The Sanctuary Doctrine: Cultic or Biblical?

Part 2

by Pr. Kevin D. Paulson

Our last article examined the core argument of a recent book by one Dale Ratzlaff, entitled The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists.1 This book represents yet another attack by a former Adventist against the Adventist doctrine of the sanctuary and the investigative judgment. Its core argument, reviewed in our last article, is that the investigative judgment as taught by Seventh-day Adventists is contrary to what Ratzlaff calls the “new covenant gospel of grace.”2 Our last article concluded, based on the Biblical evidence, that it is Ratzlaff’s own theology—not that of Adventism—which contradicts the gospel of grace found in the Bible.

The present article will examine Ratzlaff’s arguments against the sanctuary doctrine as they relate to the book of Daniel. We state again that while the arguments in Ratzlaff’s book are neither new nor likely to cease any time soon, we believe it is essential that faithful Adventists provide answers for those with honest questions about these issues.

Issues in the Book of Daniel

As with the “gospel” arguments examined in our last article, Ratzlaff’s assertions regarding the book of Daniel follow closely the Desmond Ford script.3 Like Ford, Ratzlaff levels a series of challenges to what Adventists have historically found in Daniel regarding the heavenly sanctuary. He insists:

The SDA doctrine of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary and the investigative judgment cannot be found or proved logically anywhere in Scripture. It is dependent upon a proof-text, context-denying, reading-into-Scripture-what-is-not-there method of interpretation which uses a tenuous string of assumptions, most of which are contrary to the biblical evidence.4

For those not familiar with the evidence of Scripture and history, Ratzlaff’s assertions can sound intimidating. The fact is that what Ratzlaff calls the “proof-text” method of Bible study is really the Bible’s own self-interpretive method, which—as our last article demonstrated—is founded on three Biblical assumptions:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for doctrine (2 Timothy 3:16).

Scripture consists of the speech of holy men of God moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20, 21).

What the Holy Spirit inspires is to be spiritually discerned, by “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:12-14; see also 1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Our study will demonstrate, in contrast with the above claim by Ratzlaff, that the use of Bible verses by the Adventist sanctuary doctrine is in perfect accord with the context of the verses used. We will also demonstrate that the basic problem with Ratzlaff’s views, like those of other evangelicals, is his failure to permit the consensus of Scripture to determine what he believes on the doctrinal points in question.

We will now address the major challenges voiced by Ratzlaff against what Adventists have historically found in the book of Daniel:

Antiochus Epiphanes

Ratzlaff maintains, as do others, that the little horn of Daniel 8 refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid monarch who persecuted the Jews in the second century B.C.5 Ratzlaff claims that “evidence that this has reference to Antiochus is overwhelming.”6

In fact, the evidence is quite overwhelming that this prophecy has nothing whatsoever to do with Antiochus!

The little-horn power of Daniel 8 is described as one that “waxed exceeding great, toward the south, and toward the east, and toward the pleasant land”(verse 9).7 Far from waxing “exceeding great,” Antiochus Epiphanes met with consistent failure when he advanced in each of the above directions! When Antiochus marched into Egypt in 169 B.C, the Roman consul Gaius Popilius Laenus demanded that he leave Egypt at once, which he did.8 Laenus next went to Cyprus, then occupied by Antiochus’ army, and ordered them also to leave, which they did. (For a more colorful yet historically accurate account of these events, some might wish to read Colleen McCullough’s The First Man in Rome, in which the encounter between Laenus and Antiochus is described in detail.9) Antiochus’ efforts to subject the Jews to Hellenistic religion were also rebuffed, sparking the Maccabean revolt which in three years ended Antichous’ rule in Palestine. Later Antiochus led a failed expedition eastward, in the midst of which he died.

The angel Gabriel, interpreting the vision of Daniel 8 to the prophet, declares that the little horn “shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper” (Daniel 8:24). Far from destroying “wonderfully,” the historical record indicates that Antiochus was little more than a short-term nuisance to his neighbors, and that he enjoyed precious few moments of prosperity in any line.

