Built Upon the Rock
by E.H. ‘Jack’ Sequeira

Appendix A:  The Significance of 1844, Part One

In 1888, Ellen G. White penned these words:

The Great Controversy, Page 409
The scripture which above all others had been both the foundation and the central pillar of the advent faith was the declaration:  “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed” Daniel 8:14.

Eighteen years later, in 1906, she made a similar statement:

Evangelism, Page 221
The correct understanding of the ministration in the heavenly sanctuary is the foundation of our faith.  [Letter 208, 1906.]

Both have to do with what took place in 1844.

Yet, quite early in Adventist church history, some leaders questioned the validity of this doctrine.  The first to do so was Dudley M. Canright, in 1887, followed by Albion F. Ballenger, in 1905.  Then came Louis R. Conradi, vice president of the General Conference for the Central European Division.  He first questioned the 1844 doctrine in 1928.  Not long after that, in 1930, a Bible teacher in Avondale College in Australia, William W. Fletcher, objected to the doctrine.  Finally, W.W. Prescott, a distinguished Adventist writer and scholar, saw serious flaws in the 1844 doctrine.

The main objections voiced by these men had to do with context and linguistics.

Daniel 8:14
He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”

They claimed that Daniel 8:14 is not dealing with the cleansing of the heavenly Sanctuary (as the church traditionally teaches) but is answering the question of verse 13:

Daniel 8:13
Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled — the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”

Daniel 8:13 has to do with the prosperity of the Little Horn of verse 9, as it casts the truth of the Sanctuary (the gospel in type) to the ground.

Daniel 8:9
Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land.

Furthermore, the word translated “cleansed” in Daniel 8:14 [“reconsecrated” in some translations] is not the same word found in Leviticus 16:30, in reference to the cleansing of God’s people on the Day of Atonement.

Leviticus 16:30
...Because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you.  Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins.

Then, beginning in the 1950s, evangelical scholars began attacking the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of 1844.  One scholar said:  “If Seventh-day Adventists cannot prove 1844 from the Bible, they have no right to exist as a denomination,” a statement that reflects thoughts penned many years earlier by Ellen G. White in The Great Controversy.

Another who attacked the doctrine was the late Walter Martin, who wrote in his book:

The Kingdom of the Cults
The Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of 1844 is the greatest face-saving lie in the history of the Christian Church.

Finally, on October 27, 1979, a prominent Adventist scholar, Desmond Ford, challenged elements of the 1844 doctrine at an Adventist Forum symposium at Pacific Union College, in Angwin, California.  There he claimed that 1844 as a beginning date for an end-time judgment could not be proved from the Bible.  His ministerial credentials were subsequently revoked.

The most significant recent attack, however, has come from the late Raymond Cottrell, a main contributor to the Daniel section of the Seventh-day Adventist Commentary.  At a meeting in Loma Linda, February 9, 2002, he said:  “The 1844 doctrine is a liability to the church and should be discarded.”

Dealing with the Objections

These attacks on the 1844 doctrine raise two very serious questions:

  1. Has the church been following cunningly devised fables?
  2. Was Ellen G. White wrong in her statement about Daniel 8:14 and 1844, that it is the foundation and central pillar on which Adventism stands?

If so, surely the church would appear to have little reason for continued existence.

I believe, however, that there is another way of looking at the 1844 doctrine — one that supports this pillar of the church, while acknowledging the difficulties some have had in understanding the church’s traditional exegesis of the texts.  What is that approach?

Before presenting this alternative, I must assert categorically that this new way of looking at 1844 in no way opposes or denies the traditional teachings of the church.  Rather, it defends Ellen White’s statement that 1844 is “the foundation and central pillar” of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  With this understanding, let’s look at 1844 from this different perspective.

First, the Great Disappointment of 1844 is a historical fact no one denies.  Second, while this disappointment took the Millerites by surprise — they were fully expecting Christ to return in glory on October 22, 1844 — it did not take God by surprise.  He not only knew all along that the Great Disappointment would occur, but even predicted it in Revelation 10:8-10:

Revelation 10:8-10
Then the voice that I had heard from heaven spoke to me once more:  “Go, take the scroll that lies open in the hand of the angel who is standing on the sea and on the land.”
So I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll.  He said to me, “Take it and eat it
[absorb the message].  It will turn your stomach sour, but ‘in your mouth it will be as sweet as honey.’”  I took the little scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it.  It tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour.

No event in church history fulfills this prophecy as precisely as does the Great Disappointment of 1844.  The only book in all of the Old Testament that God asked to be shut and sealed until the time of the end was the little book of Daniel:

Daniel 12:4
“But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end.  Many will go here and there [through the book of Daniel] to increase knowledge.”

