On Prophecy, a Fascinating Book and a Great Earthquake


The Woman and the Dragon in Revelation 12Chuck Swindoll on prophecy: “Those who leave little room for mystery leave a lot of room for mistakes.”

One of the most fascinating books in all the Bible is the book of Revelation. It is the last book in the New Testament (of 27 total “books”).


To study the book of Revelation, it is helpful to have an outline in mind.

The most popular outline in our day (and most accepted) is a chronological outline. It takes Jesus’ words in Revelation chapter 1 and verse 19: “Therefore write the things which you (the Apostle John) have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things,” and divides the book of Revelation into three parts…

1. The things which you have seen (John’s vision of Christ in Revelation 1:1-20).
2. The things which are (Christ’s message to the 7 churches in Revelation 2:1-3:22).
3. The things which will take place after these things (John’s continuing vision in Revelation 4:1-22:21).

(Some even suggest that John’s being caught up to heaven in Revelation 4:1 is a picture of the rapture of the Church and so all the events of Revelation 4 and beyond happen after this incredible moment.)


But what if the book of Revelation is not in chronological order as this most popular way of outlining suggests? After all, it is the pattern of other prophetic books in the Bible to be that way, out of sequence. (The book of Daniel is a prime example.)

And I like to think of movies in our day to explain it. Sometimes a movie starts out with a scene from present-day and then flashes back to an event in the past ~ like when the main character was born or growing up or in school, etc, to shed light on why he is the way he is in present-day because of his background and upbringing or some hardship or pain long ago. Does that make sense?

That’s not to say that the book of Revelation doesn’t have a sense of chronology. It does! But we run into problems if we hold to it too tightly especially when we run into things in the book of Revelation that seem to contradict the chronological pattern.


Probably the best example of this is the great and devastating earthquake that takes place inRevelation 6:12-16 at the opening of the 6th seal. It’s hard to argue against this being the last and final earthquake at the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.

And yet, there is another great and devastating earthquake 10 chapters later in Revelation 16:17-21at the pouring of the 7th bowl of wrath.

How could there be two such earthquakes of such magnitude and size? Wouldn’t the first earthquake have left nothing for the second? Does Jesus return twice?

The chronological way of outlining doesn’t have a common sense answer for this. But if there’s room for an out of sequence potential, it lends a reasonable possibility.

Could it be that what we are really being offered is a look at the same earthquake from different angles?

Now that would throw a wrench into things.

(Picture above in the public domain: click here. PD-US)