Mark K. Olson, “John Wesley’s Order of Eschatological Events”

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Abstract: As a postmillennialist Wesley understood the books of Daniel and Revelation to spell out salvation history from the 6th century BCE to the final consummation. The kingdom of God arrives in two phases: at Christ’s first coming as a kingdom of grace; then at his second coming as a kingdom of glory. The church age is part of the kingdom of grace and ends gradually as the eternal kingdom is phased in through two millenniums. The 18th century revival would usher in the first millennium that would begin in the 19th century with the conversion of the nations.

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Below are three outlines that spell out John Wesley’s order of eschatological events. The first one is a comprehensive order complied by the editor. The last two come from Wesley’s commentary on the Book of Revelation. A study of these outlines will help piece together in a visual way Wesley’s postmillennial eschatological system. The two outlines provided by Wesley are important to understand how he correlated biblical prophecy to salvation history: past, present, and future.

Comprehensive Order of Eschatological Events

The following outline is John Wesley’s order of eschatological events according to the sermons and commentary notes found in the John Wesley Reader on Eschatology (Truth in Heart, 2011). When the exact chronological order is in question, the order in the sermons was followed and the commentary was used to fill in the details. The references identify where the subjects are addressed in Wesley’s sermons and commentary notes, which are found in the John Wesley Reader on Eschatology.

A comment on Wesley’s order of events at Christ’s second coming. Wesley gives no comment regarding the fire that destroys the armies of Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:9. But two factors in his eschatology suggest this fire is linked to the cosmic signs that precede the second coming. First, he locates the second coming between verses 10 and 11 in Rev. 20 (see 20:3 note in his commentary), which immediately follows the story of God’s fire falling upon his enemies. Second, he believes the cosmic signs and other upheavals that immediately precede the second coming include the element of fire (see ENNT Matt 24:29-30; sermon “The Great Assize”). Therefore, in Wesley’s order of eschatological events the fire that destroys the armies of Gog and Magog appears to be the same fire that dissolves the present heavens and earth (2 Pet. 3:10-12).

This is Part Five in a Six-Part Series:
Part One: Millennial Aspirations and the Problem of Religious Nominalism 
Part Two: The Revival and Methodist Self-Understanding
Part Three: From Heaven Above to New Creation Below
Part Four: Major Themes in John Wesley’s Eschatology
Part Six: Theme of Real Christianity in John Wesley’s Commentary on Revelation

Eschatological Events

Daniel’s Five Kingdoms – Daniel 2, 7-12

I. Babylon

II. Persia

III. Greece

  • Alexander the Great
  • Four realms of Grecian Kingdom
  • Ptolemies & Seleucids
  • Antiochus Epiphanies

IV. Rome

  • Heathen – Revelation 6:11; 8:7-12
  • Papal – 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10

V. Kingdom of God

  • Son of man receives kingdom – Daniel 7:13
  • 70 weeks of years – Daniel 9:24-27
    • Finish transgression
    • End sin
    • Make reconciliation

Jesus Christ’s Kingdom of Grace

Christ’s life & ministry:

  • His death ends ceremonial law – Daniel 9:2
  • Resurrection as Second Adam – 1 Corinthians 15:23
  • Ascension & royal investiture:
    • Given all authority
    • Protects the true church
    • Defeats God’s enemies
    • Restores divine rule – Daniel 7:13; Revelation 5:1-14
  • Phases of the Kingdom:
    • Kingdom of grace – Matthew 13; Mark 4
    • Kingdom of glory – Luke 17:20-37

Destruction of Jerusalem AD 70 – Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21

  • Religious deception (Daniel 9:26)
  • War & rumors of war
  • Famine & plague
  • Persecution
  • Gospel to all nations
  • Abomination of desolation
  • Great tribulation
  • God preserves his people
  • Religious deception
  • Heavenly signs
  • Jerusalem & temple destroyed
  • The times of the Gentiles begin – Luke 21:24

