This is a response to agaricus who is a professed Seventh -Day Adventist (SDA) over at Isaiah's blog on 'Church-ianity'. I have queried her regarding whether she believes in two of SDA's distictive beliefs; namely the doctrine of 'Investigative Judgment' and the 'Heavenly Sacntuary', and to that she replied in the affirmative. I then asked various question regarding the compatibility of such beliefs to biblical Christianity, and this is her response:
Daniel, You have raised several interesting points in your queries above. From what I can understand, there are essentially three questions:
1) The Investigative Judgment and Salvation by Grace; 2) The Heavenly Sanctuary and Christ’s perfect atonement; and 3) Apostasy within the church.
Questions 1 and 2 are related, as the doctrines of the Investgative Judgment (”IJ”) and Heavenly Sanctuary (”HS”) are inseparable from each other. Before I get around to answering your question directly, I will first explain to you what these SDA doctrines are, and how they are derived.
IJ essentially is a judgment of all who have ever claimed Christ, to separate true believers from mere professers. The IJ takes place in respect of every believer who has lived, and who is currently living, in this world - up to the close of probation. It is seen as the fulfilment of Old Testament typology in the sanctuary service. In particular, it is seen as the antitype of the Day of Atonement which was one of the most significant observances of the old Hebrew calendar.
Under the old covenant, the high priest would enter the Most Holy Place with the blood of an animal slain as a sin offering, and offer that blood in addition to sweet incense, to atone for the sins of the nation committed during the antecedent year. The blood of a sin offering, as I think you will agree, was a type which met its antitypical fulfilment in the blood of Christ, sacrificed upon the cross. That Christ is our High Priest may be found in the writings of Paul in Heb 7:25 - 27, and Heb 8: 1 & 2. In Heb 9, Paul writes further, in the context of the Day of Atonement, and states that Christ has “by his own blood… entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” See also Heb 9:22 - 24. This parallels the function of the OT high priest, who entered the Most Holy Place both to make atonement for the sins of the nation (literal Israel), as well as to seek the pardon of God for all who believed. But there is something else. If you look at the observances enjoined upon the people for this day, it is plain that the people were called to repentance and confession of every sin. A period of fasting preceded the Day of Atonement in which the children of Israel were meant to confess all their sins before God, and ‘afflict their souls’ in preparation for the solemn event. Grave sentences were pronounced against those who would not come humbly before God.
In the same way, Christ our High Priest stands before the Father in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle above, the one “true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man,” His blood the offering for sin, interceding for the sinner before the Heavenly Father. Just as the Israelites were to look by faith to the remission of sins through the shedding of animal blood, typifying the coming Messiah, so Christians are to look by faith to forgiveness of their sins and justification through the blood and merits of Christ. The parallel carries further: inasmuch as the Day of Atonement solemnly called the nation of Israel to repentance, so is spiritual Israel called also to repentance - and to bearing the fruit of repentance - before God. There can be no forgiveness without repentance. Therefore the IJ is as much about separating the tares from the wheat, as it is about wiping the slate clean for those who have truly repented, and cast themselves entirely upon the grace of Christ in accepting His salvation.
The next question is, does the Bible teach that there is actually a phase of judgment such as the IJ? My answer would be ‘yes’. Matt 13:30 - 50 makes it clear that a separation of true believers from mere professors must take place at the end. Matt 22:10 - 14 is another parable with a similar import. Furthermore, before God hands down a sentence or executes judgment, He always investigates the facts of the case, even though He already knows everything. First He searches hearts, then He rewards. Examples would be the manner in which the Lord dealt with Adam and Eve, and His conversation with Cain after the latter pretty much clobbered Abel to death; also in how the Lord “came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded” at Babel, and again in pronouncing judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah: “The Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” Rev 2:23 is a reiteration of this pattern.
