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Revelation 3 and the Investigative Judgment

The Investigative Judgment

 

By Eugene Prewitt

 

Brief Idea: The Investigative Judgment doctrine derives soundly from scripture.

 

The Bible refers, in a number of passages, to a judgment. These passages do not all speak of the same event. The question raised by many scholars (in fulfillment of Daniel 12:10) is whether any of these amount to unambiguous evidence for the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment.

 

Here are some simple observations.

 

1. After the rise and fall of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome; after the rise of proto-European tribes, then the papacy with its blasphemy and persecution, we find a judgment opened in heaven that utilizes “the books.”

 

I beheld till the thrones were cast down, 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, and the books were opened. Dan 7:9-10.

 

After this judgment we find the papacy being destroyed by fire at the same time that its dominion comes to an end. The other nations, by way of contrast, continued to exist as non-superpower nations after their fall from world greatness. (Behold Iraq, Iran, and Greece in existence even today.)

 

Then we see again, in heaven, a transaction between the Father and the Son. The Son receives the kingdom of the whole earth which kingdom shall never be destroyed.

 

In point of time, this judgment looks like the one pointed out by Adventists. It is late in earth’s history, yet ends before the final climatic scenes.

 

2.  While probation still continues and before the gospel has been preached to every nation and people, an announcement about the arrival of the time of the judgment is made.

 

And 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. Re 14:6-7

 

This is followed by other warnings related to the mark of the beast and papal corruptions. God’s commandment-keeping people are pictured as faithfully enduring persecution. Then comes the Second Coming of Jesus under the symbol of two ripe-related harvests—first of the righteous, then of the wicked for destruction.

 

In point of time, the announcement “the hour of His judgment is come” is united with the final campaign to evangelize the world and precedes the most climatic events that, themselves, precede the Second Coming of Jesus.

 

3.  While probation lasts, and after some period of serious persecution of God’s people, the blood of the saints cries out for vengeance. The lives of the martyrs are represented as being “under the altar” in heaven. When they cry for vengeance they are told that they must rest a little longer until another wave of persecution should bring another wave of martyrs.

 

But, in the meantime, they are given white robes.

 

And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. Re 6:

 

Their cry for vengeance is followed by the signs in the sun, moon, and stars, and then by the personal appearance of Jesus Christ.

 

In point of time, the giving of the white robes to the faithful martyrs follows the persecutions of the dark ages and precedes both the persecution of the last age and the second coming.

 

Common and Uncommon Elements

 

These three passages share two common elements. They each picture a judgment (or vindication) following papal activity and preceding the earth’s final events.

 

They each indicate that the judgment is an other-worldly event. In Daniel 7 it occurs before angels in heaven. In Revelation 6 the souls refer to those that dwell “on the earth.” In Revelation 14 the announcement presupposes that the beginning of the judgment is not readily apparent to those on earth.

 

Beyond this, each offers their own clues to how this judgment ties in with the broader picture of scripture. Daniel 7 ties the judgment to the idea of the heavenly books. The student of scripture finds, after a study of these books, that names can be “written,” names removed. Ex 32:32-34; De 29:20; Re 22:19; Lu 10:20.

 

Jesus connects the blotting out of names with a scene very similar to the judgment scene in Daniel 7. And more than this, He connects that judgment scene with the granting of white robes. This statement of Jesus, in this respect, reminds us of Revelation 6.

 

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. Re 3:5 

 

And this passage from the 5th church age, directing the church of that time to the future, reminds us of the name of the last church. Laodicea means “a people judged.”

 

Another passage that speaks of “blotting out” something from the books used in the judgment is found in Peter’s post-Pentecostal sermon. There the blotting out, in point of time, is future and coincides with an end-time pouring out of the Spirit’s power. This power, used to lighten the world with Christ’s glory, must precede the close of human probation. And it immediately precedes the sending of Jesus back to earth.

 

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Acts 3:19-20.

 

This is the second passage that has connected the Judgment with a set time. The other was Revelation 14:7. This brings us to the question of the Adventist Great Disappointment. Many detractors from the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment suggest that its creation was part of an Adventist state of denial at the non-appearing of Christ in 1844.

