"The Judgment Was Set"
The Final Words of Christ
By Wm. H. Grotheer
[Excerpt from WWN 3(02)]
In the course of our Church history, we have had problems with the doctrine of the Atonement. Adopting the position of Crosier from his study on the Sanctuary following the Great Disappointment in 1844, we denied that there was an atonement made at the Cross, and declared that there was only one atonement, the final, which began with the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 8:14 in 1844. The very use of the designation, "final" would indicate more than one atonement. Then in the infamous SDA-Evangelical conferences, we denied what we had taught regarding the final atonement and declared with emphasis - "Adventists do not hold any theory of a dual atonement. ‘Christ has redeemed us' (Gal. ) 'once for all' Heb. ). Q on D, p. 390.) In this compromise, we indicated plainly that a single atonement was completed on the Cross. In fact, the Adventist conferees went so far as to declare that Christ obtained nothing for us at the time of His entrance upon His priestly ministry, nor has He at any time since, because "He had already obtained it for us on the cross." (ibid., p. 381). If the typical priestly ministry in the Hebrew Sanctuary has meaning as the book of Hebrews indicates (Heb. 8:5), then there is a dual atonement, one involving forgiveness and one cleansing.
Beginning in earnest with Ballenger, and climaxing in Dr. Desmond Ford's assault on the Doctrine of the Sanctuary, we have faced serious challenges to a basic Adventist teaching. Ballenger based his thrust on the cry of Jesus on the Cross, "It is finished." In this issue of WWN, we discuss these words of Jesus, what He meant, as well as consider things needed to be learned, and unlearned in our teachings regarding aspects of the Sanctuary question. Perhaps, if we had done so before, we might have escaped the tragedy of the SDA-Evangelical Conferences.
"We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible."
"The Judgment Was Set and the
Books were opened"
In recent decades, this prophetic "Judgment" scene in Daniel 7:10 has been called "the pre-Advent judgment," instead of "the investigative judgment" by which it was known at its inception when set forth as an explanation of what did occur when Christ entered His final ministry in the Most Holy Place of the Heavenly Sanctuary. Closely associated with this "Judgment" is the focus of the paralleling prophecy in Daniel 8 on the sanctuary - "then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (v.14). This introduces into the prophetic picture the typical Day of Atonement, when annually, the earthly sanctuary was figuratively cleansed. Add to this, the announcement of the First Angel of Revelation 14 - "The hour of His judgment is come" (v.7) - and you have the heart and core of Adventism.
A. F. Ballenger, a powerful preacher and revivalist, was one of the first to challenge this core teaching. In the 1890s, his revival meetings in Battle Creek centered on "Receive Ye the Holy Spirit," led many of the church and college students to rededicate their lives to Christ and His service. Ballenger carried this message to worker's meetings and campmeetings. It was at one of these meetings in Indiana that S. S. Davis, the originator of the Holy Flesh Movement, received his inspiration. (See The Holy Flesh Movement 1899-1901, pp.5-6) At the turn of the century, Ballenger accepted a call to the British Isles. While laboring in various large cities, he was also developing new theological concepts. These were finally published in a book, The Proclamation of Liberty and the Unpardonable Sin. He would write:
If the reader would know at once what is the central thought, - the all absorbing theme, - the body, soul and spirit of this book, it is summed up in the final words of our dying Lord, "It is finished" (p.5).
This is the pivotal point on which the whole of the core teaching of the sanctuary doctrine turns. All who have followed Ballenger in challenging the sanctuary teaching of the Church, including Dr. Desmond Ford, have done little more than elucidate and enlarge on the original premise of Ballenger. In simple application, the final, dying words of Jesus are used to substantiate the concept that the death of Christ is the final, once for all, atonement for sin. In other words, the atonement was finished at the Cross; there is no final atonement. (See next article, "The Final Words of Christ").
