The recent peace accord between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization has intensified interest in Bible prophecy. Many Christians believe that the events leading up to Christ's return will center around the nation of Israel. They believe that a rebuilding of the Jewish temple there on the ancient site of the Temple Mount has great prophetic significance.
The New Testament, however, points away from any rebuilt temple on earth. It focuses instead on heaven's sanctuary, where Jesus intercedes for us. Notice: "Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man" (Hebrews 8:1,2).
THE PRE-ADVENT JUDGMENT
In connection with the sanctuary is a pre-Advent judgment. Just before the destruction of this world, God sends three angels with a special worldwide warning. Each angel proclaims a segment of the message that is God's last communication to the human race. Of course these angels are symbolic-they are not flying over our heads with a megaphone. The message they share, however, is real and vitally important. We find the first warning in Revelation 14:6, 7:
"Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth-to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people-saying with a loud voice, 'Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water".
Here's the everlasting gospel, the grand old message of salvation but now with a new urgency. Why? Because "the hour of His judgment has come."
It only makes sense that a judgment of some kind takes place before Jesus returns to this earth. Because when He does come back He brings His reward with Him for everyone alive on earth. So He must have already completed an investigative judgment of those He will reward with eternal life, and those who won't go to heaven.
From the prophecies of Daniel, Adventists understand that this judgment began in the year 1844, at the close of the 2,300-year prophecy, and it proceeds until just before Jesus returns.
Many Christians tremble at the thought of facing God's judgment. If they could only understand the biblical meaning of judgment, they would realize that God is on our side. It's His good pleasure to give us the kingdom. In fact, He takes upon Himself the responsibility of defending His people.
Well now, if God defends us in the heavenly judgment, who is our accuser? You guessed it the devil. The Bible calls him the "accuser of the brethren," who "accuses us before God day and night" (Rev. 12:10). Apparently Satan is jealous about our going to heaven where he used to live as Lucifer, prince of the angels, before his rebellion and expulsion. Now he condemns God's children as being unworthy to occupy his former home.
Well, we are unworthy, aren't we? How do we counter the devils accusations? Notice the thrilling answer: "And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb" (Rev. 12:11). It's by the blood of Jesus that you and I overcome Satan's accusations! God cannot deny the devils contention that we are sinful. But in the blood shed on Calvary's cross He finds the evidence He needs to pronounce us innocent. So He dismisses Satan's charges, endorsing the security in Christ we have enjoyed since we accepted Him.
So God in the judgment takes our side against Satan. Jesus our advocate assists Him by interceding for us in heaven's temple. God finds in the sacrifice of His Son the legal basis to accept repenting sinners and count us perfect. I like that, don't you? It makes me feel confident in Christ about my salvation!
Now you may wonder, why would God need a judgment anyway? Can't He just brush aside the accusations of the devil and bring His people up to heaven? The problem here is that when the devil challenges God's acceptance of sinners, he raises doubts about God Himself. Is He really fair? Then how could He cast the devil out of heaven but build mansions there for other sinners?
You see the problem. In this judgment God must settle doubts about Himself, His fairness. Since His government operates through loving trust and loyalty, He allows the citizens of the universe to audit the record of His dealings throughout history. Notice this from the apostle Paul: "Indeed, let God be found true but every man a liar. As it is written, 'That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged'" (Rom. 3:4).
So in this judgment going on in heaven's temple before Jesus comes, God allows Himself to be audited by the citizens of the universe. At issue is His fairness in dealing with the human race by accepting repenting sinners into heaven. His goal is to defend His government and the salvation of His people from the accusations of Satan.
Martin Weber writes from Silver Spring, Maryland where he works presently as pastor of the New Hope Adventist Church.