As planned, we will now post a number
of follow–up questions that have either been formally submitted or discussed
on the AToday forum. For the sake of clarity and space, we have consolidated
and edited many of the questions in order to include as much participation
and cover as many viewpoints as possible.
AToday: QUESTION #23 -
In Part I of your interview, you made the following point that although
Daniel 8:14 speaks of 2,300 days, the Hebrew word for "days" is really
the ambiguous "evening and morning," which most apply to the sacrificial
burnt offerings. Thus, instead of 2,300 days, many exegetes are claiming
that only 1,150 days are in view. Please explain this reasoning—isn't a
day (or a sacrificial day) composed of both an evening and morning sacrifice?
If so, what difference does it make to say "2,300 days" or "2,300 evening-mornings"?
If the expression "evening-morning" is to be applied to include both the
evening and morning burnt offerings, then that still is the equivalent
of a day. Doesn’t this language fit the Genesis account as well? Therefore,
there is no difference between saying "2,300 days" or "2,300 evening-mornings"
since they both consist of a day. Can you explain this?
I am sympathetic with
questioners regarding the rendering of 2,300 days. I tried to defend that
myself for some years but ultimately surrendered to the weight of evidence.
The Hebrew phrase is unique and is
not the same as the verses regarding evening and morning in Genesis 1.
Verse 26 of Daniel 8 is crucial. It has the article before both evening
and morning meaning they are to be viewed as discrete and not lumped together
as one. This suits the context, which is talking about the removal of the
evening and morning offerings. Please note that the context is clear in
its reference to an evil power (the little horn Antichrist) defiling the
temple for this period. Such will not, of course, fit the traditional Adventist
view. Neither Rome pagan or papal can be linked with 457 BC. The reference
is primarily (though not solely) to the work of Antiochus Epiphanes as
both 1st and 2nd Maccabees declare. See also John 10:22, which as some
Bible margins point out, refers to the celebration of Hanukkah—the cleansing
by the Maccabees of the defilements in the temple caused by the Old Testament
Siegfried Horn pointed this out long
ago to the General Conference leaders when the printing of my first book,
Daniel, by Southern Publishing Association was being held up. Horn
said we would make ourselves ridiculous if we failed to see that the little
horn of Daniel 8 pointed initially to Antiochus. The vast majority of scholars
(including SDA scholars) now take this view and the Good News Bible translates
Daniel 8:14 as follows: "It will continue for 1,150 days during which evening
and morning sacrifices will not be offered. Then the Temple will be restored."
It should also be said that "evening"
and "morning" in the Hebrew refers to points of time, not periods like
night and day.
AToday: QUESTION #24 -
Seventh-day Adventism is well
known for its detailed description of how the final events will take place.
As you know, there are charts and books that claim to lay out every detail
of the final events in both heaven and earth, including the 1844 date as
the beginning of the "pre-advent judgment," also referred to as the Investigative
Judgment. With that in mind, some of the AToday members have raised this
excellent question: if the Investigative Judgment doctrine is no longer
valid, what is the correct version of the "judgment process"? We know that
there must be some type of "pre-advent judgment" (you even pointed out
in scripture when the pre-Advent judgment ends), but when does it start
if not in 1844? And how long does it take?
In addition, scripture says we
must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Is this a reference
to the "pre-advent judgment" or the Second Coming? What about the parable
of the wedding feast in Matthew 22? Is that a reference to the Investigative
Judgment as some claim? We also know that there are many places in scripture
that speak of a future judgment, but then again, scripture also says that
if a person believes in the gospel, he does not come into judgment. Yet
in another place (Peter 4:17), it says that the "judgment must begin with
us." What about the portions of scripture which talk about the "books being
opened" and the judgment? Could you please explain the New Testament teaching
on this subject so that we can clearly and Biblically update those old
Nineteenth Century Adventist charts?
Dr. Ford: Adventist charts on
the final events leave much to be desired. For example, to interpret the
two-horned beast of Revelation 13 as simply the United States will not
stand the exegetical test. As I pointed out in Crisis! twenty years
ago, the overwhelming weight of exegetical evidence says that in contrast
to the first beast of Revelation 13 (which represents totalitarian government
at the end of time—and in one sense in all ages including the first century),
the second beast points to apostate religion shoring up bad government
for its own purposes as in Revelation 17 where the scarlet whore rides
the beast. John is alluding to his Lord's warnings against those who would
come as wolves in sheep's clothing, i.e., false prophets. Three times in
Revelation this second beast is called "the false prophet." I was glad
to notice that about a year ago the Review published an article
by Jon Paulien saying this. So, we need to update Adventist eschatology
in a number of areas.