Rome, by contrast, waxed “exceeding great” in every direction, as described in Daniel 8:9. Rome did indeed “destroy wonderfully,” and prospered for centuries. Verse 23 of Daniel 8 states that the little horn would arise “in the latter time” of the Hellenistic kingdoms which succeeded Alexander the Great. When Antiochus Epiphanes ascended the Seleucid throne in 175 B.C, the period of Hellenistic rule wasn’t even half over. Rome, by contrast, did rise to prominence during the latter time of these kingdoms. Moreover, verse 23 also states that the little horn would arise “when the transgressors are come to the full.” The following chapter is clear that this was to happen at the close of the seventy-week prophecy, which extends to the time of the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Daniel 9:24-25). While it is true that the last Hellenistic kingdom fell sixty years before the close of this prophecy, the general time frame of Daniel 8:23 still places the little horn’s rise far later than the period in which Antiochus Epiphanes lived.

The parallel between the sweep of empires in Daniel 7 and that of Daniel 8 is obvious even to the casual reader. The bear in chapter 7, who “raised up itself on one side” (verse 5), parallels the two-horned ram in chapter 8, of whom “one (horn) was higher than the other” (verse 3). The leopard with four wings and four heads in chapter 7 (verse 6) is parallel to the goat with four horns in chapter 8 (verse 8). Chapter 8 specifically identifies the ram as “the kings of Media and Persia” (verse 20), and the goat as “the king of Grecia” (verse 21). Ratzlaff himself acknowledges that Adventists and evangelicals are in agreement in their understanding of this part of Daniel 8.10

The evidence is plain that the little horn of chapter 7 is the same as the one in chapter 8. Antiochus Epiphanes was part of the Greek kingdom, symbolized by the leopard with four heads in chapter 7 and the goat with four horns in chapter 8. Verse 23 of chapter 7 states that “the fourth beast (after Greece) shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth.” This fourth kingdom was followed by the ten horns, representing the ten barbarian kingdoms which succeeded pagan Rome. The little horn comes to power after both the fourth kingdom (pagan Rome) and the ten barbarian kingdoms. The sequence of history in chapter 7, and its parallel with chapter 8, makes it obvious that the little horn in both chapters symbolizes Rome (both pagan and papal in chapter 8), and can’t possibly refer to Antiochus Epiphanes.

Ratzlaff claims: “It is also true that Christ, in Matthew 24:15, and Paul, in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12, see Antiochus as a type of the coming antichrist.”11 But neither Jesus nor Paul say one word about Antiochus, nor do they offer the slighest hint that he is the subject of these passages. Rather, these verses offer powerful evidence that the “abomination of desolation” described by Daniel was yet future even in Jesus’ time, and had nothing whatsoever to do with the Jewish Maccebeesbean experience.

A most serious threat to Ratzlaff’s understanding is his own reference to the account of Antiochus’ desecration of the Jewish temple in the apocryphal books of Maccebees.12 As the first “link” in what he calls the “broken chain” of the Adventist sanctuary message, Ratzlaff suggests that the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 are really 2300 individual morning and evening sacrifices, totaling instead 1,150 days.13 Yet if we read First Maccebees, to which Ratzlaff refers us, we find a passage which expressly contradicts Ratzlaff’s claim that this 1,150-day period belongs in the reign of Antiochus:

Then, early on the twenty-fifth day of the ninth month, the month Kislev, in the year 148 (164 B.C.), sacrifice was offered as the law commands on the newly made altar of burnt-offering. On the anniversary of the day when the Genesisiles had profaned it, on that very day, it was rededicated, with hymns of thanksgiving, to the music of harps and lutes and cymbals (1 Maccebees 4:52-54, emphasis supplied, NEB).

In First Maccebees 1:54,59, we read that pagan sacrifice began in the Jewish temple on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev in 167 B.C. In other words, the defilement of the temple by Antiochus lasted exactly three years, to the day. By contrast, 1,150 days equals three years and two months—to say nothing of 2300 days!14 It is doubtful that Jewish record-keeping, which was known to be very exact, would have missed two months in recording an event of this magnitude.

But the strongest evidence that the little horn cannot be Antiochus Epiphanes is found in the latter part of Daniel 7:

But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his (the little horn’s) dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him (verses 26, 27).

