BY LOUIS T. TALBOT, CHANCELLOR
BIBLE INSTITUTE OF LOS ANGELES
Reprinted from The Kings Business, April, 1957
Last month I stated my conviction that Seventh-day Adventism never has been, and is not at present, evangelical because of eight unscriptural teachings, and more, that form a part of their creed, namely:
- that the Lord Jesus Christ in His incarnation assumed the sinful, fallen nature of man,
- that the atonement was not completed on the cross
- that Christ is at present conducting an “investigative judgment” of the records of all who have taken upon themselves the name of Christ, upon which investigation their immortality is conditioned,
- that the soul of the believer does not go immediately into the presence of Christ at death but “sleeps” in the grave until the resurrection,
- that souls who reject Christ actually do not “perish”, that is, endure everlasting punishment but are annihilated eventually,
- that Satan as “the scapegoat” has some part in the bearing away of our sins,
- that we are not saved by grace alone apart from works of any kind,
- that the seventh-day Jewish Sabbath is God’s test and seal.
I declared also that since I believe none of these doctrines have any scriptural support, in all conscience and consistency I cannot extend “the hand of fellowship” to those who propagate them. Fellowship involves prayer, financial support, a common purpose, and united labors.
Furthermore, I expressed my judgment that those Christian editors who are espousing the cause of Seventh-day Adventism, while at the same time claiming not to be in agreement with them on these and other issues, are bringing confusion and harm to the church of Christ, and great unhappiness and eventual disillusionment to themselves. One cannot correct false doctrine by consorting with those who teach it. While I have compassion for those untaught individuals entangled in these systems and pray sincerely for their deliverance, I strongly oppose the teaching of these doctrines and have done so for more than 25 years in a public “cult ministry” which God has blessed.
In April we considered the first of these doctrines of Seventh-day Adventism, the one having to do with the nature of Christ, and quoted three unimpeachable “official” Adventist sources to prove that this has been their teaching for more than 50 years. If the sect intends to abandon this false view in regard to the humanity of our Savior, it will be obliged to state unequivocally and officially that Mrs. White, L. A Wilcox, and the authors of Bible Readings for the Home Circle, at least as late as 1944, and others, were utterly mistaken and their views are repudiated.
A subtle rewording will not do, as in the case of a later edition of the book above referred to, for this older publication, a devotional book, is still today in use in thousands of Adventist homes.
It is claimed that certain heretical teachings of Seventh-day Adventism somehow mysteriously “got into print”; that they were merely positions advocated by “individual authors” of a “lunatic fringe” of the denomination. The only Adventist literature that has ever come into my hands, and I have quite an extensive library of their writings supplied to some extent by Adventists and those who have renounced Adventism, has been published by official Seventh-day Adventist publishing houses.
Adventist Reaction to Eternity Articles
Last month I made reference to official Adventist reaction to the Eternity articles as expressed by president Figuhr in the Adventist publication, Review and Herald, for December 13, 1956. Some of his statements are quite significant. After much flattery for the Eternity editors, Mr. Figuhr writes: “The great point of misunderstanding has been in the matter of Seventh-day Adventists’ belief regarding Christ—His nature, the completeness of His atoning sacrifice, and His mission, as our sole hope of salvation. We have been charged with being legalists, who believe in salvation by our works, either entirely or in part. This has been a point of very serious misunderstanding.”
Any misunderstanding—and I do not acknowledge there has been any—has come from the simple process of our reading what the Adventist leaders themselves have written over the years. It is disagreement, not misunderstanding!
I continue to quote from President Figuhr: “On this fundamental issue, it has been so reassuring to turn to the writings of Sister White, where Christ, His nature, His mission, and the completeness of His atonement are so clearly and unquestionably set forth.”
Is not this rather startling in view of the claim of contemplated changes in Adventist doctrine? For in Mrs. White’s writings one finds all of the heresies I have listed, and more! In spite of all the fanfare about an alteration of creed, we are right back where we started from.