The Adventist charts also have failed
to recognize that the final test over the gospel involves more than Sabbath-keeping,
though I am sure the latter is included. All the outward signs of the Christian
faith will one day be forbidden—baptism, the Lord's Supper, Sabbath-keeping.
Revelation is saying that in the last days there will be a false Trinity
(the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet). This false trinity is comprised
of a false Christ (the beast first described in Revelation 13), a false
Holy Spirit who brings down false Pentecostal fire (the second beast),
a false gospel and a false law (thus, the allusions to the hand and forehead
which reflect the three Old Testament passages where the Israelites were
told to write the law on their hands and foreheads). The mark of the beast
has as its essential nature the reflection of the character of Satan while
the seal of God points to the opposite—the reflection of the character
of Christ. This is made clear in Revelation 14:1 and other passages where
"name" as always in Scripture stands for character. Compare Exodus 34:6,7.
Those who reject the last gospel message will become murderers and liars
like their spiritual father the devil (see John 8:44). The saints will
bear the mark of the cross in their lives like Jesus their Lord (see Ezekiel
9 where the Hebrew word for mark is tau and means a cross. (Ellen White
also makes this point when she says in one place that "the intelligent
mind of the recording angel has seen the mark of the cross in the foreheads
of the Lord's adopted sons and daughters"—I quote approximately from memory.)
Both the mark of the beast and the seal of God will have their outward
forms indicating disobedience or obedience to the law of God.
Of course, the least supportable
teaching in the time charts is 1844. The Bible gave no prophetic date for
the rise of the Reformation or Wesley’s grand revival, yet they were clearly
of heavenly origin. Similarly, Adventism, though raised up by God, has
no prophetic date assigned. Prophetic dates after the end of the seventy
weeks of Daniel 9 do not exist and Christ forbade us to look for them (Acts
1:7)—the reason being that the end could have come at any time the church
took the gospel to the whole world (Matthew 24:14, 2 Peter 3:12 RSV). This
is not to say that God is biting His nails wondering with anxiety as to
when the church will fulfill His task. Known unto God are all His works
from the foundation of the world. We must not lose sight of either truth—the
sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. God is displaying to
the universe the utter powerlessness of the best of human beings unless
fully possessed by the gospel of grace. The 1844 date is not prophetic.
Most passages of scripture describing
the judgment are parabolic. Wherever time and eternity meet, as at the
beginning and end of Scripture, parable or symbolism must be used. The
reality transcends our senses and understandings. So the judgment can be
pictured as a marriage scene, as reckoning with servants, as a gathering
of sheep and goats, as a separation of fish captured by the gospel net,
as the burning up of tares, as a vintage, as a court scene, as watching
from the Holy City a panorama of destruction, etc. The last parable of
Matthew 25 gives a telescopic picture merging the realities of the judgment
at the Second Coming and that of the third. This has been recognized for
a long time by scholars (see Buswell's Systematic Theology for example).
As for the parable of Matthew 22,
it is one of the several parables on the judgment and it is a great mistake
to take any detail in any parable and build a doctrine on it. We would
not do that with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, nor have SDAs
advocated rings for men as a result of reading the parable of the prodigal
son receiving one from his father. Matthew 22 points us to the same feast
as Revelation 19—the wedding supper of the Lamb. It is asking all that
intend to be there if they are trusting in their own rags of righteousness
or the king's provided (imputed) garment. Seeing that it has this detail
in a judgment setting, I suspect that while Matthew 22 warns against the
filthy rags of our own righteousness, it may also be a reminder that imputed
righteousness always brings forth the fruit of the imparted Holy Spirit.
The one thing it is not saying is anything about 1844! The New Testament
knows nothing about 1844—nor does the Old Testament.
As for l Peter 4:17, this is part
of Peter's encouragement to believers to bear up under persecution. From
the beginning to the end of this letter, the Apostle’s eye is on the fiery
trials beginning to overtake the church. This particular verse is reminding
His readers that when God permits calamities to overtake nations, He usually
commences with His own (see Isaiah 10:12; Jeremiah 25:29, Ezekiel 9:6,
and especially Luke 23:31). This is one of seven specific encouragements
found in verses 12-19. But certainly nothing in this verse or its context
has anything whatever to do with the traditional Adventist view of the
Regarding the judgment of Revelation
14:7, this is not a reference to 1844 or to the saints being judged in
heaven, but to the Second Coming as William Miller and the Advent movement
correctly realized. Observe that the same terms occur in Revelation 18:10,
"In one hour has thy judgment come," but the reference is clearly to Babylon.
