This is an outline in summary form of a longer post. It is intended to show that:
a) Revelation reveals a definite time framework for understanding prophecy.
b) The periods of time are described in such a way that they have to follow one another in sequence. They cannot overlap or run simultaneously.
c) All that happens in Revelation from chapter 4 onwards – especially noting this includes chapter 6 – is still future.
Revelation has a clear destination in view at the end of the book. It makes good sense to work backwards from the destination in this study.
One note before continuing. Time is never symbolic of anything else. Generally numbers of days, weeks, years etc should be taken literally unless the context is clear. (There is varied use of the terms “day” and “weeks” in the Bible, but even then they always ultimately cannot refer to anything other than a period of time with a beginning and an end.)
DESTINATION – Revelation 21-22 (also includes warnings and encouragement for all readers from the time of John’s writing onwards). Eternal state / new heavens and new earth (not to be touched by sin or polluted, spoiled, cursed in any way – new means “new”, it does not mean “restored”).
This new creation can only be set up after sin has been finally dealt with in the present creation. It therefore must happen AFTER…
The GREAT WHITE THRONE – Revelation 20:11-15. Judgment and final banishment of all remaining evil and of sinners who reject God’s provisions. Also the “LITTLE WHILE” – Rev 20:3 (final sentence) and Revelation 20:7-10. Final rebellion of Satan AFTER being “released from prison” and BEFORE being “cast into the lake of fire”. These both contain the final time sequence references in the Bible to the present earth before it passes away (Revelation 21:1).
In the clear sequence presented in the chapter, these events must happen BEFORE the new creation but AFTER…
The MILLENNIUM / THOUSAND YEARS – Revelation 20:1-9. Satan is taken from the EARTH (on which he had been present to deceive the whole world), he is bound and “cast into the BOTTOMLESS PIT” (not the lake of fire, or the air) – all part of a sequence. Therefore the millennium can never be equated with the present CHURCH age, when SATAN is much less restricted, being the “prince of the power of the AIR”. During the 1,000 years Christ reigns on/over with his saints. Although briefly mentioned in Revelation, numerous Old and New Testament prophecies belong here. This is where the TIME and SEQUENCE of these great prophecies is finally revealed, the one missing piece of the jigsaw. This is where all the prophecies of a RESTORED (not new) EARTH come to fruition (curse on nature lifted, no weeds or poisons, wolf will lie down with the lamb etc – obviously these all have yet to occur), and all the prophecies of the MESSIANIC KINGDOM will be fulfilled. The CHURCH will reign with CHRIST, and the reign will be effected through ISRAEL for the blessing of all NATIONS. JERUSALEM will finally be the city of peace, the MESSIAH will have His rightful place – an inheritance encompassing the restored EARTH, the CHURCH, ISRAEL and the NATIONS – as promised to His glory.
The place of the MILLENNIUM within the Biblical sequence in beyond doubt. It must come BEFORE the “LITTLE WHILE” and the GREAT WHITE THRONE (above) but AFTER…
The TRIBULATION – Revelation 6:1-19:21. There is great detail in Revelation and elsewhere in the Bible about what basically a seven year period, with the second half being the “great” tribulation or “Jacob’s trouble” etc (note Jewish emphasis rather than Church). In accordance with the promise that Christian believers are to be “delivered from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1:10) the CHURCH is already IN HEAVEN (Rev 5) – see below. The tribulation on the earth affects the JEWS, the NATIONS (political sphere) and all FALSE RELIGION (including the apostate church). SATAN is CAST DOWN on to the EARTH during this time (12:9). Throughout the CHURCH age, SATAN is the “prince of the power of the AIR” together with “spiritual hosts of wickedness in HEAVENLY PLACES” (Ephesians 2:2 and 6:12). This is further Biblical evidence to support the teaching that the church does not pass through the tribulation. As far as the tribulation itself is concerned, there will never be any doubt whatsoever at the time or in history to follow that the prophecies have been fulfilled in precise detail. It can therefore ONLY be FUTURE, since no time in history remotely matches the scale and intensity of the events being foretold.
The tribulation period in Revelation closes with the arrival of Christ ON TO THE EARTH at the literal JERUSALEM / MOUNT OF OLIVES to set up the Millennial Kingdom above. This CANNOT be the same event as 1 Thessalonians 4, when CHRIST meets the CHURCH in the AIR without setting foot back in this world.
The TRIBULATION period therefore MUST occur both BEFORE the MILLENNIUM and also
SCENES IN HEAVEN – Revelation 4-5. The 24 elders refer to the COMPLETE Old Testament saints and the COMPLETE CHURCH saints from “every tribe and tongue and people and nation”. They are beholding the LAMB OF GOD and it is revealed that HE is the one worthy to OPEN the scroll and the SEALS (they remain unopened throughout these chapters). The first SEAL is opened in chapter 6, so the CHURCH IS COMPLETE AND IN HEAVEN BEFORE THE TRIBULATION (in addition to much supporting evidence, some of which is given above).
The above events, requiring the COMPLETE CHURCH in heaven, MUST occur AFTER…
The PRESENT CHURCH AGE. This coincides perfectly with the clear Biblical teaching in the New Testament (especially Ephesians) concerning the CHURCH AGE and SATAN who is the prince of the power of the AIR. The teaching of the coming of Christ FOR the CHURCH is clear from 1 Thessalonians and John 14 etc. It is noteworthy that He “invades” the present domain of SATAN – the AIR – in order to claim His heavenly bride. Shortly after this SATAN will be cast down to earth in the tribulation (as above). The upward call of Christ is the BLESSED HOPE of the CHURCH which we are to expect and anticipate, being IMMINENT (no other prophecies require prior fulfilment).
All the Bible details fit into place in this sequence. All other interpretations lead to contradictions and distort the meaning and intent of communication through language. The Biblical distinction between ISRAEL and the CHURCH is important and is maintained through to the end of Revelation.
This framework stands the test of scriptural prophecy and the consistent application of a proper means of interpretation – God says what He means and means what He says. It also follows exactly the same way of understanding the complex and yet precise way in which many Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled at the first coming of Christ.
More thorough and detailed studies only confirm this. For example, one writer has written a whole thesis on the Biblical use of the word “until” proving the sequence of events and the peoples and issues involved, keeping all Biblical definitions and distinctions intact. See “Apocalypse facts and fantasies” by Donald C B Cameron.
Finally, it should be noted that over the years at least some leading Bible teachers and scholars from every Christian denomination have united around the basic outline given above. This is against a Biblical background which is clear that even people claiming to be Christians will doubt the prophetic record concerning the future coming of Christ in all its aspects.