That everyone who thirsteth for the truth may obtain it, these publications are, as a Christian service, provided without charge. They levy but one exaction: the soul's obligation to itself to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good. The only strings attached to this free proffer are the golden strands of Eden and the crimson cords of Calvary - the ties that bind.
[Note: All emphasis in quotations are ours]
There appeared in Endtime Issues Newsletter, No. 112, March, 2004, an article written by Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph.D., Retired Professor of Theology, Andrews University, with minor editing by Richard C. Nickels, entitled, Mel Gibson's Slaughter of Christ. The article is a review of the movie The Passion of Christ, made by Mel Gibson – an actor, producer, and staunch Roman Catholic.
Though the word "passion," in the context of the movie, refers to the suffering of Christ, another definition of the word is "ardent affection: LOVE: a strong liking for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept." Mirriam Webster. This definition is truly that which caused Christ to endure the things He did. It is with both of these definitions of "passion" in mind that we will be speaking of the Passion of the Gospel.
In his review of the movie, Samuele states that
"What shocked me most is the relentless torture of Christ's body. The brutality of flogging with switches and cat-o-nine-tails, blows out of proportions the physical suffering of Christ in order to promote the Catholic imitation of His suffering as a way of salvation.
"The movie is truly a blood bath, where Jesus body is constantly beaten, whipped, kicked, spit on, and slapped. Christ's flesh is literally flayed with metal-tipped whips by sadistic Roman soldiers who compete among themselves for inflicting the most devastating blows. ... By the time Christ reaches Golgotha, His body is so mangled, bruised, and disfigured, that it looks like a sausage coming out of a meat grinder."
One of the main objections Samuele has with the movie's portrayal of the violence to which Christ was subjected is that it tends "to promote the Catholic imitation of His suffering as a way of salvation." – that is, the physical abuse some Catholics subject themselves to in order to purge themselves of, or subdue, their sinful natures, and thus become acceptable to God, and a deserver of His salvation. Another is that the degree of violence which the movie employs "blows out of proportions the physical suffering of Christ."
After commenting on some details of the movie, he raises the question of whether or not the horrifying suffering which Christ endured is worthy of much note or meditation by saying,
"Does Gibson's shocking brutality of Christ's suffering and death provide 'a more accurate' and effective portrayal of the Passion than the one we find in the Gospels? Is such a shocking portrayal needed to convert people today?"
He also asks, "Is the Gospel to be Proclaimed through Drama?" And follows this with his opinion:
"But God chose to proclaim the Good News of salvation, not through drama, but through the foolishness of preaching (I Corinthians 1:21). He chose to include in the Gospels, not graphic, gory details of Christ's trial and crucifixion, but a sober account of how He offered Himself up as a sacrifice for our salvation. The reason is that faith comes, not by seeing drama, but 'by hearing, and hearing by the word of God' (Romans 10:17)."
What he does not bring into the matter is the fact that the world to whom those Gospels were written were generally well familiar with the brutality to which the Roman Empire could go, witnessing it among themselves as a part of their regular lives. When they read the Gospel accounts of what Samuele describes as the "minimal" portrayal of Jesus' "flogging and crucifixion" the words brought vivid images of the reality of it to their minds, and they were moved with passion. The case is not the same in the somewhat sanitary life most Americans live. There are not many places on earth today where the average person could behold brutality on the scale of that which the Roman Empire would go to in the exercise of their power.
So, in attempting to counteract the influence of Gibson's "Slaughter of Christ," Samuele goes nearly to the opposite position of ascribing to the Holy Ghost an almost indifference to the depth of Christ's suffering. In trying to establish the fact that the Catholics abuse the facts and meanings of Christ's sufferings, he says,
"The Gospel writers did not linger over the details of Christ's suffering to stir emotions and promote the Catholic imitation of His Passion as a way of salvation. The Evangelists were not mentally unbalanced Catholic mystics obsessed with imitating Christ's suffering as a way of salvation, but practically minded men who learned at Jesus' feet how to imitate the beauty of His character in their daily life. They report Jesus' suffering in the briefest terms, because they understood that what is important for our salvation, is not to focus on Christ's SUFFERING, but on the fact that JESUS offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for our redemption...
"Nowhere does the New Testament suggest that we should meditate on the gory details of Christ's flogging and the brutal treatment He received along the [so-called] fourteen stations leading to Calvary...
"Paul knew what suffering was all about, because he was flogged five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, etc. (II Corinthians 11:24-29), yet he lifts up for the Christian meditation, not the gory details of Christ's torture and execution, but the nobility of Christ's character as revealed in His incarnation, humiliation, suffering, and subsequent exaltation. These are the themes that can fire our imagination, without having to recur to graphic and gory details of His suffering..."
Here now is where Samuele begins to lose sight of the matter, and drops the ball on what could be a good presentation of the Bible truth which Adventists profess to embrace, even contradicting his own premises. He had just said that among the things which Paul had lifted up "for the Christian meditation" was Christ's "... suffering, " but also says we can do that "without having to recur to graphic and gory details of His suffering." How does one meditate on Christ's "sufferings" without, to some degree, considering the "graphic and gory details of His suffering?"
He attempts to support his position by bringing in some of Ellen White's statements on the matter:
"Along the same lines, Ellen White counsels us 'to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, ESPECIALLY the CLOSING ONES. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His Spirit. ... Beholding the beauty of His character, we shall be 'changed into the same image from glory to glory' (II Corinthians 3:18)' (Desire of the Ages, p. 83). Note that Ellen White admonishes us to contemplate, not the gory details of Christ's death, but the beauty of Christ's character as revealed especially in His great sacrifice for us."
