A Seventh-day Adventist term for the preliminary phase of the great final judgement by which God intervenes in human affairs to bring the reign of sin to a close and to inaugurate Christ's eternal reign of righteousness (see Dan. 7:9, 10, 13, 14). This opening phase is called an investigative judgement because it consists of an examination of the life records of all who have ever professed to accept salvation in Christ and whose names are therefore inscribed in "the Lamb's book of life." Its purpose is to verify their eligibility for citizenship in God's eternal kingdom. At the close of the investigative judgement the sins of those who have endured to the end are "blotted out" from the books of record and the names of all others are stricken from the book of life (Ex. 32:32, 33; Rev. 3:5; 20:12, 15; 22:19). Seventh-day Adventists teach that in view of the fact that at His second coming Christ rewards "every man according as his work shall be" (Rev. 22:12; cf. Rom. 2:5-11), it is evident that this investigation of the life record takes place before He returns to earth to gather the elect. The divine proclamation "Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgement is come," is specifically presented as preceding the Advent (Rev. 14:7; cf. v. 14).
To be sure, God does not need to investigate the records in order to learn or to determine who is eligible to be saved. It is for the benefit of all created beings that the facts with respect to each person's fate should be known, as an assurance to all that justice has been done and as a guarantee of the eternal stability of the divine government. The Bible writers speak of "books" in which God keeps a record of character-of good and evil deeds as measured by a person's knowledge of, and voluntary relationship to, divine grace and God's revealed will (Ex. 32:32; Mark 16:16; Phil. 4:3; James 4:17; Rev. 20:12, 13; 22:11, 12).
The doctrine of the investigative judgement is an integral part of the sanctuary doctrine, and relates especially to the fulfilment in antitype of the ancient Day of Atonement service. In brief, the Day of Atonement consisted, in figure, of a review of the individual records of God's people-of their personal relationship to God through the sanctuary ministration. At the close of the special service of the day a final disposal of all sins that had been confessed, forgiven, and transferred in figure to the sanctuary during the preceding year was made; the sanctuary was "cleansed" of the record of these sins removed (see Lev. 16).
Persons whose sins were included in this work of cleansing were released from further responsibility for their past record of sin, and their status under the covenant relationship was revalidated. Those no longer eligible to continue in the covenant relationship were to be "cut off" from Israel. The ancient Day of Atonement was thus a day on which the eligibility of each individual Israelite to continue under the covenant relationship was reviewed, and it was therefore a day of judgement (see SB, Nos. 111-118; SDADic, "Atonement, Day of").
Development of Seventh-day Adventist View. William Miller based his 1843/1844 message chiefly on the text (Dan. 8:14) "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed," holding that the period of time here specified terminated in that year (see Sanctuary; Twenty-three Hundred Days). He understood this cleansing of the sanctuary to involve a work of judgement and to consist in the purification of this earth by the fires of the last day, at the second coming of Christ in power and glory. When, after the disappointment of 1844, those who later became Seventh-day Adventists reviewed Miller's interpretation of Dan. 8:14, they became convinced of the validity of Miller's exposition of the time period, but concluded that the sanctuary here referred to is the sanctuary in heaven, mentioned in the book of Hebrews, where Christ now ministers as our great high priest. Inasmuch as the earthly sanctuary and its services were types of the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 8:2, 5; 9:6-9, 23; cf. Ex. 25:8, 9), as the earthly sanctuary was cleansed on the ancient Day of Atonement (Lev. 16), and as the earthly sanctuary ceased to exist in A.D. 70, early SDAs concluded that the cleansing of the sanctuary foretold in Dan 8:14 must refer to a counterpart of the ancient Day of Atonement to be conducted in the heavenly sanctuary. The SDA understanding of a cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, of a great antitypical day of atonement, and of an investigative judgement is based on this analogy drawn in the book of Hebrews between the earthly and heavenly sanctuaries.
The view that the sanctuary to be cleansed in 1844 is the one in heaven was first written out by Owen R. L. Crosier, in the Day-Dawn in 1845 and in the Day-Star Extra of Feb. 7, 1846. Crosier emphasised two aspects of the antitypical cleansing-the blotting out of sins and the disposal of sins by placing them, in figure, on the head of the scapegoat. This he based on Acts 3:19: "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord."
