Man's Free Will and the Judgment
The divergent views classified under "Calvinism" and
"Arminianism" have roots that reach a long way back in church
history—as far back as Augustine. Through the subsequent centuries
theologians have ranged themselves on one side or the other. But these
theological concepts came to head-on collision in Holland in the early years of
the seventeenth century, when Arminius attacked the Calvinist teaching of
divine decrees involving the human will.
I. Five-Point Outline of Calvinistic Predestination
In his 1537 Instruction in Faith (Paul T. Fuhrmann tr., 1949, p. 36), John
For, the seed of the word of God takes root and brings forth fruit only in
those whom the Lord, by his eternal election, has
predestined to be children and heirs of the heavenly kingdom. To all the others
(who by the same counsel of God are rejected before the foundation of the
world) the clear and evident preaching of truth can be nothing but an odor of
death unto death.
John Calvin was one of the most brilliant personalities among the
sixteenth-century Reformers. But his teaching on predestination became the
subject of bitter controversy in later years. In 1610 the famous Remonstrance
was drawn up, and presented to the States-General of Holland, in which were
outlined five vital points in Calvinistic theology. These were declared
offensive, some at that time claiming to have found in the Calvinistic
Catechism and the Belgic Confession certain points that appeared as somewhat
new theology. These were set forth as follows:
1. That God (as some asserted) had ordered by an eternal and irreversible
decree, some from among men (whom He did not consider as created; much less as
fallen) to everlasting life; and some (who were by far the greater part) to
everlasting perdition without any regard to their obedience or disobedience, in
order to exert both His justice and mercy; having so disposed the means, that
those whom He had appointed to salvation should be necessarily and unavoidably
saved, and the rest necessarily and unavoidably damned.
2. That God (as others taught) had considered mankind not only as created but
as fallen in Adam, and consequently as liable to the curse; from which fall and
destruction He had determined to release some, and to save them as instances of
His mercy; and to leave others, even children of the Covenant, under the curse
as examples of His justice, without any regard to belief or unbelief. To which
end God also made use of means whereby the elect were necessarily saved and the
reprobate were necessarily damned.
3. That, consequently, Jesus Christ the Saviour of the World did not die for
all men, but only for those who were elected according to the first or second
4. That therefore the Spirit of God and Christ wrought in the elect by an
irresistible force in order to make them believe and be saved, but that
necessary and sufficient grace was not given to the reprobate.
5. That they who had once received a true faith could never lose it wholly or
finally.—A. W. Harrison, The Beginnings of Arminianism (1926), pp. 149, 150.
This position, however, was not original with Calvin. A thousand years earlier,
according to G. F. Wiggers, Augustine expressed the same idea:
Augustine introduced into the ecclesiastical system several views entirely new.
. . . Amongst them were irresistible grace, absolute fore-ordination and the
limitation of redemption by Christ to the elect. An Historical Presentation of
Augustinism and Pelagianism, p. 368.
II. Arminianism's Rebuttal in Five Counterpoints
In opposing these views Arminius and his associates drew up a rebuttal which
was presented in five counterpoints. These later became the epitome of what was
known as Arminianism. These were as follows:
1. That God, by an eternal and unchangeable decree in Christ before the world
was, determined to elect from the fallen and sinning human race to everlasting
life those who through His grace believe in Jesus Christ and persevere in faith
and obedience; and, on the contrary, had resolved to reject the unconverted and
unbelievers to everlasting damnation (John iii, 36).
2. That, in consequence of this, Christ the Saviour of the world died for all
and every man, so that He obtained, by the death on the cross, reconciliation
and pardon for sin for all men; in such manner, however, that none but the
faithful actually enjoyed the same (John iii, 16; 1 John ii, 2).
3. That man could not obtain saving faith of himself or by the strength of his
own free will, but stood in need of God's grace through Christ to be renewed in
thought and will (John xv, 5).
4. That this grace was the cause of the beginning, progress and completion of
man's salvation; insomuch that none could believe nor persevere in faith
without this co-operating grace,
and consequently that all good works must be ascribed to the grace of God in
Christ. As to the manner of the operation of that grace, however, it is not
irresistible (Acts vii, 51).
5. That true believers had sufficient strength through the Divine grace to
fight against Satan, sin, the world, their own flesh, and get the victory over
them; but whether by negligence they might not apostatize from the true Faith,
lose the happiness of a good conscience and forfeit that grace needed to be
more fully inquired into according to Holy Writ before they proceeded to teach
it.—Harrison, op. cit., pp. 150, 151
This controversy, which became active with Arminius in 1603, reached its height
in the Synod of Dort in 1618 and 1619, and had far-reaching results. Not only
did the Dutch church feel its effects, but the German, Swiss, Scotch, English,
and French sections of the Christian church all participated in, or were
divided by, this controversy. Since then, Arminianism has become an expression
for theological concepts that are the opposite of Calvinism. However, the
followers of Arminius went further in their declarations than did Arminius
himself. In fact, he would be surprised, even shocked, could he read the
theological interpretations of some who have since been classified as Arminian.
And the same principle holds with reference to the followers of Calvin.
Present-day Calvinism seems to be more modified even than is Arminianism.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church is neither Calvinist nor totally Arminian in
theology. Recognizing the virtues of each, we have endeavored to assimilate
that which to us appears to be the clear teaching of the Word of God. While we
believe John Calvin was one of the greatest of the Protestant Reformers, we do
not share his view that some men "are predestinated to eternal death
without any demerit of their own, merely by his
sovereign will" (Calvin, Institutes, bk. 3, ch. 23, par. 2). Or that men
"are not all created with a similar destiny; but eternal life is
fore-ordained for some, and eternal damnation for others" (Ibid, bk. 3,
ch. 21, par. 5).
On the contrary, we believe that salvation is available to any and all members
of the human race, for "God so loved the world, that he gave his only
begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life" (John 3:16). We rejoice with the apostle Paul that
"before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4) God had purposed to
meet man's need, should he sin. This "eternal purpose" involved the
incarnation of God in Christ, the sinless life and all-atoning death of Christ,
His resurrection from the dead, and His priestly ministry in heaven, which
ministry will climax in the great scenes of the judgment.
Our teaching on the subject of the judgment is, we feel, entirely scriptural,
and is the logical and inevitable conclusion of our free-will concept. We are
persuaded that as individuals we each are held accountable to God. The apostle
Paul says: "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it
is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every
tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of
himself to God" (Rom. 14:10-12).
III. Human Race Lost Through Adam's Sin
Adam's sin involved the whole human race. "By one man sin entered into the
world, and death by sin," declares the apostle Paul (Rom. 5:12). The
"by sin" shows clearly that he is referring, not to actual
individual sins, but rather to the sinful nature that we all inherited from
Adam. "In Adam all die" (1 Cor. 15:22). Because of Adam's sin,
"death passed upon all men" (Rom. 5:12).
