Magazine Article

The Great Central Subject

Uriah Smith
The Great Central Subject

This month features an article from November 22, 1881, in the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald in which Uriah Smith speaks of the central importance of the sanctuary and how it integrates 10 doctrinal teachings. —Editors.

In the Bible-lecture class in the College, the subject of the sanctuary has been under investigation for the past week.* At every examination of this question, the evidence in behalf of the view held by S. D. Adventists appears more satisfactory, the testimony more clearly defined and positive, and the possibility of any well-supported objection fainter and fainter; and in just the same proportion our wonder increases that any who are interested in the great question of the second coming of Christ should reject this view of the subject, and persist in clinging to that misapplication which was the cause of the great disappointment in 1844, and from which has largely resulted the confusion and failures among first-day Adventists since that time. As we look at it, their attitude toward the S. D. Adventist view must result from a wonderful indifference which prevents their examining the subject, or from a strong personal interest in some direction. That this may appear the more clearly, let us look at some of the difficulties solved and the doctrines established by this question.

The view that the sanctuary of the new covenant is in Heaven; that it is cleansed by the service of our great High Priest in the putting away of sins; that this cleansing is the finishing of the mystery of God, Rev. 10:7, and the close of probation; and that it is for this reason, among others, a work of Judgment, marvelously simplifies some otherwise very perplexing questions, and makes room for some plainly predicted and necessary events which, on any other view, are not possible.

It makes provision for a preliminary work of Judgment, which must take place before Christ appears. The least reflection will convince anyone that when Christ reveals Himself in the clouds of heaven, there is no time given for the investigation of character, and the work of deciding who are worthy of the blessings He comes to bring; but He declares that His reward is with Him, to give every man as his work shall be; hence it must have been determined before this what every man’s reward is to be; and therefore, as soon as He appears, all the dead in Christ can be raised, while all the wicked dead are still left in their graves, and all the righteous living can be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. The subject of the sanctuary, as set forth in the Scriptures, brings this very preliminary work to view, assigns it a time and place, reveals the period of its beginning, and shows us its nature. But apart from this view of the subject, who can tell us by what this work of Judgment is determined, and when it can be accomplished?

It provides a time and place for Christ to confess before the Father and the holy angels the names of His friends, and deny those of His enemies. Matt. 10:32, 33: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven.” This He does as He finishes His work as priest in the sanctuary.

It provides a time and place for a blotting out of sins before Christ comes, as in Acts 3:19, 20, or the blotting out of names from the book of life, as in Rev. 3:5. As cases are examined in the sanctuary, the sins of all those who have secured pardon through the intercession of Christ will be blotted out of those books wherein our deeds are written; while, on the other hand, if they have not secured pardon, their names will be blotted from the book of life, and their sins retained against them.

It guards against the error of continually setting times for the Lord to come, inasmuch as it shows that no prophetic period reaches to that event—the longest and latest—the 2300 days—reaching not to the coming of the Lord, but to a work called the cleansing of the sanctuary, which must be accomplished before he comes.

It enables us to distinguish between the work of Christ as an offering for sin, and His work as a High Priest atoning for sin. In the first-named capacity He acted for all the world; in the second, for His people only; and by confounding the two, we are inevitably driven into Universalism on the one hand, or into predestinationism on the other. The subject of the sanctuary saves us from both, showing that the atonement is the very last act of Christ’s service as a priest and mediator.

It establishes the doctrine of the immutability of the law and the perpetuity of the Sabbath, by bringing to view in the temple of God in Heaven, under the sounding of the seventh angel, the ark of His [God’s] testament. Rev. 11:19. The ark was so called because it contained the tables of testimony, or tables of the ten commandments, which He calls “His” covenant. The fact that John applies the same name to it, as revealed in Heaven under the sounding of the seventh trumpet, shows that the same law exactly must be therein. Moreover, Christ’s work, to be the antitype of the work of the earthly priests, must have reference to the same law that their work had reference to, which was the law of ten commandments in the ark.

It establishes the doctrine of the soon coming of Christ; for Christ comes as soon as He has finished His work as priest, and He is now performing the closing service of that priestly work. His coming must therefore be at hand.

It establishes the doctrine of the unconscious state of the dead, by showing that no part of the Judgment, which must precede the bestowal of rewards and punishments, could be performed till Christ reached the closing division of His work as mediator. Men and women have not, therefore, through all the ages past, been going to Heaven and hell, but are resting in their graves, awaiting the decision in their cases.

It gives us more clear, definite, and beautiful views of Christ’s position and work than can be evolved from any other subject.

Finally, it sets the seal of divine truth, and of divine providence, to the message now going forth. Here we see the open door which no man can shut. Rev. 3:8. Through this, the ark of God’s testament is seen in the temple in Heaven, and no one can shut off the view. Rev. 11:19. The truth will go forth. The message will be proclaimed, though God should have to find new messengers to carry it. The work cannot be overthrown, and will not come to naught; for it is the work of God, and cannot fail.

Do we make enough of this great central subject of that system of truth which belongs to this time? Line upon line must be given, till the people are made familiar with all its parts. Study to present it in such a way as to arrest attention, and show the importance which attaches to it. May Heaven speed the messages forward in mighty power!

*[Uriah Smith], “The Great Central Subject,” Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Nov. 22, 1881, p. 328.

Uriah Smith

Uriah Smith was the editor of the Review intermittently between 1855 and 1903.