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Seventh-day Adventism and Eschatology (Concluded)

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Seventh-day Adventism and Eschatology (Concluded)

 

 

BIBLE students sometimes fail to notice that the Hebrew meaning of judgment has to do not so much with who is "righteous" but who is "in the right." That is to say, the Jewish concept of judgment as revealed in the inspired writings of the Old Testament emphasizes this thought of vindication. As C. S. Lewis has said in his Reflections on the Psalms:

The ancient Jews, like ourselves, think of God's judgement in terms of an earthly court of justice. The difference is that the Christian pictures the case to be tried as a criminal case with himself in the dock; the Jew pictures it as a civil case with himself as the plaintiff. The one hopes for acquittal, or rather for pardon; the other hopes for a resounding triumph with heavy damages. . . .

We need not therefore be surprised if the Psalms, and the Prophets, are full of the longing for judgement, and regard the announcement that "judgement" is coming as good news. Hundreds and thousands of people who have been stripped of all they possess and who have the right entirely on their side will at last be heard. Of course they are not afraid of judgement. They know their case is unanswerable—if only it could be heard. When God comes to judge, at last it will. Pages 10, 11.

The final events in this world's history will vindicate the long divine silence and apparent nonintervention to salve the world's gaping sores. The judgment of the latter days is to justify both the saints, who have been treated as the off-scouring of all things, and their God, who has been slandered since the foundation of the world.

It is this eschatological concept of vindication which lies at the heart of the prophecy that makes Seventh-day Adventists a distinctive people. Many have suggested that Daniel 8:14 should be translated, "Unto twenty-three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be vindicated." Where our King James Version has "cleanses," most translations in recent years use either "justified," "vindicated," or some synonymous expression. The Hebrew term is essentially forensic in significance, as all lexicons show.

The "Cleansing" of Daniel 8:14

Briefly let us review the context of this verse. Looking first at the chapter preceding the reference to the sanctuary, we find that Daniel 7 presents a procession of worldly powers that will oppress the saints over the centuries even until the judgment that brings such powers to an end and allots to the saints their eternal inheritance. As Daniel 7 is an enlargement of Daniel 2, so Daniel 8 is an enlargement of Daniel 7, and in the eighth chapter we have a similar procession of worldly powers oppressing the saints, desecrating the sanctuary, and blaspheming the God of heaven. Then instead of the picture of the judgment such as Daniel 7:9, 10 presents, we have in the parallel position the enigmatic statement: "Unto twenty-three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" (or vindicated). Daniel 8 thus answers the question "How long will God permit the wicked to prosper?" in the same way as Daniel 7—the vindication of the God of the sanctuary and His worshipers through the work of judgment will mark the end of all evil. The cry "How long?" in Daniel 8:13 echoes in many passages of Scripture. Almost always it is an impassioned prayer for divine judgment and vindication of the saints. (See for example Psalms 6:1-4; 13:1-4; 35:17; 74:9, 10; 89:46; 94:1-7; Habakkuk 1:2; Revelation 6:10.) Note particularly that Revelation 6:10, 11 links the agonized plea of "How long?" with judgment and vindication as symbolized by the bestowment of white robes. The word avenge in Revelation 6:10 is the Greek synonym for the Hebrew term translated "cleansed" in Daniel 8:14.

Ellen White and the "Judgment"

The great judgment day extending from 1844 till the end of the millennium, by its complete abolition of evil and establishment of everlasting righteousness, and its unveiling of God's dealings through the ages, will completely vindicate not only the people of God but the righteous character of their Creator. It is more than interesting that Ellen White in commenting on the significance of Daniel 8:14 repeatedly uses the concept under discussion. Over and over in such quotations the word vindication appears. Ellen White knew nothing of Hebrew and was prob ably unaware that the term translated "cleansed" in Daniel 8:14 actually means to justify. Yet note the following typical references, which refer to matters of eschatology in the light of Daniel 8:14.

In the day of final judgment, every lost soul will understand the nature of his own rejection of truth. The cross will be presented, and its real bearing will be seen by every mind that has been blinded by transgression. Before the vision of Calvary with its mysterious Victim, sinners will stand condemned. Every lying excuse will be swept away. Human apostasy will appear in its heinous character. Men will see what their choice has been. Every question of truth and error in the long-standing controversy will then have been made plain. In the judgment of the universe, God will stand clear of blame, for the existence or continuance of evil. It will be demonstrated that the divine decrees are not accessory to sin. There was no defect in God's government, no cause for disaffection. When the thoughts of all hearts shall be revealed, both the loyal and the rebellious will unite in declaring, "Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? ... for Thy judgments are made manifest." Rev. 15:3, 4.—The Desire of Ages, p. 58.

The warfare against God's law, which was begun in heaven, will be continued until the end of time. Every man will be tested. Obedience or disobedience is the question to be decided by the whole world. All will be called to choose between the law of God and the laws of men. Here the dividing line will be drawn. There will be but two classes. Every character will be fully developed; and all will show whether they have chosen the side of loyalty or that of rebellion.

Then the end will come. God will vindicate His law and deliver His people. Satan and all who have joined him in rebellion will be cut off. Sin and sinners will perish, root and branch (Mal. 4:1),— Satan the root, and his followers the branches. The word will be fulfilled to the prince of evil, "Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; . . . I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. . . . Thou shall be a terror, and never shall thou be any more." Then "the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shall diligently consider his place, and it shall not be;" "they shall be as though they had not been." Eze. 28:6-19; Ps. 37:10; Obadiah 16.

