by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
The sanctuary year ends with the Day of Atonement. The Day of Atonement was a day of judgment and the judgment has many facets. We will be looking at these different facets of the judgment in the next studies. We will begin with the Investigative Judgment. I do not know what that means to you but, in my ministry, I have discovered that this doctrine has produced more fear in our people than any other doctrine. I hope that in this study you will not have fear but rejoicing. To me, the investigative judgment is part of the good news of salvation.
In order to appreciate it, we must begin with what we studied in the last study, when we dealt with Romans 5:15-18:
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
We discovered in that passage two important facts:
Therefore, our ultimate destiny in the human race will depend on which humanity we have chosen to belong to — the humanity that was ruined by Adam or the humanity that was redeemed by Christ. Yes, our works will simply be the evidence to which humanity we belong. If you choose Adam, then you have chosen sin, because Adam is the author of sin in the human race. If you choose Christ, you have chosen righteousness and holy living because Christ is the author of that. But the ultimate issue is which humanity you have chosen.
Before we touch the investigative judgment, it would be wise for me to give you a little bit of background as to what the Bible teaches about the judgment itself. There are three things I would like to list before we go into the investigative judgment.
Almost every book in the Bible — Old and New Testament, either directly or indirectly — mentions the judgment of God. Therefore, in view of this, we can conclude that the Bible takes the judgment very seriously. So should we, because it is the culmination of the plan of redemption. It brings to an end the final phases of the redemptive activity that God began in Christ and He will end it up in the judgment. Of course, when that is over, He will usher in two things — everlasting righteousness and He will terminate forever sin. It will no longer exist.
Therefore, the judgment is a very important truth of scripture. As you read the passages about the judgment, you will discover that the judgment involves three steps. Sometimes in the New Testament different Greek words are used which are not clear in English. There are three steps:
There are some texts for each of these points. We have looked at Romans 14:10:
You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.
I would like to give you one more text that has to do with the trial. That is 2 Corinthians 5:10:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
This is the trial. Everyone — without exception — must appear before the judgment seat of Christ. Because believers have accepted Christ, they will appear before the judgment seat in the person of Jesus Christ. He appears as our advocate, our representative. Everyone must appear that all may receive the sentence for that which he has done in his body. According to that which he has done, whether it be good or bad. Then, remember that there is an appearance. Every one must be tried. Romans 14:12 says:
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
Let us look at step number two — the sentence, or verdict. I mentioned that there are only two. Deuteronomy 25:1 is not dealing with God’s judgment. It is dealing with the civil code but, basically, it is showing exactly what will take place in God’s judgment, too:
When people have a dispute, they are to take it to court [that is, they come under trial] and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty.
There are only two verdicts that will come out of the judgment — justification (acquittal) or condemnation.
With this in mind, let’s see what the New Testament has to say. For example, John 5 is dealing with the verdict of those who have accepted Christ. I hope you will realize this is good news. John 5:24 (Jesus talking):
Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
He does not say he will not come into judgment but that he will not come into condemnation. In other words, the verdict for the believer will never be condemnation and that’s good news for the believer. There is no condemnation for such a person because, in Christ, he has passed from death to life. In other words, he has passed from condemnation to justification. That’s why Paul says in Romans 8:1:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,....
Keep this in mind, because many Adventists are scared of the investigative judgment because they think they will be condemned. Now go to 1 Corinthians 4:5 — this has to do with verdict:
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes....
The work of judging is a work of God and the work of passing the sentence is the work of God, not ours. Paul is saying, “Do not judge people, either to condemn them or to justify them, until the Lord comes.” Continuing in verse five:
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
When God judges, He doesn’t simply judge by your outward acts. He judges by your motive. He judges by the direction your heart has gone and is going. His verdict will be honest and correct. Everyone will admit it. They will praise God and will say, “God you are right. What you have decided is true, there is no favoritism and there is no injustice in your action.”
Now to the execution. Turn to 2 Thessalonians, where Paul is talking to Christians who are facing persecution. As we read this passage, notice why man is lost and why they received the verdict of condemnation and punishment. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8:
...And give relief to you who are troubled [you Christians who are having a hard time because of persecution], and to us as well [don’t give up your faith]. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Man is lost because he has purposely, deliberately, persistently rejected the gift of God. Verse nine tells us that they will be punished with everlasting destruction, “good-bye forever” because they have rejected the gift of God, which is eternal life in Christ. 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10:
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.
