APOSTASY IN PROPHETIC INTERPRETATION
(Excerpt from WWN1(85)
THE ODYSSEY OF APOSTASY WITHIN THE ADVENTIST COMMUNITY HAS NOT ONLY INCLUDED DEVIATIONS IN HISTORICAL THEOLOGICAL CONCEPTS, BUT ALSO FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES IN THE INTERPRETATION OF PROPHECY ARE BEING ALTERED- Theological compromise surfaced in the book Questions on Doctrine - as a result of the Seventh-day Adventist-Evangelical Conferences in 1955-1956. In the documents now available, it is established that the Church's conferees compromised the faith given in trust to the Adventist Church in the areas of the atonement and the incarnation. It was stated to Barnhouse and Martin by these men "that they do not believe, as some of their earlier teachers taught, that Jesus' atoning work was not completed on Calvary but instead that He is carrying on a second ministering work since 1844." The idea "was totally repudiated," according to Barnhouse and Martin. These Evangelicals perceived that the Adventists now "believe that since His ascension Christ has been ministering the benefits of the atonement which He completed on Calvary." (Eternity, September, 1956) This assessment of what the Adventist leaders said, has never been denied. As for the teaching on the Incarnation, the book - Questions on Doctrine - specifically stated - "Although born in the flesh, [Jesus] was nevertheless God, and was exempt from the inherited passions and pollutions that corrupt the natural descendants of Adam." (p. 383, emphasis supplied)
What is not generally known is that the book also contained a section - 'Questions on Prophecy." In this section, the Adventist conferees were solid on the basic principles of prophetic interpretation which underlie Reformation and Adventist understanding of the books of Daniel and Revelation. They showed clearly that Antiochus Epiphanes could not be "the little horn" of Daniel 8. They forcibly set forth the connection between Chapters 8 & 9 of Daniel. The year for a day concept as applied to the time prophecies was ably defended. One could find little, if any, to question in the defense, as found in the book, of our historic understanding of the principles of prophetic interpretation, or the prophecies discussed in the section.
However, when "the chickens" of the theological apostasy 'came home to roost" in Ford's attack on the sanctuary teaching, he also brought into the open a deviate concept by which the prophecies of God's word were to be interpreted. When given a leave to prepare a defense of his allegations, he produced a large manuscript, which was later published under the title - Daniel 8:14; The Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment.
In this manuscript, Ford defined what he meant by his use of the "apotelesmatic principle." He wrote - "The apotelesmatic principle is a convenient term for referring to the concept that a particular prophecy in outline or as regards a dominant feature may have more than one application in time." (p. 302) Note, and keep in mind the phrase - "more than one application in time." What Ford is saying is simply that a given prophecy, for example, "the little horn" of Daniel 8 could have been fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes in 167 B.C., and again this same prophecy could find another application in New Testament times in the Papacy, and again it could apply to a future antichrist to appear near the end of time. He even suggests that "Seventh-day Adventists are no strangers to the apotelesmatic principle though the term is not common in their literature and only rarely has it been used in connection with the prophecies of Daniel." (p. 303) Ford is suggesting that our use of the term - "dual application" - is synonymous with what he calls "the apotelesmatic principle."
We freely admit that some prophecies do have a "dual application" but they are general in nature. For example, Jesus told His disciples on the Mount of Olives that "nation shall arise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven." (Luke 21:10-11) This prophecy of Jesus could have multiple applications; but it is a general prophecy. The same night Jesus also informed the disciples that Jerusalem would be "compassed with armies." By this they would "then know that the desolation thereof was nigh." (21:20) This is a specific prophecy, and finds only one fulfillment in all history. If it were to have a multiple application, how then would the ones for whom the prophecy was given, know when to do what Jesus instructed them to do when the event occurred?
Prior to the time of his leave from Pacific Union College, Ford had written a commentary on the book of Daniel which was published by the now closed Southern Publishing Association. This book - Daniel, with a foreword by F. F. Bruce of the University of Manchester, England - contains a chapter on "Contemporary Systems of Interpretation." Ford defines four systems. One, the Preteristic, views all the prophecies as having been fulfilled prior to, or soon after the beginnings of the Christian era. It was developed by the Jesuit Alcazar as part of the Catholic Counter Reformation. The second, Futuristic, developed also by a Jesuit, Ribera, from the writings of the Church Fathers, sought to project most, if not all prophecy as being fulfilled at some distant date beyond "the noon day of the Papacy." This, too, was a part of the Counter Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church. This view - the Futuristic - has become basic in apostate Protestantism. The other major system is known as Historicism which teaches that history is but the response to the voice of prophecy. This system was used during the great Protestant Reformation, and is the basis for the understanding of prophecy in the Advent Movement.
Ford's comments on three of these major systems of interpretation are most revealing. He wrote: "It must be said that each of the systems is right in what it affirms and wrong in what it denies." (p. 68, emphasis his) After explaining the reason for his emphasis, he concludes - "If the apotelesmatic principle were to be widely understood, some differences between the systems would be automatically resolved." (p. 69) This is simply suggesting that by the adoption of his so-called "principle" there could be worked out a compromise between Jesuitical interpretations of prophecy and the historical understanding applied to the prophecies during the Protestant Reformation. The bottom line is an attempt to adulterate the historic Advent faith which was built upon the prophecies of God's word by which the events of history were seen as the unfolding of the scroll of prophecy.