This week, Pastor Ted Wilson gives a partial discussion of Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary as part of the twenty-fourth fundamental belief of the Seventh-day Adventists.
Before He ascended back to heaven, Jesus assured His disciples that He would return. He said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also" (John 14:2, 3).
During Jesus’ ascension, the angels reiterated this promise, telling the disciples, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, Who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven" (Acts 1:11).
Indeed, we have an assurance that Jesus will return. But what is He doing in heaven in the meantime?
When it comes to major decisions, God would always investigate before acting, demonstrating His willingness to forgive and giving us an opportunity to be part of His plan.
In the Garden of Eden, God looked for Adam and Eve, asking them questions and letting them respond.
Before the confusion of languages took place at the Tower of Babel, "the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built" (Genesis 11:5).
Also, before delivering the Israelites from slavery, God told Moses, "I have surely seen the oppression of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters for I know their sorrows. So I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians" (Exodus 3:7, 8).
Lastly, before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, God decided to investigate the people. He said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know" (Genesis 18:20, 21).
Similarly, awaiting His second coming, Jesus is now investigating the earth—everyone who has ever lived, every choice each person has made, and so on. God wants it to be clear to us and to the onlookers of the universe that no one will be put into a fate he didn't choose.
But how will God determine who to take to heaven and who to leave? How can we be sure His actions will be just?
In Daniel 7:9-11, we read about the investigative judgment wherein people's desires and actions will be considered to see if they want to be part of God's kingdom or not. Instead of doing it one on one, God will open the history books before all people for them to see. He wants everyone to be part of this judgment process, ensuring justice, honesty, and transparency for all.
At this moment, Jesus is in the heavenly sanctuary reconciling humanity with God and determining who desires to be part of God's kingdom. Once this work is done, He will come.
This work of judgment is described in the Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Belief #24 as follows: "There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle that the Lord set up and not humans. In it, Christ ministers on our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross."
It continues, "At His ascension, He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry, which was typified by the work of the high priest in the Holy Place of the earthly sanctuary."
"In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry, which was typified by the work of the high priest in the Most Holy Place of the earthly sanctuary."
"It is a work of investigative judgment, which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. In that typical service, the sanctuary was cleansed with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things are purified with the perfect sacrifice of the blood of Jesus."
"The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection."
"It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom."
It concludes, "This judgment vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God shall receive the kingdom. The completion of this ministry of Christ will mark the close of human probation before the Second Advent."
Praise the Lord for being a fair and just God Who loves and cares about us, and a God Who will make all things right one day!
Next week, Pastor Ted Wilson will continue the discussion of this biblical belief. In the meantime, dive into the Word of God to understand further this important work of Christ.