The Adventist stand has not differed from that expressed in the Adventist Review and Herald Supplement back in 1883: “our position on the Testimonies [Mrs. White’s writings] is like the keystone to the arch. Take that out, and there is no logical stopping-place till all the special truths of the message are gone. Nothing is surer than this, that the message and the visions [of Mrs. White] belong together, and stand or fall together.”
According to this declaration and that of Mr. Figuhr, we need consult no other books than Mrs. White’s for Seventh-day Adventist doctrine. It is as I have believed always, that Mrs. White is Seventh-day Adventism and ever shall be. So this sect is no nearer to being evangelical than it has been from the beginning.
The views of Mrs. White regarding the nature and redemptive work of Christ may be reassuring to an Adventist, but they are not to one who relies upon the revelation of the Word of God and not upon man-made theories. Of all the fables and vagaries ever devised by man, this sanctuary, scapegoat, investigative-judgment heresy is one of the worst. It ranks with the Roman Catholic view of purgatory and all such extra-scriptural ideas.
Even the editor of Eternity himself called it “the most colossal face-saving phenomenon of all time!”
Because it is so inextricably woven into the teaching of the atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it cannot be dismissed as an eccentricity of a strange religious group but must be considered seriously under the light of God’s Holy Word by which test it is proved to be completely false.
Where is the proposed change?
Before discussing this teaching in detail, I would like you to note a few more sentences selected from Mr. Figuhr’s article in Review and Herald:
“With many of our [Adventist] distinct points of faith, such as the Sabbath and the state of the dead, they [Eternity editors] continue to differ, although they recognize that not a few leading Christians have held our view on these subjects as plainly taught in the Scriptures. The sanctuary, investigative judgment, health reform, are also matters of sharp disagreement. While they do not accept Sister White as the Lord’s messenger to this people as we do, they recognize her to be a true and sincere Christian ” (italics mine).
There is not the slightest hint here that the Adventists have any intention of altering their views on anything. To this date, I have not seen any published statement by the Adventists that included a renunciation of any heresy they have ever taught. Of course, they will have to “spell it out,” stating in effect that “whereas we once taught such-and-such, we now renounce it utterly,” giving titles of books, names of authors, chapters and verses, if faith is to be kept with the public. I do not consider it unreasonable to demand such evidence. That would be much more effective than abusing us and accusing us of publishing articles “based upon publications the Adventists have officially repudiated.”
Mr. Figuhr claims their views are based upon Scripture, and with this we categorically disagree. We will examine their teachings under the lens of Holy Writ, as time and space permit, in this series of articles. Before leaving Mr. Figuhr’s article, note this comment: “Naturally, what is written in these journals is not always worded as we would wish; nor is the emphasis placed where we would like to see it placed [italics mine]. This is to be expected. No non-Adventist can even adequately and satisfactorily tell what the Seventh-day Adventists believe.”
It is too bad the Eternity editors were not informed of this in advance for it would have saved many “man hours.” I agree to this extent: let the cults speak for themselves in their own words. What we do not need is a lot of philosophizing on the part of others as to what these systems teach. Their own official writings—the great mass of literature circulated by them over the years—contain the sum and substance of their creeds.
Note what Mr. Figuhr says about placing the emphasis, for this is important in Adventism. There is some truth in Adventism but not all the truth, and the emphasis is placed upon the views which deviate from the truth. They believe that they as the “remnant church” have a special message which includes the Sabbath, the sanctuary, and their peculiar teaching in regard to the second coming of Christ. Let us watch for these things as we look at their writing.
The Sanctuary Heresy
It is generally known that the sanctuary heresy grew out of what the Adventists call “the Great Disappointment,” their great blunder in accepting the prediction of William Miller that Christ would return October 22, 1844. When the Lord did not appear according to their schedule, some of the Adventists such as Miller himself, Himes, Fitch and others admitted they were mistaken. But Elders White, Bates, Holt, and still others, including the 17-year-old Ellen Harmon who later became Mrs. James White, refused to concede that they were wrong. To cover this mistake, Owen R. L. Crosier in 1846 deliberately invented the sanctuary teaching and subsequently Ellen White corroborated it with one of her “visions”. They claimed the date was right—but something else than that predicted had happened!
