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28 December 2018

Multiple Final Judgments?

SYNOPSIS - The three sevenfold series of Revelation all conclude with a final judgment scene at the end of the age

Lightning over Bangkok - Photo by Dominik QN on Unsplash
Final judgment scenes occur several times in the book of Revelation. For example, each of the sevenfold series of judgments, the “seven seals,” “trumpets,” and “bowls of wrath,” ends in a final judgment scene, each time punctuated by terrestrial and celestial upheaval - (Revelation 6:12-17; 11:15-19; 16:17-21).

 

This feature becomes quite problematic if the chapters of the book are intended to be laid out in neat chronological order. Logically, it would lead to the conclusion that the future holds multiple “final” judgments. If the chapters are not in chronological sequence, then most naturally, the several judgment scenes point to the same final event, although perhaps presented from different aspects.


Chapter 6 of Revelation describes what happened when the “Lamb” opened the first six seals. The opening of the sixth seal produced “a great earthquake…the sun became black as sackcloth of hair and the full moon as blood” - 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” – A day marked by “a great earthquakeevery 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 20:11-18Compare - Joel 2:30-32Isaiah 2:10-22).

Thus, the series of “seven seals” culminates in the “Day of the Lord,” a time of judgment and universal upheaval. Likewise, the transition from the series of “seven seals” to the “seven trumpets” is marked by “voices, thunders, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake” - (Revelation 8:1-6).

Next, seven angels sounded the “seven trumpets.” The first four trumpet blasts impacted the natural order and commerce - Vegetation, oceans, freshwater supplies, and the darkening of sun, moon, and stars. The last three trumpet blasts were distinguished from the preceding four by the voice of a “flying eagle” that warned of three imminent “woes” about to befall the “inhabitants of the earth” - (Revelation 8:7-9:21).


An interlude occurred between the sixth and seventh trumpets during which the sanctuary was measured, and the “Two Witnesses” prophesied, there were slain by the “Beast from the Abyss” - (Revelation 10:1-11:14).


When the seventh trumpet sounded, loud voices in heaven declared - “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign unto the ages of ages.” As with the sixth seal, God and the “Lamb” appeared together at the climax of the series, and praise was given to the One “Who is and He who was, because he has…become king.”


In the prologue of Revelation, God was declared the One “Who is and Who was and Who is coming.” However, when the “seventh trumpet” sounded, the last clause - “He who is coming” - was dropped because He had arrived with the sounding of the final trumpet. The “kingdom of God” was consummated, and the Lord was declared king over all things. It was the time for the righteous dead to be “vindicated and given their reward,” but the wicked that were “despoiling the earth” were “despoiled.”


What is described in the “seventh trumpet” is not an interim stage in a long series of events that precede the end of the age. The sevenfold series of trumpets closes like the previous series of seven seals - With “flashes of lightning and thunder and voices, and an earthquake and great hail.”

  • (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 labeled the “last plagues” in which the “wrath of God was concluded.” Seven angels were commanded to “pour out the Seven Bowls of the wrath of God unto the earth.”  The first three contained plagues that harmed the earth, sea, and the freshwaters of the earth. An angel declared, “Righteous are you He Who is and He Who was.” The fourth bowl impacted the sun; the fifth bowl darkened the “throne of the Beast,” and the “sixth bowl of wrath” prepared the way for the final battle of “Armageddon.”


Finally, the seventh bowl of wrath caused a voice to proclaim - “It has come to pass.” Babylon and all the cities of the earth fell, followed by “flashes of lightning, voices, claps of thunder, and a great earthquakeevery island fled away and no mountains were found.” The effects parallel those of the sixth seal. The reference to a “great hail” parallels the seventh trumpet with its addition of “great hail” - (Revelation 16:17).


Later, at the end of the “thousand years,” Satan was released from the “Abyss” to “gather the nations to the battle…Gog and Magog.” The 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 out of heaven came down and devoured” this satanic force, then Satan himself was “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where both the Beast and the False Prophet are” - (Ezekiel 38:1-4, Revelation 19:17-2120:8-10).


The overthrow of Satan was followed by the “Great White Throne of Judgment,” before which “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.”  At this time, “Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire,” which is the “second death.”  Anyone whose name was not written in the book of life is cast into the “lake of fire” - (Revelation 6:1416:2020:11-15).


There are too many verbal and conceptual links between the several “final” judgment scenes in the book of Revelation to be coincidental. All three sevenfold series climax in a final judgment scene. The series of “seven seals” and “seven trumpets” both culminate in the destruction of the wicked and the final vindication of the righteous.


The “seven trumpets,” the “seven bowls of wrath,” and the “release of Satan” at the end of the “thousand years” all result in a final climactic “war” between the forces of Evil and the “Lamb,” followed by the final judgment.


There is one final judgment in Revelation, not several.  The three sevenfold series of “seals,” “trumpets,” and “bowls of wrath” are not consecutive but, on some level, concurrent. Reading the book as a sequence of events laid out in a strict chronological order does not do justice to the material and causes numerous difficulties for the interpreter.


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