Dale Ratzlaff is the founder of Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., and owns LAM Publications, LLC. He served as an Adventist pastor for 13 years, seven at Monterey Bay Academy where he taught Bible. He and his wife Carolyn left the Adventist church in 1981 when he realized he could no longer teach the investigative judgment in clear conscience. He has authored Sabbath in Christ, The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists, The Truth About Adventist “Truth”, and Truth Led Me Out. These are available through his website, LifeAssuranceMinistries.com. The Ratzlaffs reside in Casa Grande, Arizona.
The Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the investigative judgment and cleansing of the heavenly Sanctuary based upon Daniel 8:14 is indeed the central pillar of the Adventist faith. Some Adventists may disagree; however, it is. Ellen White said, “The scripture which above all others had been both the foundation and central pillar of the Advent faith was the declaration, ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed’.1
A recent book on the topic of the sanctuary by Dr. Roy Adams is subtitled, Understanding the Heart of Adventist Theology,2 and it confirms the central role of this doctrine in Adventist theology. The Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, 2001, is entitled, Pillars of Our Faith. It includes chapters on “The Sabbath”, “The Heavenly Sanctuary”, “The Hour of God’s Judgment”, “The Remnant”, etc. The last two presidents of the General Conference have both expressed publicly that the Adventist church will not change its historical doctrines, especially the doctrine of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. (All emphases here and throughout this article are mine).
I recently reviewed the tape of the Adventist Ministerial/ Evangelism Council held in Seattle, Washington, on April 16, 1998. The speakers were all professors from the Seventh-day Adventist Seminary: Dr. Richard Davidson, Dr. Roy Gane, and Dr. Angel Rodriquez. Dr. Rodriguez is also Associate Director of the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference. This conference was called to answer the many questions Adventist pastors were asking about the 2300 days, 1844, and so on, after reading my book, The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists. Following are a few excerpts from this meeting.
Dr. Roy Gane: “I was extremely excited about the fact this man, Ratzlaff, affirms that the sanctuary doctrine is central to Seventh-day Adventist theology…I do appreciate that fact, that he does say that it is central…It is impossible to argue with Ratzlaff’s experience. His presentation of his experience is really very impressive in that he presents it candidly and honestly, and many of us can relate to that kind of a struggle.”
Dr. Richard Davidson: “I had my pilgrimage with the sanctuary doctrine, and I came to the same conclusion that Dale Ratzlaff did. If the sanctuary doctrine could not stand the test of the closest investigation, I didn’t want to be an Adventist as a cultural Adventist. If the heart of the doctrine centered around the sanctuary…” (Davidson then states that he came to believe in this Adventist doctrine.) “I admire his [Ratzlaff’s] integrity, that when he came to the conclusions that the sanctuary is not biblical he had the integrity to say, ‘I’m bailing out.’ I have to applaud him for that, being willing to follow his convictions where they led and be consistent with them.”
One of the pastors present asked the question: “If I believe in the sanctuary doctrine but do not believe in the 2300 days and 1844, is that OK?”
Dr. Rodriguez answered: “Without 1844 and the doctrine of the Sanctuary—this may sound strong to you but I have already published it—there is no reason for us to exist. 1844 provided for us our identity and our mission. And if we are wrong, then we are simply wrong. See, that’s what he [Ratzlaff] is arguing in the book [Cultic Doctrine], and I think he is right. If we change that [the investigative judgment and cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary] we would be transmuted into something else. But we will [would] not be who we are. In other words, I find it extremely difficult to deny this fundamental doctrine clearly associated in Adventist thinking with 1844 and Daniel 8:14. I find it very difficult to understand, how could we really be Adventists and yet deny the very foundation of our existence—deny our birth.”
