The Investigative Judgment: Theological Milestone or Historical Necessity?
This meeting actually began about 35 years ago in Sydney, Australia. As an Anglican - or I think you call them Episcopalians over here - in the city of Sydney, in my home in a suburb there, I was reading Hebrews, chapter 9. At that time, I was listening to the Advent Radio Church each Sunday, and I had begun to collect the books of Ellen G. White from second-hand bookshops around Sydney. And as I was reading Hebrews 9 that day, I said, That's strange. This is different than what the Adventists are saying. There is a problem here. The problem wasn't solved by the time I was baptized. And what I'm going to try to give you in the next hour is 35 years of thinking on the problem. And if it seems a bit concentrated, we would remind you that there will be tapes of it in the cassette library, and some of you may want to take it section-by-section.
You see, I am not a Seventh-day Adventist by birth, but by conviction. And the moment that ceases to be so, I will hand in my credentials as an Adventist minister. I rejoiced to find in the Spirit of Prophecy when I became an Adventist a very open attitude to investigation and biblical research. A false prophet would never have made it so. But I find Ellen White saying that we can never honor God by erroneous opinions, that error is never harmless and that it never sanctifies, and that every pillar of our faith should be critically examined by us before it is examined by the world's greatest minds.
I found in the book Counsels to Writers and Editors statements like this, page 35: "There's no excuse for anyone taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The facts of certain doctrines have been held as truth for years is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. If the pillars of our faith will not stand investigation, it's time we knew it." That's Ellen White.
On page 37 of the same book, Counsels to Writers and Editors: "We have many lessons to learn and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think they'll never have to give up a cherished view, never have occasion to change an opinion will be disappointed."
Page 38: "God sees that our leading men have need of greater light."
Page 39: "The fact that there's no controversy or agitation among us as a people should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that God's people are holding fast to sound doctrines. Where no new questions are started by investigation of the Scriptures, where no difference of opinion arises, there will be many now who, as in ancient times, will worship they know not what."
All good, healthy quotations from one who had nothing to fear. I can remember a few years after becoming a Sabbath-keeper walking the streets of a great city, out of work over the Sabbath. It didn't seem to me meritorious or strange, it seemed the only right thing to do. If the seventh day was the Sabbath and that was the truth, it was the only right thing to do, and I was too much a coward to resist it. And I preferred to be out of work and walking the streets.
And when I became an evangelist about six years later, it seemed the right thing to do to urge the keeping of the Sabbath upon people, even though it might involve trouble at home, the loss of a job, loss of finance, change of status in the community, and so on.
If Christ is the truth, there is nothing to be lost by following the truth wherever it leads, however contrary to tradition. Many here in this auditorium only became Adventists by throwing over tradition. That must remain our attitude. Christ is the truth, and we are to follow him wherever it leads.
Now it was in the twentieth century, particularly, that some of the brightest lights in the Adventist church began to go out over the issue of the sanctuary. Men like Albion Ballenger, a man of undoubted integrity and spirituality, a man who wrote such books as The Proclamation of Liberty and Powerful Witnessing, a book even recently reprinted. And about 1905 Albion Ballenger was put out of the work because of his views on Hebrews 9.
Not many years later, one of the greatest Bible teachers we've ever had in the denomination, W. W. Fletcher, one of our leading administrators in India, then came to the Australasian Division and was offered work in an administrative capacity there, and then became Bible teacher at Avondale College. Everyone that knew that man thought of him as a man of God, another man of undoubted integrity. I met him myself for thirty seconds. He seemed to be the saddest man on earth, and I knew nothing about his background.
In the 1950s, the Review and Herald sent to the Australasian Division the new commentary on Hebrews, the SDA Commentary on Hebrews. And the secretary of the Division, when he read what it said on Hebrews 9 and 10, said, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they've laid him!" And the Australasian Division sent the manuscript back, with the request that it be changed, and it was.
