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Part of the Adventist Sanctuary teaching is the notion that sins are transferred to the sanctuary through sin offerings. The doctrine holds that people confessed sins in the earthly sanctuary service when presenting the sin offering. However, sins were not at that time forgiven, but were transferred to the sanctuary. Then on the Day of Atonement sins were finally cleansed once and for all.

Therefore, the goal of sin offerings are to remove sins from the people and transfer them to the sanctuary. Ellen White spells this out in The Great Controversy.

The ministration of the earthly sanctuary consisted of two divisions; the priests ministered daily in the holy place, while once a year the high priest performed a special work of atonement in the most holy, for the cleansing of the sanctuary. Day by day the repentant sinner brought his offering to the door of the tabernacle and, placing his hand upon the victim's head, confessed his sins, thus in figure transferring them from himself to the innocent sacrifice. The animal was then slain. "Without shedding of blood," says the apostle, there is no remission of sin. "The life of the flesh is in the blood." Leviticus 17:11. The broken law of God demanded the life of the transgressor. The blood, representing the forfeited life of the sinner, whose guilt the victim bore, was carried by the priest into the holy place and sprinkled before the veil, behind which was the ark containing the law that the sinner had transgressed. By this ceremony the sin was, through the blood, transferred in figure to the sanctuary. In some cases the blood was not taken into the holy place; but the flesh was then to be eaten by the priest, as Moses directed the sons of Aaron, saying: "God hath given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation." Leviticus 10:17. Both ceremonies alike symbolized the transfer of the sin from the penitent to the sanctuary. (The Great Controversy,  418)

Ellen White here indicates that the purpose of the sin offering was to remove the sin from the penitent sinner and transfer it to the sanctuary.

Important truths concerning the atonement are taught by the typical service. A substitute was accepted in the sinner's stead; but the sin was not canceled by the blood of the victim. A means was thus provided by which it was transferred to the sanctuary. By the offering of blood the sinner acknowledged the authority of the law, confessed his guilt in transgression, and expressed his desire for pardon through faith in a Redeemer to come; but he was not yet entirely released from the condemnation of the law.  (The Great Controversy, 420)

According to Ellen White the sin is not cancelled by the blood of the victim. It is only transferred.

As anciently the sins of the people were by faith placed upon the sin offering and through its blood transferred, in figure, to the earthly sanctuary, so in the new covenant the sins of the repentant are by faith placed upon Christ and transferred, in fact, to the heavenly sanctuary. And as the typical cleansing of the earthly was accomplished by the removal of the sins by which it had been polluted, so the actual cleansing of the heavenly is to be accomplished by the removal, or blotting out, of the sins which are there recorded. But before this can be accomplished, there must be an examination of the books of record to determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His atonement. (Great Controversy,  421)

Ellen White therefore indicates that the sins of those who repent is transferred to the sanctuary in heaven, just as in the earthly she sees the sin offering transferring sin to the earthly sanctuary.

Generally Adventists argue that there must be transfer of sin to the sanctuary because on the Day of Atonement the sanctuary is cleansed from all the sins of the people. Therefore they infer that these sins were transferred there through confession.

Is it true however, that the sin offering transfers sin to the sanctuary? Throughout the old and new testament it is clear the blood makes atonement, and brings forgiveness.

Lev 17:11  For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

And Ellen White presents no text to indicate that sin is in fact transferred through the sin offering. And that is because no texts exists that speaks of sin being transferred to the sanctuary through the sin offering.

The life of the sacrificial victim is given, its blood shed to make atonement.  It does not say anything about transfer, or the blood bringing atonement by moving the sin to the sanctuary. It does not say the blood contaminates the sanctuary.

In fact, the regulations of the sin offering spell out something quite different:

Lev 6:25  "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, This is the law of the sin offering. In the place where the burnt offering is killed shall the sin offering be killed before the LORD; it is most holy.
Lev 6:26  The priest who offers it for sin shall eat it. In a holy place it shall be eaten, in the court of the tent of meeting.
Lev 6:27  Whatever touches its flesh shall be holy, and when any of its blood is splashed on a garment, you shall wash that on which it was splashed in a holy place.
Lev 6:28  And the earthenware vessel in which it is boiled shall be broken. But if it is boiled in a bronze vessel, that shall be scoured and rinsed in water.
Lev 6:29  Every male among the priests may eat of it; it is most holy.

