December 24, 2008

The Crusaders and the Judgment

2008 1536 page24 capO DEDICATED TO JESUS, THE CRUSADERS PILLAGED AND PLUNDERED their way to the Holy Land, committing atrocity upon atrocity. How could such horrors have been done in the name of Jesus? It’s easy (you say): These people weren’t real Christians.

But how do you know? How can you judge their hearts, what they were taught, what opportunities they had—or didn’t have—to know better? Might not some have later repented, claiming the same promises of forgiveness and grace we do? What about the horrendous acts of those who turned out to be, it seems, pretty pious souls? Who are we to judge hearts?
We shouldn’t. But God does, should, and will (see Rom. 14:10; Heb. 10:30; Eccl. 12:14; Dan. 7:10). We call it the preadvent judgment.
Unless one believes in once saved, always saved, then what is the problem with God ultimately and finally separating the wheat from the tares (Matt. 13:2530), the wise from the foolish (Matt. 25:113), and the faithful from the unfaithful (verses 1430) among those who profess to follow Him?
2008 1536 page24Critics make much of the fact that Daniel 7 and 8 are judgments against the little horn (though they are also “in favor of the saints”). But who was the little horn, other than a professed Christian power claiming the same promises of grace and salvation we do? Should there not be a divine final reckoning among the true and the false who claim those promises, especially in a religion whose basis is that you are saved by what someone else has done for you?
Think it through: if salvation were purely by our works, it would be easy to recognize the saved—just tally up their works. Either they add up or don’t, period. But in a faith where salvation rests on the merits of what Someone else has done for us, a faith in which the righteousness needed for salvation exists in Someone other than ourselves, the issue gets more subtle, more nuanced. Hence, a judgment by One who never makes a mistake would seem more necessary here than in a religion where it’s all about works, would it not?
Unfortunately, when taught the judgment over the years, Adventists have been taken into the Most Holy Place without blood, which leads only to death because in the Most Holy Place is the law, and the law condemns, not pardons. Yet atonement is all about pardon, not condemnation. The high priest never went into the Most Holy Place, a symbol of the judgment, without blood, because it was the Day of Atonement, and only blood atones for sin (read Lev. 16). The key element is blood, not law, because blood, not law, atones—and every drop of that blood symbolized the blood of Christ, the only blood that truly makes atonement (1 Peter 1:18, 19). Although people are judged by works, Jesus presents His righteousness in our behalf, because none of us has the works necessary for salvation. Only Jesus does, and He offers them to us by faith now—and in the judgment—where we need it the most!
One of the greatest preadvent judgment texts is Romans 8:1 (KJV): “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” The whole idea of condemnation implies some kind of judgment. Yet for those who are in Christ Jesus the verdict is clear: “no condemnation.”
Again, unless you believe that once a person is “saved” that person can never fall away—even if they commit wanton atrocities (all in the name of Jesus)—it’s hard to imagine that God wouldn’t have a final separation between those truly clothed in the garments of His righteousness (Matt. 22:113), and those merely claiming to be but whose lives reveal otherwise. For a religion based not on our own works but on someone else’s that we claim by faith, it’s hard to imagine how there couldn’t be a final, divine separation.
That’s why the Bible tells us there is. We call it the preadvent judgment.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.