New Earth, Eden Restored


48 The Close of Probation

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013

And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand. He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. Revelation 22:10-12

The close of probation refers to a time after all the people living have made their decision to accept or not to accept God’s covenant offer. It is the momentous climax to earth’s history when judgment is complete. At that time, Christ has finished His mediation in heaven for the sins of humanity. Then the seven last plagues are poured out as partial punishment on the wicked.

The righteous are under the stress of the “time of Jacob’s trouble” in which they agonize with God over the possibility that all their sins have not been confessed and forgiven. During this time, while the righteous are hated by the world, they are protected from harm and death. After a short time, they are reassured, and soon Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven. The wicked are destroyed by the brightness of His coming. The righteous look up and say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation” (Isa. 25:9).

Now is the time for mankind to prepare, watch, and be ready for Jesus’ soon coming.


Probation and Judgment

God gave man a new probation in Eden that will continue to the end of history. It is a time when those who know not God have a chance to learn of Him and seek His grace. Uncommitted “Christians” must examine themselves and repent. Committed Christians must afflict their souls in search of hidden sin that they may take them to God and be forgiven and cleansed (Lev. 23:27, 29; 1 John 1:9).

In all this, Satan is the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev. 12:10; Zech. 3:1-10). He knows every sin a person has committed. He claims that God cannot be just and save people. The person under trial has no answer. Then Jesus steps forward and declares, “Father, My blood! My blood! This person has confessed his sin, has put his trust in Me, and My blood covers his sin.” Satan has no answer and retires from the court in shame.

Jesus does not accuse the wicked or those who lived for self. He simply says, “I never knew you” (Matt. 7:21-23).

This is a description of the judgment scene. The book of life has been in preparation since the beginning of the world.1 It is a record of every person who at any time has confessed Christ. Jesus examines the book of life in the antitypical Day of Atonement. The outcome in each case depends on two things:

(1) whether the sinner’s name is written in the book of life and
(2) whether the sins recorded there have been confessed and covered by Jesus’ blood.

When this examination is complete, probation closes. Then all who are wicked will remain wicked, and all who are righteous will remain righteous (Rev. 22:11).


Minds Made Up

When Jesus completes His mediation, He has also completed the judgment and has closed probation for all people. The Day of Atonement has come and gone. All those whose names are still written in the book of life receive the gift of God; all those whose names are not written there or that have been blotted out will receive the wages of sin in the lake of fire. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

Jeremiah echoes what the lost will feel: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jer. 8:20).

Christ calls people today to make a decision for Him. In these times, we have the Bible, churches, preachers, and freedom to speak and hear. Jesus Christ is our High Priest mediating for us at the judgment seat of God. For all people who have confessed their sins, Jesus stands in the judgment, pleading His shed blood “to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Just before the end, there will come a time when the issue is pressed upon all people. Will they choose Christ and receive the seal of God and be saved, or will they choose their own way and receive the mark of the beast and be lost? It will be an issue that all will find easy to understand. When all have made their decision, Jesus will close His ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. He forever seals for salvation those who have chosen Him; those who have rejected Him and received the mark of the beast will be lost.

Jesus is in the business of saving people, and all who desire to be with Him for eternity will know what to do. If there is any advice that needs to be given at this time, it is that now is the time to choose Christ and be ready for His soon return.


A One-Day Probation in Eden

Probation has closed several times in history. God gave the first warning of judgment in the Garden of Eden, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).

Commonly, a day is twenty-four hours. In a symbolic sense, a “day” can be more than twenty-four hours, as in the “day of judgment.” A prophetic day is one year (Num. 14:34; Ezek. 4:6). If Adam and Eve disregarded God’s warning in Eden, there were immediate consequences (Gen. 2:17). Since Adam and Eve did not die that day, some interpret the expression, “dying, thou shalt die,” as meaning that they began the process of dying.2 Whatever the meaning, if human beings were to sin, they would lose their relation with God and eventually die the second death (Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8), from which there is no resurrection.

God is merciful, gracious, and longsuffering (Exod. 34:6). When Adam and Eve sinned, their probation of sinless perfection ended immediately. However, before the sun had set, God came to them that same day and gave them the covenant of redemption. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).

Satan would not have free reign with sinful man. God gave human beings a conscience, which is an inborn enmity against evil. Christ would become humanity’s Redeemer and deliver humankind from sin. Through His own suffering, He bought all people back and put them under the covenant of grace. God gave Adam and Eve a new probation in which to learn more about God and make an intelligent choice to serve Him. When every human has made a final decision to serve God, or Satan, probation will close.


The Earth Judged and Destroyed by a Flood

Fifteen hundred years after the Creation, evil had increased to a point that God had to act and put a stop to it. Exercising authority as the Creator and owner of this earth and as humanity’s Redeemer, God brought the flood on the earth as a judgment against evil. It was a promise, that, in the justice of God, all evil would eventually be destroyed.

