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Unraveling the Mystery of the Universe

previously published in March 2005

There was a show that aired during the mid 1990’s that gripped the attention of most all of its viewers. The shows introduction went something like this. “On June 19th, 1993, Amy Ann Suthers was found as the apparent victim of a violent and malicious murder.” As a viewer, we couldn’t help but be drawn in to the show’s story. The music in the background played eerily as the host told of the unsolved mystery. Robert Stack, the shows host, invited us to come with him as he unraveled the week’s new mysteries. Upon the conclusion of an episode, we knew not whether to be moved to action or to be frightened. This is how many of us were introduced to the doctrine of the investigative judgment. Dating back to our first encounter, we have raised questions about this very real and present topic. Yet, we are fearful of what we may find out. The purpose of this article is to inform its readers of the doctrine of the investigative judgment and supply a remedy to some common fears.

By way of introduction, let us survey the doctrine of the investigative judgment and break it down to its form and function. (For our purposes of convenience, consistency, and my laziness, we will refer to the Investigative Judgment as the “IJ”) There are four things we need to understand about the “IJ”. 1. The importance of timing. 2 The purpose of the judgment. 3. The recipients of the judgment. 4. The presiding judge.

1. The importance of timing.

The telling books of Daniel and Revelation make known the events of the end times. Specifically, they mention that Jesus will return in his full glory. But before we can celebrate and rejoice, we as citizens of humanity and transgressors of the law of God are to be silently tried. This is the time when God will look through the books and records of His professed children and search for those who have fully and wholly committed themselves to Him. This is the scary part that we all listened intently to in Sabbath School years ago. “What? God is reviewing my file? He is going to decide whether or not I can walk through those pearly gates?” We began to silently calculate our misdoings and poor behavior. We didn’t even notice when the teacher said that this event was currently taking place and has been taking place since 1844. Based on information and calculations found in the book of Daniel, we have found that 1844 was the date that began the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. Just as cleansing the temple in Jewish tradition signaled The Day of Atonement or a day of judgment, so it was paralleled to the Heavenly cleansing of the sanctuary. Whether you like it or not, you have been living in the time of the end. More specifically, you were born and have been living in the time of the “IJ”. Many of you might have blown a gasket reading up to this point, but please join us in discovering the three remaining points.

2. The purpose of the judgment.

Why is God making this big deal about opening up the archives and reading into our personal profiles? Why couldn’t he make it easy and have a list for us to check “Yes, I want to follow Jesus and accept his death as the birth to my salvation.” The purpose of the “IJ” is to see whether we as professed Christians are “for real”. Imagine the chaos and confusion if we were to simply fill out a ballot stating our preferences for spending eternity. I’m sure many would honestly opt for a life outside of Heaven. Another reason why there must be an “IJ” is to vindicate both the followers of Jesus and God himself. This is a time to recognize that those who sacrificed all to follow Jesus did so at a costly price. Finally, God, who has been on display to the entire universe as vindictive, malicious, and judgmental will have his clearance of blame. All will be able to see that his ways are fair and just. Don’t mistake this to mean that God wants to exonerate and uplift all of His followers while stepping over those who are lost. By no means! God would have all in his kingdom at the cost of his own absence. But the simple fact is that only a few will be in his kingdom. And it is his purpose to mark those who live for him.

3. The recipients of the judgment

Going to court for any reason is nerve wracking. I remember being pulled over at the age of 17 and summoned to court to explain why my registration sticker had not been changed. The car I was driving was not even my own. I had no knowledge that the registration sticker hadn’t been updated to the current year. In the eye of the law, I was there simply as a testimony. Yet, I found myself sweating for an infraction I had not committed. We don’t like the idea of having to explain ourselves to a panel or a judge. In the case of the “IJ”, we are set on trial in a manner of speaking. Who receives the judgment? Who will be found innocent? Who will appear in the great book of life? I can remember the first time I heard about “God’s mysterious Book of Life”. Daniel 12:1 points to a book that God looks to at the end of time. Those whose names appear in this book will find themselves among the saved. In my mind, it was held more as a list that I had to make. I felt like I was trying out for a basketball team again. If I could jump high enough, or run fast enough perhaps I would live through the cut. Many of us are turned away when we learn this portion of the “IJ”. We say in discouragement, “How can we possibly make it into the book of life with my current track record?” We are turned to the first accusation against God—His law is unfair. “How can God expect us to follow this preposterous regiment with all the outside influence working against us? Nobody can possibly fit the requirements.” At this point we have forgotten that fighting in our corner, as our confidant and mediator is Jesus the Christ. And our names will be written in as soon as we accept Jesus as our defense.

4. The presiding judge.

You’ve heard the term before. You’ve probably used the term yourself. “Don’t be so judgmental.” “Don’t judge me, you don’t know me?” Here we see the concept of judgment as a negative. We have learned to fear the word judgment as disapproving. As I mentioned earlier, we have even learned to fear the process of being judged. We hide and shy away from times of ruling. We have this perception of inspection and decision as being intrusive and destructive. Finally, when we hear that God is going to judge us, we tremble and loathe the thought of being judged by such a powerful being. Allow me to intimate something that I have recently just learned and understood. We have nothing to fear in God who judges us. (I will give you a second to gather your bearings or take a double glance of the previous sentence.) You were taught once of the “IJ” and the most fearful element in this doctrine was the idea of being examined by one who is all-powerful and all authoritative. Understand now that you are being examined by one who is also all knowing, all understanding, purely just and all loving! The name Daniel in Hebrew means, “God is my Judge”. The very prophetic book that shows us the close of this world and points out the judgment that will take place was written by a man whose name reflects the God as his just and ever loving judge. We may have much to fear in the earthly courts. We might be cheated of our chances here in this world. But when our most important case is being examined, rest assured that your case is being presided by the most competent judge and defended by the most self-sacrificing guardian.

Joel Shin graduated from Pacific Union College with a degree in theology.

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