God’s Outline of the Apocalypse
May 14th, 1961 @ 10:50 AM
GOD’S OUTLINE OF THE APOCALYPSE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-14-61 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas and this is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning hour message. To me, this is the meaning of the Revelation. Now the meaning is found in the nineteenth verse; I had prepared the sermon on verses 19 and 20 in the first chapter, which closes the first chapter. We shall just preach this morning on the nineteenth verse, and then next Sunday morning close with the twentieth verse.
Now the context: as you who have been following these messages for these months, John says that he is on the isle of Patmos for the testimony of God and of Jesus. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day [Revelation 1:10], and heard behind him a great voice saying – and then there is identified the Lord God Christ, and then he turns to see this voice as of a trumpet that speaks unto him [Revelation 1:10-11]. And being turned, he sees seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like unto the Son of God, unto the Son of Man; he sees the Lord Jesus [Revelation 1:12-13]. Then follows the description of the Lord Jesus [Revelation 1:14-15], and we begin reading now at verse 16:
And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me: Fear not; I am the First and the Last:
I am He that liveth and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and I have the keys of Hell and of Death.
Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;
That is verse 19, and that will be the sermon this morning. Then to complete the context:
The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven lampstands which thou sawest are the seven churches.
In this text that I have just read, Revelation 1:19, "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter"; the King James Version is made from the Textus Receptus; that’s the text that was compiled from many manuscripts by Erasmus and is called "the received text," the Textus Receptus. And in the Textus Receptus, there is a little Greek word that fell out of the text. It is a little illative particle that apparently has no meaning, but when you put it in, it has a great significance. So we’re going to put it in, just like John wrote it. The little particle is o-u-n – oun, "write oun" – and the Greek word, oun, means "therefore." And to show you the significance of the word – you see this pastor, your pastor, believes that all of these words are inspired of God; all of them. Every Scripture, every syllable, every sentence, every verse, every stanza, every chapter, every paragraph is written by the God breathing into the mind and heart of the prophet or of the apostle [2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:21]. And every word is the chosen, elected word of the Spirit of God. "Holy men spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit" [2 Peter 1:21]. Now that word John wrote in there – and I want to show you its significance by illustration.
In the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19, "Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the triune God: teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you." Now, that "therefore" has a meaning. And it refers to the verse before. Matthew 28:18 says, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying: All authority – all power – is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore," go ye on the basis of and in the persuasion of, that all authority and all power lie in the hands of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. And on the basis of that deity and that authority and that all-mighty power, we are to go triumphant, victorious. The victory is ours. However, there may be valleys in the waves that come on the shore, yet the tide shall ultimately win. On the basis of that, "Go!" [Matthew 28:19].
Now, that same thing is here, "Write" – oun – "therefore" [Revelation 1:19], that illative particle refers to what Jesus has just said, "I am the First and the Last" [Revelation 1:17] – the pantokrator – "the Alpha and the Omega" [Revelation 1:11] – the Beginning and the Ending, the Lord God Almighty [Revelation 1:11] – "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and am alive forevermore" [Revelation 1:18] – therefore – "And I have the keys of Hell and of Death." Therefore [Revelation 1:19]: now that little particle there refers to the authority, and the authentication, and the deity of the Lord Christ. And on the basis of the authority of God and the deity of Christ [Matthew 28:18], and that He has the keys of all destiny, write these things [Revelation 1:19]. For these things that are to be written are the things that control the destiny of your life, and your soul, and this world, and the world that is yet to come.
And Christ is saying here, "On the basis that this destiny lies in My hand, write as outlined [Revelation 1:19]. And make it plain for My people to see and to read." Christ is not one thing in one age, and in one generation, and among one people, and one country and then Christ is another thing in another age, among another people, in other country, another time, in another generation. But Christ is the same through all time, and through all generations, and through all ages; "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" [Hebrews 13:8]. And because He sits on the throne of His glory in power and in authority [Matthew 25:31], this great Apocalypse, this great revelation of the age and the consummation that is yet to come shall certainly be executed because it lies in the hands of Almighty God. Now, that’s what that little oun there means [Revelation 1:19]. So don’t leave it out. Don’t leave it out. "Write therefore the things which," and then He gives us the great outline of the book [Revelation 1:19].
We have come therefore, we have come to the great starting point, we have come to the grand foundation, we have come to God’s analysis of the book. We have come to what God means by these visions of the future that He is passing in review before the eyes of John, and has commanded John to write them down that we might see them and know them [Revelation 1:19]. Now, I want you to see what this is in the outlining, in the analysis, in the presentation of the meaning of the Apocalypse.
