Gospel Herald

compiled by Robert J. Wieland

The 1888 Message of Justification by Faith
in Relation to
the Seventh-day Adventist Idea of the
Cleansing of the Heavenly Sanctuary

  1. INTRODUCTION—A special relationship: is there Bible evidence?
    1. Seventh-day Adventists are generally agreed:
      1. Revelation 10 describes the 1844 Movement;
        1. chapter 11, events of the French Revolution, the Bible Societies, and the beginning of the final Day of Atonement;
        2. vss 15-19, opening of the Most Holy Apartment, and pre-Advent judgment.
  1. Antitype of ancient day of atonement type.
    1. The “door” that the High Priest “openeth” into the Most Holy Apartment is within message to Philadelphia Church (3:7).
      1. Now He says, “I come quickly” (vs. 11).
      2. “The time of the end” is time of pre-Advent judgment (Dan. 7:10, 22, 26, 27; 11:46; 12:1).
      3. The annual day of atonement was the day of judgment in ancient Israel (Lev. 23:29, 30).
      4. The first angel’s message announces the “hour of His judgment is come” (Rev. 14:6, 7).
      5. Sandwiched between 6th and 7th trumpets is the “mighty angel” of Revelation 10 with his announcement parallel to that of first angel of chapter 14.
    1. The “door” the High Priest “openeth” explained in 11:18, 19 as (a) a “door” into judgment; (b) a revelation of the Most Holy Apartment brought to view.
      1. The “judgment” that takes place in the Most Holy Apartment is a vindication of God’s people:
        1. The name Laodicea means “judging the people.”
        2. Jesus has refused to judge (condemn) anyone. Jn. 5:22; 12:47, 48.
        3. Therefore the only people He will “judge” are His own, whom He will vindicate in the judgment. Hence, “Laodicea” means “vindicating the people.”
      1. Ever since Calvary, to hinder and defeat this development has been Satan’s supreme objective (Rev. 12:12-17).
        1. (a) This final vindication involves more than a legal imputation of justification: dikaiosune/dikaiomata (Rom. 3:25/Rev. 19:8).
        2. (b) Laodicea who “overcomes” “even as [Christ] overcame” bears a unique responsibility—sharing with Christ executive authority in bringing the great controversy to an end (3:21). No previous “body” so honored.
        3. (c) They are a corporate body with a special spiritual experience (7:1-4; 14:1-5).
      1. Realizing this goal is the unique fruit of the Day of Atonement work of justification by faith.
        1. “Historic” Adventists generally see this character development as sanctification, a process of good works—human effort aided by God.
        2. 1888 message sees this reconciliation with God (“the final atonement”) as accomplished in justification by faith (TM 91-93).1
        3. It is not human achievement, “not of works …” but “by grace, through faith” (Eph. 2:8, 9). Involves maturity of faith.
        4. “From first to last” this “is the work of God” (2 Cor. 5:18, NEB). His people finally permit Him to do what He has long wanted to do!
        5. God withheld nothing from previous generations; their faith was immature. He was ready to give; they unready to receive.
        6. The key: a more mature understanding of what “faith” is.
        7. This in turn requires a clearer heart-appreciation of what Christ accomplished on His cross—why “the Lamb” is the Figure of attention in Revelation (mentioned 25 times).
      1. The effectiveness of justification by faith is dependent directly on adequacy of our view of the cross.
    1. The first angel proclaims “the everlasting gospel” (Rev. 14:6; appears to indicate there is nothing unique or “new” about the message). But …
    2. More careful analysis clarifies the term. The OT is as much the “everlasting gospel” as is the NT; yet there is something “new” about the New Testament. Did Jesus have nothing “new” or unique for the people? Or did Paul? And yet, nothing was “new.”2
    3. The apparent anomaly is solved: while the “everlasting gospel” has existed from eternity, each succeeding generation matures to a clearer conception, through more revelation.
      1. The church in the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary will see “truths” that have “lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost” (FCE 473).
      2. Luther and Reformers did not see or “preach” all of “the everlasting gospel.” There is “a part of the gospel which could be proclaimed only in the last days, for only then would it be true that the hour of judgment [final vindication] had come. … Paul … did not preach it … The Reformers did not proclaim it” (GC 356). Such vindication for God’s people is justification by faith in the cleansing of the sanctuary.
    1. This Day of Atonement ministry of our great High Priest is geared specifically, uniquely, toward preparing a people for translation.
