Part 1: The Person of Christ—Introduction
........" Christ, the great Center, from whom radiates all glory.1 These words express the overwhelming preoccupation of Mrs. White's theology.2 Christ is declared to be the center of all true doctrine, the center of all the promises which God has made to His people,3 the center of faith4 and hope5 and the great center of attraction in all evangelical preaching. Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all truth.6
Before election or anything else, there is Jesus Christ. Nothing is before Him, and God does nothing before Him or without Him. From everlasting He was appointed Redeemer.7 He is the truth—whether the truth about God or man. All that man can know or needs to know about God has been revealed in Jesus Christ.8 He is also the revelation of God's purpose for man.9 "Christ . . . is the riches of the Old Testament. Christ . . is the treasure of the New Testament."10 "Every page of the New Testament Scriptures shines with His light. Every text is a diamond, touched and irradiated by the divine rays."11 "In every page, whether history, or precept, or prophecy, the Old Testament Scriptures are irradiated with the glory of the Son of God."12
"Hanging upon the cross Christ was the gospel. . . . This is our message, our argument, our doctrine, our warning to the impenitent, our encouragement for the sorrowing, the hope of every believer."13 Paul's confession, "For It me to live is Christ, is said to be "the most perfect interpretation in a few words, in all the Scriptures, of what it means to be a Christian. This is the whole truth of the gospel."14
Church members are constantly urged to make Christ the theme of their evangelical thrust. "Christ crucified for our sins, Christ risen from the dead, Christ ascended on high, is the science of salvation that we are to learn and to teach."15 Ministers must lift up "the Man of Calvary, higher and still higher. There is power in the exaltation of the cross of Christ."16
In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.17
In a message directed to Seventh-day Adventists, Mrs. White wrote that "the meager views which so many have had of the exalted character and office of Christ have narrowed their religious experience and have greatly hindered their progress in the divine life."20
Christ and His righteousness—let this be our platform, the very life of our faith. 18
Of all professing Christians, Seventh-day Adventists should be foremost in uplifting Christ before the world. . . . O that I could command language of sufficient force to make the impression that I wish to make upon my fellow-laborers in the gospel. My brethren, you are handling the words of life; you are dealing with minds that are capable of the highest development. Christ crucified, Christ risen, Christ ascended into the heavens, Christ coming again, should so soften, gladden, and fill the mind of the minister that he will present these truths to the people in love and deep earnestness. The minister will then be lost sight of and Jesus will be made manifest.
Lift up Jesus, you that teach the people, lift Him up in sermon, in song, in prayer. Let all your powers be directed to pointing souls, confused, bewildered, lost, to "the Lamb of God." Lift Him up, the risen Saviour, and say to all who hear, Come to Him who "hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us." Let the science of salvation be the burden of every sermon, the theme of every song. Let it be poured forth in every supplication. Bring nothing into your preaching to supplement Christ, the wisdom and power of God. Hold forth the word of life, presenting Jesus as the hope of the penitent and the stronghold of every believer. Reveal the way of peace to the troubled and the despondent, and show forth the grace and completeness of the Saviour.19
The Divinity of Christ
Christ is divine in the highest sense, "one with the eternal Father—one in nature, in character, in purpose.21 "He is equal with God, infinite and omnipotent.22 Christ is both the Son of the eternal God and the eternal Son of God.23 "In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived."24
"Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore."25 Even when He assumed humanity, He did not cease to be God.26 " . . . He was God in human flesh."27
The truth about Christ's divinity is not a mere theological tenet, but a truth of the highest importance and practical import. It is necessary for "a true conception of the character or the mission of Christ, or of the great plan of God for man's redemption."28 Our salvation was an infinite work, and it could be accomplished only by an infinite Person. The life and sacrifice to save man had to be equal to the demands of an infinite law. It was Christ's exalted Person which gave value to His work.29
The divinity of Christ shows the infinite value of God's gift to humanity. Christ is "the whole treasury of heaven. At an infinite cost30 the race has been purchased.31 It is the divinity of Christ which connects humanity with heaven and elevates man in the scale of moral worth with God.32 "God reaches for the hand of faith in us to direct it to lay fast hold upon the divinity of Christ.33 "The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life."34
The Two Natures of Christ
Mrs. White adheres to the doctrine of the two natures of Christ which received the consent of the early church. This doctrine was set forth by the Council of Chalcedon and reaffirmed by the Reformation. Accordingly, Christ had two natures—divine and human—blended in one Person. The two natures were united, yet each maintained its distinct identity. Christ was a divine Person who took into union with His divinity a human nature which had no pre-existence.
The author's Christology also adheres to the orthodox concepts of the communion and transference of the attributes of the two natures. That is to say, while there was a communion of attributes (i. e., whatever can be said of either nature may also be said of the Person), there was no transference of the attributes (i. e., substance, essence) of one nature to the other. Following are a selection of representative statements from the pen of Mrs. White:
The limited capacity of man cannot define this wonderful mystery—the blending of the two natures, the divine and the human. It can never be explained.35
This last statement makes it clear that Mrs. White adopts the view of Calvin and rejects Luther's view of the ubiquity of Christ's human nature. In a comment which appears to be an echo of the Christology of Athanasius, Mrs. White declares, " . . . Christ wrought out a redemption for men. This was not done by going out of Himself to another, but by taking humanity into Himself. Thus Christ gave to humanity an existence out of Himself."43 Like Athanasius, she held that the human nature was taken into union with the divine nature and dwelt in the divine nature—not the other way around. The human existed in the divine nature, and created a capacity for suffering to endure that which resulted from the sins of a lost world."44
The human did not take the place of the divine, nor the divine of the human. This is the mystery of godliness. The two expressions "human" and "divine" were, in Christ, closely and inseparably one, and yet they had a distinct individuality. Though Christ humbled Himself to become man, the Godhead was still His own.36
In Christ, divinity and humanity were combined. Divinity was not37 degraded to humanity; divinity held its place.
[His] human nature never had an existence in His preexistence.38
Was the human nature of the Son of Mary changed into the divine nature of the Son of God? No; the two natures were mysteriously blended in one person—the man Christ Jesus. In Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. When Christ was crucified, it was His human nature that died. Deity did not sink and die; that would have been impossible.39
As a member of the human family, He was mortal; but as a God, He was the fountain of life to the world.40
Christ ascended to heaven, bearing a sanctified, holy humanity. He took this humanity with Him into the heavenly courts.41
Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally. . . . By the Spirit the Saviour would be accessible to all.42
The Human Nature of Christ
Mrs. White's view of the human nature of Christ is liable to be misunderstood or badly distorted unless it is realized that equal emphasis is given to two aspects of Christ's human nature.
1. On the one hand, Christ took the essence, or substance, of human nature ("faculties," or "powers," are her own words) in its weakened condition in consequence of the fall. On occasion she even calls this "fallen human nature"—words liable to be misunderstood by many who would take this expression to include the element of original sin. We must, however, be careful to judge a writer's meaning by the way he uses his own terms and what they mean to him rather than by what they might mean to us. This is a fundamental hermeneutic principle. It must be remembered, as we pointed out in the preceding chapter, that Mrs. White viewed sin as a foreign element which has infected human nature. It is not an essential property of the substance of human nature itself.
2. On the other hand, Christ's human nature was without a taint, inclination or propensity to sin. Although Christ took the essential properties (substance) of human nature as it had been weakened by the fall, He did not take that foreign element which theology generally calls original sin. That is to say, He took the substance of human nature as it was affected by sin, but not infected by sin.
Mrs. White's Christology is fully in harmony with this statement by Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof: "Christ assumed human nature with all its weaknesses as it exists after the fall, and thus became like us in all45 things, sin only excepted." Her Christology also agrees very well with the statement from the Westminster Confession, Article 8, which declares that Christ did "take upon Him man's nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance."
