Adventist Teaching: Yes
Biblical Teaching: No
Part of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church’s Fundamental Beliefs is the claim that, at Jesus’s ascension, He was inaugurated as a high priest where He would then begin the work of a high priest in a sanctuary building in Heaven. They call this the second phase of Christ’s atoning work. This is foundational to their core teaching regarding the investigative judgment. It states, in part:
There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle that the Lord set up and not humans. In it Christ ministers on our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross. At His ascension, He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry, which was typified by the work of the high priest in the holy place of the earthly sanctuary.Seventh-Day Adventist Fundamental Belief #24
This is ultimately coming from Ellen G. White, who the SDA Church believes was divinely inspired and corrects inaccurate interpretations of scripture. She claimed that “after His ascension our Saviour began His work as our high priest.”
This isn’t what the bible teaches.
While it is correct that Jesus is functioning as the mediator of His people in heaven (1 Timothy 2:5), this is taking place from His throne (Psalm 110:1, Romans 8:34, Colossians 3:1, Ephesians 1:20, 1 Peter 3:22, Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 10:12-13, 12:2). This is because Jesus isn’t only a high priest but also a king. He isn’t after the order of the Levites who were only priests, but after the order of Melchizedek who was both a high priest and a king (Hebrews 6:19-20, 7:1). This is why the universal priesthood that all believers share is royal (1 Peter 2:9).
Christ functioned as a high priest beginning with His once offering up of Himself as a sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12), satisfying divine justice, reconciling believers to God and then making continual intercession for them as a high priest king on His throne. The SDA Church doesn’t understand that Jesus functioned as a priest while on earth, not only in heaven.
Hebrews 2:14-17 tells us that Jesus took on human flesh so that He could save those who were under the bondage of sin, Satan, and death. By doing this, we are told that Jesus functioned as a high priest in His work of propitiation (Hebrews 2:17). This work of propitiation occurred when Jesus was put forth by God and shed His blood at Calvary (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 4:10) which would mean He was already functioning as a high priest prior to His ascension.
Further evidence of this is in Jesus’s wearing of linen garments on the Day of Atonement, just like the Levitical priest did. John’s Gospel in particular devotes much attention to Jesus’ burial clothes. Notice what all he expounds upon. He tells us in chapter 19 that Nicodemus brought about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes to spice Jesus’ body, and that He was bound in linen wrappings (John 19:39-40). Prior to that He told us that the soldiers divided His’ garments into four parts—all except His seamless tunic (John 19:23-24).
Then in chapter 20 we find out that His body and His head were wrapped separately. (John 20:6-7). When he raised from the dead, the linen garments and face wrap were left. Only John tells us this much detail. And why is that?
It all speaks to Jesus as the Great High Priest. In Exodus 28:39, we’re told that Aaron wore garments of glory and beauty when he carried out his work, and among these were a tunic of checkered work of fine linen—it being checkered implies it was seamless (Exodus 28:39).
On the Day of Atonement, however, Aaron set aside these glorious garments and wore only “holy garments,” consisting of linen tunics, undergarments, sash, and turban. When the work of atonement was finished, he would then put back on his garments of glory and beauty.
This is precisely what Jesus did. He removed His robe of glory by incarnating in His humiliation. After the work of redemption was accomplished, He took back on that garment of sheer glory and beauty.
The linen garments that Jesus was wrapped in speak of His work as Great High Priest on the true Day of Atonement. They were left behind “in a holy place” (Leviticus 16:23) when His work was finished, and He assumed his glorified body. We see the place of the linen garments being a holy place in the fact that John wouldn’t enter the tomb before Peter—he saw the garments in the tomb (John 20:5).
Jesus’s ascension was His inauguration as King of kings and Lord of lords. When He ascended back to the Father, He sat down on His throne after accomplishing the redemption of all things (Daniel 7:13-14, Acts 2:33-4, Colossians 1:20-2, Hebrews 1:3, 8:1, 10:12-13, 12:2). In contrast, the Levitical priests never sat down because the work of dealing with sin was always going on. Their sacrifices and offerings couldn’t perfect the individual they were made for—it was only temporary (Hebrews 10:1-4, 11).
But Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, after offering Himself one time as both high priest and sacrifice, dealt with sin once and for all, putting it away at the cross (Hebrews 9:26), and He then sat down, signifying that the work is finished (Hebrews 10:12-14). This is because Jesus’s single sacrifice is actually able to perfect those that it was made for unlike bulls and goats (Hebrews 10:14).
This is why the SDA Church is off base in their analysis of what Jesus is currently doing in heaven and fail to see that Jesus’s work of mediation takes places from His throne where He intercedes for His people before the Father as a priest king. He isn’t standing and still dealing with sin—which is why the book of Hebrews repeatedly emphasizes that He is seated. The priestly aspect that Jesus will forever perform for His people is mediation and intercession (Hebrews 7:25) while He rules and reigns forever as King (Revelation 1:6, 11:15).
Shockingly, the SDA Church makes no mention of Christ’s kingly role in their Fundamental Beliefs at all. Not in belief #24 or any of the others. They don’t even mention it in their exposition of Belief #24 in the Seventh-Day Adventist’s Believe book—which is their official exposition of their own beliefs. This is quite telling.
There cannot be a second phase of atonement because atonement can only happen when there is the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Scripture is clear that Jesus shed His blood one time and that was at Calvary (Hebrews 9:22-8). He isn’t shedding His blood in heaven. Just like the priest would make atonement at the point of the sacrifice and let the repentant Israelite know that they were forgiven (Leviticus 4:20, 5:6, 6:7), so Jesus—as the Great High Priest—announced this same thing from the cross when He said, “It is finished,” after the sacrifice was made (John 19:28-30).
Ellen White claimed that “whatever contradicts God’s Word, we can be sure proceeds from Satan”, that her writings never contradict God’s Word, and bear the test of investigation. We’ll let you connect the dots.