The Church Age       

  • Real vs. nominal religion – Revelation 2-3, 6-19
  • True believers persecuted
  • Christ preserves his people
  • Apostasy of nominal religion – The Mystery of Iniquity
    • Apostolic era – 2 Timothy 3:1-5
    • Early church – 1 John 2:18-28
  • Constantine the Great
  • Catholicism – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
  • Protestantism
  • The rise & fall of Antichrist’s Kingdom – Revelation 13-19
    • Pope’s rise in 11th century
    • Pope’s fall is at hand
  • Present revival of true Christianity – The Signs of the Times
    • Extraordinary work of God
    • Latter-day glory at hand

First Millennium – Revelation 20:1-3,7a, The General Spread of the Gospel

  • Satan is bound
    • Nations no longer deceived
  • Christendom converted
    • Protestant nations
    • Catholic nations
  • Jewish conversion – Romans 11:7-32
  • Islamic conversion
  • Heathen conversion
  • Global evangelical faith
    • No violence
    • Universal salvation
    • Universal holiness & happiness
    • Christ’s universal reign

Second Millennium – Revelation 20:4-10

  • Satan is loosed
  • Saints reign in heaven
  • Nations on earth deceived
  • Gog & Magog attack Gentile church
  • Fire of God destroys his enemies

Christ’s Parousia  – The Great Assize

  • Cosmic signs – Matthew 24:29
    • Violent earthquakes
    • Giant tsunamis
    • Thunder & Lightning storms
    • Heavenly chaos: sun, moon, stars
  • Angelic herald – 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
    • Shout of heavenly company
    • Voice of archangel
    • Trumpet of God
  • General resurrection
    • Graves open
    • Sea gives up dead
    • Bodily resurrection
  • Gathering of saints – Matthew 24:31; 1 Thessalonians 4:17
    • Son sends forth his angels
    • Dead saints raised firs
    • Living saints caught up
    • Meet in the clouds
  • Second Coming
    • Sign – Matthew 24:30
    • In the clouds
    • Sits in judgment
  • Heaven/earth dissolved – The Great Assize
    • Source of the fire: volcanoes
    • Comets, ethereal fire (i.e. electricity)
  • Final Judgment – Revelation 20:11-1
    • All people gathered
    • Saints rewarded
    • Sinners condemned
  • Hell – Of Hell
    • Sinners turned into hell
    • Everlasting destruction
    • Eternal torment
  • Conflagration – 2 Peter 3:10-12

The Kingdom of Glory

  • Son gives Father the kingdom – 1 Corinthians 15:24-28
    • God is all in all
  • New heavens & new earth – The New Creation, The General Deliverance
    • Animal redemption – Romans 8:18-27
    • Harmonious cosmos – Revelation 21-22
    • No sea; only gentle rivers
    • No pain, death, sorrow
    • Perfect communion with God


John Wesley’s Outlines on the Book of Revelation

The following two outlines are located at the end of Wesley’s commentary on Revelation. They come from Johann Bengel’s Introduction to Revelation.[1] The brief introductory comments are from Wesley’s pen. Some changes were made to aid clarity: (1) scripture references are made more specific or added to show how Wesley and Bengel collate Revelation to actual history; (2) comments are added in parentheses to help clarify their meaning.

Johann Bengel’s measurement of time appears in Wesley’s commentary and can be explained as follows: a “time” equals 222 years based on his calculations of the orbital periods of the planets. Therefore, a “time, times, and half a time” equals 777 years (222+222+222+111=777), and according to Bengel includes the period from AD 1058 to 1836, when the eschatological beast (pope) is destroyed and the first millennium begins. Two other measurements of time need to be noted:

  • Chronos (“time”) refers to 1111 years; see Rev 6:11 note in Wesley’s commentary (see Johann Bengel, Bengelius’s Introduction, 174-186).
  • Non-chronos refers to the angel’s statement in Rev. 10:6, “there shall be no more time.” So, this unspecified period is referred to by Wesley and Bengel as non-chronos.


