A Needed Cleansing

The literal translation of Daniel 8:14 is: “Unto evenings and mornings, two thousand three hundred, then shall the holy place [or the temple or the sanctuary] be cleansed [or restored to its rightful state, or made right].”

Historically, that is the way Seventh-day Adventists have explained this verse and though true, a deeper study of God’s word reveals even more.

Jesus cleansed the sanctuary twice, once at the beginning of His ministry and again at the close. The Jewish religion demanded perfect animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, and businesses had been established in the temple court to sell animals for this purpose. There was much corruption in the court, and many of the offerings brought by the people were rejected and considered imperfect, forcing the people to buy from the traders. These could only be purchased with “temple shekels,” so moneychangers had set up tables for their trade and became rich due to their unfair transactions. Many of the poor who came to the temple with their offering were unable to purchase another offering when theirs was rejected. Jesus saw the distress of the poor, who thought that without the shedding of blood there would be no forgiveness and they would be lost.

John records that when Jesus entered and saw what was happening, He made a scourge out of cords, turned over the tables and, with the money rolling to the floor, He drove out the merchants with their sheep and oxen, saying to them, “Take these things out of here.” The merchants fled (John 2:15, 16) leaving only the poor and the children.

“With searching glance, Christ takes in the scene before Him as He stands upon the steps of the temple court. With prophetic eye He looks into futurity, and sees not only years, but centuries and ages. He sees how priests and rulers will turn the needy from their right, and forbid that the gospel shall be preached to the poor.” The Desire of Ages, 157.

Peter said, “Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you.” II Peter 2:3 KJV. Jesus said, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” Luke 19:46.

In speaking those things, Jesus quoted from the Old Testament, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7. Notice it said all people, not just the Jews. “Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes?” Jeremiah 7:11.

When Jesus had cleansed the temple of the phonies and profiteers, the poor people came in. In the book, The Desire of Ages, we read that the cleansing of the temple is an illustration of the church.

The Lord said, “Let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8. The sanctuary or temple was not only to be an illustration that God wants to dwell among His people but also what each person was supposed to be. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” I Corinthians 6:15–19.

Paul says that your body is to be a temple. The same word for body is used for temple or sanctuary; these are interchangeable words. Your body is to be a temple, a sanctuary, for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus came to the temple, He said, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people, but you have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).

The Holy Spirit could not work on people while they were in that place, for it was a noisy house of merchandise and Jesus called it a den of thieves. All of the commercialism, the buying and selling, had to be removed in order for it to become a temple again—it had to be cleansed.

Consider here what the apostle Paul is talking about on an individual level. He said, “Your body is to be a member of Christ.” Should I then take what is supposed to be a member of Christ and make it the body of a harlot? Let’s paraphrase it. Can the Holy Spirit dwell within me if I am living in sin?

The first thing that the Holy Spirit does, when coming to a person to address his mind, is convict of sin. The Bible says, “And when He [the Spirit of Truth] has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” John 16:8. This is happening today. The Holy Spirit attempts to do this with every person in the world who has not committed the unpardonable sin. When the Holy Spirit decides that there is nothing more He can do for a person, they are in a very grievous situation, for by rejecting the Holy Spirit they reject the only means available to be convicted of sin and repent. They have then committed the unpardonable sin and are lost.

The devil knows this better than anyone and is busy trying to get your life so busy and noisy that you do not hear the still small voice. He has, it seems, a million ways to do this. Parents often experience talking to their small child when the child doesn’t hear because his mind is occupied with something else. The devil’s plan is to get your mind so occupied with things that may not necessarily be sinful; it could be making a living. He doesn’t care what it is as long as your mind is totally preoccupied so you cannot hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Remember, the first thing the Holy Spirit does is convict that person of sin, no matter who they are or of what faith, whether Adventist, Muslim, Buddhist or atheist. The Bible says that the true Light enlightens every man that was born into the world (John 1:9). It is the Holy Spirit that speaks to people convicting them of sin. Even in countries devoid of the knowledge of the true God there is some concept of right and wrong.

If you are willing to give up sin, the Holy Spirit will come into your heart, transform your life, and purify your heart to be His dwelling place. Ellen White talks about the fact that there are people who have never heard the name of Christ in heathen countries who will not perish because they were willing to listen and act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit. “In the depths of heathenism, men who have had no knowledge of the written law of God, who have never even heard the name of Christ, have been kind to His servants, protecting them at the risk of their own lives. Their acts show the working of a divine power. The Holy Spirit has implanted the grace of Christ in the heart of the savage, quickening his sympathies contrary to his nature, contrary to his education. The ‘Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’ (John 1:9), is shining in his soul; and this light, if heeded, will guide his feet to the kingdom of God.” Ye Shall Receive Power, 157.

