Ongoing Investigation


What Makes the Saved Saved, and the Lost, Not?

News headlines and lifestyle choices notwithstanding, nearly 80% of America’s adults believe that “we will all be called before God at the Judgment Day to answer for our sins.” So, says research conducted by the Pew Research Center1.

Such a strong consensus regarding Judgment Day should mean Christians have a universal understanding of the Last Judgment. Surprisingly, it doesn’t. Disagreements abound. Perhaps, none more contentious than the teaching of the Investigative Judgment, or what is known as the Pre-Advent Judgment. Widely rejected by most of Christianity, it is nonetheless one of the more significant components of the Bible’s judgment motif.

Need-to-Know Basis

The Investigative Judgment posits that prior to the fulfillment of Jesus’ Revelation 22:12 promise that He “comes quickly” to reward everyone according to their works, there is a review of the lives of all who have claimed His name. Underway since 1844, this judgment includes professed Christians who have already died, as well as those who live today.

Contrary to some claims, this investigation and judgment doesn’t reveal to God who is worthy of life eternal. In His omniscience, He already knows that. What this pre-advent investigation does do is assist the inhabitants of unfallen worlds and unfallen angels in reconciling in their hearts why the saved were saved. And, the lost were not.

Before Jesus can reward, those to be rewarded are to be identified to the other children of God, those who never rebelled. Thus, by faith one can see why this judgment precedes the Second Coming; and why, as 1 Peter 4:17 informs us, it begins with those who claim to be Christians, the “household of faith.”

Understanding the Sanctuary Gives Context and Timing

Sarah Peck2 reminds us that through the Sanctuary Service God “makes the entire plan of salvation visible in one magnificent view.” The Sanctuary Service was heaven’s primer on salvation. It reminded God’s people that “the wages of sin is death.” And, that “without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness.”

We know from Hebrews 8:5 that the earthly sanctuary was a copy of the heavenly. Therefore, the worship protocols on earth matched those in heaven. The blood shed in the outer court and then sprinkled in the Holy place on earth, is symbolism that reflects heavenly practices.

And, just as on the day of Atonement on earth, the high priest entered the Most Holy Place on behalf of God’s people; in heaven, our Great High Priest, Jesus did likewise. The Day of Atonement on earth was symbolic of confession, repentance, and judgment.

This act of judgment was both ordained, and ratified, by God. Some would protest that there is no sin in heaven. True. Nonetheless, the prophecy of Daniel 8:14 had to be fulfilled. For the redeemed, this cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary was the final act of Judgment. Then as the price of humanity’s sins in the earthly was laid upon the scapegoat, so too in the heavenly, the confessed sins of humanity were laid upon Satan.

Understanding Where the Dead Are Brings Clarity to the Process

The Bible says the righteous dead are not yet in heaven. John 5:28 tells us, there is an hour, coming, when the dead shall come forth. That day is not yet. Four times in John’s sixth chapter, Jesus says that the righteous dead shall be rewarded “at the last day.” Have we reached the last day? Certainly not. Besides, if the dead are already in heaven, why does Jesus need to come to the earth to give them their reward?

The Second Coming will herald the start of the one-thousand years during which the righteous will spend some time reviewing the books in heaven. Reviewing the Book of Life will explain why those who are absent from the kingdom are not present. For now, though, they are not yet in glory. Jesus said in John 11, the righteous dead are sleeping, awaiting His return.

Understanding What Happens to Sin and Sinners Reveals the Urgency

Lastly, the Investigative Judgment is anchored in the final disposition of sin. The Pre-Advent Judgment shares how by grace the redeemed satisfied the judicial requirements for salvation. Having hidden their lives in Christ, the review of their lives is all Jesus. The unrighteous will sleep through the thousand years in the sleep of death. They won’t live again until the second resurrection. However, even they shall be heard joining humanity’s chorus, rehearsing Revelation 15:3, “Just and true are your ways, O King of saints.”   

This article is part of our 2018 March / April Issue
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Donald L. McPhaull, MSW, is enjoying more than 30 years of ministry and is currently the senior pastor of the Ephesus Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, CA


1  Pew Research Center, October 23, 2007, Awaiting The Judgment Day.

2  Sarah Elizabeth Peck, The Sanctuary: The Path To The Throne of God

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