Adventists share a lot with other Christian groups but are often viewed for the uniqueness: SDAs worship on Saturday (not Sunday), believe in soul sleep (not an immortal soul that leaves a person at death), and practice healthful living by not smoking or drinking alcohol (and many even are vegetarians as well).
But these teachings are shared by other groups. What makes SDA most unique is our teaching God’s Hour of Judgment. SDA’s believe that in 1844 Christ started a special judgment work that starts with the dead and moves to the living. More recently, Adventist see this judgment as more about God than just individual judgment. In reality, these both go together and show God to be worthy of not only great respect, but a whole lot of love and praise for his amazing creativity to preserve his integrity and be able to save sinners like us. Its a very delicate and wonderful thing he has accomplished.
So, my goal has been to figure out how to build a solid Adventist ethic around this teaching.
It has not been easy. I have had a hard time coming to understand judgment in a wholistic and redemptive way. For most of my life, fear has been the dominant metaphor in my views of judgment. It is this negativity that has tripped many up on finding the judgment teaching a very redemtive teaching at all. In fact, this “investigative judgment” teaching, as it is often called, has made some Christians angry at Adventists. They see us as taking away the assurance of salvation fought for by the Protestants and sending us back to deep fear of legalism, not only evident in the medieval church but also in the downfall of Judaism in Jesus’ day. We have sold grace for justice, a bad bargain for sinners.
I am not so sure.
Sadly, our emphasis on judgment has often ended up creating a sour experience. It has made many of us performance focused and not focused on relationships. In that regard it has been good for a certain type of morality–right doing–but not always able to go to the heart of our moral depravity and rescue us from our inadequacies and deep selfishness.
But what if we had a better view of judgment. What if the judgment teaching had both sober realism and radical redemptive. I started to study judgment in scripture and found that the same emotions that gather around the cross show up in the judgment. What if attitudes of love and acceptance were overflowing in the judgment, and we just were fooled by Satan into thinking God judged like Satan does (harshly and with vindictiveness). If there was something truly deeply ethical, then a unique ethic to share with other Christians.
Several years ago, I started to see the deep acceptance in the Biblical teaching of the judgment. It was a sober but powerful experience that turned my mind around. Now I want to share the judgment as the best foundation for ethics.
However, I have not connected all the parts.
Some preliminary observations suggest it has potential.
Others suggest the popularity of Adventist healthful living offers a better place for developing an Adventist ethic. This mix of teaching and lifestyle is attractive. It elevates the human as three in one (body, mind, spirit) lead to a focus on healthful living. “Health” and “Healing” sounds so much more redemptive than judgment. But scriptural teaching on judgment suggests it is more redemptive than we think. I love wholism and see it as a powerful and winsome moral metaphorical approach but see judgment as cleaning a whole lot more than just individual bodies.
Other SDA’s use the teaching on Sabbath as the best foundation for an Adventist ethic. Here is a call for relational dependence on God, for obedience to the 10 commandments, to social justice and rest. I think the Sabbath presents useful moral teachings. See what I have written on the Sabbath as a moral training tool of God. However, once again, like healing, I see the Sabbath as framed within the general teaching about the Hour of God’s Judgment arriving in 1844.
Adventist teaching on the Judgment (doctrine # 24, or read them all here) has come to be the teaching that creates the place and spirit and pace for how God ends Satan’s reign in our hearts and then in the world.
I have tried to unpack this elsewhere. Here I will use Micah 7:9 to simplfy my view of the moral power of Adventist teaching on the judgment.
The whole passage reads like THE DAY OF JUDGMENT, YOM KIPPUR.
It has dark and light, pain and hope, guilt and innocence.
We first see the sinful ways.
“The best of them is like a brier,
the most upright worse than a thorn hedge.”
And then the truth of judgment is inserted…
“The day God visits you has come,
the day your watchmen sound the alarm.
Now is the time of your confusion. (v4)
For most, that is where the judgment of God leads.
But then, this is the twist, God’s Judgment the guilty to wonderful news.
6-8—Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the LORD is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, And I will see His righteousness. Then my enemy will see, And shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the LORD your God?” My eyes will look on her; At that time she will be trampled down Like mire of the streets.
It seems that in God’s twisted judgment those who KNOW and ACCEPT that they are deserving of ALL their punishments, yes the sinner who knows his or her sin, can let God Plead His case.
What kind of case does a guilty man really have.
If God’s judgment includes the sprinkled blood of His sacrifice–was is continually available–then he has the justice that leads to light.
We have a winning case, not because we are innocent, but because we admit–“I HAVE SINNED AGAINST HIM”–
He pleads for the guilty and once we see that, we no longer need to be afraid of judgment.
Comparing this passage to John 8 and 9 and 10, we see a radical similarity. Those caught in sin or label as in sin, can come to Christ in judgment and be redeemed and vindicates.
And this understanding and the experience it brings, changes our moral frame. We see….
John 9: 39-41 Jesus said,“For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”
The greatest news in the world is how God’s judgment bends in favor of those who are guilty. He forgives the sinner precisely because He can and the sinner recognizes He will and can.
God’s style of judgment extricates the person from a deep inadequacy. The inadequacy opens us to God and He to us.
That experience/teaching can lead to a deep redemptive ethic.