What exactly is the pre-Advent judgment? To put it simply, the pre-advent judgment (also known as the investigative judgment) teaches that the final judgment will take place before the second coming of Christ. During this judgment the lives of every person, both believers and unbelievers alike, will be investigated. Marvin Moore, author of The Case for the Investigative Judgment put it well when he wrote:
The idea that God will conduct an investigative judgment someday is very biblical. In Ecclesiastes 12:14, Solomon said, ‘God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil’…. Thus, our works, our words, and even our thoughts (the secret things) will be examined in God’s final judgment. That’s investigative judgment.
The Bible itself has much to say on the topic of judgment and without a doubt it should. “Looking around at the world, we shouldn’t have a problem understanding the idea of judgment and condemnation. One doesn’t have to be a believing Christian to realize that something is radically wrong with humanity. Who can’t see what a royal mess, even disaster, we’ve made of things?... Who hasn’t been the victim of just how greedy, selfish, and mean people can be? Or who hasn’t at some point been the greedy, selfish, and mean one?” Victims of crime cry out for justice, families of those who have been murdered do likewise. Judgment seems to be a natural and intimate human desire. With this in mind, judgment becomes “the fulfillment of humanity’s hopes and yearnings” for it is where the wounded find closure and the broken healing. In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says, “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.” David wrote in the Psalms, “Let all creation rejoice before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness” In the New Testament, Jesus reaffirms the concept of a final judgment when he says, “…I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” Paul also reiterates the concept of a final judgment when he wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” However, while it is clear that there will be a judgment through these verses, they say nothing about the judgment taking place before the second coming of Jesus. According to these verses the day of judgment can just as easily be on the day of Christ’s return as they could before his return. Desmond Ford, former Adventist minister, writes: “…‘Why must [I] reject the two-phased ministry of Christ and the [pre-Advent] judgment?’ my answer is ‘Because it is nowhere taught in the New Testament or, indeed, in the Old Testament.’” Hence, based on Fords statement and the question posed beforehand, How is it that the Seventh-day Adventist church can be so sure that the judgment is a pre-Advent judgment? Adventist minister Martin Weber has a simple way of explaining it. “When Jesus comes again” Weber says, “He will separate the sheep (His true believers) from the goats (unbelievers and pseudo-disciples). See Matt. 25:31-46. Obviously He will have already decided by that time who are the sheep and who are the goats, so there has to be a pre-Advent judgment.” In addition, Paul’s verse quoted above states that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us.” Thus, according to Paul, when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, we appear not to be judged but to receive our reward. Therefore, it is implied that the judgment has taken place already. Jesus also said, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” Once again, the implication is that a decision has been made as to who will receive life and who will not, therefore, it is safe to deduce that a judgment has taken place before the resurrection (which takes place at the second coming of Christ). In connection with the second coming, Jesus also said, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” Once again, the words of Jesus infer that a judgment has already taken place, or else how could He already have the reward?
In addition, there is also evidence in the book of Daniel of a pre-Advent judgment that is to take place before the second coming of Jesus. Why the book of Daniel? Because the book of Daniel is the only book in the Old Testament that contains predictions that span all the way across history to our present day. For this reason the book of Daniel is said to contain “apocalyptic literature,” which is literature “concerned with the future and often reveal God’s eschatological judgment.” Because “Daniel is a primary source for Old Testament eschatology” it is only logical to presume that Daniel would have something to say about an event that occurs at the end of time. Indeed, Daniel has much to say about the pre-Advent judgment.
Daniel chapter seven makes the first reference to a judgment taking place during earth’s history. In this chapter Daniel has seen a vision that spans from his day (the time of the Babylonian reign) to the end of time. Four beasts are present in the chapter which according to verse 17 are also “four kings which arise out of the earth.” After these “four kings” Daniel says “As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat… The court was seated, and the books were opened.” This scenario clearly depicts a judgment scene. Then, when the judgment scene is complete Daniel goes on to say “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” According to Daniels vision, the judgment takes place before the second coming of Jesus.
Based on this evidence I propose that even if one is to reject the concept of an investigative judgment, one cannot pretend it has no biblical basis whatsoever. It is clear from the Bible and the Bible alone that a judgment will take place before the second coming of Christ. In addition to texts that support this position, stories in the Bible do likewise. When Adam and Eve sinned, Gods first action was one of investigation. Instead of God entering Eden with judgment for His rebellious creation, He entered with the question “Where are you?” From there God proceeded to ask many other questions which are typical of investigation. John T. Anderson, author of Investigating the Judgment points this out along with many other examples in which God “investigated” before He acted such as in the story of the Flood, the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Passover, the Fall of Jerusalem, Babylon and others. Anderson states that “[o]ne would have a hard time finding an example in the biblical record in which God executed judgment in a significant way before first taking that extra step of investigating.” Therefore, not only can we find texts that show an investigative judgment taking place before Christ’s second coming, but we can also find examples of God investigating events throughout the Bible before He implements His final decision. “No doubt you might be saying right now to yourself: ‘But God doesn’t need to inquire – He already knows everything.’ And you’re right! But as we shall see, it isn’t for God’s direct benefit that He does this.”
In summary, in the Old Testament a judgment was said to come in the future. Some would suggest that that judgment was completed at the cross, however, New Testament references to a future judgment show us that the judgment day spoken of throughout the Bible was not fulfilled at the cross. “New Testament writers are unanimous that the judgment is a future event [sic] which takes place at the end of the age (John 5:28, 29; 12:48).” Therefore, the judgment takes place after the death of Christ (A.D. 31) but before the second coming of Jesus as we have seen. Hence, the judgment could have begun at any point between A.D. 31 and the second coming of Jesus. For that reason, based on both textual and exemplary evidence it is clear that the concept of a pre-Advent investigative judgment is one-hundred percent biblical.
Davidson, Principal Contributor. Glimpses
Of Our God: Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide [Nampa: Pacific Press,
“Never Before Published Desmond Ford Dialogues About the 1844 Judgment, Ford
And Weber Dialogue, Section II: Ford’s Critique Of Weber,” Scribd,
http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/17458843 [accessed Feb 1, 2012].
For a study on the date of Christ’s crucifixion see: Nichols, Francis, D., eds.
The Seventh-day Adventist Bible
Commentary: A Basis For New Testament Chronology. Vol. 5 Hagerstown: Review
and Herald, 1976. 251-254. The commonly accepted date by many scholars ranges
from A.D. 30 – 31.