A little after that I went to America, and on one occasion had the privilege of chatting with F. D. Nichol. He said, "Brother Ford, our greatest need is a definity of work on the sanctuary." I said to him, "We have a lot of problems in Australia over the sanctuary. We've had men leave the church over the sanctuary." And I said, "We have men who believe the heavenly sanctuary is an exact parallel with the earthly sanctuary in just about every detail." He said, "Let them think it, Brother Ford, we know better than that." And he told me about his experience when he was on the committee that tried W. W. Fletcher in this country about the end of the 1920s. Nichol told me, he said, "Brother Spicer said to me, 'It doesn't pay to be too literalistic about the sanctuary. It just doesn't pay. It won't work.'"
A few years after that, Elder Nichol went in to Brother Fighur. He said, "Brother Fighur, I am getting so many questions on the sanctuary. Can't we have a committee?" Brother Fighur said, "Yes, we'll have a committee." They decided to have a committee where no minutes would be kept. This committee went on for five years and published nothing. The committee contained the brightest lights in Adventist scholarship. Men from our own university, men from the Review and Herald, the editors of the Commentary, and well known scholars around the field. No unanimity could be reached. They had planned originally to publish some documents. That plan was never fulfilled, and no minutes of the meetings remained, after five years of meetings.
Several of the people in those meetings took the position that it was impossible to prove the Investigative Judgment from the Bible. These were very prominent, loyal Seventh-day Adventists. They were not apostates, they were loyal Seventh-day Adventists. And if I gave you their names, they certainly would make quite an impression upon you. Suffice it to say that at least three or four of them were prominent editors or writers of the SDA Commentary. And that we have thousands of pages of denominational literature written by these men. And several of them declared there is no biblical way of proving the Investigative Judgment.
Today, in the 1970s, in every area of our ranks, from the General Conference down, there are men that hold the same opinion. This is true in all our key institutions. I know many of the Bible teachers personally, and I could itemize off a number that take the same position as some of the SDA Commentary Bible writers and editors as expressed in that committee.
For example, one document that was circulated at that time began with this statement: "Application of the accepted norms of the grammatical-historical method to Daniel 8:9-14 does not yield the Adventist interpretation of this passage of Scripture."
From time to time I receive letters, from ministers mainly, who are embarrassed on this topic. Here's one from a man who just left the ministry a little time ago. A good soul-winner, a very earnest Christian, I know him very well. Here's what he wrote: "It's almost a year ago I made the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. In spite of my love for my church, my work, and, above all, my wife, I felt myself compelled by conscience to withdraw from the ministry of the Seventh-day Adventist church. The main reason why I finally took this rather traumatic heart-wrenching step was because I had come to disbelieve my church's teaching of a pre-advent Investigative Judgment. I write this paper not as a polemic against the Adventist church but in the sincere hope that adequate answers might be forthcoming. I continue to love and admire much of what constitutes Adventism, and I still consider myself open to alternative viewpoints. I know my objections are, in the main, not new and that answers to these objections have been proffered in the past. However, there's a difference between an answer and a convincing answer." This was part of the paper he enclosed with his letter.
Here's a statement from another letter: "The Bible, and the Bible only, can be believed [this was from an Adventist, too, who was] after first bringing it into line with the so-called Spirit of Prophecy in Adventism. I was conscious that most opposition came from the reliance on something outside the Bible, and even when the Bible is quoted in an attempt to oppose my views, I see that the opposition is because of faith in what Sister White has written, rather than as a necessity to believe a text from Scripture that it means what it says. For example, a day for a year is a Bible text often quoted, and they think we deny Scripture if we say, 'Nowhere does the Bible give a day for a year as a prophecy,' and yet this is true. See Number 14:34. The prophecy is for 40 years, not 40 days."
Here's another letter, this one from one of our missionaries. "Hebrews seems to say that Jesus entered the very presence of God for us once for all and to the right hand of God, etc., at the ascension. Mrs. White, in early writings of Great Controversy, puts him outside the veil, in the outer apartment somehow, not inside." And then he goes on to talk about his embarrassment that he can't discuss it with his fellow missionaries, and he's just wondering what to do.
