You will find an introduction and outline of Revelation, here.
A prayer from John Calvin to use before your reading.
May the Lord grant that we may engage in the heavenly contemplation of the mysteries of God’s heavenly wisdom with ever increasing devotion to God’s glory and our edification. Amen.
I. Prologue 1:1-8
II. John’s Commissioning Vision 1:9-20
III. The Letters to the Seven Churches 2:1-3:22
IV. From Tribulation to Glory 4:1-22:9
1. The Six Seals 4:1-7:17
2. The Seventh Seal and the Six Trumpets 8:1-11:14
3. The Seventh Trumpet and the Six Bowls 11:15-16:16
14:1-20 The Sixth Digression: Three Visions of Victory: Three visions to comfort the church.
Verses 1-5 the first vision. 144,000 is considered by commentators to be symbolic of the entire number of faithful. They are virgins, i.e. chaste in contrast to participants in pagan cults. They are the “first fruits” of the people of God.
Verses 6-12 the second vision: three angelic announcements, the proclamation of the gospel to all humankind, an announcement of Babylon’s fall, and a warning to those who worship the beast.
Verses 13-20 the third vision: Those who die in the Lord are blessed (v13). Then a vision of the final judgment based on Joel 3:13. The harvest was a frequently used Jewish metaphor for judgment. Can you think of other times in the Bible when the harvest is used as a metaphor?
Verses 15:1-16:16 The First Six Bowls:
Verses 15:1-8 the vision in the divine throne room of the angels bearing the bowls containing the plagues. There are two songs of Moses in the Old Testament, Exodus 15:1-18 and Deut 32:1-43. Do you find points of connection between those songs and this song? What is new or different?
Verses 16:1-16 Notice, again, how these plagues recall the plagues of Egypt. 16:2 recalls the sixth plague Exodus 9:9. Verse 3 and 4 resemble the first plague Exodus 7:20-21. Verses 8-9 resemble the seventh plague Exodus 9:22-24. In verse 10, the ninth plague is recalled Exodus 10:21. Verse 12 has not Exodus counterpart. Verse 18-21 are similar to Exodus 9:22 and the seventh plague. These plagues are not necessarily to be taken literally but rather to evoke a sense of calamity and terror.
4. The Seventh Bowl and the Punishment of Babylon 16:17-19:10
Babylon was the capital of the Babylonian Empire which captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in 586 B.C. In the Old Testament, Babylon, was a symbol for any superpower. In Revelation and other Jewish and Christian writings after 70 A.D., “Babylon” was used as a name for Rome. Rome in 70 A.D., like Babylon before it, captured Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.
16:17-21 The Seventh Bowl: The climax of bowls, trumpets and seals.
17:1-18 The Great Harlot:These verses describe a static scene, unlike the other visions. This is based on a literary genre called ekphrasis, or a detailed description of a work of art. The work of art is probably lost but we have some idea what it might have been like by copies that survived on ancient coins. The woman in the vision is dresses as a successful prostitute. The reference in verse 5 to a mysterious name may refer to an ancient tradition that held that the true name of the god for whom Rome was named was hidden- a secret. A popular belief was that the secret name for Roma ( Rome in Latin) was Amor (love) Roma spelled backwards. Bauckman wonders if John drawing a contrast between true love and the false love of prostitution in this image of the woman as prostitute.
In verse 9 the 7 heads which are 7 mountains ( traditionally Rome was located on 7 hills) and 7 kings. There has been much speculation about who the kings are. John may be referring to actual kings or he may be talking about the complete number of Roman emperors. The ten horns in verse 12 are probably client kings or local governors.
18:1-19:8 Reactions to Babylon’s Fall; Chapter 18 contains 5 different types of poetic works about the fall of Babylon. Verses 1-3 are a taunt song. See Isa 23-24 and Jer 50-51 for examples. Verses 4-8 are a summons to flee before the future fall. These sorts of warnings are found in the prophets, see Jeremiah 50:8-10; 51:6-10 for example. Verses 9-20 are three dirges from Kings,merchants and and sea merchants- those who have been made rich by Babylon. Notice the repetition of “Alas! Alas! in verses 10,16,19. These are modeled after Ezek 26-28. Verses 21-24 is a prophetic symbolic action what describes the destruction of Babylon. See Jer 51:63-64 where Jeremiah tells a person to throw a stone into the Euphrates River, symbolizing the destruction of Babylon.
Once again, what are the main points John wants to convey?
Read More About It
Aune, David E. “Revelation” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 26 “The Book of Revelation”.
Metzger, Bruce, “Revelation” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.