Only the Holy Spirit could have launched this movement of destiny
Seventh-day Adventist understanding of Scripture grew out of an intensive dialogue between believers gathered around the Word of God, a faithful habit to which the modern church is continually called. In this article an Adventist historian traces the ways in which God led men and women to focus on long-neglected Bible truths, especially the truth about Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary.—Editors.
The year 1844 is intriguing, as it marks the close of the 2300 years of Daniel 8:14. It also signals the time of the take-off of the Third Angel’s flight. The about-to-be-discovered Third Angel’s Message must, in the very nature of the case, develop an entity and an emphasis of its own. To this end there came the individual discovery and then the merging of three distinctive, foundational truths—the Sanctuary, Sabbath, and Spirit of Prophecy. And out of the convergence of these three would develop a Heaven-born message and mission that would carry God’s final Everlasting Gospel appeal to all mankind. These three basic doctrines would form the nucleus. All other structural truths would be clustered about them and be united with them.
Within a few years a unified system of doctrine would be well on its way to fruition, lifting up truths that entrenched error and hoary traditions had long “trodden underfoot.” The dominant apostasy of the Middle Ages had in verity “cast down the truth to the ground” (Daniel 8:12), and had tragically and dominantly “practised, and prospered.”
It had struck at the very heart of all three of these fundamentals by substituting the sacrifice of the mass daily, on 10,000 altars, for the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross; a human priesthood with auricular confessions, and the intercession of “saints,” for Christ’s ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary; a spurious festival in place of the true Sabbath; and the alleged infallibility of the pope and the continuing inspiration and inerrancy of the church for the Holy Spirit’s unerring guidance.
These were all involved as background subversions. The divine provisions and relationships had been “cast down.” Now they were to be lifted up, and restored. That is truly the heart of it all—the essence of the great spiritual controversy of the centuries.
This recovery involved the truth of the once-for-all Act of Atonement on the Cross and subsequent mediatorial Priesthood of Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary, together with the eternal moral law and its enshrined Sabbath. And along with that was the awesome transaction that we have come to call the “Investigative Judgment”—and thence on to the final events.
Such a simultaneous revival of these specific truths, just at this time, came not through the foresight and planning of man. Rather, the appointed hour had come in the plan and provision of God for the discovery—or, more accurately, the recovery—and establishment of these neglected but latent truths.
The hour on the prophetic clock had struck. And so, with the coming of the hour, men obviously called of God were impelled to search out and proclaim the special truths now due the world—truths that were fundamental to the emergence and development of God’s distinctive Church and Message for the last days. It was an epochal hour.
These pioneer searchers were men sedulously seeking for foundational lost truths—the “hidden treasure” of the parable of Matthew 13:44. To this end they combed the field of Holy Scripture to find that “treasure” that had long been trodden underfoot, covered over, and well-nigh forgotten. And they were not disappointed. Note the unique character of that search, and its epochal results.
The principal doctrinal truths of the early Sabbatarian Adventists unfolded gradually, as well as independently and separately, to earnest minds in different places. Immediately after the October, 1844, Disappointment, the earliest group to engage in such study began at once to meet in Port Gibson (or nearby Canandaigua), New York [United States]. There Hiram Edson, O. R. L. Crosier, and Dr. F. B. Hahn came jointly upon certain basic facts regarding the distinctive Sanctuary question.
Its structural importance had been indicated by the paramount place of the Sanctuary types and ceremonial system of the Old Testament Church. The findings of the New York State trio came as a result of intensive Bible study and candid historical search and review—this unique study group evidently continuing together and searching for weeks, possibly months. Here was to be found the Biblical key unlocking their recent Disappointment. Here was light on the baffling future. For them it was paramount present truth, undergirding all others.
Their joint findings were first published in the autumn of 1845 in the Day-Dawn, a paper edited by Crosier and issued at Canandaigua, New York. But it had only a small and rather local circulation. So the conclusions were then published in fuller form in the larger Day-Star of Cincinnati, Ohio [United States], in an “Extra” dated February 7, 1846. This had a fairly wide distribution and so reached nearly all of our pioneer leaders. It exerted quite an influence.
The fundamental point coming out of this intensive group study was that there are definitely twogrand divisions, or phases, of Christ’s High-Priestly Ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, just as was indicated in the ancient earthly type. Christ’s ministry does not consist simply of a single unit of service in heaven, as had inaccurately been conceived in the Millerite Seventh-Month Movement. Then there was the further point that, according to type, Christ had only just entered upon this second phase of His heavenly ministry on October 22, 1844. That now seemed clear, and Biblically sound.
October 22 was, of course, the day that to the great Millerite host was so bitterly disappointing, because Christ had failed to come out of the heaven of heavens—or “holy of holies,” as they had envisioned it—to “bless His waiting people” on the anticipated “day of atonement.” This coming out they had equated with His Second Advent in glory, and which they had, in the Seventh-Month Movement, taken for granted as being merely a twenty-four-hour day.
As to the Sanctuary light, this was clearly Bible truth that explained the very things that those who had passed through the Great Disappointment most needed to know.
Crosier and his associates were persuaded that our heavenly High Priest was even then engaged in the final, or Judgment, phase of His ministry—which they thought would doubtless continue for a period of years. That was the heart of the study and the findings on the Sanctuary emanating from Port Gibson and Canandaigua—along with lesser features, such as the fact that the “scapegoat” represented Satan, and was not merely another figure of Christ, as commonly held.
As to the Sanctuary light, this was clearly Bible truth that explained the very things that those who had passed through the Great Disappointment most needed to know. It revealed the nature of the mistake involved in their 1844 misconception. It likewise illuminated their current precarious position. And in bold strokes it outlined the destined future events—on to the Great Consummation.
Thus, starting with the Sanctuary group study at Port Gibson-Canandaigua, in time the 1844 Disappointment experience became “clear as noonday” to our founding fathers. The unfolding Sanctuary light had provided the key, explaining their past confusion and bringing understanding, hope, and certainty as to the future. (And it also enfolded the Sabbath light, as they were soon to see.)
Thus the Sanctuary truth, so long “cast down” and trodden underfoot throughout much of the Christian Era—until the prophesied end of the 2300 years—began to be recovered in 1844. That was the demand of Bible prophecy. That was the significant fulfillment of history. It is tremendously impressive. With the coming of the time came the people called of God, and the recovered message of the Sanctuary truth foretold in Holy Writ.
LeRoy Edwin Froom (1890-1974) was a longtime professor of historical theology, editor, and much-published author. This article is excerpted from his book, Movement of Destiny (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1971), pp. 77-80.