Dr Adrian Bury's blog

Christian theology, basic teachings, apologetics

Testimonies of God’s provision, teaching on God’s covenants

Just posted some more clips on UT, about the above subjects, check my channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/athb4hu

I will be posting on this regularly from now on

Video clips

Hi all,

I am going to start publishing again, after all this time, but it’s going to be mainly on YouTube. Here is my intro to what I hope will be a series:

God did some amazing miracles today, by the way, answers to long prayed prayers. Sometimes it takes a while!

 

Getting in touch again

I haven’t written recently – lots to do.

We are still involved in mission and other things, will write soon.

Recently I have given some talks in connection with topics concerning Science and the Bible, They can be seen on my YouTube channel, here:

My reason for doing these was, in the first place that I am interested in the subject, but also that there is not much available on this theme in Hungarian. But I tried the talks out in Wales first, so you can listen to them in English and/or Hungarian 🙂

Last days

As I have not been able to upload videos here, try this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lM8KODd8zRE

Advert

I have posted some new pages recently, but I have been unable to add tags, I only seem to be able to do it on a main-page post. Does anyone have any ideas about this? In the meantime, I have added tags to this post, so maybe it will get found! 

The new pages are: 

Who am I in Christ? 

Church planting, parts 1 & 2 & 3 (with pics added)

Discipleship or religious observance

By the way, when I was back home at Christmas I was asked to speak in my home church, in Bangor North Wales, and my subject was “Cult or Genuine?” so it is sort of related to stuff I have posted here. They put it on the church website here:

http://www.aogbangor.org.uk/html/teaching.html

Scroll down to the message from 12/26/2010.

You can all laugh at my accent!

Thoughts on the phenomenon of cults

A.  What constitutes a cult?

 Daniel Shaw claims that, “Cults form around paranoid, sociopathic leaders who gain power, and often great wealth, through control and exploitation of members.” 1 Margaret T. Singer approaches the question as a psychologist and not as a theologian, and she states that, in contrast to the standard churches, cults are always about money and profit. 2 In this way, a cult may promise people “the solution,” but sooner or later the members will be hurt and not helped, as the leaders are looking to their own interests, and not to those of their followers. 

Enroth and Alexander take another approach to this question, and differentiate between sociological cults and theological cults. 3 In a sociological understanding, the faith which is customary and acknowledged in a particular society is not a cult, e.g. Sunni Islam is not a cult in Saudi Arabia, and neither is the Orthodox Church in Romania. As the Roman Catholic Church is the largest in Hungary, from a sociological point of view it cannot be considered a cult, in fact, it can happen, that a Catholic believer can feel justified in regarding everyone as a cultist who does not belong to that movement. The problem with this view, is that when we consider that different religions are the accepted norm in different countries, then we still do not receive an answer to the question as to which church is true, and which are cults.

From a theological point of view, on the other hand, those groups are normative which insist that the Bible is the foundation of all theology and practice. If for certain groups some other criterion is of equal significance or even surpasses the Bible, including false or unique Biblical interpretations, they are cults. In the present study, the question will be approached from this third angle.

Following this thread, an important insight is provided by the Romanian Baptist Pastor Iosif Ţon, “Every religion is defined by two absolutely essential factors, which are determined by the answers given to two fundamental questions: 1) What is the source of information for that religion? and 2) What solution does that religion provide for re-establishing the relationship between man and God?” 4

The same two criteria are considered by Enroth and Alexander, in order to define a cult from the Biblical, theological point of view: 5

  1. A false or inadequate basis of salvation. The apostle Paul drew a distinction that is utterly basic to our understanding of truth when he said, “By grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Inasmuch as the central doctrine of biblical Christianity is the sacrificial death of Christ for our sin, all cultic deviations tend to downplay the finished work of Christ and emphasise the importance of earning moral acceptance before God through our own religious works as a basis of salvation.
  2. A false basis of authority. Biblical Christianity by definition takes the Bible as its yardstick of the true, the false, the necessary, the permitted, the forbidden, and the irrelevant. Cults, on the other hand, commonly resort to extra-biblical documents or contemporary “revelation” as the substantial basis of their theology (e.g. Mormons). While some cult groups go through the motions of accepting the authority of Scripture, they actually honour the group’s or leader’s novel interpretation of Scripture as normative (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists, Christadelphians).

 What constitutes unity?

 It is very important for us as Evangelical believers to ask the question, who are our brothers, and who can we be in unity with? We know that it is important for there to be unity amongst Christians, as Jesus prayed for this in his high-priestly prayer, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17: 21). We can see that God always sends his blessing where there is unity among Christians, as for instance in the cities and countries shown in the “Transformations” videos. 6 In my view, it is by the work of the Holy Spirit that God will bring about the desired unity among Christians. Dale Ratzlaff writes that this will be a functional unity, in which the churches involved “agree on the clear fundamentals of the Christian faith yet affirm other churches which may have a different emphasis and different interpretations or understandings on the less essential elements of Christianity.” 7

            I should note, that two extreme views are the main culprits in preventing the attainment of unity in accordance with God’s will, in connection with what are to be considered “less essential elements.” On the one hand, the view which is increasingly dominant in the ecumenical movement is, “all religions are paths which lead to the top of the mountain.” So we can talk about God, and love, and the brotherhood of man, but it is best to leave Jesus out of the picture. Jesus cannot be an inessential element, however, because, “No-one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son, has the Father also.” (1 John 2: 23). At the other end of the scale, for all cults, their strange, unique doctrines, often differing from the teachings of all other churches, are considered essential elements, e.g. the use of the name of Jehovah (Jehovah’s Witnesses), baptism in the name of Jesus only and speaking in tongues as conditions for salvation (United Pentecostal Church International), observance of the Saturday Sabbath (Seventh-day Adventists), acceptance of the book of Mormon as Scripture (Latter Day Saints), etc., etc., etc.. As all these groups consider themselves the “one true church,” Christian unity is clearly only possible in their eyes, if everyone joins them.

Dr. Adrian Bury

Footnotes  

  1. Daniel Shaw, Traumatic Abuse in Cults: An Exploration of an Unfamiliar Social Problem, May, 1996, Essay, http://hometown.aol.com/shawdan/essay.htm
  2. Margaret Thaler Singer, Cults in our midst.
  3. Enroth, The Lure of the Cults & New Religions, p. 21
  4. Iosif Ţon, Credinţa Adevărată, p. 54.
  5. Enroth, The Lure of the Cults & New Religions, p. 21
  6. Transformations and Transformations II, the Sentinel Group.
  7. Dale Ratzlaff, The Truth about Seventh Day Adventist Truth, p. 2.

B.  Various Proposed Formulae for Salvation

 Based on the Ephesians 2: 8-10 passage quoted above, most classic books and articles on cults cite two possible formulae for salvation: 1

 1. Faith in Christ + Good works => Salvation

 2. Faith in Christ => Salvation + Good works

 The first is then referred to as the formula found in the cults, and the other as the formula representing the true Christian gospel. Cults always involve legalism, and a works-based salvation of some kind, and there is never any assurance of salvation. Christians are saved by faith and have assurance of salvation!

My contention would be that this is true as far as it goes, but it is not the full picture. I believe there are basically three types of gospel preached in the modern church(es), two of them are extremes and incorrect, the third is the true version. The formulae are:

 1. Faith in Christ + Good works => Salvation

 2. Faith in Christ => Salvation + Good works

 3. Faith in Christ => Salvation + Nothing else

 Let us consider again what Paul says in Ephesians 2: 8-10: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Compare also James 2: 20, 24: “You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? … You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”

            The commonly accepted version of what is the true Christian gospel and therefore “not cultic” does not necessarily fit into the pattern created by these two verses. It has even been claimed that someone may be born again, show no further evidence of ever having been a Christian, and still be saved. 2

            This concept, however, does not fit in with what the Bible says about God’s purpose in calling the church, which is his people, the body of believers. For instance, we read that we are called and justified in order to be a people which will glorify God on the earth (Eph 1: 11-12). We are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (Rom 8: 29). We are to become without spot or blemish (Eph 5: 25-27). Christians will be known by the fact that they do not sin (1 Jn 3: 7-10), they love one another (Jn 13: 35) and they perform the works of God in the power of the Holy Spirit (Mark 16: 15-18). These things certainly do not fit with the notion of an “unrecognisable” believer.

            The problem is, that although formula 1 above does represent the error of legalism, formula 3 falls into another trap – that of antinomianism. Both of these extremes are condemned in the word of God, for instance, by Paul in his letter to the Romans. The Bible teaches us that in Christ we are set free from the law (Rom. 7: 1-6), but we are also set free from sin (Rom. 6: 18), and this in order that we may serve God (1 Cor. 6: 19-20; Heb. 9: 14). Serving God involves “doing things,” as we are led by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8: 13).

It is clear, therefore, that we are justified by faith, freely; by God’s grace we are set free from the law not so that we can continue in sin, but so that we can be led by the Holy Spirit. This will mean doing things for God, so we can reflect his glory.

            Salvation is not based on works, but it does involve works. So of the above formulae, 2 is correct, 1 and 3 are wrong.

 Footnotes:

  1. For example, Dale Ratzlaff, in The truth about Seventh-day Adventist Truth.
  2. For example, Charles Stanley in Handbook for Christian Living, (1996): “Even if a believer for all practical purposes becomes an unbeliever, his salvation is not in jeopardy.” (p. 93). “…believers who lose or abandon their faith will retain their salvation…” (p. 94). “…a Christian who at no point in his entire life bore any eternal fruit. And yet his salvation is never jeopardised.” (p. 121). “…there are Christians who show no evidence of their Christianity as well.” (p. 71).

C.  How to Recognise Cults

I.  Which is the One True Church?

 Christians are often asked, “Why are there so many religions?” This is a good question! Many groups claim that they are the only ones to have found the secret to life. How can I know which is the true one? If I want to please God, which one should I join? Or should I bother to look at this question at all? What if I end up joining some horrific cult, where they take my brain out, wash it, and put it back in an unrecognisable form?

These questions can be answered, but the explanation is not always simple. First of all, there are the various world religions, which are methods written in holy books, invented by men and all differing from each other, according to which, by rule-keeping, rituals and self-discipline, you can get into some state of being liberated from something.

            The Bible can also be regarded as a holy book, but it is totally different. The Bible is the message of the true God to lost mankind. In the religions, men are seeking God, but in the Bible, God is speaking to men – that is the great difference.

            But lots of people use the Bible! Why are there so many Christian churches? One of the reasons for this is historical. God loves people, and sometimes, at certain periods, He deals with them in a special way and many turn to Him all at once. This is known as revival. At such times, one or more movements have always come into being, which later become denominations. Such times of upheaval were, for example, the 16th century Reformation throughout Europe, from which came the Lutheran, Reformed and Anglican Churches, and the 18th century Great Awakening in Britain, which was the origin of the Methodists.

On the subject of “church.” The original Greek form of this word (ekklesia) is used in the Bible for three concepts. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16: 18), and Paul writes, “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5: 25). This indicates that the church is made up of all believers in Christ. The apostle Paul writes to, “the church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2), and we read that, “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers” (Acts 13: 1). Here, the church consists of all the Christians who live in a city. Paul also greets, “Priscilla and Aquila… also the church that meets at their house” (Romans 16: 3, 5). This refers to a group of believers meeting in a house. So the meaning of the word is: the universal church, a city congregation, a house group.

            The Bible never uses the word church for any kind of denomination or movement. So, why are there so many…?

There is another possible reason for this. Maybe there are denominations in the Bible after all – at least in embryo. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual, but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. For since there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe” (1 Cor 3: 1-3). Many churches have come into being throughout the centuries, when men have gathered around a certain teacher they particularly liked, and in this way split off from other Christians. Paul calls this immature behaviour. It is noteworthy, that Paul does not concede that any one of the groups in Corinth is right, but assures them all that, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor 12: 27).

When Paul writes to the Galatians, he lists dissensions and factions along with the rest of the acts of the sinful human nature. People love to fall out over trivial matters, and unfortunately, Christians are not always mature enough not to do this. I heard of a church once, which had a split over the colour of a new song book. So the situation appears to be rather complicated. For these, as well as other reasons, there are very many Christian denominations.

So am I going to come to the point and say which is the one true church? No, I’m not! In my opinion, there isn’t one. There is, however, the one true Saviour!

Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth, and the life. No-one comes to the Father, except through me” (John’s Gospel 14: 6). The universal church mentioned above is made up of all those who, regardless of membership of human organisations, have taken advantage of this ‘way,’ and become personally reconciled to God. If someone experiences this meeting, it is not essential for him to find the best denomination at all costs, and if he does not experience it, then which church he belongs to is totally irrelevant.

And another thing – Christians are the most normal people you can meet. There’s an interesting thought! They eat, go to work, and sleep. They don’t wear peculiar clothes, they don’t eat special food, they don’t hold secret rites. They love their families and friends. They don’t hurt each other, but if someone gets into trouble they help him – this is characteristic of the true believer, as Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

II.  What is a True Christian Like? 

When we think of a Christian, what sort of picture springs to mind? A young girl with a glazed expression and a grin, who answers every question with hallelujah? A sour-faced old man, who looks down on everyone, as there is no-one who keeps the rules as well as he does? Or a fellow in a black dress, who is such a great guy, because he likes a smoke and comes to the pub with us? Fanatical? Pathetic? Hypocritical? Boring? On the way to heaven, but his earthly life is hell?