Paul said, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” I Corinthians 3:16–17. When talking about the sanctuary or the temple, the Bible is not just talking about individuals. God’s church is His sanctuary. The word temple means a dwelling place for a deity.

When I was a child, while my parents were missionaries in Burma, which is now called Myamar, it was interesting to visit, as tourists, a Buddhist pagoda. All shoes had to be removed before entering the temple and inside was a huge idol of Buddha. Buddhists reverently knelt down before it and worshiped the statue. The temple was a dwelling place for that deity.

For Christians, a temple of God is where the God of heaven dwells. It was God’s desire that every created being, from the highest angel of heaven down to man, be a temple where His Spirit could reside. But because of sin, man ceased to be a temple for God. The Holy Spirit cannot dwell in any heart that is living in sin. In order for the Spirit to dwell in the heart again, the temple must be cleansed.

The Christian church is a temple, a habitation, a dwelling place for God. “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God [the church], having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.” Ephesians 2:19–22.

The building here spoken about is a living building, one that, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple. Ellen White has a long discussion about this in The Acts of the Apostles, 595–600. She talks about this building that has been slowly ascending through the centuries—the Christian church. “Upon the foundation that Christ Himself had laid, the apostles built the church of God.” “Through the ages that have passed since the days of the apostles, the building of God’s temple has never ceased.” Ibid., 595, 598.

Daniel 8:14 says that the temple—the sanctuary—is going to be cleansed, made right, restored to its rightful state. Seventh-day Adventists teach that this began in 1844. There was a cleansing of the church in 1844, and the results were very disturbing. When the midnight cry was given, up to 100,000 people came out from all churches and became Adventists. At that time they did not have a clear understanding of Daniel 8:14, that judgment was to commence, and believed that the cleansing of the sanctuary would be the coming of Christ. God had His hand over their misunderstanding. When that cleansing was over, and because of their great disappointment, there were not very many people left.

Remember, when Jesus was here He cleansed the temple twice, once at the beginning and again at the close of His ministry. That is happening again. There was a cleansing of the temple in 1844 at the beginning of the Day of Judgment, and there is another cleansing of the temple at the end of the Day of Judgment.

So, when will the temple (God’s church) be cleansed? People believe that either the church will be cleansed when Jesus comes or at least right after He comes. That belief opens up the view that we will keep sinning and confessing and sinning and confessing until Jesus comes, after which, in an instant, He will change you into His image and cleanse you. Many Seventh-day Adventists are being taught this today.

However, it does not matter how many people believe something; if it is not in the Bible, you cannot depend on it, and that teaching is not in the Bible. In Revelation 22:11, 12, it says, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still.” That statement refers to the time before Jesus comes, for the next verse says, “And [connecting the sentence before] behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.” Notice, the cleansing does not happen when Jesus comes, but He comes to give the reward to those who are already cleansed. When Jesus comes, whoever is cleansed is going to stay cleansed and whoever is not cleansed is never going to be cleansed.

Some say that this refers to right at the end of time, but are we not now living at the end of time? Will time go on for another 100 or 200 years, or do you believe that time could close up really quickly? If we are, in fact, living at the end of time, shouldn’t the church be becoming better and better? But if I believe that I am approaching the end of time, should things in my church be getting worse and worse, and then expect Jesus to magically change it at some point? You cannot find that cleansing operation anywhere in the Bible.

Since the late 1950s the Seventh-day Adventist Church has been moving directly contrary to the counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy, but the popular belief is that there is no need to worry because the Lord is going to straighten it all out. Today, 60 years later, the same explanation is given, but how is this to be done?

The Jews taught that their church was to be cleansed and purified before the Messiah could come. That is one of the reasons they could not accept Jesus. The Bible teaches how the church is to be cleansed with an illustration that, at first reading, appears to apply to husbands and wives. Look at Ephesians 5:25–27: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

Consider this illustration from the laundry. When your clothes get dirty, you take them to the laundry. Then they are put through the washing machine that is supposed to get the spots out, and the garments come out clean. Once the spots are out, the garments are ironed to remove the wrinkles, then they should be ready to put on again. The same is true with the church. It is God’s sanctuary, and it is to be cleansed to the point that it is holy and without blemish.

Daniel 8:14 says that after two thousand three hundred evenings or mornings or days, the sanctuary is going to be cleansed, restored to its rightful state, made right. For over 150 years Seventh-day Adventists have taught that this cleansing began in 1844.

