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Perfect In Christ

Helmut Ott

Chapter V

The Mediatorial Ministry of Christ Completed at the End of Probation

Christ's mediatorial ministry on behalf of those who approach the Father through Him will eventually end. At least three passages in Ellen White's writings state that during the "short time" between the end of probation and "the appearing of the Lord in the clouds of heaven" (The Great Controversy, p. 490), Jesus will not function as the mediator between God and man. Notice:

Then there will be no Priest in the sanctuary to offer [the lost's] sacrifices, their confessions, and their prayers before the Father's throne (Early Writings, p. 48). Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator (The Great Controversy, p. 425). When [Jesus] leaves the sanctuary, darkness covers the inhabitants of the earth. In that fearful time the righteous must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor (ibid., p. 614).

Having "to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator" can be a frightening prospect, particularly for those who have a man-centered conception of salvationthose who maintain that the believer himself must achieve a righteousness of being and a flawlessness of conduct that will meet God's standard of perfection. However, when we understand what God does to make our salvation certain before Jesus lays down His high priestly robes, our fear turns into grateful joy for the marvelous plan God devised to make sure that none of those who trust in His grace for salvation will be disappointed. All who by faith avail themselves of Christ's redemptive work on their behalf will actually inherit eternal life.

We shall briefly discuss three basic reasons the believers can rest their cases with God in full assurance that He has devised a perfect plan to bring His people safely to the eternal kingdom. In view of that, they do not have to fear either the close of probation or the time of trouble that follows it.

First, Jesus will cease His mediatorial ministry only after the destiny of all the inhabitants of the earth has been permanently fixed and the salvation of His people is no longer in question.

When the third angel's message closes, mercy no longer pleads for the guilty inhabitants of the earth. . . . An angel returning from the earth announces that his work is done; the final test has been brought upon the world, and all who have proved themselves loyal to the divine precepts have received "the seal of the living God." Then Jesus ceases His intercession in the sanctuary above. He lifts His hands and with a loud voice says, "It is done"; and all the angelic host lay off their crowns as He makes the solemn announcement: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still" (Rev. 22:11). Every case has been decided for life or death. Christ has made the atonement for His people and blotted out their sins. The number of His subjects is made up; "the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven," is about to be given to the heirs of salvation, and Jesus is to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords (The Great Controversy, pp. 613, 614; italics supplied).

When the work of the investigative judgment closes, the destiny of all will have been decided for life or death. Probation is ended a short time before the appearing of the Lord in the clouds of heaven (ibid., p. 490). When the irrevocable decision of the sanctuary has been pronounced and the destiny of the world has been forever fixed, the inhabitants of the earth will know it not (ibid., p. 615; italics supplied).

[Satan] sees that holy angels are guarding [God's people], and he infers that their sins have been pardoned; but he does not know that their cases have been decided in the sanctuary above (ibid., p. 618; italics supplied). When Jesus ceases to plead for man, the cases of all are forever decided (Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 191).

Such statements highlight the fact that Jesus does not really just cease His mediatorial work, but rather that He completes it. Jesus does not stop functioning as man's representative with the Father without first making sure His ministry has achieved its intended purpose. He does not suddenly interrupt His work, leaving everyone standing on his own two feet, as it were. Instead, Jesus finishes His mediation on behalf of His people by securing for them God's final and irreversible verdict of approval as the pre-Advent judgment comes to an end. As a result, they receive "the seal of the living God," which grants their sonship in Christ a permanent status, and bestows upon them the right to be heirs of the kingdom.

Second, the moment when Jesus completes His mediation for the last generation of believers also marks the end of the pre-Advent judgment. The "final test" that determines eternal destinies "has been brought upon the world. . . . The number of His subjects is made up." As a result, the destiny of all is permanently and irrevocably fixed, each case not only decided but forever closed, never more to be opened for revision. Because the verdict God pronounces as the judgment comes to an end is final, those who will be saved are saved, and those who will be lost are lost as of that moment.

The reason that Jesus no longer mediates for His people after probation closes is that His mediation has already achieved its intended purpose, fully and completely. For one thing, God has declared the believers to be accepted as righteous in Christ. He has removed their guilt and forgiven their sin. Their names are permanently recorded in the Lamb's book of life and they are sealed for eternity. For another, the judgment has ended. The believers have passed the final test that decided their eternal destiny. The Mediator has answered Satan's arguments and accusations. The Judge has handed down His verdict, Jesus has won the case, and the trial is overforever.