His final "Note" also contradicts the statement he is quoting. Ellen White makes specific reference to the importance of us contemplating, in imagination (imagery), "each scene" of Christ's life, "especially the closing ones" – which would include the torture and crucifixion. He makes it seem that "the gory details of Christ's death," can be separated from "the beauty of Christ's character as revealed especially in His great sacrifice ..."
The reason I am bringing this up is because of what the Holy Ghost has decided to give the Remnant Church on this matter. Following is a counsel given a couple who were wandering away from Christ:
"Dear Brother and Sister K: In my last vision I was shown some things in regard to your family. The Lord has thoughts of mercy concerning you and will not forsake you unless you forsake Him. L and M are in a lukewarm condition. They must arouse and make efforts for salvation, or they will fail of everlasting life. They must feel an individual responsibility and have an experience for themselves. They need a work wrought in their hearts by the Holy Spirit of God, which will lead them to love and choose the society of God's people above any other, and to be separate from those who have no love for spiritual things. Jesus demands a whole sacrifice, an entire consecration. L and M, you have not realized that God requires your undivided affections. You have made a holy profession, yet have sunk down to the dead level of ordinary professors. You love the society of the young who have no regard for the sacred truths which you profess. You have appeared like your associates, and have been contented with as much religion as would render you agreeable to all, without incurring the censure of any.
"Christ demands all. If He required less, His sacrifice was too dear, too great to make to bring us up to such a level. Our holy faith cries out, Separation. We should not be conformed to the world, or to dead, heartless professors. 'Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.' This is a self-denying way. And when you think that the way is too strait, that there is too much self-denial in this narrow path; when you say, How hard to give up all, ask yourselves the question, What did Christ give up for me? This question puts anything that we may call self-denial in the shade. Behold Him in the garden, sweating great drops of blood. A solitary angel is sent from heaven to strengthen the Son of God. Follow Him on His way to the judgment hall, while He is derided, mocked, and insulted by that infuriated mob.
"Behold Him clothed in that old purple kingly robe. Hear the coarse jest and cruel mocking. See them place upon that noble brow the crown of thorns, and then smite Him with a reed, causing the thorns to penetrate His temples, and the blood to flow from that holy brow. Hear that murderous throng eagerly crying for the blood of the Son of God. He is delivered into their hands, and they lead the noble sufferer away, pale, weak, and fainting, to His crucifixion. He is stretched upon the wooden cross, and the nails are driven through His tender hands and feet. Behold Him hanging upon the cross those dreadful hours of agony until the angels veil their faces from the horrid scene, and the sun hides its light, refusing to behold. Think of these things, and then ask, Is the way too strait? No, no." Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, 240-241.
That is a pretty impassioned plea to consider the realities of the horrors which Christ was subjected to. The Holy Ghost also chose to bring forth more on this matter, and that by using sanctified dramatic representations and mentally visual horrors:
"It was a part of His mission to bear, in His humanity, all the taunts and abuse that men could heap upon Him. The only hope of humanity was in this submission of Christ to all that He could endure from the hands and hearts of men." The Desire of Ages, p. 700.
"given up to be abused by the lowest and vilest of humankind ...
"While in the guardroom, awaiting His legal trial, He was not protected. The ignorant rabble had seen the cruelty with which He was treated before the council, and from this they took license to manifest all the satanic elements of their nature. Christ's very nobility and godlike bearing goaded them to madness. His meekness, His innocence, His majestic patience, filled them with hatred born of Satan. Mercy and justice were trampled upon. Never was criminal treated in so inhuman a manner as was the Son of God." ibid., p. 710.
"Then came the third scene of abuse and mockery, worse even than that received from the ignorant rabble. In the very presence of the priests and rulers, and with their sanction, this took place. Every feeling of sympathy or humanity had gone out of their hearts. If their arguments were weak, and failed to silence His voice, they had other weapons, such as in all ages have been used to silence heretics, -- suffering, and violence, and death." ibid., p. 714-715.
"When the condemnation of Jesus was pronounced by the judges, a satanic fury took possession of the people. The roar of voices was like that of wild beasts. The crowd made a rush toward Jesus, crying, He is guilty, put Him to death! Had it not been for the Roman soldiers, Jesus would not have lived to be nailed to the cross of Calvary. He would have been torn in pieces before His judges, had not Roman authority interfered, and by force of arms restrained the violence of the mob." ibid., p. 715.
"Jesus was taken, faint with weariness and covered with wounds, and scourged in the sight of the multitude. 'And the soldiers led Him away into the hall, called Praetorium, and they call together the whole band. And they clothed Him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head, and began to salute Him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they ... did spit upon Him, and bowing their knees worshiped Him.' Occasionally some wicked hand snatched the reed that had been placed in His hand, and struck the crown upon His brow, forcing the thorns into His temples, and sending the blood trickling down His face and beard." ibid., p. 734.
"The blood drops of agony that from His wounded temples flowed down His face and beard were the pledge of His anointing with 'the oil of gladness' (Heb. 1:9.) as our great high priest." ibid., p. 734.
"There stood the Son of God, wearing the robe of mockery and the crown of thorns. Stripped to the waist, His back showed the long, cruel stripes, from which the blood flowed freely. His face was stained with blood, and bore the marks of exhaustion and pain; but never had it appeared more beautiful than now. The Saviour's visage was not marred before His enemies. Every feature expressed gentleness and resignation and the tenderest pity for His cruel foes. In His manner there was no cowardly weakness, but the strength and dignity of long-suffering. In striking contrast was the prisoner at His side. Every line of the countenance of Barabbas proclaimed him the hardened ruffian that he was. The contrast spoke to every beholder. Some of the spectators were weeping. As they looked upon Jesus, their hearts were full of sympathy. Even the priests and rulers were convicted that He was all that He claimed to be." ibid., p. 735.
