The Sanctuary Question
People are noticing the events going on around us on this earth. They are becoming aware that situations are getting more wicked, more evil, and they are beginning to wonder if we haven’t come to the end of time. Some have noticed the errors creeping into the Seventh-day Adventist with rock music style entertainment and emerging church theology and liturgy. Then a few begin to doubt if we are advancing in present truth, or for that matter, obtaining new truth that should indicate progress in expanding the kingdom of God. This usually results in skepticism regarding our historic interpretation of prophecy. Are Seventh-day Adventists wrong about the 2,300 day prophecy in Daniel 8:13, 14? Could there be some other conclusion drawn from Scripture that might surpass previous positions in accuracy? After all, Adventists were initially wrong in their understanding when Jesus didn’t return in 1844. To answer these questions, let’s read the history as written by someone who lived through the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844.
“The scripture which above all others had been both the foundation and the central pillar of the advent faith was the declaration: ‘Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.’ Daniel 8:14. These had been familiar words to all believers in the Lord’s soon coming. By the lips of thousands was this prophecy repeated as the watchword of their faith. All felt that upon the events therein foretold depended their brightest expectations and most cherished hopes. These prophetic days had been shown to terminate in the autumn of 1844. In common with the rest of the Christian world, Adventists then held that the earth, or some portion of it, was the sanctuary. They understood that the cleansing of the sanctuary was the purification of the earth by the fires of the last great day, and that this would take place at the second advent. Hence the conclusion that Christ would return to the earth in 1844.
“But the appointed time had passed, and the Lord had not appeared. The believers knew that God’s word could not fail; their interpretation of the prophecy must be at fault; but where was the mistake? Many rashly cut the knot of difficulty by denying that the 2300 days ended in 1844. No reason could be given for this except that Christ had not come at the time they expected Him. They argued that if the prophetic days had ended in 1844, Christ would then have returned to cleanse the sanctuary by the purification of the earth by fire; and that since He had not come, the days could not have ended.
“To accept this conclusion was to renounce the former reckoning of the prophetic periods. The 2300 days had been found to begin when the commandment of Artaxerxes for the restoration and building of Jerusalem went into effect, in the autumn of 457 B.C. Taking this as the starting point, there was perfect harmony in the application of all the events foretold in the explanation of that period in Daniel 9:25-27. Sixty-nine weeks, the first 483 of the 2300 years, were to reach to the Messiah, the Anointed One; and Christ’s baptism and anointing by the Holy Spirit, A.D. 27, exactly fulfilled the specification. In the midst of the seventieth week, Messiah was to be cut off. Three and a half years after His baptism, Christ was crucified, in the spring of A.D. 31. The seventy weeks, or 490 years, were to pertain especially to the Jews. At the expiration of this period the nation sealed its rejection of Christ by the persecution of His disciples, and the apostles turned to the Gentiles, A.D. 34. The first 490 years of the 2300 having then ended, 1810 years would remain. From A.D. 34, 1810 years extend to 1844. ‘Then,’ said the angel, ‘shall the sanctuary be cleansed.’ All the preceding specifications of the prophecy had been unquestionably fulfilled at the time appointed.
“With this reckoning, all was clear and harmonious, except that it was not seen that any event answering to the cleansing of the sanctuary had taken place in 1844. To deny that the days ended at that time was to involve the whole question in confusion, and to renounce positions which had been established by unmistakable fulfillments of prophecy.” (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, 409, 410, emphasis added.)
What becomes clear to us as we refresh our memories of the history of the Millerite movement from which we sprang as a denomination is that the dates are all correct. There is no difficulty with the dates. It is how we apply the dates to an expected event that complicated the sorrows of those so greatly disappointed. And here we see that a temptation overcame the faith of those who chose to deny the dates by “rashly [cutting] the knot of difficulty by denying that the 2300 days ended in 1844.” And yet some have repeated this very error of denying that the 2300 days are fulfilled in 1844. These assert that it is possible to make the days literal, rather than prophetic, and apply them to end time events yet to come.