Some of Mrs. White's critics have affirmed that she holds an Irvingian position on the human nature of Christ. (Irving taught that Christ's human nature had our tendencies to sin.) Three different factors have apparently influenced these critics to make this conclusion:
1. They have been in too great a haste—as critics sometimes are—to find some heresy.
2. Some Seventh-day Adventists have taught Irving's heretical Christology.
3. There is a Docetic tendency in some evangelical thinking. A certain emphasis on Christ's divinity tends to swallow up the reality of His humanity. Consequently, Christ appears to be more superman than man. For this reason, any full-blooded teaching on the reality of Christ's human nature is liable to strike some as being unorthodox.
Following are a group of statements teaching that Christ took the substance of human nature as it was affected by the fall:
Christ did not make believe take human nature: He did verily take it. He did in reality possess human nature. "As the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same. He was the son of Mary; He was of the seed of David according to human descent.46
If Mrs. White had said nothing more than this, she would have had a very one-sided view of Christ's human nature. But although on the one hand she speaks of Christ as being our Exemplar in the reality and weaknesses of human nature, on the other hand she emphasizes His being our Substitute and Representative. In this context it is the sinlessness of Christ which is emphasized. In order to be our Substitute, Christ had to be what the rest of humanity was not.
When Jesus took human nature, and became in fashion as a man, He possessed all the human organism.47
He . . . clothed his divinity with humanity, thus bringing himself to the level of man's feeble faculties.48
He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions.49
Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity.
God permitted His Son to come, a helpless babe, subject to the weaknesses of humanity.50
Christ, who knew not the least taint of sin or defilement, took our nature in its deteriorated condition.51
Christ took upon Him the infirmities of degenerate humanity.52
He condescended to connect our fallen human nature with His divinity.53
Jesus was in all things made like unto His brethren. He became flesh, even as we are. He was hungry and thirsty and weary He was sustained by food and refreshed by sleep.54
He was born without a taint of sin.55
This brings us to one aspect of Mrs. White's Christology that is more heterodox than orthodox. Although the point has been hotly debated in church history, most theologians in the stream of orthodox Protestantism hold that it was impossible for Christ to sin. Mrs. White does not hold to this majority view. She maintains that it was possible for Christ to fall. Divine love took "the risk of failure and eternal loss.66 The Father also took the "fearful risk."67 How God could foresee Christ's victory (which she elsewhere affirms) and yet take a risk is not explained. She simply holds two paradoxical positions—God's sovereignty and God's risk.
no trace of sin marred the image of God within Him.56
He is a brother in our infirmities, but not in possessing like passions. As the sinless One, His nature recoiled from evil.57
We should have no misgivings in regard to the perfect sinlessness of the human nature of Christ. . . . This holy Substitute is able to save to the uttermost.58
Be careful, exceedingly careful as to how you dwell upon the human nature of Christ. Do not set Him before the people as a man with the propensities of sin. Not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity.59
Never, in any way, leave the slightest impression upon human minds that a taint of, or inclination to, corruption rested upon Christ.60
Then also, in order to be our Representative (that is, to stand in Adam's place), Christ's human nature had to be as sinless as Adam's.
Christ is called the second Adam. In purity and holiness, connected with God and beloved by God, He began where the first Adam began.61
He vanquished Satan in the same nature over which in Eden Satan obtained the victory.62
Christ came to the earth, taking humanity and standing as man's representative, to show in the controversy with Satan that man, as God created him, connected with the Father and the Son, could obey every divine requirement.63
He was to take His position at the head of humanity by taking the nature but not the sinfulness of man.64
He is the second Adam. The first Adam was created a pure, sinless being, without a taint of sin upon him; he was in the image of God. He could fall, and he did fall through transgressing. Because of sin his posterity was born with inherent propensities of disobedience. But Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God. He took upon Himself human nature, and was tempted in all points as human nature is tempted. He could have sinned; He could have fallen, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity.65
Two reasons are presented to support the idea that Christ could have fallen:
1. "Unless there is a possibility of yielding, temptation is no temptation. . . . He could not have been tempted in all points as man is tempted had there been no possibility of His failing."68
2. "Many claim that it was impossible for Christ to be overcome by temptation. Then He could not have been placed in Adam's position; He could not have gained the victory that Adam failed to gain. If we have in any sense a more trying conflict than had Christ, then He would not be able to succor us. But our Saviour took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation. We have nothing to bear which He has not endured."69
The two natures of Christ are presented as Christ's unique qualification to be the world's Redeemer.
These qualifications were found alone in Christ. Clothing His divinity with humanity, He came to earth to be called the Son of man and the Son of God. He was the surety for man, the ambassador for God—the surety for man to satisfy by His righteousness in man's behalf the demands of the law, and the representative of God to make manifest His character to a fallen race.70
Part 2: The Redemptive Work of Christ
Being divine and human, with His long human arm He could encircle humanity, while71 with His divine arm He could lay hold of the throne of the Infinite.
Christ's work was to reconcile man to God through His human nature, and God to man through His divine nature.72
Christ was without sin, else His life in human flesh and His death on the cross would have been of no more value in procuring grace for the sinner than the death of any other man.73
The Covenant of Redemption
The starting point of Mrs. White's teaching on redemption is her teaching about the covenant made between the Father and the Son from eternity. This follows quite closely the line of thought adopted by the covenant theologians of the Reformed faith. Whereas some of these theologians make a distinction between the covenant of redemption (between the Father and the Son) and the covenant of grace (between God and believers), she does not appear to do this. Commenting on Christ's dying words, "It is finished," Mrs. White says:
When Christ spoke these words, He addressed His Father. Christ was not alone in making this great sacrifice. It was the fulfillment of the covenant made between the Father and the Son before the foundation of the earth was laid. With clasped hands they entered into the solemn pledge that Christ would become the substitute and surety for the human race if they were overcome by Satan's sophistry. The compact was now being fully consummated. The climax was reached. Christ had the consciousness that He had fulfilled to the letter the pledge He had made.74
This covenant was made from eternity.75 It is called the covenant of grace76 and the covenant of mercy. From the beginning, God and Christ knew of the apostasy of Satan, and of the fall of man through the deceptive power of the apostate. God did not ordain that sin should exist, but He foresaw77 its existence, and made provision to meet the terrible emergency. "In the councils of heaven, before the world was created, the Father and the Son covenanted together that if man proved disloyal to God, Christ, one with the Father, would take the place of the transgressor, and suffer the penalty of justice that must fall upon him.78 This covenant, also called an agreement or arrangement,79 was fulfilled and sealed by Christ's death.80
God's redemptive love is therefore seen to precede His creative love. It was a love that carefully planned man's future and made provision for every emergency.81
Mrs. White parts company with Reformed theologians in one aspect of this plan of redemption. The starting point of the Reformed view is election, followed by the council of heaven appointing Christ as Redeemer of those whom God has decreed to elect. But in her thinking the starting point is Christ and His appointment to the office of Redeemer. In this respect her thinking is more Wesleyan than Reformed.