It also needs to be remembered that following the Great Disappointment in 1844, 0. R. L Crosier wrote a lengthy analysis on "The Sanctuary," with the premise that "the sanctuary was the heart of the typical system." He challenged the idea that the atonement was completed on the Cross writing that Christ "did not begin the work of making atonement, whatever the nature of that work may be, till after His ascension, when by His own blood He entered His heavenly Sanctuary for us" (The Advent Review, September, 1850, p.45). Neither can this position, nor the one advanced by Ballenger, be sustained by the type.
In the daily service, provision was
made for the individual who brought his sin offering to the Altar in the Court,
to receive an atonement which resulted in forgiveness. The Scripture reads -
"and the priest shall make an atonement for him, and it shall be forgiven him"
(Lev. ; see also , 35). This atonement for the
individual was always at the Altar in the Court and performed by a common
priest. The atonement made on the typical Day of Atonement was both corporate
and individual (Lev. ), and involved a high priestly
ministry beginning in the
The emphasis placed on the Day of Atonement in the Scriptures dare not be overlooked. While atonement was granted to each individual who confessed his sin day by day, and was forgiven, it was not designated as a "Day" of atonement. That designation was reserved for the tenth day of the seventh month and involved a cleansing which is much more than just being forgiven. The figurative intent was to be so cleansed as to sin no more. Further, in the designation of this Day, the plural is used. The Scripture reads:
On the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonements. ... And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonements. (Lev. 23:27, 28; Heb.)
While it might be argued that
because of the multiple aspects and wide range of the atonement made by the High
Priest on this tenth day (Lev. 16:33), it could be considered as a simple
plural. However, the distinction made between this day and the other feast days
even as in the use of Elohim. All the other feast days given in Leviticus 23 - the Passover, the day of Pentecost, "a memorial of blowing of trumpets," and the two "holy convocations" connected with the "feast of tabernacles" - required only the cessation from "servile work" (vs. 7, 21, 25, 35-36). The Day of Atonements was ranked with the seventh-day Sabbath - "ye shall do no work therein" (23:3) - with a fearful judgment attached ().
While the first of the "feast" days
Qualified or Unqualified Endorsement
Into the historical perspective of
this "learning" and "unlearning" process, the endorsement of Ellen G. White of
Crosier's article must be considered. She wrote in a letter to Eli Curtis,
This raises another question. Another "messenger" wrote of Christ's ministry in the introduction to his book, The Consecrated Way. He stated:
In the manifestation of Christ the Saviour, it is revealed that He must appear in the three offices of prophet, priest, and king. (p.3)
Then he observed:
This threefold truth is generally recognized by all who have acquaintance with the Scriptures, but above this there is a truth which seems to be not so well known that He is not all three of these at the same time. The three offices are successive. He is prophet first, then after that He is priest, and after that He is king. (p.4; emphasis his)
In the type, the atonement which resulted in forgiveness for the individual sinner was obtained by the common priest. The text reads - "the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him" (Lev. ). One of the early acts of Jesus, after beginning His ministry, confirmed this priestly power in reality. Luke records the faith of the friends of a palsy stricken man. Bringing him to Jesus, the first thing they heard Jesus say to him was - "Man, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Luke ). This riled the attending scribes and Pharisees. To their contentious questioning, Jesus replied:
But that ye might know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (He said unto the sick of the palsy) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. ().
Before accepting the office of High
Priest, Christ had to have "somewhat also to offer" (Heb. 8:3). "This He did
once, when He offered up Himself" (). This offering began at
man to the woman taken in adultery, Jesus offered divine forgiveness. He was a "common" priest, "the Son of man." By the resurrection, He would enter a new office. As the Son of God, He would become "a [High] Priest forever after the order of Melchizedec" (Heb. 5:6) [See also Rom. 1:4 and Heb. 5:5]
Before Whom Do We Appear?
Paul wrote to the
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad (II Cor. 5:10).
Peter told Cornelius that the Apostles were given strict command by Jesus "to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is He which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead" (Acts 10:42). This accords with the words of Jesus Himself that "the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John ).