The Bible tells us that the disciples were first known as Christians in Antioch (Acts 11: 26). In Antioch, the first church was founded which was made up not only of Jews, but also Greeks who had been saved from a pagan background, and the word Christian was used to refer to them as disciples, followers of Christ. The Bible warns us, however, that not everyone who claims to be a disciple is one in reality, but there will also be false prophets (Matthew 7: 15-23), false teachers (2 Peter 2) and even false Christs (Matthew 24: 2). So not everyone is a true Christian just because they happen to say they are. The true Christian is not a member of a particular church either, as salvation is not through a denomination. So how can we know?

This question may have arisen in the first century too, as the apostle John gives us the answer in his first epistle, “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are…” (1 John 3: 10). John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13: 22-24), and when he was old, he lived in the city of Ephesus, where he was active as an elder in the church. Throughout his whole life, he must have pondered on those things which Jesus taught him and the other disciples, and in this way come to an understanding of deep theological truth, as we can see in the Gospel he wrote. Even so, in order to combat the false teachers, in his first epistle he gives three very simple criteria, or characteristics, by which true disciples can be recognised. These three points come up over and over again in this letter, in which John refutes the teachings of the so-called Gnostics. These sects, which combined Christian ideas with Greek philosophy, flourished in the second century, later lost their influence, and by now have ceased to exist, but John’s three criteria are still important for us to consider:

  1. “No-one who is born of God sins, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot sin because he has been born of God.” (1 John 3: 9). Well, that’s a bit steep, isn’t it? After all, no-one is perfect! So, what can this verse mean? 

a)      It does not mean that someone has never done anything wrong is his whole life. John certainly does not contradict himself, but in this same letter, he writes, “If we claim we have not sinned, we make (God) out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.” (1: 10). The Christian life can only really begin when we realise that we have sinned, and we have need of forgiveness. If someone cannot humble himself, and admit he has done wrong, he cannot be a Christian.

b)      It does not mean that we never make any mistakes and never fall. If this does happen, John’s epistle also indicates the way of restoration, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1: 8-9).

c)      When John writes that the believer does not sin, he uses the Greek present continuous tense. This means that he does not remain in sin, does not commit the same bad deed over and over again, but his life gradually changes and becomes clean. On the other hand, if someone claims to be a Christian, but over the years nothing ever changes in his life, and he is not even concerned about the matter, then John says that he has not met God. (3: 6).

d)      Another picture of the same thing is fruit production. Jesus himself says that a true prophet will be known by his good fruit (Matthew 7: 15-20). A crop does not grow on a fruit tree overnight, but if it is indeed a fruit tree, then the fruit will appear sooner or later. In his letter to the Galatians, the apostle Paul compares the works of the sinful nature with the fruit of the Holy Spirit. From this we can see the sort of behaviour which disappears from the life of a true Christian, and the good things that it is replaced with, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5: 19-23). This leads on to the next point:

2. “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers: Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (3: 14). “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (4: 7-8). This criterion is very significant, because at the Last Supper, Jesus said that this is the way the world will know who are his disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13: 34-35). So who is the Christian’s brother? Such a one who is also born of God, as this means that they have the same father. Regardless of social status, nationality, or denominational affiliation. The whole of the New Testament exhorts us to love, “Love must be sincere.” (Romans 12: 9), “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellow-man has fulfilled the law… Love does no harm to its neighbour.” (Romans 13: 8, 10), “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” (Galatians 5: 6). The result of this will be that relationships between people are restored, they become reconciled with one another, and forgive each other. They are not pleased to see one another fall, but help to lift one another up, as they recognise they all need each other. The verse quoted last above leads on to the third point:

3. “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” (5: 1),  “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (5: 11-12). If someone has not met the Son of God, he is not a Christian. A Christian believes that Jesus has always existed, he was born into this world, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead on the third day, ascended to heaven, and is now interceding for us at the right hand of God. John particularly stresses that God’s Son came in the flesh.

Summarising the three points then, a Christian: believes in Jesus Christ; loves his fellow-believers; and gradually gets rid of sinful behaviour.

These criteria were important at the end of the first century, as the Gnostics denied all three. For them, salvation was by the possession of secret knowledge, and not by faith. They taught that “Jesus” was merely a man, on whom the “Christ spirit” descended at his baptism – therefore Christ had not come in the flesh. And as they knew the secrets, their behaviour was not important – love, or repentance of a sinful lifestyle, were totally irrelevant.

These groups no longer exist, but there are sects is the modern world too, and they often teach false doctrines about Jesus. As to the characteristics of cults, that is another story, which is dealt with in the next section.

III.  Cults under the microscope 

            It’s easy to label some religious group or movement as a cult if we are not familiar with it. Maybe this is the most acceptable solution – if it’s a sect we don’t have to bother with it. Some believe that anything that is not a traditional church must be a sect. Others think that everyone is cultish, who does not belong to their particular group. It is true, that alongside the Christian churches and denominations, there are also cults, but how are we supposed to know which is what?

            The words cult and sect can be defined in several ways. A cult was originally a ceremonial religious system, so as a technical term it is even used to refer to the Old Testament Israelite religion. The word sect is of Latin origin, and the root meaning is “cut.” In a similar way to the Greek word “heresy,” it was used to refer to a group which separated itself off from the rest. We read in the Bible that the Jews considered the Christians to be a sect. While Paul was living in Rome, the Jews came to him and said, “We want to hear what your views are, for we know that people everywhere are talking against this sect.” (Acts 28: 22).

            As we know, over the centuries very many Christian groups have been established. Some of these are good, some bad, and some worse. In this present article, I will use the word “cult” to designate a religious system which for some reason has deviated from the truth, is proceeding in a wrong direction, and therefore causes more harm than good to its members. In spite of the fact that there are very many of these, which can be whole denominations, movements within churches, or individual congregations, and in addition teach very different doctrines, there are common features which characterise these bad systems.

            First of all, I will summarise once again the criteria which according to the apostle John are characteristic of healthy Christian groups: they believe in Jesus Christ; they love their brothers, and they gradually get rid of sinful behaviour.

            In his book, “When a church becomes a cult,” Anglican minister Stephen Wookey lists several points which are typical of deviant religious movements. This list is worthy of attention, as it helps us to spot the signs:

  1. People are dominated, intimidated and manipulated by strong leaders, so that they will conform to their ideas. There are many rules, not necessarily from the Bible, which means everyone has to behave, think, speak or even dress in the same way. As a result, someone’s personality may begin to change, as he starts to do things which are not normal for him, in order to conform to expectations. In the long term, this can lead to someone developing serious psychological problems.

In contrast to the above:

a)      Jesus said that people will obey him because they love him (John 14: 15), not that they will adhere to meaningless rules as a result of external pressure.

b)      God loves variety, as indicated by the multiplicity of creation and all the different human cultures and personalities. He does not want every person to be identical, but wants people to love and respect each other in spite of the differences.

c)      Jesus said to the future apostles of the church, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.” (Luke 22: 25-26).

  1. Every sect claims to be the one true, remnant or restored church, the only group where salvation can be obtained, or if not the only one, at least the best there is. The natural conclusion to be drawn from this, is that all other denominations are bad or false. In most cases, they rely on the doctrine of a single teacher, who may be the living leader, or the movement’s founder, apostle, prophet, in certain cases even the group’s Messiah, who receives or has received special revelation from God. The words of this teacher become truth for the group, even if he adds to or contradicts the Bible. As a consequence, the members often become arrogant and look down on everyone else, as only they “have the truth.” On the other hand, if anyone dares to question the teachings of the movement, they are considered to be rebelling against God, and if someone leaves the church, in extreme cases they will be “damned,” or at any rate, what they are doing is “against the will of God.”

With regard to this:

a)      There are around two thousand elite “Christian” groups of this type in the world, so logic dictates that they cannot all be the “one true church.” It is highly probable that none of them is, as God does not give his glory exclusively to one man or movement.

b)      If a group withdraws and separates itself off from other Christians in this way:

i)                    They do not allow others to examine and correct their wrong teachings in the light of the wisdom given them;

ii)                   They automatically exclude themselves from the universal church, which is made up of all born-again believers.

  1. “The end justifies the means” for the group. The end is that as many people as possible should join them. The argument probably works like this: as “we have the truth,” it does not matter even if we use rather dishonest means to spread it. On this basis, several groups do not admit who they are at once, when they start to propagate their teachings. Some cults operate under various different names, so that people will not realise who they are. Certain sects have completely crazy teachings, which someone would find shocking if he heard them at the beginning. They keep quiet about these at first, and prefer to begin with some innocuous point, like what does the Bible say about the family, or the end of the age, or the world political situation. Such things as, “you can progress into being the god of your own world” are kept till the end.

The Bible does not endorse such behaviour:

a)      “The way of the guilty is devious, but the conduct of the innocent is upright.” (Proverbs 21: 8).

b)      “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1: 6-7).

  1. As a consequence of the first two points mentioned above, the leader or leaders are untouchable, and cannot be called to account. As they claim that they answer only to God, they are led by the Holy Spirit, it is clear their decisions cannot be questioned. If someone’s leadership position becomes established in this way, care must be taken in three areas, where things can easily go wrong:

i)                    Sex – the leader can fall into sexual sin, for which he often gives a “spiritual” justification.

ii)                   Money – the leader may live in comfort and luxury, but his followers must always give more “for the work of God.”

iii)                 Power – the leader dominates and controls the whole movement.

This behaviour is more reminiscent of the works of the flesh than the fruit of the Spirit. (Galatians 5: 19-22).

  1. Many cults use brain-washing techniques to convince potential members that they are right. Among others, these include isolating people from friends and family. A great deal of information is communicated all at once, which does not allow people to process it or check up on it. They often use “love bombing” – everyone longs to be loved and accepted and this is missing from many people’s lives. In this case, however, the love turns out to be conditional, as if someone decides not the join the group, it is replaced by anger and rejection.

This method is not in line with God’s character. God gave man free will, and although he offers salvation, he does not force this on anyone. When the rich young ruler turned away from Jesus he was sad, and still loved him, but did not run after him to bring him back at any price. (Mark 10: 17-22).

  1. Cults frequently lay great emphasis on teachings about the last days and the end of the world. They have often predicted the return of Christ precisely and in great detail. It is certainly surprising, that when this does not occur, the group does not cease to exist, but they always manage to find some excuse or explanation for the false prophecy. The notion that Armageddon is just around the corner keeps people in a heightened psychological state. They believe that everyone who does not belong to the group is under the influence of Satan, and nothing he says can be accepted. Of course, it is very difficult to help anyone who is in such a condition. This concept may certainly result in paranoia, and in extreme cases such as Jonestown or Waco, in mass suicide.

A few comments on this:

a)      The Bible clearly teaches in very many passages that Jesus Christ will return to the earth, “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” (Mark 13: 26).

b)      However, no-one knows the exact time, “No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13: 32). “Now brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” (1 Thess 5: 1-2).

c)      With regard to details of the events of the last days, there are in existence at least fifteen theories, all of which theologians try to support from the Bible. If a certain Christian group claims that in order to be saved, someone must not only believe in Jesus, but also accept a complicated eschatalogical theory, then in my view, they have exceeded their mandate.

  1. Finally, with regard to theology, the cults teach very many different things, but a few principles may be noted.

i)                    The cults often use the Bible. They admit that it is the infallible revelation of God, and claim that all their teachings come from Scripture. In practice, however, they still distort the truth, because:

ii)                   The doctrine of their teacher/leader overshadows that of the Bible, because he has received “special revelation” from the Lord. The teachings of the leader, already accepted as “truth,” are then read back into the Bible in this way:

iii)                 They use misquoted, badly translated verses taken out of context. They often deny clear verses on the basis of texts which are difficult to understand. Using this method, you can prove anything from the Bible, even that God does not exist (Psalm 53: 1). We will come back to the principles of Bible interpretation later.

iv)                 In a cult, salvation does not only depend on believing in Jesus, but also on adherence to the teachings and practice of the group. Jesus said that those who repent must obey his commandments (Matthew 28: 19-20). The cults replace Jesus’ commandments with their own lists of rules.

v)                  Many cults have an incorrect view of God. Evangelical Christians, along with the traditional churches, accept the doctrine of the Trinity. According to this teaching, which is based on the Bible, there is one eternal God who exists in three persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is particularly important for us, as he is our Redeemer. The cults lay great emphasis on many trivial matters, but it is essential to consider their view of Jesus, as this is often false. For example, there are certain “one true churches” which deny the Trinity in the following ways:

a)      The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate gods, who are “one” in purpose and will.

b)      Jesus was the first creation of the God the Father, and the Holy Spirit is God’s impersonal force.

c)      There is only one God, who appears in three forms in the Bible – as the Creator in the Old Testament; he was incarnated and as Jesus walked on the earth; he is now operative in the church in the form of the Holy Spirit.