For some 1,800 years the Christian church anxiously awaited the blessed hope of the Second Advent, and news that this was finally to happen on October 22, 1844, was indeed “sweet as honey,”  But, when it did not take place, it was indeed very bitter.

When we examine the history of the Millerite movement, we see clearly that not only did God prophesy the Great Disappointment of 1844, He deliberately allowed it to happen.  In the first place, God made no attempt to correct the erroneous conclusion William Miller had drawn regarding the interpretation of Daniel 8:14, though Miller had prayerfully studied the text.  God, in fact, actually opened doors so Miller could proclaim his findings publicly.

Miller told the story of falling to his knees and pleading with God that he could not proclaim the good news of the Second Coming, for he was only a farmer.  He told God that he would proclaim his discovery only if the door were divinely opened to do so.

He got up from his knees and shortly heard a knock on the door.  He opened the door, and there stood a young lad, the son of a pastor, with an invitation from his father for Miller to come and share his discoveries with his church members.  Thus began the Millerite Movement; it ended with the Great Disappointment of 1844.

Why would God allow the Great Disappointment of 1844 to occur?  There are good reasons.  First, it sifted the superficial followers from the genuine.  Though Miller had indeed misinterpreted Daniel 8:14, a small group of believers (Ellen G. White refers to them as “the little flock”) still believed that God was leading them.

Second, God intended to raise up a movement from the Great Disappointment to put the finishing touches on the restoration of the gospel.  This restoration had begun during the Reformation of the 16th Century; it ceased, unfortunately, not long after the introduction of the historical critical method of Bible interpretation.  This method questioned the Sola Scriptura [Scripture Alone] rule established by the Reformers, and this falling away is the main reason I believe God allowed the Great Disappointment to occur.

I base this conclusion on Revelation 10:11, where God commissions the little flock that came out of the Great Disappointment of 1844:

Revelation 10:11
Then I was told, “You must prophesy [proclaim] again about many peoples, nations, languages and kings.”

This commission, given to the Advent Movement of 1844, was intended to help them fulfill Matthew 24:14, the prophecy of Christ Himself made about His coming:

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

This “gospel of the kingdom,” which is Christ our Righteousness, is spelled out in more detail in Revelation 14 and is referred to there as the eternal or everlasting gospel:

Revelation 14:6 [Emphasis Added]
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people.

Ellen G. White notes:

Sons and Daughters of God, Page 259
As Christ’s ambassadors, they [Adventists] are to search the Scriptures, to seek for the truths that have been hidden beneath the rubbish of error.  And every ray of light received is to be communicated to others.  One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other — Christ our righteousness....

This is the Three Angels Message of Revelation 14:6-12, the central focus of the Seventh-day Adventist Church throughout its history:

Revelation 14:6-12
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people.  He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come.  Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen!  Fallen is Babylon the Great,’ which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice:  “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  They will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever.  There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.”
This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

The Various Gospels

This raises two questions:  What is the everlasting gospel?  And is it not being proclaimed by all denominations in Christianity? 

Let’s begin by considering the second question.  Actually, theologians recognize three main variants of the gospel, as taught today.  The first is taught by Roman Catholics.

The Roman Catholic Gospel

This is the oldest of the three and is based largely on human-derived philosophy, rather than on the Word of God.  The Roman Catholic gospel teaches that God cannot take sinners to heaven, unless He first makes them righteous.  He accomplishes this by authorizing the church to infuse sanctifying grace into the believers, through the seven sacraments.  Only those who attain 100 percent righteousness become saints and go directly to heaven.  Those Christians who fail to reach 100 percent righteousness while on earth must spend time in the fires of Purgatory, where they will be purged of all defilement.  Their time in Purgatory can be reduced through the extra merits of the Saints deposited on their account.  This so-called gospel actually offers comparatively little good news to sinners.

The Calvinist Gospel

The Calvinist gospel is the most popular approach being proclaimed within Protestant churches today.  This gospel is based on the thinking and teaching of Swiss reformer John Calvin.  Calvin strongly believed in God’s sovereignty, which to him meant that whatever God decides, simply happens.  Had God decided that all mankind should be saved, all would be saved, no questions asked!

The Bible is clear, however, that some will be lost, and this led Calvin to conclude that God arbitrarily selects some to be saved — His elect; those not chosen are simply lost.  This process is known as Predestination.  In this teaching, Christ did not redeem the entire human race on the cross, only the predestined, or elect.  The gospel of Calvinism may be summed up in the acronym TULIP:

T for Total depravity of man
U for Unconditional election
L for Limited atonement
I for Irresistible grace
P for Perseverance of the saints

While this gospel may be defined as good news, it is good news only for those predestined for salvation — the elect.  It does exclude part of the human race and, therefore, must be defined as limited good news.

