Revelation moves inexorably from the Death and Resurrection of Jesus to the final day when God judges the wicked and vindicates the righteous.
At the conclusion of his ‘Olivet Discourse,’ Jesus presented the parable of the Sheep and the Goats. On the day when the “Son of Man arrives in his glory,” his angels will gather all the nations before him for judgment, then he will divide them into two, the “sheep” and the “goats.” The latter will “depart into everlasting destruction,” but the former “into everlasting life.”
The Book of Revelation makes no use of this parable. However, its visions reflect the same perspective – the process of sifting humanity began with the Death and Resurrection and continues until the end of the age, at which time all humanity will be divided into two groups – Those who follow the “Lamb wherever he goes,” and those who render homage to the “Beast.” There is no third alternative.
Jesus became the “faithful witness” in his sacrificial death, and the “firstborn of the dead” upon his resurrection. Consequently, he has reigned supreme ever since on the messianic throne, the “ruler of the kings of the earth.” And his realm extends to the “uttermost parts of the earth,” just as the Psalmist promised. Thus, even now, he is “shepherding the nations,” and like a shepherd, he is separating the “sheep” from the “goats” – (Psalm 2:1-9, Matthew 25:31-46, Revelation 1:4-6).
The final settlement of all accounts does not occur until the final “day” and “hour,” when all humanity will stand before the “Great White Throne of Judgment.” Everyone whose name is “written in the Lamb’s book of life” will receive everlasting life; all others will instead be cast “into the Lake of fire.” One’s fate on that day is determined by how one responds to the “Lamb” and the “beast” in the present – (Revelation 21:24).
For example, the Risen Jesus summoned the church at Sardis to repent and remain ever vigilant, otherwise, “I will come as a thief, and in nowise will you know in what hour I will come upon you.” To the saints in Philadelphia, he promised to keep them from the “hour of trial” that was coming on the “whole habitable earth” – (Revelation 3:1-3, 3:10).
The opening of the sixth seal revealed the final “day of wrath.” The “stars of heaven fell to the earth, and the heavens were withdrawn as a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island were shaken out of their place.” It was the “great day of the wrath” of the “Lamb” – (Revelation 6:12-17).
When the “sixth trumpet sounded,” four angels were released who had been “prepared for the hour and day and month and year”, to unleash the final forces that would kill a third of humanity. When the “seventh trumpet” sounded, the final victory of the kingdom of God was declared and the time of judgment arrived:
- The “set time for the dead to be vindicated, and to give their reward to your servants the prophets, and to the saints, and to them who revere thy name, the small and the great, and to despoil them who were despoiling the earth” – (Revelation 9:14-15, 11:11-19).
Likewise, when the sixth bowl of wrath was emptied, the “kings of the earth” were gathered to the final battle of the “great day of God Almighty” – (Revelation 9:14-15, 16:12-16).
In chapter 14, an angel proclaimed that “the hour of his judgment has come,” which meant the fall of end-time “Babylon” and the destruction of the men and women who rendered homage to the “beast.” That “hour” culminates in two “harvests” – (“For the harvest of the earth is ripe”) – The “reaping” of all the righteous, and the final “ingathering” of the fruit of the “vine of the earth,” which is cast into the “wine-press of the wrath of God” – (Revelation 14:1-20).
Likewise, in chapter 18, the destruction of the “Great Harlot, Babylon,” arrived “in one hour,” and she was “laid waste in one hour” – (Revelation 18:10, 18:17-19).
Each of the three sevenfold series – seals, trumpets, “bowls of wrath” – culminates in the final judgment of the wicked. Thus, when the “sixth seal” was opened, the day of “wrath” arrived for the unrepentant. The sounding of the “seventh trumpet” announced the day of the judgment for the wicked and vindication for the righteous. The seventh “bowl of wrath” completed the “wrath of God.” And each series ends with “flashes of lightning, loud voices, claps of thunder, and a great earthquake” – (Revelation 6:12-17, 11:15-19, 16:17-21).
Revelation is about far more than history’s final few years. Its visions provide a broad prophetic sweep that begins with the Death and Resurrection of Jesus and ends with final victory in the New Creation. The exaltation of the “slain Lamb” to the “Throne” set events into motion that inevitably culminate in the final judgment of the wicked, the vindication of the righteous, and the descent of “New Jerusalem” to the earth.
All this is the outworking of God’s redemptive plan that the “Lamb” began to implement following his self-sacrificial death and subsequent enthronement, the “Lamb,” the “alpha and the omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end,” the “firstborn of the dead,” and the “beginning of the (new) creation.” All this commenced with his first coming, and his future arrival will consummate all things, which is why the book concludes with the exclamation – “Yea! I come speedily. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!”