Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Investigative Judgment: Is it Biblical? Part Three

by Herbert E. Douglass

The word used for “cleansed” in Daniel 8:14 has “such a breadth of meaning that it cannot be captured by a single English word.” The Hebrew, nitsdaq, conveys at least three English “nuances” such as “(1) to ‘set right/restore’ (as emphasized in Isa. 46:13, (2) to ‘cleanse’ (as emphasized in Job 15:14; 4:17; and 17:9), and (3) to ‘vindicate’ (as in Isa. 50:8).” [1]

In view of the Great Controversy, all three “nuances” together convey what transpires during Christ’s role as our High Priest during the investigative judgment.

  • “To set right or to be restored.”[2] Since 1844, the first angel of Revelation 14 proclaims that once again the world will hear the full-orbed, “everlasting gospel.” For centuries this world has heard a limited gospel, one that focuses primarily on forgiveness while muting the empowering grace that God has promised to overcomers. But the “everlasting gospel” truly “restores” the truth about God’s salvation plan—more than “cheap grace,”[3] more than rigorous pilgrimages, more than good fellowship and warm spiritual feelings.

  • “To cleanse.”[4] In this text, so much of the Old Testament typology looms depicting how the “sins” of the people, transferred to the sanctuary during the year, are finally “cleansed” on the annual Day of Atonement.[5] When we look at the larger picture that God intended the sanctuary service to teach us, we learn that “the tabernacle, through its service of sacrifice, was to teach—the lesson of pardon of sin, and power through the Saviour for obedience unto life.”[6]

The earthly sanctuary revealed many aspects of Christ’s role as our sacrifice and mediator for one transcending purpose: “In all [earthly sanctuary services], God desired His people to read His purpose for the human soul.” It was the same purpose Paul had emphasized: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).[7]

Ellen White connects the earthly sanctuary with its divine purpose even more directly when she notes that the “Jewish tabernacle was a type of the Christian church,” that those “faithful and loyal to God” form the “‘true tabernacle,’” and “Christ is the . . . high priest of all who believe in Him as a personal Saviour.”[8]

A review of those who can be trusted with eternal life

During the pre-advent judgment, unfallen worlds and the angels are reviewing (investigating) the characters of those who have died and the maturing characters now living to see who have been truly serious about joining them in a sin-free universe.

Especially will this be true of those whom Christ is preparing to represent Him during the endtime when His loyal witnesses will indeed proclaim the “everlasting gospel” to all the world (Matthew 24:14). In fact, the successful completion of the gospel commission depends on “cleansed” Christians who want God’s character as well as His power. Only then will their witnessing be believable.[9]

In a special sense, in view of the larger, antitypical meaning of the sanctuary symbolism, the investigative judgment since 1844 is a matter of “cleansing” the human temple from the defilement of sin.

In a sermon delivered at the Minneapolis General Conference in 1888, Ellen White emphasized this point:

Now Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary. And what is He doing? Making atonement for us, cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of the people. Then we must enter by faith into the sanctuary with Him, we must commence the work in the sanctuary of our souls. We are to cleanse ourselves from all defilement. We must ‘cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.[10]

Many last-day events are held in suspension until this “cleansing” reaches that point where God will not be embarrassed to give His endtime people the promised “latter rain.”[11] The eyes of the unfallen universe are not on this world’s dreary parade of wars, famines, and natural disasters as they try to figure out when Jesus will return. They have been patiently waiting for God’s professed people to cooperate with Him in “hastening the advent” (2 Peter 3:12).[12]

Now, our third “nuance” reflected in Daniel 8:14: “to vindicate.”[13] God’s loyalists in the endtime eventually vindicate His patience, wisdom, and “grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). In Ezekiel 36, we can see God’s big picture as to how essential to God’s plan is the faithful response of His faithful.

Running down parallel tracks in the endtime, the truth about Satan’s wicked plans will be dramatically revealed as well as the truth about God’s character and His promises to His faithful. In both cases, God is vindicated.[14]

Here is how Frank Holbrook describes it:

We must keep our reasoning straight here. The controversy that began with God does not merely end with the judgment of man. If it began with God, it must end with God. That is, if the great moral controversy, which has troubled our universe for millennia, began with false accusations against the Deity, it can only terminate—with a secure universe—if the Deity is cleared or vindicated of these charges. In actuality, God ‘cannot' reaffirm the justification of His genuine, repentant people unless He Himself and His plan of salvation are acknowledged by the loyal universe as true and just, and the same loyal intelligences agree with God that Satan is a wicked rebel and his accusations against God are false. The ultimate purpose of final judgment is not simply to vindicate an omniscient Deity, but also to draw all created intelligences both loyal and redeemed—and the lost—into a willing agreement with God and His view of matters.[15]