Taking a look at the parable of the wedding in Matt 22, notice how the king first took a look at the guests assembled, and cast out the one who did not come properly dressed, before the party started. Spiritual Israel is referred to very often in Scripture as being the ‘bride of Christ’. Hence the wedding parable can be interpreted as follows: Christ conducts an ‘inspection parade’ before He comes to take his Bride home (the wedding). Daniel 7 provides additional support for this view: see Dan 7:9 - 14. In those verses, it is clear that a judgment occurs before “dominion, and glory, and a kingdom” are given to Christ.
Putting all this together, what we have is a picture of Christ as Intercessor and High Priest, ministering for those who claim His name. Those who have trusted to His blood for their salvation, and have demonstrated a living faith in their works (faith without works is dead, remember), are adjudged righteous and their names entered into the Book of Life. Those who profess belief in Christ but who yet see no need of reform, or of obedience to the just claims of God’s law, fall short. The command of God is the same today as it was in the days of the children of Israel: obey, and live.
Coming directly now to your query: does the doctrine of an IJ conflict with that of salvation by faith alone? Well - that depends on what you mean by ‘faith alone’. If you mean a real, living, Spirit-filled faith that claims unceasingly the Perfect Sacrifce of Christ and throws itself entirely on His merits, and which evidences itself in loving submission and obedience to the laws of God and which bears the fruit of the Spirit, then my answer is that there is no conflict. God is simply ‘checking to see’ if your faith hath wrought with works, and if “by works was [your] faith made perfect.”
But if by ‘faith alone’ you are referring to a nminal belief that Christ is the Son of God, and that He died to take away my sin, but to which belief the life does not bear witness, then my answer is, “Thou believest… thou does well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”
I think the second part of your question, as regards the completeness of Christ’s atonement, may be answered in the following way. Heb 9:27 and 28 plainly state that there is a judgement. What is described therein as being ‘complete’ is the ACT of atonement, by way of sacrifice, in that Christ was “once offered to bear the sins of many”. It does not necessarily follow therefrom that the other aspect of atonement, viz. the high priestly aspect as alluded to repeatedly by Paul in his writings, is already complete or that such does not exist.
Now to your question regarding the SDA view of apostasy within the church.
Let me state for the record that I do not, and have not, ever looked down my nose at any non-SDA Christian as being an ‘apostate’. Apostasy occurs when you know something to be the truth, when you know that God demands XYZ of you, and you wilfully close your eyes to the light and wilfully continue ‘as you were’, thus denying the truth and grieving the Holy Spirit of God. That is Apostasy. You can be a Catholic, and be a perfectly sound Christian - as long as you are living up to all the light that you have. Similarly, you can be a Protestant - an Adventist even! - and a complete apostate because lip service, not heart service, is all that you’re willing to pay to God.
The Adventist view of apostasy in the church is simple. Any church that claims the Bible as the foundation of all its precept and doctrine, and yet which fails to teach, uphold, preach, and declare the Law of God as immutable, holy, just, and a transcript of His perfect character, and to exhort its members to do the same, and which fails to trust in the blood and merits of Christ as our only Surety, Mediator, Intercessor and Saviour; and which allows the teachings of men and tradition to supersede that which God has delivered in Holy Writ, or which teaches that grace and salvation are obtainable by works or purchase, or that there is any other way to the Father than through Christ, is an Apostate church.
In this light, looking at the 10 commandment law of God, and particularly at the Fourth commandment which enjoins upon Mankind the keeping of God’s Sabbath holy, if a church were to teach that the Sabbath has been ’set aside’, superseded by another day of the week, unnecessary of observance, irrelevant or that it has the authority to change God’s holy day of rest, or that it ‘does not matter which day you keep, as long as you keep one out of 7′, then that church has apostasized from the truth. Just as there can be no other foundation than that which God has laid for the church in Christ Jesus, and just as the Scriptures and all they contain are to be the sole rule of faith and practice, the Law of God is to be the sole standard by which the actions of man are judged. God has only one Law, and that Law is unchanging.