Crosier connected this blotting out of sins with the cleansing of the sanctuary from the sins of the people on the ancient Day of Atonement. "A little attention to the law will show that the sins were borne from the people by the priest, and from the priest by the goat. 1st, They are imparted to the victim. 2nd, The priest bore them in its blood to the Sanctuary. 3rd, After cleansing them from it on the 10th day of the seventh month, he bore them to the scape-goat. And 4th, The goat finally bore them away beyond the camp of Israel to the wilderness. This was the legal process, and when fulfilled the author of sins will have received them back again, (but the ungodly will bear their own sins,) and his head will have been bruised by the seed of the woman" (ibid. 43).
About the time Crosier was first writing his view concerning the heavenly sanctuary William Miller wrote a letter (Mar. 20, 1845) in which he applied the judgement-hour message to the closing ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary: "That the prophetic numbers did close in 1844, I can have but little doubt. What then was there worthy of note that could be said to answer to the ending of the periods under these numbers so emphatically describing the end? I answer. The first thing I will notice is, â€˜The hour of his Judgement is come.' I ask, is there any thing in the scriptures to show that the hour has not come, or in our present position to show, that God is not now in his last Judicial character deciding the cases of all the righteous, so that Christ (speaking after the manner of men) will know whom to collect at his coming or the angels may know whom to gather when they are sent to gather together the elect, whom God has in this hour of his Judgement justified? Rom. 8:33. . . . It also seems by John's description of this event, Rev. 19:1, 2, 11, that the scene of the Judgement begins in heaven, and the first thing mortals on earth will see will be the messenger of God, Rev. 20:1, who is Jesus Christ, descending from God, to execute the Judgement written in heaven, and fulfil the decrees and promises made in heaven by him who sitteth on the great white throne. . . . If this is true, who can say God is not already justifying his Sanctuary, and will yet justify us in preaching the time?" (Day-Star 5:31, Apr. 8, 1845).
Judging by their writings, Adventists who later formed the Seventh-day Adventist Church did not notice William Miller's suggestion relating the judgement of Rev. 14:6, 7 to the cleansing of the sanctuary mentioned in Dan. 8:14.
In his initial explanation of the October 1844 disappointment, Hiram Edson had spoken of Christ's having "a work to perform" in the heavenly sanctuary after the end of the 2300 days and before His return, but he gave no further explanation. Crosier's expanded discussion of the sanctuary in his 1846 article did not connect the cleansing of the sanctuary with the judgement. The nearest approach to the idea was an allusion to "the breast-plate of judgement" worn over the heart of the high priest when he went into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, "that he may bear their judgement" (Day-Star 9:40, Extra, Feb. 7, 1846).
He may or may not have derived this from Enoch Jacobs, who in November 1844 spoke of the names of the children of Israel on the "breast-plate of judgement" as typifying the people whose sins are put away before Christ personally returns, and suggested the possibility that on the antitypical Day of Atonement, the tenth day of the seventh month, Jesus had begun to sit in judgement and was on His way to execute the judgement in person (Western Midnight Cry 4:19, Nov. 29, 1844).
Neither is it clear whether Jacobs derived this idea of the final putting away of sins from a letter he had received from William Miller (dated Nov. 22) in which Miller, replying to an inquiry, wrote that Christ would come as judge, to bear our sins away; "that our sins cannot be blotted out until Christ comes to judge His people is evident from . . . Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:6" (ibid. 4:26, Dec. 21, 1844).
Nor is it possible to find a connection between the SDA view and the earlier reference by Josiah Litch (Prophetic Expositions , vol. 1, pp. 49-54) to a preliminary phase of the judgement-the examination, or trial, of every person preceding the resurrection, and the execution of the judgement at the Second Advent. The various elements-the blotting out of sins, the putting away of sins, the examination of the books, the cleansing of the sanctuary from the sins-were all present in Millerite thinking, but the synthesis cannot be traced exactly.
By 1849, when the early Seventh-day Adventist group had well established its identity, Ellen White wrote: "I saw that Jesus would not leave the Most Holy Place until every case was decided either for salvation or destruction" (Present Truth 1:22, August 1849; reprinted in EW 36), yet she did not call it the judgement.
