Is the Investigative Judgment Biblical?

by Joseph Rector


“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24, NASB).


Seventh-day Adventism coalesced in the crucible of the Great Disappointment which took place October 22, 1844.  The seeds of the disappointment had been sown in 1831, when a New York farmer named William Miller began teaching that the second coming of Christ would occur around 1843.  Miller’s key text was Daniel 8:14: “And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”  Miller later fixed his hopes on the spring of 1844, and when that passed, he eventually settled upon the very specific date of October 22 for the second coming.  The Millerites spent the great day watching for the Lord, but their hopes were crushed.

The Great Disappointment shattered the Millerite movement.  Many concluded that they had been entirely deceived, but a few clung to Miller’s interpretation of the time prophecies from the book of Daniel.  Because Christ had obviously not returned in a literal sense, they began exploring additional explanations.  Had the prophecy been fulfilled spiritually rather than literally?

On the morning after the disappointment, a Millterite by the name of Hiram Edson saw a vision of Jesus ministering in the heavenly sanctuary, and he concluded that Daniel 8:14 predicted the movement of Christ from the first to the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary.  As Edson and others studied the Old Testament sacrificial system, they determined that October 22, 1844, was the beginning of the anti-typical Day of Atonement—that Christ was ministering in the heavenly sanctuary in a manner similar to the priests on the Day of Atonement.  For the small group who insisted on the validity of Miller’s interpretations, the yearly Days of Atonement were symbolic events (or types) of the reality (anti-type).  Instead of considering Christ’s death on the cross as the anti-type (reality) prefigured by the Day of Atonement, they shifted their focus from the cross to the heavenly sanctuary.

In the winter of 1844, seventeen-year-old Ellen Harmon, who would later become Ellen White, began having visions that gradually confirmed Edson’s spiritual interpretation of the Great Disappointment.  She strongly supported Miller’s prophetic calculations, making William Miller the father of Seventh-day Adventist theology in the sense that all SDA theology stems from the premise that the cleansing of the sanctuary began on October 22, 1844.  As Ellen White stated, “The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith” (Ev 221).


What Is the Investigative Judgment?

William Miller believed that earth was the sanctuary denoted for cleansing in Daniel 8:14, but Hiram Edson and Ellen Harmon determined that Daniel 8:14 actually points to the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.  As the earthly priest entered the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement, so Jesus entered the Most Holy Place on October 22, 1844, wearing priestly garb and bringing His atoning blood to cover confessed sins.  In the earthly tabernacle service, sins were confessed on the heads of sacrificial victims, transferred to the Holy Place, and then symbolically transferred to the Most Holy through the rising incense ascending over the veil (PP 354-55).  The confessed sins remained in the MHP until the Day of Atonement, at which time the focus was transferred to heaven because the sins still remained on record in the books of heaven (see PP 357).  SDAs believe that the confessed sins of God’s people from all ages fill the Most Holy Place in heaven until they are cleansed by the blood of Christ during the IJ: “At the time appointed for the judgmentthe close of the 2300 days, in 1844began the work of investigation and blotting out of sins.  All who have ever taken upon themselves the name of Christ must pass its searching scrutiny.  Both the living and the dead are to be judged "out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. Sins that have not been repented of and forsaken will not be pardoned and blotted out of the books of record, but will stand to witness against the sinner in the day of God” (GC 486).

Departing from the Levitical symbolism surrounding the Day of Atonement, the IJ involves a courtroom drama in which every action of every believer who has ever lived will be evaluated to determine their worthiness to enter heaven.  “So in the great day of final atonement and investigative judgment the only cases considered are those of the professed people of God. The judgment of the wicked is a distinct and separate work, and takes place at a later period” (GC 480).  Satan is the prosecuting attorney, while Jesus serves as defender of His people, with the Father presiding as judge (see GC 479, 482; according to the Bible, Christ is the judge—John 5:22 & Rom. 14:10).  During the IJ, the heavenly beings assemble to review the evidence, hear the deliberations, and affirm the justice of each verdict (see GC 483-84).  The IJ is a fearful concept for many Adventists because they don’t know if they will be ready when their name is called:  “The judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. For many years this work has been in progress. Soonnone know how soonit will pass to the cases of the living.  In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review.  At this time above all others it behooves every soul to heed the Saviour's admonition:  "Watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is" (GC 490).

