Monday, September 30, 2013

"The Heavenly Sanctuary"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic 
The Sanctuary
Lesson 1: "The Heavenly Sanctuary"

Welcome to a series of studies probing the deeper meaning of the sanctuary. Rather than being a dry, stale, and profitless "doctrine," the dynamic of the 1888 message restores its "presiding power" in the soul. Far from being an abstract concept, light-years away from our practical day-to-day living, it is "present truth" about Jesus that brings encouragement and refreshment.
Thus far Seventh-day Adventists haven't even made an impression upon the Evangelical consciousness, much less the Christian world at-large, regarding the sanctuary truth. And yet, the sanctuary is "the third angel's message," which is the basis of our public evangelism. "The everlasting gospel" and "the hour of His judgment" are identifiable with "the truth of the gospel" which is to be proclaimed to the world in all its clarity.
Our usual introduction to the public of the sanctuary truth is that of a mathematical puzzle to be solved in the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14. Is the sanctuary simply a math problem? Unless this finds an answer, devotion to our sanctuary message dries up. And if that happens, say goodbye to any meaningful Seventh-day Adventist message beyond that of the Seventh Day Baptists.
The challenge is constantly thrown at us: can you prove the SDA "sanctuary message" (including 1844 and the "investigative judgment") from the Bible alone, without using Ellen White as a crutch?
She said: "The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith," "our faith" being the unique teachings of Seventh-day Adventists that make us different from the Roman Catholic or Evangelical Protestant churches. [1] "[It's] the central pillar that sustains the structure of our position." [2]
She was right! If "the sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ's work in behalf of men," [3] then what Christ is ministering there (to those who will receive it) is the experience of justification by faith. That's the business He is doing in His "office." Our concern is--how does the sanctuary message relate to that special truth?
Why are so many Seventh-day Adventists today giving up the sanctuary message? What they have understood has always been only a cold theological doctrine. It never became a heart-gripping, heart-melting truth. They never learned to love the message. It left them cold, and probably in many cases, worse than that--it left them dominated by nightmarish fear.
They saw Christ's ministry in the Most Holy Apartment as a court trial where our very existence is jeopardized. A rejection slip in the investigative judgment was a consignment to hell. So this distorted view of the doctrine was not mere theological trivia; its side effect to them was spiritual terror.
But the issue could not be more important to understand. The most disturbing statement Ellen White ever made makes simple common sense. It is a brief passage [4] where she says that if we reject a change in Christ's sanctuary ministry in 1844, we lay ourselves open to a deception of the false christ posing in place of the True One, putting on a show that is complete with miracles. By now, the counterfeit has become extremely sophisticated.
Yet we face the influence of former prominent Seventh-day Adventist thought leaders who repudiate these insights about a difference in Christ's high priestly ministry. It may not be their fault that they feel this way. Ministers and leaders in our past generally have taught them the sanctuary message divorced from the special enlightenment of the 1888 message. The "most precious message" was hijacked when the Lord "sent" it.
Ellen White told us in 1896 that "by the action of our own brethren [the light] has been in a great degree kept away from the world" and "from our [own] people." [5] So let's be charitable to these current sanctuary message rejectors, and "consider others lest we also be tempted." These people among us who today are rejecting the sanctuary message very likely never grasped the 1888 message. They grew up and went through academy, college, and university without anyone teaching them either the message or its history. To this day none of our schools offers a course in the 1888 message. Anyone who gets it does so by accident.
The message lifts the unique Seventh-day Adventist sanctuary message out of confusion and perplexity and clothes it in the bright garments of Christ's righteousness, that is, the gospel seen as very good news. There are two books that warm the heart through unique sanctuary ideas in the 1888 message:
E. J. Waggoner's The Glad Tidings explains the difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. There you discover that the gospel is very good news. It grips your heart.
Justification by faith is far more than a cold theological formula. It's good news far beyond the perception of pastors and leaders who don't see the Sabbath truth, nor the sanctuary doctrine, nor the truth about sleeping saints awaiting the resurrection "in Christ." God has many people in the Sunday-keeping churches living up to all the light they have. They simply don't see the 1888 idea of justification by faith because they don't see that in death man sleeps until the resurrection, and they don't know to follow Christ in His closing work of atonement in the most holy apartment. Both ideas are essential to justification by faith as it is "present truth" today.
A. T. Jones' The Consecrated Way provides a new perspective on the sanctuary truth. The heavenly sanctuary can never be "cleansed" until first of all the hearts of God's people are cleansed. That's simple! And it's far more than a legalistic accounting trick whereby God looks the other way while we continue sinning. The missing factor is supplied by a new and clearer grasp of justification by faith, which Ellen White saw makes the 1888 message become "the third angel's message in verity." [6]
"Faith" believes when some women tell you on Sunday morning that Jesus is risen from the dead, and you haven't seen Him. Faith doesn't wait to put your fingers in the holes in His hands or in His side, as Thomas insisted. According to 1 John 4:16, truth requires a greater commitment than mere intellectual conviction: "We have known and believed." That's how we follow the true Christ in His ministry in the most holy apartment--convincing objective evidence plus a heart appreciation of it.
The message of the True Witness to the "angel of the church of the Laodiceans" turns out to be the sanctuary truth itself. This message has not become a museum piece in our denominational attic; it grips hearts worldwide today wherever it is presented. The Holy Spirit impresses souls who seek to follow Christ of His much more abounding grace for overcoming.
The sanctuary message that "the Lord in His great mercy sent" to us must yet lighten the earth with glory. Thank God, it will; and that, soon.
--Paul E. Penno
Endnotes:[1] Evangelism, p. 221.
[2] Manuscript Releases, vol. 4, p. 245 (1897).
[3] Evangelism, p. 222.
[4] Early Writings, pp. 55, 56; cf. pp. 260, 261.
[5] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 235.
[6] Review and Herald (April 1, 1890).
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