 11 – Daniel 9:24 Completed [Trumpet Judgment 7]


Chapter 12 – The Beginning
Chapter 13 – The Beginning of the End
Chapter 14 – The End of the Beginning
A. Deliverance of the elect
B. Decree to the wicked
C. Destruction of the wicked


Chapter 15 – Prelude to Bowl Judgments
Chapter 16 – Bowl Judgments 1-7


Chapter 17 – The Great Harlot
Chapter 18 – The Great City
Chapter 19 – The Great Army


Chapter 20: 1-6 – The Beginning of the Millennium
Chapter 20:7-15 – The End of the Millennium


Chapter 21 – New Heavens, New earth, New Jerusalem
Chapter 22 – Epilogue

The key to the structure of the book of Revelation can be discerned from the seventh chapter of Daniel and Matthew 24. There are conceptual, thematic, linguistic and theological parallels, which defy any serious Bible student to conclude otherwise. We shall look at these two chapters, respectively, first.


The Structure of Daniel Seven

The seventh chapter of Daniel introduces the second major section of the book of Daniel. The first six chapters are primarily historical and chronological in nature. The remaining six chapters are prophetic in nature. Therefore, chapter seven is a pivotal chapter. It serves to introduce the prophetic content of chapters 8-12.

Chapter 7 begins with a vision concerning four beasts. Daniel 7:1 reports,

In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it.

The NASB’s translation includes the statement, "he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it." Since Daniel gives us a summary, this leaves room for more details to be added later, which is done in both Matthew 24 and Revelation 4-21. Chapter 7:2-14 continues,

Daniel said, "I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts. I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened. Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time. I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.

Contained in this rather long quote is an outline of the end time sequence that becomes the framework for both Matthew 24 and Revelation 4-21. By way of summary, Daniel indicates four beasts will arise out of the sea. The fourth beast will eventuate into ten horns. When the ten horns rule another horn will arise and destroy three of the ten original horns. After sometime, thrones will be set up. The Ancient of Days will take his seat. The court will be seated. The books will be opened. The boastful beast will be destroyed and the authority of his helpers will be suspended. One like a Son of Man will then receive dominion, glory and a kingdom. The reader must not miss the important fact that Daniel first gives a general overview of the events of the end time.

This general overview is then followed by a specific look at the fourth beast and his unparalleled persecution of the saints, which will terminate with his destruction. Notice Daniel 7:15-28:

As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: ‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’ Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet, and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts, and which was larger in appearance than its associates. I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him. At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.

The rest of the Daniel 7 is concerned with an explanation of the fourth beast, his persecution of the saints and the eventual kingdom the saints will receive after the beast is destroyed. A discernable pattern can be argued from the seventh chapter of Daniel. First, a general overview of the end times is given. Then a detailed look at the unparalleled persecution of the saints follows. The destruction of the beast is promised. The chapter ends with the promise that the saints will receive a kingdom ruled by the Highest One.


The Structure of Matthew 24:4-31

This exact same pattern is developed in Matthew 24:4-31. First, a general overview is given. Then a specific look at the persecution of the saints is detailed. The persecution will be cut short (the beast’s destruction). The promise of the Lord’s return to gather the saints rounds out this section of Matthew’s gospel.

The general overview is given first. Matthew 24:4-14 states,

And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many. And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs. Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations on account of My name. And at that time many will fall away and will deliver up one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many. And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.

That Matthew 24:4-14 is a general overview of the end times is discernable from the following facts. First, the disciples’ initial questions set the agenda. Matthew 24:3 states that the disciples asked "when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?" It is very important that the reader recognize that two questions are asked and the second question has two parts. The first question concerns the destruction of Jerusalem. The second two-part question concerns the Lord’s return and the end of the age. Equally important is the recognition that the Lord answers the questions is reverse order. In other words, the Lord answers the question, "what will be the sign of the end of the age," first. The appearance of the term end in Matthew 24:6, 13 and 14 proves this point conclusively.