"The Roman governor, though familiar with cruel scenes, was moved with sympathy for the suffering prisoner, who, condemned and scourged, with bleeding brow and lacerated back, still had the bearing of a king upon his throne. But the priests declared, 'We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.'" ibid., p. 736.
"As Jesus passed the gate of Pilate's court, the cross which had been prepared for Barabbas was laid upon His bruised and bleeding shoulders. Two companions of Barabbas were to suffer death at the same time with Jesus, and upon them also crosses were placed." ibid., p. 742.
"The spotless Son of God hung upon the cross, His flesh lacerated with stripes; those hands so often reached out in blessing, nailed to the wooden bars; those feet so tireless on ministries of love, spiked to the tree; that royal head pierced by the crown of thorns; those quivering lips shaped to the cry of woe. And all that He endured--the blood drops that flowed from His head, His hands, His feet, the agony that racked His frame, and the unutterable anguish that filled His soul at the hiding of His Father's face --speaks to each child of humanity, declaring, It is for thee that the Son of God consents to bear this burden of guilt; for thee He spoils the domain of death, and opens the gates of Paradise. He who stilled the angry waves and walked the foam-capped billows, who made devils tremble and disease flee, who opened blind eyes and called forth the dead to life, -- offers Himself upon the cross as a sacrifice, and this from love to thee." ibid., p. 756.
Not only did those on earth behold the passion of Christ, but the whole universe beheld the visual images:
"Heaven beheld the Victim betrayed into the hands of the murderous mob, and with mockery and violence hurried from one tribunal to another. It heard the sneers of His persecutors because of His lowly birth. It heard the denial with cursing and swearing by one of His best-loved disciples. It saw the frenzied work of Satan, and his power over the hearts of men. Oh, fearful scene! the Saviour seized at midnight in Gethsemane, dragged to and fro from palace to judgment hall, arraigned twice before the priests, twice before the Sanhedrin, twice before Pilate, and once before Herod, mocked, scourged, condemned, and led out to be crucified, bearing the heavy burden of the cross, amid the wailing of the daughters of Jerusalem and the jeering of the rabble.
"Heaven viewed with grief and amazement Christ hanging upon the cross, blood flowing from His wounded temples, and sweat tinged with blood standing upon His brow. From His hands and feet the blood fell, drop by drop, upon the rock drilled for the foot of the cross. The wounds made by the nails gaped as the weight of His body dragged upon His hands. His labored breath grew quick and deep, as His soul panted under the burden of the sins of the world. All heaven was filled with wonder when the prayer of Christ was offered in the midst of His terrible suffering, -- 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' Luke 23:34. Yet there stood men, formed in the image of God, joining to crush out the life of His only-begotten Son. What a sight for the heavenly universe!" ibid., p. 760.
So, if God thought it so important for "all heaven" to view with their eyes and hear with their ears the actual brutality to which Christ was subjected until they had to turn their eyes away and stop their ears (not being able to bear any more), there must be some place for such on earth. The question comes down to what does the Holy Ghost use to keep Christ's sacrifice fresh in our minds, our memories? The inspired words we just read are one of the God-given means.
After mentioning that the Catholic Church would use Passion Plays as a means of teaching doctrine in the Middle Ages, Samuele says,
"The problem arises when pictures are designed and used to portray and foster unbiblical teachings such as the devotion to Christ's Passion or to the Sacred Heart of Mary. In these instances, pictures encourage an idolatrous form of worship."
We have, thus far, seen how Ellen White encouraged people to think on Christ's life and sufferings, "especially the closing ones," and has, herself, used language more descriptive and dramatic than that which the New Testament writers have in portraying the brutality which Christ endured on our behalf. Whether or not she would have liked The Desire of Ages made into a movie is for the Holy Ghost to answer. If it were, people could repeatedly watch it so that they could watch the "closing scenes" of Christ's life in order to keep those things fresh in their minds. Many have read that book many times, and appreciate its worth. But there is something else which Holy Ghost has placed in the Church to do that exact thing. This will be discussed further on.
After decrying the misuse of imagery, Samuele begins to touch on the heart of the matter regarding our remembrance of Christ's sufferings, death, and intercession. That is, how the Catholics chose to do it, and what he thinks is the Biblical teaching on the subject – and how those things relate to Gibson's movie.
"The average viewer of 'The Passion' may not realize that the movie is not a mere reenactment of the last twelve hours of Christ's death, but a powerful promotion of the focal point of Catholic worship: THE MASS. Catholics go to church, not to hear the proclamation of the Word of God, but to witness the reenactment of Christ's sacrifice. The short homily [religious discourse] that priests deliver after the Mass, has been largely influenced by Protestant preaching. The few Masses that I attended as a boy growing up in Rome, Italy, and later as a doctoral student at the Pontifical Gregorian University, usually had no homilies. At the Mass, Catholic believers watch the priest reenact Christ's sacrifice, just like moviegoers watch it in Gibson's Passion.
"Why is Christ's sacrifice repeated at the Mass? Because Catholics believe that every time Christ is offered at the altar, the benefits of His sacrifice are renewed to the believer. Such benefits can be applied not only to living believers but also to the souls of loved ones in Purgatory. I vividly recall the visit of priests or nuns to our home in Rome, to invite us to pay for perpetual Masses on behalf of our loved ones in Purgatory. Such Masses are supposed reduce the time of suffering in Purgatory and hasten their transition to Paradise."
"The Catholic view of the Mass as a reenactment of Christ's sacrifice as a way of salvation, helps us understand why Gibson, a very devout Catholic, has invested 25 million dollars to produce 'The Passion.' His movie is designed to help modern audiences understand, as Gibson stated in an interview with the Eternal Word Television Network, 'the juxtaposition between the sacrifice of the cross and the sacrifice of the altar [Mass] — which is the same thing.'”
