The Gospel According to the Investigative Judgment


One of the great questions in the Seventh Day Adventist Church is whether or not God has a judgment that has an investigative component in it? Most people who read the Bible have concluded that it is clear that Jesus has a judgment at the end of time. Most people are also clear that if there is a judgment there will be some who come out on the positive end of the judgment and some will come out on the negative end of the judgment. Most people are even settled that if there is a negative component of the judgment then those people could die, for we know that some people are not allowed into the Holy City (Revelation 21:23-27; 22:15-15) and that those who do not get into the Holy City are those who end up in the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:9-15). But what most people in the Seventh Day Adventist church are not sure of is whether there is an investigative portion to this judgment and how does it function. It is the purpose of this article to address this question – about the investigative phase of the judgment – and see if this point can be settled from the Bible.


We know from the Bible that there was some kind of judgment in heaven, that some of the angels sinned (II Peter 2:4), this sinning produced a conflict/war in heaven (Revelation 12:7-9), the wicked angels were cast out of heaven, and apparently ended up roaming the earth. The Bible does not indicate the specifics of a pre-casting out judgment of the angels but if God does not change and is the same today as He was then there may have been a judgment then that we are not specifically informed of in the Bible.


In the story of Adam and Eve God warned them not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:17). When Adam and Eve ate of this fruit we know that they found out that they were “naked” and that they then clothed themselves with garments made out of fig leaves. Then that day God came to talk to them in the cool of the day and they hid from God. Now we know that no one can hide from God for God is everywhere. Yet God asked an odd question in Genesis 3:9 He, the all knowing, called out to Adam and asked “Where are you?” Now God either asked this question because He did not know, or He asked the question to help us understand how He handles the judgment. Then Adam responds and then God asks Adam if he had eaten of the tree? Adam then blames Eve. God asks Eve “What have you done?” Eve then blames God and the serpent. God does not ask the serpent but pronounces judgment on the serpent, and in the end of that judgment God alerts the one who is behind the serpent that He would die for Adam and Eve, and for all the sins of the world. Then God pronounces judgment on Eve, and then on Adam. And then God offers Adam an exchange of garments. God makes garments out of animal skins, and offers them to Adam and Eve in exchange for the garments of fig leaves that they had made. This is the wonderful part of the Judgment – that God offers a way out for all sinners if they will accept His offer. The final Judgment, the Executive phase of Judgment, never ever occurs without the offer of salvation through His grace and mercy. We must always remember that the weightier matters of the laws of God are judgment, mercy, and faith. (Matthew 23:23). We must also remember that God’s laws do not change, and neither does God. (Hebrews 13:8).


Our next judgment study is that of Noah and the Flood. All knowing God, He who knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10), declares that He will not always strive with men because the thoughts of their hearts were evil continually. (Genesis 6:1-7). Now we know that the people were evil yet God chose to handle this case in an interesting manner. He would withhold final judgment until 120 years passed and then if there were no signs of repentance (Jeremiah 18:1-12) then the Judgment would occur that He stated 120 years before. This process suggests that God will allow an “investigation” a “time of probation” for mankind to have the option of accepting His grace and help through the ministry of Noah. Not only that but God offers a way out even if the people continue to sin for the 120 years. If they will, they can enter into the Ark that God in His grace provides through the labors of His servant Noah, and his helpers. The probationary time will indicate what happens to the parts of humanity that humanity can not see directly but they can see it indirectly – the moral qualities of the heart. If they repent and change their ways then all will see that a change has occurred in their behaviors. If they do not change it is also not likely that they will avail themselves of the way of escape. Time validates God’s approach and the people do not change, and they also refuse to enter into the ark to be saved, since apparently they do not see anything that tells them that they need to be saved from anything other than the testimonies of the prophet Noah. (Hebrews 11:7) When God declared it was time to get on to the Ark no one but Noah and his family were willing to go because they had proven faithful to all that God has said, they were also willing to get on the Ark when all of the world said no. So again God’s time of investigation proves what He said 120 years before, but now God’s people can see that God knows what is happening before it happens and we have the opportunity of learning to trust in the foreknowledge of God, and can accept His judgments before they happen.


