The overarching theme of Revelation is that though conflict remains, Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Lamb, has already achieved certain victory for the church over the evil forces of Satan and his allies through His sacrificial death. This theme, interwoven with several predominate sub-themes, will be developed at length later, but should be understood at the outset in order to have an accurate idea of the development of John’s vision. Before developing this theme further, it will be helpful to establish a basic structure of the book to serve as a framework within which the theme and contributing sub-themes are observed.
Before the vision begins, John is instructed to deliver messages to the messengers of each of the seven churches. Four elements are found in the addresses to the seven churches.
- First, there is a commendation, in which Christ praises the church for her admirable qualities.
- Second, there is a rebuke, in which a concern is raised regarding an area of spiritual deficiency.
- Third, a promise of punishment is included if the area of deficiency is not remedied.
- Finally, there is a promise of reward if true repentance is manifested.
Four of the seven church addresses include all four of these elements, while the other three (Smyrna, Sardis, and Philadelphia), include at least two of the four elements. An omission of any of the elements is significant in that it breaks the established pattern and draws attention, positively or negatively to the church being addressed.
After John receives the messages that are to be relayed to the seven churches, the door of heaven is opened unto him (4:1) and his heavenly vision begins. As Osborne notes regarding chapters four and five, The unifying theme of these chapters is certainly the “throne.” Here, the splendor of Christ is revealed as the descriptions of the worship which surrounds the throne of God predominates the vision. The worship is directed to God in chapter four, and the focus of the worship shifts towards Christ as the Lamb in chapter five.
Two specific aspects of these throne chapters highlight the overarching theme of Christ’s supremacy.
- First, the throne room of heaven is portrayed with all of the majesty, honor, and glory that could only accompany one whose victory is certain.
- Second, the worship directed to God and Christ is continuous (4:8), universal (5:8,13), and merited by His works (5:9-10).
Upon reflection of these two chapters, Mounce underscores our theme by summarizing these two chapters; “A vivid portrayal of the one who has won the crucial battle against sin supplies the confidence that in the troubled times to come there remains a hope that is steadfast and sure.” Though the conflict to come is genuine, the theme of Christ’s certain victory and preeminence remains strongly intact.
After the scene in heaven is revealed, chapters sixteen to twenty-two largely relate to the conflict that takes place on earth prior to Christ’s second coming. The next thirteen chapters (6-18) are organized along the lines of the number seven. There are seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls, each relating to the conflict between Christ and the forces of evil. Following these chapters, Christ’s second coming is revealed in chapter nineteen, the millennium is described in chapter twenty, and the new heaven and new earth on into eternity is the focus of the final two chapters (21-22). As one author has noted, a rigid literary structure is almost impossible to impose on the book of Revelation. However, it is helpful to structure the book along the lines of its’ basic structure in order to develop the sub-themes that contribute to the books’ main theme.
Now that we have noted the structure that supports the book of Revelation, several important sub-themes and their contributions to the book’s main theme should be understood.
First, there are three levels of existence which are highlighted throughout revelation. John focuses on Heaven as the ethereal arena where eternal praise is lifted to the Lord. John also understands earth to be the locale where the struggle between good and evil takes place. The word is extremely predominant, as it occurs fifty-six times in the book. Whenever Christ Himself engages in the struggle between good and evil, the struggle takes place on the earth. This preserves the purity of heaven, which is an important feature of the book. The word “white” is used nineteen times throughout the book to describe God, Christ, or their heavenly dwelling. The obvious implication is that heaven is a place, like its inhabitants, that is total separate from all sin and impurity. The third level of reality that is highlighted by John is the great abyss; the pit where Satan and his followers are kept following their conflict (20:3). Kistemaker is helpful in highlighting the fact that the word used in Revelation 9:2 for the “abyss” occurs seven times in Revelation, and always references the place where Satan and his followers remain. In relation to the main theme, this focus of Revelation helps to highlight the power and integrity of a sovereign God. Even His dwelling place must be distinct.
Another important sub-theme of Revelation is the distinct focus on action that is readily apparent throughout the book. Marshall notes that there is much action describing the godless activities of the people of this world who go about their business as if God does not exist, but most of the action involves God judging those who oppose His will. The focus on action draws attention to the distinct differences between the followers of Christ and the followers of Satan. The followers of Christ are protected, while the followers of evil are damned. The followers of Christ have a future, while the followers of Satan are in the abyss. The followers of Christ are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb, while the followers of the devil are excluded. The focus on action is important in that it highlights the victory of Christ, and the victory blessings of His chosen people.
