By John Rosier  |  29 November 2018  |

Recently one of the most famous documents in the twentieth-century history of the Adventist faith was republished in a new edition with some recent annotation and documentation. “Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment” was written by Dr. Desmond Ford, then a visiting professor at Pacific Union College (PUC) in California and long-time chair of the religion department at Avondale College in Australia, in 1980. The year before a furor resulted from a presentation he made on the topic at an Adventist Forum chapter at PUC. He was brought to the General Conference to do research and the paper was the central focus of the Glacier View Council, a gathering of the denomination’s Bible scholars and administrators. Adventist Today has been given permission to republish an introduction from the new edition.


This is one of the most important and detailed studies ever written covering the cluster of teachings that stand at the heart of traditional Adventist faith. Originally it was in one document of almost 1,000 pages placed in a large ring binder and then published in one single book, but the reader can now own this work in the friendlier format of three volumes.

It is a study that every informed and curious Adventist and non-Adventist ought to read. It’s also one of the most challenging publications that any Adventist can read, because it contains information and a developing critical narrative that the Adventist leadership does not want the reader to discover. So, it does not come with an official imprimatur as a work supporting the denominational propaganda machine with its time-worn teachings, claims, and prophetic perspectives. The reader is confronted at the outset with pages of information and argument that represent the culmination of a theological evolution that had been developing within Adventism for decades before the Glacier View Conference in August 1980.

The Glacier View session, and the contents of the discussion document at its heart, was for those who followed the events of that momentous summer the Adventist denomination’s Luther moment. It was the moment of truth, when the denomination had its fourth chance in the twentieth century to re-evaluate itself and to bring itself into harmony with the Bible it claims to accept and teach. It was also the moment, as happened on the previous occasions, when tradition and denominational authority, rather than Sola Scriptura, decided—not only the fate of its author—but also the destiny of those who grasped the import of what was initially revealed in Ford’s address to the Adventist Forum in October 1979. Many became very disillusioned by the response to, and especially the treatment of, its author by the leadership. Life for many inside the communion was never going to be the same after Glacier View even for those like myself who remained to fight on.

I read the document in its original loose folder format in 1981. Prior to that I had read the Glacier View account in Ministry (September 1980), the periodical sent to pastors and elders and saw the dismissive contents printed in the official Adventist periodicals that most of the membership read. Later, in the 1990s, I would come to read a copy of the November 1980 Spectrum report, entitled “The Sanctuary Debate.” Its shattering contents affirmed what I had always suspected.

Reading through my copy of the document confirmed for me that far from being a work that was of little account and easily dismissed, quite the opposite was true. I also came to the conclusion at the time that, from what I heard and read, either this was not the document presented at Glacier View, or the leadership of the denomination had deliberately misled the entire membership. Further, I thought that those who realized this would be a group so small and inconsequential that they could be discounted and marginalized by the leadership, even encouraged to leave. That has certainly happened. Many can trace their disillusionment with traditional Adventism and the organization back to Glacier View. Also, many have left.

Over the years our Luther moment passed into almost forgotten history. Today there are few among the wider membership who remember it or who were even aware of it at the time, let alone have any grasp of the issues involved. As a rule curiosity and a challenging mentality is not a quality the leadership need worry about among the wider membership. This, however, is not unusual.

So, what of the document itself? Working through its pages packed with historical and theological information as well as exegetical material and argument it becomes clear how the Adventist denomination has struggled with difficult biblical questions and how its attempts to resolve them have not been easy. No denomination is neutral. We all have a history, and the history of modern-day Adventism begins in the nineteenth century against the backdrop of the eschatological revivalism that gripped America and elsewhere, especially between the 1820s to mid-1840s. The calculations made over the centuries using the Year/Day principle from the numbers in Daniel and Revelation formed the basis of a failed system that Miller, a Baptist preacher, inherited and used to arrive at his own terminus date of March 1843. When that failed it was recalculated as taking place in October 22, 1844. The event did not take place and effectively destroyed not only Miller’s credibility but for many the Historicist approach to biblical prophecy.

