by Richard Billingsley
When entering into new understanding there are times when we need to take small steps before we jump into the deeper waters of understanding. For more than 100 years we have approached and believed that the book of Revelation was one complete story that is read in a linear (straight) approach as one story, but now the Lord has brought us new insight and is revealing to us that the book of Revelation should actually be studied in parallel (side-by-side) as seven stories that intersect with each other. When we learn this and discover how these stories interact with each other we discover that all the confusion, conflict, mystery and difficulty in understanding the book of Revelation transforms into a story that is simple and easy to understand, removing the confusion, conflicts and mysteries that have baffled us and created conflict within the Church for centuries. In this teaching I want to share with you the basics of why the book of Revelation is made up of seven stories and how to identify where each of those seven stories begins.
Thinking in parallel when studying a book may seem strange, but in the Bible it is a very common occurrence. In our culture (Western / European) we are conditioned to think in a linear, straight or beginning to end approach when reading a book. But the Bible was not written by Western/Europeans, it was written by Hebrews (Eastern) who have a very different way of thinking and when one applies Western culture to a Hebrew culture we invariably end up with something that is confusing and contradictory. That is because we want to read something straight through, when it should really be read in parallel or to put it into more modern terms: multitasking (doing several things all at once). To understand the book of Revelation we must multitask the different stories at the same time in order to understand what is happening. When we read these stories in parallel and interlink them at the same time we create an image and a story that is simple, makes more sense and is easier to understand than our traditional linear understanding.
God has always been far ahead of man in understanding how things work and He has been multitasking a lot longer than we have. Take a look at the book of Genesis chapters 1 and 2, where we are given two examples of the creation story and take special note of Genesis 2:4. I included both the King James Version and New Living Translation to give you two perspectives on one verse.
Gen 2:4 (KJV)
4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,
Gen 2:4 (NLT)
4 This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth. When the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,
In Genesis 1:1 the story of creation begins and continues all the way through to Genesis 2:3. Then Genesis 2:4 starts all over again and is actually a story marker in the book of Genesis starting a new story. We are going to find the same thing in the book of Revelation. In verse 2:3 the story of creation was just completed, but now we are being given the same story again, only this time it is from a slightly different perspective. Both of these stories go together, they tell the same story and intersect with each other. God in wanting to make sure we are not confused with what he said in the first story gives us the same story again only different and when we use the wisdom of the Lord to bring these two stories together we get a richer more detailed picture of what is happening. This is a pattern of study that is common throughout the Bible. The more important a topic is the more times it will be repeated. The Four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are an excellent example of how this works in parallel between books.
The same pattern of study can be found in the book of Revelation. When the Lord began teaching me about the book of Revelation, He told me that the book of Revelation was not one continuous story as is traditionally taught, but a collection of several shorter stories and gave me the assignment to find those stories. With the help of the Holy Spirit, He showed me there are seven distinct stories within the book of Revelation:
While looking at the story titles above it may seem obvious that these are independent stories, but when in the midst of reading it is much more difficult. There are reasons and rules for identifying specifically how scriptures identify the beginning of a new story within the book of Revelation.
The primary guideline in identifying a new story is anytime there is a major shift in the subject being discussed. For example, the first story of “The Seven Letters” is obviously the first story as it is introduced as the opening of the book, but how do we identify the second story? In Revelation 4 we are given our first shift when John says “after this I looked” and then there is a shift in what is being talked about. In this context John’s point of view is actually shifted from earth to heaven. In the Seven Letters, Jesus was talking about the seven churches and giving instructions and warnings to each one. Then we see a shift from earthly things to heavenly things when John is called up into heaven. Just to be clear this has nothing to do with the Rapture of the Church as some want to think. The Rapture of the Church is mentioned three times in the book of Revelation in three different stories, which interlink with each other at the same point in time and this is clearly explained in detail in my book: Tell Them to Prepare – The Final Restoration. In this context the only thing that is changing is John’s point of view. Later in the story of “The Mystery Babylon” John’s context is going to move back to the earth again and will present another change in story and point of view. The things we are going to see from this perspective are all given from a spiritual insight. Looking at Revelation 4:1 it is clear that something new is happening and John is going to be told about things that are going to happen later.
So if this is the beginning of the second story and it”s talking about the Seven Seals first, why can’t we say that this is the story of the Seven Seals and the Seven Trumpets is the next story? That’s a good question and it may seem reasonable, but let’s take a closer look at what is happening in the context of the story.
The reason we can’t make the story with the Seven Seals as it’s own story, apart from the Seven Trumpets, is because the scroll with the seven seals is integral to the entire story. In the transition between chapter 4 and 5 we are see God on the throne and having a scroll with seven seals. There is no shift in the context of what is being talked about, everything that was in chapter 4 continues in chapter 5, so there is no break in the story line that can be applied. In chapter 5 we are introduced to the Lamb of God and the scroll with seven seals was actually the glue that keeps these two chapters together. The same thing happens between chapters 5 and 6, when the Lamb introduced in chapter 4, begins opening the seals in chapter 5. There is a lot of detail here that I would like to go into, but we are focusing on the Seven Stories of the book of Revelation and not the context of the individual stories. All these things are covered in the book. Additionally, in the context of this story, it is not until the beginning of chapter 8 that the seventh seal is broken, which brings from it the Seven Trumpets of Judgment. So up until this point the context of everything from chapter 4 through the seven trumpets to chapter 11 are all inclusive to one story. When we reach the end of chapter 11 we also reach the end of the story and the end of the Tribulation, when Christ returns and takes control of all the nations of the earth and begins to rule and a time for judgments and rewards. This is closing out the first story.
