Judgement in the book of Revelation primarily occurs through the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls. Furthermore, that judgement, which is described as true and just (19:2) is directed toward unbelievers, believers, Satan, and demons. Up until this time the world has been under the dominion of Satan (Job 1:6-8; 2:1-2; Matt 4:8-9; Luke 10:18; 22:3; John 12:31; 1 Cor 11:14; 2 Cor 4:4; 1 John 5:19; 1 Peter 5:8). The judgment begins in the book of Revelation with 6:1-2 in the breaking of the first seal of the scroll.
I. THE MANNER AND METHOD OF THE JUDGMENT
A.The Seven Seals
1. White Horse
The first seal releases a white horse. Its rider carries a bow and a crown is placed on his head. He rides and wins many battles (6:2).
2. Red Horse
The second seal releases a red horse. Its rider is given a mighty sword and the authority to take peace from the world. Because of this rider and horse there is war and slaughter everywhere (6:4).
3. Black Horse
The third seal reveals a black horse. This rider is holding a pair of scales in his hand (6:5) and a famine occurs in this judgment. A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of barely cost a day’s pay, and there will be a shortage of olive oil and wine (6:6).
4. Green Horse
The fourth seal releases a green horse. Its rider is named Death and his companion is the Grave. These two are given power over one-fourth of the earth to kill with sword, famine, disease, and wild animals (6:8).
5. Under the Altar
The fifth seal allows John to see (under the altar) the souls of all of those who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful to their testimony (6:9). These people ask the Lord when he will judge the people who belong to this world (16:10).
The sixth seal delivers a great earthquake in which the sun becomes dark as black cloth and the moon became as red as blood (6:12). Stars fall to the earth (6:13), the sky is rolled up like a scroll, and the mountains and islands are moved (6:14).
There is a brief interlude between the sixth and seventh seals. In this interlude John describes what happens as a result of the first six seals being opened. The people of the earth (from kings down to slaves) hide in caves (6:15). They cry out that the great day of the wrath of the Lamb has come (6:16-17). This interlude further reveals the Lamb as the source of the judgement (6:16-17). During this interlude John sees four angels holding back the four winds (7:1) as well as another angel from the east carrying the seal of the living God (7:2). The angel from the east tells those four angels not to harm the land, sea, or trees until the seal of God has been placed on the foreheads of his servants (7:3). During the great tribulation a vast crowd from every nation, tribe, people, and language die. They then stand in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb and are clothed in white robes (7:9, 14).
The seventh seal reveals silence in heaven. There are seven angels in heaven who are each given a trumpet (8:1-2). Another angel appears (in addition to the seven) with a gold incense burner and stands at the altar (8:3). This angel fills his incense burner with fire from the altar and throws it down upon the earth. Thunder crashes, lightning flashes, and there is a terrible earthquake (8:5).
B. The Seven Trumpets
Immediately after the Lamb breaks the seventh seal (8:1-5) the seven angels with seven trumpets prepare to blow their mighty blasts (8:6).
1. Hail and Fire
The first angel blows his trumpet and hail and fire mixed with blood are thrown down on the earth. As a result, one-third of the earth is set on fire, one-third of the trees are burned, and all the green grass is burned (8:7).
2. Mountain of Fire
The second angel blows his trumpet and a great mountain of fire is thrown into the sea. One-third of the water in the sea becomes blood (8:8), one-third of the living things in the sea die, and one-third of all the ships on the sea are destroyed (8:9).
3. Great Star
The third angel blows his trumpet and a great star falls from the sky burning like a torch. It falls on one-third of the rivers and springs and water (8:10). Bitterness is the name of the star and makes one-third of the water on the earth bitter. Many people die from drinking this water (8:11).
The fourth angel blows his trumpet and one-third of the sun, moon, and stars are struck and become dark. One-third of the day is dark and so is one-third of the night (8:12).
A brief interlude occurs after the fourth trumpet. John sees an angel flying through the air crying loudly about the “terror” that will happen when the last three angels blow their trumpets (8:13).
5. Key to the Bottomless Pit
The fifth angel blows his trumpet and a star that had fallen from the sky is given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit (9:1). He opens the shaft and smoke pours out like from a huge furnace. This is so severe that the sunlight and air turn dark from all the smoke (9:2). Locusts come out from the smoke and they sting like scorpions (9:3). The locusts are told to harm the people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads (9:4). While these locusts do not kill the people who do not have seals, the locusts do torture these people for five months with pain like that of a scorpion sting (9:5). The pain and torture are so severe that these people want to die (9:6).
6. One-Third of the Earth Dies
The sixth angel blows his trumpet (9:13) and four angels are turned loose to kill one-third of all the people on the earth (9:15). The size of this army is 200 million mounted troops (9:16).
Another brief interlude follows in which John sees riders on horses (9:17). The heads of the horses are like lions. Fire, smoke, and burning sulfur come from their mouths (9:17). One-third of all the people are killed by the fire, smoke, and burning sulfur (9:18).
7. Judgment for the Dead
The seventh angel blows his trumpet (11:15) and the twenty-four elders sitting on the thrones before God say that the time has come to judge the dead and to destroy all who have caused destruction on the earth (11:18). After the seventh trumpet lighting flashes, thunder crashes, there is an earthquake, and there is a terrible hailstorm (11:19).
