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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Chronology of Revelation.

It's both simple and complicated.
There's the clear statement in the beginning of the book that Revelation is divided up into 3 unequal "pieces:" "The things you've (i. e., John) seen, "The things which are," and "The things which shall be after these things" (Rev. 1:19).

However, after that, the book dissolves into scenes in heaven and earth, huge events that have never occurred before, unprecedented judgments, events never before seen in the sky, monsters galore, and weird beasts--all that before the "end."

These are pretty difficult to understand and interpret, precisely because we've never before seen them.

Add to that the issue of chronology: When, exactly, does all this stuff actually happen?

Well, we know some things:
First, we know that the vision John had of Jesus occurred in roughly 95 AD, so nearly 2,000 years ago as I write this in 2016.

Second, we know that the churches to which John wrote in Revelation 2-3 existed when he wrote his book--so the "Letters to the seven churches" were letters to the actual churches of the day.  It's kind of discouraging to realize how messed up some of them were, just 65 years after Jesus' crucifixion, but history has told us time and again that the church goes through periods of revival and decline. Many of these churches were in the "decline" phase, while others were just exactly what they were supposed to be. Jesus' warnings to the declining churches still apply, although some of them are pretty cryptic.

Third, we know that the letters to the churches end suddenly, and the next thing we see is John being called up into heaven (in a vision? Don't know), where he witnesses all the events that follow the churches.

It seems like these are the natural divisions of the book, outlined for us in Revelation 1:19.

So the visions in chapter 1 are "What you've seen," the letters to the churches are 'The things which are," and when  John sees the door opened in heaven (4:1) and hears the voice calling him up, that's "The things which shall be after these things."

So the book goes:
1. The vision John saw (chapter 1)
2. The letters to the churches (chapters 2-3).
3. "The things which come after these things, starting at chapter 4, continuing till the end.

The most difficult question regarding the book of Revelation is, "WHEN do the events in Revelation 4 and following start, and how long do they last?" Related to that question is, "Are there breaks in the events?" "Can we identify any historical events that coincide with what happens in these chapters?" And finally, "Does Revelation itself give us any time-clues to help us understand when these things happen, and in what order, and how long do they take?"

More next time...

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