Judgment of the Living


When I was growing up, I heard from pulpit and pen, that someday Jesus would come to the cases of the living in His celestial judgment, and if He came to my name while I still had unconfessed sins on my record, or if I had not overcome in all areas of my life, my probation would end, and I would go on until the plagues began to fall, and then learn too late that I was among the unsaved. Needless to say, this produced a sizable amount of fear and/or guilt in most Adventist hearts, whether or not they chose to admit it. It also produced a tendency toward works and outward compliance to cover up inward shortfalls in character.

Another companion belief common among us was that the Time of Trouble will be a period of horrifying persecution for God’s people, some hiding in caves, or running from armies or would-be assassins; or, caught and taken before tribunals where we would be forced to witness for our faith whether we felt ready to or not.

This belief was often augmented by the suggested reading of Fox’s Book of Martyrs, written during the 1260 years of Papal persecution, which spelled out in painstaking detail for the fertile minds of readers to imagine what they might have to experience should they be so unfortunate as to live through the time of the end.

Some of us set aside our fears and decided that God would get us through somehow, but others lived in varying states of uneasiness, and hoped they could avoid being among those who had to face either the Judgment of the Living or the Time of Trouble.

When I was in my mid-thirties, I had an experience which has changed my life completely, and opened my eyes to the real teachings of Scripture about the investigative judgment. Fortunately, this understanding about the judgment corresponds completely with the gospel, yet does not remove a pin of truth concerning what we as Adventists have believed about the final work of Christ in the heavenly Sanctuary.

My paradigm shift about the true nature of the judgment began abruptly early one morning in 1974, while I was in my worship. I began to be impressed with my need to make things right with my father, who up until that time I believed to be the cause of many of my emotional problems and character defects.

But that morning, God impressed upon my mind that I was responsible to my heavenly Father to forgive and make things right with my earthly father, in preparation for the healing of mind and soul that I sought. As I did this, peace and reconciliation came into my relationship with my father, and I began a journey which I now recognize and teach in my public ministry as the experience of the investigative judgment.

This is the essence of the Elijah message found in Malachi 4:1, 2, 5, 6:
“’Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them, on fire,’ says the LORD Almighty…. ‘But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings….
“’See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.’”

Thirty-four years have come and gone since that momentous day in my own experience, but the light about the judgment has become clearer and more precious to me as I see it change the lives of people from despair and depression, to full lives of spiritual, mental and emotional healing.

I am now a private counselor, as well as a public speaker and writer, and my greatest joy is in introducing people to the God who can change their lives from brokenness to healing, from disfunction to fullness, in their walk with Jesus in the second apartment of the heavenly Sanctuary.

How does He do this, and how can we cooperate with Him? First, it is helpful to see the human brain as being similar to a computer. There is a conscious part of the brain comprising 5-20%, through which we function day by day. This would correlate with the screen and desktop of our computer.

Then, there is a subconscious, or unconscious part of the brain comprising 80-95% of our mental capacity. This unconscious part corresponds to the hard drive or memory of a computer. In this part of our minds, everything has been recorded since we were conceived and our brains began to be formed.

In the past, people have been so troubled with the thought that we are being held responsible for every sin we have ever committed, even though we cannot remember them. But the experiences of our lives are recorded in the memories of our minds, and can be retrieved simply by going through something similar in our present life that triggers that section of our emotions, attitudes or behavior. It is our “hard drive” that feeds the way we feel and act now, and that is all that really matters to God.

Furthermore, there are only 10 categories of “sin,” and these are clearly outlined in the 10 commandments. If we are displaying symptoms in these areas, then we can be sure that something is malfunctioning on a deeper level and needs to be healed. Just as a physician looks for outer physical symptoms of deeper internal problems, so outward spiritual and emotional symptoms alert us that we need a deeper cleansing of heart. Jesus clearly taught this; in fact, the whole Bible teaches this principle.

To make it even simpler, Jesus said the decalogue can be divided up into two main categories - love to God and love to man. Malfunctioning in either area tells us that we need the healing balm of the Word of God, and a close walk with Jesus that cleanses us from selfishness and makes room for His Spirit of “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” Gal. 5:22, 23.

It is that close walk with Jesus that purifies us of sin. It is not our job to cleanse ourselves from sin, for we, in our carnal natures, do not really comprehend the deep nature of the sinful heart. But as we walk close to Jesus day by day, moment by moment, He reveals to us the areas of our lives that are unlike Him, and cleanses them by the power of His love. As the apostle, John says in 1 John 1:5-9:

“God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with Him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin…. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

So the good news of the judgment is that it is a close walk with Jesus on a deeper level than ever before. The nature of our trials will tell us just how deep that walk must go in order to be fully healed of the damage of our past and present lives. Symptoms of bitterness, anger, depression, fear, and many other pervading human emotions can signal us that the Great Physician is calling us to a deeper cleansing and healing than we have ever known before.

Our church began in the mid 1800’s with a clarion call to judgment:
“’See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to His temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.

“’But who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness, and the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be acceptable to the LORD, as in days gone by, as in former years.

“’So I will come near to you for judgment.’” Mal. 3:1-5.

Do you see it? Can you see now that our message all along has been one about an experience with Jesus, and His personal cleansing work to each heart? How could we miss that part and think it was something done only in the heavenly judgment, secret and apart from us? Let’s face it - we have made a mistake that has caused many a tortured soul to turn fearfully and sadly away from our message, and seek for relief in other pastures.

But it is not to late to experience this walk with Jesus. He is holding out His loving arms with forgiveness and cleansing from everything that defiles our relationship with Him and with others around us. He will whisper His mysteries to us and delight us with His understanding of who we are and how He can recreate us into the person He had in mind for us when we were formed in our mother’s womb (Isa. 46:3, 4).

And He has a special message for us who live in the end of time - it is the Elijah message for our day:

“A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.’” Isa. 40:3.

“Pass through, pass through the gates! Prepare the way for the people. Build up, build up the highway! Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations. The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: ‘Say to the Daughter of Zion, “See, your Savior comes! See, His reward is with Him, and His recompense accompanies Him.”’ They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.” Isa. 62:10-12.

“O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption. He Himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” Ps. 130:7, 8.

“’In those days, at that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare.’” Jer. 50:20.

“I will leave within you the meek and humble, who trust in the name of the LORD. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong; they will speak no lies, nor will deceit be found in their mouths. They will eat and lie down and no one will make them afraid….

“Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph. 3:12-17.

Won’t it be wonderful to hear God singing over us? We all, like sheep, have gone astray. We all need to experience His healing love. To be free from sin means to be free from enmity and rebellion and doubt. It is a place of peace and security. It is the place near His heart where He wants us to be!

NOTE: Next time we will take a look at what it means to put on the robe of Christ’s righteousness. We will also consider what the Scriptures tell us about the experience of those who live through the time of the end. You may be surprised!

Until then, may God’s richest blessings be upon you and your family!

To all our friends who read this, we hope you find it to be of value in helping you to connect with others who are hoping for the soon coming of our Lord, and who are looking forward with anticipation to that event. In the interim, we can encourage each other with thoughts and concepts that help us along the way.

We invite you to share your ideas, stories of hope, and anything that might encourage others to know that we have a living, loving Savior in heaven for each of us to rely upon and serve with faithfulness and joy. Also, please feel free to send us your prayer requests. We have had many answers to prayer, and would love to add yours to our list!