When Christ's Mediatorial Ministry Began

Biblical Exposition and Homiletic Helps

By FRANCIS M. BURG, Dean, School of Theology, Walla Walla College

Seventh-day Adventists teach that Christ entered upon His priestly work in the heavenly sanctuary when He as­cended into heaven, and that He officiated as priest in the first apartment until 1844, at which time He passed from the holy place to the most holy for the closing phase of His priestly ministry. On these definite premises, our denomination has been proclaiming to the world for many years, "The hour of His judg­ment is come." Rev, 14:7. If the premises are sound, this solemn announcement is due, and it is evident that we are not warranted in making so serious an announcement upon other than uncontroversial evidence. In view of this, we are here dealing with a most serious and im­portant question.

While attending a General Conference ses­sion in Washington, D. C., a number of years ago, I heard our denominational teaching on the ministry of Christ in the sanctuary defi­nitely questioned for the first time. Two of our ministers, who had been laboring in an overseas field, came to the conference with what they thought was new light relative to the priestly work of Christ in heaven. They were very enthusiastic, and wanted to present their views. They were given a hearing before a group of ministers. Not persuaded that their views were unsound, both of these men left our denomination.

Their supposed new light was the claim that the priestly ministry in the heavenly sanctuary began with the fall of man, and that from then until the crucifixion, this ministry was in the first apartment or holy place. They claimed, further, that our High Priest entered the most holy place or apartment at His ascension, in­stead of in 1844. It is at once apparent that if this view is correct, Seventh-day Adventists are wrong in their teaching concerning the sanctuary, which would necessarily involve the 2300-day prophecy, and our application of Dan­iel 8:14. It also involves the integrity of the Spirit of prophecy, since the denominational view of the sanctuary with respect to the time feature is sustained by these writings.

This issue therefore becomes one of most serious import. If it is shown unquestionably that our Saviour's work as priest in the sanc­tuary began when He ascended into heaven, as is taught by our denomination, and that a priestly service did not begin at the fall of man as is claimed by the advocates of this "new light" view, their claim collapses at once, and our denominational teaching relative to the time of Christ's entry into the most holy place stands impregnable to successful challenge. The issue did not subside with the death of the two men referred to. Others still urge these counterviews to our denominational teaching ; and it is necessary that the issue be successfully met when it is encountered.

We have been teaching for nearly a century that the judgment began in 1844, or as other­wise expressed in our published views, the "cleansing of the sanctuary" began in that year. More specifically stated, we teach, and have taught through the years, that in 1844 Christ entered the most holy apartment of the sanc­tuary in heaven, there to perform the last phase of His work as high priest. At the conclusion of His priestly work, all sins of the penitent will be blotted out, thus cleansing the sanctuary. This phase of Christ's priestly ministry is the antitype of the atonement work done on the tenth day of the seventh month in the typical sanctuary of the Old Testament. The denomination has consistently taught dur­ing these years that the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8:14 refers directly to the closing phase of Christ's work in the sanctuary in heaven.

It is not my object to discuss the chrono­logical aspect of this prophecy, by which the date 1844 is located as the time at which the work in the most holy apartment began. I am dealing in this paper with the counterclaim to Seventh-day Adventist views relative to Christ's ministry in heaven; namely, that a priestly ministry in heaven began in the first apartment as soon as man fell, and that Christ entered the most holy place at His ascension instead of in 1844, as above stated. This al­ternative to our denominational views on the sanctuary question is so far-reaching that it demands candid and definite attention. This paper is an attempt in that direction.

The crux of the whole question is this : (1) Did Christ or His representative officiate as priest in the heavenly sanctuary prior to His death or His ascension ? (2)And did He, as claimed by our opponents, enter the most holy place when He returned from earth to heaven instead of in 1844? To deal with the first phase of the question will dispose of the whole matter ; that is, to show that our Saviour's min­istry began after His ascension, will dissipate all the force of the claim of those who take is­sue with our denominational teaching on this point.

A key text for this discussion is in i Timothy 2:5: "There is one God, and one Mediator be­tween God and men, the man Christ Jesus." That His Son might become our mediator, God gave Him to the human family. He did not lend Him to the world, but gave Him to our race. The deepest mystery that can engage our thinking is the mystery of the incarnation.

"Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh." I Tim. 3:16. Before He was born of woman, His name was announced, "Immanuel, . . God with us." Matt. I :23. The prophets foretold this incomprehensible manifestation: "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given." Isa. 9:6. Another of the prophets spoke of the same marvelous mystery :

"Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the Man whose name is the Branch; 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." Zech. 6:12, 13.

"Behold the Man" is God's word to us. It was the man who became our High Priest, and is the Mediator between us and God. The most wonderful theme for contemplation is the fact of the incarnation. Note here what the prophet says: He "shall sit and rule upon His throne; . . . He shall be a priest upon His throne." This does not say He is priest, but He shall be priest. In Zechariah's time, His priesthood was future; and the prophecy had its fulfillment when this Man ascended up on high and sat down at His Father's right hand. "Behold the Man," said God to us through the prophet. Likewise Pilate said, "Behold the Man." John 19:5. Pilate found no fault in Him.

Of all men who ever lived, this one Man had no fault in Him. He "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Heb. 4:15. We have "such a High Priest" at the right hand of God to make intercession for us. (Heb. 7:25, 26.) Do not fail to note the thought that this man, this perfect man, is our Mediator, and that His intercession began after His birth in the flesh, and not before. Note by what experience He "became the author of eternal salvation:"

"Who in the days of His flesh, when He had of­fered up prayers and supplications with strong cry­ing and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared; though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him." Heb. 5 :7-9.