Here's a letter received just this week from another continent. "It all started a few years ago when I rediscovered the gospel. At that time we had a Sabbath school quarterly on the Epistle to the Hebrews. I decided then to follow candidly the text in the Epistle's author's reasoning. I couldn't find anything about a cleansing of the sanctuary or an atonement sometime beyond Christ's ministry on earth. I believe Christ went into the most holy place at his ascension. He was accepted in God's presence, because he had completed his ministry of salvation in favor of mankind." And then he goes on to plead for help in his situation.
Here's another Adventist. "Returning again to Daniel 8:14, as much as I would have liked to salvage some contemporary fulfillment, I find the Scriptures silent on 1844. Christ entered God's unveiled presence once - at the ascension. As much as we commiserate with the pioneers that on October 23 Edson was deceived in the cornfield, we cannot construct a soteriological system on a historical non-occurrence." I think what he's saying there, and he may have left out a word or two, is that we can't construct a doctrine on the fact that Edson had some sort of a conviction in the cornfield. There are some unthinking people that would like to make a joke out of the fact that it was in a cornfield.
Here's another one from a Bible teacher, a prominent Bible teacher in our work. "If an Investigative Judgment is necessary to determine who are prepared for the Kingdom of God, how was it that Christ was able to assure the disciples beforehand? That in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit in the throne of his glory, they also would sit upon twelve thrones. How was Christ able to say to the dying thief, 'You'll be with me in paradise'? The truth is the Lord knoweth them that are his. 2 Timothy 2:19: '"I know my sheep," declares the good shepherd, "and am known of mine."'" And I could read on and on in that one.
There was another, a real scorcher, that came this week. I may have mislaid it, and that might be as well. It said what the others said, but with much greater emphasis. Maybe we'll leave it for the present.
Well, these are typical letters. Now because this tape will be used in some rather nefarious ways, because it will be strained and every syllable will be weighed and measured, added thereto or truncated, let me state my convictions, my personal convictions, before I go any further.
I believe in a pre-Advent Judgment, with every man's destiny settled before the coming of Christ. I believe the Day of Atonement has a special application to Christ's last work, as prefigured by the work in the second apartment. I believe the Seventh-day Adventist Movement was raised up in 1844 by God to do a special work and that to it was restored the gift of prophecy in the person of Ellen G. White. There, for the record, they are my true convictions.
Now let me give you some positive supports for the Adventist position - or let me allude to them, because I mainly want to give you the problems. I have been working in this area for many, many years. I did my M.A. thesis in this area. I went to England about ten years ago to work in this area and to ransack the Hebrew, the Greek, as well as commentaries in the French and the Dutch and the German and so on, on this very topic. I felt that the conclusions reached from this study substantiated very strongly what I've been teaching my own students for many years regarding the problems of Hebrews 9 and Daniel 8. Much of this, by way of conclusions, I put in my commentary on Daniel, particularly in the preface to Daniel 8 and the preface to Daniel 9. And don't forget the small print, the footnotes.
But by way of illustration, here is a work that's a ten-year doctoral thesis. Lloyd Gaston is no stone on another. He's no fundamentalist or conservative. But in this volume, I find a typical summary of what some of the best of modern scholars are saying on topics that concern us as Seventh-day Adventists. This man, for example, says: "It is impossible to rest content with saying that Antiochus Epiphanies completely fulfilled the prophecy of Daniel 8."
Now, those of you that have read my little commentary know that I believe that Antiochus Epiphanies was an apolesmatic fulfillment, a prior anticipatory, typical fulfillment, just like A.D. 70 is the preliminary fulfillment of Matthew 24. But I certainly do not believe Antiochus Epiphanies is a complete of the little horn. And here's a modern writer, expressing the views of many, that says you can't get rid of Daniel 8 and say it only belongs to second century B.C. by talking about Antiochus. It is an eschatological passage and reaches down to the time of the end. And he goes on to say that Daniel 8:14 is a parallel to the picture of the judgment in Daniel 7, and that the expression "then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" has to do with an eschatological community of believers being justified.
I just mention that as representative of a number of works that could be adduced on a positive vein. I want to get to the problems. Let me just start with three.
