The Investigative Judgment Has Three Main Problems

As a belief, the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the sanctuary offers a marvelous reading of the Hebraic worship system. This analysis reveals a glorious picture of Jesus Christ that was, among other ends, designed to prepare the Jewish, covenant people for His arrival; His First Coming. It did not accomplish this, for the most part, due to the intransigent disobedience and self-assuredness of the Israelites. Yet, today, it stands, for those Christians who will look, as a luminous architectural and temporal analogy to the work of God, in us, that Christ completes.

The investigative judgment (I.J.) portion of the doctrine, however, remains an essentially indigestible aspect of Adventist teaching on this subject. Even the current, fourth quarter 2013 Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide—which covered the I.J. in lesson 9—admits in its introduction that "no other doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (with the possible exception of the Sabbath) has faced so many challenges."

It doesn't define those challenges. I would like to forward my own brief list of three such obstacles, however.

They are as follows:

1. Unilateralism— SDAs are the only Christians who hold the investigative judgment to be true. (The Study Guide does mention this fact, saying that "the sanctuary message is the Adventists' unique doctrine," though, perhaps oddly for an evangelical body, it does not note this as a challenge.)

2. Divisiveness— The I.J. has been the most conflicted doctrine within the SDA church, historically. "No other doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (with the possible exception of the Sabbath) has faced so many challenges," states the 4th quarter Sabbath School lesson introduction.

The 1980 Glacier View debacle, which prominently resulted in the dismissal of Dr. Desmond Ford and resignations from dozens of SDA pastors, was certainly the height of such divergence. Ironically, then, Ford would certainly agree with the quarterly, here: As he outlined in the nearly 1,000-page manuscript he submitted to the Sanctuary Review Committee at Glacier View, the I.J. has been subjected to a long history of resistance from Adventist scholars, much to the chagrin of SDA administrators.

As it pertains to this legacy, though, the church declares victory: "Fortunately, throughout the years," says the lesson intro, "these challenges have not only been withstood, they have increased our understanding of this crucial teaching and have made us, as a people, stronger in our understanding of salvation."

One may agree with this summary. But a calvaryman, returning from the front line, could say the same about an arrow jutting from his side. In other words, though withstood, though illuminating, and though strengthening, these counterpoints against the I.J. doctrine have not been eliminated. Like an arrow in one's torso, they stick out visibly and arbitrarily.

And, lastly:

3. Inscrutability— Supporting evidence for the I.J. is often hard to understand, convoluted, contradictory, very technical, highly debatable, inaccessible, or nonexistent. In other words, it is hardly the model of a secure and reasonable biblical doctrine.

So, for example, two points:

a)For it to work, the I.J. requires that, on the basis of the scantest evidence, human beings confirm that on a given day, in a given month, in a given year, an action occurred, in an extra-universal realm, amidst divine beings; indeed, an action for which there is no possible detectable evidence, counter-action, or sign on Earth.

This is, again, unique, as a supposedly biblical schema. Indeed, the only evidence offered for this event is the reading of the supportive texts that, themselves, generate the hypothesis. This renders the argument, by definition, circular.

But, most of all:

b) For it to work, the investigative judgment requires a theology, not of man, nor of angels, but, of extraterrestrials ("unfallen worlds"); i.e., a xenotheology. These xenomorphs, purportedly, are the recipients of God's advance judicial review, because human beings—otherwise the Bible's primary focus—certainly are not.

So, on p. 75 of the aforementioned Study Guide, alternately speaking, perhaps, of angels, the author argues, as a reason for the I.J., "Heavenly beings need to be sure that the saints are safe to save." But he offers no Biblical evidence or support for his point. He just says it.

But here's what's interesting: The fact of these obstacles does not mean that the investigative judgment doctrine is not true. (Indeed, nowhere, here, have I said that it is not.) The I.J. could be, theologically, akin to what scientist Edward Witten once said of string theory: "a part of 21st-century physics that fell by chance into the 20th century."

Perhaps. But if the Bible, and these three evidences, offer no such conclusion, then how can we?

Harold A. McGregor Jr. writes from New York

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Hey Harold, I don’t know if you still get notifications from this old post but I created a page for our conversation on my own blog and I copied our comments over, even the ones that were not approved. Even though I already responded to your last comment on my site, I recommend that you take your last comment, make the necessary edits, and post it on the SS site as well since I’m sure there are quite a few people following the discussion there. Once you do I will copy my comment as well.

There are hundreds, yes thousands, who have come to the very same conclusion: there is no biblical authority that can answer so many obvious questions about this doctrine, unique to Adventists. They will continue to teach it, although it has been “toned down” quite a bit in recent years, but it is so essential to their very foundation that to remove it would be worse, in their minds, than to simply let it be.[

Bible texts have been strung together with a priori premises just as has those “proving” indisputably that the seventh day is a universal and timless law.

