Every main part of Revelation begins in the temple in heaven.

PURPOSE OF THIS ARTICLE

TEMPLE BREAD

The purpose of this article is to show that each main part of the Book of Revelation has an introduction that emphasizes a specific part of the temple in heaven that is aligned to the theme of that part of Revelation. This article also discusses the theme of each of the five main parts of Revelation.

SUMMARY OF THIS ARTICLE

MAJOR PARTS OF REVELATION

The book of Revelation may be divided into the following major parts:

      • The seven letters (chapters 1 to 3);
      • The seven seals (4:1 to 8:1); 
      • The seven trumpets (chapters 8 to 11);
      • The seven wars (chapters 12 to 14); and
      • The seven plagues (chapters 15 to 19);

SEVEN LETTERS

The vision of Christ in 1:9-20 serves as an introduction to the seven letters. In this vision, Christ is seen walking between seven lampstands (1:13) which symbolize the seven churches (1:20). This vision introduces the theme of the seven letters, namely messages of correction and encouragement from Christ to His church.

An important aspect of all the introductory scenes to the main parts of Revelation is that they are visions of heaven. In particular, they are visions of the temple in heaven. For example, the lampstand with its seven lamps was in the ancient Jewish temple (Heb. 9:2). The vision of Jesus in 1:9-20, therefore, is a vision of the temple in heaven.

The churches are on earth, but through their lampstands, they are symbolized as if they are in heaven. In Revelation, God’s people are often represented as in heaven (e.g. 14:1-3; 15:2) while unbelievers are identified as “those who dwell on the earth” (e.g. 13:14).

SEVEN SEALS

The throne vision of Revelation chapters 4 and 5 functions as an introduction and provides the context for the seven seals. In Revelation 5, Jesus appears as a slain Lamb and receives a book that is sealed with seven seals. He then breaks the seals in Revelation 6:1 to 8:1, with dramatic consequences on earth and in heaven.  

Similar to the introduction to the letters, this is a scene from the temple in heaven, for it shows God’s throne (4:2), which is in His temple (7:15). But the main aspect of the temple, which is in view in this vision, is the slain Lamb:

And I saw … a Lamb standing, as if slain” (5:6).

Similar to the seven letters, the aspect of the temple on which this introduction focuses is aligned to the theme of this part of Revelation. Similar to the seven letters, the focus is on God’s people (5:9; 6:9; 7:3, 9). In the seven seals, the focus is specifically on the redemption of God’s people. For example, Jesus appears as a slain lamb and He is worthy to take the book and to break its seals; “for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every … nation” (5:9). 

SEVEN TRUMPETS

The vision of an angel serving at the golden altar, throwing fire on the earth (8:3-5), introduces the seven trumpets. This scene provides the context for the trumpets for, everywhere in the trumpets, fire falls out of heaven onto the earth. Two important examples are :

      • A strong angel comes down out of heaven with feet like pillars of fire, bringing a little opened book (10:1, 2), and
      • Fire flows out of the mouth of God’s two witnesses to devours their enemies (11:5).

In contrast to the seven letters and the seven seals, the focus in the trumpets is on non-believers (9:4, 20). For example, in the interruption between the sixth and seventh trumpets, God’s messages to them are symbolized by John having to “prophecy again” (10:11) and by the two witnesses (11:3). 

The angel puts “much incense” and the prayers of the saints on this altar because the trumpets symbolize God’s grace to a lost world in the form of warning messages.  The trumpets symbolize everything that God does to reconcile non-believers to Himself.

SEVEN WARS

The seventh and last trumpet is blown in 11:15. This is the end of the world as we know it. For example, loud voices in heaven say, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (11:15).

Revelation 12 begins a new main part, for it jumps back to the birth of Christ (12:2, 5) and introduces two new characters; a woman and a dragon. In Rev 13, the dragon is joined by a beast out of the sea (13:1) and by a beast from the earth (13:11). This trio is the major evil powers in the last 11 chapters of Revelation.

