Harry Whittaker
Revelation - A Biblical Approach

Chapter 6 - The Structure of Revelation

No reader of the Apocalypse can miss the seven-fold features out of which it is constructed. There are seven letters to the Churches, seven Seals, seven Trumpets, seven Vials. These are self-evident.

There is also mention of seven Thunders (10:3, 4), but because of the instruction: “Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and wrote them not,” it has commonly been assumed that nothing can be known about these awe-inspiring utterances, for the simple reason that nothing has been written. Yet the language plainly implies that something was written for it is only possible to “seal up” a message after it is committed to paper. The most reasonable view, then, is that when the “seven thunders uttered their voices” John wrote a description of the visions by which they were accompanied and the words that were spoken, but did not write the explanation of the message. Alternatively, “write them not” may mean “do not write these details just now but later.” One of these two interpretations must surely be accepted if only because, when the reader comes to chapter 14, he finds a seven-fold sequence of revelations each of which involves “an angel with a great voice,” that is, an angel with a voice like thunder, speaking on God’s behalf (see John 12:28, 29).[10] It may be well to list these, so as to make this point more evident.

“Another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel... saying with a great voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him...”

“Another angel, saying (mightily with a strong voice: see 18:2), Babylon is fallen, is fallen.”

“the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image ... the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.”

“another angel came out of the temple, crying with a great voice, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap.”

“Another angel came out of the temple ... he also having a sharp sickle.” This brief picture is expanded in ch. 19:17: “an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice ... Come and gather yourselves together to the supper of the great God ...”

“Another angel came out from the altar ... and cried with a great voice ... Thrust in thy sharp sickle ...”

“And I heard a great voice out of the temple saying to the seven (vial-bearing) angels, Go your ways, and pour out ...”

Thus the seventh of these “thunders” opens up into the series of seven vial judgements, just as the seventh seal becomes seven trumpets.

This identification of the seven thunders means that the entire Apocalypse is now taken up with sequences of seven-fold judgements, except for chapters 12, 13 and the last few chapters, 17-22 or 19-22, according to whichever view of the scope of the vials is adopted. A re-examination of these sections discloses the existence of a seven-fold structure here also.

In chapters 12, 13, there are seven dramatis personae:

the woman clothed with the sun.

the great red dragon.

the man-child born to rule with a rod of iron.

Michael the archangel.

12:10, 17; 13:7:
the other seed of the woman, the “saints.”

the beast out of the abyss.

the two-horned beast like a lamb.

And the concluding section of Revelation is made up of seven visions each introduced with the words: “And I saw ...”

the rider on the white horse.

the warring armies.

the thousand years.

the great white throne.

the judgement.

new heaven and a new earth.

21: 22:
the glory of the holy city.

With the exception of short sections coming between the groups of revelations already mentioned, the entire Book of Revelation is now seen to be composed of seven sections each of which is itself in seven parts.

Further examination brings to light that each of these unallotted sections is a vision of the heavenly sanctuary and each includes a hymn of praise. Also, each seven is divided into four and three by the mention of a heavenly voice.

Ch. 1:
the glorified High Priest.

(Anthem: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood ... to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen “)
Ch. 2:

(Voice: He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.)[11]
Ch. 3:
Ch. 4, 5:
the heavenly tabernacle and the Lamb with the Book of Life.

(Anthem: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power.”)
Ch. 6:

(Voice: “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood?”)

Ch. 7:
the great multitude before the throne.

(Anthem: “Amen: Blessing, and glory and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever ever. Amen “)
Ch. 8:

(Voice: “Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth ...”)
Ch. 9:1l:
Ch. 9:19:
the temple of God opened in heaven.

(Anthem: “We give thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned. “)
Ch. 12:1-9:

(Voice: “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ.”)
Ch. 12:13-13:18:
the Lamb and the redeemed on Mount Zion

(Anthem: A new song before the throne, and no man could learn that song.)
Ch. 14:6-11:

(Voice: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth. “)
Ch. 14:14 20:
Ch. 15:
The temple of the tabernacle of the testimony in heaven opened.

(Anthem: the Song of Moses and of the Lamb: “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty ...”)
Ch. 1 6:1-4:

(Voice: Thou art righteous, O Lord, which art, and which wast, because thou hast judged thus.”)
Ch. 16:8-18:24:
Ch. 19:1-10:
The praising multitude.

(Anthem: “Hallelujah: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”)
Ch.l9: 11-20: 5:

(Voice: “Blessed and Holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection ...”)
Ch. 20:7-22:5:

The conclusion (22:6-21) has a three-fold “I come quickly” and a threefold prayer for that coming. Only the Second Coming itself can complete this - the eighth - set of seven.

[10] Cp. also Exodus 9:28, where the Hebrew expression "voices of God" is translated "mighty thunderings."
[11] These words are apparently deliberately dislocated from their usual place (v.26) in order to fill this role.
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