C. The Seven Bowls
Lastly, there are seven angels that hold the plagues, which will bring God’s wrath to completion (15:1, 6-8). God tells them to go their ways and pour out God’s wrath (16:1).
The first angel pours out his bowl on the earth and sores break out on everyone who has the mark of the beast and who worshipped his statue (16:2).
2. Sea of Blood
The second angel pours out his bowl on the sea. The sea becomes like the blood of a corpse and everything in the sea dies (16:3).
3. Rivers of Blood
The third angel pours out his bowl on the rivers and springs and they become blood (16:4).
The fourth angel pours out his bowl on the sun. The sun scorches everyone with fire (16:8) and the blast burns everyone (16:9).
The fifth angel pours out his bowl on the throne of the beast and the beasts kingdom is thrown into darkness (16:10). His followers grind their teeth in anguish and curse the God of heaven for their sores and pains (16:10-11).
6. Dry Euphrates River
The sixth angel pours out his bowl on the Euphrates River and it dries up.
7. Thunder, Lightning, and Earthquake
The seventh angel pours out his bowl on the air a mighty shout comes from the throne in the temple saying, “It is finished” (16:17). After that, thunder crashes and rolls, lightning flashes, and the worst earthquake in history strikes (16:18). As a result of this the city of Babylon is split into three sections and many nations are in rubble. God remembers Babylon’s many sins and causes the city to experience God’s wrath (16:19). Every island disappears and all the mountains are leveled (16:20). There is a terrible hailstorm and hail weighing as much as seventy-five pounds falls from the sky onto people below (16:21).
II. THE DIRECTION AND OBJECTS OF GOD’S JUDGMENT
A. On Satan and Demons
1. Before the Thousand Years
The beast, kings of the world, and their armies gather to fight against Jesus and his army (19:11-18, 19). In this battle the beast and the false prophet are captured. They are thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (19:20) and the entire army is killed (19:21). In the next chapter judgement is directed toward Satan when an angel comes down from heaven, seizes the dragon—Satan—and binds him for a thousand years (20:1-2).
2. After the Thousand Years
After the thousand years Satan is let out of prison (20:7) and gathers an army for one last battle (20:8), but fire comes down from heaven and consumes the army (20:9). After the judgement on Satan’s army, he is thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. In that place Satan, the beast, and the false prophet are tormented day and night forever and ever (20:10).
B. On Believers
Sadly, some of the judgement described in the book of Revelation gets directed toward believers. (Whether these are people who were already Christians prior to the start of the Tribulation or people who become Christians during the Tribulation is unclear.)
1. By Beasts
The beast that rises up out of the sea is allowed to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them (13:8). Those destined for prison will be taken to prison and those destined to die by the sword will die by the sword (13:10). John writes that this means God’s holy people must endure persecution and remain faithful (13:10). Another beast (13:11) makes fire flash down on the earth from the sky (13:13). This beast makes a great statue and anyone who refuses to worship the statue is required to die (13:15).
2. Announced by Angels
In the next chapter there are three angels that announce judgments. John provides an interpretation of these angels’ judgment saying that God’s people must endure persecution patiently, obey his commandments, and maintain their faith in Jesus (13:12). Additionally, John writes that during the Tribulation those who die in the Lord are blessed and they will find rest (14:13).
C. On Unbelievers
While believers endure some of the judgement described in Revelation, most of the judgement is focused on unbelievers.
1. Revelation 11
If anyone tries to harm the two prophets of Rev 11 fire flashes from their mouths and consumes their enemies. In this way their judgement is against the people of the earth but it is only prompted by the people when they try to harm the two witnesses. At the end of the time of the two witnesses there is a terrible earthquake that destroys one-tenth of the city (7,000 people) (11:13).
2. Revelation 17-18
One of the seven angels that had delivered the bowl judgments tells John that John will see the judgement that is going to come on the great prostitute (17:1). The woman and the beast with seven heads and ten horns will eventually go to eternal destruction (17:8-9). They will go to war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will defeat them (17:14). Shortly after this, Babylon is fallen (18:1-2) and God remembers her evil deeds (18:5). Because of Babylon’s terror for others God brews terror for her (18:6). Just as Babylon has glorified herself God matches it with torment and sorrow (18:7). The plagues will overtake the city of Babylon in a single day and she will be completely consumed by fire (18:8).
3. Revelation 20
At the Great White Throne Judgement (20:11) the books are opened, including the Book of Life (20:12). The dead are judged according to what they have done (20:13-14). Anyone whose name is not found in the book of life is thrown into the lake of fire (20:15).
III. REVELATION IS A JUDGMENT BOOK
The book of Revelation contains twenty-two chapters, and seventeen of those chapters (4-20) explicitly describe the judgement of God against Satan, his demons, and unbelievers. Thankfully, judgement is completed when there is a loud shout from the throne in Rev 20:3-4, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (NLT). The judgement will be finished (20:6). God will place the cowards, unbelievers, corrupt, murders, immoral, witchcraft, idol worshippers, and liars into the fiery lake of burning sulfur (21:8). As a last note in the book of Revelation Jesus tells John that he is coming soon to repay all the people according to their deeds (22:12).