These verses, together with the deliverance of the saints described in Daniel 12:1, are thus clearly placed in an end-time setting. In explaining to Daniel the vision of chapter 8, the angel Gabriel declared, “Understand, O son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the vision” (Daniel 8:17). In other words, the events foretold by the vision of Daniel 8 extend to the end of time, the final event of which is the cleansing of the sanctuary. This obviously can’t be the sanctuary polluted by Antiochus, since that sanctuary ceased to exist two thousand years ago, and has no relevance whatever to the end of time.

In short, the little horn is a power that will exist at the close of human history, when its dominion will be taken away, the saints will possess the earth, and all nations will serve the Lord. The dominion of Antiochus Epiphanes (which wasn’t much) vanished over 2,000 years ago, and thus cannot be removed at the end of time. The Roman papacy, by contrast, is very much alive in today’s world, with ever-increasing power and global prominence. Nor did Antiochus’ defeat in Palestine result in the saints’ possessing an “everlasting kingdom,” with all nations serving the Lord thereafter (Daniel 7:27). Without question this is end-time language, and the little horn is an end-time power.

The following section will examine the issue of whether the 2300 days in Daniel 8 can rightfully be divided by half, as the critics often claim. For now we can safely conclude that the evidence of both Scripture and history rules out any fulfillment of Daniel’s little-horn prophecy by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

“Evenings and Mornings”

Ratzlaff describes what he calls a “chain” of “twenty-two assumptions” regarding the Adventist sanctuary doctrine, each of which he tries to demolish.15 The first of these is as follows:

1. That Daniel 8:14 speaks of 2300 days. (While Daniel 12 repeatedly uses the Hebrew word for days, it is not to be found in 8:14. Instead we have the ambiguous “evening-morning” which most apply to the evening and morning burnt offerings. Thus instead of 2300 days, if these exegetes are correct, only 1150 days are in view.)16 Ratzlaff seems to forget that the vision of Daniel 8:14 was deliberately withheld from Daniel’s understanding, causing a wonderment which for a time even made him sick (Daniel 8:26-27). It is therefore understandable why the heavenly beings described in this vision (Daniel 8:13) would use cryptic language.

But if we let the Bible interpret itself, this language can be easily deciphered. The expression “evening-morning” calls our minds to Genesis 1, where this expression is repeatedly used to describe twenty-four hour days (verses 5, 8, 13,19, 23, 31; see also Exodus 20:11). The idea that this phrase refers to the morning and evening sacrifices offered in the temple is utterly without support. In the first place, the morning and evening sacrifice is consistently described in both the Old Testament and the post-Biblical Jewish literature as a single daily offering, not as one offering brought in the morning and another brought in the evening.17 Also, the morning and evening sacrifice is consistently described in the sequence of “morning and evening,” never as “evening and morning.” No exception to this rule can be found, either in Scripture or the extra-biblical Jewish documents (18). The phrase “evening-mornings” cannot, therefore, refer to daily sacrifices but to a measure of time, as Genesis 1 makes clear.


Ratzlaff echoes Ford’s insistence that the word “cleansed” in the King James Version of Daniel 8:14 is a mistranslation (19), and states that “the context of the ‘cleansing’ of Daniel 8:14… deals with the restoration of the temple services after Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated them.”20

While we will not further belabor the issue of Antiochus Epiphanes, the evidence of Scripture is clear that the word “cleansed” is not at all a mistranslation in Daniel 8:14. The word translated “cleansed” in this verse is nisdaq, a form of the Hebrew word sadaq which means “to justify.” In a number of poetic Old Testament passages, where rhyme is one of common meaning rather than sound, the word sadaq is used synonymously with taher, the word for “cleanse” used in describing the cleansing of the earthly sanctuary in Leviticus 16 (see Job 4:17; 17:9; Psalm 19:9; Ecclesiastes 9:2).21 This point is clarified further by the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, which uses the same Greek word for cleanse in Daniel 8:14 and Leviticus 16 as is used in Hebrews 9:23, which speaks of the heavenly sanctuary being “purified (cleansed) with better sacrifices.”22

The Year-Day Principle

The second “link” in what Ratzlaff alleges to be a “chain of error” is the following:

2. That these 2300 “days” equal 2300 years. (Though it is quite impossible to prove that the year-day principle is a biblical datum, and even if we could, ‘days’ are not mentioned in either 8:14 or 9:24, so there is no basis to apply the principle in these instances.)23

But the year-day principle is not only sustained by Scripture; it has broader support than even some of its defenders realize. Most Adventist prophetic students can recall the two key texts—Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6—on which this principle is founded. Yet the relationship of these verses to the time prophecies of Daniel and Revelation is not often appreciated.

