In the New Testament generally, judgment is closely related to the gospel and it comes in three phases. First of all, judgment occurred at the cross (John 12:31; Rev. 5:5-10). The entire human race was judged in the person of its representative, Jesus Christ. At the cross, human sin was condemned in the suffering and death of Christ (Rom. 8:3). Then at the resurrection, the entire human race was approved in the person of Christ and raised from the dead (Acts 13:32-33). So the Christ event delivers two messages regarding the human race. One, the entire human race is condemned on account of its rebellion and sin. Two, the entire human race is acceptable to God in Jesus Christ. These two messages together are the sum total of the gospel. One without the other is unbalanced and leads to discouragement or licentiousness.
Second, throughout the New Testament judgment language is closely associated with the preaching of the gospel. Whenever the gospel is preached people are called into judgment based on their response to what Christ did on the cross. The preaching of the gospel is judgment hour (John 3:18-21; 5:22-25). People see how impossible it is for humanity on its own to be acceptable to God. At the same time they see how the death and resurrection of Jesus (the essence of the gospel—1 Cor 15:1-4) removes all barriers to full acceptance with God. If both these things are true, the preaching of the gospel is the most decisive moment in anyone’s life. In my view, this is the background to the four horsemen of the seals (Rev. 6:1-8). They portray the going forth of the gospel, the victorious response of those who accept it and the increasing consequences of rejection. The gospel is the supreme reality of the whole Christian era.
Third, there is a judgment at the end which ratifies the judgments we passed on ourselves in response to the hearing of the gospel (John 12:48). This is not double jeopardy. The end-time judgment ratifies the judgments we made on ourselves when the call of the gospel came to us. While the book of Revelation references the first (Rev 5) and second (Rev 6:1-8) phases of judgment in symbolic terms, it reserves the language of judgment for this end-time phase (Rev. 11:18; 14:7; 17:1; 20:4). In Rev. 14:7, the second and third phases of judgment outlined above occur together. The close of probation occurs when the final proclamation of the gospel (Rev 14:6-12) has divided the whole world into two camps (Rev 12:17). The second phase of the judgment (in the preaching of the gospel) is completed at the same time as the third phase. That is what we call the close of probation.