This is not an act of arbitrary power on the part of God. The rejecters of His mercy reap that which they have sown. God is the fountain of life; and when one chooses the service of sin, he separates from God, and thus cuts himself off from life. He is "alienated from the life of God." Christ says, "All they that hate Me love death." Eph. 4:18; Prov. 8:36. God gives them existence for a time that they may develop their character and reveal their principles. This accomplished, they receive the results of their own choice. By a life of rebellion, Satan and all who unite with him place themselves so out of harmony with God that His very presence is to them a consuming fire. The glory of Him who is love will destroy them.

At the beginning of the great controversy, the angels did not understand this. Had Satan and his host been left to reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God's goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of sin and woe.

But not so when the great controversy shall be ended. Then, the plan of redemption having been completed, the character of God is revealed to all created intelligences. The precepts of His law are seen to be perfect and immutable. Then sin has made manifest its nature, Satan his character. Then the extermination of sin will vindicate God's love and establish His honor before a universe of beings who delight to do His will, and in whose heart is His law."—Ibid., pp. 763, 764.

By the facts unfolded in the progress of the great controversy, God will demonstrate the principles of His rules of government, which have been falsified by Satan and by all whom he has deceived. His justice will finally be acknowledged by the whole world, though the acknowledgment will be made too late to save the rebellious. God carries with Him the sympathy and approval of the whole universe as step by step His great plan advances to its complete fulfillment. He will carry it with Him in the final eradication of rebellion. It will be seen that all who have forsaken the divine precepts have placed themselves on the side of Satan, in warfare against Christ. When the prince of this world shall be judged, and all who have united with him shall share his fate, the whole universe as witnesses to the sentence will declare, "Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints." (Rev. 15:3).—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 79.

The world has become bold in transgression of God's law. Because of His long forbearance, men have trampled upon His authority. They have strengthened one another in oppression and cruelty toward His heritage, saying, "How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?" Psalm 73:11. But there is ;i line beyond which they can not pass. The time is near when they will have reached the prescribed limit. Even now they have almost exceeded the bounds of the long-suffering of God, the limits of His grace, the limits of His mercy. The Lord will interpose to vindicate His own honor, to deliver His people, and to repress the swellings of unrighteousness.—Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 177, 178. (Italics supplied.)

Every question of truth and error in the long standing controversy has now been made plain. The results of rebellion, the fruits of setting aside the divine statutes, have been laid open to the view of all created intelligences. The working out of Satan's rule in contrast with the government of God has been presented to the whole universe. Satan's own works have condemned him. God's wisdom, His justice, and His goodness stand fully vindicated. It is seen that all His dealings in the great controversy have been conducted with respect to the eternal good of His people and the good of all the worlds that He has created. "All thy works shall praise Thee, O Lord; and Thy saints shall bless Thee." Psalm 145:10. The history of sin will stand to all eternity as a witness that with the existence of God's law is bound up the happiness of all the beings He has created. With all the facts of the great controversy in view, the whole universe, both loyal and rebellious, with one accord declare: "Just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints." —The Great Controversy, p. 671.

See also The Great Controversy, p. 504; Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 986; Christ's Object Lessons, p. 287; Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 68; The Desire of Ages, p. 26.

God Vindicated Before the Universe

These quotations from Ellen White indicate her belief that the judgment pictured in Daniel 8:14 points forward to the time when God Himself is not only Judge but judged. Says the New English Bible on Romans 3:4, "God must be true . . . ; for we read in Scripture, 'When thou speakest, thou shall be vindicated, and win the verdict when thou art on trial.' " * This verse casts light on the age-old problem as to why God allowed sin in the be ginning, and why He has permitted it for so long. The purpose of that judgment which parallels the final fruition of good and evil is not only to reveal the righteous saints but also to reveal the righteous God.

The scope of the plan of salvation is not merely the rescue of a few million beings from this planet but rather the safe guarding of the myriads of created beings throughout the universe by giving them a revelation of their Maker's holy and just character. God is to be revealed as One who can indeed be trusted and who there fore should be implicitly obeyed. The charges of the devil (which name means "slanderer") are to be answered forever.

Even the very manner of God's judgment is to justify the Creator by revealing His perfect righteousness and love. To the Son, one with our human nature, is committed the responsibility for determining the destinies of all men. (See John 5:22.) A similar principle operates during the millennium. Revelation 20:4, in describing a judgment of the wicked prior to their resurrection, pictures human beings as assistant judges. (See also 1 Corinthians 6:2.) God leaves not the slightest possibility for the questioning of His wisdom. Resurrection is the releasing of the prisoners to the ultimate destiny of eternal life or eternal loss, and such resurrection (in each instance, i.e. both the first and the second) implies preceding judgment. But it is a judgment by those who have themselves been "encompassed with infirmities." The probable reason for the "multitude of captives" being raised from the dead before Christ's ascension is here indicated. They are our Lord's assistant priests, and cooperate with Him in the work of judgment (Matt. 27:52, 53; Eph. 4:8; Rev. 5:8-10). What more could God do to vindicate His justice and love than that which He plans to do?

The judgment-hour message is a part of the "everlasting gospel." Its "good news" has to do with the revelation of God's holy character and His perfect justice, and it offers a pledge that all who like Himself have been falsely maligned are to be vindicated before the universe. Soon from world to world will ring the anthem: "Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. . . . For thy judgments are made manifest" (Rev. 15:3, 4). Then the entire creation will be rendered secure for all coming ages.

The contribution of this movement to theology lies in its eschatological announcement that the hour of vindication for God and His people "is come" (chap. 14:7). Our interpretation of Daniel 8:14, linking it with the judgment, is strongly supported by the key word of the text which expresses a concept now common to all students of eschatology. Adventism's emphasis upon our heavenly Father's loving purpose in Creation and the judgment offers to the world the needed basis for joy, hope, and confidence in these bewildering probationary hours.

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* From The New English Bible. © The Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge University Press 1970. Reprinted by permission.

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