An urgent letter to all of God’s faithful children.
To all of you my brothers and sisters who have felt the presence of God and His Son, holding fast the truth as plainly revealed in the scriptures, who believe that it was God’s Spirit dwelling in us that enables us to understand things beyond our comprehension; to all the visitors of this site, I want to extend the words that the Almighty has just given to His servant regarding the Sabbath school lesson we have dated January 14-20 entitled “God as Redeemer”. We very well know of the confusing issue of the triune God and it was well explained by commentators in this site. Yet the message from our Father given this time is not just about it but of another subtle infiltration and shifting of the pillars of our faith.
Brothers and sisters, I was writing on a different topic when God made me stop writing on it and go and open my sabbath school lesson, I really feel in my heart the need to read it and when I read it, God removed the blindness of my eyes and made me see that subtle shift of both the foundation and pillar of our Advent faith. Let me go straight to the point brethren, in Great Controversy 1911 chapter 23 it said, “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. Brothers and sisters this is not just about the sanctuary but more so of the “cleansing of the sanctuary”. In the same book we read, “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.
Once a year, on the great Day of Atonement, the priest entered the most holy place for the cleansing of the sanctuary. The work there performed completed the yearly round of ministration.” “As in the typical service there was a work of atonement at the close of the year, so before Christ's work for the redemption of men is completed there is a work of atonement for the removal of sin from the sanctuary.”
Next, let us look at the fundamental statement no. 2 of our church 1889 wherein the work of atonement is plainly explained:
I. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal; infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Ps. 139:7.
II. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom he created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that he dwelt among men, full of grace and truth, lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in heaven, where, through the merits of his shed blood, he secures the pardon and forgiveness of the sins of all those who penitently come to him; and as the closing portion of his work as priest, before he takes his throne as king, he will make the great atonement for the sins of all such, and their sins will then be blotted out (Acts 3:19) and borne away from the sanctuary, as shown in the service of the Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in heaven. See Lev. 16; Heb. 8:4, 5; 9:6, 7; etc.*
Notice that after the last word etc. there is a “*” sign, this is the explanation centered on the phrase “and as the closing portion of his work as priest…he will make the great atonement…and their sins shall be blotted out (Acts 3:29) and borne away from the sanctuary, as shown in the service of Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in heaven.” The text below is the explanation from the same fundamental statement:
*NOTE.— Some thoughtless persons accuse us of rejecting the atonement of Christ entirely, because we dissent from the view that the atonement was made upon the cross, as is generally held. But we do nothing of the kind; we only take issue as to the time when the atonement is to be made. We object to the view that the atonement was made upon the cross, because it is utterly contrary to the type, which placed the atonement at the end of the yearly sanctuary service, not at the beginning (see scriptures last referred to), and because it inevitably leads to one of two great errors. Thus, Christ on the cross bore the sins of all the world. John said, " Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away [margin, beareth] the sin of the world!" John 1:29. Peter tells us when he thus bore the sins of the world: " Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." 1 Peter 2:24. Paul says that "lie died for all" 2 Cor. 5:14,15. That which Christ did upon the cross, therefore, was done indiscriminately and unconditionally for all the world; and if this was the atonement, then the sins of all the world have been atoned for, and all will be saved. This is Universalism in full blossom. But all men will not be saved; hence the sins of all were not atoned for upon the cross; and if Christ's work there was the atonement, then his work was partial, not universal, as the scriptures above quoted assert, and he atoned for only a favored few who were elected to be saved, and passed by all others who were predestined to damnation. This would establish the doctrine of election and predestination in its most ultra form, — an error equally unscriptural and objectionable with the former. We avoid both these errors, and find ourselves in harmony with the Mosaic type, and with all the declarations of the Scriptures, when we take the position that what Christ did upon the cross was to provide a divine sacrifice for the world, sufficient to save all, and offered it to everyone who will accept of it; that he then, through the merits of his offering, act as mediator with the Father till time shall end, securing the forgiveness of sins for all who seek him for it; and that, as the last service of his priesthood, he will blot out the sins of all who have repented and been converted (Acts 3:19), the atonement not being completed till this work of blotting out sin is done. Thus Christ atones, not for the sins of the whole world, to save all, not for a favored few only, elected from all eternity to be saved, but for those who, as free moral agents, have voluntarily sought from him the forgiveness of sin and everlasting life. And all for whom the atonement is made, will be forever saved in his kingdom. This view in no way detracts from the merit of Christ's offering, nor from the value and glory of his atoning work for men. While on this line, we are not driven into Universaliam on the one hand, nor into election and reprobation on the other.
Let me now come to the message for us all brethren. Notice how those whom God allowed to build the firm foundation of our advent faith said, “we dissent from the view that the atonement was made upon the cross.” “We object to the view that the atonement was made upon the cross, because it is utterly contrary to the type, which placed the atonement at the end of the yearly sanctuary service, not at the beginning (Lev. 16, Heb. 9:6-7). Brethren, our pioneers are right to the very sense for the atonement or blotting out of sins does not happen at the first part of the sanctuary service but at the end of the year round ministration. If we place the atonement at the cross, we are disrupting the plain meaning of the sanctuary message and we are uprooting what has been dearly given to us by God as the foundation of our faith. I encourage you to read the whole explanation above.