The third reason the believer does not need to be apprehensive about either the end of probation or the time of trouble is that God will provide special protection for His people during this period. Notice how the following statements bring this out:

Jacob's history is also an assurance that God will not cast off those who have been deceived and tempted and betrayed into sin, but who have returned unto Him with true repentance. . . . God will send His angels to comfort and protect them in the time of peril. The assaults of Satan are fierce and determined, his delusions are terrible; but the Lord's eye is upon His people, and His ear listens to their cries.... God's love for His children during the period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity (The Great Controversy, p. 621).

Though enemies may thrust them into prison, yet dungeon walls cannot cut off the communication between their souls and Christ. One who sees their every weakness, who is acquainted with every trial, is above all earthly powers; and angels will come to them in lonely cells, bringing light and peace from heaven. The prison will be as a palace; for the rich in faith dwell there, and the gloomy walls will be lighted up with heavenly light (ibid., p. 627).

The people of God will not be free from suffering; but while persecuted and distressed, while they endure privation and suffer for want of food, they will not be left to perish. That God who cared for Elijah will not pass by one of His self-sacrificing children. He who numbers the hairs of their head will care for them, and in time of famine they shall be satisfied. While the wicked are dying from hunger and pestilence, angels will shield the righteous and supply their wants. . . . Could men see with heavenly vision, they would behold companies of angels that excel in strength stationed about those who have kept the word of Christ's patience. . . .

The heavenly sentinels, faithful to their trust, continue their watch. Though a general decree has fixed the time when commandment keepers may be put to death, their enemies will in some cases anticipate the decree, and before the time specified, will endeavor to take their lives. But none can pass the mighty guardians stationed about every faithful soul. Some are assailed in their flight from the cities and villages; but the swords raised against them break and fall powerless as a straw. Others are defended by angels in the form of men of war (ibid., pp. 629-631).

At least three major factors will combine to give the believers peace, hope, and assurance: 1. Jesus will mediate in their behalf until God's final verdict of acceptance makes their eternal salvation secure. 2. They will not have to face an after-judgment test to determine whether or not they have achieved flawless righteousness of being and sinlessness of conduct and hence are personally worthy of eternal life. 3. God will protect and provide for them during the short period of time between the end of probation and the second coming of Christ, so that nothing will jeopardize their salvation.

The close of probation marks the end of the present order of things and introduces a totally different situation. As far as their eternal destiny is concerned, the inhabitants of the world have permanently been divided into two groups: those who are irremediably lost and those whose names stand permanently recorded in the Lamb's book of life. And each group will have a unique experience during the short time before Jesus' return.

Because the wicked have rejected God's final attempt to bring them to repentance, they now face the most undesirable conditions.

Mercy no longer pleads for the guilty inhabitants of the earth. . . . The restraint which has been upon the wicked is removed, and Satan has entire control of the finally impenitent. God's long-suffering has ended. The world has rejected His mercy, despised His love, and trampled upon His law. The wicked have passed the boundary of their probation; the Spirit of God, persistently resisted, has been at last withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old (ibid., pp. 613, 614).

We can describe the experience of "the finally impenitent" as follows: 1. The Holy Spirit, removed from them, no longer motivates them to repentance and faith in Christwhich means that there no longer exists any possibility that they can be reconciled to God. 2. God leaves them entirely under the unrestricted control of Satan. 3. They go through a time of extreme trouble, strife, and ruin. 4. And they receive God's judgment in the form of the seven last plagues (ibid., pp. 627-629).

What happens to God's people during the time of trouble is almost the exact opposite of what happens to the wicked, and falls into two separate yet interrelated parts. First, as the wicked live under the total power of Satan, so the redeemed dwell under the supernatural protection and leading of God. We have already seen that through angels and other providences God will shield them from life-threatening danger and want. The following passage indicates that God will also shelter them from any experience that does not contribute to the accomplishment of His specific purpose for them during this time.

The eye of God, looking down the ages, was fixed upon the crisis which His people are to meet, when earthly powers shall be arrayed against them. Like the captive exile, they will be in fear of death by starvation or by violence. But the Holy One who divided the Red Sea before Israel will manifest His mighty power and turn their captivity. "They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him" (Mal. 3:17). If the blood of Christ's faithful witnesses were shed at this time, it would not, like the blood of the martyrs, be as seed sown to yield a harvest for God. Their fidelity would not be a testimony to convince others of the truth; for the obdurate heart has beaten back the waves of mercy until they return no more. If the righteous were now left to fall a prey to their enemies, it would be a triumph for the prince of darkness. Says the psalmist: "In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me" (Ps. 27:5). Christ has spoken: "Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity" (Isa. 26:20, 21). Glorious will be the deliverance of those who have patiently waited for His coming and whose names are written in the book of life (ibid., p. 634).