Numbers 14:34 speaks of a time during which God’s people experienced exile in the wilderness and persecution by their enemies, only to emerge victorious over their enemies when the forty years were over and Israel entered the Promised Land. Ezekiel 4:6 describes another period of oppression and foreign conquest in Israel’s history—symbolized by the days in which Ezekieliel lay on his side—at the end of which Israel returned to Palestine and rebuilt Jeremiah. During both of these periods God’s church was seen by the world as going into eclipse and defeat. However, at the end, it emerged triumphant.

Each of the great time prophecies of Scripture moves in a direction similar to the time periods described in Numbers and Ezekiel. This is true of the 2300 days, the 1260 days, the seventy weeks, the 1290 days, the 1335 days, and the “ten day” prophecy of Revelation 2:10, which history indicates was fulfilled in the ten-year persecution of the Christian Church by the Roman emperor Diocletian.24 During each of these periods God’s people experienced either apostasy or persecution, but they emerged (or will emerge) victorious at the end. In each of these cases the world viewed the church as undergoing the worst of times; yet the resulting purity and character development of God’s people made, and will make, their final triumph all the greater.

The Seventy Weeks

Perhaps the strongest evidence for the year-day principle is the seventy-week prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27. Ratzlaff’s claim that Daniel 9:24 doesn’t mention days, and cannot therefore be used to support the year-day principle,25 is simply wrong. The word translated “weeks” in Daniel 9:24-27 is repeatedly used in the Old Testament to refer to a seven-day period (see Genesis 29:27-28; Exodus 34:22; Numbers 28:26; Deuteronomy 16:9, 10, 16; 2 Chronicles 8:13; Jeremiah 5:24; Ezekiel 45:21; Daniel 10:2). Thus, while the precise word “days” may not be found in Daniel 9:24-27, the use of the word “weeks” makes it clear that days are being used to symbolize years.

Ratzlaff tries very hard to debunk the key dates for this prophecy, most importantly 457 B.C. as the prophecy’s starting date, A.D. 27 as the date of Christ’s baptism, 31, as the date of the crucifixion, and 34 as the date for the stoning of Stephen.26 But Ratzlaff and his fellow critics face two insurmountable challenges. First, only if this time period begins with the decree of Artaxerxes in 457 B.C. does it finish anywhere near the time of Jesus, to which Daniel 9:25 clearly extends it (see also John 1:41). If one starts the prophecy with either the decree of Cyrus or Darius, more than half a century earlier, one cannot possibly trace the prophecy to Jesus’ time. Second, only if the “weeks” in this passage are understood as years can the prophecy be extended to the time of Christ. No one could possibly claim that sixty-nine or seventy literal weeks extend from any of the decrees restoring Jerusalem until the time of Christ. The year-day explanation for this passage is thus the only one that makes sense.

Once the date 457 is established—as evidenced by the reference in Ezra 6:14 to the authority of the combined decrees of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes—we have no problem establishing the other dates for this prophecy. To haggle over exact proof for each of these dates is beside the point once we acknowledge that no date but 457, and no method but the year-day principle, has any hope of connecting this prophecy to the time of the Messiah as stated in Daniel 9:25.

Do the Seventy Weeks and 2300 Days Begin Together?