 

Prophecies of the Great Disappointment

 

But Habakkuk 1-2, Hebrews 10, Malachi 3, and Revelation 10 all refer, prophetically, to that time of trial and misunderstanding. According to these four passages, the fulfillment of prophecy would appear to tarry, but it would not tarry, but men were still to keep waiting for Christ’s return. They would be seeking to see Him in the clouds, but He would rather come to His Temple.

 

They would need patience to inherit His Coming kingdom, but would be tempted to throw away their confidence. They would preach His Coming with great enthusiasm, but then would cease. Finally, they would be bidden to take up the work again. It would be like they loved the sweetness of their message until they understood it thoroughly, then it would be a bitter disappointment.

 

Each of these four passages throws additional light on the topic of the judgment in the heavens. There are also a number of parables that illustrate the truth. Solomon concludes his words of wisdom with a reference to that event.

 

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. Ec 12:13-14.

 

Paul preached that there was a day for this judgment. He connected it with the future justifying of those that were currently obeying the commandments.

 

. . . As many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. . . .) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel. Ro 2:12-16

 

Who will be blotted out of the book? Those that “sin” against the Lord. Ex 32:34. But doesn’t that include us all? Yes, human cases would be hopeless if the overcomers were not offered a “white robe”, a blotting out of their sins, prior to the final decision of their cases. This gift of a white robe is the future “shall be justified” of the current “doers of the Law.”

 

In both of these passages, Ec 12 and Romans 2, the judgment is made a motive for commandment keeping. This is also the case in the Three Angel’s messages. We glorify God by keeping the Law that is a transcript of His character. Compare Ecclesiastes 12 and Revelation 14. They differ primarily in that Solomon places the judgment future while Earth’s last warning places the judgment at present.

 

Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: . . . here are they that keep the commandments of God, Re 14:7, 12

Fear God, and keep his commandments: . . . For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. Ec 12:13-14.

 

The Cleansing of the Sanctuary

 

We have observed already that, from the books of heaven, names may be removed and sins may be blotted out. Both of these processes cleanse the heavenly books in the heavenly sanctuary from the record of sin. As each case is decided, either a white robe is given or a name (and its record) are removed from the book of life.

 

In the antitypical Day of Atonement there was one more step in processing the sin problem after the cleansing of the sanctuary. There is one that has tempted and prodded, cajoled and trapped, bringing men into his ranks of sin slaves. He is, in this way, guilty for all the sins he has caused men to commit. He is not guilty in their stead. Only the innocent Jesus could bear their sins as a Substitute. But this wicked one is guilty in his own stead for his part in their falls. In the symbols this Azazel is blamed for the sins he has caused and led into the wilderness.

 

If we call Azazel a “scapegoat” we must clarify that Azazel is never an underling blamed to take heat off from a superior. A more backwards description of the relation of sin to Satan could hardly be imagined. Satan is the ultimately guilty one rather than the unfortunate last-stop for the passing of the “buck.”

 

If we ask, “How is this blaming of Satan related to the Judgment in heaven?” we need only note the observers of the judgment.

 

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, and the books were opened. Dan 7:9-10.
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. Re 3:5 

 

Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: Lu 12:8 

 

The prominent place given to the angels, one-hundred million strong, reveals that the judgment scene is for them. God knows those that are His. The investigative judgment is for the angels. They are the ones that have an interest in the blame that belongs to their once-honored Lucifer. The relation of the angels to the judgment was woven into the sanctuary. Not only were two angels sculpted there in a position of reverence and interest in the Law and mercy, but the entire fabric of the inner curtains was woven with cherubim. Ex 26:31; 36:35.

 

The Relation of the Investigative Judgment to the Great White Throne Judgment

 

There is a judgment in the book of Revelation that seems, in some ways, similar to the one in Daniel 7. It is, however, different in a few other details: timing, location, and purpose.

 

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And 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. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Re 20:11-15

 

When does this judgment happen? Very apparently it is finished after the 1000 years mentioned in the verses just before this. We can tell this by the statement “this is the second death.” It is also apparent by the fact that the lake of fire happens after the 1000 years as God breathes down fire on the armies that surround the HolyCity. (See Re 20:1-10). Also, notice in this judgment that there is no intercession by Jesus. And who are the witnesses of this judgment? Rather than the angels, this judgment serves those that are judged. They are resurrected to hear their cases decided and to be convinced of their wickedness.

