The priesthood of Christ is a cardinal doctrine in New Testament teaching. The
atoning death of Christ, and His all-sufficient sacrifice for man's redemption,
is for us, as for all evangelical Christians, the central truth of
Christianity. Yet without our Lord's resurrection and ascension, the provisions
of His atoning sacrifice would not be available to man (1 Cor. 15:17).
The victory of our Lord at Calvary was decisive and eternal. Not only did He
conquer sin, but He conquered death. And these tremendous truths be came the
focal point of the apostolic ministry. "With great power gave the apostles
witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them
all" (Acts 4:33).
Having burst the bands of death, Jesus ascended as the "King of
glory" (Psalm 24), to appear in the presence of God for us. And there,
amid the adoration of angels,
He was enthroned. Addressing Him as the Creator, as the One who had "laid
the foundation of the earth" (Heb. 1:10), the omnipotent Father reaffirms
His position as God, saying: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a
sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved
righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed
thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (Heb. 1:8, 9).
His consecration as High Priest coincided with His enthronement. And there, at
the throne of the Majesty on high, immediately after His ascension He entered
upon His priestly ministry in the "greater and more perfect
tabernacle" (Heb. 9:11) then "to appear in the presence of God for
us" (verse 24). To Him was given all power and authority both in heaven
and on earth.
The high-priestly ministry of our Lord occupies a prominent place in Adventist
theology. In fact, we believe that much study should be given to Christ's ministry in the sanctuary above, and especially to the concluding phase of that
ministry, which we understand to be a work of judgment. And to understand the
judgment, we must of necessity understand what is involved in His priestly
On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter declared that Jesus, having been
raised up from the dead, is now
"by the right hand of God exalted," and has thus been made "both
Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:33, 36). This concept became the keystone in the
arch of the apostolic message.
While the apostles referred many times in their sermons and epistles to our
Lord's exaltation, yet the real nature of His work as High Priest is set forth
in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The book is virtually an exposition of this
great theme. By a series of propositions, covering chapters 1 to 10, the
sacrifice of Christ, and His priestly ministry in heaven, are set forth in
contrast with the earthly sacrifices and priesthood of Aaron. The purpose of
these comparisons is to emphasize the reality and advantages of the new order.
We here present a brief summary of these.
II. Summary of Christ's Position as Our High Priest
Chapter 1 presents the Son of God as the Creator and Upholder of all things
(verses 2, 10); as "the express image" of God and the appointed Heir
of all things (verses 2, 3); as the One who by Himself purged our sins and then
was seated at God's right hand (verse 3); as greater than all the angels (verse
4); as the begotten Son of God (verse 5); as God enthroned and anointed (verses
Chapter 2 touches upon the incarnation, showing Him as man, made lower than
angels, and tasting death for every man (verses 6-9); as our Deliverer and the
Captain of our salvation (verses 14-16); as being made like unto His brethren
that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest (verse 17), able to
"succour them that are tempted" (verse 18).
Chapter 3 reveals Him as both Apostle and High Priest, greater than Moses, and
faithful to His appointment (verses 1-3); and as the Builder of a spiritual
house, whose house are we (verses 6, 14).
Chapter 4 designates Him our "great high priest" who is passed into
the heavens (verse 14); as the Word of God; as our judge, before whose eyes all
things are naked and open (verses 12, 13); yet able to sympathize with the tempted and
infirm because He had been in all points "tempted like as we are"
Chapter 5 introduces Him as a "priest for ever after the order of
Melchisedec" (verses 6, 10), not after the Levitical order; as One
compassed with infirmity and learning obedience through His suffering (verses 7, 8); then as the Author of
eternal salvation (verse 9).
Chapter 6 declares that God, by an oath, confirmed
His purpose in Christ (verses 16, 17); that Christ has entered within the veil;
that He is our hope and the anchor of the soul (verse 19).
Chapter 7 contrasts the features of the Melchizedek and the Levitical
priesthoods: Melchizedek called "King of righteousness" and
"King of peace" (verse 2); Melchizedek being greater than Abraham,
Christ's priesthood is therefore greater than the Levitical (verses 4-7);
emphasizes that Christ's priesthood was not of the order of Aaron (that is,
inherited from one's parents), since Christ sprang from Judah and not Levi, but
after the order of Melchizedek, who was appointed priest by God and did not
receive it from his parents (verse 14); made not by a carnal commandment, but
after the power of an endless life (verse 16); as our "surety" of
redemption (verse 22), "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (verse 26), He "ever liveth to make
intercession" for us (verse 25).
