The structure of Revelation 19.11-21

The rider on the white horse (19.11-16)

John sees the horse and rider in heaven (19.11a)

One of the rider’s names (19.11b)

The rider’s justice (19.11c)

The rider’s eyes and head (19.12a)

The rider’s secret name (19.12b)

The rider’s robe (19.13a)

Another of the rider’s names (19.13b)

The rider’s armies (19.14)

The rider’s sword (19.15a)

The rider’s scepter (19.15b)

The rider in God’s winepress (19.15c)

Another of the rider’s names (19.16)

The call of the angel in the sun to the birds (19.17-18)

The defeat of the beast and the false prophet (19.19-21)

The beast and his army gathers against the rider (19.19)

The beast and the false prophet are captured (19.20a)

Explanation of the signs of the false prophet (19.20b)

The beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (19.20c)

The death of the armies and the feast of the birds (19.21)

The author’s own outline.

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The structure of Revelation 19.1-10

John’s first hearing of the multitude (19.1-5)

John hears the multitude (19.1a)

The song of the multitude (19.1b-3)

The worship of the elders and living creatures (19.4)

The command to praise, from the throne (19.5)

John’s second hearing of the multitude (19.6-10)

John hears the multitude (19.6a)

The song of the multitude (19.6b-8a)

Parenthetical explanation of the linen (19.8b)

The angel commands John to write (19.9)

The angel prohibits John from worshiping him (19.10)

Author’s own outline.

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Four English hymns that refer to Revelation 3.14-22

Using hymnary.org to search the Psalter Hymnal, Singing the New Testament and Sing! A New Creation, I found four hymns based on Revelation 3.14-22.

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Six connections between Revelation 12 and Revelation 17 (Witherington)

  1. Both the heavenly woman in chapter 12 and the prostitute in chapter 14 are depicted as mothers (Rev. 12.2, 17.5).
  2. Both women are seen in the wilderness at some point (Rev. 12.6, 17.3).
  3. Both chapters mention eating and drinking in connection with death. In Revelation 12.4 the dragon wishes to devour a child as he is born. Revelation 17.6 says that the prostitute drank the blood of the murdered saints.
  4. Revelation 12.1 and 17.4 use the same Greek word to describe women being ‘clothed’ with splendid attire.
  5. Both chapters mention red animals with seven heads and ten horns (the dragon in Revelation 12.3 and the beast in Revelation 17.3).
  6. Revelation 12.7 mentions people who hold the testimony of Jesus, and Revelation 17.6 mentions witnesses of Jesus.

Source: Ben Witherington, Revelation. (Cambridge University Press, 2003).

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Seven connections between the seals in Revelation 6 and the visions in Revelation 19-20 (Tavo)

  1. In Revelation 6.2 there is a rider on a white horse sent out to conquer. In Revelation 19.11, 19.14 there is a rider on a white horse prepared to make battle.
  2. In Revelation 6.8 there is a rider with a great sword, and in Revelation 19.15, 19.21 the rider has a sharp sword.
  3. Death and Hades are mentioned in Revelation 6.8 and they are both thrown into the lake of fire in Revelation 20.13-14.
  4. Revelation 6.9 mentions souls slain on account of the word of God and their witness. Revelation 20.4 mentions souls beheaded for their witness and on account of the word of God.
  5. Heaven vanishes in Revelation 6.14, and heaven flees from sight in Revelation 20.11.
  6. Both Revelation 6.15 and 19.18 mention kings, generals, the powerful, slaves and the free.
  7. Both Revelation 6.17 and 19.15 mention the wrath of God.

Felise Tavo, The structure of the Apocalypse: re-examining a perennial problem. (Novum testamentum 47 no 1 2005), 66.

