In the series of articles of which this is the seventh and last, I have endeavored to stress four fundamental elements in the working out of God's plan of salvation, as they are revealed through the sanctuary. These four are: (1) faith, (2) surety, (3) time, (4) waiting.
1. The Element of Faith.—The basis of faith rests in the promise and in the act of Calvary. Faith was as effective before the cross as after the cross. It will meet its fruition and cease to be any more when the investigative judgment adjourns, and not before.
2. The Element of Surety.—The basis of surety rests in the Maker of the promise, who cannot perjure Himself, and who cannot possibly fail to make His word good. The case of remedy for sin was as sure before as after the Lamb was slain. No sinner from Adam down took any risk in banking on the surety of the promise or the effectiveness of the deed. The one was as sure as the other.
3. The Element of Time.—The element of time, while inseparable from faith and the promise and the deed, in no sense influenced the efficacy of the remedy for sin, or the surety of the outcome. Whether a sinner looked forward four thousand years to the cross, or looks backward two thousand years to Calvary, or looks into the future for the consummation of his faith at the end of probationary time, the result is the same.
4. The Element of Waiting.—The element of waiting is inherent in the entire provision and working out of the plan of salvation. It is buoyed up by hope from beginning to end. Hope rests on faith, faith rests on the promise, and the promise rests on the unfailing integrity and power of its maker. But the beneficiary in all this marvelous plan must wait. He must wait for the full consummation of his hope till God consummates His larger purpose in dealing with the crisis that sin perpetrated upon His government. He must wait till the tragedy of sin has been fully enacted on the stage of the universe. He must wait till every knee in heaven and earth bows in acknowledgment of God's justice, and in voluntary obeisance to His sovereign will.
Over against this element of waiting through the vast stretch of time from Eden to Eden, it is not difficult to discern an element of expectancy that rises and asserts itself repeatedly. When the promise was made to Adam and . Eve, it awakened an ardor of hope that could scarcely contain itself till the promise was fulfilled. Like so many saints who have yearned through the ages for the fulfillment of their hope in their own day, so Eve "the mother of all living," as Adam called her, exclaimed in the animation of her 'expectancy when she brought forth her first-born, "I have gotten a man, the Lord !" (So reads the literal Hebrew.)
The miracle of bearing a son, combined with her faith in the promise, led Eve to believe that the Messiah had come ! She named the son Cain, which means gotten. See Genesis 3 a, margin. The word translated "gotten" is kanah, from which the name Cain comes. In begetting a son she thought she had gotten the promised Messiah in fulfillment of the words "her seed," in the promise of Genesis 3:15, and so named him Gotten. How bitter must have been her disappointment when her "man" turned out to be a murderer !
Thus, early and vivid was the hope begotten by the promise. But the divine fiat was, Wait. To the prophets it was necessary to say of what had been revealed and promised to come, If the vision tarry, wait for it. When the Messiah finally did come, those most intimately associated with Him during His teaching period, inquired, "Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" Again the answer was, Wait.
Outstanding Example of Expectancy
Yet so difficult was it for even the apostles to understand that the Redeemer was not to come in their day, that we find here and there in their writings the idea cropping out that the coming of Jesus the second time was nigh at hand. As if echoing Joel's notable prophecy, "the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand," we hear Paul declaring to the Romans, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand" (Rom. 13 :12) ; and to the Philippians, "The Lord is at hand." We hear Peter also, "The end of all things is at hand ;" and John, "For the time is at hand." So ardent was the hope of the church that the return of Jesus might not be long delayed, that it was necessary for Paul to write the second chapter of second Thessalonians to correct the expectancy of the Lord's coming in their day.
Since the days of the apostles, the most outstanding example of expectancy before the time was the great disappointment of 1844. We are assured by the servant of the Lord that henceforth "time will never be a test again." And further, "I saw that this message . . . needs not time to strengthen it ;" that is, we understand, definite or appointed time. "The Lord has shown me that the message of the third angel ... should not be hung on time." And why?
