The Investigative Judgment and the Closing of the Adventist Mind

This is the last of three essays dedicated to re-examining key Adventist positions connected to pre-Second Advent events. The first two – Universal Sunday laws and Adventist Perfectionism/LGT – delved into aspects of our Second Coming posture where we could, and often did, offer plausible deniability. Though we have historically viewed these two positions as important building blocks of our eschatology, we seem at the same time to question their centrality in our overall theological outlook, and have therefore not included them in our official fundamental beliefs. Not so the Investigative Judgment (IJ) or the broader Heavenly Sanctuary motif. This bonafide doctrine is number 24 of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs. (FB)

The most telling aspect of all three unique denominational beliefs – IJ, LGT and Universal Sunday laws – is that none of them seem to have any practical spiritual/pastoral relevance in church life. Which is why they are hardly preached anymore in our pulpits, taught with any conviction in our grade schools and virtually ignored in our tertiary classrooms. These positions once seemed plausible and served an existential denominational need. The church was young then and we could blame our inaction – or was it willful inattention – to the innocence of infancy.

Our laxness during those youthful years could also be attributed to single-mindedly believing that the Second Advent was just around the corner. A legitimate excuse then. But we are now 180 years removed from that era. So we cannot continue the pretense that we know less or lack perspective. We know more and have a better perspective on the circumstances of our denominational birth. Which is a vantage point from which to make a more dispassionate assessment of the theological markers our pioneers laid down. The plea here is to avoid following, with blind obedience, the dictates of a bygone era that did not anticipate a future like ours.

Excerpted below from our official 28 FBs is the basic concept of the IJ doctrine:

In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry, which was typified by the work of the high priest in the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary. 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. The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom

Of all 28 FBs, the IJ doctrine has given Adventism the most angst. And probably for that reason church leaders have been swift to punish denominational employees who have questioned it. The case of Desmond Ford, a widely respected church scholar who, in an academic setting in the late 1970s disputed its validity, bears this out. The church gave him a nine-month leave-of-absence from his professorial responsibilities and in August 1980 was asked to defend his contrarian views. He appeared before some 120 church administrators and theologians at Glacier View Ranch, Colorado. When the defense ended six days later, Pastor Ford’s ministerial credentials were removed and he was cut off from denominational employment. What happened to Desmond Ford is not unique to church leaders who dissented. Other previous luminaries before Ford – Canright, Ballenger, Fletcher, Conradi, Cottrell – who differed and made their misgivings public, met a similar fate.

Forty years have passed since Glacier View and Dr Ford’s orchestrated public defrocking has largely served its intended deterrent purpose: few Adventist thought leaders in church employment have gone public with their concerns about the IJ or other church dogma. However, such hyper-vigilance surrounding this one doctrine, though it silences dissent, speaks to leadership’s acknowledgment that the IJ doctrine is tenuously grounded. Especially in the eyes of young Adventists. The youth, like those they look up to, seem unconvinced that the IJ is “a thing.” And they display their skepticism in much the same way their adult devotees have – by disengagement. But we can’t ignore our way past uncomfortable beliefs.  It is more honorable to admit we erred and move on than keep pretending we believe.

Probably the most controversial aspect of the IJ doctrine (among many others) is how we arrived at October 22, 1844 (or, as originally conceived by Miller, March 21 1843). The controversy centers around Daniel’s (8:14) 2300 days, but it stretches to envelop several Adventist-specific motifs: sanctuary service, the remnant, heavenly intelligences and commandment keeping. The problem is that getting from 2300 days to 1843/4 is not self-evident. It takes specialized know-how or “professional” acumen – knowledge of the right kind of history or biblical language – to make sense of the theology. Which is probably why the average Adventist shuns the topic, and the Adventist Right conversely reveres and recognizes it as a mark of “true” Adventism.

But the IJ doctrine has a KJV problem. As the flaws of this once-dominant translation are corrected in newer more accurate versions, the KJV’s influence recedes, as do doctrines built on faulty translations like Daniel 8:14. The 2300 days, bedrock of the IJ construct, works by converting the days to years, which then establishes a historical bridge to 1844. But this only works in the KJV. No other reputable translation – NIV, NEV, RSV, ASV – interprets it as days.  Instead, they all uniformly translate the phrase as “evenings and mornings.”

This is important because virtually all modern commentators view Daniel 8:14 as a reference to 2300 evening and morning sacrifices. If all other translations are correct, then the time period under consideration is 1150 days (or 1150 years if the year/day principle is valid), a “mistake” that wreaks havoc on calculations that got us to 1844. In this, as in many of our history-constructed beliefs, time is not on our side. Even now few young Adventists, in company with most young Christians, read the KJV. And a hundred years from now it is likely that the KJV will become as unreadable as the Middle English-written Canterbury Tales. Only a few will be reading it in that version. When that time comes this doctrine will have no legs to stand on, as none of their favorite Bible versions will use day in this verse, making the link to 1844 even more torturous.

