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Relationship to New Testament. The relationship of Revelation to the New Testament as a whole is discussed at ____.
Story. Revelation is treated here in nine major sections:
- Chapter 1: John's commission. John is told that Christ will come, and he is shown this vision in order to write it to the seven churches.
- Chapter 2-3: The church as it exists in the world. This section portrays the imperfect condition of the church today in a world where Babylon rules.
- Chapter 4-7: God and Christ praised by the righteous; the first six seals opened. This section emphasizes that God and Christ are in control of history. This section also describes the imperfect condition of the earth during the time of the first six seals while the kings of the earth rule.
- Chapter 8-11: Transition to seventh seal: Seven trumpets sound. This section describes transitional events near the beginning of the seventh seal rather than long term conditions. Seven angels sound trumpets initiating tribulations, but the wicked do not repent.
- Chapter 12-14: The conflict between the dragon and the Lamb. This section looks back to Satan's rebellion in the premortal world and his being cast out from heaven. The conflict here in mortality between good and evil is portrayed as a continuation of Lucifer's opposition to God.
- Chapter 15-16: Transition to seventh seal: Seven bowls poured out. This section also describes transitional events near the beginning of the seventh seal rather than long term conditions. Seven angels pour out bowls initiating tribulations, but still the wicked do not repent.
- Chapter 17-20: Seventh seal: Christ conquers the dragon and reigns on the earth. This section relates Christ's conquest of the dragon, including Babylon. As God and Christ were previously praised for their power and righteousness, here Babylon is lamented for its fall and the loss of its earthly riches. This section also describes the perfect conditions that will prevail during the Millennium. At the end of the Millennium Satan will be loosed for a little season before he is permanently defeated.
- Chapter 21-22a: The church as it will exist at the end of time. The description in this section of the New Jerusalem portrays the perfect condition of God's people when Christ rules rather than Babylon.
- Chapter 22b: John's commission. John is again told that Christ will come and that he is to write this vision to the churches.
Message. Themes, symbols, and doctrinal points emphasized in Revelation include:
- Christ will return in a Second Coming.
- Christ will conquer Satan and Babylon.
- God will reward those who are faithful to him, while those who belong to Babylon will suffer.
This section should be brief and explain facts about the historical setting that will help a reader to understand the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →
Authorship. The vision recorded in the book of Revelation was given to, and the book was written by, the apostle John. This is stated in the first verse of the book itself. (Rev 1:1). This is also confirmed in the Book of Mormon by Nephi (1 Ne 14:18-27) and Moroni. (Ether 4:16).
Location, circumstances, and date. John states that he received the vision while he "was in the isle that is called Patmos." (Rev 1:9). Patmos is a small island near Ephesus off the western Greek-facing coast of Asia Minor. John states that "I … am also your brother and companion in tribulation, and … was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev 1:9 KJV), or "because of the word of God" (Rev 1:9 NASB; Rev 1:9 NIV) or "on account of the word of God." (Rev 1:9 RSV). Patmos was used by the Romans as a penal colony to which people could be banished for a period of years. The seven churches addressed in Revelation were all located nearby in western Asia Minor. (See this map from the Institute manual). John's references in Rev 1:9 both to his banishment and to being a fellow sufferer suggest that Revelation was likely received during a period of anti-Christian persecution in at least western Asia Minor that had resulted in John's banishment and in similar persecution of many other church members in western Asia Minor.
Most Biblical scholars conclude that the likeliest date for John's banishment to Patmos is during the 90's AD, which corresponds with Emperor Domitian's (r. 81-96 AD) persecution of Christians throughout the Roman Empire, also corresponds with an outbreak of anti-Christian persecution in Asia Minor in 92 AD, and is supported unanimously by the earliest sources. But while this date is likely, it is not certain. Many scholars also find a date for John's banishment to be likely during Emperor Nero's (r. 54-68 AD) earlier persecution of Christians during the late 60's AD, and any date after about the mid 40's AD is possible.