It was to meet man in his need, and to save the race from eternal death, that
the Eternal Word became incarnate. Christ lived as a man among men, then died
in man's stead. The substitutionary death of our Lord is the very heart of the
gospel. When by faith we receive Him, then His death becomes our
death—"If one died for all, then were all dead" (2 Cor. 5:14). The
Scriptures reveal that as far-reaching as was the effect of Adam's sin, just so
far-reaching is the effect of free grace.
Scripture says, "As by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to
condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus Christ] the free gift
came upon all men unto justification of life" (Rom. 5:18). But if we would
"reign in life" (verse 17), we must accept that "gift of
righteousness." And the apostle John quotes the Lord as saying,
"Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17).
The only way we can take of that life is to take Him who is the Author of life.
"And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this
life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the
Son of God hath not life" (1 John 5:11, 12). This gift of life, we
understand, is available to all, yet only those who lay hold upon that
gift—those who accept the divine provision—have eternal life.
From Adam we all have inherited a sinful nature. We all are "by nature
the children of wrath" (Eph. 2:3). Whether we
be Jews or Gentiles, we are "all under sin." "There is none
that seeketh after God. . . . There is none that doeth good, no, not one"
(Rom. 3:9, 11, 12). Consequently all are "guilty before God" (verse
19). But if men will only accept God's free gift of righteousness, then no
matter how far they have drifted from God, or how deeply they have become
imbedded in sin, they can still be justified, for Christ's righteousness, if
accepted, is accounted as theirs. Such is the matchless grace of God.
When Paul speaks of the justification that is ours in Christ, he says, first,
that we are "justified freely by his grace" (Rom. 3:24), for grace is
the source. Next, he says that we are "justified by faith" (Rom.
5:1), for faith is the method. Then he climaxes all by saying that we are
"justified by his blood" (verse 9), for blood is the means. James
adds another quality, declaring that "by works a man is justified, and not
by faith only" (James 2:24). But works are the evidence, not the means, of
justification. All of these vital factors combined, operate in the life of the
believer, and all who will may enter into this glorious experience.
IV. The Provisions for Our Redemption
We believe the Bible teaches that no man need ever be lost because of Adam's
failure, for through Christ's redemptive work provision has been made for all
to accept of the grace of God by which they can be delivered from sin and
reinstated into the family of heaven. When the apostle John wrote about Christ
Jesus being "the propitiation for our sins," that is, the
sins of believers, the declaration was made that reconciling atonement, or
propitiation, was not for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole
world (1 John 2:2).
The tragic fact, however, is that not all will accept that sacrifice and
receive eternal life. Jesus said, "Ye will not come to me, that ye might
have life" (John 5:40). In His yearning appeal He said, "How often
would I have gathered thy children together . . . and ye would not" (Matt.
23:37). And later Stephen charged those Pharisees with being stiff-necked and
always resisting the Holy Ghost (Acts 7:51). Thus on Biblical testimony we
conclude they were not compelled to resist the Spirit; they chose to resist. We
agree with Arminius who said:
5. All unregenerate persons have freedom of will, and a capability of resisting
the Holy Spirit, of rejecting the proffered grace of God, of despising the
counsel of God against themselves, of refusing to accept the gospel of grace,
and of not opening to Him who knocks at the door of the heart; and these things
they can actually do, without any difference of the elect and the
reprobate.—The Writings of James Arminius (Baker, 1956), vol. 2, p. 497.
The apostle Peter, speaking of the long-suffering of our Lord, declared that He
is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to
repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). That message is not confined to the New
Testament; it is just as real in the Old Testament. "As I live, saith the
Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked
turn from his way and live" (Eze. 33:11). But when the wicked man repents
and turns from his wicked way, by that very act he becomes a son of God and
where the Spirit of God can lead him to do the will of God. "As many as
are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14).
It is important that we learn "what the will of the Lord is" (Eph.
5:17). Writing to the Thessalonians Paul said, "This is the will of God,
even your sanctification" (1 Thess. 4:3). The gospel of Christ is good
news, telling how God can take a lost soul, one who is His enemy by nature, and
after forgiving his sin can so change his life that not only will he be
cleansed from every defilement, but through growth in grace he will be
conformed to the image of his Lord.
V. Divine Grace Both Justifies and Sanctifies
The first work of grace is justification. The continuing work of grace in the
life is sanctification. Some who start on the way of God and rejoice in the
thought of being justified, fail to appropriate the indwelling power of Christ by which
alone they can be sanctified. The result is that at last they are found
unworthy. That is why the apostle said, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be
in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that
Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Cor. 13:5). Jesus
said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the
kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in
heaven" (Matt. 7:21).
The grace of God is given to the believer that he may lay aside every weight,
and the sin that does so easily beset him, and run with patience the race that
is set before him (Heb. 12:1). The power of the Holy Spirit enables him to
experience victory over sin now,
and to live a life wholly consecrated to God. "For the grace: of God that
bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying
ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly,
in this present world" (Titus 2:11, 12). By grace we are justified, and by
that same grace we are made "a peculiar people, zealous of good
works" (Titus 2:14). And through the indwelling of the Spirit of God we
are conformed to the image of Him who called us from darkness to His marvelous
light. Again we quote Arminius:
It is this grace which operates on the mind, the affections, and the will;
which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the
affections, and bends the will to carry into execution good thoughts and good
desires. . . . It averts temptations, assists and grants succor in the midst of
temptations, sustains man against the flesh, the world and Satan, and in this
great contest grants to man the enjoyment of the victory. . . . This grace
commences salvation, promotes it, and perfects and consummates it.—The
Writings of James Arminius, vol. 2, pp. 472, 473.
When Christ is living in the heart of one who is a true citizen of God's kingdom it will be abundantly evident, for every word and
act will be under the control of the Holy Spirit. This is what the Lord expects
of His people, for "he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so
to walk, even as he walked" (1 John 2:6). The great apostle says, "As
ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him" (Col.
John Wesley expresses the thought tersely in one of his sermons:
By justification we are saved from the guilt of sin, and restored to the favour
of God; by sanctification we are saved
from the power and root of sin and restored to the image of God.—Sermons:
"On Working Out Our Own Salvation."
Then, speaking of our love to God, he says:
That love increases more and more, till we "grow up in all things into him
that is our head"; till we "attain the measure of the stature of the
fulness of Christ."—Ibid.
In fact, "growth in grace," in the understanding of Wesley, was not
merely a privilege but an absolute prerequisite to the retention of the
VI. Man, Once Saved, Can Turn Back to the World
Jesus said, "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matt.
10:22; see also Matt. 24:13; Mark 13:13). Not only is there to be a beginning
of the Christian life, but there must be a continuing in the word of God.
As we understand it, two courses are open to men (1) "To them who by
patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and
immortality" God will grant "eternal life" (Rom. 2:7), "the
gift of God" (Rom. 6:23); and (2) "unto them that are contentious,
and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness" God will mete out
"indignation and wrath" (Rom. 2:8).
