When have you ever questioned whether God was who you hoped He was?
This week’s lesson studies the next phrase of the 1st Angel’s message: because the hour of His judgment came. Many people fear judgment, and that is only natural if they know that the judge who condemns or acquits is using a law which they’ve broken. But judgment need not be negative. Many people cry out for justice under the law, they want their case heard, especially when the prosecutor is being unfair with the evidence and the defendant is innocent. The judgment is then the best way to set the record straight, to lay out all the facts of the case, and to let the judge or jury weigh all the testimony. Sometimes a court case can clear someone’s name who has lost credibility through the press, it can prevent the innocent from acquiring fines, from incarceration, or worse. If the hour of God’s judgment has come, is that good news or not? On what does the judgment depend? Who is the judge in this case and who is the defendant? What are the criteria on which the case rests? What law is being used? These are all questions about the hour of God’s judgment.
Revelation 14:7: because the hour of His judgment has come.
This clause begins with the small Greek word hoti, which often denotes cause. That is, the previous statements or clauses are to be carried out because of this clause. So in the context of Revelation 14:6-7, the angel who has the everlasting gospel gives the two commands: fear God and give glory to Him because the hour of His judgment has come. We must recognize that our response to fear and glorify God come because of this judgment. So that begs several questions: who exactly is being judged? And what is the result of that judgment?
The Greek text is actually not as clear as we would like. But that appears to be God’s plan here. Because the word judgment is a noun, but one with a verbal idea, it leaves open the possibility that the hour of His judgment can mean that God is either the one doing the judging (the subject of the verbal idea in “judgment”), or He is the one being judged. Both are options. So, which makes more sense? Or does God leave it vague enough because both can be possible at the same time?
We have as similar phrase in Revelation 1:1 when John introduces the book saying “the Revelation of Jesus Christ.” Is Jesus the one giving the Revelation, or is He the one who is being revealed? Again, both are possible, and likely intended.
Now, some people are hesitant to think about God being judged; He Himself is the judge, isn’t He? But Paul in Romans 3:4 quotes from the Geek text of Psalm 51:4, and says “Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: ‘So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you are judged.’” There was an idea that when God judges us, He puts Himself on display as well.
A recent example from American politics serves here. When several recent supreme court justices sat through hearings before being appointed, they were grilled by congress as to their past findings in certain cases, how they might rule in tough, current issues, and what standards they use when judging. The goal is to find justices who will be fair, understand the law and how it pertains to every situation, and then rule based on that law, both the letter and the spirit. There is no place for them to make new laws or reinterpret the law according to their own whims, or worse, through bribery or fear of recrimination.
What might God be on trial for? What do people today blame on God? Is God able to be judged, or is He above our scrutiny? Do you even feel comfortable talking about it?
But here we have a problem in Revelation. Because God is also the judge! We have ties in Daniel 7 to judgment of the beast, the “little horn” power. This power has taken the prerogative of God, demanded worship, persecuted the true people of God, and tried to take the very place of God in His sanctuary. He is truly anti-Christ. The people of God cry out, as it were, the words of the 5th seal: How long oh Lord, Holy and Just, before you judge and avenge our blood? The cry to God is that of Abel—how long will you let us be killed without cause? IF you’re a good judge, then step in and give us justice.
This is one of the most significant questions—indeed, accusations—levied at and against God. If He is a good, loving, kind, all-knowing and all-powerful being, how can He let injustice and suffering continue? And thus the judgment is necessary that He step in and avenge His servants who faithfully shed their blood in solidarity with Jesus Christ.
But the judgment also confirms who are His people and who are not, so that when Christ returns, all decisions have been made. The division of the sheep and goats is a judgment by God, and those being judged.
The 2nd half of Revelation, beginning in 11:19, introduces the Ark of the Covenant, the furniture in the Hebrew Sanctuary only seen by the High priest once each year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This was the great day of reckoning when Israel was to confess all sins, make restitution and trust that God would cleanse the sin from the sanctuary and the camp. This section of Revelation is part of the “day of atonement” section of Revelation. That means that God is doing a special work through Jesus Christ in cleansing sin from His people, judging the evil beast power, and finally giving the kingdom to His saints. The judgment hour of God here is Good News!
When you think about standing before God, and giving an account of everything you’ve ever done, what kind of emotions does it elicit? Where do you see good news in God’s judgment hour beginning? Why might some people be afraid of it?
What is the role that the death of Jesus Christ plays in the judgment? What happened there that determines my place in eternity?
The hour of God’s judgment begins when He judges the little horn and beast powers. A that time God will both be judged for how fair He is, and what kind of judgment He offers. At that point, the character of God will be front and central. There is no better judge of character than how someone deals with wrongdoers. God seeks reconciliation and redemption always; mercy always triumphs over law, and where sin abounds grace abounds still more.