This section is for detailed discussion such as the meaning of a symbol, how a doctrinal point is developed throughout a passage, or insights that can be further developed in the future. Contributions may range from polished paragraphs down to a single bullet point. The focus, however, should always be on understanding the scriptural text consistent with LDS doctrine. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →
- Structure of the outline. It is widely recognized that the book of Revelation is organized as a chiasm with either chapter 12 or chapters 12-14 located at the center. The following proposed outline follows this general pattern:
- A. John's commission. (Chapter 1)
- B. The imperfect church as it exists in the world today. (Chapters 2-3)
- C. God and Christ praised by the righteous; the first six seals opened. (Chapters 4-7)
- D. Transition to seventh seal: Seven trumpets sound. (Chapters 8-11)
- E. The conflict between the dragon and the Lamb. (Chapters 12-14)
- D'. Transition to seventh seal: Seven bowls poured out. (Chapters 15-16)
- C'. Seventh seal: Fallen Babylon is lamented by the wicked; Christ conquers the dragon and reigns on the earth. (Chapters 17-20)
- B'. The perfected church as it will exist at the end of time. (Chapters 21-22a)
- A'. John's commission. (Chapter 22b)
- Comparing parallel sections. In chiasmus, the sections of the text that occupy parallel positions opposite each other in the chiastic structure should be read together as a pair so that the interpretation of each esction is informed by its relationship to the opposite or parallel section.
- In Section A (Chapter 1) John tells the seven churches that Christ will come (Rev 1:7). He then relates that he saw Christ glorified, who told him to write to the seven churches the vision that he will see. (Rev 1:19). In Section A' (Chapter 22b) John is told that Christ will come (Rev 22:7, 12) and that John is to write this vision to the churches. (22:6, 16). These two sections provide the frame story inside of which the vision is shown to John.
- In Section B (Chapters 2-3) John writes letters to the church as it exists in the world today. The condition of the church and its members today is a mixed bag. Some are complimented without reservation (see Smyrna in Rev 2:8-11), some are given limited compliments (see Pergamos in Rev 2:12-17), and others are simply rebuked (see Laodicea in Rev 3:14-22). This is contrasted in Section B' (Chapters 21-22a) with the church as it will exist in a perfected condition at the end of the world. That future church is "prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Rev 21:2), is described as the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven with glory (Rev 21:10-11), "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." (Rev 21:22-23).
- In Section C (Chapters 4-7) two points are made. First, that God and Christ are in control of history. God holds in his hand the book (Rev 5:1) representing the seven thousand years of mankind's history upon the earth (D&C 77:6), and only Christ in his role as Redeemer is able to open the book and enable that history to occur. (Rev 5:5, 9-10). Second, that Babylon's (or mankind's) governance of the earth during the first six thousand years is imperfect and results in death and want (Rev 6:1-10) and persecution of the righteous (Rev 6:9-11; 7:14). In Revelation the number six often stands for imperfection and evil, or the opposite of perfection (see the number of the beast in Rev 13:18), and this applies as well to the first six seals or first six thousand years of man's history on the earth as it exists through today. This is contrasted in Section C' (Chapters 17-20) with the condition of the earth during the seventh Millennial thousand years (Rev 20:3) when Christ rules (Rev 19:11-16) rather than Babylon (Rev 18:2). Whereas in Section C God was portrayed as holding all of human history in his hand, and the righteous praised God upon his throne in heaven as the creator of all things (Rev 4:2, 9-11), here in Section C' the wicked lament the fall of Babylon, its burning, and the loss of its riches, making the point that Babylon is ultimately powerless and that those who trust in it will ultimately be disappointed. (Rev 18:16-19).
- In Section D (Chapters 8-11) unity is provided by a series of seven angels having seven trumpets. (Rev 8:2; 11:15). In Section D' (Chapters 15-16) unity is provided by a series of seven angels having seven vials or bowls. (Rev 15:1; 16:17). Both sections portray transitional events at the beginning of the seventh seal and at the end of Babylon's rule over the world. In both sections, tribulations are poured out upon the wicked. In both sections the wicked do not repent of their wicked ways. (Rev 9:20-21; 16:9, 11). The seventh trumpet and the seventh vial, or the final tribulation poured out upon the wicked in both sections, is the defeat of evil amidst great thunderings and lightnings. (Rev 11:15-19; 16:17-21).
- Section E (Chapters 12-14) interrupts the narrative of the seven seals to teach, at the point of greatest prominence at the center of this chiasm, that the real battle throughout history has been between the righteousness of God and Christ and the evil of Satan. Chapter 12 begins with a shift in the action from earth to heaven (Rev 12:1) and a flashback to Satan's rebellion during premortality and his being cast out of heaven. (Rev 12:4, 7-9; also see Moses 4:1-4). Chapter 13 explains that Satan continues his opposition here in mortality by deceiving and leading mankind astray. Chapter 14 explains that this deceit is countered by the preaching of the gospel, and that those who are not led astray will receive salvation.
