It is widely said that while it is fascinating to study Revelation, and frustrating that Christians disagree so widely over its interpretation, it is nonetheless ultimately encouraging that these differences of opinion matter little in how they impact day-to-day Christian living because we all agree that Jesus will win in the end. This is a nice sentiment, but I find it unconvincing because “the righteous shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17), and it matters greatly to our faith what it is that Jesus has already accomplished for his people. For example, consider Revelation 12:10-12:
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”
If this event has yet to happen, then Christians may fear the accusations of Satan day and night (consider Job) and must reassure themselves regularly that Jesus is our intercessor (Rom. 8:34). But if Jesus and the early martyrs have already cast Satan out of heaven and bound him (Rev. 20:2), then Christians today enjoy a kind of security and freedom in the presence of God that goes beyond having an advocate to stand with us. We do not even have an accuser. And it is my firm belief that this is the case.
Consider one piece of internal evidence. We are told later in Revelation that “blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on” (Rev. 14:13). Clearly this cannot be talking about those who die after the second coming of Jesus. This must be referring either to those who die after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus or, as I think most probable, those who die after the vindication of Jesus in the final destruction of the old-covenant creation in AD 70.
Consider also the fact that it is angels who are mediators of the judgments in Revelation. We are told in Hebrews 1-2 that it was the old covenants whose messages were mediated by angels, in contrast with the new covenant where Jesus is the mediator. We are told that the world of the new covenant is not subjected to angels but to Jesus (Heb. 2:5). Elsewhere Jesus gives the keys of the kingdom to the apostles and elders of the church (Matt. 16), and Paul teaches that the second coming is a time where we will judge angels, not where angels will judge man (1 Cor. 6:3). Taken together, the angelic actions in Revelation seem much more likely to describe the destruction of the old-covenant creation during the first century than the final judgment. Revelation depicts the changing of the guard, the retirement of angelic elders and their replacement with human elders.
Lastly, we can identify the Babylon of Revelation with the first-century city of Jerusalem. One way we can do so is because she is represented as a good church (Israel) finally gone completely bad. She is called a prostitute (Rev. 17), a source of blasphemy and abomination (Rev. 17), and a house of demons and everything unclean (Rev. 18). This is the culmination of all of the denouncements of the old-covenant prophets. Jesus is finally making good on his threats and vindicating his name. But more than that, Revelation itself identifies Babylon as the “great city” (Rev. 16-18), which it has previously named as Jerusalem: “the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8).
Hebrews reminds us that presently everything is in subjection to Jesus, even though we do not see this visibly in every way (Heb. 2:8-9). History now is an outworking of Jesus’s present enthronement and authority chiefly through the sacrificial ministry of the gospel, and will end not with king Jesus receiving a new kingdom, but with his giving a completed kingdom to the Father (1 Cor. 15). Christians can rest confidently in Jesus’s present rule, which among many other blessings means that our accuser has already been cast down and bound.