      1. For the first time in history, a corporate body of God’s people are declared to have “no guile,” “without fault before the throne of God” (Rev. 14:1-5; the context: Day of Atonement judgment).
      2. This “without fault” status is not merely legally imputed righteousness (the experience of all past generations of believers, dikaiosune). They are finally described as “arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints” (dikaiomata). This word is applied to the parents of John the Baptist (Luke 1:60, apparently two of the “some few in every generation” who have perfected holiness before the Lord and been “righteous”) The word is used of the sacrifice of Jesus, and of the ultimate result in His people of His being sent in “the likeness of sinful flesh” and condemning “sin in the flesh” (Rom. 5:18; 8:3, 4). But never previous to Revelation 19:8 is it used of a “body” of God’s people.
      3. The 1888 view of justification by faith therefore is a leap beyond that of the Reformers:
        1. The Reformers in general saw it as a legal “declaration” of a righteousness only legally imputed to “cover” past sins (dikaiosune).
        2. The 1888 message saw it as here-and-now, experiential reconciliation with God, “receiving the atonement” (dikaiomata). The sinful heart is changed, “made” fully obedient.
        3. Thus justification by faith makes the believer obedient to all the commandments of God—a work usually defined as “sanctification.”3
        4. Sanctification is extended justification by faith—a settling into the truth so one cannot be moved; a total setting apart for the service of God.
        5. The 1844 Midnight Cry movement gave serious attention to getting ready for translation; but the believers were not aware of how deep the work must go.
        6. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is parallel with cleansing of the hearts of God’s people on earth (GC 425, 623).
    1. Definite progress was made by the church from 1844 to 1888.
      1. The latter was to have been “the beginning” of the loud cry, and of the latter rain that must accompany it, which was to prepare a people at last for translation at the coming of Christ (EW 271).
      2. Such a work, accomplished only by faith, cannot be of “works.” Such faith finally appreciates the extent of the love of Christ.
    1. This work of preparation, being totally a righteousness by faith, “not of works” or of human achievement, is merely cooperating with the Holy Spirit, ceasing to resist Him. Preparation for translation has always been that simple!
      1. As with Einstein’s e = mc2, the theory has been in the Bible for thousands of years; at last the equation will be demonstrated as part of the Day of Atonement significance.
      2. Those who wait for the coming of the Lord “come behind in no gift,” that they may be “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). Such a character cannot be developed except through understanding and experiencing justification by faith.
      3. The experience described in Ephesians 2:8, 9 is complementary to the need of Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-21). Justification by faith, says Paul, excludes “boasting,” but Laodicea’s problem is boasting (“you say, I am rich, and increased with goods, in need of nothing”).
      4. The ministry of “the testimony of Jesus” in the remnant church since 1844 has been a probing into the hidden recesses of the natural heart, exposing sin not previously realized. Justification by faith is the parallel experience that accompanies this constantly deepening conviction of sin, “a gradual unfolding” of “much more abounding grace” to meet the problems of abounding sin in these last days.4
      5. This is not the heresy of “perfectionism” or of “sinless perfection,” terms inappropriate to the cleansing of the sanctuary. There will be no eradication of the sinful nature prior to glorification; God’s people will still be in fallen, sinful flesh or nature; but they will “overcome even as [Christ] overcame” even though He “took upon His sinless nature our sinful nature” (MM 181).
    1. Since justification by faith in its truest sense reconciles alienated, sinful hearts to God and to His law of righteousness, it will cleanse the heart and fulfill all righteousness (Rom. 13:10).
      1. This experience will require an understanding of a higher motivation than egocentric grasping for reward, or seeking an escape from hell, but a heart appreciation of the agape that led the Son of God to go as far as hell, to find us and save us.5 This experience of justification by faith will motivate every honest-hearted person in the world to consecrate his/her all to Christ, and fulfill Revelation 18:1-4.
      2. There can be no “great truths that have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost” that do not find their source in the atonement of the cross of Christ.
    1. She was enthusiastic even at Minneapolis:

