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.
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.
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
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
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”
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
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
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,
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.
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
“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.
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.
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”
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
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” (mÅt [qal perfect] tamut [qal imperfect]). The repetition of
the word “die” (Hebrew mÅt) emphasizes the surety of their death.
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.”