The following Stages of Revelation are taken from the Catholic Encyclopaedia.
- 1 The Seven Churches
- 2 The Book With the Seven Seals
- 3 The Divine Drama
- 4 External links
The Seven Churches
This first third of the book consists of an introduction and a series of addresses to the angel of the church in each of the "Seven Churches of Asia".
Verses 1-3: Introduction
Title and description of the book. The revelation made by Jesus the Messias to John.
Verses 4-9: Salutation
Salutation prefatory to the seven Epistles, wishing the churches the grace and the peace of God and Jesus.
Verses 9-20: Vision of Jesus
The vision of Jesus as the Son of man. The portrait is taken from Daniel 10 and Henoch 46. Cf. the phrases, "one like the son of man" (Apocalypse 1:13, Daniel 10:16 and 7:13); "girded with gold" (Apocalypse 1:13; Daniel 10:5); "eyes like flames of fire" (Apocalypse 1:14; Daniel 10:6); "a voice like that of a multitude" (Apocalypse 1:15; Daniel 10:6); "I fell down like one senseless" (Apocalypse 1:17; Daniel 10:9); "and he touched me" (Apocalypse 1:17, Daniel 10:18); "hair white like wool" (Apocalypse 1:14; Daniel 7:9; Henoch 46:1).
Chapters 2 and 3
The Epistles, to the seven Churches. The Churches are (in Chapter 2) Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, (and, in Chapter 3) Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The Epistles are short exhortations to the Christians (via "the angel" of each church) to remain steadfast in their faith, to beware of false apostles and to abstain from fornication and from meat offered to idols.
The Book With the Seven Seals
Chapters 4 and 5
The vision of God enthroned upon the Cherubim. The throne is surrounded by twenty-four elders. In the right hand of God is a scroll sealed with seven seals. In the midst of the Cherubim and the elders the Seer beholds a lamb, "agnus tamquam occisus", having on its throat the scar of the gash by which it was slain. The Seer weeps because no one either in heaven or on earth can break the seals. He is comforted on hearing that the lamb was worthy to do so because of the redemption it had wrought by its blood. The portrait of the throne is taken from Ezechiel 1. Compare in both accounts the description of the four beasts. They resemble a lion an ox, a man, and an eagle. Their bodies are full of eyes (cf. Revelation 4:8; and Ezekiel 10:12). The twenty-four elders were probably suggested by the twenty-four courses of priests ministering in the Temple. The lamb slain for the sins of mankind is from Isaias 53.
Chapters 6 and 7
The seven seals and the numbering of the Saints. At the opening of four seals, four horses appear. Their colour is white, black, red, and sallow, or green (chloros, piebald), They signify conquest, slaughter, dearth and death. The vision is taken from Zach., vi, 1-8. At the opening of the fifth seal the Seer beholds the martyrs that were slain and hears their prayers for the final triumph. At the opening of the sixth seal the predestined to glory are numbered and marked. The Seer beholds them divided into two classes. First, 144,000 Jews, 12,000 of every tribe. Then a numberless multitude chosen from all nations and tongues.
Chapters 8 and 9
The seventh seal. After the interval of about half an hour, the seventh seal is broken; seven angels issue forth, each one holding a trumpet. The sounding of the first four trumpets causes a partial destruction of the elements of nature. One-third of the earth is burned, as also one-third of the trees and all the grass. One-third of the sea becomes blood (cf. Exodus 7:17). One-third of the rivers is turned into water of wormwood. One-third of the sun, moon, and stars is obscured, causing one-third of the day to be dark (cf. Exodus 10:21). At the sounding of the fifth trumpet locusts ascend from the abyss. Their work is to torment men for five months, They are specially charged not to touch the grass. Their shape is that of horses (Joel 2:4) their teeth like those of lions (Joel 1:6), their hair like the hair of women. They have the tails of scorpions where with to chastise man. The command over them is held by the Angel of the Abyss, named Abaddon, the destroyer. At the sound of the sixth trumpet the four angels chained at the Euphrates are let loose. They lead forth an army of horsemen. By the fire which the horses spit out and by their tails which are like serpents, one-third of mankind is killed. After the sixth trumpet there are two digressions. (1) The angel standing on the land and the sea. He swears that at the sound of the seventh trumpet the mystery will be completed. He hands to the Seer a little book. When eaten by him it is found sweet to taste, but bitter when once devoured. Taken from Ezech., ii. 8; iii, 3. (2) The contamination of the court of the Temple by the heathens. It lasts three and a half years. Taken from Dan., vii, 25; ix, 27; xii, 7-11. During that time two witnesses are sent to preach in Jerusalem. They are the two olive-trees foretold by Zach., iv, 3,11. At the end of their mission they are slain by the beast. They are raised to life after three and a half days (= years). The seventh trumpet is now sounded, the nations are judged and the kingdom of Christ is established.
Two chapters are not included in the original Catcholic Encyclopedia schema:
John is made prophet. The angel and the little scroll appear and speak in "seven thunders", but John is told (by God) not to write down what the angel says. The angel then announces that "There will be no more delay" before the Seventh Trumpet will announce the accomplishment of the "mystery of God", and John is told to take the scroll and eat it, and that it will be sour in his stomach but sweet in his mouth. He does, and it is. Finally, he is told "You must prophesy again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings."
