A Fresh Look at the Judgments in the Book of Revelation

We’ve been studying through the Book of Revelation.

In recent posts, we’ve established that:

  • The book of Revelation was written in the mid to late 60s A.D.  
  • Revelation was written at that time because Jesus wanted to:
    • Prepare His followers in Asia Minor for His coming.
    • Call many to repent before he came.
    • Inform them of the temporary severe suffering that many would endure at that time.
  • Everyone agrees that Revelation is about GOD judging somebody. The key to understanding who is being judged is to identify who the martyred souls were under the altar in Rev. 6:9-11 and who killed them.
  • It was physical Jerusalem and the wicked Jews who were being judged in Revelation. Both Revelation (see Rev. 17:6; 18:1-3; 11:8) and other Scripture state that the Jews who persecuted and killed the apostles and first century Christians were those judged.

In the conclusion of GOD’s revealed Word, the book of Revelation provides our final details regarding death, the judgment, the resurrection and what will follow (or has followed).

These final chapters provide helpful insight.

Let’s take a fresh look.

Welcome to the 39th post in my series of rethinking Christian eschatology. Because these posts build upon each other, if you’ve not already done so, I invite you to read the previous posts in this series before continuing here.

Quick heads up:

  • This post is long and meaty. Take your time.
  • Don’t let this scare you off; it’s not complicated, there’s just a lot of Scripture included.
  • When you reach the bottom of this page, be sure and continue to part 2.

The prostitute (Babylon) was judged

Recall from our past posts that this woman in Rev. 17 was the physical city of Jerusalem (also representative of the wicked rebellious Israelites who rejected GOD, per the Song of Moses).

6 I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus.
(Rev. 17:6a NIV)

The beast upon whom the woman rode was the Roman Empire.

16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. 17 For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to hand over to the beast their royal authority, until God’s words are fulfilled.
(Rev. 17:16-17 NIV)

Rome destroyed Jerusalem and burned the city with fire.

By the time the siege ended, the few remaining inside were surviving by eating the flesh of their fellow Jews, just as GOD foretold through Moses in Deuteronomy.

In Revelation 18, we see an abrupt end to this Babylon.

1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by his splendor. 2 With a mighty voice he shouted:

“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!
She has become a dwelling for demons
and a haunt for every impure spirit,
a haunt for every unclean bird,
a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.

21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:

“With such violence
the great city of Babylon will be thrown down,
never to be found again.
(Rev. 18:1-2, 21 NIV)

The vision was of “the Lord’s Day

All of the Scriptures prior to Revelation had foretold this event, when the old covenant would end—when physical Israel would cease being GOD’s chosen people, replaced by a new covenant with spiritual Israelites and a spiritual land.

In the close of GOD’s written message to humanity, we see those promises fulfilled.

Recall that, in the beginning of the vision (Rev. 1:10), John said he was “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day?”

What is the Lord’s Day?

Well, it is the Day of the Lord. And throughout the Scriptures, the phrase “the day of the Lord” referred to a day of judgment upon somebody.

The phrase John used, “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day,” was not a reference to Sunday (the first day of the week, the day when Jesus arose) but to the long-foretold day of judgment upon physical Israel.

When you hear people say “the Lord’s Day” when they’re referring to Sunday, although there is a sense in which that is true, it is a gross misapplication of the phrase from which that saying originated.

This may seem a nit-picky distinction, but it’s not. It’s important.

GOD called His people out of Babylon / Jerusalem

In Revelation 18, GOD called His people to come out of Jerusalem, for her destruction and time of suffering had arrived:

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say:

“‘Come out of her, my people,’
so that you will not share in her sins,
so that you will not receive any of her plagues;
5 for her sins are piled up to heaven,
and God has remembered her crimes.
6 Give back to her as she has given;
pay her back double for what she has done.
Pour her a double portion from her own cup.
7 Give her as much torment and grief
as the glory and luxury she gave herself.
In her heart she boasts,
‘I sit enthroned as queen.
I am not a widow;
I will never mourn.’
8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her:
death, mourning and famine.
She will be consumed by fire,
for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.
(Rev. 18:4-8 NIV)

Think back to the Song of Moses. What did GOD prophesy through Moses about Israel’s end?

19 “ So the Lord saw it, and was jealous;
And He was provoked to anger by His sons and daughters.
20 Then He said, ‘I will turn My face from them,
And I will make known what their end will be;
For they are a perverse generation,
Sons in whom is no faith.
21 They provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God;
They moved Me to anger by their idols;
But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation;
I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.

