From Graffitti in the Holy of Holies, by Clifford Goldstein. Copyright 2003 © by Pacific Press Publishing Association, Nampa, Idaho. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
y wife, raised
in the Adventist Church, once described how, as a child, she had been taught
the investigative judgment.
she said, her voice laced with sarcasm, "they tell you that the judgment
is going on in heaven right now, and at any moment your name can come up. And
when it does, if you're not perfect (you're at the movies, or something like
that), then your name is blotted out of the book of life, and you are forever
lost. The only problem is, you don't know that your name has been blotted out,
and so you continue trying to be perfect. But it's too late; your probation
has closed, and so you must, in the end, face the second death."
Good news, huh?
With such an understanding
of the judgment, it's no wonder that some people have entirely abandoned either
the doctrine or the Seventh-day Adventist Church which teaches it. Here's where
I can, in fact, have some sympathy for Brother Dale. All through the book he
expressed what has been (and remains) a problem for many Adventists: harmonizing
the judgment and the gospel. This motif appears from the beginning to the end
of CDSDA, shedding light on, among other things, the psychology of Brother Dale's
For example, in
a section titled, "About the author," the book says that Brother Dale
"became convinced that this doctrine [the pre-advent judgment] could not
be supported by Scripture, was contrary to clear biblical teaching, and undermined
the new covenant gospel of grace."1
In the foreword
to the book, non-Adventist writer, Kenneth Samples, founder and president of
Augustine Fellowship Study Center, and former researcher for CRI a couther-cult
organization founded by the late Dr. Walter Martin, says, "I agree with
Mr. Ratzlaff that the doctrine of the investigative judgment is antithetical
to the biblical gospel. It seems to be clearly incompatible with the doctrine
of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on the account of Christ
Echoing my wife's
concern about the judgment, Brother Dale writes: "What if my name would
come up when I was having fun playing volleyball? What if my name would come
up when I was purchasing new clothes? What if my name would come up when I was
focused on earning a livelihood? What if my name would come up in judgment when
I had an impure thought? Or, worse yet, had my name already come up? Perhaps
my doom was already sealed?"3
He writes, too:
"I thank God that the gospel is now being taught in some SDA churches.
However, the investigative judgment continues to be taught, even at official
levels, and the two do not mix."4 "The SDA teaching of the investigative
judgment is a serious theological error, a blatant perversion of the gospel."5
He appeals to
the church leadership: "Why not cut out the 'sliver' of the cleansing of
the heavenly sanctuary and the investigative judgment, even if it hurts
and the costs are high? Why not determine to be true to the new covenant gospel
of grace and the word of God alone?"6 Of course, for Brother Dale,
that would mean forgetting about the seventh-day Sabbath as well, but that's
"What a contrast
there is," he writes, "between living under the investigative judgment
and living under the joyous good news of acquittal in Christ proclaimed in the
Epistles of the New Testament!"7
Brother Dale may be in his criticism, and however accurately he may be portraying
the dilemma that many people within the church have faced, or still face, his
words are a prime example of what I call "folk Adventism"--popular
but false conceptions about our doctrines. If the Adventist Church really
does teach what he says it does, then it should do what he says,
and that is--get rid of the pre-advent judgment, because any doctrine that goes
contrary to the gospel should be abandoned.
Yet the problem
isn't with the doctrine itself but with a misunderstanding of the doctrine,
and that's a crucial distinction. In the same way that some people have been
turned off of Christianity because of the poor way Christians have sometimes
expressed their faith, many have been turned off of the pre-advent judgment
because of the poor way it has been presented in our pulpits and classrooms.
But just as the uncharitable actions of Christians don't take away the truth
of Christianity, the poor way Adventists have taught the judgment doesn't take
away the truth of the judgment. A lousy recital of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
doesn't negate the beauty of the original score.
In fact, far from
negating the gospel, the pre-advent judgment is its climatic denouement. The
judgment is the culmination of the Cross, the climax of the good news. The judgment
doesn't contradict the Cross; it actually helps us better understand the Cross
and what Christ accomplished there for us.
Think about this:
If you were a Jew living in ancient Israel during the wilderness wanderings,
you would learn about the plan of salvation from the portable tabernacle, for
here is where the gospel was presented to Israel in types. Now, suppose your
understanding of the plan of salvation was limited only to the death of the
animal. You knew only the part of the service that centered around the sacrifice.
If nothing else were explained to you--such as the ministry of the priesthood
involving the blood of the slain animal in the sanctuary--would you not have
a more limited understanding of the plan of salvation than someone who comprehended
not only the death of the animal but the ministry in the tabernacle with that
animal's blood--particularly the ministry on the Day of Atonement, when the
high priest once a year went into the Most Holy Place to perform the work of
cleansing the sanctuary? Who would have a larger grasp of salvation, the one
whose focus, knowledge, and interest ended with the death of the animal (symbolic
of the cross), or the one whose understanding encompassed the entire sanctuary
ritual, starting with the death of the animal and culminating with the Day of
Atonement, when the sanctuary itself was cleansed by the blood of that slain
animal (symbolic of the judgment)?
The answer is
obvious. In the same way, those whose understanding of the plan of salvation
is limited only to the Cross, without all that happens afterward, including
the judgment, have a truncated view of the Cross. You can't fully understand
the death of the animal without understanding the service that followed it;
in the same way, you can't fully understand the Cross without understanding
the ministry that follows it, and that includes the judgment, as typified by
the Day of Atonement ritual.
Think about this
too: Was there any tension, much less contradiction, between the death of the
animal (which symbolized the Cross) and the ministry of the high priest in the
Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (which symbolized the judgment)? Were
these two actions--i.e., the death of the animal and the ministry in the second
apartment--somehow opposed to each other? Of course not. As two parts of the
whole, both were crucial aspects of the same thing: the plan of salvation.
