Read the main article on this topic, Why the Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed, for background on the concepts discussed below.
The Classical Arminianism/Soul Sleep combination gives Adventism a strong philosophical basis for believing in an Investigative Judgment (IJ). However, some may continue to argue that while this combination may leave the door open to an IJ as the church understands it, it does not necessarily demand that such a conclusion be reached. In light of this objection, this article will explore each of the alternative views of judgment that are logically possible under the Arminian/Soul Sleep combination and demonstrate how the official Seventh-day Adventist understanding on the matter continues to be the most satisfactory conclusion.
Objections to the Concept of an Investigative Judgment
The IJ Cannot possibly be true because it is anti-gospel/perfectionistic in nature.
Little needs to be said regarding this attack. While we wholeheartedly agree that this doctrine has been abused to promote legalism and perfectionism, Adventist theologians and scholars have repeatedly demonstrated that this is a perversion of the doctrine, not its essence. The fact that critics continue to make this claim demonstrates that either they are Calvinists who think Classical Arminianism is anti-gospel, they are Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) Arminians who think the doctrine of eternal security is a test of gospel orthodoxy, or they remain ignorant of Adventism’s soteriological heritage. Needless to say, any student concerned with the implications that the IJ has for a proper understanding of the gospel can find numerous resources that answer this question to the satisfaction of anyone who acknowledges the legitimacy of Classical Arminian soteriology. We recommend some in our resource page at the end of the main article.
God knows who is saved without a judgment.
One might argue that while Classical Arminians reject Once Saved Always Saved, it does not necessarily follow that a judgment is necessary, for “God knows those who are his.” In this argument, then, the need for any judgment of any sort remains unnecessary due to the omniscience of God. While the Arminian/Soul Sleep combination may, in fact, leave the door open for a concept such as the IJ, it does not necessarily mandate such a conclusion. Because God knows who has turned their back on Christ, there is no need for Him to perform a work of judgment to determine who has been faithful and who has not. God can simply allow the faithful in and reject the apostate on the basis of His own perfect knowledge.
Such a conclusion, while certainly permitted within the Arminian/Soul Sleep framework, is nevertheless lacking in various aspects. The most obvious would be that such a position is more in keeping with Calvinism than Classical Arminianism. Part of Classical Arminianism’s meta-narrative is that God is benevolent. This benevolence of God opens the door for a fairness, transparency, and general other-centered concern that is not self-evident in Calvinism. Because Christians acknowledge that the sin-drama has affected the entire universe, including angels, it is only fair and transparent for God to allow the finite creation into His all-knowing judgments. However, the idea that God would judge everyone based solely on His omniscience denies this other-centered concern and does not fit the Arminian framework.
Again, such a position is more logically consistent with Calvinism, which elevates the sovereignty of God to such a height that God becomes, in the estimation of all Arminians, arbitrary and aloof. In Calvinism, God acts according to His desires with no input or apparent concern for the thoughts of others. This makes perfect sense, for Calvinism denies the freedom of the will. Thus, within this framework, a God who acts according to His omniscience without any benevolent concern for the thoughts of His created beings is perfectly in keeping.
However, Arminianism is a denial of Calvinism that, while maintaining the sovereignty of God, does so by paradoxically balancing this with the freedom of man, thus resulting in a much different picture of God. The picture that emerges from the Arminian concept of God is that of a God who is certainly omniscient but likewise benevolent. Thus, to suggest that God would judge the world based on His omniscience alone is to deny His benevolence toward the angels who have been involved in the same drama over humanity’s salvation and the sin problem.
Sadly, many Classical Arminians, in their desire to refute the IJ doctrine, switch their God-picture from Arminianism to Calvinism in order to raise this objection without even realizing it. Thus, while it is true that God does know who is saved without a judgment, it is equally true that the judgment is not intended to be based solely on God’s omniscience but on His benevolence as well. As a result, it makes much more sense to see God as participating in a work of judgment that is transparent for the benefit of all creation.
Thus, while it is certainly permitted to argue against a judgment on the basis of God’s omniscience in the Arminian/Soul Sleep framework, Adventist theologians are under no obligation to do so and in fact are more internally consistent by not switching their view of God from Arminian to Calvinist for the sake of arguing against a particular doctrine.