Let me put it this way: if you were to come across a church that taught that the commandment against graven images was a thing of the past, something under the ‘old dispensation’, wouldn’t that teaching strike you as apostate? Or if there was a church which taught that, say, honouring one’s parents was simply unnecessary, or that the need to do so had been overruled by the church, wouldn’t you immediately decry that church as being in a state of apostasy?
As far as I know, no Protestant denomination actually teaches that Sunday is THE Sabbath, or that Sunday is THE day of worship mandated by Scripture, or that the church has the authority to change the Law of God. Historically, however, there have been many leaders of mainline Protestant denominations who acknowledge that there is not one shred of Scripture that points to a change having been made in the law of God as regards the Sabbath. These admit that the Sabbath is Saturday - and not Sunday. Yet the churches they led still keep to Sunday as opposed to Saturday, and the justification given is that this is due to the ‘long tradition of the church’. Sadly, obedience to tradition - however long established - is not a substitute for obedience to the Law of God.
Which brings me back to what I was saying in my earlier comment: if one is given light on the Sabbath issue and is convinced as to the necessity of the Sabbath, and its continued claims upon humanity, then one is obliged to heed the call and obey. A church may, through the rejection of what it knows to be the plain truth, apostasize, but that does not make all its members inherent apostates: we are not saved (or condemned) by virtue of which church we belong to. It is the faith of the individual in Christ and His atonement, and their living by whatever light they have been given, that matters. People are saved (and lost) individually, not corporately.
As to the matter of Sabbathkeeping in the greater context of salvation, Adventists believe that the last great conflict in which people will have to choose once and for all whom they will serve, will be between obedience to an institution set up by God (i.e. the Sabbath) and the keeping of the commandments of man (in the form of a universal Sunday law). Without going into the specifics, we believe that the testing truth for the last days will see people either casting their lot fully on the LOrd’s side - or not. Before that happens, the truth about the Sabbath will already have gone out fully to the world, so that it is without excuse. Serving the Lord requires a ten out of ten commitment - not nine out of ten.
First of all, I must congratulate agaricus for being consistent in her profession. She claims to be an SDA, and she can indeed articulate what she was taught to believe. Yet, this response is indeed worrisome.
It can be of course immediately seen that such an articulation of SDA doctrine is an evangelicalized version, for historical SDA doctrine is not indeed formulated in such a manner, as we shall see as we respond to agaricus now.
First of all, regarding 1) IJ and Justification by Faith Alone & 2) the Heavenly Sanctuary, agaricus said:
Those who have trusted to His blood for their salvation, and have demonstrated a living faith in their works (faith without works is dead, remember), are adjudged righteous and their names entered into the Book of Life. Those who profess belief in Christ but who yet see no need of reform, or of obedience to the just claims of God’s law, fall short. The command of God is the same today as it was in the days of the children of Israel: obey, and live.
This here demonstrates a confusion between faith and works. Is the contention here that faith must be demonstrated before a person can be saved? Is Salvation conditioned on a demonstration of faith? How about the dying thief on the Cross next to Jesus who believed in Him?
Also, to think that when the Bible in Mt. 13:30-50 teaches Investigative Judgment is wrong both exegetically and historically. Historically, that is NOT what is meant by the doctrine of Investigative Judgment. Reading up the history of SDA-ism, the doctrine of Investigative Judgment is linked to the fact that William Miller and Ellen White got it wrong when the date (in 1843) on which they 'prophesied' that Jesus would come back passed without the Second Coming actually occurring. Therefore, the doctrines of Investigative Judgment and the Heavenly Sanctuary were invented to explain away the failures of Miller's prediction. Investigative Judgment historically meant that at that date which Miller predicted, Jesus decided to come spiritually in 1843 to investigate the state of the Church in Judgment. And such a judgment was based upon the works of Christians, not upon faith at all.
Exegetically, that passage, and many others like it which you quoted, teaches us about God's Judgment at the Second Coming of Christ, and therefore is about whether a person truly believes in Christ or not. Yes, there is works mentioned, yet works are mentioned not as meritorious towards salvation, but as evidences of salvation, a Scriptural teaching taught in such passages such as Rom. 4:2-5.
