Investigative judgment

Investigative judgment

The Investigative Judgment is a unique Seventh-day Adventist doctrine, which asserts that a judgment of professed Christian believers has been in progress since 1844. The doctrine is intimately related to the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and has also been a source of considerable controversy within the denomination.

The investigative judgment teaching was the subject of a denominational crisis in 1980, when Adventist theologian Desmond Ford was dismissed by the church after openly criticising the doctrine. Whilst the church has consolidated its official position since 1980, some of its membership (especially those within the progressive wing) continue to be critical of the teaching.



The Millerite movement in the USA expected Jesus Christ to return to earth on October 22, 1844, based on their interpretation of ] []

While no specific date is given in official belief statements, many Adventists hold the original date determined by Miller (22nd October, 1844) as the starting date for the investigative judgment. W. W. Prescott suggested that the investigative judgment occurred in the spring, and not autumn, [, suggestion number 70] but his view was rejected.

The judgment process

According to Adventist teaching, the works of all men and women are written down in "books of record", kept in heaven. During the investigative judgment, these books will be opened (as described in Daniel 7:10 and Revelation 20:12), and the lives of all professed Christians, living and dead, will be examined to determine who is truly worthy of salvation.cite book|date=2005|publisher=General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists|title=Seventh-day Adventists Believe (2nd ed.)|pages=354-362] "The books of record in heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgment." "As the books of record are opened in the judgment, the lives of all who have believed on Jesus come in review before God. Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living. Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated." [ "The Great Controversy"] , Ellen G. White, chapter 28.]

The judgment will separate out those who are authentic believers in Christ from those who are not. "All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven; as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal life." On the other hand, "When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God's remembrance." "Sins that have not been repented of and forsaken will not be pardoned and blotted out of the books of record, but will stand to witness against the sinner in the day of God."

During the judgment, Satan will attempt to accuse Christians of transgression and unbelief, while Jesus acts as defense. "Jesus will appear as their advocate, to plead in their behalf before God." "While Jesus is pleading for the subjects of His grace, Satan accuses them before God as transgressors."

Relationship to the Great Controversy

The doctrine of the Investigative Judgment is closely linked to the Great Controversy theme, another unique Adventist teaching. As the judgment proceeds, angels and "heavenly intelligences" will watch closely. "The deepest interest manifested among men in the decisions of earthly tribunals but faintly represents the interest evinced in the heavenly courts when the names entered in the book of life come up in review before the Judge of all the earth." The result of the judgment, in separating out true from false believers, "vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus" (quoted from 28 fundamental beliefs). "All [will] come to understand and agree that God is right; that He has no responsibility for the sin problem. His character will emerge unassailable, and His government of love will be reaffirmed." [ [ Seventh-day Adventists Believe (A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines)] , copyright 1988. Chapter 23, page 325.]

Relationship to the sanctuary doctrine

As has been mentioned, the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment is an integral part of the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the sanctuary. As true believers are found righteous in the judgment, their sins are removed or "blotted" from record by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ. This is believed to have been foreshadowed by the work of the High Priest in the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16). The investigative judgment is the final phase of Christ's atoning work, which began on the cross and continued after his ascension in the Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary.

Relationship to eschatology

Although the time of the commencement of the Investigative Judgment is clear (1844), no one can know when it will end. "The work of the investigative judgment and the blotting out of sins is to be accomplished before the second advent of the Lord." However, "silently, unnoticed as the midnight thief, will come the decisive hour which marks the fixing of every man's destiny, the final withdrawal of mercy's offer to guilty men."

The end of the Investigative Judgment is termed "the close of probation" by Seventh-day Adventists. At this point in time, "the destiny of all will have been decided for life or death". There will be no further opportunity for unbelievers to repent and be saved. Revelation 22:11 is considered to describe the close of probation: "Let him who does wrong continue to do wrong; let him who is vile continue to be vile; let him who does right continue to do right; and let him who is holy continue to be holy."

Following the close of probation will be a "time of trouble" [See [ "The Great Controversy"] , Ellen G. White, chapter 39] , which will be a period of intense conflict and persecution for God's people. Shortly afterwards, Christ will return in glory and raise the righteous dead (the "first resurrection"), whom he will take to heaven together with the righteous living to share his millennial reign. (Just who these "righteous" are will, of course, have been determined in the course of the investigative judgment.) At the end of the millennium, Christ will again return to earth to raise the wicked (the "second resurrection") and pronounce final condemnation upon them. This is known as the “executive” (as opposed to the “investigative”) phase of the judgment.

Traditional Formulation

For early Adventists, the Investigative Judgment was closely aligned to their understanding of soteriology with its strong emphasis on character perfection. They believed that the end of the investigative judgment (the “close of probation”) will mark a point in time after which even Christians can no longer find forgiveness for their sins, as Jesus will have ended his mediatorial work and left the heavenly sanctuary. Therefore, Christians still living at this time will have to cease sinning completely in order to remain saved.

Accordingly, the “cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary” during the investigative judgment was thought to involve a parallel “cleansing” of the lives of believers on earth.

