Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
Lesson 9: "The Pre-Advent Judgment"
I thought the prayer before bedtime, "Lord, forgive all my sins," took care of my record in heaven. Doesn't God say, "I am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins" (Isa. 43:25)?
Now comes the problem of understanding what Peter says in Acts 3:19: "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." Peter says that "sins may be blotted out" at "the times of refreshing." Are we not finished with sin at the time they are confessed? Why are they still hanging around by the time of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the future "latter rain"?
God is true to His word. He has "cast all their sins into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19). Then why have an investigative judgment? Because just as in the ancient earthly tabernacle type the penitent sinner went away from the sanctuary actually forgiven, his sin was recorded therein awaiting its final disposition on the annual Day of Atonement.
Clearly, there has to be a judgment before Jesus returns; then it is that the sins of God's people, forgiven all along in the past, will be finally "blotted out." Peter writes: "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 4:17).
The heavenly record books are an accurate picture of our lives. Everything that we have ever said, done or thought; both known and unknown, is accurately recorded in the mind. And so now in the judgment our life-history coincides with its legacy. Our final biographical sentence is written with a "period." Do you really want your sins "deleted"?
Let a lesson from your computer illustrate the point. As you go along there are documents that you remove from sight by putting them in the "trash can." But the record is still there just in case later on you decide to go back to your old ways and retrieve it.
So when you confess your sins, they are indeed forgiven; but sinful humans can sometimes go back to their old ways like the dog that Peter says returns to his vomit (2 Peter 2:22). And the Lord doesn't want to take anybody to heaven who secretly is sorry that he ever repented and he really wants to go back to the devil.
So there finally comes a time when the accumulated "trash" needs to be emptied. But wait a minute! A little message pops up, "Do you really want to delete everything?"
As we near the coming of Christ, there has to be a final investigation: "Are you reallysure you want your sins forever forgiven? Are you really sure you don't want to go back to your old selfish, lustful, worldly ways, ever?" Well, I hope you're ready to click yes on that. You click on "Yes." Now all the "trash" is gone forever, irrevocably.
The good news of the 1888 message is that our Advocate, Jesus is standing up for us in the investigative judgment opposing the prosecuting attorney. Zechariah saw this portrayed in vision. Representing the sinful people was "Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD" who is our defense attorney, "and Satan [the prosecutor] standing at his right hand to resist him" (Zech. 3:1). The result of the judgment was Joshua's "filthy garments" were removed and he was clothed "with change of raiment" (vs. 3).
To change the metaphor, in 1888, the Bride's Husband proposed marriage by giving the remnant Seventh-day Adventist Church the "wedding garments."
Jesus taught the pre-advent judgment through a parable. The king invited guests from all walks of life to a wedding. "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" (Matt. 22:10-13). He was cast out.
Here the "king" inspects the "guests" as to whether they are wearing the "wedding garment" which he has given to each one. In this case a "friend" has neglected to put on the garment and is left "speechless." Here is presented the concept of a judgment before the wedding.
1888 is the invitation to the wedding. Speaking of the 1888 message, Ellen White emphasizes some wonderfully good news: "We are in the day of atonement, and we are to work in harmony with Christ's work of cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of the people. Let no man who desires to be found with the wedding garment on, resist our Lord in his office work" (The Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan. 21, 1890).
The One who will accomplish that amazing task is the High Priest of the heavenly sanctuary. His business is being a Saviour from sin. It is His job to cleanse the sanctuary, not ours; but it is our job to cooperate with Him, to let Him do it, to stop hindering Him "in His office work."
The 1888 message is the clearest understanding of justification by faith which is parallel to and consistent with the cleansing of the sanctuary truth. When the hearts of God's people on earth are cleansed then shall the sanctuary in heaven be cleansed. Justification is not exclusively expunging the record of sin in heaven. Our "high priest make[s] an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord" (Lev. 16:30).
That precisely is the purpose of the investigative judgment--not to condemn God's people, but to cleanse them so they can meet Jesus in person when He returns.
There is sin, conscious and unconscious, that must be discovered, repented of, "overcome" (Rev. 3:21), so that those who follow the great High Priest in His closing work of Atonement may not be consumed by the brightness of Jesus' coming. That's going to be a serious moment!
The High Priest doesn't want to condemn you; He wants to vindicate you--that's the only judgment He wants to make in your case.
Don't stop Him, don't hinder His on-going work!
--Paul E. Penno
Note: "Sabbath School Today" and Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson are on the Internet at: http://1888mpm.org
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