Since the judgment is finished and human probation is ended, it would be purposeless to expose God's people to needless trials, temptations, and danger. After all, their cases have been decided, their destiny established. They are God's peopleHis precious jewelswith their names permanently written in the Lamb's book of life. So it is logical that God should carefully monitor their experience during this timethat He should control Satan's reach and bid them to hide "as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast," and "spare them, as a man spareth his own son.

This reinforces something we have seen earlier, namely that the destiny of God's people is forever established at that moment when the world's probation closes and the pre-Advent judgment finishes. At that time God forever removes their "filthy garments."

The spotless robe of Christ's righteousness is placed upon the tried, tempted, yet faithful children of God. The despised remnant are clothed in glorious apparel, nevermore to be defiled by the corruptions of the world. Their names are retained in the Lamb's book of life, enrolled among the faithful of all ages (Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 475; italics supplied).

The second aspect of the experience God's people have during the time of trouble is one of deep spiritual intensity, of sincere self-examination and of earnest wrestling with God. Satan will do his best "to terrify them with the thought that their cases are hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be washed away," and attempt "to destroy their faith" in God (The Great Controversy, p. 619). Ellen White compares their experience to the night Jacob struggled with the Angel before he met his angry brother, Esau, after many years of separation:

Jacob's night of anguish, when he wrestled in prayer for deliverance from the hand of Esau (Gen. 32:24-30), represents the experience of God's people in the time of trouble (ibid., p. 616).

Obviously Jacob's experience during his "night of anguish" only symbolizes what God's people will experience during the time of trouble, and therefore no one should attempt to establish a direct and complete correlation between the two. We must respect both the similarities and the differences. Among the similarities that bear most directly on our present study are: (1) the spiritual condition of the subjects involved, (2) the test to which they are subjected, and (3) the victory they win. We shall briefly examine each.

1. The Spiritual Condition of God's People During the Time of Trouble

Jacob was personally acquainted with the God of his fathers and knew that the Lord had chosen him to be a direct heir to the covenant promises He had made to his grandfather Abraham. Throughout Jacob's life God had protected, guided, and blessed him in rather unusual ways. Yet when Jacob faced that night of agony, he was a "sinful, erring mortal" who confessed "his weakness and unworthiness" (ibid., p. 617), who experienced "the crushing weight of self-reproach, for it was his own sin that had brought this danger," and who, consequently, knew that "his only hope was in the mercy of God" (ibid., p. 616).

In this sense God's people after the end of probation are no different from Jacob. Living at such a decisive time in the world's history, when they can so clearly perceive the Lord's hand in human affairs, gives them a unique experience with God. But they are far from being sinlessly perfect. The record of their lives is such that "as they review the past, their hopes sink; for in their whole lives they can see little good. They are fully conscious of their weakness and unworthiness" (ibid., pp. 618, 619). Though surrounded by enemies, their greatest concern is not their physical danger but that they have repented and received God's pardon for all their sins. They have "a keen sense of self-reproach" that they didn't do more for Christ in the past so that now they might have "more power to resist and urge back the mighty tide of evil" (ibid., p. 619).

According to Ellen White, God's people are "placed in the furnace of fire" during the time of trouble because "their earthliness must be consumed, that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected" (ibid., p. 621). Since this happens after the pre-Advent judgment, we see clearly that God's people do not achieve a state of sinless perfection by the time probation ends and the time of trouble begins. It further shows that God seals their eternal destiny in spite of the fact that "earthliness" still lingers in their lives and consequently the image of Christ is not yet "perfectly reflected" in them.

Obviously, then, the believers who live through the time of trouble are not a generation of supersaints who have fully attained a state of total sanctification of being. Like Jacob, they are imperfect and unworthy and, save for God's grace as manifested in Christ's redemptive mediation on their behalf, have no righteousness of their own on which to claim eternal life.

As is the case with all previous generations of believers, God's remnant church will be made perfect only at the second coming of Christ. Through the resurrection/glorification event, God will restore His people to the original state of spiritual wholeness Adam and Eve enjoyed before the Fall. As a result, all the redeemed sinners will then, for the first time ever, reflect the Redeemer's image as fully as our first parents exhibited the Creator's image in their primal state. In the meantime the people of God can be perfectly righteous, holy, and worthy only in Christ.

