Some have maintained that the investigative judgment is accomplished in an instant just before
Jesus arrives to take believers to heaven. Thus, such persons retain the idea of judgment, even
some sort of investigative judgment, yet deny that this judgment is a time consuming process.
Hence it cannot have been going on since 1844.
But this understanding of divine judgment falls short. A more complete understanding of the biblical doctrine of salvation and judgment, shows that God's judgment is a process involving the
actions of the human subject, and not simply a unilateral decision on the part of God.
For a more complete understanding of the place of judgment in the Gospel note that as seen in the following passages, trials, believer testing, and examination, produce, or
accompany purification. This fact is relevant to the question of whether the investigative
judgment happens in an instant just before the Second Coming:
Dan 11:35 And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try (6884) them, and to purge (1305), and to make
them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed. (Numbers in parehtansis in this
and in the following passages are Strong's lexicon numbers)
Dan 12:1, 9, 10: And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of
thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same
time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book . . . .
And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall
be purified (1305), and made white, and tried (6884); but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the
wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand.
---- The time of the last trial and testing is a time of purification. Purification of sinners
implies the passing of a period of time. Jesus speaks of the last great tribulation in Matthew 24
and pictures this last great trial as a significant period of time. It is obvious that this time of
tribulation is the same as the time of trouble discribed by Daniel:
Matt 24:For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no,
nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the
elect's sake those days shall be shortened. 23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or
there; believe it not . . . . 29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and
the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be
(1) Matt 24:22 uses the term "days", indicating a period of time for the great tribulation.
(2) Matt 24:23 indicates a period of time for a counterfeit appearance of Christ.
(3) Matt 24:29 shows us that this tribulation is followed by period of time in which signs in the
Zech 13:9 And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine (6884) them as silver is refined
(6884), and will try (974, search or investigate) them as gold is tried (974, search or investigated for
impurities): they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say,
The LORD is my God.
---- The context of Zechariah 13:9 is usually associated with end-time events. Therefore this
indicates that in the fiery trials of the last days is a purifying experience that searches and
investigates human beings.
Mal 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye
seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he
shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. 2 But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when
he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's (6884) fire, and like fullers' soap: 3And he shall sit as a refiner (6884)
and purifier (2891) of silver: and he shall purify (2891) the sons of Levi, and purge (2212 ) them as gold and
silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness.
----- By the time Jesus comes again the fate of the dead has already been decided in the
pre-advent investigative judgment. It is written in Heb 9:27 that ". . . it is appointed unto men once to
die, but after this the judgment." The judgment happens for those who have died sometime after
their demise. The Adventist understanding of this is that the judgment of the dead began, after
their death, in 1844. And, since that time the judgment of each person occures following their
time of death.
---- But there must also be some sort of judgment for those believers who never die--those
living when Christ comes. This is where the idea of an instant judgment at the moment Jesus
comes fails the test of the biblical evidence.
Zechariah, Malachi and Daniel have a parallel theme of a time of tribulation, trial, and purification just before the Second Coming and the resurrection of believers. This shows that the investigative judgment is not an event that happens in a moment – just before the Second Coming.
Those who think that the investigative judgment happens in an instant just before Jesus comes a second time obviously do not understand that the investingation is a testing of the believer's faith and loyalty, nor do thy seem to appreciate the implications of this Biblical doctrine upon the fate of those who are alive when Jesus comes again.
After one realizes that the investigation is a matter of testing and purifying (sanctifying) trials, the connection to end time events is obvious: The investigative judgment of the living is accomplished in a Job-like judgment of character in the Great Time of Tribulation of the last days. Since, as most Bible students know, this time of trouble will not be an momentary affair, but a period of time that precedes the Second Advent, it is impossible for the investigative judgment of the living to be finished in an instant.
Question: Has the investigative judgment been presented in a legalistic way?
Yes, it is true that the presentation of the investigative judgment by some has been mixed with legalism as well as a distorted view of Christian perfection (Matt 5:48; Heb 12:14). The investigative judgment of the living has been presented as an unknown time when God checks to see if all sins are confessed, forsaken, and overcome. The idea has been given that if, at the moment one's name comes up before the court, that person is in anyway transgressing the eternal verdict goes against them. This misguided presentation has left Adventists feeling hopelessly
discouraged and lost.
It is no wonder that some Adventist pastors and lay members have tended to avoid or even oppose this doctrine over the decades. Think of the implications of this legalism: The legalistic presentation says, God is going to come to your name at a time when you think not. An occasional misdeed could be deadly. Misbehavior at that moment when your name comes up will cause you to be lost. If on the other hand, you are doing good when heaven takes up your case, you will judged fit for eternity. So, the only safe course is to be doing only good.
There is certainly no time for growth in such an understanding of the investigative judgment. Sanctification is not the work of a life time, this legalistic representation says! We must
overcome TODAY if we expect to be saved in such a judgment. We must have instant perfection TODAY, or we have no assurance of eternal life. This makes it too hard to be saved!
While it is true that some have presented the investigative judgment this way, this is not the biblical doctrine of the judgment. Thus, this legalistic view has never been the official doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In the investigative judgment Christ is engaged in a work of defending and delivering His beloved children, because according to the liberating and enpowering grace of the Gospel, God has not made it too hard to be saved!
Scottish theologian John Murray of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, asserted, “Faith alone justifies but a justified person with faith alone would be a monstrosity which never exists in the kingdom of grace. Faith works itself out through love (Gal. 5:6). And Faith without works is dead (James 2:17-20).” “It is living faith that justifies and living faith unites to Christ both in the virtue of his death and in the power of his resurrection. No one has entrusted himself to Christ for deliverance from the guilt of sin who has not also entrusted himself to Him for deliverance from the power of sin."
Yes, our Sanctification, is, the work of our lifetime because "we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
Thus we have full assurance that we are His workmanship, the process of our lifetime...
"Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:" (Phil 1:6)