Three Angels' Messages Part 23

            Welcome again, and thank you for joining with us as we continue to study the Three Angels’ Messages, found in Revelation 14. These messages are so important, because they represent God’s last invitation to the human race. God wants to wrap this up quickly!
We are currently looking at the phrase, “The hour of His judgment has come,” and as we’ve mentioned before, we see 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 the purpose of this pre-advent judgment to make the decisions as to who will be saved and who will be lost. What could be more important than that? For that reason, we should find out everything that we can about this critical topic!
            Last time we explored the question, Can we know when this judgment begins? If we can know that, it will help us see how close we are to end of all things. We see that the cry of the first angel is, “The hour of His judgment has come,” which is a different way of expressing the timing of the judgment, as compared with other Bible passages that speak of it. In other texts, Scripture is consistently pointing forward to the judgment as a future event (see, for example, Ecclesiastes 12:14; Acts 17:31, etc.), but now the angel announces, “The hour of His judgment has come.” Revelation 14:7. And this statement is made prior to the coming of Jesus, described in Revelation 14:14. But when did it come? How can we ascertain the beginning point of this most important tribunal?
We find that in order to do this, we have to examine and collate information from three important chapters in the book of Daniel. Here’s a simple way to look at these three chapters. Chapter 7 reveals the judgment, but has little to say as to when it occurs. Chapter 8 reveals a time period, but doesn’t say when the time period begins. It is in chapter 9 that a reference point is given that tells us when that time period starts, and then by calculating the time allotted, we can arrive at the date when the judgment is to begin.
            The question “How long?” and the answer, “the cleansing of the sanctuary” are the pivot points of this prophecy in Daniel 8. It has to do with the final victory of God, His truth and His saints. This represents the turning of the tide, from evil to good. Ultimately we know that the answer to that question, “How long?” pertains to the coming of Jesus in the clouds of heaven. That is when Satan and his followers will be overthrown. But since we know that it is not God’s policy to reveal the “day and hour” of His coming, what would be an appropriate answer to the question of “How long?”
            Here’s something we see in the Bible that can help us understand this better. Sometimes the Lord answers questions in an indirect way, but in a way that provides helpful information. For example, when He was about to ascend to heaven, the disciples asked, “‘Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ And He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Jude and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’” Acts 1:6-8.
Notice that the questions that the eleven disciples posed are not unrelated to the question raised in Daniel 8:13. The questions posed by the disciples related to the end of all things. The answer that Jesus gave His followers was not a direct answer, but it was an answer that provided helpful information. He didn't give them the date when the kingdom would be restored, but He did give them useful information regarding something that must necessarily take place before the total restoration of the kingdom could take place. This is similar to the question and answer given in Daniel 8. The question, “How long” anticipates the end of the age. In God’s wisdom, He is not inclined to reveal that date specifically. If, however, the Lord chose to reveal the beginning of His pre-advent judgment, an event which must be concluded before His return, that would be very helpful.
            If we could know that this important phase of His agenda has started, it would give great encouragement that we are truly living in the last days, indeed that “the hour of His judgment has come.” Can we see in the phrase “the cleansing of the sanctuary” the concept of the pre-advent judgment? Are these two things speaking of the same event? Yes, they are. We will be able to see through our study that this is indeed the case. Beside the fact that, as we have seen, “cleansing of the sanctuary” in chapter 8 “lines up” with “the court was seated and the books were opened” as reported in chapter 7, we will see that the phrase “cleansing of the sanctuary” leads us back to a specific service in the Old Testament which typified God’s judgment, the Day of Atonement. And we will see that the word translated “cleansed” actually has a very strong legal nuance.
            As we begin this part of our study, we should note that not all Bibles translate Daniel 8:14 with the word “cleansed” (Hebrew: tsadaq). This variance then becomes something on which we should spend a few minutes, in that it is crucial to our “connecting the dots” in coming to an understanding of when God’s pre-advent judgment begins, heralded by the first angel’s message. All of this has to do with what the text means when it says that the sanctuary was to be “cleansed.” Newer Bible translations differ in the way this verb is translated. You will find, for example, words such as “reconsecrated,” “put right,” “restored to its proper place” and “justified,” to mention a few. It brings up the question “Is the word ‘cleansed’ a bad translation?”
            Let’s take a brief look at how the word tsadaq, the word translated “cleansed,” as used in Scripture. We’ll look specifically at two things concerning this word; the close connection between it and other words meaning “clean;” and the strong legal implications of the word. The Hebrew word translated “cleansed” in Daniel 8:14, tsadaq, is found 41 times in the Old Testament. In lexicons it is given the meaning “be just,” “be justified,” “be righteous,” or “be vindicated.” Knowing these meanings is helpful, but besides using a dictionary, sometimes a better way to catch the flavor of a word is to see how it is used in various contexts. By the way, an easy way to do this type of research is to download on your phone a free app called “Blue Letter Bible.” It gives you quick access to the words of Scripture and where those words are found in other passages.
            Why did the King James translators translate it as “cleansed?” For one thing, five times we see the word tsadaq used in close association with words like “clean” and “pure.”  One example is Job 4:17, “Can a mortal be more righteous (tsadaq) than God? Can a man be more pure than His Maker?” In this passage of poetry, we find that the author has skillfully used words to construct a rhyme of concept between the two stanzas. This is called “synonymous parallelism.” “A mortal” in the first line is echoed by “a man” in the second. “Be more righteous” in the first is repeated by “be more pure” in the second. “God” in the first line is equivalent to “Maker” in the second. “Pure” is made equivalent to “righteous” (tsadaq). This close association in Hebrew poetry reveals a kinship between the word tsadaq and “clean.”          