Out of this wreckage emerged four Adventist groups. Three were Sunday-keeping; the fourth and smallest believed in the Sabbath as the true day of worship. This was due to the influence of two Seventh-day Baptists and the fact that some in the group came from a Sabbatarian background. Others came from Methodist, Presbyterian, Unitarian-inclined and Christian Connection backgrounds—all brought with them the peculiarities of their associations. It is not surprising that there were differences over key Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and even the deity of Christ. In the light of 1844, which they believed to be a crucial eschatological and prophetic moment, and their emphasis on the law of God (which informed their Sabbath-keeping practice), they began to develop an entire Sanctuary theology, the core of which claimed that Jesus on October 22, 1844, had moved from the outer part of the heavenly sanctuary, where Jesus had been since his ascension, to the inner part, the Most Holy Place, to begin a judgment ministry.

Out of this belief came an innovation known as the Investigative Judgement, a process by which Jesus was now investigating the lives of the dead and eventually the living believers, in order to decide who will and who will not be saved when he comes. This process, drawn from a reading of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16, had purportedly been in operation since October 22, 1844, the date when Jesus supposedly moved from the Holy Place in heaven, where he had been since his ascension, to the Most Holy Place, mirror-imaging the earthly sanctuary service.

This sanctuary-judgment teaching became a distinguishing feature of Sabbatarian Adventism during the late 1840s to mid-1850s and has been at the heart of traditional Adventism ever since, despite serious challenge to the sanctuary and judgment teaching among the Hebrew scholars of the denomination during the 1950s. By the 1970s some of these issues were yet again under discussion, particularly salvation, justification and Christology. However, the meeting assembled to discuss these at Palmdale, California, did not resolve anything. The assaults being made by Robert Brinsmead on 1844 during the 1970s could be said to be the catalyst that caused the Adventist Forum to ask Desmond Ford to make what was to be his famous speech to the Adventist Forum at Pacific Union College in October 1979. In one hour, Desmond Ford laid out the known biblical and historical problems facing such teachings as the date 1844, the sanctuary teaching and the pre-Advent Investigative Judgment.

What he showed was that, as Adventists began to study Hebrew and Greek and became serious biblical scholars, the positions held by the early Adventists relating to Daniel 8:14 (from which in part came the date 1844, and the understanding of that passage as it was interpreted by them in relation to Leviticus 16) came under serious scrutiny and were found to be biblically and linguistically wanting.

In his document prepared for the Glacier View session Ford cites in some detail the list of those who from 1905 onward opposed the sanctuary-judgment teaching. Some of them were well known and respected scholars who made it very clear in the 1958 questionnaire that Daniel 8:14 taken in context did not support Miller’s terminus date of 1844, nor any theological development from that date for which this text was used. If the date falls, then of course so does the validity of every teaching pertaining to that date. Indeed, the very claim and identity of the Adventist Church as a denomination also comes under serious pressure. Which is why, once in the public domain as tapes of the talk proliferated, the leadership decided to respond as they did. This reaction resulted in the preparation of this extraordinary work and the Adventist Luther moment at Glacier View.

For those who know anything about the doctrinal development and history of Seventh-day Adventism it will come as a surprise to discover how progressive the leadership had become at the beginning of the twentieth century. Ford includes the discussion on Daniel 8 that took place during one of the sessions of the 1919 Bible Conference. This discussion favored the view that Daniel 8 pointed to Antiochus IV and his assault on the Temple in the second century B.C., not Rome as traditionally taught. Further, the brethren there declared that the 2300 evenings and mornings spoken of in verse 14 were to do with the daily sacrifice, not days of years. Ford’s historical narrative continues with the secret sanctuary committee set up in the late 1950s when the scholars of the day made it clear that the Hebrew word “cleansed” in Daniel 8:14 meant “to vindicateor “cleanse from pagan defilement.” The committee sat for five years and no official minutes were kept. But there was one encounter that was preserved, the evidence of Dr. Tuland, who made the distinction between the two Hebrew words very clear to the committee. This exchange can be found in the early pages of the document.  Ford’s historical narrative showed that Adventism was shifting and had been moving for some time on these important points of teaching—the 1967 quarterly Sabbath School pamphlet on Daniel written by Raymond Cottrell, being a case in point.

To show the reader how far matters had shifted, Ford itemized, in several pages split into two columns, the nineteenth-century positions as opposed to the accepted twentieth-century positions, some of which had seeped into Adventist literature. The interest of this approach is that the reader can easily see how far Adventist thought and scholarship had shifted and how little of nineteenth-century Adventist belief and perceptions remained intact by 1980 when this study was done. This was a shift that led to considerable protest from those from the late 1950s onward, who would later be known as “Heritage Adventists,” who tried to resist this progressive movement inside the denomination.