"The script of 'The Passion of the Christ' was specifically written to highlight the link between Christ's suffering and death on the Cross, and the reenactment of His sacrifice at the altar during the Mass celebration. Gibson's intent is to show that the sacrifice of the Cross and the sacrifice at the altar (Mass) are the same thing."
"The Catholic belief that Christ can be sacrificed time and again and each time benefits accrue from His fresh atonement, is openly contradicted by Scripture. Hebrews teaches us that Christ, our High Priest, does not need to repeat His sacrifice, because 'He did this once for all when He offered up Himself' (Hebrews 7:27). Protestants have historically rejected as 'abominable' the idea that the priest at the altar has the power to sacrifice Christ again and again. But the widespread acceptance of 'The Passion' by Evangelical Christians is a clear indication that the gulf between Catholicism and Protestantism is being bridged, at the expenses of the latter."
Though Samuele has brought forth some of the prominent points of the Catholic practice, and has generally shown how they are not correct, he, again, has returned his sword to its sheath. He rightly defines the heart of the whole doctrine of the Mass as regarding the doctrine of Christ's "fresh atonement." But, as all that the Roman Catholic Church has is only a clever counterfeit of the truth, there must be something real to the idea of a "fresh atonement" which strikes a cord in men's hearts and minds – and this especially for the Jews who were in the custom of attending the daily temple services, and then became Christians. This is where Samuele has done a disservice to his readers – especially to the Adventist ones. He left out the true picture of what is happening daily in the heavenly Sanctuary so that his readers may have made good use of their spiritual eyes. Here is a glimpse of that picture:
"Moses made the earthly sanctuary, 'according to the fashion that he had seen.' Paul declares that 'the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry,' when completed, were 'the patterns of things in the heavens.' Acts 7:44; Hebrews 9:21, 23. And John says that he saw the sanctuary in heaven. That sanctuary, in which Jesus ministers in our behalf, is the great original, of which the sanctuary built by Moses was a copy." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 357.
"The heavenly temple, the abiding place of the King of kings, where 'thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him,' . . . no earthly structure could represent its vastness and its glory. Yet important truths concerning the heavenly sanctuary and the great work there carried forward for man's redemption were to be taught by the earthly sanctuary and Its services." Ibid.
"And what was done in type in the ministration of the earthly sanctuary is done in reality in the ministration of the heavenly sanctuary." The Great Controversy, p. 420.
"As anciently the sins of the people were by faith placed upon the sin offering and through its blood transferred, in figure, to the earthly sanctuary, so in the new covenant the sins of the repentant are by faith placed upon Christ and transferred, in fact, to the heavenly sanctuary." Ibid., p. 421.
"Christ was the foundation of the Jewish economy. The whole system of types and symbols was a compacted prophecy of the gospel, a presentation in which were bound up the promises of redemption." The Acts of the Apostles, p. 14.
"After His ascension, our Saviour was to begin His work as our High Priest. Says Paul, 'Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us' Hebrews 9:24. As Christ's ministration was to consist of two great divisions, each occupying a period of time and having a distinctive place in the heavenly sanctuary, so the typical ministration consisted of two divisions, the daily and the yearly service, and to each a department of the tabernacle was devoted." Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 357.
"As Christ at His ascension appeared in the presence of God to plead His blood in behalf of penitent believers, so the priest in the daily ministration sprinkled the blood of sacrifice in the holy place in the sinner's behalf." Ibid., p. 357.
"Thus in the ministration of the tabernacle, and of the temple that afterward took its place, the people were taught each day the great truths relative to Christ's death and ministration . . ." Ibid., p. 358.
Therein we see the picture of a daily work done by Christ similar to the daily work of the Jewish priests. This daily work (Christs' ministration in the heavenly Sanctuary) is the glorious Gospel and continuing passion of Christ which the Holy Ghost has chosen to reveal to the Remnant Church. Of this continuing ministration we read –
"The smitten rock [which followed the Israelites in their desert wanderings] was a figure of Christ, and through this symbol the most precious spiritual truths are taught. As the life-giving waters flowed from the smitten rock, SO from Christ, 'smitten of God,' 'wounded for our transgressions,' 'bruised for our iniquities' (Isaiah 53:4, 5), the stream of salvation flows for a lost race. As the rock had been once smitten, so Christ was to be 'once offered to bear the sins of many.' Hebrews 9:28. Our Saviour was not to be sacrificed a second time; and it is only necessary for those who seek the blessings of His grace to ASK in the name of Jesus, pouring forth the heart's desire in penitential prayer. Such prayer will bring before the Lord of hosts the WOUNDS of Jesus, and THEN WILL FLOW FORTH AFRESH the life-giving BLOOD, symbolized by the flowing of the living water for Israel." Patriarch's and Prophets, p. 411.
Therein we have not only the precious truth of Christ's daily intercession for us, but also the truth of which the Mass is a counterfeit – the true "reenactment of Christ's sacrifice as a way of salvation" – the true "fresh atonement," not by an actor performing a mock similitude of His ongoing passion, offering something which is not his, but by Christ, Himself, offering that which is His alone. He will not be sacrificed again, for the "fountain" has been "opened" "for sin and for uncleanness." (Zechariah 13:1). The Rock has been smitten once, awaiting only for the asking to pour forth His blessings. He will not be broken nor bruised again. Nor cut nor pierced. Nor will death come upon Him again. But the wounds in His hands are still tender, and He, as our true High Priest, intercedes for us daily by His blood – His fresh, living blood (Life).
