I would like to direct your attention for a few moments to the first part of Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth shall pass away.”
In the book The Great Controversy, beginning with chapter 29, page 492, we find a series of eleven chapters which appear to be telling us how heaven and earth are going to pass away—very essential reading for all of us who are in the Seventh-day Adventist movement today.
Our Greatest Danger Today
Six chapters describe the supernatural powers that will be arrayed against us. Four chapters describe the earthly powers that will be arrayed against us, and in those chapters, I suggest that as you read them you take careful notice of the number of times the warning is against false teachers. It appears that, in Ellen White’s view, the greatest danger we face is the false teachers among us and around us in these last days.
Then there is one chapter entitled “The Scriptures a Safeguard,” telling us how we may survive. At the bottom of the first page of this chapter we find these lines: “Those who endeavor to obey all the commandments of God will be opposed and derided.” Think about that for just a moment.
Will they be called dirty names? Yes, they will be called dirty names. Will they be called legalists? Yes, they will be called legalists by people who do not even know what the word means. A legalist is one who thinks he can make it to the kingdom of God doing all of the things that God tells him to do without any help from the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the historic definition of legalist and is the one that we ought to always remember.
Will they be called perfectionists? Another dirty word. Yes, they will be called perfectionists. May I point out that the doctrine of perfectionism is a specific theological doctrine, and you should not misuse that word anymore than a doctor should diagnose appendicitis for a man who has a broken leg.
The doctrine of perfectionism, whenever and wherever it has appeared in the history of all churches, has rested like a three-legged stool on three legs.
The first idea is the teaching that man can, by the power of Christ, live a sinless life. That is the only one of the three that Seventh-day Adventists have ever accepted.
The second one is that man can have instant sanctification; he can become perfect in a moment of time. Seventh-day Adventists have always rejected that, and Ellen White very firmly rejects it.
The third one is that when this instant sanctification has occurred to you, you can know it; you can recognize it, and you can testify to the world that you have become a sinless person. You know how firmly Ellen White rejects that. She often wrote there is no instant sanctification, it is the work of a lifetime, you never lay it aside as finished.
“Those who endeavor to obey all the commandments of God will be opposed and derided.” The Great Controversy, 593. They will be called legalists. They will be called perfectionists. They will be called right-wingers, which is perhaps the most ludicrous of all of these epithets, these dirty words. If you want to check that out, all you have to do is go to a college library or any church school library and examine the books on Bible doctrines that were used in Seventh-day Adventist schools up to the mid-1950s.
You will see that those of us who call ourselves “historic” Adventists and who are scornfully called by others “traditional” Adventists (there is a propaganda technique there you understand quickly), have not deviated one iota to the right of what you see in those books. But those who have gone wildly off to the left are calling us right-wingers! That is about as crazy as anything could possibly be. But we are told that is the way it is going to be.
Fortified with the Truth
Now, how can we handle it? The very last line on page 593 of the Great Controversy is the one upon which I want you to focus your minds. “None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict.” Ron Spear once said, “One of the best ways to study the Bible is to read the Spirit of Prophecy, because every few pages that you read you get loaded up with Bible texts!”
Folks, in the end, we are going to divide over the Spirit of Prophecy. Those who accept the Spirit of Prophecy will go one way, and those who reject it will go another way. Just hold that in your mind.
Fortified. A fort is put where you expect an attack, is it not? I want to ask you to consider the following Ellen White statement most carefully. It is a prediction of what will happen in the future.
“After the truth has been proclaimed as a witness to all nations…” She is referring to Matthew 24:14. “…this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then shall the end come.” We have seen ourselves as the people who had the special task of taking the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue and people.
Tearing Down the Pillars
But notice this, “After the truth has been proclaimed as a witness to all nations,… there will be a removing of the landmarks, and an attempt to tear down the pillars of our faith.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, 985. What might that say to us about our present position in the stream of time? Are we seeing a removing of the landmarks today?
What are these pillars, these landmarks? Depending on how you divide the Three Angels’ Messages, whether you think of them as one or as three, you can count the pillars as five or eight.
