More problems with the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Investigative Judgement


On leaving the Adventist ministry and at the same time the church, pastor Clay Peck listed in his letter of resignation the points which caused him the greatest problems. He could not accept the following SDA notions:

1)     That SDAs are God’s one, true “remnant” church,

2)     That the Sabbath is the seal of God and the major deciding factor for who is “in” or “out” in the last days,

3)     That 1844 has more significance than a historical date when another date-setting mistake was made,

4)     That the atonement was not completed at the cross, and

5)     That Ellen White has prophetic doctrinal authority. 1 

The questions of the law and the Sabbath have been dealt with already. The doctrines of the Investigative Judgement and the scapegoat have been discussed elsewhere, and therefore just a few difficulties in connection with the heavenly sanctuary are listed here.

First of all, a quotation from a study by a German Adventist: “The doctrine which has always been the greatest stumbling block to outsiders evaluating the ‘cult level’ of Seventh-day Adventism, even more than the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath and the claims that Ellen White received prophetic revelations, is the doctrine of the ‘investigative judgement.’

If a true evangelical Christian were to hear for the first time a simple explanation of what traditional Adventism teaches about the investigative judgement he would probably be appalled and have no doubts that Adventists are a cult. Simply put, the doctrine is this: Jesus did not begin acting as Judge of the human race until 1844. It was in that year, on October 22, that He began presiding over a great judgement tribunal. Those people being tried are professed believers in God, starting in the days of Adam and continuing right up to the present. This investigative judgement is still going on, with Jesus continuing to accept and reject the lives of believers as their cases are brought up before Him. After Jesus has finished judging those who are now in the grave, he begins to judge the lives of believers who are alive now. One does not know when his case will be taken up in the sanctuary above. When it finally is, if he passes the judgement, his sins are then ‘blotted out,’ and he is then accepted for the pearly gates.

One thing needs to be said, so that the forest not be lost for the trees. The gospel revealed in the New Testament is in total irreconcilable contradistinction to the concept of an investigative judgement. They are mutually exclusive.” 2


The reasons for the above claim have been dealt with elsewhere. Now, just a few more difficulties:

1.     The date of 1844 (1843 at first) was calculated from the book of Daniel by William Miller. He linked two passages: Daniel 9: 24-27 and 8: 14.

A.    Daniel 9: 24-27, the prophecy of the seventy weeks, refers to the first Advent of Jesus. There are various possible interpretations. The time period begins thus, “From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem…” Cyrus, king of Persia, issued a decree like this in 539 BC (see also Isaiah 45: 1). The departure of Nehemiah provides a closer date – 445 BC. If the starting point is 456 BC (from a decree issued in the 7th year of Artaxerxes) + (7 x (7 + 62 + 0.5) = 30 AD.

B.     Daniel 8: 14 reads as follows: “He said to me, ‘It will take 2300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.’” 1844 is given by 456 BC + 2300 years. This only works if this verse is linked with chapter 9, and the context is completely ignored. If the context and the original language are taken into consideration:

i)                   2300 days is not written, as Miller thought (using the King James translation), but 2300 evenings-mornings. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that 1 day = 1 year.

ii)                 ‘2300 evenings and mornings’ refers to sacrifices (see 8: 11-13). The period therefore begins with the discontinuation of the daily sacrifices (verse 11) and not with a royal decree. And the period in question is not 2300 years, but 1150 days.

iii)               This is confirmed by verse 26, which reads (according to the Hebrew): “And the vision of the evenings and mornings, which was said, is true. But you seal the revelation, because it is for many days.” Here the word for day = yóm, which may occasionally refer to years (see Numbers 14: 34). This may be understood to mean that the discontinuation of sacrifices will occur many years in the future, and last for 1150 days.

