|A DIAGNOSIS WITHOUT CONFUSION
God's promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are, in the grand plan of salvation, promises to the remnant church. Unless we can see in our heritage our kinship with ancient Israel, we fail to comprehend the magnitude of the gospel. To measure His dealings with them arouses the most profound emotions known to the human heart. God called them to be "an holy people unto the Lord … The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth" (Deuteronomy 7:6). What profound respect from the Almighty, "above all people"! But why should they be accorded this elite place among the nations? Not because of any merit of theirs but because the Lord loved them (verse 8). And they tested God's love to the limit, as their heirs have done in the end-time.
If the remnant church should accept the counsel Christ has given, the world would find in this people what the world should have found in the Hebrew nation. They were called to abhor every form of false worship and every god that symbolized such heresy, even to despising the gold that adorned heathen graven images. Have we learned to detest these things? When will the message of the three angels be proclaimed without restraint and compromise? Failing this, what hope is there of bringing the world to a decision between truth and error?
For too long we have been poised on the edge of great expectations. The eyesalve that is to make us see the consummation of our destiny entails a clear understanding of the prophetic oracles we have been given. To launch this final message that will lighten the earth with its glory and set God's people against all the powers of evil, demands that the message be irrefutably pure truth—the oracles of the living God. To fathom this divine obligation requires insight provided by the eyesalve that the True Witness offers.
This must not be construed as merely defending Adventist peculiarities against ecumenical or secular skepticism. If preserving the legacy of "historic Adventism" and proclaiming its doctrines is considered our goal, commonly called "finishing the work," we may find ourselves trapped. Like Jerusalem of old, we can barricade ourselves in our doctrines and programs without ever striking a blow for truth and for the God of heaven. With good reason, a prophet has warned this church that the destruction of Jerusalem is a type of the final conflict.
Pending Issues Remain Unclear
If Adventism has a message that provides the final answers to the problems facing mankind, it is imperative that the issues be set forth clearly. According to the judgments pronounced by the three angels, the issues are the most serious that have ever faced the human race. We must do more than trim and manicure the edges of Christian orthodoxy. The message of the three angels deals with the core of Christianity.
The wrath and the doom proclaimed by the third angel can only be leveled against those who finally reject the truth of the gospel. God cannot measure out the most frightful judgment in all Scripture for simply neglecting a spiritual manicure. If taken seriously, Adventism must bring the gospel before the whole world in a way it has never seen it before.
Only a work this unique, this radical, could warrant the judgment announced by the three angels. The confrontation pending calls for a kind of open-heart surgery as a last resort. Only a procedure this bold could ignite the fury of opposition and persecution forecast in our prophetic legacy, and awaken the multitudes in Babylon.
The rebellion, the anguish, the suffering and pain of the 6000-year holocaust is an historical fact amplified with each passing year. If Christ is delaying His return, and if the consummation of His kingdom extends the suffering and nightmare conditions on this planet for even one day, there must be imperative reasons. Celestial foot-dragging would appear unconscionable before the jury of the universe. The continuing plight of mankind and the ultimate judgment announced demand that whatever remains to be resolved in the conflict must be proportionate to the suffering perpetuated meanwhile.
The fact that the conflict has not been resolved in six millennia can be the only logical reason for the postponement of the second advent. The initial questions raised about God's character and the ensuing rebellion that launched this great controversy have not been fully understood. They remain to be refuted. Reason demands that we appreciate this horrendous dilemma.
No one more fervently wants a resolution of the conflict than God Himself! He has already demonstrated His willingness to provide a solution and emptied heaven to prove it. For this reason "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." In the incarnation, "to be made like his brethren," is the diagnosis and prescription for sin. But His testimony and defense carry no more weight than anyone else who is called into court. God must abide by His own rules. The jury must be presented with evidence that proves Christ's battle with sin was on the same level as all humanity who battle in this war. The law demands justice for all, irrespective of position.
When there is a trespass, "take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established" (Matthew 18:16). All who are tried stand in the same court. God cannot win this case, this devilish controversy, without the faithfulness of His witnesses. But "ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses" (Acts 1:8). That "power" enables His people in this trial to stand together upholding truth. Their witness agrees with and supports the testimony of the Chief Witness. He understood the case from the beginning. He declared that He could "do nothing" by His own self." He said,"If 1 bear witness of myself, my witness is not true" (John 5:30, 31). Those who stand with Him understand also the implications and they will bear the same testimony. Their concern will not be for themselves but for the validation of truth and the vindication of God's name.
The specific witness of Adventism is the three angels' messages. These declarations that exonerate heaven are bound up with the glory of God and the cleansing of the sanctuary. This message was our "passover" as the passover gave birth to Israel and forecast the ultimate purpose of their existence. So the cleansing of the sanctuary involves truth as certain as the passover blood was upon Israel's doorposts. To understand our Adventist "doorpost" symbology, we must go back to ancient Israel's sanctuary. There was something unique about the service. Not only was there an atonement and cleansing for the people, but there was an atonement for the holy place, for the tabernacle and for the altar (Leviticus 16). Inanimate objects were joined with the sin of human beings and together there was an atonement for both. Nothing was omitted in the work of cleansing the camp and the people "that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord" (verse 30).
The Problem of the Cleansing of the Sanctuary
There is immense significance in this once-a-year, great Day of Atonement cleansing of sins that defiled the holy place. This work completed the yearly round of ministration. Bound up with it is our reason to exist.