In the same year David Arnold (Present Truth 1:43-45, December 1849) and the next year Joseph Bates (Review and Herald 1:22, December 1850) echoed the phrase "breast-plate of judgement," and carried the idea further, to equate the coming of the Bridegroom to the wedding with the entrance of the high priest into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, blotting out the sins of those whose names are on the breastplate (in the antitype, the Israel of God), but neither mentions the judgement. James White did not mention the breastplate of judgement in his article in Present Truth 1:75-79, May 1850; and in another discussion of the sanctuary doctrine (Review and Herald 1:29, January 1851), he mentioned only the removal of sins by placing them on the head of the scapegoat. In 1853 J. N. Andrews wrote a series of articles on the sanctuary. When he came to the cleansing on the Day of Atonement, he mentioned only the blotting out of sins and the transfer of sins to the scapegoat (Review and Herald 3:147, 148, Feb. 3, 1853).
However, in 1854 J. N. Loughborough, like William Miller in 1845, connected the cleansing of the sanctuary as a work of judgement with the message of the first angel of Rev. 14: "The hour of his judgement is come." He asked: "What was that work of cleansing? Is the work of cleansing the Sanctuary fitly heralded by the first angel's message? in other words, Is it a work of judgement? For light on this subject, we shall be obliged to go to the type. Let us look at the type. See the high priest preparing himself to cleanse the Sanctuary; almost the first thing he did was to gird upon him the breast plate of judgement. For what does he put that on? It certainly looks as though he was going to do a judgement work. . . .
"Now read 1 Pet. iv. Verse 5 declares that Christ is ready to judge the quick and the dead. Verse 7. â€˜But the end of all things is at hand.' Verse 11. â€˜If any man speak let him speak as the oracles of God.' (Oraclesten commandments. See Acts vii, 38.) Why speak as the oracles of God? Because the oracles are the duty brought out by the third angel's message. Verse 17. â€˜The time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God.' Verse 19. Commit the keeping of your souls to God. 1 Tim. v, 24. â€˜Some men's sins are open before-hand going before to judgement.' We see by this what the judgement is that the first angel of Rev. xiv refers to" (ibid. 4:30, Feb. 14, 1854).
The next year Uriah Smith formally developed the idea of judgement, building also on the connection between the cleansing of the sanctuary and the judgement-hour message: "The work of cleansing the earthly sanctuary was a work of judgement. The high priest went into the most holy place, bearing the breast-plate of judgement, and on that breast-plate the names of the twelve children of Israel, to make an atonement for the holy sanctuary, and for all the people of the congregation. Lev. xvi, 33. This prefigured a solemn fact; namely, that in the great plan of salvation, a time of decision was coming for the human race; a work of atonement, which being accomplished, God's people, the true Israel, should stand acquitted, and cleansed from all sin. . . . We read in Dan. vii, 10, that the judgement was set, and the books were opened. Again in Rev. xx, 12, the books were opened, and the dead were judged out of those things written in the books, according to their works. From this we learn that a record is kept of the acts of all men; and from that record, their reward is given them according to their deserts. There is no judgement in this sense of the term, independent of these books of record; but we read [1 Pet. iv, 17] that there is a time when judgement must begin at the house of God; when some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgement; [1 Tim. v, 24;] and if, says Peter, it first begin at us what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God. This must be a judgement of the same nature and can refer to no other work than the closing up of the ministration of the heavenly Sanctuary, hence that work must embrace the examination of individual character; and we conclude that the lives of the children of God, not only those who are living, but all who have ever lived, whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life, will during this time pass in final review before that great tribunal. We see, therefore, how in this respect, the work of the type is infinitely surpassed by that of the antitype. . . .
"The first angel proclaimed, Fear God and give glory to him; for the hour of his Judgement is come. At the end of the 2300 days, when that message closed, had that time come? If the judgement scene which takes place in the second apartment of the Sanctuary, to which this proclamation doubtless refers, did not then commence, it had not come; and the first angel with his message, was too fast. But we believe that work did there commence; that there was the time when judgement began at the house of God, and the time came when Daniel, and all the righteous in the person of their Advocate should stand in their lot" (ibid. 7:52-54, Oct. 2, 1855).