The judgment of Revelation 14:7, of course, is the same judgment. The following
verse makes it evident that wicked people (Babylon) are its target. In
apocalyptic literature, judgment is regularly promised for the persecutors
of the true people of God and that is why such judgment is referred to
as "good news."
The pre-advent judgment can be found
in Revelation 22:11,12. This is a necessity because at the return of Christ,
the righteous dead must be raised. The Bible does not say that at the Second
Advent, all people will be raised from death to face the judgment—instead
it affirms clearly that resurrection from the dead is the fruit of antecedent
judgment. If there are to be two resurrections—one of the holy and one
of the unholy—the decision as to who is in each category must be made before
either. Scripture says the Lord knoweth them that are His. The Good Shepherd
knows His sheep but as He doffs His priestly garments to assume His kingly
array, our great Intercessor will finally bestow eschatological justification
on all living or who have ever lived who are trusting solely in His merits
and whose lives, though far from perfect, reflect that trust and the holiness
of life which inevitably results.
So the last Judgment, as it relates
to the believers, begins with the punctiliar announcement of Revelation
22:11,12 and is consummated by the resurrection of the righteous dead to
join the translated saints. Thus, every Biblical description of the last
judgment links it with the end of the world. (I should add that the amillennial
view of Revelation 20 is now outdated among most exegetes and the reality
of two physical resurrections from the dead separated by an interval of
time is almost universally acknowledged. At a time when I contemplated
writing on the issue, the late Professor, Dr. F.F. Bruce, assured me that
such would be an unnecessary task as the battle had already been fought
Thus, the destiny of the saints is
announced in the heavenly courts by our great High Priest, as He is about
to begin His descent to earth. It takes only a moment, not a hundred and
fifty years, yet the judgment is necessary for the Scriptures do not teach,
"once saved always saved," but rather, "he that endureth to the end, the
same shall be saved." Truth and error lie very close. The Bible does not
teach yo-yo religion, constantly in and out of salvation. On the contrary,
looking to Jesus, even if regularly from our knees in the mud of failure,
means we are accepted of Him. We are "complete in Him," "accepted in the
beloved." Justification is by faith alone at every moment, not just at
the beginning of the Christian pilgrimage. So, we are justified by faith
alone even in the last moment of the searching scrutiny of the Omniscient
One. Yet that holy status is accompanied by the evidence of a transformed,
though still imperfect, human character. Jesus remains our substitute in
the last great day and not merely on the cross or when we commence the
Christian walk. Such an ascription or imputation of merit is a priestly
act and thus is performed at the very close of Christ's priestly ministry.
To the faithful Christian, the judgment is now a party (see Matthew 22:8-12).
As the fate of believers is decided
before their rewards at His coming, so is the fate of the wicked. Revelation
20:10-15 is declarative and executive but is based on the prior decision
of Revelation 22:11,12, which left them in their graves at the Second Coming
to await their final rebellion and punishment. The reason even the wicked
dead must rise is that Christ by His atoning death and meritorious life
bought immortality for all. The second resurrection is evidence that because
of the cross, all the wicked have a right to life that was bought for them
by the Savior. But their rejection of the gift is shown by their murderous
attack on the saints in the Holy City.
Any complete discussion of the Judgment
should point out that as coming events cast their shadows before, so with
the last Judgment. According to John 12:31, Calvary, too, was a Judgment
Day when Christ was made a curse for us and bore the penalty of the sin
of the race. The events of those tragic hours mirror in many ways the realities
of the final judgment. Thus, we see Christ high and lifted up, dividing
the saved from the lost as mirrored by the two thieves and the multitudes
before him. (Jerusalem was filled with about three million people at the
time of the Passover and it is an error to picture the Cross as surrounded
by a few pitying believers—in fact, there would have been thousands present
to behold the unique and terrible spectacle.) Matthew 27:52, with its record
of resurrection and the entrance of the resurrected ones into the Holy
City, also prefigures the end of time. There is a sense in which the New
Testament places the time of the end and the resurrection of the dead from
the cross itself (see Hebrews 9:26 etc.).
