Gospel Issues in Adventism
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

#12 – The Investigative Judgment
(Daniel 7:26, 27)
The court was seated, and the books were opened. – Dan. 7:10b

So far, in our study of the sanctuary doctrine, we have already seen that the sanctuary message is vitally linked to the everlasting gospel. It is God’s visual aid of the entire plan of salvation, from beginning to end. Then we spent two whole studies on the significance of 1844. It is the date God raised the Advent Movement and commanded them to cleanse the gospel of all errors and proclaim to the world the pure everlasting gospel as God’s final warning to the human race.

Now we will turn our attention to the investigative judgment. This is another major gospel issued in Adventism. In 1980, I was asked to defend the doctrines of our church before the student and faculty body of the largest theological seminary in East Africa, Scot Theological Seminary. The first question they bombarded me with was: “Please defend the SDA investigative judgment doctrine in the light of justification by faith.” This same question is been raised today by many of our own scholars and pastors.

According to our traditional teaching, we have given the impression that the purpose of the investigative judgment is to find out who among the saints are good enough to go to heaven. This, they say, is a contradiction of the truth of justification by faith. According to 2 Tim. 2:19, “the Lord knows those who are His.” If that is true, why the need of an investigative judgment? Once again, we have to ask the question: have we been following cunningly devised fables? And my answer is a definite NO!

However, as with the other gospel issues, we must also present this doctrine in the context of the everlasting gospel and the truth of justification by faith. That is what we are going to do here regarding this issue of the investigative judgment. To start with, the last day judgment, typified by the sanctuary’s Day of Atonement service, is not only a key Biblical doctrine, mentioned in almost every book of the Bible, but this judgment also includes the judgment of the believers [read Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:17].

But if God knows those who are His, why the need of judging the believers? The answer is not because God has to find out who among the saints are good enough to go to heaven. If that is true, then we are no longer saved by grace. The reason for the investigative judgment is because we are being accused day and night by the enemy of souls, i.e., Satan [read Rev. 12:10]. Before Christ can come to take us to heaven and establish His kingdom, He has to vindicate the saints. This is the whole purpose of the investigative or, more accurately, the pre-advent judgment described in Daniel chapter 7. There are three phases of judgment in Daniel 7:

While it is true that the cleansing of the sanctuary of Daniel 8:14 has to do with the cleansing of the gospel and, therefore, may not be linked with the cleansing of the sanctuary described in the book Leviticus, the judgment scene of Daniel 7 and the cleansing of the sanctuary of Leviticus are definitely connected. Why is this so? Because the cleansing of the sanctuary mentioned in Leviticus has to do with the Day of Atonement. Understood by the Jews as the solemn day of judgment [read Lev. 16:29-31; 23:26-31].

According to these texts, for Christ our High Priest to vindicate the saints in the judgment and cleanse us of all Satan’s accusations, the saints are required to do two things:

  1. They are to afflict their soul or deny self; and
  2. They are to do no work on that day, it is a solemn day of Sabbath rest.

Failure to meet these requirements means Christ cannot vindicate us, i.e., we will be cut off ... or be lost.

Our part in the judgment is to stand firmly on the gospel platform of Not I, but Christ. This is what justification by faith is all about [read Phil. 3:9 (in the context of vs. 3-8)]. Christ’s part in the judgment, as our High Priest, is to vindicate the saints and acquit them of Satan’s accusations [read Zec. 3:1-4]. This is what the Day of Atonement service pointed to.

But how does Christ vindicate the saints, who are condemned by His own law as sinners, yet who are standing solidly on the platform of justification by faith or not I, but Christ? Before I can answer this question, I need to expose you to a Biblical paradox concerning the truth of justification by faith. The Bible, and especially the New Testament, contains two sets or groups of texts that on the surfice seem to contradict each other.

On the one hand, you have statements that clearly indicated that we sinners are saved by grace alone, or justified by faith alone, apart from keeping the law or doing any good works. On the other hand, this same Bible, and especially the New Testament, also tells us that we Christians will be judged and rewarded according to our works. In case you think I am creating this problem, let me point you to a few of these paradoxical texts:

Because the human mind cannot easily handle contradictions or paradoxes in the Bible, the tendency has been to harp on one group of texts at the expense of the other. For example, the evangelical Seventh-day Adventists emphasize the “justification by faith” texts while the conservative SDAs emphasize the “judged by works” texts. But truth demands that we give both texts equal consideration. Only then will we be able to solve the paradoxical problem as well as explain how Christ is able to vindicate the saints in the judgment.

To solve the paradoxical problem of these two groups of texts, we must look at a third group of texts that brings these two sets of texts together. This third group of texts point out that genuine justification by faith always produces works. These works do not have any merits or save us but they are clearly the evidence of justification by faith. The apostle James makes it very clear that faith without works is dead [read Ja. 2:14,17,20].

What James is saying here is that if justification by faith does not produce works of love, then really our faith is a sham and, therefore, nonexistent. Notice how he uses Abraham, the father of the Jews as well as justification by faith, as an example [read verse 21-24]. Incidentally, we must not confuse works of faith, which James is here upholding, with works of the law, which Paul condemns in his epistles-explain the difference [1 Thes. 1:2,3].

Having solved this paradoxical problem between faith and works, we are now in a position to see how Christ is able, in the investigative judgment, to vindicate believing sinners who put their faith in His righteousness. While Satan may be right in accusing us as sinners Christ, our advocate, brings up our works — not to prove our righteousness, for we have none, but to prove our faith in His righteousness, i.e., righteousness by faith.

Christians who by faith put their full confidence in the righteousness of Christ will manifest it by their works of faith. In the investigative judgment, these works will be used by Christ, our defense lawyer, to prove our faith is in His righteousness [read Rom. 10:4]. Once He does that, Satan will have to prove that Christ Himself is a sinner. This he cannot do [read Jn. 14:30].

As a result, Christ will win the case and rebuke Satan (Is this not a brand plucked out of the fire?). That is why the doctrine of the investigative judgment is good news and must be proclaimed as part and parcel of the plan of salvation [read 1 Jn. 4:16-18].

There was a time the investigative judgment put fear into my life. But today I am anxious that my name comes up soon in the judgment.

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