Just a couple of points to finish:

  1. If a fellowship isolates itself from other Christians, it falls out of circulation, and cannot become involved with the many good things God is doing in the world. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead the disciples into all truth (John 16: 13). This refers to the universal church, not to some exclusive little society which refuses to talk to the rest!
  2. Party spirit and pride are sins, and lead to deception, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16: 18).
  3. We must remember that love was Jesus greatest commandment (John 13: 34). Love and humility are preconditions for someone to know the Lord’s will, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best…” (Phil 1: 9); “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement…” (Romans 12: 1-3).

IV.  Avoid Scripture twisting

Eight Principles for Bible Interpretation

 (I plariarised this bit, mainly to translate for the Hungarian version – see below for reference).

The Bible is God’s message to lost humanity. It is therefore very important that we read it and study it. As it was originally written to those living in a different culture in another age, however, and furthermore deals with spiritual truths, it contains things which are difficult to understand. The Bible is inspired by God and reliable. It contains history, law, prophecy, wisdom literature, poetry and letters, on the basis of which we can see how God has dealt with his people. This means that the Bible is not a dogmatics text book, but since the Reformation, Protestant churches have taught systematic theology merely on the basis of what the Bible has to say (sola Scriptura).

            Throughout the centuries, various kinds of Scripture interpretations, or hermeneutical systems have been used. For instance, Origen, who was active in Alexandria in the late second century, used the allegorical method of interpretation, by which he sought hidden, symbolic meanings in the whole Bible, and in the end, reached conclusions which were in conflict with the clear teaching of the text.

            Nowadays, the literal, normal, or grammatical-historical interpretation method is used by most. The idea behind this, is that the purpose of language is communication. God gave men his word in order to communicate with them, not to lead them astray. The Bible is God’s message, not a puzzle which must be solved. Within this hermeneutical system, eight principles may be applied in order to facilitate understanding and avoid twisting.

  1. When studying a section in the Bible, start with the question, “What does this passage mean?” If it can be understood according to the normal rules of grammar, do not feel that at all costs you must look for some deeper, figurative or symbolic meaning. There is also poetic and symbolic language to be found in the Bible (e.g. Isaiah 5, book of Revelation), but it must only be explained in this way if it cannot be interpreted literally. It is typical of cults to construct certain teachings merely on the interpretation of symbols, relying particularly on the book of Revelation. Always be wary of a teaching which cannot be supported by any clear passages.
  2. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew (a few sections in Aramaic) and the New Testament in Greek. It can only be regarded as inspired by God in these languages – there is no infallible Bible translation, no matter how beautiful, traditional or well-known it may be. The original text must always be taken into account. It is not to be expected that everyone should learn the ancient languages, but understanding is facilitated by at least comparing several translations. For instance, in Genesis 1: 28, according to the King James translation, Adam and Eve are told by God to “multiply and replenish the earth.” This has been used to support the theory that there was a pre-Adamite civilisation which was destroyed in the “gap” between Genesis 1: 1 and 1: 2, as Adam and Eve had to refill an earth which had been emptied. In another version, however, this verse is translated as follows, “Be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it.” (NIV). This corresponds to the Hebrew, and is simply a command from God for man to occupy the newly-created earth.
  3. Remember the context. Verses must be read in the context of the whole passage, the chapter, and the book. Finally, pay attention to the wider context of the Old or New Testament. Interesting things may be concluded if the context is ignored. For instance, the first verse of Psalm 53 says, “There is no God.” If the verse is examined a little more closely, however, it turns out that this is the opinion of a fool according to king David, but it is not his own view. Furthermore, the whole message of the Bible naturally assumes God’s existence, and it is also written, that someone can only please God if they believe in Him (Hebrews 11: 6).
  4. Recognise that the Bible contains progressive revelation. This means that the New Testament generally interprets the Old, and the New Testament letters further explain the Gospels.

The New Testament must interpret the Old, as the former was initial, fragmentary revelation, just the shadow of the reality to come. The gospel of Christ is the full revelation, which was prophesied and for which they were waiting (e.g. Heb 10: 1; Col 2: 16-17). For this reason, a dogmatic structure must not be constructed merely from Old Testament verses, and then used to deny or weaken New Testament truths. Approach the Old Testament from the New – do not force the New into the “wineskin” of the Old.

It can be claimed that the letters explain the Gospels, because Jesus did not tell his disciples everything during his earthly ministry, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16: 12-13). One aspect of the work of the Holy Spirit, after he came on the day of Pentecost, was to inspire the New Testament epistles, in which the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ are systematically explained. Beware of any teaching which is considered essential, but which can only be supported from the Old Testament, and there is no trace of it in the New Testament letters.

  1. Always interpret a particular passage of Scripture in the light of the systematic teaching on the subject. Individual teachings are dealt with in many different verses in the Bible, and so all verses which treat the subject must be considered, not just one, otherwise strange conclusions may be drawn. For example, in Acts 1: 8 it is written, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…” A certain, well-known “one true church” uses this verse to prove that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but a power sent from God, similar to electricity. The Bible teaches on this subject in very many places, however, and from other passages we learn that the Holy Spirit, for instance: leads (John 16: 13), speaks (Acts 13: 2), makes decisions (1 Cor 12: 11), appoints church elders (Acts 20: 28), can be grieved (Eph 4: 30) and can be lied to (Acts 5: 3). These are only true of a person.
  2. Interpret difficult verses on the basis of clear passages. This is the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture (Scriptura ex Scriptura explicanda est). A favourite trick of cults is to select a difficult passage and then construct their unique teachings on it. Ezekiel 37: 15-17 says, “The word of the LORD came to me: ‘Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, “Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.” Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, “Ephraim’s stick belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.” Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.’” According to another “restored” church, Judah’s stick symbolises the Bible, whereas Joseph’s stick represents the lost history of the tribes who travelled to America. As this came to light in the 19th century, and it was added to the Bible, this prophecy has been fulfilled, because the two sticks have become one! Reading a little further, however (Ez 37: 18-22), it is clear that the people of Israel is referred to here, and not books – the passage explains itself. The same thought is also found in other verses, that after captivity, God will lead his people back to their own land (e.g. Isaiah 45, Jer 25).
  3. Be careful of novel interpretations. Check what several conservative commentaries have to say about the passage. There is little new under the sun. Many heresies of the cults have been thoroughly refuted. Although there are many Christian denominations, it is interesting that there is solid agreement on the fundamental doctrines. Always consider what the biblical author intended to communicate. Cult leaders are experts in removing verses from their context and forcing their own interpretations on them.
  4. Last but not least, approach the Scriptures in prayer. The chief author of the Bible was the Holy Spirit (2 Tim 3: 16-17; 2 Peter 1: 21), and he helps born-again believers to understand God’s message (John 16: 13). Do not develop an individual view of doctrine, but allow the Holy Spirit to teach you, and the Scripture to interpret itself.  

Bibliography:  

Avoid Scripture twisting: eight basic rules of Bible interpretation, Watchman Fellowship Inc.

Brinsmead, R. D., Sabbatarianism Re-examined, Verdict Publishing, June 1981.

Ryrie, C. C.,  Teológiai alapismeretek, Egyetemi Nyomda, Budapest, 1996.

Stott, J. R. W., The Letters of John, IVP, 1989.

Wookey, S., When a Church Becomes a Cult, Hodder and Stoughton, 1996.

SDA studies VI

8

Michael, Moses and the Elders

1.      Michael the Archangel 

Former Adventist pastor J. Mark Martin claims, “The early Adventist pioneers taught the heresy called Arianism, which asserts that Jesus is not God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity. Those who believe this false doctrine teach that Jesus is an exalted angel. Those, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses, who promote this heresy today, teach that Jesus is Michael the Archangel. This early Adventist heresy appeared in several books and articles published by the church.” 1

Among those who taught this were James White, the husband of Ellen, and Uriah Smith, who wrote commentaries propagating the interpretations of Daniel and Revelation still accepted by Adventists today.

Since 1931, the Adventist church has officially embraced the doctrine of the Trinity, but the idea that Michael is Jesus is retained, since Mrs. White taught it. For instance, “Moses passed through death, but Michael came down and gave him life before his body had seen corruption. Satan tried to hold the body, claiming it as his; but Michael resurrected Moses and took him to heaven. Satan railed bitterly against God … but Christ did not rebuke His adversary …” 2

It appears however, that not all branches of the church stress this teaching. When John Surridge, an English Adventist spokesman, was asked if they taught that Michael is Jesus, he said, “I have to admit that this is not something that I have heard much about. However, having looked it up I can tell you that apparently the Church discussed this issue some forty years ago and concluded that the precise identification of Michael was not important enough to dwell on at length.” 3

Adventists today do not teach that Jesus is Michael, i.e. that he is an angel, but they do claim that Jesus appeared as Michael in the Old Testament.

We know that Jesus is not an angel, because he is, “as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have become your Father.’” (Heb 1: 4-5).

Many theologians teach, however, that the “angel of the LORD” who appears in several places in the Old Testament, is an appearance of Christ before his incarnation, as he is identical with the LORD (Gen 16: 11-13; Judges 13: 20-23) and accepts worship (Num 22: 31-32), which an angel does not do (Rev 22: 8-9). The same can be said of the “commander of the LORD’s army,” who appears to Joshua before the battle of Jericho (Josh 5: 13-15).

So Jesus did appear to people in the Old Testament. The question is, does Michael count as one of these appearances? Let us examine the verses which deal with Michael.

The Archangel Michael appears in the following verses: Daniel 10: 13; 10: 21, 12: 1; Jude 9; Revelation 12: 7.

The name Michael in Hebrew is míchá’él, which means “who is like God?” In the Greek text it is written Μιχαηλ. In the Old Testament, in this form, it is the name of 9 or 10 men (Numbers 13: 13; 1 Chron 5: 13, 5: 14; 6: 40; 7: 3; 8: 16; 12: 20; 27: 18; 2 Chron 21: 2-4; Ezra 8: 8), and in the form míchal it is the name of king Saul’s younger daughter (1 Sam 14: 49). These people cannot all have been appearances of Jesus Christ. It is not possible to draw conclusions from the meaning of the name.

Daniel 10: 13 reads, “But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” The part of the sentence which is significant for our study is as follows:

NIV, KJV and NASB: “Michael, one of the chief princes”

Compare with the Latin Vulgate and the Greek Septuagint –

Vulgate: Michael unus principum primorum

LXX: “Μιχαηλ είς των αρχοντων”

These all agree with the original Hebrew, which reads: míchá’él ’achad hassárím hár’íšóním – word for word: “Michael, one the princes the chiefs.”

The expression “the chief princes” is therefore in the plural, both the noun and the adjective, as Hebrew grammar demands, and Michael is one of these.

The meaning of the Hebrew word sar – pl. sárím is commander or prince. This may a human commander (2 Chron 25: 1), Jesus is the “prince of peace,” (Isaiah 9: 6), and it is probably God who is the “prince of princes” (Dan 8: 25). Several times in the book of Daniel, the word refers to angelic beings, e.g. “the prince of the Persian kingdom (Dan 10: 13, 20), “the prince of Greece” (10: 20). Michael would also be one of these angels.

The other verses in Daniel are as follows, “No-one supports me against them except Michael, your prince” (10: 21); “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise” (12: 1). Not much can be concluded from this. It may be Jesus who is the protector of the Jewish people, but in an apocalyptic text of this type, it could equally well be a chief angel. The resurrection, which soon follows in chapter 12, can naturally only be the work of Jesus, but it is not written in the text that Michael plays a role in this.

As a result, it can be said that there are verses in the book of Daniel which would support the claim that Michael is Jesus. I believe that the decider, however, is the fact that he is only one of a certain group, and this cannot be true of Jesus, as he is a unique being. The most likely conclusion based on the book of Daniel, therefore, is that Michael is not Jesus.

Michael’s name also occurs in the book of Revelation, also an apocalyptic work, and he is once again in a battle. “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.” (Rev 12: 7). This could equally well be a chief angel or a symbol of Jesus. No decision can be made on this basis.

The word “archangel” comes from the Greek (αρχαγγελος), and means “chief angel” or “angelic prince.” The following related words also may refer to spiritual beings: “αγγελος” (messenger – Mat 1: 20), “αρχη” (ruler – Rom 8: 38), “αρχων” (authority – in the New Testament, this generally means the human authorities, but cf. LXX translation of Dan 10: 13).

The word archangel only occurs twice in the Bible. It is difficult to determine the meaning of such a rare word on the basis of the Bible alone, but archangels were a well-know concept in intertestamental Jewish literature. More on this below.

Let us look at the verses first. “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thess 4: 16).  We know that at the sound of Jesus’ voice, the dead will be raised. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice (that of the Son of man) and come out…” (John 5: 28-29). It is not certain, but I believe that the loud command, the voice of the archangel and the trumpet call are not one and the same thing, but three separate events. 4 If this is so, then the voice of the Son of man corresponds to the loud command, not the voice of the archangel. On the basis of this verse, it is very unlikely and certainly speculative to assert that the archangel is Jesus.

The final verse is Jude 9, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”

The expression “did not dare” is ουκ ετολμησεν in Greek. According to the lexicon, the word τολμαω means dare, take courage, be brave enough, presume. In the negative, it occurs in the following verses: Matthew 22: 46; Mark 12: 34; Luke 20: 40; John 21: 12; Acts 5: 13, 7: 32; Romans 10: 18; 2 Corinthians 10: 12, and means that someone does not dare to do something because he is afraid. I do not believe that it can be claimed that there is anything Jesus would not dare to do.