In a letter to Eli Curtis from Topsham, Maine, dated April 21, 1847, Ellen White wrote: “I believe the Sanctuary, to be cleansed at the end of 2300 days, is the New Jerusalem Temple, of which Christ is the minister. The Lord showed me in vision, more than one year ago, that Brother Crosier had the true light on the cleansing of the sanctuary, etc.; and that it was His will that Brother Crosier should write out the view which he gave us in the Day Star Extra, Feb. 7, 1846. I feel fully authorized by the Lord to recommend that Extra to every saint” (A Word to the Little Flock, pp. 11, 12). In her vision Mrs. White professes to have witnessed this strange sight: “I have seen that the 1843 chart [upon which the calculations were based] was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered, that the figures were as the Lord directed them; that his hand was over, and hid a mistake in some of the figures” (Early Writings, 1882 Ed p. 64).
Thus the Lord Himself was made responsible for their failure to understand and obey His Word which had plainly stated: “but of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32).
William Miller did not follow along with the sanctuary theory, and Mrs. White writes of him: “At length William Miller raised his voice against the light from heaven. He failed in not receiving the message [that is, the sanctuary theory] which would have fully explained his disappointment and cast a light and glory on the past….God suffered him to fall under the power of Satan, the dominion of death, and hid him in the grave from those who were constantly drawing him from the truth. Moses erred as he was about to enter the Promised Land. So also, I saw that William Miller erred as he was soon to enter the heavenly Canaan” (pp. 257, 258, Early Writings, 1945 ed.).
Briefly, the sanctuary heresy is this: the Jewish tabernacle with its two compartments, the holy place and the holy of holies, has its counterpart in heaven; and instead of coming to the earth on October 22, 1844, as Miller had foretold, Christ is represented as making His way from this heavenly “holy place” into the heavenly “holy of holies,” there to “cleanse the sanctuary” by means of “an investigative judgment”—and anti-typical atonement.
Lessons 28 and 29 of the current Bible correspondence course called “Faith for Today”, which is mailed out by the Seventh-day Adventists without their identification, describes this theory exactly as Mrs. White taught it in her book, The Great Controversy.
I note that Christ is called Michael (p. 2, Lesson 28); and this explanation appears on page 4 of the same lesson: “Did anything happen in 1844 to convince us of the truthfulness of this prophecy? There surely did. Just prior to that time there was a great religious awakening and ministers of every faith became intensely interested in the prophecies of Daniel. They were all united in one conclusion, that some great event was to happen in the year 1844. The world was stirred with their message, and multitudes mistakenly believed that the world would end in the year A.D. 1844. The world did not end as they had predicted, but instead Jesus began the work of cleansing sin from the heavenly records of forgiven sinners. Those whose names are retained in the book of life will be citizens of the kingdom of heaven.”
Since there is nothing here to indicate that it was this very first group of Adventists who began this, and since these lessons are not marked as Seventh-day Adventist literature, untaught people are being indoctrinated with these teachings without being aware of what they are getting into.
The Adventists loudly proclaim that they believe in a completed, finished atonement. Here is a refutation of this from Lesson 28, page 3 of this same Adventist correspondence course: “It was on the cross that Jesus paid the price of the covenant for our return to God. Then He entered heaven to complete our atonement with God. It is at the Father’s throne that He makes an end of atonement. This cannot be completed until the last repentant sinner has been justified by the grace and mercy of God through acceptance of Christ as his personal Savior” (italics are mine).