Salvation is freely offered to all men, but they receive it only by accepting
Christ Jesus as Lord. And having received it, they are to "follow on to
know the Lord" (Hosea 6:3). This is frequently emphasized by various
"if" texts of the Bible. Thus: "But Christ as a son over his own
house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of
the hope firm unto the end" (Heb. 3:6); "For we are made partakers
of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the
end" (verse 14); "Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on
him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed" (John
8:31); "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye
will, and it shall be done unto you" (John 15:7); "If ye keep my
commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's
commandments, and abide in his love" (verse 10). It seems clear to us,
therefore, that man, once saved, can turn back to the world.
If this is not so, there are several scriptures that would be difficult to
understand, or to harmonize with the general teaching of the Bible.
Thus there is the text: "But I keep under my body, and bring it into
subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself
should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:27). The "castaway," in this
text, is from the Greek adokimos, which is rendered "rejected" (Heb.
6:8), and "reprobate"* (2 Cor. 13:5, 6; Rom. 1:28)..
Some maintain that this simply means "disapproved," or
"put aside," as one who has served a useful purpose in God's cause
but who now is a "castaway," being put to one side; and that this
does not involve his standing as a child of God.
Other renderings of the Greek, however, seem to us to make such an
interpretation impossible. Adokimos is rendered "reprobate" no less
than six times. And the context in each instance is such that it could not
apply to a true child of God.
Rom. 1:28—"God gave them over to a reprobate mind"—a reference to
men abandoned to iniquity.
2 Cor. 13:5—"Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobate"; also
verses 6 and 7—which cannot refer to a born-again Christian, for he is not in
the faith, Christ is not in him, but he is living in sin.
2 Tim. 3:8—"Men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith"
(here are men who resist the truth, men who are corrupt).
Titus 1:16—"Unto every good work reprobate." Can this refer to a
Christian believer? Note that such a one denies God, is abominable,
disobedient, deceived, and against every good work.
Matthew Henry well remarks on Romans 1:28:
"Here he [Paul] subjoins a black list of those unbecoming things which the
Gentiles were guilty of, being delivered up to a reprobate mind. No wickedness
so heinous, so contrary to the light of nature, to the law of nations, and to
all the interests of mankind, but a reprobate mind will comply with it."
Matthew Henry comments on 1 Corinthians 9:27:
A preacher of salvation may yet miss it. He may shew others the way to heaven,
and never get thither himself. To prevent this, Paul took so much pains in
subduing and keeping under bodily inclinations, lest by any means he himself,
who had preached to others, should yet miss the crown, be disapproved and
rejected by his sovereign judge. A holy fear of himself was necessary to
preserve the fidelity of an apostle; and how much more necessary is it to our
preservation! Note, Holy fear of ourselves, and not presumptuous confidence, is
the best security against apostacy from God, and final rejection by him.
Another text that must be considered is Hebrews 10:28, 29: "He that
despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how
much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden
under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant,
wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the
Spirit of grace?"
On this, Dean Henry Alford properly comments:
There is but One true sacrifice for sins: if a man, having availed himself of
that One, then deliberately casts it behind him, there is no second left for
him. It will be observed that one thing is not, and need not be, specified in
the text. That he has exhausted the virtue of the One Sacrifice, is not said:
but in proportion to his willing rejection of it, has it ceased to operate for
him. He has in fact . . . shut the door of repentance behind him, by the very
fact of his being in an abiding state of willing sin. And this is still more
forcibly brought out when . . . the scene of action is transferred to the great
day of the Lord's coming, and he is found in that impenitent state
irreparably.—The Greek Testament (1875), p. 707.
One more text—Ezekiel 18:20-24: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die.
The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father
bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be
upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. But if the wicked
will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all my statutes,
and do that which is lawful and right, he shall surely live, he shall not die.
All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto
him: in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live. Have I any pleasure
at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should
return from his ways, and live? But when the righteous turneth away from his
righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the
abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness
that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath
trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die."
In these verses, two men are brought to view. The one, a wicked man who turns
from his sin and becomes obedient to God. He is forgiven, and if he walks in
the way of righteousness, none of his former sins will ever be mentioned unto
him. The other, a righteous man who turns from the path of righteousness, and
goes back into sin. If he continues in iniquity, none of his previous
manifestations of goodness will ever be mentioned. He forfeits all the
blessings of salvation and goes down into death (verse 24).
Dr. H. A. Redpath (The Westminster Commentaries, on Eze. 18:24), says:
All his [the righteous'] previous goodness will not count: he shall die in his
sins: . . . "if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world
through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again
entangled therein and overcome, the last state is become worse . . . than the
VII. Christians Counseled to Make Their Election Sure
The apostle Peter, evidently sensing a possibility of failure in the Christian
life, writes to those who had been "purged" from their "old
sins," urging them to give diligence to make their calling and election
sure (2 Peter 1:9, 10). And this, by divine grace, they can do. He says,
"Add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge
temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to
godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity" (verses
5-7). Then he says: "For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for
so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting
kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (verses 10, 11). Therefore,
we believe that to make our entrance into the everlasting kingdom sure, we must
by the indwelling of Christ grow in grace and Christian virtues.
He closes his letter with a warning, reminding them that some unlearned and
unstable were wresting the Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16).
Then he says, "Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the
wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the
knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (verses 17, 18).
Paul sets forth the same principle in his epistles, although it is stated in
different language. He tells us to put on the whole armor of God; to fight the
good fight of faith; to watch unto prayer; to search the Scriptures diligently;
to flee from temptation and turn away from ungodliness; and as citizens of
God's kingdom to yield ourselves to the control of the King that
we might live out the principles of His kingdom. To do any of these things,
even the least of them, we need the enabling power of the indwelling Spirit.
But doing right, complying with God's commandments, meeting any or all of the
conditions we have mentioned, has never saved a soul—nor can it ever preserve
a saint. Salvation proceeds wholly from God, and is a gift from God received by
faith. Yet having accepted that gift of grace, and with Christ dwelling in his
heart, the believer lives a life of victory over sin. By the grace of God he
walks in the path of righteousness.
While Adventists rejoice that we receive salvation by grace, and grace alone,
we also rejoice that by that same grace we obtain present victory over our
sins, as well as over our sinful nature. And through that same grace we are
enabled to endure unto the end and be presented "faultless before the
presence of his glory with exceeding joy" (Jude 24).
The great judgment scene of heaven will clearly reveal those who have been
growing in grace and developing Christlike characters. Some who have professed
to be God's people, but who have disregarded His counsel, will in amazement say
to the Lord, "Have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have
cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" His reply to
such will be brief but emphatic: "I never knew you: depart from me, ye
that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:22, 23). Since they have proved themselves
unworthy of His kingdom, the Lord in His justice can do nothing else but reject
them. They could have done the will of God but they chose their own willful
VIII. Christian Believer's Relation to the Judgment
A real born-again Christian, whose life is now directed and controlled by the
Holy Spirit, who walks "worthy of the Lord" (Col. 1:10), is in a
unique relationship to Christ, his Lord and Master. He is "in Christ"
(2 Cor. 5:17), and Christ dwells in him (Col. 1:27).