One of the main problems that faces us is certainly that of the year/day principle. Let me read to you from the Review and Herald. I always feel safe when I do that. April 5, 1979, page six. It was a question sent to the review: "Why does Jesus say specifically, addressing the disciples who asked him about end events, 'I tell you this: The present generation will live to see it all.'" The writer is quoting the New English Bible of Matthew 24:34. Then the writer says, "But obviously he knew the 2300 day prophecy needed to be fulfilled before his return."
And then the Review and Herald editor, one of the editors, answers and in the answer occurs these words: "If certain conditions had been met, Jesus would have come earlier, seemingly as early as the generation specified in Matthew 24:34." That is, this editor of the Review is saying, yes, Jesus could have come in that generation. Did you get the verse? "I tell you this: The present generation will live to see it all." The Second Coming. And the Review editor says, yes, it could have happened.
If these explanation is accepted and Jesus had come long ere this, what would have happened to the long-term time prophecies of 1260 days and 2300? Some have felt that Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6 established the year/day principle as needing to be applied to all time prophecies. But a careful examination of these passages shows that the principle is applied only to specific cases, that there's no general statement in these passages suggesting that a universal principle is set forth. In fact, Adventists do not apply the principle consistently to all time prophecies. The Holy Spirit gave directions about the year/day principle only after time was postponed. But whatever time the fulfillment would have come, the Holy Spirit could have provided the appropriate scale. And then it goes on and on in that vein. That was the Review and Herald.
Now the Adventist Review. April 5, 1979, "Bible Questions Answered," in which it clearly says that the year/day principle is not to be taken as a Bible principle for all time prophecies and that Christ could have come in the first generation. I could talk to you for hours on this one, but I've already written a good deal on it that's been published, and I've written a good deal more that, Lord willing, will be published, so I'll leave it at that for the present.
The second problem is this one: In Daniel 8:13 and 14, we have a problem of context. In Daniel 8, we read about the nasty little horn, treading down the sanctuary. The nasty little horn doing a work of transgression. And then it says, "How long?" to give the sanctuary to be trodden underfoot by this nasty little horn. And the answer is given: "Under 2300 days." But now note: Adventists talk about the nasty little horn, the Antichrist doing his work on earth, and then suddenly, instead of Antichrist defiling the sanctuary, they start talking about the saints defiling the sanctuary with their sins and, thus, needing a cleansing.
Now are you following me? The context of Daniel 8:14 has to do with a wicked power defiling the sanctuary, not the sins of the saints. And the question is asked: "How long will this wicked power defile the sanctuary?" And Adventists, in answering it, forget about the sins of the wicked power and start talking about the sins of the saints. They switch from earth to heaven, and they go from Daniel 8 back to Leviticus 16. This is rather thin. It ignores the contextual problem.
The third issue, because I have answered that one also in print, has to do with the word "cleanse." "Under 2300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." On the basis of that word, our pioneers linked this prophecy with Leviticus 16, but the word isn't there. You say, "Of course it's there." No, it's not there. The KJV is a mistranslation. The word translated "cleanse" there is not found in Leviticus 16. It's a different word altogether. That's why almost all modern translations do not use "cleanse," and therefore, from all other translations, you are crippled as a way of getting back to Leviticus 16.
Now let me state it again. Adventists have traditionally jumped from Daniel 8:14 to Leviticus 16 on the basis of the word "cleanse." "Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed." The point is, the word "cleanse" isn't there. It's a mistranslation. It's a translation borrowed from the Septuagint, which used the word because it thought that the context was talking about Antiochus Epiphanies and the cleansing ceremonially by the Maccabees about 168 B.C. But the Hebrew word isn't "cleanse" at all, and the Hebrew word here used is nowhere found in Leviticus 16. That's why in my own commentary on Daniel I refused to take that route.
Now there's nothing new in bringing these objections to your attention. They have been taught for years in our seminary. Dr. Heppenstall for many, many years has explained these problems and given his own answers.
Now let me come to the real problem, and I hope you have a Bible. And, if so, would you turn with me to Hebrews 9? There's only one place in the New Testament where the Day of Atonement is given a detailed explanation, and that's in Hebrews 9 and 10. This is the only place. You remember the theme of Hebrews is that Christianity is better. In chapter one, it says Christ is better than the prophets. It goes on to say he's better than the angels. Then it comes on and says he's better than Moses. Then it says he's better than Joshua. Now we're up to chapter four. And then he's better than Malkezedek. And when you get to chapters eight, nine, and ten, it says he's better than Aaron, the great high priest of Israel, who made the Day of Atonement every year for Israel. He's better than Aaron. Chapters eight, nine, and ten are on that subject.
