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The Hour of God's Judgment 10
The book of Revelation, in large part, portrays the fortunes of the church of God throughout the Christian Era. The "woman clothed with the sun . . . and upon her head a crown of twelve stars" (Rev. 12:1) represents God's church. The "great whore" arrayed in purple and scarlet (chap. 17:1-6) represents the embodiment of apostate religion in deadly conflict with the church of God. The unrelenting enmity of Satan against the people of God through the ages is represented by the dragon who
Under the figure of the apostate little horn, Daniel prophesied of the same power who would "wear out the saints of the most High . . . until a time and times and the dividing of time" (Dan. 7:25; see also chap. 8:24).
The war between the church of God and the demonic powers reaches its climax in the last days in a final effort to destroy God's people.
In this final conflict all men will be called on to choose sides. The dragon, the beast, and the false prophet, operating in unison, seek to extend their authority over all that dwell on the earth (chap. 16:13, 14). The beast that magnified itself against the God of heaven and blasphemed God's sanctuary and sought to eradicate the people of God from the earth now seeks to make itself the center of worship (chap. 13:4-8). It causes the false prophet to deceive them that dwell on the earth by means of those miracles which he had power to do (verses 11-15). It establishes an economic boycott over those who refuse to worship the beast and his image and who remain loyal to God. Those who choose to worship the beast and his image receive the mark of the beast (verses 16, 17). Those who keep the commandments of God and remain loyal to Jesus, have the seal of God (chap. 14:12; cf. chap. 7:3-5, N.E.B.).
The remnant church of God is to proclaim God's last word to a doomed world. This final message is symbolized by three angel proclamations and is followed immediately by the return of Christ. The first angel proclaims the everlasting gospel and the startling truth that the divine judgment, so long spoken of by prophets and apostles as a judgment to come, has now begun. The second angel proclaims, "Babylon has fallen." The third issues a solemn warning against worshiping the beast and his image and receiving his mark. This judgment-hour message is God's last effort to save men, to lead them to obey and worship the true God. The result is a twofold harvestthe righteous and the wicked, climaxed with the second advent of Christ (see Rev. 14:6-20).
"The Hour of His Judgement Has Come!"
The use of the word hour refers to a time of great crisis for mankind. It has all the quality of God's distinctive personal action concerning the destiny of men. Christ also used the word with reference to the crisis of the cross.
In the book of Revelation "hour" refers to the final crisis of the last days. It is "the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown" (chap. 3:10, 11).
It is the hour of final struggle between Christ and Satan, an hour of victory for Christ and an hour of defeat for His enemies (see chap. 17: 12-14). It is the hour for the complete fall of Babylon, a symbol of false religion and worship (see chap. 18:10, 17, 19).
The crisis hour of the world has arrived with the proclamation that the hour of God's judgment has come. It is the last time, therefore the church must herald the message in the power of the Holy Spirit in a last effort to warn and to save man.
Christ's death was God's supreme and complete act for the redemption of the world. As the crisis of the cross is to be understood in terms of Christ's atonement for the sins of the world, so "the hour of judgment" is to be viewed in relation to and leading to His second coming.
The two most important Greek words translated "judgment" are krisis and krima. Krisis refers to the act or procedure of judging, usually independent of the verdict to be rendered. The root meaning is "to separate," to distinguish between the righteous and the wicked. Krima, on the other hand, is the verdict, the decision arrived at as a result of the judicial process.
Krisis the word used in Revelation 14:7. It refers to the hour of God's judging, or separating, the saved and the lost. Most of the visions and messages of the Apocalypse are concerned with events and judgments that pertain to the time of the end prior to Christ's return. For those who commit themselves wholly to Christ, the hour of the Lord's judging will result in their vindication; for those who worship the beast, his image, and receive his mark, the judgment will result in condemnation. The Apocalypse affirms, as no other book in the New Testament, that prior to the return of Christ, by a judicial procedure in the heavenly sanctuary, God will clearly separate the righteous from the wicked, the true from the false.
