Two Thrones

“As is perhaps natural, the enemy of truth seems most persistent in trying to trouble and unsettle minds in reference to the sanctuary; for that is the citadel of our strength.” Uriah Smith, Review and Herald, August 5, 1875

The word citadel combines the concepts of a fortress and a dwelling place, such as a castle or palace. It would naturally be the target toward which an enemy would direct his most formidable assaults. Smith suggests that for Seventh-day Adventists, the citadel of our theological strength is our doctrine of the sanctuary and that we should not be surprised to find this doctrine heavily attacked by the enemy. Ellen White apparently agreed, as she wrote in 1905:

“Satan is striving continually to bring in fanciful suppositions in regard to the sanctuary, degrading the wonderful representations of God and the ministry of Christ for our salvation into something that suits the carnal mind. He removes its presiding power from the hearts of believers, and supplies its place with fantastic theories invented to make void the truths of the atonement, and destroy our confidence in the doctrines which we have held sacred since the third angel’s message was first given. Thus he would rob us of our faith in the very message that has made us a separate people, and has given character and power to our work.” Counsels to Writers and Editors, 53, 54

In the 1980s we saw just such an attack formed around the challenging question, “Where did Christ go in A.D. 31?”

It was alleged that since the Scriptures state that He went to the right hand of God, this could only mean that he went to the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary and that the pioneers of our church were such careless and naive Bible students that they overlooked this obvious fact.

An astonishing number of Seventh-day Adventist ministers and church members were bewildered, confused, and discomfited by this challenge, so much so that some gave up their faith and separated themselves from our church. They abandoned the citadel and were easily taken by the enemy.

This was in the 1980s. In the 1880s it could hardly have happened. Our pioneers, far from being ignorant of the scriptural statements about where Christ went in A.D. 31, made extensive use of those scriptures in defense of the citadel. They not only knew where Christ went in A.D. 31, they knew full well what He was doing there. This was an essential and integral part of their doctrine of the sanctuary. If the attack of the 1980s had been launched in the 1880s, the Seventh-day Adventist ministers of that generation would doubtless have laughed it to scorn.

It is the purpose of this article to set forth a pioneer Bible study and to provide the reader with documentation whereby the depth of the perception of our early pioneers on this point may be easily ascertained. The material for this study has been taken from the following sources: Please take notice of the dates.)

  • Review and Herald, April 15, 1858, an article from F.M. Brag, “Jesus Reigns Upon Two Thrones.”
  • Review and Herald, September 12, 1871, an article by J.N. Andrews, the brilliant scholar for whom Andrews University was named.
  • Review and Herald, September 12, 1871, an article by J.H. Waggoner, the father of E. J. Waggoner of 1888 fame.
  • Review and Herald, July 29, 1875, an editorial by Uriah Smith, “Questions on the Sanctuary.”
  • Review and Herald, August 5, 1875, an editorial by Uriah Smith, same title as above.
  • Signs of the Times, September 18, 1893, an article by Mrs. M.E. Steward, “Our Priest King.”
  • Signs of the Times, December 10, 1894, an article by M.H. Bowen, “The True Tabernacle.”
  • Signs of the Times, April 18, 1895, an article by E.J. Waggoner.
  • Review and Herald, June, 1910, a series of four articles by J.N. Loughborough under the title, “Two Thrones.”
  • Australian Signs of the Times, December 23, 1929, an article by W.W. Prescott, “ThePriest Upon the Throne.”
  • And last but not least, comments on the subject by Ellen White in The Great Controversy, 415-417.

The Two Thrones
A Pioneer Bible Study

We will borrow the title to our study from J.N. Loughborough, and we will begin the study with a typical use of the oft-quoted Revelation 3:21:

“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.”

As our pioneers did, we will note that there are clearly presented two thrones, the Father’s and the Son’s. There are also two enthronements at two different times, one described as past and one described as future. Past: I am set down with My Father on His throne. Future: You will sit down with Me on My throne.

With these words of Jesus as an introduction, we will “begin at the beginning” by turning to Psalm 110, where we read an invitation from God the Father to God the Son:
“The LORD said unto my Lord, ‘Sit Thou at My right hand….’”

Hundreds of years later on the great day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter was to apply these words to the risen Christ. (See Acts 2:34.) He obviously understood “the Lord” to be God the Father and “my Lord” to be God the Son, Jesus Christ. But before leaving Psalm 110, we will make two more observations.

The invitation from God the Father to God the Son has a time frame.

“….Sit Thou at My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.”

The invitation from God the Father to God the Son has a purpose.

“Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

Remembering that Melchizedek, unlike Aaron and his sons, was both a king and a priest, we now have the complete picture before us. God the Father is represented in David’s prophecy as inviting God the Son to sit down with Him on His (the Father’s) throne as a King and a Priest for a stated period of time, which will end when the Father finally and ultimately disposes of the enemies of the Son.

As sang David, so sang Zechariah in his beautiful prophecy of the Messiah:
“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 throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between Them both.’” Zechariah 6:12, 13

Here we see the Priest on the throne, the King-Priest. As various of our pioneers pointed out, if this were not the Father’s throne, there could hardly be a “counsel of peace between Them both.” We cannot picture the Son counseling with Himself, but rather with the Father.

We turn, now, with our pioneers, to the New Testament to hear the testimony of the various witnesses.