This is a seeming paradox, yet the figures are beautifully true. Even nature
provides illustrations of this wonderful, soul-satisfying truth. When a sponge
is immersed in water, it becomes a question as to whether the water is in the
sponge, or the sponge in the water. Both conditions exist. In like manner, if
we are surrendered to God, and Christ is dwelling within the heart, the
experience of the apostle Paul can be ours—"I live; yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me" (Gal. 2:20).
Christ having taken our guilt and borne the punishment of our iniquities, sin
has no more dominion over us—provided we remain "in him." He is our
security. And as long as this attitude of submission is maintained, there is no
power on earth that can detach the soul from Christ. No man can pluck the
believer out of the Saviour's hands (John 10:28).
But does this mean that the Christian will not come into judgment at all? Some
believe this, and they base their concept on John 5:24. In this text
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on
him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation;
but is passed from death unto life"—the Greek word for
"condemnation" is krisis, and is usually rendered
"judgment." It is
therefore felt by many Christian scholars that the proper understanding of this
verse is " . . . shall not come into judgment."
It is true that the Greek krisis is more often rendered in the Bible by the
word "judgment" than by any other expression. And it is used quite
often in reference to the "day of judgment." However, this is not
absolute, for krisis does have other shades of meaning. For instance, it is
rendered "accusation" (Jude 9; 2 Peter 2:11) and
"damnation" (Matt. 23:33; Mark 3:29; John 5:29). It is also rendered
"condemnation" in John 5:24, also in John 3:19 and James 5:12. So
while "judgment" is the prevailing idea, there is the concept of
"accusation" made at such a judgment session, and hence of the
individual's being under "condemnation" because of the sentence of
the judgment; and still further, of "damnation," the punishment meted
out to the offender.
It is consequently our understanding that the thought in John 5:24 is best
rendered by the word "condemnation" in the sense in which the same
Greek word krisis is rendered in John 3:19: "And this is the condemnation,
that light is come"; and in James 5:12: " . . . lest ye fall into
condemnation." Even the R.S.V., which renders krisis as
"judgment" in several of the texts cited, renders it
"condemnation" in James 5:12. The Christian believer, being in
Christ, is not under the condemnation either of the law or of sin, for if he is
fully surrendered to God, the righteousness of our blessed Lord covers whatever
lack there might be in his life. The child of God, with his title clear to
heaven, need entertain no fear of any judgment day.
Abiding in Christ, with Jesus as his Advocate, and utterly given over and
dedicated to his Lord, he knows that there is "no condemnation
[Greek, katakrima] to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).
IX. Investigative judgment as Part of the Program of God
In view of the principles here set forth, it seems to us abundantly clear that
the acceptance of Christ at conversion does not seal a person's destiny. His
life record after conversion is also important. A man may go back on his repentance,
or by careless inattention let slip the very life he has espoused. Nor can it
be said that a man's record is closed when he comes to the end of his days. He
is responsible for his influence during life, and is just as surely responsible
for his evil influence after he is dead. To quote the words of the poet,
"The evil that men do lives after them," leaving a trail of sin to be
charged to the account. In order to be just, it would seem that God would need
to take all these things into account in the judgment.
That there should be a judgment is not strange; the Scriptures reveal it as
part of the eternal purpose of God (Acts 17:31), and all His ways are just.
Were God alone concerned, there would be no need of an investigation of the life records
of men in this judgment, for as our eternal Sovereign God, He is omniscient. He
knows the end from the beginning. Even before the creation of the world He knew
man would sin and that he would need a Saviour. Moreover, as Sovereign God, He
also knows just who will accept and who will reject His "great
salvation" (Heb. 2:3).
If God alone were concerned, there would certainly be no need of records.
But that the inhabitants of the whole universe, the good
and evil angels, and all who have ever lived on this earth might understand His
love and His justice, the life history of every individual who has ever lived
on the earth has been recorded, and in the judgment these records will be
disclosed—for every man will be judged according to what is revealed in
"the books" of record (Dan. 7:10; Rev. 20:12).
God's love and justice have been challenged by Satan and his hosts. The
archdeceiver and enemy of all righteousness has made it appear that God is
Therefore in infinite wisdom God has determined to resolve every doubt forever.
He does this by making bare before the entire universe the full story of sin,
its inception and its history. It will then be apparent why He as the God of
love and of justice must ultimately reject the impenitent, who have allied
themselves with the forces of rebellion.
Just what these "books" are like, we do not know. That has not been
revealed. But the Scriptures make it plain that whatever the nature of these
records, they play a vital role in the judgment scene. Moreover, it is only
those who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb whose names are retained in
the Lamb's book of life.
Ellen G. White, in one of our standard books, has phrased it this way:
There must be an examination of the books of record to determine who, through
repentance of sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His
atonement. The cleansing of the sanctuary therefore involves a work of
investigation—a work of judgment. This work must be performed prior to the
of Christ to redeem His people; for when He comes, His reward is with Him to give
to every man according to his works.—The Great Controversy, p. 422.
It is our understanding that Christ, as High Priest, concludes His intercessory
ministry in heaven in a work of judgment. He begins His great work of judgment
in the investigative phase. At the conclusion of the investigation, the
sentence of judgment is pronounced. Then as judge Christ descends to execute,
or carry into effect, that sentence. For sublime grandeur, nothing in the
prophetic word can compare with the description of our Lord as He descends the
skies, not as a priest, but as King of kings and Lord of lords. And with Him
are all the angels of heaven. He commands the dead, and that great unnumbered
host of those that are asleep in Christ spring forth into immortality. At the
same time those among the living who are truly God's children are caught up
together with the redeemed of all ages to meet their Saviour in the air, and to
be forever with the Lord.
When God's final sentence of judgment is consummated, the redeemed will be
singing the song of Moses and the Lamb, saying, "Great and marvellous are
thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.
Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy:
for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made
manifest" (Rev. 15:3, 4).
The Investigative Judgment
The Investigative Judgment in Prophecy, Type, and Bible Principle
As we have suggested in Part One, Seventh-day Adventists believe that at the
second coming of Christ the eternal destiny of all men will have been
irrevocably fixed by the decisions of a court of judgment. Such a judgment
obviously would take place while men are still living on the earth. Men might
be quite unaware of what is going on in heaven. It is hardly to be supposed
that God would fail to warn men of such an impending judgment and its results.
Seventh-day Adventists believe prophecy does foretell such a judgment, and
indeed points out the very time at which it was to begin. In addition, prophecy
foretells a worldwide message to be preached to every nation on earth, warning
that this judgment has come.