From everlasting He was the Mediator of the covenant.81
Mrs. White sides with Wesley in rejecting the idea that God has elected85 some men to salvation and others to reprobation. The "sovereignty of God involves fullness of blessing to all created beings."86 "Men fail of salvation through their own willful refusal of the gift of life."87 Her view may be summarized as follows: From eternity God gave His Son as the Redeemer of the whole human race. He covenanted to accept Christ's substitutionary atonement as the basis upon which men could be saved. He decreed that this salvation would be effective for all who would believe on Christ. "The Lord has accepted this sacrifice [of Christ] in our behalf, as our substitute and surety, on the condition that we receive Christ and believe on Him."88 The following statements are similar to Wesley's position:
[He was] set up from everlasting to be our substitute and surety.83
The salvation of the human race has ever been the object of the councils of heaven. The covenant of mercy was made before the foundation of the world. It has existed from all eternity, and is called the everlasting covenant. So surely as there never was a time when God was not, so surely there never was a moment when it was not the delight of the eternal mind to manifest His grace to humanity.84
In the council of heaven, provision was made that men, though transgressors, should not perish in their disobedience, but, through faith in Christ as their substitute and surety, might become the elect of God, predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will. God wills that all men should be saved; for ample provision has been made, in giving His only-begotten Son to pay man's ransom. Those who perish will perish because they refuse to be adopted as children of God through Christ Jesus.89
Actually, this author has written extremely little on the subject of election. Not only has she no time for speculating about the divine decrees, but she is critical of those theologies which do.
God has declared that those who receive Christ as their Redeemer, accepting Him as the One who takes away all sin, will receive pardon for their transgressions. These are the terms of our election. Man's salvation depends upon his receiving Christ by faith. Those who will not receive Him lose eternal life because they refused to avail themselves of the only means provided by the Father and the Son for the salvation of a perishing world.90
There is no such thing in the Word of God as unconditional election.91
The Life of Christ
The life of Christ has great redemptive significance in Mrs. White's soteriology. The Arminians focus almost exclusively on the death of Christ. They deny any significant redemptive role in the life of Christ. Even Wesley, in opposition to the Reformed, played down the role of Christ's active obedience in his system of soteriology.92 Mrs. White, however, comes down very solidly on the Reformed side of this controversy. Her view may be summarized as follows:
1. The condition of eternal life is not just absence of sin, but positive obedience to the law of God. Adam, as God created him, was without sin; yet only by rendering perfect obedience to the law of God could he become entitled to eternal life.93 The law of God cannot be modified or relaxed to meet man in his fallen condition. "He [God] demands now as ever perfect righteousness as the only title to heaven. "94 "Under the new covenant, the conditions by which eternal life may be gained are the same as under the old—perfect obedience.95
2. In order to gain a full title to eternal life, man needs more than pardon by virtue of Christ's death. He needs to possess righteousness. "The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law.96
3. In his fallen state man is absolutely incapable of fulfilling the condition of perfect obedience (or righteousness)—" . . . he is incapable of rendering it."97
4. "As representative of the fallen race, Christ passed over the same ground on which Adam stumbled and fell. By a life of perfect obedience to God's law, Christ redeemed man from the penalty of Adam's disgraceful fall."98 "In the new and better covenant, Christ has fulfilled the law for the transgressors of the law, if they receive Him by faith as a personal Saviour."99 "He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness."100 "By His obedience to all the commandments of God, Christ wrought out a redemption for men."101 "By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me.102
5. This positive righteousness exhibited in the life of Christ is imputed to the believer.103 "The active obedience of Christ clothes the believing sinner with the righteousness that meets the demands of the law."104 Thus the believer is counted as righteous, and through Christ he has a free title to eternal life.
Christ's life is not only substitutionary, but exemplary. His obedience was that of a true human being.
In our conclusions, we make many mistakes because of our erroneous views of the human nature of our Lord. When we give to His human nature a power that it is not possible for man to have in his conflicts with Satan, we destroy the completeness of His humanity. His imputed grace and power He gives to all who receive Him by faith. . . . Jesus, the world's Redeemer, could only keep the commandments of God in the same way that humanity can keep them105 unless He met man as man, and testified by His connection with God that divine power was not given to Him in a different way to what it will be given to us, He could not be a perfect example for us.106
Jesus met temptation and overcame in the strength given Him of God. He worked no miracle on His own behalf so as to lessen the reality of the test and trial of His human nature.107 No man will ever be so fiercely tested by temptation as was Jesus.108 "It was as difficult for Him to keep the level of humanity as for men to rise above the low level of their depraved natures, and be partakers of the divine nature. "109 "'He . . . suffered being tempted,' suffered in proportion to the perfection of His holiness. But the prince of darkness found nothing in Him; not a single thought or feeling responded to temptation."110
Christ's life is often put forward as the example for believers, and they are therefore exhorted to overcome as He did. Christ's life shows that for sin there is no excuse, and no grounds to say it is impossible to over-come.111
The superficial reader could gather the impression that Mrs. White leaves the road of Christian orthodoxy for the route of perfectionism. But that is not so. "We cannot equal the example, but we should copy it,112 she declares. The life of Christ reveals "an infinitely perfect character."113
There was an excellence of character found in Him, which never had been found, neither could be, in another.114 The more the believer comes to understand and appreciate the perfection of Christ's character, the more he will confess his own sinfulness.115
The believer's contemplation of the life of Christ will therefore produce two paradoxical reactions. Because Christ's life is our example (law), it makes radical demands upon us. It causes conviction of sinfulness, mourning and repentance—and that not only continually, but increasingly.116 On the other hand, because the life of Christ is the gospel and a free gift which is imputed to the believer, he can hide his lack of perfection in Jesus and rejoice that Christ's victory is really his victory.117 Thus Christ's perfection is an occasion for both repentance and faith, mourning and rejoicing, at the same time. This is indeed a paradox, but "the deepest joy of heart comes from the deepest humiliation."118
The Death and Atonement of Christ
Mrs. White has written so much about the cross that it is difficult for us to do three things at once: (1) We must here reduce a great volume of literature to a brief outline. (2) In this brief outline we must preserve the main aspects of the doctrine of the cross. (3) Perhaps most difficult, we must (if we may again refer to the illustration of Beethoven) correctly portray the overall spirit of the composition.
Estimate: In presenting an organized outline of Mrs. White's doctrine of the cross, we must first deal with her estimate of this subject. What place did the atonement have in her theology? The following statements are representative:
The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster.119
There is one great central truth to be kept ever before the mind in the searching of the Scriptures—Christ and Him crucified. Every other truth is invested with influence and power corresponding to its relation to this theme.120
Hanging upon the cross Christ was the gospel. . . . This is our message— our argument, our doctrine, our warning to the impenitent, our encouragement for the sorrowing, the hope for every believer.121
To remove the cross from the Christian would be like blotting the sun from the sky.122
The cross is an inexhaustible theme, the vital theme of Christianity.123 It must hold the central place, be the central theological truth, and be presented as the grand, central theme for consideration.124
Necessity: The death of Christ was an absolute necessity. It was not merely one way that God devised to save man; it was the only way that God could do it.
When men and women can more fully comprehend the magnitude of the great sacrifice which was made by the Majesty of heaven in dying in man's stead, then will the plan of salvation be magnified, and reflections of Calvary will awaken tender, sacred, and lively emotions in the Christian's heart. Praises to God and the Lamb will be in their hearts and upon their lips. Pride and self-esteem cannot flourish in the hearts that keep fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary. This world will appear of but little value to those who appreciate the great price of man's redemption, the precious blood of God's dear Son. All the riches of the world are not of sufficient value to redeem one perishing soul. Who can measure the love of Christ felt for a lost world as He hung upon the cross, suffering for the sins of guilty men? This was love immeasurable, in finite.125
That Christ, so excellent, so innocent, should suffer such a painful death, bearing the weight of the sins of the world, our thoughts and imaginations can never fully comprehend. The length, the breadth, the height, the depth, of such amazing love we cannot fathom. The contemplation of the matchless depths of a Saviour's love should fill the mind, touch and melt the soul, refine and elevate the affections, and completely transform the whole character. The language of the apostle is: "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." We also may look toward Calvary and exclaim:
"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."126
We should take broader and deeper views of the life, sufferings, and death of God's dear Son. When the atonement is viewed correctly, the salvation of souls will be felt to be of infinite value.127
He who is infinite in wisdom could devise no plan for our salvation except the sacrifice of His Son.128 " . . . the atonement of Christ alone could span the abyss and make possible the communication of blessing or salvation from heaven to earth."129 " . . . through the shedding of the blood of the Son of God alone could there be atonement for sin. "130
Those who preach the gospel should "show the necessity for this atonement."131 This point is crucial. In having the gospel presented to them, men need to understand why it was necessary for Christ to die. On this point Mrs. White follows the classical lines of Anselm and the Reformers. Two things made the death of Christ necessary—the law of God and the sin of man.