I have copied out three instances, three illustrations, of how men divide the Apocalypse, the Revelation, and they are all good. They are all fine. And every time you read a believing, devout, humble scholar who writes of the Revelation, it will do your heart good. It will bless your soul. Now these are three illustrations that I have copied, which are typical of how men divide the Revelation. And then when I get through presenting these, we’re going to see how God divides the Revelation. Now, here are three men. The first one that I have chosen divides it into two parts. The second man divides it into four parts. And the third man divides it into seven parts.
First the man that divides it into two parts, he points out – and all these things are true, and they are profitable, and they have help us understand the book – he points out that the goal of the establishment of the kingdom of Christ is reached twice in the book. It is reached in chapter 11, verses 15, 17, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of Hs Christ; And He reigneth forever and ever" [Revelation 11:15, 17]. In Revelation 11:15-17 that goal is reached. Then the same goal, the great triumph of Christ over the earth is reached in Revelation 19:6-7. So this man divides the book into two equal parts. The first part: when it reaches that great consummating goal in chapter 11 and Christ is Lord over all [Revelation 11:15, 17]. Then the second time: when it reaches that same great, glorious consummation, and Christ reigns over all in the nineteenth chapter [Revelation 19:6-7]. So he divides the Revelation into two equal parts: chapters 1 through 11, where it reaches that glorious goal [Revelation 1-11]; and then chapters 12 through 22, where it mentions that glorious consummation again [Revelation 12-22]. Two equal parts: first eleven chapters and last eleven chapters. And that is very profitable, and very fine, and the book is that way, it divides exactly into those two parts.
All right now, the second outline that I have copied out which will be typical of so many. This man has divided the Revelation into four parts. There are four visions of unequal length and content in the book. And each one of these four visions begins, and it begins in exactly the same way. Each begins with mentioning the seer personally, talking about John personally. And each begins with the phrase, "I was in the Spirit." And each takes the seer to a different place where he sees things normally not seen by mortal eye. And these are the four separate distinct visions in the book. One, the first: in verses 9 and 10 of the first chapter, he is in Patmos, and he sees the vision of the Lord Christ among the seven golden lampstands [Revelation 9-10, 13]. Then – and by the way, he would be in Patmos all the way, physically, all the way through – but in the Spirit now, first he is in Patmos, and sees the vision of the Christ [Revelation 1:9-13]. Then in chapter 4, verses 1 and 2, the seer is located in heaven [Revelation 4:1-2]. Then in chapter 17:3, the seer is located in the wilderness [Revelation 17:3]. And then in chapter 21:10, the seer is located on a great and mighty mountain [Revelation 21:10]. So if you take those four divisions of those four great visions, it falls like this: the first vision, where he is in Patmos, chapters 1 through 3 [Revelation 1-3]; the second vision, where he sees from heaven, chapters 4 to 16 [Revelation 4:16]. The third vision, where he sees in the wilderness, chapters 17 to 20 [Revelation 17-20]. And the fourth vision, where he is on a great high mountain, chapters 21 and 22 [Revelation 21-22].
Now, one other: there is a beautiful outline, a beautiful outline that divides it into seven parts and seven parts under each one of the parts. It begins with a prologue, and ends with an epilog, and then these are the seven parts that this man divided the Revelation into:
The seven churches, chapters 1 to 3 [Revelation 1-3].
The seven seals, chapters 4 to 7 [Revelation 4-7].
The seven trumpets, chapters 8 to 11 [Revelation 8-11].
The seven personages, chapters 12 to 14 [Revelation 12-14].
The seven vials or the seven bowls, chapters 15 and 16 [Revelation 15-16].
The seven dooms, chapters 17 to 20 [Revelation 17-20].
And the seven new things, chapters 21 and 22 [Revelation 21-22].
That’s a beautiful outline. The seven churches, the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven personages, the seven bowls, the seven dooms, and the seven new things – seven sevens – a fine outline.
Now I have said that these things help us to understand the book, to read the book, and to make it meaningful to us. But after all of the ingenuousness by which scholars, and students, and commentators, and pupils pore over these pages, what we would like to know is: how did God write the book? How did God divide the book? How did God analyze the book? And how did God frame it so that it conforms to the image He had in His mind, when He gave it, when He revealed it unto us?