According to SDA theology, the Investigative Judgment began on October 22, 1844, and ends at some point during the “time of trouble” (SDA term for the tribulation—SDAs do not believe in the pre-tribulation rapture).  When the Investigative Judgment ends, probation closes, and the remnant must vindicate God’s law by proving that once-fallen human beings can keep it perfectly (see TM 41).  The perfection of the remnant correlates to the typical Day of Atonement, when Israel was required to confess all sins before the Lord so that all Israel would be in a state of holiness (see GC 489-90).

The IJ deals with every type of sin, overlooking nothing, and that those who wish to be spared damnation must overcome every sin, according to Ellen White:

“Every man's work passes in review before God and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness. Opposite each name in the books of heaven is entered with terrible exactness every wrong word, every selfish act, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling. Heaven-sent warnings or reproofs neglected, wasted moments, unimproved opportunities, the influence exerted for good or for evil, with its far-reaching results, all are chronicled by the recording angel” (GC 482).

“Christ came to pay that debt for the sinner which it was impossible for him to pay for himself.  Thus, through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, sinful man was granted another trial” (FW 30).

“Christ came to the world to counteract Satan's falsehood that God had made a law which men could not keep. Taking humanity upon Himself, He came to this earth, and by a life of obedience showed that God has not made a law that man cannot keep. He showed that it is possible for man perfectly to obey the law. Those who accept Christ as their Saviour, becoming partakers of His divine nature, are enabled to follow His example, living in obedience to every precept of the law. Through the merits of Christ, man is to show by his obedience that he could be trusted in heaven, that he would not rebel” (FLB 114).

“Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet He will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Everyone must be tested and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (GC 490).


Daniel 8: The Investigative Judgment Theology Falls Where It Began

The best arguments against the validity of the Investigative Judgment come from Daniel 8, which contains the key verse used by William Miller and Ellen White to defend the prophetic significance of October 22, 1844.  In this chapter, Daniel begins by describing a vision which he does not understand.  He obtains an explanation, and then he quotes the explanation (which he still doesn’t understand).  I’m including the entire chapter in this section so that we can read it in context.

“In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.  And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai” (Dan. 8:1-2).

Under Cyrus the Great, Shushan would become the capital of the Persian empire.

“Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last” (Dan. 8:3).

According to the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (SDABC), the two horns represent Media and Persia, which were united under Cyrus as he created the Persian empire.

“I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great” (Dan. 8:4).

The ram represents Persia, and verse 4 describes the conquests that made the Persian empire great.

“And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes” (Dan. 8:5).

According to verse 21, the male goat represents Greece, an empire that arose to the west of Persia.  Clearly, the great horn would represent Alexander the Great (see SDABC).

“And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.  And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.  Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven” (Dan. 8:6-8).

Alexander the Great defeated Persia but died in Babylon in 323 B.C. at the height of his power.  His empire was divided among four generals: Cassander, Ptolemy, Lysimachus, and Seleucus.

“And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land” (Dan. 8:9).

The SDA Church would like to interpret the little horn as Rome, with the despotic power of the little horn extending through the millennia as the Roman Catholic Church (see Clifford Goldstein, 1844 Made Simple, pp. 34-36), but this interpretation is impossible.  The little horn arises “out of one of them”—out of one of the regions of the fragmented Greek empire.  However, Italy was never part of the Greek empire; therefore, Rome could not have sprung “out of one of them.” 

“And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them” (Dan. 8:10).

“The host of heaven” is explained as “the mighty and the holy people” in verse 24 (see SDABC).  It is a reference to the people of Israel.

“Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast down” (Dan. 8:11).