Now, if someone's
understanding of what happened with the death of the animal was in tension or
in contradiction with that person's understanding of the second-apartment ministry,
then that person was misunderstanding either the death of the animal, the ministry
in the second apartment, or both. These things, instituted by God, cannot be
in opposition to each other. If opposition or contradiction arises, the problem
is not in the rituals but in a person's understanding of those rituals.
In the same way,
if a person's understanding of the Cross (symbolized by the death of the animal)
is somehow in tension or in contradiction with their understanding of the pre-advent
judgment (symbolized by the second-apartment ministry), then that person misunderstands
either the Cross, the judgment, or both. These things, instituted by God, cannot
be in opposition. If opposition or contradiction arises, the problem is not
in either the Cross or the judgment, but in a person's misunderstanding of these
think about this: As Adventists, we believe that since 1844 we have been living
in the anti-typical day of atonement. This means that the earthly Day of Atonement,
which came once a year in the Jewish sanctuary ritual, was simply a model, a
type, a small prophecy of this true Day of Atonement. In the same way that the
animal sacrifices were types, symbols, of the Cross, the earthly Day of Atonement
was a type, a symbol, of the real Day of Atonement, the one inaugurated in 1844
by Christ's work of judgment in the heavenly sanctuary.
If we are right,
and we truly are living in the Day of Atonement, shouldn't that be good news?
After all, what is atonement? Atonement is the work of God in saving us, right?
How is atonement achieved? Only by Christ's blood, right? The law can't atone,
right? Obedience can't atone, right? Good works can't atone, right? Atonement
comes only one way, through what Christ has done for us, right? Of course.
any "day" dedicated to atonement, that is, to God's work of saving
us, be good news? Shouldn't we be rejoicing in the hope of living in the Day
of Atonement rather than being distressed about it?
How, then, have
we Adventists turned the good news into bad news? That's another story. But,
in reality, the problem isn't with the judgment, but with the false understanding
of the judgment, as expressed by Brother Dale.
With these few
points as background, let's take a look at the pre-advent judgment in light
of the Cross and see if Brother Dale's accusation that the teaching is anti-gospel
is valid--or if it's of the same caliber as his "biblical evaluation"
of the doctrine itself.
in the Bible
For the next few moments let's forget about 1844, "the investigative judgment,"
Ellen White, and Hiram Edson's vision in the cornfield. Instead, read the following
texts (I have purposely written them all out here because I want you to read
them). Don't worry about whether these are "investigative judgment"
texts or not; instead, focus on the following: Do these texts depict some sort
of end-time judgment or judgments? When does this judgment, or judgments, occur?
Who is judged? What criteria is used to judge? What role do works have in the
judgment? How carefully are works and lives scrutinized? What are the results
of the judgment? Let the texts speak for themselves independent of any preconceived
Not everyone that
saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that
doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that
day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast
out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess
unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew
Therefore is the
kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his
servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed
him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded
him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment
to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord,
have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant
was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the
same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an
hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying,
Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought
him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not:
but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his
fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto
their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said
unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou
desiredst me: Shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant,
even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the
tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall
my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every
one his brother their trespasses (Matthew 18:23-35).
He that overcometh,
the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot his name out
of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before
his angels (Revelation 3:5).
When the Son of
man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he
sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations:
and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep
from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats
on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed
of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave
me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was
sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the
righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee?
or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee
in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and
came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto
you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
ye have done it unto me. Then shall he also say unto them on the left hand,
Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and
his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and
ye gave me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye
clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they
also answer him, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger,
or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall
he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to
one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into
everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal (Matthew 25:31-46).
But why does thou
judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall
all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live,
saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to
God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:10-12).
And the ten horns
out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after
them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.
And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the
saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall
be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time. But
the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and
to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness
of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints
of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions
shall serve and obey him (Daniel 7:24-27).
Let us hear the
conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this
is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with
every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Ecclesiastes
Every man's work
shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed
by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is (1 Corinthians
For we must all
appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things
done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad
(2 Corinthians 5:10).
For we know him
that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord.
And again, The Lord shall judge his people (Hebrews 10:30).
I am the true vine,
and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he
taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may
bring forth more fruit (John 15:1, 2).
For the Son of
man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall
reward every man according to his works (Matthew 16:27).
And I saw the dead,
small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book
was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those
things which were written in the books, according to their works (Revelation
And, behold, I
come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work
shall be (Revelation 22:12).
For with what judgment
ye judge, ye shall be judged (Matthew 7:2).
And if ye call
on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's
work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear (1 Peter 1:17).
I said in mine
heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there
for every purpose and for every work (Ecclesiastes 3:17).
For the time is
come that 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 of God? (1 Peter
But I say unto
you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof
in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy
words thou shalt be condemned (Matthew 12:36, 37).
Then shall the
kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went
forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the
wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried,
they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold,
the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose,
and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your
oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest
there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and
buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they
that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward
came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered
and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not (Matthew 25:1-12).
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 (Daniel 12:1).
Again, the kingdom
of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every
kind: Which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered
the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the
world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just,
And shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing
of teeth (Matthew 13:47-50).
And Jesus answered
and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like
unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, And sent forth his servants
to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again,
he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I
have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things
are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their
ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: And the remnant took his
servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard
thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers,
and burned up their city. Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready,
but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways,
and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. So those servants went out
into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad
and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came
in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:
And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding
garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him
hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall
be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 22:1-13).
But after thy hardness
and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath
and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:5).
