Does the Book of Revelation describe events in chronological sequence?

SUMMARY

Some believe that the Book of Revelation, from its beginning to its end, describes events in a strict chronological sequence. This article shows that Revelation repeats the same event in different parts of the book. A good example is the return of Christ. Revelation describes His return at the end of four of the main divisions (chapters 6, 11, 14, and 19). For example, Jesus “treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God” in both Revelation 14:20 and 19:15. The following are other examples of repetitions:

    • The great earthquake moves every mountain and island out of their places (Rev 6:14; 11:13 and 16:20);
    • The jubilation of “the great multitude” (Rev 7:9; 19:10);
    • The New Heaven and New Earth (Rev 7:15-17; 21:3-4);
    • The whole world worships the beast (Rev 13:4, 12);
    • The beast comes out of the abyss (Rev 11:7; 17:8);
    • The “time, times and half a time,” which is the same as the 42 months and the 1260 days (Rev 11:2-3; 12:6; 12:14; 13:5);
    • The destruction of Babylon (Rev 16:19; 17:16; 18:21); and
    • The announcement that “Babylon is fallen” (Rev 14:8; 18:2).

REASONS FOR REPETITION

There are at least two reasons for this repetition:

Firstly, the Book of Revelation frequently interrupts the sequential flow of events and JUMPS BACK IN TIME to explain the events that led up to that point in time; often in a less symbolic and, therefore, an easier-to-understand manner. This happens, for example, at the beginning of Revelation 7, 10, 12, and 17. 

Secondly, different main parts of Revelation cover the church age; each of them explaining something different about that period. For example, the following main parts of Revelation describe the church age:

        • The seven seals (Rev 4-7) describe the experience of God’s people.
        • The seven trumpets (Rev 8-11) explain how God calls the unbelieving world to repentance, but it refuses.
        • Based on Daniel 7, the seven wars (Rev 12-14) identify the organizations involved in the final battle.

CONCLUSION

The events in Revelation, therefore, are not given in a strict chronological sequence from beginning to end. The big challenge with interpreting Revelation, therefore, is not only to determine what these symbols mean but also their true chronological sequence.

– END OF SUMMARY – 


EXAMPLES OF REPETITION

The following are examples where Revelation refers to the same event in different places:

RETURN OF CHRIST

Armies of Heaven
Return of Christ

The end of current world history is described at the end of four of the main sections of the Book of Revelation:

Seals (Revelation 4-7) – The sixth seal begins with the signs of Christ’s return (Rev 6:12-14) and is the “day of their great wrath” (Rev 6:17). See – The sixth seal.

Trumpets (Revelation 8-11) – In the seventh trumpet, “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11:15; cf. Rev 10:7).

Wars (Revelation 12-14) – The harvest by the Son of man sitting on a cloud is described in Revelation 14:14-20.

Plagues (Revelation 15-20) – The Return of Christ is described in Revelation 19:11-21. 

Since the final events are described in four different places, the same symbols are repeated in these four accounts:

Two accounts of Christ’s return use the winepress of the wrath of God as a symbol for the destruction of the peoples of the world (Rev 14:20; 19:15).

The sixth seal is the “great day of their wrath” (Rev 6:17), but the seven plagues are “the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished” (Rev 15:1). The implication is that the “great day of their wrath” includes the seven last plagues. See – The sixth seal is the seven last plagues.

The great earthquake, which moves every mountain and island out of their places, is found in three places:
– The sixth seal (Rev 6:14),
– Just before the seventh trumpet (Rev 11:13), and
– In the seventh plague (Rev 16:20).

The “great multitude” (Rev 7:9), who “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev 7:14) are again heard in Revelation 19:1, where they cry out with a loud voice. 

We encounter the New Heaven and New Earth in both Revelation 7 and 21 (compare Rev 7:15-17 to Rev 21:3-4). If Revelation consisted only of chapters 1 to 7, we would not have noticed anything missing because Revelation 6 ends with the Return of Christ while Revelation 7 describes the New Heaven and New Earth.

The phrase, “it is done” appears both in the description of the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21:6) and in the seventh plague (Rev 16:17).

THE BEAST

Ten horns of the beastAfter the beast from the sea has recovered from its deadly wound, the whole world worships it (Rev 13:3. The worship[ of the beast is repeated in the description of the beast from the earth: This beast “causes them that dwell on the earth” to worship the beast (Rev 13:12).

Both the trumpets and the plagues describe what happens when the beast comes out of the abyss (Rev 11:7; 17:8)

TIME, TIMES, AND HALF A TIME

The “time, times and half a time,” the 42 months, and the 1260 days are different symbols of the same period of history (3½ x 12 = 42; 42 x 30 = 1260) but are mentioned in five different verses; twice in the trumpets (Rev 11:2-3) and three times in the seven wars (Rev 12:6; 12:14; 13:5).

BABYLON

The destruction of Babylon is described in different places in the Book of Revelation:

Firstly, in the seventh plague, Babylon is given “the cup of the wine of His (God’s) fierce wrath” (Rev 16:19). 