This understanding was developed more fully by M. L. Andreasen in the first half of the 20th century, who expounded a theology of “last generation” perfection. It fell into disfavour among church leaders after the 1950s, however. Although many “historic Adventists” continue to view the Investigative Judgment in this way, the traditional formulation is rarely found in modern church literature.

Criticism of the doctrine

The Investigative Judgment is one of the most heavily criticised teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Aside from criticism by non-Adventist theologians, many progressive Adventists disagree with the doctrine of the investigative judgment as it is traditionally taught by the church. [cite web|title=Progressive and Traditional Adventists Examined|url=|author=Ron Corson|date=2002] The progressive periodicals "Spectrum" and "Adventist Today" have on various occasions published alternative views or criticisms of the doctrine.

Criticism has been levelled at the doctrine at the following points:

Lack of biblical basis - Many have argued that the doctrine is based almost exclusively on the writings of Ellen G. White, who in turn drew heavily from Uriah Smith, and that there is very little (if any) scriptural support for it.

Questionable origins - Critics have been quick to draw attention to the fact that the sanctuary doctrine did not initially arise from careful biblical exegesis, but as a response to William Miller’s 1844 mistake. Donald Barnhouse denounced the doctrine as "the most colossal, psychological, face-saving phenomenon in religious history". [Donald Barnhouse, "Eternity" 7:67, September 1956] Likewise, religion scholar Anthony Hoekema stated that the doctrine was "simply a way out of an embarrassing predicament" and therefore "a doctrine built on a mistake". It has been pointed out that the doctrine was rejected by Miller himself.

Unorthodox interpretation of prophecy - The 1844 date is based on a highly unorthodox interpretation of a single biblical verse (Daniel 8:14); no other Christian denomination recognises this date as being significant (with the possible exception of the Jehovah's Witnesses). The “day-year principle” has been abandoned by almost all modern scholars outside of Seventh-day Adventism.Fact|date=August 2008

According to many modern commentators, Daniel 8:14 refers to 2300 evening and morning sacrifices, and therefore covers a period of 1,150 days (or 3.5 years). This prophecy refers to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes which began in 167 B.C. and ended 3.5 years later when the Maccabees regained control of the temple and reinstituted their services. [Citation|author=Ronald S. Wallace|title=The Message of Daniel (Bible Speaks Today series)|publisher=IVP|date=1979]

Unorthodox view of the Atonement - Protestant Christianity has traditionally taught that Jesus Christ performed his work of atonement on the Cross, and that his sacrificial death brought to fulfillment the entire Old Testament sacrificial system, including the Day of Atonement. The idea that the Day of Atonement does not meet its antitype until 18 centuries after Jesus' crucifixion is a major deviation from historic Christian theology. [Desmond Ford, Glacier View manuscript]

Lack of support from Christian tradition - No church besides the Seventh-day Adventist denomination teaches this doctrine, and no theologian outside the Adventist church has ever found evidence for it in the Bible. It is difficult to see how such a significant doctrine could be so widely overlooked.cite book|title=The Four Major Cults|author=Anthony A. Hoekema|publisher=Eerdmans|date=1963|pages=144-145]

Faith vs. works - the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment seems to give works an undue place in salvation. On a strict reading of Ellen G. White, a Christian might be disqualified from salvation by failing to repent of every single sin. This seems to contradict the Pauline and Reformation understanding of "salvation by grace through faith alone". [cite book|title=The Four Major Cults|author=Anthony A. Hoekema|publisher=Eerdmans, 1963|pages=157-158]

Assurance of salvation - if a Christian must repent of every single sin to be saved, and his or her works are judged to determine his or her eligibility for salvation, and confessed sins remain on record until each individual "passes" the judgment, it would seem impossible to ever have assurance of salvation.

Passage of time – Although the original exponents of the doctrine expected the investigative judgment to be a very brief period, more than 150 years have now passed since the year 1844. The ever increasing span of time between 1844 and the second coming casts significant doubt on the validity of the belief. [Norman Young, "A Reluctant Participant Looks Back at Glacier View". Paper presented at Sydney Adventist Forum, 22 October, 2005. A condensed version was later published in "Adventist Today" 14:6, p.7-9]

Lack of confidence within Adventism – Some critics, including Desmond Ford and Raymond F. Cottrell, have alleged that the investigative judgment doctrine has very weak support within Adventist academia. Among other things, they point to the “Committee on Problems in the book of Daniel”, convened in the 1960s, which failed to produce any conclusions despite 5 years of labour.cite web
author = Raymond F. Cottrell
title = "The Sanctuary Doctrine – Asset or Liability?" (part 6)
publisher= Adventist Today