The sin offering is said to be most holy.  It is to be eaten in a holy place. If the blood is splashed on a garment you have to wash the garment in a holy place.  And anything which touches its flesh shall be holy.  In other words, the sin offering is not seen to transfer sin, but to transfer holiness.

And why not? It is a picture of Jesus who died for us. He dies to pay the price of sin, not merely to move sin around.  Our sin was transferred to Him, but then He paid for it with His very life. This is what is pictured in the sin offering.

The result of the sin offering for the individual is not said to be temporary relocation of sin, which does not forgive, as Ellen White indicates. Rather it results in forgiveness.

Lev 4:27  "If anyone of the common people sins unintentionally in doing any one of the things that by the LORD's commandments ought not to be done, and realizes his guilt,
Lev 4:28  or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring for his offering a goat, a female without blemish, for his sin which he has committed.
Lev 4:29  And he shall lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and kill the sin offering in the place of burnt offering.
Lev 4:30  And the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out all the rest of its blood at the base of the altar.
Lev 4:31  And all its fat he shall remove, as the fat is removed from the peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven.

The sin offering was an illustration for the individual who had sinned that sin leads to death. The animal died in his place. He had to lay his hand on the sin offering, showing the transfer of sins to the animal. He then had to personally kill the sin offering. This was meant to drive home the price of sin, and the cost of forgiveness. It was meant to point to Jesus. The priest would then minister the offering and the result was that the priest made atonement for him and the person was forgiven.

Blood throughout the levitical rites represented the blood of Christ, and the cleansing it would bring. It did not defile, but cleanse. Hebrews reiterates this point as well:

Heb 9:13  For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,
Heb 9:14  how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Heb 9:22  Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.

Without a direct text that indicates the sin offerings transfers sins to the sanctuary the passage that Adventists lean on to try to show this is  Leviticus 10.

Lev 10:17  "Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the LORD?
Lev 10:18  Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary. You certainly ought to have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded."

Adventists argue that sin is transferred to the priest, and then somehow from there to the sanctuary.  However, even in this passage the sin offering is used to make atonement. Nowhere does the text say that the priest's ministration of the sin offering transfers sin to the sanctuary. This is assumed by Adventists. They assume transfer to the priest, which then transfers to the sanctuary.

The sin offering is given to the priests as a thing most holy, to bear the iniquity of the congregation. But the end result of that is atonement and forgiveness. The offering takes on the sin and then becomes a holy thing, the symbol of Jesus, the substitute for the sinner. And as we recall the flesh of the sin offering did not transfer sin, but in fact transferred holiness. So even in this text the result is not transfer of sin to the sanctuary, which is never stated, but atonement is made before the Lord by the sin offering's ministration. The sin offering is called a thing most holy, and is not seen to contaminate anything.

In fact, the reason the priest had not eaten it is that he himself was not clean, and could not then be worthy to partake!

Lev 10:19  And Aaron said to Moses, "Behold, today they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before the LORD, and yet such things as these have happened to me! If I had eaten the sin offering today, would the LORD have approved?"
Lev 10:20  And when Moses heard that, he approved.

If Adventists wish to show that sin offerings contaminate the sanctuary they should have direct texts that state this fact.  There is no direct text that fits the bill. (As a side note it is not clear in the Adventist system how sins would be transferred to the Most Holy Place by sin offerings when no sin offering ever went into the Most Holy Place throughout the year. It was only on the Day of Atonement that this happened. So if sin offerings are the vehicle of sin transfer, how did sins get to the Most Holy Place, so that it required cleansing?)

Now let's step back and take a look at the overall assertion of the Adventist view. In the Adventist view of the sanctuary system God instructs sinners to come to the sanctuary to transfer their sins to the sanctuary. The sanctuary is thereby a big holding tank for sins.  But this is surely all backwards.  When we look at the Scriptures we see that the sanctuary was the place where a Holy God was to dwell among the Israelites. Uncleanness was to be kept from it, not invited in!  And sins and impurities were to be atoned for and cleansed, not stored.

In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve had direct fellowship with God. However, after they sinned they were driven from the garden, and could not longer meet with God in the same way.

