Eighteen forty-four? Who cares! What difference does it make?" An exasperated pastor was ex pressing his conviction or lack of it about the 1844 pre-Advent judgment. He concluded, "What really matters is what happened in A.D. 31. That was our salvation."
Praise God that on the cross Jesus died for everyone everywhere. But that in itself doesn't save anyone any where.
Like money in the bank or food in the cupboard, salvation on Calvary leaves us bankrupt or famished unless we appropriate it. By faith. True faith works by love in loyalty, compassion, and obedience. And that's where the pre-Advent judgment comes in! It determines or actually reveals before the celestial universe those who live by faith in contrast with those who simply pretend to.* The 1844 judgment also settles the universal issues of the great controversy regarding the government of God.
First, let's consider the judicial aspect of human salvation. All of us are accountable for what we do with Jesus, and wherever there is accountability, judgment naturally follows. It makes sense, then, that during the final proclamation of the everlasting gospel, God sends with it a new message of present truth for our time: "The hour of His judgment has come" (Rev. 14:7).+
But didn't our judgment already happen at the cross? In the corporate sense, yes. According to John 12:31, the judgment of this world took place back then, when all human sin and attempted righteousness was condemned in our Representative, Jesus. Today our only hope of salvation is a substitute righteousness that was provided at Calvary and ratified at the Resurrection (see Rom. 4:25). As individuals we must choose whether to exchange our old condemnation inherited from Adam for our new justification achieved in Christ. Our judgment, then, is not about our sin; that was settled on the cross. It's about our relationship with the Son. "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already" (John 3:18).
Many agonize about becoming righteous enough to pass the judgment. How surprised they would be to learn that God already condemned their righteousness on the cross, and now the only question left in determining their salvation is whether or not they believe in Jesus. "He who believes in Him is not judged." Those who don't claim to believe in Jesus aren't even included in the pre-Advent judgment, since their doom already is sealed.
Faith or no faith? This for us is the focus of the judgment.
Then, where does the law come in, since we are "judged by the law of liberty" (James 2:12)? The law tests the genuineness of faith. The fallen sand castles of many popular televangelists testify that religious rhetoric can be a smoke screen for unconfessed sin. Talk is cheap, but true faith makes us faithful and obedient to God's commandments (see Rev.
Perfectionism is not the issue. Re member, all hope of having a righteousness identity of our own ended in our corporate judgment at the cross. Sincere faith in Christ is what counts in the 1844 pre-Advent judgment.
If God already knows ... ?
At this point the question comes: Why even have a pre-Advent judgment if "the Lord knows those who are His" (2 Tim. 2:19)? Obviously it's not to inform the Omniscient, so it must be to enlighten His creation. This carries us back to the celestial origin of the great controversy between good and evil. Lucifer, father of lies, raised doubts about God's fairness and integrity. The serpent continued his deceptions in Eden (see Gen. 3:4, 5). Satan repeated these charges through his agents during Christ's earthly ministry: "This man receives sinners" (Luke 15:2). In other words, "How can the Holy One accept those who are unholy? And if He forgives sinners and gives them mansions in heaven, why did He cast me and my angels out of there?"
Since matters relating to human salvation are vitally involved in the universal great controversy, no wonder celestial beings are intensely interested (see 1 Peter 1:12; Eph. 3:10; Ex. 25:20). God's government operates through the informed trust and loyalty of His intelligent creation, so He can't merely brush aside the devil's accusations.
"But wait," someone protests. "Weren't all possible doubts about God settled at Calvary?" Not at all. Cal vary revealed the supreme love of God as nothing else ever had or will, but the question remains: Has that same love been equally extended to everyone alike throughout history? What about Uzzah at the ark? Orphans in Rwanda? Grandma suffering with cancer?
If God wants His creation to under stand how Calvary's love has consistently operated throughout the great controversy, then He needs to answer some questions. And He will allow Himself to be audited: "Let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, 'That Thou mightest be justified in Thy words, and mightest prevail when Thou art judged' " (Rom. 3:4).
When does this judgment of God Himself take place? Seventh-day Adventists offer a viable answer: the 1844 celestial judgment.