2. The Nature of the Test God's People Have to Endure During the Time of Trouble

We have here one of those instances when one can better understand what something is by first establishing what it is not. So let us begin by briefly describing two kinds of tests that, although similar in form, have a different purpose and outcome. The first test determines whether someone qualifies for an intended purpose. It creates a pass-or-fail situation. If the candidate performs as expected, he passes; but if his performance is below the established standard, he is disqualified.

The second type of test improves, strengthens, or polishes the capabilities of someone who has already been tested and accepted as adequate. The pass-fail element is absent here. For example, before an Olympic team chooses a particular athlete as a member, he must make it through some rigorous qualifying tests. Whether or not he becomes a regular member of this select group depends on his performance. Once he is selected, he engages in a variety of exercises, practices, and competitions. Each is a test in its own right. But their purpose is to improve his performance, not to decide whether or not he will officially participate in the Olympic games. That decision rests on previous testing and does not change now.

The test Jacob encountered during his night of trial and the one God's people will endure during the time of trouble belong to the second category. The test God's people will endure will not decide whether or not they will be participants of His redemptive covenant. That decision has already been made. Instead, God has designed their test as a means to achieve three basic objectives: (1) to destroy all remaining confidence in their own ability to deliver themselves; (2) to lead them to a full realization of their unworthiness to be heirs of God's covenant blessings—they must be fully persuaded that they are saved by grace alone; and (3) to strengthen their faith in and dependence on the mercy of God for the fulfillment of His covenant promises.

Let us examine Jacob's case first. God had appointed him as the heir of His covenant with Abraham even before Jacob's birth (see Gen. 25:23). On the night of his trial Jacob already had both Isaac's birthright blessing and God's confirmation of the covenant (Gen. 27:17-29; 28:10-15), in spite of the fact that he was an imperfect and unworthy sinner. So Jacob's experience that night was not intended to determine whether he was worthy of the covenant promises. God had obviously made that decision long ago. Instead, the test examined the patriarch's faith: faith that God had forgiven his sins and that in His mercy He would deliver him from the impending danger and fulfill His covenant promises to him.

Having sent his family away, that they may not witness his distress, Jacob remains alone to intercede with God. He confesses his sin and gratefully acknowledges the mercy of God toward him while with deep humiliation he pleads the covenant made with his fathers and the promises to himself in the night vision at Bethel and in the land of his exile. . . . Long has he endured perplexity, remorse, and trouble for his sin; now he must have the assurance that it is pardoned. . . .

Satan had accused Jacob before the angels of God, claiming the right to destroy him because of his sin; he . . . endeavored to force upon him a sense of his guilt in order to discourage him and break his hold upon God (ibid., pp. 616-618).

Jacob recognized his inability to deliver himself from the impending danger. He admitted his sinfulness, imperfection, and unworthiness to be an heir to the covenant promises. Yet he did not yield to Satan's attempts to have him abandon his faith in God. That is why he based his hope of deliverance, not on his personal meritsfor he had nonebut on "the mercy of a covenant-keeping God" (ibid., p. 617).

The experience of God's people as they go through the time of trouble is similar to Jacob's in this regard. We have previously seen that God's final and irreversible verdict at the pre-Advent judgment has already fixed their eternal destiny. God in Christ has already appointed them as heirs of the kingdom. Their names stand permanently recorded in the Lamb's book of life, not because they are righteous and worthy, but because they accepted the salvation God provided in Christ. And yet they, go through a time of intense trial. Notice:

As Satan accuses the people of God on account of their sins, the Lord permits him to try them to the uttermost. Their confidence in God, their faith and firmness, will be severely tested. As they review the past, their hopes sink; for in their whole lives they can see little good. They are fully conscious of their weakness and unworthiness. Satan endeavors to terrify them with the thought that their cases are hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be washed away. He hopes so to destroy their faith that they will yield to his temptations and turn from their allegiance to God. . . . They afflict their souls before God, pointing to their past repentance of their many sins. . . . Their faith does not fail. . . .

If the people of God had unconfessed sins to appear before them while tortured with fear and anguish, they would be overwhelmed; despair would cut off their faith, and they could not have confidence to plead with God for deliverance. But while they have a deep sense of their unworthiness, they have no concealed wrongs to reveal. Their sins have gone beforehand to judgment and have been blotted out, and they cannot bring them to remembrance. . . . The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger—a faith that will not faint though severely tried (ibid., pp. 618-621; italics supplied).

