Q & A: What Does "Without a Mediator" Mean?



Q: One thing that I've been struggling with is reconciling a quote from EW like the above- We cannot say, “I am sinless,” till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body [the second coming]. {ST March 23, 1888, par. 13} with this one from GC "Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator" The Great Controversy, p. 425. That's obviously sinless perfection, right? How would it ever be possible to stand before God without Jesus' righteousness applied to us? Any thoughts you have would be appreciated.
A: The statement you are reffing to says, "Those who are living upon the earth when the intercession of Christ shall cease in the sanctuary above are to stand in the sight of a holy God without a mediator. Their robes must be spotless, their characters must be purified from sin by the blood of sprinkling. Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort they must be conquerors in the battle with evil."
Some people misconstrue this statement to be referring to absolute sinless perfectionism. Its as if, unless we reach this state of sinlessness we will, at last, be rejected by God. This conclusion must, nevertheless, be rejected for two major reasons. 
1) It contradicts the gospel of Jesus Christ* 
2) It contradicts the very writings of EGW herself**
Thus, a different interpretation must exist. One that harmonizes this statement with both the Bible and the full picture of EGWs soteriology. A closer more thoughtful reading of the passage does just that.
1) First of all Ellen White is referring to something that happens after the close of probation, not before. This means that standing without a mediator takes place when the judgment is over and no one else can be saved or lost. The irrevocable decision has been made. Thus, to be worrying about whether you are good enough after probation has closed is a waste of time because, er..., probation has closed. At this point you have either been declared righteous or wanting and nothing can change that decision. Thus you are, at this point in human history, either eternally lost or eternally saved.
2) This then raises the question, how can we be sure to be declared righteous? The answer is simple for the perfection which we have before God is no different in this instance as it has been all throughout history. Notice that Ellen says we must stand before God with spotless robes and purified characters. However, how is it that we attain these? Ellen answers the question when she adds, "by the blood of sprinkling". It is through Jesus blood that we stand spotless and purified before God. Not our works or performance.
3) The statement is simply saying that before Jesus comes we need to have our minds made up. Will we trust in him alone? Or like the Hebrews Paul wrote to in the NT, will we - in the midst of persecution - turn our backs on Jesus? Once the judgment is over no more changes will be made to the verdict. We are either covered by his blood or not. So now is the time to come sincerely before God and surrender our lives in full trust of his saving grace.
The late Adventist theologian Edward Heppenstal put it best when he wrote,
"To live without a Mediator does not mean to live without the righteousness of Christ, or without the Holy Spirit, or the saving grace of our Lord. Since all cases are decided for weal or for woe, the work of our divine Advocate is concluded. No further charges by Satan can be brought against the saints, for Christ has answered them all. The cases of the saints have all been called to the bar of heaven. Christ has successfully pleaded our cause and secured a judgment in our favor. Nothing can now reverse that verdict. There is nothing more to say. Excepting Satan and his host, there is perfect agreement throughout the universe as to Christ's verdict in favor of the saints. All questions have been answered regarding the future of the saints. No member of the Godhead needs to make any further defense on their behalf. All that remains is for Christ to return and for the saints to live and reign with Christ a thousand years (Rev 20:4-6). Because of their unchangeable irrevocable standing before God, there is no further need for Christ to intercede with God for their salvation or for their redemption. The saints have been declared the legal heirs to the new earth. Their standing from henceforth is one of final justification and vindication before the bar of God and before a sinless universe. The fact that they have chosen without qualification, the righteousness of Christ, leaves only the actual conferring of that sinless nature and entrance into their eternal inheritance at the second coming of Christ, when this mortal shall put on immortality and this corruption shall have put on incorruption (1 Cor 15:52-54). 
"As we have clearer views of Christ's spotless and infinite purity, we shall feel as did Daniel, when he beheld the glory of the Lord, and said, "My comeliness was turned in me into corruption." We cannot say "I am sinless," till this vile body is changed and fashioned like unto His glorious body. But if we constantly seek to follow Jesus, the blessed hope is ours of standing before the throne of God spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, complete in Christ, robed in His righteousness and perfection." (Signs of the Times, March 23, 1888)[1]
In his article, "Without a Mediator" Mike Manea explains a further implication of this statement when he writes:
"Although it is always dangerous to resist God’s call, the average individual usually has repeated opportunities to come to Christ. However, there have been times throughout history when those opportunities were cut short: the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the destruction of Jerusalem, etc. Whether young or old, those events brought probation to a close early for the people involved.
The second coming of Christ will have a similar impact, not just on a city or nation, but on the planet as a whole. People will no longer have the same opportunities to come to Christ that they would have had if history continued. Adventists call this event, the close of probation, and we believe God has placed us on this earth to prepare humanity for this solemn event. We believe Christ will come when every individual has had sufficient warning that probation is closing and their opportunities are running out.
Thus, the warning that we will soon be living without a mediator means several things:
1) It means that the people who have not yet accepted Christ are running out of time to make a decision.
2) It means that people who have accepted Christ but then went back to the world, are running out of time to return.
3) It means that Christians who have been holding on to willful/known sin, are running out of time to give it up.
What the statement does not mean however is that there will ever be a time when we will no longer need Christ. Nor does it mean that we will need to reach a state of complete sinlessness after which we will no longer be covered by Jesus’ blood. Salvation has always been and will always be by grace through faith. Even after the close of probation, we will be safe only because we are covered by the blood of Jesus."[2]
So in conclusion, the above statement cannot possibly mean that each person must reach a certain performance level which - if failed - will doom the person to condemnation. Such a belief is in direct contradiction to the gospel and the writings of EGW herself. What the statement does mean is that we are to trust in Jesus and not turn back. In truth, this statement is simply a natural outflow of Classical Arminianism which rejects the concept of once saved always saved. For a more thorough exploration of Ellen Whites foundation in Classical Arminianism I recommend you read "Facing Lifes Record: An Analysis of the Great Controversies 'Scariest' Chapter"[3]
Hope this helps! 
_________
*To being an exploration of the SDA understanding of the gospel, I recommend the following article: http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/04/the-sda-gospel-is-legalistic-isnt-it.html
**To begin an exploration of the relationship between EGW and the gospel I recommend the following article: http://www.pomopastor.com/2012/10/ellen-g-white-on-legalism.html#more
[1]https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/perfection%20Heppenstall.pdf
[2]http://mikemanea.com/conversations/without-a-mediator/
[3] http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/08/facing-lifes-record-analysis-of-great.html 

