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Questions On Doctrine


The Investigative Judgment in the Setting of the Arminian Concept



Since Seventh-day Adventists hold largely to the principles of the Arminian, rather than the Calvinist, position concerning the human will, in what way does this affect your understanding of the judgment?


 Part One

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 Calvin says:

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 manner.


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 expression


"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 places himself


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. 2:6).

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 "great salvation."

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 first."


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 way.


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 unjust.

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 coming


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

Part Two

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" (verse 26).


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, 16).

We agree with T. Robinson ("Daniel," The Preacher's Homiletic Commentary), that the judgment here predicted precedes the second coming of Christ:

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 away.

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 important event.

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 following features:

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 universe.                          

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 substitute that


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. 179


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" (Phil. 4:3).

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 evangel.

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 decisions.

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" (Acts 3:19).

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 debt.

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 scholars:

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 action.


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 complete—in 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 confessed—and 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).

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