"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15
With these words, Bible prophecy was born. Our first parents had just obeyed the voice of the serpent instead of God; therefore Satan claimed the earth as his own dominion. For the next 6,000 years this planet would be the battlefield of a great conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.
Addressing the serpent (which was Satan), God declared that enmity would from then on exist between the followers of Satan and those of Christ. The battle would result in the crushing of the serpent's head.
The book of Revelation unfolds the complete drama of how that first prophecy in the Bible would be fulfilled. The conflict is summarized in Revelation chapter 12 where the serpent (also called the dragon) and the woman are arrayed in opposition to each other. The rest of the book fills in the details.
The Structure of the Book
The book is divided into two halves, each with its own general characteristics:
These two halves are written in mirror relationship to each other in a literary structure known as a chiasm. Revelation's chiasm reveals the thematic emphasis of the book.
Each section in the historical half of Revelation presents a complete historical overview in itself. Thus the seven churches, seven seals, and seven trumpets all portray the history of the Christian era from a slightly different perspective. This recapitulation follows the structure of the book of Daniel.
In chapter 12, elements from both halves of the book merge. This central chapter summarizes the entire book. Here the full conflict between Christ and Satan unfolds, with each phase of the war noted.
The second half of Revelation features the Bible's most complete coverage of last day events, a study known as eschatology. The strategy, struggles, and ultimate defeat of the forces of evil are detailed, as well as the final reward of Christ's faithful followers.
As mentioned earlier, the first half of the book contains three story lines, each presenting a complete chronological progression through Christian history. The second half of the book features a single chronological progression through the time of the end.
Regarding the eschatologial half of the book, not every verse in the story is strictly chronological, but the overall narrative is. Here are the ten major chronological segments in the story told in the last half of the book of Revelation:
We could say that Revelation develops the story of the great controversy from three perspectives, presenting Jesus Christ in His redemptive, judicial, and confrontational work:
"He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return." Luke 19:12. The climax of each section in Revelation focuses on Christ's reception of His kingdom:
As in the book of Daniel, the structural climax of Revelation is not on the second coming itself, but upon Christ's reception of the kingdom, which takes place before He returns to earth the second time.
The Nature of the Book
It is evident from the first four verses that Revelation is a book for the church. Since it is addressed to the church, and since its teachings are to be understood and practiced by the church, we may be certain that the events it describes are those that directly affect the church.