And I saw another
angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto
them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue,
and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the
hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and
the sea, and the fountains of waters (Revelation 14:6, 7).
Some men's sins
are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after
(1 Timothy 5:24).
A few points, apart
from any distinctive Adventist theology, stand out from these verses:
First, there is
some sort of final judgment (or judgments), a reckoning (or reckonings) near
the end of time. This judgment (or judgments) is often directly associated with
the Second Coming.
those judged are the professed followers of Christ. Both Jesus and Paul make
it clear that those who profess to follow the Lord will be judged.
Third, a crucial
element involved in this final reckoning is our works. This idea is a central
focus of many of these texts.
Fourth, only two
outcomes are presented--those who inherit the kingdom of God prepared "from
the foundation of the world" or those who go into "everlasting punishment."
Fifth, some texts
clearly show a judgment prior to the execution of the sentence--which
makes sense. After all, even in human courts, who ever heard of a sentence being
executed before judgment? In some texts, such as the parable of the wedding
garment, this point is explicit--there's a judgment, an inspection of the guests'
garments, and then condemnation. Revelation 22:12, in which the Lord says that
when He returns, His reward is with him, also implies a prior judgment. (Why
would the reward already be with Him if there were not some means beforehand
of determining who should get it?) Also 2 Corinthians 5:10 clearly teaches a
reckoning prior to a final reward or punishment. This idea is found as well
in Daniel 12:1, where those whose names are found in the book of life are delivered.
Any kind of judgment according to works implies a reckoning of those works before
the execution of the reward or punishment based on those works, be that judgment
a hundred years or a hundred seconds before the punishment or vindication is
Also, it hardly
seems unreasonable to see in Revelation 14:7, 8 a judgment before the
Second Coming. The judgment is being proclaimed as part of the call to spread
the gospel to the world; obviously, then, this judgment, presented as having
already come, must take place prior to the Second Coming, because by then the
gospel will have already been spread to the whole world (Matthew 24:14). In
other words, the call to spread the gospel occurs at the same time as the message
that judgment has come, which makes this judgment pre-advent. Otherwise,
why the call to proclaim the gospel to the world? The context of Revelation
14:4 through the end of the chapter, including the condemnation of Babylon (verse
8), the warning about worship of the beast (verses 10, 11), and the final harvest
(verses 14-18), places this judgment before Christ returns.
And people can
snort, snarl, and chortle all they want, but Daniel 7:24-27 teaches a heavenly
judgment before God establishes His eternal kingdom, which doesn't happen
until the Second Coming. Hence, a pre-advent judgment.
Dale's pre-advent judgment
In what must be the most hilarious line of his book, Brother Dale--in a section
titled "The second coming of Christ reveals God's judgment"8 --quotes
Romans 2:5 (see above) and then writes: "The above text implies that the
verdict has already been given. In that sense, it could be said to be a pre-advent
A pre-advent what?
Judgment? Kind of a strange admission, is it not, for a book dedicated
to disproving the whole notion of a pre-advent judgment?
Of course, Brother
Dale then says that "this pre-advent judgment is not some investigative
judgment where Jesus and the onlooking universe are pouring over the record
books of heaven, measuring character to see who is worthy of eternal life."10
That's fine; we'll come back to this later. But for now (and what's important
for our discussion) Brother Ratzlaff admits to the existence of something which
"could be said to be a pre-advent judgment." And though people may
debate over its timing and nature, "a pre-advent judgment" would,
by definition, include at least two points: it's a judgment, and it's pre-advent--exactly
what Adventists have been saying all along.
In fact, as Brother
Dale continues to explain his "pre-advent judgment," he defines it
exactly in the way most informed Adventists would define their concept of a
pre-advent judgment: "This judgment results from one's response to the
gospel when it has been proclaimed, understood, and received or rejected.
The last judgment simply reveals who by faith accepted God's free gift of eternal
life and who did not."11
A loyal Seventh-day
Adventist couldn't have described it better!
Brother Dale talks,
first, about a person's "response" to the gospel. Though there are
many kinds of responses (Luke 8:5-15), let's focus on those who profess to accept
it, because here is where the debate about the investigative judgment rages--in
the idea of a judgment for professed Christians.
Of course, those
who accept Jesus as their Savior should manifest righteousness in their lives.
That's basic Christianity:
But the fruit
of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's
have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts (Galatians 5:22-26).
Jesus said unto
him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second
is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew 22:37-39).
For this is the
love of God, that we keep his commandments (1 John 5:3).
Jesus said that,
in order to be saved, we "must be born again" (John 3:7), and a new
birth implies "newness of life" (Romans 6:4). And what is new life
if not manifested in our works, all of which are, as Brother Dale, says, "a
response" to the gospel?
At the same time,
many verses in the New Testament talk, not only about how someone who professes
Christ must live, but also about the results of not obeying (Matthew
5:20; Revelation 22:15; James 1:26; Philippians 3:17-19; Galatians 6:7, 8; 1
Peter 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Romans 6:16; Romans 2:5-11; 2 Peter 3:16; Ephesians
5:1-7, 19-21; Matthew 13:47-50; Romans 2:5).
Again, to quote
Brother Dale: "The last judgment simply reveals who by faith accepted God's
free gift of eternal life and who did not." A last what? Judgment.
Last before what? The Second Coming, obviously. And in this last judgment before
the Second Coming, what is it that reveals who has accepted God's gift by faith?
Works, what else?
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not
works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of
daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and
filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the
body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being
alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith
without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest
that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:14-20).
