Three Angels' Messages Part 17

            Welcome once again as we continue in our study of the Three Angels’ Messages, God’s last warning message to Planet Earth! Last time we looked at the phrase, “The hour of His judgment has come,” noting the fact that the Bible clearly reveals that there is divine judgment and accountability. But, what more can we learn about how conducts His judicial process? What can we learn about the different segments, or phases of divine judgment?
To gain a perspective on how God’s system of judgment works, we may consider how judicial proceedings are conducted in our world. What happens in a typical court setting? We find that earthly trials include separate and distinct phases that pertain first to the investigation of the facts; then a decision is made based on the facts as the law is applied; finally the disposition and execution of the sentence takes place.
            First there is the trial phase, when evidence is introduced and witnesses are questioned. The investigative portion is for the purpose of ascertaining the facts in the matter at hand, which is determined by the finder of facts, be it judge or jury. This “investigative phase” is a separate and distinct segment of the judicial process. At the conclusion of this process a determination is made as to whether the one charged is guilty or not guilty. Following this there will be the announcement of the sentence and the implementing of that sentence. According to what we find in the Holy Bible, these phases of trial in an earthly court setting are similar to God’s system of divine justice.
            The Bible reveals that God has an investigative phase of His justice system. The prophet Daniel was given a vision of this auspicious proceeding. “I watched till thrones were put in place. And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him. A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:7-9.
            Language couldn’t be clearer. The opening of books speaks loudly to a process of investigation and inquiry. At the close of Daniel’s book, the promise is given, “At that time your people will be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book.” Daniel 12:1. The phrase “found written” in this passage obviously contemplates an investigation which takes place prior to deliverance.
            The phase of judgment addressed by the first angel in Revelation 14:7 concerns this segment of the process involving the opening of the books in heaven prior to Jesus’ return. This is fitting, since a few verses later, in Revelation 14:14, we are given a picture of Jesus’ coming in the clouds, which is a depiction of His Second Coming. The message of the three angels has preceded His return, including the announcement that the hour of His judgment has come. This is in agreement also with the picture Daniel saw in his vision, in that the setting of the heavenly court scene (Daniel 7:7-9) takes place before the destruction of the beast/horn power (Daniel 7:11), which happens, according to Paul’s analysis in II Thessalonians 2:1-10, at the return of Jesus.
            This also harmonizes with Jesus’ words at the close of the book of Revelation. The announcement is made, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” Revelation 22:11. This declaration obviously is a statement that decisions have been finalized, the determination of which is the function and purpose of the judgment. That this process has been completed prior to Christ’s return is made clear by the fact that the very next verse says, “And behold I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me to give to everyone according to his work.” According to the sequence of these verses then, the finalization of every decision for life or death, recognized by the heavenly court, will have come to its completion before Jesus comes back in glory.
            Christ Himself said, “As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Matthew 24:37. The parallels between the two events include the violent and godless condition of society, the warning of the coming event, the incredible and blind ignorance displayed by the population in general concerning the coming event and the disproportionate number of those who reject the message. Of course, destruction in Noah’s day came by flood; at the end it will come by fire. Salvation came to Noah by way of an ark; at the end it will be by way of a cloud.
            Amidst the parallels there is one other, that bears a direct application to our study. We have seen that prior to the salvation/destruction event at Christ’s coming, all decisions will have been made final. This is brought to view in striking manner in the story of Noah, in that seven days before the flood came, Noah and his family entered the ark, “and the Lord shut him in.” Genesis 7:16. By that time, everyone had made his or her decision to be either in or out of the ark, and these decisions were recognized by heaven. The finality of those decisions was demonstrated by the door of the ark being closed, but it would be a full week before the storms raged and the earth would be destroyed. In other words, there was a “pre-event judgment” in Noah’s world; and likewise, there will be a “pre-event judgment” in ours.
            God’s hand wrote on Belshazzar’s palace wall, “You have been weighed and found wanting” before the destroyer came. Jesus said the time will come before His return that the “holy will remain holy, and the unholy will remain unholy.” Before He returns, that aspect of the judgment must be concluded.
            Believers in our church decades ago had a familiar way of saying “good-bye,” when they parted ways. It was drawn from the Bible’s picture of the judgment, in which names are examined and some stay written in the Book of Life while others are blotted out. When church members would separate and go to  their homes, they often would say, “May your name remain,” referring to the blessing of having one’s name remain in the Book of Life. It’s a good expression of hope, isn’t it! May our “names remain” in the Lamb’s Book of Life when our case is heard! If Jesus is your Advocate, you can be assured that that is exactly what will happen!

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