It is true that the angel of the LORD uses the same words against Satan in Zechariah 1: 2, but why should this mean that he is the same person? It is not written that the angel of the LORD did not dare to speak to Satan.

To return to Jude. In the early church, the epistle of Jude was a disputed book for a long time 5, as he refers to apocryphal sources. For example: “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones, to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14-15). This prophecy is not to be found in the Old Testament, however, compare: “And behold! He comes with ten thousands of His holy ones to execute judgement upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly, and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness which they have ungodly committed, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him. (1 Enoch 1: 9).

Jude and his original readers must have been familiar with the first book of Enoch. According to most commentators, this is a pseudepigraphic book originating from the first century BC, and a lot can be learnt from it about the beliefs of Judaism at that time. The early Christians respected this book, and Justin Martyr, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria quote from it. It was condemned and banned by the fourth century church fathers, however, and was therefore lost for a long time. In the early nineteenth century though, an Ethiopic translation was found in Alexandria, and this was translated into English and published in 1821. Since then, copies have also been found among the Dead Sea scrolls.

First Enoch is one of the popular intertestamental apocalyptic works, which are based on Daniel, but contain a much more elaborate angelology. Michael often turns up in these books, but he is not the only archangel: “And the angel Michael (one of the archangels) seized me by my right hand…” (1 Enoch 71: 2); “Such is the picture and sketch of every luminary which Uriel the archangel, who is their leader, showed unto me.” (1 Enoch 79: 6). In one place in the book, seven archangels are named: Uriel, Raphael (who occurs in the book of Tobit – e.g. “And the holy angel of the Lord, Raphael was sent to heal them both.”Tobit 3: 25), Raguel, Michael, Saraquael, Gabriel and Remiel (1 Enoch 20: 1-8). In another place, four of them are standing round the throne of God: Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Phanuel (1 Enoch 40: 8-10).

No attempt is made at this point to assert that all this conforms to reality, but just that when the first Christians heard the word archangel, they would have thought of a high-ranking angel, and not a unique being who is identical to the Son of God. In order to determine the meaning of a rare word, not only the etymology should be considered, but also the contemporary usage.

Several of the early church fathers assert that Jude, when he refers to the conflict of Michael and Satan over Moses, is quoting from another apocryphal book called the Testimony of Moses or the Assumption of Moses. For example, Origen writes, “In the book of Genesis, the serpent is described as having seduced Eve; regarding whom, in the work entitled The Assumption of Moses (a little treatise, of which the Apostle Jude makes mention in his Epistle), the archangel Michael, when disputing with the devil regarding the body of Moses, says that the serpent, being inspired by the devil, was the cause of Adam and Eve’s transgression.” 6

In connection with the fact that Jude quotes from literature of this sort, it should be noted that this does not mean he considered these books to be inspired, or that we should consider them as such. The Apostle Paul sometimes cites Greek poets to stress a certain point, i.e. Aratus (Acts 17: 28), Menander (1 Cor 15: 33), Epimenides (Titus 1: 12). “Such quotations in no way suggest that the quotations or the books from which they were taken are divinely inspired. It only means that the Biblical author found the quotations to be a helpful confirmation, clarification or illustration.” 7

It must also be said, that it is a general principle of Biblical interpretation, that an important doctrine should not be based on the details of a parable or illustration. In Jude 9, it is not the intention of the author to teach details on the death of Moses or the person of Michael, but to illustrate the attitude of the false teachers. Peter also deals with this subject in his second letter, and it is interesting to compare the two passages.

“Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, though they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.” (2 Peter 2: 10-12). 

“In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals – these are the very things that destroy them.” (Jude 8-10).

So Peter uses the angels as an illustration, whereas Jude uses Michael, but the point made is the same.

To summarise then, it is asserted here that Jesus Christ did not appear as the archangel Michael in the Old Testament, the main reasons being:

Biblical:

1. Michael is just one of the chief princes (archangels?), and

2. He did not dare to rebuke Satan.

Historical:

3. The word archangel would not have indicated a unique being for the first readers.

2.      Moses

Let us now turn to Moses. Mrs. White claims that Moses was raised from the dead by Jesus. See above 2, and: “The angels buried Moses, but the Son of God soon came down and raised him from the dead and took him to heaven.” 8

First of all it must be said, that this is not written in the Bible. The death of Moses is described in Deuteronomy 34: 5-7: “And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no-one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.”

There is not the slightest hint in the Old Testament, that Moses’ body did not remain in that unknown grave. Indeed, God said to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready…” (Joshua 1: 2). Jude 9 states that there was a conflict over Moses’ body, but it does not say what happened to it afterwards. So we can speculate, can’t we? And of course, everyone speculates according to his own theological ideas and prejudices.

What are the possibilities?              

  1. Jude quotes an intertestamental Jewish legend, which is contained in an apocryphal book, as this is a good illustration of what he wants to say about the false teachers, but he does not wish to claim that this event really happened.
  2. This event really did happen, in spite of the fact that it is written in an uninspired book, because it is in the Bible.

Both of these possibilities are acceptable. In the first case, the epistle of Jude is still regarded as inspired, but no teaching is built on the illustration. Let us assume, however, that the second case is correct.

It would be good to obtain and read the Assumption of Moses, as we would be informed what these celestial beings were arguing about, and what happened afterwards. Several of the Early Church Fathers refer to the book, but unfortunately, only the beginning has survived, which in apocalyptic fashion describes history in symbols from the time of Moses to the time of Herod, but the end, which would describe Moses’ death, has been lost. 9

So how can we speculate about Jude 9?       

A. Moses was resurrected and is bodily in heaven.

This is not a new theory. Augustine states, that Christians believe Enoch, Moses and Elijah are in heaven. 10 Unfortunately, he gives no details.

In a Catholic study, in which he tries to prove the assumption of Mary, Mischewski explains the cases of Enoch and Elijah, to show “such things happen.” Then he writes, “Jude gives us a hint about what may have happened to Moses after his death, and refers to the Assumption of Moses, in Jude 9. It seems fair to speculate that Moses was taken up to heaven bodily, given that at the Transfiguration, Moses appeared with Elijah, who we are told explicitly was assumed into heaven.” 11 (My emphasis.) Mario Derksen, however, another Catholic, refutes the idea that Moses is bodily in heaven, on the basis that Jesus would only have resurrected him after his own resurrection. 12 More on this later.

Faussett says this of Moses’ body, “Satan, as having the power of death, opposed the raising of it again, on the ground of Moses’ sin at Meribah, and his murder of the Egyptian. That Moses’ body was raised, appears from his presence with Elijah and Jesus (who were in the body) at the Transfiguration: the sample and earnest of the coming resurrection kingdom, to be ushered in by Michael’s standing up for God’s people. Thus in each dispensation a sample and pledge of the future resurrection was given: Enoch in the patriarchal dispensation, Moses in the Levitical, Elijah in the prophetical.” 13 It’s just that, this explanation does not work for Enoch and Elijah, as they were not raised from the dead, and nothing of this sort is written of Moses either.

It is more likely that at the transfiguration, Moses appears as the representative of the law, and Elijah of the prophets. Another thought, is that Moses represents those saints who have passed through death to enter the kingdom of God, and Elijah those who are alive and awaiting the rapture. 14

B. The angels buried Moses after his death.

Moses was alone when he died. According to Josephus, God hid his body from the Jews. 15 God sent Michael to bury him, but Satan wanted the Jews to find the body and make an idol of it, as they later did with the bronze serpent. Michael won the dispute, and together with the angels, buried the body. 13, 16 This is certainly in line with the Bible.

But if this is so, then why is the book called the Assumption of Moses? Probably referring to this book, Clement of Alexandria writes, “Therefore, Joshua the son of Nun saw Moses, when taken up to heaven, double: one Moses with the angels, and one on the mountains, honoured with burial in their ravines.” 17

Now let us speculate a little. Maybe the same thing happens here, as in another apocryphal work, the Apocalypse of Moses.

This book tells of the death of Adam and Eve. As death approaches, Adam is worried about how he will be received by God. The LORD sends Michael and the angels to sort things out. When the couple die, their spirits are taken up to heaven to await the resurrection, and their sons are shown by the angels how to bury the bodies.

So according to this theory, and in harmony with Jewish beliefs of that time, the following occurs at the end of the apocryphal book, the Assumption of Moses. Moses dies and the angels accompany his spirit to heaven. This is unusual, as most people would have descended to Sheol. Satan disputes with Michael, as he wants the body to be found, but he does not win the argument, and the angels bury him. How much this is in line with reality is, of course, another matter.

C. Moses body symbolises the Jewish people.

Faussett once again, “It is noteworthy that the same rebuke is recorded here as was used by the Angel of the LORD, or Jehovah the Second Person, in pleading for Joshua, the representative of the Jewish Church, against Satan, in Zech 3: 2; whence some have thought that also here ‘the body of Moses’ means the Jewish Church accused by Satan, before God, for its filthiness, on which ground he demands that divine justice should take its course against Israel, but is rebuked by the Lord who has “chosen Jerusalem.” Thus, as ‘the body of Christ’ is the Christian Church, so ‘the body of Moses’ is the Jewish Church.” 13

It really is very difficult to decide, as the material is insufficient and conflicting. Although the matter is not decided, let us pass on for a while. For the time being, a few important points are repeated:

  1. It is written in the Bible that Moses died and was buried.
  2. It is not written that he rose from the dead.
  3. The verses used to support this can be explained in other ways.

3.      The Elders

Still on the theme of the resurrection, let us consider the elders. In Revelation 4, there are 24 elders seated round the throne of God. Many interpretations of these have been offered. According to Adventist doctrine, they are raptured or resurrected saints, including Enoch (Gen 5: 24 – “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away”), Elijah (2 Kings 2: 11 – “suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”) and Moses (based on Jude 9), as well as the following:

“The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” (Mat 27: 52-53). This happened when Jesus died on the cross. The Bible says nothing more about them. Based on Ephesians 4: 8 (“When he ascended on high, he led captives in this train and gave gifts to men.”), they claim that when he ascended to heaven, Jesus took them with him. They would then be the first fruits of the resurrection, or the wave sheaf of Leviticus 23: 9-13.

See Mrs. White, “He enters into the presence of his Father. He points to his wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet: He lifts his hands bearing the prints of the nails. He points to the tokens of his triumph; he presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with him as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at his second coming.” 18 

Let us consider the feast of firstfruits. “When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so that it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath.” (Lev 23: 10-11).

The Jewish festivals can all be interpreted as types of the different aspects of Jesus’ work (Col 2: 16-17; Heb 10: 1), e.g. the Passover is a type of Jesus’ death on the cross (Lev 23: 4-8; 1 Cor 5: 7).

The assertion is made here that the feast of firstfruits symbolises the resurrection of Jesus, and not that of the twenty four elders, for the following reasons:

  1. Jesus died at the Passover, which fell on a Friday in that year (Mark 15: 42). The Bible says that these saints were raised at the same time as Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn, and the centurion spoke (Mat 27: 50-54). This all happened on the Friday.
  2. In Leviticus, firstfruits follows the Passover, and is held on the day after the Sabbath. On this day, the first day of the week, Jesus was raised from the dead (Mark 16: 9).
  3. Paul specifically writes, that Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep (1 Cor 15: 20). In this section, Paul argues that because Christ was raised, then the saints will also be raised. He uses the picture of the firstfruits only in reference to Christ. If these saints were part of the final resurrection, and they really were the firstfruits, then why are they not mentioned? He could strengthen his argument by using them to prove that there really is a resurrection.
  4. Clement of Rome, who died in 100 AD, in his letter to the Corinthian church, writes, “Let us consider, beloved, how the Lord continually proves to us that there shall be a future resurrection, of which He has rendered the Lord Jesus Christ the firstfruits by raising Him from the dead.” (Chapter 24). This indicates that the early church understood Jesus to be the firstfruits.
  5. If the feast of firstfruits is not a symbol of Jesus’ resurrection, then there is no Jewish festival which points to this important event.

The Bible also teaches specifically that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead. On this, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15: 20).

“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Col 1: 18).

“Grace and peace to you… from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.” (Rev 1: 4-5).

“I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen – that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26: 22-23).

Although there were people both in the Old Testament and in the New who were raised from the dead, Jesus Christ was the first representative of the final resurrection. And that he is still the only one, can be seen from the following order: “In Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come…” (1 Cor 15: 22-24).

Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1: 9). We are still awaiting his return, and therefore, up till now, Jesus is the only one who has been raised from the dead permanently. Before Jesus, it is not written of anyone, that they were raised from the dead and taken up to heaven.