God judges through unconscious soul sleep.
One might likewise argue that while Adventists reject the immortal soul doctrine, it does not necessarily follow that the judgment must be a corporate event that begins at some point in human history. God could just as easily judge each person while they are unconsciously asleep. According to this view, the only difference between Adventists and other Arminians is that the human is not consciously present at their judgment but is nevertheless judged at the moment of their death.
This is certainly a viable position to take. However, those who take this position are still affirming that believers must be judged and that Christ’s ministry did not end at the cross. In addition, they still have to explain why God would have to judge if He is omniscient, what benefit the judgment has for creation, why the judgment has gone for so long, what the judgment actually means for believers, the relationship of that judgment to assurance, the relevance/importance of such a judgment, and the relationship of the day of atonement to the judgment (since every believer would face their own “day of atonement” where the faithful were separated from the apostates after death, so to speak).
In other words, if a person affirms the need for an IJ they may continue to deny the validity of 1844 by suggesting that the judgment takes place at each individual person’s death. However, at this point, they would have to embrace all of the concepts of the IJ doctrine with the exception of its structure or timing. If a person decides to go this route, the entire debate has shifted from two fronts (soteriological and eschatological) to just one – the eschatological. By affirming the need for an IJ under the Arminian/Soul Sleep framework, we eliminate the soteriological debate and find ourselves in need of an IJ of some sort. At this point, the only question that remains is: How does God choose to perform the judgment? Does He do it individually? Or, has He ordained a day in history in which He will begin a judgment process? (We will address this question in more detail in a future article; it is briefly explored below.)
Because Adventists do not believe in the immortal soul, we are under no obligation to force the judgment onto each individual at the moment of death. Such a judgment would be unnecessary since the person would rest in the grave until the second coming anyways. Thus, there would be no need for the judgment to take place at each individual death. As a result, Adventist theologians are free to take the Biblical texts pointing to a judgment day future of the cross but prior to the second coming as literally pointing to a judgment process that begins at a certain point in human history.
In summary, there are two primary objections that can be raised against the philosophical foundation of the IJ doctrine within the Arminian/Soul Sleep framework. Those two arguments, while permissible, nevertheless fail to account for the meta-narrative of both Arminianism and Soul Sleep. And while other arguments can be raised, we are convinced that these two constitute the most plausible alternatives. Thus, we conclude that to believe in both Classical Arminianism and Soul Sleep heavily demands a judgment narrative that begins at some point in human history between the cross and the second coming. The only way to deny such a powerful foundation is to deny Classical Arminianism. However, at this point, a person is no longer debating the IJ but the age-old Calvinism, Arminianism, OSAS debate that has raged from centuries past until this very day. In addition, if a person takes this position they are certainly free to label Adventists as heretics so long as they are ready to label all Classical Arminians heretics alongside us. And if that is the case, I speak on behalf of many Adventists that I know when I say we will gladly accept the label.
The IJ stands strong, not based on little verses here and there, but on the logical outworking of the Arminian and Soul Sleep meta-narratives coming together into one cohesive theological system. While this certainly does not settle all of the questions, it gives the Seventh-day Adventist church a foundation for believing in the IJ from which we can confidently debate, discuss, and explore the sanctuary, Hebrews, and the eschatological ramifications of Daniel 8-9. It is to some of these themes that we now turn.
Objections to Details of the Investigative Judgment
We will now briefly explore some of the more common objections raised regarding the details of the IJ doctrine. Keep in mind that all of the following arguments are incapable of refuting the IJ, for they deal with details, not foundation. In addition, none of the thoughts included here are exhaustive. They are not intended to be the final word on the matter. These are simply some brief thoughts on the common objections that we feel can aid the conversation regarding the details of the judgment that often come under attack.
The fact that there is an IJ that takes place shortly prior to the second coming brings the yearly Hebrew festivals into perspective:
In the spring, the Israelites celebrated the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the First Fruits and Pentecost. In the fall, they celebrated the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. Our critics insist that the Day of Atonement was fulfilled at the cross. Does that mean that all the other feasts were also fulfilled at the cross? The Adventist perspective where the spring festivals represented Christ’s death, resurrection, and Pentecost while the fall festivals represent events at the end of the world (Pre-Advent Judgment, the second coming, etc.) is a far more sensible interpretation than anything our critics have been able to produce. The Adventist understanding of the pre-Advent Judgment makes for a perfect fit.
