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Sunday: The Significance of the Judgment Hour — 11 Comments

  1. I spent some time last night looking at religious art related to the judgment. Some of it I have seen in the original. It is pretty frightening stuff. Saints have that glow of light over their heads, while the sinners are shown in grotesque forms with horns and deformities. Imagine sitting in church with a fresco of the judgment painted on the front wall behind the speaker.

    Actually, we can do a pretty frightening job of the judgment ourselves. I can remember a young people's meeting where the question came up about going to the cinema. The senior elder rose up to remind us that the judgment was taking place right now and how would we feel if we knew our case was before God's judgment throne while we were sitting in a cinema being entertained by a movie? The film in question was "The Living Desert" a classic nature film, and yes, I have watched it, in a church hall, and it is one of the reasons that I spend so much time doing nature photography now.

    At the time though, it was enough to frighten the living daylights out of an impressionable 10-year-old boy.

    It took me a long time to understand that the judgment is good news. It is essentially a court of inquiry as to whether God has done a good job and those of us who have chosen to be on God's side already know the outcome.

  2. The lesson’s author appears to have missed the objective of the judgment. Who is being judged here? Is it “the saints—those who obey God’s commandments and hold to their faith in Jesus”? Or is it Babylon who made all of the nations drink of her passionate immorality? Or is the beast, his image and those that worship them (the ones who are tormented with fire and brimstone continually)?

    The answer seems obvious: judgment is executed on Babylon, the beast, his image and their worshippers. (See Revelation 14:14-20.)

    The author cites Daniel 7:10 “[h]eaven’s infinite, minute, exact, detailed records” being opened for the judgment of the saints. However, what actually happens in Daniel 7 is that the court of the Ancient of Days is called to session (verse 9), the books are opened (verse 10) and “the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire” (verse 11). This is the judgment of the beast and his horn. Daniel 7:26 makes this crystal clear: “But the court will sit for judgment, and his [the beast’s] dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.” (NASB1995.) No judgment of the saints here.

    Then the Son of Man is presented before the Ancient of Days to receive dominion, glory and a kingdom (verses 13&14). Obviously, the Son of Man is not being judged. “Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.” (Daniel 7:27 NASB1995.) No judgment of the saints here either.

    This begs another question: What would be written in the books that were opened? Since the judgment is all about the beast and its horn, it would make sense that the books detail their crimes: devouring, treading down and crushing the earth; speaking out against the Most High, wearing down the saints of the Most High and attempting to alter the times and laws of the Most High. Note that in a human court of law, the defense lawyer for the accused cannot justify robbery (or any other crime) on the basis of how bad the victim was. So it is difficult to understand why the judgment of the beast requires a judgment of the saints.

    Claiming that “[h]eaven’s infinite, minute, exact, detailed records” are opened for the judgment of the saints is not good news and misrepresents God’s character. What would we think of a parent that kept “minute, exact, detailed records” of their children to determine if they were “good enough” to be part of the family? “Loving” is certainly not the first word that would come to mind. What would a child’s life be like in that kind of family? Anxious of trying to prove they are good enough. Or worse, self-satisfied because they have ticked off all of the check boxes. Either sounds very dysfunctional. Does it make any sense that this kind of relational dynamic would be part of God’s family and his kingdom? Obviously not.

    • Hi, Richard. I appreciate your efforts to dig deeper into the issues of the judgment.

      Let's go back to the origin of evil. God could have destroyed Satan early on, and prevented so much damage! But the onlooking universe would not have understood, at the time, so the evil would not have been thoroughly eradicated. With this in mind, it makes sense to me that the final judgment must be very open and obviously fair.

      The little horn/Babylon/beast has been positively identified as a "Christian" entity. To this day, it justifies its actions in persecuting the "saints of the Most High." It had to torture and execute "heretics" like Jan Hus as an example to others, in order to save their souls. If God is going to condemn these persecutors, based on a thorough investigation that will reveal their hypocrisy, do you think they are going to be content to let God give their opponents a free pass? The same investigation, that shows some up as fake Christians, will have to vindicate others as being the real thing. Hence, "a judgment [is] made in favour of the saints." (Daniel 7:22)

      Did the lesson author suggest that the investigation is to see if Christians are "good enough?" The merits of Jesus' blood will be applied to our individual cases, leading to our acquittal, if our faith in Him is authentic. I suppose pretty much anything that could have been recorded, in regard to our cases, might be relevant in determining this.

      Is it embarrassing to think about our every secret sin being brought up and examined before the heavenly intelligences, even though we are not to be personally present, nor the rest of the human race? Doubtless it is cringe-worthy, but what sin did any of us ever commit without it being witnessed by the onlooking universe? And those are beings with a much better memory than ours! Personally, I don't really see how bringing in the record of our secret thoughts and motives could make this situation any worse -- unless, of course, we had never repented.

      "All's well that ends well." If God is going to admit us to membership in His eternal heavenly kingdom, notwithstanding our past, by crediting us with Jesus' own merits and righteousness, that's plenty good and loving enough for me!