Mrs. White's whole approach to the atonement and soteriology is under-girded by her concept of the law of God. "Those only who acknowledge the binding claims of the moral law can explain the nature of the atonement,"132 she wrote. "God's law is not a new thing. It is not holiness created, but holiness made known."133 As a transcript of the will and character of God, it is as sacred as God Himself. As the foundation of His righteous government, it can no more be modified or relaxed than could God cease to be God. 134 This holy law condemns all sin—whether it is sin of action or sin of motive, sin of deed or sin of nature.135 Justice demands that the death penalty be executed.136
. . . the nonexecution of the penalty of that sin would be a crime in the divine administration. God is a judge, the avenger of justice, which is the habitation and foundation of His throne. He cannot dispense with His law, He cannot do away with its smallest item in order to meet and pardon sin. The rectitude and justice and moral excellence of the law must be maintained and vindicated before the heavenly universe and the worlds unfallen.137
"The atonement of Christ is not a mere skillful way to have our sins pardoned.138 It is not a great divine trick to get around the law, for God is not involved in legal jugglery. Christ's death shows with what radical seriousness God takes the claims of His law.139
As the sinner looks upon the Saviour dying on Calvary, and realizes that the sufferer is divine, he asks why this great sacrifice was made, and the cross points to the holy law of God which has been transgressed. The death of Christ is an unanswerable argument as to the immutability and righteousness of the law. In prophesying of Christ, Isaiah says, "He will magnify the law, and make it honorable." The law has no power to pardon the evildoer. Its office is to point out his defects, that he may realize his need of One who is mighty to save, his need of One who will become his substitute, his surety, his righteousness. Jesus meets the need of the sinner; for He has taken upon Him the sins of the transgressor. "He was wounded for our transgression, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed." The Lord could have cut off the sinner, and utterly destroyed him; but the costlier plan was chosen. In His great love He provides hope for the hopeless, giving His only begotten Son to bear the sins of the world. And since He has poured out all heaven in that one rich gift, He will withhold from man no needed aid that he may take the cup of salvation, and become an heir of God, joint heir with Christ.140
There is no such thing as weakening or strengthening the law of Jehovah. As it has always been, so it is. It cannot be repealed or changed in one principle. It is eternal, immutable as God Himself.141
Object: The supreme object of the atonement was not the salvation of sinners—as important as that was to God—but the vindication of God's law and government.
The object of this atonement was that the divine law and government might be maintained.142
Through Christ's redeeming work the government of God stands justified. The Omnipotent One is made known as the God of love. Satan's charges are refuted, and his character unveiled. Rebellion can never again arise. Sin can never again enter the universe. Through eternal ages all are secure from apostasy. By love's self-sacrifice, the inhabitants of earth and heaven are bound to their Creator in bonds of indissoluble union.143
But it was not merely to accomplish the redemption of man that Christ came to the earth to suffer and to die. He came to "magnify the law" and to "make it honorable." Not alone that the inhabitants of this world might regard the law as it should be regarded; but it was to demonstrate to all the worlds of the universe that God's law is unchangeable. Could its claims have been set aside, then the Son of God need not have yielded up His life to atone for its transgression. The death of Christ proves it immutable. And the sacrifice to which infinite love impelled the Father and the Son, that sinners might be redeemed, demonstrates to all the universe—what nothing less than this plan of atonement could have sufficed to do—that justice and mercy are the foundation of the law and government of God.144
The law of God's government was to be magnified by the death of God's only-begotten Son. . . . He secured eternal life to men, while He exalted the law, and made it honorable.145
The work of Christ—His life, humiliation, death, and intercession for lost man—magnifies the law, and makes it honorable.146
Isaiah's prophecy that Christ would "magnify the law and make it honorable"147 is often quoted. Another scripture frequently referred to is Romans 3:26, which says that Christ's propitiation was necessary in order that God "might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." God must do two things—justify the sinner while satisfying the inexorable demand of justice. Calvary enables God to forgive, and forgive justly. Or to put it another way, the object of Calvary was to reconcile the divine prerogatives of justice and mercy. This is a point that is dwelt upon at length.148
"It is only in the light of the cross that we can discern the exalted character of the law of God."149 "The trials and sufferings of Christ were to impress man with a sense of the great sin in breaking the law of God. . "150 The cross shows that "sin is a tremendous evil."151 When a sinner sees "that it was the transgression of the law that caused the death of the Son of the infinite God, . . . he will hate the sins that wounded Jesus. "152
The atonement does more than influence man and change his relation to God. It also reconciles God to man. God has always loved man, but He could not forgive him on unjust grounds. God's face was against the evildoer. Sin called forth retributive justice. "Christ's work was to reconcile man to God through His human nature, and God to man through His divine nature." "Through the cross, man was drawn to God, and God to man."153
Prerequisites:The major prerequisites for the atonement are as follows:
1. Christ must be the Divine One, above all law, able to make a willing offering.
The divine Son of God was the only sacrifice of sufficient value to fully satisfy the claims of God's perfect law. The angels were sinless, but of less value than the law of God. They were amenable to law. They were messengers to do the will of God, and before Him to bow. They were created beings, and probationers. Upon Christ no requirements were laid. He had power to lay down His life, and to take it again. No obligation was laid upon Him to undertake the work of atonement. It was a voluntary sacrifice that He made. His life was of sufficient value to rescue man from his fallen condition." 154
2. In order to be our Substitute and Surety, He must take our human nature, bear our sins in a human body, and die in humanity.155
3. As Mediator, He must be both God and man.
The reconciliation of man to God could be accomplished only through a mediator who was equal with God, possessed of attributes that would dignify, and declare Him worthy to treat with the Infinite God in man's behalf, and also represent God to a fallen world. Man's substitute and surety must have man's nature, a connection with the human family whom He was to represent, and, as God's ambassador, He must partake of the divine nature) have a connection with the Infinite) in order to manifest God to the world and be a mediator between God and man.156
4. His human nature must be without sin. "Christ was without sin, else His life in human flesh and His death on the cross would have been of no more value in procuring grace for the sinner than the death of any other man."157 "Christ could not have done this work had He not been personally spotless. Only One who was Himself perfection could be at once the sin bearer and the sin pardoner."158
Method: Although the cross is that which reveals God's love and changes man's attitude to God, there is much more to the atonement than that. The law occupies a central position in the doctrine of atonement. There must be legal, juridical satisfaction:
1. The sin (or guilt of sin) of the world was imputed to Christ. "In dying upon the cross, He [God] transferred the guilt from the person of the transgressor to that of the divine Substitute, through faith in Him as his personal Redeemer. The sins of a guilty world, which in figure are represented159 as red as crimson, were imputed to the divine Surety. The holy Son of God has no sins or griefs of His own to bear: He was bearing the griefs of others; for on Him was laid the iniquity of us all160
