Neutering or Killing? A Response to George Knight's Book (Part 2)

 This article by Samuel Wang is a response to “The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism”, written by George Knight. Read Part 1 here.

C.   Hebrews renders no evidence for or against the Adventist sanctuary message

1.  Knight’s own words

Logically, the next target would be the heavenly sanctuary itself, and that is exactly what Knight told us, “Here I also developed some difficulties with how some of us Adventists have traditionally treated the topic.”[1] Knight gave us a good summary of his main points,

Let me repeat my main points as I sum up. First, we create problems in sanctuary theology by placing undue emphasis on sanctuary geography. Second, we are heading in the wrong direction when we read Hebrews as if it were either propounding Adventist theology or arguing against it. Hebrews has its own agenda. Third, it is wrong-headed to project chronology into Hebrews 9. Most of Adventism’s difficulty with its sanctuary theology center on those three areas.[2]

Knight criticized some “at times acting as if the book of Hebrew is answering specific Adventist questions.”[3] He continues to say,

Hebrews is neither for nor against the Adventist position. It has its own agenda of helping first-century Jewish Christians understand that they have something infinitely better in the ministry of Christ in the heavenlies than they had in the earthly Temple with all of its pomp and beauty and visibility.[4]

As for what Hebrews is concerned with, Knight quoted William Johnsson as his answer, it “is one supreme idea—the all-sufficiency of His death.”[5]

2.   Comment

Ellen White pointed out the importance of the sanctuary and the integral connection with the advent faith.

The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment, showing that God had led his people in the great Advent movement. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, and revealed present duty as it brought to light the position and work of God's people.[6]

The geography of the sanctuary is not a human idea. It was first given to Moses on Mount Sinai and later shown to king David which was passed onto Solomon for the construction of the temple of God. It was God who instructed Israel to “measure the pattern” (Eze. 43:10). Thus, the study of the geography did not originate with man. Due to space constrains, we will move on to the book of Hebrews and the Adventist position.

The central theme of the book of Hebrews seems to be the High Priest and His work (Heb.3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10) rather than “the all-sufficiency of His death”, though it is certainly an indispensible part of the heavenly sanctuary service, which, however,  Paul wrote is “also vain” of itself (1 Cor. 15:14). It is true that Jesus was delivered for our offenses, but his resurrection and ascension is “for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). “The just shall live by faith” is brought out in the context of the High Priest, judgment and Second Coming! It is small wonder that “the faith chapter” (Heb. 11) appears in this book, for it is by faith in Jesus as the all sufficient sacrifice, as well as Him as the High Priest who intercedes, that one is justified. One cannot miss the point that the twelfth chapter of Hebrews emphasizes the patience of the saints in anticipation of His Second Coming (cf. Rev. 14:12). In addition, the Holy Spirit brings in the Sabbath in Heb. 3:7 – 4:13 to interpret the author’s discussion along the line of the High Priest. It should not surprise anyone to see its special relevance to Adventists.

A closer look at Hebrews 9 suggests it points to the investigative judgment, even the timing issue! David Lin wrote,

Heb. 9:12 tallies Christ's work with the atonement ritual in the Levitical code. His blood was shed on earth, which the brazen altar typified. After the Lamb of God was slain, His blood must be applied in the heavenly sanctuary.

Heb. 9:8-10 is a text dealing with this important truth, but its many divergent translations fail to bring out its true sense. The Greek actually says: "The Holy Spirit declares this: The way into the holiest has not yet been disclosed, while the first apartment still stands as a valid figure of the present time." The first apartment symbolized Paul's present time-when he wrote Hebrews---the period from Christ to the "time of reformation," (v. 10, diorthosis, a Greek synonym of the Hebrew nitsdaq, of Dan. 8:14) the Greek is a compound of dia (through) and ortho (straight), meaning "make straight." The Hebrew nitsdaq is the passive form of "make right."[7]

Looking into Knight’s Exploring Hebrews: A Devotional Commentary,[8] one fails to find any discussion on Hebrews 9:10. Maybe it would be well for Knight to take another look and see if he could not find chronology in the book of Hebrews.