Ratzlaff claims that no support exists for the Adventist belief “that these 2300 years begin centuries before the ‘little horn’ began his attack on the sanctuary,”27 nor for the belief “that the 2300 years begin at the same time as the seventy weeks.”28

But it is clear that the only part of the vision of Daniel 8 which the prophet didn’t understand was “the vision of the evening and the morning” (verse 26)—that is, the vision found in Daniel 8:14. Concerning this part of the vision, Daniel was told to “shut up the vision, for it shall be for many days” (verse 26). Daniel goes on to say: “I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it” (verse 27). This obviously doesn’t refer to the earlier part of this vision, which the angel Gabriel had already explained to Daniel (verses 16-25). It is the final part of this vision (verse 14) for which Daniel sought understanding in the prayer found in Daniel 9 (verses 4-20). At the close of his prayer we find Gabriel, whom Daniel “had seen in the vision at the beginning” (verse 21), coming to explain the vision further. The “vision at the beginning” is obviously the vision in the previous chapter which was not fully explained. No other vision is recalled in these verses. Gabriel then says to Daniel, “Understand the matter, and consider the vision” (Daniel 9:23).

The belief that the 490 years of the seventy-week prophecy are “cut off” from the 2300 years of the previous vision is therefore based on the fact that Gabriel came to explain to Daniel what he didn’t yet understand regarding the vision of chpater 8—namely, verse 14—which neither Daniel nor any others could figure out (Daniel 8:26-27). No other vision is in focus here, and no other part of the vision of chapter 8 was left unexplained to Daniel.

But can we prove, as Ratzlaff claims we can’t, that the 490 years should be cut off from the beginning of the 2300 days? To answer this we must return to the parallel between the vision of Daniel 8 and that of Daniel 7. The little horn’s actions in Daniel 7 are followed by a judgment scene (verses 9-14). The little horn’s actions in chapter 8 are followed by the cleansing of a sanctuary (verse 14). The obvious parallel of these chapters makes it clear that the judgment scene and the cleansing of the sanctuary refer to the same event. What is more, the judgment scene in chapter 7 does not occur until after the reign of the little horn, which lasts for “a time and times and the dividing of time” (verse 25). This time period occurs here, as elsewhere (Revelation 12:6, 14; 13:5), in a chapter which describes events which take place over centuries. The year-day interpretation of this period is thus entirely consistent with the context.

Once we do this, we see that this period must begin sometime after the fall of pagan Rome, extending 1,260 years afterward. If the judgment scene in chapter 7 (which parallels the cleansing of the sanctuary in chapter 8) occurs after the close of this period, it is clear that the 490 years of the seventy-week prophecy must be cut off from the beginning of the 2300 years of Daniel 8:14.

Ratzlaff tries to dispute the validity of the 1,260-year prophecy, declaring that “nothing significant even happened in 538.”29 However, the evidence of history states otherwise. Daniel 7 speaks of how the little horn would uproot three of the previously described ten horns (verses 8, 24). Robert Browning, in his recent book Justinian and Theodora, speaks in great detail of how the Heruli, the Vandals, and the Ostrogoths were uprooted by the Byzantine Empire in its effort to establish the Church’s authority. Browning describes the conquest of the Heruli and their king Odoacer by the Byzantine emperor Zeno (30), then goes on to describe Justinian’s final battle with the Vandals in 534:

After a swift reconaissance, Belisarius (the Byzantine general) attacked the Vandal camp. Gelimer did not attempt to defend it, but fled westward into Numbersdia. The rest of his army followed their king’s example, abandoning their families and all their possessions. The Vandal force no longer existed. Indeed, the Vandals as a people vanished from the face of the earth.31

Browning then describes the re-taking of Rome from the Ostrogoths in the spring of 538,32 and states that shortly thereafter, “the Ostrogothic kingdom had ceased to exist.”33

In its article on Belisarius, the most recent edition of the Encyclopedia Americana describes the victory over the Ostrogoths in Rome, in 538:

In 535 Belisarius recovered Sicily, and in 536 all Italy south of Rome feel to him. He entered Rome in December 536, withstanding the enemy’s siege until it was raised in March 538.34

Katharine Scherman, in The Birth of France, describes the aftermath of this re-conquest:

The Church, with the shadow of the ancient authority behind it, was the only symbol left of imperial Rome, and its bishop, the Pope, was the city’s only recourse for leadership and protection.… The Roman Empire in Europe would be replaced by the spiritual empire—which came to be temporal as well—whose reigning seigneur was the bishop of Rome.

