In the previous video we saw conclusive evidence from symbols and scriptural links that Revelation chapter 4, which introduces the Seven Seals, also introduces the major theme of judgment in the book of Revelation. But one part of the evidence may have seemed puzzling, and as this video unpacks the answer to the puzzle you may find that it opens up a whole new view of what the judgment really means.
We saw that the chiastic structure provides substantial evidence that the Seven Seals focus on God’s judgment. By the way, if you are just now accessing this series for the first time, it would help you understand what is going on if you look at the previous video, Revelation of Jesus 14, as well as Revelation of Jesus 4 which presents the Chiastic Structure.
The Revelation chiasm consists of progressive mirror image sections. When we have questions about a section, we can look at its mirror image to learn about the general theme, the use of symbols, and much more.
The mirror image of section two, which includes chapters 4 and the seven seals, is section 7 which includes the millennium and the Great White Throne judgment. The implication is that the seven seals must also have something to do with the judgment.
But that gets to the heart of the puzzle. Does the judgment take place around the time of the Millennium, which Revelation sets after the Second Coming of Christ, or during the Seven Seals, which presumably take place significantly earlier?
And yes, the Seven Seals do begin well before the Second Coming and the Millennium.
I have already mentioned in a couple of videos the scriptural link between the open door that John saw in verse 1 of chapter 4 and the open door that Jesus said was set before the Philadelphia Church (Revelation 3:8). In Revelation of Jesus 11, I presented the evidence that the Philadelphia message describes the Christian Church of the 19th century.
If this scriptural link of the open door was the only evidence that the judgment began during the Philadelphia era it would not be very compelling. But we can also see evidence in the time prophecies of Daniel.
At some point I plan to make a whole video giving the details of the time prophecies. But the takeaway will be, that the prophecy of Time, Times, and Half a Time in Daniel 7 and the prophecy of 2,300 evenings and mornings in Daniel 8 both identify a long period of time in which God’s followers are persecuted and God Himself is misrepresented by oppressive powers. But these periods are followed by the judgment that makes everything right. Both of these time prophecies pinpoint the judgment as beginning during the Philadelphia era of the 19th century.
The implications of this are pretty astounding: we are, right now, in the middle of an invisible judgment in the heavenly realm that has been taking place for well over a century.
But if that is true, we are still left with the puzzle: what then is going on in Revelation 20, when, after the Second Coming and the Millennium we see God on the great white throne, “And the dead, small and great, standing before God…And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12).
Is there more than one judgment? Or are there two groups of people who will be judged separately? Or are there phases of the judgment that begin with the seven seals and continue until after the millennium?
To help us understand this I’ll start with a human analogy and then we will look at the scriptural evidence. We are all familiar with court proceedings such as high-profile trials and impeachments.
In a trial, there are two main phases. In the longer first phase, there is collection and investigation of the evidence. Documents, witnesses, communications, and relevant items are presented, and the judge or jury has a chance to examine them, ask questions, and hear arguments about the significance of the evidence.
After this, the judge makes a decision, pronounces a sentence, and the sentence is carried out, with either exoneration and release or some form of punishment.
The major objection to applying this two-part model to God’s judgment is that God presumably doesn’t need an investigation, because He already knows all the details of our lives. And indeed, “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). This scripture would seem to indicate that there is no need to even have a judgment.
But keep in mind that the judgment is not for God’s sake.
As we saw in the previous video, the jury is comprised of the 24 elders who represent humanity, and the four living creatures, who represent the angels. Just as the public is glued to their television screens during a sensational human trial, the thousand thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand angels are hovering around the heavenly courtroom. They are all wanting to be sure that the millions of people that Jesus says believe in Him are safe to save, and should be granted eternal life.
In a sense, God is on trial.
He is the One who created humans. He is the One who allowed Adam and Eve to continue to live after they sinned, even though He had told them, “In the day that you eat of [the tree of the knowledge of God and evil], you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). And He is the One who decided to become a man, to live a perfect life, to die for sins that he didn’t commit, and then apply his life and death to anyone who believes in Him.
The idea that in the judgment God is on trial too is confirmed by this astounding text: “Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, “That You (God) might be justified in Your words, And might prevail when You are judged” (Romans 3:4 NAS).
The concept of a two-phase judgment with an investigative as well as an executive phase has not been widely recognized, but because it is such an important theme in the Book of Revelation, I would like to review some scriptural examples that show that before God pronounces and carries out judgment, He first conducts an investigation.
Starting with the first instance of judgment, when Adam and Eve sinned, “the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked” (Genesis 3:7). For the first time, they experienced shame, guilt, and such fear that “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God” (Genesis 3:8).
God came looking for them—“Then the Lord called to Adam and said to him, ‘where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). This was the first in a series of questions: “Who told you that you were naked?” “Have you eaten from the tree?” “And the Lord God said to the woman, ‘what is this you have done?” (Genesis 3:11,13). Obviously, God knew the answers to all of these questions, so the inquiry was not for His sake.
