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CHIASTIC LITERARY STRUCTURE

Readers of the Book of Revelation have noticed that words,  phrases, and symbols that appear at the beginning of the book also appear at the end, and often nowhere else. Further investigation of this observation has uncovered one of the keys to understanding the Book of Revelation: its remarkable literary organization.  Revelation is not a chaotic jumble of incomprehensible symbols; it is highly organized in its presentation of the theme of God’s resolution of problem of sin.  The book is organized in a chiasm, which is a literary structure that divides a passage of literature into two halves with sections that are mirror images of each other, reaching a climax in the middle of the passage.  A chiasm looks like this:

E-1  E-2
D-1           D-2
C-1                     C-2
 B-1                                B-2
 A-1                                         A-2

 In the Book of Revelation this chiastic structure is comprised of a progressive series of sections in the first half that are mirrored by corresponding sections in the second half. The corresponding sections have significantly similar phrases and symbols. Each section has a theme that is related to the theme in the corresponding section. In each section there are characteristic words, phrases and symbols that are also found in the corresponding section of the chiasm. In many cases the paired elements are unique to these passages in the Book of Revelation or even in the whole Bible. The sections can be easily identified because each section (except for the prologue and epilogue) begins with a scene from the Heavenly Sanctuary, with sanctuary elements such as God’s throne, the lampstand and the altar of incense that were in the earthly sanctuary, or the four living creatures, twenty-four elders and the myriad of angels who surround the heavenly throne. The sanctuary scenes that introduce the chiastic sections have a remarkable progression through the stages of the Old Testament sanctuary services that confirms the interpretations of the corresponding sections that they introduce (see Appendix 1: Progression of Sanctuary Scenes).

The following table shows the corresponding sections and their mirror elements, as well as the sanctuary scenes that introduce each of the sections. Then follows a chart that depicts the chiasm with its sections and themes. You will understand this much better as you read the book and see how the chiastic sections help in its interpretation.

*  This Phrase appears in Revelation only in these two verses.

** This Phrase appears in the Bible only in these two verses.

PROLOGUE (1:1-10) EPILOGUE (22:5-21)
1. **“Revelation…to show his servants things which must shortly take place” (1:1). 1. **“God…sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place” (22:6).
2.** “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of this prophecy” (1:3). 2.** “Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy” (22:7,10,18).
3.**  “The time is near” (1:3). 3.** “The time is near” (22:10).
4. “He is coming with clouds” (1:7). 4. “I am coming quickly” (22:12,20).
5. A book sent to the seven churches (1:11). 5. Angel sent to testify in the churches (22:16).
6. “The Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last” (1:11). 6. “The Alpha and the Omega…the First and the last” (22:13).
7. “I (John) fell at His feet” (1:17). 7. “I, John…fell down to worship before the feet” (22:8).

 

CHURCH ON EARTH (1:10-3:22) CHURCH IN THE KINGDOM (21:1-22:5)
Sanctuary Scene: 1:12-15 Jesus among the lampstands of the heavenly temple Sanctuary Scene:  21:2-5, 22 New Jerusalem, God is the temple
1. *The tree of life (2:7). 1. *The tree of life (22:2).
2. “To him who overcomes I will give” (2:7,17,etc.). 2. “He who overcomes shall inherit” (21:7).
3. “Shall not be hurt by the second death” (2:11). 3. “There shall be no more death” (21:4).
4. “Behold I am coming quickly” (3:11). 4. “Behold I am coming quickly” (22:7).
5. “I will write on him My new name” (3:12). 5. “His name shall be on their foreheads” (22:4).
6. Overcomers are pillars in God’s temple (3:12). 6. God and the Lamb are the temple (21:22).
7. **“ New Jerusalem…comes down out of heaven from my God” (3:12). 7. **“New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven” (21:2,10).
8. Overcomers sit with Christ on His throne as He sits on His Father’s throne (3:21). 8. Servants of God reign and serve God and the Lamb as they sit on their throne (22:1,3,5).