So we have seen three steps in the judgment.
Now I would like to give you a third fact about the judgment which the Bible speaks of. This is important. The Bible divides the process of judging into two phases. Phase number one is the judgment of the believers. In other words, the trial, the verdict, and the execution of the verdict for the believers is the first phase and the trial, the verdict, and the execution of the verdict of the unbelievers is the second phase. Even though some texts in the Bible suggest that they are together, if you will read all through your New Testament it becomes very clear that judgment begins with the house of God.
As I read the scripture concerning the judgment of the believers, we see that the trial and the verdict are pre-Advent. The reward is the Second Coming of Christ. The trial, verdict, and execution of the sentence of the unbeliever is at the end of the world, which is the Third Coming of Christ. There will be a judgment during the thousand years, but that judgment will be only for the benefit of the believers so that they realize that God has been just in every phase of His judgment. Every question will be removed during the thousand years. When God finishes with sin there will be no doubts.
Now we come to the investigative judgment. There are two points concerning which we as a church have come under fire on the investigative judgment. Point number one is not major, but it is an issue. It is that we are the only denomination — although there are some individual non-Adventist scholars that I know of — that teach that the investigative judgment of the believer is pre-Advent. There are many Christians and scholars who believe in the investigative judgment. For example, the famous Allan Lead believes in an investigative judgment but he doesn’t call it the investigative judgment; he calls it the “scrutinizing of the lives of the believers.” It is the same thing. All denominations that I know of believe that the investigative judgment, the verdict, and the reward are all done at the Second Coming of Christ. Nothing in it, according to them, is pre-Advent.
There are two answers for such people in order to defend the Adventist position. Number one, we know that the reward of the believers will take place at the Second Coming of Christ. The New Testament is absolutely clear on that. John 14:2-3:
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
“I go to prepare a place for you; when I come back, you will be where I am.”
If the reward is at the Second Coming of Christ, which is the third phase of the judgment, then the trial and the verdict has to take place before the Second Coming. Therefore it is pre-Advent.
Here is a second reason. Nowhere in scripture, Old or New Testament, does it ever teach that when Christ comes for the second time, He will be our advocate. He will come as King and Conqueror. If my trial is after He comes the second time, then I will be without my advocate. If He is not going to be my advocate, I have a problem. But I thank God that He is my advocate now, and that He will vindicate my justification.
Then, of course, the priestly ministry of Christ — that is, His advocate ministry — is pre-Advent. Nowhere is it ever mentioned that He will be an advocate at the Second Coming of Christ. So I ask my fellow Christians, “Who is going to be your advocate when Christ comes?” I know who my advocate is right now — Christ the Righteous.
The second point is where the problem is. We have been accused and, unfortunately, the accusation, to some degree, is valid. That is why we need to look at the investigative judgment seriously. The accusation is that our doctrine on the investigative judgment contradicts the doctrine of justification by faith.
In 1980, the biggest theological seminary in Kenya, Scot Theological Seminary, thirty miles from Nairobi, invited our church to come and defend the denomination against questions that would be asked by the senior students. In most seminaries, they have a class that all theological students must take. It is called the “Four Cults,” part of a comparative religion class. The four cults are: Mormons, The Witnesses, The Christian Scientists, and Seventh-day Adventists. Since we were one of the largest denominations in Kenya; the East African Union in 1980 was the largest union of Seventh-day Adventists in the world field in terms of members per capita. We are a large denomination out there in Kenya. The professor felt that, to be fair to the Adventist Church, they should invite us.
Since I was the ministerial secretary of the union, the president said, “This is your problem.” I was quite happy. I enjoy university students and bombastic questions, so I went there two hours before the meeting. I wanted to see what they had in their library. I was surprised that they had almost all of the writings of Ellen G. White in their library. They were subscribing to our Ministry Magazine. They also were subscribing to Verdict, which is a Biblical magazine and, at that time, it was hitting us on the Investigative Judgment. There was also a paper that was published by a group of young scholars who had given up this denomination and were publishing a paper called Evangelical, and they were also putting us under fire on the investigative judgment.