With regard to Ephesians 4: 8, to quote Wesley, “Having ascended on high, he led captivity captive – He triumphed over all his enemies, Satan, sin, and death, which had before enslaved all the world: alluding to the custom of ancient conquerors, who led those they had conquered in chains after them. And, as they also used to give donatives to the people, at their return from victory, so he gave gifts to men – Both the ordinary and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.” 19

“To lead captivity captive” was a well-known concept in the Roman world, and relates to the mocking of conquered foes, not the bringing home of liberated prisoners. Jesus’ triumphal procession is also referred to in Colossians 2: 15: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”

In summary, therefore, the twenty four elders cannot be the firstfruits of the resurrection, and cannot be resurrected people who have been already taken up into heaven at all, because:

  1. Jesus Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection.
  2. Jesus is the first, and at the moment the only one to have been permanently raised from the dead.
  3. These facts exclude the possibility that before, together with, or after Christ up to the present day, anyone has been permanently raised and taken to heaven.

In a similar way, Moses cannot have been raised from the dead, because:

  1. It is written that he died and was buried.
  2. It is not written that he was raised from the dead.
  3. Jesus was the first.

Incidentally, the assumption of Mary is also excluded by this argument!

Finally, I should just mention, briefly, the theories of several known commentators as to the identity of the elders. The following suggestions have been made:

  1. One of the oldest theories is that these are the saints in heaven, waiting for the final state. There are 24, as they represent the 12 tribes of Israel plus the 12 apostles, and thus the whole church, or alternatively, the 24 priestly divisions (1 Chron 24: 1-19) (John Gill, Matthew Henry).
  2. They are the saints in heaven after the (pretribulation) rapture (John Darby).
  3. They are angelic beings (Johnson, Beasley-Murray, George E. Ladd).

I did not find any other commentary that mentioned the Adventist interpretation. Not to be dogmatic, but I prefer the third possibility, for the following reasons:

a)       The elders are of the same character as the four living creatures, who are angels. They surround the throne, and worship together with them (Rev 4: 4, 9-10). They sing the new song together (5: 8-9). This song praises God for the redemption of men, but the elders nowhere praise God for their own salvation. They do not belong with the redeemed, the martyrs or the 144,000.

b)       When the multitudes of angels honour the lamb, they are in concentric circles about the throne: angels, elders, and creatures (5: 11).

c)       When the redeemed praise God for salvation, the elders sing a different song together with the angels and the creatures (7: 9-12).

d)       One of the elders talks to John about the redeemed, but he is not one of them (7: 13-17).

e)       The elders and the creatures are among those who cannot learn the song of the redeemed (14: 3).

f)        Together with the four creatures, they offer incense, which represents the prayers of the saints (5: 8). This function is performed elsewhere by an angel (8: 3). 

Footnotes:  

  1. J. Mark Martin, Seventh-day Adventism and the Writings of Ellen G. White, chapter 3, Internet
  2. Ellen G. White, Early Writings, p. 164.
  3. Interview with John Surridge Communications Director of the Seventh-Day Adventists, Reachout Trust, Internet. Incidentally, in the same interview he also states, “For most Seventh-day Adventists the identification of Azazel is an obscure side issue.” Maybe the English Adventists are going in the right direction!
  4. E.g. Adam Clarke’s commentary. 
  5. According to Eusebius’ (265-340) church history.
  6. Origen, De Principiis, III. 2. 1.
  7. D. W. Burdick és J. H. Skilton, NIV Study Bible, p. 1879. 
  8. Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, p. 659.
  9. Encyclopaedia Britannica, article: Biblical literature.
  10.  Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, 24: 1-3.
  11.  Dean Mischewski, The Assumption of Mary. He also uses Matthew 27: 52-53!
  12.  Mario Derksen, Do Souls Sleep after Death?
  13.  A. R. Faussett, Commentary on Jude.
  14.  The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, entry: Transfiguration.
  15.  Josephus, Antiquities, 4: 8.
  16.  Eg. commentaries by Calvin, Clarke, Wesley, Henry.
  17.  Clemens Alexandrinus, Stromateis, VI, 15.
  18.  Ellen G. White, Desire of Ages, p. 834.
  19.  John Wesley, Commentary on Ephesians 4. Calvin and Clarke are similar.  

Bibiography:

Baldwin, J. G., Daniel – an Introduction and Commentary, IVP, 1978.

Ballenger, A. F., Cast out for the Cross of Christ, 1909 (Internet).

Barker, K. L. (ed.), The NIV Study Bible, Hodder and Stoughton, 1985.

Davidson, B., The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Zondervan, 1970.

Gingrich, F. W., Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Chicago, 1965.

Guthrie, D., et al. (ed.), The New Bible Commentary Revised, IVP, 1970.

Ladd, G. E., A Commentary on the Revelation of John, Eerdmans, 1972.

Martin, J. M., Seventh-day Adventism and the Writings of Ellen G. White

Martin, W., The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House, 1997.

Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, DBG, 1988.

Unger, M. F., The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, 1988.

The NIV Triglot Old Testament, Zondervan, 1981.

9

Have they ceased?

On the gifts of the Holy Spirit

Introduction:

                In his article entitled, “The Other Major Blind Spot of Adventism” 1, Joel Wolensky indicates that Charismatic-type renewal has occurred several times within the Adventist movement. In 1908, Mr. and Mrs. Mackin visited Ellen White, and told how they spoke in tongues, sang in the Spirit, prophesied and cast out demons. This happened after the Azusa Street revival, but there were also earlier occurrences.

                To quote Wolinsky 1, “There have been other outbreaks of “Pentecostalism” in Adventism. Another such example is from Battle Creek, Michigan in the early 1890’s… And it was led by none other than A. T. Jones, E. J. Waggonner and W. W. Prescott! But wait a minute, are these not some of the same people who lead out in the so-called “Righteousness by Faith” event of 1888 that all SDA’s have heard so much about? Yes, they are the same people.”

                However, Mrs. White had a vision in which she condemned these practices, and the SDA’s have since opposed the Charismatic movement. (Interestingly enough, there are some Charismatic Adventists in Hungary, as well as Sabbatarian Pentecostals.) I should like to discuss the question of spiritual gifts in this article, taking a wider view than just dealing with Adventism.

                There are many churches and Christian movements in existence which claim to be Evangelical. Between them, as they teach dogmatics based only on the Bible, there is solid agreement on basic questions of theology, although there may be differences in matters which are more difficult to determine. The Evangelical camp is divided, however, in one certain area – on the matter of one of the aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit. Charismatic and Pentecostal denominations claim that the spiritual gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12-14 are still to be used in the churches, whereas many other churches hold to the Cessationist view – that God caused these to cease, or withdrew them, around the end of the first century. The practice of individual believers and churches is of course determined by their opinion in this regard, but the answer to the problem must not be sought primarily in practice or experience, but only in the Bible.

(For a continuation of this article, see posts on Gifts of the Holy Spirit)

Footnote:

  1. Joel Wolensky, The Other Major Blind Spot of Adventism, Online

http://www.sabbath.com/sdanon/other.htm

 

Supplement:

Why I don’t believe in soul sleep

            Because of thoughts I have had recently, and disputes that have arisen, I feel the need to write on this subject again.

            I have dealt with this in connection with my studies on Adventism, but I should also like to include another version of soul sleep here, as well as that which they teach. I shall try to follow a logical pattern in building up the argument.

            What is soul sleep?

            Soul sleep refers to the teaching that between physical death and the final resurrection, man has no consciousness of his existence, because he, or what, if anything, remains of him, is “asleep.” There are in fact at least two sub-divisions of this concept.

            Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-day Adventists and Christadelphians teach that man has no soul or spirit, but just has a body. On the basis of Genesis 2: 7 they claim that:

Body + Breath = Living soul

            This means that man is essentially no different from the animals, and when he dies he ceases to exist, as there is no part of him that can survive death.

            Another version of soul sleep does acknowledge that man has a spirit, but that this falls asleep when the body dies, and reawakens at the resurrection.

Problems with version 1

            The first version of this teaching is not accepted by mainline Christian denominations, and rightly so as it creates major problems for several significant doctrines.

Consequences of sin

Paul writes: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Eph 2: 1). The Ephesians were obviously not physically dead, but spiritually dead. As a consequence of sin, man is separated from God in his spirit, and can do nothing of himself to restore a relationship with God. Denial of the human spirit minimises the consequences of sin, so “making more of an effort” will perhaps alleviate the situation.

The new birth

Jesus said: “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying you must be born again.” (Jn 3: 6-7). If man has no spirit, then there is nothing in him which can be born again. The new birth must consequently be redefined in a physical or intellectual way, thus robbing it of any real significance.

True worship

Jesus said: “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4: 24). Following on from the previous point, if man has no spirit, there is no part of him which can have a relationship with God or approach him in worship. Paul says: “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Cor 14: 15), and also “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Rom 8: 16). If the human spirit is taken as breath, then these verses are meaningless.

The resurrection

Paul again: “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him… For the Lord himself will come down from heaven… and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thess 4: 14,15). If man has no spirit which survives death, then nothing of him remains which can be raised from the dead. He dies, and his essential “ego”, i.e. his personality is extinguished; he has ceased to exist. Resurrection then must be redefined as recreation, or making a copy. This is perhaps the most serious problem with this theory, as denial of the human spirit logically leads to denial of the resurrection from the dead, which is a major Christian doctrine. Even the omnipotent God cannot do something which is logically or philosophically impossible, i.e. bring back something which has ceased to exist. There can therefore be no judgement following death (Heb 9: 27), the wicked are not called to account, and the righteous have no reward. Only the final generation of Christians, who experience the rapture, will receive eternal life. All the rest have already perished. This, however, means that God is unjust, and even a liar.

Christology 

Jesus said, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life – only to take it up again. … I have authority to lay it down, and authority to take it up again.” (John 10: 17,18.) Once again, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. … the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (John 2: 19,21) If Jesus died just like any other man, then his personality was also blotted out, and his resurrection was also “re-creation.” In that case, Jesus would have to be regarded as a created being, which is foreign to the Bible. Furthermore, if he did not exist for three days, how could he raise himself from the dead, as he promised in the above verses?

For the above reasons, and by reason of the verses quoted, I consider the version of soul sleep which denies the existence of the immaterial human spirit to be illogical and, more importantly, unbiblical.

Problems with version 2

            In order to understand this version we must realise that when someone dies, there is a difference between what happens to the body and what happens to the spirit. Failure to make this distinction has led to confusion. One difference is, we can and do observe and experience what happens to the body at death, but as the spirit is invisible, we have to rely on the Scriptures for information regarding this.

Falling asleep and waking up are symbols of physical death and resurrection

In both Old and New Testaments, sleeping and waking are used as symbols or metaphors of death and resurrection. For instance: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan 12: 2); “Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men.” (1 Thess 4: 13). These verses should be understood as referring to physical death seen from the point of view of those who are still living.

I believe this metaphor is used, for one thing because physical death resembles falling asleep, and for another, because for a Christian, death is only temporary as we will be raised from the dead. It indicates that death is not so final as it seems, as we await the resurrection from the dead. I do not believe we should make any assumptions about what happens to the soul on the basis of this figure of speech.

Sleep is a physical requirement

We know that natural sleep is a physical requirement. Physical beings we can observe in this world, both man and all kinds of animals, have need of regular sleep for healthy existence. Nothing we read in the Bible, however, gives any indication that any kind of spiritual beings have need of sleep, or are even capable of sleeping.

No sleeping spirits are ever encountered in the Bible

God is a spirit (Jn 4: 24) and he does not sleep: “He who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps” (Ps 121: 4 – also Jn 5: 17). Angels are also spiritual beings (Heb 1: 14), and certain of them worship God in heaven, “day and night without ceasing.” (Rev 4: 8). The conclusion may be drawn that they do not need to sleep.

The Bible also teaches that man also has a spirit (e.g. 1 Cor 2: 11), and this survives death (e.g. Mat 10: 28; 2 Cor 5: 8). Human spirits after death are very rarely encountered in the Bible, but in every instance where they are seen, they are always awake, never asleep. The following incidents may be cited:

The prophet Samuel appears to King Saul (1 Sam 28).

The spirits of the dead greet the king of Babylon when he too dies (Isaiah 14: 9-11).

Moses appears to Jesus on the mount of transfiguration (e.g. Mat 17: 3 – Elijah was translated, but Moses died).

The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31).

The martyrs under the altar in heaven cry out to God (Rev 6: 9-11).

That is about all there is, and of course, reasons can be and have been found to dismiss all of these verses, but on the other hand, in contrast to these five instances of human spirits after death which are awake and communicating, there is not one single verse, either Old or New Testament, where sleeping spirits or souls are encountered.

It could be said that “sleeping” is figurative language, and the soul does not sleep like the body.

My answer would be that the Bible does not say the soul sleeps, even in figurative passages, so there is no need to accept it as any sort of language.

It could be said that God is capable of “putting the soul to sleep”, even if it is not normal for it to sleep, as He is omnipotent.

My answer would be that God is indeed capable of doing this, but we do not read anywhere in the Bible that He actually does it.

I therefore see no reason to postulate the existence of sleeping souls, information on which could only be obtained from the Scriptures, and yet the Bible having no knowledge of them.

Although this second variant of soul sleep does not cause such serious problems as the first version, for the above reasons, I consider it also to be unbiblical.

Conclusion

            Physical death and resurrection is referred to in the Scriptures using the metaphor of sleeping and waking. This tells us nothing of the state of the spirit. When the Christian dies, his spirit departs to be with Christ, who will then bring this spirit back to earth with him when he returns and it will be united with a new body in resurrection.