Now God apparently is a good homiletician; all good sermons they say ought to have three parts. Now God says to John that he is going to give this Revelation in three parts. Part one, "Write the things that thou hast seen." Part two, "Write the things which are." And part three, "Write the things which shall be," meta tauta, "after these" [Revelation 1:19]. So he has got three great divisions in the book. First, "Write the things that thou hast seen," and that is chapter 1. John wrote down the things which he had seen: there were the seven lampstands, and there was the Son of God in all of His glory, His face like the countenance of the sun, and there were the seven stars [Revelation1 2-16]. There were the seven lampstands; all that, that he had seen. That’s first, "Write down the things which thou hast seen" [Revelation 1:19]. This is the vision of the great authentication, and the great signature, and the great authority for the Apocalypse as a whole. First, "the things that thou hast seen," which is the Lord God Himself, that’s the first part [Revelation 1:12-18].
Now, "write the things which are" [Revelation 1:19], that’s the second part. And he uses that word "are" [Revelation 1:19], present tense, "the things which are," because it refers to us, to us. Now look at it: "The seven lampstands which thou sawest are the seven churches." So He uses the word "are" because John, and you, and I, and all of us live in the days of the churches. This is the church age, this is the church administration, this is the church dispensation. This is the day of the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God. This is the day of the great evangelization of the world. This is the day when Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free, learned and unlearned, wise and unwise, this is the great day when the doors to the kingdom of God are wide open to any man to come in. Come, come in today. Come any time, come any hour, come any – just come! The great invitation of the day of grace, John lived in that day, "the things that are." We live in that day, "the things that are" [Revelation 1:19].
The whole course of this church age, "the things which are," the mystery of the seven lampstands [Revelation 1:20]. There is a divine arithmetic, just as there are divine places, and names, and individuals, and things. There are sacred numbers, just like there are sacred people and sacred places. And that word "seven" is as much a part of the revelation of the Apocalypse, as any other syllable or any other word in it. Seven has a great meaning, seven stands for the whole church, for the whole age of the church. Seven stands for all of the churches for us and for the churches of our generation, and for the churches of all of this age and time.
So when John writes of the things that are [Revelation 1:19], he is writing about us, he is writing about the churches. And in those seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22], our Lord gave to John and to us a fore view and a preview of the progress of His preaching, and His gospel, and His ekklesia, "His churches," through all of the church age. And there is development in it, and progression in it, and sometimes it is regression. But this is an outline – this is a fore view by prophecy by the authority of Christ Himself, God Almighty – of the development of the church, of the churches, in all of this age. And we can read in these seven churches, and read about ourselves and our time. And when somebody comes along and says, "This has no pertinency for us, those seven churches back there in Asia, the message was for them, but when they died, the message died. And the pertinency died." Oh, oh! There were many more churches in Asia than seven. Why pick out these seven? The mystery of the seven lampstands [Revelation 1:20] which are the seven churches; these seven were chosen because in them Christ found a picture, and a symbol, and a preview of the expansion and the progression of the development of the gospel in the world. And it goes from the time of the apostles until the church is caught away to God out of the earth [2 Thessalonians 2:3]. So the second part of this great Revelation, writing of the things which are [Revelation 1:19], is a revelation, an apocalypse, an unveiling of the story of Christ’s churches in the earth through all of their Christian history. These are the things which are [Revelation 1:19], and you will find that section very compact and very complete; it is not fragmentary, it is not sectional in itself. There is no change in the speaker, there is no change in the place of the seer, there is no change in administration, there is no change in the course. Everything is compact, it belongs to one age and to one sort of an administration or dispensation. And it’s all alike, that second part, the things that pertain to the churches [Revelation 2:1-3:22].
Now we come, in the brief minute that is left me, to speak of the third great division of the book. "Write the things which thou hast seen" [Revelation 1:19], chapter 1: the vision of Christ [Revelation 1:12-16]. "Write the things which are," and the seven lampstands are the seven churches [Revelation 1:20]. "Write of the history, the fore view, the preview, the prophecy of My churches" [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. And then third, "and write the things which shall be meta tauta,""after, these churches." "Write the things which shall be meta" – beyond, over, outside – "after these things," tauta, "these churches" [Revelation 1:19]. Then, when I come to the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, I find God has followed His outline meticulously, to the last syllable. Look at it:
After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven:
and the first voice which I heard was as it were a voice of a trumpet talking with me; saying,
Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be – meta tauta – after these things.
After the church and its history and its judgment is complete, then beyond those things – beyond these lampstands, beyond these seven stars, the angels of the churches [Revelation 1:20] – which I’ll try to find time to preach in next service here. Beyond these churches then, these are the things that are going to come to pass – meta – beyond, "after" these things [Revelation 4:1-22:21].