Now Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary. And what is He doing? Making atonement for us, cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of the people. Then we must enter by faith into the sanctuary with Him, we must commence the work in the sanctuary of our souls. We are to cleanse ourselves from all defilement. … Come and humble your hearts in confession, and by faith grasp the arm of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. … What if you cannot understand about this matter? He says, “He that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins” (2 Peter 1:9) (MS. 8, 1888).

    1. Less than two years later she writes in the Review (1890) a series of articles about the relationship between the 1888 message and the cleansing of the sanctuary:

We are in the day of atonement, and we are to work in harmony with Christ’s work of cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of the people. Let no man who desires to be found with the wedding garment on, resist our Lord in his office work. As he is, so will his followers be in this world. We must now set before the people the work which by faith we see our great High-priest accomplishing in the heavenly sanctuary (January 21).

Christ is in the heavenly sanctuary, and he is there to make an atonement for the people. … He is cleansing the sanctuary from the sins of the people. What is our work?—It is our work to be in harmony with the work of Christ. By faith we are to work with him, to be in union with him. … A people is to be prepared for the great day of God (January 28).

The mediatorial work of Christ, the grand and holy mysteries of redemption [“great truths that have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost”], are not studied or comprehended by the people who claim to have light in advance of every other people on the face of the earth (February 4).

Christ is cleansing the temple in heaven from the sins of the people, and we must work in harmony with him upon the earth, cleansing the soul temple from its moral defilement (February 11).

The people have not entered into the holy place [most holy], where Jesus has gone to make an atonement for his children. We need the Holy Spirit in order to understand the truths for this time; but there is spiritual drought in the churches (February 25).

Light is flashing from the throne of God, and what is this for?—It is that a people may be prepared to stand in the day of God (March 4).

We have been hearing his voice more distinctly in the message that has been going for the last two years, declaring unto us the Father’s name. … We have only just begun to get a little glimmering of what faith is (March 11) .

You have been having light from heaven for the past year and a half, that the Lord would have you bring into your character and weave into your experience. …

Suppose that you blot out the testimony that has been going during these last two years proclaiming the righteousness of Christ, who can you point to as bringing out special light for the people? (March 18).

    1. Two opposing views of the 1888 history and message have been in discussion for nearly 50 years. In brief summary, they are:
      1. The message was only a re-emphasis of the teaching on justification by faith of the 16th century Reformers, and 19th century Evangelicals ; and it was (with some few exceptions) well accepted by Seventh-day Adventist church leadership.
      2. In the light of repeated EGW approval, the message was far more than a re-emphasis of Reformation or Evangelical “righteousness by faith”; it was “the beginning” of the loud cry, and of necessity, also of the latter rain; and it was “in a great measure” rejected by the “action” of official and responsible leadership of the church.6
    1. If (2) is correct, it was an understanding of justification by faith “parallel to and consistent with the unique Adventist doctrine of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.”
    2. Since 1950 the General Conference has issued or supported a number of documents and books (about 2000 pages) intended to refute (2) above, none of which recognizes the relationship of the 1888 message to the Day of Atonement:
      1. The December 4, 1951 document rejecting “1888 Re-examined” and enjoining silence upon its authors.
      2. The 1958 “Further Appraisal.”
      3. The 1959 “Our Answer.”
      4. Norval Frederick Pease, By Faith Alone (R&H, 1962).
      5. A. V. Olson, From Crisis to Victory 1888-1901 (R&H, 1966).
      6. L. E. Froom, Movement of Destiny (R&H, 1971).
      7. George Knight, From 1888 to Apostasy (R&H, 1987).
      8. George Knight, Angry Saints (R&H, 1989).
      9. George Knight, A User-Friendly Guide to the 1888 Message (R&H, 1998).
    1. One exception: Arnold Wallenkampf, What Every Adventist Should Know About 1888 (R&H, 1988), devotes one page to this relationship, recognizing that Jones and Waggoner taught it with Ellen White’s endorsement. Stating that “the personal response to the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary involved the cleansing of every believer’s soul temple,” Wallenkampf says she “called this understanding of justification by faith ‘the third angel’s message in verity’” (23).
    1. “Great truths … have lain unheeded and unseen since the day of Pentecost” (FCE 473; 1897).
    2. The outstanding truth at Pentecost: an ultimate conviction of ultimate sin: “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36, NKJV).
      1. But many of the more than “three thousand” who heard this convicting word were not present on that fateful Friday and had no part in the act.
      2. Nevertheless, “they were cut to the heart” (vs. 37). Their repentance was corporate, a realization that the sin of others was their sin.
      3. Justification by faith was “made evident” in consecration and devotion unprecedented previously, and perhaps unequalled since except perhaps in the Midnight Cry of 1844 (2:41-47).
      4. Ellen White saw “the beginning” of such devotion manifest in the lives of some Seventh-day Adventists who did accept the 1888 message before Battle Creek leadership discouraged them.7
    1. A similar corporate repentance for the sin of Calvary will be given to all willing to receive the gift (Zech. 12:10).
    2. The result:
      1. A heart-cleansing unprecedented for its effectiveness, “for sin and for uncleanness.”
      2. An explosion of evangelism and soul-winning also unprecedented.8
    1. This is accomplished by the implanting of agape “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:1-15).
    2. Only agape can transcend the egocentric motivation of fear of being lost or hope of reward in heaven (1 John 4:16-18).
    3. Agape transforms fear of judgment into appreciation of its vindication (vs. 17).
    4. Only agape is “the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10).
    5. Prophets and apostles looked forward to this experience of coming “in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect [full-grown] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, that we henceforth be no more children, … but speaking the truth in agape, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:13-15).
    6. Only an understanding of justification by faith “with freshness and power” can inspire our laity themselves to communicate “the everlasting gospel” to friends and neighbors. “Few great men” will have part in this glorious closing work. The “power” is in the message itself.