Uriah Smith, a prominent Adventist of the past, stated in his book, Looking Unto Jesus: “Christ did not make the atonement when He shed His blood upon the cross” (p. 237). A former president of the Adventists’ General Conference, C. H. Watson, wrote in The Atoning Work of Christ: “It is impossible to conclude that a complete work of atoning for sin was wrought upon the cross….the work of the atonement must continue as long as probationary time shall last” (pp. 95, 113).
I shall reproduce one of Mrs. White’s visions in which the sanctuary is featured at the close of this article. Meantime here are a few sentences from her book, The Great Controversy: “important truths concerning the atonement are taught by the typical service. A substitute was accepted in the sinner’s stead; but the sin was not canceled by the blood of the victim. A means was thus provided by which it was transferred to the sanctuary. By the offering of blood the sinner acknowledged the authority of the law, confessed his guilt in transgression, and expressed his desire for pardon through faith in a Redeemer to come; but he was not yet entirely released from the condemnation of the law” (p. 420).
Then she makes the application to Christ and the Christian: “And as the typical cleansing of the earthly was accomplished by the removal of the sins by which it had been polluted, so the actual cleansing of the heavenly is to be accomplished by removal, or blotting out, of the sins which are there recorded. But before this can be accomplished, there must be an examination of the books to determine who through repentance of sin and faith in Christ are entitled to the benefits of His atonement” (pp. 421, 422).
In an excellent tract entitled, “Seventh-day Adventists and Atonement” published by my good friends, Loizeaux Brothers [New York, New York], appears this comment on these words of Mrs. White: “‘A substitute was accepted in the sinner’s stead, but the sin was not canceled by the blood of the victim,’ says Mrs. White. And this in the face of Leviticus 17:11: ‘It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.’ ‘Without shedding of blood is no remission’ (Heb. 9:22), and “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). ‘A means was thus provided by which it was transferred to the sanctuary,’ we are told. Thus is the precious blood of Christ only a means of carrying sins into the holy of holies—the very presence of God, and not making atonement for them….If this be true, Paul (sic) was quite mistaken when he wrote to the Hebrews about the Lord as High Priest who by His own blood entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us ‘now to appear in the presence of God for us’ (Heb. 9:24).”
My friends, this is not evangelical truth. No matter how much the Adventists protest that they teach the gospel, as long as this heresy constitutes a part of their doctrine, there is no possibility of fellowship with them in the work of Christ.
“The investigative judgment” is the Adventist-coined term used to describe the work now supposedly being performed by the Lord Jesus Christ in this second compartment of the “heavenly sanctuary,” the holy of holies. Indeed, according to this teaching, He has been engaged in this task since October 22, 1844! Of course, it is all fancy without a verse of Scripture to support its absurdities.
I will let one of the best-known Adventist writers explain it in his own words from his book, Drama of the Ages which was recently awarded as a book-of-the-month premium to students of the Voice of Prophecy Adventist correspondence course. I refer to W. H. Branson, a past president of the sect, who was selected by the Adventists to answer Mr. D. M. Canright, a former Adventist, who had renounced the cult, had exposed their errors, and had written some of the best exposes obtainable in such books as Seventh-day Adventism Renounced and Life of Mrs. E. G. White, etc. No other writer has done so much to help others find the way out of this system, with the exception of Rev. E. B. Jones of the present day whose books are masterful analyses of the system. He, too, was delivered after years of service with the Adventists and like Mr. Canright sees “from the inside” the machinations of the top men and comprehends the Adventist philosophy and strategy. I recommend his books to our readers.
Mr. Branson wrote In Defense of the Faith presumably to refute Mr. Canright and so obviously he must be held in the highest esteem by this denomination. He describes the investigative judgment in chapters 21 and 24 of Drama of the Ages. I can give but a small portion of it. He declares on page 276: “Whenever a sinner accepts the sacrifice of Christ as the propitiation for his sins, and in contrition and penitence he seeks God for forgiveness through the merits of Christ’s shed blood, his sins are removed from him to the sanctuary in heaven.”
