What Do the Proposed Changes in the Sanctuary Doctrine Mean?
by Ranald McLeish, H. Ross Cole and Mel Trevena, July 1, 2015: The delegates to the 2015 General Conference Session are being presented with a number of proposed amendments to the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. Paragraph 24 is about “Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary,” or what is widely known as the sanctuary doctrine. In the first sentence, it is proposed to replace “man” with “humans,” part of an effort to make the language more inclusive throughout the document. There is also a grammar correction.
The most extensive proposed change is in sentences three and four. These changes are needed, according to the agenda materials sent to delegates in advance, because “the statement does not mention the typological significance of the work of the high priest in the holy and most holy places of the earthly sanctuary. These additions make the connections clear.” Here are the specific changes: The words underlined are proposed additions, while the words with a line through them are the proposed deletions. The “He” is Christ.
“At His ascension, He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and He and, began His intercessory ministry at the time of His ministry, which was symbolized by the work of the high priest in the holy place of the earthly sanctuary. ascension. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry, which was symbolized by the work of the high priest in the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary.” The remainder of the paragraph will not be changed.
Are the delegates aware they are not voting a specific interpretation of Daniel 8? Why vote a belief if widely divergent interpretations make a mockery of the belief? Which of the following four positions that have emerged throughout the history of the Adventist Church does the reworded paragraph endorse?
- The “little horn” in verses 9-11 was understood to represent pagan Rome only, with the identity of the “daily” left open to various interpretations. (See Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, volume 4, pages 841-842; Adventists Believe, pages 321-322; Anderson, Unfolding Daniel’s Prophecies, pages 103-104; Maxwell, God Cares, pages 154-155.)
- An interim position developed immediately after the Glacier View conference. It understood the “little horn” to represent both pagan and papal Rome, with verses 10-12 applied to the papacy and the “daily” representing Christ’s ministry. (See the Sabbath School Teachers Quarterly for the Second Quarter, 2002, pages 46, 48; Pfandl, Daniel, page 77.)
- In the current position (post-2002), the “little horn” represents only the papacy and verses 9-14 are applied to the papacy. The change to this position has been gradual, not readily apparent to the casual reader. It has been gradually introduced by various scholars. William Shea suggested that in interpreting the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8, “the possibility should be left open and not ruled out a priori that these two prophetic symbols could refer to different historical entities.” (Shea, Selected Studies on Prophetic Interpretation, Revised Edition, page 38.) The failure to thoroughly explore this possibility contributed to the gradual move from one view to the next. This third view of Daniel 8:9-14, if widely adopted, also provides a very different interpretation of Fundamental Belief 24. (See Stefanovic, Daniel: Wisdom to the Wise, pages 319-320; Sabbath School Teachers Quarterly, Second Quarter 2002, pages 44-45; Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel, pages 127, 131, 152.)
- We propose in this paper an interpretation that seeks to deal with the conflicts among the first three. We submit that the “little horn” of Daniel 8:9 be understood to represent pagan Rome alone. Verses 10-11 refer to the Roman persecution of God’s people, the ratification of the Holy Covenant by crucifying Christ, and the destruction of the earthly temple in 70 A.D. In verse 12, the papacy (the “little horn” of Daniel 7:8) appears and casts the holy covenant truth to the ground.
In our view, there is a vast difference between positions 1 and 4, and 2 and 3. In positions 1 and 2, Daniel 8:11 applies to the actions of the Roman Empire, whereas positions 2 and 3 apply verse 11 to the actions of the papacy. Pagan Rome is missing in positions 2 and 3, but accounted for in positions 1 and 4. This constitutes a major shift in the understanding of Daniel 8:9-14 that may result in an entirely different understanding of Fundamental Belief 24. Position 4 parallels position 1 in its understanding of verses 9-12, but presents a proposed identification and application of the “daily” that appears to be consistent with the context of the “daily” in chapters 8, 11, and 12.
For three decades, two conflicts have been underway among Adventists. One has been very public, the issue of women’s ordination. The other flared up in the 1980s but is barely noticed today: the Sanctuary doctrine. Many believed the blessings of 1844 included the sanctuary doctrine. This blessing may be removed if the proposed changes in Fundamental Belief 24 are voted. Will the delegates be fully briefed and informed on the implications of what they are voting in the reworded Fundamental Belief 24?
Lest We Forget
Few passages have been as fundamental to the formation of Seventh-day Adventist self-identity as Dan 8:9-14. Nevertheless, there have been several changes in how the text has been understood throughout Adventist history. In a postmodern era it may be fashionable to dismiss these points of differences as matters of indifference. However, the changes to a large extent reflect the church’s growing Christocentricity and efforts to come to terms with how prophecy works. It is therefore important to review these changes and to consider further possible advances in understanding.
