The time of judgment from heaven is already in progress. It is set up much like an earthly trial, having three phases to go through. First, there is an investigation. Second, there is a time of confirmation. Third, sentencing is executed.
The Investigative Judgment
This is the first phase. It’s in process now. It isn’t for the benefit of God who already knows all. It is for the benefit of the angels. We, on earth, are a spectacle to them as they watch to see how God handles the sin problem (1 Corinthians 4: 9).
In this phase, The Law of the Ten Commandments is the basis, the measuring rod, on which all is judged. The judgment begins with the opening of the books (Revelation 20: 12). These books can be called the books of deeds, for judgment is according to works (Revelation 20: 12). God is bringing deeds into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12: 14). This is done – everyone’s life appearing before the judgment seat – so that each may receive what is due him, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5: 10).
There isn’t a personal appearance before the judgment seat. Instead, everyone’s life record is reviewed from the books of deeds (including words and thoughts). This process is to reveal who is saved; who is lost. First up to be investigated are those in the house of the Lord—those from the beginning of time who either believed in God or professed their belief in Christ Jesus. (1 Peter 4:17).
In the “books of deeds,” next to everyone’s name, the sins committed will be listed. If one is a believer and the sins are confessed, they are covered by the blood of Jesus and blotted out of the books. In the “book of life” (a single, separate book, again found in Revelation 20: 12), the believer’s name is then retained. If the sins aren’t confessed and covered by the blood, then the name is retained in the “books of deeds” and blotted out of the “book of life.” (All who profess Jesus are initially placed in the “book of life.”)
The hour of investigation began in 1844 AD. This date is calculated from an angelic prophecy given to the prophet Daniel in Daniel 8: 14. The angel says, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” KJV.
Bible scholars and students understand that a day in prophecy equates to a year of literal time. So the 2300 days of the prophecy equates to 2300 years. After that time, the sanctuary will be cleansed.
That brings to mind two questions: What is the prophecy’s start date? What does sanctuary cleansing mean?
Starting the Prophecy
The start date lies in these words of the prophecy contained in Daniel, chapter 9: 25—“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem…” That command was given by King Artaxerxes (Ezra 7: 11-13) in the year 457 B.C. It was the only decree that specified restoring and rebuilding Jerusalem.
Subtracting 457 years from 2300 years brings us to the year 1843 A.D. 1 year is added because there was no zero year. That carries it to 1844 A.D.
(Also, starting at the same time, is a separate and shorter time prophecy of 490 years within the 2300 years’ prophecy. Daniel 9: 24-27 deals with it. Its topic can be read about in The Chosen People of God are in Jesus.)
Cleansing the Sanctuary
The sanctuary being cleansed is best understood in the meaning of the earthly, Jewish sanctuary’s Day of Atonement. This is more popularly known today as Yom Kippur, which means “day of pardon” or “day of Judgment.” In the times of the earthly sanctuary (a symbolic pictorial of God’s salvation plan), the Jews on this day would renew their consecration to God; having confessed their sins. This gained them a pardon and cleansing from sin.
The prior confession of their sins occurred throughout the year. Daily, sinners would bring a sacrificial animal to the sanctuary’s courtyard. There, the sinner laid hands on the animal and confessed committed sins. This symbolically transferred the sinner’s sins to the animal, usually a lamb (representing Jesus). The lamb’s throat would then be cut, killing it.
Priests would collect the spilled blood, which was taken into the sanctuary’s first compartment called the “Holy Place.” The blood was then sprinkled before a veil that divided the first from the second compartment, called the “Most Holy Place.” In this way the sinner’s sins were transferred to the sanctuary, accumulating throughout the year up to the Day of Atonement.
Cleansing the sanctuary was a matter of removing the accumulated sin by assigning the sins to sacrificial animals.
On the Day of Atonement, the high priest would take two goats. By casting lots, one was determined to be the Lord’s goat; the other, the scapegoat (called Azazel in Hebrew).
Placing his hands on the Lord’s goat, the high priest confessed his; his family; and the entire congregation’s sins that had accumulated in the “Holy Place” throughout the year. The goat was then slain, and its blood (representing Jesus’ blood) taken into the “Most Holy Place” where the presence of God dwelt. At that point, the blood was offered before the mercy seat of the ark.
Mercy was granted. This signified a reconciliation, an atonement. All the confessed sin and guilt was blotted out, covered by the blood.
Next, the high priest laid his hands on the scapegoat (representing Satan). This symbolized a transference to the goat; a transference of the sins that had polluted the sanctuary throughout the year. It was not an act of atonement. That had already been accomplished through the Lord’s goat. Instead, this was a punishment for having caused sin and the acts thereof. The scapegoat was then led away from the Israelites’ camp to perish.