The Book of Hebrews
Some Bible translations say that Jesus went straight into the Most Holy Place immediately after His ascension. How does this line up with the Adventist understanding?
Thousands of hours have been spent by scholars debating whether the Greek terms translated “Holy Place” in the King James should have been more accurately translated “Most Holy Place” or rather “Holy Places.”
However, why would we assume that the point of the earthly sanctuary was to teach us about heavenly geography? Was the “pattern” given to Moses really intended as an exact architectural blueprint of heavenly real estate?
Consider for a second what the sanctuary service would have looked like if every minor aspect was intended to be an exact representation of the real thing:
- there should have been just one sacrifice instead of many
- the ceremonies should have been conducted just once instead of year after year
- the altar should have been a cross
- since the high priest represented Christ, he should have offered himself instead of a lamb as the sacrifice
- etc., etc.
It is never a good idea to take a model and expect it to reflect the real thing perfectly in every specific.
In the Old Testament, the priests were sinful human beings. As they ministered daily in the Holy Place, they needed a veil to shield them from the Shekinah Glory in the Most Holy Place. Jesus, however, doesn’t have that problem; He is holy, undefiled, separate from sinners. As such, He could enter directly into God’s presence and even sit down at His right hand. None of this in any way detracts from the fact that there was a “daily” ministry and a “yearly” ministry (Day of Atonement) and that the antitype of the yearly ministry more sensibly starts in the recent past rather than immediately at the ascension.
What about the 1844 date itself?
There is much that has been written on this already that will carry far more weight now that the reader understands the solid foundation of the Investigative Judgement. I will just share a few thoughts here:
The Day-Year Principle
If there is one idea that really doesn’t need defending, it is the day-year principle, as much as the critics might disagree.
The fact that there is a passage that says,
from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince (Dan. 9:25)
and that there is a decree in Ezra 7 given in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes (the dates of whose reign I can quickly pull up on Google), and that if I add the specified time to this date I get to the time of Jesus, is overwhelming evidence that these are not meant to be taken as literal days but as years. There are very few things in Scripture that can be demonstrated as persuasively as this.
For a more thorough exploration of this topic (Historicism) and of the challenges posed by Futurism, Preterism, and Idealism, we invite the reader to avail themselves of the numerous resources published by SDA scholars and theologians.
The Spectrum article we started this discussion with mentioned that “when in doubt, it is best to let the prophetic text lie in its original, unadulterated state without trying to impose an interpretation on it” and that there’s a place “where questioning takes preeminence over believing. It is most of all, a place where humility replaces interpretative assertiveness.”
In the Bible, there is one time period that appears seven different times:
- Daniel 7:25 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 hands until a time and times and the dividing of a time.
- Daniel 12:7: “It shall be for a time, times, and half a time that he can scatter the power of the holy people.”
- Revelation 11:2: “The holy city they tread under foot forty and two months.”
- Revelation 11:3: “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophecy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.”
- Revelation 12:6: “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days.”
- Revelation 12:14: “And the woman was given wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.”
- Revelation 13:5: “And there was given to the beast a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and power was given to him to continue forty and two months.”
It seems to me that if God is going to hammer us over the head seven times with a time period, then it probably means that at least in this one instance, God does want us to exercise “interpretative assertiveness.” So even if nothing else, we can, at least, be certain about the prophetic significance of 1260 years somewhere between 500 and 1800 A.D.
According to the apostle Paul,
We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled… as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. 2 Thess. 2:1-3 KJV
Thus, according to Paul, there was something that needed to happen before the second coming, which, according to the book of Daniel, lasted until about the 1800s. We already expected the judgment to start a short time prior to the second coming, but Daniel tells us specifically that it would start after the 1260 years. Therefore, even if for some reason Adventists are mistaken about 1844, they are only off by a few years or decades.
Marcos Torres co-authored this article. It was also published at http://www.thehaystack.tv/why-the-critics-of-the-investigative-judgment-have-failed/