The Pioneer View
Daniel 8 has always been an important linchpin in Seventh-day Adventist identity. William Miller was followed by most early Seventh-day pioneers in noting that the word “sacrifice” found three times in the KJV rendering of Dan 8:11-13 was in italics, and hence not part of the original Hebrew. They translated the Hebrew hattāmîd (“the daily”) substantively as “the continuance,” suggesting that in vs. 13 “the continuance and the transgression of desolation” represent two phases of Roman practice. The first, i.e., “the abomination of desolation,” represented the pagan phase, and the second, “the transgression of desolation,” represented the papal phase.
Consequently a dual application, pagan and papal Rome, was applied to the little horn of 8:9. It was argued that vs.11 applied to pagan Rome, who attacked “the prince of the host,” (Jesus and His people), during his earthly life and ministry. Vs.12 was applied to the papal phase, and the taking away of paganism was represented by the daily. The subject of the daily divided the pioneers, some applying it to paganism, others to Christ’s ministry taken away by the papacy, a division that was not generally resolved until after Glacier View and the publication of the DARCOM series. (For a summary of these views, see The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4, pages 842-843, 880-881.)
The Post-Glacier View Understanding of the “Daily”
In this interpretation, “the term ‘daily … continual’ refers to the continual priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb 7:25; I John 2:1) and to the true worship of Christ in the gospel age,” taken away in particular by “the confessional and the sacrifice of the mass in place of the mediatorial work of Christ as our great high priest in the courts of heaven.” (Nichol, 4:843) In this view, Rome, the little horn of 8:9, is also seen as operating in two successive phases, pagan then papal. (Ibid., 4:841) Consequently the taking away of the “daily” has also been interpreted as having a dual fulfillment. The first applies to “the desolation of the Temple by Roman legions in A.D. 70 and the consequent cessation of the sacrificial services.” (Ibid., 4:843) The second applies to the taking away of Christ’s mediatorial work, as seen above.
The new view of the “daily” also has its problems. In what sense can it be said that the mediatorial work of Christ has ever truly been taken from Him? According to the New Testament, only the outer court of the sanctuary is trodden underfoot by the Gentiles; the sanctuary itself is not (Rev 11:1, 2). Nor was papal Rome the simple successor of pagan Rome. Historians simply never refer to the Roman Empire as existing in these two phases. Constantine did not abandon the West, or give it to the Church, notwithstanding the fraudulent and now universally rejected claims made centuries later in the document known as “The Donation of Constantine.” Rome and the papacy existed side by side for many centuries, at times as competing powers.
More Recent Developments in Interpretation
Because of the perceived danger of uncontrolled multiple interpretations of the text, some Adventist interpreters have been very cautious about the idea that there is a dual fulfillment in Dan 8:9-12 and so have divided it into two chronologically distinct parts. Gerhard F. Hasel sees the activity of pagan Rome predicted in the horizontal movements to the South, the East, and the pleasant land in vs. 9, and the activity of papal Rome in the horizontal moves against the host and its prince in vss. 10-12 (Gerhard F. Hasel, “The ‘Little Horn,’ the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Time of the End: A Study of Daniel 8:9-14,” in Symposium on Daniel, Frank B. Holbrook, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series, Volume 2; Washington, DC: Biblical Research Institute, 1986, pages 378-425. See also Gerhard Pfandl, Daniel: The Seer of Babylon; Hagerstown, Maryland: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2004, pages 79-82.). However, this view leaves out any reference in Dan 8 to the time of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, even though Hasel, like Adventists generally, makes these events central to an understanding of the explanation of Dan 8 in Dan 9:24-27.
Other Adventist interpreters have gone a step further and do not see pagan Rome in Dan 8:9-12 at all. Instead they apply all four verses exclusively to papal Rome. Thus pagan Rome is envisaged as the fourth beast of Dan 7 but seen as totally absent from Dan 8 and the two “little horns” of Dan 7; 8; are identified as one and the same.
Martin Probstle concluded that “in Daniel 8 not only is Babylon missing but also pagan Rome. He sees the little horn in both chapters describing only the papacy” (BRI, email August 23, 2011. cf. Probstle, Truth and Terror, July 2006 edition, pp. 740 – 752).
The little horn of Daniel 7 and 8 follows the fourth of these kingdoms, indicating that it comes on the scene of action as a new phase of Rome, a religious phase. Thus, the position taken in this book is that the little horn represents the papacy… (William H. Shea, Daniel: A Reader’s Guide; Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2005, page 141. This statement represents a shift from Shea’s earlier agreement with Hasel’s position.)