Gen 3:23  therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken.
Gen 3:24  He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Later in the time of Moses God expressed His desire to dwell among the people. However, this would not be face-to-face communion with all of the people. Rather, God chose to dwell among them in a sanctuary.

Exo 25:8  And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst.

Individual Israelites could not approach God directly whenever they wanted. Rather only the high priest went in, and only once a year, into God's presence.  During the time of the wilderness wandering God did meet with Moses face to face, but did not do so with the rest of the people.

The sanctuary was a means for a holy God to live among an unholy people. Its services were put in place to remove sin and uncleanness from the people.

So we constantly see warnings to keep uncleanness away, not to bring it into the sanctuary.

An example of this is the rule regarding lepers:

Num 5:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Num 5:2 Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead:
Num 5:3 Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell.
Num 5:4 And the children of Israel did so, and put them out without the camp: as the LORD spake unto Moses, so did the children of Israel.

As these people were unclean, they were to be kept from the sanctuary. Uncleanness that could be removed was to be handled at the sanctuary. Uncleanness that could not be removed was to be away from God's presence.

Uncleanness was to be kept outside the camp, not close to where God dwelt in the midst of the people.

Lev 12:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Lev 12:2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.
Lev 12:3 And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
Lev 12:4 And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.

Uncleanness lasted for a set amount of time. Then the person would go to the sanctuary to have it removed.

Lev 12:6  "And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering,
Lev 12:7  and he shall offer it before the LORD and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female.

So we see that where God dwelled, in the sanctuary, was a holy place. Those who were unclean were not to approach, unless it was in accord with the prescription, and at that time provision was made through sacrifice not to store the sin, but to remove it. Atonement was made for the unclean person.

This was a general rule regarding uncleanness. It is stated again in regard to regulations for discharges:

Lev 15:31 "Thus you shall keep the people of Israel separate from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness by defiling my tabernacle that is in their midst."

Failing to be cleansed at the appointed time became a sever offense because it was an affront to the sanctuary. The person was rejecting the provision for cleansing, and their impurity remained.

Num19:13 Anyone who touches a corpse, the body of a man who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from Israel. Because the water for impurity was not sprinkled on him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is still on him.

Not only was impurity to be kept from the camp, but sins defiled the sanctuary. The children of Israel were eventually driven from the land and the sanctuary destroyed due to their sins:

Ezekiel 5:5 "Thus says the Lord GOD, 'This is Jerusalem; I have set her at the center of the nations, with lands around her.
6 'But she has rebelled against My ordinances more wickedly than the nations and against My statutes more than the lands which surround her; for they have rejected My ordinances and have not walked in My statutes.'
7 "Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, 'Because you have more turmoil than the nations which surround you and have not walked in My statutes, nor observed My ordinances, nor observed the ordinances of the nations which surround you,'
8 therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, 'Behold, I, even I, am against you, and I will execute judgments among you in the sight of the nations.
9 'And because of all your abominations, I will do among you what I have not done, and the like of which I will never do again.
10 'Therefore, fathers will eat their sons among you, and sons will eat their fathers; for I will execute judgments on you and scatter all your remnant to every wind.
11 'So as I live,' declares the Lord GOD, 'surely, because you have defiled My sanctuary with all your detestable idols and with all your abominations, therefore I will also withdraw, and My eye will have no pity and I will not spare.

Even in the case of the Day of Atonement it is clear that defilement from sin happens because God lives in the midst of a sinful nation:

Lev 16:16 And he shall make an atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

There is no needed mechanism to transfer sins to the sanctuary. Sins defile by their presence. God lived in the middle of a sinful people. And it was only the sacrifices which provided atonement by the shed blood, which represented the blood of Christ.

We can see from all these texts that the sanctuary was the solution to the problem of sin contamination through blood atonement. It was not the storage house for such contamination.

Even the names of the different compartments of the sanctuary emphasize that holiness increases as one comes closer into the immediate presence of God. While God in fact fills the whole heavens, and manifested His presence throughout the Israelite camp and sanctuary, His immediate presence was above the ark, over the mercy seat.

Ex 25:21 And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you.
22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.


Ex 30:6 And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you.

Lev 16:2 And the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat.

Num 7:89 And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.

And it was into this area that only the high priest would normally go, once per year. The sanctuary was a place for the Holy God to dwell, not a dump for built up sins!

