Seventh-Day Adventists/Heb 9:23
Dear Bro. Sal,
What is the most convincing interpretation of Hebrews 9:23 to show that the verse isn't related to the cleansing of accumulated sins as taught in the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment?
Dear Brother Andy:
I certainly cannot give you the most convincing interpretation of Hebrews 9:23 because what may be convincing to me may not be convincing to someone else. What I can do is ask you to pray for the Holy Spirit to open the heart of the person you are speaking to. To keep things in perspective remember that the Bible does not support the SDA doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. The Apostles never believed or taught it, the early Church never believed or taught it, no Christian ever believed or taught it until its invention in 1844. This is quite strange if this doctrine is as important as the SDA Church believes.
With that said, let's look at the verse in question. "Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these" (Hebrews 9:23 NKJV). If read in isolation one could give this verse an IJ spin, but one should not read a verse in isolation. Let's include the verse before and the verse after our verse in our study.
"22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. 23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (NKJV).
Why verse 23 doesn't refer to the cleansing associated with the SDA doctrine of the IJ is that whatever verse 23 refers to occurred in the first century! Paul said that Jesus entered the Most Holy Place in heaven "now to appear in the presence of God for us". God's throne is in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary. Therefore, Christ appearing "now" in the presence of God the Father means he is in the Most Holy Place. Paul speaks of the cleansing as having already occurred. The SDA doctrine of the IJ posits that Jesus only entered the Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary upon his ascension. Then on October 22, 1844, Jesus entered the Most Holy Place to cleanse the sanctuary and begin the Investigative Judgment. Honestly, do verses 22-24 sound like Jesus is in the Holy Place ministering there until October 22, 1844 when he will then enter the Most Holy Place and be in the presence of the Father interceding for us? Paul taught elsewhere that Jesus was already at God's right hand interceding for us in the first century. "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us" (Romans 8:34 ESV). Also note that Paul used the fact that the earthly sanctuary was a type or "copy" of the one in heaven (see vs. 23 & 24 above). Paul certainly was aware that the ark of the covenant was always in the Most Holy Place in the type and so it would be in the true sanctuary above. The ark of the covenant was the throne of God on earth (cf. Leviticus 16:2). Therefore, Paul is teaching here that Jesus is in the Most Holy Place which is unlike the IJ which teaches that Jesus was in the Holy Place in the first century. I pray that you can see that Hebrews 9:23 does not in any way support the SDA doctrine of the IJ. Verse 23 is simply saying that Jesus entered heaven with his cleansing blood which is a better sacrifice then those offered under the Old Covenant. He indeed purified the heavenly sanctuary in the first century.
Thanks for the question.
God Be With You,