Later Dr. Rodriguez, in answer to a question about some of the exegetical problems associated with this doctrine, states:
“The real issue here is prophetic interpretation [regarding the] 2300 days, 1844. The fundamental issue here is prophetic interpretation. Now I am going to tell you very clearly, because I think there is no other way to say this thing. The method of interpretation we use for Daniel and Revelation is passé. It’s a methodology that is not used by any serious scholar outside Adventism. It is not used any longer. When we discussed this method with our good friends the Lutherans, they were asking us, ‘What in the world is that?’ and we told them, ‘This is the methodology that Luther used.’….If we are wrong in our interpretation of Daniel—historicism—then we are wrong. Why do we use this method of interpretation that is passé, gone? We use it because we believe it is the one that the biblical text provides for us. In other words, this is based in the Protestant principle of sola scriptura. This is the way we have taught it. This is the way we still believe it. That’s why we, even [when some] among ourselves would like to use a more modern approach while the church is still saying, ‘Hey, we believe what the Bible says,’ this is the methodology to use. And once we use that, it seems to me that it is very logical to support the date for 1844 and the fulfillment of the 2300 days.”
There should be no question in the minds of our readers—Adventists and others—that the investigative judgment and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is indeed the “central pillar of Adventism.” Let’s quickly review the facts:
We can see that the stakes are high. Because of the limitations of space, I will only evaluate a few of the many items included in this “central pillar”. I studied this doctrine thoroughly before leaving the Adventist ministry and was amazed by the many places it undermines the work of Christ. Come, let us reason together. Truth has nothing to fear from honest investigation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a willingness to follow truth when it is revealed.
Nine cracks in the pillar
1. This teaching is built on 22 linking assumptions; 14 of the 22 are contrary to fact, and the other 8 cannot be proved.3
2. The Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14 completely ignores the context.
The late Dr. Raymond Cottrell, Adventism’s top Hebrew scholar, stated that to get Adventist theology out of Daniel 8:14, one either has to completely ignore the context or one has to make Christ the wicked little horn mentioned in the prophecy. There are no other options—as the top secret committee of Adventist scholars found in their five year study. Instead of admitting this doctrine had no biblical basis, the committee disbanded and left no minutes. Most Adventists to this day know nothing about this cover up. The administrators, knowing the problems, told Adventist pastors to continue to teach the investigative judgment and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary “based upon traditional assumptions”.4 Notice that a “contextual” understanding of Daniel 8:14 makes Christ the wicked little horn. Is this something the Holy Spirit would do?
3. This teaching denies Christ’s finished atonement at the cross.5
In fact, the original form of this teaching that Ellen White endorsed stated that no atonement was made at the cross.6 If one believes that the atonement was made and finished at the cross, then this foundation and central pillar of Adventism is dead wrong at its very inception. Notice again that this central pillar does away with the finished atonement of Christ at the cross. Why would the Holy Spirit want to undermine Christ’s last words on the cross, “It is finished”?
4. This doctrine teaches that only those who have believed in God come into this judgment.7
John 5:24 states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” Some will try to soften the contrast by saying that the word in John means “condemnation”, an argument which is partly true. However, the Greek root word in both John 5:24 and Revelation 14:7 is krisis. Leon Morris states, “The implications of the present possession of eternal life are brought out in the assurance that its possessor ‘cometh not into judgment.’ This is the usual Johannine thought, that judgment is something that takes place here and now. The man who accepts the way of darkness and evil has already been judged. His judgment lies in that fact. So with the man who has eternal life. His vindication is present in the here and now. He has already passed right out of the state of death, and has come into life. Though this is a present state, it has future implications. The man who does not come into judgment will not come into judgment on the last great day either.”8 Why is it that this central pillar of the Advent faith undermines the gospel and the assurance of salvation and then contradicts the Apostle John? Who would inspire that?
5. This doctrine teaches that Christ did not go into the most holy place and sit at the Father’s right hand until October 22, 1844.9
Thus, it contradicts the many passages that teach otherwise such as Hebrews 6:19-20, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, [Most Holy Place]10 where Jesus has entered [aorist tense indicating a point of time and that point is the ascension] as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Also, Hebrews 1:3, “When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Sat down is aorist tense, a point in time and that point is the ascension). Notice also Ephesians 1:19–20: “and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:19-20).
