At the center of the Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary teaching is the reference to the cleansing of the sanctuary in Daniel 8:14.

Dan 8:14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

In this text Adventists have seen a clear reference to the Day of Atonement cleansing of the sins of professed people of God.  And it is from this prophecy that they derive the year 1844 as the beginning of this Day of Atonement ministry.

However, throughout they history of the Adventist church many of those who preached this sanctuary teaching have come to find a problem with the Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14. Or more to the point, they have found that, when looked at in context, Daniel 8:14 is not speaking about a Day of Atonement cleansing at all!

I can well recall when I first started to see this problem myself. It certainly shook my confidence in the Adventist Sanctuary doctrine. When the context of the passage is examined one realizes that the focus is not on a judgment of individuals in fulfillment of the Day of Atonement type.

Here is the context leading up to Daniel 8:14:

Dan 8:1 In the third year of the reign of king Belshazzar a vision appeared unto me, even unto me Daniel, after that which appeared unto me at the first.
Dan 8:2 And I saw in a vision; and it came to pass, when I saw, that I was at Shushan in the palace, which is in the province of Elam; and I saw in a vision, and I was by the river of Ulai.
Dan 8:3 Then I lifted up mine eyes, and saw, and, behold, there stood before the river a ram which had two horns: and the two horns were high; but one was higher than the other, and the higher came up last.
Dan 8:4 I saw the ram pushing westward, and northward, and southward; so that no beasts might stand before him, neither was there any that could deliver out of his hand; but he did according to his will, and became great.
Dan 8:5 And as I was considering, behold, an he goat came from the west on the face of the whole earth, and touched not the ground: and the goat had a notable horn between his eyes.
Dan 8:6 And he came to the ram that had two horns, which I had seen standing before the river, and ran unto him in the fury of his power.
Dan 8:7 And I saw him come close unto the ram, and he was moved with choler against him, and smote the ram, and brake his two horns: and there was no power in the ram to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground, and stamped upon him: and there was none that could deliver the ram out of his hand.
Dan 8:8 Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven.

This part of the vision is explained later by Gabriel. He indicates that the ram represents the Medes and Persians, and the he goat represents the Macedonian-Greecian empire. From history we recognize the great horn as Alexander the great, the Macedonian conqueror. After his fall his kingdom was split up. Here is the explanation:

Dan 8:20 The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia.
Dan 8:21 And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king.
Dan 8:22 Now that being broken, whereas four stood up for it, four kingdoms shall stand up out of the nation, but not in his power.

After Daniel 8:8 the theme turns from the Medes and Persians and Greecian empires to the activities of a different power--the little horn.

The identity of the little horn is debated among various scholars. For now it doesn't even matter who that little horn power is. For the sake of argument we can even say it represents Rome, in its pagan and papal phases, as a number of Adventists believe.

Here is what the chapter says about that little horn power:

Dan 8:9 And out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land.
Dan 8:10 And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them.
Dan 8:11 Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily was taken away, and the place of his sanctuary was cast down.
Dan 8:12 And an host was given him against the daily by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.

Again, the particulars of this passage have been debated. What is clear however, is that this little horn power is acting against God's sanctuary, causing the continual or daily ministration to be taken away.

For the sake of examining the context, the definition of the daily is not the issue. The point is that the chapter deals with the activities of the little horn against the sanctuary.

With that background in mind Daniel 8:13 asks an important question. And Daniel 8:14, our key text, is the answer to that question.

Dan 8:13 Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?

In other words, how long until the activities of the little horn power against God's sanctuary are stopped? How long will it go on?

Now note that Daniel 14 is not speaking at all about the sins of God's people stored in the sanctuary. It is answering the question regarding the activities of the little horn power.

Dan 8:14 And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.

The sanctuary will be cleansed from what? From the activities of the little horn power!

The whole chapter is about the little horn, not about the sins of God's people. Adventists pull this verse completely out of its context to try to make it say something it is not saying at all.

This fact was essentially admitted in the October 1980 special edition of Ministry magazine. (For those not aware Ministry magazine is publication by the Seventh-day Adventist church written for Adventist and non-Adventist clergy).

This special edition included the documents from the Glacier View trial of the ideas of Desmond Ford. Ford was an Adventist minister and teacher who had questioned aspects of the Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary teaching.

The denominational scholars and administrative leaders gathered together to re-examine the sanctuary doctrine and Ford's objections to it. You can read the entire issue online in Ministry magazine's archives.

Part of this issue is the official report entitled "Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary."

