End Times - Putting the Pieces in Place
Appendix E: Retelling in Revelation
Revelation 10:11 (NKJV) And he said to me, "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings."
The Book of Revelation does not progress in a single chronological sequence from chapter 1 through chapter 22. For example, we are told that the mystery of God is finished when the seventh trumpet is sounded (Rev. 10:7). The seventh trumpet sounds in Revelation 11:15. However, in the chapters that follow, the birth and resurrection of Jesus is described (Rev. 12:5), the Beast is revealed and sets up his kingdom (Rev. 13:1,5), and God pours out His wrath on the earth (Rev. chapters 15 &16). Then God’s work is finished (again!) in Revelation 16:7 (compare Rev. 16:7-21 with Rev. 11:15-19). It would not seem possible that these events could all follow the finish described in Revelation 11:15.
Another example of two events that are chronologically out of sequence involve the Beast. In Revelation 11:7, the "... beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit..." kills God’s two witnesses against his kingdom. However, the Beast does not ascend and set up his kingdom until Rev. 13:1—two chapters later.
There is not a simple once-through chronological sequence to the events described in the Book of Revelation. Instead, there are several different groups of events that are chronologically arranged within the group. However, events described in one group may be preceded by events in another group that is described later. By determining where each chronological sequence group begins and ends, it is easier to understand the relationship between individual events described in the different chronological groups. Fortunately, this is not as difficult as it may seem.
The Book of Revelation describes end-time events in four separate chronological sequence groups providing four different vantage points for the same overlapping time periods. This results in several events being described more than once in the Book of Revelation. If a person thinks that Revelation proceeds in chronological order from chapter one through chapter twenty-two, the information will be very confusing. When the confusion of an assumed single chronological listing of events is combined with the symbolism contained in the Book of Revelation, it is no wonder that there are so many different theories about what will happen in the latter days.
Instead of following a single chronological sequence, the Book of Revelation repeats certain end-time events several times, each from a slightly different vantage point with a slightly different emphasis. For example, the Great Tribulation is described three times (Rev. 6:1-8; 13:1-18; 7:7-17), the gathering of the Church (i.e., the Rapture) is described three times (Rev. 7:9-17; 14:13-16; 18:4), and the Wrath of God is described four times (Rev. chapter 8-11; chapter 15-16; chapter 18; and 19:11-21). While some of these descriptions are less clear than others, once a basic understanding of the chronological order of the Book of Revelation is obtained, each event becomes clear in its relationship to surrounding events.
Understanding the chronological arrangement of the Book of Revelation may be somewhat easier if you think of it as three people who are called to court to testify about an accident they witnessed. When the first person takes the witness stand, he describes the events that he saw in chronological order. The second witness then tells what he saw in chronological order. Since his perspective was different, the second witness will probably leave out some things that the first witness mentioned. He will also provide some information that was not given by the first witness. It would be a mistake to think that everything the second witness described happened after everything the first witness described.
As the jury and judge listen to all three witnesses repeat the events as they saw them, a clear picture will usually begin to emerge. If a particular item was mentioned only by the third witness, that item can be placed in its proper position in time by comparing the rest of witness number three’s testimony to that of the other witnesses. The judge and jury must watch for clues to use in correctly merging the three testimonies into one chronological sequence of events. This provides an overall picture that is much more complete than any sequence described by a single witness.
In a similar fashion, end-time events are described by several witnesses. However, in this case, the witness is the same person—John. This is like a witness on the southeast corner of a street intersection witnessing an auto accident. Then the witness is moved to the northwest corner of the intersection where he can watch the accident repeated. With his second perspective, he would see things that may have been missed in his first observation. Of course an auto accident cannot be replayed several times to allow a witness to observe it from several different perspectives to obtain a clear understanding of what happened. That is not a problem when God wanted to give John—and us—a clear understanding of what will happen in the latter days. The Book of Revelation contains several prophecies repeated from different perspectives to provide a much clearer representation of what will happen. Like merging the testimony of three witnesses, the prophecies in Revelation must also be correctly merged together to understand them properly.
Since the same witness is used to describe each sequence of events, it is important to look closely to determine the places in the Book of Revelation where the prophecies begin over again. The following chart helps identify these places by showing the approximate time periods described in the various chapters of the Book of Revelation. As shown in the chart, prophecies in Revelation overlap to provide additional details for each event.