If these doubters would simply trust that God would not lead His messenger astray and exercise faith in what writings we have on time prophecies, we could end this matter by simply quoting the necessary proofs and leave off from further discussion. But, the work of meeting these objections would be insufficient. We must also comprehend those passages that warn us of repeating history of cherishing errors from the past and repackaging for resale just before Jesus comes again.
In the early 1880s a father and daughter began making claims that she had visions from God revealing that the close of probation would occur in October of 1884. Apparently, Adventists had repeated Israel’s unbelief resulting in forty years of wandering in the wilderness. At any rate, the Garmires managed to entice a young employee at the Review and Herald to give them a copy of the readers’ list so that they could then mail a pamphlet to church membership informing them of the event. Ellen White then wrote of how she had to meet this deception. “I there stated in public that the Lord had been pleased to show me that there would be no definite time in the message given of God since 1844; and that I knew that this message, which four or five were engaged in advocating with great zeal, was heresy. The visions of this poor child were not of God. This light came not from heaven. Time was short; but the end was not yet. A great work was to be accomplished to prepare a people to be sealed with the seal of the living God.—An Exposure of Fanaticism and Wickedness, 9, 10, (Pamphlet) (1885).” (White, Vol. 2, Selected Messages, 73, emphasis added.)
Just a couple of years later, Ellen White would again address the challenges to our faith about the events surrounding the heavenly sanctuary and the timing of Christ’s coming. “The world placed all time-proclamation on the same level and called it a delusion, fanaticism and heresy. Ever since 1844 I have borne my testimony that we were now in a period of time in which we are to take heed to ourselves lest our hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon us unawares. Our position has been one of waiting and watching, with no time-proclamation to intervene between the close of the prophetic periods in 1844 and the time of our Lord’s coming. We do not know the day nor the hour, or when the definite time is, and yet the prophetic reckoning shows us that Christ is at the door.” —Letter 38, 1888, pp. 3-5. (To Dear Sister, August 11, 1888.) (White, Vol. 10, Manuscript Releases, 270, emphasis added.)
Then, just before the great crisis emerged involving Kellogg’s pantheistic views, Ellen White once more gave us clarity regarding time prophecies concluding in 1844. “The special light given to John which was expressed in the seven thunders was a delineation of events which would transpire under the first and second angels’ messages. It was not best for the people to know these things, for their faith must necessarily be tested. In the order of God most wonderful and advanced truths would be proclaimed. The first and second angels’ messages were to be proclaimed, but no further light was to be revealed before these messages had done their specific work. This is represented by the angel standing with one foot on the sea, proclaiming with a most solemn oath that time should be no longer.
“This time, which the angel declares with a solemn oath, is not the end of this world’s history, neither of probationary time, but of prophetic time, which should precede the advent of our Lord. That is, the people will not have another message upon definite time. After this period of time, reaching from 1842 to 1844, there can be no definite tracing of the prophetic time. The longest reckoning reaches to the autumn of 1844.
“The angel’s position, with one foot on the sea, the other on the land, signifies the wide extent of the proclamation of the message. It will cross the broad waters and be proclaimed in other countries, even to all the world. The comprehension of truth, the glad reception of the message, is represented in the eating of the little book. The truth in regard to the time of the advent of our Lord was a precious message to our souls (Manuscript 59, 1900, emphasis added).”
What really brings our comprehension to completeness is an understanding of how Satan works to bring these and other errors into the church in order to derail us from our true mission of proclaiming the everlasting gospel and cooperating with God in preparing for Heaven by perfecting characters fit for Heaven. The revelation comes again from the Pen of Inspiration.
“Satan can skillfully play the game of life with many souls, and he acts in a most underhanded, deceptive manner to spoil the faith of the people of God and to discourage them…. He works today as he worked in heaven, to divide the people of God in the very last stage of this earth’s history. He seeks to create dissension, and to arouse contention and discussion, and to remove if possible the old landmarks of truth committed to God’s people. He tries to make it appear as if the Lord contradicts Himself.