The 1844 episode in our history, and the investigative judgment sink their roots deeply into Leviticus 16 to sustain their validity. But apart from defending the denominational pedigree, we have gained little that offers hope of solving the great controversy. We must have missed something. World events and our selfishness have blinded our eyes to the real problem of issues.
Underlying the many details of the rituals in the sanctuary service is a perplexing concept. Why should lifeless objects require redemption? People can accumulate the guilt and defilement of sin, but how do inanimate objects become defiled? To claim that the sin and guilt is transferred from the people to the altar, begs the question. Sin is not an entity that we can casually transfer from one place to another, therefore it could not be carried as an object into the holy place. What is God conveying when He places the stigma of defilement upon the articles in the first apartment?
Adventism's call into existence was based on the sanctuary doctrine. This teaching is crucial to its continued well being and future triumph. If the sanctuary is a divine chalkboard in the school of truth, those defiled vessels and articles of furniture would represent redemptive truths that are themselves inadequate and in need of cleansing and redemption.
In other words, the very means God uses in saving people in the ministry of the holy place stigmatizes itself in the process. As the centuries of ceremonial services were inadequate and required the real Lamb to come at the appointed time, so the complete understanding of the incarnation and the atonement must give birth to greater truth before the second advent. This is inherent in the Day of Atonement cleansing of the sanctuary. There is a liability pending. According to the book of Hebrews, this liability of the holy place is the result of atoning for sin without completely eradicating it.
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered (Hebrews 10:1, 2)?
The spiritual equation is simple. The daily round of ceremonies is identified as inferior for one reason: it is repetitious; it is never finished. The daily or continual sacrifice for sin that occupies the first apartment ministry does not remove sin, otherwise it would end. Sacrificial offerings are made necessary by sin; continued sinning required continual offerings. The perpetual offerings in the holy place are a testimony to the inability of that ministry to remove sin. That inability forces it to bear the onus of the sins it forgives until it can be cleansed by a superior ministry. The legal declarations of the first apartment that credit believers with more righteousness than it imparts, leave such redemptive procedures vulnerable to misrepresentation.
This is the reason that although God's people may receive the assurance of justification and pardon, God actually libels Himself in ascribing that forensic legal status to them. The physical image of a bloodied Saviour pleading in our behalf before the throne of heaven is a representation of what mediation actually entails through the credit advanced.
The dimensions of this credit advance can be seen around the world in the hard facts of life. During the 1980s, many nations of the earth experienced a spending spree. Millions were happy with the prosperity that appeared on the surface. Never mind the debt. Banks made loans into the billions with only a "hope" as security, and with disregard that all debt must be paid sooner or later. Economic laws that cannot be annulled were set aside. But these will come back to haunt us and eventually demand settlement. Credit advanced against some future miracle is doomed to default.
The "everlasting gospel" that is to be preached to them that dwell on the earth is likewise subject to law. Any interruption that postpones the penalty of sin accrues a debt recorded at the altar of the holy place. Adventism's task is to reveal that the celestial account books must be opened and audited. The vast resources provided by the cross can be of value only as they are appreciated, understood, and invested in the transformation of human lives. This gives meaning to the call of the heavenly Bookkeeper when He said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Rightfully, He is asking only that the espoused marriage partner walk with Him and appreciate heaven's investment when the Word became "flesh." He is asking that the protracted engagement come to an end, that the marriage may take place. True love cannot be requited by substitution.
Clearly then, the substitution of Jesus prolongs the pain and suffering, even now. Our sins that require continuing mediation constitute the embarrassing stigma that heaven must endure. As long as our sins compel such substitutionary mediation, the atonement must be viewed more in terms of shielding its beneficiaries than in restoring them. The cleansing of this first apartment must therefore involve a resolution of that contradiction which renders saints legally secure from their sins apart from their obtaining a corresponding victory over them.
This is the reason why all the faithful of past ages are held in the limbo of the first death. They must remain in suspense until the redemptive truths that ministered their salvation can be vindicated. "These all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Hebrews 11:39, 40). The saints of all ages remain bound in the grave, waiting on us.
To bring this release and the ultimate fruition of the gospel is the reason for our existence and for the truth we have been given. The worst crime in all history has not yet been solved because it has not yet been understood. It will never be understood until the sin committed at the cross is recognized as the vindication of "flesh" overcoming sin. The wrath of justice displayed was to confirm to human hearts that the cross is not to shield humans from facing death but to assure them that human flesh can survive death. The contest made clear that "flesh" can overcome sin by the grace of Christ.
It was as a "man" that Christ had to suffer the consequences of man's sin. It was as a "man" that He had to endure the wrath of God against transgression. It was in His "human nature" that He feared He would be unable to endure the conflict with the powers of darkness. His "humanity shrunk from the last crowning sacrifice."1
As human beings, members of the remnant church, we "are partakers of flesh and blood." Christ "himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). This provides not only legal "remission of sins that are past," but "Christ imbues men with the attributes of God" and "builds up human character after the similitude of divine character" so that "the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer." This is the ultimate victory in the cosmic battle. This is the fruit of the "everlasting gospel."
Finally, here is a group of believers who are born of God and overcome the world "and this is the victory that over-cometh the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). Bound up in this victory, this glorious triumph, is the Lord's promise: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and … I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem … I will write upon him my new name" (Revelation 3:12). There is no substitution for this experience which the remnant church must go through before the second advent.
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