The Investigative Judgement
Ellen White describes the Investigative Judgement in this way, “As the books of record are opened in the judgement, 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. Names are accepted, names rejected. 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.” 1
There are two basic problems with this teaching:
1. It is not in the Bible.
Even the Adventists themselves are aware of this: “In the 1950's, as an editor of ‘The SDA Bible Commentary,’ Elder Cottrell tried to defend the SDA interpretation of Daniel 8: 14. He resented Dr. Donald Barnhouse’s comment that the investigative judgement idea had not a Bible text to support it. But after labouring with Daniel 8: 14, using the original languages and the historical-grammatical method of interpretation, Cottrell found that he could not substantiate the Adventist position. At the suggestion of F. D. Nichol he sent a questionnaire to 27 leading Adventist scholars and found that they too had no adequate biblical defence for it. (See appendix).
A committee appointed by the General Conference met for five years and could not resolve the issues. A minority admitted that the Adventist position could not be proved from the Bible.” 2
2. It is in conflict with the Bible.
It is the view of this author, that the Investigative Judgement cannot be reconciled with the following Biblical teachings: -
Predestination (God knows in advance who will be saved): “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8: 29-30).
The LORD knows those who are his (so he does not need to examine lists of sins): “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10: 14).
“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’” (2 Tim 2: 19).
Believers do not come under condemnation (are not judged with regard to salvation): “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3: 18).
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5: 24).
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8: 1).
“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Jesus Christ, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8: 33-34).
(To the thief on the cross): “I tell you the truth today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 43) (Irrespective of where you put the comma.)
[Cf. Rom 14: 10; 2 Cor 5: 10 – the word “judgement” is not found – and furthermore, we must all “stand” or “appear” before the βημα – this cannot be the Investigative Judgement.]
When someone repents under the new covenant, God forgives his sins, blots them out, and forgets them: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,…” (Acts 3: 19-20).
Cf. “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2: 38).
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time… For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8: 10, 12).
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43: 25).
“I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44: 22).
“… says the LORD Almighty, ‘And I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (Zech 3: 9).
Justification by faith and assurance of salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast.” (Eph 2: 8-9).
“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5: 13).
Because of the above, it is the opinion of this author that the doctrine of the Investigative Judgement is unbiblical.
1. E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 483.
2. R. Brinsmead, Judged by the Gospel, 1980.
Seventh-day Adventist Scholars Response
to 1958 Poll
In 1958, Raymond Cottrell (Adventist) initiated an opinion poll of Adventist Bible scholars. The sampling included all the Hebrew teachers in the denomination (8), nine heads of college Bible departments, five other experienced Bible teachers, and four former college Bible teachers. A total of 27.
To the question: “What linguistic or contextual reasons can you suggest for applying Daniel 8: 14 to the services of the day of atonement and thus to the investigative judgement beginning in 1844?” - all the scholars said that there is no linguistic or contextual basis for so applying it!
None of the scholars believes you can get the SDA view of Daniel 8: 14 from the Bible, at least in terms of linguistics and context!
To the question: “What reasons other than language and context would you suggest for applying Daniel 8: 14 to the services of the day of atonement and thus to the investigative judgement beginning in 1844?” - the following were the responses:
No other basis, none to offer
Analogy between earthly and heavenly
Ellen White so applies it
A “fortunate accident” in translation.*
*According to the King James translation: unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. Compare the Hebrew: 2300 evenings-mornings and the sanctuary will be justified.
To this, the Adventist theologian Dr. Desmond Ford remarked, “Such conclusions offered by the cream of our scholarship assert in effect that our traditional teaching on Dan. 8: 14 is indefensible.”
Desmond Ford was a college teacher for many years within the Adventist church.
Some other quotations from him: “Many Adventist scholars have long held that Daniel 8: 14 does not teach an Investigative Judgement. Their view was rejected because it seems to contradict Ellen White. It is well nigh certain that had Ellen White not endorsed the doctrine, it would have been surrendered long ago.”
“No scholar seriously believes that Jesus Christ is sitting in heaven turning pages to investigate Christian lives.”
This Adventist theologian points out that this notion violates the orthodox Christian belief that Jesus’ atonement for sin was completed by his death on the cross.
Hunt, G. G. P., Beware this cult!, 1981.
Pahl, L., Investigating the Investigative Judgement, 1992.