The outline of the book is very simple. After the brief introduction [Note: Rev_1:1-3.] and personal greeting, [Note: Rev_1:4-8.] there comes the wondrous vision of the glorified Jesus, and His personal message to John. [Note: Rev_1:9-20.] He is the Living One, who became dead for a great purpose, and is now living, never to die again. He is seen walking quietly among the groups of his followers, with eyes of flame, and heart of love, keeping watch over these, His empowered witnesses on earth.
And He tells John that he is to write to the groups of his followers a threefold message, a description of Himself as just now seen by John, a description of affairs in these Churches as seen by His own eyes, and an account of the things that are going to happen on the earth.
Then follows this description of the Churches. It is in a sevenfold personal message to His followers on the earth. [Note: Revelation 2 and 3.] Then the vision of Himself in heaven as He steps directly into the action of the earth to take possession of His crown domain. [Note: Revelation 4 and 5.] Then comes the account of coming happenings. It is a sevenfold view of a terrific moral storm on the earth, that will follow this advance step of His in the heavens. It is so terrific and includes so much, that it is possible to get a clear view of it and its sweep only by looking, now at this feature of it, and now at this; now from this angle of vision, and now from this other.
It is the final contesting of Christ's crown claim as He steps forward to assert it; the final outburst of evil unrestrainedly storming itself out. And it is the clearing-up storm, too. There is ever the shining of a clear light just beyond the outer rim of the terrible blackness of the storm clouds. This takes up the greater part of the little book, including chapter six, to the close of chapter eighteen.
And then there is given briefly the actual coming to earth in glory of the crowned Christ; [Note: Rev_19:1-21; Rev_20:1-3.] the new order of things under His personal reign; [Note: Rev_20:4-6.] a final crisis; [Note: Rev_20:7-15.] and then in a vision of wondrous winsomeness, God and men are seen dwelling together as one reunited family, though still with a sad burning reminder of the old sin-rebellion as part of the picture. [Note: Rev_21:1-27; Rev_22:1-5.] And the book closes with personal paragraphs to John and to the groups of Churches. [Note: Rev_22:6-21.]
Another of the striking things peculiar to this book is the personal plea that it be read and lived up to. At the very front-door step as one starts in he is met full in the face with this: "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear, (or give careful heed to) the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written therein." [Note: Rev_1:3.]
Here at the very outset is a plea, made to each one into whose hands the little book may come, for a reading, and a careful thinking into, and then, yet more, a bringing of the whole life up to the line of what is found here. The blessing of God will rest peculiarly upon him who heeds this threefold plea. That man is moving in the line of the plan of God.
A little past the midway line of the book, all at once, abruptly, in the thick of terrible happenings being told, an unexpected voice comes. Clearly it is the Lord Jesus Himself speaking. It is as though He were standing by all the time throughout all these pages, watching with a sleepless concern. Now He speaks out. Listen: "Blessed is he that watcheth," that keepeth ever on the alert against the subtle temptations, and the compromise that fills the very air, "and keepeth his garments;" [Note: Rev_16:15.] sleeplessly, kneefully, takes care that no breath of evil get into his heart, no taint of compromise stain his life, no suspicion of lukewarmness cool his personal devotion to the absent Jesus.
And again, doing sentinel duty at the rear-end, is the same plea. "Blessed is he that keepeth the words of the prophecy of this book." [Note: Rev_22:7.] Reading, heeding, obeying, watching, living up to, this is the earnest plea peculiar to this book. Clearly our Lord Jesus desires earnestly that it be read. And He expects us to understand it. And He pleads with us to live in the light of what He tells us here.
He that willeth to do shall know what he ought to do. He that doeth the thing he does know will know more. And that more done will open the door yet wider into all the fragrance of a strongly obedient life, and into a clear and clearing understanding of the Lord Jesus Himself.
He that brings his life bit by bit up to the level of the earnest plea of this special revelation, as bit by bit it opens to him, will find his understanding of it wonderfully clearing. Obedience is the organ of understanding. Through it there comes clear grasp of the truth.
A single recent illustration of this comes from Korea, that land that gives us so much of the romance of missions, as well as so much of its pathos. Dr. James S. Gale, of Seoul, tells of a Korean who had travelled some hundred miles to confer with him about Christian things. He recited to Dr. Gale the whole of the Sermon on the Mount without slip or error. After this surprising feat of memory, the missionary said gently that memorizing was not enough; the truth must be practised in daily life.
To his surprise the Korean quietly said: "That's the way I learned to memorize. I tried to memorize, but it wouldn't stick. So I hit upon this plan; I would memorize a verse, then find a heathen neighbour and practise the verse on him. Then I found it would stick."
That's the rule for understanding this revelation of Jesus through John, as well as all of this inspired Word of God. This rule simply, faithfully, followed will open up this little end-book which to many has seemed a sealed book. He that "keepeth the things" that are written here will find these pages opening to his eyes. He that liveth the truth he does understand will understand more and better, and so live in the wondrous power of it, and in the sweet presence of Him who gives it to us.