Sin was not to be invited into the sanctuary to stay, as a holding tank. Rather, at the sanctuary sins were forgiven so that the impurity could be removed, and the people restored. Hence when the person brought the sin offering they were forgiven, and atonement was made:

Lev 4:31  And all its fat he shall remove, as the fat is removed from the peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a pleasing aroma to the LORD. And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven.

The blood of the animal represented the blood of Christ. He took on our sins, in order to die in our behalf:

1Pe 2:24  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Once the animal bore the sins and died, shedding its blood for atonement, there was no more contamination. Otherwise the blood was for nothing. However, what we see in the text the blood was not futile. It brought forgiveness.

Which brings us to a key question, often asked by Adventists: Why did the sanctuary need to be cleansed on the Day of Atonement if individual sins had already been forgiven?

This misses the point somewhat. Each of the various sacrifices showed different aspects of Jesus' one Sacrifice.

The individual sin offering was an offering meant to teach repentance and the cost of sin for one action of transgression, for the person who committed the sin.

The Day of Atonement sacrifices were meant to illustrate corporate provision through one sacrifice for all the people. They illustrate different aspects of Jesus' one sacrifice.

Adventists often refer to two "phases" of the sanctuary, with the notion that in the first phase sin is built up, and in the second it is forgiven. They note the first phrase goes on throughout the year, then on the Day of Atonement the second "phase" takes place.

However, the text for the sin offering says the person is forgiven. It doesn't say they have temporary reprieve through transfer.  There is no transfer seen. The sin offering is not part of one "phase". It is its own picture of one work of the aspect of Christ. It was a means for the individual Israelite to learn repentance of a sinful act.  There were other sacrifices as well, burnt offerings, fellowship offerings, etc. which teach aspects of the sacrifice of Christ.


And in the same way the sacrifice of the lamb on Passover would teach that the angel of death passed over him only because of the blood of the lamb, which pointed to Christ. It also revealed something of the timing of Jesus' eventual one sacrifice.

Just as these various sacrifices taught some aspect about the plan of salvation, so the Day of Atonement was not a "phase" but rather a specific ceremony meant to teach lessons about Jesus' one sacrifice.

The Day of Atonement sacrifice, more than any other, showed one death and ministration of blood for the sins of all the people in the camp, for all their sins throughout the year. It cleansed the people and the sanctuary.

This is a fitting picture of what Christ's death would do. It was one sacrifice that paid for all the sins of all believers, throughout time. Jesus died once, then presented Himself in God's presence once to minister the sacrifice of Himself.

When we try to figure out how the sin which was already forgiven in the individual sacrifice wound up back in the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement, we miss that they are just illustrations of the same truth--the blood cleansed. One was an individual lesson, repeated every time an Israelite went to repent through sacrifice. The other was a repeated, yearly lesson about corporate forgiveness.

All of the various sacrifices pointed to different aspects of Jesus' one sacrifice.

Adventists also argue at times that Jesus had to have a protracted "daily" phase of ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, just as they see a daily and yearly phase in the earthly.

This shows the danger of trying to figure out the heavenly only from the type. The heavenly is the true, and the earthly just a shadow.  Such a view ignores what the book of Hebrews, through inspiration, says about these daily ministrations.

Heb 7:26  For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
Heb 7:27  He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

The repeated round of various sacrifices performed by the priests in the earthly showed the weakness of their ministry. Jesus did not need to minister daily, over and over again various sacrifices. He made and ministered one sacrifice, once-for-all.

Hebrews plainly tells us that these various sacrifices had to be performed every year, but their very repetition points out their inability to really remove sins:

Heb 10:1  For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.
Heb 10:2  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?
Heb 10:3  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.
Heb 10:4  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

The author of Hebrews notes that there was a reminder of sins every year, and these various rites never really took away sins. Ultimately these sacrifices pointed to the one sacrifice of Christ.

Jesus had no need of a prolonged "daily" ministry, with various sacrifices.

Heb 10:11  And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.
Heb 10:12  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,
Heb 10:13  waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
Heb 10:14  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

In this sacrifice He fulfilled all the various sacrifices in the law, which pointed to different aspects of His saving work.

The Day of Atonement was just another illustration of Jesus' dealing with sin. It showed that He takes on all the sins of God's people, through one corporate provision.


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