2. Christ was counted as a sinner in the divine estimation.161.
Though personally sinless, Christ really felt the burden of imputed guilt. "The guilt of every sin pressed its weight upon the divine soul of the world's Redeemer. . . . Though the guilt of sin was not His, His spirit was torn and bruised by the transgressions of men, and He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.162
3. Since He was counted a sinner, justice required that Christ be treated as a sinner. " . . . He submits to be treated as a transgressor."163 "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. 'With His stripes we are healed."164
4. Justice demanded that Christ be punished. Expressions such as penalty, punishment, suffer, satisfy, retribution, retributive justice, payment, sword of justice, etc., are used repeatedly. The following statements are a brief sample:
The penalty must be exacted. The punishment has been endured by the sinner s substitute. . . . [Christ would] suffer the penalty of justice.165
Christ bore the curse of the law, suffering its penalty.166
It was the righteousness of God to maintain His law by inflicting the penalty.167
Justice demanded that the penalty of transgression be paid.168
He pledged Himself to accomplish our full salvation in a way satisfactory to the demands of God's justice, and consistent with the exalted holiness of His law.169
On the cross of Calvary He paid the redemption price of the race. . . . Our ransom has been paid by our Saviour.170
He bore the punishment of the guilty. . . . The evil thoughts, the evil words, the evil deeds of every son and daughter of Adam, called for retribution upon Himself; for He had become man's substitute. . . . our divine Substitute bared His soul to the sword of justice.171
As a man He must endure the wrath of God against transgressors.172 Justice demands that the death penalty must be executed. By dying in man's stead, Christ exhausted the penalty and provided a pardon.173
Justice and mercy stood apart, in opposition to each other, separated by a wide gulf. The Lord our Redeemer clothed His divinity with humanity, and wrought out in behalf of man a character that was without spot or blemish. He planted His cross midway between heaven and earth, and made it the object of attraction which reached both ways, drawing both Justice and Mercy across the gulf. Justice moved from its exalted throne, and with all the armies of heaven approached the cross. There it saw One equal with God bearing the penalty for all injustice and sin. With perfect satisfaction Justice bowed in reverence at the cross, saying, It is enough.174
5. The suffering of Jesus Christ in His human nature was infinite.
"It was through infinite sacrifice and inexpressible suffering that our Redeemer placed redemption within our reach. . . . His heart was wrung with inconceivable anguish."175 Although death on the cross was a cruel, ignominious death, "bodily pain was but a small part of the agony of God's dear Son.176 "We can have but faint conceptions of the inexpressible anguish of God's dear Son in Gethsemane, as He realized His separation from His Father in consequence of bearing man's sin. . . . The Father's glory and sustaining presence had left Him, and despair pressed its crushing weight of darkness upon Him.177
" . Christ's soul was filled with dread of separation from God. Satan told Him that if He became the surety for a sinful world, the separation would be eternal. He would be identified with Satan's kingdom, and would nevermore be one with God."178 "The wrath of God against sin, the terrible manifestation of His displeasure because of iniquity, filled the soul of the Son with consternation."179
How could Christ in human nature endure such a degree of suffering? Two reasons are offered:
a. "The suffering of Christ was in correspondence with His spotless purity; His depth of agony, proportionate to the dignity and grandeur of His character."180 "The human nature of Christ was like unto ours, and suffering was more keenly felt by Him; for His spiritual nature was free from every taint of sin. Therefore His desire for the removal of suffering was stronger than human beings can experience. How intense was the desire of the humanity of Christ to escape the displeasure of an offended God.181
b. "No sorrow can bear any comparison with the sorrow of Him upon whom the wrath of God fell with overwhelming force. Human nature can endure but a limited amount of test and trial. The finite can only endure the finite measure, and human nature succumbs; but the nature of Christ had a greater capacity for suffering; for the human existed in the divine nature, and created a capacity for suffering to endure that which resulted from the sins of a lost world."182
On the basis of 2 Corinthians 5:19, we can say that God the Father suffered with His Son. "The angels suffered with Christ. God Himself was crucified with Christ; for Christ was one with the Father."183
Pavilioned in the darkness of the cross, the Father was personally present in Christ's dying agonies, although Christ was not to be comforted by any sense of it.184
Two points need to be carefully guarded in the doctrine of the atonement:
1. On the one hand, Christ's death was a propitiation for sin.185 That is to say, man has injured and insulted the Deity. The holy wrath of an offended God is a reality. The atonement, therefore, was not merely designed to change man's relation to God; God must also be reconciled to man.186
2. On the other hand, Christ's death did not cause God to love us. "The Father loves us, not because of the great propitiation, but He provided the propitiation because He loves us. Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world. 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.' God suffered with His Son, in the agony of Gethsemane, the death of Calvary; the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption.187 "But the sacrifice was not made in order to create in the Father's heart a love for man) not to make Him willing to save. No, no! God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.188
Extent: Mrs. White rejects the Augustinian view of limited atonement. She sides with Wesley on this point, citing Titus 2:11 and 1 Timothy 2:3-6 as evidence that Christ really died for the sins of the whole world.189 "Christ's atonement includes the whole human family. No one, high or low, rich or poor, free or bond, has been left out of the plan of190 redemption.
Viewing Christ as the second Adam, she maintains that Christ's victory must be as universal in its provision as was Adam's fall. Grace, peace and love are through the atonement extended "to the most guilty of Adam's race."191 "Christ suffered without the gates of Jerusalem, for Calvary was outside the city walls. This was to show that He died, not for the Hebrews alone, but for all mankind."192 "No sin can be committed by man for which satisfaction has not been met on Calvary."193
Yet surprisingly, the same author comes very close to injecting a Calvinistic element here. God accepted the sacrifice of Christ only on condition that men would believe on Him.194 It is the guilt of believers that195 was transferred to Christ upon the cross. The whole race is in Christ by196 "His covenant of promise, but only believers are 'in Him by living faith."197 In the final analysis, therefore, Christ died for believers. As both the wicked and the righteous behold the final coronation of the Son of God, Jesus is represented as looking upon the redeemed and declaring, "Behold the purchase of My blood! For these I suffered, for these I died, that they might dwell in My presence throughout eternal ages.198 Christ therefore died for all men conditionally. But in the end, however, He has died for the believer.
Sufficiency: Mrs. White believes that Christ's death was an atonement that rendered entire satisfaction to divine justice. As such, it does not need to be repeated or supplemented by anything on the part of man. "His199 sacrifice satisfies fully the demands of justice. It is "full and sufficient,"200 "full and complete,"201 "a perfect atonement . . . for the sins of the people."202 It fulfilled "every condition" and broke down "every barrier" that separated man from "the freest fullness of the exercise of grace,203 mercy, peace and love to the most guilty of Adam's race. "The atonement will never need to be repeated.204 "Centuries, ages, can never diminish the efficacy of this atoning sacrifice."205
Finality: How does Mrs. White stand in reference to what evangelicals often call the finished work of Christ? Does she confess it or deny it?
Concerning Christ's present intercession in heaven, she declares, "He reverently presents at the mercy seat His finished redemption for His people."206 In describing the end of Christ's suffering on Friday evening, she calls it "Christ's completed work" that parallels the finished work on the sixth day of creation.207 "Christ did not yield up His life till the great work of redemption had been accomplished."208 ". . . through Christ the grace of God has worked out our complete salvation."209 ". . .Christ has satisfied Justice; He has proffered Himself as an atonement. His gushing blood, His broken body, satisfy the claims of the broken law, and thus He bridges the gulf which sin has made. He suffered in the flesh, that with His bruised and broken body He might cover the defenseless sinner."210 "Christ has purchased the human race."211 He has been given the deed of possession. . . God Himself has the honor of providing a way [of salvation], and it is so complete, so perfect, that man cannot, by any works he may do, add to its perfection."212 "The Lord would have His people sound in the faith—not ignorant of the great salvation so abundantly provided for them. They are not to look forward, thinking that at some future time a great work is to be done for them; for the work is now complete."213
Christ was crucified, but in wondrous power and glory He rose from the tomb. He took in His grasp the world over which Satan claimed to preside, and restored the human race to favor with God. And at this glorious completion of His work, songs of triumph echoed and re-echoed through the unfallen worlds. Angel and archangel, cherubim and seraphim, joined in the chorus of victory.214
Christ's finished work on the cross is viewed in terms of the covenant of redemption made between the Father and Son from the days of eternity.