Hour of rejoicing, not fear

After outlining all this good news about the investigative judgment which God and His loyalists have looked forward to for thousands of years, one more thought needs to be said: For those living during this time of judgment, it should be their hour of rejoicing, not fear. Fear, yes, for those who have a wrong picture of God that Satan has painted so effectively since his rebellion in heaven. Fear, yes, for the shame they will feel when, after spending their lives in self-seeking, they at last look into the eyes of Jesus whom they had resisted for so long. But for those who see God through Jesus, judgment time is good news—His coming is near!

Loyalists today rejoice in Daniel’s categorical declaration that the investigative judgment is “made in favor of the saints of the Most High” (Daniel 7:22). Loyalists rest in our Lord’s assurance that “he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).

Loyalists sing with Job, even during tough times: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25, 26).

Loyalists daily thank the Lord for the assurance that they are “accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6), that if they keep “walk[ing] in the light as He is in the light . . . the blood of Jesus Christ . . . cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:9), that all who make Jesus the Savior and Lord of their lives can claim His promise, “I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand” (John 10:28, 29).

Loyalists have discovered that “the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12) helps them to endure life’s troubles, that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Men and women of faith are not afraid of the investigative judgment. They know that Jesus as their Intercessor, their Mediator, met Satan face-to-face on this earth. With the same human equipment we all have, without any special advantages, He proved that men and women this side of Eden can overcome any temptation hurled by Satan.[16] He gave us courage and took away our excuses. He not only led the way through a world of “fiery darts of the wicked one” (Ephesians 6:16) to show it could be done, but He also comes back through His Holy Spirit to give us the same power He had.[17] That is why John could pass on to us our Lord’s promise that we too “may overcome” even as He “overcame” (Revelation 3:21).

Our all-powerful Mediator

In the investigative judgment, as our “all-powerful Mediator”[18] Jesus can face down all of Satan’s charges against His people. When Satan objects to God’s rulings in favor of those men and women of faith who have honored Him with their loyalty, Jesus points first to His own unsullied record in His dueling with Satan; then He points to the records of His loyal followers, to their “diligent” faithfulness and their maturing faith trajectory.[19]

Further, His loyalists know that Jesus stands in the courts above as their High Priest today, not only as their Example showing the way to overcome sin, but also as their Enabler to help them prove Satan wrong, even as He did. This insight sparkles with heavenly dynamics:

Everyone who will break from the slavery and service of Satan, and will stand under the blood-stained banner of Prince Immanuel will be kept by Christ's intercessions. Christ, as our Mediator, at the right hand of the Father, ever keeps us in view, for it is as necessary that He should keep us by His intercessions as that He should redeem us with His blood. If He lets go His hold of us for one moment, Satan stands ready to destroy. Those purchased by His blood, He now keeps by His intercession.[20]

A powerful Intercessor

If I should see a man with a baseball bat entering the room behind your back, my instincts would be to intercede and do all I could to keep him from hurting you. I would be your “intercessor” at that point in your life. Jesus is doing just that every hour of the day and night for you and me through angels and the Holy Spirit.[21] We can count on His powerful intercessions in our lives today, even as we have been counting on the fact that He died for us on that horrible Cross!

All that adds up to sky-high assurance for loyalists during the investigative judgment! One day soon, if we keep abiding in Christ, walking into the Light He gives us daily, we will be part of that great multitude that declares God’s judgments to be “true and righteous” (Revelation 19:2). We will be part of the eternal answer to Satan’s lies. We will be part of the reason that guarantees to the unfallen worlds and unfallen angels that the whole universe will finally and eternally be secure from all rebellion.[22] We will be telling the universe that God did not risk his universe on human beings in vain!

The faithful know that their loyalty to God is not based on their efforts to seek His favor but in the sense of privilege that they can honor God in “the hour of His judgment.” The question always is: Do I enjoy known duty and am I responding as one who wants to honor God in every aspect of my life? If so, God is winning and Satan is losing!

Those who live daily with the “assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22) know, with a quiet humility, void of pride, that the investigative judgment is nothing more than an on-going record that reflects one’s daily walk with the Spirit. This heavenly review mirrors those in the endtime who have taken Peter’s counsel seriously: “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat” (2 Peter 3:11, 12).