John forsees the Two Witnesses, and the Seventh Trumpet announces the "mystery of God" is to begin. John is told to measure the Temple, but that the Gentiles occupy the courtyards and will trample on the holy city for 42 months, while "[God's] two witnesses" would prophesy for 1,260 days. "clothed in sackcloth." These witnesses (described as "olive trees" and "lampstands before the Lord of the Earth") would be able to prevent rain, turn water to blood, inflict plague and destroy their attackers by breathing fire, but who would be killed by the "Beast from the Abyss" and lie unburied in "a great city...where also their Lord was crucified" for three and a half days before returning to life, and ascend bodily into heaven, accompanied by a huge earthquake killing 7,000 (a tenth of the city's people). Then the Seventh Trumpet sounds, announcing the Kingdom "of our Lord and of his Christ". Twenty four elders on thrones around God prostrate themselves and praise God for creating this Kingdom, and announcing that "the time has come" for judgement of the living and the dead, rewarding the those who revered God and destroying those who "destroy the Earth". God reveals the Ark of the Covenant, to thunder and lightning.
The Divine Drama
Chapters 12-14: First Act
The lamb, the woman, and her seed; and opposed to them, the dragon, the beast from the sea, and the beast from the land. The main idea is taken from Gen., iii, 15. "I will put enmities between thee (the serpent) and the woman, and thy seed and her seed". The woman is arrayed in heavenly splendour; a crown of twelve stars on her head and the sun and the moon under her feet (cf. Gen. xxxvii, 9, 10). She is in travail. Her first-born is destined to rule all the nation (Psalm 2:8, 9). She herself, and her other seed, are persecuted for three and a half years by the great dragon who tries to kill them. The great dragon is Satan (Genesis 3:1). He is cast out of heaven. With his tail he drags after him one-third of the stars. Taken from Dan., viii, 10. The fallen stars are the fallen angels. The beast from the sea is in great part taken from Daniel's description of the four beasts. It arises from the sea (Dan., vii, 3); has seven heads marked all over with blasphemies. It had also ten horns, like the fourth beast of Daniel (vii, 7); it resembled a leopard, the third beast of Daniel (vii, 6), it had feet like a bear, the second beast of Daniel (vii, 5); and teeth like a lion, the first beast of Daniel (vii, 4). The great dragon gives full power unto the beast, whereupon all the world worship it (viz. those whose names are not contained in the book of the lamb). The followers of the beast have its mark on their head and hand. The beast from the land has two horns like a ram. Its power lies in its art of deceiving by means of tokens and miracles. Throughout the remainder of the book it is called the false prophet. Its office is to assist the beast from the sea, and to induce men to adore its image. The first act of the drama concludes with a promise of victory over the beast by the lamb of God.
Chapters 15-16: Second Act
The seven vials. They are the seven plagues preceding the destruction of the great city, Babylon. They were for the greater part suggested by the Egyptian plagues. The first vial is poured out on the earth. Men and beasts are smitten with ulcers (Exodus 9:9-10). The second and third vial upon the seas and rivers. They become blood (Exodus 7:17-21). The fourth vial upon the sun. It burns men to death. The fifth vial upon the throne of the beast. It causes great darkness (Exodus 10:11-29). The sixth vial upon the Euphrates. Its waters are dried up and form a passage for the kings of the East (Exodus 14). The seventh upon the air. Storm and earthquake destroy Babylon.
Chapters 17-18: Third Act
The great harlot. She is seated upon the scarlet beast with the seven heads and ten horns. She is robed in scarlet and decked with gold. On her head is written: Mystery, Babylon the great. The kings of the earth commit fornication with her. But the day of her visitation has come. She is made a desolate place, the habitation of unclean animals (Ls., xiii, 21, 22). Her fall is lamented by the rulers and merchants of the earth.
Chapters 19-20: Fourth Act
The victory over the beast and the great dragon. A knight appears mounted on a white horse. His name is "The word of God". He defeats the beast and the false prophet. They are cast alive in the pool of fire. Their defeat is followed by the first resurrection and the reign of Christ for a thousand years. The martyrs rise to life and partake with Christ in glory and happiness. During these thousand years the great dragon is held in chains. At their completion he is once more set at large to torment the earth. He deceives the nations Gog and Magog. These two names are taken from Ezech., chaps. xxviii, xxxix, where however Gog is the king of Magog. At last he also is east for all eternity in the pool of fire. Hereupon the general judgement and the resurrection take place.
Chapters 21-22: Fifth Act
The new Jerusalem (cf. Ezechiel 40-48). God dwells in the midst of His saints who enjoy complete happiness. The new Jerusalem is the spouse of the lamb. The names of the Twelve Tribes and the Twelve Apostles are written on its gates. God and the lamb are the sanctuary in this new city.
Verses 18-21 of Chapter 22 announce that the prophecy of the book is soon to be fulfilled. The Seer warns the reader not to add anything to it or take away from it under pain of forfeiting his share in the heavenly city.