The point is that before He pronounced judgment, God first carried out an investigation.
Likewise, after Cain killed his brother Abel “The Lord said to Cain, ‘where is Abel your brother?… What have you done?” God presented evidence: “The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground” (Genesis 4:9,10).
In this case and in that of Adam and Eve, it appears that the Lord’s sentence depended to some extent on their response to His questions. Thus the inquiry was designed to be redemptive, giving an opportunity for confession and repentance.
The most universal executive judgment of all time was the flood in the days of Noah. God, who knows all things at all times, is nevertheless portrayed as making a special inquiry—“So God looked upon the earth and indeed it was corrupt. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (Genesis 6:12,5).
God pronounced His judgment—“I will destroy man whom I have created” (Genesis 6:7), but He also set a period of time in which he would strive through the Holy Spirit to save anyone that He could—“My Spirit shall not strive with man forever….his days shall be one hundred and twenty years” (Genesis 6:3) This striving was done through the ministry of “Noah,…a preacher of righteousness…who went and preached…when the Divine longsuffering waited while the ark was being prepared” (2Peter 2:5, 1Peter 3:19,20).
After the flood, people multiplied and worked together to build the tower of Babel in defiance of God. Of course, God knew what they were up to, but He still portrays Himself as making an investigation—“The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built” (Genesis 11:4,5).
In pronouncing His sentence to confuse their language and scatter the people, God makes it obvious that the judgment was not a unilateral act: “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language” (Genesis 11:7). The “Us” no doubt included the angels, who are almost always involved in God’s judgments.
Angels were very involved in the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah. “The Lord appeared to [Abraham]” (Genesis 18:1) and informed him, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:20,21). Of course, God already knew what was going on, but He had two angels with Him, and in fact by the time they got to Sodom only the angels were involved.
Actually, God had already given a period of grace that began some years earlier when Abraham’s nephew “Lot…dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom” (Genesis 13:12). Lot was “a righteous man who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men” (2Peter 2:7). The people of Sodom themselves said of him, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge” (Genesis 19:9), implying that his presence was a witness against them. Thus, just as with Noah and the flood, God provided a time of probation and a “preacher of righteousness” so that the people received a warning and a chance to escape the destructive judgment.
In the “bargaining” scene with Abraham we see that God was actually looking for a few righteous people who could be a good influence so He wouldn’t have to destroy the wicked cities. But in the investigation the angels only found Lot: “The men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house [of Lot]”, seeking to abuse the two angels who had come with a final chance to be saved. When destruction finally came, God found a way to rescue faithful Lot and his two daughters.
The ultimate executive judgment against the Old Testament Jewish Nation came with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in BC 586. Five years earlier Ezekiel, a priest who had already been captured and taken to Babylon, had a vision which is recorded in Ezekiel chapters 1-11. The prophet saw some of the same elements found in the Seven Seals. He saw the Lord seated on His throne. He also saw the four living creatures, who are representatives of the angels in the judgment. The Lord took Ezekiel to Jerusalem to witness first-hand the apostasy of the Jews so that he could write and send a final appeal for repentance.
Ezekiel was taken to an inner room where “The elders of the house of Israel” were worshiping “All the idols of the house of Israel”, arrogantly asserting, “the Lord does not see us” (Ezekiel 8:6-12). Next, he was shown women weeping for Tammuz, the counterfeit messiah of the Babylonian religion (Ezekiel 8:14). Finally, he was taken to the inner court of the temple to see “twenty-five men…with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun” (Ezekiel 8:16). These abominations proved that even at the highest levels of the Jewish religious establishment the destructive judgment was justified.
But the investigation was not just to identify disobedience. Ezekiel saw fierce warriors who were intent on destroying Jerusalem, but before the destroyers were allowed to begin their deadly work, God sent His angel “through the midst of the city…[to] put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and cry over all the abominations that are done within it” The destroyers were commanded, “Do not come near anyone on whom is the mark” (Ezekiel 9:2,4).
There are more examples that we could look at, but these are enough to show a consistent pattern. Before God pronounces and executes judgment, He conducts an investigation for the sake of the angels, who are also involved. During the investigative phase, God provides a period of grace and sends messengers to provide the last chance for repentance, and He identifies and saves His faithful ones.
Those who have refused to respond to God’s offer of mercy are willfully oblivious until the executive phase of the judgment bursts upon them. This is powerfully expressed in Psalm 10: “The wicked boasts of his heart’s desire…in his proud countenance he does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts… Your judgments are far above, out of his sight…but You have seen, for you observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand” (Psalm 10:3-5, 14).
The idea that there is an invisible judgment taking place in the heavenly realms right now may be a new and startling concept and it would not be surprising if you have a healthy dose of skepticism. But I would encourage you to review the scriptures I have presented in this and the previous video and keep an open mind as we see in the next few videos what the issues really are.
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And to find out in advance where this is all going, you can order the book A Revelation of Jesus by David Lackey, available from online bookstores.