Incredible Apostasy: God Says, Man Says
By Elder Lawrence Nelson
In the great closing battle between truth and error Satan speaks to us through his subjects contradicting what God has revealed as truth through divine Inspiration. Let me give you a few examples. Creation – God says, “In six days God made heaven and earth.” Exodus 20:11 but man says, “It took millions and millions of years.” The Sabbath – God says, “The seventh day is the sabbath…keep it holy.” Exodus 20:8-11 but man says, “Keep holy the first day, Sunday.” Baptism – God says, Immerse, “Buried with him in baptism.” Colossians 2:12 but man says, “Sprinkle.” Sin – God says, “Go and sin no more.” John 8:11 but man says, “Sin till Jesus comes.” The atonement – God says, “[Christ] was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification.” Romans 4:25. “On the cross Jesus made a sacrificial atonement by paying the ransom for our sins and now He is in heaven making the final atonement as a Redeemer for cleansing and justification.” But man says, “Christ made the final atonement on the cross for salvation and nothing more is needed. All you have to do to be saved is to believe.”
Let us pause here and invite the Holy Spirit to clearly reveal what God says about the atonement which Christ made on Calvary, and the atonement that He is now making in heaven. Our Father, which art in heaven, We have been instructed in Your holy word that ‘when the Spirit of truth is come He will guide you into all truth.’ We plead, please send us Thy Holy Spirit that we may fully understand the atonement of Christ which He made on the cross, and the final atonement that He is making in heaven for us. This we ask in His holy name, Amen.
We will now clarify that there are two atonements essential for complete salvation. The atonement made on the cross provided the ransom for our sins and imputes to us a title to heaven. In addition, there is the final atonement which is now being made in heaven’s sanctuary which imparts Christ’s righteousness, giving us a fitness to live in heaven. Inspiration clearly designates the importance of these two atonements. “The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven.” Great Controversy p. 489.
Let us first discuss the atonement upon the cross that was so beautifully prefigured in the Old Testament book of Leviticus. When an individual sinned and found himself faced with the penalty of death, the scripture says, “The wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23. God, in His great love, provided a way of escape. The sinner was to bring a lamb to be offered for his sins on the altar of sacrifice located just outside the entrance to the sanctuary. It was here that he must place his hands upon the head of the lamb and confess his sins, thus figuratively transferring the sin to the lamb. When this had been done he must slay the lamb by his own hands as the priest catches the blood in a bowl. Then the priest would place the slain lamb on the altar of sacrifice to be consumed. The sinner could now rejoice for an atonement had been made by which his sins had been placed on the lamb which died in his place.
But, what of the blood that had been caught in the bowl? What was its purpose? We will turn to God’s word where it reveals that this blood was needed for a final atonement to be made within the sanctuary for cleansing and justification. We read of this in Leviticus 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” This blood of the victim was taken within the sanctuary and sprinkled on the horns of the altar before the veil. It contained the life of the flesh in the blood – the record of the individuals sins, which was now transferred to the sanctuary.
The final atonement was made only for individuals who met the requirements making it possible for the High Priest to take such sin records out of the sanctuary and placing them on the head of a male goat called the “scapegoat.” This animal was then led out into the wilderness to die. Those individuals who did not comply with the requirements of this final atonement were cut off from the congregation without hope. You can now understand the importance of this atonement for complete salvation.
How could the leadership of God’s church dare to alter and destroy the divine doctrine of a final atonement? What caused these men of the General Conference to succumb to the demands of the Evangelicals? I will give you the answer. For twenty-five years our leadership had been fraternizing with the Evangelicals in the schools of Babylon. Naturally, they now wanted to be accepted by them. Up to this point of time we had been considered to be a “cult” because of our belief regarding the nature of Christ, for we had consistently taught that when Jesus came to earth He would take the place of fallen Adam. But when the Evangelicals studied our doctrine of the atonement this also became a major problem.