The Arminian Gospel

This third gospel variant derives from the teachings of Jacob Arminius, a Dutch reformer contemporaneous with John Calvin.  According to Arminius, Jesus died for all on the cross.  Calvin, in turn, protested that Arminius made God unjust by punishing the same sin twice — once in Christ on the cross and at the end of time by destroying the wicked.  Arminius then took a wrong turn in his teaching and claimed that Christ actually saved no one on the cross, only providing the potential or provisional chance of salvation.

For this provisional salvation to become a reality, he taught, one must believe in Christ, repent from a life of sin, and confess all past sins.  Only then will God place such a person into Christ, allowing the provisional salvation to become reality.  Arminians, therefore, to this day, apply the In Christ motif only to believers, even though the apostle Paul applies the In Christ concept to the entire human race:

Romans 5:15-18
But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:  The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Ephesians 1:4; 2:5-6
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  ...[God] made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....

This gospel variant clearly includes a subtle form of legalism, since man must take the initiative by fulfilling the above requirements (faith, repentance, and confessed sins) before this provisional salvation can become a reality.

This so-called gospel is reminiscent of Galatianism; that is, salvation through Christ plus me, or faith plus works, or grace plus law-keeping:

Galatians 1:6-8
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!

Adventists traditionally belong to the Arminian group, and most have been trapped within this perverted gospel that says, “I must do my best and Christ will make up the rest.”  This was clearly demonstrated some years ago in the ValueGenesis report, where the majority of youth interviewed admitted they had no assurance of salvation, because they knew their conduct did not measure up to God’s requirements.

The Everlasting Gospel

In complete contrast to the three gospels outlined above, the everlasting gospel of Revelation 14 is based on the unconditional, self-emptying agape-love of God...

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 5:5-10
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

...and the objective facts of the In Christ motif, or idea:

1 Corinthians 1:30-31
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written:  “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Ephesians 1:3-6; 2:4-6
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.  ...But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions — it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus....

Out of pure agape-love, God united the divine zoe-life of Christ to the corporate bios-life of the fallen human race [also see two verses just above]:

Hebrews 2:14-17
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Thus, Christ became the second, or last, Adam (Adam in Hebrew means “mankind”):

1 Corinthians 15:45
So it is written:  “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.

This legally qualified Christ to become mankind’s representative and substitute, not only to save it from its acts of sin, but also from the law of sin and death in their members, or nature:

Romans 5:19a; 7:14-25; 8:1-3
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
...We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work:  Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
...Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....

Thus, by His perfect life, sacrificial death, and resurrection, Christ re-wrote mankind’s history and created a new humanity out of the old:

2 Corinthians 5:14, 17
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  ...Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!

This is the incredibly good news of the everlasting gospel.  Through it, Christ brought redemption that fully and completely justified unto life and reconciled to God the entire human race:

Romans 5:15-18
But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin:  The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.  For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
1 Corinthians 15:21-22
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.  For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

Accordingly, this everlasting gospel proclaims that, while humans were helpless, ungodly, still sinners, and even enemies of God, they were (past tense) reconciled to God by the death of His Son [also see John 3:16]:

Romans 5:6-10
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
2 Corinthians 5:18-20
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.  We implore you on Christ’s behalf:  Be reconciled to God.

Furthermore, this Plan of Redemption is eternal — it has existed in God’s mind from time immemorial, long before Creation itself:

Revelation 13:8
All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world.
2 Timothy 1:8-10
So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner.  Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.  He has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Hence, it is an “everlasting gospel.”  Because of it, mankind as a whole stands holy and blameless in Christ:

Ephesians 1:4
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

All was accomplished some 2,000 years ago in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ — period.  It is God’s supreme love gift to the entire human race [see John 3:16] and is made effective in the life of every individual by or through faith alone:

Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
John 5:24
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”
Romans 5:17
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

When this everlasting gospel is ultimately proclaimed with a loud cry, in the power of the fourth angel of Revelation 18, the earth will be illuminated with the glory of God’s unconditional agape-love and His redeeming grace in Christ.  This is the fulfillment of Matthew 24:14:

Matthew 24:14
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Only when this everlasting gospel is proclaimed worldwide will “the hour of His judgment has come” be fulfilled for the entire human race.  At that time, it will become inexcusable for anyone to be lost.  Every individual who has reached the age of accountability will have to make a deliberate decision either for Christ or against Him.  The end can then come.

This, I believe, is the significance of the 1844 doctrine in Adventism.  God has raised Adventism up as a movement to be the third Elijah — to prepare the world for the Second Advent of Christ:

Revelation 14:6-7
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth — to every nation, tribe, language and people.  He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come.  Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

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