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The Investigative Judgment
Extracted from his final manuscript, Confession of Faith , 1916
It is impossible that there could be any such thing as the transferring of sins to the sanctuary in heaven, thus defiling that place; and there could, consequently, be no such thing, either in 1844, A.D., or at any other time, as the "cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary."
"Then what took place in 1844?"
That question puzzled me for many years; for I have been so thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea of a 2300-year period ending in 1844, that it never occurred to me to doubt it. Indeed, I never did doubt it for a moment; but one day the light dawned on me, and I saw that period had no foundation whatever, and then of course I simply dropped it.
How did I learn this? You asked. Well, I suppose I should never have seen it if I had not been for so many years fully convinced that the thing which I, from my boyhood, had been taught took place in 1844 did occur, then not at any other time.
But what about the 2300 days? Are we to throw the prophetic rule of "a day for a year"? By no means; that rule holds, but it has no application in this case, for the simple reason that the eight chapter of Daniel makes no mention whatever of 2300 days. Not the "King James" version, nor any other version, but the Hebrew text, must settle the question, and that says, "two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings." (literally "evening-mornings"), as correctly rendered in the revised version.
"But", it [is] asked, "doesn't an evening and a morning make a day?" Yes; but what reason have we for gratuitously assuming that the term is here used as a periphrasis for "day"? In that case we should have a figure of a figure! We are placed under the necessity of interpreting a figure of speech, and then taking that interpretation as a prophetic figure. When a prophetic symbol is used, the symbol itself ought to be absolutely clear, needing no explanation. But here we are told to believe that we have for the figurative day a term that is never elsewhere used in the Bible for the word "day." Why should we assume an exception here? There is a Hebrew word that is everywhere rendered "day," and it is the only word for "day" in the Hebrew language. It occurs more than 2000 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Has it never occurred to you to wonder why an exception should be made here? It certainly rests with those who claim an exception here to show the most clear and convincing proof of the alleged fact, and to give a plain and conclusive reason therefore.
If the translators of the 1611 version had translated the Hebrew words ereb boker (evenings mornings), instead of substituting "day" for the proper rendering, I doubt if even the maintaining of a theory would have led anyone to light upon so far-fetched an interpretation. I ask again, what reason can be given for the introduction by inspiration of a new, absolutely unknown, and clumsy expression, instead of the simple and well-known word for "day," if the reader were intended to understand "day?" I say "clumsy expression," meaning only, of course, as a circumlocution for "day." In reality there is nothing clumsy about it when taken in its obvious sense. It seems so obvious as to need no argument, that the term "evening-mornings," when used in connection with the sanctuary, must refer only to evening and morning sacrifices.
Incidentally there comes in here, of course, a consideration of the application of the "little horn." Consistency demands that the horn of a goat should be of the nature of a goat- a process, a continuation of the animal in question. But this would preclude the application of a Grecian horn to Rome, since Greece and Rome were two distinct, independent powers. Why is there any more ground for saying that Rome came out of Greece, than there is for saying that Greece came out of Medo-Persia, or that Medo-Persia came out of Babylon? It is true that a victory over a Macedonian king gave Rome great prestige, but not so great as the victory over Darius gave Alexander, or the conquest of Babylon gave Cyrus. Rome, like its predecessors in universal dominion, originated in territory to the westward of the kingdom immediately preceding it, and had an origin as distinct from Greece as Greece had from Medo-Persia, or Medo-Persia from Babylon. The facts do not fit the interpretation which Seventh-day Adventists have given the prophecy. Strangely enough, the chart that has always been used by the denomination, and the supposed picture of the goat, which still appears in all the books and articles devoted to this prophecy, plainly show the inconsistency of the interpretation. Look it up, if you do not have the picture in mind, and you will see that the "little horn," marked "Rome," is represented as coming from behind the goat, and that the goat horn marked "Syria" is represented as uniting with that previously-existing little horn, instead of the latter coming out of the Syrian horn. The awkward picture contradicts the words of the prophecy; but if it had been made true to nature and to the text, the little horn could not have been labeled "Rome."
