Read Genesis 3:8–20. What does God do before He pronounces judgment?
The concept of an investigative judgment is biblical. God’s judicial procedure often includes a phase of investigation and inquiry. A first instance is reported in Genesis 3, where God investigates before He pronounces the verdict (Gen. 3:8–19). God’s dealings with Cain (Genesis 4), Babel (Genesis 11), and Sodom (Genesis 18, 19) follow a similar pattern. We see God undertaking the same action that He requires of the judges in Israel; namely, to “investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly” (Deut. 13:14, NASB; see also Deut. 19:18).
Investigation involves deliberation and fairness. It is often public. God allows others to see for themselves what He is doing. In this way, when God announces the verdict—be it salvation or condemnation—onlookers are assured that God’s action is the best. This is exactly the reason why the heavenly judgment in Daniel 7 involves books. The books are not for God’s sake, so that He would remember more easily, but for the benefit of the celestial beings surrounding Him, who, unlike God, don’t know all things.
How does judgment turn out for the saints? Dan. 7:22.
In talking about the judgment, Ellen G. White wrote: “The fact that the acknowledged people of God are represented as standing before the Lord in filthy garments should lead to humility and deep searching of heart on the part of all who profess His name. Those who are indeed purifying their souls by obeying the truth will have a most humble opinion of themselves. . . . But while we should realize our sinful condition, we are to rely upon Christ as our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption. We cannot answer the charges of Satan against us. Christ alone can make an effectual plea in our behalf. He is able to silence the accuser with arguments founded not upon our merits, but on His own.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 471, 472.
How do these words help us to understand why the judgment is such good news?