How is the Book of Revelation Structured?

To understand the Book of Revelation, the final book of the Bible, is no easy task. Many words have been chewed up throughout history trying to make sense of it. However, most writers, and therefore most readers don’t notice a simple structure and why it is there. Politics in the ancient world was dominated by kings and strongmen, not democracies. There were no constitutions as such…but there were covenants.

Today we still sometimes call our marriage contracts a covenant. That’s what they are, a contract till death with many obligations required by both parties. Many of the royal decrees that were issued by the kings of ancient middle eastern empires also strictly followed a special covenant/contract structure, with obligations on both parties. The list below gives you the skeleton of this structure:

  1. Preamble: The king identifies himself and reminds his subjects of his greatness and power.
  1. Historical Prologue: The king surveys his previous relationship with his subjects, emphasising the blessings he has given and the loyalty or disloyalty shown by his people in response.
  1. Ethical Stipulations: The king explains the people’s obligations to him. He explains the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the covenant treaty.
  1. Sanctions: He then explains the blessings and curses that would follow upon obedience or disobedience to the ethical stipulations.
  1. Succession Arrangements: Finally, the king explains how the covenant will continue into future generations

When you look carefully at the book of Revelation you will see the same structure! It is a document issued by the king of the universe, who has just taken his rightful place as king of the earth. It is a covenant document and is the official document of the New Covenant under which all Christians live (the bride of chapter 17). it is also a divorce document, outlining exactly how God’s relationship with Israel was to end (the great prostitute).

The list below shows how the book of Revelation follows the royal covenant/contract structure. Before reading it make sure you read the list above again so you can see where the chapters fit. (It is not quite a perfect fit as chapters were only invented by Archbishop Stephen Langton in the early 13th century):

  1. Preamble: Vision of the Son of Man (Ch 1)
  1. Historical Prologue: The Seven Letters (Ch 2-3)
  1. Ethical Stipulations: The Seven Seals (Ch 4-7)
  1. Sanctions: The Seven Trumpets (Ch 8-14)
  1. Succession Arrangements: The Seven golden bowls (Ch 15-22)

So there you have it. Revelation is a covenant divorce and marriage document between the king of the universe and all human inhabitants. Every human is now subject to this new covenant, whether they know it or not. We are all required to keep its standards and are all subject to its judgements. Jesus is not just our saviour, he is the king of the earth and must be respected as such.