“The Prince of the host” would be Christ.  It is important to note that the little horn removes the daily sacrifice and tramples on the sanctuary.  Adventists want to apply this text to the heavenly sanctuary as will be explained in our comments on Daniel 8:14, but the problem is that there is no daily sacrifice in heaven, and no power in the universe could “cast down” the heavenly sanctuary.  The Roman Empire and the Catholic Church would be powerless to affect the heavenly sanctuary in any way.

“And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.  Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?” (Dan. 8:12-13).

The questioner is asking for the time span of the portion of the vision dealing with the interruption of daily sacrifices and the subjugation of Israel (the host).

“And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” (Dan. 8:14).

Verse 14 is William Miller’s key verse.  Taking the text out of context, he believed that the earth was the sanctuary to be cleansed, and that the 2,300 days would indicate the time of cleansing if only Miller could pinpoint the beginning of the prophecy.  On the basis of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:4-6, Miller concluded that a day in Bible prophecy should equal a year (this is called the year-day principle).

Miller discovered that if he started the 2,300 years with a decree to rebuild Jerusalem issued by the Persian emperor Artaxerxes I in 457 B.C., he could arrive at an ending date of 1843 or 1844 for the prophecy.  Interestingly, there were two similar decrees (issued by Cyrus in 538 B.C. and Darius I in 520 B.C.) that Miller could have chosen, but the other two restoration decrees would have placed the fulfillment prior to Miller’s time.

I have already mentioned that Adventists consider Rome to be the desolating little horn.  They consider the Roman Catholic Church a continuation of the arrogance and power of Rome, and this is important because they needed to identify a power that would have some relevance in 1844.  The anti-Catholic prejudice of most Americans in the 1800s helped legitimate an argument that was deeply flawed from a biblical standpoint.  The 2,300 days supposedly begins with the decree of Artaxerxes in 457 B.C., and it ends in 1844.  In Daniel 8:13, the saint asks how long the little horn will be allowed to desecrate the sanctuary.  The answer is 2,300 days.  If Rome is the little horn, Rome is several centuries away from being an empire.  457 B.C. is the period of the Persian Empire, to be followed by Greece and then Rome.  Next, according to SDA theology based on other prophecies, the Roman Catholic Church received a “deadly wound” in 1798 when the French general Berthier arrested the Pope.  Again, according to the SDA interpretation, the deadly wound is healed by the Vatican’s concordat with Mussolini in 1929 (see C. Mervyn Maxwell, God Cares, vol. 2, pp. 329-29; 346).  Why does the deadly wound concern us here?  The desecration of the sanctuary is supposed to end in 1844, according to verses 13 and 14, assuming the SDA calculations are correct.  However, the power that is supposed to inflict the desecration has received a deadly wound several decades before the desecration ends.  Then, this power is supposedly healed to resume its nefarious activities decades after the desecration was supposed to end.  It doesn’t make any sense to force Rome into Chapter 8 once one realizes that the scope of the 2,300 days is defined by the question in verse 13.

Another crucial issue with this verse is that the King James Version uses the word days instead of adhering to the Hebrew term used, which should be translated “evenings-mornings.”  Remember that the context of the 2,300 days is the Jewish daily sacrifice—how long would it be suspended (vs. 13)?  The Jewish sacrifice takes place twice daily—evening and morning (the day began in the evening, which is the reason the Jewish Sabbath begins at sundown Friday night).  With this understanding, time-frame for the trampling of the sanctuary and the interruption of the daily sacrifices was actually 1,150 days!

Unfortunately for Adventists, the trouble with verse 14 doesn’t end yet.  According to Adventists, Daniel 8:14 points to the anti-typical Day of Atonement, which they believe is the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.  The term antitype simply denotes the ultimate reality behind a type (or symbol).  Adventists believe that the cleansing of the earthly sanctuary on the Days of Atonement prefigured the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, and they need verse 14 to support this supposition.  The word translated “cleansed” in the KJV is not the same word used for the cleansing of the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus 16.  The word used in verse 14 should actually be translated “vindicated,” “restored,” or “set right.”  A modern translation reads, “He said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored’” (NASB). Therefore, there is no linguistic connection between Daniel 8:14 and the Day of Atonement, meaning that the SDA sanctuary message obtains no support from the text that started the doctrine….  Miller’s epiphany bears no relation to prophetic reality.

