Kapher vs. Judgment: Ellen White and the Investigative Judgment Examined

By DeForest S. Green*

I'm sure you are wondering why I put that weird Hebrew word Kaphar with the word "Judgment." First, let us look at what Ellen White and the Adventist Church teach about the Judgment.

  1. In 1844, Christ entered the Most Holy to begin the fearful work of the Investigative Judgment according to the sanctuary work of the Most Holy Place at the end of the year as described in the Bible. Where was Christ before 1844? Adventists teach that when Christ ascended to heaven after His death, He went directly to the lampstand compartment of the sanctuary in heaven and sat down on the right side of the Father's throne which was in the same compartment as the lampstand, bread and altar of incense. Then in 1844, the Father's throne moved back into the Most Holy place, (Christ entered also), and the work of the fearful judgment began.

  2. This was "discovered" to be the first angel's message in Revelation 14. In this work of Judgment Ellen White says...
    "Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining on the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life..." (Great Controversy, p. 483)

    Even the very motives and thoughts of a person would be a deciding factor for life or death. Ellen White said:

    "Our acts, our words, even our most secret motives, all have their weight in deciding our destiny for weal or woe. Though they may be forgotten by us, they will bear their testimony to justify or condemn. They go before us to the Judgment." (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 311)

    I have heard it said many times by Adventists, "We will be saved by the skin of our teeth."

I began my study by searching out the meaning of the word "judgment", and sure enough, the Adventists had it right--the word "judgment" means to have a tribunal and pass sentence. In other words, the time of grace is over and the sentence of judgment is passed upon the offender, especially if you died before 1844, or didn't get the message thereafter. But, if you are living and your name comes up, and you have not confessed every sin, whether in motive or thought, right down to the minutest detail, the sentence of judgment is passed upon you, and you will be thrown into the lake of fire. Yes, this is a very fearful and frightening event. One cannot plead for mercy in this work. It is over, done and finished as far as your life is concerned. To make matters worse you don't know when your name comes up, you don't know whether you are saved or eternally lost. Mrs. White warns:

"The Judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. Forty years has this work been in progress. Soon--none know how soon--it will pass to the cases of the living. In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review." (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 315)

No matter how much you believe the SDA doctrines and no matter how heartfelt you have worked to forward the cause, you may have one flaw, and if so your name will be put down for the lake of fire.

It was very comforting to know that we had the right meaning of the word "judgment." But when I looked up the word "atonement," which is the last work of judgment according to Adventist teaching, I could hardly believe what I was reading. I found that the word "atonement" doesn't mean "judgment." I found that the word "atonement" had an entirely different and opposite meaning! I delved deeply into this subject and after months of research and study I realized that the Adventists had completely missed the mark. This may come as a surprise to you, as it did me, but the work of the High Priest in the Most Holy Place in the earthly sanctuary on the Day of Atonement, was not a work of "judgment" as Adventists teach. Somehow Adventists failed to consider the meaning of the Hebrew word for "atonement." The Hebrew word for "atonement" does not mean judgment nor does it have anything to do with judgment!

The English word "atonement" was taken from the Hebrew word kapher. Kapher means, "to cover, forgive, be merciful, pardon and reconcile."

The English word "judgment" comes from the Hebrew words mishpat and shaphat, which mean "a verdict, to pass sentence." The words kaphar and "judgment" are two different words with two different meanings and they cannot be made to mean the same thing.

The Day of Atonement (kaphar) was not a day of judgment. It had nothing to do with judgment! It was a day in which the Almighty covered his people with mercy, love and forgiveness. It was a day in which the Almighty had mercy on His people. It was not a day to dish out sentences or retribution on a poor trembling soul who hoped they got it right. It was a day of love and acceptance. It was a day the Father reached out with His mighty arms and covered (shielded) His people. Covering and shielding someone from a life-threatening event is certainly not pointing the finger at them and condemning them to death. Neither do you make "atonement" for someone, and at the same time condemn or pass judgment on that person. The day of "atonement" was not a day of "judgment."

Dear parent, when your child confesses something he or she has done wrong, at the end of the year are you going to sit them down and question every thought and motive and action until the child is in tears and trembling because they cannot recall every detail? You told them that if they confessed, you would forgive them, but at the end of the year you try to see if they really had confessed and you are ready to punish them for any minute detail they missed. That is not love, mercy, forgiveness, and shielding. That is a form of tyranny and the work of the deceiver.