For James, faith
and works are inseparable. True faith can't exist without works any more than
a square can exist without sides and edges. Anyone can claim faith, but only
works reveal the claim's veracity. Works show whether faith is a living faith
or a dead one (verse 20). James isn't teaching contrary to Pauline justification;
he's merely showing that a faith which justifies must, of necessity, be a faith
expressed in works.
Also, James' words
about passing by someone naked and hungry fit with Christ's parable about "the
least of these my brethren." Indeed, many of the judgment texts listed
above tie in works directly with salvation and judgment, not because works save
people in the judgment but because it's in the judgment that works reveal who
has truly accepted Christ and His righteousness. Feeding the hungry, forgiving
those who have sinned against us, speaking correct words, or doing good works--all
these things simply reveal (as Brother Dale writes) "who by faith accepted
God's free gift of eternal life and who did not." After all, who has fed
enough hungry people, clothed enough naked people, said enough right words,
or done enough good works to earn salvation? Paul's point in Romans is that
we can't earn salvation, because then it's no longer grace (Romans 4:1-4).
What sinner can
perform enough good deeds to bridge the gap between heaven and earth caused
by sin? None, and James isn't saying that they can. James harmonizes with Paul
when one understands that works--although they can't redeem us--are the expression,
the manifestation, the existential reality of the redeemed. If we love God,
we keep His commandments. We aren't justified by keeping those commandments,
rather we keep them because we are already justified through Jesus.
But how do
I know if I have enough works to reveal a true faith? That's a logical,
but wrongly premised, question. It reflects that attitude of those who said,
"Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast
out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" (Matthew 7:22),
or of the Pharisee, who said, "God, I thank thee, that I am not as other
men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast
twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess" (Luke 18:11, 12).
our attitude should be that of the publican, who smote his breast saying, "Lord,
be merciful to me a sinner" (Luke 7:13). Anyone who has ever glimpsed the
righteousness of Christ knows that he must throw himself on the mercy and grace
of God, and that his works--whatever they are, however much done out of a pure
and loving heart--are never enough. That is why we have to live by faith, trusting
in God's promises that He will save us because of Jesus and Jesus alone. It's
the realization of the inadequacy of our works that drives us to faith and to
the promises of salvation through Christ. And it's that faith--the faith which
believes God's promises--that transforms the life, a transformation revealed
"We are accepted
in the beloved," wrote Ellen White. "The sinner's defects are covered
by the perfection and fullness of the Lord our righteousness."12
Now, logic alone
might lead someone, after reading those words of Ellen White's, to think, Wow,
now I can do whatever I want because I'm covered. Instead, the response
of a truly converted soul to these words would be, Oh, Lord, thank you so
much for this hope. Purge me, cleanse me, make me like You. I want to live worthy
of the high calling I have in Jesus!
Odd, isn't it,
but the more one experiences the reality that his "defects are covered
by the perfection and fullness of the Lord our righteousness," the more
he will want to overcome those defects. The more one understands that he's saved
by Christ's obedience to the law (as opposed to his own), the more he will want
to obey that law. However much logic alone might suggest the opposite response
(I'm covered, so let's party!), those who have experienced Christ's covering
their sins want more than ever to have those sins purged from their lives. They
want a faith expressed by works--works which (again, to quote Brother Dale's
pre-advent judgment) reveal whether they "by faith accepted God's free
gift of eternal life."
good news of the judgment
Earlier, Brother Dale mocked the idea of Jesus and the onlooking universe going
over the books in a pre-advent judgment. Yet the image of books, or a book,
is used by the Bible writers in connection with the question of salvation and
condemnation.13 Many of the verses listed above unambiguously show that judgment
involves some sort of scrutiny of the attitudes and works of those judged; after
all, what is a judgment without such a scrutiny? Also, didn't Jesus say that
we shall give an account of "every idle word," (Matthew 12:36)? Every
idle word? Is this not the same Jesus who said that "the hairs on your
head are numbered" (Matthew 10:30), who knows when a sparrow falls to the
ground (Matthew 10:29), who said that He shall bring "every work into judgment,
with every secret thing" (Ecclesiastes 12:14)? Every work? Every
secret thing? Thus, the whole idea of books, and a scrutiny of works, in the
judgment shouldn't be so cavalierly dismissed.
Yet (and this
gets to the crux of the matter) how could any sinner stand when every idle word,
every secret thing, comes into judgment? I'm a goner for what I've done in public,
much less in secret! Who among earth's sinful billions could stand justified
before God in judgment when every idle word and every secret thing is exposed?
None. But the
good news of the judgment is that Jesus, in His righteousness, gets us through
the judgment because He stands there in our place. Otherwise all of us would
be lost because none of us, no matter how good our works, have enough righteousness
to stand before a Holy God. Unless we are clothed in a perfect righteousness
that none of us ourselves possess or could ever earn (no matter how sincerely
and in faith we have tried), we would have to stand in our own works, our own
righteousness--and who wants to do that before the all-seeing eyes of a God
who knows our deepest thoughts and innermost secrets, thoughts and secrets that
we would be horrified to tell our most intimate confidant?
Yet the good news
of the judgment is that we don't have to stand in our own righteousness. We
can stand in the righteousness of Jesus. Just because we are judged by works
doesn't mean that we are saved by them. We are saved, instead, only through
the righteousness of Jesus, which is credited to us by faith. This righteousness
covers us the moment we surrender ourselves completely to Christ and claim His
righteousness for ourselves--and it stays with us (though not unconditionally)
right through the judgment. "There is therefore now no condemnation to
them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit"
(Romans 8:1). No condemnation--not now, and certainly not in the judgment. After
all, what good would being covered by that righteousness do any us if we don't
have it when we need it the most--in the judgment?
Anyone who makes
it through the pre-advent judgment will do so only because that person has Jesus
standing in his stead. What else would get them through? Their works? Their
obedience to the law? The number of times they fed the hungry? Please!