iv)               The vision contained in Daniel 8: 1-14 is interpreted by the angel in 8: 19-26. According to commentaries, the whole vision has already been fulfilled (from our standpoint). The ram is the kings of the Medes and Persians. The goat is the Greek empire. The large horn is the first king – this was Alexander the Great who died in 323 BC. The horn was broken off and four grew in its place. After Alexander the Great, the empire split four ways - Judea belonged to the eastern state. A little horn grew great out of one of the horns. This was Antiochus IV. Epiphanes, who tried to wipe out the Jewish religion. The history of this is found in the book of 1 Maccabees. He entered the Jewish temple and slaughtered a pig in the sanctuary, thus “defiling” it. He discontinued the daily sacrifices. The army of Judas Maccabeus retook Jerusalem, and the temple was reconsecrated in 165 BC – this is the origin of the feast of dedication, or Hanukkah (see John 10: 22). Between the defiling and reconsecration of the temple was a period of a little more than three years (168-165 BC). Therefore, 2300 morning and evening sacrifices were not offered.

v)                 From Daniel’s point of view, as he lived in the 6th century, 164 BC was ‘after many days.’

For these reasons, the date of 1844 should not be calculated from the book of Daniel.

C.    Two related points may be made about the October 22nd date.

I.                   This was the Day of Atonement in 1844 according to a purported Karaite Jewish calendar.

In connection with this:

i)                   The Karaite Jews do not issue a calendar, as they do not calculate the dates of festivals in advance, but keep them based on the moment the new moon is spotted each month, and the time the barley appears at the beginning of the year.

ii)                 According to Karaite sources, the Day of Atonement was in September in 1844, at the same time as the Orthodox Jewish festival.

iii)               A question: why should such an apparently great event in God’s salvation history occur according to the calendar of a rather insignificant Jewish sect? (If it existed, and if it gave a date in October?)

II.                When Jesus did not return at the vernal equinox, the disappointed Millerites set a new date: the Lord would come on the tenth day of the seventh month of the year of jubilee. They calculated this to be 20/21/21 October 1844. To this, a Jewish Rabbi notes that the year of jubilee would have come 25 years later. 3

D.    When Jesus returned neither in 1843, nor on 21 March 1844 (first disappointment), nor on 22 October 1844 (great disappointment), Miller admitted he had been wrong, and did not set any more dates. He never accepted the Adventist explanation. He wrote, “The causes which required God’s chastening hand upon us were, in my humble opinion, Pride, Fanaticism, and Sectarianism.” 4

E.     The heavenly sanctuary explanation originated with O. R. L. Crosier, but he later rejected it.

F.     The Seventh Day Adventists first accepted the sanctuary theory in order to prove that the door of mercy had been shut in 1844. Mrs. White, along with the others, accepted this theory at the time, and even had visions about it. They later rejected this, and changed their teaching several times, and now they try to hide the fact that they ever believed it.

G.    The Jehovah’s Witnesses calculated that end of the world would come in 1914, also from the book of Daniel. 5 When this failed to happen, they also invented something to do with the heavenly temple. According to Evangelical theologians, both groups initiated “face-saving campaigns.”


2.     Daniel 8: 14 is then linked with the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). The only justification for this, is that Ellen White taught it. Even according to leading Adventist theologians, there are no contextual, linguistic or any other reasons which allow this. The Day of Atonement has been treated elsewhere. It is the conviction of this author that the antitype of the whole is to be found in Jesus’ death on the cross. In addition to this, just a couple of (maybe silly) comments:

A.   It is not written that the high priest performs any sort of judgement in the sanctuary. Neither does Daniel 8: 14 mention judgement.

B.    It is written in the letter to the Hebrews, which interprets the Day of Atonement, that judgement follows death, not that it is in progress while someone is still alive. (Hebrews 9: 27). This makes logical sense, because what happens if someone passes the investigative judgement, is accepted for eternal life, and afterwards (as he is still alive), falls into some sin which he does not repent of?

C.   Leviticus 16: 31 states that the Day of Atonement is a “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” If the antitype of this is now underway, the Adventists should not go to work at all.