- Putting the sections back in narrative sequence. John sees Christ glorified and is told to write to seven churches the vision that he will see. (Section A, Chapter 1). John is first told to write letters to the seven churches praising them for their strengths and admonishing them for their weaknesses. (Section B, Chapters 2-3). John then sees in vision that God holds human history in his hand, and that this history is made possible through the redemption of Christ. (Section C, Chapters 4-5). John sees the first six thousand years of that history, during which mankind rules, mankind suffers, and the righteous are persecuted, but many overcome and receive salvation. (Section C, Chapters 6-7). Then, at the beginning of the seventh thousand years, tribulations symbolized by seven angels holding seven trumpets are poured out upon the wicked, but the wicked do not repent. Finally, at the end of these tribulations, "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord." (Section D, Chapters 8-11). John then sees a flashback to premortality in which Satan rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven. (Section E, Chapter 12). Satan continues his opposition to God here in mortality through the preaching of false doctrine, which is countered by the preaching of the gospel. (Section E, Chapters 13-14). The story then returns to the time at the beginning of the seventh thousand years when tribulations symbolized this time by seven angels holding seven vials are poured out upon the wicked, but again the wicked do not repent. Finally, at the end of these tribulations, "the cities of the nations fell, and Babylon came in remembrance before God" to be judged. (Section D', Chapters 15-16). In contrast to the manner in which God was praised upon his throne as the creator and the master of history, the fall of Babylon and the lament for her of the wicked shows the ultimate powerlessness of Babylon and the forces of wickedness. (Section C', Chapters 17-18). Christ is shown conquering all foes, binding Satan for the remainder of the seventh thousand years, and reigning in righteousness. The first resurrection at the beginning of this seventh thousand years and the final judgment that follows it are also described. (Section C', Chapters 19-20). In contrast to the imperfect condition of the church today, John sees the church in its future perfected condition as the bride of the bridegroom and as the New Jerusalem wherein God and Christ dwell with their people. (Section B', Chapters 21-22a). Finally, John is told again that Christ will come and that he is to write this vision to the churches. (Section A', Chapter 22a).
- Interpretational context provided by this outline. This discussion of the outline of Revelation does not even begin to explain every verse of the book. But it does help one to understand Revelation at the level of the chapter and to understand the general point of the book. This understanding of the broad outline of Revelation provides important context when seeking to understand specific passages in greater detail.
Relation to other scriptures
- Several other books of scripture shed light on Revelation.
- D&C 77. Section 77 consists entirely of keys important to the interpretation of Revelation. D&C 77 settles authoritatively the meanings of many of the symbols used by John in Revelation. For those who accept the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, it is foolish to study Revelation without the benefit of the answers provided in D&C 77. In fact, the wiki page discussing D&C 77 suggests that most discussion of that section should actually occur here on the wiki pages that address Revelation.
- Joseph Smith Translation. The Joseph Smith Traslation made changes to the following verses in Revelation. This list is complete. The text of all changes is included in the Wayment reference below. The text of most changes is included in the footnotes to the LDS Edition of the King James Translation (linked here, select "show footnotes"). Changes not included in the LDS Edition footnotes are italicized (not yet done): Rev 1:1-8, 12, 16, 20 • Rev 2:1, 8, 12, 18-19, 22, 26-27 • Rev 3:1-2, 5, 7, 12, 14 • Rev 4:1, 4-6, 9-10 • Rev 5:1-2, 6 • Rev 6:1, 6, 14 • Rev 7:2, 4 • Rev 8:12 • Rev 9:1, 11, 14, 16 • Rev 10:4 • Rev 12:1-9, 11-17 • Rev 13:1 • Rev 16:7 • Rev 17:17 • Rev 19:2, 5, 10-13, 15-16, 18, 21 • Rev 20:1, 6 • Rev 22:9.
- Daniel 2, 7-8. Daniel contains three of the better known Biblical prophecies regarding the sweep of history: (1) the vision of the statute in Daniel 2 (discussion); (2) the vision of four beasts in Daniel 7 (discussion); and (3) the vision of two beasts in Daniel 8 (discussion). There is broad consensus, both LDS and non-LDS, informed by modern day hindsight, regarding the interpretation of these three prophecies in Daniel. It can be helpful, before studying Revelation and its beasts, to become familiar with the use of beasts in Daniel as representations of earthly kingdoms.
- In fact, the manner in which the entire book of Daniel is organized, the main themes in Daniel, and the use of symbols in the historical prophecies of Daniel are all mirrored in the organization, themes, and symbolism of Revelation. But Daniel (at least Daniel 1-9) is much simpler than Revelation and can be understood much more quickly. This suggests that one strategy for understanding Revelation is to first understand Daniel and then seek to understand Revelation by analogy to Daniel.