As for the Ostrogoths, with the defeat and dethronement of their leader and the destruction of their army, they passed out of Italian history; in fact, out of history altogether.35

The reader should be aware that Browning’s book has been a History Book Club Selection for a number of years, which is where the present writer purchased it. Scherman’s book was a Book-of-the-Month Club Selection in 1987, the year of its publication. Thus, despite Ratzlaff’s claims, the authenticity of 538 is attested by reputable, contemporary historians with no connection whatsoever to Adventism.

The Focus of the Judgment

Ratzlaff maintains, like Ford and others, that the judgment described in Daniel 7 and the sanctuary cleansing of Daniel 8 are not a judgment of God’s people, but of God’s enemies. In his list of 22 objections to the sanctuary doctrine, Ratzlaff includes the following:

18. That the cleansing of the sanctuary in Daniel 8:14 has to do with the sins of the professed believers in Christ. (Though the context has to do with the defilement accomplished by Antichrist, and the host of God’s people who are suffering, not sinning.)36

19. That the cleansing of Daniel 8:14 is also found in Daniel 7 in its judgment scene, and that the latter also has to do with investigation of the sins of the saints. (Though again in Daniel 7 as in 8, it is a wicked power which is the focus of the judgment.)37

This argument stems from a failure to consider either the whole of Scripture as it concerns the judgment, or the whole of the book of Daniel itself. Here we see a clear example of how critics of Adventism have replaced the Bible’s explanation of itself with the methods of higher criticism. Robert Brinsmead, with a view similar to Ford’s and Ratzlaff’s, offers the following criticism of the Adventist understanding of Daniel 7:

Our traditional interpretation misses the whole feeling of apocalyptic literature, which sees everything in stark black and white, with no ambiguity between the enemy and the covenantal people.38

Here we see another way in which higher criticism destroys respect for the Bible, reducing it in this case to an instrument of national pride and partisanship (“We’re all good, and our enemies are all bad”), rather than a call to spiritual purity which professed believers as well as their enemies must obey.

We cannot judge the apocalyptic literature of the Bible by what we find in uninspired apocalyptic literature. The Bible is its own interpreter. It is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16), and is therefore on a plane different from any literature produced by man. As we’ve noted already, the Holy Spirit is the author of these materials (2 Peter 1:20-21), and they must be compared with each other in order to be understood (1 Corinthians 2:12-14). The key to understanding what the Spirit inspires is to compare it with other statements inspired by the same Spirit, not to compare it with literature which may be similar in form and appearance, but which the Spirit did not inspire.

Apocalyptic literature outside the Bible may indeed contain “no ambiguity between the enemy and the covenantal people,”39 but the Bible most definitely doesn’t follow this pattern. Daniel’s prayer in chapter 9 makes it clear that it was the sins of God’s professed people that were responsible for their oppression by their enemies (verses 3- 20). The apostle John’s letters to the seven churches in the apocalyptic book of Revelation give similar evidence of unclear loyalties among those claiming to follow God, and thus the need for God to distinguish between true and false believers. The call of the fourth angel in Revelation 18:4: “Come out of her, My people,” makes it clear that God has true people who belong for a time to the apostate system called Babylon.

The Bible’s apocalyptic portions, like the rest of the Bible, make it clear that God will judge not only His avowed enemies, but also those who falsely profess His name. This point is further enforced by our awareness that the little horn (the papacy) is a professedly Christian power. The man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2, which represents the same power, is described as seating himself “in the temple of God” (verse 4), a term used elsewhere in Paul’s writings with reference to the church (1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:19-21). Those within the ranks of this apostate power who have rejected God’s truth and persecuted His messengers while professing His name, will be judged in the investigative judgment along with God’s true followers, much as the ancient Day of Atonement involved the judgment of both righteous and wicked Israelites (Leviticus 23:28-30).