[1] Richard M. Davidson, “In Confirmation of the Sanctuary Message,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, vol. 2, no. 1, 1991; “The Meaning of Nitsdaq in Daniel 8:14,” Ibid., vol. 7, no. 1, 1996.

[2] RSV (1952) reflects this understanding: “. . . then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state”; TEV: “ . . . will be restored.”

[3] Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s famous phrase. See Excursus O: Summary of Bonhoeffer Exposé of “Cheap Grace.”

[4] KJV, ASV, Moulton’s.

[5] “In the ancient sanctuary the solemn services of the annual Day of Atonement brought the yearly ritual cycle to a close (Lev.16). The work of atonement, or reconciliation, performed on that day brought to completion all that the sanctuary and the priests could do for repentant sinners, and cleansed the sanctuary and the people.”—Don F. Neufeld, editor, The Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Revised Edition (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1976), 95.

[6] Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1952), 36.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Idem., Signs of the Times, February 14, 1900.

[9] “By revealing in our own life the character of Christ we cooperate with Him in the work of saving souls. It is only by revealing in our life His character that we can co-operate with Him. And the wider the sphere of our influence, the more good we may do. When those who profess to serve God follow Christ's example, practicing the principles of the law in their daily life; when every act bears witness that they love God supremely and their neighbor as themselves, then will the church have power to move the world.” Idem., Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1941), 340.

[10] Cited in A. V. Olson, Thirteen Crisis Years, (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1981), 276.

[11] White, White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5 (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1948), 214.

[12] See Herbert E. Douglass, The End (Brushton, N.Y.: TEACH Services, Inc., 2001) for 31 references in the writings of Ellen G. White which support Peter’s admonition in 2 Peter 3:12.

[13] See NASB, margin. See The International Critical Commentary (New York: Scribner’s, 1927), 342. “A significant feature of the final judgment is the vindication of God’s character before all the intelligences of the universe. The false charges that Satan has lodged against the government of God must be demonstrated as utterly groundless. God must be shown to have been entirely fair in the selection of certain individuals to make up His future kingdom, and in the barring of others from entrance there. . . . Thus the Heb. sadaq [cleansed, restore, vindicate] may convey the additional thought that God’s character will be fully vindicated as the climax to “the hour of his judgment” (Rev. 14:7), which began in 1844.”—SDABC, vol. 4, 845.

[14] “In the antitype also, against Satan’s false claim that God cannot fulfill His new covenant promises, God gathers an entire generation to Himself at the consummation of history who demonstrate the ultimate effectiveness of the gospel. . . . . Not only do the saints serve to vindicate God’s character. Ezekiel uses the same language to describe the final judgment upon the wicked, and in particular their leader (Ezekiel 38:16, 22, 23, RSV). The final judgment reveals not only the ultimate effectiveness of the gospel but also the full ripening of iniquity.”—Richard M. Davidson, “The Good News of Yom Kippur,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, vol. 2, no. 2, 1991.

[15] Frank B. Holbrook, The Atoning Priesthood of Jesus Christ (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Adventist Theological Society Publications, 1996), 174.

[16] White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press,1940), 24, 762.

[17] “The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. The power of evil had been strengthening for centuries, and the submission of men to this satanic captivity was amazing. Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fullness of divine power. It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church.” Ibid., 671. “The Holy Spirit was promised to be with those who were wrestling for victory, in demonstration of all mightiness, endowing the human agent with supernatural powers, and instructing the ignorant in the mysteries of the kingdom of God. That the Holy Spirit is to be the grand helper, is a wonderful promise. Of what avail would it have been to us that the only begotten Son of God had humbled Himself, endured the temptations of the wily foe, and wrestled with him during His entire life on earth, and died the Just for the unjust, that humanity might not perish, if the Spirit had not been given as a constant, working, regenerating agent to make effectual in our cases what had been wrought out by the world's Redeemer.”—White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 2 (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1981, 1987, 1990, 1993), 14.

[18] Idem., The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1950), 488.

[19] Ibid., 425.

[20] Ellen White Comments on Romans 8:34, SDABC, vol. 6, 1078.

[21] “The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven. We must by faith enter within the veil, ‘whither the forerunner is for us entered.’ Hebrews 6:20. There the light from the cross of Calvary is reflected. There we may gain a clearer insight into the mysteries of redemption. The salvation of man is accomplished at an infinite expense to heaven; the sacrifice made is equal to the broadest demands of the broken law of God. Jesus has opened the way to the Father's throne, and through His mediation the sincere desire of all who come to Him in faith may be presented before God.”—Idem., The Great Controversy, 489.

[22] Idem., The Desire of Ages, 759.

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