The reason I chose to call it the story of the Seven Trumpets and not the Seven Seals is because the Trumpets are part of the Tribulation and have important interaction with other stories that we are going to read about below.
The next story begins with a complete change in the context of what is being talking about. We move from talking about the trumpets to something completely different. We are introduced to three new characters who are in battle against each other. The Child, The Woman and the Dragon. These tell us a unique story that is very different from what we have been reading in the previous story. As we read into the chapter 13 we see that the dragon of chapter 12 gives power to the beast of chapter 13 and in doing this the context of these two chapters are brought together. The amount of revelation found in these two chapters is massive and is examined multiple times throughout the book in the chapters: Building Foundations, The Lamb and The Dragon, The Mystery Babylon, and The Tribulation.
At this point the connections and understanding what each one represents is not really clear, but when one studies the next story of “The Mystery Babylon” a mystery is revealed in the book that joins with the events of the Trumpets and Bowls and makes understanding what each one represents clear and simple and they are not some mystical events that most scholars claim they are, but they are judgments against common principles taught throughout the Bible and these three elements join together to become the three testimonies to the events of the Tribulation bringing them into agreement and removing the mystery of their meanings. This story comes to its closing with the end of the Tribulation and establishment of the government of Christ.
The story of “The Mystery Babylon” is an amazing story. Like the story of “The Beast and False Prophet” it contains massive amounts of revelation that are used throughout the book. These revelations are also why the book places the chapter of the story “The Mystery Babylon” before the study of the “The Tribulation,” because it is an integral part of the Tribulation.
The beginning of this story begins with John in Heaven but he is about to be transitioned back down to Earth where he is going to learn about the great whore who is “The Mystery Babylon.” There are actually four major topics or characters revealed in this story, but they are so interwoven with each other there is no way they could be broken down into individual stories. However, it is necessary to break these four topics down in order to study and understand what each one reveals: They are:
Each topic is unique unto itself, but provides marvelous revelation and insight into other parts of the book of Revelation. For example, the Beast from the Abyss is not the Antichrist, the first Beast in story three. It doesn’t appear until the fifth trumpet, but he does provide power and influence through the first Beast. When studied out this revelation reveals a deception that is going to be used on the entire world, but you have to study it in the book to find out what it is. Another example is The Seven Heads, traditions teach us that this is referring to the seven hills of the city of Rome, but it’s not, it is something that is much larger, more powerful and it influences the lives of every individual on the planet and it is something that the Whore of Babylon wants kept secret. Each of the above topics have revelations that scholars have missed for centuries. It is only through studying the book of Revelation in parallel as seven independent stories that these insights and mysteries are revealed.
If you haven’t noticed yet, three of these stories end with the end of the Tribulation. In fact four of these stories run parallel to each other and must be studied in this way. It is the only way to make clear sense and understand the mysteries found within the book of Revelation. This can be seen in the Revelation Cross Reference Chart and the Revelation Timeline Graphic that is available to the top of this page and shows what the book of Revelation looks like when studied in parallel. All of these things are studied in-depth in the book: Tell Them to Prepare – The Final Restoration.
After chapter 19 ends with judgments at the end of the Tribulation closing out that story and chapter 20 takes on a completely new topic we know as the Millennium. Here Satan is thrown into the Abyss for 1000 years and the Saints rule for 1000 years. But guess what, the Millennium is going to last more than 1000 years. Satan has to be released and the Saints must leave in order for Satan to deceive the nations one last time before the final judgments and the final story. Jesus will be the only ruling authority on the earth after the 1000 years.
The final story is obvious as we enter into a New Heaven and a New Earth. And at the very end of this story we are given the warnings and commandments of Revelation 22:18, 19 where we are told not to add or remove anything from the book of Revelation. If our ancestors had not ignored these commandments and added Daniel 9:27 to the book of Revelation, we would have discovered the seven stories and learned to study them in parallel and seen that the Tribulation is only 42 months (3 1/2 Years), not Seven Years and we would have never needed the restoration of understanding the Lord is bringing us now (Acts 3:21). This restoration must come to bring unity not only of our faith but also our knowledge of the Son of God. Jesus’ testimony is the book of Revelation, the spirit of prophecy (Rev 19:10). If we believe a teaching that is built on ignoring the commandments of God we risk the judgments of these commandments and we are not in unity in the knowledge of Jesus (Eph 4:13). We must turn from the hardness of our hearts and be humble enough to seek out Christ’s insight into His own testimony. Only then can we come into unity of the knowledge of His testimony and only then can He return to take His Bride. Jesus has given us this new understanding and you can you can gain even deeper insight into this Final Restoration with the book: Tell Them to Prepare – The Final Restoration.
Live in God’s Peace!