Did you imagine that was what happened to your sins when you came to Christ for salvation? I believe that “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us”; and that His Word is true when He says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins”; and I rejoice in the knowledge that “…thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Ps. 103:12; Isa. 43:25; Micah 7:19). When God forgives, He forgets, and by Him we “are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).
The Adventists use the term “justification,” but apparently they do not comprehend it. While we are not discussing the law-keeping heresy of the Adventists in this article but will do so next month, God willing, I would like to mention in passing that this author Mr. Branson, says this with respect to justification: “A man who has never kept the law can be forgiven and justified before God, but he cannot remain justified without keeping it” (p. 139). The Adventist does not acknowledge that by His blood Christ “purged our consciences” and “purged our sins” on the cross.
I continue to quote: “There [in this imaginary sanctuary in heaven] Christ ministers in the sinner’s behalf. He spreads His nail-scarred hands before the Father and pleads that because He Himself paid the penalty, the sinner should go free. To this the Father agrees, and Christ lifts the burden of guilt from the sinner and substitutes His own righteousness instead” (p. 276).
Now this sounds as if the matter of sin were settled, does it not? But immediately it is made clear that the sins are still there! To continue: “The sins are borne into the sanctuary, of which Christ is the priestly minister; and although they are forgiven, the record of them must remain until they are blotted out in the time of the judgment” (p. 276). But John the Baptist declared of Christ: “…Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Seventh-day Adventism says those sins are in heaven in the very presence of God. Hear what Branson writes: “Those, therefore, who have through the years accepted Christ’s death as a sacrifice for their sins, and who have in penitence turned from them, have by those acts been sending their sins into the heavenly sanctuary for judgment” (p. 277). He goes on to explain that this procedure has only to do with those who have accepted Christ, the sinners having no part in this priestly ministry of Christ’s. Yet it is clear that the Christian can have no assurance of sins forgiven either.
Now we come to the heart of this investigative-judgment teaching: “When sins are confessed and forgiven are they entirely removed from the sinner? Yes, so far as the individual is concerned. But this does not mean that the sins are at the time finally disposed of. Christ removes them from the records in the book of heaven, but they are then charged against Him. He takes the responsibility for the sins and imputes His righteousness to the sinner. The record of sins still remains, only now they stand no longer charged to the one who committed them but to Christ, his substitute. He has become the sin-bearer (Numbers 18:1); but the record of sin, now transferred to the sanctuary, must remain until the judgment.
“Again it may be asked: ‘Why wait until the judgment to blot out and make an end of confessed sins? Why should they not be immediately disposed of?’ We answer, ‘There must first be an investigation of the records'” (p. 277).
You see, this is completely arbitrary. This is the Adventists’ decision. One may not know until Christ comes whether he is saved or not and consequently cannot enjoy the assurance of salvation or the joy or freedom of it.
This is plainly stated in the next sentences: “let us illustrate: Take an individual who accepts Christ as his Savior and humbly confesses his sins to God. By these acts and by His acceptance his sins are transferred to the sanctuary. But they cannot at that time be blotted out. The final blotting out must wait until the end of his life or until probation closes for him. Why? Because he may not continue in the faith….Thus, before the Lord can blot out the sins from the record books, a very careful examination has to be made to see whether those who accepted Christ are still worthy” (p. 278).
If you study Seventh-day Adventism carefully, you will find at the heart of all their doctrines an innate legalism. It is part and parcel of their system. You simply cannot escape it if you go beneath the surface.
This sanctuary and investigative-judgment teaching robs the Christian of his eternal security. Salvation is dependent upon something outside of Christ’s redemptive work—whether it be faithfulness, law-keeping, worthiness! The Eternity editors claim this is just the same as the Arminianism of such holiness groups as Free Methodist, Mennonite, Nazarene, etc.
I disagree utterly.
While I believe our friends are wrong who teach it is possible to “fall from grace,” that is cease to trust in Christ as one’s only Savior after being born again, yet I have never heard any such unbiblical views from them as this: that our sins are still recorded on the books of heaven against us and that Christ has been continuing a work of atonement since He ascended.