22 For a fire is kindled in My anger,
And shall burn to the lowest Hades;
It shall consume the land with its produce
And set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
23 ‘ I will gather evils on them;
I will spend My arrows on them.
24 They shall be wasted with hunger,
Devoured by birds and incurable disease;
I will also send against them the teeth of wild animals
With the anger of things crawling on the earth.
25 The sword shall make them childless outside,
And fear from the inner chambers,
For the young man and virgin,
The nursing child with the elder of gray hairs.

35 I shall repay on the day of vengeance;
In time, when their foot shall slip;
For the day of their calamity is at hand,
And is waiting, ready for them.’

36 “ For the Lord will judge His people,
And have compassion on His servants;
For He sees them disabled
And left in distress and weakened.

40 For I raise My hand to heaven,
And I swear by My right hand, and say,

“As I live forever,
41 for I whet My sword like lightning;
And My hand takes hold on judgment.
I will render vengeance on My enemies,
And repay those who hate Me.
42 I will make My arrows drunk from blood;
And My sword shall devour flesh
From the blood of the slain and the captives,
From the heads of the leaders of the enemy.” ’

43 “ Rejoice, O Heavens, together with Him,
And worship Him, all the sons of God;
Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people;
And let all the angels of God be strong with Him;
For He will avenge the blood of His sons
And render vengeance to His adversaries;
And the Lord will purify His people’s land.”
(Deut. 32:19-43 OSB)

The two passages sound so similar because they are talking about the same judgment. The Song of Moses is directly cited and quoted in Revelation 15:3. 

GOD calling His children out of Jerusalem was another instance of the same instructions Jesus had given to Peter, James, John and Andrew two days before His death:

20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
(Luke 21:20-24 NIV)

The righteous rejoiced over Jerusalem’s judgment

When Jerusalem was destroyed in John’s vision, there was much rejoicing in heaven:

18:18 When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim, ‘Was there ever a city like this great city?’ 19 They will throw dust on their heads, and with weeping and mourning cry out:

“‘Woe! Woe to you, great city,
where all who had ships on the sea
became rich through her wealth!
In one hour she has been brought to ruin!’
20 “Rejoice over her, you heavens!
Rejoice, you people of God!
Rejoice, apostles and prophets!
For God has judged her
with the judgment she imposed on you.”

Note: See how the righteous martyrs rejoiced over GOD’s judgment?

Now go back and read Deut. 32:43. See how interconnected those passages are? They described the same events!

21 Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a large millstone and threw it into the sea, and said:

“With such violence
the great city of Babylon will be thrown down,
never to be found again.

Note: Remember that “Babylon” (physical Jerusalem) represented the old covenant. Though the physical city of Jerusalem exists today, it no longer retains its former unique significance to GOD.

According to the Scriptures, Palsestine has no special significance to GOD. All the emphasis of the New Testament Scriptures is on spiritual Israel with its spiritual land and city, the New Jerusalem.

Strictly spiritually speaking, there is no reason to protect or care for the physical land of Israel any more than we’d protect or care for any other place. (The historical value certainly is reason to protect and care for the area, however.)

Whereas many believers feel Christians and governments should support the physical land of “Israel” because of yet-to-be-fulfilled prophecy about it, that is based on a misunderstanding of the Scriptures. They misapply GOD’s promised blessings upon His spiritual land for the physical one.

8/13/2023 Note: While directionally correct, I feel the above sentiment could be better expressed. When GOD called Abraham from Ur to Canaan, He told Abraham to look around because everything Abraham could see would one day be his. And yet we clearly know that GOD prepared a New Earth with its New Jerusalem for the eternal home of the righteous—what many Christian refer to as “heaven.”

It is accurate that the territory once occupied by the people of Israel here in this world, it has passed away with the Law of Moses (per Matthew 5:17-18). However, it is not accurate to say that New Earth and New Jerusalem is merely spiritual in the sense that it is not a place to be experienced by human senses, albeit in immortal, glorified bodies. I feel such a clarification is necessary, given my 2017 comments.

22 The music of harpists and musicians, pipers and trumpeters,
will never be heard in you again.
No worker of any trade
will ever be found in you again.
The sound of a millstone
will never be heard in you again.
23 The light of a lamp
will never shine in you again.
The voice of bridegroom and bride
will never be heard in you again.
Your merchants were the world’s important people.
By your magic spell all the nations were led astray.

