The Revelation Outline Given By Jesus Christ
The Book of Revelation (or more correctly, The Revelation of Jesus Christ) is the most complete prophecy of end-time events that God has ever revealed to man about His purposes and intentions surrounding this planet's last days and history.
It all began Sunday morning, 95 AD, somewhere on the small island in the Aegean Sea called Patmos. The Apostle John—having been banished to Patmos by Rome for his testimony of Jesus Christ—was in some remote corner of that island worshiping God.
Then, as he knelt in prayer, he was approached by Jesus Christ and subsequently instructed to meticulously record all that he heard and saw from that encounter forward.
In this article we'll consider those instructions to show how Jesus virtually outlines this prophetic book. Let's set the scene.
John, the one-time fisherman called to become an apostle by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry (Matthew 4:21), was by this time in his nineties. Moreover, he was imprisoned far from the activities of the early Church. So, by all appearances, though certainly not a likely candidate, he was the man chosen by God to witness, record, and then afterward to distribute and present the prophetic vision contained in the Revelation to the Church (1:1).
It was while he was engaged in deep and meditative prayer that Jesus appeared to him. "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day", John says, "and I heard behind me a loud voice, as a trumpet" (1:10).
When he turned to see the voice that spoke with him, he beheld Jesus Christ. But not as the Man he knew sixty-five years earlier, but rather in a supernatural state with such glorious and majestic features that it overwhelmed John and he instantly was overcome. "I fell at His feet as dead" (1:17).
"But He laid His hand upon me, saying to me, 'Do not be afraid' ", John adds. And this touch, when accompanied with our Lord's claim to titles attributable only to Him, surely convinced the apostle that this was indeed Jesus and his nerves quieted (1:17-18).
What follows next is the focus of our article.
Jesus said to John, "Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after this" (v. 19).
Okay, let's break it down.
First, recognize the fact that Jesus doesn't instruct John merely to write (as in a singular command), but instead issues three separate commands for John to write. Secondly (and more importantly), notice that each of the commands reflect a specific "tense" associated with the past, present, and future. Whats more, that each command is given to express that tense in that specific order.
- "the things which you have seen" (past tense)
- "the things which are" (present tense)
- "the things which will take place after this" (future tense)
In other words, it's clear that Jesus purposely intended to divide the Revelation into three separate parts: past, present, future. And that's exactly how John organized it when he wrote it. Three separate sections that follow the sequence of commands given to him by Jesus precisely.
Chapter 1 (past tense, "have seen")
The phrase “the things which you have seen” is clearly in the past tense. This concerns that which John had already witnessed on Patmos. Namely, the risen and glorified Son of God. Thus he presents this encounter first.
Chapters 2-3 (present tense, "which are")
The phrase “the things which are” is in the present tense. This concerns that which existed during the time of John, which is the Church. Thus he presents our Lord's letters to the Church second.
Chapters 4-22 (future tense, "after this")
The phrase “the things which will take place after this” is in the future tense. This concerns the events shown to John "after" the Church, whereby he is taken in the “Spirit” to heaven and subsequently shown the future. Thus he presents all that he beheld from heaven third.
Okay, but why is it important for us to understand this outline in the sequence given? Because Jesus wants the Church to acknowledge the prophecy according to its three parts.
Chapter one. To know that Jesus Christ "the Almighty" (1:8) is the One who revealed the Revelation and therefore we must believe wholeheartedly that every word is absolutely "faithful and true".
Chapters two and three. To know that the message addressed to the churches in John's time applies still to the churches in our time. That the age of the church continues to be "present tense" and therefore remains subject to our Lord's exhortation, comfort and rebuke.
Chapter four and beyond. To know that the future events ushered in by the tribulation follow "after" the Church. When it is no longer the primary subject, the Church will be removed from this planet and then God will turn His full attention on this world's judgment, the reconciliation and restoration of Israel, and His Coming Kingdom.
About the Author
James Kobzeff is an evangelical born-again Christian who has long had a passion for the Church to know the Revelation. Although he has taught the Book many times over the past thirty years, he regards his study of the prophecy to be a continual work-in-process.
You can read his commentary on his blog at Learn the Revelation