My first difficulty with the doctrines taught by Seventh-Day Adventists is the teaching that Christ began his ministry at his ascension, in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary. All my life I have believed that he did, but that belief was not the result of personal investigation of the Scriptures, but was the result of accepting as truth the deductions of others. As, in the quotations given above, I trusted to my religious teachers and did not investigate for myself. When I came to present these things to the general public and to defend them with the Word of God, I found myself in difficulty.
The Scriptures of truth again and again declare in the most explicit terms that Christ, at his ascension, went directly to the Father's throne. And this he must do that the scriptures be not broken, for God himself, by the mouth of David, had long ago published to the world that he would invite his Son to share his throne when he returned from the earth after completing the work of redemption. Here is the invitation:
WHICH IS THE "THRONE ROOM."
The next all important question is, Which apartment of the heavenly sanctuary contains the throne of God? which apartment is the "throne room" of Jehovah?
In the Mosaic sanctuary, the pattern of the true tabernacle, God's dwelling place in heaven, the throne of God abode in the second apartment.
"Let them make me a tabernacle that I may dwell among them." Ex. 25:8.
"And thou shalt put the mercy seat ABOVE UPON THE ARK, and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony which I shall give thee. And THERE will I meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are UPON THE ARK of the testament, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel." Ex. 25:21,23.
Inasmuch as the Mosaic tabernacle was a shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, it follows that the "throne-room" of God in the heavenly sanctuary is in the second apartment. The following quotation is in harmony with this Scriptural truth:
"In the sanctuary and the temple, that were the earthly symbols of God's dwelling place, one apartment was sacred to his presence. The veil inwrought with cherubims at its entrance, was not to be lifted by any hand save one. To lift that veil, and intrude unbidden into the sacred mysteries of the most holy place, was death. For above the mercy seat and the bowed, worshiping angels, DWELT THE GLORY of the Holiest, glory upon which no man might look and live. On the one day of the year appointed for ministry in the most holy place, the high priest, with trembling, entered God's presence, while clouds of incense veiled the glory from his sight." Test. to the Church, Vol.8, page 284.
"And beyond the second veil was the Holy Shekinah, the visible manifestation of God's glory, before which none but the high priest could enter and live. The matchless splendor of the earthly tabernacle reflected to human vision the glories of that temple where Christ our forerunner ministers for us BEFORE THE THRONE OF GOD." Gt. Con. Subscription ed., page 414.
"In the temple in heaven, the dwelling place of God, his throne is established in righteousness and judgment. In the most holy place is his law, the great rule of right by which mankind are tested. The ark that enshrines the tables of the law, is covered with the mercy seat, BEFORE WHICH CHRIST PLEADS HIS BLOOD in the sinner's behalf." Ib. page 415.
Nowhere in the Scriptures are we taught that the throne of God dwelt in the first apartment, either of the earthly or heavenly sanctuary. The earthly sanctuary was a shadow of the heavenly; and the reason why the shadowy throne was in the second apartment in that sanctuary, is that the real throne was in the second apartment of the real sanctuary in heaven. It therefore follows that since Christ at his ascension, sat down as priest on his Father's throne in the heavenly sanctuary, he must have entered into the holy of holies, "within the veil" at that time.
MOVING THE THRONE
Those who are well informed regarding the teachings of the Seventh-Day Advent denomination will be prepared to admit that when Christ ascended, he sat down on the throne with his Father in the heavenly sanctuary; but some of these will maintain that the throne of God was moved from the holy of holies to the first apartment at that time, and there remained until 1844. However, there are a goodly number, even of ministers, who have expressed surprise when it was stated that this was the denomination's position.
One minister who has preached the message for many years, writes as follows concerning this point:
"I am sure there cannot be found a single line in any book, pamphlet or periodical, written by our people, that ever intimates that the throne of God ever abode in the holy place or first apartment; and I have never heard it mentioned either in public or private... It is the most unscriptural position that could be taken and involves more unreasonable and absurd positions than the Sunday keeper offers for keeping Sunday. Why was one part of the sanctuary called 'the most holy place'? Was it not because that part contained the throne of God which was between the cherubim over the mercy seat under which was the constitution of the universe? Now, if the throne made that place most holy, then if it be moved into the first apartment, would it not make that apartment the most holy place?"
For the benefit of those who desire, like the brother referred to above, a definite statement from the denomination in proof that it teaches that the throne of God was in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary at the ascension of Christ, the following is submitted:
"When Christ commenced his ministry above, on the throne of his Father, that throne was in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary." Looking Unto Jesus, page 134.
