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The book of Revelation remains a mystery for a lot of Christians because they tend to write it off as being too hard to understand, or they believe it doesn't really apply to their life. Because of this, it remains shrouded in mystery for most Christians. The first few verses in chapter one tells us that those who read or hear the words of this prophecy and keep it will be blessed. So it is important to read it just as much as any other part of the Bible, especially since it deals with end time events leading up to the second coming of Christ. Many seem to think that the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls are parallel or run concurrently because some of the events are very similar. Here's something to think about. Chapter six starts with the 7 seals. Notice that the opening of the 7th seal brings on the 7 trumpets. In other words, no trumpets can sound until the 7th seal is opened. Also, the 7 bowls are poured out only after the 7 trumpets have sounded. The 7 seals parallel the beginning of sorrows, what Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 24. The 6th seal announces with great power from heaven displayed on earth that the day of the Lord and the great tribulation are about to begin. The 7th seal begins this dreaded period in history. There is silence in heaven. Then the trumpets begin to sound. The 7 trumpets are partial judgements. Most of them only effect 1/3 of the earth, or whatever their intended target is. Then finally, the 7 bowls are poured out. These are complete judgments. They effect 100% of their intended targets. They are poured out in full strength. These likely occur right after the great tribulation period. Daniel's 70th week, or 7 year tribulation period could be viewed like this: 7 Seals - Beginning of Sorrows - First 3.5 years 7 Trumpets - Great Tribulation - Last 3.5 years 7 Bowls - Just after the Great Tribulation- Before Christ physically touches the earth. So, yes, I believe generally it is written in chronological order. However, there are some portions (chapters) that seem to go back and add details to the overall timeline. I'm not saying there are not any flaws with my timeline, but I do believe the events are in chronological order because of the simple points I shared above.
In the general sense the book of Revelation is chronological according to Revelation 1:19. However, there is a bit of recapping especially in the three series of the judgments. These can be seen as three packages: 4:1 – 8:1 the section about the seven seals 8:2 – 11:19 the section about the seven trumpets 12:1 – 18:24 the section about the seven bowls The debate is whether these three sections run to a degree one after another or happen at roughly the same time. There are reasons to believe they are concurrent within the seven-year tribulation period. John recorded what was revealed to him one thing at a time. The phrase, “after these things” could just as well refer to one vision running into the next. For example, John saw the seven angels given seven trumpets when the seventh seal was opened, Revelation 8:2, as if John was being prepared for the next vision. In another example, Revelation 15:1 says that the “seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” This does not necessarily mean these are last in the series, but this could mean these were the last of the judgments that John would be shown. Each series has a similar pattern of 7 judgments divided into the first 4 and last 3. Two examples are the four horsemen of the seal judgments and the three woes making up last three trumpet judgments Many of the judgments are similar. The words ‘every’ and ‘all’ in some verses limit the event to happening just once. For example, compare Revelation 6:15, “…every mountain and island was moved out of its place,” to Revelation 16:20, “…every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” Each series has an introductory section and also supplementary material between the sixth and seventh judgment. These serve to recap events or bring in new information. The accounts of the 144,000, the two witnesses, the panoramic history of Christ of chapter 12, and the description of the two beasts supply further details. Some of these take the reader back in time. Each of the three series of judgment visions takes the reader right up to the end in preparation for the one great event, the climactic finale of the coming of Christ with the saints. Each end with references to awesome celestial wonders and to the revelation of the wrath of God or the Lamb. This parallels Isaiah’s visions of Isaiah 2:19-21 and Isaiah 13:9-13. It also ties in with Matthew 24:29, 30 which occurs at the end of the tribulation. Each judgment series conveys a different perspective. One writer suggests the seals pertain to the Gentiles or the world, the trumpets pertain to Israel, and the bowls affects the apostate church. Several writers have likened the judgments series to a conical spiral with each loop transporting the reader into a higher vision leading to the point of the glorious appearing of Christ. That is why there is increasing severity of the plagues from one-fourth (6:8) to one-third (8:8-12), to the whole (16:3). Also, there is an increasing intensity of the climactic event as shown here: 8:5 “noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake” 11:19 “lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake and great hail” 16:18-21 “noises and thunderings and lightnings, and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake…and great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent…” The Lord may have intentionally used the spiral technique in Revelation to encourage the saints that God intends to set everything right in His time.
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