Chapter 8 leads into the chief point of the epistle, i.e., Jesus as minister of
the true tabernacle (verses 1, 2); as having "a more excellent
ministry" than Aaron (verse 6); as establishing the new covenant upon
"better promises" (verses 6-8); as writing His law on our hearts and
minds (verse 10).
Chapter 9 contrasts the Mosaic with the heavenly sanctuary (verses 2-11).
Christ our High Priest officiates in a greater and more perfect tabernacle
(verse 11), as the One who has already obtained eternal redemption for us
(verse 12), and as the spotless Sacrifice offered for lost man (verse 14).
Heavenly things are not purified with the blood of beasts, but with
"better sacrifices" (verse 23). In heaven Christ appeared in the
presence of God for us (verse 24), concludes His work as High Priest (verse
26), and then returns to earth for His people (verses 27, 28).
Chapter 10 presents Christ as the complete fulfillment of the Levitical law of
types and shadows (verses 1-9); earthly sacrifices could not take away sins
(verses 4, 11); Christ was offered once for all (verses 10, 12); He becomes
"a new and living way" (verse 20) through which we can enter into
God's presence with holy boldness (verses 19, 21).
III. Priesthood of Aaron and Christ Contrasted
In this epistle significant contrasts are made between the priesthood of Aaron
and the priesthood of Christ.
Aaron was but a man.
Christ was "the Son of God."
Aaron and his successors were by nature sinners.
Christ was "holy, harmless,
undefiled, separate from sinners."
Aaron belonged to the tribe of Levi.
Christ was of Judah, the royal tribe.
Aaron was made priest "after the law of a carnal commandment."
Christ was made a priest by the word of an oath.
Aaron's service "made nothing perfect."
Christ "perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
Aaron officiated in the "copy" of heavenly things.
Christ officiates in the true tabernacle in heaven itself.
Aaron's tabernacle was made with hands.
Christ's tabernacle is not made with hands.
Aaron offered goats and calves.
Christ "offered up himself."
Aaron's priesthood was compassed with
Christ is priest "after the power
of an endless life."
Aaron's priesthood was changed.
Christ "hath an unchangeable priesthood."
Aaron was the priest in a tabernacle on earth.
Christ serves in "heaven itself" appearing "in the presence of
God for us."
Aaron could not "continue by reason of death."
Christ "ever liveth to make intercession."
Aaron offered earthly sacrifices "daily."
Christ offered Himself "once for all."
Aaron's sacrifice could
not "take away sins."
Christ says, "Their sins and their iniquities will I remember no
The book of Hebrews climaxes with the claim that Jesus, having suffered on the
cross that He might sanctify us, and then having been raised from the dead, is
now able, as the great Shepherd of the sheep, to make us perfect in every good
work, accomplishing in us that which is well-pleasing in His sight (Heb. 13:10,
12, 20, 21).
IV. Christ-Man's Only Mediator
As the perfect High Priest, who has made a perfect propitiation for the sins of
His people, Christ is now at God's right hand, applying to our lives the
benefits of His perfect atoning sacrifice. As was well stated on page 355:
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, p. 260.
He does this as our Mediator, for there is only "one mediator between God
and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). Through Him alone can we have
access to God. He, as God, is Mediator from Deity downward to lost man; and as
man, He is also Mediator from man upward to God. His priesthood constitutes the
only channel of living relationship between God and man.
Only as a priest could He deal with sin; that is why He became a priest. As
God, He could not officiate as priest, for a priest must be taken from among
his brethren. Therefore "it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest" (Heb. 2:17). Thus we
read that "every high priest" is taken "from among men"
(Heb. 5:1). His priesthood is therefore bound up with His
incarnation. We read also that He "through the eternal Spirit offered
himself without spot to God" (Heb. 9: 14). Not only did Christ offer
Himself on the cross, but He was God's gift before that, even from the
"foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4).
