4:5 TWO KINDS OF JUDGMENT
“And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices” (Revelation 4:5). "Lightenings, thunderings and voices" proceeding from the throne of God are a recurrent theme in the book of Revelation and are based on the many Old Testament passages in which these symbols are associated with the execution of God’s judgments. Lightening bolts are the “arrows” of God, which deliver His children by destroying the enemies that are oppressing them.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> Thunder is often identified as the voice of God,<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> calling forth His destructive judgments. Later in Revelation earthquakes and hail are added. All of these together coming from the temple are found in 2Samuel 22,<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> which portrays God’s intervention as David calls upon God to rescue him from his enemies: “I will call upon the Lord…so shall I be saved from my enemies…He heard my voice from His temple…Then the earth shook and trembled…because He was angry…He bowed the heavens also and came down…The Lord thundered from heaven and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, Lightnings in abundance and He vanquished them…He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me…You have delivered me from the violent man” (2Samuel 22:1-19,49). One of the important teachings of this passage is that God’s judgments are not so much to punish those who rebel as they are to protect and defend those who are being harmed (See 15:1 The Wrath of God).
The focus of Revelation 4-7, however, is not on God's executive judgment, but on the “investigative” judgment, in which a determination of the status of all who have claimed to be God’s people is made. We should keep in mind that the investigative judgment is not for God’s sake, since He already knows everything that everyone has done—“For His eyes are on the ways of man, And He sees all his steps. There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. For He need not further consider a man, that he should go before God in judgment” (Job 34:21-23). As we will see in chapter 5, this phase of judgment is for the sake of the angels and the rest of the inhabitants of the universe, who will live eternally with the results of it.
The “investigative” judgment is followed by the “executive” judgment in which God carries out the sentences that He has pronounced against the persistently unrepentant (Revelation 8, 9, 14:17-20, 20:15). The “lightenings, thunderings, and voices” are announcements of executive judgment, showing that God begins to execute His judgments even during the investigative period. As each new phase of the executive judgment is announced, something new and more fearsome is added: In Revelation 8:5 “there were noises, thunderings, lightnings and an earthquake” to announce the destructive judgments of the 7 trumpets. In 11:19 “lightnings, noises, thunderings, an earthquake and great hail” accompany the announcement to “destroy those who destroy the earth.” In 16:18-21 “there were noises and thunderings and lightnings and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occurred since men were on the earth…and great hail from heaven fell upon men, each hailstone about the weight of a talent” accompanying the destruction of Babylon the Great. These progressively severe judgments remind us of the plagues of Egypt that increased in intensity until the persecutors of God's people were thwarted and the children of Israel were delivered (Exodus 7-12).
In general God’s executive judgments are for the purpose of turning people from sin to God. It is strange but true that few people turn to God until they come face to face with their own sinfulness, helplessness and need to be saved. “Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet he will not learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:10). But in the midst of trials and judgments sinners seek Him—“For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).
A wonderful thing about God is that He does not simply destroy us when we treat Him as an enemy—“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…for if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8-10). Even in the midst of terrible judgments, announced by “lightenings, thunders and voices”, God still loves sinners and seeks to save them. “The people who survived the sword found grace…Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:2,3).
Continue to next section: 4:5 SEVEN LAMPS, SEVEN SPIRITS
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]>“Bow down Your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains and they shall smoke. Flash forth lightening and scatter them; Shoot out Your arrows and destroy them; Stretch out Your hand from above; Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of foreigners” (Psalm 144:5-7). See also Zechariah 9:14.
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]>See 1 Samuel 2:19, 7:10, Job 26:12-14, 37:2-5, Psalm 29, John 12:28-31, Isaiah 30:30,31, 66:6, Joel 2:10,11, 3:16.
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]>See also Psalm 18, 77:13-20.