The Books of Judgment

Ratzlaff declares that the only pre-second-advent judgment taught in the Bible is the acquittal believers presumably experience when they accept the “gospel” of forensic righteousness alone. In Ratzlaff’s words:

This pre-advent judgment is not some investigative judgment where Jesus and the onlooking universe are pouring over the record books of heaven, measuring character to see who is worthy of eternal life.40

But our last article demonstrated conclusively from Scripture that God’s judgment of human beings will be based on a measure of their character to determine their fitness for eternal life (Ecclesiastes 12:14; Matthew 12:36-37; 25:34-46; Romans 2:6-10; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Moreover, the book of Daniel is unmistakably clear that the opening of heaven’s books by God and Christ in the presence of the universe (Daniel 7:9-14) is a judgment to determine who God will deliver in the last days. We read in Daniel 12, verse 1:

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time, and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book (emphasis supplied).

This is obviously a reference to the books described in chapter 7, since no other books are described by Daniel in the context of the saints’ deliverance. Once again, we need to compare Scripture with Scripture. We first find reference to books of judgment in Moses’ prayer for Israel following the golden calf apostasy:

Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin—; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written. And the Lord said unto Moses, Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book (Exodus 32:32-33).

Without question, the book here described is the same as the one in Daniel 12:1, in which the names of God’s redeemed will be found written at the end of time. Elsewhere the Bible calls this book the book of life (Philippians. 4:3; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 20:12,15; 21:27; 22:19). David knew of this book when he prayed concerning God’s enemies, “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous” (Psalm 69:28; see also Isaiah 4:3). Jesus referred to this book when He urged His disciples to “rejoice, because your names are written in heaven“(Luke 10:20).

But Daniel 7:10 speaks of books (plural) being opened, indicating that heaven’s archives include more than one book. Malachi 3:16 speaks of a “book of remembrance” which “was written before Him (the Lord) for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.” Describing his pleas to God for justice, David prayed, “Put Thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book?” (Psalm 56:8). Nehemiah prayed at one point: “Remember me, O God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof” (Nehemiah 13:14). These references clearly have the book of remembrance in mind, which will be one of the books opened in the final judgment when the righteous are examined.

The book of Revelation describes the executive judgment of all humanity at the end of the millennium, using language very similar to Daniel 7:

And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things written in the books, according to their works (Revelation 20:12).

Some might ask how we can be sure that the judgment described in Daniel 7 isn’t the same as the one described in Revelation 20, the latter judgment clearly taking place after Jesus’ coming rather than before. Two reasons make it clear that the judgment of Daniel 7 is pre-second advent: First, Daniel 7 does not describe Jesus as coming to earth to render judgment. Rather, He is described as coming “to the Ancient of Days” (the Father) (verse 13) to receive His kingdom, the members of which are determined by the investigation of heaven’s books (Daniel 12:1; Revelation 3:5). Second, we find the following passage in Revelation which describes a judgment of the dead while they are still in their graves:

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them: and it was said unto them that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow-servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled (Revelation 6:9-11; see also 11:18-19).

This judgment of the dead obviously occurs before the dead are resurrected, since the dead are told (symbolically) to rest a little longer. This is obviously a different judgment from the one described in Revelation 20 (where the dead have all been resurrected), though the same books of record are referred to. Moreover, the saints have already been delivered in Revelation 20, and are depicted as sitting in judgment on the wicked (verse 4). By contrast, the judgment in Daniel 7 and Revelation 6 is for determining who in fact will be found written in God’s book of life, and thus eternally delivered (Daniel 12:1).

We noted earlier God’s statement to Moses, “Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book” (Exodus 32:33). The Bible declares that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23; 5:12). How, then, can any of us escape being blotted out of God’s book?

The book of Revelation gives the answer:

He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed with white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels (Revelation 3:5).

Those whose names are retained in the book of life are those who have overcome their sins, for which they would otherwise be blotted out. However, none can be overcomers in their own strength. Revelation states elsewhere that the righteous overcome Satan “by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11). Elsewhere the same author declares that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Jesus declares: “Without Me, ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). But another New Testament promise declares: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Ratzlaff denounces Ellen White for teaching that “as Christ was perfect in His life, His followers are to be perfect in their lives.”41 Yet the overcoming promised to the saints in Revelation is explicitly compared to that of Jesus:

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcome, and am set down with My Father in His throne (Revelation 3:21; see also 1 Peter 2:21, 22; Revelation 14:5).