“And it came to pass, when I, even I Daniel, had seen the vision, and sought for the meaning, then, behold, there stood before me as the appearance of a man.  And I heard a man's voice between the banks of Ulai, which called, and said, Gabriel, make this man to understand the vision.  So he came near where I stood: and when he came, I was afraid, and fell upon my face: but he said unto me, Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision.  Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground: but he touched me, and set me upright.  And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be.  The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king” (Dan. 8:15-21).

As mentioned already, Alexander the Great is prophesied in verse 21; he destroyed the Persian empire and created the Greek empire.

“Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power” (Dan. 8:22).

Four kingdoms did arise from Alexander’s domains.

“And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up.  And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people.  And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand” (Dan. 8:23-25).

“And in the latter time of their kingdom” indicates that the little horn power will arise from one of the Greek kingdoms.  Rome is not indicated, as Adventists claim, because Rome did not spring from one of the Greek kingdoms that followed Alexander.  The next important point is that the text calls the little horn “a king,” not a kingdom.  Again, the little horn cannot be Rome.  Antiochus IV Epiphanes ruled the Jews from 175-164 B.C., and his despotic rule is recorded in 1 Maccabees 1-4 & 2 Maccabees 4-10.  Antiochus forbade circumcision, confiscated the sacred temple furnishings, ordered the sacrifice of swine, and desecrated the altar of the temple.  Most scholars believe that the period during which Antiochus desecrate the temple matches the 1,150 “evenings-mornings” prophesied for the interruption of the daily sacrifices.

“And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.  And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king's business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it” (Dan. 8:26-27).



The doctrine of the Investigative Judgment is not biblical for many reasons.  The following is a summary listing some of the major objections to this doctrine:

  • The word translated “cleansed” in Daniel 8:14 is not the same word used for the cleansing of the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement.
  • The term translated “days” in Daniel 8:14 should actually be understood as “evenings-mornings,” referring to the sacrifices rather than prophetic days.
  • Daniel 8:14 refers to 1,150 days, not 2,300 days.
  • The year-day principle is nowhere proven in scripture.
  • The atonement was finished at the cross; the Bible doesn’t teach an anti-typical Day of Atonement.
  • The little horn desolates the sanctuary and halts the daily sacrifices; therefore, the sanctuary in question cannot be the heavenly sanctuary, for it cannot be desolated by any human power (such as Rome).
  • The SDA teaching is contradictory regarding the source of pollution in the heavenly sanctuary: is it caused by the little horn, or is it caused by the confessed sins of God’s people?
  • The little horn arises from the divided Greek empire, so it cannot be Rome.
  • Rome cannot be the little horn because the desolation of the sanctuary begins under the Persian empire (if the start date of 457 B.C. is correct).
  • The date 1844 in Roman Catholic history has no particular significance that would tie it to the end of the little horn’s activities.
  • What desolating act takes place in 457 B.C. that could possibly impact the Most Holy Place in heaven?
  • The righteous are not judged by the law (see Appendix D).
  • The IJ focus on perfection is unbiblical; it robs believers of assurance.


Appendix A

The Incomplete Atonement

From the perspective of mainstream Christianity, one of the major problems with SDA theology is Ellen White’s teaching of the on-going atonement, necessitated by her need to show that something happened on October 22, 1844.  The following is a brief comparison of her teachings with the biblical view of a completed atonement.

“Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies and there appears in the presence of God to engage in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man--to perform the work of investigative judgment and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits” (GC 480).

"As the priest entered the most holy once a year to cleanse the earthly sanctuary, so Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by His mediation, and thus to cleanse the sanctuary” (EW 253).

The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven” (GC 489).

The blood of Christ, while it was to release the repentant sinner from the condemnation of the law, was not to cancel the sin; it would stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement . . . .  Then by virtue of the atoning blood of Christ, the sins of all the truly penitent will be blotted from the books of heaven. Thus the sanctuary will be freed, or cleansed, from the record of sin” (PP 357-58). 