“So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.” Mark 16:19

“Therefore being by 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, until I make They foes Thy footstool.”’” Acts 2:33-35

Note that Peter is here quoting Psalm 110 and applying it to Christ. Note also that the expression “by the right hand of God exalted” could with equal validity be translated “to the right hand of God exalted,” since the Greek locative, instrumental, and dative cases are spelled alike. Peter testifies again in Acts 5:31:

“Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

Again, we observe that the words “with His right hand” could with equal validity be translated “to His right hand.” Now we hear the testimony of Stephen:

“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly 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, 56

The testimony of the apostle Paul is equally clear:

“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, who also maketh intercession for us.” Romans 8: 34

What kind of a person makes intercession for us? Obviously, a priest. So Paul’s concept is clearly that of a priest who sits on God’s throne as Priest-King. He continues to testify:

“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

We see that Paul, like Peter, quotes Psalm 110 and applies it to Christ.
“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

In Hebrews 7, Paul again invokes the 110th Psalm and makes two uses of its reference to Melchizedek:

“For he testifieth, ‘thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’” Hebrews 7:17, 21
His summary statement in Hebrews 8 admits of no misunderstanding:

“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; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” Hebrews 8:1, 2

Continuing his application of the 110 Psalm, in chapter 10 Paul makes reference to the time frame within which the Priest-King ministers:

“But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made His footstool.” Hebrews 10:12, 13

Paul concludes his testimony with the beautiful exhortation of Hebrews 12: 1, 2:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 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.”

Returning to the testimony of the apostle Peter, we find his final statement in 1 Peter 3:22:

“Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him.”

To all this evidence may be added the testimony of John the Revelator:

“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.” Revelation 12:5

These scriptures were used by our pioneers as an essential part of their sanctuary doctrine and were by no means overlooked. Our pioneers had no doubts at all regarding where Jesus went after His resurrection in A.D. 31. They believed that he went directly to the throne of God, where He sat at the Father’s right hand in performance of the offices of both Priest and King. But, they did not make either of the two mistakes that some are now making. They did not erroneously conclude that the throne of God was in the Most Holy Place. They took careful note of the description in Revelation 4, in which the throne of God was seen in that apartment of the heavenly sanctuary where the seven lamps were burning, obviously the first apartment, or the Holy Place.

“And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire buring before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” Revelation 4:5

And they did not lose sight of the time frame within which our Saviour would minister as both Priest and King, a time period which was bounded by the words “until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.” This harmonized with their understanding from other scriptures that the priestly ministry of our Lord would eventually end and that He would henceforth function only as a King, no longer as a Priest. Thus the words of Jesus in Revelation 3:21 would be perfectly fulfilled when His overcoming followers would sit with Him on His own throne. That throne, they taught, would be the throne of glory (see Matthew 25:31), whereas the throne of the Father on which Christ now sits as Priest-King is the throne of grace. (See Hebrews 4:16.)

Some carefully worked their way through the rather challenging array of personal pronouns in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 and found that this scripture was in perfect harmony with the other uses in their study. J.N. Loughborough, in the second of his four articles entitled “The Two Thrones,” offers this clarification.

“Then [at the resurrection of the righteous at Christ’s second coming] cometh the end, when He [Christ] shall have delivered up the kingdom [the kingdom of grace, His position on His Father’s throne], to God, even the Father; when He [the Father] shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For He [Christ] must reign [on his Father’s throne] till He [God] hath put all things under His [Christ’s] feet. But when He [God] saith all things are put under Him [Christ], it is manifest that He [God] is excepted, which did put all things under Him [Christ]. And when all things shall be subdued unto Him [Christ], then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him [God ] that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”

We have seen that far from being unaware of these scriptures that tell where Christ went in A.D. 31, our pioneers made them part and parcel of their doctrine of the sanctuary. Further evidence in support of this position is found in Ellen White’s The Great Controversy, 415-417, in a chapter entitled, “What Is the Sanctuary?” From these pages, we quote the following lines:

“He ‘shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne.’ Not now ‘upon the throne of His glory;’ the kingdom of glory has not yet been ushered in. Not until His work as a mediator shall be ended will God ‘give unto Him the throne of His father David’ a kingdom of which ‘there shall be no end.’ Luke 1:32, 33. As a priest, Christ is now set down with the Father in His throne. (See Revelation 3:21.) Upon the throne with the eternal, self-existent One is He who ‘hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrow,’ who ‘was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,’ that He might be ‘able to succor them that are tempted.’ If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father.’ Isaiah 53:4; Hebrews 4:15, 2:18; 1John 2:1. His intercession is that of a pierced and broken body, of a spotless life. The wounded hands, the pierced side, the marred feet, plead for fallen man, whose redemption was purchased at such infinite cost.

“’And the counsel of peace shall be between Them both.’ The love of the Father, no less than of the Son, is the fountain of salvation for the lost race. Said Jesus to His disciples before He went away: ‘I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father Himself loveth you.’ John 16:26, 27. God was ‘in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.’ 2 Corinthians 5:19. And in the ministration in the sanctuary above, ‘the counsel of peace shall be between Them both.’ ‘God so loved the world, that He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16.”

Uriah Smith was right. The sanctuary is the citadel of our strength, and there is safety in the citadel. Now, as in previous years, those who abandon the citadel are as easily taken by the enemy. Those overcomers who will finally sit with Christ on His own throne, the throne of glory, will be those who could not be lured or tempted by any means whatever to abandon the sanctuary, the citadel of our strength. “I know that the sanctuary message stand in righteousness and truth, just as we have held it for so many years.” Gospel Workers, 303

The End