Pre-Advent Judgment and Hebrews:

 

What does the book of Hebrews say about the sanctuary in heaven? Is there a biblical basis for the pre-Advent judgment?

 

The book of Hebrews provides some of the clearest statements for the existence of a heavenly sanctuary. Paul states unequivocally, “Now the main point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up” (Heb. 8:1, 2). Here, Paul affirms, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the main thrust of his sermon: Christ is our High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary, not the earthly one. If Christ ministers in the heavenly sanctuary, it must, therefore, exist.

 

“He entered once for all into the Holy Place, not with the blood of goats and calves, but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12). Again, the assertion is that Christ ministers in a tabernacle superior to the one made by human hands. In an even stronger statement, Paul maintains, “For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb. 9:24). Thus, from our reading of Hebrews alone, it seems indisputable that there is a sanctuary in heaven in which Christ ministers.

 

What disconcerts some readers is Paul’s claim that “it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these” (Heb. 9:23). Why would the heavenly things need any purifying sacrifices? After all, heaven is clean and holy, right? Several scholars have tried to solve the enigma of heavenly things needing cleansing by arguing that the conscience is in need of cleansing (Heb. 9:9, 14). Others profess that the purification means the inauguration of the sanctuary. Both of these suggestions seem to fall short of the argument developed in Hebrews 8:1–10:18, which centers on defilement, purification, and Christ’s heavenly ministry. Sin itself started in heaven.

 

As Seventh-day Adventists, we have the advantage of understanding such passages in connection with Daniel 7 and Daniel 8. We understand that heaven and earth are interconnected. The fact that we have paid attention to the sanctuary service in the Old Testament has given us an insight into how it works. Together with Daniel 8:14, which reads, “And he answered him, ‘For two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state’ ” the meaning of the statement in Hebrews 9:23 resolves itself. At the same time, we need to acknowledge that Hebrews 9:23 does not talk about the timing of the heavenly purification. That is something we learn from the book of Daniel. In sum, we can say that the existence of the heavenly sanctuary is an incontrovertible fact in the book of Hebrews. Furthermore, even a cleansing of the heavenly things with better sacrifices is indisputable.

 

What is the biblical basis for the pre-Advent judgment?

 

Here we need to look at the book of Daniel. The key passage for the pre-Advent judgment is Daniel 7. This chapter displays a succession of kingdoms, symbolized by a series of beasts, namely, the lion; the bear; the leopard; and a terrifying, dreadful, and exceedingly strong animal. A comparison of Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 make it apparent that these two chapters are dealing with the same general subject: prophecies regarding the rise and fall of four major Mediterranean world powers. These world powers can be readily identified as Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome. After Daniel sees the terrifying, dreadful, and exceedingly strong beast with its ten horns, a “little horn” emerges from among them. Suddenly, the vision shifts from the earth toward heaven, and a bright throne room comes into view (Dan. 7:9–14). The scene unfolds in three stages:

 

(1) a court scene in which thrones are set in place (Dan. 7:9, 10),

 

(2) the outcome of the judgment in which the beast is put to death (Dan. 7:11, 12), and

 

(3) the transfer of the kingdom to the Son of man (Dan. 7:13, 14).

 

The chronological events of the chapter display Babylon, Media-Persia (see Dan. 8:20), Greece, Rome, the little horn, judgment, and the possession of the kingdom by the saints.

 

In the second half of Daniel 7, the prophet’s curiosity turns to the activity of the fourth beast, as well as the little horn that “spoke arrogantly” (Dan. 7:19, 20). It makes war with the saints “until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints” (Dan. 7:22), and eventually “the saints took possession of the kingdom” (Dan. 7:22). For the second time, the sequence after the fourth beast is: little horn, judgment, and possession of the kingdom by the saints. This sequence is repeated a third time in Daniel 7, just to make sure that we do not miss it. The little horn “shall speak words against the Most High, shall wear out the holy ones of the Most High, and shall attempt to change the sacred seasons and the law” (Dan. 7:25). This activity is followed by the assurance that “the court shall sit in judgment” (Dan. 7:26), and finally the “kingship . . . shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High” (Dan. 7:27).

 

In a review of Daniel 7, the chronology is obvious. Babylon is followed by Media-Persia, then by Greece, and by Rome. What constitutes the content of the second half of Daniel 7 is the activity of the little horn, the judgment, and the receiving of the kingdom, either by the Son of man or by the saints. Christ’s kingdom is their kingdom. This heavenly judgment includes books, which obviously are opened for the purpose of presenting evidence. These court books indicate that the heavenly judgment is investigative before God takes action against the “little horn” and for the saints (Dan. 7:21, 22, 27). The last three events in Daniel 7 are repeated three times. This should make it sufficiently clear that the judgment is sandwiched between the little horn’s activity and the kingdom. Thus, it is called the pre-Advent judgment.

 

The concept of an investigative judgment is not foreign to the Bible. Before God pronounces a verdict, He investigates each case. This is clearly seen in the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. Before a curse is pronounced over the serpent and the ground, God investigates Adam and Eve’s condition, as well as their conduct.

 

In the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, God is portrayed as descending to earth to investigate “whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me” (Gen. 18:21). Only after God investigates the situation, discloses His plans to Abraham, and warns and even delivers Lot and his family from Sodom does the Lord rain sulfur and fire out of heaven on Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24). Both the Fall narrative and the Sodom-and-Gomorrah narrative set a biblical precedent for an investigative assessment that precedes executive judgment. The same pattern prevails in the case of the investigative, or pre-Advent, judgment.

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