Structure of the Book of Revelation Chapters 6 through 11: 7 seals, 7 Trumpets, 3 Woes, glorious depictions of Heaven and blessings of God

BY PGF
3 months, 1 week ago

This is a sketch of the structure of the Book of Revelation Chapters 6 through 11: 7 seals, 7 Trumpets, 3 Woes, glorious depictions of Heaven, and blessings of God.

This post is in no way meant to be a complete study. It’s a draft outline with some points of interest to prime our understanding of the middle portion of the book of Revelation.

“1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” – Revelation 1:1-3

For all of its horrifying imagery and vivid depictions of evil people, strange symbols, and descriptions of the works of corruption at the hand of the devil, it’s not a book about any of that; it’s (verse 1, the very first phrase) the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

A considerable measure of many people’s difficulty in understanding the book of Revelation resides in not seeing the book’s structure or type of outline. Seeing the seven seals, trumpets, woes, and blessings within the design of God’s inspired writing help us delineate narrative shifts, including stopping and starting points within the text.

Woefully overlooked are our Lord’s triumphant interludes showing the beauty of Heaven and God’s mercy, grace, power, and love for His people; these are rarely discussed. Lest the believer’s heart begins to faint, blessings are knitted among the wrath-filled destructive events in the book. The visions given to John show the glory of God’s power and plan for the believer. Why believers love to discuss satan and the catastrophic events instead of Jesus and His glorious appearing in dominion and total victory while showering blessings upon His faithful sainted joint heirs is troubling. We suppose; “if it bleeds, it leads.” is human nature, even in God’s word.

A note about angels in Revelation: some are God’s angels created before the earth and Adam. Some are messengers of God, that are men. For context, you must know which type of angel speaks or acts upon God’s instructions. The angels of the seven churches in chapters 2 and 3 we recon to be messengers of the Gospel of Christ. They are the Pastors who were the primary teachers of God’s people, also preaching the word in those seven literal first-century Churches before the destruction of Jerusalem. And we consider the four in Chapter 7 and verse 1 to be angelic beings, not men. Those are two examples.

And note that the scene location often shifts through the fantastic action in chapters 6 through 19. One moment we’re in Heaven worshiping the Lamb as He defeats satan and His human foes, then we’re whisked away to earth to view what becomes of the decrees John has heard and seen in the throne room; this, too, can confuse. Remember, context is king; where and to whom events occur is essential to track as you read.

The seals, trumpets, and woes are declared in Heaven and carried out on earth, yet some scenes that bring glory to God are solely in Heaven, such as Chapter 7:9-17 and the angel with the golden censure (8:3-5), and see 10:1-7. Also, some things that happen only on earth are amazing and glorify God in the highest such as Chapter 11:3-13, the two resurrected witnesses. Who among us doesn’t long to hear; come up hither!?!

So much of the book of Revelation is appropriated language and imagery from the Old Testament that this also can obscure meanings confusing the modern western reader. Many definitions of symbols are found in their Old Testament root and not explained in Revelation.

The sequence of events in Revelation may be somewhat linear, but there is much overlap with things happening simultaneously and multiple depictions of the wrath of God.

We will provide a partial outline of the book and show some helpful divisions within the incredible activity that John sees and hears.

The seven seals are thus laid out: the first four seals are chapter six’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Seals five and six also appear in Revelation chapter six.

Seal one, the white horse, 6:1-2.

Seal two, the red horse, 6:3-4.

Seal three, the black horse, 6:5-6.

Seal four, the pale (light greenish) horse, 6:7-8.

The fifth seal is the scene of the martyrs under the altar; 6:9-11.

And the sixth seal, 6:12-17, is full of striking imagery and parabolic statements typical of a biblical apocalypse when God is making cataclysmic changes in world history. However, it’s not only parabolic; there may be some correlation to events that occurred during the destruction of Jerusalem. Read the sixth seal with Matthew 24:29-31; the lead-in to the gathering of the elect in Chapter 7 and the seven trumpets sounding beginning in chapter 8 is no coincidence. Do you see these things? Before Revelation can be grasped, Matthew 24 must be understood in its proper context.