Everything that happens to the little horn of chapter 7 has its counterpart in the little horn of chapter 8. Indeed, the little horn of chapter 8 and the little horn of chapter 7 are undoubtedly the same. (Jacques B. Doukhan, Daniel: The Vision of the End, rev. ed. Berrien Springs, Michigan: Andrews University Press, 1989. Pages 24-25.)
I indeed regard the referent of the little horn in Dan 8 to be the same as the referent of the little horn in Dan 7.” Martin Probstle, Email, October 28, 2011, cf. Truth and Terror, July 2006 edition, pp. 740 – 752.
Little Horn Daniel 7 = Little Horn Daniel 8 = Sea Beast Rev 13. Herb Kirstin, 2300 Year Prophecy, Part 1, cf. link, https://hkea.org.au/livestream, cf. 50.00 minute point.
“The Little Horn – Part 1 (Dan. 8:9, 10, 23-25). — After a discussion on how this little horn would oppose truth, it is revealed that it would be allowed to do so for “two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” (Dan. 8:14).” Teachers SS Quarterly, April 22, 2002, pp. 44-45.
As with Hasel’s view, this view leaves out any reference in Dan 8 to the time of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, even though its proponents make these events central to an understanding of the explanation of Dan 8 in Dan 9:24-27.
A Way Forward
It is proposed that there is a way forward that addresses these issues, as well as dealing with the BRI’s concern regarding multiple fulfillments applying to the little horn. However, it goes in the opposite direction to Doukhan’s proposal, by applying the little horn of Dan 8:9 to the Roman Empire only, and verses 10 and 11 to Rome’s persecution of God’s people, the crucifixion of Christ and the subsequent ratification of the holy covenant, and the destruction of the earthly temple. (We will return to the consideration of Daniel 8:12 shortly.)
In this view, the little horn’s magnification of itself “even to the prince of the host” (vs. 11) specifically represents Rome’s attack on the earthly Jesus. (Note the reference to an attack “against the Prince of Princes” in Daniel 8:25.) The prepositional phrase, ûmimmēnû, later in the verse is translated, “but by him” (i.e., “by the ‘prince of the host'”), the waw conjunction being read as adversative and the preposition min being read as indicating a causal agent. (Cf. its use in Gen 9:11; Lev 21:7. See Bruce K. Waltke, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 213.) In other words, the Roman little horn attacks “the prince of the host,” but this little horn power does not take away “the daily” (the continual). Paradoxically it is the prince himself, who, by His death at the hand of Rome and the Jews, established, (min) the daily, the continual or everlasting, covenant. The sad event of the Jews’ rejecting their Saviour was also prophesied, (Matt. 23:37-39; John 19:36 and 37), as was the ratification of the holy covenant (Dan. 9:27; when type met antitype at the cross, the ratification of the daily was confirmed by the rending of the temple veil (Matt 27:51).
In the traditional messianic interpretation of Dan 9:27 it is the Messiah rather than His nemesis who in the middle of the seventieth week causes the cessation of the sacrifices and oblations (cf. Matt 27:51; Heb 8:13; 9:15). The antitypical fulfilling of the morning and evening sanctuary service not only ratified the daily, the everlasting covenant; it qualified Christ to be “High Priest of the greater and more perfect tabernacle,” Heb. 9:10-12.
In Dan 9:27, the external sign that “the sacrifices and the oblations” were obsolete was confirmed by the desolation of the sanctuary through “the overspreading of abominations.” Jesus specifically applies the language of the “abomination of desolation” to the Roman siege of Jerusalem that resulted in the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 (Matt 24:15, 16; cf. Luke 21:20). As Daniel, John, Jesus, and history are very clear it was Rome, not the Papacy, who crucified Christ, and destroyed the earthly temple; verses 9-11 do not apply to the actions of the Papacy, the little horn of 7:8.
Seventh-day Adventist interpreters have traditionally identified the little horn of Dan 8:9 as a symbol of Rome in two phases, pagan and papal. More recently some Adventist interpreters have identified it only with papal Rome. It has been argued here that only pagan Rome is in view here, a view that links in well with the explanation of Dan 8 that applies to the 70 weeks of Dan 9:24-27. In Daniel 8:12, the host that was set over the “daily” in Dan 8:12 constitutes an army of evil that resulted in the truth being cast to the ground until the time of the end.
Ranald McLeish, Qld; Dr. H. Ross Cole, Avondale College, Lake Macquarie, NSW; and Pastor Mel Trevena, Gosford, NSW. Australia.