“It is when Satan appears as an angel of light that he takes souls in his snare, deceiving them. Men who pretend to have been taught of God, will adopt fallacious theories, and in their teaching will so adorn these fallacies as to bring in Satanic delusions. Thus Satan will be introduced as an angel of light and will have opportunity to present his pleasing fables.
“These false prophets will have to be met. They will make an effort to deceive many, by leading them to accept false theories. Many scriptures will be misapplied in such a way that deceptive theories will apparently be based upon the words that God has spoken. Precious truth will be appropriated to substantiate and establish error. These false prophets, who claim to be taught of God, will take beautiful scriptures that have been given to adorn the truth, and will use them as a robe of righteousness to cover false and dangerous theories. And even some of those who, in times past, the Lord has honored, will depart so far from the truth as to advocate misleading theories regarding many phases of truth, including the sanctuary question.—Manuscript 11, 1906.” (White, Evangelism, 359, 360, emphasis added.)
We have been warned that “even some of those who, in times past, the Lord has honored, will so depart from the truth as to advocate misleading theories regarding many phases of truth, including the sanctuary question.” Did such a person exist? The answer is emphatically Yes!
Of the Kellogg party of apostates, Dr. Ellet J. Waggoner was among those that the Lord had honored with great truth regarding the righteousness of Christ and His all sufficient merits to provide justification by faith. Yet Waggoner gave up “the sanctuary question” as early as 1891. Nine years separate the genuine light of conversion and the false light of apostasy. In his last letter to a friend, unposted at the time of his death in 1916, Waggoner refers to his conversion thirty-four years previous (1882). Then a few paragraphs later, he relates another epiphany of light experience. “Also, twenty-five years ago , these truths, coupled with the self-evident truth that sin is not an entity but a condition that can exist only in a person, made it clear to me that it is impossible that there could be any such thing as the transferring of sins to the sanctuary in heaven, thus defiling that place; and that there could, consequently, be no such thing, either in 1844, A. D., or at any other time, as the ‘cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary.’
“‘Then what took place in 1844?’
“That question puzzled me for many years; for I had been so thoroughly indoctrinated with the idea of a 2300-year period ending in 1844, that it never occurred to me to doubt it. Indeed, I never did doubt it for a moment; but one day the light dawned upon me, and I saw that the period had no foundation whatever, and then of course I simply dropped it.
“How did I learn this? you ask. Well, I suppose I should never have seen it if I had not been for so many years fully convinced that the thing, which I, from my boyhood had been taught took place in 1844 did not occur, then nor at any other time.
“But what about the 2300 days? Are we to throw away the prophetic rule of ‘a day for a year’? By no means; that rule holds, but it has no application in this case, for the simple reason that the eighth chapter of Daniel, makes no mention whatever of 2300 days. Not the ‘King James’ version nor any other version, but the Hebrew text, must settle the question, and that says, ‘two thousand and three hundred evenings and mornings’ (literally ‘evening-mornings’), as correctly rendered in the revised version.
“‘But,’ it is asked, ‘doesn’t an evening and a morning make a day?’ Yes; but what reason have we for gratuitously assuming that the term is here used as a periphrasis for ‘day’? In that case we should have a figure of a figure! We are placed under the necessity of interpreting a figure of speech, and then taking that interpretation as a prophetic figure. When a prophetic symbol is used the symbol itself ought to be absolutely clear, needing no explanation. But here we are told to believe that we have for the figurative day a term that is never elsewhere used in the Bible for the word ‘day.’ Why should we assume an exception here? There is a Hebrew word that is everywhere rendered ‘day,’ and it is the only word for ‘day’ in the Hebrew language. It occurs more than 2000 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Has it never occurred to you to wonder why an exception should be made here? It certainly rests with those who claim an exception here to show the most clear and convincing proof of the alleged fact, and to give a plain and conclusive reason therefor.” (Dr. E. J. Waggoner, The Confession of Faith, 14-16, emphasis added.)