Who is he that
condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is
even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Romans 8:34).
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 7:25).
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 (Hebrews
Whither the forerunner
is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order
of Melchisedec (Hebrews 6:20).
Does this intercession
for us suddenly end on the Day of Atonement, the Day of Judgment, when
we need it most? Or is that intercession for us the only thing that gets us
through the Day of Atonement?
Again, how does
atonement occur? Through works? Through the law? Through feeding the hungry?
Clothing the naked? Through speaking right words? Through bearing fruit? Through
visiting inmates? Through developing a Christlike character? No, because if
good works would have done it, Christ wouldn't have had to die for us. Atonement
comes only through the blood of Jesus, regardless of the role of works in judgment.
when taught the pre-advent judgment, have been taken into the Most Holy Place
without blood, which leads only to death because in the Most Holy Place is the
law, and the law condemns, not pardons. Yet atonement is about pardon, not condemnation.
The law has no power to save, no power to atone, no power to pardon, no power
to enable people to obey any more than staring into a mirror can make an ugly
face pretty. That's why Paul wrote that all those who "rely on the works
of the law are under a curse" (Galatians 3:10, RSV). Paul didn't write
that those who obeyed the law were under a curse, for that's contrary
to many of God's clear commands about obedience to the law (Revelation 14:12;
22:14; 1 John 5:2, 3; James 2:10). Instead he says that those who rely
on these works for salvation are under a curse because those works cannot save
In the Levitical
system, the high priest never went into the Most Holy Place (symbolic of the
judgment) without blood, because it was the Day of Atonement, and only
blood atones for sin (read Leviticus 16). The key element, stressed over and
over, is blood, not law, because blood, not law, atones.
And he shall take
of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the
mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood
with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering,
that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with
that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle
it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat . . . . And he shall go out
unto the altar that is before the Lord, and make an atonement for it; and shall
take of the blood of the bullock, and of the blood of the goat,
and put it upon the horns of the altar round about. And he shall sprinkle of
the blood upon it with his finger seven times, and cleanse it, and hallow
it from the uncleanness of the children of Israel (Leviticus 16:14, 15, 18,
Every drop of
that blood symbolized the blood of Christ, the only blood that truly makes atonement:
"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things,
as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your
fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish
and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18, 19). And though people are judged by works,
it's blood, not works, that gets the repentant sinner through the judgment.
Perhaps the clearest
example of Christ's righteousness covering us in the judgment comes from one
of Jesus' judgment parables, the story of the wedding feast. After those who
were first called rejected the invitation, the "servants went out into
the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and
good: and the wedding was furnished with guests. And when the king came in to
see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he
saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?
And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and
foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping
and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:10-13).
whether the man stayed or left? The garment that the owner gave to the guests
(a custom in that time and place). The person responded to the invitation, but
he never took what was offered him. What is that garment, other than the righteousness
of Christ? "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful
in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered
me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments,
and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels" (Isaiah 61:10). The guest,
heeding the invitation, but not the conditions, refused what the owner offered
Notice, the parable
said that both the good and the bad came. It didn't say whether the man without
the garment was good or bad. In one sense it made no difference. In the judgment,
before God, we all--"good" or "bad"--stand condemned without
a garment. What the guest needed at the wedding is the same thing that we need
in the judgment, something covering us. Otherwise, we will be cast out where
there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. That covering, symbolized by the garment
in the parable, is the righteousness of Jesus, credited to His followers by
faith, and it is their only hope in the judgment.
presentation from Scripture about judgment comes from the Old Testament:
And he shewed me
Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing
at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke
thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not
this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments,
and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood
before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he
said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe
thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his
head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments.
And the angel of the Lord stood by (Zechariah 3:1-5).
At first, Joshua
is clothed in what? Filthy garments (the word translated "filthy"
comes from a Hebrew word for human excrement, see Deuteronomy 23:13; Ezekiel
4:12; Isaiah 28:8), a graphic portrayal of the high priest's clothes. What does
that stained garment represent, other than the sins and iniquities of God's
people? Remember, this is the high priest here and, as such, he is representative
of the corporate body; thus God's people, His chosen ones, His church, are depicted
as in a terrible spiritual state. The high priest as a representative of the
whole people becomes especially apparent on (interestingly enough) the Day of
Atonement, a time of corporate repentance and atonement.
evokes many parallels to the first two chapters of Job in which Satan appears
before the Lord in some heavenly assize where he makes charges and accusations
against someone serving the Lord. The Hebrew word translated "to resist
him" (Zechariah 3:1) actually comes from the same root word as the name
Satan itself (stn), and it means to "to be or to act as an adversary,"
or "to accuse."
As in Job, this
interaction between the angel of the Lord (who is Christ) and Satan doesn't
occur in a vacuum. Christ spoke to those who "stood before him" (Zechariah
3:4), just as in Job the contention between God and Satan occurred in the presence
of the "sons of God" (Job 1:6). See also the heavenly judgment scene
of Daniel 7:10, where other beings are present.
Notice, too, what happens in Zechariah's vision. Though Satan attacks Joshua,
making accusations against him, who is rebuked? Joshua, standing there in the
shame of his excrement-covered garments (a symbol of a sinful people), or Satan?
rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee."
Obviously, Christ is there to defend His people, not to accuse them. Talk about
an Old Testament expression of the gospel!
The Lord then
says that Joshua is a brand plucked out of the fire (the children of Israel,
after years of captivity, would have been destroyed were it not for the Lord
bringing them back to the land). Now, what brand ever plucked itself out of
the fire? None. It has to be plucked out by something other than itself. In
the same way, none of us can be saved by anything other than God. Here, too,
we see another example of a gospel principle: God doing for us what we could
never do for ourselves.