Both have been taught to those who are largely biblically iliterate and trusting of those purporting to be “Bible students”; much as the JW’s converts who are similarly unquestioning. All the rest have been raised in the SdA cocoon from cradle to grave and became part of their family’s religious heritage.


This is, unfortunately, the nature of theology; it is based on words. The more obscure the passage is in the Bible, the more theologians love it because they can then twist it any way they want. The IJ has strong ties to Ellen White. Ellen White was diagnosed as hysterical by three SDA doctors from 1852 to 1865 - the two Kellogg brothers and a Dr Jackson. Her own twin sister didn’t believe her. James, the brother of Jesus, became a follower of Jesus. So, it’s not the same. The Bible does not say the rest of Jesus’ family did not believe him. We know for a fact Elizabeth did not believe Ellen. The evidence is overwhelming that Ellen White was a fraud. Ellen White is a cultic figure. A church with a belief from a cultic figure is a cult.

The worst is the powers that be in the SDA Church have known this for a very long time and did their best to conceal it from the members.

The IJ is not necessary for salvation. Just drop it. The seventh day is very clear in the Bible. There is no Biblical evidence for the first day. It’s Paul with his unclear writing that makes people say there is.


The peculiar doctrine of an the investigative judgment arose directly out of a misunderstanding of Dan. 8:14, “And [the angel] said to [Daniel], ‘For two thousand three hundred [evenings and mornings] then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.’

When Gabriel interprets the vision, he says

  1. The horn is a single king, NOT a series or type of kings (v.23, “… A king shall arise …”)
  2. The horn (king) will destroy for a time (v. 25, “… But he shall be broken without hand.”)

The question therefore was for how long was this ONE KING going to carry on. Well, Gabriel told Daniel that “the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future.” In other words, “the evenings and mornings”, i.e. “the many days” (or the period of terrible desecration) was going to be “2,300” and that period of time was far (from Daniel’s day) in the future.

It is like prophesying that there will be a ruthless American president who will rule abominably for "2 years" and then democracy will be restored; but that that "period of a half term" was going to be long in the future yet.

What does all this mean then? It means Ellen White lied, blatantly and persistently.



Its counterpart in psychology is akin to the fixated and unresolved castration anxiety when the child struggles mentally in an effort to please a perceived set of authoritarian parents and to escape punishment. We all have heard it many times in our past, “Wait til your father comes home, Johnny!” Obviously EGW had unresolved issues and carried the conflict throughout her life, influencing how she constructed her life narrative. Now we all are paying the price.

Such is life!


Point 1 is irrelevant to truth…Point 2 it is only “divisive” because there are those who despise the doctrines of the church (usually they have problems with other parts of scripture too). Point 3 illustrates my point, because the IJ/Sanctuary doctrine is a beautiful doctrine and unifies eschatology. It’s actually easy to understand…the fact someone would put Ford on a level of respect ( a genuine heretic on at least 3 doctrines) speaks volumes of ones spiritual immaturity.

Thanks, @dvd85.

I’m the author of the piece. It’s signed under my legal name—the one I use for religious writing—as opposed to my byline, which I use for other work, as well as on this account.

You said:

Point 1 is irrelevant to truth…

In response:

Many SDAs, I’m sure, would agree. However, few understand, I think, that doctrinal formation, the topic here, is never done in denominational isolation.

The church may, or may not, formally bring together scholars of other faiths, in order to formulate its beliefs. Still its leaders are taught by them, read them, interact with them, and draw on their ideas.

Further, Christianity, itself, particularly during the second half of its 2nd millennium, was derived from the work of founders whose notions flowed into the church like blood. Seventh-day Adventism’s recent recognition of Martin Luther’s 500th anniversary points that out. Because of this, the unilateralism I deride is never, to use your word, “irrelevant.”

As for “truth,” well, like I suggested at the end of the piece, that is a matter with a far higher standard than doctrine. As to how you would show that the IJ is true, as opposed to merely asserting it, well, have a go at it.

You said:

Point 2 it is only “divisive” because there are those who despise the doctrines of the church (usually they have problems with other parts of scripture too).

In response:

So, first, you’ve made a category error, here, by confusing “the doctrines of the church” with “scripture.” They’re obviously not the same.

Then, in his Glacier View manuscript, Ford documented the history of formal, scholarly resistance to the IJ doctrine, expressed by papers critiquing it. Are you saying that all of these persons “despise the doctrines of the church”?

If you aren’t, and, even more, aren’t contemptuous of the ninth commandment, please show that all of these men felt this way about Adventism.