Comments

  1. Some additional thoughts on this:

    The Close of Probation

    The close of probation is a concept that tends to strike fear in most Adventists and causes other Christians to view us with suspicion. But, as usual, it is because the concept is misunderstood.

    All Christians believe there is a close of probation, even though they don't use the phrase. This might be at the second coming or after the millennium, but there is a point when people no longer switch sides.

    Unlike other Christians however, Adventists believe this event happens a short period of time before the second coming. And, many Adventists think this means that there will come a day when God will close the door of mercy and, even if they want to repent, God will no longer forgive them.

    In chemistry, there are certain substances called catalysts which increase the rate of a chemical reaction. So if we mix together two substances and find that it normally takes several hours for the reaction to occur, adding a catalyst would reduce the time to several minutes instead.

    Throughout every individual's life, a decision is made whether or not to follow Christ. However, at any given time, you have three categories of people: those who chose Christ, those who rejected Christ, and those who are still on the fence. At some point, even those on the fence will make a decision, but, by then, more people will have been born and there will be a new generation of fence sitters.

    Before the second coming however, God wants every one to make a decision for or against Christ. He wants to eliminate the fence sitter group. And to do this, God introduces a catalyst. This catalyst is a combination of the church proclaiming/demonstrating a powerful last day message but also of natural disasters, political/economic upheaval and other factors. Through all these things God will speed up the decision making process so that everyone makes up their mind whom they will serve.

    Probation will close not to prevent people from any longer changing their mind, but BECAUSE people are no longer changing their mind. In other words, as a result of the catalyst, everyone has made their decision and there is no point in keeping probation open any further.

    The reason probation closes before the second coming and not AT the second coming is because God wants to allow time to pass so that it is evident to angels and unfallen beings that people have made up their minds and are no longer going to change. Some period of time passes where, as much reason as God gives people to repent, no one does anymore. And then, heavenly beings all agree that there is no point in waiting any further and it's time for Jesus to return.

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    1. Thanks for this added emphasis Mike! It takes into consideration not only the concept of probation closing but also the narrative in which it happens. Clearly, there must be a moment in human history where God decides to wait no more. If his decision to return was always based on waiting for people to accept him he would never return for as you said, every spawning generation brings with it its mass of fence sitters. Thus, the idea of end time events acting as a catalyst to bring the war to an end is brilliant. In addition, this catalyst does not alter the decision any human being would make, it simply speeds it up. What can alter their decision is our proclamation of this message. Certainly gives a new sense of urgency to an often ignored piece of Adventisms eschatology don't you think?

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  2. Yes. And really, this is the main difference between us and other denominations and the reason we cannot merge with them. There are as many Christians in other denominations as in our church and they are preaching the gospel as much as we are, even if we might disagree on some of the particulars.

    God has called us however to preach the gospel in the context of the close of probation. This ads a level of urgency to the message that no previous generation could link with their preaching. And, to work side by side with other denominations who don't understand this factor would dilute our message and cause us to fail in the important task God has commissioned us to.

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