The Gospel According to 1844 
 by Shawn Brace

(The original article appears at:

Shawn pastors four congregations in New Hampshire and Vermont. He and his wife, Camille, recently welcomed their first child, Camden Shawn, into the world. Shawn also started and edits New England Pastor--a bi-monthly magazine that uplifts the message of righteousness by faith. His first book, Waiting at the Altar, came out in 2008. When he isn't busy pastoring, speaking, or writing, he loves spending time outdoors doing just about anything--but especially photographing the beauty of New England. You can catch Shawn's musings over at the New England Pastor blog.

1844. I've never understood why something that is such good news is viewed as such bad news. God wants to make sure that the right people get into heaven so that the universe can be eternally secure, free from the possibility of people getting hurt again by others. He wants to cleanse us from our preoccupation with self-again, eliminating our habit of causing pain to Him and to others. He wants to open himself up to the universe so that we can trust that His salvation decisions are based on reality, rather than some heavenly fantasy-world.

What's the problem here? Remind me how this is a bad thing.

And yet, there are many still today within the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as the Christian church at large, who continue to fight--tooth and nail--to discredit this biblical teaching. There are a thousand different voices, saying a thousand different things. "The day-year principle is unbiblical." "The Hebrew word sadaq in Daniel 8:14 does not mean to ‘cleanse' but to ‘restore.'" "The book of Hebrews says that Christ went directly into the Most Holy Place to start His Day of Atonement ministry upon His ascension." "The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary idea was just a teaching the early Adventist believers concocted to ‘save face.'" I have heard, and continue to hear, all these arguments and, to be quite honest, they puzzle me. I don't want to belittle anyone's legitimate questions about this teaching. I know there are sincere people who do have sincere questions about this concept. But there seems to be a whole camp of people who--though claiming to be the epitome of open-mindedness--seem to be very closed-minded when it comes to the thousands of pages of scholarly material that the church has published on this question.
[1] Color me naïve, but the validity of the doctrine itself seems to be pretty settled.

But that's not why I am writing about this doctrine. I don't want to rehash a topic that has already been debated ad nauseum. I want to take a step back and discuss it from a philosophical perspective, understanding the real heart of 1844--and then address why this doctrine seems to be anathema in many peoples' thinking. To me, the arguments that are used against the doctrine are simply "smoke screens" to what the real issue is. But I don't want to get ahead of myself.

The Gospel

As I already hinted at in the introduction, 1844 is full of good news. Though some may be scratching their heads, let me present my views on why the Investigative Judgment is good news before you discount this proposition. Some of you have probably already heard these concepts before, and some others may pull a Barack Obama and say that "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig," but I ask for your prayerful and humble consideration of these ideas.

So let me bring to your attention three reasons why 1844 and the Investigative Judgment are good news. There are more, to be sure, but let me highlight three:

1. Eternal Security. While many Christians worry about their long-term standing with God, and others wonder if they are "eternally secure," God's chief objective--or at least one of His prime objectives--in this whole plan of salvation is to achieve eternal security for the whole universe. He wants us to rest assured, when He tucks us in at night, that we do not have to worry about pain, suffering, and hurt ever rising up again. (As an aside, if we are worried that the sanctuary doctrine robs people of their assurance of salvation, it does not--if properly understood and presented.)

That this is good news was reinforced in my mind when I wrote on this subject for my blog a
few months ago, and a couple friends of mine from another faith community gave me kudos for the concept. They were thrilled by it.

Why? Though they did not tell me, I know that they are going through a lot of personal turmoil in their own church. They have fallen prey to another "Christian" who has not been disciplined because of his behavior. And they have essentially been left out in the cold by their own pastor. So, for them, to know--beyond a shadow of a doubt--that such behavior will not crop up again after God comes back to set things right is incredibly reassuring. Yes, as Nahum 1:9 tells us, "Affliction will not rise up a second time." And this is, indeed, good news.