Furthermore, the text declares, "Judgment has come." The Greek aorist tense means that the judgment is now, not some time in the future. God is now in the process of judging. Therefore God calls to men while there is yet time. There would be no point to God's appeal to men were it not a pre-Advent judgment. While God's process of judging continues, probationary time still lingers. The judgment-hour message calls to "every nation and tribe, language and people" to turn to Him before it is too late.
One might assume that "the hour of God's judgment" means God's action against unrighteousness comparable to the Flood or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But this judgment is lifted out of this category and placed right with the final movements that precede Christ's return.
God's purpose is not to be accomplished by force, otherwise He could have eradicated sin by this method at its inception. Judgment here is integral to the consummation of all things. What is at stake is the vindication of God and His ways with men, angels, and His creatures throughout the universe.
While the Father and the Son are now judging the cases of men, men must view this judgment with a profound concern as a matter of eternal life or eternal death. Otherwise, what are we to make of this terrible urgency to choose between the seal of God and the mark of the beast? The bearing on men's lives of this judicial proceeding in the heavenly sanctuary is supremely important. It is part of the final phase of the priestly ministry of our Lord. It constitutes for all mankind the last chance to repent and the final hour of our world.
The eschatological visions of the books of Daniel and Revelation point to the ultimate triumph of the church of God. They speak of the final events of this world's history now taking place. Only the action of judgment by the living Christ can possibly end the conflict, banish sin, and establish righteousness. Salvation history could not end otherwise. Christ will bring time and history as we know it to a full stop. The remnant church of God reaches forward in eager expectation to the visible return of her living Lord. The call of God is to worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters" (Rev. 14:7).
Are good and evil to continue to reign with equal right? Or will righteousness prevail and the earth be restored to its original Edenic state? The goal of history is a matter of vital concern. Sin is a usurper. The last days will be dark days of advanced spiritual apostasy from God.
The apostle Paul prophesied of the day of the Lord:
This tragic world condition will be met by decisive action on the part of God from His sanctuary in heaven. Whatever have been the trials of the people of God, we may be sure that "the hour of God's judgment" will mean ultimate triumph and eternal blessedness for the saints. The Bible claims for our world nothing less than complete harmony with God. It will be effected by God's hour of judgment and not man's, and will silence forever the rebellion of men and angels. Sin has been allowed time in which to reveal its true character until the crisis hour is reached. That hour has come. God will intervene to establish His righteousness and His church, and bring the world to an end by the visible personal return of Jesus Christ.
Most of the religious and scientific world of our time expresses the development of truth, religion, culture, and civilizations in terms of limitless duration. Solutions to the problems of our world are believed to take place within the present historical process. But the fulfillment of the Word and the prophecies of God require the time of the end, the end of history as man has known it for the past six thousand years. The climax of history is here, when the promises of God for a new heaven and a new earth, the restoration of all things to complete harmony with God, are soon to be realized. Even now God is ordering the course of the world and directing this last stretch of time. The key of the ages, the clue to the present time, comes to man from the heavenly sanctuary. That fact should never be lost sight of.
In the light of this judgment now taking place and the imminent appearance of Jesus Christ, the church's mission is not social reform or world peace or the removal of poverty in the worldalthough by virtue of the gospel and the love of Christ, social reform does take place. The mission is the regeneration and transformation of men by the power of the gospel and by the sanctifying power of God's truth by the Holy Spirit.
The judgment message proclaims in unmistakable terms God's control of history and His jurisdiction over His church. By this message God will bring the world of men and nations to its consummation. The present movements in the world can be explained only in terms of God's climactic hour. At the end God will make one last invasion into history in the visible personal return of His Son. Man's day will have run its course. The age-long development of evil will come to an end. The old order will pass away. A new creation will prevail, with the glad acceptance by all His creatures of the sovereign rule of Jesus Christ.
By this judgment message men are called upon to give their total allegiance to Christ. Beyond lies the vista of glorious triumph for those who make this decision. By the proclamation of this last message in the power of the Holy Spirit the earth will be lightened with the glory of God:
The truth of God will be so clear and complete, and the judgment so final, that it will call forth man's total commitment to the God of heaven, and eternal praise with the triumph of righteousness.