When understood in all of its bearings, the difference between Christ's true work and intercession in the heavenly Sanctuary, and that of the Catholic priests and people, will be seen to be the difference between God's love for man, and men's love of themselves. Leaving out this "fresh atonement" aspect in the preaching of the Gospel by an Adventist has as its effect the same as does a Catholic priest offering their bloodless sacrifice – emptiness, weakness – passionlessness.
The difference between the two is the same as the difference between Cain's bloodless, passionless, offering, and Abel's offering of the firstlings of his flock. Cain's offering lacked the acknowledgement of the need for blood (life) of the divine Mediator, and exhibited a reliance on self, and self alone, for God's approval. While, on the other hand, Abel's offering was an acknowledgement that his own works and ways were not a sufficient thank offering for his life and salvation, and that he was only living by the saving grace which was over him through the shed life of an innocent Victim – even Christ, his Savior.
The early church knew of Christ's continuing ministry of His blood in the heavenly Sanctuary before the one who had "arms ... stand on his part" (the Roman clergy after the fall of pagan Rome), had taken away "the daily [sacrifice], ... and the place of His sanctuary was cast down" in the understanding of men, and before there was placed "the abomination that maketh desolate [the Mass]." (Daniel 8:11; 11:31). What the early church knew was that Christ's sacrifice and intercession was two-fold.
The first is summed up in Jude's statement which closes his letter, "Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy ..." (Jude 1:24). This was also the Good News (Gospel) which the apostle John preached when he wrote, "My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not." 1 John 2:1. They knew that "by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14), "having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself..." Colossians 1:20
Yet, they also understood that "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 1, 2:2. They understood that they also needed Christ as "an advocate with the Father," "an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens," (Hebrews 8:1), and that "every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man [Christ] have somewhat also to offer." Hebrews 8:3. What is that "somewhat" which our High priest has to "offer?"
"Christ being come an high priest, ... by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge [cleanse] your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" Hebrews 9:11-14.
For "... without shedding of blood is no remission." (Hebrews 9:22).
John says that "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7). Yet while he knew that Christ's death on the cross paid the price for all sins, past and future, he also knew that "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (verse 8, 9). In the Revelation we also read that Jesus Christ has "washed us from our sins in his own blood..." Revelation 1:5.
The means of this washing, cleansing, is described by the apostle Peter as the "sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:2. This "sprinkling" indicates a priestly act in a present sense, not a past one. That is, this "sprinkling," cleansing, takes place when we "confess our sins." According to the type, the blood of the innocent sacrifice was to sprinkled not only in and around the sanctuary and altar, but also, at times, upon the high priest and his sons (Exodus 29:21), and even upon the one for whom intercession was being made (Leviticus 14:7). In all of the actions, the works, of the priests which "serve[d] unto the example and shadow of heavenly things" (Hebrews 8:5), we see only a "fresh atonement," with fresh blood.
Therefore, we are encouraged to have the "boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh." Hebrews 10:19, 20.
While Samuele states that, "At the Mass, Catholic believers watch the priest reenact Christ's sacrifice, just like moviegoers watch it in Gibson's Passion," such is not really true. He is correct in saying that in the Catholic ritual people "watch" the priest perform as do moviegoers watch actors, but they are seeing something wholly different from a reenactment of Christ's sacrifice. By Samuele's own account, Gibson's portrayal was altogether bloody, while the Mass is clearly a bloodless ritual.
The only likeness of blood, or even symbol of blood, seen during a traditional Mass is that which may be on an image of Christ on a cross. There is no real reminder of Christ sufferings on earth nor of His intercession in the heavenly Sanctuary in the performance of the Mass itself, but only a focus on a non-representative reenactment by the gorgeously-robed priest wherein he, professedly, makes Christ (that is, His body and blood) with his words.
In fact, the bread (Host) they use to represent Christ's broken body is not even broken, but is taken in its whole, round form. Also, in usual practice, the wine which is held to be Christ's blood is not even seen nor tasted by most present at a traditional Mass, but the beautiful cup which holds it is held up to the watcher's attention, with the focus on the priest's action and ritualistic words, rather than on what is being done by Christ with His own fresh blood in the heavenly sanctuary.
That they are giving more honor to the work of their priest than to the sacrifice and intercession of Christ is easily seen in their custom of genuflecting (kneeling briefly on one knee) when they cross in front of the container on the altar that holds the bread which the priest has already blessed – which also just happens to be in front of a cross which bears an image of Christ. They are not kneeling to the cross with Christ on it which is behind the altar as much as to the unbroken bread in the box (which they call the Tabernacle) on the altar which they believe has been changed into the body of Christ by the priest's intercession. And this, even to bread blessed (sic) by a priest who is in open sin.
"We Catholics BOW our heads, that is, bend our hearts as a gesture of reverence to the altar, and toward other holy objects such as the Sacred Scriptures, a crucifix and other sacred images. We GENUFLECT, that is, bend our hearts by touching one knee to the floor, when we come into or leave the Eucharistic Presence of Christ, whether during Mass or when reserved in the Tabernacle. Also, it is our custom to genuflect whenever we pass in front of the reserved Eucharist or approach the Tabernacle for prayerful communion with Our Lord." St. Olaf Catholic Church, Parish Bulletin, September 20, 1998.
So, when those who attend a Mass behold the priest's bloodless sacrifice there is no reminder of the fact that a "fountain" has been "opened" "for sin and for uncleanness" (Zechariah 13:1) – even Christ's own blood. Nor are they reminded that His body was broken and bruised for them. What they are reminded of is the Catholic dogma that the people need "priests" to act out these things for them – that the priests, alone, open anew the fountain of Christ's blood every time they perform the Mass. But the true fountain of His blood was "opened" when He was sacrificed once and for always, and that fountain of His blood flows forth at the prayers of the penitent to wash and cleanse them from all unrighteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit without the aid of any other person.