Chapters one through three provide introductory information and messages to the seven churches located in Asia during the lifetime of John. Chapter four begins the first description of the End Times when John is called to Heaven to see future events. Chapters four through eleven provide a chronological list of many events that will occur during the End Times—especially during the Great Tribulation and Wrath of God. This section explains how John received the visions. It also describes the seven seals and the seven plagues of the Wrath of God. This chronological sequence ends with the last plague of the Wrath of God. Revelation 10:11 says that John must prophecy again concerning these end-time events.
Beginning in chapter twelve, the prophecy of end-time events starts over from the time when Jesus was born. Chapters twelve through 16 provide a chronological description of end-time events during the Great Tribulation and the Wrath of God. These chapters cover basically the same period of time as described in chapters four through eleven. However, additional details are provided with a somewhat different emphasis. This chronological sequence includes descriptions of the activity of the Beast during the Great Tribulation and the seven plagues of the Wrath of God. As in the first description, this sequence ends with the last plague of the Wrath of God.
The prophecy of end-time events starts over again with chapter seventeen. Chapters seventeen and eighteen provide the history of the wickedness of the woman on the scarlet beast (Babylon). Possibly this woman represents false religion (see Rev. 17:1,2,4). Chapters seventeen and eighteen also describe the hatred of the Beast for the woman and her punishment by God (Rev. 17:16; 18:5-8).
End-time prophecies start over again beginning with chapter nineteen when a great multitude appears in Heaven (compare Rev. 19:1-7 with Rev. 7:9-17). In the remaining chapters in the Book of Revelation, the Wrath of God and following events are mentioned. The earlier sets of end-time prophecies did not extend past the last plague of the Wrath of God. However, this last chronological sequence covers the time of the Wrath of God and all events that follow it on to eternity. This sequence includes descriptions of the defeat of the Beast and his armies by Jesus during the Wrath of God. It also describes the Millennium, the Great White Throne Judgment, and the new heaven and earth which continue into eternity.
This telling and retelling of the same events from different viewpoints is common throughout the Bible. Even the inclusion of four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is consistent with this form. Jesus’ parables also illustrate this telling and retelling of information from slightly different perspectives to give a better overall understanding of the matter. (See Mat. 13:24, 31, 33, 44, 45, & 47 for an example of how our understanding of Heaven is improved by use of this technique.)
The following chart can be consulted when reading the Book of Revelation to aid in determining where end-time prophecies start over. This will make end-time events easier to understand. The chart also includes transitional events (i.e., interlocking pieces) which help determine the chronological sequence of end-time events. These transitional events are shown at the bottom of the chart. They serve as important markers (or sign posts) indicating when one time period ends and another begins (see Mat. 24:15,21).
This chart shows the six major time periods presented in the Book of Revelation. Each of these major time periods is separated by a transition event. The time periods covered by various groups of chapters in Revelation are indicated by labeled bars in the chart. For example, chapters four through eleven cover the present age, the Abomination of Desolation, the Great Tribulation, the signs in the sun, moon, & stars, and the Wrath of God. The transition events signaling the end of one time period and the beginning of the next are shown at the bottom of the chart. By referring to this chart when reading the Book of Revelation, the chronological sequence of events can be understood more easily.
Transition events separate one major time period from the next. These transition events serve a similar function to interlocking pieces in a jig saw puzzle. The major transition events marking the points when one time period ends and the next begins are as follows.
Transition Events Between Major Time Periods
Abomination of Desolation
Daniel 11:31; 12:11;
2 Thes. 2:3-4
|When the Beast claims that he is God and stops daily sacrifices. This marks the beginning of the Great Tribulation|
|Signs in the sun, moon and stars||Rev. 6:12-14;
|These signs mark the end of the Great Tribulation and the beginning of the Wrath of God. They also signal the gathering of the Church (i.e., Rapture).|
|Satan bound for 1000 years||Rev. 20:1-3||Marks the end of the Wrath of God and the beginning of the Millennium.|
|Satan released for a short time to deceive Gog, Magog and the nations||Rev. 20:7-9||Marks the end of the Millennium and beginning of the White Throne Judgment.|
|New heaven and new earth||Rev. 20:11; 21:1-2||The old creation is replaced with a new one. Marks the beginning of eternity spent with Jesus.|
Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. NKJV indicates quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. KJV indicates quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible. Numbers associated with Greek (italic) or Hebrew (upright) words refer to the corresponding words in the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, by James Strong, S.T.D., LL.D.
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God bless you.
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