9. JESUS CURRENTLY MAKING FINAL ATONEMENT
Jesus' atonement was promised in Eden. With His incarnation and then death as our Substitute upon the cross, His atoning work was begun. He rose from the dead and went to heaven in A.D. 31 to represent us before the Father, who received His sacrifice for us. Through that sacrifice we can be right with God as soon as we accept His gift of forgiveness and heart cleansing. In A.D. 1844 He entered the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, commencing the closing phase of His atonement. Today, Jesus is making the final atonement.
If humans are to be truly free, God can not force obedience. Eve wandered to the tree of the knowledge of good and evil alone (Genesis 3:1-5). Soon, but without a thought-through commitment to rebellion, Adam and Eve had chosen to disobey. Jesus was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). God did not ordain that sin should exist, but in giving created intelligences freedom, He foresaw its existence. Heaven was prepared for the emergency. As soon as there was sin, there was a Savior.
God pledged that the Seed of the woman would triumph over the seed of the serpent. He would open the way for man to be transformed from his disordered, rebel situation, to holiness and unselfishness. God and man would walk together again (Genesis 3:8; Romans 8:29; Revelation 21:3)! Why did Jesus descend from heaven to this planet? He took disordered humanity like we have because it was fallen man that needed salvation. If He would be sacrificed in our place, He must take the kind of humanity truly identified with us.
Only horses can run in horse races. Jesus had to identify with our fallen human organism completely, in every way. The humanity He took must be unlike that of Adam before His fall, for Jesus to come to die (Hebrews 2:14). In 4 B.C. Jesus came as a babe. Born into poverty, raised by Joseph and Mary, He grew to adulthood as do other children. He lived His life in the humanity that needs to be healed. And with His stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 8:17; 1 Peter 2:24). In A.D. 31 Jesus died in the cross in our place. The ladder of salvation was erected. At Calvary He hung between heaven and earth, linking God and man.
A perfect life was offered. A complete sacrificial atonement was presented. Sin had been defeated in fallen--not unfallen or semi-fallen--humanity. Hanging on the tree, Jesus breathed His last, but the atonement still had to be mediated in some real way in heaven. The sanctuary on earth was a representation of a heavenly pattern (Exodus 25:8, 9). "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.
For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if He were on earth, He should not be priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, see, saith He, that though make all things according to the pattern showed to thee on the mount" (Hebrews 8:1-5).
While on earth He filled the role of sacrificial victim; now in heaven He fills the role of High Priest. While on earth He gave His life; now in heaven He as High Priest ministers the power of that life (Hebrews 7:16). While on earth He made provision for every man who would seek for salvation (Hebrews 2:9); from heaven He sends forth the helping strength of His Deity to make effectual in man the atonement being wrought out.
When can we be right with God? We can be right with Him just as soon as we accept His gift of heart cleansing (Isaiah 27:5; Romans 5:1). For the Christian, heaven begins on earth. When we give our hearts to Him, He accepts us right where we are and forgives our sins.
Jesus at the time of His ascension to heaven in A.D. 31 commenced His work in the Holy Place. The system of ministry which God had instituted included the daily sacrifice and finished once a year with the Day of Atonement. Christ’s work in heaven starting in A.D. 31 was equivalent to the earthly sanctuary’s daily ministry.
The earthly services were but figures of the true. After His resurrection, Jesus continued to serve as in the daily round of the earthly sacrifices, as our High Priest offering the grace of "mercy and . . . help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:14, 16). With the passage of time, God's followers veered off course. It would take centuries of reform to come back to where God could "cleanse the camp" of all sin (Leviticus 16:21, 22, 30).
The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16; 23:26-32), was a once a year symbol of God's plan to put away all sin from the universe forever (Daniel 8:14). It was a symbolic reminder, year after year, that at last, at the end, God would accomplish His purpose. In Daniel 8:14 He announced that the cleansing of the true sanctuary in heaven would begin in 2,300 days, meaning years (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6). We know the starting point for that countdown, too: 457 B.C. (Daniel 9:25; Ezra 7:13). Twenty-three hundred years afterwards takes us to A.D. 1844. At that time Jesus moved from the Holy Place in heaven to the Most Holy.
In the yearly service the sins of the camp of Israel were cleansed. In the present-day parallel at our end of time, from 1844 onward, the lives of men began at last to be evaluated. Person by person, each life professed to have been given to God is judged. Those who claim to believe in Him are His character witnesses. The watching universe sees and hears each story. In the sanctuary above Jesus is making the final atonement.