The next judgment scene in the Bible, that we will explore, is that of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the book of Genesis God sent His prophet Abram to Canaan, then Egypt, and then back to the area about Sodom and Gomorrah. All of this activity was to show the nations then existing, of the power of God, His power to watch over His servent  Abram, and to expose them to His gospel – salvation to all sinners. (Galatians 3:8)  When the four Mesopotamian kings attacked Sodom God sent Abram to deliver the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah so that they would have the opportunity to experience deliverance by God and they would taste for themselves the love and mercy and power of God.


When Abram’s name was changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:5)– Father of many nations – God came to alert him that the son promised to Abraham was about to come and that because Abraham had entered into covenant with Him by faith, He would share many things with Him. God gave Abraham His covenant to be His God forever, and be the God of His seed. (Genesis 17:7). Because of His covenant God gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision and restated that his son was coming soon. Then in Genesis 18 God came to Abraham again and restated the promise of a son and let Sarah know of this promise as well. Then because of the deep covenant relationship between them God let Abraham know of his intent to “investigate” Sodom and if they were unrepentant then they would be destroyed. God let Abraham know this secret (Deuteronomy 29:29) to entice Abraham to intercede with Him over Lot and his family in Sodom. The Holy Spirit directed Abraham to plead for Sodom and to challenge the principles of the Investigative Judgment. Abraham challenged God on the principle of would He, the Judge of all the Earth, do right. (Genesis 18:25). Would God destroy the righteous with the wicked and did God have a way of separating out the righteous from the wicked? God answered in the affirmative – He, the Judge of all the earth, would not destroy the righteous with the wicked. He had a way of separating out the true from the false, the righteous from the wicked. In fact God would display this process for Abraham through His servant Lot. God sent two angels to “investigate” Sodom personally. How they treated the angels would determine whether their time had come and their probation had ceased. Had they learned the gracious lessons from their deliverer Abraham, and his nephew Lot, or would they seek to do evil continuously? The answers to these questions were settled in Genesis 19. The few righteous were separated from the wicked, the Sodomites had revealed their evil hearts, God had conducted a thorough “investigation” and as a result of that investigation Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.


The next Investigative Judgment story that we will cover is that of Egypt in the time of Moses. We know that the gospel had been presented to Egypt as far back as Genesis 12:10-20 through Abram. They had been introduced to God’s prophet and God restrained the Egyptians from harming Abram while at the same time being educated to the power of God when He sent plagues to deliver Abram. (Psalms 105:1-15; Genesis 12:17). Egypt was discussed with Abram in Genesis 15 when Jesus informed Abram that he would have children like the stars in number. God also informed Abram that his children would be in affliction for 400 years (Genesis 15:13) and then God would pass judgment on that nation, (Genesis 15:14), and then bring Abram’s children out and return them to the land that He had promised Abram. (Genesis 15:15-21).


Again God blessed Egypt by sending Joseph to help them, and the world, through a great famine. By the efforts of God, through Joseph, God revealed His love and care not only for Israel, or for just Egypt, but for the whole world, for Egypt fed the world for those 7 years of famine. This time period of 7 years, was Egypt’s opportunity to accept, and worship the true God – Jehovah, the God of Israel. But they chose not to and enslaved Israel when there was a Pharaoh who chose to know not how God blessed Egypt through Joseph. (Exodus 1:8). This forgetting set the stage for the fulfillment of the prophecy of Genesis 15. When God had bore long with Egypt then He remembered His covenant and sent a deliverer, Moses, the type of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to deliver Israel out of the hand of Egypt in fulfillment of the prophecy. Genesis 15:13-16


