For the first time in decades I did a live presentation of my 1844 Made Simple seminar. I had written a book in 1988 with the aforementioned title and presented the seminar at churches and camp meetings until moving on to other things (about five years ago I did put a taped version of it online [see 1844madesimple.org]).
Recently, doing the presentation live, perhaps for the first time since the early 1990s (interestingly, at a retreat for hearing-impaired Seventh-day Adventists), I was re-invigorated by the topic. First, I saw again that the 2,300 “evening and morning” prophecy of Daniel 8:14 really does come to 1844! Second, I saw again how important this event is to salvation history. It is what leads to the second coming of Jesus. Third, I saw again that the centrality of the gospel, as revealed in the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, provides the key to helping solve the conundrum that all Protestants have faced: how to harmonize salvation by faith with judgment by works.
Yet 1844 is mentioned today mostly in connection with another anniversary of The Great Disappointment.
That’s unfortunate, because the 1844 sanctuary message is a powerful and pertinent truth, “present truth,” one that is uniquely ours and helps define who we are. Our pioneers dug deeply, having constructed a solid biblical foundation for us to build on. And building on that foundation now, I will focus on the importance of the 1844 cleansing of the sanctuary.
First, like the parallel prophecies of Daniel 2 and 7, Daniel 8 consists of a sequence of earthly empires that exist until God supernaturally brings it all to close at the end of time. Gabriel, the angel interpreter in Daniel 8, says that “the vision concerns the time of the end” (verse 17) and later refers to “the appointed time of the end” (verse 19). And because Daniel 2 and 7 reach to the end of the world, the parallel chapter of the Daniel 8 does the same, a truth made even more obvious by the supernatural demise of the last earthly power depicted in Daniel 8 (verse 25).
In addition, Jesus Himself, in the context of the end of the world—“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:14)—immediately pointed to prophecies linked to Daniel 8 (Dan. 8:11-14; 9:27; 11:31; 12:11). Jesus then placed the fulfillment of these prophecies in the future. This is another reason it’s hard to take seriously any interpretation of Daniel 8 that ends it almost 200 years before Jesus, especially when Jesus Himself places the fulfillment of those same prophecies in the future from when He, Jesus, was speaking about them.
The vision in Daniel 8 (verses 1-14) consisted of four sequential events:
The ram is named as Media and Persia (Dan. 8:20), the goat as Greece (verse 21). Though the little horn is not named, only one power arose after ancient Greece and, still, exists today—which it has to because it’s supernaturally destroyed at the end time. This same power “shall be broken without hand” (Dan. 8:25, KJV), a clear allusion to the “stone cut out without hands” in Daniel 2 (verse 34, KJV), the stone that will end our present world.
What power arose after ancient Greece and exists today? Only Rome, first pagan and then papal, fits. What else? More so, by linking the prophecies of Daniel 8 to the persecution that would come to the church from Rome (Matt. 24:15-20), Jesus all but identifies Rome as the last earthly power of Daniel 8.
Then we come to the climax of the prophecy—the cleansing of the sanctuary (Dan. 8:14).
Hence, Daniel 8 could be summarized:
Media and Persia had been a very important power in the history of the ancient world, and it was the nation that brought the Jews back from Babylon. Greece, under Alexander the Great, then his later generals, had an even bigger role in world history and with God’s people. And Rome—pagan and papal? Please! It would be hard to underestimate the influence of Rome on the world and the church.
The point? With the first three elements of the prophecy being major historical events, what should this automatically teach us about the final and climactic one—the cleansing of the sanctuary?
Of course, it must be of major significance, as well. Even if you don’t believe in the Seventh-day Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14, whatever happened at the end of the 2,300 days must be something on par, perhaps even bigger, than all that preceded it.
It is. It’s the great judgment scene in the parallel prophecy of Daniel 7—the judgment that leads to God’s eternal kingdom (see Dan. 7:9, 10, 13, 14, 17, 18, 26, 27). The cleansing of the sanctuary is the climax to these other kingdoms because it is what ushers in the climactic kingdom of them all—God’s.
Daniel 8, thus, could be expressed like this:
While the rest of the Christian world has Daniel 8 ending 200 years before Christ, Seventh-day Adventists alone proclaim the great news of the pre-advent judgment, which brings in the second coming of Jesus and the end of this world, “when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24).
If this is not important, what is?
Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His latest book, Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity, available from Pacific Press.