“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom. 5:11).

"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:24-26).


Appendix B

“Shut-Door” Roots of the Investigative Judgment

Ellen White’s understanding of the Investigative Judgment was progressive.  The following is an account of one of her first visions:

“I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. . . .  Before the throne I saw the Advent [Millerite] people—the church and the world. I saw two companies, one bowed down before the throne, deeply interested, while the other stood uninterested and careless. Those who were bowed before the throne would offer up their prayers and look to Jesus; then He would look to His Father, and appear to be pleading with Him. A light would come from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the praying company. Then I saw an exceeding bright light come from the Father to the Son, and from the Son it waved over the people before the throne. But few would receive this great light. Many came out from under it and immediately resisted it; others were careless and did not cherish the light, and it moved off from them. Some cherished it, and went and bowed down with the little praying company. This company all received the light and rejoiced in it, and their countenances shone with its glory.

“I saw the Father rise from the throne, and in a flaming chariot go into the holy of holies within the veil, and sit down. Then Jesus rose up from the throne, and the most of those who were bowed down [those Millerites who had accepted the light] arose with Him. I did not see one ray of light pass from Jesus to the careless multitude after He arose, and they were left in perfect darkness. Those who arose when Jesus did, kept their eyes fixed on Him as He left the throne and led them out a little way. Then He raised His right arm, and we heard His lovely voice saying, "Wait here; I am going to My Father to receive the kingdom; keep your garments spotless, and in a little while I will return from the wedding and receive you to Myself." Then a cloudy chariot, with wheels like flaming fire, surrounded by angels, came to where Jesus was. He stepped into the chariot and was borne to the holiest, where the Father sat. There I beheld Jesus, a great High Priest, standing before the Father. On the hem of His garment was a bell and a pomegranate, a bell and a pomegranate. Those who rose up with Jesus would send up their faith to Him in the holiest, and pray, "My Father, give us Thy Spirit." Then Jesus would breathe upon them the Holy Ghost. . . .

I turned to look at the company who were still bowed before the throne [Millerites who had not accepted the light]; they did not know that Jesus had left it. Satan appeared to be by the throne, trying to carry on the work of God. I saw them look up to the throne, and pray, "Father, give us Thy Spirit." Satan would then breathe upon them an unholy influence . . . .” (EW 54-56).

In its early form, the Investigative Judgment was intertwined with the “shut door” theory that was taught by Ellen’s early visions.  According to Ellen White and her followers, the door to salvation shut on October 22, 1844.  Those who rejected Millerism were lost at that point.  In addition,  the Millerite people were still being tested by new the light regarding Christ’s ministry in the Most Holy Place, and those who rejected the new light became unwitting followers of Satan.  Although Ellen White opened the shut door to accommodate new converts to the Advent message, she never renounced the idea that knowledge of the Investigative Judgment is vital to salvation, particularly at the end of time.  In her later years, she wrote, “The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill” (GC 488).


Appendix C

Progression of the Investigation

Adventists rarely mention the Investigative Judgment these days, but it remains central to Adventism.  SDA theologians now tend to call the Investigative Judgment the Pre-Advent Judgment.  Progressives within Adventism are seeking to shift the focus of the judgment from the character of human beings to the character of God.  They appeal to texts such as Romans 3:4 (KJV) to suggest that God is actually on trial in the Pre-Advent Judgment: “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.”  Under this theology, God opens the record of His dealings with humanity to the on-looking universe because Satan has charged God with being unfair in His handling of the great controversy.  These scholars see the Book of Job as a prequel to the Pre-Advent Judgment because Satan uses charges against the people of God to attack the character of God.  Has God been fair in all situations, or has He shown favoritism to certain individuals?  According to this theory, Satan hopes to find one incident of human history in which God has been unfair.  Since the government of God is based on His absolute trustworthiness, just one failure on God’s part would destroy His credibility.  The watching angels would no longer trust their Maker, Satan would win his conflict against God, and the universe would spiral into irrevocable chaos.