But the most important
part comes when the order is given to remove the filthy garments and to have
new ones placed on Joshua. Notice, Jesus doesn't tell Joshua to cleanse his
own garments or to take off the garments and put on new ones. Instead, the Lord
has it done Himself; He has Joshua's garments changed.
I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with
change of raiment." It's God who gets rid of the old garments and puts
on the new ones; it's the Lord who causes Joshua's iniquity to pass from him
and who clothes him in righteousness. Again, what could be a better depiction
of the plan of salvation?
Now, after the
Lord works this change of garments, He says to Joshua, "If thou wilt walk
in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house,
and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these
that stand by" (Zechariah 3:7). In other words, after He rebukes
Satan, after He removes the dirty garments, after He covers Joshua
in clean garments, He then gives Joshua the clear command to walk in
His ways and to keep His charges. God didn't say, "Joshua, do these things,
keep My ways and My charges, and then I will remove your dirty garments and
give you new ones." Instead, it was after He saved Joshua, after
He removed the guilt and stains of sin, and covered him in His own righteousness
that He gave Joshua the command about faithfulness and obedience. Thus, Joshua's
obedience wasn't the cause of his change of garments; it was the result
of having them already changed. If this isn't a depiction of how we are saved,
Ellen White, in
a vision about this chapter, interprets it in a gospel-orientated manner as
well. How ironic that Brother Dale should harp against Ellen White and her writings
about the investigative judgment because they (as he claims) contradict the
gospel. Yet if he had read her carefully, particularly this section and others
like it, he would have never hammered out such error.
After describing the background to Zechariah 3, Ellen White writes:
The high priest
cannot defend himself or his people from Satan's accusations. He does not claim
that Israel are free from fault. In his filthy garments, symbolizing the sins
of the people, which he bears as their representative, he stands before the
Angel, confessing their guilt, yet pointing to their repentance and humiliation,
relying upon the mercy of a sin pardoning Redeemer and in faith claiming the
promises of God.14
As the intercession
of Joshua is accepted, the command is given, "Take away the filthy garments
from him," and to Joshua the Angel declares, " 'Behold, I have caused
thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.'
So they set a fair miter upon his head, and clothed him with garments."
His own sins and those of his people were pardoned. Israel were clothed with
"change of raiment"--the righteousness of Christ imputed to them.15
For Ellen White,
the taking away of the sin-stained garments is equated with the pardoning of
sins. They are forgiven, covered by the blood of Christ.
She also talks
about how Satan accuses God's people in all ages, and how the devil "exults
in their defective characters."16 By countless devices, the most subtle and
the most cruel, Satan
endeavors to secure
their condemnation. Man cannot meet these charges himself. In his sin stained
garments, confessing his guilt, he stands before God. But Jesus our Advocate
presents an effectual plea in behalf of all who by repentance and faith have
committed the keeping of their souls to Him. He pleads their cause and vanquishes
their accuser by the mighty arguments of Calvary. His perfect obedience
to God's law, even unto the death of the cross, has given Him all power in heaven
and in earth, and He claims of His Father mercy and reconciliation for guilty
man. To the accuser of His people He declares: " 'The Lord rebuke thee,
O Satan.' These are the purchase of My blood, brands plucked from the burning."
Those who rely upon Him in faith receive the comforting assurance: "Behold,
I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with
change of raiment." All that have put on the robe of Christ's righteousness
will stand before Him as chosen and faithful and true. Satan has no power to
pluck them out of the hand of Christ.17 (Italics supplied.)
some reason, these quotes from Ellen White never made it into Brother Dale's
book. Talking about these same struggling saints, she continues:
Their only hope
is in the mercy of God; their only defense will be prayer. As Joshua was pleading
before the Angel, so the remnant church, with brokenness of heart and earnest
faith, will plead for pardon and deliverance through Jesus their Advocate. They
are fully conscious of the sinfulness of their lives, they see their weakness
and unworthiness, and as they look upon themselves they are ready to despair.
The tempter stands by to accuse them, as he stood by to resist Joshua. He points
to their filthy garments, their defective characters. He presents their weakness
and folly, their sins of ingratitude, their unlikeness to Christ, which has
dishonored their Redeemer. He endeavors to affright the soul with the thought
that their case is hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be
washed away. He hopes to so destroy their faith that they will yield to his
temptations, turn from their allegiance to God, and receive the mark of the
Who focuses on
their sins, their filthy garments, their weakness and their folly, their ingratitude
and unlikeness to Christ? The Lord or Satan? It's Satan, not the Lord, because
Christ already knows their faults, their defects, their sins. Christ, however,
is there to plead their case for them anyway, because this is the Day of Atonement,
and atonement is about acquittal, not condemnation.
Notice the timing.
Satan tries to discourage them so that they will receive "the mark of the
beast." This, then, refers to the final generation, those living at the
end of time when the judgment ends, probation closes, and Christ returns.
The fact that
the acknowledged people of God are represented as standing before the Lord in
filthy garments should lead to humility and deep searching of heart on the part
of all who profess His name. Those who are indeed purifying their souls by obeying
the truth will have a most humble opinion of themselves. The more closely they
view the spotless character of Christ, the stronger will be their desire to
be conformed to His image, and the less will they see of purity or holiness
in themselves. But while we should realize our sinful condition, we are to
rely upon Christ as our righteousness, our sanctification, and our redemption.
We cannot answer the charges of Satan against us. Christ alone can make an effectual
plea in our behalf. He is able to silence the accuser with arguments founded
not upon our merits, but on His own.19 (Italics supplied.)