I had thought to devote a little space to a positive consideration of the application of the little horn, but I will not cumber the argument with it. I did not really need to refer to the horn at all, it being sufficient for my purpose, in dealing with the atonement, to show that the eighth chapter of Daniel does not contain any long prophetic period, at the end of which sins are to be blotted out. My only burden in this writing is that sin is not an entity, a commodity, that can be taken away from a person and deposited intact somewhere else, awaiting its final destruction. Since no earthly sinners have ever been in the sanctuary in heaven, their sins can never have defiled that place, necessitating its cleansing. But the sanctuary at Jerusalem in Judea, which alone was the subject of Daniel's anxiety, had been most horribly defiled by Antiochus, and did need cleansing.
"But what about the Investigative Judgment?" Yes, indeed, what about it? In truth, there is no responsibility resting on me to say anything about it, because in the entire Bible, from Gen. 1:1 to Rev. 22:21, inclusive, there is never once any mention of such a thing. A long time ago I found that the only way to avoid misunderstandings in Bible discussions was to keep clear of theological terms not found in Scripture, and hence not susceptible of Bible explanation. A brief consideration of the Judgment in general will show that there is no place for an "investigative" Judgment before the coming of Christ. You will pardon me for quoting several passages of Scripture in full, instead of merely giving the references. I want the truth that they contain to stand out so boldly that it will be apparent what a libel upon God it is to assume e that He is under the necessity of investigating the record of men's lives and characters, in order to ascertain whether or not He can take them to Heaven.
"Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world." [Acts 15:18]In the face of this truth so often repeated, how can any thoughtful believer of the Bible teach that it is necessary for God to spend years in searching records, to find out who are true followers of Him, and who are not? We are expected to teach as a fundamental article of faith, that it has already taken God, assisted by hosts of angels, almost seventy-two years to go over the records (several times longer, by the way, than it was supposed would be required), and still the work is not done. It brings God down to the level of man.
But is there not to be a Judgment? Most certainly; for the Scriptures teach that "when the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him," then He shall sit upon the throne of His glory, and the dead, small and great, of all nations, shall stand before Him to be judged; but they nowhere say anything about any Judgment before Christ's coming.
The object of the Judgment is not that God may learn all about men, but men may learn the truth about God. They will not learn it through the preaching of his Word, so they must see everything for themselves, just as it was in relation to every other thing, so that every knee, even Satan's, shall involuntarily bow, and every tongue confess to God, acknowledging that Jesus Christ is Lord. Everyone that is cut off must acknowledge that his punishment is just; and even the righteous, who have trusted God and believed in His goodness and justice, without understanding all things, must have all things set before them so clearly that there will be no possibility for any doubt or question ever to rise.
Seventh-day Adventist teaching concerning the sanctuary, with its "Investigative Judgment" to precede the blotting out of sins, is virtually a denial of the atonement. True, much is made of the "antitypical day of atonement" beginning in 1844; but that very thing minimizes, if it does not nullify, the value of the blood of Christ, in that it teaches that a man may receive the blood- the life- and not receive the atonement. The Gospel has been turned into ceremonialism. The eyes of many have so long been fixed upon "the shadows" that it is almost impossible for them to see the light. I am not bringing any charge against their lives, but only against their teaching-making the word of God of none effect that they may maintain their tradition. Look over the literature from the beginning, and it will be apparent that they have transferred the Jewish sanctuary and its ceremonies into Heaven, and have made the atonement itself only ceremony. Everything must be made to "fit the type," as though the shadow of a thing were of more importance than the thing itself. You do not depend upon photographs to give you exact information as to your wife's features and characteristics. I dare say there was a time, before your marriage, when you paid a good deal of attention to her picture, and you no doubt have some of those pictures still; but I don't believe that you have spent much time studying them in the last thirty-five or forty years. You don't care for her picture, as long as you have her. And I am sure that you don't insist that she can't be your wife if she does not in all respects correspond to those pictures. Why, then, should we spend time studying shadows, when we have the reality? For we have "come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in Heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling."