The sanctuary was declared cleansed. Sin had been disposed of. The two goats symbolized the two ways in which it was figuratively done, and in which it will be literally done—atonement through the substitute sin-bearer’s death, or punishment through the sinner’s death.
We now come to another question.
Where is the Sanctuary?
What sanctuary began to be cleansed in 1844? That would obviously be the heavenly sanctuary because the last earthly, Jewish sanctuary was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Hebrews 9:24 says, “Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” Jesus is our High Priest who once and for all cleanses.
So the angel’s 2300 days prophecy spoken to Daniel referred to the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. The prophecy referred to the beginning of the final judgment for all of humankind.
As there was a record of sin (the sprinkling of blood) in the earthly sanctuary, so there is a record of sin in the heavenly sanctuary. The record in this case, though, is written in the books.
The work of the judgment takes place out of those books. From them, evidence is presented and arguments heard.
We get a description of the court room scene from Daniel 7: 9, 10—“I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool…A river of fire was flowing and coming out before Him. Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him. The court sat, and the books were opened.”
The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is the blotting out of sin through the atoning merits of Jesus’ blood (the Lord’s goat).
Hour of Judgment (Probation) Closes
That there is an investigative or sometimes called “pre-advent judgment” taking place before the second coming of Christ, makes crystal clear sense. After all, He says in Revelation 22: 12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man what he has done.”
In order to know what the reward should be, a beforehand determination has to be made. Again, this phase of the judgment is to reveal who is saved; who is lost.
The true believer in this present judgment has nothing to fear. For there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Romans 8: 1.
After the revelations are confirmed, Jesus lays aside His priestly garments and dons His kingly attire. The declaration of probation’s end is then made—“He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he who is unrighteous, let him be unrighteous still; and he who is unholy, let him be unholy still.” Revelation 22: 11.
The Confirmation Judgment
It is in this second phase of judgment that 1 Corinthians 6: 2, 3 is fulfilled. It says, “Do you not know that the saints shall judge the world? Do you not know that we will judge angels?”
The saints throughout the ages are those declared righteous by God. They are taken to heaven upon Jesus’ return, and the wicked are slayed by the brightness of His coming. This triggers a thousand years of earth’s desolation (read The Millennium—Earth’s Wasteland).
Revelation 20: 4. “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them…They reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
In heaven, during the millennium, there will be questions galore. “Why didn’t such and such make it?” “He murdered me—why is he here?” We will want answers. Whatever our questions about anybody, including Satan and the other lost angels, we will get to review their lives from the books.
The purpose for this phase is to provide opportunity to measure the ways of God; to examine God’s actions. He will offer transparency, putting everything out in the open so that it will be seen that His decisions weren’t made capriciously. And, of course, it will ultimately be agreed that God was just and fair with all, having given all every opportunity to accept salvation.
This judgment will confirm the choices people made to either live with God or to perish with the devil.
The Executive Judgment
“In that day His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives…It will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley…Then the Lord, My God, will come, and all the saints with Him…And the land shall be turned into a plain…” Zechariah 14: 4, 5, 10.
“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.” Revelation 21: 2.
“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall…go out to deceive the nations…to gather them together to battle.” Revelation 20: 7, 8.
The third and last phase of God’s end-time judgment takes place here on earth after the millennium. The new Jerusalem will descend from heaven at that time (Rev. 21: 2); Satan will be freed; and the wicked dead will be resurrected (Rev. 20: 5, 7).
Satan will convince the wicked to surround the holy city in preparation to attack and capture it.
At that point, the wicked, including Satan and his angels, will face their judgment. Appearing before them, probably above the city, will be a great white throne. It will be Jesus, the judge, sitting upon it (John 5: 22).
The “books of deeds” are opened. All the details of their lives are shown, passing before them. They too will see that God was just and fair in presenting salvation opportunity to them through Christ Jesus.
They all, in turn, will fall to their knees and declare that God has treated them fairly and mercifully, and that His sentencing is just. They all will confess Jesus as Lord.
With Satan’s motives, his schemes against mankind, and his claims and accusations against God exposed as a means to discredit God, all understand and acknowledge that Satan is the responsible party for sin.
Before all in the universe, God is vindicated.
Fire then will rain down upon the wicked and will not be stopped until the earth, outside of the holy city, is turned into a lake of fire. It will be the end of the devil (scapegoat) and his angels. It will be the second and permanent death for wicked humanity. The result of this divine hell-fire and brimstone is that the earth and the universe is cleansed forever of sinners, sin and death.
That paves the way for the creation of the new earth.