How then are we to understand the prophecy of Daniel? Was the Ancient of days, intending to judge, and then changed His mind, and gave a different revelation through Christ in the New Testament? Hardly, such a conclusion is out of keeping with the revelation of Himself as One who changes not. (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17). In fact, the Scripture reveals two scenes in which the Ancient of days sits in judgment "and the books were opened" (Dan. ; Rev. 20:12). These scenes are a thousand years apart when in fulfilment. Yet it is the same Judge, and the same books. While the objective of the open books in Revelation 20 is stated - "the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (v. 12b) - no such statement is made in Daniel. It is so assumed, but is the assumption correct?*
Another factor must be considered. When the First Angel of Revelation 14 descends for the final proclamation of the "everlasting gospel," he announces a reason why men of "every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people" should "fear God and give glory to Him." The reason given is that - "the hour of His judgment is come." The Greek text reads. - ' oti hlqen h wra thV krisewV autou - "Because is (or has) come the hour of the judgment of Him." Is this to be understood as meaning God acting in judgment, or is God Himself seeking a judgment for Himself? There is no question that at the Judgment of the Great White Throne (Rev. 20), those termed "the dead" are the ones facing that judgment. We have assumed that the same conclusion can be applied to Daniel 7:10. Do we have some "learning" as well as "unlearning" to do at this point?
A Forgotten Motif
Both in the services of the typical
Day of Atonement, and in the prophecy of Zechariah 3 which focuses on the final
cleansing, there is an alien power introduced. In the vision given to Zechariah,
at the right hand of Joshua is seen an "adversary" (margin) to resist him. In
the ceremonies on the Day of Atonement, there is the scapegoat (Azazel - Lev.
16:8 margin) in apposition to the Lord's goat, and on whom the High Priest
placed the iniquities of a cleansed
The redemption that is in Christ Jesus reveals further the objective of God for man. Jesus, too, was "made a little while lower than the angels for the suffering of death" (Heb. 2:9). In His victory, He was "crowned with glory and honor," and "highly exalted" being given "a name which is above every name" (Phil. 2:9). That which God did "when He raised Him from the dead" (Eph. ) not only reveals God's intent for man in creation, but also His objective in redemption (Eph. 2:6-7). **
Between the time when God made man in His likeness and the "ages to come" came the sin problem, which needs resolution. However, for sin to be eradicated, and never arise the second time, the resolution must begin where, and over the issue which initiated it. In other words, can God carry out His original plan in the creation of man, and every member of the angelic host concur. Sin began with an angel who objected to God's plan because He desired to be what God was designing man to be. Thus the first act when God seeks to bring all rebellion to a conclusion, must be
the concurrence of the angelic host in His objective. They are still free moral agents and the contemplated exaltation of man is now under different circumstances than when man was first created. It is fallen man that is to be exalted, not perfect man from the hand of the Creator.
This is the picture in Daniel 7. The first item of business when the judgment is set and the books are opened, is before the assembled hosts of Heaven. (v. 10). They know what is in the books; they recorded the deeds. They are not there as "traffic cops" to verify the "tickets" they gave to the "speedsters" of earth for their violations on the highway of life. They were accurate, remained honest, and not as Lucifer, "abode in the truth" (John ). Now the first question comes: "Have I given enough; have I done enough so that my original plan for man can be completed?" The hour of the judgment of Him began.
The details must be gathered from
the revelation given in the type of the services of the Day of Atonement. Jesus
is there as the Great High Priest. He holds forth His nail pierced hands. The
angels remember that scene on
And I beheld, and I heard the voice (fwnhn - singular) of many angels around about the throne and the living creatures and the elders: the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousands, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory and blessing. And every creature . . . heard I saying, Blessing and honor and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Iamb for ever and ever. (Rev. 5:11-13).
The final work could now begin with all Heaven united for the objective and accomplishment of God's design in the creation of man. The "Man clothed in linen" could begin the sealing of His people (Ezekiel 9). The "filthy garments" can be removed from all who are willing to be released of them, and a "change of raiment" given in their place (Zech. 3). Three mighty angels can go forth mandated with the "Everlasting Gospel" of God's design and purpose in Jesus Christ, "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8).
