“Our salvation is not our own doing but the result of the sacrifice of Christ.”
Ellen White makes a number of significant theological statements concerning the cessation of Christ’s mediation on behalf of sinners in the heavenly temple shortly before His return in glory.¹ Some interpret them to mean that believers will live during the time of trouble without access to the all-sufficient grace of Christ.
This interpretation creates fear and even anxiety by destroying the certainty of salvation. The gospel of salvation through faith in Jesus is almost set aside, and instead the emphasis is placed on human achievements. A detailed study of Ellen White’s statements² indicates that during the time of trouble God’s people will be relying entirely on the atoning power of the cross of Jesus.
CLARIFYING THE ISSUES
Perhaps we should begin by stating what Ellen White does not say about what will happen after Christ finishes His mediation in heaven. First, she does not state anywhere in her writings that God’s people will no longer battle against their sinful natures. On the contrary, she states, “We cannot say, ‘I am sinless,’ till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body.”³
Second, she does not say that when Christ ends His work in heaven, the mantle of His imputed righteousness is removed from the believer. Third, she does not state that at that moment Christ and the Holy Spirit will abandon God’s people or that we will have to survive on our own. Rather, she writes, “I saw a covering that God was drawing over His people to protect them in the time of trouble; and every soul that was decided on the truth and was pure in heart was to be covered with the covering of the Almighty.”⁴
As Christ concludes His heavenly sanctuary work, He provides “full and complete” “pardon and justification” to His faithful followers.⁵ During the time of trouble God’s people will still be dependent on Christ’s atoning work.
EXPERIENCE OF GOD’S PEOPLE
The end of Christ’s intercessory role in the heavenly temple means that the Spirit will be withdrawn from the wicked, they will be abandoned into the hands of Satan, the seven last plagues will be falling, and Satan will attempt to exterminate God’s people.⁶
At that time God’s remnant people will go through a period of anguish, fearing that they will be exterminated, feeling that God has abandoned them, and concerned about their spiritual unworthiness.⁷ God uses their experience to refine them. “It is needful for them to be placed in the furnace of fire; their earthliness must be consumed, that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.”⁸
God’s people pray day and night for deliverance. Satan will insinuate to them that their case is hopeless because of their many sins. They will look at themselves and “as they review their past, their hopes sink; for in their whole lives they can see little good. They are fully conscious of their weakness and unworthiness.”⁹ They choose, however, to rely on the atoning work of Christ for them.
Like Jacob, when wrestling with the Angel, they will have to “depend solely upon the merits of the atonement. We can do nothing of ourselves. In all our helpless unworthiness we must trust in the merits of the crucified and risen Saviour. None will ever perish while they do this.”¹⁰
Notice carefully: while those “who will be found faithful” “would rather die than perform a wrong act,”¹¹ it is not their perfection of character that gives them assurance of salvation and makes them victorious. This is accomplished only by Christ’s sacrificial death for them—the eternal gospel.
They will find refuge in the Lamb that was slain for them (cf. Rev. 14:1). The sense of unworthiness remains with them up to the time of the Second Coming. When they see Jesus coming they exclaim: “Who shall be able to stand? Is my robe spotless?” and Jesus answers back, “My grace is sufficient for you.”¹² Grace is still available for God’s people during the time of trouble, meaning that Christ’s atoning work for them is still effective.
PREPARATION FOR THE TIME OF TROUBLE
Ellen White encourages us to learn to live now in the way we will have to live during the time of trouble. In this connection, she speaks about Christian perfection as the work of “putting away of sin.”¹³ Ellen White adds that “this work is more clearly presented in the messages of Revelation 14.”¹⁴
In order to achieve this purpose, the messages are to be accepted, put into practice, and shared with others. These messages are designed by God to prepare us and the world for the second coming of Christ.¹⁵ More specifically, she states that we put sin away by being justified by faith in Christ and through obedience to God’s commandments (Rev. 14:12).¹⁶
Christian perfection consists in the daily submission of our will to God’s will while constantly relying on Christ’s forgiving grace (1 John 2:1, 2). The purpose of Christian perfection is not to enable us to be victorious in the absence of Christ’s mediation, but to enable us to be more effective in our service to others. Christian perfection seeks, through the power of the Spirit, to transform us into the likeness of Jesus, enabling us to be God’s effective servants on behalf of others. Our salvation is not our own doing but the result of the sacrifice of Christ.
¹ E.g., Ellen G. White, “Dear Brethren and Sisters,” Present Truth, September 1849, par. 7; Early Writings (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1882, 1945), p. 280; The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1911), p. 425; Patriarchs and Prophets (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1890, 1908), p. 201.
² See Angel Manuel Rodríguez, Living Without an Intercessor in the Writings of Ellen G. White, Biblical Research Institute Releases 17 (Silver Spring, Md.: Biblical Research Institute, 2020).
³ Ellen G. White, in Signs of the Times, Mar. 23, 1888 (see also Ellen G. White, Selected Messages [Washing- ton, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958, 1980], book 3, p. 355).
⁴ E. G. White, Early Writings, p. 43.
⁵ E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 484.
⁶ E. G. White, Early Writings, pp. 279, 280.
⁷ E. G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 616-619.
⁸ Ibid., p. 621.
⁹ Ibid., pp. 618, 619.
¹⁰ E. G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 203.
¹¹ Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 5,
¹² See E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 641.
¹³ Ibid., p. 425.
¹⁵ Ibid., p. 435.
¹⁶ Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases (Silver Spring, Md.: Ellen G. White Estate, 1981-1993), vol. 12, p. 193.