I. The Prophecies of the Judgment
1. Court Convenes in Heaven.—A work of judgment is graphically described by
the prophet Daniel: "I beheld till the thrones were cast down ["were
placed," R.S.V.], and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white
as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the
fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came
forth from before him: thousand thousands
ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the
judgment was set ["the court sat in judgment," R.S.V.], and the books
were opened. . . . I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of
man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they
brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a
kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion
is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away" (Dan. 7: 9-14).
This scene presented to the prophet is part of a larger vision dealing with
four beasts. These are interpreted by an angel to represent four consecutive
kingdoms, or dominions, that were to rule the earth until the God of heaven
sets up a kingdom, peopled exclusively with His saints. "These great
beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth. But
the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom" (verses 17, 18). Since
these four world kingdoms parallel the vision of Daniel 2, where the first
kingdom is said to be Babylon, this vision of Daniel 7 must reach from the time
of the prophet to the second coming of Christ, at which time the everlasting
kingdom of righteousness will be set up. This is important to observe, for the
judgment pictured in verses 9-14 takes place before the end of time. Some of
its decisions regarding the beast are executed while world affairs are in
progress, and the taking away of the dominion of the beast under the control of
the little horn is a progressive work that continues "unto the end"
Another statement in the prophecy helps to place the judgment in its proper
perspective. One of the acts of judgment is to give
to the "Son of man" "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that
all people, nations, and languages, should serve him" (verses 13, 14).
This must take place before the second coming of Christ, for when He comes to
this earth for His saints, He comes crowned as King (Rev. 14:14; 19:14-16), in
all the glory of His Father and the holy angels, and according to the Bible
picture of the scene, in the book of Revelation, no rebellious sinner will then
dare challenge His dominion, but will flee in terror from His face (Rev. 6:15,
We agree with T. Robinson ("Daniel," The Preacher's Homiletic
Commentary), that the judgment here predicted precedes the second coming of
We have before us a passage of overwhelming grandeur and sublimity; the
description of a scene of awful solemnity. The passage exhibits the
judgment-seat of God, with myriads of attendant angels, and the infliction of
pronounced doom on a large portion of the human race. The judgment is not
indeed, like that in Rev. xx., the general judgment. . . . It is rather the
judgment on the fourth beast or Roman Empire, with its ten horns or kingdoms,
and more especially the "Little Horn," whose pride, persecution, and
blasphemy are the special occasion of it. . . .
The time of the judgment. As already observed, this is not the general judgment
at the termination of Christ's reign on earth, or, as the phrase is commonly
understood, the end of the world. It appears rather to be an invisible judgment
carried on within the veil and revealed by its effects and the execution of its
sentence. As occasioned by the "great words" of the Little Horn, and
followed by the taking away of his dominion, it might seem to have already sat.
As, however, the sentence is mot yet by any means fully executed, it may be
sitting now.—Pages 136, 139.
The prophecy of Daniel 7 contains another clue as to the time of the judgment
pictured in vision. In harmony with a long-held Protestant position, Seventh-day Adventists believe that
the little horn of verses 8, 24, and 25 is a symbol of the Papacy, which has
spoken "great words against the most High," and has worn out
"the saints of the most High," and has thought "to change times
and laws" (verse 25). See Question 28, p. 334.) The little horn was to be
given power over the saints for "a time and times and the dividing of
time" (verse 25). This period of domination has long been interpreted to
be 1260 years, and has been placed from 538 to 1798, the terminal point being
marked by the capture of the pope by the French general Berthier. It was just
at this point in the explanation that the angel said, "But the judgment
shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion" (verse 26). Apparently
the judgment is to sit while the dominion of the little horn is being taken
2. The Hour of God's Judgment.—In the book of Revelation is found a New
Testament clue to the time of the investigative judgment. "I saw another
angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto
them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and
people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour
of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the
sea, and the fountains of waters" (Rev. 14:6, 7). These two verses are
part of a vision presented to the apostle John, in which he sees three angels
with consecutive messages for men.
These messages, we believe, are to be proclaimed by human messengers under
God's direction to warn the world of final cataclysmic events and to prepare men to meet Christ in glory.
The three angels' messages immediately precede the second coming, as described
in verse 14 of the same chapter.
Again we have the description of a judgment taking place before the second
coming of Christ. But there is another interesting feature here also. This
judgment is described in the phrase "the hour of his [God's]
judgment." In several texts in the New Testament we find the expression
"the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:36; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17),
nearly always with the implication that it is the time of punishment for sin.
The apostle Peter equates "the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly
men" (2 Peter 3:7) with "the day of the Lord . . . in the which the
heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with
fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned
up" (verse 10). But in our understanding the "hour of . . .
judgment" is different. Here is a message stating that "the hour of
his judgment is come," and it is being proclaimed while the nations and
kindreds are here on earth to receive it. There are two other messages to
follow, calling men to abandon their connection with apostasy, symbolized by
Babylon, and warning them against receiving a mark of allegiance to a
God-opposing power symbolized by a beast. To us it seems incontrovertible that
the judgment to take place during this "hour" is conducted before
Christ comes in glory, and while men are still on earth.
A judgment to take place before the second advent, and which is to decide the
eternal destiny of every human being, should be of supreme concern to all mankind. If there is anything
men can do to influence the decisions of that judgment, certainly each person
would like to know when the judgment is to sit and how he can relate himself to
it in order to secure a favorable decision in his own case. Seventh-day
Adventists believe that the time of the judgment is foretold in prophecy, and
that men may be forewarned. We will discuss the nature of the investigative
judgment after dealing with the time prophecy that fixes the date of this
3. The Time of the Judgment—The prophecy in the Bible that reveals the time
for the judgment is found in Daniel 8:14: "He said unto me, Unto two
thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed."
The relation of the cleansing of the sanctuary to the investigative judgment
will be discussed in the next section. Here we will deal only with the time
feature of the prophecy. In Questions 23 and 24 we have dealt at length with
the various exegetical and interpretative problems encountered in Daniel 8 and
9. A short summary must suffice for our purposes here.
The 2300-day period of Daniel 8:14, is, we believe, to be interpreted on the
Bible principle that a "day" in prophecy represents a year of literal
time—in other words, that the 2300 days are symbolic time. The Biblical
justification for this procedure is found in Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34. The
2300 days to the cleansing of the sanctuary, interpreted as years, reach from
some ancient date to very modern times. In Question 24 we have shown that the
only satisfactory Bible basis
yet proposed for computing this prophecy is to start the 2300 year-days from
the same date as the seventy weeks of years mentioned in Daniel 9. In that
discussion we have shown that the prophetic specifications are met exactly when
both periods are started with the decree issued in the seventh year of
Artaxerxes Longimanus and put into effect by Ezra in the year 457 B.C.
Twenty-three hundred years from that date reaches to the year A.D. 1844.
Seventh-day Adventists believe, therefore, that some important event in God's
plans was scheduled to start in the year 1844—in the symbolic language of the
prophecy, "the sanctuary [shall] be cleansed." But how, it is proper
to ask, does the cleansing of the sanctuary denote that an investigative
judgment is to be carried on in heaven? The answer lies in part in an
understanding of the typology of the ancient Jewish sanctuary.