We have left the most important point
in this discussion until last. The Bible also clearly affirms that as the
gospel is proclaimed, its hearers are judged at that point by their response
(see John 3:17,18,36). To believe the record of John 3:16 bestows justification—the
anticipated verdict of the last judgment. This justification is ours the
moment we believe. At that point of faith, which is God’s gift to all who
do not resist the gospel, eternal life is bestowed (see John 5:24). This
verse has often been misunderstood as teaching that there is no judgment
for the believer. Such an interpretation is contrary to 2 Corinthians 5:10,
Romans 14:10, and many other passages. The Greek term, found in John 5:24,
means judgment in the sense of condemnation. The believer WILL BE JUDGED
to see if he or she has remained in the faith, but the trusting soul can
NEVER BE CONDEMNED in the last great day or at any previous time since
choosing Christ. We need never be anxious about what God thinks of us,
but only what He thinks of Christ our substitute. At every moment of faith,
the believer is reckoned one hundred percent righteous for Christ's sake.
If one considers the inmost reality of the cross, this truth becomes apparent.
Why is Christ, the perfect and Holy One, being treated on Calvary as though
unholy? In order that I who AM unholy might be treated as Holy. Why is
Christ the innocent treated as guilty? In order that I the guilty might
be treated as innocent. Romans 4:8 pronounces a blessing on all believers
for against them sin is NEVER reckoned despite failures and imperfections.
Good news indeed! That is the gospel which one day will shake the world
and prepare it for the Last Judgment.
One other point should be made. It
is not enough that the great Judge be just, it must be apparent to all
His creatures that He is so. Thus, the repeated declarations of Scripture
in the last chapters of Scripture that ultimately all will acknowledge
that God's ways are true and righteous altogether. The reference to books
in the judgment is a symbolic way of expressing the truth that the reasons
for God's decisions will be made plain to all throughout the universe—angels,
principalities and powers, and humans.
AToday: QUESTION #25 - Dr. Ford, some are having a
hard time with the concept that the Investigative Judgment, or more correctly,
the "pre-advent judgment," is as easy as you make it sound. What do you
say to those who STILL maintain that the Christian’s life will be "investigated"
in every detail from the record books in heaven? They quote such scriptures
as Daniel 7:9-10, "the judgment was set and the books were opened"; and
Matthew 12:36-37, "but I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall
speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." For by
thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
They also ask about Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10, and Acts 17:31.
Some point out that Revelation 3:5 and 20:12 also mention books of record
which contain the evidence for judgment along with Malachi, Exodus, Isaiah,
and other texts that refer to a legal judgment. Can you explain these passages?
Dr. Ford: A fundamental reason
for misunderstanding the Judgment is the idea that God must function in
a linear restricted way as mortal finite judges do. As the Omniscient,
Infinite, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent One, God needs no records of information,
nor does He need protracted time to make decisions regarding the eternal
destiny of humans. Whenever time and eternity intersect at both the beginning
and the end of the world, Scripture resorts to figures of speech including
metaphor and parable. Thus, the Judgment can be pictured as a human court
scene, or as a harvest or vintage, or even a marriage supper. Even the
work of a shepherd in dividing sheep from goats is employed, and a fisherman's
discarding from his catch the unwanted fish.
2 Timothy 2:19 affirms that the Lord
already knows who are His. John 10:3 says that as the good shepherd, He
knows the name of each of His sheep. According to Psalms 33:9, at the simple
command of God, all creation stood in array before Him. The case is identical
with all the facts concerning every life that has ever been lived.
Daniel 7:9,10 uses apocalyptic imagery
for the memory of God, but it should be closely observed that it is the
host of Antichrist, not the saints, which is in focus here. The context
clearly has Antichrist at the center and it states that the judgment "shall
sit and take away his dominion" (see Daniel 7:26 which immediately follows
the account of the wicked deeds of the little horn). The saints are automatically
vindicated as their oppressors are condemned. Apocalyptic always has as
its heart, the vindication of the faithful through condemnation of their
enemies. Thus Revelation 18:10 explains Revelation 14:6. Both verses deal
with judgment on wicked Babylon, not believers in the gospel.
Acts 17:30-31, Romans 2:15,16, Ecclesiastes
12:13,14, etc. are explained by the principles given above. 2 Timothy 4:1
says the judgment is accomplished by the appearing and kingdom of Christ.
But the judgment event is set forth by parable and metaphor. So we have
the analogies of a human court scene, the harvest, the vintage, a marriage
supper, a shepherd dividing his flock, a fisherman casting out the unwanted
fish, etc. In Revelation 20:6, we are told that only the blessed and holy
come up in the first resurrection. Therefore, all destinies have been decided
prior to the opening of the graves (see Revelation 22:11,12). In Revelation
20:12, we do not have a threat that the saints must be tried for a second
time. That verse is only saying that all who have accepted Christ are immune
from this judgment, which follows the millennium, but all others will be
lost. All judgment texts must be interpreted in harmony with John 5:24
and Romans 4:8. The inevitable shortcomings of the trusting saints cannot
bring condemnation, nor are they imputed, reckoned, or recorded against
them. So, says Scripture clearly and emphatically. Blessed be God for
that wonderful joyous truth.