The theme of two separate groups of people, the church and the followers of Satan, is also developed by John. Though much of what differentiates the two groups was made clear under the discussion of the book’s action, it is important to note that Revelation does not portray Christ as a ruthless victor eager only to see the blood of His followers avenged by the shedding of the blood of His enemies. In fact, it almost seems as though John intentionally tries to make that point by including Christ’s invitation to those who do not yet know Him to come (22:17). Though the fate of the two groups is eternally sealed, the invitation to follower Christ is always open. Again, this sub-theme is vitally important to the development of the main theme, as it highlights the certain victory of the followers of Christ.
Perhaps the most important sub-theme that can be highlighted to draw attention to the main theme is the portrayal of Jesus Christ as Messiah, and the resulting worship that He receives. John’s writings are rich with Messianic content, and his portrayal of the Apocalypse is no different. One of the main ways in which John portrays Christ as Messiah is through His inclusion of messianic metaphor of Christ as the lamb who has been slain. This specific phrase is found four different times throughout the book (5:6, 12; 13:8, 12:11), and, as Marhall notes, “evokes a powerful image of sacrifice.” Without Christ’s willingness to be the “slain lamb,” the victory would be lost and the powers of evil would overcome. Since Christ has been slain the victory is certain, for He is a perfect Messiah. It is no wonder then that the worship that He receives is every bit as significant as the worship rendered to God the Father.
The book of the Revelation is stunningly impactful for today. It provides for the reader a roadmap for future events, it ensures the elect of his certain victory in Christ, and it provides instigation for the spread of the gospel to all nations. It would be hard to read the descriptions given by John of the battles and judgments without feeling a motivation to spread the gospel message.
In the context of New Testament theology, Revelation is a fitting bookend to the New Testament text. While the gospels portray Christ’s earthly ministry, and the epistles portray the church’s gospel driven purpose in this age, Revelation portrays Christ’s certain victory and His ministry in the ages to come. Any reading of the book of revelation should elicit one of two responses. For the regenerate, the response should be one of praise, adoration, thanksgiving, and motivation. For the unsaved, the response should be one of fear, trepidation, and repentance from sin. Every reader should understand that though conflict remains, Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Lamb, has already achieved certain victory for the church over the evil forces of Satan and his allies through His sacrificial death.
 Osborne, Grant R. Revelation, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament; (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2002), 220.
 Mounce, Robert H. Revelation, New International Commentary of the New Testament; (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 138.
 The fact that the focus of these chapters is largely on the events that take place on earth does not omit the reality that Christ’s position in heaven is still in play here. Chapters four and five are crucial to understanding this book as they portray the pivotal backdrop of Christ’s intimate involvement in the conflict from His heavenly dwelling. This understanding is developed at length through the vision, but it is important to note here.
 Geisler, Norman, A Popular Survey of the New Testament; (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2007), 317.
 I am aware of the careful nature with which one should approach the hermeneutical significance of the “numbers” throughout the Bible. I am also aware of the hermeneutical abuses that the numbers have endured throughout the years. That said, it is my understanding that the number seven is highly significant throughout the book of Revelation, and must not be ignored. The word “seven” occurs fifty-four times in the book of Revelation, indicative of the word’s importance. Seven is the number of perfection throughout the Scriptures, and the frequency with which it occurs should not go unnoticed.
 Osborne, Revelation, 269.
 Kistemaker, Simon J. Revelation, New Testament Commentary; (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 286.
 The distinction of God’s dwelling place is made apparent from the outset with the worshipers’ cry of “Holy, holy, holy (4:8).”
 Marshall, I. Howard. A Concise New Testament Theology. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, USA, 2008), 219.
 I would be remised if I did not mention the well-known descriptions that accompany the forces of evil and the forces of good in the book of Revelation. They are among the most elaborate and confusing descriptions found anywhere in the Sciptures. Because the purpose of this paper is not an exegetical understanding of what is meant by the descriptions, I have not chosen to highlight them any more than I am right here. I believe that the thrust of this paper in highlighting the sub-themes that contribute to the major theme is better served by drawing a cursory distinction between the two parties. I do, however, note their importance for interpretation.
 Gromacki, Robert G. New Testament Survey, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 1974), 412.
 Marshall, A Concise New Testament Theology, 217.