 

During the 1000 years just ended there was a special judgment, for the benefit of the saints. This millennial investigation is the judgment alluded to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:3 and by John in Revelation 20:11. Then, after the 1000 years are over, the Great White Throne Judgment scene is finally fulfilled. There the dead are convinced that the judgments against them are just. Just as the wicked at Christ’s Coming are accused by Jesus for their wrong-doing, so will be the resurrected wicked after the thousand years.

 

And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, To execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. Jude 14-15

 

[It is a fact that Ellen White applies both Revelation 20:11-15 and Jude 14-15 to Christ’s Second Coming. And this is accurate in much the same way that Peter’s application of Joel 2 to the day of Pentecost is accurate. At Christ’s Coming all living nations are gathered before Him. He accuses the wicked of their neglect of the needy and of their lawlessness. Matthew 7:23; 25:40. He comes with all the “Holy Angels” with him. Matthew 25:31. All elements of Jude 14-15 fit the Second Coming perfectly well. But in a more thorough sense they apply to the post-Millennium judgment where “all that are ungodly” are judged and where Christ executes “judgment upon all.” Ellen White also plainly applies Revelation 20:11-15 to the post-Millennium execution of the wicked in the book The Great Controversy. See pp. 666.]

 

These two events of Christ on His throne judging resurrected persons happen, naturally, in conjunction with the two resurrections. Both are a fulfillment of:

 

But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for 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. Ro 14:10-12.

 

But not all these knees bow simultaneously. These two resurrections are those mentioned in 1Cor 15:23-25. The saints, wicked survivors of the plagues, and special rebels will meet their destiny first. The wicked dead will meet it later. As it is written, all will share the same experience of giving account of themselves before God.

 

Some may wonder why we call attention to the judgment in heaven when our own turn at the bar of God is yet future. The answer is that men ought to learn of the judgment going on now while there is time to set their lives in order. To learn of the judgment then will be to learn of it far too late.

 

In conclusion, there is plenty of unambiguous evidence for a many-phased judgment of the human race. The books of record are intimately related to every phase of that judgment. Their contents are examined in heaven during the judgment for the angels. There sins and names are blotted out as destinies are forever fixed. Then the books are brought forth to convince the wicked inhabitants of earth of their lawlessness. Then the books are examined by the saints during the 1000 years. Finally, the wicked dead are resurrected to face the books. Then those whose names are not in the book of life are destroyed in the lack of fire.

 

Only the first phase of this judgment is coincident (happens at the same time) with human probation. Only that current phase is announced as a warning to the last generation to ready themselves for Christ’s coming. We ought to spread that warning while the cases of past generations are still being decided.

 

 

For the Word Doc, click here: Rev_3_-_The_Investigative_Judgment

(5) Comments

  1. Thank you for this article on the Investigative Judgment brother Prewitt, but I am still trying to understand how do we know that the judgement of past generations are still being decided? How do we know the order of the investigative judgment happening right now?

    Thank you

    From your article:
    “Only the first phase of this judgment is coincident (happens at the same time) with human probation. Only that current phase is announced as a warning to the last generation to ready themselves for Christ’s coming. We ought to spread that warning while the cases of past generations are still being decided.”

    • Ester, thank you for caring about the truth. We won’t know when the Judgement passes to the cases of the living. But men will always be dying. So the Judgement will always be considering the cases of the dead until the close of human probation. Did this answer your question? I do not believe those who try to demonstrate that they know when the judgement passes to the living.

  2. Thank you for this research Mr. Prewitt!
    Have you come across this quote? (concerning the comment above to Ester)

    “The cases of the righteous dead have been passing in review before God. When that work shall be completed, judgment is to be pronounced upon the living.” 1 Selected Messages p.125

    • Ruben, while I am sure I have seen it, I don’t think it has been recently. Thank you for sharing. I would not gather from this that the work of judging the living happens irrespective of their moral condition. Rather, I think that until the sealing is done, the angels will hold the winds and men will continue to die and face judgement. When the sealing is done, then the work will move to the next phase, the Judgement of the Living.

  3. From your comment above:” When the sealing is done, then the work will move to the next phase, the Judgement of the Living.”

    But is not the sealing the actual judgment upon the living?

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