A Work of Preparation

God’s special work

Ted N. C. Wilson
A Work of Preparation
Photo by C D-X on Unsplash

A pivotal event in the history of the Advent movement is the Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844, when believers anticipated the Lord’s return and were bitterly disappointed when He did not come. While many gave up hope, a small group clung to God’s Word. They studied and prayed until they found that the key to unlocking the mystery of their great disappointment was in understanding what the Bible teaches about the sanctuary.1 

This was such a powerful revelation to the early Advent believers because, as Ellen White explains, “it opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, showing that God’s hand had directed the great advent movement and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of His people.”2

As the early Adventists studied, the beauty and harmony of Scripture began to shine brightly into their hearts and minds. They saw the connection of the prophecy in Daniel 8:14, “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” (KJV), with the declaration of the first angel of Revelation 14, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come” (verse 7).

They better understood that “Christ had come, not to the earth as they expected, but, as foreshadowed in the type, to the most holy place of the temple of God in heaven.”3

This event was described by the prophet Daniel: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him” (Dan. 7:13, KJV).

They realized the prophet Malachi was describing the same event when he wrote, “The Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 3:1, KJV).

The coming of the Lord to His temple was sudden and unexpected for His people, because they were not expecting Him to come there; they were looking for Him to come to the earth!

A Work of Preparation

Furthermore, they were not yet ready to meet their Lord. We are told that “there was still a work of preparation to be accomplished for them.”4

The passage in Malachi 3:2, 3clearly explains this work:

“But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (KJV).

Commenting on this passage in Malachi, the Lord’s messenger wrote:

“Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil. While the investigative judgment is going forward in heaven, while the sins of penitent believers are being removed from the sanctuary, there is to be a special work of purification, of putting away of sin, among God’s people upon earth. This work is more clearly presented in the messages of Revelation 14. When this work shall have been accomplished, the followers of Christ will be ready for His appearing. . . . Then the church which our Lord at His coming is to receive to Himself will be a ‘glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.’ ”5

God’s Special Work

At first this may seem overwhelming. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is God’s special work of purification! He is the one who provides the “spotless robe.” It is Hisblood that purifies us. It is His grace that empowers us to “be conquerors in the battle with evil.” God is the only one who can help us be conquerors in the battle with evil—without Him we are hopelessly lost in sin.

During the time of the earthly temple, the Day of Atonement was the most important day of the year. People searched their hearts, confessed their sins, and made sure they were right with God. Since we are now living in the “antitypical day of atonement,”6 this passage reminds us that God is longing to purify our hearts and to prepare us as individuals, and as a church, for His soon return.

Two Separate Events

While some may believe this passage in Malachi 3 is referring to Christ’s second coming, Ellen White makes it clear that while Malachi does talk about the second coming in some passages, this is not one of them.  She writes: “This coming, and the coming of the Lord to His temple, are distinct and separate events.”7

She explains further: “The coming of Christ as our high priest to the most holy place, for the cleansing of the sanctuary, brought to view in Daniel 8:14; the coming of the Son of man to the Ancient of Days, as presented in Daniel 7:13; and the coming of the Lord to His temple, foretold by Malachi, are descriptions of the same event.”8

Clearly the Bible speaks with one voice as it proclaims the antitypical day of atonement—the time in which we are now living.

The Wedding Garment

In Matthew 22Jesus speaks of a wedding feast. In this parable an investigative judgment takes place as the king examines the guests to ensure that all are wearing the wedding garment he graciously provided. This spotless robe of character, represented by the wedding garment, has been washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, as described in Revelation 7:14.

In the parable the king approaches a guest not wearing a wedding garment and kindly asks, “Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?” (Matt. 22:12). The guest was speechless.

“Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’ ” (verse 13).

Friend, are you wearing Christ’s robe of righteousness? Are you allowing Him to wash you in the blood of the Lamb? Now is the time to allow Him to do His special work of purification in our hearts so that we will be ready for His appearing.

1 See “What Adventists Believe About Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary,” bit.ly/Christsministry.

2 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 423.

3 Ibid., p. 424.

4 Ibid., pp. 424, 425.

5 Ibid., p. 425.

6 See S. N. Haskell, “Duty of the Congregation on the Day of Atonement,” The Cross and Its Shadow, pp. 220-228, bit.ly/antitypicaldayofatonement.

7 E. G. White, p. 426.

8 Ibid.

Ted N. C. Wilson