In one sense, it is not unusual that an Adventist leader such as Samuele has shied away from touching upon this subject, as such has been a problem for Adventists for a long time. That is, they have a hard time teaching this reality from the Bible. They shouldn't, but they do. The reason that this is so is because coming from various denominations, as had the early Adventists, they had differing views on the Bible texts which prove this precious doctrine. This made the subject difficult to clearly lay out without some of them having to give up their preconceived erroneous ideas, which they were not willing to do.
The key to the matter lies in the correct understanding of the relationship between the law and the sacrifice of Christ. Some say that the law was nailed to the cross, thus doing away with it completely. But the Scriptures only say that it was our sins, our debts, our I.O.U.s ("all trespasses ... the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us," Colossians 2:13-14) that were nailed with Him to His cross.
Other say that there are "two laws" – the Ten Commandments (moral law), and the ceremonial law (by which they mean, generally, the sacrificial laws) – the first of which still applies, while the later was nailed to the cross. They try to distinguish between the two by the fact that the Ten Commandments (moral law) were kept inside the Ark of the Covenant, while the other was kept on the side (outside) of it. The problem with that is that moral law is in both, as is ceremonial law. The Sabbath commandment (the fourth of the Ten Commandments) is altogether ceremonial.
But apart from those private opinions, there is the correct understanding – that is, that no part of the law, itself, was nailed to the cross, but there was a change to it, in part. "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law." Hebrews 7:12.
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:17-19
To "fulfil" does not mean to do away with. He is still fulfilling the true meaning of the priestly types which "serve[d] unto the example and shadow of heavenly things" (Hebrews 8:5). Moreover, not "all" has been "fulfilled," because the type which shows that the sanctuary is to receive its final cleansing when the sins which were transferred to it are to be placed upon the "scapegoat" (Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26), has not yet been fulfilled in antitype.
The Catholics teach that the correct changes in the law are the ones which they have purportedly made on their authority. They say that their priestly order and practice is the New Covenant ceremonial law in operation. While most Protestants reject this notion in theory, they actually accept it in practice, when they adhere to those purported changes in the law which distinguish the Roman Catholic Church – i. e., Sunday, Easter, and Christmas keeping (to name a few), along with the hour of worship (11:00 a.m., which comes from the time of High Mass).
The alternative is the keeping of the times and laws of God's own appointment under the New Covenant changes in the Priesthood and sacrificial service – the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread; Pentecost; the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles; and the New Moons, along with the Biblical hours of worship (the 3rd and 9th hours of the day – about 9:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m.).
Therein lies the reason why the Adventists have such a hard time teaching of the antitypical work of Christ in the heavenly Sanctuary – they have to take the whole Biblical package as it comes, or none of it. Their opponents know this, and call them Judaizers or legalists when they should try to hold up the truth. Thus the Adventists leaders, such as Samuele Bacchiocchi, have chosen to lay down their personal crosses in exchange for the approval of men.
But there is more to the matter of the Mass displacing the truth of Christ's intercession and being "the abomination that maketh desolate" when taking into consideration the following heaven-inspired statement –
"The Scriptural Ordinance of The Lord's Supper had been supplanted [taken away – Daniel 8:11] by the idolatrous sacrifice of the mass." The Story of Redemption, p. 334
Definition: Supplant; to displace by stratagem – Webster
So while Samuele describes that part of the Mass which attempts to ape Christ's personal intercession as both Priest and Sacrifice, he leaves out the part about the Mass having supplanted the true nature, purpose, and practice of the Lord's Supper – which simply reads, "a supper of the Lord," in the Greek. This is the heart of the matter concerning the Mass, because the whole service is purported by the Catholics to be the true way of keeping the Lord's Supper. And this is where most Protestants, including most Adventists, also have laid down their sword and crosses. The Reformer, Martin Luther said,
"The mass is a bad thing; God is opposed to it; it ought to be abolished; and I would that throughout the whole world it were replaced by the supper of the gospel." Martin Luther, quoted in The Great Controversy, p. 189.
Yet neither his followers, nor the vast majority of those who have followed other true reformers have taken that final step in the Reformation – returning the Lord's Supper (a supper of the Lord) to the table from whence it was supplanted, and abandoning the mock table-altars and pseudo-priestly practices. Says inspiration:
"Our Savior instituted the Lord's Supper, to be often celebrated, to keep fresh in the memory of His followers the solemn scenes of His betrayal and crucifixion for the sins of the world. He would have His followers realize their continual [day by day] dependence upon His blood for salvation....
"The salvation of men depends on a continual [day by day] application to their hearts of the cleansing blood of Christ. therefore, the Lord's Supper was not to be observed only occasionally [every few months] or yearly, but more frequently than the annual Passover. Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, pgs. 227-228.
Therein we have the true purpose of the Lord's Supper, which is counterfeited in the Mass – "to keep fresh in the memory of His followers the solemn scenes of His betrayal and crucifixion for the sins of the world." It is through the whole service that we have communion with Christ, through the intercession of the Holy Ghost, and with each other, whereby we have the Lord's sacrifice kept fresh in our memories.
The disciples who were witnesses to Christ's sufferings, and to similar brutality (violent bloodshed), and who were familiar with the sacrifices at the temple, were those who
"continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. ... And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:42-47.
They had two things which were given them to remember Christ's sufferings, intercession, and second coming – the bread and the wine – and they used those "daily." As type had met antitype in Christ's death, the typical sacrificial system was no longer significant to them, even though the temple services were to be continued for decades afterwards by the unbelieving Jews. The temple services were soon to cease, and they would no longer have any bloody visual representations of Christ's sacrifice. They were given what they needed – memorials.