I said to myself, “I think I know what they are going to bombard me with.” I was told that the senior class would be attending, but it was the whole school, faculty, friends, and it was packed. The first question came from a senior student. The question was: “Please defend the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the investigative judgment in the light of justification by faith.” Behind the question was the accusation that our doctrine of investigative judgment contradicts justification by faith because of the impression that we have given. They defended their question by reading statements from our books, so I could not deny it. The impression that we have given from some of our books is that, ultimately, it is our works that decide whether we are qualified for heaven or not. That, in fact, is a contradiction of justification by faith.
Let me give you the text that they gave me. They were right, because the Bible does teach that we are justified by faith without works. I’m not saying it. The Bible is saying it, so let me give you some texts. In Romans 3:28, Paul is concluding his definition of the gospel:
For we maintain that a person is justified [declared righteous] by faith apart from the works of the law.
Paul is saying this. Look at Romans 4:5:
However, to the one who does not work [notice the negative — to him who has produced no works] but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.
Here are some more that our evangelical friends like to use and we will have to face in witnessing the gospel to them. Ephesians 2:8-9:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it [the word “it” refers to grace or salvation, not to faith] is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
It is entirely a gift from beginning to end.
Another text is Titus 3: beginning with verse three Paul tells us that we were sometimes before conversion foolish, disobedient, deceived, and serving diverse lusts, etc.:
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
Verses four and five continues:
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit....
This is justification by faith. If I am saved by faith in Jesus Christ apart from works, then why should my ultimate decision be on works?
Well, the same Bible we have just read also teaches that we will be judged and we will be rewarded according to works. I am giving you several texts from four different individuals:
Let’s start with Jesus Christ. John 5:28-29:
Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice [every human being will hear his voice] and come out — those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.
(There will be two resurrections.)
That sounds like salvation by works. Remember that Matthew 25:31-46 brings this out:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
So I said to the young man, “Wasn’t Jesus Himself contradicting justification by faith?” And he said, “It seems so.” “Yes, I know it seems so,” I replied.
Notice what Paul says in the last part of the verse in 2 Corinthians 5:10:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Here Paul seems to be contradicting justification by faith. Now let’s look at 1 Peter 1:15-16:
But just as he who called you is holy [speaking to believers], so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
So: “Be holy in your lifestyle. Be holy, because I am holy.” Peter is telling us that holiness is our goal as Christians. Verse 17:
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.
We will be judged according to “each person’s work.” It sounds like: “Be careful, you’d better be good. Otherwise you won’t make it.”
Now the last one is from John, the great apostle, who wrote the book of Revelation. In Revelation 22:12, John is simply quoting his Lord:
Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.
Here we have one group of texts that says that we are justified by faith without works. We have another group of texts that says we will be judged and rewarded according to works. Most Christians ignore one at the expense of the other, accepting one and rejecting the other, maybe consciously, but mostly subconsciously.
Many of the evangelicals use the texts that we have read in the first part. In fact, when I gave one young man these texts he said, “You know, I have never read this before.” I said, “Obviously. Evangelicals love to use the texts on justification without works. They ignore the texts that say that we will be judged and rewarded by our works. But too many times Adventists use the other group of texts and ignore the first. So we are sometimes guilty of using those texts on works without teaching justification by faith. The truth is that we have to accept both in order to be honest. Both are inspired by God. All scripture is inspired.”
How then do we reconcile one group of texts that say we are justified by faith apart from works and the other group of texts that say we are rewarded, we are judged, we receive resurrection unto life because of our good works or we are lost because of our bad works? Well, there is a third group of texts that deal with that and we will start with Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that genuine justification by faith always produces works. You cannot have justification by faith without works; it is impossible. That’s why James says (James 2:17):
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
(See James 2:26, too.) James is not against justification by faith. James is in harmony with Paul. James is condemning those who think that they can be saved and live as they like.
The context of John 14 is that Philip comes to Jesus. In John 14:8, Philip says:
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
And Jesus says (John 14:9):
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
We see what Jesus meant by that in verse ten (John 14:10-11):
“Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.”
Jesus saying here, “Philip, the greatest evidence that I can give you that the Father dwells in me and reveals Himself through me is my works. Now, having made those statements, look at verse 12:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing...”
“Just as God lives out through Me, it is God’s desire that I live out My life in you through the Holy Spirit.” Jesus said, “If I do the works, you will do the same works, that is, those who believe in Me.” So justification by faith produces works. Then He adds (finishing verse 12):
“...and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”
John 16:7 tells us that, when He goes to the Father, He will send us the Holy Spirit:
“But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
That is Jesus Christ’s teaching.
