We ended with this question last time: What is there in heaven that needs to be “justified,” “restored,” or “vindicated?”
In our study of the book of Job we saw that Satan attempted to cast doubt on God’s character. His accusations imply that God was corrupt, that humans worship God only because he bribed them. These accusations were made in the presence of “the sons of God,” whoever they are. And it appeared that God let Satan inflict suffering on Job so that “the sons of God” could see for themselves whether Satan’s accusation was true or not.
Our text in Daniel 9 says that “the sanctuary” needs to be “cleansed,” or perhaps “justified,” “restored,” or “vindicated.” But we also saw that it’s unlikely that sins of any sort have actually been piling up in heaven. So, what is it that needs to be cleared up?
As we noted already, the accusation in Job concerned God’s character. The question of God’s character was not resolved in the book of Job, as evidenced by the fact that “the sons of God,” the ones for whose benefit the accusation was made, never speak. And as I mentioned, I believe that’s because the issue of God’s character was not fully resolved at that point. However, the question of God’s character surely was settled on Calvary.
The question of whether God’s way or Satan’s way was better could not have been more starkly contrasted. On Calvary, the sons of God and anybody else could clearly see just how far each party was prepared to go. God in Christ was “reconciling [a sinful] world to himself.” Christ, the son of God, was willing to die, to take upon himself all the sins and all the wrongdoing of all the ages so that those he loved might be saved. At the same time, it was demonstrated that Satan was willing to kill even the innocent son of God in order to impose his will on the universe.
Along with all the other meanings of the cross, there can be no doubt it was a supreme demonstration of the character of the two combatants. But the sanctuary is not God’s character, per se. Rather, as I believe I demonstrated previously, it is the plan of salvation. And that, is a rather complicated question.
Because it is not just the character of God which is now in question, but rather whether his verdict on each sinner is correct, and whether redeemed sinners should be given immortality and set loose in a newly cleansed and sinless cosmos.
I believe that the traditional understanding of the investigative judgment is correct in principle, but not in detail. What do I mean by that? Well, I am saying, that just as our original understanding of the 2300 day prophecy was correct in principle — that God was going to do something momentous at the end of that time prophecy — but mistaken in the particular detail that he was coming back to earth at that time. Put another way, yes, at the end of the 2300 day prophecy a new process began taking place, but it began taking place in heaven, and not on earth.
In a similar way, I believe that the investigative judgment brings up the case of every human being who has ever lived, starting with that of Adam and Eve. But the question is not whether or not they have lived a perfect or even worthy life. God alone makes the judgment of who shall be saved. Just as the question in Job revolved around God’s character, so the question in the investigative judgment focuses on God’s judgment.
Let’s take a hypothetical example. I anticipate that Jacob will be saved. But Jacob was a liar and a cheat and a thief of the first rank. If you were a sinless being — one of “the sons of God” — would you be comfortable with giving Jacob eternal life? Having seen the terrible things that he did on this earth, would you want him living next door to you, so to speak? That’s one of the questions the sons of God need to answer.
If it was just about God deciding who should be saved and should be lost, there would be no purpose in a long time period. God is infinitely wise, and he is all knowing, he knows the end from the beginning, so he can simply declare his judgment and be done. But just as with the case of Job, it is not enough for God to know that he is right. If creatures who are free moral agents are to trust God, then they must be convinced in their own minds; not just in the general way, but in each specific case.
Whoever the sons of God are, they are finite beings, just as you and I. For them to be convinced would take some time, just as it would for you and me. Now, these are beings whose minds are not clouded with sin, as ours are. Remember, the book of Revelation tells us that Satan was cast to this earth. Only here did his sowing of suspicion and distrust take root. So these “sons of God” don’t have to deal with confusion that we do.
Nevertheless, we have plenty reason to believe that some pretty nefarious characters, people who’ve done some pretty terrible things on this earth, will be saved. And it may well take a good deal of evidence and convincing before free moral agents feel confident that God is just.
You see, I believe that the best translation of the word ṣedeq in this case would be “vindicated.” I believe that what we call the investigative judgment is about vindicating the plan of salvation. And in the next post will examine more closely just how complex a task that may be.