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The why behind this book

The why behind this book

This book is a graphic retelling of the book of Revelation. Through 420 illustrations, John’s visions are depicted verse-by-verse as clearly and objectively as possible.
Thematic infographics conveniently offer unique, enlightening perspectives on themes like structure, place, and time.

The quest for a graphic overview

This is the book I was looking for seven years ago when I first picked up the book of Revelation.
Revelation intrigued me, but I was also frustrated by it. Its impenetrable structure, lack of overview, and the moat of differing opinions surrounding it were frustrating.
And to my surprise, no detailed graphic overview of its contents seemed to exist. Given how long our visual culture has been around, that felt unprecedented. The book of Revelation is complex enough to warrant a graphic aid. What’s more, its passages are so evocative that, as far as I’m concerned, they beg to be visualized.
Naturally, books have been written about Revelation in the past. But the downside to many is that they interpret it from a particular theological persuasion or perspective. That makes them less cut out to provide an initial, unbiased, or objective look.
Another drawback is that many books fail to portray Revelation from a zoomed-out or panoramic scale. They tend to hastily zoom in and fixate on specific chapters or passages. This deprives of us an essential tool for understanding this book. Seeing Revelation’s principal structure enables us to better study and understand not only its broad framework but also the finer details.
Having spotted this need, I felt inspired to start tinkering on this book as a hobby. I’m not a theologian, eager to or capable of interpreting Revelation. Instead, I see it through the lens of an architect and apply one of my field’s proven methods to plot the book as objectively as possible. Hopefully, this new method will provide more people with a tool for reading and studying the book of Revelation.

Revelation’s Complexity

I had a hard time wrapping my head around Revelation when I started writing this book. But what is it that makes Revelation so complicated?
  • An elusive principal framework
    To begin with, it’s hard to see how all the different visions relate to each other. Are they in chronological order? Do they describe the same events from different perspectives? And how do the various “series”, e.g., the seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls, and three angels, relate to each other? It isn’t always clear, and that makes Revelation enigmatic and harder to approach.
  • Symbolism
    Another complicating factor is the disagreement about whether the visions should be taken literally or understood as a metaphor. When you read “something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea” is it really talking about a literal mountain? Or should a passage like that be interpreted through the lens of Jewish symbolism, i.e., maybe it’s about a king or kingdom destined for destruction? Who’s to say?And should everything be taken literally or symbolically? Or should one passage be read literally and the other symbolically? And if that’s true, how do we decide where the dividing line is?
  • Old Testament Allusions
    A third complicating factor is that the book of Revelation refers or alludes to the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh) over 600 times. Does that mean mastering Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and all the minor prophets is a prerequisite to getting a good handle on Revelation? Is Revelation the cornerstone that culminates and explains every prophecy? Or should you also be able to understand Revelation as a standalone book?
  • Time Frames
    Complicating factor number four is time. A famous subject of contention is whether the book of Revelation addresses the past, present, or future or whether it’s a book of general principles meant for every generation. How you answer that question largely determines how you interpret Revelation as a whole.But even on a smaller scale, time makes things tricky. Time frames such as “about half an hour”, “1,260 days”, “42 months”, “a time, times, and half a time” are far too specific to be considered insignificant. It feels like John’s peculiar phrasing intends to convey something specific.
  • Location settings
    Certain location settings could also be confusing. For example, consider “a place prepared for her in the wilderness”, “the East”, and “the public square of the great city – which is figuratively called Sodom and Egypt – where also their Lord was crucified”. What did John hope to convey with these?
  • Characters
    The overwhelming number of mysterious characters is the last and perhaps greatest complicating factor. Just consider the four horsemen who pour out calamity on the earth, a whore and city called Babylon, a beast part lion, panther, and bear with seven heads and ten horns, 24 elders, the 144,000 “sealed”, and “a great multitude that no one could count”.All of the aforementioned complicating factors coincide in Revelation, making it a fascinating, nigh-impenetrable book. Unsurprisingly, that has made it the subject of rigorous study for over 2,000 years. And with the passing of the centuries, vastly different opinions and interpretations have arisen all over the world.

A page from architectural methodology

So, when I first encountered Revelation, try as I might, I could not identify the common thread that tied this book together.
And it gradually occurred to me that I’d never be able to make progress until I could zoom out on the text. To draw overarching conclusions about Revelation, I would also need to capture the ties between all 22 chapters in a single field of view. But how?
This kind of problem isn’t uncommon in my field of practice – architecture. When analyzing a complex building, endlessly staring at floor plan after floor plan and cross-section after cross-section is a completely impractical way of gaining insight into a building’s purpose and layout. That’s why design-build remodelers use an “architectural analysis” method for large, complex buildings.
This method involves creating clear, abstract drawings of (thematic constituent aspects of) the building, e.g., loadbearing structures, circulation, and façade openings.. By eliminating as much clutter and as many details as possible, you end up with the core. The core gives you clear, orderly, “zoomed out” schematics of the building. And often, these drawings loosely approximate the architect’s own initial rough sketches, giving the new architect an idea of what they were after.
Put all those abstract drawings and theme analyses side by side, assess them, and what usually happens? The “Eureka!” that cuts through the consternation.
So, why not do the same thing with a book of the Bible? If I couldn’t parse Revelation by reading it, why couldn’t I try to understand it visually?
And that’s just what I did. I plotted all of John’s visions neatly, clearly, and as objectively as possible with 420 illustrations and thematic studies. This book is the result.

How infographics can help

How can an illustrated architectural analysis of the book of Revelation make studying and understanding its complex passages easier?
  • Recognition
    Firstly, a simple illustration conveys a message quicker than writing does. Just consider the practical simplicity of road signs.
  • Associations and making connections
    Secondly, illustrations help you to draw associations and make connections. If a familiar image shows up in two different passages, that image can make it easier to relate the two. That also makes it easier to distinguish recurring overarching themes or principles.
  • Visual touchstones
    Thirdly, illustrations are easier to remember than words. Clear infographics will stay etched in your memory longer than words.
  • Obtaining an overview
    Lastly, the collection of illustrations and thematic infographics also helps create an overview of Revelation. Side by side, the illustrations and analyses provide a bird’s eye view. But put the pages of the book of Revelation side by side, and what do you get? A nice collage of words but no overview.

The result

Studying Revelation through pictures and infographics has proven to be a goldmine. It makes this book an indispensable tool for anyone eager to delve into what is often considered one of the Bible’s most confounding books.
This analysis gave me a whole new perspective on the book of Revelation. The overviews and thematic analyses reveal the interrelational web of John’s visions in a way that I’ve not seen anywhere else. It’s already given me a host of astonishing, clear insights.
My hope and aim is for this book to help anyone setting out to study and read the book of Revelation.

John’s visions are plotted for you verse by verse in 420 illustrations. Compact summary pages help visualize Revelation’s broad outlines. Thematic infographics zoom in to reveal elusive patterns, structures, and connections.

In Revelation Illustrated, Ruben van der Plas takes a revolutionary approach to exploring Revelation. He neatly and meticulously outlines the ancient text, successfully sidestepping having to take a theological side. This book offers a unique look at the Apocalypse accessible to anyone eager to tackle the Bible’s last book.

It’s your chance to catch a never before seen glimpse of the book of Revelation.