From what has been said so far, you seem to be confused about faith and works; justification and sanctification. Again, we are not talking about living the Christian life here, but the issue is whether faith alone apart from any consideration of works saves. Your answer seems to be no, for you have factored in works as being evidences of salvation without which you cannot be saved. Yet, Rom. 4:5 refutes your position entirely. Works are never considered for salvation at all, either a priori or a posteriori. As it is written, "The Just (Righteous) shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:17; Hab. 2:4). We are not saved by faith working itself in good works, but by faith alone apart from any prior or posterior consideration of good works.
My brother Vincent quoted in a comment SDA's Uriah Smith's words concerning the Gospel:
“The whole object of Christ’s work for us is to bring us back to the law, that its righteousness may be fulfilled in us by our obedience, and that when we at last stand beside the law, which is the test of the judgment, we may appear as absolutely in harmony with it, as if we had never belonged to a sinful race who had trampled it in the dust.”
“There is a righteousness we must have, in order to see the kingdom of heaven, which is called ‘our righteousness’; and this righteousness comes from being in harmony with the law of God.”
If such is indeed correct; that "The whole object of Christ’s work for us is to bring us back to the law, that its righteousness may be fulfilled in us by our obedience", then how do you explain the Scriptures when it is written
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Gal. 3:10-11)
Note the words "rely on works of the law", yet the SDA position seems to be Christ's work is to bring us back to the Law. So how can this be?
With regards to the doctrine of the Heavenly Sanctuary, I think I will just quote from a book review I did which touches on this topic here:
The doctrine of the "Sanctuary" is based on a literalistic reading of the Old Testament ceremonial rites and rituals into the New Testament book in general and Hebrews in particular. Instead of the correct interpretation which has been held for Christians for centuries that the book of Hebrews is an exercise in contrast between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, and that the New Covenant priesthood of Christ is something which denotes the atoning sacrifice of Christ only, the Adventists read the entire book backwards. Instead of reading the Old Testament in light of the New, they read the Old into the New Testament, even to the details of the heavenly "Holy Place" being distinct from the heavenly "Most High" place. This technique places the Adventists already on very shaky ground for their doctrines, since it is written that the earthly high priests of the Old Covenant on earth serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things (Heb. 8:5). We should interpret what is the copy of and the shadow of anything using what is said to be clear of that thing, and thus the Old Covenant should be interpreted according to the New Covenant, and not the other way around.
The Achilles' heel of the Adventist's doctrine of their "Sanctuary" lies in their artificial distinction of the ministry of Christ as being intercessor in the first part of His ministry in the "Holy Place" of the heavenly sanctuary, and then after 1844, begin his work of judgment in the "Investigative Judgment" in the "Most Holy" place. If such a distinction and differentiation is disproved, the doctrines of the "Sanctuary" and of the "Investigative Judgment" (which depends on the validity of the doctrine of the "Sanctuary") would be proven to be in error.
The first most obvious point to note in the book of Hebrews is obviously the lack of any differentiation of "apartments" in the heavenly sanctuary. The nearest thing to different "apartments" can be seen in Heb. 9: 1-10. However, they only dealt with the earthly rituals of the priests under the Old Covenant, not that of Jesus of the New Covenant. If one goes down the text even further, we can see the passage which destroys the entire Adventists' position:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation), He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. (Heb. 9:11-12. Bold added)
Earlier in the text, it can be seen that only the High Priest can enter the Most Holy Place and he does it by offering blood to atone for the his sins and the unintentional sins of others (v. 7). In the passage quoted above, Jesus is said to be the High Priest, and he entered into the holy places (plural), which could probably include the "Most Holy Place" if there is any. Most damaging to the Adventist position is that Jesus has offered His own blood, which do in fact signifies that He did entered the "Most Holy Place" apartment if it did existed as a separate entity. However, as we have seen before, the Scriptures do not make such an artificial distinction but instead just use the more generic term "holy places", since Jesus went through both "holy places" in order to pay for the sins of His own. In fact, the fact that Jesus was said to secure an eternal redemption by His blood shows that the purpose of entering the holy places and the "Most Holy Place" in the heavenly tabernacle is linked to the doctrine of the Atonement.