So far, that’s not too complicated. But in chapter eight, things change, but first, a note on chapter seven.

Chapter seven is the sealing of the saints of God, the true and faithful Israel of God, and martyrs in glory before the throne of the Almighty. This, most recon, is ongoing. A very narrow reading of this chapter could conclude that this happened in the first century alone and doesn’t depict the continuous “church age.” Further, some consider, and with careful examination, they may be correct, that the martyrs under the altar in the fifth seal (6:9-11) are shown freed in chapter 7 and standing before the throne along with all believers throughout the millennial reign since 70AD and ongoing. If you’re looking for too tight a literal depiction of chapter 7, you miss the point; God’s people from all ages are before the throne in worship, praising our Holy Creator who saved us by the blood of the Lamb. Chapter seven has been ongoing since the first century. We don’t consider this, as some do, to be a break in the action; it’s merely the place God chose to show us these things, and we think fittingly so; the martyrs under the alter (6:9) are vindicated, their “little season” (6:11) of waiting, ends after the sixth seal, 6:12-17. Though an ongoing revelation today, chapter seven is fittingly placed between the end of the sixth seal and before the seventh.

—————–

Chapter eight starts the seventh seal as the angels with the seven trumpets are prepared, chapters 8 through 11.

All of Heaven is stunned at the Revelation of the seventh seal and what must occur shortly. The text provides the best description:

“1 And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. 2 And I saw the seven angels which stood before God; and to them were given seven trumpets.” – Revelation 8:1-2

The seventh seal has the most activity, being broken into multiple sub-parts. Chapters 8 through 11 are written in such a fashion to show the increasing severity and sheer amount of devastation wrought upon the people of the land under the wrath of God.

Within the seventh seal are seven trumpets and three woes. The seventh seal is opened, and seven trumpets announce the subsequent seven destructive events. In the last three trumpets, three terrible woes are added. The depth of destruction under the wrath of the Almighty grows ever more perilous to those under His determinations.

In 8:1-2 the seal is opened, and seven angels stand forth to receive the announcement trumpets. And yet, in verse 3, while the seven trumpeters are simultaneously preparing (verse 6), another angel comes with the golden censure of incense. In all that happens, the prayers of the saints are not forgotten, and praise His holy name; they are answered. Don’t miss God’s blessings and glorious works for His people in the book.

In chapter 8:3-5 an angel has the golden censer offered alongside the saint’s prayers, ascending up before God arrayed in His glory. This, too, depicts the saints crying out for mercy and need of Holy God, a sweet-smelling savor before the throne. As His true and faithful are persecuted on earth, God hears our prayers and answers them; vengeance is the Lord’s, and His innocent will not suffer in vain; there is a just settlement. God is the God of the just balance; all will be answered (Proverbs 16:11).

The seven trumpets are all part of the seventh seal. Chapter 8:7 is the first trumpet of the seventh seal. 8:8-9 is the second trumpet. 8:10-11 is the third trumpet, and 8:12-13 is the fourth trumpet. Verse 8:13 announces the three woes. Chapter 9:1-12 is the fifth trumpet, and 9:13-11:14 is the sixth trumpet. 11:15-19 is the seventh trumpet.

In Revelation 8:13, three woes are declared. Verse 8:13 is the key to understanding the three woes. Within the seventh and last seal, each of the last three trumpets, 5, 6, and 7, are woe 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Woe one ends concurrently with the 5th trumpet in 9:12. Woe two begins immediately and ends concurrently with the sixth trumpet in 11:14. Woe three starts with the very next verse, 11:15, which is the declaration of the seventh trumpet; the 3rd woe is congruent to and part of the seventh trumpet through chapter 11. We suppose that the seventh seal, seventh trumpet, and third woe conclude at the end of chapter 11.

