Commentary on "The Wedding Garment"
Day 1: Sabbath Afternoon, June 4, 2011 - Introduction
This lesson reminds us that Christian history is filled with many stories of moral failure, of crimes against humanity committed in the name of Jesus. Often the most respectable professed Christians could justify and carry out the greatest of evils; not all who profess the name of Christ are His true followers. The author argues that because many professed Christians are not “faithful,” the identity of the real Christians must remain a mystery. God must, therefore, hold an investigation before Jesus returns to find those who are “fitted to share the inheritance of the righteous.” Ellen White stated that the parable of the wedding feast illustrates how God deals with the problem of false appearances in the church. God will decide the fate of all who profess Christ in a special investigative trial before He comes with His rewards.
Here at the beginning, let’s take an overview of what this week’s lesson is teaching. The doctrine of the investigative judgment was constructed in answer to the problem of unfaithfulness in the church. As this lesson states, followers of Christ must show they are genuine by demonstrating faithfulness and fitness for Heaven. For Ellen White and the early Adventist writers, this meant that God’s people would develop characters that perfectly reproduced Christ’s. Traditionally, this teaching included overcoming of all sins and moral perfection. No one can say that he will develop such a character, for there is no guarantee that any of us will remain faithful. So, as White said, the phrase, “I am saved,” should never pass any believer’s lips. If we believe we’re saved, she said, we will become complacent in our spiritual growth (1 SM 314). Uncertainty of our salvation is necessary to prod to for “higher attainments.” Then when our names come for up for review at the investigative judgment, God will decide if we have attained and remained faithful. .
Ellen White’s writings have many dire warnings for those who do not stay loyal to the truth. Although the Bible also has many warnings for those who do not remain faithful, there is an important difference in the two sources. Along with warnings, the Bible clearly assures Christ’s followers they can have total confidence that He will hold on to them and finish the work that He started in them. Bible writers often told believers that they were saved, and we will examine these assurances later. The gospel tells us to persevere to the end, but that God work in us to the end.
The second reason given for the investigative judgment is the “demonstration” argument, which springs from the great controversy (GC) world view. This demonstration aspect of the judgment is emphasized much more in contemporary Adventism. More than just a doctrine, the GC is an elaborate theological and philosophical framework that touches everything Adventism teaches. This teaching holds that Christ and Satan are locked in a great cosmic battle that stretches to the outer boundaries of the cosmos. Satan has enormous freedom to accuse God of demanding the impossible with His laws, while unjustly punishing sinners for breaking them. Satan has access to all the myriads of worlds, to tempt, annoy, and put God on trial before the aliens. The controversy is “great,” partly because of the supposed existence of the billions of watching worlds who act as the jury in God’s trial. Without their existence, the conflict would be less than great. Later on, we will critically examine the “watching worlds” argument.
In the great controversy, God cannot stop Satan from placing Him in such a weak position, since limiting Satan’s free reign to accuse and destroy would prove that his accusations are valid. Therefore, God must vindicate Himself to the watching universe by showing His judgments are just. The Cross was not sufficient to show God’s justice, however, for God also must prove that His law can be kept by us. He must have a people who develop characters that will perfectly reflect the perfect law-keeping of Jesus. The investigative judgment is needed, they say, to demonstrate God’s goodness to the watching universe.
This week we will look at why the real message of the judgment gives us total assurance and the strongest guarantees God can make. We will also see how great controversy theory removes God from His sovereign throne and reduces Him to a beleaguered politician groveling for votes. Instead of elevating Jesus as the almighty “I AM,” GC theory has demoted Him to wrestling on the same level with Satan. Here, we will lift Jesus up as Lord over Satan, the First and Last, and the One who can keep His sheep.
Copyright 2011 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised June 4, 2011. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Glendale, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide and the corresponding E.G. White Notes are published by Pacific Press Publishing Association, which is owned and operated by the Seventh-day Adventist church. The current quarter's editions are pictured above.
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