Let us read two texts to see what Paul says. These two texts show the balance of Paul’s writing. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly tells us that we are justified by faith as a free gift apart from works:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him....
Colossians 2:10a says:
...And in Christ you have been brought to fullness.
“You are complete in Him.” So we were created in Christ Jesus not only to be justified and to go to heaven but also to produce good works. These good works are not produced in order to be saved. The greatest evidence that the Father was dwelling in Christ was His works and the greatest evidence that we can give that we are justified by faith is that Christ lives through us.
Titus 2:14 is talking about Christ:
...Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness [the Hebrew word means selfishness] and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Christ came here not to take us to heaven only but to redeem us from all selfishness. He wants to make us his own, doing “good,” living unselfishly. Some translations call us “peculiar”; anyone who lives unselfishly is peculiar.
...He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit....
Now look at Titus 3:8:
This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
With this in mind, let us go to the investigative judgment. The question is often raised, “Why do we need an investigative judgment for the believers, because the Bible teaches that God already knows who are saved and who are not saved?” That is true. 2 Timothy 2:19 says that God knows them that are His:
Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”
God knew that you would accept Christ before you were born. It is foreknowledge. He knows who will accept and who will not accept, so God doesn’t need the judgment for Himself. We need an investigative judgment because there is an accuser. In Revelation 12:10, that accuser is called “the accuser of the brothers and sisters”:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”
The brothers and sisters here are the believers. We are Christ’s brothers and sisters; Hebrews 2:11 says so:
Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.
So it is Christ who calls us brothers and sisters. But there is a distinction. Christ is the Elder brother. We are the younger siblings. When, as elder brothers or sisters, we see a younger brother being bullied, we do not just sit and watch the younger brother being given a hard time. And when the devil accuses Jesus’ younger brothers and sisters, He will not allow them to be accused. The devil accuses us day and night, but God is going to vindicate us; the purpose of the investigative judgment is to vindicate the saints. He will bring our works into judgment not to prove our righteousness but it is to prove that our faith is genuine.
In James chapter 2, we read about Abraham and find that the work of Abraham did not prove that he was righteous. In James 2:20-21, we see what Abraham’s work proved:
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
In Genesis 15:6, we learn that Abraham was justified by faith long before he offered up Isaac:
Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
In James 2:22, we see what the offering up of Isaac proved:
You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
Our works prove not that our righteousness is genuine, but that our faith is genuine. So, in the judgment, Christ will bring our works as evidence that we are justified by faith and when He does that, it will give Jesus the legal right to represent us. He will say to God, “My righteousness is theirs because they have genuine faith,” and He will justify us. This is the purpose of the investigative judgment.
Daniel 7 is the chapter that deals with the investigative judgment of the believers. Let us review the three steps.
As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him [Those are the angels.]; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. [Those are the believers who stand before God in the person of Jesus Christ, who is their Advocate.]. The court was seated, and the books were opened.
When you read those words do your knees knock? Well, that’s the investigation.
...Until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.
In other words, judgment was given in favor of the saints. Here is Satan accusing you (a good passage is Zechariah 3:1-3), and here is Christ defending you, and Jesus wins the case on our behalf. The verdict is given, and the verdict is in favor of the saints.
We are tired of the accusations of Satan and look forward to the investigative judgment because we are certain what the verdict is going to be. It will be in favor of the saints. Daniel 7:18:
But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever — yes, for ever and ever.
But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever.
The “his” in context is the Little Horn who is the person who has been given power by the dragon. He is the agent of Satan who has persecuted the Church.
That is the execution of those who have turned their backs on Jesus Christ.
Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.
That’s the good news of the gospel! So the investigative judgment is necessary because God has to vindicate the saints before He comes to take them to heaven. I know in whom I believe and that He is able to do it. My faith is in Jesus Christ, not in myself nor in my denomination. What is your faith resting in? If your faith is in Christ, you have said “good-bye” to Adam in your heart. And if you have said “good-bye” to Adam in your heart, you have said “good-bye” to sin. And so justification by faith is simply this: “I am crucified with Christ, but I’m still living. It is no longer I, but it is Christ who lives in me and the life I now live, as a justified Christian, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
May God bless us that we may stand in the investigative judgment. It brings no more fear but we rejoice that we have such a Saviour as Jesus Christ.