Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"The Day of Atonement"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Sanctuary
Lesson 6: "The Day of Atonement"
Our lesson provides interesting information on the rituals of the Old Testament Day of Atonement. But at the very end of the lesson, in Friday's "Discussion Questions," the statement is made: "Many Seventh-day Adventists were taught about the Day of Atonement in a way that has left them without assurance of salvation. Such a view comes from a false understanding of the purpose of the Day of Atonement" (question 3, p. 52). Perhaps this is where the 1888 message can shed some light.
Hebrews chapters nine and ten make clear that there are two phases of our great High Priest's heavenly ministry: (a) the antitypical ministry in the first apartment of the sanctuary (ta hagia in the Greek) where He began to minister at His ascension, and (b) His closing ministry in the second apartment, the Most Holy (hagia hagion, Greek) on the antitypical Day of Atonement. Christ's ministry in the first apartment was to prepare His people to die--a wonderful work indeed; but His ministry in the second apartment is intended to prepare a people to meet the final tests of the mark of the beast, the seal of God, the final time of trouble, and translation at the second coming of Christ.
This means that His people must live on earth during the cataclysmic last days when they will meet head-on the last temptations of Satan, but will "overcome even as [Christ] overcame." They will honor Him, and share with Him His throne. They will demonstrate His righteousness (Rev. 3:21).
But Revelation also discloses that Christ's last great struggle is with the blindness and lukewarmness of His own people who can't seem to grasp the seriousness of the time in which they live (3:15-19). Urgent as never before, He says, "Watch therefore" (Matt. 24:42).
"1844" identified God's work in this unique Day of Atonement. A holy angel gave to Daniel this prophecy: "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (8:14). It was 2300 literal years which ended in 1844 when Christ as great High Priest began that final Day of Atonement ministry. While this momentous development was happening in heaven, on earth three angels began their worldwide work of preaching to humanity (Rev. 14:6-12).
But the honest truth remains: the world at large still waits to hear the message proclaimed so powerfully that it grips the attention of "every nation, kindred, tongue, and people." These first three angels "fly in the midst of heaven," signifying a less than greatly powerful ministry. But they're not the end. "Another angel," a fourth, must "come down from heaven, having great power" so "the earth [can be] lightened with his glory" (Rev. 18:1-4).
"1888" figures with "1844" in this prophetic scenario. It marked the "beginning" of that great fourth angel's message, just as William Miller's prophetic preaching in 1831 marked the beginning of that "first angel's message." It's a startling step in prophetic interpretation. Heaven intended "1888" to mark the beginning of the final "loud cry" just as Pentecost marked the beginning of the apostles' ministry. It is sobering to consider that the 1888 message was to prepare a people for translation at the actual coming of Christ, rather than for death.
The "cleansing" is His great Day of Atonement, His final work of preparing a people to be ready when Jesus comes the second time. It is to be nothing short of "self" being "crucified with Christ" (Gal.2:20), and "the world" being "crucified" to them (6:14). A tremendous work!
But how can we have a secure "assurance of salvation"? It's a cruel deception to lull sincere people to sleep with the thought that no special spiritual preparation is necessary! "Just say your prayers as usual, pay your tithe, try to be good, and you're OK. There's no difference in being ready to die and being ready for that final time of trouble." But there is a difference and it is spelled out clearly in Day of Atonement living. These are the last days when Jesus' words make great good sense: "When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. ... Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time ... that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth" (Luke 21:31-35). The difference in spiritual preparation? Not a super-works trip, but a more developed faith--the key ingredient in experiential "justification by faith."
Thus justification by faith is lifted out of a mere legal declaration, and becomes a reconciliation with God, an experience of "at-one-ment." It is now the time for a "final atonement," as Jesus ministers as High Priest on this Day of Atonement. If you don't resist the Holy Spirit, He will impart to you "the mind of Christ," the greatest joy you can have--to be totally "at-one" with Him.
Ellen White saw the truth, the 1888 message of justification by faith was intended by the Lord to prepare that generation for translation at the coming of Christ. When the sinner hears the Good News and his heart responds and he believes, then he experiences justification by faith, which is the subjective gospel. This is what Ellen White was referring to when she described the 1888 message as being justification by faith which makes the believer "obedient to all the commandments of God" (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pp. 91-93).
The message of justification by faith that the Lord "sent" His people in 1888 was intended to create in the hearts of God's people and in His corporate church, that yearning for "at-one-ment" with Him. It was to be like a bride who gladly chooses to "forsake all others" to be with Him. It was to be the end of worldliness in the church, and of all modern idolatry--not imposed by fear but by a mature response to the love of the Bridegroom.
In all of Hebrews' lofty theological acumen is one great promise! The ministry of Christ in His Most Holy Apartment in the heavenly sanctuary reveals Him as being close to us; as a true High Priest in ancient Israel who was always "for the people," always concerned for them, always revealing to them his nearness and his love, so Christ in His second apartment in the heavenly sanctuary, the Most Holy Apartment, is ministering His presence and His blessing to us as one who is described in Proverbs 18:24--He is "closer than a brother." He took on Himself the fallen, sinful nature of our father Adam so that He might reach us where we are; therefore He was "in all points tempted like as we are [tempted], yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15).
Finally, Hebrews leaves us with the assurance that all the power of the Father who brought Jesus from the dead is directed now to the unprecedented work of preparing a people, to "make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in His sight" (13:21). Good News!
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
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