We have the landmarks defined for us in the book Counsels to Writers and Editors, 30. “The passing of the time in 1844 was a period of great events, opening to our astonished eyes the cleansing of the sanctuary [Number 1] transpiring in heaven, and having decided relation to God’s people upon the earth, [also] the First and Second Angels’ Messages and the Third. [That is one or three, depending on how you count.]… One of the landmarks under this message was the temple of God, seen by His truth-loving people in heaven, and the ark containing the law of God [Number 3]. The light of the Sabbath [Number 4, if you separate the Sabbath from the Law] of the fourth commandment flashed its strong rays in the pathway.… [Finally] The non-immortality of the wicked is an old landmark. I can call to mind nothing more that can come under the head of the old landmarks.”
What are they?
- The sanctuary
- The Three Angels’ Messages
- The Law
- The Sabbath
- Non-immortality of the soul.
Those are the landmarks, and the one under attack most bitterly, most viciously, most unyieldingly at this moment, is the sanctuary.
Attacking the Sanctuary
A gentleman called me from England recently. He asked me for some materials to help him. He said, “One of our prominent church elders has launched a paper attacking the sanctuary with the approval of the conference president.”
One week after that, I had a telephone call from Australia. The caller said, “The conference has given a man freedom to circulate among the churches attacking the sanctuary.” He wanted to know whether I would prepare a response if he sent the tapes to me. He said he would fly all the way to the United States to make videotapes of my response in an attempt to offset what this man, with the approval of the conference, was doing.
That is where we are, folks, and we must bear in mind, and be cautious while still speaking the truth, that the increasing strangeness of the behavior of some of our leaders is equaled only by the sternness of their demand that nobody dare to criticize. I am sorry. I am going to have to speak out against that just the same.
When our conference officials approve of attacks on the sanctuary, I believe it is the sacred duty of every true man of God to speak out and say, “That is wrong. That is hopelessly wrong!”
I want to focus on one thing relative to the sanctuary. A few years ago a certain gentleman came up from the lands down under and sent a lot of Seventh-day Adventist ministers into a flap of confusion by proposing that our Seventh-day Adventist pioneers were so ignorant that they did not even know that Christ went to the throne of God when He went back to heaven in 31 A.D.
A lot of our Seventh-day Adventist ministers, perhaps mostly the younger ones, did not know how to handle that at all. They were really upset and troubled by it. I am going to give you a little Bible study. Unfortunately, this is the only place where you can get this Bible study at the present time.
How Many Thrones?
Where did Christ go in 31 A.D.? Revelation 3:20, 21 tells us how our pioneers understood that. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me. [Read carefully]. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne.”
How many thrones are there? Two. My throne and His throne. One is present and one is future. Which is which? He says, “I overcame [past tense] I am set down [past tense] with My Father in His throne. You will, if you overcome, [future tense] sit down with Me in My throne [future tense].” Two thrones, two times, two persons or groups of persons, and two distinctly different situations.
Now let us begin at the beginning: “The Lord said unto my Lord [God the Father said to God the Son], Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of Thy strength out of Zion: rule Thou in the midst of Thine enemies.… The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.” Psalm 110:1, 2, 4.
A Scripture that is recognized by virtually all conservative commentators as a prediction, or prophecy, about our Lord, says, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord: Even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His [the Father’s] throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between Them both.” Zechariah 6:12.
Now go to the New Testament and look at Mark 16:19. “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” In Peter’s Pentecostal sermon he states, “This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted [You will find modern translations sometimes translate that as “Therefore, being to the right hand of God exalted.”], and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand [What is he quoting? Psalm 110.], Until I make Thy foes Thy footstool.” Acts 2:32–35.
You see, He is not going to always be sitting on the right hand of God. He is not going to be always a priest sitting on the throne of God. Some day He is going to sit on His own throne.
“Him hath God exalted with His right hand,” again, modern translations frequently put that “to His right hand.” It is an acceptable translation of the Greek. “…to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31.
Before he died, the testimony of Stephen was, “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looking up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55.
A Priest on His Throne
Let us get the testimony of the apostle Paul: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, [And what is He doing there?] who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8:34. What kind of a person makes intercession for us? A priest on the throne of God, on the right hand of God. As Zechariah wrote, “A priest on the throne.”
Look at the following texts: “Which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 1:20.
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:1.
“Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:3.
“But to which of the angels said He at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Hebrews 1:13. What is he quoting? Psalm 110.