This new part does not begin with 12:1 but with the last verse of chapter 11 (11:19). This is indicated by the following:

      • Revelation 11:19, 12:1, and 12:3 present three successive scenes—the ark, the woman, and the dragon.  All three contain the phrase “appeared … in heaven.” These three verses, therefore, form a unit.
      • Each of the introductions to the previous main parts of Revelation contained images from the heavenly temple.  Revelation 11:19 also contains such an image, namely the “ark of His covenant.” This implies that it is also an introductory scene.
      • The “ark of His covenant” in the ancient temple contained the Ten Commandments. This connects 11:19 to Rev 12 to 14, for the wars in Rev 12 to 14 are about God’s commandments. For example, while God’s people are described as commandment-keepers (12:17; 14:12), the people of the world worship an image.
      • Revelation 11:18 is a fitting end to the trumpets because it is a summary in advance of the final events that are described more extensively in the remainder of Revelation:

SEVEN PLAGUES

The vision of the angels receiving the plagues from one of the four living beings (15:7) introduces the seven last plagues. This is also a temple scene for “the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple” (15:6).

CONCLUSION

All of these introductions are scenes from the temple in heaven. Each of them emphasizes a specific aspect of the temple that is aligned to the theme of that part of Revelation:

MAIN PART TEMPLE VIEW THEME
Letters
R1-3
Lampstand Christ’s care for His church – sends to them letters of warning and encouragement
Seals
R4-7
Slain Lamb How Jesus enables His people to stand before the throne of God.
Trumpets
R8-11
Golden altar, incense God’s grace – everything that God does to warn a lost world
Wars
R12-14
Ark of His covenant The end-time war about God’s commandments
Plagues
R15-
Tabernacle of testimony Seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished” (15:1).

 – END OF SUMMARY – 

MAJOR PARTS OF REVELATION

The book may be divided into the following major parts:

    • The seven letters (chapters 1 to 3);
    • The seven seals (4:1 to 8:1); 
    • The seven trumpets (chapters 8 to 11);
    • The seven wars (chapters 12 to 14);  These wars are not listed numerically, but ‘wars’ is a good description of this part of Revelation, and it is possible to divide this part into seven wars.
    • The seven plagues (chapters 15 to 19);
    • The Millennium (chapter 20); and
    • The New Heaven and New Earth (chapters 21 to 22).

THE SEVEN LETTERS

Revelation 1 provides an introduction to the entire Book of Revelation (1:1-8), followed by a vision of Christ that serves as an introduction to the seven letters (1:9-20). In this vision, Christ is seen walking between seven lampstands (1:13) which symbolize the seven churches (1:20). This vision of Christ provides the context for and introduces the theme of the letters, namely messages of correction and encouragement from Christ to His church. Most of the seven letters start with a reference to this vision.

An important aspect of the introductory scenes to the main parts of Revelation is that they all are visions of heaven. In particular, they are visions of the temple in heaven. In the ancient Jewish temple, the lampstand with its seven lamps was in the temple (Hebr. 9:2). The vision of Jesus in 1:9-20, therefore, is a vision of the temple in heaven. The aspect of the temple in heaven which appears in an introduction is aligned to the theme of that part of Revelation.

If the temple in heaven is a new concept to the reader, note that Revelation indicates explicitly that there is a temple in heaven (7:15; 11:19; 14:17; 15:5). Hebrews 8 and 9 confirm this.

THE LAMPSTANDS ARE IN HEAVEN

The seven lampstands are the seven churches” (1:20). Since the churches are on earth, this may imply that the lampstands are on earth. However, for the following reasons, the lampstand is in heaven:

      • If the temple in Revelation is in heaven, and if the lampstands are in the temple, then the lampstands must also be in heaven.
      • According to 2:5, each church HAS a lampstand.  Each lampstand, therefore, is a SYMBOL of a church.  The churches are on earth, but through their lampstands, they are symbolized as if they are in heaven. In Revelation, God’s people are often represented as in heaven (e.g. 14:1-3; 15:2) while unbelievers are identified as “those who dwell on the earth” (e.g. 13:14).
      • We should not think of a literal temple in heaven. The temple was the place to which the Israelites in ancient times went to have their sins forgiven. As stated by Hebrews 8:5, the ancient Jewish temple was a copy. That temple was a physical representation of the mechanisms through which God solves the sin problem. Revelation refers to a temple in heaven because we are familiar with the temple on earth, but it is a symbolic temple. The temple in heaven, therefore, includes the earth. For example, the sacrifice for the temple in heaven was made on earth (Hebr. 9:23) and the war in heaven was won by Christ’s victory on earth (Rev. 12:11). In Revelation, heaven and earth are very close together.
      • Lastly, it will be shown that all the other main parts of Revelation begin in the temple in heaven.