Time for Judgment
To what period of time do the words "judgment has come" apply? In the context of Revelation 14, the hour of God's judgment precedes both the wrath of God in terms of the seven last plagues and the second coming of Christ (read verses 10, 15, 16). This judgment is coincident in point of time with the worldwide preaching of the gospel. Just as the everlasting gospel, with the opportunity to believe and be saved, is a present reality, so the divine judgment is spoken of as having come. Both these aspects of the last message to the world are complementary to each other. Verses 6 to 12 of Revelation 14 describe both a judgment taking place and a gospel being preached prior to the return of Christ, while the door of salvation is still open. Verses 14 to 20 refer to the time when the work of God is finished on the earth.
Those who hear and accept the gospel and who are vindicated in that heavenly assize will be reaped when Christ comes. Through the judgment and the gospel message they have heard the voice of the Son of God. They have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ. They thereby stand, as it were, before the judgment seat of Christ. By the opening of the books of record, by the confessing of their names before the Father and the angelic host, the Son performs an act of judgment in order that at His coming He may reward "every man according as his works shall be" (chap. 22:12).
The picture of the Great Reaper seated on a white cloud with a sharp sickle in His hand is symbolic. At the completion of His priestly ministry as Redeemer and Judge, the Son of man leaves the sanctuary along with His angels to reap the harvest of the earth. In this great passage Christ is directed by the angels from the heavenly sanctuary to reap the harvest of the earth (chap. 14:14-20). The time to sow the seeds of truth and warn the world is past. The time to reap has come.
Furthermore, it is important to notice that John's picture of the pre-Advent judgment stands side by side with that of Daniel in chapter 7. According to Daniel's prophecy, "the judgment shall sit" following the wearing out of the saints. Verses 21 and 25 describe the horn waging war with the saints and the saints being delivered into his power for a time and times and half a time. Verses 22 and 26 refer to the judgment that follows the 1260 years of the church's oppression and persecution.
The time sequence is important. Here in Daniel 7 while the return of Christ is not specifically mentioned, this is definitely implied in the words "the kingdom and dominion.., shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High" (verse 27). The Father and the Son have come to judgment prior to the giving of the kingdom to Christ and His people.
These two pictures of and references to the judgment are complementary and each should be studied in the light of the other. In both visions Christ comes to the judgment to effect the final purpose of God and to consummate the plan of redemption. As a consequence of this judgment the controversy ends with the triumph of Christ and His people.
In the vision of Daniel 8 the cardinal feature is the cleansing, or the justifying, of the heavenly sanctuary at the end of the 2300 years. The seventy weeks of years of Daniel 9, which begin the interpretation of the 2300-year prophecy, starting with the command of Artaxerxes to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, can be dated from 457 B.c. This brings the terminal date of the 2300-year prophecy to A.D. 1844.
During much of the Christian Era the great controversy revolved around the ministry of Christ our High Priest in His conflict with those apostate powers who had usurped the functions and authority of God. For centuries men had to settle for the laws and the judgments of an apostate religion, thereby blaspheming God's sanctuary and denying men the truth of Christ's ministry of righteousness and judgment. The vision of this chapter asserts that the deceptive dominating rule of the usurpers will ultimately be destroyed by a revelation and a new understanding of Christ's work in the heavenly sanctuary.
Justification or cleansing of the sanctuary means that there is an eternal principle of justice and righteousness that will prevail above the deceptions and injustices of men. Beginning in 1844 the priestly ministry of Christ and the sacredness of the law of God will be seen as the one righteous solution to the sin problem. Thus the heavenly sanctuary would "be restored to its rightful state" (verse 14, R.S.V.). It would then begin to "emerge victorious" (N.E.B.). Christ will vindicate Himself and His people by so doing.
It is worthy of note that church leaders and religionists toward the close of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth centuries interpreted these time prophecies regarding the judgment and the sanctuary as pointing to the end of the world and the return of Christ by 1844. They were mistaken. Seventh-day Adventists believe they refer to the beginning of "the hour of God's judgment," which began in the heavenly sanctuary at that time.