Dr. Barnhouse and Walter Martin, of the Evangelicals, called our sanctuary doctrine “stale, flat and unprofitable.” They declared we positively could not be called a Christian church for we were only a cult. Perhaps this epithet was what stunned the brethren into yielding God’s truth by compromising. The following comparison between what man says and what God says will clarify.
Consider this question: Was the atonement that forgives, cleanses, and blots out all sin and justifies finished on the cross? I’m reading the official document concerning the atonement by our Ministerial Department of the General Conference. Note what these liberals are teaching: “The sacrificial act on the cross is a complete and final atonement for man’s sins.” Seventh-day Adventist Ministry magazine, February, 1957. They have never renounced this position to this day. These men continue to teach, “When, therefore, one hears an Adventist say, or reads in Adventist literature – even in the writings of Ellen G. White – that Christ is making an atonement now, it should be understood that we mean simply that Christ is now making an application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made on the cross .” Questions on Doctrines p. 354, 355. (Italics used in original). Now isn’t that clever? How dare these liberals try to change even the writings of Ellen White by not believing what she wrote but to insist that she meant something else. Here they openly question the Spirit of Prophecy.
But now God says through inspiration, “Jesus, our great High Priest, officiates for us in the presence of God, offering in our behalf His shed blood.” Youth Instructor, April 10, 1903. I quote again, “In the typical system, which was a shadow of the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ, the cleansing of the sanctuary was the last service performed by the high priest in the yearly round of ministrations. It was the closing work of the atonement — a removal or putting away of sin from Israel. It prefigured the closing work in the ministration of our High Priest in heaven, in the removal, or blotting out of the sins of His people which are registered in the heavenly records. This service involves a work of investigation, a work of judgment; and it immediately precedes the coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; for when He comes, every case has been decided. Says Jesus, ‘My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his works shall be.’ Revelation 22:12. It is this work of judgment, immediately preceding the second advent, that is announced in the first angel’s message of Revelation 14:7: ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come.’” Great Controversy p. 352.
We have discovered the truth. The atonement made at the cross did not include forgiveness, cleansing and the blotting out of sin and justification. The amazing atonement at the cross of sacrifice was not final so that nothing more was needed. It provided only the required ransom. This is why inspiration teaches that the blood of Christ is now being presented to the Father by our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who is making the final atonement for all who successfully meet the requirements of the investigative judgment, enabling them to be clothed with the wedding garments of Christ’s righteousness.
Now, one more question: “Is the investigative judgment a part of the atonement made at the cross?” You will be surprised to learn that because our liberal leadership had accepted the Evangelical doctrine of atonement – which teaches the atonement on the cross was final and nothing more is needed for salvation – these leaders now discovered that they had a problem: What to do with the Bible doctrine of the investigative judgment.
God says, “Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies and there appears in the presence of God to engage in the last acts (notice that’s plural) of His ministration in behalf of man (why?) to perform the work of investigative judgment and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.” Great Controversy p. 480. Beloved, there is nothing in the investigative judgment of an atonement work so this did not take place at the cross. How sad that prominent leadership of the General Conference would join with Babylon to teach that forgiveness, cleansing, and the blotting out of sins and justification took place at the atonement of the cross. By accepting this false doctrine they have literally destroyed, “God’s way within the sanctuary,” of finally separating the records of sin from the sinners. They have actually done away with the righteousness of Christ provided by our High Priest’s ministry in heaven to cover the repentant sinner with the wedding robes. This is incredible apostasy.
Amazingly this is exactly what Inspiration declared would happen. “The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error.” Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 204.