When Moses came to Pharaoh he instructed Pharaoh to let God’s people go. Pharaoh refused the commands of God and God chose to use Pharaoh’s rebellion to display His power for the world to see and react to. (Exodus 3:16-20) God told Moses to alert Pharaoh of a variety of plagues and at any time he chose to humble himself God would deliver Pharaoh from the plagues. Each plague was an attack on one of the many Egyptian gods and would reveal the power of Jehovah over all of the gods of Egypt until Pharaoh would choose to let God’s people go free. God chose to reveal His power this way so that there would be sufficient time for Israel to gain faith in God, and His prophet, and to allow any in Egypt to fairly evaluate the power of the true God versus the power of the Egyptian gods. (Patriarchs and Prophets 260) This would also allow time for the ambassadors of all of the nations who had diplomatic relations with Egypt to see the power of God as well and inform their kings and leaders of God’s power. This would allow the gospel to be reported all over the world so that every nation, kindred, tongue and people could be exposed to the power, and the gospel, of Jesus/Jehovah. (I Samuel 6:1-6; Patriarchs and Prophets 270; Hebrews 4:2)


As God took all of the people through the first three plagues, He displayed another level of power by setting a boundary between His people and the Egyptians in the plague of flies. (Exodus 8:20-24) This was to show His power to control events even down to the level of flies. God continued to reveal His power by bringing each plague in His order and He gave each person time to choose whom they would serve. Even in the middle of the plagues many Egyptians chose to cooperate with the God of Israel and prepared themselves, unknowingly, to be ready to leave Egypt with Israel. (Exodus 9:20-21; 12:38 Patriarchs and Prophets 269, 272, 279) The last plague of the slaying of the first born, was another opportunity for all to make up their minds as to Who was the real God and to escape the judgment of the death of the first born.


When Israel left Egypt many Egyptians came with them in the mixed multitude. (Exodus 12:38). But there was still one judgment left to come. After three days Israel had reached the Red Sea and then Pharaoh decided to challenge Jesus one more time. He brought his whole army to bear against God’s people, in a typological Armageddon. By this act God chose to deliver His people in the opening of the Red Sea so that they could cross the waters that He dried up to deliver His people from the pagan armies of Egypt. When this judgment was completed, and the armies of Egypt were slain then Israel sang for joy, and Egypt wept in bitter sorrow. Yet even in this the gospel went out to the world and prepared the way of Israel to be established in the promised land. (Exodus 15:1-17; Joshua 2:8-19). Thus we see the Investigative Judgment displayed in the nations of the earth.


The next example of the Investigative Judgment that I would like to share with you is that of Israel after it was established in Canaan. Israel grew to its highest point of influence during the times of David and Solomon. After Solomon turned his heart from following Jesus then the nation began its significant slide into apostasy. (I Kings 11:1-13) After the death of Solomon Israel separated from Judah and eventually was taken into captivity by Assyria. (I Kings 12; II Kings 17) Soon afterward Assyria attempted to conquer Judah during the reign of Hezekiah and God defeated Assyria. (II Kings 18-20) Instead of learning from the conquest of Assyria by God Himself, Judah continued her slow decline until in the time of Zedekiah.  God said that there was nothing more that He could do to save Judah and that the only avenue of hope was for judgment to fall upon Judah, for Jerusalem and for the temple to be destroyed, and for Judah to go into the rehabilitation unit of Babylon for 70 years. (II Chronicles 36:11-21) When the 70 years were completed Jesus promised to bring them back, get them reestablished and then give them 490 more years of probationary time and then if they had not thoroughly repented then they would be judged one more time in 34 AD and cut off as God’s special witnesses of His grace and love. (Daniel 8:14; 9:24-27; John 19:12-15; Acts 3:12-26; Acts 7)


As we know from Bible history Israel did not repent and grew so firm in her rebellion against God that she refused God’s own Son and killed Him in accordance with the prophecies. (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 21:33-45; 22:1-14) Jesus told them that they had repeated their abominations and they were so desolate that He no longer claimed Jerusalem, or the temple as His, for they had rejected Him. (Matthew 23:37-39) They had in essence reproduced the same behaviors as took place in the captivity to Babylon, they had placed the Abomination of Desolation in their hearts and God accepted their decision. (II Chronicles 36:11-21; Matthew 23:37-38) Yet even then God’s mercies called them through the efforts of the Apostles and they called the Jews first before going to the Gentiles. Even after 34 AD God still called them hoping that the generation after those who had killed Jesus might learn from the errors of their fathers (Great Controversy 27), but they rejected the gospel call of the disciples and God allowed the prophecy of Matthew 24:15-22; Luke 21:20-24; Desire of Ages 165 Daniel 9:27 to come to pass. So even Israel experienced the Investigative Judgment, for anyone who claims to be connected with God must go through this experience. (Great Controversy page 480)