Thus the great time prophecies of world history locate this judgment to follow the 1260 years of tribulation of the church, or shortly after 1798. The 2300-year prophecy identified that new phase of Christ's judgment ministry as beginning in 1844. The Bible calls this the time of the end climaxed with the return of Christ.
The Temple in Heaven
By what right do Seventh-day Adventists lay so much stress upon Christ's priestly work in the heavenly sanctuary? The New Testament teaching on the mediatorial ministry of Christ is an essential part of the gospel message. As High Priest, Christ does fulfill both the "daily" and the "yearly" ministry of the earthly sanctuary. Since His ascension to the sanctuary in heaven, Christ our mediator and intercessor has ministered continually His forgiveness and salvation to repentant sinners. The final work of atonement or reconciliation typified by the Levitical Day of Atonement involves a climactic work of judgment, with Christ as judge, that will usher in the rule of righteousness and the triumph of His people.
In the Apocalypse this final aspect of Christy s ministry is very much in evidence. Throughout the book the work of judgment is closely associated with the temple or the sanctuary of God. Events connected with the time of the end occupy most of the book. The frequent reference to the temple in heaven is significant.
Two Greek words are translated "temple" in the New Testament. The first word is hieron. It refers to the entire consecrated enclosure which, for example, constituted the Temple at Jerusalem. The second is naos, or sanctuary. It includes the holy place and the holy of holies, as distinguished from the hieron, and "refers more specifically to the sanctuary."J. D. DOUGLAS, The New Bible Dictionary (Win. B. Eerdmans), p. 1247. Kittel says that "naos denotes in Greek the abode of the gods.., the sacred precincts, the altar, the inner courts."G. Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the NT, vol. 4, pp. 880, 888.
In the Apocalypse the word for "temple" is naos. It is used fifteen times. Not once is the word hieron used. Thus the temple or Holy of Holies in heaven is said to contain "the ark of his covenant" (Rev. 11:19; 15:5, N.E.B.). There is also "the golden altar which was before the throne" (Rev. 8:3; see chap. 9:13). Throughout the book John in vision is shown that heavenly sanctuary. In eighteen of the twenty-two chapters reference is made either directly or indirectly to the temple or the sanctuary. Frequently John is carried in vision into the dwelling place of God to witness the priestly ministration of Christ. Ministering angels are represented time and again as coming forth from the sanctuary or from the altar or from the temple, with directions from God in the divine work of salvation and judgment (see Rev. 15:5; 14:15, 17, 18; 18:1, 8, N.E.B.). John's frequent reference to the sanctuary is strikingly similar to the earthly sanctuary as Moses saw and built it. However, with Moses, action proceeded in and from the earthly sanctuary. With John, action proceeds from the heavenly sanctuary.
Biblical translators often translate the word naos as ''sanctuary" rather than ''temple." However we want to conceive the word in our own minds, it is clear from the context in which the word is used that nothing less than Christ's priestly work is involved, both redemption and judgment. Seventh-day Adventists believe that this closing ministry of Christ in the sanctuary constitutes the antitypical Day of Atonement, that it calls for a judgment-hour message to the world, and that theirs is a sacred responsibility to proclaim it.
As the Levitical Day of Atonement proclaimed the good news of God's "cleansing" or justifying the sanctuary and the people of God, so the good news by means of Christ's final work of atonement will mean the triumph of His people and the destruction of sin. John makes this extraordinarily clear in his frequent references to God's action in and from the sanctuary (see Rev. 4and5;6:9,10;8:3-5;9:13;11:1,2,19;14:1,15,17,18; 16:1, 7, 17; 19:1-5). The vindication of the saints and the eradication of sin will not take place piecemeal. Ultimate triumph will be the result of the priestly ministry of Jesus Christ.
To follow Christ in the sanctuary is to understand the final movements in our world.
There is a door. God has opened it. A throne is set in the sanctuary, the throne of judgment. Christ comes to the Father to take the scroll from the Father's hand. The climax is the handing over of the sealed scroll to the Lamb of God (Revelation 5). Christ opens that scroll. In Daniel 7 this is stated as the opening of the books. The purpose of the negotiations before the Father in the sanctuary and those seated is the choice of someone worthy to open the scroll that lies in the hand of God. The contents of that scroll are not only the judgments that are to come upon the world but also the revelation of those whose names are inscribed and whose destinies are to be decided.
