The Investigative Judgment in the Writings of Ellen G. White


Chapter 1—A Pillar Of The Adventist Faith

It was in February, 1845, on her “first journey East” that “the precious light in regard to the heavenly sanctuary” was opened to Ellen White (Letter 2, 1874). On February 15, 1846, she wrote Enoch Jacobs: IJWEGW 2.1

“God showed me the following, one year ago this month: I saw a throne and on it sat the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.... I saw the Father rise from the throne and in a flaming chariot go into the Holy of Holies within the veil, and did sit.... And I saw a cloudy chariot with wheels like flaming fire. Angels were all about the chariot as it came where Jesus was. He stepped into it and was borne to the Holiest where the Father sat.”—The Day-Star, March 14, 1846, p. 7. (See also Early Writings, 55.)

In her earliest account of the great controversy between Christ and Satan, published in 1858, she explained why Christ had entered the holy of holies in the heavenly sanctuary: IJWEGW 2.2

“As the priests in the earthly sanctuary entered the most holy once a year to cleanse the sanctuary, Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by His mediation, and to cleanse the sanctuary....

“I saw that every case was then decided for life or death. Jesus had blotted out the sins of His people.... While Jesus had been ministering in the sanctuary, the judgment had been going on for the righteous dead, and then for the righteous living.”—1 SG 162, 197, 198.

Ellen White later adopted the phrase “investigative judgment” for this particular aspect of Christ’s ministry (The Spirit of Prophecy 4:266, etc.), though others appear to have used the term before she did (e.g., see James White, The Review and Herald, January 29, 1857, p. 100). IJWEGW 2.3

As the years passed, she made it abundantly clear that the doctrine of the investigative judgment was a cardinal tenet of Scripture and was of vital importance to Seventh-day Adventists. She believed that through the Holy Spirit, she and other pioneer Adventists had been divinely led to understand the subject correctly. When A. F. Ballenger began teaching that Christ entered into His ministry in the holy of holies at His ascension rather than in 1844, Ellen White wrote: IJWEGW 2.4

“In clear, plain language I am to say to those in attendance at this conference [the General Conference of 1905] that Brother Ballenger has been allowing his mind to receive and believe specious error. God has not indited the message that he is bearing. This message, if accepted, would undermine the pillars of our faith.”—Ms 62, 1905, pp. 1, 2.

A year later she wrote W. W. Simpson, a minister in San Diego, California: IJWEGW 2.5

“The truths given us after the passing of the time in 1844 are just as certain and unchangeable as when the Lord gave them to us in answer to our urgent prayers....

“At that time one error after another pressed in upon us; ministers and doctors brought in new doctrines. We would search the Scriptures with much prayer, and the Holy Spirit would bring the truth to our minds. Sometimes whole nights would be devoted to searching the Scriptures, and earnestly asking God for guidance. Companies of devoted men and women assembled for this purpose. The power of God would come upon me, and I was enabled clearly to define what is truth and what is error.

“As the points of our faith were thus established, our feet were placed upon a solid foundation. We accepted the truth point by point, under the demonstration of the Holy Spirit. I would be taken off in vision, and explanations would be given me. I was given illustrations of heavenly things, and of the sanctuary, so that we were placed where light was shining on us in clear, distinct rays....

“I know that the sanctuary question stands in righteousness and truth, just as we have held it for so many years.”—Letter 50, 1906 (Portions in Gospel Workers, 302, 303)

A few months later Ellen White reacted to several articles in Dr. Kellogg’s Medical Missionary journal, which she felt muddied the waters on the subject of the sanctuary. In an editorial on “The Earthly Sanctuary,” Elder George C. Tenney had stated: IJWEGW 3.1

“Man is a dual being, intellectually speaking. He is created with an intelligence which is formed of his bodily, or, as we might say, his animal, propensities and desires.... This department of human nature corresponds with the first compartment of the sanctuary....

“But man is also endowed with an intelligence that is distinct from his animal nature, and infinitely superior to it. This is called the ‘inward’ or ‘inner man.’... When Christ comes to us in the merits of His own blood and as High Priest enters into the heart, the holiest place, He speaks life and power to the dormant energies of divine glory, and then from the human soul the glory shines forth.”—The Medical Missionary, June 1904, 169, p. 170.

In response to this and other editorials, Ellen White wrote Tenney: IJWEGW 3.2

“I have been surprised and made sad to read some of your articles in The Medical Missionary, and especially those on the Sanctuary question. These articles show that you have been departing from the faith. You have helped in confusing the understanding of our people. The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith.”—Letter 208, 1906 (Portion in Evangelism, 221).

Clearly, the subject of Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary was of great importance to Ellen White. She urged her fellow Adventists not to treat the matter indifferently, but to study the question so thoroughly that they would be able to explain IJWEGW 3.3

it to others. “We should not rest,” she wrote, “until we become intelligent in regard to the subject of the sanctuary” (Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 278). IJWEGW 4.1

Further, she declared: IJWEGW 4.2

“The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise, it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith essential at this time, or to occupy the position which God designs them to fill....

“It is of the utmost importance that all who have received the light, both old and young, should thoroughly investigate these subjects, and be able to give an answer to everyone that asketh them a reason of the hope that is in them.”—The Spirit of Prophecy 4:313.

Following her own counsel, she repeatedly set forth detailed explanations of Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and His work of investigative judgment. Her 1858 account (ISG 157-162, 197-201) was enlarged in 1884 (The Spirit of Prophecy 4:307-315), and expanded still further in 1888 (The Great Controversy, 479-491). IJWEGW 4.3

In addition to these definitive treatments of the subject, Ellen White refers frequently to the heavenly judgment in all of her writings. She seems always to have the judgment in view. It will be well worth our while to review the high points of her teachings on this foundation pillar of the Seventh-day Adventist faith. IJWEGW 4.4