There is one more witness I feel impressed to present to you. Elder M. L. Andreasen wrote the following when he discovered what the liberals had done to God’s sanctuary doctrine. Keep in mind that he was a professor in our Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary during the years in which this incredible apostasy took place. I will now read his letter word for word. “The serious student of the atonement is likely to be perplexed, when he consults the Spirit of prophecy to find two sets of apparently contradictory statements. Sister White says that when Christ ‘offered himself on the cross, a perfect atonement was made for the sins of the people.’ Signs of the Times, June 28, 1899. (All underlining is in the original letter). Again she says that ‘the Father bowed before it (the cross) in recognition of its perfection . “It is enough,” He said, “ the atonement is complete .” Review and Herald, Sept 24, 1901. …
“But in Great Controversy I read, that ‘at the termination of the 2300 day, in 1844, Christ entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary, to perform the closing work of atonement .’ p. 422…. I read in Patriarchs and Prophets, p.357, that the sins will, ‘stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement’ (in 1844). I read further, on page 358, that ‘in the final atonement the sins of the truly penitent are to be blotted from the records of heaven’ … Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, to make the final atonement .’ Early Writings p. 253.
“The first statements assert that the atonement was made on the cross…. The second statements say that the final atonement was not made until 1800 years later…. I have found seven statements that said the atonement was made on the cross . I have found twenty-two statements saying that the atonement was made in the sanctuary in heaven . Both of these figures are incomplete; for I am constantly finding other statements that increase the number. But whatever the correct number may be, it is evident that I may not accept one set of statements and ignore the other if I wish to arrive at the truth in regard to the atonement. The question would naturally arise…how can [these statements] be harmonized? …
“In the February number of the 1957 Ministry , our official ministerial journal, I found a statement saying that ‘the sacrificial act of the cross (was) a complete, perfect, and final atonement.’ [This was a distinct contradiction to Mrs. White’s pronouncement that the final atonement began in 1844. I found that this was not a misprint but an official and approved statement. If we still hold the Spirit of prophesy as having authority we have two contradictory beliefs. The final atonement was made at the cross; the final atonement began in 1844.] … I have listened to several learned discussions of the meaning of the Hebrew word “kaphar,” (which is the word used in the original for “atonement”), but have received little information of value….The best definition I have found is a short explanatory phrase in Patriarchs and Prophets p. 358 which simply states that atonement is ‘ the blotting out of sin .’ Here is the complete statement: ‘In the type, the great work of Christ, of blotting out of sin , was represented by the services on the day of atonement.’
“This definition is in harmony with Leviticus 16:30 which says that, ‘on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you , that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord.’ Atonement is here equated with being “cleaned from all your sins.’ It was sin which in Eden caused separation between God and man. [The removing of sin would again unite God and man]. …
“While the word ‘atonement,’ consisting of three separate words: at one ment may be considered obsolete, and is so designated in some dictionaries, it nevertheless represents a vital truth….Sister White thus uses the word when she says that men are in a hopeless condition ‘unless they accept the atonement provided for them in the remedial sacrifice of Jesus Christ who is our atonement, at-one-ment, with God.’ In Heavenly Places p. 146….
“God’s plan is that in ‘the fulness of time he might gather together in one all things in Christ.” Ephesians 1:10. When this is done, ‘the family of heaven and the family of earth are one.’ Desire of Ages p. 835. Then ‘one pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation.’ Great Controversy p. 678. At last the atonement is complete. The final atonement comes at the end of the world.
“Much confusion in regard to the atonement arises from a neglect to recognize the two division of the atonement. Says Sister White of John the Baptist: ‘He did not distinguish clearly the two phases of Christ’s work – as a suffering sacrifice , and a conquering king .’ Desire of Ages p. 136, 137. The book Questions on Doctrines makes the same mistake. It does not ‘distinguish clearly the two phases of Christ’s work.’ …
“The first phase of Christ’s atonement was that of a ‘suffering sacrifice.’ This began before the world was, included the incarnation which is said to be a ‘painful process.’ Christ’s life on earth, the temptation in the wilderness, Gethsemane, the cross, and ended when the Father’s voice called Him from the stony prison house of death. In all these various activities He was the ‘suffering sacrifice.’ The fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is a vivid picture of this….
“Satan had successfully overcome Adam in the garden, and nearly the whole world had come under his sway. At the time of the flood, only eight souls entered the ark. Satan claimed to be the prince of this world, and no one had challenged him.