  1. “To be just means to be righteous. Therefore since the just man is the one who does the law, it follows that to justify a man, that is, to make him just, is to make him a doer of the law. Being justified by faith, then, is simply being made a doer of the law by faith. … It will be seen, therefore, that there can be no higher state than that of justification [by faith]. It does everything that God can do for a man short of making him immortal, which is done only at the resurrection” (Waggoner, Signs of the Times, May 1, 1893). It would be unfair to characterize this as a belittling of sanctification. It is in harmony with the import of Ellen White’s idea: “Justification means the saving of a soul from perdition, that he may obtain sanctification, and through sanctification, the life of heaven. Justification means that the conscience, purged from dead works, is placed where it can receive the blessings of sanctification” (MS 113, 1902). In this light, sanctification is extended justification by faith.
  2. “Beginning with the first gospel promise, and coming down through the patriarchal and Jewish ages, and even to the present time, there has been a gradual unfolding of the purposes of God in the plan of redemption” (PP 373).
  3. Ellen White’s clear understanding of the 1888 justification by faith: ‘This message … the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world … presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in
    obedience to all the commandments of God. … It is the third angel’s message. … The uplifted Saviour
    is to appear in His efficacious work as the Lamb slain. … The message of the gospel of His grace … The efficacy of the blood of Christ was to be presented to the people with freshness and power, that their faith might lay hold upon its merit” (TM 91, 92).
  4. “God’s work is the same in all time, although there are different degrees of development and different manifestations of His power, to meet the wants of men in the different ages … Jesus, the world’s Redeemer, stands revealed” (PP 373). Man’s greatest and final “need” will be a preparation for translation, for which a “grace that abound[s] much more” is needed and will be supplied, the “beginning” of which was the 1888 message.
  5. “It is not the fear of punishment, or the hope of everlasting reward, that leads the disciples of Christ to follow Him. They behold the Saviour’s matchless love, revealed throughout His pilgrimage on earth, from the manger of Bethlehem to Calvary’s cross, and the sight of Him attracts, it softens and subdues the soul” (DA 480).
  6. While it is true that there is no “official record” of a negative vote at Minneapolis, the fact is that a vote was taken and the Bulletin of 1893 speaks of it (183, 244, 265). Ellen White also confirms it (MS. 24, 1888, 3SM 294-302. Her MS 15, 1888 is largely concerned with efforts to ram through such a vote, which she opposed, and forbade to be recorded). “By the action of our own brethren, [the message] has been in a great degree kept away from the world” (1SM 235).
  7. Some relevant statements: Review and Herald, March 5, July 23, September 3, 10,1889; March 18, May 27, 1890.
  8. “People will write their friends in other cities and say, ‘Let’s go to Jerusalem [the remnant church?] to ask the Lord to bless us, and be merciful to us. I’m going! Please come with me. Let’s go now!’ Yes, many people, even strong nations, will come to the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem to ask for his blessing and help. In those days ten men from ten different nations will clutch at the coat sleeves of one Jew and say, ‘Please be my friend, for I know that God is with you’” (Zech. 10:212-23, LB). ‘The angel who unites in the proclamation of the third angel’s message is to lighten the whole earth with his glory. A work of world-wide extent and unwonted power is here foretold. The advent movement of 1840-44 was a glorious manifestation of the power of God … but these are to be exceeded by the mighty movement under the last warning of the third angel. The work will be similar to the day of Pentecost. … The great work of the gospel [justification by faith] is not to close with less manifestation of the power of God than marked its opening. … Servants of God, with their faces lighted up and shining with holy consecration, will hasten from place to place to proclaim the message from heaven. By thousands of voices all over the earth, the warning will be given. … Notwithstanding the agencies combined against the truth, a large number take their stand upon the Lord’s side” (GC 611, 612).
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