According to Cottrell,:"In the years immediately following October 22, 1844 the traditional sanctuary doctrine was an important asset for stabilizing the faith of disappointed Adventists. Today it is an equally significant liability and deterrent to the faith, confidence, and salvation of biblically literate Adventists and non-Adventists alike. It was present truth following the great disappointment on October 22, 1844. It is not present truth in the year of our Lord 2002. "Quod erat demonstrandum"!" [ The "Sanctuary Doctrine" – Asset or Liability?] by Raymond Cottrell] Cottrell also claimed that disciplining of ordained ministers due to theology was inconsistent – that one may believe Christ was a created being, legalism or works-oriented salvation, or the non-literalness of the Genesis creation account without losing their credentials; yet lists many who have lost their jobs regarding the investigative judgment. [Cottrell]

Lack of pastoral relevance - Individuals such as Desmond Ford [ [ Interview With Desmond Ford ] ] and John McLarty have said that in practice, the investigative judgment is not preached in churches. Larty claims that the doctrine "is not helpful in providing spiritual care for real people in the real world". ["Problems with 1844", "Adventist Today" vol. 14 issue 6, 2006]

Response from other Christian churches

Non-Adventist Christian churches and theologians have repeatedly found that the investigative judgment is an aberrational doctrine with which they cannot agree. In a discussion between Adventist leaders and representatives from the World Evangelical Alliance in August 2007, the investigative judgment was noted as one of three points of doctrinal disagreement (the other two being the Sabbath and the authoritative role of Ellen G. White). [cite web|title=Joint Statement of the World Evangelical Alliance and the Seventh-day Adventist Church|url=|date=2007]


Lack of biblical basis - This criticism is no longer valid, because Adventist scholars have produced quite an extensive treatment of the doctrine purely on the basis of Scripture alone. [Sausa, Diego D. "Kippur - the Final Judgment: Apocalyptic Secrets of the Hebrew Sanctuary", Fort Myers, FL: The Vision Press, 2006. ISBN 0-9788346-1-5.]

Aberrant interpretation of prophecy - However, before 1844 many Protestant and catholic theologians supported the day-year principle and, like Miller, advocated that (Daniel 8:14) indeed ends in 1844.

Atonement not complete at the cross - This criticism is not entirely valid. Many Protestant and catholic scholars, including some early church fathers, have noted the high priestly ministry of Christ in heaven on the basis of the book of Hebrews. The Adventist link with atonement derives from their Wesleyan-Arminian roots by extending the Wesleyan-Lutheran understanding of the atonement to include the high priestly ministry. Thus, Adventist use the term "atonement" more broadly than the traditional theology.

Salvation by works - Adventists have countered this criticism on the basis that Scripture also teaches that judgment is by works and not by faith alone.

Undermining of assurance - This criticism comes mostly from Calvinistic circles, which often teaches the concept of "once saved, always saved" as the basis for assurance of salvation. Adventists reject this Calvinistic position, teaching Arminian concept of assurance of salvation instead. Many Protestant churches teach forensic justification, which concept Adventists find inadequote description of righteousness by faith.

Passage of time since 1844 - Adventists counter this criticism by noting that the close of probation does not come before the fulfilment of certain eschatological prophecies predicted in the Book of Revelation. Judgement continues in heaven as long as there are individuals that accept salvation until the close of probation.

Adventists reject Calvinistic predestination. Such a decision makes judgement a necessary part of the divine plan of salvation (Wesleyan-Arminian concept). Adventists use the term "atonement" more broadly than traditional theology, which has been a source of some undue criticism.

ee also

* Heavenly sanctuary
* Seventh-day Adventist eschatology
* Seventh-day Adventist theology
* History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
* Desmond Ford
* Pre-advent judgment


* "Evangelica" magazine, October 1980 edition
* cite book
last = Tarling
first = Lowell R.
authorlink =
title = The Edges of Seventh-day Adventism: A Study of Separatist Groups Emerging from the Seventh-day Adventist Church (1844–1980)
publisher = Galilee Publications
date = 1981
location = Barragga Bay, Bermagui South, NSW
isbn = 0 9593457 0 1
chapter = The Sanctuary
pages = 171–185

* cite book
title = Light Bearers
author = Schwarz, Richard W.
coauthors = Greenleaf, Floyd
edition = Revised Edition
origyear = 1979
year = 2000
publisher = General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Department of Education
location = Silver Spring, Maryland
id = ISBN 0-8163-1795-X

External links

* [ Bibliography] by Gary Shearer

* " [ Christ's Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary] ", chapter 23 in " [ Seventh-day Adventists Believe... A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines] " (1988 edition), by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Ministerial Association
* [ Light in the Shadows- An Overview of the Doctrine of the Sanctuary] , by Frank B. Holbrook, 1983.
* [ Chapter 23: What is the Sanctuary?] in "The Great Controversy by Ellen White
* [ Sanctuary articles] from the Biblical Research Institute
* [ The ABCs of Dr. Desmond Ford's Theology] from the Biblical Research Institute

* " [ Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgement] " by Desmond Ford
* [ The "Sanctuary Doctrine" – Asset or Liability?] by Raymond Cottrell
* [ 1844 Lesson Commentaries] on the Sabbath School Lessons; "Adventist Today" website
* " [ 1844 Re-Examined] " by Robert Brinsmead in "Present Truth Magazine"
* " [ Investigating the Investigative Judgment] ", Masters thesis by Larry Pahl

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