“God did not recognize Satan’s claim to this earth; so when in due time He sent His Son, the second Adam, He ‘gave the world into the hands of the Son, that through His mediatorial work He may completely vindicate the holiness and the binding claims of every precept of the divine law.’ Bible Echo , January, 1887. Satan claimed to be the ruler of the earth, but now God had given the earth to His Son. This was a challenge to Satan. Thus began, in earnest, the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
“‘The great work of redemption could be carried out only by the Redeemer taking the place of fallen Adam. With the sins of the world laid upon him, he would go over the ground where Adam stumbled.’ Review and Herald, February 24, 1874. “Jesus volunteered to meet the highest claims of the law.’ Review and Herald, September 2, 1890. “Christ made himself responsible for every man and woman on earth.’ Review and Herald, February 27, 1900.
“When God gave the earth to Christ, He repudiated Satan’s claim to ownership. However, Christ would have to overcome Satan before He could take possession of the kingdom and wrest from Satan his dominion and unlawfully held prisoners. He therefore made an attempt to kill Christ as soon as He was born. But God frustrated this. Such a contest would be manifestly unfair. Satan must wait.
“The first encounter took place in the wilderness. After forty days of fasting, Christ was emaciated and weak, at death’s door. It was at this time that Satan made his attack. But Christ resisted even ‘unto blood,’ and Satan retired defeated.
“Throughout His ministry Satan dogged the footsteps of Christ and made every moment a hard battle….The climax of the great controversy came in the Garden of Gethsemane. Throughout His ministry Christ had been upheld by the knowledge of the approval of the Father. But now He ‘was overpowered by the terrible fear that God was removing His presence from Him.’ Spirit of Prophesy, Volume 3, p. 95. If God should forsake Him, would He still resist Satan and die rather than succumb? ‘Three times His humanity shrank from the last, crowning sacrifice…The fate of humanity trembled in the balance.’ Ibid., p. 99. ‘As the Father’s presence was withdraw, they saw Him sorrowful with a bitterness of sorrow exceeding that of the last struggle with death. ‘ Desire of Ages p. 759. … ‘He fell dying to the ground,’ but with his last ounce of strength murmured, ‘If this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done.’ ‘A heavenly peace rested upon his bloodstained face. He had borne that which no human being could ever bear: He had tasted the sufferings of death for every man.’ Desire of Ages p. 693, 694. …
“‘When Christ said, “It is finished,” God responded, “It is finished,” the human race shall have another trial. The redemption price is paid, and Satan fell like lightning from heaven.’ Manuscript Release, Volume 12, p. 409.
“‘As the Father beheld the cross He was satisfied. He said, “It is enough, the offering is complete.” Signs of the Times, September 30, 1899. But ‘it was necessary that there should be given the world a stern manifestation of the wrath of God.’ And so, ‘in the grave Christ was the captive of divine justice.’ Signs of the Times, November 15, 1899. It must be abundantly attested, that Christ had really died, so He must ‘remain in the grave the allotted period of time.’ Review and Herald, April 26, 1898. When the time was up, a ‘messenger, [was] sent to relieve the Son of God from the debt for which He had become responsible, and for which He had made full atonement .’ Youth Instructor, May 2, 1901. …
“‘In the intercessory prayer of Jesus with His Father, He claimed that He had fulfilled the conditions which made it obligatory upon the Father to fulfill His part of the contract made in heaven with regard to fallen man. He prayed: “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.”’ Sister White in parenthesis makes this remark, ‘That is, He had wrought out a righteous character on earth as an example for men to follow.’ Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 3, p. 260.
“[When, before the foundations of the earth were laid, the compact was made between the Father and Son, to save man, the Father agreed to accept the work of the Son on two conditions: 1. That the Son work out ‘a righteous character on earth as an example for men to follow’ ( Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 3, p. 260) and 2. That God would also ‘receive repentant and obedient men, and would love them even as He loves His Son,’ but on the condition that Christ would ‘complete His work, and fulfil His pledge to] ‘make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.’ Desire of Ages p. 790….