"Thus the scene opens with the commencement of Christ's ministry, and at that time the throne of God was in the first apartment of the sanctuary, where the antitype of the golden candlestick was seen." Ib.
This teaching that God's throne was in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary, raises some very serious questions.
THE ARK AND THE THRONE
If the throne of God was moved into the first apartment at the ascension of Christ, did that include the ark?
The denomination, through its Sabbath School lessons, has taught that the ark with its mercy seat, its cherubim, and its shekinah, was a representation of God upon his throne in the heavenly sanctuary. In the Sabbath School lessons for Feb. 8, 1890, questions 12 and 13, the following appears:
"12. What was the cover of the ark called ?" - Heb. 9:5; Ex. 25:21.
"13. Why was it called the mercy seat ? - Ans. It was there that mercy was dispensed. The sanctuary was God's dwelling place; the ark represented his throne; and from his throne he dispenses grace, or favor, or mercy. See Heb. 4:16.
Again, in Bible Reading Gazette, authorized by resolution of the General Conference, published in book form in 1888 is found the following:
"What was there in the type that represented God on his throne in heaven? Lev. 16:2." And the Lord said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron, thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat which is upon the ark, that he die not; for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat." Reading No.1, The Sanctuary. Sub-question 14, under question 92.
And still again:
"21. What covered the ark in the worldly sanctuary? - Exodus 25:17,21. (The mercy seat.)
"22. What covered it in the heavenly? - Heb.10:19,20; 4:19." (The throne of grace). Reading 101, questions 21, 22.
If this teaching of the denomination be true and the mercy seat of Exodus is a type of the throne of grace of Heb 4.16 then it must follow that if the throne of God was located in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary from the ascension of Christ to 1844; then the real ark was in the first apartment during all that time. But this does violence to the type which put the ark in the second apartment with a veil between it and the rest of the furniture of the sanctuary.
It also does violence to the type by putting all the furniture of the heavenly sanctuary in one apartment and leaving the holy of holies empty and abandoned for eighteen centuries.
SEPARATING THE THRONE FROM THE ARK
Some have seen the dilemma into which this teaching leads, and have tried to escape the difficulty by separating the throne of God from the ark of God, and placing the throne of God in the first apartment in the heavenly sanctuary, and leaving the ark of God in the holy of holies as represented in the type. While this relieves the situation in the one direction, it greatly complicates it in another.
If God moved his throne from the holy of holies at the ascension of Christ, did he leave the mercy seat or throne of grace behind him in the holy of holies? And did he then minister the gospel for eighteen centuries from another seat than the mercy seat, from another throne than the throne of grace?
If the throne was moved into the first apartment and not the ark containing the law, was the gospel ministered for eighteen centuries divorced from the law?
In the type all gospel ministry centered at the mercy seat above the law, as is forcibly stated in the following quotations:
"Beyond the veil was the holy of holies, where centered the symbolic service of atonement and intercession; and which formed the connecting link between heaven and earth." - Gt. Con. p.348.
"The law of God enshrined within the ark, was the great rule of righteousness and judgment. The law pronounced death upon the transgressor; but above the law was the mercy seat, upon which the presence of God was revealed, and from which, by virtue of the atonement, pardon was granted to repentant sinners. Thus in the work of Christ for our redemption symbolized by the sanctuary service, mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." - Patriarchs and Prophets, p.349.
"Beyond the second veil, the sacred ark with its mystic cherubim, and above it the holy shekinah, the visible manifestation of Jehovah's presence, all but a dim reflection of the glorious temple of God in heaven, the great center of the work for man's redemption." Ib.
"It is not without significance that the mercy seat and the law of God were so closely associated, and that God's presence was manifested just above them between the cherubim. Here all the services of the sanctuary centered. Here the presence, character and government of God was represented. The law of God is the 'justice and judgment' which are the habitation of his throne." - Note 2, under S.S. Lessons for Jan. 26, 1895.
MOVING SALVATION'S CENTER
At this point there arises to the thoughtful mind a number of serious questions:
1st. If God moved his throne into the first apartment at the ascension of Christ, and left the sacred ark enshrining his law and covered by the mercy seat, did he move the center of salvation away from the law and mercy seat into another apartment?
2nd. Did God minister pardon for eighteen centuries from a throne which was not the mercy seat but which was separated from that mercy seat by a separating veil?
3rd. Did God minister the gospel for eighteen centuries from a seat whose foundation was not his eternal law, from a throne which was divorced from that law by a veil of separation?
4th. Did God pardon sin from another seat than the one which is the habitation of justice and judgment?
5th. If God could minister the gospel for eighteen centuries divorced from the law, why can he not continue to do it; as taught by the No-Law advocates?