II. Investigative Judgment in Type and Symbol
The sanctuary in the wilderness and the Temple of later days were vivid object
lessons in God's great plan of redemption for the human race. Note the
1. There were two phases of ministry: (a) that performed in the outer court and
in the holy place every day of the year (Heb. 9:6), and (b) that performed in
the most holy place once each year (verse 7).
2. The work carried forward daily in the outer court, and in the holy place,
was in a particular sense the work of reconciliation for men. In contrast, that
performed yearly in the most holy place was largely a
work of judgment. Every day of the year (including the Day of Atonement) sins
were forgiven. But the Day of Atonement was a special day when the confessed
sins were also blotted out. On this day God gave to Israel a graphic
illustration, we believe, of His purpose to eliminate sin forever from His
3. There were three special groups of sacrificial offerings in the typical
service: (a) the morning and evening sacrifices (Hebrew, the tamid—"the
continual"), (b) the sinner's individual offerings, and (c) the special
offerings of the Day of Atonement.
4. Every day of the year, morning and evening sacrifices were offered on behalf
of the people. Atonement was thus provided for all men, irrespective of their
attitude toward this provision. Wherever the people lived, they could lift
their hearts to God, turn their faces toward Jerusalem, confess their sins, and
avail themselves of the gracious provisions of the atonement (1 Kings 8:30).
Also, the individual sinner brought his own sacrifice as opportunity afforded.
These personal sacrifices were expressions of his faith and of his acceptance
of the divine provisions made for his salvation from sin.
5. The special sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, already noted as a day of
judgment, were of a different nature. First, there were sacrifices offered by
the high priest for himself and his house. But the main sacrificial offering on
that day was termed "the Lord's goat." Two goats were used, but one
(for Azazel) was not a sacrifice. Its blood was not shed. Only the blood of the
"Lord's goat" provided the cleansing and atoning blood.
6. The service on that day was particularly important: (a) Salvation for the
people was, as usual, provided by the morning and evening sacrifices; but there
were no individual offerings on that day; (b) the blood of the Lord's goat was
for the people (Heb. 7:27); it was to make an atonement for them (Lev. 16:30);
it was "for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year"
(verse 34); it was "for all the people of the congregation" (verse
33); (c) when this was done, the same atoning blood, in the type, cleansed the
most holy place, the altars, the holy place itself, and the entire tabernacle;
(d) when the atoning work for the people and for the sanctuary was completed,
and all that were willing to be reconciled were reconciled, then, we would
emphasize, and not until then, did the second goat (for Azazel) enter the
picture. We read: "And when he hath made an end of reconciling the holy
place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar, he shall bring
the live goat" (Lev. 16:20). (On the significance of the expression,
"for Azazel," see Question 34.) In the act now performed by the high
priest, the people, we repeat, were given an object lesson of what God plans to
do in the last days. The sins were placed upon the head of the live goat, and
he was sent into the wilderness.
7. A careful study of all the sacrifices of the sanctuary service makes it
evident that there was a definite underlying principle in all these
types—that sin was transferred from the guilty sinner both to the sacrificial
victim and to the priest himself. The offerer placed his hand on the head of
the victim, symbolically confessing his sin and placing it upon the animal
was to die in his stead. When the blood was sprinkled, the sin was recorded in
the sanctuary. Through the prophet, God said, "The sin of Judah . . . is
graven . . . upon the horns of your altars" (Jer. 17:1). When the priest ate
of the flesh of the victim, he also bore the sin (Lev. 10:17). The individual
sinner was forgiven and thus freed from his sin, but in the bloodstains of the
sanctuary he could perceive in type a record of the misdeeds that he would fain
see blotted out and removed forever. On the Day of Atonement, when the blood of
the goat was sprinkled upon all the furniture of the sanctuary as well as upon
the altar of burnt offering, the accumulated record of the sins of the year
were removed. The Scripture states that the high priest "shall make an
atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of
Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he
do for the tabernacle of the congregation" (Lev. 16: 16). "And he
shall go out unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for
it. . . . And he shall sprinkle of the blood upon it with his finger seven
times, and cleanse it, and hallow it from the uncleanness of the children of
Israel" (verses 18, 19). "On that day shall the priest make an
atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins
before the Lord" (verse 30).
The typical picture seems clear. The sins of the Israelites, recorded in the
sanctuary by the shed blood of the sacrificial victims, were removed and
totally disposed of on the Day of Atonement. The language used to describe the
transaction suggests the expunging of the very record of evil.
8. The Day of Atonement was definitely regarded by the Hebrews as a day of
judgment, as seen from the following:
It was supposed that on New Year Day . . . the Divine decrees are written down,
and that on the Day of Atonement . . . they are sealed, so that the decade [of
days] is known by the name of "Terrible" Days," and "the
Ten Penitential Days." So awful was the Day of Atonement that we are told
in a Jewish book of ritual that the very angels run to and fro in fear and
trembling, saying, "Lo, the Day of judgment has come!"—F. W.
Farrar, The Early Days of Christianity, pp. 237, 238.
Even the angels, we are told in the Ritual, are seized with fear and trembling;
they hurry to and fro and say, "Behold the day of Judgment has come."
The Day of Atonement is the Day of Judgment.—Paul Isaac Hershon, Treasures of
the Talmud (1882), p. 97.
"God, seated on His throne to judge the world, at the same time judge,
Pleader, Expert, and Witness, openeth the Book of Records. . . . The great trumpet
is, sounded; a still, small voice is heard; the angels shudder, saying, this is
the day of judgment. . . . On New-Year's Day the decree is written; on the Day
of Atonement it is sealed who shall live and who are to die."—The Jewish
Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 286.
III. The Heavenly Sanctuary and Its Cleansing
The cleansing of the sanctuary prophesied in Daniel 8:14 to take place at the
end of 2300 days, or years, as we have shown, could not apply to the ancient
Jewish tabernacle, for that sanctuary has been out of existence for nearly two
thousand years. The earthly sanctuary and its service, as we have indicated in
Questions 31 and 33, was simply a type, or symbol, of the work of Christ in the
salvation of men through His death on the cross and His ministry before the
Father in their behalf. The book of Hebrews clearly sets forth that Christ is a
high priest in a sanctuary in heaven (Heb. 8:2),
where He ministers the merits of His sacrifice to repentant sinners and
devoted saints (Heb. 9:14, 15). We believe it is the cleansing of this heavenly
sanctuary, then, that is to fulfill the prophecy of Daniel 8:14.