In Acts 3:19 it says, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord…” When Peter said this, the cross is already past and Jesus has been resurrected and is already in heaven at the right hand of Majesty on high, yet Peter is plainly referring from his period “a future blotting out, a future atonement of sins” to which he refers to that time as the time of refreshing. It is still future from the cross and from the Pentecost. What has been given at the cross is the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus is still the Lamb of God at this time and not as the High Priest to which He was after he was resurrected from the dead and ascended on high to begin the last round and the real sanctuary service in the heavenly sanctuary. We also must note that forgiveness is different from atonement; forgiveness speaking of the taking away of sin from the sinner by the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world but not the banishment of sin itself; Atonement speaks of the blotting out of the sins of the righteous by Christ, later placing them on the devil and destroying him and all forms of evil he brought together with his followers and thus sin is ended. Forgiveness speaks of records of sins taken away from the sinner by the Lamb and transferred into the sanctuary while atonement speaks of taking away the records of sins of the righteous in the sanctuary and placing them on the devil to banish him forever by eternal death.
Next let us look on what the Sabbath School Lesson (January 14-20) teaches us:
The scandal of the Cross is that it appears so absurd: God, the infinite, holy Creator, becomes a sacrifice for the sake of twisted human souls, even His avowed enemies, taking upon Himself the penalty for their sins so that they wouldn’t have to face that penalty themselves! The atonement is so deep, so heavy, so profound, that we grasp only what we can (January 14).
Here brethren, the lesson that we are studying is placing the atonement at the cross; notice that the “scandal of the cross” is equivalent to “the atonement”
Christ didn’t die in order to create love in God’s heart for us. No, Jesus insists that the Father’s love is the source, not the consequence, of the atonement (John 3:16, 17). God doesn’t love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loved us. The atonement of Christ was not offered (note this is past tense because it already happened at the cross) to persuade the Father to love those whom He otherwise hated. The death of Christ did not bring forth a love that was not already in existence (January 15).
Here brethren, again the atonement “was already offered”. Here the Atonement of Christ is equivalent to the “Death of Christ”. Where? At the cross.
In Genesis 22:1–19, Moses also narrates an amazingly graphic atonement picture. What can we learn about the future atonement of Christ from this narrative?(January 16)
Genesis 22:1-19 narrates the offering of Isaac by his father Abraham as a sacrifice. The lesson that our Father in heaven will send His only begotten Son to be sacrificed (John 3:16,17) is reflected in this beautiful portrayal of Abraham and Isaac. Yet this is not atonement or blotting out but the sacrifice rather. Yet we see from the Sabbath school text that the atonement Moses writes according to the author points to the “cross” and not to the Most Holy Place ministration of Jesus. Notice the explanation of the Sabbath school on this atonement, “What a powerful representation of the sacrificial death of Christ on our behalf.” Brethren, this is what the atonement of Christ points according to our lesson.
On the famous road to Emmaus, Jesus taught the two despairing disciples about the atonement from “Moses and all the prophets” (Luke 24:27).(January 17)
What did Jesus say to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus? Let me bring you to the heart of their conversation, Luke 24:18, the disciples tell Jesus whom they have not perceived, “Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? Luke 24:20, the disciples explained what happened, “how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.” The event is the crucifixion of Jesus and the doubts of these disciples concerning His resurrection. Notice then what Jesus answered. Luke 24:25-26, “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things (crucifixion), and to enter into his glory (resurrection and ascension)?” Now according to our Sabbath school lesson, when Jesus taught the despairing disciples about the atonement, Jesus according to the lesson study talks about the cross and not the ministration in the Most Holy Place.
What prophetic materials might Jesus have included in His study of the atonement? (January 17)
It’s very likely that Isaiah was among the prophets to whom Jesus would have referred. Read Isaiah 53, which describes the “Suffering Servant.” Describe the details included there that help you to more fully grasp the amazing atonement of Christ.
Brethren, let us study Isaiah 53:4-10 in particular, “…Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth… Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” Brethren, the atonement pointed on Isaiah 53 is the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross and not his ministration in the Most Holy Place.
Nothing is more destructive to our grasp of the atonement of Christ than the sentimentality that sometimes passes for Christianity in our day (all in the attempt to make the gospel conform to modern thinking). However, we must ever humbly acknowledge that anything we say about God can never do God justice, especially when we consider the atonement. We must avoid the temptation to reduce Jesus’ death on the cross to merely an “example of selfless love.” (January 19)
Brethren, here is the last “direct” comment on the atonement. It is in the cross according to our lesson and it talks about the death of Jesus, it talks about the offering of the sacrifice and not on the work of judgment in the Most Holy Place as was plainly revealed in the scriptures and as was handed down from on high to our pioneers. Placing the atonement on the cross is the subtle doctrine that is taught here wherein the triune God watcher may not readily see. But I believe that the Father has made my hands write to you all faithful brethren of this thing, two darts aimed in this lesson, the triune God and the disruption of the plain meaning of the cleansing of the sanctuary commencing when Jesus entered the Most Holy Place; atonement so far from being made at the cross.