6th. Did Christ as High Priest plead his blood for eighteen centuries before a throne whose foundation was not the broken law which demanded the transgressor's blood?
7th. Did Christ minister his blood before a throne where mercy and truth did not meet together, and where righteousness and peace did not kiss each other?
Does the reader not see that this doctrine which moves the throne from the holy of holies into the first apartment, divorces God and his Son from the mercy seat and the law, and changes the center of God's government and gospel from the mercy-covered law in the holy of holies to the first apartment which according to the type never contained either law or mercy seat; and that for a period of eighteen hundred years?
This latter horn of the dilemma is much more serious than the former. The first did violence to the type by moving the ark to the first apartment, and thereby making that apartment contain all the furniture of both apartments and leaving the holy of holies empty and desolate; but it still recognized that the law and the gospel are inseparable, that there can be no salvation which does not have its center at the mercy seat above the law. But this latter theory separates God and his Son from the ark of his testament, from his law and mercy seat, and centers the plan of salvation in a department of the heavenly sanctuary where abode neither God's holy law nor his mercy seat.
THE DIFFICULTY UNEXPLAINED
Some of my brethren have tried to make it appear that I was in error in my teaching, that at his ascension Christ entered "within the veil" and sat down on the antitypical mercy seat or throne of grace in the holy of holies in the heavenly sanctuary, by stating that God's throne is movable and living and not immovably fixed to any one place in the heavenly sanctuary. No one, with the most rudimentary knowledge of the Scriptures, would think of denying that God's throne is living and movable. The question is not, Is God's throne movable? But, Is the holy of holies in the heavenly sanctuary, the center of atonement and intercession, as was taught in the type?
Some time ago I met a member of the General Conference Committee and he raised the issue over which I was cast out from the denomination as unclean.
He said in substance, "Bro. Ballenger, do you not know that God's throne is living and movable, and could therefore easily be moved from the holy of holies into the first apartment?"
To which I replied in substance: "No one denies that the throne of Cod is living and movable, but the question is, Did God move his throne into the first apartment? and if so Did he move the mercy seat and the law? or Did he leave the mercy seat and the law behind, and minister the gospel from a throne separated from his law and mercy seat?"
After a few moments' reflection he replied, "I have not given that point any thought."
During the last four years I have laid this difficulty before the leading men of the denomination and no one has ventured an explanation. No one has dared to say that when the throne was moved out into the first apartment the ark and law went with it; and on the other hand no one has dared to affirm that the law and mercy seat were deserted - left behind in the holy of holies, while the gospel was ministered for eighteen hundred years from a seat which was not the mercy seat and from a throne divorced from the divine law by a separating veil. Reader, if you accept the plain, "thus saith the Lord," you need not tamper with the throne of the Infinite but leave it in the holy of holies above the law, "the great center of the work for man's redemption," where the whole testimony of Scripture places it.
IS THE LAW SATISFIED?
"On the day of atonement, the high priest, having taken an offering from the congregation, went into the most holy place with the blood, and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat above the tables of the law. THUS THE CLAIMS OF THE LAW which demanded the life of the sinner, WERE SATISFIED." P.P. p.356.
In view of the foregoing and the many Scriptures which declare that Christ sat down with his Father on his throne, within the veil, at his ascension, some serious questions arise.
Did Christ sit down "On the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens" before the law, which demanded the life of the sinner, and which is the foundation of that throne, was SATISFIED?
Did the law continue to claim the life of the sinner's substitute, the Son of God, for eighteen hundred years after he had "offered one sacrifice for sins forever" and "set down on the right of God?"
Did Christ remain under the curse of the law for eighteen hundred years after his exaltation to the throne of God? If he had not sprinkled his blood upon the mercy seat, thereby satisfying the claims of the law, could he be said to be free from its curse?
"The law enshrined within the ark, was the great rule of righteousness and judgment. That law pronounced death upon the transgressor; but above the law was the mercy seat, upon which the presence of God was revealed, and from which by virtue of the atonement, pardon was granted to the repentant sinner. Thus in the work of Christ for our redemption, symbolized by the sanctuary services, mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other." P.P. p.349.
Since mercy (the gospel) and truth (the law) met together at the throne of grace above the law, did Christ our great High Priest sit down upon that throne before he sprinkled the blood upon the mercy seat which caused mercy and truth to meet together, and righteousness and peace to kiss each other?
Or did God separate mercy from truth? Did he move his throne away from the law into the first apartment and minister mercy for eighteen hundred years divorced from the law by a separating veil? Before investigating further, let the reader ponder the following glorious gospel words, descriptive of the ascension of Christ and his reception at his Father's throne.
