Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Response to the Magnificent Disappointment Part 1

The first chapter of the Magnificent Disappointment is about William Miller, the “best man for the job”. So it is not of too much concern to the subject matter of the Investigative Judgment. Miller rejected the Investigative Judgment so we will move on to chapter 2.

In the introduction Maxwell declared how important he thinks the concept of 1844 and the IJ (investigative judgment) is. These reasons are given on page 5:

…But only Seventh-day Adventists understand in addition the work of the contemporary Christ who has been ministering grace, sanctification, and judgment in the most holy place since 1844. Thus 1844 is, first of all, a special message about Jesus.
It is also…
The basic reason the Seventh-day Adventist movement exists
The unique reason the Seventh-day Adventists are “Adventists”
The motivating reason why we keep the seventh day
The principal reason behind our vast mission program
The spiritual reason for our classic lifestyle
The most impelling sign that Jesus is coming soon
The most forcible argument for Christian education
A most persuasive reason for seeking to be like Jesus.

About the only thing that is really accurate to most Adventists is that we historically came out of the Millerite movement with it’s emphasis on the Second Coming. There were several groups of Adventists some Sunday keepers and some seventh day Sabbath keepers. The Sabbath keepers did not arrive at that position due to 1844. Certainly a prophetic event which fails to occur and then is reinterpreted to an event that occurs exclusively in heaven beyond human observations is hardly an impelling sign that Jesus is coming soon.

It is from this perspective of Maxwell’s list that we find underlying his arguments in the book. Clearly the book is written to those who already accept the IJ view. As Maxwell begins chapter 2 he writes:

If Miller was God’s “best man available,” how could he have been so conspicuously
The question is important. If we are expected to have sufficient confidence in 1844 to base our lifestyles on it, we need to know where Miller went wrong so we can evaluate his mistake for ourselves.
I find encouragement, personally, in knowing that the mistake Miller made was the kind of mistake that only an expert Bible student would have made.

Instead of explaining why 1844 is important, he relies on his introduction to establish its importance, so important that it defines our lifestyle. That Miller was an expert Bible student is certainly debatable. Since it is modified by “student” I suppose it is acceptable but the idea that Miller was an expert in the Bible is far from accurate. However good some of his ideas were he was not a Bible expert. On page 26 Maxwell explains why Miller misunderstood Daniel 8:14:

Failing at an early point in his study to see the significance of Hebrews 9:22, 23 Miller went on believing what everyone else believed, namely that the heavenly sanctuary could never be defiled or need cleansing. He didn’t even see the connection when he read Hebrews later in his life, for his mind had been made up.

This is an important aspect because it is again part of the peculiar beliefs of Adventism. The idea that there is a literal sanctuary in heaven and the idea that such a sanctuary in the very presence of God needs purified.

(Heb 9:22 NIV) In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

(Heb 9:23 NIV) It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

(Heb 9:24 NIV) For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence.

The subject is not the so called Heavenly sanctuary but the actual reality which the earthly sanctuary symbolized. The ancient Jewish religion taught that most things could be cleaned in the sanctuary by the application of blood in some way. The sacrificial system required so much bloodshed that it seemed there was not forgiveness with out the shedding of blood. Of course when you read the sacrificial system we see there were indeed non blood related sacrifices, oil, flour etc. The idea then is that symbols in the earthly sanctuary were symbolically purified by symbolic materials. But symbols are merely symbols, something in reality has to purify and that is what God does through the manifestation of Jesus Christ. It is God who cleanses our consciences

(Heb 9:9 NIV) This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.

(Heb 9:14 NIV) How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

(Heb 10:22 NIV) let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

There is nothing in these verses about cleansing a heavenly sanctuary. There is no reason for a sanctuary in heaven. The sanctuary on earth was to represent God dwelling among his people. Where God actually is has no reason for a sanctuary. The furniture mention in Revelation is most certainly symbolic and not meant to indicate a literal temple in heaven. What we see in these verses is the reconciliation between God and man. That reconciliation has to take into account all aspects of reality. The Blood which is a symbol for both life and death indicates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ which is not to cleanse something in heaven but is to affect the conscience of man, it is the very life and love of God that purifies us. There is a reconciliation between God, His holy angels, and man as well as the defeat of the purposes of those fallen angels who oppose God. As the Expositors Bible Dictionary says:

On the whole, it seems best to recall that in the NT there are references to "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph 6:12); the "rulers of this age" (1Cor 2:8); the "powers" like "height" and "depth" (Rom 8:38-39), as well as "angels" and "demons." Such references seem to indicate wickedness beyond this earth. And when Christ performed his atoning work, he "disarmed the powers and authorities, ... triumphing over them by the cross" (Col 2:15). It was God's will "through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross" (Col 1:20). This strand of teaching is not prominent in Hebrews. Nevertheless, the language used here seems to accord with it better than with other views. The author is fond of the word "better" (see comments on 1:4), but it is unexpected for him to use the plural "sacrifices," since he is insistent that there was but one sacrifice and that Christ suffered "once for all" (v. 26). Probably we should take "sacrifices" as the generic plural that lays down the principle fulfilled in the one sacrifice.

As for Miller and Adventists there is nothing in these verses which would indicate anything about 1844. There is also little present here that connects to Daniel 8:14. The only way they could be connected is if you acknowledge that Christ upon his ascension purified heaven in which case the ascension of Jesus would mark the conclusion of the 2300 evening and mornings and the setting right of the sanctuary. Too assume that Christ returned to heaven but did not commence His activity as God until some far later date is to ignore the message of the book of Hebrews.

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