Judgment of the Living

A thought seemed to appear in my mind while I was sleeping this morning that persisted in keeping my attention until my conscious mind began to ponder it as I slowly began to wake up. Then I began to fear that I might lose it before capturing it here, so I couldn't go back to sleep completely. Since it is a thought that is rather new to me and also because I don't recall even thinking about this subject recently, I suspect that it wasn't an idea that originated with me.

There is a teaching in my church about the time prophesied in Daniel that we are now living in. The period of time we find ourselves in today is called the time of the Investigative Judgment. There has been a great deal of debate about this concept or event, both its very existence and also the nature of what it really involves. Unfortunately this teaching has been abused by good-intentioned people far too often to promote a religion based on fear. They have done this because their perceptions of God were still too much rooted in the Dark Ages version of God invented by Satan, a God who is looking for our faults and seeking excuses for us to be lost.

From this perspective of God, whenever one thinks about a time of judgment the result is usually one of fear of punishment for any misdeeds or bad choices or sins we may have committed. The decisions of this judgment are assumed to be determined by a stern Judge up in heaven combing through the records of our life seeking to find out if indeed we have a mark of forgiveness recorded beside each record of sin in our history. If He finds one instance of our failure to obtain forgiveness for some secret sin in our past or present then He will erase our name from the Book of Life and we will then be in a hopeless and lost condition.

I have been challenging this view of God for a number of years now and have observed a number of serious flaws in this philosophy. The most glaring problem is that this assumes that God needs to review records at all. This idea flies in the face of our belief that God is all-knowing and really doesn't need any outside assistance in knowing anything at all. He is fully aware of everything at all times and so the idea of reviewing records to make a determination about us just doesn't make sense in connection with this truth about Him.

Of course, the supposed purpose of this way of viewing the judgment was (and still is) to motivate people through fear. It is believed that it will cause people to put more and more effort into “perfecting” their characters so that this holy God will not become too angry and cast them into the lake of fire in the day of final Judgment. The assumed ideas about how to go about “perfecting” one's character were also rather vague at times but were generally all focused on trying very hard to eliminate every bad behavior. This also revolved around some standardized set of rules obtained from various sources believed to be inspired by God.

The pressure on people, even very young people who live under this philosophy of religion, is unbelievably enormous. I can personally attest to this fact because this teaching drove me to the brink of near insanity even before I became a teenager. By the time I turned 16 I was verging on mental breakdown from this intense internal torture from my conscience and I finally determined on my 16th birthday that something had to change. That was actually one of the first major turning points in my spiritual journey to begin moving away from legalism toward living in a better relationship with God on a personal level. At that time I still knew very little about the gospel or grace and nothing at all about joy. But I did know that whatever I was doing was sucking all of the life out of me and I could not survive much longer operating under those assumptions and emotional conditions.

As I look back over the many things that God has brought me through since that time I am humbled and grateful for the grace that was all around me that I simply could not perceive or appreciate. Years later God came much closer to me and got my attention and challenged me to personally reexamine all my religious assumptions and beliefs and allow Him to introduce Himself to my heart. I accepted His offer and began to let go of my preconceived opinions and false ideas about Him as He exposed them to me. At first it was a rather slow and even frightening process, but over time it began to accelerate until today I feel like God is moving me closer to the fast lane of growth and maturity.

But during all of these years and through all of the insights and wonderful new truths that God has been opening up to my heart and mind, I have not yet come across a good, satisfying answer about this issue of the Investigative Judgment. In particular, what I am talking about is not so much whether it is really happening or not, but the issue of this judgment process moving from the dead to the living. This was the focal point that was often used to frighten us the most and intended to motivate us through constant fear to “be good”, whatever version of “good” the other person might have had in mind for us. Until this morning I have not really had a very good understanding of the real truth about this point and how it fit into the radically different picture of God that He has been revealing to me over the past few years.

What seemed to be given to me this morning was related to the view that the nature of this judgment is not about God going over my records and arbitrarily making a decision whether I can be saved or lost based on my performance. That was already becoming clearer to me as my whole definition of judgment has been evolving over the past few years. But what seemed to click today was this: judgment is what is taking place in my own heart and mind and is simply paralleled by heaven's confirmation of what is going on inside of all of us. From that perspective, since the dead no longer are making any decisions and no longer have any option of changing their minds about God, it is easy for heaven and earth to simply review their records and see what their final choice was concerning their relationship with God. But part of that process also involves our review of other people's lives and discerning in some small ways things about those who have died from God's perspective that will change our concepts and assumptions, particularly about how God related to them.

So a large part of this thing called the Investigative Judgment is really about all who are living today sharpening their opinions about God based on what they choose to believe about how He treated people both in the past and in the present. As each of us reviews how God related to others we are in turn making judgments in our own hearts about God and whether He is really fair, just and compassionate like He says He is or whether we judge Him to be harsh, arbitrary and even vengeful at times. The decisions we make in these regards form our own attitudes which in turn sets even more firmly our own character. And it is the secret motives of the heart and the truth about our character that is the essence of what is revealed in times of judgment.

