The judgment is one of the central doctrines of our people. If we do not have a clear understanding of the judgment, we should not call ourselves Seventh-day Adventists. To help us clearly comprehend this vital subject, we will look deeply into the judgment, and why it is still in progress today.
Why is there a need for a judgment? Does God need a judgment so that He can make up His mind about who is going to have eternal life and who is not? No! God has not needed one hundred and fifty years to make up His mind.
If God does not need a judgment to help make up His mind, why do we need a judgment? We can find the answer in Daniel 7: “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:9, 10.
Many are present at this judgement scene. There are thousands and thousands of angels and the inhabitants of the unfallen universe who are keenly interested in what is going on in our world. Are they spectators? Paul said that “we are made a spectacle unto the world and to angels and to men.” 1 Corinthians 4:9.
What are they interested in? To answer that question, we need to go back to a time even before this world was created when questions were raised in heaven by a mighty angel. He questioned God’s law and God’s government. This angel questioned whether it was right that the angels should have to obey God’s law. He claimed that God was a tyrant, and that the only thing God was interested in was exalting Himself. He said that changes were needed to God’s law. He claimed that the fact that God was so longsuffering and patient was a sign of His weakness and that he himself was superior to God. He tried his best with his attacks to destroy God’s character.
Sister White had a tremendous vision at Lovett’s Grove, Ohio, in 1858. She went into vision during a funeral service. While the family left the church and went out to the churchyard to bury their loved one, the rest of the congregation stayed in the church for four hours while Sister White was in vision.
This vision made such a deep impression upon her that the bulk of her writings, for the rest of her life, were given to explaining to God’s people what it was all about. We call that vision, “The Great Controversy Vision.” In it given an understanding of the great controversy going on between Christ and Satan and how we, in this world, are involved in the controversy.
It is not until that controversy is settled once and for all that sin and sinners will be done away with and we can all go to our eternal home. The central issue in the great controversy is whether God is what He says He is or whether He is what Satan says He is. Until that is settled, this whole mess of sin will go on.
God is putting His ways, His plans and everything He has done in the open, so that He can be judged. The whole universe has had ample opportunities to see whether Satan is telling the truth or whether God is telling the truth. Paul said, “God forbid: yea, let God be true, and every man a liar; as it is written, That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged.” Romans 3:4. What an amazing thought!
Many of Satan’s accusations were proven to be false when Jesus came to this earth. The inhabitants of earth watched as Jesus walked this earth. They saw how He behaved; they saw what He did. It was hard after that to believe some of the things that Satan was saying. How could they believe that all God wanted was to exalt Himself when they saw Jesus acting the part of a humble servant?
Expect a Miracle
I love John 13. It talks about Jesus’ knowledge that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He came from God and that He went to God. What did Jesus do with that knowledge? He took on the part of a servant and with a towel and a basin and He washed his disciple’s feet. That was unexpected. You would have expected a miracle or a tremendous sermon at that point. And actually there was both a miracle and a sermon, because what He did by kneeling down and washing their feet was a sermon. It was a sermon about what the character of God is really like. It was a miracle, too, that the Creator of all things was prepared to get down and wash their feet. It was truly astonishing.
It was hard for the inhabitants of the universe to believe Satan when he said that all God wanted to do was to exalt Himself when they saw how humble He was. When they saw the love of Jesus even towards His enemies and they compared this with the hatred that Satan was inspiring, how could they ever believe that Satan was superior to God? Jesus disproved that accusation right then and there. However, Satan did not give up. Instead He created new and more deceptive accusations.
One of his most serious accusations was that although the law of God is as perfect as God claims, no one can keep it. Satan claimed that although Jesus kept it, no one else can! That is the issue in the judgment today. Is Satan right when he says that no one can keep the law of God? Or is Jesus right when He says that it can be kept.
The judgment will not be completed until every created being in this universe is convinced of issues like that. It is not going to end until Satan himself kneels down and says that he is wrong and God is right. Paul reminds us, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; And every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:10–12. The great controversy will not be finished until that has happened.
The judgment of the righteous—those who profess Christ—that has been in progress since 1844 will soon be over. A verdict will be reached and the inhabitants of the universe will have no doubts left. They will say, “Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God. For true and righteous are His judgments.” Revelation 19:1, 2. As far as they are concerned the judgment is finished. But that is not the end of the judgment.