The Lord’s use of the birth sequence underscores his emphasis in Matthew 24:4-14 on the end of the age. Matthew 24:4-8 emphasizes the beginning birth pangs. This supports our conclusion that the Lord is not giving an overview of the entire time from his departure to His Second Coming, but rather the final years that immediately precedes his return. "Beginning birth pangs" are associated with the birth of the baby and not the nine months of pregnancy. Matthew 24:9-14 focuses on the hard labor that follows the beginning birth pangs. The Greek term thlipsis (tribulation) is used to describe the suffering of a woman about to give birth (John 16:21). As with a baby, the "one who endures to the end (of the age), it is he who shall be saved (delivered)."

The final factor that supports the conclusion that Matthew 24:4-14 covers the entire end-time sequences concerns the phrase, "this gospel of the kingdom." The phrase has been incorrectly interpreted to refer to the gospel of Christ. That is, the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ outlined by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. However, the Lord did not begin proclaiming the good news of His death, burial and resurrection until two plus years of ministry (Matt 16:21-23) had passed. In contrast, Matthew reports that the Lord began preaching the "gospel of the kingdom of God" in the very early days of His earthly ministry (Matt 4:23). The gospel of the kingdom concerns God’s physical reign on earth and His removal of the wicked, which was initiated by the Lord’s ministry on earth (Mark 1:15, Luke 8:21, Luke 11:20). The worldwide proclamation of this message signals the end of the age (Rev 14:6-7).

The general overview of the end times (Matthew 24:4-14) is followed by a focus on the persecution of the saints in Matthew 24:15-24. It states,

Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; let him who is on the housetop not go down to get the things out that are in his house; and let him who is in the field not turn back to get his cloak. But woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days! But pray that your flight may not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath; for then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever shall. And unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days shall be cut short. Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

Matthew 24:15-24 covers the same period as Matthew 24:9-14, which is a very important point to remember. This same pattern occurs in the seventh chapter of Daniel. First the general overview and then comes the specific focus on the persecution. What is called tribulation in Matthew 24:9 is described as a great tribulation in Matthew 24:21. However, Matthew 24:15-24 focuses more on the unparalleled persecution the saints will face during this time. The third aspect of the end time sequence concerns the destruction of the beast. The Lord Jesus indicates that the days of tribulation will be cut short (Matt 24:22). He does not elaborate on this point, but a shortened tribulation means the end of the beast’s opportunity to persecute.

The final portion of Matthew 24:4-31 i.e. verses 25-31, deal with the return of Christ, which answers the question, "what will be the sign of Your coming," asked by the disciples. Notice,

Behold, I have told you in advance. If therefore they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go forth, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. For just as the lightning comes from the east, and flashes even to the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather. But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken, and then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

As with Daniel 7, these final verses promise the saints deliverance. Specifically, the Lord will return and gather the saints together to eventually set up a kingdom on earth. The dependency of the Lord on Daniel’s material is evident (Matt 24:15).


The Structure of the Revelation

The prophetic outline of the end times that flows through Daniel 7 and is utilized by the Lord in the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24:4-31 also occurs in the book of Revelation.

Scholars are generally agreed that Revelation 1:19 offers a temporal outline of the book of Revelation. John indicates that he received instructions from the Lord to "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall take place after these things." This framework offers the following structural depiction of the book. The first chapter of Revelation is "the things you have seen." Revelation two and three cover "the things which are"; and Revelation four through twenty-one are "the things which shall take place after these things." The disproportionate attention given to the "things which shall take place after these things (Revelation 4-21)," suggests that the temporal outline of the book is not the key to its structure. This is particularly true given that the seven churches receive promises that are both first century and futuristic in nature. In other words, there is an overlap of "the things which are" and "things which shall take place after these things." This undermines any attempt to force a strict interpretation of Revelation 1:19 as the dogmatic outline of the book of Revelation.

Critical to our discussion are chapters 4-20 of the Revelation. It is our position that chapters 4-11 give the general overview of the end times. Revelation 12-13 gives the specific focus on the persecution of the saints. Chapters 14-21 detail the destruction of the beast, the coming of Christ and the kingdom that follows. As with Matthew 24:4-31, the book of Revelation fills in many details left out of Daniel’s seventh chapter summary, but the basic structure is the same.

