Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sequencing in Revelation

As you read through the book of Revelation you'll notice that there is a sequence of images. A fundamental question that needs to be asked and answered is this: Are these images in the vision chronologically ordered or are they ordered in another way? In other words, does the trumpets sequence necessarily follow, time wise, after the seals sequence?

I must admit this was not an obvious question for me to ask. I had always assumed that all the visions and sequences where ordered sequentially in time. That is how Revelation was always presented to me since childhood. Further, I tend to view things in a linear sequence.

A few years ago, someone posed the question to me of whether the sequences in Revelation was something other than linear time sequences. It was such a new idea that I responded how in the world could it be something else?

I was then introduced to the word, "recapitulation". Recapitulation is the idea that the sequences in Revelation do not necessarily follow each other in time sequence, but rather look at history again from another perspective. The seals in Revelation shows a sequence of disaster, culminating in the sixth and seventh seal which seems to be the final judgement. Then we have the seven trumpets, which comes after the prayers of the saints. But we see in the trumpets disaster again. In a linear view, the disasters of the trumpets follow chronologically after the seals. However, the trumpets may be looking at the same period of history as the seals, presenting it from a different angle. As one author has suggested, these sequences would be viewed as "overlays" in history, each overlay providing a piece of the total picture of what is happening in history.

When I understood what that one pastor suggested, I had one of those big "aha" moments. I could fit the majors pieces of Revelation together, as overlays, and the picture made sense for the first time in my life. Initially, recapitulation may seem counter-intuitive. It was initially counter-intuitive to me simply because I was never exposed to it before. But it turns out to be a powerful organizing principle.

John, the author of Revelation, was Jewish, and ancient. His mind, and the mind of his near-eastern contemporaries, did not think in linear sequences that we do today. Recapitulation may well fit much better to their pattern of thinking. It also captures the sense of Hebrew poetry, which was done in cycles. Often passages are restated with a form of parallelism, where the couplet could restate what each other says, or state the opposite of each other. This is a form of recapitulation, and revelation does this on a grand scale.


  1. Aha! I will consider this as I listen to more of my Pastor's sermons on Revelation and read Gentry's books.

  2. It will be interesting to see if they point that out. Recapitulation is an organizing principle that infers an idealist approach and amillennialism. Amillennialism is a misnomer because those who hold to the amillennial view do believe there is a millennium. In fact, amillennialism is a form of postmillennialism without the view that there will be a golden age just prior to Christ's return.

  3. Earl,

    So basically you're saying that amillennialism is really pessimillennialism?


Please be very respectful when you comment. I will try to respond to all comments in a timely manner. All comments are now moderated.