The purpose of this site is to examine objections to the Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary doctrine. This teaching is unique to the Seventh-day Adventist church, and is a central pillar of Adventist identity. In order to see whether the teaching is biblical, it is necessary to first spell out what is meant by the Adventist sanctuary doctrine.
To begin with we will examine the official Fundamental Beliefs statement adopted by the church:
There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle which the Lord set up and not man. In it Christ ministers on our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross. He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry at the time of His ascension. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry. It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. In that typical service the sanctuary was cleansed with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things are purified with the perfect sacrifice of the blood of Jesus. (Adventist Fundamental Belief #24)
From this statement we can see several important aspects of the Adventist sanctuary teaching:
1. The focus is on activity in the true sanctuary, in heaven, where Christ went to minister on our behalf at His ascension, making available the benefits of his atoning sacrifice.
2. The sacrifice of Christ is seen as a "once-for-all" sacrifice on the cross. In other words, unlike the earthly type there are not many various kinds of sacrifices, such as sin offerings, fellowship offerings, burnt offerings, offered at different times. Instead, there is one perfect, once-for-all sacrifice which took place on the cross.
3. At His ascension Christ was inaugurated, or anointed, as our High Priest.
4. Jesus entered a second, last phase of His High Priestly ministry beginning in the year 1844. For Adventists this date of 1844 is derived from study of the prophecy of the 2300 evenings and mornings of Daniel 8:14.
5. Jesus' ministry of in the heavenly sanctuary involves an investigative judgment. This is part of the disposition of all sin.
6. The investigative judgment that Jesus performs in the heavenly sanctuary is seen to be the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement cleansing of the earthly sanctuary in the Old Testament Type. The heavenly sanctuary is cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
This concept of the cleansing of the sanctuary comes from the Day of Atonement service which is spelled out in Leviticus chapter 16. Additional regulations are given in Leviticus 23, along with regulations for the other important holy days in the Israelite calendar. If the reader is not familiar with this service it would be a good idea to read these texts before continuing.
While the Adventist Fundamental Beliefs statement provides a good official basis for spelling out the basics of the teaching, there are some additional details that it would be good to review. As there are some differences in how individual members of the church have presented the doctrine I will quote from the writings of Ellen White. These writings are considered a "continuing and authoritative source of truth" (Fundamental Belief #18) for the Adventist church. For this reason they represent a baseline doctrine that most Adventists can agree to.
Chapter 28 of the book The Great Controversy provides a good description of the teaching. I will look at a few highlights from that chapter in order to list additional aspects of the Sanctuary teaching. Follow the link for the entire chapter from the White Estate web site.
Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies
and there appears in the presence of God to engage in the last acts of His
ministration in behalf of man--to perform the work of investigative judgment
and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.
In the typical
service only those who had come before God with confession and repentance, and
whose sins, through the blood of the sin offering, were transferred to the
sanctuary, had a part in the service of the Day of Atonement. So in the great
day of final atonement and investigative judgment the only cases considered are
those of the professed people of God. The judgment of the wicked is a distinct
and separate work, and takes place at a later period. (The Great Controversy, 480)
From this passage we can point out the following about the investigative judgment:
1. The judgment happens in the heavenly equivalent of the Holy of Holies, or second compartment of ministry in the sanctuary.
2. The judgment is in the presence of God, and is attended by heavenly angels.
3. The work done is to perform investigative judgment and make atonement for those shown to be entitled by that investigation.
4. Ellen White sees the sin offering as transferring sins to the earthly sanctuary in the type.
5. The only people involved in the service in the earthly type were those who were part of the camp of Israel, the professed people of God. In the same way the investigative judgment in the heavenly sanctuary is seen to deal only with the professed people of God. Or to put it another way, it does not deal with the cases of those who have made no profession of God or made any semblance of seeking pardon through Him. She sees their judgment as distinct.
As the books of
record are opened in the judgment, the lives of all who have believed on Jesus
come in review before God. Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth,
our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with
the living. Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are
accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining upon the books of
record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the
book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book
of God's remembrance. (The Great Controversy, 483)
The following aspects are seen:
1. The books of heaven are reviewed as the evidence in the investigative judgment.
2. The lives of all professed believers in God are reviewed individually.
3. Those who have sins remaining upon the books of record that are not repented of and forgiven will be blotted out of the book of life. The record of their good deeds is removed.
With this summary of the Adventist Sanctuary teaching we may now begin to examine whether this doctrine is supported by the Bible.
It is my position that the Adventist Sanctuary Teaching does not match up with what the Bible says. These conclusions are spelled out in various articles.
Does Blood Transfer, or Does Blood Cleanse? Are sins transferred to the sanctuary through the sin offering? How do sins get to the sanctuary for the Day of Atonement if they are already forgiven through the sin offering? Doesn't Jesus have to have a "daily" ministry before entering the "yearly" ministry?
An In-Depth View of Hebrews 9:23-25 This
article goes point-by-point through the one text in the New Testament
that overtly mentions the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, Hebrews
9:23-25. This answers many questions regarding the basic explanation in
the first article.