Because the true meaning of this word judgment is to reveal what is hidden, this concept of the judgment passing from the dead to the living simply means that this process of revelation of hidden motives is going to pass from those who have lived in the past to revealing more and more the truth about the real motives of those who are currently alive today. This investigation is not something isolated to some courtroom in heaven that we somehow feel we are held hostage to, but is actually going on all around us every day. This investigation actually revolves around what our hearts are choosing to believe about God, about how He feels about us and how He treats sinners. This revelation of the secret opinions of our hearts about God is in essence the very substance and core of this thing called the Investigative Judgment. For these opinions will coalesce to form our character that will either fit us for heaven or will cause us to be filled with terror when the presence of God is more fully revealed.

While it may be true that God and other intelligent beings in heaven are participating in this process of exposure, it is equally true that each of us are very much involved in it as well. Whether we realize it or not we are all in the process of evaluating both those around us and God, trying to determine what their real motives are behind all the confusing signals we are receiving from what is happening. We are always trying to figure out people's real intent behind their facade as are others trying to figure out what our real motives are in the way we relate to them. This is actually much of what goes on in the activity that we call gossip. And ultimately all of us are unavoidably making determinations in our hearts about how God treats us, even those who try to claim they don't believe He exists.

What I am coming to be more and more aware of is my need to abandon my fear basis in my perception of this process of judgment/revealing and to view this process the way heaven sees it. God, the one who's presence pervades all of heaven, is the originator and source of pure love. So when I allow His Spirit to give me His perspective on what is really going on both in His heart and in other people's hearts, I am always going to see things radically differently than when viewing them through the basis and perceptions of fear.

I am coming to realize more clearly that this process of Investigative Judgment is very necessary to culminate in polarizing all of the world before Jesus can return. In other words, every human being is acting as an agent in furthering this process of revealing deep motives. But more importantly they are settling in their own minds and hearts their opinions about God's fairness or lack thereof. As events intensify in this world and pressure mounts to force everyone to believe the system of lies about God imposed on us by His archenemy on this planet, this process of polarization is going to inevitably intensify and everyone is forced by circumstances to choose who's opinions about God to believe.

Religion has generally promoted quite effectively this system of lies about God, part of which were the frightening beliefs that I described at the beginning. While the basic facts of prophesy were rather accurate, the assumptions about God led many to formulate false opinions about what this investigation was really all about. This led to the deep wounding of many hearts and even the turning away of thousands of discouraged souls who simply couldn't measure up to the intense demands of legalistic leaders and institutions. God's Word and His inspired authors were misconstrued to mean nearly the opposite of what He desired to convey to us about Himself through misguided teachings about judgment. The world is full of people who have become very bitter and have rejected this truth altogether because of the terrible abuse of this doctrine.

But what I want to now absorb is the opposite side of this tragic misconception. I want to become involved in experiencing the positive side of this process of investigation. I choose to participate aggressively in investigating God's motives, attitudes and character for myself to discover His true colors that have been so distorted by lies about Him all of my life. And I want to view the records of those who have died, both in the ancient past and those in recent history in order to come to appreciate the real truth about God's dealings with them and the lessons they can provide for my own experience with Him.

I am very keen on not only having a much clearer understanding and perception of what this time of judgment really means but I want to have a correct and positive relationship to it. I believe when the concept of true judgment is correctly understood it will not be something that will frighten me but will be the most powerful means by which God's reputation can be vindicated. And increasingly, my desire is to help to vindicate God's reputation by exposing and replacing with truth the many lies about Him that have blinded my thinking and caused all of us to be afraid of Him for so long.

Now, for the first time in my life, I feel not just a peace about this but even an eagerness for this judgment process to move from the dead to the living. Yes it is a very solemn time, because it is very sobering to realize that we are moving very close to the final showdown that will seal all of our destinies forever. But that sealing process is in no way an arbitrary decision on God's part but is the process of our own choices simply becoming permanently embedded into our own characters. And as those choices become sealed forever into our characters and personalities, so too does the glory of God began to be more clearly seen throughout the whole earth. As the glory of God becomes more clear in the lives of those who allow Him to dwell fully in their hearts, they will become the points of light that will collectively fill the earth with the real truth about God and how He feels about all of us; they will be like millions of fiber optics relaying the glory of God into this darkened planet.

I want to, yes I choose to allow God to integrate me into that group of true believers. I choose to allow Him to fill my life with His true glory, to expose (judge) my heart right now so that His healing grace will transform me more completely into His image. I choose to give Him full permission to make me a reflector of His glory, a cleansed and purified fiber that can transmit the undimmed glory of this God of pure love that never quits.

Comments

  1. Oh, how very much I needed to read this!

    I too was brought to the brink of despair during my teen years at the mere thought of the Investigative Judgment.

    I do believe that it is God who is being judged, for Lucifer, before he was cast out of Heaven, claimed that He was not a God of love.

    I've been experiencing much of what you express here. I've seen my perceptions of God's character grow and expand over the years, and in an odd sort of way it seems that it's been during some of my hardest times that I've ended up believing all the more in His goodness.

    Thank you for writing this. I'll have to go back and read it again, for it contains so much that is like manna to my soul.

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