3.   Implications

If one follows Knight’s conclusion on the book of the Hebrews and has all of his or her faith focused on the cross, which is a good start and central point, without turning his or her eyes upwards not only on the perfect sacrifice, but also on the High Priest who would go into the most holy place at “the time of reformation” (Heb. 9:10), one’s faith will not be perfect! To disconnect the book of Hebrews with the investigative judgment and ignore the obvious references to the distinctive beliefs of the advent faith is not helpful, to say the least, in building genuine faith in Jesus Christ who is now in the most holy place conducting the last phase of the atonement. Hebrews emphasizes the advent faith.

D.    Knight’s Treatment of Inspiration

After reading Knight’s small book, one wonders how a popular author like Knight could come to some conclusions which are directly contrary to the teachings of the Spirit of Prophecy, and how he has even wandered away from the fundamental beliefs of the church in these areas. Where does Knight stand in relation to the inspiration of the Bible and writings of Ellen White, one wonders? Knight’s view in this regard can be found in his book, Reading Ellen White[9].

1.   Knight’s own words

In summary, it appears that Mrs. White’s use of the term infallibility has to do with the Bible being completely trustworthy as a guide to salvation. She does not mix that idea with the concept that the Bible or her writings are free from all possible errors of a factual nature.[10]

The writings of God’s prophets are infallible as a guide to salvation, but they are not inerrant or without error.[11]

Not only do we need to avoid using Ellen White to “prove” the details of history, but the same caution must be expressed in the realm of the details of science.[12]

2.   Comment

Knight’s view of the Bible, infallible as guidance to salvation but not without errors in science and history, does not measure up to the fundamental Adventist belief in the Word of God which clearly states “The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will…and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history.”[13]

Ellen White acknowledged that the Bible is both authoritative and reliable. She said “I take the Bible just as it is, as the Inspired Word. I believe its utterances in an entire Bible.”[14] To Ellen White, even the greatest minds cannot “trace the relations of science and revelation….The Bible is not to be tested by men's ideas of science. Human knowledge is an unreliable guide.”[15] Knight’s view in the realm s of science does not measure up to Ellen White’s position.

3.   Implications

We have already noted where Knight’s view on inspiration has led him. The way he deals with “the little book” in Revelation 10 and Dan. 8:14 are examples of how one can head for a wrong direction by ignoring the light reflected from the Spirit of Prophecy. If this erroneous position toward inspiration was accepted as truth, one would naturally lose confidence in the writings of Ellen White as an inspired prophet, may eventually lose trust in the Bible itself, including it’s assertions in the realms of science or history.

III.            Conclusion

This article takes the position that the starting point which leads to the major conclusions of Knight’s studies on apocalyptic vision is based on a misreading of the Bible text itself (Dan. 12:4-9). His assertion on Adventists’ understanding of Dan. 8:14 challenges the central pillar of the advent faith, and casts doubts on the prophetic root of the Adventist movement and the prophetic role of Ellen White.

Knight’s disconnection of the correlation between the book of Hebrews and the Adventist position has the potential threat to weaken the Adventist message. While the compromising or unbalanced trends among Adventism might neuter Adventism, as Knight rightly pointed out, his own major “discoveries” in apocalyptic vision poses the threat and danger of actually killing Adventism at its very core.

An alarming warning should be sounded immediately and a firewall built to resist these erroneous views as contained in Knight’s favorite small book to prevent them from shattering the scriptural advent faith.

Sam Wang

[1]Knight, 72.

[2]Knight, 75.

[3]Knight, 75.

[4]Knight, 75.

[5]Knight, 75.

[6]Ellen White, Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, 268.

[7]David Lin, “Bible Proof for Daniel 8:14”, (Nov 20, 2010)

[8]George Knight, Exploring Hebrews: A Devotional Commentary, Hagerstown: Review and Herald, 2003.

[9]George Knight, Reading Ellen White: How to Understand and Apply Her Writings (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald, 1997).

[10]Ellen White, 110.

[11]Ellen White, 111.

[12]Ellen White, 116.

[13]Fundamental Beliefs, (November, 21, 2010).

[14]Ellen White, Faith I Live by, 13.

[15]Ellen White, Patriarch and Prophets, 114, 115.