"I Beheld," says the prophet Daniel, "till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool; his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the Judgment was set, and the books were opened." "And, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away." [DAN. 7:9, 10, 13, 14.]
Thus was presented to the prophet's vision the opening of the investigative Judgment. The coming of Christ here described is not his second coming to the earth. He comes to the Ancient of days in Heaven to receive dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, which will be given him at the close of his mediatorial work. It is this coming, and not his second advent to the earth, that was foretold in prophecy to take place at the termination of the 2300 days, in 1844. Attended by a cloud of heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies, and there appears in the presence of God to engage in the last acts of his ministration in behalf of man, -- to perform the work of investigative Judgment, and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.
"The dead were judged," says John, "out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." [REV. 20:12.]. Angels of God have kept a faithful record of the lives of all, and they are to be judged according to their deeds. In view of this Judgment, Peter exhorted the men of Israel: "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus," "whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began." [ACTS 3:19-21.]
Christ himself declares: "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels." [REV. 3:5.]. Again he said to his disciples: "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven." [MATT. 10:32, 33.]
The lives of all who have believed on Jesus pass in solemn review before God. Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate examines the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living. Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. From age to age, all who have truly repented of sin, and by faith claimed the blood of Christ as their atoning sacrifice, have had pardon written against their names in the books of Heaven, and in the closing work of Judgment their sins are blotted out, and they themselves are accounted worthy of eternal life.
The deepest interest manifested among men in the decisions of earthly tribunals but faintly represents the interest evinced in the heavenly courts when the names entered in the book of life come up in review before the Judge of all the earth. The divine Intercessor presents the plea that all who from among the fallen sons of men have overcome through faith in his blood, be forgiven their transgressions, that they be restored to their Eden home, and crowned as joint-heirs with himself to the "first dominion." [MICAH 4:8.] Satan, in his efforts to deceive and tempt our race, had thought to frustrate the divine plan in man's creation; but Christ now asks that this plan be carried into effect as if man had never fallen. He asks for his people not only pardon and justification, full and complete, but a share in his glory and a seat upon his throne.
While Jesus is pleading for the subjects of his grace, Satan accuses them before God as transgressors. The great deceiver has sought to lead them into skepticism, to cause them to lose confidence in God, to separate from his love, and to break his law. Now he points to their defective characters, to their unlikeness to Christ which has dishonored their Redeemer, to all the sins which he has tempted them to commit, and because of these he claims them as his subjects.
Jesus does not excuse their sins, but shows their penitence and faith, and, claiming for them forgiveness, he lifts his wounded hands before the Father and the holy angels, saying, "I know them by name. I have graven them on the palms of my hands. 'The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.'" [PS. 51:17.]. And to the accuser of his people he declares, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee. Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" [ZECH. 3:2.]. Christ will place his own signet upon his faithful ones, that he may present them to his Father "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Their names stand enrolled in the book of life, and concerning them it is written, "They shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy."
Those who are owned and approved of God are not therefore recognized and honored by the world. The very names that are taken upon the lips of Jesus as belonging to his own sons and daughters, joint-heirs with the King of glory, honored among the heavenly angels, are often those that are spoken with contempt and mockery by the ungodly. Steadfast souls whom Jesus delights to honor are for his sake defamed, imprisoned, mobbed, hunted, and slain. God's people must live by faith. They must look over into the great beyond, and choose divine honors and the recompense of the reward above every earthly gain or preferment. While probation continues, they must expect that the world will know them not, "because it knew Him not."
Great and small, high and low, rich and poor, are to be judged "out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." Day after day, passing into eternity, bears its burden of records for the books of Heaven. Words once spoken, deeds once done, can never be recalled. Angels of God have registered both the good and the evil. The mightiest conqueror upon the earth cannot call back the record of even a single day. Our acts, our words, even our most secret motives, all have their weight in deciding our destiny for weal or woe. Though they may be forgotten by us, they will bear their testimony to justify or condemn. They go before us to the Judgment.
The use made of every talent will be scrutinized. Have we improved the capital intrusted us of God? Will the Lord at his coming receive his own with usury? No value is attached to the mere profession of faith in Christ; nothing is counted as genuine but that love which is shown by works.