3.     God’s presence is to be found in the holy of holies, above the ark of the covenant. (Eg. Exodus 25: 21-22). This is behind the veil of the temple (Exodus 22: 31-34). If Jesus only entered the holy of holies in 1844, then for 18 centuries after his ascension, he did not enter God’s presence. There are several problems with this:

A.   I have reservations with the idea that there is a temple in heaven at all, for the following reasons:

i)       In the Bible, the heavenly temple only occurs in texts which are of apocalyptic or symbolic character, like the book of Revelation (eg. 15: 5-8), or the letter to the Hebrews (chapter 9). According to Revelation, there is also a throne room in heaven (chapter 4).

ii)     In the Old Testament, symbolically, heaven is God’s throne, and God’s throne is in heaven (Isaiah 66: 1; Psalm 103: 16). It is unlikely that there is a literal chair in heaven, even although Jesus “is seated at God’s right hand.” These are spiritual truths, symbolically expressed.

iii)   In a similar way, God’s temple is in heaven, and heaven is God’s temple, as that is where his presence is (eg. Matthew 6: 9), because:

iv)   The writer to the Hebrews does not compare the earthly temple with the heavenly temple, but the earthly temple with heaven: “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” (Hebrews 9: 24).

v)     The furnishings of the earthly temple, eg. the ark, the veil, the candlestick, the altar of incense, etc., all typify certain aspects of the work of Christ. These were on the earth, and now Christ himself, not a temple, is in heaven. This is the analogy between the “earthly” and the “heavenly.” (Hebrews 9).

B.    If we assume that there is a temple in heaven after all, then what had already happened in the first century?

i)       The veil was torn, opening the way into the presence of God, (Mark 15: 37-38; cf. Heb 10: 19-20). (In Revelation 4, the candlestick and God’s throne are seen at the same time. There is no veil between them, as there was in the earthly temple.)

ii)     Jesus passed within the veil (Heb 6: 19-20).

iii)   Jesus took his blood into the sanctuary “having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb 9: 12).

iv)   He “cleansed the heavenly sanctuary.” (Heb 9: 23-26).

v)     Jesus is no longer a Levitical priest, as he finished the work of atonement on the cross, but a priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 6: 20).

vi)   He sat down at God’s right hand, i.e. in his presence. (Heb 1: 3).

From the point of view of the writer to the Hebrews, all these had already happened in the past.


4.     One more thing: it is inconsistent to teach that, on the one hand, God knows us so badly that he has to examine lists of sins for more than 150 years, as he does not know who to raise from the dead, but on the other hand, he knows us so well that he can recreate us perfectly from the data stored in his memory.


Another quotation, just to finish: “SDAs have been willing to gradually drop various teachings that have proven unbiblical, but not the investigative judgement. Knowingly or unknowingly the gospel has always been compromised in order to retain this most distinguishing doctrine. Evidently they think the doctrine of the investigative judgement important to their identity. This is a monstrous price to pay for an unbiblical doctrine... No-one denies that fragments of the gospel appear through SDA media, but the mixture of the credible with the non-credible leaves everyone in doubt, confusion and ambivalence.” 6

Adrian Bury





1.     Clay Peck, My journey out of legalism, lecture given on 15 January 2000, found on the following Website:  http://www.sdaoutreach.org/


2.     L. Pahl, Investigating the Investigative Judgement, 1992.


3.     Sears, C. E., Days of Delusion – a Strange Bit of History, chaps 8-9, 1924


4.     William Miller, Letter to the Brethren, Advent Herald, 3 Dec. 1844.


5.     If you’re interested, it works like this: “Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign…” (Dan 4: 32). 7 times = 7 years of 360 days = 2520. Reckoned from the (purported but incorrect) date for the destruction of Jerusalem 606 BC + 2520 years = 1914.


6.     T. Nixon, personal letter to L. Pahl.





Baldwin, J. G., Daniel – an Introduction and Commentary, IVP, 1978.


Ballenger, A. F., Cast out for the Cross of Christ, 1909 (Internet).


Barker, K. L. (ed.), The NIV Study Bible, Hodder and Stoughton, 1985.


Canright, D. M., Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, 1914 (Internet)


Gill, E., The 2300 Day Prophecy – Building on Assumptions, (Internet)


Haugland, J. S., The Shaky Foundation of the 1914 Doctrine, (Internet)


Martin, W., The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House, 1997.


Sears, C. E., Days of Delusion – a Strange Bit of History, 1924 (Internet)