Begining this month (September, 2008) I am teaching an adult Bible class on the Apocalypse (Revelation) of Jesus Christ to the disciple named John. I usually begin with a brief introduction that includes a discussion of the basic structure of the writing and its overall message. Here is a summary of what I have so far:

          Most attempts at finding a basic structure to Revelation note that it can be divided primarily into two parts: chapters 1-11 and chapters 12-22. Beyond this basic common observation, the views tend to fall into two groups: the view that sees the message unfold in a linear, sequential, historical progression or the view that sees the message revealed in a series of recapitulations, repetitions, and the rebirth of ideas.

          The first view-a very Western approach to the presentation of information-tries to lay all of the visions out on a non-repeating, linear, sequential timeline. The latter view gives heavy consideration to a very common literary characteristic of Eastern (Jewish) writings: they don’t follow a straight line. Logically, they weave and spiral; they briefly introduce an idea, move on, and then double back. They also use chiastic structures upon which to build their winding, weaving, doubling-back presentations.

          The message of Revelation is both internally coherent and consistent with the theme of the entire Bible. The core message is that God is in control of history (providence) and is guiding His creation to a predetermined conclusion (eschatology).

          God’s creation has been ruined by sin. Much of the popular culture has been deceived into following the spirit of rebellion now at work in the world. Therefore, Christians (of all ages) are commanded to reject the values of the popular culture, to never compromise our trust in God as the ultimate answer to the problem, and to continue to obey Him as He works his redemptive plan out in history. Such loyalty to God may very well cost us our lives; however, the resurrection assures us that even if we are martyred here on earth, we are conquerors (the term is a military one and refers to a decisive defeat of all enemies; therefore, victors, defeaters, ones who have rendered the enemy harmless seem better than the NIV’s use of “overcome” for this powerful and graphic term).

          Times of crisis will come upon every believer; however, times of crisis are not times in which to build faith-they are times in which to rely upon a faith already firmly established. Therefore, right now (today) we must confidently trust that God is firmly in control of the universe guiding it to its predetermined end. When Jesus is finished, all evil will be destroyed and all faithfulness will be rewarded.