But how could the sanctuary in heaven need cleansing? In the type, the sins of
the Israelites defiled the sanctuary, and on the Day of Atonement it was
cleansed of all these sins. But the Scripture also speaks of the cleansing of
the heavenly sanctuary: "It was necessary for the copies of the heavenly
things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with
better sacrifices than these" (Heb. 9:23, R.S.V.). Here it seems clear
from the wording that the expression "the copies of the heavenly
things" refers to the sanctuary or Temple in the days of Israel. After
stating this, the writer mentions that "the heavenly things
themselves" need cleansing "with better sacrifices than these."
This, of course, may be difficult to understand in the light of our concept
that everything in heaven must be pure and holy.
Scholars have given much thought to this matter. After reviewing several views
put forth by various writers, Dean Henry Alford remarks:
But this does not meet the requirements of the case. There would thus be no
cleansing, as far as the relations of God and men are concerned: none, to which
the propitiatory effect of blood would in any way apply. We must therefore rest
in the plain and literal sense: that the heaven itself needed, and obtained,
purification by the atoning blood of Christ.—The Greek Testament, 1864, p.
As to just how this uncleanness comes about, A. S.
Peake, another careful scholar, says:
What is meant by the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary must be determined by
its meaning as applied to the earthly. The ritual of the Day of Atonement was
designed, not merely to atone for the sins of the people, but to make atonement
for the sanctuary itself. The sense of this would seem to be that the constant
sin of Israel had communicated a certain uncleanness to the sanctuary.
Similarly the sin of mankind might be supposed have cast its shadow even into
heaven.—New-Century Bible, "Hebrews," p. 191. (Italics supplied.)
And the well-known Dr. Brooke Foss Westcott adds:
The Blood of Christ by which the New Covenant was inaugurated was available
also for the cleansing of the heavenly archetype of the earthly sanctuary. . . .
It may be said that even "heavenly things," so far as they embody the
conditions of man's future life, contracted by the Fall something which
required cleansing.—The Epistle to the Hebrews (1903), pp. 271, 272.
In the sanctuary in heaven, the record of sins is the only counterpart of the
defilement of the earthly sanctuary. That the sins of men are recorded in
heaven, we shall show in the next section. It is the expunging, or blotting
out, of these sins from the heavenly records that fulfills the type set forth
in the services on the Day of Atonement. In that way the sanctuary in heaven
can be cleansed from all defilement. This conclusion does not rest alone on an
interpretation of the types. There are many direct and positive statements of
Scripture about God's method of dealing with sin and forgiveness, judgment and
rewards and punishments.
IV. God's Method of Dealing With Sin and Sinners
1. God Keeps an Account With Every Man—In the description of the judgment
given to Daniel in vision, it is said, "The judgment was set, and the
books were opened" (Dan. 7:10). And the apostle John wrote
of the final judgment when evil men and angels receive their punishment,
"I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were
opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead
were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to
their works" (Rev. 20:12). The decisions of the judgment, then, are based
on what is written in these books. It is not possible to suppose that the books
mentioned are books of law, for John says that what is written in the books is
"according to their works." Obviously these are books of record.
Nor is the Bible otherwise silent on what is written down in the heavenly
accounts. The Scriptures mention a book of remembrance: "They that feared
the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and
a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and
that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in
that day when I make up my jewels" (Mal. 3:16, 17). This book, it would
seem, contains the good deeds of God-fearing men. The heavenly records may have
been in the psalmist's mind when he wrote: "Thou tellest my wanderings:
put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?" (Ps. 56:8).
But men's evil deeds are also recorded: "God shall bring every work into
judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be
evil" (Eccl. 12:14). Christ warned His hearers that "every idle
word" would come up in the judgment (Matt. 12:36), and that by their
words, good or bad, men would be
"justified" or "condemned" (verse 37). Even men's thoughts
and motives are recorded in the books above, for Paul warns that in the
judgment the Lord "will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and
will make manifest the counsels of the hearts" (1 Cor. 4:5). Evidently the
heavenly recorder has made a complete life history of every individual who has
ever lived on earth, omitting nothing that could have any possible bearing on
the decision of the Omnipotent Judge.
Another book is named in Revelation 20—the book of life. This book is either
mentioned by name or obviously alluded to in several books of the Bible. Moses
knew of this special register, for he offered, "Blot me, I pray thee, out
of thy book which thou hast written" (Ex. 32:32), as he pleaded with God
to forgive the rebellious Israelites. Christ told His disciples, "Rather
rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). And Paul
mentions "my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life"
The book of life at the very last contains the names of those who will escape
the punishment of the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15), and who will have the
privilege of entering the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:27). By the time of the final
judgment the book of life will contain the names of those only who are selected
by the heavenly court to enjoy the rewards of eternal life. But it is clear
that these are not the only names that have ever been in the book of life.
Moses was willing for his name to be blotted out of the book. And God Himself
gave the basis upon which such blotting out would take place: "Whosoever
hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Ex. 32:33). In
vision the apostle
John heard it expressed another way: "He that overcometh, the same shall
be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book
of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his
angels" (Rev. 3:5). Those who gain the victory over sin through the merits
of the shed blood of Christ will be retained in the book of life. Conversely,
those who do not overcome will be blotted out as sinners against God. King
David, identifying his enemies with the enemies of the Lord, said, "Let
them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the
righteous" (Ps. 69:28).
It would appear from this that the book of life is the register of those who
have professed to be followers of God and have made some start toward the goal
of eternal life. The apostle Paul speaks of "the general assembly and
church of the firstborn, which are written ["enrolled," margin and
R.S.V.] in heaven" (Heb. 12:23). Speaking after the manner of men, we
would say the book of life is the heavenly church register. In this list would
be all whom God could conceivably consider as candidates for His eternal
kingdom, from Adam down to the very last person on earth who turns in yearning
to God, no matter how limited may be his understanding of the glorious gospel
The blotting of names out of the book of life is, we believe, a work of the
investigative judgment. A complete and thorough check of all the candidates for
eternal life will need to be completed before Christ comes in the clouds of
heaven, for when He appears, the decisions for life or death are already made.
The dead in Christ are called to life, and the living followers of
Christ are translated (1 Thess. 4:15-17)—the entire citizenry of the
everlasting kingdom. There is no time subsequent to the second advent for such
2. The Blotting out of Sin—But not only will names be blotted out of the
book of life. The Bible also speaks of the blotting out of sin. David prayed,
"According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my
transgressions" (Ps. 51:1), and, "Blot out all mine iniquities"
(verse 9). And Nehemiah prayed concerning the enemies of God and His people,
"Cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from
before thee" (Neh. 4:5). The apostle Peter looked forward to the time
when, because of men's repentance, their "sins may be blotted out"
In Scripture, a difference is to be noted between the forgiveness of sin and
the blotting out of sin. The forgiveness of our sins is very real, and is
something that can be known and experienced by living faith in Our Lord. In the
divine act of forgiveness our sins are removed from us, and we are freed,
delivered, saved. But the final destruction of sin awaits the day of God's
reckoning, when sin will be blotted out forever from the universe of God.
