Mrs. White vs. The Bible
The Investigative Judgment

Ernesto Gil and Dirk Anderson


Mrs. White and the Adventist pioneers developed a unique doctrine that is described as the "Investigative Judgment." This doctrine teaches that Christ began investigating and judging His people in 1844. He started with the dead believers and will begin judging the living believers near the end of time. During this Investigative Judgment God either blots out the sins of the believer, or he removes the name of the believer from the Book of Life. When His judgment is complete, the door of probation will be shut and Jesus will return to earth to reward His people according to their works. Let us examine this doctrine to determine if it is logically and Biblically sound.

Ellen White: Every name is examined, starting with Adam…

"As the books of record are opened in the Judgment, the lives of all who have believed on Jesus come in review before God. BEGINNING WITH THOSE WHO FIRST LIVED UPON THE EARTH, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living. Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected." The Great Controversy [1888 edition], p. 483

BIBLE: God already knows who are His own

"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep…" John 10:14

"The Lord knoweth them that are His" 2 Tim. 2:19

According to the Bible, God already knows who are His sheep. He does not need 155 years to determine who is saved and who is lost.

Ellen White: Every individual MUST pass the Investigative Judgment

"How important, then, that every mind contemplate often the solemn scene when the Judgment shall sit and the books shall be opened, when, with Daniel, EVERY INDIVIDUAL MUST STAND IN HIS LOT, at the end of the days." The Great Controversy [1888 edition], p. 483

BIBLE: Believers in Christ do not enter into judgment

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." John 5:24 RSV

Ellen White: Our sins are NOT BLOTTED OUT until AFTER the investigative judgment

"But, according to the unerring word of God, every man will be judged and rewarded according as his works have been, and we are admonished to so speak and to so do as 'they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.' When sin has been repented of, confessed, and forsaken, then pardon is written against the sinner's name; BUT HIS SINS ARE NOT BLOTTED OUT UNTIL AFTER THE INVESTIGATIVE JUDGMENT." The Signs of the Times, May 16, 1895

BIBLE: Our sins are blotted out when we repent

"I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee." Isaiah 44:22

"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." Acts 3:19

"…and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 John 1:7

Ellen White: By 1850, Jesus' work was "almost finished"

"I then saw Brother Edson that he must gird on the whole armor and stand in readiness to go, for a journey was before him, and that souls needed help and that JESUS' WORK WAS ALMOST FINISHED IN THE SANCTUARY..." (1850) Manuscript Releases Vol. 6, p. 250

BIBLE: The Atonement was finished on the Cross

Jesus said, "It is finished." John 19:30

But this man [Jesus], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Heb. 10:12-14

The Bible teaches that Christ's atonement on the cross has perfected (past tense) His children. Christians are not made perfect during the Investigative Judgment period. If we are "in Christ," then we were made perfect 2,000 years ago through Christ's perfect sacrifice on Calvary.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Rom. 8:1

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. Rom. 5:9


Examples of people who bypassed the Investigative Judgment

Biblical Examples

Mrs. White said "all" must pass through the investigative judgment to determine whether or not they will be saved (GC 1888, p. 483). The Bible clearly shows that the cases of many people have already been decided prior to the Investigative Judgment:

The Thief on the cross: More than 1800 years prior to the Investigative Judgment Jesus declared to the thief on the cross, "Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." (Luke 22:43). The thief's case was determined in 33 A.D. when he repented and accepted Jesus on the cross. This proves that Christ needs no Investigative Judgment to determine who will be in heaven. Why would he treat us any differently than the thief on the cross?

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: The Bible says Abraham was justified (accounted righteous) by faith (Rom. 4:2-5). Nearly 1800 years before the Investigative Judgment supposedly began Jesus declared:

And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. Matt. 8:11
Apparently these men did not need to pass through the Investigative Judgment to determine their cases.

Moses: The Scriptures clearly states that Moses sinned, died and is now in heaven (Jude 9). If everyone's sins are NOT blotted out until AFTER the investigative judgment, how could Moses enter heaven? The Bible clearly states that no sinner will enter heaven (Rev. 21:27). Moses' sins must have been blotted out prior to 1844!