After Jesus comes and God’s people have been taken to heaven they (the redeemed) have a work to do during the millenium. “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them.” Revelation 20:4. Now it is their turn. Those in heaven have bowed their knee and confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord. Now these people have to be satisfied beyond all doubt that Satan is a liar and our Lord is just and true in all His ways. What is their verdict going to be? “And I saw as it were a sea of glass mingled with fire: and them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand on the sea of glass, having the harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.” Revelation 15:2, 3.
They are convinced. They have no doubts about it. They have examined every single dealing of God with His creation, and they will be able to say of God, “Just and true are Thy ways.” If we are faithful we will be able to see that all God’s dealings are just and true. All our questions will be answered. We will know that whatever God did was just and true, and we would not want it any other way.
Many have heartaches, questions and worries about things that have happened. I have all those, too. A year ago there was a young man who came to stay in my home. He was a spiritual young man in his mid-twenties. He helped me with my printing equipment and worked very hard at it. A few weeks later I had a telephone call to say that he had been killed in an automobile accident! I still have a hard time understanding that. But I am going to know one day why that happened. I am going to know that God’s way was best. That is why I shall praise Him and say, “Great and marvelous are Thy works, O, God Almighty.”
But the judgment is not over then. Revelation 20 tells us that there has to be a second resurrection. Those who have gone to their graves without Christ will be raised. They have to go through this same process until they too make the same confession.
The wicked fall prostrate. They worship the Prince of Life. Finally, Satan, too, kneels. “His accusations against the mercy and justice of God are now silenced. The reproach that he has endeavored to cast upon Jehovah rests wholly upon himself and Satan now bows down and confesses the justice of his sentence. ‘Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name for Thou only art holy. For all nations shall come and worship before Thee for Thy judgements are made manifest.’ ” The Great Controversy, 670.
That is what the judgment is all about. “Every question of truth and error in the long- standing controversy has now been made plain. The results of rebellion, the fruits of setting aside the divine statutes, have been laid open to the view of all created intelligences. The working out of Satan’s rule in contrast with the government of God has been presented to the whole universe. Satan’s own works have condemned him. God’s wisdom, His justice, and His goodness stand fully vindicated. It is seen that all His dealings in the great controversy have been conducted with respect to the eternal good of His people and the good of all the worlds which He has created. With all the facts of the great controversy in view, the whole universe, both loyal and rebellious, with one accord declare: ‘Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints.’ ” The Great Controversy, 670, 671.
It is then that the judgment is finished. Why is that day not closer than it is? Why is it that we are one hundred and fifty years into the judgment and it does not seem to be moving? It is clearly stated in the Spirit of Prophecy that heaven is waiting for something, and that we are part of that waiting. What part do we play in the judgment that is going on at this moment? “Satan had claimed that it was impossible for man to obey God’s commandments.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 314. Satan’s claims are directly opposite the Biblical teaching that it is perfectly possible to obey God’s commandments.
We know that in our own strength it is true that we cannot obey them. But Christ came in the form of humanity, and by His perfect obedience, proved that humanity and divinity combined can obey every one of God’s precepts.
How is that issue going to be settled? By God’s people. What part do you play in this? Which side are you on? Can Jesus point to you and say, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus”? Or does Satan point to you and say,
“There is my evidence. See they cannot do it.”?
Jesus is looking for those who profess to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus to be His witnesses in the judgment. We will either witness for Christ or for Satan. We must do something about that, or the judgment is going to go on.
In the early 1920s, my mother became a Seventh-day Adventist. She was a young girl, but she sacrificed to be a Seventh-day Adventist. She never believed that she would grow old and die. But several years ago she died at age ninety. She never believed that time would go on so long.
God has given to every generation since 1844 the challenge, “Will you be My witnesses? Will you be the ones who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus?” And every single generation from 1844 has said, “No, we do not want that. We would sooner die.” We may not say it with our words, but we say it with our actions.
I want to go home. But none of us are going home until we are willing to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. It is as simple as that. The judgment is going to go on because Christ is waiting for us. “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His people. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own. It is the privilege to every Christian not only to look for but to hasten the coming of Christ.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 69.
Are we hastening the coming or are we delaying it? That is the question. Are we doing everything we can, day by day, to hasten the coming? Or are we, by our refusal to let go of sin, delaying the coming of Jesus?
Only Two Questions
There has been a lot of debate in the Seventh-day Adventist Church on righteousness by faith, and it has been made so complicated and theological. I do not believe it is like that. Our message is simple enough to explain to our children.