Scripture clearly illustrates the difference between forgiveness and the
blotting out of sin. Take, for example, Matthew 18:23-35. Here reference is
made to a servant who owed his king ten thousand talents. Having nothing wherewith to
pay, he begs for mercy, the king forgives him the debt, and he goes off greatly
relieved. However, he finds a fellow servant who owes him a mere hundred pence.
This second man likewise has nothing with which to pay, and begs for mercy and
for time to pay what is owed. But although the first servant has been forgiven,
he now acts in unkindly and brutal fashion toward his fellow servant, shows him
no mercy, and casts him into prison. When the king hears this, he is wroth, and
casts the servant whom he has forgiven into prison till he shall pay all his
Here is a case where forgiveness granted was withdrawn. Jesus then impresses
the lesson: "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye
from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses"
(verse 35). We concur, in principle, with the conclusions of these two Biblical
R. Tuck (The Pulpit Commentary, on Matt. 18: 35) says:
Christ's teaching on this point has even a severe side—even his forgiveness may
be revoked; if he finds, by our behaviour after forgiveness, that we were
morally unfitted to receive it.— Page 242.
And B. C. Coffin adds in the same book:
His cruelty cancelled the forgiveness which had been granted him. His last
state was worse than the first. Those who, having been once enlightened, fall
away from grace are in awful danger. "It had been better for them not to
have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn
from the holy commandment delivered unto them."—Page 223.
Albert Plummer (Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 18:30, 35) also declares:
The unforgiving spirit is sure to provoke the anger of God; so much so, that
His free forgiveness to sinners ceases to flow to them. . . . It revives the guilt
of their otherwise forgiven sins.
We have already referred to the description in the book of Ezekiel (Eze.
18:20-24) of God's dealings with saints and sinners who change their course of
There the apostate has his forgiveness canceled, just as the man in Christ's
parable was compelled to assume again the responsibility for his huge debt. The
actual blotting out of sin, therefore, could not take place the moment when a
sin is forgiven, because subsequent deeds and attitudes may affect the final
decision. Instead, the sin remains on the record until the life is completein
fact, the Scriptures indicate it remains until the judgment.
The Bible pictures Christ as our Advocate. "If any man sin, we have an
advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1). But
Christ cannot plead our cases unless we commit them to Him. He does not
represent us against our will, nor does He force men into heaven contrary to
their own decision. And how do we ask Him? The Scripture says, "If we
confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to
cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). God can forgive because
Christ has paid the penalty. Christ is now the sinner's representative, and
pleads the merits of His own atoning sacrifice in the sinner's behalf.
If every detail of a man's life is recorded in heaven, then his confessions are
recorded there too, and of course the fact that Christ has forgiven his sins.
The apostle Paul's comment may well apply here: "Some men's sins are open
beforehand, going before to judgment" (1 Tim. 5:24). The secret things we
have refused to confess will be brought to light after the judgment opens
(Eccl. 12:14; 1 Cor. 4:5).
When the name of a true child of God comes up in the judgment, the record will
reveal that every sin has
been confessedand has been forgiven through the blood of Christ. The promise
is: "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I
will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name
before my Father, and before his angels" (Rev. 3:5). Christ sets forth the
principle: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I
confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me
before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven"
(Matt. 10:32, 33). To us, it seems clear that we must continue our allegiance
throughout life if we expect Christ to represent us in the judgment.
When Christ takes a case in the heavenly court, there is not the slightest
possibility of His losing, for He knows all the facts, and He is able to apply
the remedy. When He confesses before God and the holy angels that the repentant
sinner is clothed in the robe of His own spotless character (this is the white
robe that will be given him), no one in the universe can deny to that saved man
an entrance into the eternal kingdom of righteousness. Then, of course, is the
time for his sins to be blotted out forever, for Christ has claimed him for His
own. When every case is decided, the decree can issue forth from the throne:
"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).
The Bible uses several figures to express the complete obliteration of the sins
of God's people. The prophet Micah says, "Thou wilt cast all their sins
into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). David pictures it:
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our
transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12). Through the prophet Jeremiah God
promised, "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no
more" (Jer. 31:34). And through Isaiah God proclaimed, 'I, even I, am he
that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember
thy sins" (Isa. 43:25). It would seem that God wants to clear the universe
of every reminder of sin, so that the sad and painful experiences of this life
"shall not be remembered, nor come into mind" (Isa. 65:17). The
blotting out of the whole tragic record of sins is as definitely a part of
God's plan as is forgiveness.
The following description of the investigative judgment, penned by Ellen G.
White, is, we believe, based entirely upon the revealed truths of God's Word as
we have set them forth in the preceding pages:
As the books of record are opened in the judgment, the lives of all who have
believed on Jesus come in review before God. Beginning with those who first
lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive
generation, and closes with the living. Every name is mentioned, every case
closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins
remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names
will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds
will be erased from the book of God's remembrance. . . . All who have truly
repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning
sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven;
as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their
characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be
blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal
life.—The Great Controversy, p. 483.
3. The Final End of Sin and Sinners.—Seventh-day Adventists believe that from 1844 onward, to the second coming of Christ,
is the period of the investigative judgment. This period we speak of as the
antitypical Day of Atonement. But during this time, as indicated in the typical
service, the work of salvation goes forward continually for all mankind, thus
fulfilling the type. However, just before our Lord comes in all His glory,
mercy ceases and probation ends, as is indicated in Revelation 22:11, 12.
When the high priest in the typical service had concluded his work in the
earthly sanctuary on the Day of the Atonement, he came to the door of the
sanctuary. Then the final act with the second goat, Azazel, took place. In like
manner, when our Lord completes His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, He, too,
will come forth. When He does this, the day of salvation will have closed
forever. Every soul will have thus made his decision for or against the divine
Son of God. Then upon Satan, the instigator of sin, is rolled back his
responsibility for having initiated and introduced iniquity into the universe.
But he in no sense vicariously atones for the sins of God's people. All this
Christ fully bore, and vicariously atoned for, on Calvary's cross.
Having finished His ministry as high priest, our Saviour then returns to the
earth in glory, and it is then that Satan is cast into the bottomless pit,
where he and his confederates in rebellion remain for the millennial thousand
years of Revelation 20:1. This is his prison house, with devastation all around
him. Then at the end of the thousand years the wicked dead are raised to life,
and together with the devil and his angels, are cast into the lake of fire.
This will be their reward—the second, or eternal, death (Rev. 20:13-15). (See Question 42.)
In Malachi 4:1 we read: "The day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the
Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch."
Looking forward to that day when every trace of sin will be obliterated, King
David said, "The wicked shall perish, and the enemies of the Lord shall be
as the fat of lambs: they shall consume; into smoke shall they consume
away" (Ps. 37:20). "For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not
be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be. But the
meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of
peace" (verses 10, 11). "For the earth shall be filled with the
knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab.
2:14). So we say, Blessed be his glorious name for ever: and let the whole
earth be filled with his glory; Amen, and Amen" (Ps. 72:19).