            In Psalm 19:9 we read, “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous (tsadaq) altogether.” In this passage, again, “clean” (tahor) is placed in parallel with “righteous” (tsadaq).  So we see that the idea of “clean,” or “pure” is not unrelated or foreign to the word at which we’re looking. They are synonyms. When the translators of the KJV and NKJV used the word “cleansed,” they were not inaccurate. Actually, it is a good translation.
            In the second century B.C., when the Old Testament was translated into the Greek language (often abbreviated as LXX), what word did they use to translate tsadaq? How did they understand what the text was conveying? Interestingly, they employed the word katharizo, which comes into our language in such words as catharsis and others which have to do with cleanliness and purity, and the name “Kathryn.” We believe that this is important to see, because while tsadaq might be translated with words unassociated with “cleansed,” katharizo is more focused and limited in conveying the concept of “cleansed.” As we shall see, the Hebrew tsadaq contains the idea of “cleansing” in both the literal and the legal way, and the Greek word katharizo does likewise.
            Looking at the way the word is used in other Scriptures, we see that the flavor of the Hebrew word tsadaq has to do with more than just “clean” in a physical sense. In many occurrences, there is a distinct legal flavor associated with the word. It suggests the concept of “cleansed” in a forensic context; having ones record purged or cleansed. It’s a word that is very comfortable in a court setting. This is very much in point as we think of the pre-advent judgment and what it accomplishes. The result of that tribunal will be to forever “blot out,” or “cleanse” the record of the saints by the blood of Jesus. It will purge and vindicate the name of the Lord from the smudges of insinuation applied by Satan.
            Notice carefully these passages. Job 13:18 reads, “See now, I have prepared my case. I know I shall be vindicated (tsadaq).” That’s courtroom language, isn’t it? Deuteronomy 25:1 says, “If there is a dispute between men, and they come to court, that the judges may judge them, and they justify (tsadaq) the righteous and condemn the wicked.” This also presumes a legal setting, doesn't it? When the sons of Israel discovered Joseph’s drinking cup in the sack of Benjamin, Judah lamented, “What shall we say to my lord? What shall we speak? Or how shall we clear ourselves (tsadaq)?” Genesis 44:16. These are a few of the many usages of the word tsadaq, the word translated “cleansed” in Daniel 8:14, in which a distinct legal flavor is conveyed. They speak volumes! These texts show that the word tsadaq contains the idea of justice at work, clearing, purging or cleansing a record, or removing an accusation. They show clearly that the word is immersed in a courtroom atmosphere. Anyone reading the Hebrew text of Daniel 8:14 would immediately see the word as pertaining to a clearing process, a cleansing of one’s record through the application of a legal proceeding, the result of which would be exoneration or vindication. It would be the same as when the judge’s gavel is sounded and the announcement is made, “Not guilty.”
            Here’s another passage that demonstrates this usage. The legal context of this story is unmistakable. When Absalom attempted to wrest the kingdom from his father the Bible says, “Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate (the “gate” in Old Testament times was where court business took place). So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, ‘What city are you from?’ And he would say, ‘Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel.’ then Absalom would say to him, ‘Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you.’ Moreover Absalom would say, ‘Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice (tsadaq).’” II Samuel 15:2-4. Take note of the words that appear in this story: “gate,” “lawsuit,” “decision,” “case,” “deputy,” “judge,” “suit,” “cause” and “justice.” Who would try to deny that this story has to do with a legal process, and the word tsadaq is right in the middle of it all?
            From these examples, it is obvious that the word in question is often seen in a judicial context. Notice the things it presumes. It anticipates a court setting, in which evidence is adduced and examined and a decision rendered. It looks forward to the “clearing” of charges imposed, the “vindication” of a person’s record. Isn’t that exactly what the pre-advent judgment is about? Isn’t that exactly what Daniel 7:9, 10 picture? The judgment scene of chapter 7 is translated to the vision of chapter 8, embedded in the sanctuary motif. Merely seeing the word tsadaq in Daniel 8:14 would bring to mind the concepts of judicial review and administration. A reader of Daniel, familiar with the word and how it is used in other Scriptures would naturally associate judicial process with the term tsadaq. The translation “cleansed” is therefore most excellent, especially if it is seen as a matter of legal vindication.
            We saw that from a structural point of view, the “cleansing of the sanctuary” occupies the same position in the vision of chapter 8 as did the seating of the heavenly court in chapter 7. Secondly, we noted also that the very word tsadaq breathes a legal connotation. Those are two “witnesses.” But is there more evidence that this “cleansing of the sanctuary” refers to a judgment process? Yes! In the book of Leviticus, we find that on one day of the year there was a special ceremony by which the sanctuary was “cleansed.” We will see that this “cleansing of the sanctuary” refers to an event in the Hebrew calendar which typified the process of the investigative judgment, called Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This will be our study as we meet next time.
God is patiently working out His plan to eradicate sin and prepare for a universe completely cleansed of evil. Sometimes it seems to us that things are moving slowly, but we can be assured that God will bring all “this” to an end very soon. Prophecy tells us that one of the last things to happen has already begun, the Investigative Judgment, and that we today are truly living in the last times. May God be with us, so that on that Day we can be “found in Him,” cleansed by the blood of Jesus, pronounced pure and holy, fitted for heaven.

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