Interestingly, I just came across this quote from Ellen White this morning for another reason that I think speaks powerfully to this point: "Those who listen to his [Satan's] voice will demerit others and will misrepresent and falsify in order to build up themselves. But nothing that defiles can enter heaven, and unless those who cherish this spirit are changed, they can never enter there, for they would criticize the angels. They would envy another's crown. They would not know what to talk of unless they could bring up the imperfections and errors of others" (Review and Herald, September 14, 1897, emphasis added).

Think of the angels' experience if they had to suffer at the hands of all these critical and envious humans for eternity! And think of our experience if someone were always pointing out our imperfections (and, trust me, even if we are "perfect" in heaven, people who are highly critical would still find some "imperfection" to criticize).

2. God's Humility. To me, it is an awesome thing to realize that God is willing to open Himself up to be investigated. He does not expect us to merely believe, without evidence, that the right people have been given eternal life, and the right people have been left out. I don't know about you, but if I see Adolph Hitler in heaven, I am going to have some serious questions! And so when I approach God and say, "Wait a minute: why is this guy here?" God is not going to say, "Never mind that. Don't question me." He will open up His "records," and show me--and anyone else--the precise reason why Hitler is there. And I will be assured that God is not simply arbitrarily assigning the destiny of the universe.

3. The Eradication of Self. At its core, the sanctuary doctrine has the main purpose of eradicating selfishness from the human heart. And this is good news--although, as we will discover in the next section, this is also bad news for some. Time and time again I have discovered the beautiful reality that the less I think about self the more fulfilling my life is. Any time I decide to lose sense of self and not worry about #1, it's almost like a huge burden is lifted.

And yet, surprisingly, like a dog that returns to its vomit, I keep returning to my selfish ways--all the while living an unfulfilled life. But the sanctuary doctrine--as seen in the cleansing of the Most Holy Place--is all about cleansing us of self, and that's a good thing. I can rest assured in the beautiful promise that God is working on my behalf right now, not simply to forgive me so I can do it all over again, but to completely cleanse me from unrighteousness. Yes, God's grace is strong enough to keep me from "stumbling" (see Jude 24), from hurting myself and others over and over again.

And yet, this last bit of good news is also the reason why I believe so many people reject this doctrine.

A Rejection of the Gospel

This may not seem politically correct, and it may not be very palatable to some, but I think, at its core, the reason for the rejection of the sanctuary doctrine is because it does lead to the eradication of self--and this is too much for many to bear. As I said above, all these other objections are simply "smoke screens," I do believe, merely masking what is really going on.

Now, don't get me wrong: I have no doubt that there are many sincere people who have rejected this concept on purely intellectual grounds. I am not saying that everyone who rejects it is doing so because they are self-centered. But it is my sincere and humble belief that the majority do reject it because of what they realize it will do to self. This may not even be a conscious realization on their part. But if we were to peel back the layers, I think this would become evident.

Let's be honest: as sinful human beings, we like sin. It's that plain and simple. We like flirting with temptation, getting our own way, pushing self forward. We don't like to be held accountable. So something that calls for humility, the eradication of sin, the elimination of pride, well, the sinful human body has a natural defensive reaction against that. We are hard-wired to protect self. Even evolutionary biology proposes as much. And yet this is precisely what Christ is trying to accomplish in His heavenly sanctuary mission.

And I want to add two more things: if you have gotten this far and detected that I am in any way implying that I feel like self has been totally eradicated in me, I want to completely disavow you of that notion. I am in no way superior to anyone. I stand with Paul when he says that he is the "chief" of sinners.

And, secondly, I think many people have been disillusioned with this beautiful doctrine because they have read it on paper but not seen it in "shoes," so to speak. Some of the staunchest proponents of the sanctuary doctrine are also some of the most ornery, unpleasant, and unloving individuals on the planet. We have missed the point--the very heart of the message--if this is our experience. For Christ is desperately trying to transform the human heart through his sanctuary cleansing and implant agape love completely into our lives.

[1] See, for example, the seven volume Daniel & Revelation Committee Series, edited by Frank B. Holbrook and published by the Biblical Research Institute, available online at; or Roy Gane, Altar Call (Berrien Springs, Mich.: Diadem, 1999), available in its entirety online at; or numerous articles by Richard M. Davidson, all available in pdf format from his website, under the "sanctuary" heading.