In the words of Jesus, describing and defining "the judgment," some conditions are imposed. All who pass "from death unto life" are required to hear the words of the Messiah, and "believe" on the God who sent Him (John ). The entrance into sin is reversed. The challenge of the "adversary," "Yea hath God said?" (Gen. 3:1) is answered, "Yea, God hath said" and "I believe."
The "books are opened" both prior to the coming of Christ without sin unto salvation, and the final judgment on sin in "the lake of fire." There is no record in Scripture of the books being closed once they are opened. The fact is that no one can face the record in the "books" either before, or after they are opened. To do so is to face eternal extinction in "the lake of fire" - "the second death" (Rev. 20:14).
Into this prophetic picture is
introduced another book, "another book was opened, which is the book of life"
(Rev. 20:12). This book is first noted in prophetic record at the time "Michael
stands up" (Dan. 12:1). It had existed prior with the other books of record.
When Moses prayed for
All of this points up the
significance of the command in the observance of the typical Day of Atonement,
that "no work" be done (Lev. , 30). The high priest alone
accomplished the cleansing. Those who heeded the command, their names were
Cross to Him who "is able also to save them to the uttermost who come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. ).
Supplementary (For Further Thought)
* Says the prophet Daniel, "The judgment was set and the books were opened." The revelator, describing the same scene, adds. "Another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." (The Great Controversy, p.480)
** 1) All heaven took a deep and joyful interest in the creation of man. Human beings were a new and distinct order. (R&H, Feb.11, 1902)
2) God created man a superior being; he alone is formed in the image of God,
and is capable of partaking of the divine nature; of co-operating with his
Creator and executing His plans. (R&H,
3) Man was the crowning act in the creation of God, made in the image of
God, and designed to be a counterpart of God; ... (R&H,
The Final Words of Christ
Only in the Gospel of John, do we find recorded the words of Jesus, "It is finished" (). The synoptic gospels all note that Jesus cried with "a loud voice" just before His final breath. (Matt. 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46) Luke also indicates that after the cry with a loud voice, He prayed, "Father into thy hands I commend my spirit," and died. John does not record that Jesus cried with "a loud voice." Are we, therefore, left with the conclusion that the words uttered when Jesus cried with a loud voice were, "It is finished"?
The gospel of John written near the end of the first century does fill some gaps which are not covered in the Synoptics written decades earlier. For example, in the Synoptics all the writers tell of the "Last Supper." John, while writing about that Passover Supper, does not mention what is called the Communion Service, but rather a service connected with it, which the others had omitted - the ordinance of feet washing (John 13:3-17). Are we, therefore again, left to draw the conclusion that the Holy Spirit considered what Jesus said with "a loud voice" of such importance that He had John record the words rather than just stating, "He cried with a loud voice"? If these conclusions be correct, then there is an importance to what Jesus uttered with a "loud voice" when He cried, "It is finished," which we need to consider carefully.
In context, John records more than just the words Jesus spoke. He unveils the thinking of Jesus: "Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished (finished)" (John ). The same Greek word (tetelestai) is used in verse 28, as in verse 30, when He cried out - "It is finished" (accomplished). What had Jesus accomplished which was then finished?
God's word had been questioned; His
authority challenged. The commandment which had been intended to indicate the
way of life could not give life (Rom. ). It was "weak through the flesh."
Therefore, "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh . . .
condemned sin in the flesh" (
The Father, faithful to His commitment, raised Jesus from the dead "for our justification" (Rom. ) and to ever live so as "to make intercession" (Heb. ) for those whom He justifies. "In bringing many sons unto glory," God made "the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb. ). It was accomplished by Jesus, who had finished the work which He had agreed to do. The final at-one-ment is still to come when "in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ both which are in heaven and which are on earth" (Eph. ).
In this we see the two-fold gospel
of God, the "counsel of peace" which was "between the Two of Them" (Zech. , Heb.). One was to be "made of the
seed of David according to the flesh" to "condemn sin in the flesh" and the
Other who would raise Him from the dead "with power" so He could save "to
the uttermost all that come unto God by Him" (