CONCLUSION

The theme of the letters is messages of encouragement from God to His church. If they overcome the world, He promises them to sit with Him on His Father’s throne (3:21). 

THE SEVEN SEALS

The throne vision of Revelation chapters 4 and 5 functions as an introduction and provides the context for the seven seals. In Revelation 5, Jesus appears as a slain Lamb and receives a book that is sealed with seven seals. He then breaks the seals in Revelation 6:1 to 8:1, with traumatic consequences on earth and in heaven.  

TEMPLE IN HEAVEN

Similar to the introduction to the letters, this is a scene from the temple in heaven, for it shows God’s throne (4:2), which is in His temple (7:15). But the main aspect of the temple, which is in view in this vision, is the slain Lamb:

And I saw … a Lamb standing, as if slain” (5:6).

FOCUS ON GOD’S PEOPLE

Similar to the seven letters, the aspect of the temple on which this introduction focuses is aligned to the theme of this part of Revelation. Similar to the seven letters, the focus is on God’s people (5:9; 6:9; 7:3, 9). This focus is illustrated by the question from the lost multitudes: 

The great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Rev 6:17)

Non-believers are not explicitly mentioned in the seals, except when they hide, like Adam, from the One sitting on the throne, “for the great day of their wrath has come” (6:15-17). 

REDEMPTION FOCUS

But the focus here is specifically the redemption of God’s people, as indicated, for example, by the following:

      • Jesus appears as a slain lamb. They sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every … nation” (5:9). 
      • The seals begin when Jesus receives the sealed book at the throne (5:1) and end with all His people gathered around the throne of God (7:9). “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14).

The blood of Christ, therefore, allows people to stand before the throne of God, and the symbol of the slain Lamb introduces that theme. 

THE SEVEN TRUMPETS

FIRE THROWN ON THE EARTH

The vision of an angel serving at the golden altar, throwing fire on the earth (8:3-5), introduces the seven trumpets. This scene provides the context for the trumpets for the reader will notice that, everywhere in the trumpets, fire falls out of heaven onto the earth:

      • First trumpet: Fire is thrown to the earth.
        Much of the earth is burned up (8:7).
      • Second: A burning mountain is thrown into the sea (8:8-9).
      • Third: A great burning star fell from heaven (8:10, 11).
      • Fifth: A star falls to the earth, and the sun and the air were darkened by smoke (9:1-3).
      • Sixth: Fire and smoke and brimstone from the mouths of horses kill a third of mankind (9:17, 18).
      • In the interruption between the sixth and seventh trumpets:
        • A strong angel comes down out of heaven with feet like pillars of fire, bringing a little opened book (10:1, 2), and
        • Fire flows out of the mouth of God’s two witnesses to devours their enemies (11:5).

The point is that the fire which the angel throws to earth in 8:5 results in the fire that we see everywhere in the trumpets, which means that 8:2-5 provides context to the trumpets.

FOCUS ON UN-BELIEVERS

In contrast to the seven letters and the seven seals, the focus in the trumpets is on non-believers (9:4, 20). In the interruption between the sixth and seventh trumpets, God’s messages to them are symbolized by:

        • John had to “prophecy again” (10:11) and by
        • The two witnesses (11:3). 

At the end of the sixth trumpet, the focus is again on the non-believers, but now they worship God because they fear Him (11:13), not because they love Him.  This is equivalent to the non-believers hiding from God at the end of the sixth seal (6:15-17).

WARNINGS TO A LOST WORLD

As with the introduction to the letters and the seals, the vision in 8:2-5 is of the temple in heaven, specifically, of the golden altar. This introduces the theme of the trumpets:

In the ancient Jewish system, individual sinners brought their sacrifices to the altar of burnt offerings outside the temple, but sacrifices for the collective sins of the people were made at the golden altar inside the temple. 

The angel puts “much incense” (the benefits of the sacrifice on the cross) and the prayers of the saints on this altar because the trumpets symbolize God’s grace to a lost world in the form of messages of warning.  The trumpets represent everything God does to reconcile non-believers to Himself.

