Because Revelation is Apocalyptic Literature, it uses the setting of the end times, the Shift of the Ages, to get it's point across. Therefore, Revelation's goal is to provide an antidote to Christians assimilating into the Roman Imperial Culture, mailnly emperor worship. It is not predicting a literal future, it simply uses the Shift of the Ages as a backdrop to remind Christians that one day, it will all end, and God will prevail. This is an essenatial component of most apocalyptic works. Also, Revelation is prophecy, which means it's goal is to tell forth God's truth, not foretell the future.
Revelation is ingeniously written. Bascially speaking, Revelation is broken up into Seven Letters to the Seven Churches of Asian Minor, and Seven Visions of the Shift of the Ages ("The End Times"). Each of the seven visions is a cycle that recaps the eschaton (the end). John uses recapitulation in each of these cycles. In other words, he tells of one Shift of the Ages, but in a different way each time, each with a different focus. The first group of three visions focuses on a tribulation experienced by Christians before the end, a common belief in Apocalyptic writings. The second group of three visions focuses on the impending judgment on Rome because of idolatry and it's role in persecution of Christians. The seventh cycle, is a picture of the consummation of all things.
Here's how it breaks down:
1:1-8 Letter introduction
1:9-3:22 Call of the prophet, and SEVEN LETTERS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES
4:1-22:5 SEVEN VISIONS OF THE SHIFT OF THE AGES
4:1-8:1 CYCLE ONE: The Seven Seals
8:2-11:18 CYCLE TWO: The Seven Trumpets
11:19-13:18 CYCLE THREE: The Role of Rome (in the suffering of Christians)
14:1-20 CYCLE FOUR: Seven Angels of Judgment
15:1-16:21 CYCLE FIVE: Seven Bowls of Wrath
17:1-19:5 CYCLE SIX: The Results of Rome's Role (in the suffering of Christians)
19:6-22:5 CYCLE SEVEN: Seven Scenes of the Consummation
All seven cycles begin with an opening scene in heaven (4:1-5:14, 8:2-6, 11:19, 14:1-5, 15:1-16:1, 17:1-2, 19:6-10), a common element in apocalyptic writings. The seven cycles also have many other common elements, both among each other and apocalyptic writings as a whole.
Revelation cannot be read chronologically because John is describing one event from different angles. John uses the Shift of the Ages to get his point accross that one day God will destroy Rome and will prevail - therefore, there is no need to succomb to the demands of Emperor worship.
The author of Revelation relies on extra-Biblcial works for symbols and themes, and when read in context of other apocalyptic literature, Revelation makes sense. John wrote to an audience that understood his patterns and meanings.
To buy the book The Apocalypse by Charles H. Talbert - an excellent book that breaks down all this and explains it futher, CLICK HERE.
Also in this series:
THE BOOK OF REVELATION: PART 1
THE NATURE OF PROPHECY