In the upper room, just before entering the Garden, He, as the Eternal Word,
offered His high-priestly prayer to the Father. He who had shared with His
Father the effulgent glory of the Eternal Godhead, presented His disciples to
Him; and not them only, but all who, through their ministry, would be led to a
knowledge of salvation. Commenting on this, Ellen G. White impressively
portrays the scene:
"And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come
to Thee. Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom Thou hast given
Me, that "they may be one, as We are." "Neither pray I for these
alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word; that
they all may be one; . . . that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and
hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me."
Thus in the language of one who has divine authority, Christ gives His elect
church into the Father's arms. As a consecrated high priest He intercedes for
His people. As a faithful shepherd He gathers His flock under the shadow of the
Almighty, in the strong and sure refuge. For Him there waits the last battle
with Satan, and He goes forth to meet it.—The Desire of Ages (1940), p. 680.
V. The Conflict in the Garden
From that place of communion He went forth to meet the devil in a
life-and-death struggle. It is our belief that in the Garden of Gethsemane He
really accepted our place, and became deeply conscious in a special sense of
the burden of the world's sin.
In that dark hour He cried, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death" (Matt. 26:38). In the Garden He prayed not for
His disciples but for Himself. The Scripture says that He "offered up
prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able
to save him from death" (Heb. 5:7). These descriptive lines emphasize the reality of that
He felt that by sin He
was being separated from His Father. The gulf was so broad, so black, so deep,
that His spirit shuddered before it. This agony He must not exert His divine
power to escape. As man He must suffer the consequences of man's sin. As man He
must endure the wrath of God against transgression.
Christ was now standing in a different attitude from that in which He had ever
stood before. His suffering can best be described in the words of the
prophet, "Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, and against the man that is
My fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts." Zech. 13:7. As the substitute and
surety for sinful man, Christ was suffering under divine justice. He saw what
justice meant.—Ibid., p. 686.
VI. Christ Both Priest and Sacrifice
Here in the Garden, and later on the cross, He was both offerer and offering;
both priest and victim.
As in the typical service the high priest laid aside his pontifical robes, and
officiated in the white linen dress of an ordinary priest; so Christ laid aside
His royal robes, and garbed Himself with humanity, and offered sacrifice,
Himself the priest, Himself the victim.—Ellen G. White, The Acts of the
Apostles, p. 33.
The Levitical priests, in the typical service, were consecrated by the blood of
bullocks (Leviticus 8), but Christ, in the perfection of His priesthood, was
consecrated by His own blood (Heb. 9:12). He "offered up himself" is
the scriptural statement, and as our priest He was "consecrated for
evermore," and this "not without an oath" (Heb. 7:27, 28, 20).
His priesthood therefore includes His offering of Himself to God, for only a
priest could offer sacrifices. And it was the shedding of His own blood that
ratified the everlasting covenant, which God made for man in the beginning. The
effects of that sacrifice, however, would never have become available to man
had Christ not risen from the dead and taken His place at the Father's right
hand. This the apostle Paul clearly states: "If Christ be not risen, then
is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." "If Christ be
not raised, . . . ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:14, 17).
When our Lord ascended into the heavens He appeared before the Father, in the
presence of the angels, at which time He was installed as our High Priest. Like
Melchizedek, He, too, is "King of righteousness" and "King of
peace" (Heb. 7:2). Although the King of glory, He is also the King-Priest
of the Melchizedek order, upon His Father's throne, the one Mediator between
God and His people. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God
and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). As the divine Son of God, He
became a priest after the order of Melchisedec (Heb. 6:20), the unique feature
of whose ministry is that it abideth "continually" (Heb. 7:3). So
Christ "continueth ever" (verse 24). "He ever liveth"
VII. Ancient Sanctuary Service an Object Lesson
While Adventists believe that the Mosaic tabernacle, or sanctuary, with its
sacrificial services, as a type, was to meet its fulfillment in the perfect
offering and priestly ministry of our Lord, yet we also recognize
that important lessons can be learned from the study of the tabernacle and
its services. But while the types and shadows of the Levitical ritual do have a
spiritual significance, it should not be expected that every detail in the
sanctuary of old had a typical meaning.
