This week, I want to take another look at Revelation 1:19 where it says, “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;” Again, this is called the outline verse of the book of Revelation. Unless you understand and apply this verse consistently throughout the book, it will be very confusing to you.
I’ve heard all kinds of interpretations of the book of Revelation over the years. Some of them are fanciful and simply reflect ignorance. While others seem to be an honest attempt, but fall short. The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:19-20, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” That means exactly what it says.
It only stands to reason that God put an outline verse there for our benefit. Let’s use it. The book is pretty straightforward and simple actually. Unfortunately, some people struggle with it because they can’t wrap “their theology” around it. I believe that if a person tells me what they believe about the book of Revelation; I can tell them what they believe in regards to the rest of the Bible (i.e., creation, the eternal security of the believer, works as compared to grace, the church, etc.).
This outline verse clearly tells us that the book is divided up into three parts: “the things which thou hast seen”, “the things which are”, and “the things which shall be hereafter”. Let’s take a look at each of them. The “things which thou hast seen” are found in chapter one as John describes Jesus. In this chapter John describes Jesus as being the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, and the first and the last (v.8). He describes Jesus as walking in the “midst of the seven candlesticks” which represent the seven churches that he is about to write to. The chapter describes exactly what John saw and what he was told to do.
The “things which are” are the seven churches that are described in chapters two and three. There are three things about these churches that need to be noted. First, these were literal churches. They actually existed in what is today called, Asia Minor. Second, each of the churches had characteristics that can be found in churches today. On the negative side, some churches today have left their first love, fallen into dead orthodoxy, begun to worship idols, and think they are rich and don’t need God anymore. While on the positive side, there are some who have not given in to these things, serving the Lord faithfully, and looking for His soon return. Third, each of the churches represent a time period in the life of the church beginning with its birth in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost and ending with its rapture or taking out Revelation 4:1.
And then finally, the “things which shall be hereafter” refers to chapter four and following. Of course, it is going to be a horrible time to be alive on Earth. These final chapters of Revelation cover what is known as the time of the Tribulation. It is also referred to in the Bible as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7) and Daniel’s Seventieth Week (Daniel 9:27). By whatever name, it’s going to be very bad for anyone left alive during that time. Hopefully, you’re a part of the church that will be taken in Revelation 4:1. If not, there is no better time to become a member than right now by asking Jesus to come into your live and save you (Romans 10:9-13).
Now, you may ask, “How do you know that Revelation 4:1 is when the Rapture of the church will take place and the horrible Tribulation will begin?” The answer is found in the word “hereafter” in v.19. The word means “after this”. The first time the word appears is in 1:19 and the next time the word appears is in 4:1. That means that at the conclusion of the church age (Chapters 2 and 3) which ends with the Church of Laodicea, the Rapture will take place and the Tribulation will begin.