Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sabbath School Insights No. 4, Qtr 3-06

Special Insights No. 4

Third Quarter 2006 Adult Sabbath School Lessons

“The Gospel, 1844, and Judgment”

(Produced by the Editorial Board of the 1888 Message Study Committee)

“Daniel 7”


The introduction to our lesson states: “Daniel 7 covers the same ground as Daniel 2, as well as provides a key element not explicitly expressed in Daniel 2: the great judgment in heaven that leads directly to the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world as we know it. In short, in Daniel 7 we are shown the pre-Advent judgment.” Let’s discuss the judgment and answer several questions: What is the judgment? Why is there a judgment? Where, when, and how does the judgment take place? What does it mean?

The reason we have a judgment is because we have an accuser—a plaintiff. Lucifer (Satan) made the charge in heaven that it is impossible to keep God’s law. He was getting a following, so the questions had to be answered.

When man fell in Eden, Satan was able to say, “SEE!? I told you so! It is impossible to keep God’s law!” So God had to prove him in error. Hence, God became man—a living human being—taking upon Himself the same fallen sinful human flesh that you and I have in order to prove that it is possible to keep God’s law.

And He did it! He lived a perfect life in that same fallen flesh that we all have. But one question remained. God could do it in human flesh, but is it possible for humans that are not God to do it? So here we are, waiting for man to live a perfect life. If we were left on our own, then there would be no hope. Thank God, He came as our representative and did it as us. Now let’s allow Him do it again—in us.

That is the “why” of the judgment, but let’s answer the question, what is the judgment ? God has already passed His judgment upon us. He says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). How can this be His judgment on us? After all, we are far from perfect! The answer is in Genesis 1: “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” God’s word has, inherent within it, the power to create what it says. That is how He creates—by speaking it into existence. The real question is: do we believe it? If we do believe, we will act as we truly believe. We always do. No one can hold a mask forever. The all-important question is, “What do you believe?” If you believe God’s word, taking it for what it actually says, then God will work out in your experience what you truly believe. So let’s believe God and be done with it.

Well, that is the “what” of judgment. But can you see that this is also the “where” of judgment? All of this takes place in our hearts. You know, we all like to think that God is the judge—and He is, but ultimately ... Well, let’s allow God say it Himself. In John 5:22 He says, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son,” and in John 3:17 He says, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” So the Son judges, but He does not condemn. He judges only righteousness and brings only deliverance. The work of the judge, at least in Bible times, was to deliver the accused, not to condemn him (Psalm 76:8, 9; Judges 2:16; 1 Sam. 24:15).

But, does not God condemn people to destruction? Look at John 3:18, 19: “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

A. T. Jones, one of the 1888 “messengers,” writes in The Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection, that even the impenitent receive deliverance (p. 119, new ed.).

The finishing of the mystery of God is the ending of the work of the gospel. And the ending of the work of the gospel is, first, the taking away of all vestige of sin and the bringing in of everlasting righteousness—Christ fully formed—within each believer, God alone manifest in the flesh of each believer in Jesus; and, secondly, on the other hand, the work of the gospel being finished means only the destruction of all who then shall not have received the gospel (2 Thess. 1:7-10): for it is not the way of the Lord to continue men in life when the only possible use they will make of life is to heap up more misery for themselves.”

So, you see, we judge ourselves. The place of ultimate judgment is in our hearts. I may ask again, “What do you believe? And what do you really want?”

When does judgment take place? Judgment is a two-step process. First, God says, “You are perfect” and second, man chooses whether to believe. John 12:31-32 says, “Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all [men] unto me.” Judgment began at the cross and ends when the last ember from the lake of fire goes out.

So what does Daniel have to do with all of this? Daniel sets the time of the judgment hour message. Daniel 7:13 is a specific reference to 1844, when Christ, as High Priest entered the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary to begin the process of removing the sins of the people—a cleansing of Laodicea, if you will (The Great Controversy, p. 424). Although this is called the pre-Advent judgment, it is also called the “investigative” judgment. But, what is God investigating?

Recalling the above-mentioned trial scenario, Satan is the plaintiff, God is the defendant, and the universe is the jury. But there is one “player” missing : “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). God needs witnesses at His trial. Revelation 14 is all about God’s trial (vs. 7) and the 144,000 witnesses (vss. 1-5). The investigative judgment is God looking through those who are alive at the end of time to see whether there is faith in the earth—whether there is anyone who is qualified to be a witness as to what God can do in fallen, sinful, human flesh—today—in your flesh and in my flesh. Not now Christ Himself, who did it 2000 years ago, but Christ’s character in you and me today—the mystery of godliness. Look at Colossians 1:27, 28, “To whom God would make known what [is] the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

The judgment hour is not a time of nail-biting for God’s people!

Craig Barnes

Note: Emphases in Bible texts are the author’s.


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