Jesus’ incarnation and sacrificial death in our place on the cross were only the beginning of the atonement. His ministry in heaven since 1844 is necessary to complete the atonement.
Some voices today would like to de-emphasize the prophetic heritage of God's people. They would like to say that when Jesus died on the cross the atonement was then completed; that now, the Christian simply waits for Jesus to return. But the atonement was not finished at the cross. A perfect sacrifice was there offered, but for it to become effective in us, Christ's life must be manifest in ours. Avoiding the Most Holy Place ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary inevitably leads to avoiding most holy living while on earth.
10. CLEANSING IN HEAVEN CONNECTED TO CLEANSING ON EARTH
Neither Luther nor the Millerite Adventists living in 1844 finished the Reformation or understood the angel messages of Revelation 14 and 18. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is connected to the cleansing and purifying of lives on earth. The sanctuary is cleansed when God has a people who have become so settled into the truth that they will never again be moved to doubt Him or to disobey known duty. The torrent of sin that has needed forgiveness is dried up. Christ's presence remains with those who have chosen Him. The Holy Spirit empowers obedience even after the ministry of forgiveness is closed.
No man, however honored of Heaven, has ever attained to a full understanding of the great plan of redemption. Neither the most sincere preacher not Spirit-led Reformer has yet understood all. The Reformation is left unfinished. We have been slow to grasp "present truth," but the messages of Daniel and Revelation are now coming to fruition. Mighty truths are unfolding before our very eyes. The people who permit that light to fill them will be used of God to end evil once and for all.
One of the most urgent messages of the sanctuary doctrine since 1844 is that something special is required of God’s followers in terms of character development that may not have been as crucial to the development of the church until now. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is connected to the cleansing and purifying of lives on earth.
God urges us to "sin not," and "Go and sin no more" (Exodus 20:20; Psalm 4:4; John 5:14; 8:11; 1 Corinthians 15:34; 1 John 2:1), to purify ourselves even as Jesus is pure (1 John 3:3), to walk even as Jesus walked (1 John 2:6). When we are so settled into the truth, both doctrinally and experientially, that we cannot be moved, we will no longer sin. We will stop sending sins into the heavenly sanctuary to be forgiven.
All this Satan has denied and misrepresented, but today he is being proven wrong. Throughout our lives we have sent forth a river of sin, washing up to the heavenly sanctuary, there to be purified. Every sin has to be removed by Christ. But the day approaches when the torrent will be dried up, known duties will be fulfilled, we will live by every word that proceeds from God's mouth (Deuteronomy 8:3). God is so good and we, His people, will become so resolute in doing His goodness, that we will stop sinning. Living in the Spirit we will cease to fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
Satan will not be able to claim that Jesus has not completely saved His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21; Zechariah 3:1-5). Jesus has purified them by the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 3:19), and there is no longer any need to forgive sin in His people, even ignorant sin, because no more sin will be there. His people live in the sight of a holy God with no blemish of sin whatsoever contaminating their thoughts or actions.
Now, while the Investigative Judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of believers are being removed from the sanctuary in heaven, there is a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people on earth. When this work shall have been accomplished, the followers of Christ will be ready for His appearing. Then the church which our Lord at His coming is to receive to Himself will be a "glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing" (Ephesians 5:27).
We now are living in this joyful and solemn time. It is the privilege of each one so to live that God will approve and bless him. It is not the will of our heavenly Father that we should ever be under condemnation and darkness. We may go to Jesus and be cleansed, and stand before the law without shame or remorse.
The cross of Calvary will finally vanquish every earthly and hellish power. This sacrifice was offered for the purpose of restoring man to his original perfection. It was offered to give him an entire transformation of character, and make him at last more than a conqueror.
Now, while our great High Priest is making atonement for us, we should seek to become present overcomers through Christ. Not even by a thought could our Savior be brought to yield to the power of temptation. Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foothold, some sinful desire cherished, by means of which his temptations assert their power.
But Jesus said, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me" (John 14:30). Satan could find nothing in Christ that would enable him to gain the victory. Jesus had kept His Father's commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand victoriously (Revelation 3:21).
Even after the sanctuary is closed, we will have the help of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). In order to live godly lives, we will still need His power. We will always need it, and it will not be withdrawn in the last generation.
The cleansing underway in the heavenly sanctuary today reflects the cleansing in the lives of Jesus' followers on earth today. The High Priest is mediating, the Intercessor is interceding, the Carpenter is crafting character, the earth is being lightened with His glory. As followers of Christ, our lives offer evidence as to whether God or Satan has been right in the great controversy.