"I saw that some were making everything bend to the time of this next fall--that is, making their calculations in reference to that time. . . . Instead of going to God daily to know their PRESENT duty, they look ahead, and make their calculations as though they knew the work would end this fall, without inquiring their duty of God daily."—Mrs. E. G. White, in Advent Review and Sabbath Herald Extra, July 21, 1851, p. 4, col. 2.
Ah, what wisdom in the saying of Jesus, "Ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh." How much nearer to God one may come who lives daily in expectancy of the Lord's imminent return, but does not know the day or the hour—or even the year—of His coming. As if echoing the message by the Spirit, quoted above, James White wrote a little later : "The message of the third angel does not hang on time. Time is not in the least connected with it." Brave words for one who had passed through the disappointment! But it is his interpretation that interests us especially : "We are now emphatically in the waiting time. . . . Give us time again, and we cease to be in a waiting position."*—Review and Herald, Aug. 19, 1851.
All Things at Appointed Time
Here is the key to the experience of the true child of God—he will be in a waiting position. Waiting before the cross for the Messiah to come, waiting since the cross for the return of our Lord. But why is the Lord causing us still to wait ? The answer is twofold—we are waiting for God to work out His larger purpose in dealing with sin, and waiting for the gospel to be preached to every creature.
God does nothing before the time. He did not "send Jesus" to die until four thousand years after the promise in Eden. Although He took Him immediately after the cross to enter upon His mediatorial work in heaven, He has not yet sent Him the second time though it is now nearly two thousand years since the cross. But "at the appointed time the end shall be," though in His wisdom He has not revealed the appointed time except as the time when the appointed work shall have been accomplished.
But what is the bearing of our "waiting position" on the sanctuary question ? It has great bearing in every way, but in particular on the atonement and the forgiveness of sin. The Lamb was slain "when the fulness of time was come." That was at a definite appointed time. Not only the year, but the very time of the year, was revealed through a time prophecy.
Also, not only was the Lamb slain at an appointed time, but our Advocate before the Father entered upon the work of atonement at an appointed time, revealed also by the longest time prophecy of the Bible—the end of the 2,300 years, in 1844.
Apart from these two great time events, it is declared that "There should be time no longer." No more is time to be a test. It is now the event, not the time, that counts. That event is the atonement now going on in the sanctuary above till our compassionate Mediator declares, "It is finished."
So much for atonement. How about forgiveness of sin ? The'answer is simple enough.
Just as in the typical sanctuary service sin was forgiven on the day it was confessed by sacrifice and atoned for by the priest, so now in the antitype, our sin is forgiven on the day we confess it, and our Advocate mediates forgiveness for us. But also, as in the type the forgiven sin sin was remembered and not blotted out till the Day of Atonement once a year, so in the antitype will our sin be remembered—recorded in the books, so to speak—and not blotted out till the great day of atonement ends once for all, and the time for the restitution of all things is come, and "He shall send Jesus." Yes, verily, we are in the great "waiting position" of all time. How infinitely better it is for an all-wise God to keep us in an attitude of expectancy—both in reference to the time of the coming of the Lord, and in regard to the time of the final disposing of our sins at the close of the great day of atonement—than for us to cherish the mistaken idea that atonement and therefore the blotting out of sins was "wholly accomplished on the cross" at a definite and fixed time in the past ! It is highly fitting that, like Israel of old on the Day of Atonement, we afflict our souls while the case of our sins is still pending in the supreme court of high heaven.
In this momentous waiting time, we are deeply comforted in the undeniable fact that "we have an Advocate with the Father" in the high court above, and that "He which hath begun a good work" in us (by forgiving our sins now and accepting us in the Beloved now) "will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," by finishing the work of atonement in which He is now engaged, by blotting out our sins, and by remembering them against us no more forever. Wherefore, dearly beloved, "the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ." 2 Thess. 3:5.
[End of Series]