He, through suffering, "became" our Redeemer. "Christ being come" a high priest—implying necessarily that He was not a high priest before. Note Hebrews 10 :12 : "This man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God." So it is beyond question that our Saviour took His place at God's right hand in the sanctuary as our High Priest after He had made the great sacrifice, and not before that. Read further in Hebrews 9:12: "But Christ being come a  high priest of good things to come; ... neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us." By His own blood He "entered in once into the holy place." Hence again it is made clear that our Intercessor entered upon His work as high priest after His blood was shed.

II

One more very important observation. Be­cause of Christ's humanity, and His intimate acquaintance with human infirmities and temp­tations, He invites us to come boldly to the throne of grace. (Heb. 4:15, 16.) As our high priest He is in the sanctuary in heaven, at the Father's right hand. (Heb. 8           2.) 

Then, "having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest [holy places] by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which He bath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh; and having a high priest over the house of God ; let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith." Heb. 10 :19-22. Observe here that the way by which we have access to His priestly ministry in our behalf is His flesh—through His incar­nation. Faith in this most wonderful of all things—the gift of God to man of His only-begotten Son—gives us access to the interces­sion of our Mediator, the man Christ Jesus. Hence, "Behold the Man !"

To insist that there was necessarily a priestly ministry in heaven during the four thousand years from man's fall to the death of Christ is as inconsistent as to argue that Christ should have shed His blood immediately after the fall of man. We may ask, Why did not the death of the Son of God occur before a lapse of 4,000 years after sin entered the world? But can we of right question God's wisdom? Surely in His infinite wisdom He fixed the time, and "in the fullness of the time" Christ came.

It is possible to suggest certain reasons why the death of our Saviour did not occur long be­fore it did. Although we are not dealing with that question here, we may consistently con­sider His life in the flesh and His death on the cross. The reasons for this are in the all-in­clusive statement that our Mediator is "the man Christ Jesus." I Tim. 2 :5. He had no salva­tion to offer in behalf of guilty man apart from His sufferings and death. He became man in order that He might taste of death in man's be­half. (Heb. 2:9.) He must know the frailties, temptations, and liabilities of man, and must encounter and overcome all these, in order to be "a merciful and faithful high priest" for us. To this end He became man—took on Himself the seed of Abraham. (Heb. 2:16-18.)

Having thus been "tempted like as we are," and this "without sin," He is "able to succor them that are tempted." Heb. 4:15; 2:18. Therefore He bids us "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."

III

Note also the Scripture statement that Christ as our Mediator and High Priest has entered into the holy places (plural), thus implying that the antitype of both apartments of the earthly sanctuary is this side of His ascension. There­fore no ground is left for the claim that the priesthood of Melchizedek existed before the first advent, comparable to the service in the first apartment. The merits of Christ's substi­tutionary death were as real and as efficacious before as since His blood was shed. The sin­ner who offered his Iamb in confession of his guilt just as truly showed his faith in the fu­ture death of Christ as we now by our confes­sion show our faith in His death's having oc­curred.

One of the premises of the counterview to Seventh-day Adventist teaching is the claim that the "veil" in Hebrews 6:19 can be none other than the veil between the two apartments of the sanctuary. The following observations will help to dissipate this claim.

First, there were two veils in connection with the typical sanctuary. (Em 26:31-37.) In this text one of these is called the "hanging." In Numbers 3:25-31, each of the two curtains is called "the hanging." Reference is made to the second veil in Numbers 4:5, 15; and in Numbers 18 :7, the veil mentioned is plainly the first curtain, or the hanging at the door of the tabernacle.

Second, in Hebrews 9 :3, the second veil is definitely mentioned. From these scriptures it is clearly seen that the term "the veil" is used with reference to both curtains, or hang­ings—the one at the entrance to the sanctuary, and the other separating the two apartments. Hence the claim that "the veil" in Hebrews 6:19 must mean the middle or dividing veil, and that reference there is necessarily to Christ's entrance to the most holy place, is seen to be without foundation.

In the Book of Hebrews the entrance of Christ into the sanctuary is spoken of in sev­eral different ways ; and as the heavenly sanc­tuary is, of course, in heaven itself, the general place of Christ's ministry is spoken of thus : "Is passed into the heavens." Heb. 4 :34; "Into heaven itself." Heb. 9:24; "Entereth into that within the veil." Heb. 6:39; "Set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." Heb. 8:3; "Entered in once into the holy place." Heb. 9 :12.

These observations make conclusive that ou. Lord's ministry began in heaven after His life on earth as a man, and that as a man He is priest upon His Father's throne, and the "coun­sel of peace shall be between them both." Zech. 6:13. He is at His Father's right hand. (Heb. 8 :1, 2; 12:2.) Hence our High Priest began His ministry at His ascension; and, com­parable to the typical sanctuary service, He officiated there until the year 3844, when the antitypical cleansing of the sanctuary began.

Thus with the a priori question Settled, it is also clear that the denominational view that Christ entered the second apartment of the heavenly sanctuary in 1844, comparable to the work on the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month, remains unim­peached.


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By FRANCIS M. BURG, Dean, School of Theology, Walla Walla College

June 1941

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