The following quotation sums up righteousness by faith in a few words: “Often the follower of Christ is brought where he cannot serve God and carry forward his worldly enterprises. Perhaps it seems that some obedience to the plain requirements of God will cut off his means of support. Satan would make him believe that he must sacrifice his conscientious convictions. But the only thing in our world, upon which we can rely, is the word of God. Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Even in this life it is not for our good to depart from the will of our Father in heaven. When we learn the power of His word, we shall not follow the suggestions of Satan in order to obtain food or to save our lives. Our only questions will be, What is God’s command? and what His promise? Knowing these, we shall obey the one and trust the other.” Desire of Ages, 121.
We should ask two questions. 1. What is God’s command? It is righteousness. (Righteousness is obedience to the commandments of God.) 2.What is His promise? When we trust His promises, what is that? That is faith. There you have righteousness by faith in twenty-four words.
You remember the story of the Children of Israel coming out of Egypt? When the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt He did a very strange thing. There is a direct road from Egypt to the Promised Land. It is called the way of the land of the Philistines. The Lord said, “You are not going that way. You are going by the way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.” That sounded crazy!
They went down that road a ways and the Lord said, “Turn off the road.” And He took them through the mountains and through narrow winding canyons. He brought them right to the border of the Red Sea. That was a tough place. The mountains came right down to the sea on the right hand side. When they looked back over their shoulders they saw an army. Josephus suggests that there were a quarter of a million infantry in that army and fifty thousand cavalry. And all the chariots of Egypt including the six hundred chosen chariots that Pharaoh had.
There was no where to go. Some of them began to lose their faith and they said it would have been far better if we had stayed in Egypt. The Lord gave them the command, “Go forward.” The Lord is saying that to us today. “Go forward.” The promise was, “You will go on dry land through the midst of the sea.” They obeyed the command. They trusted in the promise and they were safe.
It was an amazing scene. The Lord took them right through that sea and brought them safe to the other side. This scene of going through the sea and the water drying up goes right through the Bible, from Exodus to Revelation. It is a symbol of the deliverance of God’s people, and a symbol of the destruction of the enemies of God’s people. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 that this was a symbol of baptism. Baptism is where you come out of Egypt; you come out of sin. Before you can obtain this new life, you must get into the water. Just like the children of Israel, you do not know what is on the other side of the water.
They had to trust God that He would take them through. Baptism is just the same. The Lord gives us the command that we should be baptized. And He gives us the promise, “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.” That is all we need. The command and the promise. Our only question should be, “What is God’s command and what His promise? Knowing these we shall obey the one and trust the other.”
“In the last great conflict of the controversy with Satan, those who are loyal to God will see every earthly support cut off.” The Desire of Ages, 121. I have seen a beautiful painting of Ellen White’s first vision. In the vision she saw a path winding up toward heaven. All the way the path gets narrower and narrower. Along the path there are strewn wagons, horses, shoes, socks and baggage—all left behind. Every earthly support had to be left.
Those people discovered that whenever they came to a hard place, there were ropes hanging down. Those ropes are the promises of God. We lay hold on those promises of God by faith. The travelers came to the point where there was no path anymore. Where they were going was on the other side of a huge gulf. The only way to get over there was by hanging onto the ropes.
Some people asked, “Who is holding the rope up?” The answer came, “God is holding the rope.” He has not let us down so far and He is not going to let us down now. We have nothing to fear for the future except we forget the way the Lord has led us in the past. We must have faith.
Faith in the promises of God will take us through. Over the past six years my wife and I have been trying to put that into practice in our home and ministry. The Lord has been so patient and good to us and He has answered so many prayers and worked so many miracles. Many times we have knelt down in our morning devotions, together, and we have prayed that the Lord would provide the money so we could send out the mail that day, because we did not have the money. Then when we came back from work in the evening, there would be an envelope in the mailbox with the exact amount needed. Think about it. That envelope was mailed the day before we prayed. Before they call, I will answer—the Bible promised and I believe it.
When an envelope is in the mail, we are only part of the prayer. The person who put that envelope in the mail is the other part. I told this experience to a congregation and a lady came up to me afterwards and she was in tears. She said, “I had the strongest impulse that I should have sent you some money that day, but I was busy. I never got around to do it. I could have been the answer to your prayer.”
If the Holy Spirit is asking you to do something, do it now, do not put it off. There is nothing else more important. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” If we put our priorities right, we are going to be the type of people God can take home to His kingdom. The type of people of whom God can say, “These are My witnesses. These are the ones that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”