Elijah: There is no mention of an Investigative Judgment when Ellen White relates how Elijah was taken directly to the throne of heaven:

There was yet a great work for Elijah to do; and when his work was done, he was not to perish in discouragement and solitude in the wilderness. Not for him the descent into the dust of death, but the ascent in glory, with the convoy of celestial chariots, to the throne on high. Desire of Ages, p. 301

The Case of William Miller

Mrs. White stated that none could be saved who rejected the light upon the Sabbath:

If they have light upon the Sabbath, they cannot be saved in rejecting that light. Historical Sketches, p. 234

James White noted that William Miller, although acquainted with the Sabbath message, eventually rejected it:

"It is proper here to state that Mr. Miller did not view the second message as we do. Neither did he change his views upon the immortality and Sabbath questions." Sketches of the Christian Life and Public Labors of William Miller

Despite his rejection of the Sabbath light, Mrs. White indicates Miller will be saved:

God suffered him to fall under the power of Satan, the dominion of death, and hid him in the grave from those who were constantly drawing him from the truth. Moses erred as he was about to enter the Promised Land. So also, I saw that William Miller erred as he was soon to enter the heavenly Canaan, in suffering his influence to go against the truth. Others led him to this; others must account for it. But angels watch the precious dust of this servant of God, and he will come forth at the sound of the last trump. Early Writings, p. 258

William Miller's case is very interesting. Here we have a man who rejected the Sabbath truth--a truth that Mrs. White said must be accepted in order for one to be saved--and yet she saw in vision that he was saved. Furthermore, Mrs. White declares William Miller to be righteous BEFORE his case came up! This raises some important questions:

The Case of Mrs. Hastings

In 1850 Mrs. White wrote:

I saw that she [Mrs. Hastings] was sealed and would come up at the voice of God and stand upon the earth, and would be with the 144,000. I saw we need not mourn for her; she would rest in the time of trouble. Selected Messages, Vol. 2, p. 263

Once again, we find the case of someone being decided prior to the Investigative Judgment. How were William Miller and Mrs. Hastings able to "beat the system" and be declared righteous before their cases came up in the Investigative Judgment?

Cases of the Wicked Already Decided?

Apparently the case of Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was already decided by 1854 when Ellen White published the following quote:

Thomas Paine, whose body has now moldered to dust and who is to be called forth at the end of the one thousand years, at the second resurrection, to receive his reward and suffer the second death, is represented by Satan as being in heaven, and highly exalted there. (Supplement to the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White p. 8)
In 1858 Mrs. White announces that Napoleon (1769-1821) will be one of the resurrected wicked who leads an attack upon the righteous at the end of the Millennium:
There was the proud, ambitious Napoleon, whose approach had caused kingdoms to tremble. (Spiritual Gifts Vol. 1, p. 215)

Now let us do the math. By 1854 the Investigative Judgment had progressed to the point that all the people who died by the year Paine died, 1809, had been judged. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that we have roughly 4,000 years of history before the birth of Christ, we can conclude that by 1854, 10 years after the Investigative Judgment is purported to have begun, 5,809 years of human history had been judged. That is approximately 581 years of human history for every year of Investigative Judgment. Then, there is apparently a slowdown, because during the next four years, we find out the Investigative Judgment has at least reached Napoleon who died in 1821. This equates to 12 years of human history judged during four years--that is a mere 3 years of human history for every year of Investigative Judgment. Since 1858 there have been nearly 145 years Investigative Judgment, and the rate has fallen to roughly 1 year of human history for every year of judgment. If this trend continues, the rate may soon fall below 1, which means the Investigative Judgment will never end!

The Truth about the Pre-advent Judgment

While the Bible never teaches an Investigative Judgment as described by Mrs. White, it does describe a pre-advent judgment. The first angel of Revelation 14 announces that the time for God's judgment has come (Rev. 14:6). In heaven a court sits and the books are opened (Dan. 7:10) and a judgment takes place. What is the purpose of this judgment? The Bible is very specific:

But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his [little horn power] dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. Dan. 7:26
The wicked are weighed in the balances of heaven's court and are found wanting. The purpose of the judgment is to show that the wicked have filled up the cup of God's wrath and God is justified in bringing punishment upon them, taking away their dominion and giving it to the saints (Dan. 7:27). The punishment of the wicked is clearly indicated in the third angels' message:
The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. Rev. 14:10
The truth is that there is nothing in Daniel 7 or Revelation 14 describing an Investigative Judgment of the righteous. The only judgment described in these passages is the judgment of God upon the wicked. This is the purpose of the pre-advent judgment. The heavenly court finds that the wicked are unfit to rule the earth, and their kingdom is taken away from them and they are tormented with fire and brimstone.

The Truth of the Gospel

Jesus, as our substitute, was judged in our place on the cross. He paid the price for all sin for all time. His righteousness has been credited to our account. The good news of the judgment is that all who believe and trust in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ can say with assurance, "I've been acquitted!" We have already been judged in Christ. Those who reject the gospel, judge themselves unworthy of eternal life. Those who accept the gospel have passed from death into life and will not enter into the condemnation of judgment (John 5:24).