One has to be puzzled why the spirit behind this doctrine would want to take away the immediate blessings surrounding the ascension and the seating of Christ at the Father’s right hand which is the very center of all the “in Christ” truths mentioned in the epistles.11 One also wonders why the Adventist Fundamental belief No. 4, “Son”, does not mention that Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand? Should we believe the writers of Scripture or the central pillar of Adventism?
6. This doctrine teaches that the final punishment for the sins of the righteous will be placed on Satan.
Ellen White states: “When Christ, by virtue of His own blood, removes the sins of His people from the heavenly sanctuary at the close of His ministration, He will place them upon Satan, who, in the execution of the judgment, must bear the final penalty.”12 If this is true, then Christ really did not suffer the full penalty for our sins; His death served mostly to transfer our sins to heaven and then transfer them again to Satan who becomes the final sin bearer. The “transfer” of sin is the underlying motif of Adventist sanctuary theology.13 However, 1 Peter 2:24 sates, “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” “Bore our sins” is aorist tense indicating that this was a one-time event at a point in time, and that point is “on the cross”. What spirit would want to undermine the complete atonement at the cross? You must ask yourself, “Who is my sin bearer: Christ or Satan?”
7. This doctrine teaches that God’s people will have to live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor.
“When he [Christ] leaves the sanctuary, darkness covers the inhabitants of the earth. In that fearful time the righteous must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor.”14
This teaching has struck fear in the hearts of countless thousands, if not millions of Adventists. This topic was discussed in the conference mentioned above. I found Dr. Roy Gane’s comments to be almost unbelievable.
“In the context of living in the sight of God without a mediator, [what] she is talking about there is mediation for sin. God will do in us a work like what the Holy Spirit did …in the virgin Mary by implanting Jesus in her womb; Christ will be implanted, His character implanted in our minds and hearts. We will accept, we will say as Mary did, ‘let it be to me according to your will, word.’ We will accept what He does in us so that sin simply dries on the vine in our lives. God does a work in us that he wants to do, brings us to this maturity so that He no longer has any work to do there in terms of mediating for sin. He still will be answering our prayers; the Holy Spirit will be still ministering to us. In fact Ellen White talks about the Spirit will be taken from the world and put on us as it is withdrawing, but furthermore, there is one thought that we should keep in mind. Where was Christ during the time of Jacob’s trouble? In Jacob’s arms, as close as he could get. And I believe that is where Christ is going to be, right there with us struggling through this terrible experience with us. He will not abandon us, and there is no evidence that he will.”
Carefully observe how this central pillar of the Adventist faith contradicts Scripture and undermines the work of Christ in several ways:
A. Hebrews 7:25 states, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”
This Scripture states forthrightly that Christ is always living to make intercession for His people. There is no hint that there will be a time when He will not be doing this. Notice that the writer of Hebrews has salvation in view. Is the writer of Hebrews right or wrong?
B. Dr. Roy Gane seems to place the instant change that Christians will experience at the second coming15 to a time before Jacob’s time of trouble.
This assumption is in harmony with traditional Adventist teaching that last day Adventists will reach a point of personal perfection before the second coming. Thus, they will have 100% of Christ’s righteousness imparted to them, and will no longer need any of Christ’s righteousness imputed to them. Perhaps this is why they downplay the importance of Christ seated at the Father’s right hand at the ascension. I had never heard of Adventist perfection being compared to God’s work in the Virgin Mary before. However, this fits nicely into traditional Adventist thinking in that Christ’s perfect life was not enough to settle the issues of the great controversy; God needed a group of people, they say, to demonstrate to the inhabited universe that His law could be perfectly kept.
C. Dr. Gane also states that according to Ellen White, God will take the Spirit that is in the world and place that Spirit on Adventists.
