“Without an Intercessor”

Seventh-day Adventists have a unique approach to Biblical eschatology.  Like most evangelicals, they are premillennial (Jesus comes before the thousand years), yet, unlike most, are post-tribulation (meaning that Christians will go through the tribulation and will be the target of the final persecution).

This final period of persecution is called the “Time of Trouble.”  The phrase comes from Daniel 12:1, “At that time shall Michael stand up, the great Prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, everyone that shall be found written in the book.”  The most intense period, right before the final deliverance, is referred to as the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble,” a phrase that comes from Jeremiah 30:7, “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.”

Another aspect is a unique theology of the high priestly ministry of Jesus.  Following the Book of Hebrews, Adventists see Jesus as now engaged in a heavenly ministry as high priest.  Seeing the Old Testament sanctuary as a “type,” Adventists believe that there are two phases to Jesus’ ministry, with the final phase being analogous to the Day of Atonement, or “cleansing of the sanctuary.”  It’s a kind of judgment, that Adventists believe began in 1844 with the completion of a time prophecy of 2,300 years (Daniel 8:14), and will end when Jesus “stands up,” finishes his intercession, and the “time of trouble” begins. 

Adventists see the figure of “Michael” in the Old Testament as representing Jesus.  But they do not believe this makes Jesus an angel or other created being.

The question I wish to consider here is, what does it mean for his intercession to cease?  Some Adventists believe this means that he will no longer be the mediator for Christians, and that they will have to stand then on their own two feet, as it were.  Theologians such as M. L. Andreasen and Herbert Douglass spelled out a concept known as “Last Generation Theology” in which the final generation must achieve a state of sinless perfection to be able to stand in those days.

Andreasen saw this as part of the atonement:

“In the third phase Christ demonstrates that man can do what He did, with the same help He had. This phase includes His session at the right hand of God, His high priestly ministry, and the final exhibition of His saints in their last struggle with Satan, and their glorious victory.” (M. L. Andreasen, The Book of Hebrews, p. 59).

Ellen White speaks of the conclusion of Jesus’ sanctuary ministry and the onset of the Time of Trouble in Great Controversy, p. 614:

“When He leaves the sanctuary, darkness covers the inhabitants of the earth. In that fearful time the righteous must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor. The restraint which has been upon the wicked is removed, and Satan has entire control of the finally impenitent. God’s long-suffering has ended. The world has rejected His mercy, despised His love, and trampled upon His law. The wicked have passed the boundary of their probation; the Spirit of God, persistently resisted, has been at last withdrawn. Unsheltered by divine grace, they have no protection from the wicked one. Satan will then plunge the inhabitants of the earth into one great, final trouble. As the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion, all the elements of strife will be let loose. The whole world will be involved in ruin more terrible than that which came upon Jerusalem of old.”

What I wish to argue is that the idea that the saints “must live in the sight of a holy God without an intercessor” does not refer here to their personal perfectionism, as if they can stand on their own righteousness.  Instead, as the context makes clear, it means that God no longer is protecting the earth from his wrath; “The restraint which has been upon the wicked is removed,” and “the angels of God cease to hold in check the fierce winds of human passion.”  Christ’s intercession has protected not merely the righteous up to this point, but the whole world.  Now, that is removed—but the righteous remain under his protection.

To see this most clearly, we need to go to the first expressions of this idea, which come not from the visions of Ellen White, but from the Bible study of her husband, James. 

The first place I can find it laid out is in James White’s article, “The Seven Last Plagues,” in “A Word to the Little Flock” (1847). 

On the 10th day of the 7th month, 1844, [Jesus] passed into the Holy of Holies, where he has since been a merciful “high priest over the house of God.” But when his priestly work is finished there, he is to lay off his priestly attire, and put on his most kingly robes, to execute his judgment on the living wicked. …

“And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor.” Isaiah 59:14, 15, 16.

I think that the next two verses, which speak of our Lord’s putting on the “garments of vengeance for clothing,” to “repay fury to his adversaries,” point to the wrath of God in the seven last plagues. … The Bible contains many descriptions of this soon expected day of wrath.

“A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee” – see Psalm 91:5-10. {WLF 2.6}

… I am quite sure that our Savior referred to the same, when he spake of “distress of nations, with perplexity;” “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” – Luke 21:26, 27. In the 36th verse we are exhorted to constant watchfulness and prayer, that we “may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man:” at his appearing.

This makes it sure, that the trouble comes before the second advent; for the saints are to escape it, before they “stand before the Son of man.” At the second appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, the living wicked, who are not swept off by the plagues, are to be destroyed by the “brightness of his coming.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:8.

This is positive proof that the plagues come before, and not after the advent; for the wicked will not suffer by the plagues, after they are destroyed by the burning glory of his coming.

The plagues of Egypt, and the deliverance of ancient Israel from bondage, clearly shadow forth the seven last plagues, and the deliverance of the saints.

“I will bring them (the saints) with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm, and smite Egypt with plagues AS BEFORE,” etc. – 2Edras, 15:11. “Zion shall be redeemed with judgment,” etc. – Isaiah 1:27. see Ezekiel 20:33-38. The plagues were poured out on Egypt just before, and at the deliverance of Israel; so we may expect the last plagues on the wicked, just before and at the deliverance of the saints.

We may see by the 91st Psalm, that many of the wicked are to be cut off, while the saints are on the earth, in their mortal state; for they are to fall by thousands all around them. {WLF 3.5}

The saints are exhorted not to fear the plagues at that time, for God will give his angels charge over them, so that no plague shall come nigh their dwellings; but such an exhortation would be useless, if the saints are immortal before the plagues are poured out. {WLF 3.6}

The men with slaughter-weapons in their hands have this charge, “come not near any man upon whom is the mark;” which shows that the marked saints are in their mortal state, at the slaying time. {WLF 3.7}

But the humble followers of the Lamb, have nothing to fear from the terrors of the day of his wrath; for they will be sealed before the plagues are poured out. {WLF 3.8}

The man “clothed with linen,” marks the saints before the slaying commences. {WLF 3.9}

The “four angels” are not to hurt the “earth, neither the sea, nor the trees,” till the servants of God are sealed in their foreheads. – Revelation 7:1-3. {WLF 3.10}

The marking or sealing of the saints, seems to be shadowed forth by the marking of the side posts and upper door posts of the houses of all Israel, before the Lord passed through Egypt, to slay the first-born of the Egyptians. {WLF 3.11}

Israel was safe; for God was their protector in that perilous night. The true Israel of God will be safely protected, when Christ rules the nations with a “rod of iron,” and dashes them “in pieces like a potter’s vessel;” for he has promised to give his angels charge over them, to keep them in all their ways. {WLF 3.12}

Those who keep the word of Christ’s “patience” in this time of waiting, and trial, will then be kept “FROM the hour of temptation, (or trial) which shall come on all the WORLD, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” – Revelation 3:10. {WLF 3.13}

Those who do every well known duty to God, and his children: and confess their faults to God, and to one another: and are healed from their faults: will safely rest in the arms of the holy angels, while the burning wrath of God is being poured out on those who have rejected his counsel, and commandments. But I must leave this subject for the present, and close with the exhortation of the prophet: {WLF 3.14}

“Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” – Zephaniah 2:3. {WLF 3.15}