Now for our next example of how the Investigative Judgment works I would like to discuss the case of Jesus Christ of Nazareth with you. Jesus is unique in the history of the Bible in that He was both God and man. In the Bible both elements, His divinity and humanity, are spoken to in the Bible and many issues came up which required a judgment of His works, and His life. These examples were sometimes similar to our experience and other times very different. It is my intent to share a number of stories to describe the many aspects of judgment that Jesus went through and that the Father testified to in many ways. All of these events were to show that Jesus lived without sin and in harmony with God and thus was proven to be pure and without sin and thus to be a pure example, a pure sacrifice, and a pure Savior.


 For example when Jesus was born the angels came over where He was born and sang a song to glorify the Father and to glorify Jesus and to testify that all was good with Jesus. This is a testimony that Jesus was beloved of God, and that God sent His choir to testify that Jesus was the Savior and was the Christ, the Lord. Luke 2:8-20.


A second example of Jesus being judged was at the dedication. God had told Joseph and Mary what to name Jesus and then in fulfillment of the law they brought Jesus to the temple and the priest circumcised Jesus and presented Him to the Father. Then one of God’s prophets, Simeon by name, came in to the temple, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and when he saw Jesus he was instructed by the Holy Spirit to testify that Jesus was the “glory of Your people Israel”. Luke 2:32. Then God sent another prophet, Anna, to also testify to this because all things are confirmed by at least two witnesses. (Luke 2:25-38; II Corinthians 13:1). Thus again God testified to the purity and holiness of His Son.


The third example of Jesus that I have chosen to write about is when Jesus went to His baptism. When Jesus approached John the Baptist, the Lord’s messenger, John did not want to baptize Jesus but he wanted to be baptized by Jesus. But Jesus encouraged John to baptize Him to set an example for all to be baptized, thus Jesus presented a perfect example. After Jesus was baptized the Father and the Holy Spirit testified to the fact that Jesus had pleased and obeyed the Father. (Matthew 3:13-17).


The fourth example of Jesus being “judged” was when He went into the wilderness at the direction of the Holy Spirit. In this experience Jesus was to fast for 40 days and then Satan would be allowed to tempt Jesus, three times. This temptation in the wilderness was to testify that any man, resting in the care of God, could withstand temptation all the way to death. Jesus allowed Himself to starve, to feel the calls of appetite at its fullest, and then allow Himself to be brought into close contact with His Arch-enemy – the fallen Lucifer – Satan. These temptations were not pretend temptations and Jesus felt them and yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) Satan was allowed to touch Jesus, and to move Him from place to place. (Matthew 4:5-8)  In the end Jesus proved to be faithful and did not give in to any of the three temptations. At the conclusion of this great judgment God testifies to the results in Desire of Ages 131:

“After the foe had departed, Jesus fell exhausted to the earth, with the pallor of death upon His face. The angels of heaven had watched the conflict, beholding their loved Commander as He passed through inexpressible suffering to make a way of escape for us. He had endured the test, greater than we shall ever be called to endure. The angels now ministered to the Son of God as He lay like one dying. He was strengthened with food, comforted with the message of His Father's love and the assurance that all heaven triumphed in His victory. Warming to life again, His great heart goes out in sympathy for man, and He goes forth to complete the work He has begun; to rest not until the foe is vanquished, and our fallen race redeemed.”

Notice in the quotation above that God sent a message of His love and that all heaven had triumphed in His victory. This testimony is interesting for us because most of us tend to think of judgment as negative. In this story judgment declares that Jesus won the victory in this contest. This is an assurance for us for we will win the victory in Christ as declared in Daniel 7:13-14, 26-27.


The fifth example I want to share with you regarding Jesus on earth is Jesus’ experience with the Greeks in the temple in John 12:20-36. In this story Jesus is in the temple teaching and some Greeks, heathen, came and wanted to see Jesus. When Jesus comes out to meet the Greeks, for they were not allowed into the inner areas of the temple, the Father testifies to His approval of Jesus again for the third time, once at the Baptism, once at the transfiguration, and then at this time with the Greeks. (See Desire of Ages 621-625). Again the Father has “judged” Jesus and declares that Jesus has glorified His name and that the Father approves of Jesus.