After describing the triumphal ascension of Christ and the eagerness of the heavenly host to glorify their King, we read:
But he waves them back. Not yet; he cannot now receive the coronet of glory and the royal robe. He enters into the presence of his Father. He points to his wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet: He lifts his hands bearing the prints of the nails. He points to the tokens of his triumph; he presents to God the wave sheaf those raised with him as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at his second coming. He approaches the Father, with whom there is joy over one sinner that repents; who rejoiceth over one with singing. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. When upon the cross he cried out, 'It is finished,' he addressed the Father. The compact had been fully carried out. Now, he declares, 'Father, it is finished. I have done thy will, O my God. I have completed the work of redemption. If thy justice is satisfied. 'I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am.'
"The voice of God is heard proclaiming that justice is satisfied. Satan is vanquished. Christ's toiling struggling ones on earth are accepted in the beloved. Before the heavenly angels and the representatives of unfallen worlds they are declared justified. Where he is, there his church shall be. 'Mercy and truth have met together righteousness and peace have kissed each other.' The Father's arm encircled his Son and word is given 'Let all the angels of God worship him.'" Desire of Ages, Trade edition, pp.1001,1002. Subscription edition, pp. 834.
Could this glorious scene take place at the throne of the universe, and the voice of God be heard proclaiming that "justice is satisfied," - could the sinner be "declared justified" "before the heavenly angels and the representatives of unfallen worlds" while the law was still demanding the life of the sinner's substitute, the triumphant Son of God?
THE THRONE IN THE BOOK OF REVELATION
A desperate effort is made to find scriptural proof that Christ sat upon the throne with his Father in the first apartment of the heavenly sanctuary until 1844. The Scriptures used are as follows:
"And behold there was a throne set in heaven and one sitting upon the throne. . . And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne." Rev. 4:2,5. R.V.
"And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne." Rev. 8:3.
It is argued that inasmuch as the candlestick and the altar of incense were always in the first apartment of the earthly sanctuary, therefore when these were seen by John in the heavenly sanctuary, he must have been looking into the first apartment; and as he saw the throne at the same time, the throne must have been in the first apartment.
But the logic is faulty. One might just as consistently argue that inasmuch as the second apartment was always the abode of the ark or typical throne, therefore when John saw the altar and candlestick at the same time that he saw the throne, they must have been in the second apartment. But both conclusions are wrong, for both contradict the type because in the type, the ark, or typical throne was never seen in the first apartment; and the altar and candlestick were never seen in the second apartment.
The candlestick and altar as seen by John, were in the exact position they occupied in the earthly sanctuary, and the throne in the exact position it occupied in that sanctuary. In the earthly sanctuary, the candlestick was in the first apartment before the veil, "before the Lord," and the altar was "before the ark."
Note the two following Scriptures and see how the earthly sanctuary as built by Moses agreed with the heavenly sanctuary as seen by John, as regards the relative positions of the altar and the throne. Moses placed "the golden altar for incense before the ark." Ex. 40:5. John saw "the golden altar (for incense) before the throne." Rev. 8:3.
But it may be asked, How could John see the throne at the same time he saw the altar unless the throne were moved out into the first apartment, or the altar moved into the second? For the simple gospel reason that when Christ died on Calvary as the antitype of the Lord's goat, the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom; symbolizing the rending of the heavenly veil that our great High Priest might enter within the veil and offer his blood at the mercy seat or throne of grace.
"But this man, after that he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God." Heb. 10:12.
"The rending of the veil of the temple showed that the Jewish sacrifices and ordinances would no longer be received. The great sacrifice had been offered, and had been accepted, and the Holy Spirit which descended on the day of Pentecost carried the minds of the disciples from the earthly sanctuary to the heavenly, where Jesus had entered by his own blood, to shed upon his disciples the benefits of his atonement." Early Writings, page 122.
"Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an High Priest forever, after the Order of Melchesedec." Heb. 6:19,20.
"Having then a great High Priest, who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not an High Priest that cannot be touched by the feelings of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need. Heb. 4:14-16 R.V.
How much more reasonable and scriptural to believe that the heavenly veil was rent at the death of Christ so that the mercy seat, or throne of grace, could be seen at the same time with the altar and candlestick; than to move the throne of God from its foundation, the law, and place it for 1800 years in the first apartment, with Christ as High Priest ministering in the presence of his Father, with the veil behind them both, and separating them from the law and mercy seat, the only place where the gospel has its center; and this, too, in the face of the fact that the type calls for a ministry "before the veil," while God is enthroned "within the veil" above the mercy seat and the broken law; and still more, in opposition to the plain statement that Christ has entered "within the veil" and "is set down on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens."