You believe in the investigative judgment? Good, because it’s true. And that your name will come up in it? Good, because it will.
How will you fare, though, when it does? Ellen White writes that every “work passes in review before God, and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness. Opposite each name in the books of Heaven is entered, with terrible exactness, every wrong word, every selfish act, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling. Heaven-sent warnings or reproofs neglected, wasted moments, unimproved opportunities, the influence exerted for good or for evil, with its far-reaching results, all are chronicled by the recording angel.”1
All of that is biblical. “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccles. 12:14). “Every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matt. 12:36). God will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts” (1 Cor. 4:5). “Behold, it is written before Me, . . . your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together, says the Lord” (Isa. 65:6, 7).
So, how well will we fare when, with “terrible exactness,” every “secret thing” comes under scrutiny before God? Many would be ashamed to have their deeds exposed before other sinners—but before a holy God? If all human “righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6), what chance do people have when their iniquities are “written before” Him?
Satan, meanwhile, is there, pointing “to the record of their lives, to the defects of character, the unlikeness to Christ, which has dishonored their Redeemer, to all the sins that he has tempted them to commit, and because of these he claims them as his subjects.”2
What, then, is going to get you through this judgment? Your deeds? Your faithfulness? Your character?
Is this not when and where the gospel, Christ’s substitutionary atonement, becomes key? Absolutely—which is why Ellen White writes that “Jesus does not excuse their sins, but shows their penitence and faith, and, claiming for them forgiveness, he lifts his wounded hands before the Father and the holy angels, saying, ‘I know them by name. I have graven them on the palms of my hands.’”3
Those whose sins are blotted out “have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God.”4
Shouldn’t anyone who professes Christ live in “harmony with the law of God”? Yet harmony with God’s law reveals only the reality of their salvation; it can no more procure that salvation than manicures, baths, and perfumes can make a pig kosher.
That’s why believers need Jesus, now and especially in the judgment, when, as their “Advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1), Jesus “pleads their cause and vanquishes their accuser by the mighty arguments of Calvary.”5
1 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, 1888 edition (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1888), p. 481.
2 Ibid., p. 484.
4 Ibid., p. 483.
5 Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1882), p. 470.