Part of Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary/temple is judgement.
The earthly sanctuary (which helps us understand the heavenly sanctuary), built by human hands but following divine instructions, was a type of the heavenly sanctuary. It served as an object lesson, illustrating the plan of salvation. That plan included many aspects, including a sacrifice (representing Jesus) and the washing away of sins. Further, it included a special time, known as the “Day of Atonement,” when the High Priest entered the Most Holy Place and the sanctuary would be “cleansed” by the symbolic removal of sin.
We are given a glimpse into this Most Holy Place in Revelation 11:19, where we read, “Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.”
Today, Christ, our High Priest, is in the Most Holy Place, where the Investigative Judgment is taking place.
The Bible mentions judgment more than 1,000 times. Judgment is a concept seen throughout Scripture, but the Investigative Judgment is special. Judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom.
The idea of judgment can seem unsettling to some. After all, we are all sinners. And while that is true, praise God we have a Saviour who is our Advocate and Judge! We read in John 5:22, “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” Furthermore, we know that when we surrender our lives to Christ, we are covered in His beautiful robe of righteousness, and through His Holy Spirit, we are given His power to overcome. In Revelation 3:5 Jesus assures us that “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”
The work of Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary is vitally important. “The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven. . . . Jesus pleads in their behalf His wounded hands, His bruised body; and He declares to all who would follow Him: ‘My grace is sufficient for thee.’ . . . Let none, then, regard their defects as incurable. God will give faith and grace to overcome them.” GC 489.
Someone might ask why there has to be a pre-advent judgment before Jesus comes back the second time. Paul declared that "It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified." Because the record of sin must be examined to determine who will be saved. The investigative judgment must take place before Christ comes to execute the sentence. At His second coming the wicked are slain by His bright glory. A separation is made between the saved and the lost at that moment. The books in heaven (e.g the book of life) have to be investigated before that time to determine who is to be saved and who is lost.
When Jesus leaves the most holy place, the final atonement has been made. Probation closes for the world, just as it closed for the Jews on the Day of Atonement after the high priest finished his work in the earthly sanctuary. Then Christ will lay aside His priestly garments and put on His kingly robes. Then the edict goes forth, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he which is righteous, let him be righteous still. . . . And behold I come quickly; and my reward is with me to give every man according as his work shall be" (Revelation 22:11-12).