Secondly, when one of the plague angels (Rev 17:1) tells John the story of Babylon, he says that the ten horns will “hate the harlot and will make her desolate and naked, and will eat her flesh and will burn her up with fire” (Rev 17:16). 

Thirdly, in Revelation 18:21, a strong angel prophesies that Babylon will be “thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer.

Furthermore, both the three angels of Revelation 14 and the mighty angel of Revelation 18 announce that “Babylon is fallen” (Rev 14:8; 18:2). This statement means that it has become corrupted (see Rev 18:2).

ARMAGEDDON

The battle of Armageddon starts in Revelation 16 with the gathering of the kings “for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty” (Rev 16:14). “And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon” (Rev 16:16). Chapters 17 and 18 interrupt the chronological events to explain the Great Whore. Revelation 19 picks up the story of the battle of Armageddon when John “saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army” (Rev 19:19).

JUMPS BACK IN TIME

The above are examples where the Book of Revelation refers to the same event in more than one place. One reason for this is that Revelation, at times, jumps back in time to explain the events that led up to that point in time. For example:

REVELATION 7

Revelation 6 ends with “the great day of their wrath” (Rev 6:17) when the mountains and islands disappear due to a massive earthquake (Rev 6:12-14). But then Revelation 7 continues with an angel ascending from the east with the seal of God, instructing four angels to hold back the four winds until all of God’s servants are sealed (Rev 7:1-3). Obviously, the sealing of God’s servants must precede the catastrophes of the sixth seal.

REVELATION 10

In the sixth trumpet (chapter 9), a third of mankind is killed (Rev 9:18). Revelation 10 begins with an angel that comes down out of heaven with a new message, contained in a little open book (Rev 10:1-2). John is instructed to eat this book and “prophesy again concerning many peoples and nations and tongues and kings” (Rev 10:11). Logically, John, representing the church, receives the message for the world before a third of them are killed.

REVELATION 12

Revelation 11 ends with the seventh trumpet when “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (Rev 11:15). Revelation 12 then jumps back to the time before the birth of Christ (Rev 12:1-5). (Compare the “rod of iron” of Rev 12:5 to Rev 19:15 to identify the Child as Jesus.)

Another such example is Revelation 17.

CONCLUSION

The events in Revelation are not given in a strict chronological sequence. For two reasons, Revelation repeats the same event in different parts of the book:

      • Interruptions of the sequential flow of events jump back in time to explain past history. 
      • Different main parts of Revelation cover the same period from the time of Christ to His return. See – Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?

OTHER ARTICLES

6 Replies to “Does the Book of Revelation describe events in chronological sequence?”

  1. I want to know the seven wars in revelation, can you give me the listing and references

    1. Six of the seven wars are listed in Revelation 12. The only one not mentioned there is the last war, namely the return of Christ (14:14-20). The easy wars to identify are:
      1. The war between the woman and dragon before the birth of the male Child (12:1-4);
      2. The war between the male Child and the dragon (12:5) and
      3. The war in heaven between Michael and Satan (12:7-12).
      The other three wars are a bit more difficult to see, and are described by 12:13-17.
      1. First, before the woman flees to her place in the wilderness, and prior to the 1260 days, she is persecuted by the dragon (12:13). Because of the persecution she has to flee to the wilderness. In verse 13 she is therefore not yet in the wilderness.
      2. Second follows the 1260 wilderness days (12:6, 14-16), with the serpent trying to sweep her away with a flood. This is a different place, a different time and Satan is now called a serpent.
      3. Third the dragon “went off to make war with the rest of her children” (12:17). Since the dragon has to “went off“, this again is a different place, and God’s people are described differently. Most of Revelation 13 and 14 expands on this war.
      Hope that helps.

  2. Found your article very interesting about the chronology of Revelation. I have problems understanding the order in which things will occur during the end-times (trib. period). In reading your article, I found the same things you mentioned confusing as to time-lines. You seem to have a handle on this.
    would it be possible for you provide a “list” of the order in which things will happen. i.e. church age, rapture, seals opened, 144,000 on scene, lst trumpets, war in heaven, etc.
    Thanks so much. Stay blessed.

    1. Yes Loretta, I think it is possible to develop a chronological list of the final events by putting the parallel prophecies side by side, but first I want to finalize my articles on the other chapters of Revelation. I have been working on Daniel & Revelation for many decades and I think I have an idea what it means, but for the last number of years I have been working on Paul’s letters. There are some principles in his writings that are critical for a proper appreciation of Revelation. I am now working my slow way through Romans, publishing as I go. I have also prepares an article on Galatians, which I also might publish, before I return to Revelation. I thank the Lord for people that are interested in His Word. Andries

  3. Go to YouTube and watch the video, “Genesis of Dispensational Theology” to find the true source of the dispensational interpretation of Dan. 9:27.
    Feel free to copy the video or use whatever parts are needed to speak the truth in love.

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