THE THREE MAIN SECTIONS OF REVELATION
From this verse we can see that Revelation must be divided into three main sections. But how do we divide the twenty-two chapters of Revelation into three sections? Before we talk about the first and second sections, let us first look at the third section. In chapter four there is a verse clearly proving the third section begins from chapter four. John said, "After these things I saw, and behold, a door opened in heaven, and the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, Come up here, and I will show you the things that must take place after these things" (Rev. 4:1). "After these things" refers to the things transpiring after the first three chapters. Revelation 1:19 shows that the third section of Revelation is concerning "the things that must take place after these things." What John saw from chapter four and onward are "the things that must take place after these things." Therefore, the third section of Revelation begins with chapter four. (Since the book has only three sections, the third section consists of chapters four through twenty-two.) So, beginning with chapter four, the whole book is concerned with the things that must take place after these things. Since the third section starts at chapter four, the first and second sections must be in the first three chapters.
Revelation 1 is composed of the things that John saw. In verse 11 John was told to write down in a book what he was about to see. In verse 19 he was asked again to write down the things he had seen. In between verses 11 and 19 he saw the vision. This vision is what he had seen. Thus, the first section of Revelation is the first chapter. Since the whole book is divided into three sections, and since the first section is in chapter one and the third section is from chapter four to the end, the second section must consist of chapters two and three. The second and third chapters of Revelation are "the things which are," consisting of the things concerning the churches. Since John belonged to the church age, the things pertaining to the church are called "the things which are." Chapters two and three are the prophetic history of the church from the beginning to the end. Beginning from the church in Ephesus who had left her first love (2:4), to the church in Laodicea whom the Lord had spewed out of His mouth (3:16), the whole history of the church is manifested through these seven churches. "The things that must take place after these things" are "after these things" (the things in chapters one through three). Since the book has only three sections, the third section is from chapter four to twenty-two. Therefore, everything that happens from chapter four on must wait until the completion of the church history before it can be fulfilled. Although we are now very close to the end, the church still exists. Her time is still not complete. So, from chapter four through chapter twenty-two, which are the things of the third section of Revelation, not even one word has been fulfilled yet. It is not possible for "the things which are about to take place" (the things beginning from chapter four) to be fulfilled before "the things which are" (the church) has passed. This is the teaching of the Bible. Revelation 1:19 is really the key to open up the mystery of this book. We have, therefore, found the real explanation through this verse.
THE MESSAGE, STYLE, AND CHARACTERISTIC
Although Christ is the subject of Revelation, this book records the things that will occur at the end of this age. All the things that happen in this book focus on the bringing in of God’s covenanted kingdom. Hence, it is a book of prophecy. The beginning and the end of this book show its prophetic characteristic (1:3; 22:7, 18-19). The message of this book is a prediction of the future. It speaks forth many future things through many visions.
Beginners always get confused by the symbols in this book; they are lost in a fog that is "five miles thick." They think that the book contains too many symbols which are difficult to understand. Actually, this book is not as difficult as they think. Even though this book has many symbols, many of them have been interpreted. Thus, readers should not be confused and lost. Rather, they should rely on the strength of the Lord and be patient and diligent to study the Word of the Lord. If we need patience to seek the knowledge of the world, how much more is it needed for spiritual knowledge! At least fourteen of the symbols have been interpreted, and the others, which are not interpreted, do not exceed this number.
(1) The lampstand signifies the church (1:20).
(2) The stars signify the messengers of the churches (1:20).
(3) The lamps of fire signify the Holy Spirit (4:5).
(4) The horns and eyes signify the Holy Spirit (5:6).
(5) The incense signifies the prayers of the saints (8:3-4).
(6) The dragon signifies Satan (12:9).
(7) The frogs signify the unclean spirits (16:13).
(8) The beast signifies a king (17:12).
(9) The heads of the beast signify the mountains (17:9).
(10) The horns of the beast signify the vassal kings (17:12).
(11) The waters signify peoples (17:15).
(12) The woman signifies the great city (17:18).
(13) The fine linen signifies righteousness (19:8).
(14) The bride, the Lamb’s wife, signifies the city of God (21:9-10).
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 03, The Christian (1), Chapter 9, by Watchman Nee)