Then Shall the Sanctuary Be Cleansed

Chapter 1


The teachings which make the Seventh-day Adventist Church a corporate body must ultimately be the teachings which bring the world to a decision between truth and error. No matter how arrogant this may appear, it must be true or else there is no reason for this church to exist. Any number of religious and benevolent organizations with more members and greater wealth than we have could take over what Adventists are trying to do—unless truly there is something about what we profess that makes our responsibility irreplaceable. Our failure as leaders and members to fully appreciate this divine appointment accounts for our insecurity and concern for acceptance by the world. Our faith remains immature. We do not have an unshakable conviction that the truth of the message we have been given must yet reign supreme in order to conquer sin and all its by-products.

We are certain that we do not believe in salvation by works, although all too often we practice it, and sometimes publish it. Our frustration in "finishing the work" grows out of man-made committee strategy rather than deep conviction of the unique truth we hold. We are loathe to believe that the gospel is indeed "the power of God unto salvation," salvation from all the snares of God's enemy, and not merely good advice to feed the emotions. We are content to accept popular theology and seem blind to the basic error inherent in nearly every teaching of modern Evangelicals. We have not decided if John the Revelator spoke reality when he said, "Babylon . . . is fallen . . . and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. . . . All nations have drunk of the wine of her fornication" (Revelation 18:2, 3). This warning cry from heaven to have no part in the sins of Babylon does not allow for compromise and contains an imperative we cannot escape.

Our quandary has now come into the open and the Evangelicals are focusing on inconsistencies in our own house—doctrinal fallacies that leave us vulnerable.1 They call the time and the place when we began to depart from "mid-nineteenth century Adventism." They tell us and the world it was in the 1950s that changes began when we were no longer a "non-Christian cult." In the 1960s our dialogue with them took us well into their camp, even though a few Adventist scholars were strongly opposed to the move away from what in recent times has received the label "Traditional Adventism." However, by the mid-1970s there were these two distinct factions in Adventism—"traditional" and "evangelical." Then in the 1980s a time of further theological crisis came to Adventists.

The roots of this crisis are to be found in the book, Questions on Doctrine, published in 1957. This book repudiated some major historical Adventist teachings which are now being classified as "traditional." Growing out of this situation there developed in the church another group known as "evangelical." They were united on major issues: (1) the Reformation understanding of righteousness by faith is a judicial act of God that includes justification only; (2) Christ possessed a sinless human nature like Adam had before the fall; (3) the events of 1844 and the sanctuary doctrine have no basis in Scripture; (4) our assurance of salvation rests solely on Christ's imputed righteousness and commandment-keeping is impossible; (5) Ellen G. White was a genuine Christian; however, her writings are not trustworthy and should not be used as doctrinal authority.

It remains to be seen how the Evangelicals will finally assess us. Will we, by their definition, end up being "traditional" and "aberrant," "theologically bankrupt" with a "perverted gospel," on "a treadmill of trying to measure up to God's holy law;" or, as they hope, will we move into "Evangelical Adventism" and be accepted without the "cult" label?

We need to face the truth of our situation. But more important, do we have the courage and moral stamina to confront naked truth and pure righteousness? Do we sense our calling as a corporate body? Do we understand that there is a cosmic controversy that demands a solution; and that the solution is not in getting more people interested in heavenly mansions, but a people willing to stand for right though the heavens fall? Christ became our substitute and surety to make it possible for us to be overcomers no matter what the opinion of the world might be.

Theological stress in the Adventist Church is reaching the breaking point. Unity at the present time is receding, and without unity there is no possible way for the Holy Spirit to return and accomplish the work that heaven attempted 100 years ago. "Traditional" and "Evangelical Adventism" are in sharp contrast and it is a mystery how today they exist side by side in our church.

The wide spectrum of our doctrinal interpretations breeds weakness and uncertainty. The fact that we now place dual meanings on some basic teachings makes the Evangelicals think we are in their fold, theologically educated at last, clean and refined and ready to be removed from the "cults." Even the "27 Fundamental Doctrines" can, in some cases, be read to suit and allow for double interpretation.

Therefore Adventists now read in two different ways such basics as: righteousness by faith, the human nature of Christ, the assurance of salvation, the authority of Ellen White, Sabbath observance, and the ministry of Christ in the sanctuary. Other distinctive Adventist doctrines such as conditional immortality, annihilation of the wicked, health reform, and the remnant church concept, although out of the Evangelical mainstream, and by them considered without biblical support, do not prevent us from being considered followers of Jesus. So our confusion has made us acceptable. We will have to decide if Babylon is really "the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit." Was the angel mistaken to warn God's people to "come out of her . . .  that ye be not partakers of her sins" (Revelation 18:2, 4)?

The time has come for Seventh-day Adventists to know that neither "Evangelical" nor "Traditional" Adventism will suffice in the final crisis. Neither one is sufficient nor able to win the war the dragon wages against the "remnant."

Are We Abraham's Seed?