 

INVESTIGATIVE JUDGMENT (4:1-8:1) EXECUTIVE JUDGMENT (19:1-20:15)
Sanctuary Scene:  4:1-5:14 Open door of the sanctuary, throne of God Sanctuary Scene:  19:1-8 Voices heard from the sanctuary and throne
1. “A door was open in heaven” (4:1). 1. “I saw heaven opened” (19:11). 
2. “Behold, a throne was set in heaven and one sat on the throne” (4:2). 2. “I saw a great white throne and Him that sat on it.” (20:11).
3. Central theme: opening the sealed book (5:1-9).  3. “Books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the book of life” (20:12).
4. Redeemed to be kings and priests and reign (5:9,10). 4. Those resurrected are priests and reign (20:6). 
5. *“A white horse, and He that sat on him …went forth conquering and to conquer” (6:2). 5. *“A white horse. And He who sat on him…judges and makes war.” (19:11).
6. **Death and Hades (6:8). 6. **Death and Hades (20:13,14).
7. Souls of martyrs (6:9,10). 7. Souls of martyrs (20:4-6).
8. “How long…until You judge and avenge our blood?” (6:10). 8. “He has judged…and He has avenged…the blood of His servants” (19:2).
9. Second coming, emphasizing the wrath of the Lamb (6:12-17, esp. 16,17). 9. Second coming, emphasizing the wrath of Almighty God (19:11-19, esp. 15).
10. Kings, great men, rich men, commanders, mighty men, slaves and free men plead to be killed (6:15,16). 10. Kings, captains, mighty men, all people, free and slaves, are killed (19:17,18). 
11. *Great multitude (7:9). 11. *Great Multitude (19: 1,6).

 

TRUMPET PLAGUES (8:2-11:19) SEVEN LAST PLAGUES (15:1-18:24)
Sanctuary Scene: 7:9- 8:5 Golden censer ministry with smoke ascending in the sanctuary Sanctuary Scene:  15:1-8 Ministry finished, sanctuary filled with smoke
1. First trumpet plague falls on the earth (8:7). 1. First plague falls on the earth (16:2).
2. Second plague falls on the sea, a third becomes blood (8:8). 2. Second plague falls on the sea, it becomes blood (16:3).
3. A third of the creatures in the sea die (8:9). 3. Every living creature in the sea died (16:3).
4. Third plague falls on the rivers and springs (8:10). 4. Third plague falls on the rivers and springs (16:4). 
5. Fourth plague affects sun, moon and stars (8:12). 5. Fourth plague affects the sun (16:8).
6. “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth” (8:13).  6. “The Inhabitants of the earth were made drunk” (17:2).
7. Fifth plague darkens the sun and air (9:2). 7. Fifth plague darkens kingdom of the beast (16:10).
8. "The beast that ascends out of the bottomless pit" (11:7). 8. “the beast…will ascend out of the bottomless pit” (17:8).
9. *Sixth plague releases angels bound at river Euphrates (9:14). 9. *Sixth plague dries up the river Euphrates (16:12). 
10. "Three plagues…out of their mouths" (9:17,18).  10. "Three unclean spirits…out of the mouths" (16:14).
11. They did not repent of their murders, etc. (9:21). 11. They did not repent of their deeds (16:14).
12. A great earthquake and a tenth of the city fell (11:13). 12. A great earthquake and the cities of the nations fell (16:18,19).
13. Seventh plague loud voices announce the kingdoms of the world have become Christ’s (11:15). 13. Seventh plague a loud voice announces “it is done!” (16:17). 
14. Lightenings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake and great hail (11:19). 14. Noises, thunderings and lightenings, a great earthquake and great hail (16:18,21).

 

SATAN’S ULTIMATE DEMONSTRATION (11:19-13:18) GOD’S ULTIMATE DEMONSTRATION      (14:1-14:20)
Sanctuary Scene:  11:15-19 Throne room of the temple opened, ark of the covenant seen Sanctuary Scene: 14:1-5 Lamb and 144,000 before the throne
1. *Those “who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus” (12:17). 1. *“Those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (14:12).
2. Beast given authority over every tribe, tongue and nation (13:7). 2. Gospel preached to every nation, tribe, tongue and people (14:6).
3. **“Here is the patience and the faith of the saints” (13:10). 3. **“Here is the patience of the saints” (14:12). 
4. Command to worship the beast (13:12). 4. Invitation to worship the creator (14:7).
5. Image of the beast (13:14,15). 5. Image of the beast (14:9,11).
6. Mark of the beast (13:16,17). 6. Mark of the beast (14:9,11).
7. Mark on their hands or foreheads (13:16). 7. Father’s name on their foreheads (14:1).

Continue to next section:    CHIASTIC STRUCTURE OF REVELATION

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