Neutering or Killing? A Response to George Knight's Book (Part 1)

This article by Samuel Wang is a response to “The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism”, written by George Knight.

I.   Introduction

George Knight, one of the most prolific authors among Adventists, considers his small book, The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism,[1] “to be the most important of his career.”[2] As the title suggests, this book consists of two major parts, studies on apocalyptic vision and exposing comprising trends which lead to the “neutering of Adventism” within Adventist churches.

While we concur with Knight’s cry of the danger of neutering of Adventism, his studies on apocalyptic visions, the focus of this small book, is not what we would hope. According to Knight’s study on the apocalyptic visions, the little book in Revelation 10 refers to the 1260-day prophecy. Adventist’s investigative judgment proclaimed in Daniel 8:14 was not rooted in the text itself, and the book of Hebrews cannot be used to support the Adventist message. The purpose of this article is to examine these three claims made in the book and to warn readers of it’s potential danger to the killing of Adventism at it’s heart. Our plan is to quote directly from the said book, to give brief comments, and point out the danger it might pose.

II.   Knight’s New Views

A.   The little Book in Revelation 10 is the 1260 day prophecy

1.  Knight’s own words

In his research of the apocalyptic vision, Knight only sought to “deal with the big items”.[3] He did a fairly good job in defending historicism by referring to Daniel 2 and Revelation 12, and the year-for-a-day principle by asserting “it is the only way one can make sense out of the passage.”[4] It was his third area which brought him to question the traditional Adventism interpretation of Revelation 10. To him, the traditional Adventist interpretation is “a bit too clean to be true. It appeared to be a little too Adventist centered and smacked too much of our agenda.”[5] This feeling seemed to compel him in his ongoing investigation of Revelation 10. He recognized there are two parts of Daniel’s vision that were sealed, i.e., the 1260-day prophecy and “the vision of the evenings and mornings of Daniel 8”.[6] After an exciting journey of exploration, Knight reported that “At that point in my study I had no doubt concerning the opening of the 1260 days that had been sealed in Daniel 12:9.”[7]

But, what about the 2300-day prophecy of Daniel 8:26, 14? Knight told us that “Here the evidence is not as rich, but neither is it absent.”[8] What does it mean to say “but neither is it absent”? Knight may have been too excited in his new discovery to give further explanation.

2.   Comment

Was the 1260 day prophecy the sealed book in Daniel? Let’s go with Knight to Daniel 12:4-9,

“But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, [even] to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased…. “And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words [are] closed up and sealed till the time of the end.” (Dan. 12:4, 9).

Obviously, Knight’s reading of Dan. 12:4-9 was wrong. What was sealed was “the words”, 1260 days prophecy was a timeline to indicate when the sealed book will be opened, as simple as that.

The fact that in the angel’s hand is “a little book open” (Rev. 10:2) hints that the “little book” was sealed before. There is only one book which was sealed in the whole Old Testament. However, a closer look indicates that this book is connected with time, for the same angel had sworn “that there should be time no longer.”(Rev. 10:6). Ellen White caught this connection and wrote that “the unsealing of the little book was the message in relation to time.”[9] She further connected this time with 1844, i.e., 2300 day prophecy in Dan.8:14.

“This time, which the Angel declares with a solemn oath, is not the end of this world’s history, neither of probationary time, but of prophetic time, which would precede the advent of our Lord. That is, the people will not have another message upon definite time. After this period of time, reaching from 1842 to 1844, there can be no definite tracing of the prophetic time. The longest reckoning reaches to the autumn of 1844.”[10]

As Knight recognized that the “shut up” vision refers to Dan. 8:14. It should be read: “And the MAREH vision of the evening and the morning which was told [is] true: wherefore shut thou up the CHAZOWN vision; for it [shall be] for many days.”(Dan. 8:26). It was the Chazown vision that is shut up here, not the mareh. The mareh is identified as true, but the chazown as shut up. When Gabriel came to Daniel he was to open his understanding, it was to “understand the matter, and consider the vision (MAREH vision).” Thus we see the first 70 weeks of 2300 day prophecy was unfolded, what was sealed till “to the time of the end” would only be the rest of the portion of the 2300 days.

However, Knight’s apparent careless misreading of Dan. 12:4-9 led him to a wrong interpretation of the little book in Rev. 10, in spite of the inspired writings of Ellen White and a position Adventists have held for over one and half centuries.

3.   Implications

Suppose Knight was right in concluding that the 1260 day prophecy was the sealed little book which was opened in Revelation 10. It would have reached its fulfillment in 1798. Then the Millerite movement in 1840s would be forty plus years late to fulfill the “sweet and bitter” experience, the Seventh-day Adventist Church would also lose her prophetic root in the prophecies of Revelation! Knight’s conclusion would smash the understanding that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the prophetic church foretold in Revelation 10.

B.   Investigative Judgment has no textual support in Daniel 8:14

If the Millerite movement and its heir, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had no prophetic root in Revelation 10, how about her message? Knight’s logic seemed to compel him to re-examine the Adventist understanding of Dan. 8:14.