The grand truth that brought the Seventh-day Adventist Church into being, and which sustains its divine mandate and nurtures its destiny, is the truth which Evangelicals ridicule the most. And they are not alone. Within Adventist circles the subtle underground movement goes on unabated to nullify and destroy the sanctuary/judgment teaching. The consequence of this blind warfare has not been perceived.

Evangelicals are pleased to call the sanctuary teaching a "face-saving device," whereas it was a confirmation of faith. It is the most distinctive of all Adventist beliefs. With the Sabbath it gives support and meaning to the whole plan of salvation like no other single truth. It has a history that we dare not ignore.

The nation of Israel was conceived in the temple service. From the embryonic model followed by Abel to the soul-wrenching experience of Abraham on Mount Moriah, the voice of God was clear. The direct instruction Moses received to build a sanctuary "after the pattern which was shewed thee in the mount" (Hebrews 8:5) portrays a divine plan awaiting the complete understanding of God's people. The identity of the nation of Israel with a religion inspired by heaven took form at the foot of Sinai. As long as they had the sanctuary and the temple they were confident of their destiny. Thus, when Jerusalem fell under siege, the last stronghold relinquished was the temple.

It was this supposed reverence for the temple that brought the sentence of death upon Jesus. He had sustained many libelous accusations, but at last "there arose certain, and bare false witness against Him, saying, we heard Him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands" (Mark 14:57).

Their rejection of Christ reflected their own disdain for the temple they claimed to revere. Every article of furniture, every ritual act, was a symbol that revealed Messiah whom they denied. He was the Lamb, the Priest, the Shekinah. Their blind rejection of Him was like a prophecy foreshadowing the destruction of the temple. But in three days His resurrection would reconstruct a temple of truth for which the stone temple had been but a type. The temple built with hands would give way before the temple built by the Spirit. The High Priest would verily become "a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man" (Hebrews 8:2).

The frightening testimony God has given to this church is that we too are the victims of this blindness. Adventists are the only corporate body that has existed since the time of Israel who, like them, was born and nurtured in the symbology of the sanctuary. The realization of the heavenly pattern shown to Moses resolved the prophetic crisis of 1844. It was not a "vision" of a man in a cornfield,2 but the realization that the ultimate problem of the universe was a sin problem which could only be solved by God's method.3 This understanding gave Adventism birth.

This heavenly insight has done little more than give us an identity which generates scorn in the Evangelical world. Increasingly it is called in question by us, the spiritual heirs of Abraham, and many Adventists would be pleased if their identity could be swallowed up and their uniqueness melt into the crowd. The proclamation of the Apocalypse has grown stale after some four or five generations. We are not sure if there is any good reason for us to enter into a spiritual conflict with the rest of the world. Our prophetic destiny is growing dim. We are ready to join with ancient Israel in her prophetic frustration and cry, "the days are prolonged, and every vision faileth."  Our problem is not so much that we are blind but rather that we think we can see. "Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say,  We see; therefore your sin  remaineth" (John 9:41).

All evidence points to the fact that we are Abraham's seed.

What Should Abraham's Children Do?

Seventh-day Adventists have been content to stand by and watch history unfold. We can read all the "signs" with much discernment but the "signs" only get more perplexing—and time goes on. The "signs" which the pioneers saw don't fit into the atomic age. Steam engines and nuclear reactors both initiate power and each is a wonderful invention, but neither one is a "sign" of the end. Many Adventists are deeply concerned to get the end-time events all fitted into the proper box on the calendar. Charts and detailed lists are made to show when probation will close, the sealing takes place, the latter rain comes, the Sunday law is passed, and the shaking accomplished preceding the time of trouble, plus other details. These may be important but they do not determine the outcome of the dragon's "war with the remnant of her seed."

Each passing year should make it more evident that the events  of the end are of minor importance compared with the issues  of the end. It is past time for the church to recognize that the final events are contingent upon the issues being set out clearly. Until they are, the church must remain captive to its own blindness. This means the angels must continue holding the winds of events until the church grapples with the issues. Persecution will come as the result of issues in battle and spiritual victories won.

Modern Israel has for too long considered the celestial bookkeeping as something far away and not very relevant to everyday life on earth. Too many are content to let heaven take care of the judgment which is now under way, and when the angels get through the list of names the end will come. But this selfish attitude denies our corporate responsibility here and now. If we are ever to emerge as an apocalyptic force we must understand 1844 far better than ancient Israel understood the temple service at the first advent. It is in this judgment hour that God calls a people to stand with Him to settle for all eternity the conflict between truth and error.  Issues are the determining factor. Events are the result of issues.

Abraham's children in this hour need to go back and restudy their divine mandate to know the advantage of their lineage and the responsibility of having the oracles of God committed to their hands.


  1. See: Christian Research Journal, summer 1988, pp. 9-14.
  2. Hiram Edson, manuscript on his life and experience. See Francis D. Nichol, The Midnight Cry, (Washington, D.C., 1944) p. 458.
  3. Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 425.

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