Next we see Uriah Smith’s views on atonement in his book Looking unto Jesus chapter 28:
It has been shown that the cleansing of the sanctuary, the investigative judgement of the saints, the blotting out, or remission, of sin, and the finishing of the mystery of God, are all one and the same thing. The additional statement can now be made that this is also the atonement.
The frequent use of the expression that "Christ atoned for our sins upon the cross," shows
how widely the idea is entertained that the shedding of Christ's blood in sacrifice and the making of the atonement are the same thing. But this view leads to two inevitable and most ruinous errors. Many have been driven by this doctrine to the extremes of error in opposite directions, and have spent their time in unnecessary and fruitless controversies. Thus, the Scriptures plainly declare that Christ died for all. Now, with the view that the death of Christ was the atonement, the conclusion is easily reached that Christ has atoned for the sins of all men. But all sins that are atoned for, are put away and blotted out, hence no condemnation can ultimately remain to any, but all will be saved. Thus this branch of the argument blossoms at once into Universalism.
But the Scriptures just as plainly assure us that all will not be saved; that some do now, and will in the end, rest under condemnation. For these, of course, no atonement is made; and if the atonement and the death of Christ are the same thing, it follows that he did not bear the sin of the world, the sins of all men, on the cross, as John and Peter give us to understand that he did. If his death reaches no further than the atonement, he did not die for all, but only for a chosen few. On this branch of the argument we find the bitter fruit of ultra Calvinism, fore-ordination and predestination in their most forbidding and unscriptural aspect.
The idea and doctrine of the atonement are drawn from the typical system. In the type, before the atonement was reached, and its benefits secured, several steps were necessary:
(1) It was necessary for the penitent to make confession of sin upon the head of his offering;
(2) The blood of the offering which was brought had then to be shed;
(3) The priest then took that blood and performed a ministry with it, at the altar or in the sanctuary. And this work was performed three hundred and sixty-four days in the year before the day of atonement came. The work of atonement was the last ceremony of the year, and completed the round of sanctuary service. The offering and the service of the priest preceded the atonement. The offering was not the atonement; the service of the priest was not the atonement, so long as he ministered in the holy place; no complete atonement was made until the day of atonement arrived, and the yearly service appointed for the most holy place of the sanctuary was accomplished in that apartment.
The parallel between the earthly and the heavenly sanctuary has been sufficiently drawn to make at once the application. The antitypical atonement, which is the real removal of sin, was not made when the offering for this dispensation was provided, not by the service of the priest in the first apartment of the sanctuary; but is accomplished only by the service of the priest in the most holy place, which is the closing work of our Lord's ministration, the cleansing of the sanctuary, a branch of the work which did not commence, as we have seen, till 1844.
In this case, as in the type, the offering and the usual priestly work precede the atonement. But when Christ suffered for us, in what capacity was he acting? - Not as our priest, but only as the offering; for he was put to death by wicked hands, even as the victims of old were slain by the sinner. It was as the sacrifice and offering that he bore our sins in his body on the tree. Here the blood was provided with which he was to minister. This was an act preparatory to the priestly work he was to perform in the true sanctuary above; the atonement is the last service he renders as priest. Those who make the offering to be the same as the atonement, confound together events that are more than eighteen hundred years apart. The offering was general. Christ died for all the world. The sacrifice was offered to all who would accept of it. But the atonement at the close is specific; it is made only for those who see the benefits of his redeeming work, by "repentance toward the God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:21.
The subject is mentioned in this connection simply to show that the great sanctuary question locates the atonement, and guards us against the error of confounding the offering with the atonement, and placing the atonement at the commencement of Christ's ministry, instead of at its close. And thus we are shielded against the errors of Universalism and Calvinism, as noticed above.
Brethren, to you who have been acquainted with the past lessons, our bombardment of the “Cross” experience seems to aim at this; that this lesson is the one introduced to us by the former Sabbath school lessons. The gospel of the cross is good, yet if we stay on it not moving to the other sanctuary parts wherein our Lord also ministers, brethren then the cross message becomes a snare. The message of the “cross alone” will leave you in the outer court never to enter the temple of God following our Saviour in His ministration. Our Saviour today is in the Most Holy Place performing the atonement for the faithful and anytime soon He will cease from this atoning work and render the rewards whether it be good or whether it be evil; all according to what we have done. So the enemy is trying his best through subtlety and deception to remove the eyes of the elect from the Most Holy Place and make them focus only in the outer court at the cross so as to make them forget the law of God seen inside the ark of the testament in the Most Holy Place and thus make them use the grace of God mirrored in the cross to do terrifying rebellion to their Master. Brethren, I feel the grace of God in us in making us see this subtlety. I pray for the author of this lesson and all its contributors that they may see the truth and repent. I pray for anyone who read the lesson that he or she may see the truth and inquire more perfectly of God who is willing to teach any humble and true believer.
Faithful brethren, I thank our Father and His Son that they sent their Spirit that has led my hands to complete writing this short and yet direct to the point letter to all of you.