Earlier in this same article, I have quoted from the Adventists' website on what they believe, which I shall reproduce here:
24. Christ's Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary: There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle which the Lord set up and not man. In it Christ ministers on our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross. He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry at the time of His ascension. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry. It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. In that typical service the sanctuary was cleansed with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things are purified with the perfect sacrifice of the blood of Jesus. The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom. This judgment vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God shall receive the kingdom. The completion of this ministry of Christ will mark the close of human probation before the Second Advent. (Heb. 8:1-5; 4:14-16; 9:11-28; 10:19-22; 1:3; 2:16, 17; Dan. 7:9-27; 8:13, 14; 9:24-27; Num. 14:34; Eze. 4:6; Lev. 16; Rev. 14:6, 7; 20:12; 14:12; 22:12.) (Source)
My question to agaricus then is: Why is this not promoting the error of works-righteousness? Does Jesus investigate on the basis of our works and decided then who will go to heaven on the basis of what he finds? How does this then impact us about the doctrine of God's omniscience also?
Next, we would look at the final topic: that of the apostasy of the Church.
In this, we are encouraged by agaricus' response that she does not look down on any non-SDA Christian as being an 'apostate'. Most certainly, this is a deviation from traditional SDA beliefs however. After all, that was one of the reasons SDA was considered a cult during the 19th century, because they denounced ALL denominations as being apostate (mainly because they worship on Sunday instead of Saturday), and this is a historical fact.
However, agaricus here seems to be espousing inclusivism. After all, what does she mean when she says that "You can be a Catholic, and be a perfectly sound Christian - as long as you are living up to all the light that you have. " What 'light' is here being mentioned? Christianity is NOT based upon how much 'light' you are living up to, but whether the Gospel is present and believed! If a person, group or denomination believes the Gospel, they are Christian; conversely if they don't, they are not Christian, even though they 'lived up to all the light that they have'. As the apostles John says:
Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. ... Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 Jn. 5:10, 12)
I only see God using the Gospel as a criteria for salvation, not the amount of 'light they are livng up to'.
With regards to the Sabbath issue, the only thing I will say here is: Since when was obedience to the Sabbath a salvation issue? Furthermore, whence comes this insistence on Saturday as the Sabbath? Surely, agaricus should know the reason why Sunday was made the Christian Sabbath, and this was NOT because of the Roman Catholic church (which didn't exist at all during the time of the early church). Go read Mt. 28:1, Mk. 16:2, Lk. 24:1, Jn. 20:1 to see the reason why. Fact is, Sunday was made the Christian Sabbath because Jesus rose on Sunday, the first day of the Jewsish week, and this is found in Scripture. Agaricus said that she does not know of any Protestant denomination that actually teaches that Sunday is the Sabbath. Well, I got news for you. All Reformed and Presbyterian denominations (as well as Particular and Reformed Baptists) who do talk about the Sabbath believe in that. In the Wesminster Confession of Faith for example, it is stated:
VII. As it is of the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment, binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which in Scripture is called the Lord's Day, and is to be continued to the end of the world as the Christian Sabbath (WCF Chapter XXI Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath day)
My only contention with regards to the strict Sabbatarians is that they make the keeping of Sunday as the Sabbath an obedience issue, whereas my position is that Sunday should be ideally kept as the Sabbath, but the more important principle of keeping one day out of seven as a day of rest should be adhered to when keeping Sunday as the Sabbath is impossible (for example, for pastors who are busy preaching etc on Sundays).
So in conclusion, while it is important to obey God, let us not make obedience a condition for our salvation. And therefore to agaricus, it is hoped that you will see the light and amend your beliefs accordingly. For to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.