An Introduction to Revelation – How to Understand the Chronology
If you haven’t read my break down of the Second Coming prophecy in the Gospels please read it first. (End Times Prophecy : Part 2)
Before I dive head first into the prophecy of the Revelation of John, we must discuss how to understand the chronology of events. Most find reading the book of Revelation a daunting task. Others will say that it is impossible to interpret because they think it’s out of order. However, after having studied Revelation thoroughly, I’ve come to the conclusion that it can be understood once you dispense with mans doctrine and hold firmly to what the Scriptures say. There is a chronology in these books that many haven’t realized is there and it agrees with the timeline that the Olivet Discourse gives us, as well as Old Testament prophecies like those found in the book of Daniel.
The Book of Revelation can be broken down into two main sections: Chapters 1-11 and then Chapters 12-22. When we tackle Johns end times prophecy in this manner we realize that both sections inherently say the same story twice from slightly different perspectives, each section giving more detail on certain events. In other words, in the same way that Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 are parallel passages, so are Revelation Chapters 1-11 and Revelation Chapters 12-22 parallel.
As we saw in the Olivet discourse, the Second Coming was characterized by certain events. Let me use the prophecy of the Second Coming of Christ to show you what I mean. Here are the three verses that come immediately before Christ’s return in this prophecy..
Matthew 24:29 KJV
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken”
Mark 13:24-25 KJV
“But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken.”
Luke 21:25 KJV
“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring”
The sun and moon are darkened, the stars of heaven fall, the powers of the heavens are shaken and then Christ returns in the verses immediately following these to gather the saved (the rapture). In Revelation Chapter 6, again, we see this same pattern followed by the Second Coming and Rapture (the Rapture itself is discussed in Chapter 7)..
Revelation 6:12 KJV
“And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood”
Because Revelation Chapters 1-11 and Chapters 12-22 are parallel we would expect to find the Second Coming and Rapture repeated somewhere in the second half (Chapters 12-22). Even though we don’t have the same pattern as before (as seen in the Olivet Discourse and Revelation 6), chapter 14 describes these events in a different, yet not contradictory, fashion..
Revelation 14:14-16 KJV
“And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe. And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.”
This is the Second Coming and Rapture all over again. When we compare this to Old Testament prophecy about the the day of the Lord and the Lord judging the nations you have, yet again, the same concepts as are found in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Revelation 6 and Revelation 14.
Isaiah 13:9-10 KJV
“Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”
Joel 2:31 KJV
“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.”
Joel 3:13-16 KJV
“Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision. The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining. The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake: but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.”
Understanding what the Bible says concerning “the day of the Lord” is key. There are distinctions we can make now as to what comes before, and what comes after. Before the day of the Lord (the Second Coming), we see the sun and moon being darkened and the stars of heaven falling. Then, after these things, Christ returns to gather His elect (rapture). After the Second Coming and rapture occur, God begins to pour out his wrath with the opening of the 7th seal in Revelation 8.
There’s something I’d like to make special note of. The day of the Lord isn’t referred to in the prophecy of the Olivet Discourse until the very end, which means, everything that comes before the day of the Lord in that particular prophecy is referring to tribulation and great tribulation (the great tribulation being brought about by the abomination of desolation).
As we delve deeper into Revelation we will see the chronology take shape, but we must first keep in mind that it tells the same story twice. Once we understand that concept, realizing the chronological consistency of Revelation is quite simple. Scripturally we always see a connection between the Second Coming (the day of the Lord) and the coming of God’s Judgement or Wrath, but that connection is NOT that they are one and the same. For example, when we jump to the end of Revelation Chapter 6 we read in verse 17, “For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” This is after the Second Coming in verse 12, and shows us that Christ will come to gather his elect (those who are saved in Christ), and then God begins to pour out his wrath and Judgement. So even though we are not saved from the trials and tribulation in the beginning of the end times, we are spared from Gods wrath that comes after the rapture.
Now that we understand how the day of the Lord is characterized in the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 5:9 makes complete sense in context of the rest of scripture.. “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”. Indeed, we (the saved) are are not appointed to God’s wrath but you will see over time, the tribulation and God’s wrath are two separate events or time periods, and again, as you will see, the dividing line for these two events is in-fact the “Day of the Lord” and rapture.
Side note: Most don’t realize that Christ never referred to the events of God’s wrath in the Olivet Discourse. This is categorized by the 7 trumpets and 7 vials in Revelation. One important realization I’ve come to in studying Revelation this way, in two parallel sections, is that the trumpets and vials all occur at the same time. We will be discussion this later in much more depth.
How does what the Bible says line up with the more popular end times teachings?
