When I was a boy of some nine years of age, my father, a plaster contractor, made a verbal agreement with a builder at which time I happened to be present. During the construction of the house the builder demanded my father do that which he had never agreed to do. It was not long after this incident that my dad received a court summons to appear before a judge and give answer to serious charges. My father secured a lawyer to represent him and I was informed that I must also attend because the judge would ask me some questions. I was afraid.
When the court date arrived Dad and I entered the stateliest structure that I had ever seen. Keep in mind I lived in a humble home with nothing over the windows and a bare floor, but here I was walking on marble and even the walls were covered with marble. Everyone present seemed to be so intent with what was taking place. I spied a policeman leading a hand-cuffed prisoner off to jail. It wasn’t a good feeling to a nine-year-old. I was afraid.
When we arrived at the judge’s chamber, an officer opened the tall door and Dad and I entered. My boyish heart began to beat so that I actually shook. I saw the judge seated on a raised platform, below was a table around which lawyers were talking. Dad squeezed my hand as we sat down and whispered, “Just tell the truth. Don’t be afraid.”
As the court trial proceeded I shall never forget as Dad walked to the witness stand and was asked to swear to tell the truth. Dad looked at the judge and replied, “For religious reasons I refuse to swear, but I affirm to tell nothing but the truth.” After many questions Dad returned to his seat.
Then the judge looked at me. His smiling face seemed to quiet my fears. He spoke kindly. “Son,” he said, “Come stand here and don’t be afraid and you just tell me exactly what you heard.” I looked at Dad; his loving eyes gave me courage. Then I told the judge the best I could what I heard my father and the builder say. Then the judge spoke: “I believe that I have heard the truth from this small boy.” Looking at my father he said, “You have been exonerated. The court rules in your favor. Case dismissed.”
I trust that you will not be alarmed when I state that both you and I, who have professed faith in Jesus and have accepted Him as our Savior, will be examined before the eternal God of the universe in the coming investigative judgment day, which will take place in heaven’s sanctuary. And we need not be afraid because we have forsaken every sin and humbly asked for forgiveness. This makes it possible for Jesus our High Priest to mediate for us; that is, to act as our spiritual Lawyer. Remember He has never lost a case He has accepted in which to present His righteousness in our behalf to cover our sinful past. No wonder we need not be afraid. Praise God!
As we study this final atonement which is now taking place in heaven’s sanctuary day by day, may the Holy Spirit awaken our minds to realize how soon our life’s record will be examined and a decision rendered to which there will be no appeal. May God help us to overcome every wrong word and action and by His divine grace live daily, ready to see Jesus come and may our names be placed in His book of life.
The most solemn description of the investigative judgment now taking place in heaven’s sanctuary is found in Daniel 7:9, 10, 13, 14: “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 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.” … “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, One like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
Inspiration continues in The Great Controversy, page 480: “The coming of Christ here described is not His second coming to the earth. He comes to the Ancient of Days in heaven to receive dominion and glory and a kingdom, which will be given Him at the close of His work as a mediator. It is this coming, and not His second advent to the earth, that was foretold in prophecy to take place at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844. Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies and there appears in the presence of God to engage in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man—to perform the work of investigative judgment and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.”
The investigative judgment makes possible the final atonement which takes place in heaven’s sanctuary. This divine doctrine became one of the pillars of our faith. No other religious body in the world believes this great truth. Why? Perhaps it would be good for us to briefly examine the evangelical claim that Christ’s death on Calvary was a final and finished atonement for sin. There is a vast difference between what the churches of Babylon teach and what is taught by God’s remnant people.
The word atone means to make amends, to be in agreement and to reconcile. Most Protestants believe that Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood to save any person who accepts His sacrifice and therefore nothing more is needed. But the question is, Did the Savior’s death on the cross make an atonement for the sinner with God providing for a full agreement or is the blood which was shed by Christ now being administered by Christ in heaven’s sanctuary making the final atonement?
Every Seventh-day Adventist should be familiar with the Old Testament sanctuary service that God gave to Moses revealing the total plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Permit me to briefly describe it. In order for a person who sinned to be forgiven, he must bring a lamb to be slain and offered on the altar of sacrifice, which was located at the entrance to the earthly sanctuary. Here it was the duty of the priest to instruct the sinner that the lamb he was about to sacrifice represented the coming Messiah, Who would become the Lamb of God to die for his sins. The sinner, having understood this divine truth, would then confess his sin by placing his hands on the lamb’s head and then slay the lamb, knowing that someday in the future, his confessed sin would slay the Lamb of God. Thus by faith in the coming Messiah’s death, his sins would be forgiven.