The cleansing of the sanctuary and the purification of the church are one and the same thing. The sanctuary in heaven cannot be cleansed while the church on earth gets more and more defiled. That is impossible. Revelation 22:11, 12 says that the church on earth will be cleansed and purified by the close of probation, because after that time there can be no more cleansing. At that time it is declared to be either clean or unclean. It is either filthy or not filthy. It is either righteous or unrighteous. God is going to have a church, not just one individual here and there that is holy and without blemish, but a church.

The Jews were trapped into thinking the church would be purified in the future and the Messiah could not come until that happened. The church today could fall for the same deception, and Jesus will come while we are still waiting for the miracle cleansing to take place.

Consider just how much like the Jews we are. “Now as they came down from the mountain [the Mount of Transfiguration], Jesus commanded them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.’ And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.’ ” Matthew 17:9–12.

The Jews had said that Jesus of Nazareth could not possibly be the Messiah. We know that, because of the Old Testament prophecy that says before the Messiah comes, Elijah has to come first (Malachi 4:5). We have sent representatives to ask John the Baptist, and he said that he was not Elijah. They thought they had a watertight proof, and thousands of people rejected the Messiah on the basis of that evidence that was proved to them from the Bible. By the way, the reason John the Baptist told them that he was not Elijah is because the question they asked him was, “Are you the man that dealt with Ahab and Jezebel?” John the Baptist was not the man who had dealt with Ahab and Jezebel, but was he Elijah the prophet? The angel said so to his father, Zechariah: “And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:16, 17. Jesus also confirmed it: “For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.’ ” Matthew 11:10. What the Jews were looking to happen in the future had already happened. It was in the past.

This is one of the biggest dangers of conservative Seventh-day Adventists. The liberals do not even believe in the cleansing of the sanctuary, but the conservatives do and believe it to be in the future.

Ellen White wrote, “I saw that many were neglecting the preparation so needful and were looking to the time of ‘refreshing’ and the ‘latter rain’ to fit them to stand in the day of the Lord and to live in His sight. Oh, how many I saw in the time of trouble without a shelter! They had neglected the needful preparation; therefore they could not receive the refreshing that all must have to fit them to live in the sight of a holy God. Those who refuse to be hewed by the prophets and fail to purify their souls in obeying the whole truth, and who are willing to believe that their condition is far better than it really is, will come up to the time of the falling of the plagues, and then see that they needed to be hewed and squared for the building. But there will be no time then to do it and no Mediator to plead their cause before the Father.” Early Writings, 71.

Throughout history, God’s people have had a very poor track record of recognizing when prophecy is fulfilled right in front of their eyes. Most did not recognize what was going on when Elijah was here. They did not recognize what was happening when Jeremiah said, if you will do what I tell you to do, the temple will not be destroyed and your city will not be destroyed.

God’s church at the time missed Elijah the prophet when he came. They missed the Messiah when He came. When the Messiah was crucified, even the disciples did not get it. In the book, The Desire of Ages, Ellen White names only two people, Nicodemus and Mary Magdalene, who understood what was happening when it happened. When Mary Magdalene saw Jesus hanging on the cross, she knew He was there because of her sins. Nicodemus understood because Jesus had told him that “the Son of man [would] be lifted up.” John 3:14. As he witnessed the crucifixion it came together in his mind though few others recognized it.

It is easy to understand prophecy when we look into the future and we can recognize when prophecy has been fulfilled in the past, but when prophecy is being fulfilled right in front of our eyes our track record is poor. This leaves us in a dangerous position for there is not going to be a future chance to change course. What the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us is important. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been given the understanding on the cleansing of the sanctuary, and we are living in the time when it is happening—the sanctuary is being cleansed now, the church is being purified now.

The plan of salvation is not going to go on forever. Jesus said, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Matthew 24:44. He did not say, “get ready” but “be ready.” Individually we must be cleansed, and God is going to have a group of people, a church that is cleansed, purified and holy without blemish. Whoever is not cleansed will be removed. The angels are the reapers, and before the final judgment they will gather the tares together and bind them into bundles.

We are living at the end of the period of time that is predicted. There is no time to procrastinate. Do not hang on to your darling sins and say, “I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll wait for the church triumphant.” When the church is triumphant it will be too late. The time to plead for the Holy Spirit to cleanse each heart of all its vileness, unholy thoughts, feelings and actions is now. We cannot make ourselves clean. Jesus is our high priest in the sanctuary in heaven, and He is in the business of cleansing each one who comes to Him with repentance.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.