As the features of the countenance are reproduced with marvelous exactness in the camera of the artist, so is the character faithfully delineated in the books above. If Christians were as solicitous to stand faultless in the heavenly records as they are to be represented without a blemish in the picture, how different would their life-history appear.
Could the vail which separates the visible from the invisible world be swept back, and the children of men behold an angel recording every word and deed to meet them again in the Judgment, how many words that are daily uttered would remain unspoken; how many deeds would remain undone. When all the details of life appear in the books that never contain a false entry, many will find too late that the record testifies against them. There their hidden selfishness stands revealed. There is the record of unfulfilled duties to their fellow-men, of forgetfulness of the Saviour's claims. There they will see how often were given to Satan the time, thought, and strength that belonged to Christ. Sad is the record which angels bear to Heaven. Intelligent beings, professed followers of Christ, are absorbed in the acquirement of worldly possessions or the enjoyment of earthly pleasures. Money, time, and strength are sacrificed for display and self-indulgence; but few are the moments devoted to prayer, to the searching of the Scriptures, to humiliation of soul and confession of sin.
Satan invents unnumbered schemes to occupy our minds that they may not dwell upon the very work with which we ought to be best acquainted. The arch-deceiver hates the great truths that bring to view an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful Mediator. He knows that with him everything now depends on his diverting minds from Jesus and his truth.
Those who would share the benefits of the Saviour's mediation should permit nothing to interfere with their duty to perfect holiness in the fear of God. The hours heretofore given to pleasure, to display, or to gain-seeking, should now be devoted to an earnest, prayerful study of the word of truth. The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative Judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise, it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith essential at this time, or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill.
We are to bear testimony of the great truths which God has committed to us. The sanctuary in Heaven is the very center of Christ's work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to our view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time, and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin. It is of the utmost importance that all who have received the light, both old and young, should thoroughly investigate these subjects, and be able to give an answer to every one that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them.
The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was his death upon the cross. By his death he began that work which after his resurrection he ascended to complete in Heaven. We must by faith enter within the vail, "whither the forerunner is for us entered." There the light from the cross of Calvary is reflected. There we may gain a clearer insight into the mysteries of redemption. The salvation of man is accomplished at an infinite expense to Heaven; the sacrifice made is equal to the broadest demands of the broken law of God. Jesus has opened the way to the Father's throne, and through his mediation the sincere desire of all who come to him in faith may be presented before God.
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy." [PROV. 28:13.]. If those who hide and excuse their faults could see how Satan exults over them how he taunts Christ and holy angels with them, they would make haste to confess their sins and to put them away. Satan is continually seeking to deceive the followers of Christ with his fatal sophistry that their defective traits of character render it impossible for them to overcome. But Jesus pleads in their behalf his wounded hands, his bruised body; and he declares to all who would follow him, "My grace is sufficient for thee." "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." [MATT. 11:29, 30.]. Let none, then, regard their defects as incurable. God will give faith and grace to overcome them.
All who would have their names retained in the book of life, should now, in the few remaining days of their probation, afflict their souls before God by sorrow for sin, and true repentance. There must be deep, faithful searching of heart. The light, frivolous spirit indulged by the majority of professed Christians must be put away. There is earnest warfare before all who would subdue the evil tendencies that strive for the mastery.
Solemn are the scenes connected with the closing work of the atonement. Momentous are the interests therein involved. The Judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. Forty years has this work been in progress. Soon--none know how soon--it will pass to the cases of the living. In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review. At this time above all others it behooves every soul to heed the Saviour's admonition, "Watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is." "Watch ye therefore, . . . lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping." [MARK 13:33, 35, 36.]
"If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief; and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." [REV. 3:3.]. How perilous is the condition of those, who, growing weary of their watch, turn to the attractions of the world. While the man of business is absorbed in the pursuit of gain, while the pleasure-lover is seeking indulgence, while the daughter of fashion is arranging her adornments, -- it may be in that hour the Judge of all the earth will pronounce the sentence, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting."
Every soul that has named the name of Christ has a case pending at the heavenly tribunal. It is court week with us, and the decision passed upon each case will be final.
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