The Day of Atonement: 1844 or Ascension?
By Brother Anderson
Mrs. White and the Day of Atonement
When Christ failed to return as predicted in 1844, Adventists devised a teaching to try and explain that something important had actually occurred in 1844. Adventist pioneers concocted the idea that the heavenly Day of Atonement began in 1844 and Jesus moved from one room of the sanctuary to another room, shutting the door behind Him. Ellen White writes:
This door was not opened until the mediation of Jesus was finished in the holy place of the sanctuary in 1844. Then Jesus rose up and shut the door of the holy place, and opened the door into the most holy, and passed within the second veil, where He now stands by the ark, and where the faith of Israel now reaches. I saw that Jesus had shut the door of the holy place, and no man can open it; and that He had opened the door into the most holy, and no man can shut it (Rev. 3:7,8).1
Where did Christ go when He ascended?
Did Jesus wait until 1844 to enter the Most Holy Place? The Biblical book of Hebrews tells a different story. When the book of Hebrews was written (approximately 64 AD) Jesus was already in the presence of God:
For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. (Heb. 9:24)
Where is the "presence of God"?
Mrs. White taught from her vision that the throne or presence of God was in the Holy Place until 1844. Then the Father and Jesus migrated into the Most Holy Place. Is this what the Bible teaches?
The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims... Psalm 99:1
This clearly states that even in Old Testament times, the Lord was sitting between the cherubims. Where are the cherubims at? The cherubims covered the "mercy seat" of the "ark" which was situated in the Most Holy Place (Exodus 25:22). Therefore, the Bible clearly teaches that throughout human history the throne of the Father has always been located in the Most Holy Place, not the Holy Place. There is not a single scripture in the Bible that locates God's throne in the Holy Place. The Bible teaches that God's presence was always located within in the inner veil:
And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. (Lev. 16:2)
According to the earthly pattern of the tabernacle, the special place of the Lord's presence was upon the mercy seat in the Most Holy Place. If the earthly pattern is the same in the heavenly, then in order for Christ to have entered the "presence of God" at His ascension, He must have entered into the Most Holy Place to appear before the mercy seat of God.
Did Jesus open the way into the Holiest upon His ascension?
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us... (Heb. 10:19,20)
Jesus opened the way for believers to enter into the Most Holy Place so that we can bring our petitions directly to the "throne of grace." The "throne of grace" is the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place where the "presence of God" abides.
QUESTION: How could sinful humans have had access to the Holiest for 1800 years prior to 1844 if Christ was seated with the Father in the Holy Place instead of the Most Holy Place?
Parallel passages showing Christ fulfilled the Old Testament Day of Atonement at His ascension
Is there a literal "veil" in Heaven?
All of the items in the Old Testament tabernacle pointed to the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. The "veil" itself was a symbol of Jesus:
Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh. (Heb. 10:19,20)
Jesus Christ is the "veil!" Note what happened when Christ died:
And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. (Mark 15:38)
The tearing of the veil indicated that Christ had opened up the way to the Most Holy Place. Christ Himself is the veil that was "rent." Just as the Levitical priesthood ministered in the earthly tabernacle, the "royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:9) of believers has access to the heavenly tabernacle. Unlike the Levitical priesthood, however, the "royal priesthood" has direct access to the "throne of grace" through the "new and living way" that Christ has opened for us through the veil, which is His body. Therefore, we have access to the Most Holy Place through Christ.
The two-veil theory
Some Adventist scholars have claimed that when Jesus entered "within the veil," He entered within the first veil which separated the outer court from the tabernacle. They say that there is a "second veil" (Heb. 9:3) in heaven which separates the two heavenly apartments just as there was a veil separating the two earthly apartments. Their theory of a "second veil" in the heavenly sanctuary does not even stand up to the test of their own prophet who said:
"By the rending of the veil of the temple, God said, I can no longer reveal my presence in the most holy place. A new and living Way, before which there hangs no veil, is offered to all."4
Even Ellen White, in an odd statement which seemingly contradicts what she wrote in the Great Controversy, admits there is no "second veil" in heaven! Jesus Christ is the "veil" in Heaven!
There is not a single word in the New Testament indicating that Christ would move from the Holy to the Most Holy Place at a certain point in history. On the contrary, all the Biblical evidence points to Christ fulfilling the Day of Atonement at His ascension:
The Atonement has been completed (see Heb. 10:11-14). At His ascension, Christ fulfilled every one of the aspects of the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus 16!
1. Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 42.
2. Ellen White, Great Controversy, p. 428.
3. Ellen Harmon, "To the Little Remnant Scattered Abroad," Broadside, April 6, 1846, par. 7.
4. Ellen White, Youth Instructor, June 21, 1900.