Note: While it is possible GOD was referring metaphorically to the joy of blessings originally promised to physical Israel in v.23, it is also possible He was alluding to Jesus (bridegroom) and the church (Jesus’ bride), who would never again occupy the Jerusalem of the old covenant. It was destroyed and no one could enter it again.

24 In her was found the blood of prophets and of God’s holy people,
of all who have been slaughtered on the earth.”
19:1 After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:

Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for true and just are his judgments.
He has condemned the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.
He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
3 And again they shouted:

The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.”
4 The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried:

“Amen, Hallelujah!”
5 Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
both great and small!”
(Rev. 18:18-19:5 NIV)

So, whereas the martyrs were seen praying for this judgment back in Rev. 6:9-11, and were then told to wait a bit longer until all their brethren had been killed, at this point in the vision they have justice.

It is this judgment that was the fulfillment of the oft-misapplied passage:

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
(Rom. 12:19 NIV)

(There in Rom. 12:19, Paul quoted from the Song of Moses [Deut. 32:35].)

Elimination of Babylon ushered in the wedding feast

We left off with Rev. 19:5 above. The very next verses read:

6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.
8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.
(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
(Rev. 19:6-9 NIV)

Jesus had prophesied numerous times about this feast.

Consider these examples…

Example #1: At the healing of the (Gentile) Roman centurion’s servant

5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
(Matt. 8:5-12 NIV)

Example #2: When asked if only a few would be saved

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
(Luke 13:22-30 NIV)

Note: Remember that, at the time Jesus spoke these words, the people He was speaking to were part of Israel and therefore were in the kingdom of GOD (at that time). However, at His second coming, they would be thrust out.

At the time of the feast, the kingdom would only consist of the righteous, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the prophets—each of whom had been dead (and previously seen under the altar in Rev. 6:9-11).

Example #3: At the Pharisee’s dinner

1 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched.

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
(Luke 14:1, 12-24 NIV)

Example #4: Parable of the wedding banquet

1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12 He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless.

13 “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
(Matt. 22:1-14 NIV)

Note: Think back to when we studied Jesus’ teaching regarding these words. Jesus was warning the Jews about the coming destruction of the city and their punishment. Revelation 18-22 tells how this destruction and punishment was accomplished.

Also, keep in mind that “the feast” was a wedding feast, not just a generic meal.

Example #5: Parable of the ten virgins

24:50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

25:1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3 The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4 The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5 The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

6 “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!

7 “Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

9 “‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

10 “But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11 “Later the others also came. ‘Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us!’

12 “But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I don’t know you.’

13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
(Matt. 24:50-25:13 NIV)

All of these prophecies and parables dealt with the same wedding feast as is being discussed in Revelation 18-22.

Who was getting married?

7 Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and his bride has made herself ready.

9 Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
(Rev. 19:7, 9 NIV)

The wedding feast was between Jesus and His bride.

Recall that Paul had previously written to the Ephesians regarding this relationship:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.
(Eph. 5:22-33 NKJV)

We read this passage all the time, but we overlook some important points in Paul’s teaching.

Consider the significance of what Paul said here:

  1. Jesus gave Himself for His bride-to-be for the purpose of cleansing her. Prior to this, she was a mess, due to her sin.
  2. Jesus cleansed her so the He might present her to Himself as spotless and holy.
  3. The reason we are part of Jesus’ body is because of the marriage union (“the two shall become one flesh“). This is a HUGE point.

Before the church could be perfectly “one” with Jesus, the two must marry.

But, hold on a minute…

This raises a key question for us:

Is Jesus currently married to the church?

The wedding feast between Jesus and the church will occur/occurred in Revelation 19-22, only after:

  1. Babylon (Jerusalem) is judged and destroyed (18:21-19:5).
  2. The first resurrection and “thousand year” reign (20:1-6).
  3. Satan is cast into hell (20:7-10).
  4. The mass resurrection and judgment (20:11-15).

Therefore, either:

  1. The wedding feast has already come and Jesus and the church are married, or…
  2. Jesus and the church are still only “engaged” but not yet married.

We can’t have it both ways.

In Eph. 5, Paul said Jesus was going to present her to Himself (see v.27), but that was yet in the future. In Rev. 19-22, it is seen fulfilled.

(Continue to part 2 →)

Got questions or comments? Leave them below. (I’m truly happy to help. But please, carefully read the entire series first.)


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