11. DELAYING THE SECOND COMING THROUGH A HALF-GOSPEL
Jesus' Second Coming could have occurred within the generation that proclaimed the 1844 messages, but the same sins that kept ancient Israel out of the promised land have delayed the entrance of modern Israel into the heavenly Canaan. Unbelief, worldliness, unconsecration, and strife among the Lord's professed people have kept us in this world of sin and sorrow so many years.
There was a 40-year delay between the Hebrews' leaving bondage in Egypt (Exodus 13:3) and their entrance at last into Canaan (Numbers 13; 14). This delay was not God's preferred will (Hebrews 3:16-19). He permitted them to experience the consequences they had chosen (Deuteronomy 1:22-40). Jesus said that He would, while away, be preparing a place for them in His Father's house (John 14:1-3). The round of ceremonies linked with the earthly sanctuary were representations of the pardon and power that will be fully manifested in God's people at time's end (Daniel 8:13, 14; Hebrews 8:1-5; 9:23, 24; Leviticus 16).
With a cleansed camp the cycle of sin was closed (Leviticus 16:22). In the final generation comes at last the antitypical parallel. It points to the Second Coming.
When the Hebrews came to the edge of Canaan and then failed, they were auditioning for the role of Laodicea. They were laying down the pattern. Thinking they were rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing (Revelation 3:17), they actually left out of their reckoning the God who had delivered them. Then they reversed direction completely and decided that they could not conquer Canaan--the land that God had promised (Exodus 3:8, 17; 23:20, 23, 28-33; 33:1, 2; 34:11, 24). They had already heard God's decision to give it to them. But they manifested unbelief, worldliness, unconsecration, and strife.
Unbelief, by refusing to have faith. Hebrews 3:19 and 4:2 show that they would not trust in God their Father who had led them cross the desert. They preferred discussion of real and imagined failings of human leadership. They chose to operate by sight and not by faith (2 Corinthians 5:17). They decided the invasion of Canaan was hopeless.
Worldliness, by thinking of the leeks and the onions and and the fleshpots of Egypt (Numbers 11:4-6). They forgot their bondage but remembered the food. They despised the diet God had prepared, loathing His manna.
Unconsecration, by refusal to be committed to His vision for them (Proverbs 29:18; 2 Chronicles 20:20). He wanted to heal them, He wanted to grow them, strengthen them, to help them have the self discipline that as slaves they had never developed.
Strife, by failure to recognize and consent to God's leading. Although God had been explicit about His plans for them, they were prepared to elect new officers and return into Egypt (Numbers 14:1-4).
How have we delayed the coming of Christ?
The Hebrew sanctuary system was a yearly round of teaching events with a final cleansing of the camp at year's end. The issue? Sin removal. Daniel 8:13, 14 foretells that the actual heavenly sanctuary will be cleansed just prior to Christ's return. The parallel for our day is the removal of sin from God's people.
The few-weeks journey from Egypt to Canaan because of the people's lack of faith turned into years. The people delayed the accomplishment of the divine purpose. The unfaithful were removed in the wilderness. The true followers, Caleb and Joshua, were able to go in after the delay.
After the Jews had rejected Christ, the Greek Scriptures written following Jesus' death testified abundantly of His Second Coming. The Scriptures told His purpose to remove sin from His people (Matthew 1:21) and of a time when probation for sin and sinners would close (Revelation 22:11, 12) and Jesus would return "without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28); and that the redeemed would be changed, made "without fault and blameless before His throne" (Revelation 14:5).
The production of a people without spot and blameless, without wrinkle or any such thing (Ephesians 5:27-29) is still future. The wedding is delayed. Christ still waits, standing at the altar (Revelation 19:7, 8).
Some 2,000 years have elapsed since Christ's first coming. That is a very long time--which event supposedly, according to popular theology, resolved everything.
The above lines of thought help us to understand how there can be a delay in God's purposes. The sanctuary service showed that God had intervened, introducing a system whereby sin removal would be accomplished. Daniel shows that this was a shadow predicting an end-time cleansing of God's people. All will acknowledge that God has not yet produced an overcoming people.
The Scriptures include several incidents of postponement that we have not explored, including the delay of the destruction of Sodom while Lot fled to Zoar (Genesis 19:18-25), the parable of the delayed Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-13), the parable of the unfaithful servant (Luke 12:35-48), the delay of the sealing angels on account of the unpreparedness of God's people (Revelation 7:1-3), and more. Nevertheless, the Bible establishes a history of delays and postponements in the footsteps of God's people.
God voluntarily limits Himself. If He did not, no flesh would be saved. He waits for the last generation because He is making a point. And He hasn't made it. Yet.
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