What answers the
devil's accusations? Only one thing: the merits of Jesus, that righteousness
which He wrought out in His life and which He freely offers to all who will
claim it in faith, both for now and in the judgment. Those few lines italicized
above are a powerful expression of the gospel and judgment; they show how an
understanding of the second apartment ministry helps elaborate and explain the
Cross; they show how there is no tension or contradiction between the Cross
and judgment; and finally, they show that the judgment is good news because
our great hope in the judgment is the merits of Christ.
vision of Joshua and the Angel," Ellen White writes, "applies with
peculiar force to the experience of God's people in the closing up of the great
day of atonement."20 In other words, Satan accuses God's people--those who
have "defective characters," who have "weakness and folly,"
who have been "very faulty," and who are aware of the "sinfulness
of their lives"--while they are defended by Jesus, who pleads the arguments
of the Cross in their behalf because nothing else will get them through the
judgment. They need the change of raiment, "the righteousness of Christ,"
she says, "imputed to them."
Here is Ellen
White again, on the same topic:
While Jesus is
pleading for the subjects of His grace, Satan accuses them before God as transgressors.
The great deceiver has sought to lead them into skepticism, to cause them to
lose confidence in God, to separate themselves from his love, and to break his
law. Now he points to the record of their lives, to the defects of character,
the unlikeness to Christ, which has dishonored their Redeemer, to all the sins
that he has tempted them to commit, and because of these he claims them as his
Jesus does not
excuse their sins, but shows their penitence and faith, and, claiming for them
forgiveness, He lifts His wounded hands before the Father and the holy angels,
saying, "I know them by name. I have graven them on the palms of my hands.
'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O
God, thou wilt not despise' " (Psalm 51:17). And to the accuser of His
people He declares, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that
hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?"
Zechariah 3:2. Christ will clothe His faithful ones with His own righteousness,
that He may present them to His Father "a glorious church, not having spot,
or wrinkle, or any such thing" Ephesians 5:27. Their names stand enrolled
in the book of life, and concerning them it is written, "They shall walk
with Me in white: for they are worthy."Revelation 3:4.21
Yet Brother Dale
insists that investigative judgment, as taught by Ellen White, is anti-gospel.
She says further regarding Zechariah's vision:
The people of God
have been in many respects very faulty. Satan has an accurate knowledge of the
sins which he has tempted them to commit, and he presents these in the most
exaggerated light, declaring: "Will God banish me and my angels from His
presence, and yet reward those who have been guilty of the same sins? Thou canst
not do this, O Lord, in justice. Thy throne will not stand in righteousness
and judgment. Justice demands that sentence be pronounced against them."
But while the followers
of Christ have sinned, they have not given themselves to the control of evil.
They have put away their sins, and have sought the Lord in humility and contrition,
and the divine Advocate pleads in their behalf. He who has been most abused
by their ingratitude, who knows their sin, and also their repentance, declares:
" 'The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan.' I gave My life for these souls. They
are graven upon the palms of My hands."22
Is that too much
to ask of the followers of Christ, who claim him as Lord, that they not give
themselves over to the control of evil? Not giving themselves over to
the control of evil is much different, is it not, than being a faithful Christian
who loves the Lord but who struggles--not always successfully--with self, with
sin, and with temptations?
Of course it is,
and yet Ellen White doesn't express the idea half as strongly as does John:
"Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is
righteous, even as he [Jesus] is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the
devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning" (1 John 3:6). Or as Paul:
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication,
uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations,
wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings,
and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time
past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God"
(Galatians 5:19-21). Or, especially, as does Jesus: "But I say unto you,
That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery
with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out,
and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members
should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if
thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable
for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body
should be cast into hell" (Matthew 5:28-30).
We can talk grace,
blood, forgiveness, justification, and substitution all we want, but those who
use these concepts as a cover for iniquity are precisely the ones, the only
ones, who need to fear the judgment (Matthew 7:22, 23). In contrast, those depicted
by Ellen White in her interpretation of the vision in Zechariah concerning the
judgment, far from negating the gospel, bring it to a glorious climax in their
own lives. The judgment isn't a time when God decides to accept or reject us;
it's simply the time when God finalizes our choice and recognizes whether
or not we have accepted Him, a choice inevitably made manifest by our works.
sum of the matter
As we have seen, no contradiction exists between the death of the animal (symbolic
of the Cross) on the Day of Atonement and the ministry of the high priest in
the Most Holy Place (symbolic of the judgment). How could there be? Both are
two parts of the same process, God's plan of salvation for the lost race.
We have seen,
too, that the crucial element on the Day of Atonement was blood, not the law,
because only blood atones for sin.
is God's work in our behalf, something that He does for us because we could
never do it for ourselves.
few points in mind, how do we understand the pre-advent judgment in light of
the blood of the Cross?
First, we recognize
that we all are sinners, that all of us have fallen short of God's perfect law,
and that we all, left on our own, stand condemned before God (Romans 3:10, 23;
5:12; Galatians 3:22).
Second we recognize
that the Lord has provided a way out through Jesus. Christ paid the penalty
for every sinner. By doing that He reconciled heaven to earth. No more was there
an automatic condemnation of the human race. Ideally, every human being could
have been saved (Romans 5:15-21; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Hebrews 2:9).
we are sinners, we have no possibility of standing before a Holy God in the
judgment. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus, by His death, offers us
the perfect merits of His life. This righteousness comes to us only by faith,
not by works, because if it were by works, we could earn it (Romans 4:3-6; 3:28;
4:13-16; Galatians 2:16; Galatians 3:11).