Finally, in 1857, James White rounded out the doctrine, using "investigative judgement": "The time is come that judgement must begin at the house of God, and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? 1 Pet. iv, 17, 18.
"This text we must regard as prophetic. That it applies to the last period of the church of Christ seems evident from verses 5-7, 12, 13. In the judgement of the race of man, but two great classes are recognised-the righteous and the sinner, or ungodly. Each class has its time of judgement; and, according to the text, the judgement of the house, or church, of God comes first in order.
"Both classes will be judged before they are raised from the dead. The investigative judgement of the house, or church, of God will take place before the first resurrection; so will the judgement of the wicked take place during the 1000 years of Rev. xx, and they will be raised at the close of that period.
"It is said of all the just, â€˜Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection,' therefore all their cases are decided before Jesus comes to raise them from the dead. The judgement of the righteous is while Jesus offers his blood for the blotting out of sins. Immortal saints will reign with Christ 1000 years in the judgement of the wicked. Rev. xx, 4; 1 Cor. vi, 2, 3. The saints will not only participate in the judgement of the world, but in judging fallen angels. See Jude 6.
â€˜Some men's sins [the righteous] are open before hand, going before to judgement, and some men [the wicked] they follow after.' 1 Tim. v, 24. That is, some men lay open, or confess their sins, and they go to judgement while Jesus' blood can blot them out, and the sins be remembered no more; while sins unconfessed, and unrepented of, will follow, and will stand against the sinner in that great day of judgement of 1000 years.
"That the investigative judgement of the saints, dead and living, takes place prior to the second coming of Christ seems evident from the testimony of Peter. â€˜Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick [living] and the dead.' . . . 1 Pet. iv, 5-7.
"It appears that the saints are judged while some are living and others are dead. To place the investigative judgement of the saints after the resurrection of the just, supposes the possibility of a mistake in the resurrection, hence the necessity of an investigation to see if all who were raised were really worthy of the first resurrection. But the fact that all who have part in that resurrection are â€˜blessed and holy,' shows that decision is passed on all the saints before the second coming of Christ. . . .
"When will the cases of the living saints pass in review in the investigative judgement of the house of God? This is a question worthy the candid and most solemn consideration of all who have a case pending in the court of heaven, and hope to overcome. In the order of heaven, we must look for their judgement to follow that of the dead, and to occur near the close of their probation" ("The Judgement," ibid. 9:100, Jan. 29, 1857).
Summary of Seventh-day Adventist View. The best presentation of the investigative judgement in current SDA literature is the chapter entitled "The Investigative Judgement," in The Great Controversy, by Ellen White, from which the following summarising sentences are taken:
"The work of the investigative judgement and the blotting out of sins is to be accomplished before the second advent of the Lord" (p. 485).
"He comes to the Ancient of days in heaven . . . at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844. . . . Our great High Priest enters the Holy of Holies, and there appears in the presence of God, to engage in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man-to perform the work of investigative judgement" (p. 480).
"Jesus will appear as their [His people's] advocate, to plead in their behalf before God" (p. 482).
"The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross" (p. 489).
"In the great day of final atonement and investigative judgement, the only cases considered are those of the professed people of God" (p. 480).
"Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living" (p. 483).
"Every man's work passes in review before God, and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness" (p. 482).
"The books of record in heaven, in which the names and the deeds of men are registered, are to determine the decisions of the judgement" (p. 480).
"The law of God is the standard by which the characters and the lives of men will be tested in the judgement" (p. 482).
"All who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon entered against their names in the books of heaven; as they have become partakers of the righteousness of Christ, and their characters are found to be in harmony with the law of God, their sins will be blotted out, and they themselves will be accounted worthy of eternal life" (p. 483).
"When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God's remembrance" (p. 483).
"When the work of the investigative judgement closes, the destiny of all will have been decided for life or death" (p. 490).
"When the investigative judgement closes, Christ will come, and His reward will be with Him to give to every man as his work shall be" (p. 485) -- Seventh-day Adventist Dictionary.