            The contrast between what happens to the body and the spirit is seen in the story of Stephen’s death: “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7: 59).

Dr Adrian Bury

SDA studies V

7

Life or death?

A study on the intermediate and final state of the dead

Introduction:   

Throughout the centuries, Christians have taught that those who do not accept God’s offer of salvation will undergo everlasting punishment. For a long period, the only groups which denied this were considered to be cults (e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christadelphians, Christian Scientists, Unitarians) or at least peripheral to mainstream Christianity (Seventh-day Adventists). Liberal teaching also rejects it, along with many other things written in the Bible.

Nowadays, however, an increasing number of theologians who claim to be Evangelical Christians are teaching, instead of eternal hell, the annihilation of the wicked in some form or other. Among these should be mentioned the Anglican vicar John Stott and Roger Forster, the leader of the Charismatic Ichthus fellowship in London. It is true that there are also “Evangelical” theologians who deny other traditional teachings such as Christ’s substitutionary atonement, the reality of sin, God’s judgement, the infallibility of Scripture and the six-day creation.

Perhaps they are trying to find a more humane theology with a “kinder” God, who is more acceptable to thinkers of the 21st century. John Stott says the following about hell, “Well, emotionally, I find the concept intolerable and do not understand how people can live with it without either cauterising their feelings or cracking under the strain.” 1 Compare this with Ellen G. White’s opinion, “How repugnant to every emotion of love and mercy, and even to our sense of justice, is the doctrine that the wicked dead are tormented in fire and brimstone in an eternally burning hell.” 2 It appears that Stott is approaching the question from an emotional point of view; he does believe, however, that the Bible is on his side.

Not according to all the above theologians, but certainly in SDA, JW and Christadelphian teaching, there is no part of man (soul or spirit) which survives physical death, but when he dies, he ceases to exist. In the “intermediate state” between death and the resurrection of the dead, therefore, he is not conscious. This is the concept of “soul sleep,” although in this case, “soul extinction” would be a more accurate expression.

                In this article, these teachings are examined in the light of Holy Scripture. 

1.      Death signifies separation 

First of all, it is important to consider how the concept of death was understood in the Bible. In both the Old Testament and the New, the word death (Hebrew: mávet, Greek: θανατος) refers primarily to separation. If someone dies, he is said to depart. Second Timothy is Paul’s last letter, and in it he writes, “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.” (2 Tim 4: 6). The preacher writes, “Then man goes to his eternal home.” (Eccl. 12: 5).

It can also be seen, that although the word death is naturally used to refer to the end of earthly life, it is not only used in this way. When God commands Adam in the garden of Eden not to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree, he says, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day you eat from it, dying you will die.” (Gen 2: 16-17 – according to Hebrew). After Adam ate of the tree, several hundred years passed before his physical death, but something happened immediately – his relationship with God was broken. Until then he had been in fellowship with God, but afterwards he was afraid, hid, and in the end was driven out of the garden of Eden (Gen 3).

A non-believer can be referred to as spiritually dead, due to the fact that he has no relationship with God because of his sin, “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59: 1-2).

Jesus also called such a person dead, “Let the dead bury their own dead!” (Mat 8: 22); “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” (John 5: 25). The apostle Paul writes, “You were dead in your transgressions and sins.” (Eph 2: 1), and the apostle John, “Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3: 14b).

In contrast to the fact that death means separation, life signifies fellowship and relationship. Paul continues his argument, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” (Eph 2: 4-5). Jesus said that, “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5: 24). John writes in his letter, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers.” (1 John 3: 14a). The above claim, according to which the living can also be “dead,” is not merely hyperbole, but the clear and consistent teaching of the New Testament.

According to the gospel message, we no longer have to live in separation from God, but we can be reconciled to him, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5: 18).

From the moment that we are reconciled to God by faith, according to the word, we have eternal life, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5: 11-13).

From the following verses, it can also be seen that eternal life is equivalent to having a relationship with God. Jesus speaks to the Father in his High Priestly prayer, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17: 3). Also from the pen of the apostle John, “We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true – even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5: 20).

As eternal life has already begun for the believer, and the judgement has already occurred, [“Whoever believes in him is not condemned,” (John 3: 18); “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned,” (John 5: 24), “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8: 1)], as well as the new creation, [“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone; the new has come!” (2 Cor 5: 17)], this life will never end – Jesus said this, “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death,” (John 8: 52), “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11: 25-26).

According to the apostle Paul nothing, not even physical death, can separate us from God, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8: 38-39).

One reason why I find the theory of soul sleep unacceptable, is that it would mean that this eternal life would cease for an indeterminate period, only to begin again later.

Based on the above, it is my view that life (ζωη) means a great deal more than mere existence. There is another Greek word (βιος), which refers to earthly, physical life or livelihood. See, for example, in the parable of the sower, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (Luke 8: 14); and with regard to the poor widow’s gift, “She, out of her poverty, put in everything – all she had to live on” (Mark 12: 44).

Death, however, is not the cessation of existence. The following verses indicate that damnation means exclusion from the presence of God, not annihilation:

Jesus said of those who were not willing to repent, “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.” (Luke 13: 28).

To the wicked nations at the last judgement, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mat 25: 41).

About the man who did not have a ‘wedding garment,’ “Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 22: 13).

The apostle Paul writes, that when Jesus returns, “He will punish those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” (2 Thess 1: 9).

There is very little in the Bible about what eternal life will be like, but there is a symbolic indication of this in the final chapter of the book of Revelation. We see here that the just will have access to the Holy City, but the wicked will be excluded from it, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.” (Rev 22: 14-15). 

2.      Pictures of hell in the Bible 

When hell is mentioned, for most people, fire is sure to come to mind. This is certainly a frequent picture of what the Bible says about the events of the judgement, but it is not the only one.

It should be stressed, that the Scriptures often use figurative language to describe spiritually significant truths, which no-one has ever actually experienced, and therefore we cannot know what they are like in reality. For instance, we know that when Jesus ascended to heaven, he “sat down at the right hand of God” (Heb 1: 3), and has been there ever since (Col 3: 1). This is a symbol to indicate that after he completed the work of redemption, Jesus entered God’s presence and is now interceding for us. We must not draw conclusions from this like, e.g. God has a right and left hand, or that there is a chair in heaven. This is written in pictures, as no-one has as yet organised a day-trip to heaven so we can have a look.

In a similar way, no-one has yet experienced what will be the condition of mankind in the eternal state, but the Bible describes this pictorially, sometimes using several symbols in one verse. The following pictures are used for the condition of the lost. 

A. Exclusion from the presence of God.                

“This will happen when the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” (2 Thess 1: 8-9).

This concept has been discussed in the first section. In the eternal state, the wicked will remain outside the holy city (Rev 22: 14-15). 

B. Darkness.

 Jesus speaks of the outer darkness in several places, e.g., “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mat 8: 12).

The apostles Peter and Jude describe the fate of the false teachers, “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.” (2 Peter 2: 17); “They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved for ever.” (Jude 13).

There is no indication that after they are thrown into the eternal darkness in a conscious state (weeping), they later cease to exist. 

C. Destruction.

 There are two Greek words for destruction, ολεθρος and απωλεια (plus related verbal forms), and both refer to a ruined, spoilt, lost state.

The first of these occurs in 2 Thess 1: 9, which has already been quoted, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” The second is used in e.g. the following verses, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Mat 10: 28); “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Mat 7: 23).

The word ολεθρος is rarely used in the Bible, only in these verses: 1 Cor 5: 5; 1 Thess 5: 3; 2 Thess 1: 9; 1 Tim 6: 9. In each case, the meaning “destruction, ruin, spoiling” is justified.

The word απωλεια/απολλυμι occurs more frequently, e.g., “Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.” (Mat 9: 17). In Luke 15, the sheep (verse 6), the coin (verse 9) and the son (verse 32) are all “destroyed,” or lost, but later they are found again. From these, it can be seen that the word απωλεια indicates that something gets lost, ruined, spoilt and becomes useless. The wineskin still exists, but it cannot be used for its original purpose, as it has split. The coin still existed, but it could not be used until it was found. This word does not indicate annihilation.

D. God’s wrath.  

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3: 36). The fact that God’s wrath remains (μενει) on someone presupposes a constant, permanent state. This cannot be reconciled with annihilation. 

E. Eternal punishment.  

Jesus says of the wicked nations at the last judgement, “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Mat 25: 46). The Greek word for punishment is κολασις, which means both punishment and torment. This noun only occurs in one other verse (the related verb in another two), which is, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4: 18).

The Greek word for eternal is αιωνιος. This comes from the word αιων, which besides eternity, also means age, but the meaning of the adjectival form is always eternal: everlasting, without end, or in reference to God, without beginning or end. One objection to the claim that Matthew 25: 46 teaches eternal punishment, is that this refers to an eternally valid judgement. The punishment does not last for ever, but the wicked are annihilated, and this process has an eternal result, it cannot be reversed. There are the following problems with this view:

  • In this verse, “eternal punishment” is in parallel with the expression “eternal life.” If the punishment does not last for ever, then the conclusion must be drawn, either that eternal life does not last for ever either, or the word αιωνιος has two totally different meanings in this parallelism.
  • The word κολασις means torment, but the idea that the wicked are in torment after being annihilated is totally meaningless, as is the concept of eternally valid torment.  

F. Gehenna. 

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Gehenna. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” (Luke 12: 4-5).

With one exception (James 3: 6), the word Gehenna is only found on the lips of Jesus in the Bible. Unger’s Bible Dictionary says this about it, “Gehenna: A deep, narrow glen to the south of Jerusalem where the Jews offered their children to Molech. The OT renders “valley of Ben Hinnom” (2 Kings 23: 10). In later times, it served as a receptacle of all sorts of putrefying matter and all that defiled the holy city, and so became the representative or image of the place of everlasting punishment, especially on account of its ever-burning fires.” 3

It is clear from the verse quoted above, that Jesus was not thinking merely of the valley of Ben Hinnom when he used this word. If someone has already died, then what does he care whether his body is burnt or, e.g. buried in the ground? Jesus is referring to a state following death.

Let us see what else he has to say about the place: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into Gehenna.” (Mat 5: 29-30); “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Mat 10: 28); “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9: 43-48).

A few comments in connection with this:

  • Several Bible versions translate the Greek word γεεννα by “hell.” This can be misleading, as the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek άδης and ταρταρυς may also be translated as hell. These words refer to different concepts, as will be mentioned later. Gehenna, in the same way as the other expressions mentioned above, refers to the final state of the lost, because:
  • Although Jesus also speaks figuratively of the parts of the body, it appears that man will be thrown bodily into Gehenna. This can only occur after the resurrection, which fits with what the book of Revelation has to say.
  • Jesus stresses that every effort must be made to avoid this place at all costs.
  • The unquenchable fire and undying worms indicate a permanent condition.  

G. Fire.  

Jesus speaks of fire both directly and in parables, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.” (Mat 5: 22), “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of Gehenna. (Mat 18: 8-9); cf. “Gehenna, where the fire never goes out; where the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9: 43, 48); “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mat 13: 40-42); cf. “This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous, and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mat 13: 49-50).

The apostle Jude also mentions it, “In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7).

Matthew 25: 31-46 is not a parable like the two previous stories (the ten virgins and the talents), as Jesus does not start, “The kingdom of God will be like…,” but rather in this way, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory…” This is a description of what will happen at the last judgement, and from this we see that the fate of the wicked is the same as that of the fallen angels, “Depart from me you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Mat 25: 41).

We learn the same thing from the book of Revelation, as both the devil and the lost are cast into the lake of fire (Rev 19: 20; 20: 10; 21: 8).

We read this about Satan, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Rev 20: 10).

“They will be tormented” is βασανισθησονται in Greek. This refers to torture and torment in a conscious state. With regard to the time period, the expression is εις τους αιωνας των αιωνων – literally “into the ages of the ages.” It is used in other verses to indicate how long God will be glorified (1 Tim 1: 17; 2 Tim 4: 18), and how long he will live (Rev 4: 9), how long the redeemed will reign for (Rev 22: 5), and how long the lost will suffer (Rev 14: 11). Linked with the expression “day and night,” this is the most powerful indication of an unending state that is possible in the Greek language.

The damned are also consigned to the lake, “If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Rev 20: 15); “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.” (Rev 21: 8). The latter resembles the list found in Rev 22: 15, which allows us to conclude that the lake of fire, the second death, and exclusion from the holy city are all symbols of one and the same state.

