Each of the three sevenfold series in Revelation concludes with a final judgment scene at the end of the age.
Final judgment scenes occur several times in the Book of Revelation. All three of the sevenfold series of “seals,” “trumpets,” and “bowls of wrath” culminate in the final judgment, and each time punctuated by terrestrial and celestial upheaval. Those “judgments” are in addition to the one at the “Great White Throne of Judgement” when the wicked are cast into the “lake of fire.”
If the book’s chapters are presented in chronological order, this becomes problematic. It would lead to the conclusion that multiple “final” judgments will occur before the “descent of New Jerusalem.” However, if the chapters are not in chronological sequence, then most naturally, the several judgment scenes point to the same final event.
The opening of the “sixth seal” produced “a great earthquake… the sun became black as sackcloth of hair and the full moon as blood”; basically, terrestrial and celestial upheaval. The image presents nothing less than the “Day of the Lord,” the time of the “wrath of God and the Lamb. That day is marked by “a great earthquake… and every mountain and island were moved out of their place.”
The “sixth seal” includes verbal links to the “Great White Throne of Judgment” when John “saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his face the earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them” – (Revelation 20:11-18).
Thus, the series of “seven seals” culminates in the “Day of the Lord,” the time of final judgment and universal upheaval. Similarly, the series concludes with loud “voices, claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” – (Revelation 8:1-6).
Likewise, the series of “seven trumpets” concludes with loud voices in heaven declaring the consummation of the kingdom of God, the vindication of the righteous, and the judgment and condemnation of the wicked. Like the “seven seals,” the “seven trumpets” conclude with “flashes of lightning, voices, claps of thunder, an earthquake,” plus “great hail.” What is described when the “seventh trumpet” sounds is not another interim stage that must precede the end, but the arrival of the end of the age – (Revelation 11:15-19).
The series of the “seven bowls of wrath” also concludes with a scene of judgment accompanied by the same visual and audible phenomena as the first two sevenfold series.
- (Revelation 16:17-21) – “And the seventh poured out his bowl upon the air. And there came forth a loud voice out of the sanctuary from the throne saying, ‘It is Accomplished!’ And there came to be lightning and voices and thunders; and a great earthquake took place such as had never taken place since men came to be on the earth, such a mighty earthquake so great; and the great city became divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and Babylon the Great was brought into remembrance before God to give to her the cup of the wine of the wrath of his anger; and every island fled, and mountains were not found. And GREAT HAIL as talents COME DOWN out of heaven upon mankind; and men blasphemed God by reason of the plague of hail because the plague thereof was exceeding great.”
The “seven bowls of wrath” are called the “last plagues” that complete the “wrath of God.” After the seventh angel emptied the final “bowl,” a loud voice proclaimed: “It is finished.” Babylon and all the cities of the earth fell, followed by “flashes of lightning, voices, claps of thunder, and a great earthquake,” plus “great hail.” At this time, “every island fled, and no mountains were found,” effects that parallel the “sixth seal.” And the “great hail” parallels the “seventh trumpet” with its addition of “great hail.”
At the end of the “thousand years,” Satan was released to “gather the nations to the battle…Gog and Magog.” This Satanic army “surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city.” No actual battle took place. As soon as the saints were encircled, “fire descended from heaven and devoured them.” Then, Satan himself was “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” – (Revelation 20:8-10).
The demise of Satan was followed by the “Great White Throne of Judgment.” Before it, the “earth fled and heaven, and place for them was not found.” The “books” were opened and the “dead were judged out of the things written in the books.” Anyone whose name was not written in the “book of life” is cast into the “lake of fire” – (Revelation 20:11-15).
There are too many verbal links between the several judgment scenes in Revelation to be coincidental. All three sevenfold series climax in the final judgment, and the “seven seals” and “seven trumpets” both culminate in the destruction of the wicked and the final vindication of the righteous. Both the “seven seals” and the “seven bowls of wrath” produce upheaval on the earth and in the heavens, most likely, in preparation for the arrival of the New Creation.
Thus, in Revelation, there is one final judgment, not several. The three sevenfold series of “seals,” “trumpets,” and “bowls of wrath” are not consecutive but, on some level, concurrent. In each case, the same judgment scene is in view, and the description includes items found at the conclusion of each series, but also additional information is provided progressively such as the addition of “hail.”
And thus, from its start, Revelation moves inexorably toward the end of the age, the judgment at the “Great White Throne,” and the arrival of “New Jerusalem.”
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