Three Angels' Messages Part 20

           Welcome back, as we continue in our study of the Three Angels’ Messages, found in Revelation 14, God’s last call to the human race. We’ve seen in the first angel’s message the phrase, “The hour of His judgment has come,” and noted that the Bible clearly reveals that there is a judgment, and that one important phase of it starts and ends before Jesus returns. It is in this pre-advent judgment that the determination is made as to who will be saved and who will be lost. Surely we should learn everything we can about this critical topic!
            We’ve seen that this is important, not for the direct benefit of God, Who, being omniscient, already knows who will be saved and who will be lost. Rather, it is for the direct benefit of His holy angels, who, though being much wiser than humans, nevertheless are not “all-knowing,” and cannot read the secrets of the soul. For their benefit, God “opens the books,” and allows the angels to see what He already knows, that the ones He is bringing to the holy environment of heaven, will not pollute it with sin. This matter of God “looking into” a situation before He pronounces judgment against sin is remarkably revealed in the stories of the Bible. Although there are many examples given, we’ll take a look at two of them in this segment, and a third next time.
The very first episode dealing with sin recorded in Scripture is a lesson book on God’s system of justice. God had given clear instruction regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Eve was deceived and ate, then gave to her husband Adam who ate. Thus they sinned against the express command of the Lord. They believed the talking snake who had done nothing for them rather than the Creator God Who had done everything for them. As soon as they sinned, they became conscious of their nakedness. “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 3:7. One of the first consequences of the fall was the consciousness of shame, which was before this unknown.
            The psalmist wrote, “O LORD my God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty, Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment.” Psalm 104:2. Adam and Eve we are told, were made in the image and likeness of their Maker, and therefore before sin, being made in His image, enjoyed a covering of light. This was lost by transgression and they became aware of their nakedness.
            When the Lord came visit them in the “cool of the day” and called out to them, “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ So he said, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’” Genesis 3:8-10. Fear was the next consequence of sin.
            “And He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’” Verse 11. Notice this amazing portrayal of God’s system of justice at work. It will serve as a model for all further dispositions, especially God’s final judicial process. In a matter of moments, the sentence would be imposed. They would be expelled from their beautiful garden home and deprived of the life-perpetuating fruit from the tree of life.
            The sentence that would be given, though devastating, was not as harsh as it could have been. It was mingled with mercy. The consequence of sin, as plainly declared by the Lord, was death. It was death that Adam and Eve deserved. By their transgression they had forfeited their opportunity to live. But the Lord put into operation His plan, the plan that had been in His mind from eternity, and pledged His life in the place of theirs. The “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” would become their Savior. The curse would fall, as it must, but it would fall upon Him and not them.
            But notice how God’s system of justice worked. In the very first episode of sin there are rich lessons to be learned as to how divine justice operates. We might ask, Did God “need” to inquire if Adam had eaten? Did the One Who is omniscient not know that the command had been disobeyed? Preposterous! Of course He knew! Yet He stooped to speak in a language which all could understand. He went about His work in a way that would inspire confidence that the sentence was given from a position of knowledge. He inquired before taking action.
            The manner in which He administered justice at the first occurrence of sin would become the model for later events. He says, “I am the LORD; I change not.” Malachi 3:6. It would become the model for the way He would deal with sin in its final disposition. What would give us the idea that His way of dealing with sin at the end would be any different than the way He dealt with sin at the beginning? The Bible reveals that before the gavel of justice fell in Eden, there was an investigation. Likewise at the end of time, before the sentence is passed which will result in the verdicts of eternal life or eternal death, before the return of the Savior Who comes “with His reward,” a phase of judgment involving investigation will have been completed.
            Our second story also comes from the book of Genesis. One of the most striking examples of this aspect of God’s gracious character is the account involving the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These were cities of the plain, located in the rich and luxuriant Jordan valley, whose beauty merited comparison with the garden of Eden. Genesis 13:10. But the physical beauty of that area stood in stark contrast with the moral pollution that permeated those towns. If unchecked, the wickedness residing there would spread and pose a serious threat to the world which had been washed or “baptized,” to use Peter’s analogy, by a global flood only a few centuries before this. I Peter 3:21.
            God had to do something. He had to take action. But before He did, He would conduct an investigation. He would give the situation a second look, a final review. Now, knowing what we know about God’s all-knowing wisdom as revealed in the Bible, this doesn’t seem to add up. Yet look carefully as to how He Himself described the purpose of His visit. See in this passage the heart of a God Who desires to be known as a God of justice, One Who goes the “second mile” to demonstrate His fairness and equity. See in this text the One Who inquires before He takes action. “And the LORD said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not I will know.’” Genesis 18:20, 21.
            This is one of the most remarkable statements in all of Scripture! The Almighty speaks as if He comes into the situation needing to investigate the sin of Sodom before executing judgment against it. No, it doesn’t “add up” according to what we know of God’s omniscience. Of course He knew all about Sodom! There is nothing hid from His eyes! He knew not only their deeds of wickedness, but also discerned their hearts of rebellion and stubborn resistance! He would have been entirely with His divine right to send the fire upon these cities without having made this inquiry into their iniquity, without making a personal visit through His emissaries, the angels. Yet He chose to speak in a way that humans could understand. He stooped to our level to inspire us that His justice would come from a position of knowledge. Such is the wondrous and gracious character of the One Who rules the universe!
What happened in Eden and in Sodom pre-figured how God acts at the very end of time, when the final disposition of sin will take place. In the same way He did back then, there is inquiry before action. The “Investigative Judgment” will have commenced and concluded before the sentence is pronounced and executed. Thus the phrase in the first angel’s message, “The hour of His judgment has come” has value and significance that must be appreciated! Next time we’ll take a look at a third story that exhibits this gracious characteristic of our wonderful God. Please join us then!