The Gospel and the Judgement
BY CLIFFORD GOLDSTEIN
Graffitti in the Holy of Holies, by Clifford Goldstein. Copyright 2003
© by Pacific Press Publishing
Association, Nampa, Idaho. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
My wife, raised in the Adventist
Church, once described how, as a child, she had been taught the investigative
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."
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
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
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 alone."2
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
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 another book.
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
sincere 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.
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.
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.
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)?
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.
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
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.
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 events.
finally, 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.
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
then, 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?
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.
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.
Judgment 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 judgment theology:
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 7:21-23).
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
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 12:13, 14).
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 3:13).
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 20:12).
And, behold, I come quickly; and my
reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be (Revelation
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 4:17).
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
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
few points, apart from any distinctive Adventist theology, stand out from these
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.
Second, among 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
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.
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.
Brother 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 judgment."9
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?
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
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
loyal Seventh-day Adventist couldn't have described it better!
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.
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).
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?
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).
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?
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).
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.
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).
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
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).
Instead, 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 in works.
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
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!
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."
The 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.
(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?
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?
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?
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 9:24).
Whither the forerunner is for us
entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec
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?
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
Adventists, 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 them.
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, 19).
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 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).
determined 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 him.
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.
Another powerful 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).
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.
vision 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."
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?
Lord 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!
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
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?
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, what is?
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
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.
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
For 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
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.
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
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
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."
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
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
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?
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).
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.
The 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.
have seen, too, that the crucial element on the Day of Atonement was blood, not
the law, because only blood atones for sin.
atonement is God's work in our behalf, something that He does for us because we
could never do it for ourselves.
these few points in mind, how do we understand the pre-advent judgment in light
of the blood of the Cross?
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).
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).
because 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).
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).
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
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).
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 own.25
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?
judgment, 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
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
Dale, 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" (Revelation 3:5).
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.