WHO IS BEING JUDGED, AND WHY?
Many people have a concept of the judgment as a time when God finds out if we have been good enough for heaven, making a list of the good things we have done and comparing it with our sins that are written in “the books.” However, God doesn’t have any “finding out” that He has to do, and being good is not the criteria. Every person who has ever lived is a sinner, and the wages of sin is death. But those who in faith have trusted in Christ’s atoning death on the cross “have passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
The investigative judgment was symbolized by the Day of Atonement, in which the priest made a final atonement for the people who had confessed their sins when they brought their sacrifices to the sanctuary. The obvious question is, why would any additional atonement be needed for Christians, since Christ has forgiven the sins that we have confessed and “cast all our sins into the depths of the sea”? (Micah 7:19).
As we saw in chapter 4, during the earthly service the priests dealt daily with the sins that the Israelites committed and which they confessed upon the head of the sacrificial animal. But besides these sins there were many other sins they committed; some that they were ignorant of, some which did not seem important enough to bring to the sanctuary, some which were forgotten, as well as the sinfulness that was a part of their general sinful human nature. These also needed to be atoned for, and “on that day [the Day of Atonement] the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (Leviticus 16:30).
This brings up an even more fundamental issue. God already knows all that is in our hearts, whether our repentance was genuine or simply an attempt to avoid getting in trouble. He knows whether we have continued to believe, or if we just believed at some time in the past and then went back to a worldly life of sin. Obviously the investigative judgment is not so that God can gather more information with which to make a decision concerning our eternal fate. “For His eyes are on the ways of man, and He sees all his steps. There is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. For He need not further consider a man, that he should go before God in judgment… Therefore He knows their works” (Job 34:21-25). When Daniel saw in vision that “the court was seated and the books were opened…and a judgment was made” (Daniel 7:10, 22), and when John heard that “the hour of His judgment has come,” they were not learning about a process that God needs in order to make a decision.
Perhaps the key to understanding this is the fact that although we are saved by faith, we will be judged by our works (“And they were judged, each one according to his works” Revelation 20:13).<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> God sees the heart, so he can save us according to the faith that He sees. But the rest of the universe is integrally involved in the judgment, and they cannot see the heart, they can only see the works that are evidence of the faith we profess. The courtroom scenes of Daniel and Revelation emphasize the myriads of heavenly creatures that are present.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The Old Testament examples of investigative judgment were for the sake of men and angels, not for God.<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> The apostle Paul said “we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men (1 Corinthians 4:9). “His [God’s] intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 3:10).Judgment is for the sake of the rest of the universe, not for God.
The fact that the intelligent universe will be convinced of God’s wisdom in the judgment brings up a crucial point: God, more than anyone else, has been accused and slandered. In a sense, the investigative judgment is also a time in which God Himself is judged—“the hour of His judgment has come.” This incredible thought is captured in Romans 3:4, “Indeed, let God be true, but every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That You [God] may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged.” God has submitted Himself to the judgment of His creation! God has been maliciously accused of being selfish, unloving and a liar, with restrictive laws that limit the happiness of His creatures. Rather than defending Himself, God answers these charges with exhibit A—“those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). The joy and “beauty of holiness”<![if !supportFootnotes]><![endif]> of these overcomers is a rebuke to the “accuser of the brethren” and vindicates God’s law, His government, His wisdom in creating man, and His plan of salvation.
Continue to next section: WORSHIP THE CREATOR
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> See also Revelation 2:23, Eccles. 12:14, Matthew 12:36,37, 16:27, 25:31-46, 2 Corinthians 5:10.
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> Daniel 7:9,10, Revelation 4:4, 5:11.
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> For example, “The Lord” and two angels came to Abraham and announced that they were going down to Sodom and Gomorrah to “see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me: and if not, I will know”. But the Lord Himself did not go down, only the two angels (Genesis 18:16-19:15). Likewise, in Ezekiel 8 and 9 there was an investigative judgment but it was “the Lord” showing Ezekiel the abominations of the people and directing angels to go find and mark those “who sigh and cry over all the abominations”.
<![if !supportFootnotes]>  <![endif]> 1 Chronicles 16:29, Psalms 29:2, 96:9.