All evangelical groups believe that when one comes to Christ for salvation and trusts in His vicarious work on the cross on his behalf, that then and there he is forgiven and justified. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12, 13). Adventism is a system of probation. One’s sins can be held over his head as a threat even after he has believed.
How blessed to come back to such verses as these: “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:11,12).
The fact of the matter is that no such “investigation” as the Adventists have conceived even went on in the Jewish tabernacle. The sinner brought a lamb, identified himself with it by placing his hand upon its head; the priest slew the sacrifice and shed its blood for the sinning Israelite. By faith the believing Israelite looked forward to the true Lamb of God who would in the future appear to die for sinners. Of course, the tabernacle worship was imperfect. It was just a type of the true—shadow of the substance. But Christ’s redemptive work was perfect and complete: “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering often-times the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:11, 12).
There was no chair in the Jewish tabernacle. The priest never sat down because his work was never finished. Our Lord Jesus Christ offers a great contrast to this, for when He had finished His work on the cross, He ascended to the Father and sat down. He did not concern Himself with making His way into an imaginary “sanctuary”.
There is no record of His ever again taking up the sins for which He once laid down His life. All of His redemptive work was done on earth. He hung upon the cross for three hours in agony and blood for your sins and mine, and when He died He cried, “It is finished!” And it was! His vicarious sufferings were over. He could rest in His finished work. And so may we! The Scripture tells us, “he ever liveth to make intercession for us,” and that means prayer on our behalf as He prayed for Peter, saying, “…Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…” (Luke 22:31). We can sing with all our hearts, “Love’s redeeming work is done, Fought the fight, the battle won, Alleluia!”
The drama of redemption was performed on this earth and no part of it has been transferred to heaven to God’s throne. Christ is praying for His own and awaiting the day when He shall return for us. He is not keeping books, looking after files of the sins of Christians who can only remain His children if they are worthy. If He should “mark iniquity, who would stand?” It is done. Ours is not a “do-it-yourself” religion.
Listen to Mr. Branson again: “In addition to the books containing the names of the righteous, God also has books of record, that are kept by the unerring hands of angels. In these books are exact transcripts, faithful records, of each life….From these record books the righteous will be judged. By what is written in these books the Lord will determine who have remained steadfast in their faith in Christ and in following Him. Those who have been ‘faithful unto death’ will be given a ‘crown of life.’ Their names will be retained in the book of life and they will be sealed for heaven” (pp. 280, 281).
Here is where the scapegoat enters the picture. It seems incredible that the entire Seventh-day Adventist teaching with regard to Satan as the scapegoat is based upon a marginal reading of Leviticus 16:8 where the word scapegoat is identified as “Heb. Azazel.” Although the etymology of the word is not absolutely certain, the Adventists arbitrarily decided that it referred to Satan, and so forthwith, Satan is the scapegoat sin-bearer! With their imagination, the Adventists need very little upon which to build a system of doctrine. When you realize how the sanctuary idea snowballed into this intricate doctrinal system involving the very atonement of Christ, you can readily see that there is something more than mere human thinking back of the entire movement.
Dr. A. C. Gaebelein, a Hebrew scholar and Bible teacher of note of the last century, emphatically declared azazel had no reference whatever to Satan but meant instead, dismissal, to depart. Dr. Gaebelein wrote: “it is translated in the Septuagint with eis teen apopompee, which means to let him go for the dismissal. Both goats are for sin-offering. The first goat represents Christ dying for the sins of His people. The second goat, laden with those sins which were atoned for by the blood of the first goat, represents the blessed effect of the work of Christ, that the sins of the people are forever out of sight. It is in blessed harmony with the two birds used in connection with the cleansing of the leper.” But Adventists do not believe our sins are “out of sight.”
