As a Christian prophet, John also sees this conflict in the larger context of the holy war the ultimate cosmic conflict between God (and his Christ) and Satan (see 12:1-9)in which God wins eternal salvation for his people. The people's present role is to "triumph over [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony not lov[ing] their lives so much as to shrink from death" (12:11). As God has already defeated the dragon through the death and resurrection of Christ (the Messiah is caught up to heaven, 12:5), so he will judge the state for her crimes against his people.
The book plays out these themes in a variety of ways. The earlier parts (chs. 1 -6) set the stage for the unfolding drama, starting with a vision of the Risen Christ, who holds the keys to everything that follows (1:12-20), while letters to selective churches represent their varied strengths and weaknesses (chs. 2-3). These are followed by a vision of the Reigning Creator God and the Redeeming Lamb (chs. 4-5), to whom alone belong all wisdom, glory, and power and before whom all heaven and earth will bow. As John weeps because no one can be found to break the seals of the scroll (which is full of God's justice and righteous judgments), he is told that the "Lion of the tribe of Judah see Gen 49:9-10), the "Root of David" (Isa 11:1-2, 10). has "triumphed," but the only lion John sees is God's slain Lamb (echoing the Exodus Passover [and Isa 53:7]), who has redeemed people from all the nations.
Such a Conqueror can set the drama in motion by breaking the seals (Rev 6), which offer a kind of "overture" (striking ail the themes) for what follows [conquest, war, famine, death [first 4 seals] - followed by many martyrdoms [seal 5], to which God responds with judgment [seal 6]). It is especially important to note that, apart from his role in the final battle (19:11 -21), the only way Christ appears from here on in the narrative is as the slain Lamb; this is how his followers are expected to triumph as well (12:11).
The two interlude visions (ch. 7) - of those whom God has "sealed" from his coming judgements, but pictured in battle formation for their role in the holy war, and eventually redeemed - are then followed by the opening of the seventh seal, which unfolds as the vision of the seven trumpets (chs. 8-9). These "judgments" echo the plagues of Egypt, and like those plagues, announce temporal (and partial) judgments against their present-day Pharaoh. But as with the Egyptian Pharaoh, the plagues do not lead to repentance (9:20-21). The interlude visions between the sixth and seventh trumpets (10:1 -11:14) call on the church to prophesy and bear witness to Christ, even in the face of death, while also pronouncing the certain doom of the empire, and ending with a foretaste of the final glorious reign of God and of the Lamb (11:15-19).
The remaining visions (chs. 12-22) offer explanations for and apocalyptic descriptions of the final doom of the empire. Chapters 12-14 thus give the theological and historical reasons for both the suffering and the judgment. The doom of Rome itself is portrayed in the vision of the seven bowls (chs. 15-16), which echo the trumpet plagues but now without opportunity to repent.
The whole then concludes as the (original) "tale of two cities," represented by two women (the prostitute [Rome] and the bride of the Lamb), in which the city that represents enmity against God and his people is judged (chs. 17-18). This is set against the backdrop of God s final salvation and judgment (chs. 19-20) and of the final glory of the bride as the city of God, the new Jerusalem that comes down out of heaven (chs. 21-22).
Extracted from G. D. Fee, How To Read the Bible Book by Book.