You said:

Point 3 illustrates my point,

In response:

Which point does point 3 “illustrate”?

You said:

because the IJ/Sanctuary doctrine is a beautiful doctrine and unifies eschatology. It’s actually easy to understand…

In response:

So, this is clearly going to be an agree-to-disagree moment…though, in fact, maybe not.

That is, I actually laid out why the IJ is inscrutable. You have simply asserted that it isn’t, and that it does the things you claim. These are not arguments.

You said:

the fact someone would put Ford on a level of respect ( a genuine heretic on at least 3 doctrines) speaks volumes of ones spiritual immaturity.

In response:



a) I don’t think Ford was ever voted, or affirmed, “a genuine heretic on at least 3 doctrines,” or on any.

b) The “level of respect” on which you say I “put Ford” is expressed this way: I cite his historical presentation of Adventist scholarly dissent on the IJ. You affirm this history is real, in your critique of point 2, but reject it, here, per point 3. Which is it?

c) Because you’re a reasonable person, and a Seventh-day Adventist, you’ll agree that, even more than citing Desmond Ford, nothing speaks volumes of one’s spiritual immaturity than speaking volumes of another person’s spiritual immaturity. Right?

In summary:

I suspect that you really like the IJ, and think that it’s real. For this reason, you don’t like anyone criticizing it, as I have done.

Yet you have not, with counter-arguments, refuted mine: That it is unilateralist, divisive, and inscrutable. You even affirmed the first two points.

This is a poor attempt at defense for something that you purportedly hold in such high esteem.

If you take another shot at this, do you think that you can do better?



William Miller followed by Ellen Harmon and S. S. Snow staunchly believed that despite the NT admonishment that humanity could not “know the day or hour” of the 2nd Advent, that the “wise” in the end times not only could but must know the very day. As discussed in the latest issue in C. Scriven’s interview with E. Vick, the methodology that reached this conclusion never changed post Oct. 22, 1844; indeed, E. Harmon had visions which affirmed it. This has made it impossible until the present day to discard the IJ even when theoretically EGW and the GC of SDAs concede that she was not infallible. Millerite preaching of “definite time” inevitably led to the IJ; it’s rather like SDA theology’s “original sin.” It’s a blot that stains all the theological progeny of the “Adam of SDAdventism.”

  1. Usually people who detract Des Ford never read a single line of his books, articles, etc.

  2. When someone says that he 1844/IJ is a “church doctrine,” they are right. The SDAC produced it, based NOT on the Bible but on some lay testimony of a vision in a cornfield and on EGW’s writings.

  3. Those who fanatically defend the so-called doctrine in general are not well versed on the book of Hebrews, where, in my opinion, we have the best refutation of the heresy.


george, i think point 2. is the most correct of your points…it is true that the BRI and other adventist scholars have proved 1844/IJ from the bible, using the hermeneutic they subscribe to, but 1844/IJ is accepted doctrine in the adventist church primarily due to the visions of egw, which we believe are as inspired as the bible…

points 1. and 3., on the other hand, are way off…a lot of people have read desmond ford very carefully, and have found subtle but important errors…des uses a type of hermeneutic that isn’t universally accepted…in the case of Hebrews, well, we’ve been through this before, george…as of yet, several yrs later, you have yet to show that anything in Hebrews contradicts 1844/IJ…and i’m still waiting for the reason you think jesus has been sitting on his father’s right pinky for over 2,000 yrs…at least 1844/IJ explains why he didn’t come in the apostles’ life time…

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I am always in AWE when I read statements like this one. How can you insist on such a fallacy? It’s mind boggling! I am speechless…


Personally I’m done with such nonsense. Not only the IJ, but also other clearly not well thought out ideas from the 1800’s. As time moves on and progress continues, the ideas of the founders are looking weaker and weaker in many ways:

  • A God that is omniscient and knows the end from the beginning, knows all that was, is, and will be, does not need to spend centuries investigating anything. It would take exactly no time at all.

  • The Universal Sunday Law? Please. There is no way that 195 countries will pass a law that forces everyone to go to a Christian church on Sunday. Think of the innumerable hurdles. It’s comical. Can you imagine seven billion people sitting in church on Sunday morning? How would we pay for building all those churches? Who is going to convert the five or so billion people of other faiths to Christianity and how long will that take?

  • Genesis is literal? Please.

  • Moses wrote the Pentateuch? Sure, and in dialects of ancient Hebrew from ~600 bce while he was at it. He could see he future, apparently.

  • Adventists are special because we keep all of the 10 commandments. Right. Have you read the 10 commandments in detail? All three versions of them?