1.   Knight’s own words

The above conclusion about “the little book” led Knight to believe that “the significance of Daniel 8:14 is that it is an anchor point in time for the beginning of a last-day message predicated in Revelation 10:11 after the bitter experience”.[11] As we will see, he did not perceive in the text itself the slightest sign of the investigative judgment of the saints by Christ as the High Priest. That conclusion brings Knight to his problem with Daniel 8:14.

“And we should note that here indeed the traditional position has a problem that we should not minimize. But the problem is not one of dating the fulfillment, in spite of widespread doubts on that topic during the past 30 years.”[12]

Knight saw a serious problem in the traditional position on Dan. 8:14, not the dating, but with the interpretation of the cleansing of the sanctuary message.

That thought brings me back to my real problem with the traditional understanding of Daniel 8:14, which has to do with what Adventism has done with the cleansing of the sanctuary. The time honored view is that the cleansing is the investigative judgment of the saints.

But looking as hard as I can at the text, I find no investigative or pre-Advent judgment of the saints in that passage. What I do find is judgment on the little horn and a restoration, justification, and cleansing of the sanctuary in relation to that power at the end of the 2300 days.

Here is a problem we ought to be aware of. Our answers have been too simple and have not been rooted in the text itself.[13]

      The problem in his eyes was that there is no textual support for investigative judgment in Dan. 8:14. Yet curiously enough Knight still concluded that the investigative judgment began at the end of 2300 days.

However, Daniel 8:14 only mentions the little horn. But since chapter 7 makes it plain that the little horn and the saints are judged at the same time, it is safe to conclude through parallelism that the pre-Advent judgment of both the little horn and the saints takes place at the end of the 2300 days.[14]

Thus the Adventist understanding of a pre-Advent judgment is not the problem. Rather, it is the wrong use of Daniel 8:14 to prove a point that comes out of chapter.[15](emphasis added).

2. Comment

It might be helpful to analyze Knight’s logic on Dan. 8:14. He has no problem with the dating of 2300-day prophecy and believes it ended in 1844. Though he saw no textual support for the investigative judgment on the saints in Dan. 8:14, he did see it was the time to judge the little horn in that passage. Knight further believes Dan. 7 foretold the little horn and the saints would be judged at the same time. Since the little horn would be judged at the end of 2300-day prophecy, according to Knight, therefore, he concluded that the saints were also judged from the end of 2300 days. Thus, he concludes that it can still be said that investigative judgment started from the end of 2300 days, ye not proven from Dan. 8:14.

First of all, by saying Dan. 8:14 only mentions the little horn, Knight missed the point that the saints are mentioned in Dan. 8:13 where “the daily”, “the transgression of desolation”, and “both the sanctuary and the host” are all included. Dan. 8:14 is an answer to question raised in Dan. 8:13 which is related to “the host” (the saints).

Secondly, Ellen White wrote extensively on Daniel 8:14, and believed it clearly pointed to the investigative judgment on the saints, not the little horn. A couple of examples should be sufficient to show Knight’s conclusion is in direct contradiction with her interpretation, which is also the position of traditional Adventism.

Both the prophecy of Daniel 8:14, "Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed," and the first angel's message, "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come," pointed to Christ's ministration in the most holy place, to the investigative judgment, and not to the coming of Christ for the redemption of His people and the destruction of the wicked.[16] (emphasis provided).

When the work of investigation shall be ended, when the cases of those who in all ages have professed to be followers of Christ have been examined and decided, then, and not till then, probation will close, and the door of mercy will be shut. {GC 428.2}  (emphasis provided).

    Thirdly, in his small book, Knight quoted Dan. 7:22 and Dan. 7:26, 27 to prove the saints and the little horn are judged at the same time, which it will become clear that Knight’s logic and conclusion does not stand up to careful scrutiny. Knight wrote,

1.  Verse 9 and 10 have the pre-Advent judgment taking place in what appears to be the heavenly sanctuary/throne room. Following that judgment Christ receives dominion in verse 14.

2 .Verse 22 has judgment being given in favor of the saints before they receive the kingdom.

3. And verses 26 and 27 have judgment against the little horn and for the saints being given simultaneously prior to their receiving dominion.[17]

Before we go any further in our comments, it is important to point out the difference between investigative judgment and pre-Advent judgment in that while the investigative judgment is certainly a pre-Advent judgment, not all pre-Advent judgments are the investigative judgment. They are not exactly the same! The purpose of the investigative judgment on the saints is to blot out their sin, but the pre-Advent judgment of the little horn is to condemn and “to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2Pet. 2:9), which includes the judgment of the seven last plagues, and decided fate to be destroyed with the rest of the wicked at the second advent, to be followed by the millennium judgment and the final execution of the judgment after the millennium.

Knight is right in recognizing that Dan. 7:9-10 describes pre-Advent judgment (investigative judgment) in the heavenly sanctuary. But the judgment in verse 22, 26 and 27 are different.

“Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom. Daniel 7:22                                                                                                                                                                                                

The time for judgment to be given to the saints takes place when the Ancient of the days came. The past tense in verse 22 was from God’s perspective; everything is viewed as already accomplished (cf. Rom. 8:30). However, historically, it has not happened yet, it occurs at the Second Advent when God the Father will come with the Son to take the saints of the Most High to the capital of the kingdom, New Jerusalem. The eventual possession of the kingdom will be after the heavens and the earth are recreated.

The Saviour's act of giving the kingdom to his saints is a part of the work of executing the decision of the Father respecting his people; for it is the Father's good pleasure to give them the kingdom. Luke 12:32.[18]

Therefore, one cannot accurately use Daniel 7:22 to prove anything about God’s investigative judgment.

Now let’s take a look at verse 26 and 27.

“But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him” Daniel 7:26-27.

Knight noticed “judgment against the little horn and for the saints being given simultaneously immediately prior to their receiving dominion.” Based on this observation, Knight concluded that “through parallelism that the pre-Advent judgment of both the little horn and the saints takes place at the end of the 2300 days.”

The little horn was not consumed and destroyed at the end of 2300, though its dominion was taken away in 1798. “The people of the saints of the Most High” is given the kingdom at and after the second coming. None of these acts proves that “the pre-Advent judgment of both the little horn and the saints takes place at the end of the 2300 days.” The correct order of judgment in these verses seem to be,

1.     Investigative judgment from 1844 (verse 9-10, 13-14);

2.     Pre-Advent judgment on the little horn at 1798 (verse 26) and after the completion of the investigative judgment (verse 26);

3.     Judgment being given in favor of the saints at the Second Advent (verse 22, 27).

Andrews laid out a clear order of how things would happen in relation to judgment,

The destruction of the Papacy is not the same event as the taking away of  his dominion. Compare Dan.7:11 and 26. The one follows after the sitting of the Ancient of Days in judgment; but the other precedes it by a certain space of time. Yet, if we read the chapter without strict attention, we would be very likely to conclude that not the little horn alone, but each of the first three beasts, had their dominion taken away at the judgment. See verses 11, 12, 26. This, however, cannot be. For the dominion of the first beast was taken away by the second, though his life was spared; and so of each one to the last. But the little horn has a special dominion over the saints for "a time and times and the dividing of time, " or 1,260 prophetic days (see verse 25; Rev.12:6, 14), which is taken away at the end of that period. There remains even then a space of time to "the end," during which his dominion is consumed and destroyed. He wars against the saints, however, and prevails until the judgment is given to the saints at the advent of Christ (1Cor.4:5; 6:2, 3; Rev.20:4), when he is given to the burning flames. Dan.7:11; 2Thess.2:8.

In light of Andrews’ study, it seems fair to say that Knight has read Daniel 7 “without strict attention”, as Andrews would say, he has a confused the concept about the investigative judgment and the pre-Advent judgment and mistook them as the same. Yet, following Knight’s lead to Dan. 7:22, 26-27, one cannot reach the conclusion that the saints and the little horn were judged at the same time.

3.  Implications

Knight’s conclusion has several other serious impacts on Adventism. First and foremost, if Adventists, including Ellen White, did indeed proclaim a message without textual evidence in Dan. 8:14 for over one and half centuries, how much credibility is the movement as a whole and Ellen White in particular? She is widely believed to be God’s last day prophet and served among the Adventist church for the long period of seventy years, wouldn’t it ever occur to God to point it out her misinterpretation of Dan. 8:14 which she treasured so dearly as “the foundation and the central pillar of the advent faith”[19], or she was simple not a prophet at all?

Secondly, if Knight were correct in his assertion, it would seem to be very strange if Adventists do not see it and give it up, it would be a still greater wonder that anyone would come out of Babylon to join this remnant church if in fact it’s central teachings were based on a non-biblical understanding or misinterpretation of Scripture.  This claim of Knight seems to have the effect as a ruthless mockery of the wisdom of One who has been guiding the second advent movement, though we sincerely believe that may not be his intent.

It does not take a prophet to see the danger and threat of Knight’s conclusion in his apocalyptic studies on the advent faith as a whole and the difficulties it will create in calling people out of Babylon.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we look at Knights treatment of the Book of Hebrews and implications for Seventh-day Adventists around the world.

Sam Wang

[1]George Knight, The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism, Hagerstown: Review and Herald Publishing, 2008.

[2]On the back cover.

[3]Knight, 59.

[4]Knight, 62.

[5]Knight, 62.

[6]Knight, 63.

[7]Knight, 65.

[8]Knight, 65.

[9]Ellen White, Christ Triumphant, 344.3., Ellen White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition 2008.

[10]Ellen White, Christ Triumphant, 344, Ellen White Writings, Comprehensive Research Edition, 2008.

[11]Knight, 66.

[12]Knight, 67.

[13]Knight, 68.

[14]Knight, 69.

[15]Knight, 69.

[16]Ellen White, Great Controversy, 424. 1.

[17]Knight, 68.

[18]Andrews, 76.