OTHER CONNECTIONS TO THE SEALS

Apart from the fact that all main parts begin in the temple in heaven, the following are further connections between the introductory scenes of the seals and the trumpets:

      • Lightning, voices, and thunders are seen in both (4:5; 8:5).
      • Both connect “incense” to the “prayers of the saints.” In the seals, the incense is defined as the prayers of the saints (5:8). In contrast, in the trumpets, incense is offered on the altar “with” the prayers of the saints (8:3-4).  In Revelation, only these two verses mention the “prayers of the saints.

THE SEVEN WARS

Revelation 12 may be divided into seven wars as follows:

      1. His tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth” (12:4). This possibly refers to the war in heaven before the world was created, when Lucifer deceived many angels to follow him.
      2. The dragon stood before the woman” (12:4) is the war between Satan and God’s people in the time before the birth of Christ.
      3. The dragon attempted to devour the Child but failed (12:4-5).
      4. There was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war” (12:7). This war follows after Christ’s ascension to heaven.
      5. The 1260 days or “time and times and half a time” (12:6, 14) refers to the persecution by the Church of the Middle Ages (See The beast).
      6. The Earth defends the woman against the dragon, forcing the dragon to go away (12:16-17). This is equivalent to the “fatal wound” (13:3) and the sixth head, when the beast “is not” (17:8-10) (See The seven heads of the beast)
      7. The dragon’s end-time war on the woman’s other children (12:17). Rev 13 describes the dragon’s attack and Rev 14 outlines the response of God’s people.

THE SEVENTH TRUMPET IS THE END OF THE WORLD.

The first trumpet is blown in Rev 8:7.  Each trumpet is clearly numbered. The last trumpet is blown in Rev 11:15. The following indicates that this is the end of the world as we know it:

      • Loud voices in heaven say, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ” (11:15).
      • The twenty-four elders say, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign” (11:16, 17).
      • Elsewhere, Revelation identifies God as Him “who is and who was and who is to come” (e.g. 1:4). But Rev 11:17 omits the “who is to come”-part because He has already come.

REVELATION 12 BEGINS A NEW MAIN PART.

For the following reasons, a new main part of Revelation begins with Revelation 12:

      • While the seventh trumpet brings an end to the current world history, Rev 12 jumps back to the time when the Son of God became a human being (12:2, 5).
      • Rev 12 introduces two new characters; a woman and a dragon. In Rev 13, the dragon calls a beast out of the sea (13:1) and another one out of the earth (13:11). The latter beast deceives the inhabitants of the world to make an image of the beast (13:14). The dragon and its two helpers belong together and are the major evil powers in the last 11 chapters of Revelation. These new characters imply the beginning of a new major part of Revelation.

REVELATION 11:19 INTRODUCES THE WARS.

Then the question is, where exactly does this new part begin? More specifically, where does 11:19 fit?  Is it the end of the trumpets, or the introduction of the wars in chapters 12 to 14, or both? This verse reads:

The temple of God which is in heaven was opened;
and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple,
and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm
”. 

For the following reasons, it is proposed that 11:19 is the introduction of the wars of chapters 12 to 14:

APPEARED IN HEAVEN

Revelation 11:19, 12:1, and 12:3 present three successive scenes—the ark, the woman, and the dragon.  The phrase “appeared” occurs just three times in Revelation: namely in these three verses.  Furthermore, the phrase “in heaven” is found in each of these scenes.  These three verses, therefore, form a unit.

IN HIS TEMPLE

Each of the introductions to the seven letters, the seven seals, and the seven trumpets contains images from the heavenly temple.  Since Revelation 11:19 also contains an image from the heavenly temple, namely the “ark of His covenant” (cf. Heb. 9:4), this is also an introductory scene.

COMMANDMENTS OF GOD

The “ark of His covenant” was in the innermost part of the ancient temple and contained the Ten Commandments. This connects 11:19 to Rev 12 to 14, for the wars in Rev 12 to 14 are against God’s commandments:

      • God’s people are described as commandment-keepers (12:17; 14:12).
      • The people disobey the commandments on the first table, for they:
        • Worship the dragon and the beast (13:4),
        • Blaspheme God (13:6) and
        • Erect and worship an image (13:14, 15).
      • The plagues come from the “tabernacle of testimony” (15:5), which is Old Testament language for the temple of the Ten Commandments (Ex 25:16).

