In Revelation 1:19, Jesus instructs John:

“Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this” (ESV).

There are two or three divisions in this verse: “the things that you have seen,” “those that are,” and “those that are to take place after this.”

How should these divisions be applied, if any, as an interpretative framework for the book of Revelation?

  • This is a nice question, the answer has a few frustrating twists and turns, but I’ll give it a go tomorrow morning 💥 Sep 15 '21 at 20:26
  • There are many uses of this to arrive at historicist and futurist schemes.
    – Dottard
    Sep 15 '21 at 21:45

γραψον α ειδες και α εισιν και α μελλει γινεσθαι μετα ταυτα [Revelation 1:19 TR (undisputed except for the addition of ουν after γραψον)]

Write (thou) the things which thou sawest and the things which are and the things which are about to take place after these [Revelation 1:19, EGNT (1)]

'After these' at the end of the sentence, being plural, refers back to :

  • 1 ... the things which thou sawest

  • 2 ... the things which are

So after writing about what he saw and what was already present, John is to write about the things which shall take place after these (two) things.

  • 3 ... the things which are about to take place after these

Thereafter, John writes of a vision of the Son of man. That is something he sees and it is also something that is present. It is not a prediction of the future, it is a vision of what the Son of man presently is.

Then John writes to the seven churches. Or, to be more precise, he writes to the angels of the churches. When he writes on parchment, the angels will be aware of what he has written. He does not need to send it anywhere.

But he also sends seven copies of what he wrote, to the churches, notifying them of what has been made available to the angels. Thus the churches are advised of the angelic judgment that, if they heed and repent, they will avoid. Else, they are advised, angels have been informed and angelic judgment will fall upon the impenitent.

Then, John writes of his being caught up (in vision, maybe, or bodily, some might say) to see things in heaven in regard to the throne.

Again, this is present. It is a vision of what is now, in heaven : the throne, he that sits upon it, the rainbow, the living creatures ('beast' is not helpful) the elders, the seven spirits before the throne.

All is now. A vision of what he saw, that which is now.

Then begins the unfolding of things which shall be thereafter.

Personally, I would see the first two statements above as supportive and synonymic.

Write that which thou sawest, and the things which are

What John had seen (up to that stage) . . . .

. . . was a vision of Christ. John saw this vision and the vision is now.

That is the revelation. Christ himself, among the churches, among the lampstands, seeing (with burning vision) what is and progressing (with brasen judgment) upon a route.

The vision of Christ is what is to be communicated. And this is that by which the churches are judged. Each postscript - peculiar to each individual gathering - is accompanied by a relevant part of the vision of Christ.

It is he who is the vision. And it is he who is the judge, in his character.

Against him are the churches judged.

So yes, there is a structure to be seen.

And it is of fundamental importance to every generation of the Church to see it.

Thereafter is an unfolding of what I understand to be six more sections, each historically parallel (from the ascension of Christ up to his return) and rising in elevation, spiritually.

The best exposition of this book that I am aware of is The Revelation of Jesus Christ by John Metcalfe in which he deals, first, with the variety of ways in which the book is viewed by authors and preachers, after which he expounds in order the historically parallel structure which I find, myself, to be the most compelling and the most logical and the most in accord with the rest of scripture.

(1) EGNT Englishman's Greek New Testament - literal interlinear translation

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    Nice. I can rest. 🤣 Sep 16 '21 at 4:08
  • Could you please give the title of the book if you have it? I visited your link supplied above, and none of the current books covers this topic - unless I’m looking in the wrong place? Sep 16 '21 at 4:37
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    @AshleyRoberts My apologies. How thoughtless of me. I have edited above. It is The Revelation of Jesus Christ. You may find it on Amazon. Or Abe Books. Or direct from the JMPT (John Metcalfe Publishing Trust). Regards.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 16 '21 at 6:08
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    Not at all, thanks so much! Sep 16 '21 at 6:56
  • @AshleyRoberts My profile has a link to my website which has a contact page. Feel free if you wish.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 16 '21 at 8:54

Revelation 1:19 forms part of the interpretive framework for the whole book, but it is really best to start with verse 1, for there was are told exactly what John had to write about.

"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw." (1:1-2)

'The Revelation' is of Jesus Christ - thus disclosing things about the risen Christ that had not yet been revealed, towards the close of the 1st century A.D. Although all God's servants were to be shown this Revelation, it was first given to John in the form of a vision. That vision was the "those things you have seen" of verse 19. Things seen in vision just prior to writing that vision down - that is the past tense of verse 19.

The "things which are" in verse 19 are all things presently before John, in visionary form and as explained from heaven, audibly. They are reality, as real as everything we see on earth, unfolding according to the will of God, and whatever God decrees, that is what comes to pass. As soon as the word is spoken, it is as good as done. Nothing will prevent all those things which are given in vision from happening. All these things are true, and real, and we have seen the reality of all those things unfolding over nearly 2,000 years now, beginning to culminate as they head inexorably towards the last of the seven last plagues, and the last trumpet sound, just before Christ returns.

