A Big Question
by Preston Foster
I am sure there's a simple, credible preferably biblical explanation to this question. The subject has been batted around — at least within Adventism — for decades. By now, a clear, compelling answer should have emerged.
Hebrews 9:11-12 says very plainly:
“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”
Significantly, these texts speak, in the past tense; about Christ in His role as our High Priest (the referenced events in the texts clearly took place before 1844, as they were written more than one thousand seven hundred years before that date). The texts also speak of Christ having performed that role, specifically, in The Most Holy Place in heaven. The texts specify that Christ entered the Most Holy Place — “once for all” to obtain our redemption, which could only be paid by His blood.
Thus, the question: How is the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment explained when juxtaposed with these texts?
A brief (but not at all comprehensive) description of the Investigative Judgment doctrine is that in 1844, the eschatological end of the 2300 day prophecy of Daniel 8, Christ entered The Most Holy Place in heaven to cleanse the sanctuary and, also, to execute judgment, prior to His Second Coming.
However, it seems (or at least one could interpret from these Scriptures) that the cleansing of the Sanctuary had already occurred:
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 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. For Christ did not enter a foreshadow sanctuary made with human hands; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself,” Hebrews 9:22-26.
Again, the texts (seemingly) make it clear that not only did Christ appear in the Most Holy Place to atone for our sins (Hebrews 9:22), but also to cleanse (e.g., to purify “the copies of the heavenly things’) the sanctuary (Hebrews 9:23).
How could Christ have entered the Most Holy Place in 1844 to cleanse the Sanctuary if, as some interpret Hebrews 8-10 to say, Christ had already accomplished this (much earlier — soon after His ascension) “once and for all,” then sat down on His Father’s right hand (Hebrews 10:12, Mark 16:19)?
This issue has, obviously been raised before by Bible scholars and rebuffed by other scholars and administrators. Scholars and administrators can be very efficient at mudding the waters. It is not an overstatement to say that, in the U.S. and Australia (at least), Adventism of the early 21st century is largely defined by the wake of the inquiry into this question.
The question is a big one. Like many important questions, the response is, too often, focused on the questioner instead of the question itself. Scapegoating (i.e., name-calling, labeling, or ascribing negative motives) or martyring (i.e., victimizing) the questioner avoids the issue.
Can we (at least on this site) take on this issue directly? Is the Adventist narrative of the Investigative Judgment consistent with the Bible? Does the Bible itself contradict the Adventist narrative? Is the Adventist interpretation of the 2300 day prophecy a necessary rationalization to explain what was incorrectly predicted to happen in 1844?
Is there a clear, Bible-based answer to this big question?