First Outline

Wesley’s introduction: It may be proper to subjoin here a short view of the whole contents of this book. In the year of the world, A.D. 3940, Jesus Christ is born, three years before the common computation. In that which is vulgarly called, the thirtieth year of our Lord, Jesus Christ dies; rises; ascends.

Year(s) – Events as Described in Revelation – Chapter(s)/Verse


AD 96 The Revelation is given; the coming of our Lord is declared to the seven churches in Asia, and their angels chs. 1-3

AD 97, 98   The seven seals are opened, and under the fifth (seal) the chronos is declared chs. 4-6. Seven trumpets are given to the seven angels chs. 7-8.

AD 100-500 The trumpets of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th angel ch. 8:7-12

AD 510-589 The first woe (Persians)   ch. 9:1-11

AD 589-634 The interval after the first woe ch. 9:12

AD 634-840 The second woe (Saracens)   ch. 9:13-19

AD 800 The beginning of the non-chronos many (Christian) kings (10:6 note) chs. 9-10

AD 840-947      The interval after the second woe    ch. 9:20-1

AD 847-1521 The twelve hundred and sixty days of the woman (true Christianity preserved from papal oppression), after she hath brought forth the man child    ch. 12:6

AD 947-1836      The third woe (Papacy)     ch. 12:12

AD 1058-1836     The time, times, and half a time, and within that period, the beast, his forty-two months, his number 666   ch. 13:5

AD 1209    War with the saints; the end of the chronos (i.e. the end of heathen Rome’s persecution, 6:11 note)    ch. 13:7

AD 1614    An everlasting gospel promulgated    ch. 14:6

AD 1810    The end of the forty-two months of the Beast; after which, and the pouring out of the phials, he (beast) is not, and Babylon (city of Rome) reigns queen (i.e. over the beast/papacy)   chs. 15-16

AD 1832   The beast ascends from the bottomless pit (this is the eschatological Pope who rules for 3 1/2 years). chs. 17-18

AD 1836   (The first millennium): The end of the non-chronos and of the many kings (8:6 note); the fulfilling of the word and of the mystery of God (10:7); the repentance of the (Jewish) survivors in the great city (11:13); the end of the “little time” (12:12), and of the three times and a half (12:14) – the destruction of beast (19:12); the imprisonment of Satan.   chs. 19-20:3

(AD 2836)    Afterward, (the second millennium): The loosing of Satan for a small time (20:3, 7); the beginning of the thousand years’ reign of the saints; the end of the small time.     ch. 20:4-10

(AD 3836)   The end of the world (including the second coming); all things new.   chs. 20:11-22:6


Second Outline

Editor Note: The roman numerals on the left represent each century of the church age from the second century up to the eighteenth century.

Wesley’s introduction: The several ages, from the time of St. John’s being in Patmos, down to the present time, may, according to the chief incidents mentioned in the Revelation, be distinguished thus:

Age – Event As Described In Revelation  – Chapter/Verse

II. The destruction of the Jews by Adrian  8:7

III. The inroads of the barbarous nations  8:8

IV. The Arian bitterness 8:10

V. The end of the western empire     8:12

VI. The Jews tormented in Persia     9:1

VII. The Saracen (Moslem) cavalry 9:13

VIII. Many (Christian) kings 10:11

IX. The ruler of the nations born 12:5

X. The third woe      12:12

XI. The ascent of the beast out of the pen     13:1

XII. Power given to the beast      13:5

XIII. War with the saints     13:7

XIV. The middle of the third woe

XV. The beast in the midst of his strength 13:8

XVI. The Reformation; the woman better fed      13:9

XVII. An everlasting gospel promulgated     14:6

XVIII. The worship of the beast and of his image     14:9

[1] Bengelius’s Introduction to His Exposition of the Apocalypse, London: J. Ryall and R. Withy, 1757, 235-42. Bengal adds in his remarks on this outline that he offers it with “Caution, that I by no means pretend to have adapted the years to every article with equal certainty” (240, emphasis his).

[This article was taken with permission from Mark K. Olson’s website where the original version can be found.]