Crucial Question 17: Are Ellen White's teachings about the Investigative Judgment and the ongoing atonement biblical?
Adventism arose from a movement started by William Miller, a New York farmer who predicted that Christ would return in 1844. The key text used by Miller
was Daniel 8:14: “And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” William Miller believed that a prophetic day equals a literal
year, and they calculated that the 2,300 days began in 457 B.C. with a decree by Artaxerxes to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, and that it would end in 1844. They assumed that the
sanctuary was the world, and that it would be cleansed by the fires of the second coming. When Jesus failed to physically return, most Millerites abandoned their
interpretation of Daniel 8:14, but a little group insisted that their interpretation was essentially correct. They decided that Christ had begun a high priestly ministry in the
heavenly sanctuary, and that it was being cleansed of the sins of God’s people. They decided that 1844 marked the beginning of the anti-typical Day of Atonement (the typical Day of
Atonement would be symbolic, and the anti-typical would be the literal fulfillment). Thus, they determined that the atonement wasn’t finished at the cross—it is to be finished by
Christ’s ministration in heaven, which they envisioned as a scene of judgment. One of the leaders who promoted the re-interpretation of Miller’s failed prophecy was a young girl
named Ellen Harmon, who later became Ellen White. Miss Harmon’s visionary experiences of 1844 and 1845 convinced many that William Miller had been right about the date but wrong
about the event.
This Crucial Question will offer a few basic reasons for rejecting Ellen White’s teaching regarding the Investigative Judgment. Please see the
Sabbatismos article on the Investigative Judgment for a simple but more thorough treatment of this topic. For a very thorough
examination of the IJ, please see The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism, by Dale Ratzlaff.
From the Pen of Ellen White:
“The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith” (Ev 221).
“At the time appointed for the judgment--the close of the 2300 days, in 1844--began the work of investigation and blotting out of sins. All
who have ever taken upon themselves the name of Christ must pass its searching scrutiny. Both the living and the dead are to be judged "out of those things which were written in the books,
according to their works. Sins that have not been repented of and forsaken will not be pardoned and blotted out of the books of record, but will stand to witness
against the sinner in the day of God” (GC 486).
“So in the great day of final atonement and investigative judgment the only cases considered are those of the professed people of
God. The judgment of the wicked is a distinct and separate work, and takes place at a later period” (GC 480).
“The judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. For many years this work has been in progress.
Soon--none know how soon--it will pass to the cases of the living. In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review. At this time above all others it behooves every
soul to heed the Saviour's admonition: "Watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is" (GC 490).
“Every man's work passes in review before God and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness. Opposite each name in the books of heaven is
entered with terrible exactness every wrong word, every selfish act, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling. Heaven-sent warnings or reproofs
neglected, wasted moments, unimproved opportunities, the influence exerted for good or for evil, with its far-reaching results, all are chronicled by the recording angel” (GC 482).
“Christ came to pay that debt for the sinner which it was impossible for him to pay for himself. Thus, through the atoning
sacrifice of Christ, sinful man was granted another trial” (FW 30).
“Christ came to the world to counteract Satan's falsehood that God had made a law which men could not keep. Taking humanity
upon Himself, He came to this earth, and by a life of obedience showed that God has not made a law that man cannot keep. He showed that it is possible for man perfectly to obey the
law. Those who accept Christ as their Saviour, becoming partakers of His divine nature, are enabled to follow His example, living in obedience to every precept of the law.
Through the merits of Christ, man is to show by his obedience that he could be trusted in heaven, that he would not rebel”(FLB 114).
“Though all nations are to pass in judgment before God, yet He will examine the case of each individual with as close and searching scrutiny as if
there were not another being upon the earth. Everyone must be tested and found without spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (GC 490).
“Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies and there appears in the presence of God to engage
in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man--to perform the work of investigative judgment and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its
benefits” (GC 480).
"As the priest entered the most holy once a year to cleanse the earthly sanctuary, so Jesus entered the most holy of the
heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by His mediation, and thus to cleanse the sanctuary” (EW
“The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His
death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven” (GC 489).
“The blood of Christ, while it was to release the repentant sinner from the condemnation of the law, was
not to cancel the sin; it would stand on record in the sanctuary until the final atonement . . . . Then by virtue of the atoning blood of Christ,
the sins of all the truly penitent will be blotted from the books of heaven. Thus the sanctuary will be freed, or cleansed, from the record of sin” (PP
“The subject of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment should be clearly understood by the people of God. All need
a knowledge for themselves of the position and work of their great High Priest. Otherwise it will be impossible for them to exercise the faith which is essential at this time or to occupy
the position which God designs them to fill” (GC 488).
“We are not to receive the words of those who come with a message that contradicts the special points of our faith. They
gather together a mass of Scripture, and pile it as proof around their asserted theories. This has been done over and over again during the past fifty years. And
while the Scriptures are God's word, and are to be respected, the application of them, if such application moves one pillar from the foundation that God has sustained these fifty years, is a great
mistake. He who makes such an application knows not the wonderful demonstration of the Holy Spirit that gave power and force to the past messages that have come to the people of God. . . ."
Daniel 8 states that the little horn power will “cast down” the sanctuary: “Yea, he magnified
himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the place of the sanctuary was cast
down.” Ellen White teaches that the desecrated sanctuary is in heaven rather than on earth, so one must wonder how an
earthly power could pollute the heavenly sanctuary.
In addition, the desecration was supposed to begin in 457 B.C., according to William Miller and Ellen White, but what happened in 457? A decree was
issued for the rebuilding of the sanctuary. So what is the basis for beginning the 2,300 days in 457 B.C.? If we can’t pinpoint the beginning of the prophecy,
how can the end (1844) have any significance? In addition, Miller was wrong about many other aspects of his timing.
According to Adventists, Daniel 8:14 points to the anti-typical Day of Atonement, which they believe is the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary. The term
antitype simply denotes the ultimate reality behind a type (or symbol). Adventists believe that the cleansing of the earthly sanctuary on the Days of Atonement prefigured
the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, and they need verse 14 to support this supposition. The word translated “cleansed” in the KJV is not the same word used for the cleansing
of the sanctuary on the Day of Atonement as described in Leviticus 16. The word used in verse 14 should actually be translated “vindicated,” “restored,” or “set
right.” A modern translation reads, “He said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the holy place will be properly restored’” (NASB).
Therefore, there is no linguistic connection between Daniel 8:14 and the Day of Atonement, meaning that the SDA sanctuary message obtains no support from the text that started the
Please see the Sabbatismos article on the Investigative Judgment for a more complete evaluation.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into
life” (John 5:24, NASB).
“Therefore the he goat waxed very great: and when he was strong, the great horn was broken; and for it came up four notable ones toward the four winds of heaven. And
out of one of them came forth a little horn, which waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land. And it waxed great, even to the host of heaven; and it
cast down some of the host and of the stars to the ground, and stamped upon them. Yea, he magnified himself even to the prince of the host, and by him the daily sacrifice was taken away, and the
place of the sanctuary was cast down. And an host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered. Then
I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both
the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot? And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” (Daniel 8:8-14).
“And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement” (Rom. 5:11).
"For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for
us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the
world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:24-26).