There came into my mind this week an illustration of exactly what that is; meta . After you write the things which you have seen and the things which are, now write the things meta, "beyond" these things [Revelation 1:19]. The illustration that came to my mind was this: Aristotle, the pupil of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great, was I suppose the greatest philosopher, metaphysician, intellectual searcher who ever lived. All of our natural science had its genesis, its fatherhood, its birth in Aristotle; he had a brilliant and an inquiring mind. And as Alexander the Great overran the whole civilized world, Aristotle accompanied Alexander, and he wrote down and made observations on everything that he saw. He looked at the starry heavens, and he wrote down astronomy. And he looked at the world of plant life, and he wrote down botany. And he looked at the world of animal life, and he wrote down zoology. And he observed the weather, and he wrote down meteorology; and on and on, as Aristotle made observations.
Now, in the first century AD, there was a brilliant Greek scholar by the name of Andronicus who lived in Rhodes, a famous and ancient Greek city. And Andronicus, in the first century AD, took all of the great numerous prolific writings of Aristotle and he arranged them, he compiled them, he edited them. And the first thing Andronicus did was this: he put together everything that Aristotle had written that concerned the physical world, and he called it Ta Physica, the physical, the natural. And in that, he put down all of Aristotle’s observations about the stars in the sky, and about the plants on the ground, and animals that lived, and the weather that changed; all of the things that were physical, he put together in the first part.
Now Aristotle not only wrote down many observations concerning plants, and animals, and stars, and weather, and things physical, but Aristotle was a great, penetrating philosopher. And he wrote many things and made many observations concerning things that were not physical, such as, the science of learning, and the nature of being, and of existence, and things concerning logic, and things concerning the first cause and genesis; and speculations on the existence of God. He had a whole lot of things that were not physical.
So Andronicus, when he edited Aristotle’s work, he put everything Ta Physica in those parts at the front that had to do with nature. Then he took all of Aristotle’s writings that had to do with things that were not physical, and he put them together at the last part of his edition and called them Ta Meta Ta Physica – Ta Meta Ta Physica. Meta, there is that same thing; meta, that is things "beyond" the physical. Metaphysical, you have it in your English language – metaphysical, metaphysical, things intangible – things beyond the physical. These are physical things that Aristotle wrote of; now, these are things beyond the physical, meta-physical. And that’s the way Andronicus edited Aristotle’s work.
Now, that’s the identical and exact meaning of the word here, "You write the things that thou hast seen" [Revelation 1:19]. And that is in the first chapter of the vision of Christ [Revelation 1:12-18]. "And then write down the things that are [Revelation 1:19],and the seven lampstands are the seven churches" [Revelation 1:20]. So he writes down the churches [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. You – the church of the tomorrow, the church until Jesus comes again – "the churches" [Revelation 2:1-3:22]. And then finally, he is commanded to write down the things which shall be meta tauta, the things "beyond" the churches [Revelation 1:19], the things after the churches are taken away, the things after [Revelation 4:1-22:21]. God’s people are caught up with the Lord in glory and when I turned to the Revelation, it is exactly like God has outlined it.
First the vision [Revelation 1:12-18], second the things of the church [Revelation 2:1-3:22], and then – beginning at chapter 4 – the things "beyond," meta, over; the things after the things of the churches [Revelation 4:1-22:21]. And when you come to the fourth chapter of the Book of the Revelation [Revelation 4:1], that second section ends forever; it is never referred to. The word, "church" is never mentioned again, it is never referred to. It is never described; it is never discussed; it does not exist down here in the earth, it is caught away. There is no reference to the church beginning at chapter 4 because God is writing of things meta – beyond, "after" the churches [Revelation 1:19]. And that, ooh, oooh! Oh, oh! When we come to the first chapter of the Book of the Revelation, when we come to the fourth chapter [Revelation 4:1], thereafter we find God’s dealings with Jew and with Gentile in their awful and furious time that the Book calls the "great tribulation" – the tribulation, the great – Revelation 7:14. You have it translated here in the King James Version, "These are they, which come out of great tribulation." No! Lest John think anybody might mistake what he’s talking about, he called it the tribulation, the great; just like somebody might translate that "great tribulation." It is the great tribulation, the one great time when God shall take this earth and shake it like a mouse shaken in the paw and in the mouth of a big cat. God is not done with this world. And God is not done with the infidel, and God is not through with the unbeliever, and God is not done with the atheist, the agnostic, and those who shout defiance in the name of God. There is coming a day, there is coming a time, when God shall deal with the unbeliever by person – person to person! [Revelation 20:12].