      "The cross says it all."

    • “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” – Micah 7:18-19

      I read that the universe will see our choice to serve a loving God, not a parade of our sinful past requiring scuba gear or a deep sea rover.


    • Hello RG,

      I appreciate your thoughtful apologetic on the author’s presentation on the significance of the judgment hour. Adventist theology has matured somewhat from that of the legalistic perfectionism strongly present in the 1950s; however, the vestiges of this church dogma continue to cause deep angst among those in the church.

      “When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69). “Those who are living upon the earth, when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above, are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a Mediator” (Great Controversy, p. 425).

      When faced with these two statements and the Quarterly author’s statement that “[h]eaven’s infinite, minute, exact, detailed records” are opened for the examination of the saints, this angst is justified.

      Taking Revelation 14 and Daniel 7 out of context to construe a judgment on the saints misrepresents God’s character and the nature of his deliverance and salvation of his people. It is that distortion that causes fear and anxiety in God’s people. Daniel 7:22 in no way implies a judgment of the saints. The beast is judged and destroyed and that judgment is in favour of the saints.

      A real world example will help to understand this. If someone steals my vehicle, is caught, sentenced and incarcerated, and my vehicle is returned to me, I am in no way judged by this, even though that judgment is made in my favour. I do not even have to be in court. The Serpent has stolen this world and God’s children through deception. When Serpent and all those who align with him are destroyed and this earth and the redeemed are restored through the Son of Man, it is judgment in favour of the saints, not a judgment of them. This is the “all's well that ends well.”

      So why does the lesson author suggest that the saints are being judged? This world is already an “open book” to those in this universe. They already know the situation and since they are filled with the love of God, they are not standing ready to condemn God’s people but to welcome them back. Condemnation is the role that Satan has taken. That is why this doctrine misrepresents character of God and those in this universe who belong to him.

      • Thank you for the clarification, Richard. I hear you. When you say that "this angst is justified," I find myself questioning whether you mean the concern that souls will be misled by the vestiges (or worse) of legalism in the church, or the sense that (if Ellen White and Mark Finley, Ecclesiastes 12:14 and 2 Corinthians 5:10, are telling the truth) you yourself might as well forget about heaven -- or both.

        If you mean the former, then yes, we really do need to carefully balance and explain what we are saying, lest we encourage that legalism which, as I see it, still plagues us. A correct balance is essential, and my own reading of Ellen White shows that she maintains this very well. She always worked to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, if you please.

        If you mean the latter, please note that I have been making a point to emphasize that the investigation is to test the authenticity of our faith in Jesus, not how "good" or "bad" we are. This point is confirmed by the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:1-14. The wedding hall is filled with guests, both "good and bad." When one of the guests is thrown out, it is not because he is bad. It's because he has refused to wear the wedding garment with which he was supplied -- the righteousness of Christ, received by faith in His blood shed for us. In other words, the man wasn't actually a believer in Jesus. I hardly think that an investigation that distinguishes humble believers from hypocrites could justify any "angst." Anyone who feels threatened by that just needs to get real with Jesus, and see what a Friend He truly is!

        But, brevity necessarily being king, I have left out the part about our character being compared with God's law. I will note that character (what kind of people we are, in habits and disposition) at the close of our individual probation is a very different question than our past performance, good or bad. Secondly, it is God Himself who guarantees the right outcome to the sincere believer. See Romans 8:29 and Ephesians 1:3-6. I think that the humble believer will likely be the most surprised of all that his or her character is "found" to be in harmony with the law of God, if Matthew 25:37-40 is any indication.

        And so I maintain that, understood correctly, a judgment that examines our cases, along with those of everyone else claiming to be a Christian, is indeed good news for the humble, trusting believer, all of whose hope is in Jesus.

  3. We can say “to judge” in the Bible means “to justify”.

    The Investigative Judgment’s significance is
    1.Not to reveal anything to God
    2.Not to convince God of anything.

    Its significance is:
    1.For God to invite universal inspection when the books are opened. The judgement is transparent and open.
    2.For God to crown His Son, to be the ruler of the universe.
    3.For the chosen people of God to be awarded an eternal kingdom.
    4.For God to send those who rebelled against His rule to eternal destruction.
    5.That it powerfully demonstrates God’s character of love and freedom.
    6.For the unfallen worlds and angels to acknowledge the efforts made by God to save the fallen beings.

    You can look at Daniel Chapter 7.

    The Investigative Judgement has to take place before Christ returns so that he will be having a reward ready for everyone.(Revelation 22:12).

    In the judgement, Jesus is judge, attorney, and witness (John 5:22; 1 John 2:1; Revelation 3:14).

    Judgment will be decided in favor of God’s people (Daniel 7:21, 22)

  4. Could we also say that: ‘The Bible’s last book, Revelation, focuses on the culmination of the age-long controversy of humanity's struggle of ‘life and death’? I see 'good and evil' in life as manifestations of the battle between God’s Truth and the adversary’s lie. To win in this setting, this battle fought by heaven’s forum of powers, requires our understanding and acceptance that the only means through which man can be saved is by our faith in our Creator - God.