Clearly, Waggoner’s epiphany was one that led to darkness even though it presented itself as light. He did not see the trap set to ensnare him with unnecessary doubts in the Seventh-day Adventist position on the sanctuary question. Certainly there is no shame despite his suggestion that having a “figure of a figure” is merely an embarrassment. Nor is there any heresy in the translating “evenings and mornings” as “days” when one considers that the work of the first six “evenings and mornings”, or days, God created the earth and all the creatures populating it, and then resting from His work of creation on the seventh “evening and morning”, the seventh day Sabbath. The figure of the 2300 “evenings and mornings” are fittingly called days as they relate to the work of redemption and the association of worship that accompanies the sacrifices intended to illustrate that part of the plan of salvation, redemption, and recreation. In the earthly type of ministry, this is especially appropriate since the “transgression of desolation” would be an attempted attack on the daily ministry of Christ in the Holy services of the Heavenly Sanctuary. While these prophetic days are passing as literal years, Jesus is seen in Revelation as walking among the candlesticks in the Heavenly Sanctuary–the pattern Moses saw and copied when preparing the blueprints for the wilderness tabernacle. (See Revelation 1:10-20.)
From the time of the Great Disappointment in October of 1844, people have cast doubt upon what should be settled truth. The counsel once given to Elder E. P. Daniels is very much applicable to those who are choosing to be skeptics. “You are in danger of losing the confidence of your brethren, because you do not practice that which you preach. At one time you urge one thing, and at another time another, because some idea strikes you in a different light. Feeling sways you. You are not rooted and grounded and settled in the truth, and therefore you are easily moved. There must be deep heart work in your case, for I have been shown that unless you have power to resist inclination and impulse, you will be overcome by the enemy of God and man. You need to cultivate genuine faith; for it is inseparable from repentance, transformation of character, and the bringing forth the fruits of the Spirit. The reason you have not overcome many of the weaknesses of your character is not because you are satisfied with yourself as you are, but you have not the moral courage to war against your inclination. You should be determined to accept the light which God has given you, which has called your attention to his precepts and injunctions, and follow the expressed will of God.” (White, Letter “April, 1888”, Testimonies on the Case of Elder E. P. Daniels (1890) Pamphlet 96, 10, 11.)
The counsel on how to be “settled in the truth” pointedly proclaims a need for genuine faith that works repentance to the perfection of character. The foundation for such a necessity is upon the bedrock of transformation from world loving Christians who cannot see that they actually have enmity toward God to lovers of God and fellowman. We cannot serve two masters. We must love God and hate the originator of Sin, or be forever lost regardless of our profession. We are saved by grace, and encouraged by the Bible prophecies because we can rest assured that God is not surprised by anything–good or bad–that is revealed therein. The Seventh-day Adventist teaching on the sanctuary doctrine is a pillar of truth as it is in Jesus which Satan desires to cast down to the ground. Those who would believe Satan’s deceptions calculated to cast soul-destroying doubt upon that truth will find their faith as shipwrecked as Waggoner during the last of his days.
Jeremiah well describes the true condition of the skeptics. “Moreover thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord; Shall they fall, and not arise? shall he turn away, and not return? Why then is this people of Jerusalem slidden back by a perpetual backsliding? they hold fast deceit, they refuse to return. I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright: no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, What have I done? every one turned to his course, as the horse rusheth into the battle. Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord. How do ye say, We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us? Lo, certainly in vain made he it; the pen of the scribes is in vain. The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken: lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord; and what wisdom is in them?” KJV, Jeremiah 8:4-9.
But we don’t have to suffer their expected end! So, let us take courage as we remember the words of the True Witness to the churches. “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee…. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” KJV, Revelation 3:3, 11.