LIGHTNING, VOICES, AND THUNDER

Another indication that 11:19 is an introduction is that the lightning, voices, and thunders, which we find in 11:19, also appear in the introductions to the seals (4:5) and to the trumpets (8:5).

Actually, each time that lightning, voices, and thunders are enumerated, additional elements are added:

      • These three elements are found in Rev 4:5. 
      • The introduction to the trumpets adds earthquakes (8:5). 
      • Revelation 11:19 adds both earthquakes and great hail.  

The same five elements are found in 16:18-21; the seventh plague.

REVELATION 11:18 IS A FITTING END

Revelation 11:18 is a fitting end to the trumpets because it summarizes the final events that are described more extensively in the remainder of Revelation:

Revelation 11:18 LAST 11 CHAPTERS
The nations were enraged The wars in Rev 12 to 14
Your wrath came The plagues in Rev 15 to 19
The time came for the dead to be judged … The judgment before the great white throne in Rev 20
To reward … the saints … The new heaven and new earth in chapters 21 and 22
To destroy those who destroy the earth The lake of fire and the second death (20:14-15; 21:8)

THE SEVEN PLAGUES

The vision of the angels receiving the plagues from one of the four living beings (15:7) introduces the seven last plagues. This is also a temple scene for “the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple” (15:6). The temple here is called the “tabernacle of testimony” (15:5) which emphasizes the “testimony;” a name for the Ten Commandments (Ex 25:16).

CONCLUSION

These introductions always are scenes from the temple in heaven and that the emphasized aspect of the temple is aligned to the theme of that part of Revelation:

Letters Lampstand Christ cares for His church – sends them letters of warning and encouragement
Seals Slain Lamb Redemption of God’s people
Trumpets Golden altar, incense God’s grace; messages of warning to a lost world
Wars ark of His covenant Wars about God’s law
Plagues tabernacle of testimony Judgments for

FINAL CONCLUSIONS

  • Revelation may be divided into five main parts.
  • Each main part of the Book of Revelation has an introduction.
  • Each of the introductions emphasizes a part of the temple in heaven that is aligned to the theme of that part of Revelation.
  • The themes of these main parts are as follows:
    • Seven Letters – Christ’s care for His church – Letters of warning and encouragement
    • Seven seals – Redemption – How Jesus enables His people to stand before the throne of God.
    • Seven Trumpets– Focus on unbelievers – Everything that God does to warn a lost world
    • Seven Wars – The end-time war about God’s commandments
    • Seven Plagues – In them, the wrath of God is finished.

AVAILABLE ARTICLES ON REVELATION

INTRODUCTORY
   Why is the title of this website Revelation BY Jesus Christ?
   Every main part of Revelation begins in the temple in heaven
   Are events described in chronological sequence? 
   Is a consistently literal interpretation appropriate?
   Does Revelation present Jesus as God?
   God’s throne – the center of the universe.
SEVEN SEALS
   Introduction to the Seven Seals – What book is this?
   Revelation 4:1-8 – Verse-by-verse
   Revelation 4:8-11 – Worship in God’s presence
   The 24 elders are human beings that rule under God.
   Revelation 5 is Christ’s enthronement after His ascension.
   The Sixth Seal concludes with Christ’s Return.
   Does the seventh seal include the seven trumpets?
   Seven seals explained
BABYLON
   Babylon; the mother of harlots – main article
   Babylon’s merchants are her false prophets.
   Babylon is not the reconstructed ancient city of Babylon.
   Babylon is the driving force behind the beast.
SEVEN-HEADED BEASTS
   The Seven-Headed Beasts of Revelation identified
   The three beasts are three of the seven heads.
   The Seven Heads identified
REVELATION 13
   13:1-2 – The Beast relates to Daniel 7.
   13:3-4 – The fatal wound
   The beast of Revelation is the Mainstream Church of Christendom.
SEVEN PLAGUES
   The Plagues of Revelation – 16 articles

For further reading, Jon Paulien’s commentary is recommended. For general discussions of theology, I recommend Graham Maxwell, who you will find on the Pineknoll website.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.