The ancient sanctuary with its ceremonies was essentially a type by contrast. It was built because the children of Israel would not have God to dwell in them. But for their unbelief they might have come direct to the sanctuary which God's hands had established, and might have talked with God face to face, as Moses did. The promise was, if they kept God's covenant, as Abraham did, they should be a kingdom of priests; instead, the priesthood was confined to one tribe, and to one family of that tribe, and was utterly useless so far as freeing from sin was concerned. Instead of having the law of the Spirit of life in Christ, the Living Stone, from which they could drink righteousness, they had law on lifeless stone, a "ministration of death." The "tabernacle of witness" was continual witness against them. Of course they were not shut up to those weak and unprofitable things, for whoever turned to the Lord in truth had the veil taken away, and could, like Moses, behold the glory of God. What I wish to emphasize is that we are not to spend precious time studying the minutest details of a system that was only the product of unbelief, when with Abraham and Isaiah and Paul we may by faith have boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in referring to the tabernacle and its instruments said, "of which we cannot now speak particularly"; and it seems to me that we would do well to follow his example.
Let me note, by the way, an inconsistency on the part of those who insist that everything must "fit the type." In the type, the atonement day was just one day out of 360 days--the last day of the year. According to S.D.A. teaching, Christ was in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary from his ascension till 1844, or 1810 years, which time corresponded to the yearly service in the tabernacle, leading up to the day of atonement. The 1810 years corresponded to the 359 days in the type. Now 359 days is too one day as 1810 years is to five years and fifteen days. Therefore if the type were to be followed exactly, the "antitypical Day of Atonement" ought to have ended some time in 1849. Why insist on following the "type" so closely in other respects, and ignore it in the important matter of time?
But to come to the really serious indictment, I have said that the teaching that atonement for sins was deferred until 1844, and that no sins were blotted out till then, the sins of the living not being blotted out even yet, minimizes or even nullifies the value of the blood of Christ. It makes a distinction between things that do not differ, and teaches that the blood- the life- of Christ received by a person exercises only a portion of its virtue at the time of its reception,–that is divided in its action. Seventh-day Adventists do believe in the forgiveness of sins. At least it is taught in the denomination, and is believed by many. But forgiveness is obtained only by the reception, consciously, of the life of Christ, which is given freely on the cross for all men. We are "justified (made righteous) freely by His grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." This forgiveness is reconciliation to God, for it was our "wicked works" that constituted our enmity to God, and Christ has reconciled us in the body of His flesh, through death. Col. 1:21, 22. Justified by His blood is the same as reconciled by His death (Rom. 5: 9,10), and this is the atonement. By Christ "we have now received the atonement." I know that there is an attempt to evade this truth, by using the word "reconciliation," which is given in the margin; but the fact remains that reconciliation and atonement are identical. Reconciliation implies previous enmity. In this case the enmity was all on our side; we were enemies of God, who is the Friend of sinners. It is we who are reconciled to God, by destruction of the enmity that was in us. Once we hated His ways; now we love and yield to them, and are at one with Him. We have received the atonement, namely, the life of God in Christ.
And this is the blotting out of sins. How can it be otherwise, when the enmity is destroyed, "slain," and the enmity is the body of sin? "It is the blood that makes atonement for the soul"...
I think there is no disagreement as to the fact that the blotting out of sins is the atonement. What I object to is the denominational teaching that this is only a book transaction. That makes the atonement not a personal matter at all, but something which can take place without in the least affecting the individual concerned. It is like blotting out extreme hot or cold weather by breaking the thermometer. What possible difference can it make to a man what is done with a record of his sins, written in a book, when he himself has had them removed from him, "as far as the east is from the west?" A sick man is taken to a hospital and treated. When he enters his condition is noted, and every day that he is there a careful record of his case is made. Every rise of temperature is set down, together with every unfavorable symptom. By and by he is discharged, cured. That record of the course of his disease will remain on file in the hospital as long as the hospital stands; but the man knows nothing and cares nothing about it. He is freed from the disease, and that is all that he cares about. Just as little can the man who is forgiven and cleansed from sin care for or be affected by any record of his former sins. In saying this I am not implying that there will be retained for ever the record of men's sins. What I do mean is that the blotting out of sins is a vital thing in the sinner himself, and not a mere matter of bookkeeping. ...