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Seven connections between Jezebel in Revelation 2.18-29 and the prostitute in Revelation 17-18 (Witherington)

Ben Witherington has a chart showing seven different parallels between Jezebel in Revelation 2 and Babylon in Revelation 17-18:

  1. In chapter two, Jezebel is a mother (Rev. 2.23) who engages in adultery and sexual immorality (20-22). The prostitute in chapter 17 is called a mother (Rev. 17.5) and engages in adultery (Rev. 17.2, 17.4).
  2. Both women are linked to character’s from Israel’s distant past: Jezebel in ch. 2 and Babylon in ch. 17.
  3. Both of them lead others astray (Rev. 2.20 and 18.23).
  4. Both are depicted as active agents rather than passive victims.
  5. Both are depicted as sexually active
  6. Both women eat food that defiles them: Jezebel eats food sacrificed to idols in Revelation 2.20 (implied), and the prostitute drinks human blood in Revelation 17.6.
  7. The destruction of both women is predicted (Rev. 2.22, 17.6).

Source: Ben Witherington, Revelation. (Cambridge University Press, 2003), 75.

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Four arguments in favor of tying Revelation 1.9-12a with 1.9b-20 rather than with 1.1-8

Should Revelation 1.9-12a go with 1.1-8 o with 1.12b-20? There are several clear indications that 1.9-12a belong with the vision that follows:

  1. In Revelation 1.9 we begin an autobiographical narrative, which is also what we find in the following section. In contrast, Rev. 1.1-8 is not narrative. There is actually a hodgepodge of subgenres in Rev. 1.1-8: title, beatitude, epistolary greeting, doxology, prophecy and a divine self-identification.
  2. In Revelation 1.9 we begin a first-person narrative, which is what we find continued in Rev. 1.12b-20. By contrast, in 1.1-8 John does not speak in the first-person. John refers to himself in the third-person in the first verses. The only first-person speech in this section is from God, in Rev. 1.8, not from John.
  3. Revelation 1.9-12 is specifically a prophetic commissioning narrative. Jesus is commissioning John to write to the churches. In OT versions of such narratives, such as Isaiah 6, we see both the call narrative and a glorious description of God. That is what we find in Revelation 1.9-20.
  4. Working backwards we see that in Rev. 1.12b we have a mention of John’s turning. In Rev. 1.12a we learned that the turning was to find the source of a voice. In Revelation 1.10-11 we hear the voice for the first time. And Rev. 1.9 sets the stage for the narrative, introducing the protagonist (John) and his setting or circumstances. So all of these verses belong together.

Source: author’s personal study.

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18 observations about the structure of Revelation

The structure of the book of Revelation is hotly debated among scholars. Some have joked that there as many different outlines of the book as there are commentators. The outlines on this blog do not attempt to resolve the issue. They just note the internal structure of the basic sections of the book. Nor will I attempt to list the many different outlines I have seen. My goal in the list below is simply to introduce the reader to many of the features which scholars have used as markers to divide the book.

