The Relation of Justifcation to the Judgment Hour Message
Justification by faith was the Pauline message. Justification by faith was the Reformation message. And justification by faith "is the third angel's message in verity."—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 372.
What, then, is the essential difference between what we are to teach and what Luther taught?
The truth of justification was not fully restored in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. In the papal system, everything was cast down to the earth. It destroyed the Pauline truth of justification. In the papal doctrine, justification was an experience of righteousness within a man on earth. That, as Luther said, was "the abomination that maketh desolate." The Reformers recovered the Pauline truth of righteousness by faith. This righteousness, they saw, was not on earth, but in heaven; not in the saints, but in Christ; not mediated by the church on earth, but by the Head of the church, in heaven.
But the Reformers were not able to carry the truth of justification to its end, or apply it consistently to all areas of Christian teaching. Nearly all still believed in the immortal soul. The gospel teaches that Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10). God has given us immortality. But it is not in us, it is in Christ; not possessed on earth, only lodged in heaven. But the antichrist cast the truth to the earth and said that immortality was in man on earth instead of in Christ alone in heaven. This truth was seen by Luther, but not by most of the other Reformers, and not even by Luther's followers. Yet it is a vital part of the truth of justification by faith. The error of inherent righteousness and inherent life belong together.
The Reformed Churches (i.e., Calvinistic) carried on the Augustinian error of double predestination and the eternal security of the predestined. The corollaries of this error are once-saved-always-saved, lack of perseverance, antinomianism; although in all fairness it must be said that none of the Reformers were antinomian. The gospel gives man eternal security. There is a salvation given "once and for all." But this salvation and eternal security is not on earth, not in the believer; but it is in heaven, in Christ. The saints have it only by faith—and faith is not a once-and-for-all act, but a lifelong work (Rom. 1:17).
The radical evangelical sects became perfectionistic. In trying to fulfill life and history, they erred from the heavenly truth of justification by faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ.
The great foundation of Adventism is that "The temple is in heaven." Justifying righteousness is in heaven. Immortality is in heaven. Eternal security is in God's temple. Perfection is in Christ. And last, but not least, the millennium is in heaven. Thus, in every way, the Advent message is to lift truth up from the earth, from man, and place it wholly in heaven, in Christ, where it may be possessed by faith alone.
Thus the Adventist contribution is not to be some Judaizing addition to the truth of justification. Its mission is to lift up the truth of justification higher, higher above all the Protestant champions. God calls His people to become the foremost champions of the Pauline message. The evangelicals need to be stirred and startled as they see Seventh-day Adventists outdoing them by far in uplifting the truth of the Reformation. "The temple is in heaven." What power and glory and Christ-centeredness there is in the truth!
The Practical Value of Preaching the Judgment
The message of the everlasting gospel (justification) must now be proclaimed in the setting of the judgment hour.
"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying witfr a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." Rev. 14:6, 7.
This message of justificatton in the hour of God's judgment will rescue the truth from the errors retained by Protestantism and develop a people who have the marks of a Christian man, namely, perseverance, obedience and faith.
"Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev. 14:12.
The preaching of the sanctuary and the judgment shows how God deals with sin. Final account is not made at conversion. God will call His servants to account at His judgment bar. He either blots out all their sins from the records, or none of them. The final decree of a man's standing with God is not made when he first responds to God's altar call, but at the judgment. This the Protestant world in particular needs to know, for multitudes are sleeping on what they think is a nonstop train to heaven. The judgment teaches the necessity of perseverance to the end.
God's people will be judged by the law, even by the one the Lord wrote with His own finger and proclaimed on Mount Sinai (James 2:10-12). They shall be judged by their works. Profession means nothing. Cumberers will be cut down. Good works or sanctification cannot get a man's name into the book of life, but lack of it can get him cast out. When justification by faith is thus preached in the setting of the judgment, then antinomianism will no longer follow the message of Paul and Luther like a dark shadow. The Sabbath will be seen as the sign and seal of the righteousness which is of faith. The judgment teaches the necessity of obedience—entire obedience. Thus, Christ is our Lord as well as our Savior. If He is not our Lord neither is He our Savior. The judgment reveals who the truly repentant follower of Jesus is from the false.
Luke 6:46 46 " But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?
Yet with all his perseverance and obedience, what saint could stand in the judgment by his active righteousness? He stands before an infinite law and the God before whom all things are defiled and in whose presence the angels veil their faces. No man, absolutely no man, can endure the full light of that law, but Jesus Christ. The law is pleased with nothing except that righteousness found alone in Jesus, for it is in every way the righteousness of the law. Forgiveness is needed at the judgment as much as at conversion. We start with faith alone and end with faith alone (Rom. 1:17). In the light of the judgment, all the perfectionism of the "evangelical" sects and the distortions of the "holiness" movements are exposed as stubble and straw. Nothing but Jesus' own personal righteousness, His doing and dying for us, will prevail. The judgment teaches faith. It restores the primacy and supremacy of justification by faith.
In heaven—righteousness, life and eternal security.
On earth—repentance, perseverance, obedience and faith in the blood of Christ.
Here are the root and the fruit of the third angel's message.
And to our friends we say: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel." (To be concluded)