- First Nephi 11-14. D&C 77:7 explains that the seven seals in Revelation each represent a single thousand year period of the earth's history since Adam and Eve. The broad consensus is that this means four seals BC, two seals so far AD, and a third Millennial seal to come in the future. Using this framework, the description of Nephi's vision in First Nephi 11-14 (discussion) covers roughly 600 BC to 2,000 AD, or in other words covers the fourth through sixth seals. When Nephi's vision reaches the seventh seal, however, Nephi is told not to write any more, and that John will write the rest of the vision (here in Revelation). (1 Ne 14:18-28). John, on the other hand, spends only two verses on each of the first four seals (Rev 6:1-8), three verses on the fifth seal (Rev 6:9-11), about a chapter on the sixth seal (6:12-7:8), and most of the remainder of his book on the seventh seal. Since Nephi explicitly describes the record of his vision as being a complementary prologue to Revelation, it can make sense to read First Nephi 11-14 prior to Revelation.
- Ezekiel. Revelation owes the most to Ezekiel's prophecy. The most obvious parallel is that both end with descriptions of the eternal city, the temple, and fountains of water. But comparative outlines have been proposed for the entire books of Ezekiel and Revelation. Ezekiel cannot be tackled by a Sunday School teacher as merely one of many supplementary materials reviewed in the course of just a week or two. But for personal study unconstrained by deadlines, Ezekiel and Revelation can be fruitfully studied side by side.
- Zechariah. Revelation also borrows imagery from Zechariah, including the four horsemen. Zechariah is also a difficult book, and so is better suited for in-depth personal study rather than as a quick way into Revelation.
- Prophecies of the signs of the times. Several other passages of scripture address the signs of the times that occur at the beginning of the seventh seal. Among the more prominent passages are: (1) the Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24-25 (discussion), Joseph Smith-Matthew (discussion), D&C 45 (discussion), and Mark 13 (discussion); (2) Malachi 3-4 (discussion) and Third Nephi 24-25 (discussion); and (3) D&C 29 (discussion), D&C 86 (discussion), D&C 88 (discussion), and D&C 133 (discussion).
- Regarding the timing of the Second Coming and the purposes of signs of the times, see the discussion of the parable of the fig tree at Matt 24.
- Seven. The number seven is routinely used in Revelation to indicate completion or perfection.
- Six. The number six, one less than seven, is used in Revelation to indicate the opposite of perfection, namely evil.
- Three and a half. The number three and a half is also used to indicate the opposite of perfection. Periods of three and a half times (time, times, and half a time) or three and a half years (1260 days = 42 months of 30 days each = 3.5 years) often represent temporary conditions, especially periods of tie during which evil prevails.
- Revelation contains seven beatitudes.
- Rev 1:3. "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand."
- Rev 14:13. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: ... they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them."
- Rev 16:15. "Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
- Rev 19:9. "Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb."
- Rev 20:6. "Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years."
- Rev 22:7. "Blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book."
- Rev 22:14. "Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the [holy] city."
Outline and page map
This section contains an outline for the entire book. Items in blue or purple text indicate hyperlinked pages that address specific portions of the book. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →
- Ephesus (2:1-7)
- Smyrna (2:8-11)
- Pergamos (2:12-17)
- Thyatira (2:18-29)
- Sardis (3:1-6)
- Philadelphia (3:7-13)
- Laodicea (3:14-22)
- Scene in heaven: God and Christ praised by 24 elders and 4 beasts (4:1-5:14)
- God upon his throne in heaven worshiped by 24 elders and 4 beasts as the creator (4:1-11)
- Christ praised as the one able to open the book with 7 seals (5:1-14)
- the book in God's hand with 7 seals that only Christ can open (5:1-7)
- Christ praised as as the Redeemer of all who is worthy to open the book (5:8-14)
- Scene on earth: Christ opens the first six seals of the book (6:1-7:8)
- 1st-4th seals: four horsemen bringing conquest, warfare, famine, and death (6:1-8)
- 5th seal: martyrs under the altar (6:9-11)
- 6th seal (6:12-7:8)
- the earth in physical commotion, the great hide from the day of wrath (6:12-17)
- before the four angels hurt the earth, 144,000 righteous are sealed (7:1-8)
- Scene in heaven: God and Christ praised by the numerous righteous (7:9-17)
- God and Christ praised by multitudes and by those in heaven (7:9-12)
- those praising God before his throne are the righteous tried in adversity (7:13-17)
- censer with prayers of the Saints cast into the earth (8:1-5)
- 1st-4th angels hurt the earth: destruction upon the third part of creation (8:6-13)
- 5th angel (1st woe): armies led by the angel of bottomless pit torment (not kill) the wicked for 5 months (9:1-12)