Angels were united in the work of Him who had broken the seals and taken the book. Four mighty angels held back the powers of this earth till the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads.The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Rev. 5:11, p. 967.
The opening of the scroll, or the books, involves some kind of examination or revelation or investigation or giving account. The divine records are being made available as part of the closing ministry of Christ. The destiny of men will be decided in accordance with the facts revealed in the books of record. Some names will be approved. Others will be rejected. The revelation of who the true saints are is pictured in the opening of the books. The judgment does not question the standing or security of God's people. It manifests them. The saints are not in jeopardy. God will finally fulfill the plea of the martyrs and of all His people.
Judgment will be shown to be an essential factor in the eternal security of the saints and the blotting out of sin. Repentance does not eradicate the account of a man s sinful past, with its indelible record sealed up in the books for the day of judgment. What is sought is the universal approval of God's judgment on individuals, the guarantee that there will be no resurrection of the past. Accusations and doubts from any source will be forever answered and silenced.
In the judgment it will be seen that God's love and justice have acted in concert; God's law has been honored. Henceforth eternal righteousness will be universally acclaimed, approved by ten thousand times ten thousands of angels and the creatures on a million worlds. The universe of moral intelligences will see that God has upheld the honor of His righteous character, that God has in no way compromised His holiness in saying the sinner. The pre-Advent judgment will win from all a united verdict asking God to resurrect the dead in Christ and translate the living.
The Investigative Judgment
Among the friends and critics of Seventh-day Adventists nothing has aroused more discussion and opposition than the teaching of an investigative judgment in heaven reserved for the people of God prior to Christ's return. For many this doctrine seems to shatter all possibility of assurance here and now and leaves uncertain one's standing with God. How can a Christian in this life be sure of his destiny and future with God until the pre-Advent judgment has laid bare the facts of each person, and judgment is pronounced?
If we are to understand the relation of the saints to the judgment, we must adhere strictly to the Word of God. There is ample evidence in Scripture that affirms the security and assurance of those who commit their lives to Jesus Christ.
No book equals the Apocalypse in scope and intensity as to the nature of divine judgment that is to befall mankind in the last days. At the same time, no book affirms so categorically the security of the saints. In face of the hatred of men and the most desperate attacks upon the church of God, the child of God has nothing to fear (see
Rev. 7:9, 13, 14; 14:1-5; 15:2-4; 19:1-9; 20:4, 6).
The New English Bible translation of John 5:24 seems to interpret this to mean that the children of God will "not come up for judgement." However, what the apostle John affirms is no condemnation for those who are united with Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1, N.E.B.). the scripture clearly states that no one escapes the judgment. all come under the most searching scrutiny of the judge of all men.
That the saints are involved in the judgment is evidenced also by the opening of the books of record. This includes the book of life with the names of all those who have professed the name of Christ (see Mal. 3:16; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 20:15; 22:19). "The judgment was set, and the books were opened" (Dan. 7:10) at the specific time indicated in the vision.
No other symbol can so vividly convey the fact that nothing is left out or forgotten. The books are the unerring transcript of the life. The records of the lives of all men are being opened before God in heaven. They are not available to men or to churches on earth.
Men often ask: How can there be such things as books and records in a spiritual world? Granted that there do not have to be literal books, but there can be something that corresponds to books. No itemized statements perhaps, engraved or embossed, but there can be something that answers the purpose of the records. There may be no literal reading of charges or rehearsal of deeds from some manuscript, but there can be something that shall make everything known and evident.
Every man's life will appear in all its true proportions, open not only to God but to the entire universe of intelligent beings. Even as there are acts and deeds and motives in all men that render judgment necessary, so there are requirements in the heart and the law of God that make this necessary. Man is being judged by the Son of man. The departures from truth and righteousness cannot be measured except by the standard of God's law and character. When men meet Christ at the judgment seat, all will be perfectly plain.
The Bible presents the judgment so that all men shall feel its certainty. The opening of the books in the judgment will either bring man nearer to the One sitting on the throne or drive him farther away.