The "things that are hereafter" (KJV, much more succinct than the ESV) would be that which commences after Jesus made that statement, going through to all the things that will take place "when time is no more" (Rev. 10:6), this present earth and heaven no longer having a place, having been replaced with the new heavens and the new earth spoken of in the last few chapters and in 2 Peter 3:10-13. We all await the 'hereafter' of the Day of Resurrection and Judgment from Rev. 20:11 to the end, and mentioned in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18.

It is not necessary to speak of modern interpretive frameworks that use such words as preterist, historicist, amellineal, premillineal, etc because that's not what the Revelation is about. Just stick to what the opening chapter says and take it from there. Modern-day interpretations cause a massive amount of confusion, hindering the understanding of the Revelation becoming clearer as the centuries unfold. To look at it without the straight-jacket of standard theological 'schools' of thought gives clarity of understanding. All those interpretive 'schools' invariably put their interpretations first, and try to shoe-horn the Revelation in to them. I demonstrated that point with a question I asked here, about chapter 10 verse 6. The question asks In Revelation 10:6 the Greek text has, “there should be time no longer.” Yet modern translation say 'delay'. Is there warrant in the Greek for this?

There is a time-frame, of course, built into the Revelation. Chapter 1 verse 10 calls the time John was in, "the day of the Lord", and he was in the Spirit, on that day. This also forms part of the vital framework for understanding. What is that particular "Lord's day"? According to Psalm 2:6-9, it is when the glorified Christ ascended to heaven, and that 'day' will continue until he arises to come again at the end of the age. As explained further in this book:

"Meanwhile, 'Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power.' Mark that: the day of it. The day of the Lord's power is not a mere twenty-four hours: it spans the entire period of his downsitting after the ascension, until his uprising at the end of time.

This day began when the Sun of righteousness ascended into the heavens. By so doing, spiritual day was created by his abiding presence in the heavens, not to cease till his setting, that is, his return to the earth, when everlasting darkness shall fall upon the wicked. As long as the Son is in the heavens, so long his day abides in power." (The Revelation of Jesus Christ, p 6, John Metcalfe)

Once this time-scale of nearly 2,000 years for the on-going Day of the Lord in the Revelation is grasped, things begin to make sense as to how interpretations should naturally fit into this time-frame. But I suggest that it's just as vital to grasp the framework for the awful Day of Judgment that will suddenly explode over an ungodly world, when it will be too late for anybody to play about with various theological interpretations. There is deadly seriousness in the whole of the Book of the Revelation, written to prepare God's holy people to endure great tribulations during the interim between their Lord ascending in glory back to heaven, and the last trump heralding his spectacular return. Chapter 1 and chapter 21 are the two 'book-ends' of the entire vision, holding all together. It's rarely wise to just take one verse and try to call that 'a framework'. The verse in question is but one part of the framework for the book of Revelation, and Jesus Christ is, in his person, the only heavenly light of illumination that will give us the meaning, by his Spirit.

  • The things 'hereafter' are surely such things as the seven plagues which take place in time, not 'when time shall be no more'.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 16 '21 at 12:57
  • @Nigel J That may well be right, and I could be wrong to 'postpone' the things 'hereafter' till after the final 7th plague, though that would certainly be included in those things hereafter. I'll go check and see if I can get more clarity.
    – Anne
    Sep 16 '21 at 13:21
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    @Nigel Certainly, most of the book expresses what occurs during the Church Age after John's departure and before the coming again of Jesus Christ, so it would be more correct to say the things 'hereafter' are things taking place in time. Thanks for the point.
    – Anne
    Sep 16 '21 at 13:40

If one is a preterist, then the answer (for most of them) is, "no" because almost everything in Revelation for most preterists occurred in the 1st century. Thus, Rev 1:19 becomes:

  • Write what you have already seen and what I am take place later in the this series of visions.

However, if you are a historicist or futurist then the answer is "yes" and the usual division of the book of Revelation becomes:

  • "What is now" - Rev 1-3 - the present state of the seven churches in Asia minor
  • "What will take place later" - Rev 4-21 - such as Philip Schaff's seven stages of church history as suggested by seven seals and seven trumpets.

This still leaves open the question of how Rev 4-21 is understood, whether

  • in the historical sense, eg, the time since John till now with some future events still to occur, such as Philip Schaff's seven stages of church history as suggested by seven seals and seven trumpets.
  • largely still all future, with some notable exceptions.
  • The problem with having these frameworks (and I’m sure you agree here) is the way that these views cause people to ‘lock in’ on a certain position. If I had to force myself into an ‘-ist box’, I would need to be a ‘polyist’! People either have a tremendous urge to solve the Revelation puzzle - or they simply say “it’s too complex, symbolic and amorphous to ever know for sure, and at the end of the day it must agree with the rest of scripture in any case” - and they ignore it. But if one keeps an open mind, growing one’s knowledge day by day, the rewards can be great! Sep 16 '21 at 4:24

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