In light of what we’ve learned, lets take a look at the different End Times Doctrines that are being taught by the Churches and see how they match up with scripture. Seeing as I consider myself a Pre-Millennialist, let’s deal specifically with the three main Pre-Millennialists views that are being taught.
1. Pre Tribulation Rapture – the rapture will occur prior to the seven year tribulation, but not necessarily immediately before the tribulation.
2. Mid Tribulation Rapture – the rapture will occur three and one half years into the tribulation, at beginning of the three and one half year great tribulation.
3. Post Tribulation Rapture – the rapture will not occur until the end of the seven year tribulation, just prior to the beginning of the millennial kingdom.
I do not hold to any of the above beliefs because, by definition, none of them are correct. Two of them are close, but still not correct.
First of all, let me dispel a common misconception. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that there will be a “7 year period of tribulation”. This is a common misinterpretation of “Daniels 70th Week” (where we get the 7 year period from) and the chronology of end time events as given in the Gospels and in Revelation. That being said, I do believe there will be a 7 year period of time during the end, but again, nowhere are we told that this entire 7 years will be tribulation. Also nowhere in Scripture are we told that the “great tribulation” will be the entire second half of those 7 years. These are simply man inferred ideas. My question throughout my studies has been: What does the Word ACTUALLY say? In order to explain this let’s take a brief look at Daniel..
Daniel 8:13-14 KJV reads, “Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?’ And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.’”
2,300 days comes out to be approximately 6.5 years. So from the time that daily sacrifices are reinstated till the end of the 7 year period there will be roughly 6.5 years. Basically, daily sacrifices are going to be reinstated somewhere in the first year of the 7 year period. “Then the sanctuary shall be cleansed” is referring to the end of God’s wrath when the temple will finally be cleansed at the end of this 6.5 years.
Daniel 9:27 KJV reads, “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”
This “one week” that Daniel is referring to is the 7 year period that most pastors say is 7 years of tribulation. Keep in mind that according to Daniel 8:13-14, sometime during the 1st year of the final 7 years “daily sacrifices” (mentioned above in Daniel 8:13-14) will be reinstated by the “abomination that maketh desolate” referred to in Daniel 12:11.
Daniel 11:31 KJV reads, “And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.”
This is referring to the Abomination of Desolation being set up. It is important to note that this is when daily sacrifices will be taken away. This is a topic we covered in the Olivet Discourse.
Daniel 12:11 KJV reads, “And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.”
1290 days comes out to be approximately 3.5 years. This is saying, from the time of the Abomination of Desolation there will be about 3.5 years till the end of the “one week” (Daniel 9:27) or 7 year period.
According to Daniel, the abomination of desolation is set to occur in the “midst of the week” or in the middle of this 7 year period of time. If you’ll remember, back in Matthew 24:21-22 (immediately following the Abomination of Desolation), it says, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” If we read on in the next few verses of Matthew 24, what does this prophecy say happens to cause the great tribulation to be shortened? The Second Coming and Rapture. This makes sense because as 1 Thessalonians 5:9 said, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”.
Let’s see if we can break down the events of the end times in the order that the Scriptures give us. Logically, if the “great tribulation” starts when the Abomination of Desolation occurs (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21), and the Abomination of Desolation occurs “in the midst of the week” (Daniel 9 and 11) right before the Second Coming (Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21), and the Second Coming happens before Gods Wrath (Revelation 6), then that would mean that God’s wrath takes place in the second half of the 7 year period, only after the Second Coming and Rapture.
This would be the order of events using just the scripture I’ve touched on so far..
1. Tribulation – False Prophets, Wars, Rumors of Wars, Commotions, Nation Rising Against Nation, Great Earthquakes and Famines, Pestilences, Signs in the Heavens, Affliction, Persecution, Gospel Preached to All Nations (Covered in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21)
2. Abomination of Desolation – Believers Fleeing, Great Tribulation, False Christ’s Performing Signs and Wonders (Covered in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Daniel 8-12)
3. Second Coming – Sun and Moon Darkened, Son of Man Comes in the Clouds, Rapture, “except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved” (Covered in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, Revelation 6-7 & 14)
4. Gods Wrath – Begins after the Second Coming when the 7th seal is opened in Revelation 8 (We will touch more on the characteristics of this in my breakdown of Revelation)
(If you’d like to see the timeline of events as given by the Olivet Discourse please see End Times Prophecy Part 2)
In conclusion, I believe the most Biblically sound stance on the matter would be what I and others refer to as a Post Tribulation Pre Wrath Rapture view. As we move through this series you will see why I believe that to be the true message of the end times prophecies.
I am very excited about this series and I hope and pray that I have shed some light on the subject for you. In my next post I will be beginning Revelation.
Please leave your thoughts or comments below!
If you wish to contact me : firstname.lastname@example.org
In Christ Yeshua (Jesus), Kyle Schumacher