But there was much more than forgiveness to be obtained in this sacrifice, for the priest was to catch some of the blood in the bowl and carry it within the sanctuary, where he then dipped his fingers into it and sprinkled the blood before the veil as well as on the horns of the altar. Just behind this altar was the veil and behind the veil was the ark containing the ten commandments and above the law was the mercy seat, representing the throne of God. It was here through the mercy of God that the final atonement was completed and the sin was blotted out. How we should praise God for the mercy seat, for we all have sinned by breaking God’s divine law and are thus doomed to die. As the Bible states, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), but through the mercy of God Christ covers man’s sins with His precious blood which blots out the sin so that we can finally be at-one-ment with God, which makes it possible for our Father to accept us as though we have never sinned.
The sanctuary service reveals the total plan of redemption with an atonement at the cross providing forgiveness and a final atonement in heaven’s sanctuary making us fit to live in heaven. But this wonderful knowledge of salvation’s plan was lost sight of through the traditions taught by the Old Testament priests and during the Dark Ages when the Bible containing this sanctuary doctrine was taken from the people. In order to prepare a people for translation at the end of the world, the Lord began to bring to the fore knowledge about the plan of salvation to a lost world.
God led Wycliffe to translate the Bible from the Latin to the people’s language in the year A.D. 1370, which made it possible some years later to be printed and circulated widely. Next, God led John Huss to discover that the Bible only was infallible and not the teachings of the church fathers. This was followed by the Holy Spirit opening the eyes of Martin Luther to discover that great truth that the just shall live by faith (Romans 1:17). Likewise, John Calvin found the truth of salvation by grace. Then came John Wesley, who preached the new birth, and Roger Williams, who began to baptize by emersion.
Step by step, just as quickly as the people could grasp these forgotten truths that were hidden during the Dark Ages, God again revealed these eternal truths. By the year 1844 it was time to begin to call attention to the sanctuary, to the Sabbath of the fourth commandment, and to the second coming of Christ. As a result, God’s remnant church developed, preaching the three angels’ messages declaring with mighty power the investigative judgment which was now taking place. Thus the full sanctuary truth was proclaimed to prepare a people for the second coming.
“Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, Who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Hebrews 8:1, 2). “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14–16).
Did you notice heaven’s invitation, “Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace”? God is here declaring, Be not afraid of the investigative judgment if you have confessed and transferred your sins into heaven’s sanctuary because the Savior’s precious blood will cover all such sins with Christ’s robe of righteousness.
“In the typical service, only those who had come before God with confession and repentance, and whose sins, through the blood of the sin-offering, were transferred to the sanctuary, had a part in the service of the day of atonement. So in the great day of final atonement and investigative judgment the only cases considered are those of the professed people of God. The judgment of the wicked is a distinct and separate work, and takes place at a later period. ‘Judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel’ (I Peter 4:17)?
“The books of record in Heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgment.” The Great Controversy, 480. This quotation and all remaining quotes are taken from The Great Controversy, the chapter entitled, “Facing Life’s Record.”
In recent years we have entered the computer age. Today it is possible to place your life’s history on a tiny speck of a chip. At any time, by the push of a button, there can appear on the screen a record of all your health problems or your financial condition. Instantly, you can see how much money you may have in the bank, or how much debt you owe, and even a record of a failure to make a payment on time. Furthermore, your record will reveal details of your commitment to a religion, a record of every place you have lived, of travels abroad, and your marital status.
Oh, I could go on and on. If man can produce such records of your life never doubt that God keeps an unerring record of your sins. Inspiration states: “ ‘God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.’ ‘Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.’ Says the Saviour: ‘By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned’ (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36, 37). The secret purposes and motives appear in the unerring register; for God ‘will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts’ (1 Corinthians 4:5). ‘Behold, it is written before Me, … your iniquities, and the iniquities of your fathers together, saith the Lord’ (Isaiah 65:6, 7).
“Every man’s work passes in review before God and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness. Opposite each name in the books of heaven is entered with terrible exactness every wrong word, every selfish act, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling. Heaven-sent warnings or reproofs neglected, wasted moments, unimproved opportunities, the influence exerted for good or for evil, with its far-reaching results, all are chronicled by the recording angel.” Ibid., 481, 482.