The General Overview

Revelation 4-11 gives an overview of the end times. Revelation 4 opens with a throne room scene. God the father is seated on a throne surrounded by his court of elders, living creatures and angels. Revelation 5 presents the coronation of the Lamb as executor of the Father’s will. Revelation 6 outlines the "beginning birth pangs" and the "tribulation" of the saints. Revelation 7 highlights the deliverance of God’s first fruits of unsaved national Israel and the righteous saints of the ages to heaven. Revelation 8-9 details the beginning of God’s wrath. Revelation 10 underscores the end of Gentile dominance on earth and Revelation 11 reports God’s reclamation of the earth (God’s reign begins).

While we cannot be dogmatic about the actual beginning time frame for the events outlined in Revelation 4-11, when these events end can be asserted with greater certainty. Most students of Revelation recognize a difference between the first four seals and the last three seals. The common trait of the last three seals is the wrath of God. The fifth seal martyrs request that God pour out his wrath on the living earth-dwellers. The sixth seal announces the imminent outbreak of God’s wrath. The seventh and final seal begins the actual outpouring of God’s wrath as seven trumpets. The seven trumpets demonstrate a similar pattern to the seals. That is, the first four trumpets are different from the last three trumpets. The final three trumpets are characterized as three "woes." These represent the worst expression of God’s wrath the wicked will ever experience on earth.

However, between trumpets six and seven is a break in the advancement of the story line. This break serves the purpose of allowing John opportunity to announce the completion of the mystery of God. He writes, "…in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished…(Rev 10:7)." The apostle Paul defined the mystery of God as God’s special work in Christ to bring Gentiles to glory (Col 1:24-2:5). The completion of the mystery of God also ties into the completion of the "times of the Gentiles," (Dan 9:24, Luke 21:24, Rev 11:2). These events coincide with the completion of the ministry of the two witnesses (Rev 11:4-13).

With the sounding of the seventh trumpet, God the father takes back his rightful physical rule over the earth. John states, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever (Rev 11:15b)." The first order of business for the new King will be the removal of all the wicked (both human and demonic) from the earth.

The Persecution of the Saints

As with both Daniel 7 and Matthew 24:4-31, after the general overview of the end times is given, a specific look at the persecution of the saints is given. Unique to the Revelation is the most detailed presentation of the primary cause of the persecution given in Scripture. A war in heaven results in Satan’s restriction to earth for a short time (Rev 12:7-17). This is the basis of the unparalleled persecution. Death will reign on the earth during the persecution of God’s saints. The three primary perpetrators of death will be the beast (Rev 13:7), the false prophet (Rev 13:12), and the image of the beast (Rev 13:15). The target of Death will be the woman (the Jews) and her offspring (the church) (Rev 12:17).

The Destruction of the Beast and His Kingdom

The third aspect of the end-time sequence that appears in both Daniel 7 and Matthew 24 concerns the destruction of the beast. Having highlighted the persecutors in Revelation 12-13, Revelation 14-19 focuses on the destruction of the beast and his kingdom. Chapter 14 begins this important section with the Lord and 144,000 Jews standing on Mount Zion. This is the first time the Lamb is pictured physically on the earth in the Revelation. Three angels announce doom upon the earth. The chapter ends with a summary description of God’s wrath against the wicked on the earth. The fifteenth and sixteenth chapters of the Revelation detail the bowl judgments against the beast, his kingdom and those who take his mark. Revelation 17-18 highlights the destruction the beast’s city. Revelation 19 highlights the destruction of the beast’s armies.

The Kingdom Comes

The final aspect of the end time sequence concerns the kingdom of the Most High God. Revelation 20 indicates that after the destruction of the beast, the Lord Jesus will set a temporal kingdom on earth for one thousand years. All the wicked of the nations, Satan and his demons are removed from the earth. Christ and the beheaded reign on the earth after which the final revolt of Satan occurs and the eternal judgment ends human history as we know it.

The Conclusion

Daniel 7, Matthew 24 and the Revelation manifest a discernible structural pattern with respect to the sequence of events concerning the end times. First, a general overview is given. Then a specific look at the unparalleled persecution of the saints is outlined. The final element of the three accounts concerns the destruction of the perpetrator of the unparalleled persecution and the kingdom of God that follow. Daniel 7 and Matthew 24 informs our understanding of the Revelation. As the commentary develops, we hope to show the connections between these great works.


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