We get sensitive when critics point to the convenience of how the IJ doctrine emerged – via Hiram Edson’s “Cornfield Vision”– shortly after the 1844 “Great Disappointment”, which allowed the sanctuary location to be transferred from earth to heaven. But our protestations should not obscure the fact of our entanglements with this apocalyptic failure. The IJ doctrine tops the list of our entwinements with the Millerite Movement since this, more than any other position, provides both justification for, and necessity of, our Remnant claim.

If the Millerite calculations and interpretations had been correct and Jesus had returned on October 22, 1844, this discussion would be moot as we would not be here. But they were wrong and Jesus did not come. Instead we rose from the ashes of their failed predictions still practically affirming everything they stood for. The only concession we’ve made that Miller was wrong was not about calculations. No, we fault him for getting the geography wrong. That is, we shifted the meaning and focus of October 22, 1844 from heralding Jesus’ return to earth, as was the overwhelming understanding and message of the Millerites, to Jesus moving from one apartment in heaven to another.

There is a logical inconsistency, some say outright disingenuity, in adopting this position. In chapter 18 of The Great Controversy Ellen White portrays William Miller as a pious truth searcher who followed God’s leading in declaring the good news of Christ’s Second Coming, despite taunts and insults from believers and unbelievers alike. If God were supportive of Miller’s ministry it raises the troubling question of why the same God would lead him to such disastrous conclusions that confirmed skepticism and justified derision by Miller’s detractors. Even more worrisome, why should we view Ellen White’s own relationship with God and her ministry differently from Miller’s?

Questioning is God’s gift to the faithful. Because every belief, or our understanding of it, was arrived at in time and place and therefore conditioned by the events and understandings of that era. So it is imperative that we do not unreflectively bake-in the understandings of any particular period, with respect to theological formulation. More so when the teaching is parochial. The Jews of Jesus’ day went down this road when they believed that they alone were special in God’s eyes. The irony of this self-conceit was that Jesus came and lived among them, but they were blind to his presence.

We should therefore view God as belonging to more than our tribe. Exclusivity, belonging to a club whose members alone are privy to hidden meanings embedded in scripture, sends us to the wilderness. It takes us back to pre-Calvary understandings of how God relates to us. And in the process we raise back the partition separating the worshipper from God, muting the majestic declaration that “It is finished” (John 19:30) and reintroducing a gatekeeper between humans and God. That, to some extent, is what the IJ doctrine does. That we are the only Christian denomination professing this belief should not necessarily be viewed as a badge of honor, a uniqueness that confirms our specialness as God’s favorites. Such exclusivity is undignified and should prompt a vigorous, never-ending assessment of all aspects of this theology.

It bears repeating that any belief making God the benefactor of an exclusive group should be questioned. One of the essential missions of Jesus’ first advent was to broaden the meaning of specialness, to include all believers: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) The peculiar nature of the IJ doctrine, which depends on technical expertise to comprehend its mysteries, asks too much of the average Adventist. So we don’t bother to understand but do the next human thing – ignore it, or pretend belief.

One hundred years ago last year, at the 1919 Bible Conference, our leaders confronted what some viewed as cherished but uncomfortable untruths. After six weeks of earnest deliberations they aired out their concerns, but did not have the courage to communicate these conclusions to the church, fearing the membership would be unsettled. While truth may unsettle in the short term, it makes us free long term. For most of us there is more to Adventism than its fundamental beliefs. And a majority will likely remain in the fold even when we become aware that some understandings are questionable. But it is the feeling that our leaders won’t be candid with us, because they don’t trust our judgment, that galls. Let us take heed of Henry David Thoreau’s warning against acquiring “the expensive luxury of voluntary poverty” by refusing to learn from our mistakes or clinging to error.

 

Matthew Quartey is a transplanted Ghanaian who now lives in and calls the Adventist ghetto of Berrien Springs, Michigan, home. Previous Spectrum columns by Matthew Quartey can be found at: http://spectrummagazine.org/author/matthew-quartey.

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10871
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I must confess, as a lifelong SDA, that I am not very familiar with the 28 FB. Possibly in some sort of vague way. Regarding #24, this little snippet, “The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom.” To me, it negates John 3:16, we not only have to believe but still must pass muster by a judgement. Christ says ‘believe in me and be saved’, no mention of ‘well, let’s get you through judgement first’! The last part of of the above quote speaks of ‘works’ that makes someone ‘ready for translation’! To this limited mind, all that is quite confusing, let alone going through all the rest of the gyrations of number manipulations. No wonder so many people grew up without knowing if they are truly saved by believing in Christ!! (my two cents worth)

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The shabby, shameful, sordid way that Desmond Ford was treated at Glacier View, and subsequently, underscores the fact that this doctrine is suspect. And our current leader’s father was the perpetrator.

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Ford’s case is a classic example of Adventist persecution of the faithful, a continuation of papal inquisition and persecution.