For instance, the pins, the bolts, and the sockets that held the tabernacle
together were matters of utility, having no special significance. It is better
to see and study the great realities of the sacrifice and priestly ministry of
Christ than to dwell too much upon the details of the typical service, which
gave but an inadequate portrayal of the sacrifice and ministry of Christ. Far
better to interpret the earthly tabernacle in the light of the heavenly, rather
than to circumscribe the antitypical realities by the limitations of too close
an application of the type.
The building, the ritual, and the sacrifices, taken together, were intended to
show us the way to God. Those priests of old served "unto the example and
shadow of heavenly things" (Heb. 8:5). And while only "a shadow of
good things to come, and not the very image of the things" (Heb. 10:1),
yet they were a vivid object lesson of the reality, a prophetic institution of
deep significance. For that reason a very detailed account of the building and
its service was given. Much of Exodus, and all of Leviticus, contains that
instruction; and the essence of this detail is seen in its antitypical
significance in the Hebrew epistle.
Regrettably, there are Christians who seem to see little of value in the study
of the ancient sanctuary and its services. Yet a deep significance attaches to
symbols. While "the law made nothing perfect" (Heb. 7:19), and could
"never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually
make the comers thereunto perfect" (Heb. 10:1), yet the fact that in the
Scriptures such emphasis is given to the ancient sanctuary and its services
reveals its importance, not only to the Israelites of old, but also to the
Christians of today.
It was "not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away
sins" (Heb. 10:4). But the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross does provide
for the taking away of sin. "Now once in the end of the world hath he
appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Heb. 9:26).
"Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many" (verse 28). The
expression "once," or "once for all," in connection with
the sacrifice of Christ, is deeply significant. The Greek word is hapax:
"Christ . . . hath once suffered for sins" (1 Peter 3:18); "Christ
was once offered to bear the sins of many" (Heb. 9:28); and "now once
in the end of the world" (verse 26).
In 1 Peter 3:18 and Hebrews 9:26, the R.S.V. translates hapax "once for
all." This comes from ephapax, a strengthened form of hapax. And
in the following four texts, the E.R.V. and the R.S.V. is translated "once
for all." He did this once for all when "he offered up himself"
(Heb. 7:27); "He entered once for all into the holy place" (Heb.
9:12); "He died to sin, once for all" (Rom. 6:10); "offering of
the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:10). He did this not by
"the blood of goats and calves," but by "his own blood" he
entered once for
all into the holy place (or, holies),* "thus securing an eternal
redemption" for us (Heb. 9:12, R.S.V.).
VIII. Redemption Absolute by the Victory of Christ.
When He ascended to heaven, He "sat down on the right hand of the Majesty
on high" (Heb. 1:3; compare Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1). The
significance of this is lost if we interpret it merely as a posture. It really
expresses honor as represented by authority. Stephen pictured Him not sitting
but "standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56). While He is our
High Priest ministering on our behalf, He is also co-executive with the Father
in the government of the universe. How glorious is the thought that the King,
who occupies the throne, is also our representative at the court of heaven!
This becomes all the more meaningful when we realize that Jesus our surety
entered the "holy places," and appeared in the presence of God for
us. But it was not with the hope of obtaining something for us at that time, or
at some future time. No! He had already obtained it for us on the cross. And
now as our High Priest He ministers the virtues of His atoning sacrifice to us.
Dr. Thomas Charles Edwards has well remarked:
The sacrifice was made and completed on the Cross, as the victims were slain in
the outer court. But it was through the blood of those victims the high-priest
had authority to enter the holiest place; and when he had entered, he must
*The Greek word here translated "holy place" is hagia,
and is in the plural form. A correct translation would be "the holies," or
"holy places." as in Hebrews 9:24. This entrance, Scripture teaches,
occurred at His ascension to glory (Acts 1), having already finished His
sacrificial work on the cross. The word translated "obtained," in the
Greek is from heurisko, and is rendered "found,"
"procured," "gained," or, in R.S.V., "secured,"
being nominative, masculine, singular, aorist, middle participle.
the warm blood, and so present the sacrifice to God. Similarly Christ must
enter a sanctuary in order to present the sacrifice slain on Calvary.—The
Epistle to the Hebrews, p. 135, in The Expositor's Bible.
