In 1983 Argentina started the arduous process of national healing after the tragic human rights violations of previous administrations. Though other truth commissions had existed before in other nations, Argentina’s National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons was the first properly reported and documented review since the Nuremberg trials after World War II.
In 1995 South Africa formed its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) after their system of racial segregation was abolished. It was tasked to find and record all the human rights abuses during apartheid, while also promoting reconciliation between the various people groups. Witnesses shared testimonies about what trauma they had experienced. It successfully set the stage for more TRCs in other countries, from Canada to Rwanda. These commissions sought to get to the bottom of things and let the world know what happened, which included abuses from murder and rape, to kidnappings, and even genocide. Advocates felt that they were a necessary step for a nation to confront its past while constructing a way so that the events would never again occur.
If human governments need this complex form of address in the wake of human atrocities, how much more is a cosmic truth and reconciliation commission needed? The latest technological surveillance and greatest insights into psychology with the most complex understanding of compassion cannot muster up enough truth and reconciliation for all fallen humanity’s history. Rather, heavenly agencies are employed using supernatural records, extraterrestrial witnesses, angelic watchers, and holy jurists in the great celestial drama of the investigative judgment. “Thousands upon thousands were serving Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court convened, and the books were opened” (Dan. 7:10, NASB). Instead of a single declaration of a verdict from God, the whole judicial process is made transparent before the unfallen worlds.
Parsing out personal responsibility and accountability in each individual life, the investigative judgment sees how decisions were made, where grace has been given, where grace has been rejected, and how it all played out in real-time history. Its findings will conclude that God’s grace is more gracious than human grace, His justice more just than human justice.
Language and our imaginations are limited to fathom how these things can be, yet they are held for the benefit of the unfallen universe, too. For a thousand years, in the millennial judgment (1 Cor. 6:20; Rev. 20), the righteous will have their own opportunity to see this process unfold, while the wicked will have theirs during the executive judgment (2 Peter 2:4-6; 3:10-13).
Our gut reaction to judgment may be fear and anxiety that our sins be exposed. But Scripture already states that we are all sinners. That is obvious; it doesn’t need investigation (Rom. 3:23). Judgment, rather, emphasizes the role of God of defending His people (like the judges of the Old Testament), all based on the sacrifice, righteousness, and salvation that Christ has provided. As Daniel 7:22 says: “Judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One” (NASB).
Transcending TRCs, the investigative judgment covers all humanity, dead and living. It encompasses the abuses found throughout human history rather than those of specific communities. It will extol the nature of judgment and redemption as they are in Christ, rather than in human definitions of social justice and national reconciliation. Just as the TRCs heal the deep wounds of human violence, the judgment will heal the universe’s wounds of sin. If TRCs provide reconciliation only between individuals and communities, how much is a grander forum needed to reunite divinity and the unfallen worlds with redeemed humanity? The former forum seeks to move a nation forward; the latter shows the universe the true grace and true justice of God’s character, so that “affliction will not rise up a second time” (Nahum 1:9)—never again.