1 John 1:9 is not saying that salvation
depends upon a good memory. It is only saying that as we hear the gospel
and Christ is offered to us, we must respond to the pleading Spirit by
the admission of our guilt, the confession of our sins. It does not mean
repeating a list from the earliest dredgings of memory. We are quite unaware
all our days of many of our sins inasmuch as sin is the slightest deviation
in thought, word, or deed from that which unfallen Adam could have done.
Sin is even more what we ARE than what we have DONE. In passages like Revelation
3:5, Christ is reminding us that faith is like breathing. It must be continuous.
If I deliberately or carelessly drop the Savior from my reckoning and my
life, I thereby deny Him and He will deny me. However, a million shortcomings
cannot bring the slightest jot or tittle of condemnation if with bloodied
knees and tear-stained brow, I am still looking to the cross and to my
substitute who hung thereon for me. Therefore, rejoice in Romans 8:1, and
be not moved from it by either legalism or perfectionism. "There is now
no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."
AToday: QUESTION #26 -
Dr. Ford, in spite of your many reasons for replacing the Investigative
Judgment doctrine with a more Biblical and rational Twenty-First Century
viewpoint, some are not fully convinced. This is because they think the
Bible supports a "perfectionistic" teaching that requires Christians, prior
to the Second Coming, to live without sin. More specifically, they are
concerned about the time period in the Adventist charts following the close
of probation when Jesus leaves the Most Holy Place and travels to earth
for the Second Coming. It is thought that during this "meditorial gap,"
that the "last day Christians" must maintain a sinless life. What would
you say to those who hold this traditional position? Is there some special
"state of obedience" that those Christians living at the end of time must
reach? What is your answer to those who are fearful that they may sin AFTER
the meditorial work of Christ is completed in heaven? Will they be lost?
If not, why not?
Adventists, for the most part, do not understand the Biblical teaching
on glorification. Romans 8:23 says that we groan (the groan of Romans 7:14-25)
until the redemption of our bodies. It is only when we see the returning
Christ that we shall be just like Him—sinless. While we are in this mortal
body, we can never do as well as the sinless Adam before the fall or the
sinless Christ in the days of His flesh. See l John 3:2,3, James 3:2, Romans
3:23 (note the present continuous tense of "fall short"), l John 1:8, Matthew
6:12, and l Corinthians 15:51-56. Sin is never recorded, counted, or imputed
against those who are in Christ (Romans 5:8). This does not encourage antinomianism
but breaks our hearts.
After the decree of Revelation 22:11,12
as Jesus is about to come, the believers are no longer on probation. Their
case is closed—they have been eschatologically justified, the consummation
of that which was legally theirs from the first moment of trust in the
Savior. The fact that they have been prepared to risk death itself rather
than be disloyal to Christ is demonstrated in the last crisis described
in the closing verses of Revelation 13. They are now so settled into the
truth of the gospel that temptation has lost its power. Willful, premeditated
sin is not an option for them any longer. Remember that the final time
of trouble will be a "hot house" experience wherein both the saints and
the wicked will rapidly mature. To sin in the last climactic chaotic hours
would be like dancing on the edge of a precipice. The saints will be kept
by the indwelling Spirit whom Jesus had promised would abide with them
forever. (That Spirit is only withdrawn from pleading with the wicked,
He is never withdrawn from believers.)
While the believers of Revelation
14:4,5—those translated—follow the Lamb whole-heartedly while waiting for
His coming, they are nonetheless in sinful bodies until the moment of glorification
(l Thessalonians 4:17). But because of their acceptance by faith of Christ's
imputed merits, they are considered "blameless" in the last hours of their
earthly history as throughout their whole pilgrimage on earth. Ellen White
teaches all these things. For example, in the chapter on the Time of Trouble,
she is most emphatic that even the saints are imperfect in faith although
absolutely loyal. In several places, Mrs. White taught that we must fight
sin until death or translation—temptations from within and without. She
is most emphatic that none of the apostles ever claimed to be without sin.
We are not going to transcend them in holiness. The Bible knows nothing
of a "super" generation transcending all others in holiness. That hoary
tradition has no basis whatsoever.