Christ Our Only Advocate
A father with two noisy boys came aboard the 4:05 train to New York. The unruly boys ran up and down the car, disturbing the peace. Finally, a passenger, who sat next to the father, could take it no more. “Sir, don’t you realize your boys are a nuisance?”
“Yes, I guess they are,” the father said with a sigh. “We’ve just come from the hospital where their mother died.” Suddenly, the boys’ behavior didn’t matter anymore. Now the other passenger understood. The boys—and their father—were coping with shock and grief.
In life, only God knows all about us, but the pre-advent judgment will cause the universe to understand better: both Him and us.
The second phase of the post-resurrection sanctuary doctrine is unique to Seventh-day Adventists. They find in Daniel 7 and 8, together with Revelation 14:6 and 7, biblical evidence for a pre-advent judgment. They call this judgment “pre-advent,” denoting its time; and “investigative,” denoting its method.
Many of God’s end-time saints consider the pre-advent judgment as anything but good news, even though the first angel’s message places the judgment in the context of the “eternal gospel” (Rev. 14:7).1 They apparently consider the judgment apart from its relation to the little horn in Daniel, its roots in the Cross, its relation to Christ’s intercession, and its outworking in Armageddon.
The everlasting gospel is the truth about Calvary. If “the sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster,” and if “in order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary,”2 then Calvary must give us insight into the pre-advent judgment. No subsequent judgment calls into question the judgment of Calvary; neither is it different from, nor does it add to, but only reveals and applies what was completed there.
Judgment day is revealed by Calvary. Jesus said of the cross, “‘Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out’” (John 12:31). Calvary judgment means ultimate deliverance for God’s people and destruction of their enemy. In the pre-advent judgment, it is God’s people who are delivered (Dan. 7:22, 26, 27) and the little horn that is destroyed (vss. 11–14; Rev. 19:11–21). This is the outworking in history of the double verdict of Calvary. Internal contextual evidence in Daniel, beyond chapter 7, seems also to support this double verdict. Thus, the “deliverance” (Dan. 3:17, 28, 29; 12:1) of Daniel from the lions’ den, and his three friends from the fiery furnace, gives insight into the eschatological deliverance of those who have their names written in the book (12:1), which is the book used in the pre-advent judgment (7:10). Escalation from local deliverances to a universal deliverance is involved. The historical deliverances for God’s people also include destruction of their enemies in both the fiery furnace (3:22) and the lions’ den (6:24). Likewise, the eschatological deliverance of the saints has its counterpart in the destruction of their enemy (7:26, 27).
No New Testament book develops so completely the post-Resurrection ministry of Christ as does Hebrews. Christ’s intercession for His people is a part of Christ’s better ministry as compared with that of Old Testament priests, even as His sacrifice was better than the multiple cultic sacrifices. Examination of the records (Hebrews 7:10) is only one side of the judgment. The other is the intercession, or advocacy, of Christ (1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 2:1). Christ is there in the presence of God on behalf of His people (Heb. 9:24), where He is able to fully save, for He ever lives to intercede (Heb. 7:25). The intercession described in Zechariah 3 and Hebrews takes place at the same time as the pre-advent judgment.
The end-time remnant need to capture the full impact of Zechariah and Hebrews relative to the continuing intercession-advocacy of the conquering Christ during the pre-advent judgment. Their focus must be on Christ and not on themselves. Revelation is precise: In the judgment hour, the saints worship Christ as their Creator (Rev. 14:7), realizing that just as He brought them into this world, so only He can get them into the next world. End-time saints are pictured as naked (Rev. 3:18), just like Adam and Eve at the Fall (Gen. 3:10, 21). No fig leaves, or human works, can supply the need. Only the slain Lamb can supply the covering; only the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Isa. 61:10; Rev. 6:11), the wedding garment supplied by the Lord (Matt. 22:11, 12), will suffice. The prodigal son needs the best robe to cover his tattered rags (Luke 15:22).