  1. Distinguishing the basic sections of Revelation is easy. What is difficult is figuring out the relationships between these sections.
  2. Pretty much everyone is agreed that Revelation 1.1-8 and 22.6-21 are a prologue and epilogue, respectively. Some scholars extend the prologue to Rev. 1.10 or 1.20, however.
  3. Chapters two and three are clearly a distinct unit composed of seven letters to seven churches.
  4. Chapters 2-3 link to chapter one because the descriptions of Jesus in chapter one are repeated in the promises to the churches in chapters 2-3. Jesus appears and is described in chapter 1, and proceeds to dictate to John the letters in chapters 2-3.
  5. Chapters 4-5 form a distinct section based on their setting and the characters involved. Worship in heaven revolves around God as Creator (ch. 4) and Jesus as Redeemer (ch. 5)
  6. The Lamb’s acquisition of the scroll in chapter 5 is connected to the seals being opened in chapter 6. In chapter 6, the Lamb is opening the seals found around the scroll that he received in chapter 5.
  7. There are three series of seven judgments of God upon the world: seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. Scholars debate whether these series are in chronological order (or sequential), parallel (repeating or recapitulating the same material or time period in three different ways), or telescopic (where the second series expands on the last member of the first series, and the third series expands on the last member of the second series). William Hendriksen sees much recapitulation in Revelation, and developed an elaborate outline of what he calls ‘progressive parallelism’ throughout the book.
  8. The relationship of chapters 19 and 20 is particularly sensitive, because if they are sequential, this would support a premillennial view (Jesus’ return in chapter 19 comes before the thousand years of chapter 20), but if they are parallel, this would support an amillennial view (chapter 19 ends one section with the return of Christ, and chapter 20 begins a new section with the thousand years, which precede the return of Christ, mentioned again later in chapter 20).
  9. Some authors, seeing that there are four clear series of sevens (letters, seals, trumpets and bowls), have looked for three more, in order to arrive at seven series of seven. Hendriksen interprets Rev. 12.1-15.4 as seven mystic figures, chapters 17-18 as telling of the defeat of seven great enemies, and chapters 20-22 as seven unnumbered visions. This finds support in books like 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, which are also arranged in seven sections. Felise Tavo objects: “If he had wanted his hearing audience to recognize seven visions in 12-14 and again in Rev. 19:11-20:15, he probably would have told them so as he has done elsewhere.”
  10. Some authors say that the book’s structure is based on the structure of another book. Some point to Ezekiel and Daniel as books that Revelation’s outline is patterned after.
  11. Some authors say that Revelation is structured after a greek drama or pageant.
  12. A few authors, most notably Elizabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, use elaborate chiasms (ABCBA patterns) to outline Revelation.
  13. Some feel that Revelation 1.19 indicates that the following material will be divided between “what is now” (chapters 2-3) and “what will take place later.” (chapters 4-22).  But this doesn’t help answer many questions about the structure of Revelation, since all the interpretive difficulties occur from chapter 6 onward.
  14. Others interpret the four references to John being ‘in the Spirit’ (Rev. 1.10-11, 4.1-2, 17.1-3 and 21.9-10) as indicators of major section breaks in the book. Each of these sayings occur in different locations: Patmos, heaven, a wilderness, and a high mountain.
  15. Some view the phrase “after these things” (Rev. 4:1; 7:1, 9; 15:5; 18:1; 19:1) as section breaks.
  16. Some, including Mark Seaborn Hall, see chapter 10 as central to the outline of Revelation. In that chapter John sees what appears to be another scroll, is commissioned, and is told to ‘prophesy again.’ This would divide the material into prophecies, one in chapters 4-9 and another in chapters 11-22.
  17. David Aune claims that the two incidents where John attempts to worship an angel (Rev. 19.9-10 and 22.8-9) act as bookends around that section, signaling that it is a separate section. Christopher R. Smith, writing about these two passages, says, “Unlike the surrounding sections, they have no plot motion but are rather “tableaus,” symbol-rich emblems whose meaning is expounded and meditated upon. Moreover, they are a distinct pair in that they describe two complementary cities, Babylon and Jerusalem, one ”falling’* and the other “descending,” compared respectively to two women, a harlot and a virgin bride….”
  18. Felise Tavo reminds us that we should look for a fairly simple structure, since the book was written to be read out loud in a public setting, and hearers would need to be able to discern the structure by listening, not by viewing or studying the written version.

Sources: David E. Aune, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 52: Revelation 1-5. (Waco, TX: Word, 1997); José Adriano Filho and Leslie Milton, The Apocalypse of John as an account of a visionary experience: notes on the book’s structure. (Journal for the Study of the New Testament 25 no 2 D 2002, 213-234); Mark Seaborn Hall, The hook interlocking structure of Revelation: the most important verses in the book and how they may unify its structure. (Novum testamentum 44 no 3 2002, 278-296); Christopher R. Smith, The Structure of the Book of Revelation in Light of Apocalyptic Literary Conventions. (Novum testamentum 36 no 4 O 1994, 373-393); Felise Tavo, The structure of the Apocalypse: re-examining a perennial problem. (Novum testamentum 47 no 1 2005, 47-68); Mark Wilson, Charts on the Book of Revelation. (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007);

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The structure of Revelation 19.1-21

Praise in heaven (Rev. 19.1-10)

Spontaneous praise in heaven (19.1-4)