Branson has this to say of the scapegoat: “Christ the High Priest, will lay aside His priestly garments, will garb Himself in kingly attire, and will come forth from the heavenly sanctuary bearing the sins of His redeemed people. He will roll them back upon the head of Satan, the great instigator of all evil, who is primarily responsible for all transgression the blood of Christ has covered. Just as the scapegoat was led away from the camp of Israel…so Satan will be cast into the ‘bottomless pit’…where he will have to suffer sin’s utmost penalty before he finally perishes in the flames. It is in this manner that the sanctuary will be cleansed, and Christ our High Priest will make an end of sin” (p. 285).
So our blessed Lord is not only represented by the Adventists as having to continue dealing with the sins for which He died on the cross, but He is shown as negotiating with His archenemy Satan about our sins and requiring him finally to bear the penalty for the same guilt for which He paid the price. My friends, this is not the gospel! It is not even remotely connected with it.
Can the Adventists continue to claim that they teach truly concerning the vicarious work of Christ as the only sin-bearer?
The sanctuary, investigative-judgment and scapegoat teaching robs Christ of His glory. In His high priestly prayer before He went to the cross as He anticipated His death on Calvary as the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world, He said to His Father: “…I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory that I had with thee before the world was” (John 17:4 5). Because He had so limited Himself voluntarily in the incarnation, His special glory as the glorified Son of Man was in a sense dependent upon His completing the redemptive work He had come to accomplish, as these verses seem to imply. He did not fail! He could not fail!
“Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon the throne!”
The Messages of Three Angels
In her book, Early Writings, 1945 edition (often repaged, reprinted and revised), Mrs. White describes the various visions, messages and views of the Adventists with regard to the advent of the Lord as “the first angel’s message”, “the second angel’s message”, and “the third angel’s message”.
We are concerned with the last named as it deals with the sanctuary but in passing will quote a few sentences from the beginning of the other two. The “first angel’s message” was William Miller’s prediction that Christ would return in 1844. On page 232 Mrs. White declares: “I saw that God was in the proclamation of the time in 1843. It was His design to arouse the people and bring them to a testing point where they should decide for or against the truth. Ministers were convinced of the correctness of the positions taken on the prophetic periods, and some renounced their pride, and left their salaries and their churches to go forth from place to place to give the message. But as the message from heaven could find a place in but few of the professed ministers of Christ, the work was laid upon many who were not preachers. Some left their fields to sound the message, while others were called from their shops and their merchandise. And even some professional men were compelled to leave their professions to engage in the unpopular work of giving the first angel’s message.” Note that it is claimed that this false prediction was from heaven although William Miller himself afterwards acknowledged he was mistaken. I have quoted the passage where Mrs. White states he was judged by God for this and died.
The “second angel’s message” begins on page 237 with these words: “As the churches refused to receive the first angel’s message, they rejected the light from heaven and fell from the favor of God. They trusted to their own strength, and by opposing the first message placed themselves where they could not see the light of the first angel’s message. But the beloved of God who were oppressed accepted the message, ‘Babylon is fallen’ and left the churches.” As we proceed with these articles, I will quote from recent Adventist literature to prove that the sect still believes itself to be the remnant church. There has been no change in that view from the beginning.
Now as you read “the third angel’s message” keep two things in mind: what Mrs. White said of herself and what Eternity has declared concerning her. In Volume V of her Testimonies For The Church Mrs. White wrote: “In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouths of the prophets and apostles. In these days He speaks to them by the testimonies of His Spirit….Let the testimonies be judged by their fruits. What is the spirit of their teaching? What has been the result of their influence?…God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work bears the stamp of God, or the stamp of the enemy. The testimonies are of the Spirit of God or of the devil….If the testimonies speak not according to the Word of God, reject them. Christ and Belial cannot be united” (pp. 661, 671, 691).
So if subsequently her writings be found contrary to the Word of God, what are we to conclude? She herself sets the standard of judgment. Also bear in mind that Eternity in the October 1956 issue stated: “She [Mrs. White] has never written anything that is seriously contrary to the simple, plain declarations of the gospel….No one can fairly challenge her writings on the basis of their conformity to the basic principles of the gospel, for conform they most certainly do!” (pp. 38, 39). I contend that they most certainly do not conform…but the only way to find out is to expose these teachings to Bible light.