Also Dr. H. B. Swete, Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge, truly
A gospel which ended with the story of the Cross would have had all the
elevating power of infinite pathos and love. But the power of an endless life
would have been wanting. It is the abiding life of our High Priest which makes
His atoning Sacrifice operative, and is the unfailing spring of the life of
justification and grace in all His true members upon earth.—The Ascended
Christ, p. 51.
While we cannot fully understand the nature of Christ's priestly ministry, yet
we know that He is our mediator, and the only mediator between God and man (1
Tim. 2:5). That ministry is a work of intercession (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). He
confesses us before the Father and claims us as His own (Rev. 3:5). He
dispenses mercy and help from the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). And in His
capacity as High Priest, He gives His people power to overcome sin (1 Cor.
15:57; Rev. 3:21).
One of the key words in the study of the priesthood of Jesus is the word
"better." He brought in a "better hope" (Heb. 7:19), and is
the mediator of a "better covenant," which was established upon
"better promises" (Heb. 8:6), and in that He became the surety of a
"better testament" (Heb. 7:22).
IX. Jesus Becomes Our "Surety"
Christ became our surety (Heb. 7:22), and He Himself fulfilled all that the
everlasting covenant required. As the "last Adam" (1 Cor. 15:45), He
become one of Adam's race. And as our surety, He not only bore our sins and
carried our sorrows on Calvary, but from the throne of grace dispenses His
blessings and intercedes on our behalf.
He could rightly be "chosen out of the people" because He was
"holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb. 7:26). He
came into humanity, not by natural generation, but by a miracle. His birth was
supernatural; God was His Father. Although born in the flesh, He was
nevertheless God, and was exempt from the inherited passions and pollutions
that corrupt the natural descendants of Adam. He was "without sin,"
not only in His outward conduct, but in His very nature. He could truly say,
"the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing [or "findeth no
response"] in me" (John 14:30). There was nothing in Him that
responded to the evil one. And just such a priest we needed. Had He been
defiled by even the taint of sin, He would have been disqualified from being
either our sacrifice or our High Priest. But though sinless in His life and in
His nature, He was nevertheless "in all points tempted like as we are, yet
without sin" (Heb. 4:15). And because of that, He is able to sympathize
with us in every sorrow or trial.
In order fully to discharge His priestly office, however, He, like ancient
Israel's priest, must of necessity have "somewhat . . . to offer"
(Heb. 8:3). When Aaron presented himself before the Lord in the typical
service, he had to have the blood of a sacrifice. Likewise, when Jesus
presented Himself before the Father on our behalf in the sanctuary in heaven,
He too must have blood; but it was "by his own blood he entered
in" (Heb. 9:12). It was by "the precious blood of Christ, as of a
lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:19) that we were
We have already noted that it was in the Garden of Gethsemane that the burden
of the world's sin was rolled upon our Saviour. Of Him the apostle Peter says,
"Who his own self bare our sins . . . on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24).
Thus were our sins imputed to Him. He became "sin for us, who knew no sin;
that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21). He
accepted our sin and bore it vicariously, being both offering and priest. But
in order fully to carry out His purpose for our redemption, He had to ascend
into the heavenlies as our mediator. We are in full agreement with Arthur W.
Pink who says:
Had Christ remained on earth after His resurrection, only half of His priestly
work had been performed. His ascension was necessary for the maintenance of
God's governmental rights, for the vindication of the Redeemer Himself, and for
the well-being of His people; that what He had begun on earth might be
continued, consummated and fully accomplished in heaven. The expiatory
sacrifice of Christ had been offered once for all, but He must take His place
as an Intercessor at God's right hand, if His Church should enjoy the benefits
of it. . . . Had Christ stayed on earth, He had left His office imperfect, seeing
that His people needed One to "appear in the presence of God" (9:24)
for them. If Aaron had only offered sacrifice at the brazen altar, and had not
carried the blood within the veil, he had left his work only half done.—An
Exposition of Hebrews, vol. I, pp. 433, 434.
X. The Place of Christ's Ministry
Now where and how does our Lord officiate? The Scripture leaves no room for
speculation. He ministers in the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 8:1, 2). So long as
the ancient ritual continued, "the way into the holiest of
all [holy places] was not . . . made manifest" (Heb. 9:8).*
Various translations reflect this thought:
And by this the Holy Spirit indicated, that the way to the holy [places] was
not yet manifested, so long as the first tabernacle was standing.—Murdoch's
The Holy Spirit meant us to see that no way of access to the true sanctuary lay
open to us, as long as the former tabernacle maintained its standing.—Knox.