The song of the multitude, for God’s judging of the prostitute (19.1-2)

The addendum to the song of the multitude (19.3)

The response of the elders and the living creatures (19.4)

Responsive praise in heaven (19.5-8)

A call to praise from a voice from the throne (19.5)

The praise response of the great multitude, on account of the imminent marriage of the Lamb and his bride (19.6-8a)

John’s parenthetical explanation about the linen (19.8b)

An interchange between John and the angel (19.9-10)

The angel commands John to write (19.9)

John attempts to worship the angel (19.10a)

The angel responds to John’s attempt to worship him (19.10b-e)

The angel’s refusal of worship (10b)

The reason for the refusal (10c)

The angel’s command to worship God (10d)

The reason for the command (10e)

A vision of the events surrounding the final battle (Rev. 19.11-21)

John sees a white horse and its Rider (19.11-16)

John sees heaven open to reveal the white horse (19.11a)

John describes the horse’s Rider (19.11b-16)

His name: Faithful and True (11b)

The just way in which he judges and makes war (11c)

His eyes (12a)

His crowns (12b)

His secret name (12c)

His blood-stained clothing (13a)

His name: Word of God (13b)

The army that follows him (14)

The sword from his mouth (15a)

His firm rule (15b)

His task to tread the winepress (15c)

His name: King of kings and Lord of lords (16)

John sees an angel call the birds to feast on the flesh of all humankind  (19.17-18)

John sees the beast and its armies gathered for war against the Rider (19.19)

John sees the results of the battle (19.20-21)

The beast and the false prophet are captured (20a)

The beast and the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire (20b)

The armies are slain by the sword from the Rider’s mouth (21a)

The birds feast on the flesh of the armies (21b)

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The structure of Revelation 20

Rev. 20.1-3: The imprisonment of the dragon

John sees an angel emerge from an abyss with a key and a chain (20.1)

The angel imprisons the dragon (20.2-3b)

The angel seizes the dragon (20.2a)

The angel binds the dragon for 1,000 years (20.2b)

The angel throws the dragon into the abyss (20.3a)

The angel seals the abyss to keep the dragon from deceiving the nations (20.3b)

Explanation that the dragon must be freed briefly after the thousand years (20.3c)

Rev. 20.4-6: The thousand year reign of the martyrs

20.4: Descriptions of John’s vision

John sees thrones of people given the authority to judge (4a)

John sees the souls of the martyrs decapitated for their Christian testimony (4b)

Description of the martyrs (4c)

They had not worshiped the beast nor received his mark (4c1)

They came to life and reigned with Christ for 1,000 years (4c2)

20.5: Explanatory statements

Explanation that the rest of the dead did not rise until after the thousand years (5a)

Explanation that the content of 20.4 describes the first resurrection (5b)

20.6: Beatitude for those who take part in the first resurrection

Beatitude proper (20.6a)

Three reasons (20.6b)

Rev. 20.7-10: The final defeat of the devil

Satan’s last army is defeated (20.7-9)

20.7: Satan is released

20.8a: Satan deceives and gathers an army from Gog and Magog for battle

20.8b: The size of the army is innumerable

20.9a: The army marches across the earth

20.9b: The army surrounds the city of God’s people

20.9c: Fire from heaven devours the army

Satan is judged (20.10)

20.10a: The devil is thrown into the lake of fire

20.10b: The devil, the beast and the false prophet will be tormented forever

Rev. 20.11-15: The vision of the great throne of judgment

20.11: John sees the one seated on the throne

11a: John sees the throne and the one seated upon it

11b: The earth and the sky recede from view

20.12-13: John sees the dead judged

The first description of the judgment (20.12)

12a: John sees the dead before the throne

12b: The books are opened

12c: The dead are judged according to the books

The second description of the judgment (20.13)

13a: The sea gives up its dead

13b: Death and Hades give up their dead

13c: The dead are judged according to their works

20.14: Death and Hades are judged

14a: Death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire

14b: Parenthetical explanation about the lake of fire

20:15: All those not found in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire

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