In the case of Job, God offers evidence (a test) to show that His blessings have not bribed Job’s devotion.  In the Investigative Judgment, God offers all the evidence in the heavenly records to exonerate His dealings with human beings, and the jury, composed of all the angels, rules in God’s favor, vindicating His character and paving the way for the second coming.  By placing the focus on God’s character, progressive Adventists assure us that the heavenly drama isn’t really about our individual weaknesses.  Rather, Satan uses human failures to attack the character of God in a vain attempt to win the great controversy and halt the plan of salvation.

The problem with the progressive understanding is two-fold: first, it requires the quiet de-emphasis of many clear teachings of Ellen White; second, it relies almost exclusively on the prophetess for the very existence of the IJ.  Ellen White is clear that the purpose of the Investigative Judgment is to strictly judge human beings regarding perfection of character, and the progressive interpretation overlooks (but does not deny) the perfectionistic element of Ellen White’s IJ theology.  Instead, progressives emphasize that God and Christ are working for the salvation of human beings in the IJ rather than looking for some excuse to keep people out of heaven (see Zech. 3:1-4).  SDA progressives overlook the tremendous legalism in Ellen White’s view of the Investigative Judgment, but they rely heavily on her to make their case for the very existence of a pre-advent judgment.  Scripture fails to reveal a clear picture of an investigative judgment.  Yes, scripture does contain judgment scenes (see Daniel 7), but the Bible never plainly teaches about an anti-typical cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary involving the ultimate remission of sins, the salvation of believers, and the character of God.  Far from being central to the plan of salvation and central to God’s victory over Satan, the Investigative Judgment simply isn’t taught in scripture.  Seventh-day Adventism rests upon an imaginary “foundation."


Appendix D

Are the People of God Really Judged?

Ellen White taught that the character perfection of believers is judged in the Investigative Judgment, and that God’s law is the standard by which their works will be evaluated.  Some Bible texts seem to indicate that God’s people are judged, while other texts show that the righteous aren’t subject to the judgment.  Obviously, the answer has major implications for the concept of an investigative judgment. 

“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” (Rom. 14:10).

However, John 5:24 teaches that believers are not judged: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24, NASB).

These two passages seem to contradict, but they are equally inspired, so there can be no real conflict.  Any apparent contradiction results from our humanity—from our lack of spiritual discernment.  I believe the answer to this apparent contradiction is to understand that Christ is literally “the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4).  The righteous live by faith; only unbelievers are under law, and they are said to be under a curse as a result: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us . . . .” (Gal. 3:10-13).  If believers are not under the law, then no indictment can be issued against them.  There is no condemnation (Rom. 8:1).  Therefore, when they appear before the judgment seat of Christ, no judicial procedure can take place.  They may stand before the throne of God, but they are not judged, for they are under grace—not under law.  They will hear words of commendation and reward: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”


Appendix E

Can We Always Trust an Angel?

“We are not to receive the words of those who come with a message that contradicts the special points of our faith.  They gather together a mass of Scripture, and pile it as proof around their asserted theories. This has been done over and over again during the past fifty years.  And while the Scriptures are God's word, and are to be respected, the application of them, if such application moves one pillar from the foundation that God has sustained these fifty years, is a great mistake. He who makes such an application knows not the wonderful demonstration of the Holy Spirit that gave power and force to the past messages that have come to the people of God . . . .

“We must be decided on this subject; for the points that he [a dissenter on the sanctuary theology] is trying to prove by Scripture, are not sound. They do not prove that the past experience of God's people was a fallacy.  We had the truth; we were directed by the angels of God.  It was under the guidance of the Holy Spirit that the presentation of the sanctuary question [Investigative Judgment] was given.  It is eloquence for every one to keep silent in regard to the features of our faith in which they acted no part.  God never contradicts Himself.  Scripture proofs are misapplied if forced to testify to that which is not true.  Another and still another will arise and bring in supposedly great light, and make their assertions.  But we stand by the old landmarks” (1SM 161-62).

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursedAs we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed ” (Gal. 1:8, 9).


Joseph Rector, 2010


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