John’s Apocalyptic Outline -- By: Robert L. Thomas

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 123:492 (Oct 1966)
Article: John’s Apocalyptic Outline
Author: Robert L. Thomas


John’s Apocalyptic Outline

Robert L. Thomas

[Robert L. Thomas, Professor of New Testament Language and Literature, Talbot Theological Seminary, La Mirada, California.]

Of all the keys for unlocking the mysteries of John’s Apocalypse, there is probably no more frequently suggested one than Revelation 1:19. It has been stated time and again that this verse contains the inspired outline of the book, much in the same manner as Acts 1:8 gives the outline for the book of Acts. This is as it should be, for in Revelation 1:19 there is found the commission given to John to write the contents of the Apocalypse.

Yet when one has found the key, all the problems are not solved, because it remains for the interpreter to decide how the key is to be used. John’s instruction is to write, ha eides kai ha eisin kai ha mellei genesthai meta tauta. There is no disputing this fact, but various writers have interpreted these words in different ways. It is possible to discuss the differing viewpoints under three headings.

The words speak of the book as being composed of one unbroken division. According to this viewpoint, the ha eides sums up the contents of the whole book, with the other parts of the expression interpreting this first part. Such a position forces one to adopt one of the following alternatives.

First, chapter one of Revelation, was written after chapters two through twenty-two. Bullinger, an advocate of this viewpoint, renders the verse : “Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and what they are…even the things which shall come to pass…hereafter.”1 He seeks support for this possibility by comparing the aorist tense of eides in 1:19 with that of eiden in 1:2, which purportedly looks at a time of writing subsequent to the recording of Revelation 222. If this conclusion be correct, the past tense of the verb looks at the

visions as already history from the standpoint of the writer. The tense of the verb could, however, be explained from the standpoint of the reader. Such an epistolary aorist is a well-established use of the aorist tense, and can be treated as a likely alternative in verse two by linking it with the emartu...

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