There are a good many Seventh-day Adventists today who are uncomfortable with the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. However, once we recognize the necessity of restoring trust throughout the universe, it becomes evident that something like the Investigative Judgment has to take place. A God bellowing — or pleading — “Trust me, trust me!” just won’t cut it. If all creatures are to truly trust God, then it must be voluntary. They must be convinced in their own minds, without hint of coercion.
And although strictly speaking the Investigative Judgment occurs prior to the second coming, the process of restoring trust continues for some time after. At least 1000 years. For even after the second coming, there are two groups who have not yet given their verdict. Both of those groups, those redeemed from Earth, and those, including Angels, who remain in rebellion, must come to the conclusion — again, of their own free will — that God is just. This must be so in order that the prophecy may be fulfilled that proclaims that, “every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess,” that God is just.*
It’s not simply that God is just in condemning sinners. We can accept that the punishment is deserved while still harboring doubts about whether the one meting out the punishment is someone we can trust. In the case of the plan of salvation, we have the added burden of coming to realize, to accept, that God is just to let some sinners off, let them inhabit the New Earth, while others must cease to exist. God must somehow assure everyone that he is just, while at the same time “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Events on earth during the Time of Trouble will have demonstrated to the “sons of God” that those following Christ through the tribulation are safe to save, both individually and corporately, and that Satan and his followers cannot inhabit a harmonious universe. The Investigative Judgment, begun on or about October 22, 1844, is for convincing these same “sons of God” concerning all the cases of individuals who have perished previous to the Time of Trouble.
And those of us who gather on the Sea of Glass will no doubt be overjoyed to be there. But it is clear from Scripture that someone we believed to be righteous will be lost, and some who committed terrible crimes will be saved. As just mentioned, “the sons of God” will be satisfied; they will completely trust that God has acted justly. But we, especially if loved ones of ours were among the lost, or if people who made our lives miserable are saved, may not at first be so easily convinced.
And that is one of the main purposes of the millennium. We, the redeemed, will then pass our verdict. We will be able to see all the evidence, and be satisfied in our own minds that God has been just in all of his judgments. Revelation tells us that God will wipe away every tear from our eyes. But that means there will be tears. There will be grieving. Yet, on seeing why and how God has made his judgments, we will realize that he has done the most loving thing for each and every one of his children.
There are those who would not be happy in heaven. Indeed, any place where they could not be the center of the universe, where their desires were not supreme, would eventually seem like torture to them. For such a one, living forever in a selfless world would equal eternal torment — a definition of hell if there ever was one.
For me, the millennium is an extension of the investigative judgment. It represents a part of what can be the only solution to the Great Controversy, the only way a trusting, harmonious universe can be restored. It is a testimony of the amazing humility and grace of God, that he is willing, even eager, to be accountable to his creatures. To even think such words is astonishing, it overwhelms the imagination to think that the all-powerful, all-wise God is willing to go to such lengths to regain my trust!
Not only was he willing to give up his only begotten son to become one of us, to become a human being, to suffer and die for us, but even after that, on top of that, he is willing to let us judge him! People talk about “blind faith,” but this meticulous process of Divine accountability is exactly the opposite: We come to trust God fully because we see all of the evidence. And even to write these words encourages me to trust him, trust him completely. And I see his love, his grace, his humility in a way that overwhelms my doubt, and gives me new confidence in his will.
But after the millennium there remains one group who has yet to bow the knee and confess with the tongue. How that comes about I cannot prove, I can only speculate. Next time, I will share both the identity of that group, and what I believe will be the paradoxical process through which God’s mercy is demonstrated to the end.
* Isaiah 45:23 cited in Romans 14:11