But beloved, do not fear for those who are accounted worthy; that is, those who have confessed and forsaken their sins. Such are assured, “Jesus will appear as their advocate, to plead in their behalf before God. ‘If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’ (I John 2:1). ‘For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.’ ‘Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them’ (Hebrews 9:24; 7:25).” Ibid., 482.
Oh, beloved, could anyone ask more of our Savior? Not only did He die for our sins, making an atonement on the cross, assuring us of forgiveness, but now as our High Priest in heaven’s sanctuary, He is making a final atonement by pleading the sinner’s case before God the Father, revealing that not only are our sins forgiven, but also that His blood has blotted out all such records. He is ready to cover us with robes of His righteousness so that we may stand before God as being absolutely sinless. Oh, I know you will want to join me in praising His name! Standing sinless before God is the result of the final atonement that Christ is now making for all those who have successfully met the requirements of this investigative judgment.
This is what the Holy Spirit has revealed: “All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven; as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal life. The Lord declares, by the prophet Isaiah: ‘I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins’ (Isaiah 43:25). Said Jesus: ‘He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels’ (Revelation 3:5).” Ibid., 483. [Emphasis added.]
And what’s more: “The divine intercessor presents the plea that all who have overcome through faith in His blood be forgiven their transgressions, that they be restored to their Eden home, and crowned as joint heirs with Himself to ‘the first dominion’ (Micah 4:8).” Ibid., 484.
Beloved, there is still more: “… Christ now asks that this plan be carried into effect as if man had never fallen. He asks for His people not only pardon and justification, full and complete, but a share in His glory and a seat upon His throne.” Ibid. Oh friend, may God help us to comprehend those words, to share His glory and a seat on His throne. Such thoughts go far beyond the ability to comprehend. No wonder Ellen White was inspired to write, “The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven. We must by faith enter within the veil, ‘whither the forerunner is for us entered’ (Hebrews 6:20). There the light from the cross of Calvary is reflected. There we may gain a clearer insight into the mysteries of redemption. The salvation of man is accomplished at an infinite expense to heaven; the sacrifice made is equal to the broadest demands of the broken law of God. Jesus has opened the way to the Father’s throne, and through His mediation the sincere desire of all who come to Him in faith may be presented before God.” Ibid., 489.
This is a wonderful promise beyond our expectations. This is why we need never be afraid of the investigative judgment with Christ as our Mediator—never, never be afraid. However, friend, there is something I must remind you of that should awaken every nerve within you. So note this carefully. Probation will soon close. Now is the time to make absolutely sure that Christ will mediate on your behalf, for Inspiration declares, “The judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. For many years this work has been in progress. Soon—none know how soon—it will pass to the cases of the living. In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review. At this time above all others it behooves every soul to heed the Saviour’s admonition: ‘Watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is’ (Mark 13:33). ‘If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee’ (Revelation 3:3).” Ibid., 490.
“We are now living in the great day of atonement. In the typical service, while the high priest was making the atonement for Israel, all were required to afflict their souls by repentance of sin and humiliation before the Lord, lest they be cut off from among the people. In like manner, all who would have their names retained in the book of life should now, in the few remaining days of their probation, afflict their souls before God by sorrow for sin and true repentance. There must be deep, faithful searching of heart. The light, frivolous spirit indulged by so many professed Christians must be put away. There is earnest warfare before all who would subdue the evil tendencies that strive for the mastery. The work of preparation is an individual work. We are not saved in groups. The purity and devotion of one will not offset the want of these qualities in another. Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet He will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if there were not another being upon the earth. Everyone must be tested and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” Ibid., 489, 490.
“ ‘Watch ye therefore: … lest coming suddenly He finds you sleeping’ (Mark 13:35, 36). Perilous is the condition of those who, growing weary of their watch, turn to the attractions of the world. While the man of business is absorbed in the pursuit of gain, while the pleasure lover is seeking indulgence, while the daughter of fashion is arranging her adornments—it may be in that hour the Judge of all the earth will pronounce the sentence: ‘Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting’ (Daniel 5:27).” Ibid., 491.
Dear child of God, with such counsel as this, we need not be afraid if we follow Christ as our Example and daily pray to God, Not my will but as Thou wilt. May God help us to heed His instruction and daily live unafraid, ready to see Jesus come.
For more than fifty years, Lawrence Nelson served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a church pastor, evangelist, and then in Conference, Union, and General Conference leadership. When God laid upon him the responsibility to “tell it like it is” to alert the people how the church was leading them into the worldwide ecumenical movement, he was forbidden to preach in any church within the Oregon Conference. Elder Nelson passed to his rest on April 18, 2012.