We live now in a day of grace, in the age of mercy; the preaching of the gospel. Any man can curse God now and live, any man can spit on the name of Christ now and live, any man can damn the church now and live, and he can waste it, and martyr its saints and live. But there is coming a day, there is coming an hour when that man that spits in the face of God shall meet the judgment of God in an awful trial, in an awful day, and an awful hour. And that’s the revelation, the things after the day of grace, after this time. Oh! How we ought to preach, how we ought to make appeal. Sir, you have just a while, just a while, and then it’s gone forever, gone forever.
There is a time, I know not when, a place, I know not where,
That marks the destiny of men to glory or despair
There is a line, by us unseen, that crosses every path
The hidden boundary between God’s mercy and God’s wrath
["The King’s Glory"; Joseph Addison Alexander]
And this great Book of the Revelation delineates these things lest a man think, lest a man say in his heart, "I can curse God and live!" God says, "No man ever curses My name, takes it in vain, repudiates My Son, does despite to the Spirit of grace, tramples under foot the blood of the covenant" [Hebrews 10:29], but that there is a judgment that falls upon it from Almighty God out of heaven. Oh, to tremble, to tremble, to tremble! I ought to close.
"Judgment," Peter said, "must begin at the house of God" [1 Peter 4:17]. If it begins at us, then the judgment of the world follows subsequently, isn’t that right? First God speaks to His churches, then God speaks to an unbelieving world, and that is the Revelation. We shall pick it up there next Sunday morning, and follow it through as God shall enlighten our minds and give us ableness to speak of these mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.
At our early morning hour, we had such a marvelous harvest. Oh, you would have been glad! Dear old brother John Dillon – I pray he looked down from Glory – one of the godliest deacons I ever knew in my life. There was a family belonged to him that came down the aisle this morning, the whole family. Oh, it was glorious! And there were other families that came down this morning; the Lord favors us in the exposition of the Word of God. And I am persuaded in this great throng and company this morning, there is somebody you, the Spirit of the Lord invites, come, come, come. There is a stairway at the front and the back on either side of this balcony, and there are aisles down every one of the sections in this church, step in that aisle and down to the front. Come down one of these stairways and to the font. "Pastor, I give you my hand, I give my heart to God. Here I am, here I come."
Is there a family you, or just one somebody you, trusting Jesus as Savior, or putting your life with us in the fellowship of the church? While we sing this beautiful hymn of the church and of the kingdom of God, would you come? On the first note, "Here I am, pastor, here I am." While we stand and while we sing.
OUTLINE OF THE APOCALYPSE
made from the TextusReceptus, which left out Greek word oun,
"Therefore" refers to what has been said just before (Matthew 28:18-19)
"Write thereforeâ€¦on the basis that this destiny lies in My hand, write as
We have come to the great starting point, foundation, to what God means by
these visions of the future
II. Three ways men divide the Revelation
The goal of the establishment of the kingdom of Christ is reached twice in the
book(Revelation 11:15-17, 19:6-7)
Falls into two natural divisions – chapters 1-11 and 12-22
visions, of unequal length and of differing content, each introduced in the
In Patmos, chapters 1-3 (Revelation 1:9-10)
In heaven, chapters 4-16 (Revelation 4:1-2)
In the wilderness, chapters 17-20 (Revelation
On a great, high mountain, chapters 21-22 (Revelation
division, with prologue and epilog
seven churches, chapters 1-3
The seven seals, chapters 4-7
The seven trumpets, chapters 8-11
The seven personages, chapters 12-14
The seven vials, chapters 15-16
The seven dooms, chapters 17-20
The seven new things, chapters 21-22
III. How did God divide the book?
things which thou hast seen"
The vision recorded in chapter 1
Here the Lord identifies and authenticates Himself
"The things which are"
The church age, the age of grace, represented by the seven churches
unveiling of the story of Christ’s churches through all of their Christian
This section compact and complete
"The things after these meta touta"
After the church age has run its course, then follows revelation of the
dealings and judgment of God upon the world
Illustration of what meta is – Andronicus arranging the writings of
things "beyond", meta, after the things of the churches
After second section ends, the word "church" is not mentioned again
From chapter 4 on we find God’s dealings with Jew and Gentile in the Great
We live now in a day of grace – but there is coming a day when the man that
spits in the face of God shall meet His judgment
Poem, "The King’s Glory"