Thus doth the Holy Spirit show forth that the way into the sanctuary is not yet
disclosed, so long as the first tabernacle is yet standing: which latter is a
type in view of the present time.—Lattey.
The Holy Spirit signifying this, that the way of the holy places was not yet
laid open, while the first tabernacle still standeth.—Campbell, Doddridge,
When our Lord expired on the cross, the veil of the earthly Temple was
"rent in twain from the top to the bottom" (Matt. 27:51), revealing
to all succeeding generations that the shadow had met the substance; type was
fulfilled in antitype. For the first time the most holy place in the earthly
sanctuary was no longer veiled from human gaze, and was no longer sacred. All
that had been a barrier had now been broken down. We can now "come boldly
unto the throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16), not with fear and dread, but with
confidence and joy. "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance
of faith," "by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for
us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh" (Heb. 10:22, 20). When
our Lord gave His flesh "for the life of the world" (John 6:51), the
into heaven was opened. "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me"
*The term "holiest of all," in the K.J.V., is an incorrect
translation. The Greek form is plural—ton hagion, "holies," or
"holy places"—and is correctly rendered "holy places" in
Hebrews 9:24. The contrast here is not between the holy place and the most holy
place of the earthly tabernacle, but between the earthly sanctuary and the
XI. The Perfecting of Our Characters
As our exalted Lord, Christ shares the throne of Deity. Nevertheless He is our
"advocate" (parakletos, 1 John 2:1), representing us before the
Father. The same word is translated "Comforter" in John 14:26. Jesus
was speaking to the disciples about the Holy Spirit, who was to come to them as
the paraclete, or "helper" (one who comes to the aid of, or stands by
the side of, another). Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit minister in the capacity
of advocate—our Saviour is an advocate with the Father, representing us at
the Father's throne, while the Holy Spirit is our advocate, our helper here on
earth, representing to lost mankind the Father and the Son. In the Gospel of
John, parakletos is rendered "comforter." But in his epistle it is
translated "advocate." As our advocate and mediator, Jesus sends
forth His Spirit into our hearts as both comforter and guide.
Perfection is God's aim for His people. Jesus said, "Be ye therefore
perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48).
But the offering "of bulls and of goats" (Heb. 10:4), as such, could
never make man perfect. Christ has done something for lost mankind that those
sacrifices of old could never do. When he bore "our sins in his own body
on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24), He blotted out "the handwriting of
ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of
the way, nailing it to his cross" (Col. 2:14).
Christ's sacrifice in behalf of man was full and complete. The condition of the
atonement had been fulfilled. The work for which He had come to this world had
been accomplished. He had won the kingdom. He had wrested it from Satan, and
had become heir of all things.—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 29.
While Christ is "made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and
sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30), yet the only ones who are
perfected or sanctified are those who fully accept of His grace. True, "he
is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he
ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25), yet those who
would be saved must come unto God. They must "lay hold on eternal
life" (1 Tim. 6:19). When we accept Him we are justified. That is, His
righteousness is imputed to us, and we stand before God just as though we had
never sinned. But only those who follow on and experience Him as an indwelling
power, and who continually appropriate His grace for victory over their sinful
natures, are sanctified or perfected. We agree with Arthur W. Pink, who says:
Justification and sanctification are never separated: where God imputes the
righteousness of Christ, He also imparts a principle of holiness, the latter
being the fruit or consequence of the former; both being necessary before we
can be admitted into heaven. Because the blood of Christ has fully met every
claim of God upon and against His people, its virtues and purifying effects are
applied to them by the Spirit. . . . For the blood of Christ is not merely, so to
speak, the key unlocking the holy of holies to Him as our High Priest and
Redeemer, it is not merely our ransom by which we are delivered out of bondage,
and, freed from the curse, are brought nigh unto God; but it also separates us
from death and sin. It is incorruptible, always cleansing and vivifying;
through this blood we are separated from this evil world, and overcome; by this
blood we keep our garments white (John 6:53; Rev. 7:14).—Arthur W. Pink, op.