Here’s the breakdown of the seventh seal:

8:1 seventh seal is opened

8:2, 6 the seven trumpets announced/prepared

8:7 seventh seal, first trumpet

8:8-9 seventh seal, second trumpet

8:10-11 seventh seal, third trumpet

8:12 seventh seal, the fourth trumpet

8:13, three woes are announced (added)

9:1-12 seventh seal, fifth trumpet, first woe

9:13-11:14 seventh seal, sixth trumpet, the second woe

11:15-19 seventh seal, seventh trumpet, the third woe

So we see the increasingly destructive force unleashed by God upon the land as the seventh seal unfolds.

Note: Chapters 10 and 11 have some interludes with scenes inserted into the midst of the revelation of the seventh seal. One example is 10:8-11; John eats the scroll of the (rest of the) prophesy, sweet to his taste but bitter to his belly. What better sum of Revelation than sweet in the mouth as the Lamb triumphs but painful to swallow for the destruction unleashed against the disobedient, our fellow man? If they would only believe and be saved!

We suppose chapters 12 through 14 to be parabolic and, at times, hyperbolic visions of the birth of the Church and the fall of spiritual Babylon, which is Jerusalem. Further details are illustrated about the triumphs of the Lamb over His enemies and the vindication of the saints. We take most of chapters 12 through 14 roughly sketched as: the Church birthed and growing, the Gospel preached, and the devil is wreaking havoc on the Church. But the Lamb, by His angels, reaps a stunning harvest of the wicked, in His wrath bringing victory and glory to Himself and setting the Church in motion to conquer the world (Matthew 28:18-20).

Chapter 15 starts the seven angels with the vials of the last plagues of God’s further wrath upon the earth as the vials are poured out in Chapter 16. But most of 15 is a remarkable picture of the song; all the nations shall come to worship to the Lamb.

No symbolic repetitions in apocalyptic literature are precisely aligned. We don’t necessarily see the seven vials as a different judgment but as additional information, from another point of view, about the same seven (perfect/complete) penalties in the seals, particularly the seventh seal. This is very typical of apocalyptic literature in the Bible. Remember, much of the imagery is representative of the catastrophic events on earth, which are quite real.

We need to explain this by examples. The creation account is instructive to show our point. Different aspects of the same events are further built upon in the narrative God lays out for us. In Genesis 1:27, God makes the man; in Genesis 2:7, God shows us more details about how He did that. Keep in mind that Genesis is also an apocalypse; God delivered it to Moses, who was not present at creation, making it a revelation of God. The flood account is also instructive; we see in Genesis 8:3-4 that the flood ended and the ark came to rest on dry ground. But the following verses, 6 and 7, indicate that a raven was sent forth until the waters were dried up. Then Noah sent the dove to see if the waters had abated (verse 8), yet in verse 3, we were already told they had. Yet in verse 11, after the dove comes with an olive branch, Noah knew the waters were abated. We have two separated but interwoven accounts building upon our knowledge of the same drying of the earth prior to Noah and his company disembarking the ark.

So, we may carefully examine the seven seals and the seven vials with our minds trained to read the apocalyptic literature of God and consider that these occasions are the same occurrences from another angle and with amplifying information. These magnificent events help us admire the Almighty and the book’s structure.

Note about the Two Witnesses, verses 11:3-12. With the two witnesses, we don’t get carried away with wild speculation about who they are (11:4). If God wanted us to know, He would have told us. But look to Zechariah Chapter 4, and make application to the New Covenant. The candlestick was the temple and now the Church (the body of Christ, the true tabernacle), perhaps. The olive trees represent two of God’s anointed in the book of Zechariah in the days of Joshua and different anointed later in Revelation. Also, don’t get confused by looking for a direct linear timeline with the two witnesses and other events. We are interested if there are any eyewitness accounts of them from the siege. More study is needed here.

This is a rough sketch outline that perhaps we’ll fill in as time allows.


Comments

  1. On October 25, 2022 at 10:05 pm, Jonah said:

    Thank you.

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