An argument that is raised against eternal punishment, is that this symbol is not used because burning with fire causes pain, but because fire destroys objects which are burnt in it. In fact, it is written in Hebrews 10: 26-27, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” If the fire consumes them, then afterwards they no longer exist. I would answer this in the following way:

  • This is the only verse in the New Testament which would appear to support annihilation.
  • In the Greek, the present continuous infinitive is used. The author writes, “εσθιειν μελλοντος,” which means, “it will be consuming them” – as a continuous state. Annihilation could have been indicated by using the aorist infinitive, “φαγειν μελλοντος,” meaning, “it will eat them up.” This is not what the author wrote.
  • Elsewhere in the Bible, the word “consume” has also been used in a figurative sense, e.g. when Jesus cleansed the temple, “His disciples remembered that it is written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’” (John 2: 17); and about the Egyptians, “He sent swarms of flies that consumed them, and frogs that devastated them.” (Ps 78: 45). It is clear that annihilation is not indicated in these verses.
  • It is true that earthly fire burns away things that are thrown into it, but fire is only one of the many symbols that refer to the state of the damned. This fire differs from earthly fire in the following ways:

* It is eternal (Mat 18: 8; 25: 41)

* It does not go out (Mark 9: 43)

* It is unquenchable (Mark 9: 48)

* It smokes for ever and ever (Rev 14: 11)

* It gives out no light (as there is also darkness – Jude 13)

  • Fire is only one of the symbols used for hell: neither darkness, not absence from God’s presence will annihilate anything. 

H. The second death.  

This expression only occurs in the book of Revelation, in the following verses: 2: 11; 20: 6; 20: 14; 21: 8. From these, we learn that the second death is identical with the lake of fire (20: 14; 21: 8). Remembering that death indicates separation, the first death would be the end of earthly life, or physical death – a person departs from the world. This is not the final state, as everyone will be raised from the dead, but not all at the same time. Sorting out the precise details of the chronological order is a little complicated, but it appears that those who believed in Christ will be raised first. This is the first resurrection, of which Christ was the firstfruits (Rev 20: 1-6; 1 Cor 15: 20-24). These will not be hurt by the second death (Rev 2: 11; 20: 6), as they are raised to eternal life (Daniel 12: 2). The wicked are raised later (Rev 20: 5-15); they are raised to eternal shame (Daniel 12: 2), and thrown into the lake of fire – this is the second death.

After the judgement they finally “depart.” God sends them away (Mat 25: 41), and from now on, they are excluded from his presence (Rev 22: 15). There is no way out of this situation. 

3.      The intermediate state

At the time of the Reformation, several Bible scholars taught the doctrine of soul sleep, among them John Wycliffe, William Tyndale and Martin Luther. The opinion of the latter changed, however, as he later stated, “In the interim between death and resurrection, the soul does not sleep, but is awake and enjoys the vision of angels and of God, and has converse with them.” 4

Most of the verses used to support the concept of soul sleep come from the Old Testament. However, very little is taught in the Old Testament about the conditions of life after death. Eternal life is mentioned just once (Daniel 12: 2) and the resurrection of the dead is only clearly referred to twice (Is 26: 19; Daniel 12: 2). This is probably due to the fact that the Mosaic covenant is concerned with life in this world. Let us consider once again the conditions of the new covenant in comparison with those of the Mosaic covenant: 

NEW COVENANT

  • Promise – eternal life
  • Condition – faith
  • Sign – the Lord’s supper

 MOSAIC COVENANT

  • Promise – the Jewish people receive a great land
  • Condition – they obey the law
  • Sign – the Sabbath

 We read in Deuteronomy 28 about the consequences of the people’s behaviour. If they obey the law God will bless them, but if they are disobedient they will be cursed. This chapter explains the blessings and curses in great detail, but nothing is mentioned about any consequences after death. The greatest blessing is that they will live abundant lives in the land of Canaan, and the worst curse is that they will be slaves in a foreign land.

It is quite understandable then, that death was considered an extremely undesirable state for them. Such thoughts as the living and not the dead praise the Lord (Is 38: 18-19), if someone dies, their plans come to nothing (Ps 146: 4), and the dead know nothing of what happens under the sun (Eccl 9: 3-6) must presumably be understood in the light of this.

There are also one or two verses which would indicate that existence continues in some form following death, “The dead 5 are in deep anguish, those beneath the waters and all that live in them. Sheol is naked before God, destruction lies uncovered.” (Job 26: 5-6); “Sheol below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed 5 to greet you – all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones – all those who were kings over the nations. They will all respond, they will say to you, ‘You also have become weak as we are; you have become like us.’” (Is 14: 9-10).

There is very little on this in the Old Testament, and the evidence is difficult to assess, as it appears to be inconsistent. They were not concerned with the state of the dead, as the living were God’s covenant people.

In the New Covenant, on the other hand, God promises eternal life to those who believe in Jesus (e.g. John 3: 16). The essential goal of the Christian life is most certainly the resurrection of the dead (Phil 3: 10-11; 1 Cor 15); the period between death and resurrection is not so important as it is transitional and temporary, but there are certain references to it even so.

Seventh-day Adventists claim that there is no part of man which can exist outside the body, as man is a unit. 6 In consequence, between physical death and the resurrection, he ceases to exist. They understand the resurrection to signify that God recreates a person from out of his thoughts. There are the following problems with this point of view:

  1. It is not written in the Bible that man cannot exist outside the body.
  2. The Bible indicates, not that man consists of a body, but that he lives in a body, “Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven…” (2 Cor 5: 1); I think it right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.” (2 Peter 1: 13-14). In these two verses, the human body is compared with a tent, in which the essential being of man lives.
  3. The apostle Paul tells of an acquaintance of his (probably himself), who was translated into Paradise, and he says, “whether it was in the body (σωμα) or out of the body I do not know – God knows.” (2 Cor 12: 2, 3). He therefore recognises the possibility that it may have been out of the body, which means that man can exist outside the body.
  4. Paul also writes, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body (σαρξ), this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.” (Phil 1: 21-23); “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body (σωμα) we are away from the Lord. We live by faith not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.” (2 Cor 5: 6-9). Paul expects, that after his death, he will be with the Lord in a disembodied state, where he awaits the resurrection:
  5. “We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him… For the Lord himself will come down from heaven… and the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1 Thess 4: 14, 16). Christ is now in heaven. God will bring him back from heaven to the earth together with those who died in him. There they will receive resurrection bodies and those who are still alive will be raptured.
  6. We see this same order again in Revelation 20, “And I saw the souls (ψυχη) of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God… They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years… This is the first resurrection.” (Rev 20: 4, 5). These die a martyr’s death, John sees their souls in heaven, then they are raised from the dead.
  7. Earlier in the same book, we read, “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls (ψυχη) of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev 6: 9-10). These people are certainly dead, they have not yet been resurrected, and they are conscious, because they are calling out.
  8. During his dispute with the Sadducees, Jesus said, “But about the resurrection of the dead – have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Mat 22: 31-32). Jesus is naturally speaking of the resurrection in the first instance, but just think about it. If both in Moses’ time and in Jesus’ time, the Patriarchs existed nowhere outside the mind of God, the argument does not work. In that case, God was once the God of the living, and will be again, but at the moment he is not!
  9. On the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus (Mark 9: 4). Elijah was raptured bodily to heaven (2 Kings 2: 11), but Moses died and was buried (Deut 34: 5-6). It is not written that he was raised from the dead and taken into heaven, 7 it is written on the other hand that Jesus was the first to rise from the dead (Acts 26: 23; cf. 1 Cor 15: 20; Col 1: 18).
  10.  After his death, the prophet Samuel appeared to king Saul (1 Samuel 28). It is true that Saul sinned, because consulting the dead is forbidden in the law (Deut 18: 9-13). It is written, however, that Samuel spoke to him (v. 15, 16). Of course, it may be postulated that this was a demon imitating Samuel, but where is this written?
  11.  Whilst Jesus was hanging on the cross, one of those next to him said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” The thief was aware of the Messianic hopes of the Jewish people. The expectation was, that he would establish his kingdom in Jerusalem, and the Jews would then be lords of the world. Jesus did not correspond to this picture – which is why they crucified him – but the thief still recognised him as the Messiah. His request was, that when Jesus comes, and establishes his kingdom, he would also be with him. Jesus offered him another place and another time: he would not only be with him when he came, but in Paradise (a rare word, probably referring to heaven, cf. 2 Cor 12: 4), and what is more, that very day!
  12.  As has already been discussed in section one, if someone believes in Jesus, he will never die (John 11: 26). It would be strange if the apostle John, who wrote this, has by now not existed for almost two thousand years.
  13.  The points dealt with so far concern the intermediate state of the just. That of the wicked is hardly mentioned. There is Luke 16: 19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus. According to Walter Martin, this is not a parable, as it is not labelled as such, and in parables Jesus never used proper names like Lazarus and Abraham. 8 Even if it is a parable, it is unlikely that Jesus would use bad theology to illustrate a point. After all, his parables are stories of real situations – agriculture, fishing, commerce – by means of which he also teaches heavenly truths. It would be a unique case if this were an exception.

It must be said, however, that this story can hardly be used to justify the horrific mediaeval pictures of hell. Satan and the demons play no part in it – this is not Gehenna after all. According to the text, this is Hades (Luke 16: 23, Greek – άδης). The LXX translation of the Old Testament translates the Hebrew Sheol with this word. It appears that this sometimes simply means the grave (Gen 42: 38; Job 14: 13), sometimes the abode of the dead (Is 14: 9), and sometimes the contrast to heaven (Psalm 139: 8). In the cases when these words refer to the abode of the dead, then this is the intermediate and not the final state. About all we can learn from the story of the rich man and Lazarus, is that the just are comforted while awaiting the resurrection (v. 25), whereas the wicked are in torment (v. 24). When the wicked are raised, death and Hades give up their dead. (Rev 20: 13).

We do not read in the Bible that fallen angels dwell in Hades. Satan and the demons are still free to walk the earth (Job 1: 7; Lk 11: 24-26), but they know that they will be suffering soon (Mat 9: 29).

Certain angels are in captivity already, “And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgement on the great day,” (Jude 6); “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to Tartarus, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgement…” (2 Peter 2: 4). In the latter verse, the verbal form of the word tartaruõ occurs as hapax legomenon. We learn no more about this place from the Bible, but it seems clear that there are no people there. There is a lot more in the book of 1 Enoch about the situation described here. This, however, is not Holy Scripture.

14. The only other verse I could find which may refer to the intermediate state of the wicked is 2 Peter 2: 9, “if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgement, while continuing their punishment/torment (verbal form of κολασις).

15. The Bible never refers to the resurrection as a new creation, in fact, it is written that the new creation has already happened for believers (2 Cor 5: 17).

16. Just a couple of philosophical questions to finish with:

i)                     If God is capable of re-creating a redeemed person, who from then on will love him and obey him, why did he not create Adam and Satan in the first place in such a way that  they would use their free will to love him? He could have saved himself a lot of trouble.

ii)                   If I die and cease to exist, and after an indefinite period God creates me anew from his mind, then is that person really me? If my true being survives, my soul or whatever you like, and it later receives an immortal body, then that is sure to be still me. But if God forms me again based on the data stored in his thoughts, then that being is at best a perfect copy, in all ways identical to the original, in fact, it may even believe itself to be the original, but it is not! I do not like the idea that after striving to fulfil God’s will all my life, I then pass into non-existence, and sometime later God produces an authentic copy of me to which he gives eternal life. Furthermore, this is no way agrees with the idea that, “he who believes in me will never die.”

Based on the points listed above, it can be seen that a person does not cease to be when he dies physically, but continues to exist in a conscious state, either in fellowship with God in the case of a believer, or in the contrary case, separated from him. Everyone will be resurrected from this temporary, disembodied state.

 4.     Soul and spirit

In his first letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle Paul takes leave of the brethren in this way, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thess 5: 23-24). It is clear from this that a person has a body, a soul and a spirit, but what do these words mean?

Spirit in Hebrew is rúach and in Greek πνευμα, and soul is nefeš in Hebrew and ψυχη in Greek. Unfortunately, all of these words have many meanings, e.g. the Hebrew lexicon lists the following for nefeš: breath, odour, animal, dead body, soul, life, self, feelings, spirit, inclination, desire. Rúach on the other hand is spirit, wind or breath. It is difficult to argue, therefore, on the basis of the meaning of the words.

In the Bible, the following is written about the creation of man, “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (in Hebrew not rúach, but nešámáh) of life, and the man became a living soul.” (Gen 2: 7). The Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that we can see from this that man is a living soul, who consists of body and breath. If we see the word soul in connection with man, this always means the whole being, and the word spirit only refers to breath. It is true that the word soul can mean the whole being, and the Bible even calls animals living souls (Gen 1: 24), but it does not only and always mean this.

The Scripture reports Rachel’s death in this way, “As her soul (nefeš) was going out, for she was dying, she named her son Ben-Oni. (Gen 35: 18 – Hebrew literal), and when Elijah raised the widow’s son from the dead, “He cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this boy’s soul return to him.’ The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s soul returned to him and he lived.” (1 Kings 17: 21-22). In these verses, the soul is not the whole being as a unit, as it both goes out of the body and returns to it.