cit., pp. 494, 495
Hence, while justification is imputed righteousness, sanctification is imparted
Our Lord's perfection—His life of surrender and obedience—is all ours by
faith. And these qualities of perfection He dispenses to His people from the
place of His sanctuary. Our prayers, in some mysterious way associated with the
altar of incense (Rev. 8:3, 4; compare Rev. 5:8) in the heavenly sanctuary,
come up before the Lord and are intermingled with the virtues of His own
spotless life. Ellen G. White clearly expresses the Adventist position in these
Christ has pledged Himself to be our substitute and surety, and He neglects no
one. He who could not see human beings exposed to eternal ruin without pouring
out His soul unto death in their behalf, will look with pity and compassion
upon every soul who realizes that he cannot save himself.
He will look upon no trembling suppliant without raising him up. He who through
His own atonement provided for man an infinite fund of moral power, will not
fail to employ this power in our behalf. We may take our sins and sorrows to
His feet; for He loves us. His every look and word invites our confidence. He
will shape and mold our characters according to His own will.—Christ's Object
Lessons, p. 157.
Christ has pledged Himself to be our substitute and surety, and He neglects no
one. There is an inexhaustible fund of perfect obedience accruing from His
obedience. In heaven His merits, His self-denial and self-sacrifice, are
treasured as incense to be offered up with the prayers of His people. As the
sinner's sincere, humble prayers ascend to the throne of God, Christ mingles
with them the merits of His own life of perfect obedience. Our prayers are made
fragrant by this incense. Christ has pledged Himself to intercede in our
behalf, and the Father always hears the Son.—Sons and Daughters of God, p.
Christ our High Priest represents His people in the capacity of one who has
authority. Having won the battle against the kingdom of darkness, He stands now
as the head of a new kingdom—the kingdom of light and peace. Ellen G. White
likewise emphasizes this truth, declaring:
The Captain of our salvation is interceding for His people, not as a petitioner
to move the Father to compassion, but as a conqueror, who claims the trophies
of His victory.—Gospel Workers,
By His spotless life, His obedience, His death on the cross of Calvary, Christ
interceded for the lost race. And now, not as a mere petitioner does the
Captain of our salvation intercede for us, but as a Conqueror claiming His
victory. His offering is complete, and as our Intercessor He executes His
self-appointed work, holding before God the censer containing His own spotless
merits and the prayers, confessions, and thanksgiving of His people. Perfumed
with the fragrance of His righteousness, these ascend to God as a sweet savor.
The offering is wholly acceptable, and pardon covers all
transgression.—Christ's Object Lessons, p. 156.
XII. Judgment Climaxes Christ's Ministry
This priestly ministry of our Lord, we believe, climaxes in a work of judgment.
And this takes place just before He returns in glory. While He does not
minister in "places made with hands" (Heb. 9:24), seeing He is
sovereign Lord, yet the two types of ministry carried out in the ancient
sanctuary—first, that of reconciliation in the holy place, and second, that
of judgment in the most holy—illustrate very graphically the two phases of
our Lord's ministry as High Priest. And then, that ministry finished, He comes
in glory, bringing His rewards with Him.
XIII. Ultimate Destruction of Sin
When our Saviour returns, not only will He take the ransomed home, but He will
also finally destroy sin and eradicate every trace of evil. The universe itself
ultimately be cleansed of even the dark record of rebellion and sin, and
sinners will be no more. "The day that cometh shall burn them up, saith
the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch" (Mal.
Adventists do not hold any theory of a dual atonement. "Christ hath
redeemed us" (Gal. 3:13) "once for all" (Heb. 10:10). But we
believe that the full picture of our Lord's atonement and ministry is not
always comprehended, even by those who most surely love Him and honor His Word.
A cleansed creation, with the author of sin and all his evil hosts completely
destroyed, reveals, we believe, the greatness and glory and power of our
crucified and risen Lord. We look forward to that day when, with sin abolished,
every voice in the universe will join the song of redemption, "Worthy is
the Lamb that was slain."
Our ears strain to catch the sound of that paean of praise, which, as the
prophet John declares, begins at the throne of God, then sweeps out into the
far-flung universe, until "every creature which is in heaven, and on the
earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in
them, [are] heard . . . saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be
unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and
ever" (Rev. 5:13).