Like his views on the doctrine of salvation, Ratzlaff’s attacks on the Adventist understanding of the book of Daniel fail to take the whole of Scripture into account. His endorsement of the “Antiochus” interpretation of the little-horn power, together with his denial of the significance of 538, betray an equally light esteem for the facts of history.

Despite the popularity of these criticisms among former Adventists and non-Adventists, despite reams of “scholarly” discourse which at times may sound impressive, one simple fact remains: Once the Bible is permitted to explain itself, free of contrived theological and higher-critical assumptions, the Adventist sanctuary doctrine stands on solid Biblical ground.

Our next article will examine various New Testament arguments raised by Ratzlaff against the sanctuary doctrine.


1. Dale Ratzlaff, The Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventists: An Evangelical Resource/An Appeal to SDA Leadership (Sedona, AZ: Life Assurance Ministries, 1996).
2. Ibid., pp. 210, 215, 319, 325, 333, 340, 345, 352, 353.
3. Ibid., pp. 27, 167-181.
4. Ibid., p. 175.
5. Ibid., pp. 65, 89, 169-172.
6. Ibid., p. 170.
7. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible texts are from the King James Version.
8. Michael Grant, From Alexander to Cleopatra: The Hellenistic World (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982), pp. 102, 279.
9. Colleen McCullough, The First Man in Rome (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1990), pp. 304-307.
10. Ratzlaff, Cultic Doctrine, p. 169.
11. Ibid., pp. 65, 169.
12. Ibid., pp. 65, 171, 172.
13. Ibid., p. 176.
14. See Gerhard F. Hasel, “The Little Horn, the Saints, and the Sanctuary in Daniel 8,“The Sanctuary and the Atonement (Washington, D.C: Review and Herald Publishing Assn., 1981), p. 196.
15. Ratzlaff, Cultic Doctrine, pp. 175-181.
16. Ibid., p. 176.
17. See Hasel, The Sanctuary and the Atonement, p. 195.
18. Ibid.
19. Ratzlaff, Cultic Doctrine, pp. 88, 89.
20. Ibid., p. 89.
21. See Hasel, “Christ’s Atoning Ministry in Heaven,” p. 270.
22. ________, The Sanctuary and the Atonement, p. 227.
23. Ratzlaff, Cultic Doctrine, pp. 176, 177.
24. Stephen Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery (New York: Methuen Inc, 1985), pp. 175, 203, 204.
25. Ratzlaff, Cultic Doctrine, pp. 176, 177.
26. Ibid., pp. 177, 178.
27. Ibid., p. 177.
28. Ibid.
29. Ibid., p. 76.
30. Robert Browning, Justinian and Theodora (New York: Thames & Hudson, 1987), pp. 24, 25.
31. Ibid., p. 98.
32. Ibid., p. 111.
33. Ibid., p. 114.
34. “Belisarius,“Encyclopedia Americana, vol. 3 (Danielury, CT: Groilier, Inc., 1997), p. 502.
35. Katharine Scherman, The Birth of France: Warriors, Bishops, and Long-haired Kings (New York: Random House, 1987), pp. 164, 165.
36. Ratzlaff, Cultic Doctrine, p. 180.
37. Ibid.
38. Robert D. Brinsmead, Judged by the Gospel: A Review of Adventism (Fallbrook, CA: Verdict Publications, 1980), pp. 66, 67.
39. Ibid., p. 67.
40. Ratzlaff, Cultic Doctrine, p. 263.
41. Ibid., p. 215.

(Note: The above article was published on on December 3, 2004 and has been posted here with the permission of the author and Please click here to go to the original link.)

About the Author: Pastor Kevin D. Paulson serves on the pastoral staff of the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Through the years he has published articles in many publications. He is also editor of Quo Vadis, a truth-filled magazine predominantly featuring the work of SDA young people. Kevin is also the speaker for “Know Your Bible,” a radio program broadcast each Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on WMCA 570 AM, in Hasbrouk Heights, New Jersey. Pastor Paulson received his BA in Theology from Pacific Union College in 1982 and an MA in Systematic Theology from Loma Linda University in 1987.