It was very interesting to me to read the letter from Missionary Herbert S Bird of the American Evangelical Mission in Eritrea, Ethiopia, in the March 1957 Eternity. He has reached the same conclusions that we (and all missionaries I have ever met who have had dealings with Adventists on the mission field) have. One of our own graduates on furlough was in the office a month or so ago and told us that there had been no change in the “sheep stealing” tactics on his field. Mr. Bird rightly says: “We most vigorously protest their [Adventists’] right to enter and seek to divide our churches today, and ask us for the right hand of fellowship tomorrow. When they do, they must forgive us if we find their longing for fellowship with evangelicals to have an analogy in the longing of the Russians to ‘cooperate’ with the nations of the West.” I should like to have seen all of Mr. Bird’s letter but appreciate fully that for brevity’s sake the ellipsis had to be used.
Now to return to Mrs White’s vision—the third angel’s message, which is only a sample of the kind of experiences she underwent and delivered in writing to the remnant church. This book, Early Writings, may be purchased at Adventist bookstores or borrowed from a public library.
The Third Angel’s Message
I quote sections from pages 254 to 258 as I have not space for the entire chapter: “As the ministration of Jesus closed in the holy place, and He passed into the holiest, and stood before the ark containing the law of God, He sent another mighty angel with a third message to the world. A parchment was placed in the angel’s hand, and as he descended to the earth in power and majesty, he proclaimed a fearful warning, with the most terrible threatening ever borne to man. This message was designed to put the children of God upon their guard, by showing them the hour of temptation and anguish that was before them. Said the angel, ‘They will be brought into close combat with the beast and his image. Their only hope of eternal life is to remain steadfast. Although their lives are at stake, they must hold fast the truth.’ The third angel closes his message thus: ‘Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.’ As he repeated these words, he pointed to the heavenly sanctuary. The minds of all who embrace this message are directed to the most holy place, where Jesus stands before the ark, making His final intercession for all those for whom mercy still lingers and for those who have ignorantly broken the law of God. This atonement is made for the righteous dead as well as for the righteous living [italics mine]. It includes all who died trusting in Christ, but who, not having received the light upon God’s commandments, had sinned ignorantly in transgressing its precepts. After Jesus opened the door of the most holy, the light of the Sabbath was seen, and the people of God were tested, as the children of Israel were tested anciently, to see if they would keep God’s law. I saw the third angel pointing upward, showing the disappointed ones the way to the holiest of the heavenly sanctuary….It was represented to me that the remnant followed Jesus into the most holy place and beheld the ark and the mercy seat, and were captivated with their glory. Jesus then raised the cover of the ark, and lo! the tables of stone, with the ten commandments written upon them. They trace down the lively oracles, but start back with trembling when they see the fourth commandment [italics mine] among the ten holy precepts with a brighter light shining upon it than upon the other nine, and a halo of glory all around it. They find nothing there informing them that the Sabbath has been abolished, or changed to the first day of the week….I saw the incense in the censer smoke as Jesus offered their confessions and prayers to His Father…Many who embraced the third message had not had an experience in the two former messages. Satan understood this, and his evil eye was upon them to overthrow them: but the third angel was pointing them to the most holy place, and those who had experience in the past messages were pointing them the way to the heavenly sanctuary….At length William Miller raised his voice against the light from heaven….If William Miller could have seen the light of the third message, many things which looked dark and mysterious to him would have been explained.”
Next month, God willing, we will deal with the soul sleep, annihilation and the law-keeping heresies of the Seventh-day Adventists. †
This is the end of the second installment in a series of three articles on Adventism by Louis Talbot. This article is reprinted with permission from The King’s Business, vol. 48, No. 4, May, 1957, pp. 23–30.