The sixth example of Jesus being “judged” is in Gethsemane. In Gethsemane Jesus experienced the weight of the world’s sins upon Him and He is tried three times regarding whether He will drink the cup of suffering at Calvary. Jesus sweat blood because the struggle was so intense. (Luke 22:39-44). Then at the end the Father sent His angel to comfort and support Jesus and to assure Him of His love. The Father also used this angel to strengthen Jesus to bear the struggles of Calvary which would be His final test. (Luke 22:43; Desire of Ages 693-694). This experience is again a testimony of the Father’s assessment of things and that He clearly had approved of His Son’s progress in this perilous journey.


The seventh example of judging Jesus is found at Calvary. With the sins of the world resting upon Him, Jesus suffers a variety of judgments. Jesus is judged worthy of death by the Seventh Day Adventist Church of His time (Matthew 26:63-66), and is judged not worthy of death by the State (John 18:38). Jesus has to listen to His people declare that they reject Him as their king and have chosen Barabbas, and even Caesar, as their king rather than Jesus. (John 18:39-40; 19:14-15). Then Jesus was taken, as the King of the Jews, and crucified between two criminals indicating that He was the greatest criminal, and oddly enough He was in the sense that He had become sin for the entire world, and yet was without sin. (II Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:1-1-11).


When Jesus was about to die He stated that He was willing to surrender His soul into the care of His Father and then died. (Luke 23:46) When He resurrected on the third day, Sunday, He went immediately back to work to start His intercessory ministry for His people. One of the first acts that He did was to go to the Father to face the Judgment as to whether He had provided a perfect sacrifice for God and for God’s people. (John 20:17; Desire of Ages 790). We are assured of the Father’s acceptance of Jesus and that His blessing was added to the life of Jesus by Jesus’ own testimony in Luke 24:44-49 when He says “…Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you…”  Jesus was accounted worthy to intercede for us and sits at the right hand of the Father to continue His ministry of us in heaven. (Acts 2:22-36; Acts of the Apostles Pgs 38-39)


In all aspects of Christ’s live He was monitored and investigated by God and by Satan, and by men and angels to see whether His life was spotless and in total harmony with God or had He in some manner failed to accomplish the tasks assigned to Him. God exalted Him to His right hand to co-rule with Him forever. Jesus was assessed to be without sin and a perfect sacrifice in every detail. Thus the Investigative Judgments that Jesus went through testified that He was perfect and was without sin and thus He had won His position as our intercessor and could offer His life to all who would accept this wonderful gift. The Investigative Judgment declared that He was worthy to be our God. (Revelation 5:8-13)


Our final example of the Investigative Judgment is the one which started in 1844 in accordance with Daniel 8:9-14 and Daniel 9:24-27 at the end of the 2300 days prophecy. This is the judgment which started in Revelation 14:7 “…the time of His judgment has come”. This is the judgment which Paul said was yet to come in Acts 24:25 and was the fulfillment of those prophecies in Daniel 7:9-14, 26-27. The judgment of 1844, at the end of the 2300 days, is the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16 in which God would cleanse His people and His temple and make ready a people to meet Him when He comes the second time.


In the great judgment scene of 1844 the same questions come up that have come up all through the history of this world. The great question asked by God’s new covenant witness Abraham will again be asked in the end – “…Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25. When it comes to us, to our family, friends, enemies will the Judge of all the earth treat every one fairly and will He slay the righteous as He has the wicked? (Genesis 18:25) All of these questions must be answered in this Judgment for when Jesus comes who will be saved?