- 6th angel (2nd woe)
- armies led by four other angels kill the third part of men, but the wicked do not repent (9:13-21)
- another mighty angel: 7 thunders, time will be ended when 7th angel sounds (10:1-7)
- John commissioned to prophesy before many peoples (10:8-11)
- two witnesses in Jerusalem for 3-1/2 years before slain, bodies lie 3-1/2 days before resurrected (11:1-14)
- 7th angel (3rd woe): 24 elders worship God who reigns, day of judgment has arrived (11:15-19)
- the dragon and the woman (12:1-17)
- dragon pursues woman's child, child caught up to heaven, woman preserved 3-1/2 years (12:1-6)
- Satan cast out of heaven by the power of Christ, woe to the earth (12:7-12)
- dragon pursues woman and her righteous seed, woman preserved 3-1/2 years (12:12-17)
- two beasts given power by the dragon (13:1-18)
- leopard blasphemes 3-1/2 years, then mortally wounded and healed (13:1-10)
- second beast (or false prophet) kills those who do not worship the first beast, number 666 in forehead of followers (13:11-18)
- the reaping of the earth (14:1-20)
- Lamb on Mt Zion with 144,000 righteous with name of God in forehead (14:1-5)
- three angels: Gospel is preached, Babylon is fallen, the wicked shall suffer wrath, the righteous enjoy rest (14:6-13)
- Christ and three angels reap the earth (14:14-20)
- the righteous worship God in heaven (15:1-4)
- one of the four beasts gives the seven vials of God's wrath to the seven angels (15:5-8)
- seven vials poured out upon the wicked, but they do not repent (16:1-21)
- fall of Babylon and the kings of the earth (17:1-18:24)
- John sees the whore sitting on a beast representing earthly powers (17:1-18)
- lament of the wicked over the fall of Babylon (18:1-24)
- reign of Christ as king of kings (19:1-16)
- 24 elders and 4 beasts praise God for judging Babylon (19:1-4)
- marriage supper of the Lamb (19:6-10)
- Christ and his armies on white horses defeat the false prophet and the beast and their armies (19:11-21)
- The seventh thousand years (20:1-10)
- Satan bound for a thousand years, then loosed for a little season (20:1-3)
- righteous reign with Christ during Millennial thousand years, first resurrection (20:4-6)
- at end of thousand years Satan loosed and then defeated permanently (20:7-10)
- judgment (20:11-15)
- the new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven, God and the Lamb reign there (21:1-22:5)
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Prompts for life application
This section is for prompts that suggest ways in which a passage can influence a person's life. Prompts may be appropriate either for private self reflection or for a class discussion. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →
Prompts for further study
This section is for prompts that invite us to think about a passage more deeply or in a new way. These are not necessarily questions that beg for answers, but rather prompts along the lines of "Have you ever thought about ..." Prompts are most helpful when they are developed individually, thoughtfully, and with enough background information to clearly indicate a particular direction for further study or thought. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →
This section is for listing links and print resources, including those that are also cited elsewhere on this page. A short comment about the particular strengths of a resource can be helpful. Click the "edit" link to edit or add content to this section. →
Translations and Lexicons.
References cited on this page.
- Wayment, Thomas A., ed. The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2005. (ISBN 1590384393) BX8630 .A2 2005.
- Draper, Richard D. Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1991. (ISBN 9781590386385) (ISBN 0875795471). A slow read that will take time to digest, but the most thorough discussion of Revelation by an LDS scholar regarding both what we do and do not know about the boook.
- LDS Institute New Testament Student Manual (PDF version): Chapter 53/56: Revelation 1-3 • Chapter 54/56: Revelation 4-11 • Chapter 55/56: Revelation 12-16 • Chapter 56/56: Revelation 17-22. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2014.
- "Book of Revelation Overview." Ensign, October 1983. This article is a short and excellent introduction to Revelation from an LDS perspective, especially in its discussion of Revelation 12-14.
Footnotes are not required but are encouraged for factual assertions that average readers cannot easily evaluate for themselves (such as the date of King Solomon’s death or the nuanced definition of a Greek word). In contrast, insights rarely benefit from footnoting, and the focus of this page should always remain on the scriptures themselves rather than what someone has said about them. Links are actively encouraged on all sections of this page, and links to authoritative sources (such as Strong's Bible Concordance or the Joseph Smith Papers) are preferable to footnotes.
- Draper, Richard D. Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator. p. 2-3.
- Draper, Richard D. Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator. p. 3-4.
- Draper, Richard D. Opening the Seven Seals: The Visions of John the Revelator. p. 3-4.
- Wayment, The Complete Joseph Smith Translation of the New Testament, p. 316-26.