The day of kaphar (atonement), was a day of mercy, love, forgiveness, and acceptance. It was a day of covering, not judgment. The Hebrews were to "afflict" their souls on the day of kaphar (atonement). Coming from the Hebrew manuscripts it should read, "You shall practice self denial." It was a sabbath of rest. The people were not in a restless state of turmoil, sweat dripping from their foreheads, waiting to see if they were eternally condemned. No, but they were concerned if the High Priest had confessed his sins.

The earthly sanctuary, and its services, was a demonstration in living characters of the love of the Father and His attitude toward those who sinned. It is a step-by-step process showing the individual that confesses his or her sins, how the Father accepts them and forgives them. The earthly sanctuary was a pattern of the heavenly. There is no hidden agenda here. On the day of kaphar (atonement) two perfect spotless goats were chosen for sin and atonement. All the sins of the people were placed on one of those spotless perfect goats and it was removed far away from the camp. Why was a perfect spotless goat to bear away the sins of the people? It was a message to the world that when the Father forgives, that is the end of the matter, it is done, and there is nothing else. He does not send a man out in the desert to bring the goat back and place all of those sins back in the sanctuary, whether in heaven or earth, so in the future at some point in time He can sit back and laugh while shouting, "I fooled you, I didn't really forgive yours sins, and now you are damned."

You will not find the concept of "judgment" in the word "kaphar." It is not there. In Isaiah we read,

I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed you. Is.44:22

Please take a good look at that verse. Before the Israelites had returned to the Father, He had already blotted out their sins. What more can He do to show that He forgives and blots out our sins before we confess them. He didn't say, "I will." He said, "I have." The Hebrew word for "blotted" is machah, which means, "to erase, abolish, utterly wipe out."

There is no Bible Scripture for a future Investigative Judgment of any kind as Adventists teach by using the earthly sanctuary as a proof text. That idea is erroneous, unscriptural, and an indictment against the Almighty loving Father who will blot out our sins before we even know to confess them. This does not mean that a person can willfully sin against the word of the Father and think all is well. But it does show us the Father's love and care for us even in sin and how He forgives our sin, blots it out, and completely forgets it. After we return to the Father and His word, and confess our wrongs, He is faithful and just to never ever bring up again what we have done against Him.

The Scapegoat

Adventists teach that on the Day of Atonement, two goats were brought to the tabernacle--one for a sin offering, representing Christ, while the other one represented Satan who will bear the sins of all someday. If we will take a closer look at this picture, we will find that the SDA teaching on the scapegoat is not Bible truth.

The two goats were without blemish, representing a perfect sinless offering. Lots were cast to see which one would die and which would live. In other words, there was no difference between the two. They were equal as a perfect, sinless offering. Now, how can either of the perfect goats represent Satan? Satan is wicked and sinful. The scapegoat was also an "atonement" (Lev. 16:10) and a "sin offering" (Lev. 16:5). Of course that would be because both goats were without spot and equal.

If that perfect, spotless scapegoat represented Satan, then Satan is without spot and sinless. If the spotless sin offering goat represented Christ, then the spotless scapegoat must represent a sinless devil. We cannot pick and choose how we apply the Biblical symbols to fit our wrong doctrines! A spotless, perfect goat cannot represent a wicked demon who is forever cast away into darkness. Does Satan make "atonement" for the Fathers people? Is he a "sin offering?" To believe that is to undo everything the sanctuary stood for.

The scapegoat was a spotless, perfect offering to make "atonement" (covering) for the people on the Day of Atonement. To say that that spotless, perfect scapegoat represented Satan is not Bible truth. That spotless, sinless, perfect scapegoat could only represent the Father's perfect forgiveness without blemish or spot to cast our sins away when we confess them---never in the least to bring them up or place them back in the sanctuary to torture us and deceive us.

Was the Father's Throne in the Holy Place?

One thing that Adventists are careful to point out is that the earthly sanctuary was a pattern of the heavenly and that this pattern cannot be changed. It is also an anchor to our souls to keep us on the path of truth. I fully agree that this is so. But it is astonishing that right before our very own eyes Adventists change the pattern! The Almighty Father was very careful that nothing about the earthly sanctuary was changed. We see that a few tried it and lost their lives. The yearly service of the earthly sanctuary could not be changed. It was a lesson book, to the end of time, to teach us the truth. One important truth the earthly sanctuary teaches us is that the items of the sanctuary could not be moved from one place to another.