Fourth, our faith
is made manifest in our lives by our works, which--though unable to pay the
debt owed to the law--reveal that we have been saved by Jesus Christ, who has
given us a new life. Works are an inseparable aspect of our Christian life,
the undeniable fruit of a life hidden with Christ in God. They are the expression
of a soul that has been born again, the requisite response of a person who loves
God because of the Cross. To separate works from biblical faith is like separating
roundness from a circle; whatever you have in the end, it's not biblical faith
(John 3:3; Romans 6:4; Colossians 3:3; 10; 1Thessalonians 4:3; Titus 3:5; Matthew
7:24-27; Ephesians 5:9; John 14:15; 1 John 5:2).
Fifth, there is
a judgment of believers, of those who have professed faith in Christ (Romans
14:10-12; Matthew 22:1-13; Revelation 22:12; 1 Peter 1:17). This judgment merely
reveals whether we have truly accepted Christ or not, a choice that is made
manifest by our works. In Brother Dale's own words, "We see, then, that
men are judged by their response to the good news of the gospel. The
light of the mercy of God has been brightly revealed in Christ. Now, the darkness
of sin has no excuse"23 (italics supplied). Again, although works don't save
us in the judgment, they reveal "who by faith accepted God's free gift
of eternal life and who did not."24
How does this
happen? A professed follower's life comes up before God: every work, every secret
thing, every idle word, comes into review (Matthew 12:36; Ecclesiastes 12:14;
2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10-12; Psalm 135:14; Hebrews 10:30; Ecclesiastes
3:17). Before such a scrutiny who could stand? No one (Romans 3:23; Galatians
3:22; 1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 3:10). However, for the true followers of Christ,
Jesus stands as their Advocate, their Representative, their Intercessor in heaven
(Romans 8:34: Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1; Hebrews 9:24; 6:20). And though they
have nothing in and of themselves to give them merit before God, though they
have no works that are good enough to justify them before the Lord, their lives--however
faulty, however defective--nevertheless reveal their true repentance and faith
(James 2:14-20; 1 John 5:3; 4:20; John 14:15; Matthew 7:24-27). How they treated
the poor, the needy, those in prison, how they forgave as they were forgiven,
the words they spoke, the deeds they did (Matthew 18:23-35; 25:31-46; 12:36,
37; 7:2)--while these things could never justify them before God, while they
could never answer the demands of a broken law, these acts reveal those who
have accepted Christ as their substitute and His righteousness alone, which
covers them like a garment and gets them through the judgment (1 John 2:1; Matthew
22:1-14; Zechariah 3:1-5; Leviticus 16; Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24; Romans 8:1).
Again, the question
shouldn't be, How do I know that I will have enough works to show that I
have faith? Going on the assumption that we will never have enough good
works, we must lean only on the merits of Jesus, who died for our sins and whose
perfect life is credited to us by faith. This is our only hope of salvation,
now and in the judgment. Or, as Ellen White so clearly expressed it:
But while we should
realize our sinful condition, we are to rely upon Christ as our righteousness,
our sanctification, and our redemption. We cannot answer the charges of Satan
against us. Christ alone can make an effectual plea in our behalf. He is able
to silence the accuser with arguments founded not upon our merits, but on His
The futility of
our works for salvation should cause us to lean totally on the mercy and merits
of Christ. Then, out of love and thankfulness for the assurance of salvation
that is ours through Christ, we serve Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and
body--a service that's expressed in works. How else could it be?
then, is the climactic application of the gospel in our lives. It's Leviticus
16, the Day of Atonement, consummated in our behalf. The judgment, apart from
the gospel, is like Leviticus 16 without blood: all you come up with is death.
The claim that
the investigative judgment is anti-gospel reveals nothing about the investigative
judgment, but it reveals much about those who make the claim. Brother Dale is
a victim of a folk version of the judgment that is based solely on a misuse
of Ellen White, on a few select quotes taken out of the context of her whole
writing, and upon which a complete edifice of a perfectionistic, anti-gospel
theology has been built, a theology that's not only contrary to the Bible but
to Ellen White. How tragic, and ironic, especially in light of Ellen White's
explanation of the vision of "Joshua and the Angel," a gospel-centered
depiction of the pre-advent judgment that puts Christ's death for us at the
center of the judgment, the only way it can be understood.
however sincerely, spends four hundred pages fighting a folk version of Adventist
theology--not the true one, the one that more and more Adventists are understanding,
the one that, indeed, Ellen White herself taught.
1 Ratzlaff, Dale,
The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists (Life Assurance Ministries,
Glendale, AZ) 1998, unnumbered page .
2 Ibid., unnumbered page .
3 Ibid, p. 236.
5 Ibid., p. 238.
6 Ibid., p. 353.
7 Ibid., p. 236.
8 Ibid., p. 260.
11 Ibid., pp.260,261.
12 Ellen White, Our High Calling, p. 51.
13"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" (Daniel 12:1). "The judgment was set, and the books were opened"
(Daniel 7:10). "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God;
and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of
life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the
books, according to their works" (Revelation 20:12). "And whosoever
was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire"
(Revelation 20:15). "Let them be blotted out of the book of the living,
and not be written with the righteous" (Psalm 69:28). "Yet now, if
thou wilt forgive their sin-; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book
which thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned
against me, him will I blot out of my book" (Exodus 32:32, 33). "And
they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall
in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh
abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book
of life" (Revelation 21: 26, 27). "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"
14 Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 468-469.
15 Ibid., p. 469.
16 Ibid., p. 470.
17 Ibid., p.471.
18 Ibid., p. 473.
19 Ibid., pp. 471, 472.
20 Ibid., p. 472.
21 Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 484.
22 Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 474.
23 CDSDA, p. 260.
24 Ibid., pp.260, 261.
25 Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol.5 , p. 472.
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.