The first angel’s message is an invitation to focus on Christ’s perfection rather than on our perfection. It is a call to God’s people to worship and glorify Christ in the judgment hour (Rev. 14:7). If some focus on their own perfection, their own works, then they are no better than the little horn that deflects attention away from Christ to itself (Heb. 8:9–12). How much longer will Christ delay His coming in order to let people give up on themselves and come only to Him? God is waiting for His people to be like Zechariah. For 150 years He has waited for people to understand the essence of the gospel in this judgment hour. He waits for His people to look beyond judgment to an Intercessor, to grasp the judgment as part of the everlasting gospel, to see judgment as a gift, just as Calvary is. That truth will set them free (John 8:32) to take the good news to a dying world. Christ waits for this, not willing for any to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
Saints pass the judgment because they are different from the little horn. They do not speak great words against Christ or magnify themselves or persecute the saints or think to change God’s times and laws or put themselves in Christ’s place, casting His truth to the ground. They reflect Christ in their living. “Jesus our Advocate presents an effectual plea in behalf of all who by repentance and faith have committed the keeping of their souls to Him. He pleads their cause and vanquishes their accuser by the mighty arguments of Calvary.”3
God does not need the judgments, because He is omniscient (Ps. 33:13–15; Isa. 44:28; Mal. 3:16; Matt. 10:29, 30; Rom. 11:33). He holds these judgments for the sake of created beings. In the pre-advent judgment, the universe is looking at the records of human works, good and bad (Dan. 7:10). But more than that, they are looking to see whether individuals have accepted or rejected the saving work that Jesus did for them on the cross. Their relation to the substitutionary judgment of the covenant Savior determines their salvation (John 16:26, 27).
It is precisely that, and nothing else, that determines personal destiny. God is not asking us to be preoccupied with our perfection, but with His. The pre-advent judgment is Christ-centered, not people-centered. Human works are considered in the judgment. We reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7). Yet it is not so much what individuals have or have not done that is decisive. Rather, it is whether they have accepted what Christ has done for them when He was judged in their place at the cross (John 12:31).
The judgment also has as much to do with vindication of God as with the vindication of His followers. It provides proof to the universe that God is just. It shows why some will go to heaven and others will not. In this qualified sense, it is “the hour of his judgment” (Rev. 14:7, italics supplied). If God wants to open Himself up for investigation, then that is His choice. He does it to win the trust of the redeemed and the unfallen beings so that sin will never arise again. The judgment is for the benefit of all created beings as well as for God’s human followers. This is the breadth of the eternal-gospel context of the judgment. The judgment is just as good news as the gospel!
The judgment does not repudiate Calvary. It is the Crucified who intercedes for us. The pre-advent judgment is part of the unfolding in salvation history of what was accomplished at the Cross. Calvary moves inexorably to the deliverance of God’s people and the destruction of their enemies. It is by the authority of Calvary that Christ delivers His saints and destroys Satan and all their other enemies in the coming battle of Armageddon (19:14–21; 20:11–15). This will be the pre-advent implementation of the judgment verdict.
What Satan has done on a general level, in deflecting attention from the authentic heavenly sanctuary service to his counterfeit earthly priesthood (little horn), he is doing on the personal level by deflecting attention away from humankind’s only Substitute to humans themselves. Whether we look to an earthly priesthood or to our own righteousness for salvation, the problem is the same: Our gaze has been deflected away from Christ.
There is wondrous good news in the pre-advent judgment. For it does not stand by itself. It is surrounded by Calvary before it, Christ’s intercession in it, and Armageddon beyond it. In all three events, Christ works consistently for His people and against their enemies. (This is why the little horn is investigated in the judgment and receives the judgment verdict at the battle of Armageddon.) In all three events, Christ is “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8). What Christ accomplished on the cross is now unfolding in all subsequent salvation history, including the pre-advent judgment. This is why the “‘hour of his judgment’” (Rev. 14:7) is part of the “‘eternal gospel’” (vs. 6). In this judgment hour, it is our crucified Savior who “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Heb. 7:25).
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