Accountability implies rendering an account. This implies a judgment. Therefore it should be remembered that God's throne of judgment is now set. The most imperative moral need of this age is the firm belief that the requirements of God's eternal law are now in full force, asserting its majesty and its eternality and that man will be judged by it.
This divine judgment now proceeding should give every man a deep sense of responsibility to God and to His Word. For judgment does not consist simply in condemning the wicked. We shall all appear. We shall all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ. This time of the end is to be a time of great self-knowledge, of the inner measurements of ourselves before God.
The pre-Advent judgment should strengthen the confidence and the trust of God's people. The process of judging, distinguishing between the righteous and the wicked, has hitherto been hidden. For thousands of years the divine verdicts of the God who judges righteously have remained unknown. But this judgment uncovers all and affirms the righteous character of God and of His people.
A Judgment to Be Desired
At the fifth seal we pass within the veil of the heavenly sanctuary. In vision John sees the "souls" of the martyrs who have perished because of their loyalty to God. These are those who through the long period of persecution during the 1260 years constituted the church of God. Even as the blood of Abel cried out for justice (Gen. 4:10), so at the close of this long period the impatient voices of the martyrs cry to God: "How long, O Lord, holy and true, must it be before You will vindicate us?" Such a plea from those who loved not their lives unto death must surely bring speedy deliverance. But they are told to wait a little while, until those who were to follow them manifested a dedication to Christ equal to their own. As the martyrs gave everything they had, so will those who are called upon to be true in face of the command to worship the beast and his image and receive his mark.
The time of the fifth seal is located also in relation to the seal to follow. The sixth seal opens to us a vision of the breakup of the natural world and the cry of the lost at the return of Christ.
Each of these martyrs beneath the altar was given a white robe. This is clearly an allusion to the righteousness of Christ. No accuser can deprive them of that. The white robe of Christ's righteousness assures them of the right to eternal life. Whatever lay in the future, they had nothing to fear. Their only question had to do with time. How long before they would be vindicated? The answer was that they must wait a little while. They would receive God's final justification along with their brethren to follow. If they had stood in jeopardy before God, such expressed confidence would have been misplaced. The most difficult trial at the bar of God would still have been ahead of them. For them the battle was over. They could say with Paul as he faced martyrdom:
Certain conclusions are warranted from this revelation concerning the martyred saints:
First, this judgment involves the entire church of God, past and present. The church of the past and the church of the present are one. The hour of God's judgment will bring to light who the saints are that constitute the true church in every age.
Second, God's people have nothing to fear from the judgment. The saints of the last days can also find confidence and security in facing the judgment when their names are confessed before the Father and the angelic host.
Third, the "little while" of waiting represents the period from 1798 to the return of Christ.
Fourth, God's answer to their plea for judgment is met by the divine words "the hour of God's judgment has come." God will now answer His saints.
How shall we understand the "investigative judgment" of God's people? Such a judgment can hardly mean that God needs to make such an investigation on the presumption that He is ignorant of the facts about His people.
Obviously, there can be no doubt or question in the mind of God concerning those who have kept the faith. Through all the years the saints cannot stand in jeopardy until the judgment hour. What about Enoch, Moses, and Elijah in heaven, and the multitude of captives resurrected when Christ had completed His work on earth, and taken to heaven? Do they have to wait until the pre-Advent judgment begins to learn whether their position in heaven is secure? Do they anticipate the possibility of a reversal of the divine verdict that led God to resurrect and translate them to heaven? Obviously not.
If God needs no investigation, then why have one? If God has known all along who are saved and who are lost, why bring the saints to judgment? If a person is a forgiven, redeemed child of God to the end of his life, why bring up the past for consideration? What then is the purpose of the investigative phase of the pre-Advent judgment so far as God's people are concerned?