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen. 6:5, 7, ESV)

God is patient. He says, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3). Noah preached during the 120 years that he was building the ark (2 Peter 2:5). The immense ark was a spectacular achievement and a tourist attraction. Everyone would have known about it and the message that Noah preached. Noah hired helpers, and they got the message too. In the end, only Noah and his family chose to enter the ark and be saved.

As they entered, God Himself shut the door (Gen. 7:16), and no one could enter, and no one could go out. The second probation for the earth had closed, but the people outside the ark did not know it until seven days later, when the waters burst forth and flooded the earth.

The people of that time had passed the bounds of wickedness. God took them away by the flood because they refused to listen or respond to the warning messages that He sent through Noah.


Sodom and Gomorrah’s Day of Mercy

About 450 years later, Abraham settled in Canaan, and the wickedness of Sodom came up before God. Even with their wealth, the people of Sodom neglected the poor. Their idleness led them to seek wicked, selfish pleasures such as fornication and perversion.3 As a warning, God allowed four kings from the east to conquer and put them to tribute. Twelve years later, they lost a second war, and the kings of the east took the wealth of the city as well as Lot and his family. Abraham saved them. However, the sins of Sodom grew worse, and God determined to destroy them. Had there been ten righteous people in the city of Sodom, God would have saved it (Gen. 18:32). However, ten righteous people could not be found.

The people of the cities of the plain had passed beyond the forbearance of God and had failed to heed the warning given them. A third probation had closed. “Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah--from the Lord out of the heavens” (Gen. 19:24, NIV).


When the Cup Is Full, Judgment is Due

Abraham lived among the Amorites for 100 years as an example of the goodness of God. There were an estimated 1,000 souls in Abram’s encampment. These lived according to the commands of God (Gen. 18:19).4 Aner, Eschol, and Mamre were Abram’s friends. The Amorites retained knowledge of God, and God continued to be merciful, allowing them time to repent if they would (Gen. 15:13, 16). They did not. God had promised Abram: “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16, NIV).

After the prophesied 430 years, the children of Israel were delivered from Egypt and they returned to Canaan. In that land, they found depravity, idolatry and even human sacrifice. The various peoples of the region were determined in their rebellion against God and in their opposition to Israel, God’s chosen people. A fourth probation had passed, and the inhabitants of Canaan were due for judgment. Joshua overtook the land in a series of victories. The armies of Israel were an instrument in the hand of God to cleanse the land of idolaters.

Was God being murderous and vindictive to destroy the Canaanites? When the armies of Israel invaded the land, the Canaanites knew how God had delivered Israel from Egypt (Joshua 2:9-11). They could have joined Israel as did Rahab and her family and as did the Gibeonites. Instead, they continued in rebellion and tried to exterminate Israel.

Did Israel commit genocide? They did not, for two reasons: firstly, even with uninterrupted victories under Joshua, Israel did not entirely clear the land of its inhabitants. Secondly, Israel was a theocracy under the direct rule of God, who makes no mistake. It is the prerogative of God and God alone to bring judgment upon an unrepentant people.

Women and children were to be included in this judgment because they were influential in preserving the culture. Their idolatrous practices would have been a continual temptation if they lived side by side with the Israelites. It was necessary to eliminate them too.

Israel was different from any other state in the history of the world-God Himself directed its affairs. The Sinai covenant showed God’s purpose for Israel. They were to be “an holy nation” (Exod. 19:5, 6). Isaiah wrote that it was God’s purpose to bring a reign of peace upon the earth, even before the final deliverance of His people. This was not possible if idolaters remained.


Israel’s Opportunity Lost

After becoming established in Canaan, the next phase of Israel’s history was a dreary story of apostasy, idolatry, and oppression by nearby heathen nations. Following each event, a righteous judge arose among them, bringing revival, deliverance, and peace for a period of years. This cycle repeated over and over and continued under the monarchy. Of the twenty-three kings of Judah, only six were God-fearing. The idolatry of the people grew worse, even to the point of passing their children through the fire and performing heathen rites in the court of the Temple (Ezek. 8:5-16). They persecuted, stoned, and killed the prophets. A fifth probation closed, and God allowed the kingdom of Babylon to take them captive for seventy years.

“But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and scoffed at his prophets, until the wrath of Jehovah arose against his people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chron. 36:16, ASV).

Their seventy years in captivity taught them to avoid image worship. God gave them marvelous promises at the restoration of their land, with 490 years’ probation to fulfill their purpose as a nation, bringing in righteousness and preparing for the coming Messiah (Dan. 9:24-27).

They started well under Ezra and Nehemiah. In time, their covenant with God became corrupted as they focused, as a means of earning salvation, on the “law of Moses,” which included the Ten Commandments, the ceremonial law and the civil law. Then they added hundreds of regulations to ensure that they kept the law. The sacrifices and rituals became a means to earn salvation, and they ignored the Messiah to whom they pointed. Only a few showed love for either God or man.