Christ's finished work takes on a supraterrestial sweep. "When Christ cried out, 'It is finished,' all heaven triumphed. The controversy between Christ and Satan in regard to the execution of the plan of salvation was ended."217 "To the angels and the unfallen worlds the cry, 'It is finished,' had a deep significance. It was for them as well as for us that the great work of redemption had been accomplished. They with us share the fruits of Christ's218 victory. Christ had demonstrated "for eternal ages the question which settled the controversy."219
When Christ spoke these words ["It is finished"], He addressed His Father. Christ was not alone in making this great sacrifice. It was the fulfillment of the covenant made between the Father and the Son before the foundation of the earth was laid. With clasped hands they entered into the solemn pledge that Christ would become the substitute and surety for the human race if they were overcome by Satan's sophistry. The compact was now being fully consummated. The climax was reached. Christ had the consciousness that He had fulfilled to the letter the pledge He had made. In death He was more than conqueror. The redemption price has been paid.215
The atonement of Christ sealed forever the everlasting covenant of grace. It was the fulfilling of every condition upon which God suspended the free communication of grace to the human family. Every barrier was then broken down which intercepted the freest fullness of the exercise of grace, mercy, peace and love to the most guilty of Adam's race.216
Results: The results of the atonement are seen from a great variety of vantage points. Some of these results have been touched upon already and therefore will only receive the briefest summary here.
1. God's government stands vindicated, Satan is defeated, and the universe is secured against rebellion's rising again.
Through Christ's redeeming work the government of God stands justified. The Omnipotent One is made known as the God of love. Satan's charges are refuted, and his character unveiled. Rebellion can never again arise. Sin can never again enter the universe. Through eternal ages all are secure from apostasy. By love's self-sacrifice, the inhabitants of earth and heaven are bound to their Creator in bonds of indissoluble union.220
2. The cross vindicates God's law and testifies to its immutability.222
This work of Christ was to confirm the beings of other worlds in their innocency and loyalty, as well as to save the lost and perishing of this world.221
3. The cross shows the enormity of sin.223
4. The atonement satisfied the claims of the law, "paid the penalty224 for all wrong-doers," and redeemed the race.
5. The cross enables God to forgive the believer without sacrificing His holiness. Yet forgiveness is not the sole result of the death of Christ. The defaced image of God may be restored in humanity.225
6. The death of Christ reconciled the prerogatives of justice and mercy.226
7. Christ's death reveals the character of God and draws men to repentance and faith.227
8. The infinite price paid in the blood of Christ places an infinite value on man.228
9. In Christ the believer has free access into God's presence. The cross removed the veil and opened the way into the holiest of all.
The great sacrifice has been made. The way into the holiest is laid open. A new and living way is prepared for all. No longer need sinful, sorrowing humanity await the coming of the high priest. Henceforth the Saviour was to officiate as priest and advocate in the heaven of heavens.229
This affirmation of the soteriological meaning of the rent veil should be duly noted lest certain aspects of Mrs. White's concepts of eschatology be misunderstood.
Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that every soul may have free access to God.230
Through Christ the hidden glory of the holy of holies was to stand revealed. He had suffered death for every man, and by this offering, the sons of men were to become the sons of God With open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, believers in Christ were to be changed into the same image, from glory to glory. The mercy seat, upon which the glory of God rested in the holiest of all, is opened to all who accept Christ as the propitiation for sin, and through its medium, they are brought into fellowship with God. The veil is rent, the partition walls are broken down, the handwriting of ordinances is cancelled. By virtue of His blood the enmity is abolished.231
A new and living Way, before which there hangs no veil, is offered to all.232
10. The continuance of life on this sinful planet is possible only because of Christ's atonement. The penalty of sin would have been233 executed upon Adam immediately if Christ had not intervened. Not one blessing could flow to earth apart from Christ's sacrifice. "There is not an article of food upon our tables that He has not provided for our sustenance. The stamp and superscription of God is upon it all. Everything is included in and abundantly supplied to man, through the one unspeakable Gift, the only begotten Son of God. He was nailed to the cross that all these bounties might flow to God's workmanship."234 "To the death of Christ we owe even this earthly life. The water we drink is bought by His spilled blood. Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring.235
The Resurrection and Ascension of Christ
Mrs. White follows the orthodox Christian doctrine of the bodily resurrection and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God. "The risen body of the Saviour, His deportment, the accents of His speech, were all familiar to His followers. In like manner will those who sleep in Jesus rise again. We shall know our friends even as the disciples knew Jesus."236 His resurrection is a sample of the final resurrection.237 "The same power that raised Christ from the dead will raise His church, and glorify it with Him,238 above all principalities, above all powers "Christ ascended to heaven, bearing a sanctified, holy humanity. He took this humanity with Him into the heavenly courts.239
The three Persons of the Godhead acted in the resurrection of Jesus. God raised His Son.240 He was raised "by the operation of the Spirit."241 But above all, Christ arose by the life within Himself, thus giving full proof of His deity.
. . . the Saviour came forth from the grave by the life that was in Himself. Now was proved the truth of His words, "I lay down My life, that I might take it again. . . . I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." Now was fulfilled the prophecy He had spoken to the priests and rulers, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.". .
Christ's resurrection is "a sure evidence of the triumph of the saints243 of God over death and the grave. "This same resurrection power is that which gives life to the soul 'dead in trespasses and sins.244
Over the rent sepulcher of Joseph Christ had proclaimed in triumph, "I am the resurrection, and the life." These words could be spoken only by the Deity. All created beings live by the will and power of God. They are dependent recipients of the life of God. From the highest seraph to the humblest animate being, all are replenished from the Source of life. Only He who is one with God could say, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. In His divinity, Christ possessed the power to break the bonds of death.242
God is able to take those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and by the operation of the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead, transform the human character, bringing back the soul to the lost image of God."245
"Jesus ascended to the Father as a representative of the human race . . ."246 The ascension of Jesus is portrayed very graphically:
The Spirit's outpouring at Pentecost was the earthly manifestation of Christ's enthronement at the right hand of God. It was the sharing with His people on earth all that they could endure of the glory given Him as their Representative.
Joyfully the waiting sentinels respond,—
"Who is this King of Glory?"
This they say, not because they know not who He is, but because they would hear the answer of exalted praise,—
"The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle!
Lift up your heads, O ye gates;
Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in.
Again is heard the challenge, Who is this angels never weary of hearing His name exalted King of Glory?".
"The Lord of hosts;
He is the King of glory."
Then the portals of the city of God are opened wide, and the angelic throng sweep through the gates amid a burst of rapturous music.
There is the throne, and around it the rainbow of promise. There are cherubim and seraphim. The commanders of the angel hosts, the sons of God, the representatives of the unfallen worlds, are assembled. The heavenly council before which Lucifer had accused God and His Son, the representatives of those sinless realms over which Satan had thought to establish his dominion,—all are there to welcome the Redeemer. They are eager to celebrate His triumph and to glorify their King.
But He waves them back. Not yet; He cannot now receive the coronet of glory and the royal robe. He enters into the presence of His Father. He points to His wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet; He lifts His hands, bearing the print of nails. He points to the tokens of His triumph; He presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with Him as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at His second coming. He approaches the Father, with whom there is joy over one sinner that repents; who rejoices over one with singing. Before the foundations of the earth were laid, the Father and the Son had united in a covenant to redeem man if he should be overcome by Satan. They had clasped Their hands in a solemn pledge that Christ should become the surety for the human race. This pledge Christ has fulfilled. When upon the cross He cried out, "It is finished," He addressed the Father. The compact had been fully carried out. Now He declares: Father, it is finished. I have done Thy will, O My God. I have completed the work of redemption. If Thy justice is satisfied, "I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am."