When they broke their unleavened bread with thanksgiving, and their unfermented wine likewise, and shared these with each other, they all acted a full and real part in the remembrance of Christ's sufferings – there was no priestly preeminence given the one giving thanks, all were blood-bought brethren, and their common bread and cup reminded them of this. They all ate His broken body and drank His spilled blood. And this kept fresh in their minds His sufferings and their salvation thereby.
But as time has shown, the true meaning and practice of a supper of the Lord was one of the first and foremost casualties of the predicted falling away (2 Thessalonians 2:3), and was already suffering from assaults upon it in Paul's day. In his letter to the Corinthians (chap. 11), he reproves them for allowing partisanship to enter into their fellowship, thus causing some to be snubbed, and that at a supper of the Lord. That partisanship allowed men who were seeking preeminence among them to usurp such, and eventually draw attention from Christ and His place and work in the heavenly Sanctuary to themselves in their pseudo-reenactment performances. All of this because they failed to properly keep the complete service of a supper of the Lord.
"Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged." 1 Corinthians 11:27-31.
The complete service is more than just the aspect of partaking of bread and wine. It involves "discerning the Lord's body." Elsewhere, the New Testament writers declare that the Church – the whole congregation – is Christ's body (1 Corinthians 12:27). It was that which was not being discerned by some in Corinth. They did not see Christ, nor minister unto Him, in the persons of their blood-bought brethren. This is why Paul admonished each to "examine himself" – to see if they, as individuals, were causing problems.
It was for just this purpose that Christ gave to the Church a practice which took the place of one going to the earthly temple with a sacrificial offering in hand, and which, as a preliminary requisite to a supper of the Lord, has been counterfeited as a prerequisite to participation in a Mass – that is, footwashing and confession. Along with supplanting the supper of the Lord with the Mass was the supplanting of the brotherly footwashing and confession "one to another" with the Confessional wherein confession is one way – confessor to priest.
In the Catholic practice, one's attention is focused on the priest who is not seen (at least not clearly), and one waits for his words for reconciliation. During that exchange , the focus is not on Christ's then present work of interceding His blood on behalf of the repentant sinner. This subject is not made known to the one who confesses to the priest and is then told by him to say a certain number of "Our Father"s, and "Hail Mary"s wherein there is, again, no mention of Christ and the fresh flowing forth of His blood which it took to forgive the sins. It is written,
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." James 5:16.
In doing this we are reminded of the intercession of Christ (not of an earthly priest who has preeminence above us), for such is the only remedy for transgression. Knowing that our prayers are actually ascending to the heavenly Sanctuary where Christ will be pouring forth His blood to cleanse from sin is a mighty reality which will sanctify the soul from sin when the truth is received into the heart by the aid of the Holy Spirit.
It is in this preliminary feature wherein we are most closely brought to the reality of Christ's "fresh atonement" – that is, the period of self-examination, confession, footwashing, before coming to the table, for therein are our minds directed to His work in the heavenly Sanctuary in the forgiveness of sins, both past and present, whereby "the benefits of His sacrifice are renewed to the believer." Not merely in theory, but in reality which can be sensed.
"The holy Watcher from heaven is present at this season to make it one of soul searching, of conviction of sin, and of the blessed assurance of sins forgiven. Christ in the fullness of His grace is there to change the current of the thoughts that have been running in selfish channels. The Holy Spirit quickens the sensibilities of those who follow the example of their Lord. As the Savior's humiliation for us is remembered, thought links with thought; a chain of memories is called up, memories of God's great goodness and of the favor and tenderness of earthly friends. Blessings forgotten, mercies abused, kindnesses slighted, are called to mind. Roots of bitterness that have crowded out the precious plant of love are made manifest. Defects of character, neglect of duties, ingratitude to God, coldness toward our brethren, are called to remembrance. Sin is seen in the light in which God views it. Our thoughts are not thoughts of self-complacency, but of severe self-censure and humiliation. The mind is energized to break down every barrier that has caused alienation. Evilthinking and evilspeaking are put away. Sins are confessed, they are forgiven. The subduing grace of Christ comes into the soul, and the love of Christ draws hearts together in a blessed unity.
"As the lesson of the preparatory service is thus learned, the desire is kindled for a higher spiritual life. To this desire the divine Witness will respond. The soul will be uplifted. We can partake of the Communion with a consciousness of sins forgiven. The sunshine of Christ's righteousness will fill the chambers of the mind and the soul temple. We 'behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." The Desire of Ages, p. 650-61.
Therein we have the intercessory work of Christ on earth, by the Holy Spirit, at the time when His blood is flowing forth afresh in the heavenly Sanctuary.
"Duties are laid down in God's Word, the performance of which will keep the people of God humble and separate from the world, and from backsliding, like the nominal churches. the washing of feet and partaking of the Lord's Supper should be more frequently practiced." Early Writings, p. 116.
Note that the Spirit does not say that a "more frequently practiced" "washing of feet and partaking of the Lord's Supper" will merely heal our backslidings, (confession of sin at any time and in any true manner does this), but rather that they "will keep" us from backsliding by keeping us "humble and separate from the world." That is really good news for those who are weary of the effects of repeated cycles of sinning and repenting, and who want to truly experience what Jude, the servant of Christ so joyfully proclaimed:
"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." Jude 1:24, 25.
As the Gospel song says, "There is power, power, wonder working power, in the precious blood of the Lamb."
"The ordinances that point to our Lord's humiliation and suffering are regarded too much as a form. They were instituted for a purpose....