Every judgment scene in the Bible has the same qualities; God hears about a problem, He goes to investigate it to see if these things are so, and then He pronounces a judgment – either good or bad, and then He solves the problem, and rewards or punishes as the judgment requires. We know that God does not change, as He has handled things before He will handle them again for He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) Jesus is the center of the Investigative Judgment, He is the primary witness for or against, and He is the primary grievant for He created all things. Jesus is the Judge. (See John 5:17-31 especially verses 22,27). In addition to those tasks Jesus is also the Creator, the Savior, and the Sacrifice. So no matter what happens in the Judgment Jesus is in the middle of this Judgment and His name will either be profaned or honored and glorified and sanctified. (Ezekiel 36:1-23). So Jesus is the focus of the Judgment because He is the primary Representative of the Godhead for He is the Mediator between God and man, and He is the focal representative of the Creation for He is the firstborn of all creatures for He created all things, in harmony with the Father and the Holy Spirit. (See Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 12:22-24; Romans 8:29)


In the time of the Investigative Judgment (1844-to the Close of Probation) the very first Individual that must be judged is Jesus Himself. As the Creator of all creatures, and the Creator and Redeemer of mankind, Jesus is the first One to be judged. Depending upon what happens at His judgment will dictate the judgment on the rest of Creation. In Daniel 7:13 the “Son of man” is brought before the Ancient of Days. His witnesses are His people. (Numbers 25:30; Deuteronomy 17:7; Joshua 24:22; Isaiah 43:9-12; Isaiah 44:8; Acts 1:8; Hebrews 12:1) Of these people there were false witnesses who condemned Jesus at His Investigative Judgment before Caiaphas and before Pilate, and there will be false and true at His Trial in heaven. (Job 10:17; Psalms 27:12; Matthew 26:20) None the less when the Investigation is completed and the Sword of the Spirit is used to discern the truth from error (I Kings 3:24-28; Ephesians 6:17) the Judgment of Daniel 7:14 will occur, and Jesus will be granted a kingdom and He will be declared King of Kings and Lord of Lords. (Revelation 19:11-16).


Once the trial of Jesus is completed then He in turn becomes the Judge of the people who claim to have been Christians. This takes in all those who are church members, and even includes the Little Horn who has declared great words about God and who has even claimed worship, and has even claimed to be God. (Great Controversy 480; II Thessalonians 2:4). Each person’s name is investigated to see if what they have claimed is true or whether God ever knew them or not. (Matthew 7:15-23). If their claim is true then Jesus claims them as His own for He has washed them from all their filthiness and He has clothed them in His garments of Righteousness. (Zechariah 3:1-8) If their claim is false then Jesus rejects their claim to His mediation and removes their names from the Book of Life. (Exodus 32:31-33; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 22:19). Thus those who have overcome sin in the power, and faith of Jesus, and kept His commandments, and have maintained a surrendered relationship with Jesus will have their names maintained in the Book of Life, and all those who have been proven to not overcome sin in the power and faith of Jesus, and have not maintained a surrendered relationship with Jesus will have their names removed from the Book of Life and will end up on the side of Satan and will eventually be destroyed in the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15) Thus the Investigative Judgment will accomplish all of the purposes of God and will vindicate His name, His government, and His people.


In conclusion, the Investigative Judgment has occurred many times as we have seen above. The final phase of the Investigative Judgment started in 1844 at the end of the 2300 days prophecy of Daniel 8:14. This Judgment is the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement of Leviticus 16. When this Judgment is completed then all of the wicked and all of the righteous will be separated and prepared for the second coming of Christ. Jesus will have found all of His children, and not a single one will be left out of His kingdom. (Amos 9:9) On the other hand not a single sinner will sneak into the kingdom of God for they will have chosen whom they will worship and God will honor that decision even though it costs them their lives. (II Kings 10:18-28).


Many through time have feared the Judgment because of their focus upon themselves and have left out the Judge of the all the earth from their thinking. But the intention of the Judgment is to keep our focus upon Jesus for He is our only Hope and our only Help. When we have Jesus as the center of the Judgment then by beholding Him we will be changed into His likeness. (II Corinthians 3:18). With Jesus at the center of our thoughts we will be focusing upon His power, His grace, and His love. With Jesus as the center of our thoughts then the Investigative Judgment offers hope to all who want to be with Jesus for He will have confirmed the investigative phase of the judgment and all who will, will be with Him forever. All who want to be with Jesus will be saved and the Investigative Judgment will confirm the wisdom and power of Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Amen, come Lord Jesus and take Your children home with You.