“‘Christ had fulfilled one phase of His priesthood by dying on the cross. He is now fulfilling another phase by pleading before the Father the case of the repenting, believing sinners.’ Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 7, p. 929.
“‘In His incarnation He had reached the prescribed limit as a sacrifice , but not as a redeemer. ‘ Manuscript Release, Volume 12, p. 409. On Golgatha He died as a sacrifice. That was as far as He could go as sacrifice. But now His work as Redeemer began. ‘When Christ cried “It is finished,” God’s unseen hand rent the strong fabric which composed the veil of the temple from top to bottom. The way into the holiest of all was made manifest.’ Ibid. …
“With the cross the first phase of Christ’s work as ‘the suffering sacrifice’ ended…. He had gone ‘the prescribed limit as a sacrifice.’ …And now, with the Father’s approval He was empowered to be the Savior of mankind. At His ensuing coronation [forty days later] He was given all power in heaven and earth and could begin His redeeming work in the sanctuary above….
“‘After His ascension, our Savior began His work as high priest…In harmony with the typical service He began His ministration in the holy place, and at the termination of the prophetic days in 1844…He entered the most holy to perform the last division of His solemn work – to cleanse the sanctuary.’ Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 4, p. 265, 266. [On the same page, Sister White repeats, apparently for emphasis] ‘He entered into the presence of God, to perform the closing work of atonement , preparatory to His coming.’ …
“‘John the Baptist failed to ‘distinguish clearly the two phases of Christ’s work—as a suffering sacrifice and a conquering King.’ Desire of Ages p. 137. [Our theologians are making the same mistake today and are inexcusable. They have light which John did not have]. In studying this part of the atonement we enter a field that is distinctly Adventist doctrine and in which we differ from all other denominations. We consider this our unique contribution to religion and theology, that which “ has made us a separate people , and has given character and power to our work.’ Counsels to Editors and Writers p. 54. Sister White in this connection warns us against ‘fantastic theories invented to make void the truths of the atonement, and destroying our confidence in the doctrines which we have held sacred since the third angel’s message was first given .’ Ibid. p. 54.”
Beloved, this is vital counsel and written for this very time when efforts are being made by some among us to have others believe that we are like the churches about us – an Evangelical body and not a sect. Paul in his day had the same heresy to meet. He was accused of being a pestilent fellow, a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. Acts 24:5. In his answer before Felix, Paul confessed “that after the way which they called heresy, (or sect) so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.” Acts 24:14.
In those days men spoke sneeringly of the true church as a sect, as men do now. Paul was not disturbed by this. We have no record that he attempted to have the church of the Living God recognized as an Evangelical body by men who trampled the law of God in the dust. On the contrary, whatever they might call him and his “sect” he confessed that he believed all things which are written in the law and the prophets. (verse 14).
Beloved, because of what our leaders have done in changing our sanctuary doctrine, they have opened the door to other satanic doctrines. I’ll mention a few. We now teach the false doctrine that the atonement was final at the cross; Jesus having done what was needed, we no longer need to worry about sin – He took care of it on Calvary so you can sin till Jesus comes.
Since we now teach the false doctrine that salvation was totally completed at the cross why do we need a sanctuary in heaven? No need to believe that Jesus is our High Priest while making an atonement as our Redeemer. And consider the false teaching that the gift of prophecy is no longer to be taught as essential to our knowledge for doctrine. Oh yes, it’s good motherly advice, but let’s abandon it all together in worship in our churches as they do in the churches of Babylon with their Celebration, drums, Christian rock music, clapping, drama entertainment, the raising of hands which invites Satan’s spiritualism to bestow upon them the ability to speak with unknown tongues.
Friend, now you know how and why apostasy is daily growing within our church today. Beloved, will you join me, with God’s help, to determine to hold fast to the pillars of faith that God has bestowed upon His church that we may be counted as God’s remnant.
Let us pray, Thank you, Father, for sending Your Holy Spirit that we might know the truth. For we ask in Thy Son’s name, Amen.