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I could follow the logic if the other cited Biblical versions of Daniel 8:14 read something like: There were 2300 days and/or there were 2300 separate mornings. Then possibly this could be interpreted as being 1150 days since it takes an evening and a morning to equal a day (See Genesis Chapter 1.) For example, Genesis 1:1 in the NASB reads “… And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” So at least in the NASB it appears that one 24 hour day is equivalent to an evening and a morning. I don’t quite see how Genesis 1:1 can be interpreted as one half a day. It seems to me that foregoing should be applicable to whether a day and morning included in Daniel 8:14 is a 24 hour period. Then you would apply the one prophetic day equals one literal year principle (See Ezekiel 4:6 and Numbers 14:34) to establish the 2300 year prophecy.

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Yes indeed this new denomination with a most delusive doctrine called IJ rose out as an offshoot of Millerism.

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Are you as tired as I am? Tired of William Miller given sainthood? He was a fraud. He was a false prophet. You cannot slice him in any other way. He chose to make predictions, he became a prophet. They were false. This was not the “Great” disappointment. it was the GREAT deception. But we wiggle six ways from Sunday to make him a saint…then laughably, taunt other denominations and their false prophets. William Miller was a sham and died in obscurity. No matter what anyone says, he was a charlatan. He ruined countless lives and turned many away. Just because something good came out of it, he was still a fraud.

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Very apt conclusion of ‘Father Miller’ (as Ellen White used to address him!) who was truly deluded.

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Absolutely agree!
I would add EGW to the false prophet category as well.

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His successor EGW beatified him. Angels are said to be watching over his precious dust.

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I know! Poor angels…what a boring job. :woman_facepalming:

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I know that I am out of step with most people on Spectrum, and for many years I had the same doubts. If you take a good look at Revelation 10:9-11, it appears that after John ate the little book, he was told to prophesy again.

Out the stir that this mistake created, came the Adventist church with many Bible truths that had been overlooked, even by the Protestant reformers.

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That little book was falsely interpreted as the book of Daniel to further the doctrine of judgment.

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Daniel 8:14 means there is a verse 13 which means there is a verse 12, and 11… In context the desecration of the temple under the rule of Antiochus Epiphanes is the only logical interpretation of the vision.

The book of Daniel was written as a warning to prepare the Jewish nation for the coming of the Messiah. No time prophecy goes beyond 70 AD. These prophecies deal with the events that shaped the nation of the Holy People that Messiah was born into.

Christ crucified and risen is the stone cut out without hands who struck the image of human power and false religion a fatal blow through his finished work on the cross. Christ is this stone that is the cornerstone of the temple of the Christian era, the church which is his body, that is a world-wide temple in which every believer is a living stone. God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple and by grace we are gifted a place in that dwelling place of God for eternity.

By what authority does Adventism take Daniel 8:14 out of context and build a theology if investigative judgment? Leviticus 16 is about cleansing, not judgment. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin? That’s gospel truth at its best from which all other blessings of the gospel flow. Grace upon grace.

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However, neither cleansing nor judgment can be supported by Leviticus and the book of Hebrews. Day of Atonement as a part of the ceremonial law was nailed to the cross. What is Jesus cleansing any way?

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I agree with your interpretation of Daniel 8:14 applying to Antiochus Epiphanes. His desecration of the temple was what Daniel saw in vision and which made him so sick (8:27).

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Thanks, Ray, you always speak with authority and above all, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is wonderful to read something like Matthew’s piece. Over forty years ago, the brethren plotted to get rid of Des by using the Dallas Statement and not the consensus statement of the group at Glacier View. That consensus statement went towards Des’s position in his manuscript in 12 points, 7 of them major. Des said he could live with it. He told me this, and he told PREXAD at the judgment on Friday afternoon. The brethren did not believe him. They did not want to. Des was utterly devoted to Christ and Adventism, but an Adventism centred on Christ, the cross and the gospel, with doctrines that could be biblically supported. His focus was on God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness that we the believers should manifest towards our enemies. The greatest thing about Des was that he lived what he believed and had no antipathy to anyone when he died—living as he always had in recognition of his own short-comings and the wonderful grace of God that set him free as a young man of 15.

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I guess Leviticus 16:30 is the basis for my reference to cleansing. “for it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord…”

Then 1 John 1:7. “but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Unless I’m missing something from Scripture.

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Well, cleansing is the only part of Leviticus I have no problem, while the cleansing in Dan. 8:14 We consider the basis. But to this day I am not sure what actually was cleansed.

I think if we start with one verse in John rather than one obscure verse in Daniel we are on the right track.

John 2: 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken."

Verses 19 and 22 are the key to unlocking the sanctuary doctrine of the new covenant in Christ’s blood. The only Scriptures the disciples had after the resurrection are what we now call the Old Testament. It didn’t take them long to make the transition from the old to the new covenant and they changed the world forever through the power of the Holy Spirit in them.

Matthew raises a number of critical issues that we must face if we lose site of Jesus as our temple and our place, as believers, in his body, the church.

Only because of Christ’s finished work on the cross and his resurrection are we now, today, justified, sanctified, born again, redeemed, forgiven, recipients of eternal life and peace, cleansed from all sin that willl never rise up against us in judgement, not now, not ever.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit and every born again believer in Jesus is the temple of the new covenant if we can accept it. God in us. We in God. That is the power of the sanctuary doctrine.

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