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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Three Phases of the Investigative Judgment

If there's one thing we've learned from this quarter's lessons, it's that the Adventist Church's doctrine of the Investigative Judgment is non-negotiable. It is not open to discussion; it is not open to change.

But even if the doctrine itself has not changed, the uses we've made of that doctrine most certainly have. Over the years, as a matter of fact, Adventists have used the Investigative Judgment as both a comfort and a club.

Phase One: Focus on Daniel
In the immediate aftermath of the Great Disappointment, for instance, Adventists were cheered by the thought of judgment. We liked the idea that God was sifting through the names of professed believers; we liked the idea that God was determining just who was really and truly a Christian . . . and who was such in name only.

And if you were a Millerite who had been mocked, abused, and expelled from church by those so-called “Christians,” then you looked forward to the day when God vindicated His saints in this Investigative Judgment . . . because that was the day those other people finally got what they deserved!

Phase Two: Focus on Leviticus.
But as time passed, Adventists realized that people inside the church could be just as bad as those outside – that Adventists could be hypocrites just as easy as anyone else.

And with that, the Investigative Judgment changed from a means of vindication to one of motivation; it became less of a comfort, and more of a club.

“At any moment,” we told church members, “your name could come up in the Judgment . . . and if there is one sin you’ve not forsaken – one sin you’ve not confessed and put behind you – then you will be lost for all eternity.

“What’s more,” we said, “the day will come when probation closes for everyone – the day when the Great Anti-typical Day of Atonement comes to an end. So you’d better get right with God before then . . . otherwise, you will not be ready to stand before God without a mediator.”

Phase Three: Focus on . . . ?
In the past decade or so, Adventists have tried to make the Investigative Judgment a lot less scary. Spend much time at Loma Linda University, for instance, and you’ll hear that the real subject of this judgment is God – that the Investigative Judgment is God’s way of proving His fairness and love to the questioning Universe.

Hang around Andrews University, on the other hand, and you’ll hear that Jesus has demolished anything that once separated us from God; as a result, we may come into His presence with boldness, because Jesus led the way.

Obviously, there are important differences between these two views.
  • The first draws inspiration from Ellen White’s theme of a “great controversy” between good and evil; the second is more rooted in the Book of Hebrews.
  • The first is more comfortable with Abelard’s “moral influence” view of the atonement; the second with Anselm’s “forensic” theory.
  • The first stresses our freedom of choice; the second God’s sovereignty.

But both views try to make the Investigative Judgment more “user” friendly; both views view it as a comfort (and not a club) -- and just like this week's Sabbath School lesson, both views pretty much ignore whatever it was that Jesus was supposed to have been doing before 1844.

In short, Adventists have always believed in an Investigative Judgment; no discussion there.

But when it comes to what we mean by that belief . . .

Well, that's open for debate.


Blogger Ron Corson said...

Open for debate? I guess I missed that part of the lesson quarterly!

By the way I liked what you have had to say your last couple of posts. However if the IJ does seem to have these wandering interpretations as to what happens would not that interfere with the non negotiable timing of the IJ? The only possible interpretation to have any time meaning was the blotting out of sins used as the first interpretation. Of course since the time period being over 150 years that that version falls out of contention. So why hold on to the prophetic manipulation that arrived at that time period?

8:34 AM  
Blogger Dave said...

I propose Zechariah as the focus of "Phase 3", in particluar Chapter 3 of that book. It is there that I find a message of comfort regarding the judgment

11:01 AM  

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