The voice of God is heard proclaiming that justice is satisfied. Satan is vanquished. Christ's toiling, struggling ones on earth are accepted in the Beloved." Before the heavenly angels and the representatives of unfallen worlds, they are declared justified. Where He is, there His church shall be. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." The Father's arms encircle His Son, and the word is given, "Let all the angels of God worship Him."
With joy unutterable, rulers and principalities and powers acknowledge the supremacy of the Prince of Life. The angel host prostrate themselves before Him, while the glad shout fills all the courts of heaven, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing."
Songs of triumph mingle with the music from angel harps, till heaven seems to overflow with joy and praise. Love has conquered. The lost is found. Heaven rings with voices in lofty strains proclaiming, "Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever."
From that scene of heavenly joy, there comes back to us on earth the echo of Christ's own wonderful words, "I ascend unto My Father, and your Father; and to My God, and your God." The family of heaven and the family of earth are one. For us our Lord ascended, and for us He lives. "Wherefore He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them."248
When Christ passed within the heavenly gates, He was enthroned amidst the adoration of the angels. As soon as this ceremony was completed, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in rich currents, and Christ was indeed glorified, even with the glory which He had with the Father from all eternity. The Pentecostal outpouring was Heaven's communication that the Redeemer's inauguration was accomplished. According to His promise He had sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to His followers as a token that He had, as priest and king, received all authority in heaven and on earth, and was the Anointed One over His people.249
The Intercession of Christ
No survey of Mrs. White's teaching on Christ's redemptive office would be complete without taking note of her very great emphasis on the importance of Christ's intercession at God's right hand. Many Christians' interest in the objective work of Christ ends at His death and resurrection, and thereafter they concentrate on the subjective aspect of His work in the hearts of His people. But Mrs. White places such a great emphasis on the importance of Christ's intercession that some have even suspected her teaching of being a denial of Christ's finished work. This has led to more misunderstanding than has any other facet of her soteriology. Actually, her doctrine of intercession is not very dissimilar to Louis Berkhof's treatment on Christ's intercession in his Systematic Theology.
There are perhaps three factors which have contributed to some misunderstanding about Mrs. White's doctrine.
1. The lack of emphasis among a lot of evangelicals on the doctrine of intercession. If they understood Christ's intercession as Dr. Berkhof has presented it, they could at least understand what Mrs. White teaches on this matter—even if they did not agree with everything she said about it.
2. The use of a few expressions and terminologies which often mean one thing to Mrs. White and quite another thing to most evangelicals.
3. The poor and even inaccurate representations of Mrs. White's doctrine which have sometimes been given by Seventh-day Adventists.
Mrs. White presents the intercession of Christ as a theme of contemplation along with His death and resurrection.250 It is by His intercession that He sheds upon His people "the benefits of His atonement."251 Christ "reverently presents at the mercy seat His finished redemption."252
By His spotless life, His obedience, His death on the cross of Calvary, Christ interceded for the lost race. And now, not as a mere petitioner does the Captain of our salvation intercede for us, but as a Conqueror claiming His victory. His offering is complete, and as our Intercessor He executes His self-appointed work, holding before God the censer containing His own spotless merits and the prayers, confessions, and thanksgiving of His people. Perfumed with the fragrance of His righteousness, these ascend to God as a sweet savor. The offering is wholly acceptable, and pardon covers all transgression.253
In His intercession Christ makes application of the merits procured by His once-for-all redemptive act. By death Christ was Testator, and by His intercession He is Executor of the testament. Just as no one will be saved without faith in Christ's redemptive act, so no one will be saved without the application of Christ's blood and righteousness. The intercession of Christ teaches us that we are not left to apply these merits savingly to ourselves. Nor can we present them savingly to God. By intercession Christ acts for us in applying and presenting the virtue of His victory.
As our reject Him, striving by Mediator, Christ works incessantly. Whether men receive or He works earnestly for them. He grants them life and light, His Spirit to win them from Satan's service.254
Our great High Priest presents before the Father His own blood, claiming for the sinner who receives Him as his personal Saviour all the traces which His covenant embraces as the reward of His sacrifice.255
Christ, as our Mediator at the right hand of the Father, ever keeps us in view, for it is as necessary that He should keep us by His intercessions as that He should redeem us with His blood.256
The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work [of intercession] which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven.257 We must enter by faith within the veil, "whither the forerunner is for us entered." There the light from the cross of Calvary is reflected. There we may gain a clearer insight into the mysteries of redemption. The salvation of man is accomplished at an infinite expense to heaven; the sacrifice has opened the way to the Father's throne, and through His mediation the sincere desire of all who come to Him in faith may be presented before God.258
The outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the result of Christ's intercession. Of course, repentance and faith on the part of the believer are indispensable. Yet it is not the believer's asking that opens heaven and brings the divine anointing. It is the efficacy of Christ's asking at God's right hand.
I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter.259
. . . the disciples offered their supplications for this gift, and in heaven Christ added His intercession. He claimed the gift of the Spirit, that He might pour it upon His people.
Thus the divine anointing comes to the believer through Christ's intercession in heaven. 261 The purpose of His intercession is "to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement."262 Mrs. White takes the orthodox view of the Western Church (as opposed to the Eastern Church in what became known as the Filioque controversy), that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father.263
The Pentecostal outpouring was Heaven's communication that the Redeemer's inauguration was accomplished. According to His promise He had sent the Holy Spirit from heaven to His followers as a token that He had, as priest and king, received all authority in heaven and on earth, and was the Anointed One over His people.260
The Holy Spirit, coming to God's people through Christ's intercession, inspires them to penitence, praise and Christian service. This brings us to another facet of Christ's intercession:
The religious services, the prayers, the praise, the penitent confession of sin ascend from true believers as incense to the heavenly sanctuary, but passing through the corrupt channels of humanity, they are so defiled that unless purified by blood, they can never be of value with God. They ascend not in spotless purity, and unless the Intercessor, who is at God's right hand, presents and purifies all by His righteousness, it is not acceptable to God. All incense from earthly tabernacles must be moist with the cleansing drops of the blood of Christ. He holds before the Father the censer of His own merits, in which there is no taint of earthly corruption. He gathers into this censer the prayers, the praise, and the confessions of His people, and with these He puts His own spotless righteousness. Then, perfumed with the merits of Christ's propitiation, the incense comes up before God wholly and entirely acceptable. Then gracious answers are returned.264
This statement reminds us of Calvin, who said that the best deeds of the saints "are foul in God's sight unless they derive a good odor from Christ's innocence."
Mrs. White sometimes uses the expressions "atonement" and "intercession"265 interchangeably. Some may even be amazed to read that she says that Christ is now making atonement for His people in the sanctuary above.266 This is strange language indeed to most evangelicals! But we must remember that words are only vehicles to convey thoughts, and they can sometimes mean very different things to people who come from different backgrounds and traditions than ourselves. If we are going to correctly evaluate Mrs. White's doctrine, we must objectively seek to understand what she means by this expression.