I could go on…


biblical interpretation is a lot like the science of origins…a lot depends on your premises and assumptions…in the case of theology, these are part of the hermeneutic used…if you read the BRI’s william shea, for example, you’ll find irrefutable evidence, amounting to proof, for our church’s eschatology…

as an adventist today reader, i imagine you’ve seen marvin moore’s brilliant Why the little horn of Daniel 8 is much more than Antiochus Epiphanes, as well as the back and forth banter by cliff goldstein, angus mcPhee, andre reis and winston mcHarg (desmond ford, of course, takes this preterist position, although he hedges his bets through his apotelesmatic principle)…all of these articles, reaching vastly different conclusions, are all logically developed…the reader gets to take his pick, and still be theologically sound…

ultimately, faith and even belief are matters of choice…on a certain level, everyone who believes he’s right has reasons for that belief…like i’ve said before, so much depends on whether you believe egw was a prophet or not…if you believe she was a prophet, and worship the god who inspired her, you’ll believe one way…if you don’t, you’ll believe another way…but in both cases, you’ll truly believe you’re right…

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I remain speechless…
But I will say something more, even being speechless…, …

It’s all about EGW, isn’t it? Worshiping her and her books. Always the same issue. One of the major reasons the Church got rid of Des was because he was "doing doctrine “from the Bible only,” and obviously the Bible contradicts what EGW wrote on the 1844/IJ issue. Therefore, Des was a “no, no.”

So, the real choice, as you said so well, is between accepting EGW’s teachings “no matter what” OR accepting the Bible’s teaching only, also “no matter what.”

Our dialogue will never end because it spins around the same issue. You decided to accept the former, and I decided to accept the latter since I am not willing to trash the Book of Hebrews and some clear passages from Paul only to favor EGW’s doctrine.

If she was or not a prophet is not the main issue we should be asking about. The greatest question is, Are we going to concede that the Bible is the only source of Christian doctrine, or not?
This is what makes the difference between the people the Church have been getting rid of, and the people who decided to accept EGW rather than the Sola Scriptura position.


george, i wish you’d concede that sola scriptura isn’t biblical…the argument you’re using is the same argument the pharisees used to discredit john the baptist and reject christ…that is, writings thousands of yrs old, and our understanding of them, are the only word of god that god is going to send…something happening much more recently, and in fact right before our very eyes, can’t mean anything…can you imagine using the books of moses to justify rejecting the words of god himself…this is just what the pharisees did…

there’s nothing in the bible that specifies what should be in the canon - that was the decision of catholic fathers at the council of trent - nor is there anything that says god can’t send new light or revelation…in fact the gospel of john implies that the holy spirit will always be sending the church new light to broaden our knowledge, which is just what has happened with 1844/IJ…

in the case of ford, some of his ideas, like the immediate ascension of christ into the most holy place, was reproved by egw in her life time when a.f. ballenger taught them…ford thinks he’s being original…but he’s only rehashing things that were brought up when our prophet was alive…and it isn’t a question of being faithful to scripture vs. being faithful to pronouncements from the church, which is what sola scriptura meant in luther’s day…it’s a question of using ford’s interpretations, which all theologians don’t agree with, to overturn what a prophet has written in plain english…and it isn’t even a question of worshipping egw…it’s a question of obedience to the full word of god…i can’t believe you don’t see this…

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  1. No, Ford knows he is not being original. But we know that he was able to put it all together much thoroughly and comprehensively than others before him. I bet @gford1 agrees with me on this, and Des does as well.

  2. The idea about what happened at the immediate ascension of Christ is not Ford’s “idea.” I read the biblical description hundreds of times in the book of HEBREWS, and it’s all there. I wonder if some people find it necessary to “interpret” the clear, undisputable content of Hebrews…

  3. The real, unstopable, disturbing problem is exactly this,

  1. Kind of 38 years ago, during so-called “Ford Crisis,” I decided to stick with the Bible as my ONLY source of belief. So far it has been marvelous.

EGW’s visions were mental images of her staunch beliefs, not objective images. We know that because she “reached out” (plagiarized) to others on how they described their own subjective beliefs, albeit all were inspired. But our Spectrum “prophet-in-residence” George @GeorgeTichy is also equally inspired, as you are. As a matter of fact, we all are “inspired.”


Can you post a verse(s) that implies that there will be new light to broaden our knowledge?

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There are so many texts in the New Testament stating that Jesus was/is seated at the right hand of God…

Romans 8:34 Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

Ephesians 1:20 …when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms

Col 3:1 set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

Heb 1:3 After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Heb 8:1 We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven

Heb 10:12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

Heb 12:2 For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

1 Peter 3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

I don’t know what else can be said…