"The bread we eat is the purchase of his broken body. The water we drink is bought by his spilled blood. Never one, saint or sinner, eats his daily food, but he is nourished by the body and blood of Christ. The cross of Calvary is stamped on every loaf. It is reflected in every water spring. All this Christ has taught in appointing the emblems of His great sacrifice.
"The light shining from that Communion service in the upper chamber makes sacred the provisions for our daily life. The family board becomes as the table of the Lord, and every meal a sacrament." Desire of Ages, p. 660.
There is the performance, the reenactment, which the Lord want His people to participate in to remember His life, death, and resurrection. Christ is Risen! Pass it on!
So while Samuele has used the opportunity of reviewing Gibson's movie to decry the extreme violence therein, and certain portions of Catholic dogma, what real service has he given to his Adventist readers in upholding the doctrines which are so much a prominent part of the "Testimony of Jesus," which is "The Spirit of Prophecy?" Revelation 19:10. Regarding Christ's current work in the heavenly Sanctuary, the Spirit says,
"Every individual has a soul to save or to lose. Each has a case pending at the bar of God. Each must meet the great Judge face to face ... The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ's work in behalf of man. It concerns every soul living upon the earth." The Great Controversy, p. 488.
"The efficacy of the blood of Christ was to be presented to the people with freshness and power, that their faith might lay hold upon its merits. As the high priest sprinkled the warm blood upon the mercy seat, while the fragrant cloud of incense ascended before God, so while we confess our sins, and plead the efficacy of Christ's atoning blood, our prayers are to ascend to heaven, fragrant with the merits of our Saviour's character. Notwithstanding our unworthiness, we are ever to bear in mind that there is One that can take away sin, and save the sinner. Every sin acknowledged before God with a contrite heart, He will remove. THIS FAITH IS THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH." Testimonies to Ministers, p. 92, 93.
"... And what was done in type in the ministration of the earthly sanctuary is done in reality in the ministration of the heavenly sanctuary." The Great Controversy, p. 410.
"As anciently the sins of the people were by faith placed upon the sin offering and through its blood transferred, in figure, to the earthly sanctuary, so in the new covenant the sins of the repentant are by faith placed upon Christ and transferred, in fact, to the heavenly sanctuary." Ibid., p. 421.
There is yet another matter that Samuele may have addressed in his review of The Passion of the Christ, had he availed himself of the light available to him as an Adventist. That is, he says that " 'The Passion of the Christ' is heralded as the most authentic reenactment of the last twelve hours of Jesus' life." But the light available to Samuele is that the events from the time of Jesus' capture in the Garden of Gethsemane did not take place in approximately 12 hours, but rather, in over 36 hours.
This we know from the Bible record which says that He was on the cross at the "sixth" hour (noon) of the day He died (Matthew 27:45; Mark 15:33; Luke 23:44). Yet the record also shows that He was before Pilate at another "sixth hour" (John 19:14), after He had been before the Jewish leaders both before sunrise on the night He was taken, and after that same sunrise. Therefore, as one day cannot have two noons (sixth hours), the one before Pilate had to be on a different day, or at a different "sixth hour."
In the ancient way of reckoning, the term "sixth hour" refers to either noon or midnight. So the "sixth hour" Christ was before Pilate had to be either the previous midnight, or the previous noon. Such simple facts do not fit within the "12 hour" scenario, for in that time line there is no place for a sixth hour before Pilate between the time Jesus was before the Jewish leaders before and after the sunrise following the night He was taken, and the "sixth hour He was on the cross.
So, while this matter is not nearly as important as Christ's continuing ministry in the heavenly Sanctuary and the supplanting of this truth by the Mass and all that it entails, it is nonetheless Bible truth which is being displaced by the traditions of men. For more complete studies on this matter, see our studies:
There is one last issue which Samuele raises in regards to Gibson's movie. That is, the role of Mary portrayed therein. Though we will not go into length on the points he raises regarding Mary, we will comment on one of his paragraphs on this matter –
"The notion of Mary participating with Christ in our redemption, is a long-standing Catholic heresy that Protestants have strongly rejected. But, I dare to predict that the subtle and deceptive role of Mary in the movie will influence many uninformed Evangelicals to embrace her as their co-redeemer. This deception is fostered by the powerful role Mary plays in the movie, especially in the last scenes."
Here again, because of his failure to avail himself of the light of heaven which has been made available to the Adventists, he has left his readers in an intellectual and emotional limbo. That is, he provides no sound reason why so many Catholics are seemingly sincerely devoted to the place of a feminine person in their religious life if there is no such thing in God's plan of salvation? Is the whole idea of a feminine intercessor from the devil, or is he counterfeiting something – putting Mary in the place of someone else?
The Catholic leaders know quite well that the Holy Spirit is portrayed in Hebrew as being feminine, and is the other "Comforter" (Intercessor), and even our Spiritual Mother, and that they are purposely suppressing this glorious truth to keep women out of their ministry. There is much more which can be said on this matter, and many, many Biblical facts to consider. But as we have many other studies on this subject, we will direct the reader to those studies with the prayer that they will find therein the answers they should have found in Samuele's review of "The Passion of the Christ."
We should all be aware that we will be accountable both for the light we accept, and for the light we reject. So what can be said of Mel Gibson and Samuele Bacchiocchi? Both of their works have missed the mark of the high calling of Christ and His word. Yet, they both seemed to be sincere in their portrayal of things. Therefore, the counsel which comes to mind is
"Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way." Romans 14:13
So, while Mel Gibson's understanding of the Gospel of Christ has been darkened by his involvement with the church of Rome, his movie cannot be recommended to people because of the many "stumblingblocks" therein, the same may be said of Samuele Bacchiocchi's presentation of crippled Adventism.
"Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." 1 Corinthians 10:12.
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
"Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.
"For I determined not to know [make known] any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." 1 Corinthians 2:2.