Three Angels' Messages Part 18

            Welcome, as we continue in our study of the Three Angels’ Messages, God’s last warning message to Planet Earth! We’ve been looking at the phrase, “The hour of His judgment has come,” and we’ve seen that the Bible clearly reveals that there is divine judgment and accountability, and that one important phase of that, the investigative phase begins and ends before Jesus returns. This pre-advent judgment determines who will be saved and who will be lost. What could be more important than understanding all that Scripture reveals to us about that?
It is for this reason that part of the message of the first angel announces to the world that “the hour of His judgment has come.” In other words, this aspect of divine judgment is conducted before Christ’s return in the clouds of glory, and as we shall see, prophecy clearly indicates that the commencement of this judgment occurred in October of 1844. At a point just prior to Jesus’ return, it will conclude, with the slate of those to be saved fixed for eternity. We want our names to be written, and to remain in the Book of Life, don’t we!
At this point, some might ask, Why does God, the Omniscient One, need to look over books of record to see who will be saved? Doesn’t He know already? The answer is, Yes, of course He knows. There are actually at least two compelling reasons why He does this. First, the Bible reveals that it is God’s desire that His administration be understood as absolutely fair; that it is transparent to the highest degree. Satan had charged God with being arbitrary and unjust. The prosecution of this inquiry concerning God’s fairness lies at the very core of the controversy that has unfolded. God has deemed it appropriate that records be kept and accounts be tabulated so that the evidence is overwhelming as to His fairness and justice.
            We must expand our view to see that the judgment isn’t just about us. It’s God’s name that is on trial. In a very real sense, it is the hour of “His” judgment. It is the vindication of His holy name that will be the primary outcome of this process. Someday “every knee will bow.” Philippians 2:10. Someday all created beings will erupt in a spontaneous anthem of praise singing, “Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested.” Revelation 15:3, 4.
            You and I have the privilege of playing an important part in this trial, in that as we allow His Spirit to work a miracle in our lives, it brings an answer to the charges that Satan brought, that God is unfair and that it is impossible to live in a way pleasing to God. The lives of His saints constitute “exhibit A,” recorded in the ledgers of heaven, to refute the allegations raised by the devil.
There’s a second reason why this phase of the judgment is held prior to Jesus’ coming in the clouds. It’s not for His direct benefit that this court is convened. That is, it’s not because God is ignorant of the condition of the hearts of all mankind. God knows already who are the ones to be saved. Its direct benefit is for His loyal angels who, although wiser than humans and excelling in strength, both physical and mental, are not omniscient. They can’t read the heart and discern its motives, which is at the crux of the judgment. So, before the Lord brings into the undefiled environment of heaven those from Planet Earth who were sinners, He graciously allows the angels the opportunity to see things as He sees them, to know things as He knows them.
            Because this is such a vital concept relating to the process and purpose of the judgment, let us give some attention to it. The judgment has to do with sin and sin is a matter of the inmost soul. We often speak of sin as being an act, but it’s much deeper than that. It touches the invisible aspects of thought, motive and intent. Jesus alluded to this when He said that the one who harbors hatred has already committed murder; the one who lusts in his heart has already committed adultery. Acts of iniquity are simply the outgrowth of those principles cherished within the heart. They are the symptoms of what exists inside.
            One day while riding in the back seat of our car as a youngster, my mom happened to look back at me and said, “Open your shirt!” I had no idea of why she would say such a thing, but I did, revealing a chest speckled generously with the red splotches of measles. She had seen some suspicious markings on my face, and wanted further confirmation. Upon find this out, what did my mother do? When we got home, did she take a cloth and fill it with flour and blot it all over my chest and my face to whiten the spots? Would that have solved the problem? No, the problem was much deeper than that. The red blotches were merely the outward sign of a problem that existed much deeper.
            So it is with sin. Sin is a matter of the mind and heart. It has to do with how we think. Outward deeds of wickedness only exhibit the problem. We’re reminded of a sign that was attached to the face of a broken clock which read, “Don’t blame my hands; the problem’s on the inside.”
            Because sin has to do with the way we think, it’s fair that God judges us according to our inner soul; that is, He judges us not only according to what we have done, but also according to what we would have done if the opportunity had arisen. That’s why Jesus could say that the Jews of His day were “guilty” of the crimes of their ancestors. At the close of His ministry He issued this chilling indictment against the religious leaders of His day. “Therefore the wisdom of God also said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and persecute,’ that the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah who perished between the altar and the temple. Yes, I say to you, it shall be required of this generation.” Luke 11:49-51.
            That’s a clear indictment against sins which were not literally carried out by the ones to whom Christ spoke. But it’s fair nonetheless, because their hearts were in the same condition as the hearts of their forefathers. Had they lived back then, their acts would have been the same. It is the inward heart and its condition that God is most concerned about. The acts are simply the outgrowth of the thought patterns that are inside.
            Abel, of course, was murdered by his older brother Cain in the dawning of human history four thousand years before Christ came. Zechariah was murdered in the days of King Joash about 8 centuries before Christ. II Chronicles 24:20. There is evidence that this heinous murder made an indelible impression on the Israelite nation and was long remembered. To get the “flavor” of Christ’s statement, be aware that the book which we call II Chronicles occupied the last position in the order of the Scriptures being used in Jesus’ day. In other words, Christ’s statement, with a large brush stroke, covered basically all the history recorded by the Scriptures. Today we’d say, “From Genesis to Malachi,” or, as would make sense in our English language, from  “A” (for “Abel”) to “Z” (for “Zechariah”).
            Here is a most interesting concept on how God views guilt and sin. How could the Jews of Jesus’ day be guilty of Cain’s sin, or the sin of those who murdered Zechariah? Is that fair? They weren’t alive then. What Jesus was saying was that the Jewish leaders of His time were cherishing the same principles as did Cain, whose story appeared early in the Scriptures, as well as those who stoned the prophet Zechariah, whose story appeared at the close the Scriptures of His time and all others in between.
            Because they nourished the same spirit as did their evil forefathers, it follows that had they been alive in the former times, their behaviors would have been exactly the same. Because sin is a matter of thought and mind, they were guilty of those sins, because had they been given the opportunity, had they been alive during those events, they would have acted out the same behavior. Their hearts were beating in harmony with the rhythm of wickedness. It is the heart and its motives that God looks at. It’s true that they weren’t alive back then, but because their hearts were just as wicked as the people who did live back then, they were just as guilty; if they had been alive back then they surely would have participated in those deeds.
            Likewise, we should note, God looks with favor on those who, given the opportunity, would have rendered works of righteousness. Thus Jesus could say regarding a poor widow who dropped two mites into the offering chest that she had given more than the rest. It was the condition of her heart that God saw and evaluated. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7.
Sin is a matter of the heart, and only God can read the intents of the heart. Angels, good or bad, cannot. But prior to the glorious return of Jesus to this earth, He chooses to disclose to the loyal angels what He already knows. The books are opened in the presence of numberless hosts. Why does He do this? Can’t He just ask the angels to “trust Him” that these humans coming to heaven are safe to save; that these coming from wicked Planet Earth won't pollute the sacred halls of heaven? Yes, He could, but God’s character is in the direction of transparency and confidence-building. It is His supreme desire that His creatures, the loyal angels, be comfortable with the decisions made.
            Let us pray that God will change our selfish, wicked hearts to be like His! Let us pray that when He looks at out hearts, He will see a reflection of the same attributes as Jesus! Only God can implant those principles, and He can do it only if we open the door of our hearts and request that His gracious Spirit come and make those changes which will result in us bearing the “fruits of the Spirit.”