The English word atonement has come to mean a specific thing to most Christians—namely, the satisfaction that Christ gave to divine justice on the cross. The reader, having looked over our survey of Mrs. White's teaching on the death of Christ, will concede that she believes in such an atonement on the cross. But the early Adventists (including Mrs. White) derived another connotation from the word atonement by their study of the Levitical records of the ancient Jewish tabernacle. The Hebrew word for atonement is kaphar—a difficult word to translate into English. Even the very fine English word atonement is not an exact equivalent; and there is no Greek equivalent either. The Hebrew word kaphar is used in a variety of ways in the Old Testament. When used in the tabernacle ritual, the kaphar is not confined to the killing of the sacrifice. In fact, kaphar is more often used in reference to the priest's ministering the blood within the tabernacle after the sacrifice was slain. Kaphar is sometimes translated as forgive, purge, blot out, etc. For example, when the sinner repented, the priest took the blood, entered the tabernacle, and made kaphar for him. Then he was personally forgiven.
In like manner, when the repenting sinner today is covered and forgiven by the intercession of the blood of Christ in the antitypical tabernacle in heaven, Mrs. White can speak of Christ's making atonement for him. This is a strange expression to most of us, but not strange in the light of Old Testament usage of the term. In such places Mrs. White is not giving the word its commonly accepted usage, but one of its old Levitical usages. Such Levitical expressions do not generally occur in her writings, except where she is dealing with the sanctuary. Then, on occasion, she switches to the language of the old sanctuary symbolism.
This emphasis on Christ's intercession at the right hand of God keeps Christian existence from becoming swallowed up by preoccupation with the inner experience of the believer. The Bible does have a great deal to say about the Spirit's work in the heart of the believer, but that is not where the issues of the cosmic conflict are settled. The "shots" are being called from the throne room of the universe. The people of God triumph, not because of their Spirit-inspired achievements on earth—as important as those are—but by the power of Christ s intercession at God's right hand.267 It is what Christ does in heaven's court that will bring the conflict between good and evil to an end.
1 DA 680
2 CT 453
3 DA 687
4 Ev 172
5 GW 156
6 6BC 1092
7 Ev 615
8 8T 286
9 Ed 36
10 COL 126
11 7BC 907
12 DA 211
13 6BC 1113
14 Phil. 1:21; 7BC 903
15 8T 287
16 Ev 187
17 Ev 190
18 Ev 190
19 GW 156-160
20 ST 743
21 PP 34
22 Ev 615
23 DA 112; Ev 615
24 DA 530
25 1SM 247
26 5BC 1129
27 7BC 904
28 GC 524
29 1SM 240; QD 677, 672, 673
30 DA 57
31 QD 670
32 DA 442
33 DA 123
34 DA 530
35 7BC 904
36 5BC 1129
37 1SM 408
38 5BC 1146
39 5BC 1113
40 5BC 1127
41 5BC 1125
42 DA 669
43 1SM 250, 251
44 5BC 1103
45 Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 339.
46 QD 653
47 SBC 1130
48 RH Dec. 11, 1888
49 2T 202
50 DA 49
51 1SM 253
52 DA 117
53 QD 657
54 DA 311
55 QD 657
56 DA 71
57 2T 202
58 1SM 256
59 5BC 1128 (ef. EW 150, 152)
60 5BC 1128
61 QD 650
62 QD 651
63 1SM 253
64 QD 651
65 5BC 1128
66 DA 49
67 DA 49
68 5BC 1082
69 DA 117
70 1SM 257
71 1SN 252
72 1SM 273
73 7BC 933
74 5BC 1149
75 6BC 1114
76 7BC 933, 934
77 DA 22
78 6BC 1070
79 6BC 1148; 1SM 250
80 DA 799; 7BC 933
81 See chapter on man.
82 1SM 247
83 1SM 250
84 7BC 934
85 GC 261, 262
86 PP 33
87 GC 262
88 1SM 215
89 6BC 1114
90 7BC 931
91 6BC 1114
92 See Wesley's letters to Hervey.
93 PP 48, 49, 60
94 6BC 1072
95 7BC 931 (cf. SC 62)
96 1SM 367
97 1SM 367 (cf. SC 62)
98 6BC 1092
99 7BC 931
100 SC 62
101 1SM 250
102 1SM 396
103 1SM 367
104 SD 240
105 7BC 929
106 7BC 925
107 DA 24, 119
108 Ed 78
109 7BC 930
110 5T 422
111 DA 49, 74, 311
112 2T 628
113 KH 70
114 7BC 904
115 SC 64; AA 560, 561
116 SL 79, 81, 83; AA 561
117 SD 240; SC 62; DA 486, 490; 1SM 367, 395
118 3T 459
119 GW 315
120 QD 662
121 6BC 1113
122 AA 209
123 GW 251; CT 427
124 6T 236; Ev 223; 8T 77
125 2T 212
126 2T 213
127 2T 215
128 GC 652
129 PP 67
130 SD 225
131 Ev 187
132 1SM 229
133 1BC 1104
134 1SM 371; QD 675
135 1SM 211
136 QD 674
137 7BC 951
138 6BC 1074
139 GC 503; 1SM 312
140 1SM 323
141 QD 675
142 QD 675
143 DA 26
144 GC 503
145 1SM 302
146 1SM 371
147 Is. 42:21
148 SD 239; 6BC 1071; DA 762-764
149 QD 662
150 1SM 273
151 9T 44
152 TM 220
153 1SM 273, 349
154 QD 677
155 QD 648-650, 691
156 QD 692
157 7BC 933
158 QD 665
159 QD 666
160 QD 666
161 DA 753
162 1SM 322
163 QD 666, 667
164 DA 25
165 6BC 1070
166 1SM 240
167 1SM 302
168 1SM 308
169 1SM 309
170 1SM 309
171 1SM 322
172 DA 686
173 QD 674
174 QD 673
175 1SM 322
176 2T 214
177 2T 206, 209, 210
178 DA 687
179 DA 753
180 QD 677
181 5BC 1104
182 5BC 1103
183 5BC 1108
184 DA 753, 754
185 6BC 1096; COL 128; PP 279
186 1SM 273
187 QD 676, 677
188 SC 13
189 GC 262
190 QD 668
191 QD 669
192 QD 668
193 1SM 343
194 1SM 215
195 QD 666
196 5BC 1143
197 6T 230, 231
198 GC 671
199 6BC 1070
200 5BC 1102
201 DA 819
202 7BC 913 (cf. DA 790)
203 QD 669
204 QD 680
205 TM 92
206 TM 21
207 DA 769
208 DA 758
209 1SM 364
210 1SM 341
211 QD 670
212 1SM 184
213 1SM 394, 395
214 QD 680
215 5BC 1149
216 QD 669
217 5BC 1149
218 DA 758
219 1SM 255
220 DA 26
221 QD 677
222 QD 677, 675; 1SM 302, 312
223 1SM 273
224 QD 677, 669, 674
225 QD 674, 671; ST 537
226 QD 674
227 DA 57; SC 15, 26, 27; 25M 20
228 SC 15; QD 675
229 DA 756
230 COL 386
231 SD 228
232 5BC 1109
233 1BC 1082
234 4BC 1146
235 DA 660
236 6BC 1092
237 DA 786, 787
238 DA 787
239 6BC 1125
240 DA 785
241 FE 332
242 DA 785
243 9T 286
244 DA 209
245 FE 332
246 9T 286
247 QD 671
248 DA 833-835
249 AA 38, 39
250 ST 575; Ev 187
251 EW 260
252 TM 21
253 COL 156
254 QD 688
255 QD 689
256 QD 681
257 Compare this with the words of Louis Berkhof: "He [Christ] only began His priestly work on earth, and is completing it in heaven. . . . It is evident that this [intercessory] work of Christ may not be disassociated from His atoning sacrifice, which forms its necessary basis. It is but the continuation of the priestly work of Christ, carrying it to completion. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 400, 401.
258 GC 489
259 John 14:16
260 AA 37-39
261 QD 690
262 EW 260
263 1SM 215
264 1SM 344
265 TM 37
266 TM 37; QD 685
267 ST 575, 472-476, 749-754; GC 489, 613, 614