Clearly, the trying experience God's people will have after He permanently establishes their eternal destiny is not designed to determine whether they will be saved or not. Nor is it meant to find out whether or not they have developed spotless righteousness of being or flawlessness of conduct. Instead, it reveals that they recognize their helplessness and unworthiness, that they have confessed their guilt and depend on God's forgiveness for absolution, and that they do not yield to Satan's attempts to destroy their faith in God for deliverance.

3. The Victory God's People Win During the Time of Trouble

Another comparison Ellen White establishes between Jacob's night of anguish and the experience of God's people during the time of trouble is the victory they winhow they obtain deliverance from the immediate danger and continue enjoying their covenant relationship with God.

[Jacob's] was the assurance of one who confesses his weakness and unworthiness, yet trusts the mercy of a covenant-keeping God. "He had power over the angel, and prevailed" (Hosea 12:4). Through humiliation, repentance, and self-surrender, this sinful, erring mortal prevailed with the Majesty of heaven. He had fastened his trembling grasp upon the promises of God, and the heart of Infinite Love could not turn away the sinner's plea. As an evidence of his triumph and an encouragement to others to imitate his example, his name was changed from one which was a reminder of his sin, to one that commemorated his victory. . . . He had sincerely repented of his great sin, and he appealed to the mercy of God. He would not be turned from his purpose, but held fast the Angel and urged his petition with earnest, agonizing cries until he prevailed (ibid., pp. 617, 618).

Jacob's triumph had obviously little to do with either spiritual accomplishments, moral development, righteous character, or sinless behavior. His great accomplishment that night was that he "prevailed with the Majesty of heaven," and not that he transcended his fallen condition and attained to a state of flawless perfection. His victory was, in essence, the assurance that God would deliver him from immediate danger and retain him as an heir of His gracious covenant, in spite of his unworthiness for such a special privilege.

His victory is also the secret of the victory for God's people during the time of trouble.

Jacob's history is also an assurance that God will not cast off those who have been deceived and tempted and betrayed into sin, but who have returned unto Him with true repentance. . . . Jacob prevailed because he was persevering and determined. His victory is an evidence of the power of importunate prayer. All who will lay hold of God's promises, as he did, and be as earnest and persevering as he was, will succeed as he succeeded (ibid., p. 621). As they endeavor to wait trustingly for the Lord to work they are led to exercise faith, hope, and patience, which have been too little exercised during their religious experience. . . . The time of trouble is a fearful ordeal for God's people; but it is the time for every true believer to look up, and by faith he may see the bow of promise encircling him (ibid., pp. 631-633).

We can attribute the triumph of Jacob on his night of anguish and the victory of God's people during the time of trouble to three separate yet complementary factors: (1) open acknowledgment of their unworthiness to participate in the covenant blessings; (2) sincere repentance for their sins and pleading for the assurance of God's forgiveness; (3) unyielding faith that in His mercy God will deliver them from present danger and fulfill the promises of the covenant, in spite of their obvious shortcomings, imperfection, and sinfulness.

The believers of the last generation will recognize that "it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that [they] are saved," just as everyone else (Acts 15:11). They will gladly admit:

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit . . . so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:5-7).

The prevailing mood of all the redeemed will be one of gratitude and praise to God precisely because they are equally aware that it was His grace, as expressed in the redemption He provided in Christ, that made eternal life a reality for them. That is why they will forever be mindful of the fact that their presence in God's eternal kingdom is, not an evidence of their personal righteousness, works, or merits, but a telling demonstration of the everlasting love, the infinite grace, and the unwavering faithfulness of the covenant-keeping God.

4. Some Scriptural Considerations

The classic text for an idea of the end of probation reads:

He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still (Rev. 22:11, KJV).

Scripture does not provide any details concerning either the specific historical moment of the verdict or the conditions that will prevail between the time of God's pronouncement and the second coming of Christ. All that we can say with reasonable certainty is that (1) it is a divine, final, and irreversible verdict that (2) divides mankind into two separate groups and (3) fixes everybody's eternal destiny forever. Since God's judgment permanently seals the unjust in their unjust state and the righteous in their righteous state, it logically follows that no one will change sides afterward. A decision has been made concerning who belongs where, and it stands unchanged.

