f you were a Hebrew during the wilderness wanderings, you would learn about the plan of salvation from the portable tabernacle, because through the sanctuary service the gospel was presented to Israel (Heb. 4:2).
Suppose, though, that your understanding of the plan of salvation was limited only to the death of the animal; that is, you knew only the part of the service that centered around the sacrifice (Lev. 4:4). If nothing else was explained to you about the ministry of the priesthood with the blood of the slain animals brought into the sanctuary (Lev. 4:5-7), would you not have a more limited understanding of salvation than someone who understood not only the death of the animal but the ministry in the tabernacle with that animal’s blood, particularly the ministry on the Day of Atonement when the high priest once a year went into the Most Holy Place to perform the work of cleansing the sanctuary (Lev. 16)?
Who would have a larger grasp of salvation—the one whose focus, knowledge, and interest ended with the death of the animal (symbolic of the cross) or the one whose understanding encompassed the entire sanctuary ritual, starting with the death of the animals and culminating with the Day of Atonement, when the sanctuary itself was cleansed by the blood of that slain animal (symbolic of the judgment)?
The answer’s obvious. In the same way, those whose understanding of the plan of salvation is limited only to the cross (Col. 1:20) without all that happens afterward (Heb. 8:1, 2), including the judgment (Heb. 10:30), have a truncated view of the cross. We can’t fully understand the death of the animal without understanding the service that followed it, just as we can’t fully understand the cross without understanding the ministry that follows it, which includes the judgment, as typified by the Day of Atonement ritual.
Here’s the question: Was there any tension, much less contradiction, between the death of the animals, which symbolized the cross, and the ministry of the high priest in the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement, which symbolized the judgment? Were these two actions—i.e., the death of the animal, the ministry in the Second Apartment—opposed to or in contradiction to each other? Of course not. As two parts of the whole, both were crucial aspects of the plan of salvation.
If a person’s understanding, therefore, of what happened with the death of the animal were in tension, or in contradiction, with that person’s understanding of the Second Apartment ministry, then that person misunderstood either the death of the animal, the ministry in the Second Apartment, or both. In the same way, if a person’s understanding of the cross (symbolized by the death of the animal) were in tension, or in contradiction, with their understanding of the pre-Advent judgment (symbolized by the Second Apartment ministry), then that person misunderstands either the cross, the judgment, or both.
Unfortunately, many Adventists have struggled with the pre-Advent judgment, seeing it as something not just in tension with the cross but in contradiction to it. Yet how could it be, if both are parts of God’s one plan of salvation?
The answer can be found in the earthly type of the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16, symbolic of the judgment. Did the high priest enter into the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement every year without blood? Of course not, for that would be death.
And here’s, I think, the crux of the problem: We Adventists have taken our people into the Most Holy Place (that is, taught them about judgment) without the blood.
In the earthly model of the Day of Atonement, everything happened with blood, not with the law; because this is the Day of Atonement and only blood, not the law, atones for sin.
However well-intentioned, many have taken our people into the Most Holy Place without the blood, and without the blood there’s only the law. And to stand before the law, without the sprinkling of the blood, guarantees condemnation and loss in the judgment.
Bottom line: If the High Priest never went into the Most Holy Place without blood, how dare we?