In the prophecies studied so far, this judgment is associated with the crucial events of the time of the end. Daniel calls it a "judgement. . . given for the saints" or "in favour of the saints" (Dan. 7:22, N.E.B. and R.S.V.). The time has come to set the record straight. Therefore, in the Apocalypse, the people of God are caught up again and again in songs of praise and adoration because God has taken judgment into His own hands. The people of God know that Christ judges in righteousness (Rev. 19:2); that God's judgments are true and righteous (Rev. 16:7). When God takes up their cases from 1844 to the close of probation, they will stand fully vindicated before the entire universe.
This judgment hour points to the time when God will fulfill His promises to the redeemed. Christ comes to the Father to receive His kingdomnot territory, but people who belong to Him. The hour is near for Christ's return. Then He will resurrect all the millions who have kept the faith. If He left them in their graves, death would be the victor. Satan would triumph. While on earth Christ promised to confess the names of the redeemed before the Father:
Evidently this is a public confession when Christ stands up for His people. Daniel says that there are "ten thousand times ten thousand" present when the judgment opens (Dan. 7:10). Why are angels present at the judgment? Is their witness needed? Are not the records of the books sufficient? God condescends to show them His justice and His righteousness in His dealing with sinners. Man is prone to blame God, to question and to doubt His character of love and justice.
Since the angels are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Heb. 1:14) and play an important part in the lives of men, and have observed the truth about each person, judgment is done in their presence and for their approval.
All of God's justice and judgments are public, not private. God does nothing in a corner, where the rest of the universe cannot see and know, for the destiny and security of the universe is at stake. All of God's creatures have been threatened by the work of Satan. The enemy of God has had much success in enslaving millions of God's children.
Consequently, when God proposes to bring the redeemed back from the dead and translate the living righteous, the security of God's subjects must be guaranteed. Sin must not be allowed to rise the second time. Only a united universe, a universe fully reconciled and in harmony with God, can guarantee that.
As the record books of heaven are opened, Christ rises to claim His own.
Evidently Christ not only presents His requests to the Father, but seeks the approval of a celestial jury, as it werethe representatives of other worlds and all the angels. The installment of His people as joint heirs with Him is one of the great moments in Christ's existence. These are the trophies of His grace. "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities" (Isa. 53:11).
Inasmuch as God submits this hour of judgment to public inspection, can there be anyone who will dispute Christ's claims? Is there anyone who will seek to defeat Christ's plans to take His people from the grave?
Satan is the accuser. He has no intention of relinquishing any sinner to God if he can do otherwise. He will dispute Christ's claims to the very end. It is part of the spirit and work of Satan to accuse all repentant sinners and make a claim for them as belonging to him. Ellen G. White makes some keen observations on this very point.
With the opening of the books and the records made clear, whose claims are to standChrist's or Satan's? One must conclude from this extraordinary situation that the records of the lives of all are known both to Christ and to Satan. But not until now are the decisions of God revealed. This "investigation" is no hasty judgment. Regarding the final vindication of the saints of God, this is not play acting. The claims of Christ for His redeemed are disputed by Satan to the very end. If Satan's claims were to stand, the plan of redemption would have failed. Satan would have been right in his charges that free creatures could not obey the law of God and fulfill His requirements, that left to themselves to make their own choice they would all have followed him.
However imperfect may be our knowledge of all the proceedings of the pre-Advent judgment in the heavenly sanctuary, it means a great deal both to the righteousness of God and the ultimate salvation of His people. On the bare record, no man can possibly meet the charges or silence the accusations of Satan. Unless those who profess to follow Christ are clothed in the garments of Christ's righteousness, the claims of Satan will be upheld.
The coming to judgment and the opening of the books means that the Godhead have laid themselves open to dispute with Satan, the enemy of God and man. As Daniel saw in vision, both the Father and the Son must come to judgment and vindicate themselves and the children of God before all the angels and the creatures present. However we want to conceive this great assize in heaven, whatever picture the prophets use in its presentation, it is clear that the spontaneous approval of His loyal creatures is part of the final triumph of Christ over Satan.
In this passage Christ and Satan are pictured in dispute over the body of Moses. Moses had died. The dispute arose over God's plan to resurrect him. This claim was resisted by the devil. Evidently both claimed to have charge over the body. Christ came down to resurrect him. The devil attempted to prevent it. Moses had killed the Egyptian, therefore he was Satan's prey. But Christ won, and Moses and Elijah appeared together with Christ at the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:29-33). So will it be concerning every child of God.