According to the Apostle John, the Holy Spirit is not accessible to the world. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you (Jn. 14:16-17).
8. The teaching that flows from this central pillar of Adventism contradicts Scripture and nullifies the grace of God.
Paul stated, “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Gal. 2:21). The writer of Hebrews shows us that our perfection is always “in Christ”. “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). “Perfected” is perfect passive in Greek indicating that this perfecting resulted from the past event of the “one offering” at the cross, the results of which continue in the present and on into the future. We who have been placed into Christ by the Spirit at the moment of saving faith continue to live in the state of Christ’s perfection.
9. This doctrine teaches that the investigative judgment and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary are the very things that vindicate the character of God before the onlooking universe.16
The following quote is from the Adult Sabbath School Lesson, Three Angel’s Messages, First quarter, 2008, p. 47.
“With sobering timeliness we study the subject of God’s investigative judgment on the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary (sesquicentennial) of its commencement in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary on October 22, 1844. Through this judgment work God has committed Himself to explain completely to the universe of unfallen beings His work of redemption, and His perfectly fair and loving way of dealing with sin and sinners. The judgment settles all accusations, doubts, and concerns about the justice and goodness of God.”
This doctrine flies in the face of Romans 3:24-26. Christ has already done what Adventists think they will do by reaching perfection: “being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
Can you see that this central pillar of Adventism is wrong on every count? It contradicts Scripture, perverts the gospel, and undermines Christ’s finished work. This doctrine actually usurps the atonement at the cross. Who is right, this doctrine, or Christ who said, “It is finished”? I have only scratched the surface in divulging the many errors associated with this teaching. However, there should be enough evidence herein to allow you to make an informed decision.
My study leads me to conclude that the Spirit of God had nothing to do with the formation and development of this doctrine. It is not the true gospel; it is a false gospel. It has the imprint of another spirit. This means that the foundation and central pillar of the Adventist faith, the very heart of Adventist theology, is unbiblical and undermines the finished work of Christ. Remember what Paul wrote to the Galatian church:
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”.17
It is of interest that the Adventist church claims that Ellen White had over 2,000 visions. She writes, “I asked my accompanying angel…” a number of times. She uses the phrase “said the angel” some 382 times. She uses the word, “my angel” about 793 times.18 However, her angel was caught in several lies.19 Those who “are living by the Spirit” should have nothing to do with such a false doctrine that undermines the saving work of Christ. It should be openly rejected and renounced as error.
What is the solution?
There are many, perhaps the majority, of Adventist pastors and Bible teachers who want to run as far away from Daniel 8:14, 1844 and the investigative judgment, and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary as possible. Yet the church cannot dismiss this doctrine. This doctrine is not only the central pillar in name, it is the central pillar holding up the whole Adventist identity. I agree 100% with Dr. Rodriguez on this point. If the Adventist church were to jettison this teaching, the organization would be morphed into something it is not.20 That is why the last two General Conference presidents have openly endorsed Ellen White and the sanctuary doctrine. If they were to admit the errors of October 22, 1844, and the investigative judgment as the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary as taught by Ellen White, then Ellen White would fall as “a continuing and authoritative source of truth”. If Ellen White is rejected, the doctrine of the remnant church would fall on the heap. If the remnant church doctrine goes, then the Sabbath as the seal of God for end time believers and Sunday as the mark of the beast crumbles into the dust.
Remove the central pillar, and the whole structure falls. Adventist church leaders know this fact, and they also know the errors of this teaching. To avoid the catastrophic results that would occur if they admitted the errors of this central pillar, they continue to teach it based upon traditional assumptions. Otherwise, as Dr. Angel Rodriguez states: If this doctrine is wrong, “there is no reason for us to exist…We are simply wrong.”
Yes, indeed. †
Copyright 2013 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Casa Grande, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised April 3, 2013. Contact email: email@example.com
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VOLUME 14, ISSUE 1