    ”We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Those that are of the Father’s household are called upon to ”take on the armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” - Eph.6:11-18; victory or defeat, life or death, depend on the choices we make.

    Within himself, man does not know right from wrong, good or evil; he will need to learn and establish these concepts. Who are the teachers which foster our moral and ethical guidelines and boundaries, whom do we listen to? We have now only one teacher, the Holy Spirit, given to strengthen us to win the battle for our hearts and minds – 2Cor.10:3-5; Phil.4:6-8.

    Yes, “The gospel and the judgement, both parts of the first angel’s message, are inseparably intertwined.” Therefore, anyone who rejects the Gospel or is lukewarm about its application to their life, opens the door for willfully choosing the side of the adversary of God which leads to destruction.

    Knowing that we will be required to give an account, which side of this spiritual battle does our life support? Whom do we allow to form in us our values and standards and so establish our moral conduct? Though these battles last throughout our lifetime, we have been told that the war has already been won for those who keep the faith of Christ – Rev.14:12 KJV; ultimately, the battle is over acknowledging in/with our life the Glory of God.

  5. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live. Deut. 30:19

    It might seem strange that God needs to tell us to choose life. And yet, is it strange? What makes the struggle of living worthwhile if we don't know our loving God? How can we win people to Christ by threatening them with eternal death when ending it all seems preferable to an eternity of the life we live now? There's beauty and good times, yes, but also broken relationships and pain.

    The way the world judges is ruthless. When we say that someone is "judgmental" we may mean that they are: quick to assume the worst, rushing to harsh and critical opinions for many people and often, refusing to see both sides of a story, always insisting on being right, never satisfied, closed-minded, not open to different points of view, not willing to change, stressful to be around, lacking empathy, controlling, trying to change others without taking any personal responsibility, condemning, punishing, inflicting guilt.

    God's judgment is not this. Not even close. We can look at each of those descriptors and see how God is the opposite. Also, look at the Book of Judges. This gives us an idea of the nature of God's judgment. The judges were not chosen to condemn, punish or destroy God's people, but they were sent by God to deliver His people from the oppression and devastation of their enemies. The OT judges were supposed to protect, care for, save, deliver, liberate, and give secure freedom to God's people. Like Christ.

    The final judgment before the universe will vindicate God's government and His character. All created beings will understand how loving and merciful and gracious God is. Then we will see the value of eternal life.

    Eccl. 3:11 says that God has put eternity in our hearts. Sin seems to be taking that out of us. Many are too tired and wounded to even desire any more life. We each and all need to know that in the mind of God, it was worth dying to give you and me the opportunity to live forever with Him. We are deeply loved by God. We may need to take that gift offer on faith if we are too tired to want it. Take it on faith that eternal life is worth choosing. Eternal life is not a continuation of the current state of things. Eternal life is knowing Jesus (Jn. 17:3), knowing and experiencing His unselfish heart. Externally and also internally. We will experience His unselfishness in our own ways.

    It is not God's nature to destroy (2 Sam. 14:14; Eze. 18:23,32; 33:11). It is a strange act for Him (Is. 28:21). We see that at the Flood, God destroyed what had already been destroyed by humans (Gen. 6:5-7, 11-13). He intervened to stop a blight of sin before it overran His faithful remnant - He needed His promised Seed to be born. Just so, in the final judgment, God will destroy those who are destroying the Earth (Rev. 11:18). And He will wait to the last moment, giving time for all to receive His message of mercy (Gen. 6:3, 2 Pet. 3:9), and then intervene for His faithful remnant (Matt. 24:21-22). We can look forward to this final judgment of God as a time to be saved from evil (Is. 45:22). Sin makes us hide from God's judgment (Gen. 3:10; Rev. 6:15-16). But a redeemed heart longs for God's judgement (Ps. 7:8-11a; Is. 25:9). We can trust that

    "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Cor. 2:9

  6. My only chance of being acquitted in God's judgment is to claim His love. Nothing in me can save me, no talent that I can be proud of to present. While facing the Heavenly Court, I'm completely naked and cannot hide anything unless I accept to be covered by God's love, which was revealed in its most beautiful form, Jesus.

  7. “What does the “everlasting gospel” have to do with God’s judgement?”

    Lucifer misrepresented God’s character while in Heaven. And as Satan, he has lied to all the inhabitants of Earth about every facet of God. Satan continues to perpetuate the lies about God and is working to deceive us into allowing him (Satan) into our temple (heart) to receive our worship (obedience).

    Is it possible that the angel of Revelation 14:6,7 is calling these last generations of Earth’s history to investigate the issues about God and make a decision (judgement) about God as our creator and redeemer, and to worship Him as the Creator? Is the everlasting gospel that God is who He says He is…The God of love, our Creator and Redeemer? Could it be that understanding the “everlasting gospel” leads to a right judgement by us-about God?


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