It contains the following fascinating statement:

According to many older versions of the Bible, at the end of the 2300 days the sanctuary is to be "cleansed." The Hebrew word here is nisdaq, which has a broad range of possible meanings. Its basic idea is "make right," "justify," "vindicate," or "restore"; but "purify" and "cleanse" may be included within its conceptual range. In Daniel 8:14 it is evident that the word denotes the reversal of the evil caused by the power symbolized by the "little horn," and hence probably should be translated "restore." While there is, therefore, not a strong verbal link between this verse and the Day of Atonement ritual of Leviticus 16, the passages are, nevertheless, related by their parallel ideas of rectifying the sanctuary from the effects of sin.

So here some of the foremost scholars in the Adventist church admit that in Daniel 8 the sanctuary restoration is from the activities of the little horn power. The "cleansing" or restoration is a specific one, with regard to the defilement caused by the little horn. It is not an investigation of all professed believers of God to see if they have repented. That notion is completely foreign to the context. They even specify that there is no "strong verbal link" in the terminology to the Day of Atonement ritual. In other words, the term for cleanse itself is not directly tied to the Day of Atonement service. They note that cleansing the sanctuary from the defilement of the little horn, and cleansing it from sin on the Day of Atonement are parallel ideas, as both relate to rectifying the sanctuary from the effects of sin. But that is where the similarities stop. The blood of Jesus cleansing the sanctuary by atonement is not the same as removing defiling elements brought in by the little horn power.

It is clear then that there is not strong basis for claiming that the verse is speaking of the Day of Atonement from context, or based on terminology alone. Some, however, point to allusions to the Day of Atonement in the elements of the vision itself. In other words, the animals of the ram and the goat are references to the Day of Atonement service.

It is true that goats certainly play a key role in the service:

Lev 16:7  Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
Lev 16:8  And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the LORD and the other lot for Azazel.
Lev 16:9  And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the LORD and use it as a sin offering,
Lev 16:10  but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the LORD to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

And it is likewise true that a Ram plays a part in the service:

Lev 16:3  But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

However, similar animals are not enough to show a Day of Atonement context when the rest of the passage speaks of other themes. And while there are references to a ram and to goats in the Day of Atonment service, there is another scriptural parallel involving rams and goats that is even closer.

In the time of Hezekiah the sanctuary had to be cleansed from defiling influences. This was not a Day of Atonement cleansing, but cleansing from outside defilement.

2Ch 29:3 He in the first year of his reign, in the first month, opened the doors of the house of the LORD, and repaired them.
2Ch 29:4 And he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them together into the east street,
2Ch 29:5 And said unto them, Hear me, ye Levites, sanctify now yourselves, and sanctify the house of the LORD God of your fathers, and carry forth the filthiness out of the holy place.
2Ch 29:6 For our fathers have trespassed, and done that which was evil in the eyes of the LORD our God, and have forsaken him, and have turned away their faces from the habitation of the LORD, and turned their backs.
2Ch 29:7 Also they have shut up the doors of the porch, and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense nor offered burnt offerings in the holy place unto the God of Israel.

Further description of this cleansing is given later in the chapter:

2Ch 29:16 And the priests went into the inner part of the house of the LORD, to cleanse it, and brought out all the uncleanness that they found in the temple of the LORD into the court of the house of the LORD. And the Levites took it, to carry it out abroad into the brook Kidron.
2Ch 29:17 Now they began on the first day of the first month to sanctify, and on the eighth day of the month came they to the porch of the LORD: so they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight days; and in the sixteenth day of the first month they made an end.
2Ch 29:18 Then they went in to Hezekiah the king, and said, We have cleansed all the house of the LORD, and the altar of burnt offering, with all the vessels thereof, and the shewbread table, with all the vessels thereof.
2Ch 29:19 Moreover all the vessels, which king Ahaz in his reign did cast away in his transgression, have we prepared and sanctified, and, behold, they are before the altar of the LORD.

As part of this cleansing there was a sin offering presented. It included seven rams ans seven goats.

2Ch 29:21 And they brought seven bullocks, and seven rams, and seven lambs, and seven he goats, for a sin offering for the kingdom, and for the sanctuary, and for Judah. And he commanded the priests the sons of Aaron to offer them on the altar of the LORD.

This passage describes the restoration of the temple after a time where it had been abandoned and foreign items were put in it that polluted it. These were likely idols, since they had turned away from God.

This cleansing from outside influences is a much closer parallel to the context of Daniel 8, and the animals involved, rams and goats, play a larger role in this service. So we cannot conclude merely from the animals used in the vision that Daniel 8 is speaking of the Day of Atonement cleansing.

Looking at all the evidence there is no direct connection to the Day of Atonement in Daniel 8, whether by context, by symbols, or by terminology.