The concept of the end of probation and the fixation of destinies also appears in some of Christ's parables, particularly that of the 10 virgins. This parable contains at least three details relevant to our present discussion. First, the virgins divide into those who go in with the bridegroom "to the wedding banquet" (Matt. 25:10) and those not prepared to do so. Second, those who do not enter with the bridegroom cannot join the wedding party laterthey lose forever their opportunity to take part in the wedding.

Third, when after their unsuccessful search for oil the foolish ones return, the bridegroom denies them entrance into the wedding hall, saying, "I tell you the truth, I don't know you" (verse 12). Clearly, the reason for their rejection is their lack of a personal acquaintance with the bridegroom. In theological terms we would probably say that they do not have a close faith relationship with Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. They probably have other fine qualifications, but because they are strangers to Christ, they have no access to the wedding.

According to the parable, all 10 young ladies had lamps, representing "the word of God," but the foolish ones had no reserve of oil, "a symbol of the Holy Spirit" (Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 406, 407). In a theological sense we should not construe this to mean either that God arbitrarily withheld the Spirit from them or that they somehow were unable to retain Him. Previously we saw that our faith relationship with Christ gives us access to the blessings of the covenant of graceHe is "the medium through which Heaven's blessings" come to His people (The Desire of Ages, p. 357). And since the sealing of the Spirit is one of those blessings, it follows that only those who live in a faith relationship with Christ can have the Spirit in this particular sense. Consequently we see that while their lack of oil was a perceptible evidence of their unreadiness, the real cause of their problem was the absence of a personal faith connection to the Sayiour.

A personal relationship with Jesus Christ as the basic factor in a person's eternal destiny is illustrated elsewhere in the Gospels, as well. In Matthew 7, Jesus predicted that at the judgment many will come to Him, saying:

"Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?" And then will I declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers" (verses 22, 23, RSV).

To prophesy, expel demons, and do mighty deeds in Christ's name are definitely good works. Unfortunately such things do not reconcile a sinner with Godthey are incapable of granting him adoption into God's spiritual family or giving him access to His eternal inheritance. So the problem of the people in Matthew 7:22 is that they have a behavior-centered conception of salvation. Instead of relying on Christ's redemptive work on their behalf, they expect to be welcomed into the kingdom on the basis of the things they did in Christ's name.

Christ's declaration to them reveals two significant facts: 1. Only those Jesus personally knowsthose He has engraved in the palms of His hands because they accepted His redemptive work on their behalfwill enter the kingdom of glory. All others will remain outside regardless of what they may have done or the qualifications they may possess. 2. Good workseven such outstanding things as prophesying and exorcising demons, things that require superior spiritual powerscannot do for man what God has determined only a personal faith relationship with Christ will accomplish. As a result, those who come presenting to God their own "mighty works" rather than Christ's redemptive work imputed to them by faith He counts as "evildoers."

Christ's faithfulness in finishing His work on the cross guarantees that He will finish His work on the throne. As Jesus hung on Calvary's cross, the bystanders mocked and humiliated Him, urging Him to save Himself from such a horrible death. The rulers, the common people, the Roman soldiers, and even one of the crucified criminals challenged Him to prove His Messiahship by coming down from the cross (Luke 23:35-39). But no person or thing could persuade Jesus to leave the cross until He had fully accomplished the purpose of His earthly mission. He must give His life as the atoning sacrifice to reconcile humanity to God. We can therefore rest assured that He will not leave the heavenly throne or cease His mediation on our behalf until He finishes applying the benefits of His redemptive work to secure the salvation of those He purchased with His blood.

The fact that Jesus took the penalty for our sin upon Himself assures us that He will face God's judgment as our representative. The judgment is real, and it has eternal consequences. But thanks to Jesus, it is not a time of wrath for the believer. For him the cup of God's unmitigated judgment on sin has already been poured outit is empty. The Saviour drank every last drop of it so that those who accept His redemptive activity on their behalf will never have to taste the eternal consequences of sin. "Their sins have gone beforehand to judgment and have been blotted out" (The Great Controversy, p. 620). As a result, they stand blameless in Christ before God.

While it is true that Jesus will not act as our mediator during the time of trouble, we can rest assured that He will not leave us alone. Jesus promised never to forsake us, but will be with us "always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:20; see Heb. 13:5). We can therefore rest secure in the faithfulness of God, who is both willing and able to keep His own. After all, Jesus said:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. . . . My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand (John 10:27-29).

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