Truth on Trial

                The court scene is forever etched upon my memory, even though it happened back in 1988. My husband was being brought to trial for allegedly helping to plan a crime which ended in the murder of three people. There were rows of seats for observers, and in front of the courtroom was a long conference table for the defendant and the lawyers assigned to the case. The jury box and the judge’s bench were raised above the level of the audience, and faced the court. A uniformed officer and a legal secretary were also on duty at the front of the room.

                When my husband was brought in, his face looked pale and grim, and perhaps a little frightened. The gavel came down, and the trial began. For a grueling two weeks, the scene was repeated. Day after day, the story unfolded as witnesses were brought in to testify. Three people had been shot in cold blood; three lives were snuffed out, perhaps forever. The person who performed the crime was the son of a friend of mine at our church. But my husband and my son were also being accused as possible accomplices.

                When all the evidence had been presented, the defending and prosecuting attorneys made their final statements, and the jury went out for deliberation. When they returned, the verdict was heart-breaking. Guilty as charged! The judge handed down the sentence – twenty-five years in prison! As I sat there stunned, my husband was led out of the room, and the door was shut.

                Fortunately, this is not the end of the story. After two and one-half months in prison, my husband’s lawyer gave himself up as a cocaine addict, and admitted that he had been high on cocaine during my husband’s trial. A very competent attorney saw the story in the newspaper, and asked to take the case. As a result of the excellent representation of this attorney and the miraculous intervention of God, the case was dropped without prejudice. After three and one-half years, my husband returned home, a humbler and wiser man, and a more dedicated child of God.

                But there was another trial, another innocent man who was unfairly sentenced, for whom there was no acquittal. He was hung between two thieves, and died the death of a criminal on that dark day two thousand years ago. It was not for Himself or His own sins that He sacrificed His life. It was for all of us who ARE guilty that He paid the sinner’s price. But this, too, is not the end of the story. After three and one-half days, He came forth triumphant from the tomb, and after forty days of ministry to His disciples, He went back home to His Father to prepare His bride to be with Him when she would be prepared and ready. 

Many centuries have passed since our Savior ascended to His Father’s side. During that time many battles have been fought as Satan relentlessly pursues the bride. There have been times of war and times of peace; times of persecution and times of apostasy. The battle has always been between truth and error. For those who represent the kingdom of God, there is only one foundational truth, and that is the character of God as it is displayed through Christ Jesus, His Son.  Although Satan disguises his lies in many ways in order to captivate the ignorant and unwary, there is one basic premise upon which his whole kingdom hangs. Please note this very carefully: his kingdom is always based upon works. It has to be, because neither he nor his adherents can produce apparently correct behavior in any other way.

Every heathen religion is based upon works, which professedly are to unite one with God and earn His approval. Catholicism is based upon works, and understandably so, since it is a mixture of heathenism and Christianity. But of course, since works cannot produce perfect lives, or put one in touch with the heart of God and His sweet presence, counterfeits from the mind of the evil one abound. Rituals, formulas, pet theories, checklists of good behaviors, personal rigidity while criticizing others who do not conform, following a chosen spiritual leader regardless of where he leads – these and many other such things are meant to give devotees an assurance of salvation, for no one wants to be eternally lost.  

In these uncertain days it is not uncommon to hear people emphasizing their particular brand of “how to be ready for Jesus to come.” For some it is a focus upon diet and health reform which gives them assurance of being approved of by God. For others it is being up-to-date in the latest sign in society or in the world that the coming of Jesus is near. For still others, it is finding a place in the wilderness and preparing to be able to survive when the world has fallen apart and we no longer have modern conveniences. Now don’t get me wrong! I believe in health reform, knowing the times, and being prepared to survive. But if this is the major focus which gives us assurance, we are in big trouble. It is just another form of salvation by works.

But then, there is the opposite extreme. Many Christians lean their hopes upon the substitutionary death of Jesus for the sins of mankind. Works become basically irrelevant, since they believe that no one can be perfect anyway until Jesus comes to change us into our heavenly bodies. This concept is extremely dangerous, for it ignores the main purpose for which Jesus came to earth and engaged in hand-to-hand battle with the evil one. Notice the following clear texts:

                “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” 1 John 3:8, 9.

                “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death…. For this reason He had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Heb. 2:14-18.

                So, dear friends, the death of Jesus was but one step in His journey to free the universe from the deceptions of the evil one. Satan’s lies in heaven cost the lives of countless angels, and then extended to our embattled planet, where God has quarantined the virus of rebellion. And it is here that the dreadful curse will be forever ended. But before it is, there is a trial which is presently being enacted before the universe.

This court scene is recorded in Daniel 7:8-11. Here we see the judgment of the little horn. It is given power and authority to develop its evil purposes, to spread its false doctrines, and to persecute God’s chosen people. But at the end of the time allotted, this blasphemous power is called into judgment. All its lies are exposed, and its authority is taken away and given to God’s people. This judgment shows what the unconverted heart of every person would become if allowed to take its full course to the ultimate extent. It also displays the mind and purposes of the evil one adequately to the universe. As in any trial, all the evidence must be presented, and final decisions must be made by every person, church, and nation. At the end of the trial, everyone will be judged according to their reception or rejection of these lies. Those who accept these lies will be found at last in the camp of the wicked; those who reject the lies of the evil one will be among the remnant of God who refuse to side with the arch-enemy of their beloved Savior.

                The second part of this trial is the examination of all those who have professed to accept Christ. Every individual must decide which side of the great controversy they will choose. In the typical Day of Atonement, all were required to examine their lives while the High Priest was officiating in the Sanctuary. Likewise, while Jesus is still mediating for us in the heavenly Sanctuary, we need to be willing for Him to reveal to us the things He sees in our lives that are yet in agreement with the adversary.  Do we have the tendency to rule, judge, and criticize others? Are we hard to get along with? Do we have a “sin that so easily besets” us, and just won’t seem to go away? Are we a captive of discouragement, bitterness, impatience? Is our appetite, our temper, our love for amusement out of control? Do sexual lusts incessantly beset the mind? In this court scene, we have the opportunity to vote for the master we wish to follow. Whatever may be our past sins and mistakes, we can have a cleansed record through the blood of Jesus as we communicate with Him.

                For example, suppose someone does something that hurts our feelings. As a result, we are tempted to get even, hurt back, tell others about it to get sympathy, hold a grudge, or any of the other common ways human beings react in the flesh. But instead, we choose to go to Jesus and immerse ourselves in the Word and intercessory prayer. We come forth from our communion with Him refreshed, empowered, and victorious over the clamors of the fleshly nature, and with a sense of His love for us and for the person who hurt us. Thus we vote for the kingdom of light, and against the kingdom of darkness.

But notice – this is not an exercise of the will apart from Jesus. It is not gritting our teeth and trying hard to be a good person. It is choosing to yield our will to the ministry of Jesus to us, as He imparts His overcoming power into our minds through His Spirit. Jesus says, “Overcome as I overcame” (Rev. 3:21). And He overcame Satan’s assaults through a constant communion and connection with His Father. Through His intercession for us, He offers us the same victory over the evil one that He had, and thus “we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16).” This is why Satan hates the great truths revealed in the Sanctuary message, and always tries to cast them to the ground (Dan. 8:12). He knows if he can emphasize anything that will take our minds away from establishing and maintaining a personal walk with Jesus, he will ultimately succeed. 

                May God give us grace to follow Jesus all the way through the investigative judgment phase of His ministry in the heavenly Sanctuary, and at last hear the joyful invitation of Jesus, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matt. 25:34.


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