“(For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord sware and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:).” Hebrews 7:21. What is he quoting? Psalm 110.
There is another reference in Hebrews 7:17: “For He testifieth, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchisedec.”
Hebrews 8:1 and onward, “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.” And then he goes on to talk about His priestly ministry there.
“But this man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; [Look carefully at verse 13.] From henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool.” Hebrews 10:12, 13. What is he quoting? Psalm 110.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2,
And, of course, we could add to these Revelation 12:5, the vision of John. “And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne.”
Where Was the Father’s Throne?
Can there be any question that Christ went to the throne of the Father in 31 A.D., and sat down beside the Father as a priest on the throne of the Father, from henceforth expecting until He would sit on His own throne when His enemies are made His footstool? And we shall share that throne with Him. Now that creates a question. Where was the throne of the Father in A.D. 31? We need not speculate. The answer is in Revelation 4:1–5. “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And He that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: [Now note this] and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.”
The Pioneers Still Speak
Were these seven lamps in the holy place or the most holy place? In the holy place, the first apartment. Where was the throne of God in 31 A.D.? In the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. Now where do you think I learned all this? Where do you think I got this Bible study? From the writings of our pioneers.
I have a whole stack of articles written by our pioneers, the first one in 1858. That is going a long way back in Adventist history. A gentleman by the name of F. M. Bragg wrote an article entitled, “Jesus Reigns Upon Two Thrones.” He went through briefly the same material that I have shared with you here. In The Review and Herald, September 12, 1871, J. N. Andrews and J. H. Waggoner comment briefly on it. (J. H. Waggoner was the father of E. J. Waggoner of 1888 fame.)
An article by Uriah Smith talks about these things in some detail. He includes some answers to an objector, a critic, who had tried to say that God was in the Most Holy Place in 31 A.D., and that is where Christ went. I would like for you to notice how he sums up his response to that. This is a little bit different, if I may say so.
After pointing out the strange conclusions that would be forced upon us in so many different ways if we said that God the Father was in the most holy place in 31 A.D., he says this. “To such stupid driveling absurdities are we driven the moment we take the position that Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary when He ascended. Dear Brother Smith, we do not talk like that any more, do we?” The Review and Herald, July 29, 1875 and August 5, 1875.
Signs of the Times, September 18, 1893, a Mrs. M. E. Steward wrote an article entitled, “Our Priest King,” in which she covers the same ground.
Signs of the Times, December 10, 1894, an Elder M. H. Brown writes an article entitled, “The True Tabernacle,” and one of the subtitles is “The Two Thrones.” “Christ occupies that throne with His Father at the present and as Christ rules upon the Father’s throne and is a priest upon His Father’s throne, we know that Christ’s present office and work is that of a priest-king.”
J. Waggoner makes a brief comment on it in the same fashion, Ibid., April 18, 1895. And beginning with The Review and Herald, June 2, 1910, Elder J. N. Loughborough put in four lengthy articles in succession all under the one title, “The Two Thrones.”
In the Australian Signs of the Times, December 23, 1929, an article by William W. Prescott, appeared, entitled, “The Priest Upon the Throne.”
And, of course, in The Great Controversy, 415, 416, you will find Mrs. White briefly summing up the whole thing.
Did our pioneers know where Jesus went in 31 A.D.? They most certainly did! They knew exactly where He went. They knew exactly what He was doing, and their position was just as Biblical as anything could possibly be.
I cannot claim credit for this Bible study. I got it out of the writings of our pioneers. I want to testify to you that our message can stand against any challenge. Our message cannot be faulted. In its essential points, in its broad picture, it is absolutely certain. It will stand against the powers of hell itself.
Never have any questions, any doubts. I would like to appeal to you to remember those words, “None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand.” Ibid., 593. You have heard comments on the shaking time and you need to be studying that. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken.
Multitudes, Mrs. White writes, of false brethren will leave us. Companies will throw down the flag and depart from us. Chaff like a cloud will be borne away from the floor where we see only rich wheat. Men that we have admired as brilliant stars will go out in darkness and turn against us. Let us resolve that, by the grace of God, we will let the chaff blow, let the brilliant stars go, let company after company join the foe, nevertheless we will stand though the heavens fall.