Chapter nine, in particular, goes into detail on the Day of Atonement. You'll find in this passage, likes verses - well, let's take verse seven into the second, "Only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the errors of the people." Look at verse 12. It speaks about, "He entered once for all into the holy place [or as most versions give, 'the most holy place'], taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood." And then in verse 24, Christ has entered, not into a most holy place made with hands, a copy of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest entered the holy place yearly [that word "holy place" means "most holy" in this context] with blood not his own.
Please note that Hebrews 9 is talking about an entering of the second apartment once a year with the blood of bulls and goats. Let's take our most recent translation, the New International. I'll read to you just one or two verses from there. Please note it very well, indeed, because later on some of you will say, "But the Spirit of Prophecy says," and I agree with what the spirit of prophecy says, but I want to make sure you understand all that the Spirit of Prophecy says and, even before you know that, all that the Bible says. That's the place to start.
Now here's Hebrews 9, and please note what it says in verse 12: "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but he entered the most holy place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption."
In case some folks try, as Questions on Doctrine tried and some other books have tried, to make an issue out of the Greek, the word that is here translated "most holy place" is literally "holies." The Septuagint uses it repeatedly in Leviticus 16 for the most holy place. The word itself can mean the sanctuary as a whole, or it can mean the first apartment, or it can mean the second apartment. You can prove nothing from the Greek, because it has these possibilities, but from the context it is obvious. It's speaking about a place that the high priest alone went once every year with the blood of bulls and goats.
Are you with me? Listen to it again. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves - that's bull calves that were offered on the Day of Atonement - but he entered the most holy place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. Verse 25: "Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the most holy place every year with blood that is not his own."
Back to verses 7 and 8: "Only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance." The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle, the first apartment, was still standing.
Please note, it's talking about goats and calves. They were the offerings for the Day of Atonement. It's talking about the once-a-year entrance, and that was the most holy place. It's talking about the high priest, his distinctive work was only that. He supervised things in the first apartment, but he had no distinctive work there. The distinctive work of the high priest was the second apartment.
Furthermore, it's talking about the cleansing with blood of the heavenly sanctuary. Verse 23: "It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves were better sacrifices than these, for Christ didn't enter a man-made sanctuary, but he entered heaven itself." The cleansing of the sanctuary, the Day of Atonement, is what is being discussed.
Let me underline it again, because you must get this point. The book of Hebrews distinctly teaches that Christ went directly into the most holy place at his ascension. There is no way out, around, or through it. I have ransacked every nook and corner, and twisted every syllable. There is no way out or around or through it. The book of Hebrews, chapter 9, teaches that Christ went directly into the most holy place at his ascension.
I will repeat for you verses 7 and 12. "Only the high priest entered the inner room. That only once a year and never without blood which he offered for himself." Then in verse 12: "He didn't enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but he entered the most holy place once for all by his own blood."
Every commentary in the world has seen it, my friends, except one or two by Seventh-day Adventists.
Now, in chapter 6 and verse 19, we have a very important expression used, "within the veil," which casts light on this topic. Verse 19: "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, or within the veil, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf."
Here, Hebrews 6:19 and 20 clearly says Jesus went within the veil. This expression is only used in the Old Testament for going into the second apartment. There is one possible exception, which is really no exception. Numbers 18:7, that I could speak on at greater length. The book of Hebrews, when it quotes the Old Testament, always quotes the Greek version, the Septuagint. And the Septuagint only uses this Greek phrase for the second veil. That was the only one cultically significant. The only one. And the expression "within the veil" always means "into the second apartment." There are about a dozen statements in the New Testament where it says Christ entered and went and sat down on the right hand of God or sat down on the throne of God. "I overcame and am sat down with my Father on his throne," Revelation 3. A dozen times it says he's entered straight into the presence of God.