The idea of making a man's salvation depend to any degree whatever upon his belief, or the fact, of whether or not Christ stood for a certain number of years upon one side or the other of a partition wall would be childish, if the matter were not so serious. Will nothing ever emancipate the denomination from the bondage of the observance of "days, and months, and times, and years?" Will they forever encumber and smother the glorious message of the everlasting Gospel with endless details of ceremonialism? Must the whole Levitical system be transferred to heaven till the end of time, and it be continually taught that God regards even His own followers as mere ticket-of-leave men?
What do I mean by this? I have reference to the teaching that no matter how humbly and contritely a man may confess his sins to God, how heartily he accepts Christ as his sacrifice and Savior, his sins are only provisionally forgiven; that they are held against him to see how he will "hold out." What is this but to make him a ticket-of-leaven man? It is at best but suspended sentence. You don't forgive an offender in such a manner, but whole-heartedly, letting the evil of the past be as though it had not been. Why should Christians charge God with doing that which in them would be un-Christian? Why not be content with the teaching that if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness? and that "as far as the east if from the west, "so far hath he removed our transgressions from us?"
The whole theory of a postponed blotting out of sin seems to be based upon the superficial reading of Acts 3:19. You know, of course, that the proper reading of that text is found in the Revised Version: "Repent, and be converted; that your sins may be blotted out, that so seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord." There is no intimation that the blotting out of sins is to be delayed indefinitely after the repentance and conversion, for such a thing is an impossibility. The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin, when we repent, and then we have "fellowship" with the Father and the Son. We are at one with them. Where are the sins after we have been cleansed from them? Where was the leprosy after Christ touched the leper, and cleansed him from it? Where was Peter's wife's mother's fever after Jesus touched her hand, and it left her? Where did it go? and where was it kept stored up? Where is the pain after the healing balm has been administered? Where is the hunger after the nourishing food has been eaten? Where is the thirst after the refreshing draught? Where was the man's blindness after his eyes were opened? Where was the man's lameness after his feet and ankle bones received strength, and he leaped and walked? Where is the sin, after a man becomes a new creature?
Just as the other day I picked up an old volume of Thoughts on Daniel and read that the work of Christ since 1844 "consists in the remission of the sins of those who should be found worthy to have them remitted." I pass by the teaching that the remission of sins depends on a man's worthiness. That is too baldly unevangelical to need threshing out again. But we are taught in the Bible that remission of sins is something that is received by whosoever believeth in Jesus. Acts 10:43. Christ, in imparting the Spirit to the apostles, said: "Whose sins soever ye remit, they are remitted." There is no teaching of a future remission. The remission of sins is as real a thing as the healing of disease, and cannot take place apart from the individual.
The objection is raised, that to teach that Christ made atonement for sins on the cross is to teach the doctrine of indulgence, the forgiveness of sins before they are committed. That objection does not hold, so far as I am concerned, and does not lie against Scripture teaching. Christ does make atonement for sins on the cross: for, as I have set forth, the cross is an ever-present reality. How else could Paul say, "I am crucified with Christ"? or how could he reproach the Galatians for their defection, "before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been set forth, evidently crucified among you?" Do not Seventh-day Adventist preachers ever appeal to sinners to "come to the cross"? Where else but at the cross can the bonds be loosed, and the burden of sin be removed? ..
I should be recreant to God if I did not recognize the light that He has given me; I could never understand why it was given to me, except on the ground that His gifts are bestowed, not according to deserts, but according to need.
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