The Glacier View manuscript continues by examining the validity of the Year/Day principle used to determine prophetic end time dates. It demonstrates the fallacy of taking the passages in Numbers 14:34 (where 40 days is turned into 40 years as punishment) and Ezekiel 4:6 (where the number of days he lies on his right and left side is equal to years of apostasy) as biblical evidence. The intention of the passage is self-evident and clearly demonstrated. Therefore, applying it as a universal principle to other passages, especially in Daniel and Revelation where the word “days” or “weeks” are mentioned, is not a valid approach, but is a long-imposed tradition going back to the ninth century.

Going further, Ford tackled the way prophecy ought to be understood. The work explores the problems involved in understanding some of these prophetic texts and questions the entire basis of the narrow way Adventists understood prophecies—an area which had concerned many among the scholarly fraternity for some time. His solution was the apotelesmatic approach [coined by Dr. Moses Stuart using German scholarly sources in the nineteenth century], whereby there are repeated events based on the initial event moving towards an ultimate crisis before the second coming. This of course meant that prophecy is flexible in meaning, even multifarious, not just fixed in the past. The future finds its understanding and fulfillment in past happenings, which become models for future events leading to the ultimate eschatological moment. In fact, we are taken into the realm of micro-models inside Scripture pointing forward.

The traditional sanctuary teaching around 1844 is certainly demolished in this work, as is the view that Christ on October 22, 1844, entered the Most Holy Place to begin a judgment ministry. In one of the most comprehensive pieces of exegesis of Hebrew 9 that I have ever read, the entire position held by the early Adventists and traditionalists to this day is soundly demolished. Christ, according to the Book of Hebrews and elsewhere in the apostolic kerygma, entered the Most Holy Place at his ascension. There is no two-schema sanctuary in heaven, or as a later innovation taught, a two-phase ministry. This is made clear. It is also established that sacrificial blood cleanses and never defiles, and that the inner veil represents Christ’s torn flesh, and that this is the veil referred to in the book of Hebrews, not the outer veil as some believed. This understanding of course threatened the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment, which Christ was supposed to have begun in 1844. If there is no two-schema sanctuary or two-phase ministry in heaven, then such a judgment was biblically impossible to conceive. The gospel of salvation denies it, and the Book of Hebrews denies it. Note that Ford did not deny a pre-Advent judgment in the sense that it is understood in scripture that before the second coming everything is already determined. It is just not the way Uriah Smith taught it, and the early Adventists believed it.

To support some of his understanding Ford not only uses Scripture but refers to Ellen White’s comments. In one interesting article dated April 19, 1905, White supported the idea that Christ at his ascension entered the Most Holy Place. It was an abandonment of the position she held in the 1840s. The last thirty years of her life revealed a very orthodox and, in some ways, progressive woman who supported Sola Scriptura. Since Ford was able to draw from her, as well as a raft of Adventist scholarship, to support some of these positions, it is my own belief that had Ellen White been present at Glacier View it would been the leadership that was shown the door rather than Dr. Ford.

By the time the reader has reached the end of these three volumes, they will be convinced, as I was, that traditional nineteenth-century Adventism is effectively dead and that the challenge before the Adventist Church is to recognize this and to rethink it. So far, the denomination has for the most part refused to do so. Much in this document was accepted at Glacier View by the scholars, as the consensus document shows, and there was considerable movement forward at that time. Had it been left to more enlightened minds the course of the years following, the outcome of this momentous event might have been very different. But, alas, enlightened minds for the most part did not prevail. Regrettably, official Adventism sailed on with its errors mostly intact.

This introduction is, of course, but a taster of what is in store for the reader. In the end the work must be judged on its merits. But I can commend it to all who will come to its pages and are willing to think again and discover an enlightened and enriched faith in Christ.

John Rosier is a retired college instructor and a local elder in the Adventist Church who was educated at Newbold College in England and took graduate work at the Open University, Birmingham University and the University of Wolverhampton. He taught college courses in the humanities and Biblical Studies for many years. He lives in the U.K. and was editor of Opinion, writing extensively about the issues facing the Adventist denomination after the Glacier View Council.

The new, three-volume edition of Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment by Desmond Ford (the Glacier View manuscript with appendices and additional annotation) is available from Amazon at www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B07K1WJJ81.


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