Notice how Ellen White says the Father was in the Holy Place before 1844:

The ministration of the priest through the year in the first apartment of the sanctuary...represents the work of ministration upon which Christ entered at His ascension. It was the work of the priest in the daily ministration to present before God the blood of the sin offering, also the incense which ascended with the prayers of Israel. So did Christ plead His blood before the Father in behalf of sinners, and present before him also, with the precious fragrance of His own righteousness, the prayers of the penitent believers. Such was the work of ministration in the first apartment of the sanctuary in heaven. (Great Controversy p. 420)

"I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. ... Before the throne I saw the Advent people--the church and the world. I saw two companies, one bowed down before the throne, deeply interested, while the other stood uninterested and careless. ... I saw the Father rise from the throne, and in a flaming chariot go into the holy of holies within the veil, and sit down. Then Jesus rose up from the throne, and the most of those who were bowed down arose with Him. ... Then a cloudy chariot, with wheels like flaming fire, surrounded by angels, came to where Jesus was. He stepped into the chariot and was borne to the holiest, where the Father sat. There I beheld Jesus, a great High Priest, standing before the Father." (Early Writings, "End of the 2300 Days", pp. 55-56)

Now I have a very important question to ask. Can you please go to your Bible and find where the Father's throne was ever moved from the Most Holy Place to the Holy Place where the bread and lampstand were located? During the yearly cycle, can you find where the Father set up His throne in the Holy Place and then at the end of the year, moved it back into the Most Holy Place where the ark was located? Since the earthly sanctuary is the truth and an anchor to our souls, and it cannot be changed, then when and how did the Father's throne get into the lampstand area? That cannot happen and it never happened!

The Bible says God's presence is in the Most Holy Place:

And the LORD said unto Moses, Speak unto Aaron thy brother, that he come not at all times into the holy place within the veil before the mercy seat, which is upon the ark; that he die not: for I will appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat. Lev. 16:2

What we are seeing here is that Adventists are talking out of both sides of their mouth by saying that the Father's throne was moved to the lampstand compartment when Christ entered heaven after he was killed. Not once did the Father ever do that, nor would He do that. He plainly tells us in Malachi 3:6 that "I change not." In Psalm 77:13 we are told, "thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary." In Deut. 4:2 we read, "You shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall you diminish anything from it..."

The earthly sanctuary was the center of truth. That is one reason why the earthly sanctuary was built, to show us exactly where the Father was located and what He was doing in that location. It was an anchor to guard against error. But what about the book of Ezekiel? It does not say there that the Father's throne was moving from one place to another. There is a lot of hustle and bustle and wheels turning with cherubs going in and out while the throne of the Father was high and lifted up above all these things. The wings and wheels were not connected to the throne moving it around and about. The glory of the Father can be manifested anywhere in heaven and earth. But that does not mean his throne has to be moved out of the heavenly Most Holy place in order for that to happen.

The earthly sanctuary is the truth for all time and to change anything about it is a deception. When we look at the earthly sanctuary, we see the everlasting unchangeable truth. Never, from the day the earthly sanctuary was set up until AD 70, was the throne of the Father ever moved into the Holy Place and then at the end of the year moved back into the Most Holy Place! The earthly sanctuary is a picture of what we must believe for all generations to the end of time. If any doctrine does not fit this picture, it is false, no matter how good it sounds. When Adventists use the earthly sanctuary to prove their 1844 doctrine they literally take away the earthly sanctuary truth and add the theories of man. Don't believe any teaching, not even from an angel, that moves the items of the sanctuary from their original positions to prove a future event.


Now let us compare what the Adventists teach with Bible Scripture. The Scripture simply says, " Obey the voice of the Father... and your soul shall live." Jer.38:20. How simple can it get? The earthly sanctuary was the voice of the Father to us. The day of kaphar (atonement) was a day of shielding so that no person would think that he or she wasn't forgiven. It had nothing to do with an Investigative Judgment. The throne of the Father was never moved into the same compartment as the lampstand and bread--the Holy Place. The scapegoat could not represent a wicked devil, because the scapegoat was perfect without spot and made kaphar for the people by completely removing their sins from the sanctuary, forever casting them away never to be remembered again--a perfect example of how the Father forgives us.

One difference between deception and the word of Scripture is that with the Scripture, all you have to do is believe and obey what the Father says. Anything contrary to Scripture is not the truth. For some this may be too simple and that is the reason there is so much deception. The only safe way to please the Father is to simply obey what he says in Scripture and not seek to change it or add to it.

"If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18)

* DeForest S. Green is an assumed name. The author is a former SDA Pastor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Category: 1844 Movement
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