Question: You have objected to Ellen G. White’s teaching on the “investigative judgment” concerning Christ’ s ongoing work as High Priest in the sanctuary in heaven. Then why is He called our “great high priest” in Hebrews, and what function does He perform as our High Priest in the “sanctuary” (Heb:8:2; 9:1-2; 13:11)? And why is there a temple in heaven (Rv 14:17; 15:5-8, etc.) with the “ark of his [God’s] testament” in it?
Response: This teaching is presented in her book, The Great Controversy (pp 479-91). She claims that in 1844 Christ entered “the holy of holies...to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits” (p 480). Atonement is defined in the dictionary as a reconciliation that comes about by expiation of or satisfaction for whatever brought enmity between the parties. It is clear from both the Old and New Testaments that our sins have alienated us from God (Is 59:2) and that “atonement” means “reconciliation with God” through forgiveness of sins. The Old Testament priests “made reconciliation with [animal] blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel” (2 Chr:29:24).
Of course, the sacrificial animals were but types and shadows of Christ, through the shedding of whose blood alone (Heb:10:1-18) this reconciliation/atonement could be accomplished: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph:1:7; Col:1:14; Heb:9:12, etc.). The Bible is clear: “without shedding of blood there is no remission [of sins]” (Heb:9:22).
Christ’s blood was shed on the cross; therefore that has to be the place where atonement/reconciliation/remission of sins was accomplished. His blood is not being shed in heaven, so there can be no work of atonement going on there. E. G. White’s error is similar to that of Catholicism’s mass (or Eucharist), which has Christ being offered continually as a sacrifice for sins.
Obviously, then, reconciliation/atonement could not possibly have begun in 1844 in heaven, nor could it be in process in heaven now, having been accomplished once and for all time by Christ upon the cross. Paul argues that because we have been “reconciled to God through the death of his Son,” we “joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom:5:10-11). When Christ cried in triumph, “It is finished” (Jn:19:30), He meant that the work of our redemption /atonement had been accomplished.
What function, then, does He perform as our High Priest in the “sanctuary” (Heb:8:2; 9:1-2; 13:11)? And why is there a temple in heaven (Rv 14:17; 15:5-8, etc.) with the “ark of his [God’s] testament” in it? Hebrews:7:27 clearly tells us that as our High Priest he is not involved in the repetition of sacrifices as was the case with priests under the old covenant (which involved keeping the Saturday sabbath): “Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice...for this he did once [by one sacrifice], when he offered up himself.” His high priestly ministry in heaven does not involve sacrifice or shedding of blood and thus does not involve atonement/reconciliation, which was accomplished on the Cross. Then what does it involve?
Scripture declares that having died once for our sins, “he ever liveth [never to die again in sacrifice for sins] to make intercession” (Heb:7:25) for His own. Paul argues that there can be no condemnation for the Christian because Christ, who is appointed judge of the world (Jn:5:22; Rv 20:11-15, etc.) and is the One who condemns the lost, is “at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom:8:34). Why does He need to intercede with His Father for His own? John explains that if Christians sin, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn:2:1-2). How so? Not through some act of atonement or sacrifice or shedding of blood that is ongoing now in heaven, but because of His blood shed upon the cross: “[N]ow once...hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself...Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many;...For by one offering [of Himself] he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Heb:9:26,28; 10:14).
This Seventh-day Adventist teaching denies the finished work of Christ. Mrs. White declares that Christ is still involved in making atonement “for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits”! Entitled on what basis? She doesn’t explain, but the very idea denies that salvation is by grace alone, on the basis of Christ having paid the full penalty for our sins. That payment is repudiated by White’s declaration that “Our acts, our words, even our most secret motives, all have their weight in deciding our destiny. ...[T]hough...forgotten by us, they will bear their testimony to justify or condemn” (pp 486-90). This is salvation by works, which is explicitly denied in Scripture. All Seventh-Day Adventists who have embraced this teaching have thereby rejected the gospel that saves.