They developed a rigid concept of the coming Messiah as being one who would expel their enemies and restore the ancient glory of Israel. Jesus’ supernatural birth did not interest the national leaders, rather, they turned His single-parent conception into an epithet (John 8:41), rejected Him and crucified Him as a criminal on Calvary. This was an official action by the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the nation.

For another three and a half years, the church spoke to the Jewish nation. Thousands joined the church. The nation as a whole and its leadership in particular rejected their Messiah again through the appeals of Stephen, abruptly ending his life under a heap of stones. This marked the end of their 490- year probation (Acts 6:12, 13; 7:55, 56, 59, 60). In rejecting Christ, Israel rejected the covenant as well as their position as the chosen people of God. The church, made up of Jews and Gentiles, would now be the chosen people.5


The Final Sin

We live in an age of enlightenment. However, under the cover of civilization, sin remains in the human heart. As humans become more selfish, cruel, and obsessed with pleasure, there will come a time when God must act, as He did because of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. The final sin will be to turn away from the truth of God, doing evil and thinking that they are doing the will of God!

God has shown His love towards the people. He has invited, sought, and wooed sinners to choose Him. Jesus came and died that all might be saved. He sent warnings to all people. In the end time, an issue arises giving every living person an opportunity to make a decision to serve God or choose another master. Then the seventh and final probation will close. Should it be surprising that there is a close of probation? Probation closes every time a man dies. The final close of probation is different only in that it occurs while human beings are still living.

God is a God of love and mercy. He is also a God of justice, which is an expression of His love. He has given every person free will, and He honors the choices that each makes. He does not force anyone to choose Him or to live for eternity where his or her “pleasures” do not exist.

The Christian church has a mandate to preach the gospel to the world before probation closes. After that, Jesus will come to receive His people to be with Him in a world made new. Now is the time to get ready. His coming is soon. “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14).

The angels hold the winds of trouble and strife until the gospel reaches the world and God seals His people (Rev. 7:1-4). God’s final message will divide those who worship Him from those who persist in rebellion. The issue will be so clear that all will understand it. God is long-suffering. He waits to give everyone opportunity to know Him. After this message reaches all, probation will close.


No Further Appeals

The close of probation marks the completion of the end-time judgment. It is a judgment from which there is no appeal! All have made their decision. There are no more souls to win and no more work for God to do.

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book... And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Dan. 12:1, 2)

There will follow a time of trouble such as never was (Dan. 12:1). The wicked receive the “mark of the beast” (Rev. 13:17; 16:2). The angels pour out the seven last plagues (Rev. 15, 16). Satan and evil human beings are unrestrained, and sin will reach its deepest degradation. The wicked demonstrate the full effect of the reign of sin.

At the same time, there will be an outpouring of the Holy Spirit among God’s people, with signs and wonders, that will exceed the outpouring on the early church. His people will shine as stars in the blackest night (Dan. 12:3), showing before the universe the full effect of the love and grace of God. The faithful, believing remnant will recognize the beauty and freedom in God’s law and will gladly obey it as the foundation of God’s government. Because Jesus died to uphold His law, sin shall not arise again!

Those who choose to serve God will not be alone, for Jesus will be with them even to the end of the world (Matt. 28:20). The Holy Spirit will comfort God’s people, and angels who “excel in strength” will guard them (Ps. 103:20; 34:7; 91:10-12). God’s people will receive the seal of God (Rev. 7:1-4).

The everlasting covenant of grace is now complete. Jesus is satisfied as the “called, and chosen, and faithful” enter the kingdom with Him (Rev. 17:14). Sin and sinners are no more; purity, love, and harmony permeate an earth made new. “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still” (Rev. 22:11). “For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act” (Isa. 28:21). “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).

The final warnings above are a call to come to Christ now, to receive the hope and blessings He has for you!


Endnotes

1. Is your name written in the Lamb’s book of life (Ps. 69:28; Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:15; 21:27; 22:19)?

2. For more information on the phrase, “thou shalt surely die”/”dying, thou shalt die” (Gen. 2:17, KJV and NASB), see Strong’s Greek-Hebrew dictionary. Literally it is “you shall die die” (mōt [qal perfect] tamut [qal imperfect]). The repetition of the word “die” (Hebrew mōt) emphasizes the surety of their death.

3. The sins of Sodom are described in Genesis 13:13; Ezekiel 16:49; and Jude 1:7.

4. “Abraham’s household comprised more than a thousand souls. Those who were led by his teachings to worship the one God found a home in his encampment; and here, as in a school, they received such instruction as would prepare them to be representatives of the true faith. Thus a great responsibility rested upon him. He was training heads of families, and his methods of government would be carried out in the households over which they should preside” (Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets [Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2005], p. 141).

5. See chapter 34, “Probation Closed for Israel as a Nation.”