The issue in the pre-Advent judgment is between Christ and Satan, between the holy character of God and the unrighteous character of the devil, between the opposing claims of each for the right to decide the eternal destiny of men. What Christ did at the cross gave Him the right to claim the human race as His property. But the final triumph of Christ and of His saints is not complete until judgment has vindicated both. That will be the hour of universal praise to God. The saints rejoice that the hour of God's judgment has come.
Here lies the very heart of the judgment of the saints. Judgment must rest on an all-sufficient ground. God will uphold the honor of His character, reflected in the mirror of His holy law.
God will show in the judgment that there can be no tolerance of any departure from His will either by man, church, or devil. There will be no hushing up of unsettled accounts. None of the accusations that Satan makes against the saints before the celestial court will have any validity. The blotting out of sin will mean no less than the silencing of all the accusations for eternity. God's judgments will be true and will stand forever.
Jesus affirms no condemnation of His people and at the same time no excuse from judgment. He rests the investigative judgment on the firm foundation of what each man is in the sight of all heaven when clothed with His righteousness. In no way does Christ anticipate protests from any except Satan himself. Christ stands before the Father and the angelic hosts with complete certainty about His redeemed. In Christ's parable, the only guest at the wedding feast who stood in jeopardy was the man without a wedding garment (see Matt. 22:1-14).
The five wise virgins who took oil in their lamps went in to the marriage. They were close friends of the Bridegroom. There was no chance of their being excluded. They were secure. But the five foolish virgins who made no preparation were shut out from the marriage (Matt. 25:1-13).
The pre-Advent judgment is absolutely real. The Judge will judge righteously. Nothing will be arbitrary or one sided. There will not be the slightest compromise with God's holiness. Any casting of the truth to the ground is inconceivable if God is to reign. Let it be borne in mind that any tampering with the law of God would keep our planet forever stained with sin. God will not and cannot give sin any quarter. Satan and sin must be fully unmasked.
The sovereign rule of God will be forever acknowledged, not by might but by right, the righteousness of His character and of His saints. The evidence will confirm the right of God to reign in holy love, for it will lay bare the very heart and character of the eternal God.
Christ's righteousness will be the possession of all God's people. His saints will be found to be in Christ, one with Him in heart and life. The Christian's attitude toward God will be one of deep and settled obedience. This obedience follows naturally from his perfect trust in God. Christians delight in the law of God. The moral consequence of their faith is that inner and spiritual obedience which stands in sharp contrast to the disobedience and open violation of the law of God found throughout the world today. The faith that works by love to keep God's commandments is never legalism. It is the glad expression of the indwelling Spirit.
For the saints of God, the judgment will mean fulfillment, not apprehension. It will be an honorable presentation before the Father and His angelic host. Christ Himself will stand up for His people. The very presence of their Advocate before the Father is their security. Beyond all questions and theories and human judgment, Jesus will make known His sheep. As soon as their names are raised in the presence of the Father, all will be well. The investigative judgment is a revelation of love and loyalty to God at its best.
Men everywhere ought to acknowledge the responsibility of a present judgment. Jesus Christ is the most dominant and revolutionary Person of human history, from whose circle of influence and destiny none can tear himself. No one who follows Him and remains faithful to Him here will stand before God and be afraid. As soon as men realize the tremendous significance and finality of this judgment, they lose the right to be morally and spiritually indifferent. One Person men cannot avoid. One question men must face: What must I do with Him who is called the Christ? The spiritual majesty of the God-man will arraign men at His bar from which they cannot depart with security unless He confesses them as His disciples and not His enemies.
The anticipation of our being called to appear by our record and give account to God does not exert the power over men's lives that it should. In view of Christ's life and death for mankind, no man can seriously believe that the living Christ will not judge every individual.
It is surprising that as men view the appalling sweep of evil and rebellion in our world today, they can remain indifferent to God's last message, the "hour of God's judgment," that involves the destiny of all men. This message is God's last word of revelation prior to the close of probation; it is given for this hour and this time.
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