Evangelical theologians in general see anthropology somewhat differently. I quote the Pentecostal teacher Kevin Conner, “There are two basic theories concerning man’s being. The dichotomous theory holds that man is a dual or bipartite being, consisting of a spirit/soul (two terms which are synonymous and interchangeable) and a body. The trichotomous theory holds that man is a tripartite being, consisting of spirit, soul and body. Spirit and soul are distinguishable but indivisible, and these are housed in a physical body. This latter seems to be more consistent with the whole of Scripture.” 9

I would postulate that there is a part of man, called spirit or occasionally soul in the Bible, which is not the breath of man, and which survives physical death. My reasons are as follows:

  1. In section three above it has been shown, without using verses containing the word spirit (πνευμα), that the essential part of man lives in a body, and does not cease to be when the body dies, but goes to be with Christ, provided the individual is a believer.
  2. The Bible tells of certain spiritual beings, which exist without a body. God is spirit (John 4: 24). Angels are all ministering spirits (Heb 1: 13-14). Satan is a spirit (Eph 2: 2). There are unclean spirits, also known as demons (Mark 5: 2; 12-13, 15; 1 Kings 22: 19-23).
  3. Man also has a spirit (1 Thess 5: 23), which can be saved, “hand this man over to Satan , so that the flesh may be destroyed, and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.” (1 Cor 5: 5).
  4. God created man in his own image (Gen 1: 26-27). God is certainly a spiritual being.
  5. Only God can be the subject of the Hebrew verb bárá’, as this refers to an act of creatio ex nihilo, and only God is capable of performing this. In the account of creation, this word occurs in reference to three events: when God created the earth (Gen 1: 1) – this is matter – when he created the first animals (1: 21) – the living souls – and when he created man (1: 27). In the first and second cases, something completely new came into being – matter and then conscious life. So what did God create in man that was unique? It can be postulated based on the above, that God created man not just with a body and a soul (meaning personality), but also as a spiritual being.
  6. While speaking to Nicodemus about the new birth, Jesus says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3: 6). It can be seen from this that the human spirit is spirit in the same sense that the Holy Spirit is, that is, it is a being made from heavenly material, and not just breath or “inner man.” Otherwise, the parallelism would not work.
  7. There is no unambiguous case in the New Testament where πνευμα. means literally breath. The NIV translates it as such in the following verses: 2 Thess 2: 8; Rev 11: 11; 13: 5, but these are all figurative speech. In one verse, Paul says that God, “gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17: 25). This literally means breath, but a different word is used – πνοη.
  8. The following are written in God’s word about the human spirit:

i)                     When it departs, man returns to the ground (Ps 146: 4).

ii)                   God forms it inside man (Zech 12: 1).

iii)                  It is a lamp from God, which searches his inner being (Prov 20: 27).

iv)                 It has will (Mark 14: 38).

v)                   It can rejoice (Luke 1: 47).

vi)                 It can be born again (John 3: 3-8).

vii)                In the case of a believer, it is alive (Rom 8: 10).

viii)              It can sing and pray (1 Cor 14: 14-16).

ix)                  It can be refreshed (2 Cor 7: 13).

x)                    Without it, the body is dead (James 2: 26).

xi)                  It knows the thoughts of a man (1 Cor 2: 11).

xii)                 It can be saved (1 Cor 5: 5).

xiii)               It bears witness together with God’s Spirit that we are God’s children. (Rom 8: 16).

Based on the above, the human spirit is not just breath (e.g. xi), and cannot just be the “inner man” (e.g. i), but it is neither (e.g. iii) and yet more than both.

9. When Jesus raised the young girl to life, “Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up.” (Luke 8: 55; cf. Gen 35: 18; 1 Kings 17: 21-22 quoted above). Her breath did not return from anywhere, but simply started up again.

10. When Stephen the martyr was dying, he cried out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” (Acts 7: 59). This agrees completely with the thought of Paul, that he would go to be with Christ after his death (Phil 1: 23). If it meant breath, however, this would be the most meaningless sentence in the Bible. In his great pain, was Stephen’s only thought to hand over to the Lord a few molecules of CO2, which He would preserve for him till resurrection day? According to Calvin, “This verse clearly testifies that the soul of man is not a vanishing breath, according to the ravings of some madmen, but that it is an essential spirit, and survives death.”

11. With regard to the soul, we have already seen that after a man’s death, his soul is conscious in a disembodied state (Rev 6: 9; 20: 4).

12. The soul may be saved (1 Peter 1: 8-9).

13.  Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” (Mat 10: 28). According to Adventist theology, if someone dies, then his soul also ceases to exist. God later recreates the two together and, in the case of an unrepentant sinner, annihilates them again. If this were true, there would be no-one who could not kill the soul, and Jesus’ words would be meaningless.

And finally, is there a difference between the soul and the spirit? The word of God distinguishes them, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb 4: 12).

A brief diversion: It is interesting to note that the Word distinguishes soulish and spiritual behaviour:

“The soulish (ψυχικος) man does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual (πνευματικος) man makes judgements about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement.” (1 Cor 2: 14-15); “But if you harbour bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, soulish, demonic.” (James 3: 14-15); “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires. These are the men who divide you, soulish, lacking the Spirit.” (Jude 18-19); “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as carnal – mere infants in Christ.” (1 Cor 3: 1); Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.” (Gal 6: 1).

From the above we can see that spiritual behaviour is desirable and in line with God’s will. Soulish thinking, however, is similar to carnal, and clings to the ways of the world.

A further discussion of the bipartite or tripartite theories is not really relevant to the present topic, as the main issue was to point out the problems with the monopartite view. Let us just repeat the conclusion of part three, with a little expansion:

Based on the points discussed thus far, it can be seen that a person does not cease to be when he dies physically, but the part of him which the Bible sometimes calls spirit and sometimes soul continues to exist in a conscious state, either in fellowship with God in the case of a believer, or in the contrary case, separated from him. Everyone will be resurrected from this temporary, disembodied state. After the resurrection, the spirit will never again be separated from the body. In eternity, people will exist in bodies: the just will live in relationship with God, the wicked will be excluded from his presence. 

5.      The Early Church Fathers

The writings of the first and second century Early Church Fathers were not inspired by God, but they provide important insight into the faith of the Christians of that time. Clement, Mathetes, Polycarp and Ignatius are accepted as the immediate successors to the apostles and would have known what they taught. I should like to quote several excerpts from their writings, in connection with their opinions about the intermediate state, the resurrection and eternal punishment. 

A.      Clement of Rome (30-100).

 Clement was probably a Roman who spent time at Philippi with Luke and the apostle Paul. He later became leader (bishop) of the church in Rome. 

Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians

 “Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance… and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.” (Chapter 5).

“The Lord thus making it manifest that He does not forsake those that hope in Him, but gives up such as depart from Him to punishment and torture.” (Chapter 11).

“Do we then deem it any great and wonderful thing for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served Him in the assurance of a good faith?” (Chapter 26). 

B.      The disciple of the apostles (Mathetes)  

It is possible this anonymous author was a disciple of Paul. His letter to the tutor of Marcus Aurelius can be regarded as one of the earliest Christian apologies.

Epistle of the disciple to Diognetus

 “What the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.  The invisible soul is guarded by the visible body, and Christians are known indeed to be in the world, but their godliness remains invisible.” (Chapter 6).

“When thou shalt despise that which is here esteemed to be death, when thou shalt fear what is truly death, which is reserved for those who shall be condemned to the eternal fire, which shall afflict those even to the end that are committed to it. Then shalt thou admire those who for righteousness’ sake endure the fire that is but for a moment, and shalt count them happy when thou shalt know [the nature of] that fire.” (Chapter 10).                

C.      Polycarp of Smyrna (65-155)  

Together with Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John, and was himself the teacher of Irenaeus. He died as a martyr in 155 AD, and the church of Smyrna wrote an account of this in the form of a general letter to the churches.

Epistle of Polycarp to the Ephesians

“If we please Him in the present world, we shall received also the futhre world, according as he has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead.” (Chapter 5).

“Whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgement, he is the first-born of Satan.” (Chapter 7).

“I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as ye have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.” (Chapter 9).

Martyrdom of Polycarp (general letter of the Smyrnaean church)

On the martyrs, “For they kept before their view escape from that fire which is eternal and never shall be quenched, and looked forward with the eyes of their heart to those good things which are laid up for such as endure.” (Chapter 2).

“But again the proconsul said to him, ‘I will cause thee to be consumed by fire, seeing thou despisest the wild beasts, if thou wilt not repent.’ But Polycarp said, ‘Thou threatenest me with fire which burneth for an hour, and after a little is extinguished, but art ignorant of the fire of the coming judgement and of eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly.’” (Chapter 11).

“(Polycarp prayed,) ‘I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost.’” (Chapter 15).

On Polycarp, “For, having through patience overcome the unjust governor, and thus acquired the crown of immortality, he now, with the apostles and all the righteous, rejoicingly glorifies God, even the Father, and blesses our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of our souls, the Governor of our bodies, and the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world.” (Chapter 19).

D.      Ignatius of Antioch (30-107)

Ignatius, disciple of the apostle John, wrote letters to a number of churches while on his journey to be martyred in Rome.

                Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians

Ignatius refers to his coming martyrdom, “I am a condemned man, ye have been the objects of mercy; I am subject to danger, ye are established in safety… Ye are initiated into the mysteries of the gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, the deservedly most happy, at whose feet may I be found, when I shall attain to God; who in all his Epistles makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.” (Chapter 12).

“How much more shall this be the case with any one who corrupts by wicked doctrine the faith of God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified! Such an one becoming defiled, shall go away into everlasting fire, and so shall every one that hearkens unto him.” (Chapter 16).

Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians

Speaking of Jesus, “… He was also truly raised from the dead, His Father quickening Him, even as after the same manner His Father will so raise up us who believe in Him by Christ Jesus, apart from whom we do not possess the true life.” (Chapter 9.)

Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans

“Now, He suffered all these things for our sakes, that we might be saved. And He suffered truly, even as also He truly raised up Himself, not, as certain unbelievers maintain, that He only seemed to suffer, as they themselves only seem to be [Christians]. And as they believe, so shall it happen unto them, when they shall be divested of their bodies, and be mere evil spirits.” (Chapter 2).

E.      Barnabas

The writer of this Epistle is thought to have been an Alexandrian Jew living in the times of Trajan and Hadrian. He was not a church leader, and is not to be confused with the apostle and travelling companion of Paul, who bore the same name.

Epistle of Barnabas (around 100 AD)

“But the way of darkness is crooked, and full of cursing; for it is the way of eternal death with punishment, in which way are the things that destroy the soul.” (Chapter 20).

“It is well, therefore, that he who has learned the judgements of the Lord, as many as have been written, should walk in them. For he who keepeth these shall be glorified in the kingdom of God; but he who chooseth other things shall be destroyed with his works. On this account there will be a resurrection, on this account a retribution… For the day is at hand on which all things shall perish with evil.” (Chapter 21).

F.      Justin Martyr (110-165)

Justin was a Gentile, probably of Roman origin, but born in Samaria, near Jacob’s well. He is considered to be the founder of theological literature. He wrote about forty‑four years after the death of the apostle John, and his writings are among the most important to have survived from the second century. He has a lot to say which is relevant to our subject, so I have just selected a few quotations to illustrate his views.

First Apology

“And Plato, in like manner, used to say that Rhadamanthus and Minos would punish the wicked who came before them; and we say that the same thing will be done, but at the hand of Christ, and upon the wicked in the same bodies united again to their spirits which are now to undergo everlasting punishment; and not only, as Plato said, for a period of a thousand years.” (Chapter 8).

 “It is alike impossible for the wicked, the covetous, the conspirator, and for the virtuous, to escape the notice of God, and that each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions. For if all men knew this, no one would choose wickedness even for a little, knowing that he goes to the everlasting punishment of fire.” (Chapter 12) 

“For reflect upon the end of each of the preceding kings, how they died the death common to all, which, if it issued in insensibility, would be a godsend to all the wicked. But sensation remains to all who have ever lived… even after death souls are in a state of sensation… But if you pay no regard to our prayers and frank explanations, we shall suffer no loss, since we believe (or rather, indeed, are persuaded) that every man will suffer punishment in eternal fire according to the merit of his deed… since we expect to receive again our own bodies, though they be dead and cast into the earth, for we maintain that with God nothing is impossible.” (Chapter 18).

“It is not impossible that the bodies of men, after they have been dissolved, and like seeds resolved into earth, should in God’s appointed time rise again and put on incorruption.” (Chapter 19).

“and while we affirm that the souls of the wicked, being endowed with sensation even after death, are punished, and that those of the good being delivered from punishment spend a blessed existence.” (Chapter 20).

“For among us the prince of the wicked spirits is called the serpent, and Satan, and the devil, as you can learn by looking into our writings. And that he would be sent into the fire with his host, and the men who follow him, and would be punished for an endless duration, Christ foretold.” (Chapter 28). 

“For the prophets have proclaimed two advents of His: the one, that which is already past, when He came as a dishonoured and suffering Man; but the second, when, according to prophecy, He shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by His angelic host, when also He shall raise the bodies of all men who have lived, and shall clothe those of the worthy with immortality, and shall send those of the wicked, endued with eternal sensibility, into everlasting fire with the wicked devils… And in what kind of sensation and punishment the wicked are to be, hear from what was said in like manner with reference to this; it is as follows: “Their worm shall not rest, and their fire shall not be quenched;” and then shall they repent, when it profits them not.” (Chapter 52).

“And that which was said out of the bush to Moses, “I am that I am, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and the God of your fathers,” this signified that they, even though dead, are let in existence, and are men belonging to Christ Himself. (Chapter 63).

Second apology

“And that no one may say what is said by those who are deemed philosophers, that our assertions that the wicked are punished in eternal fire are big words and bugbears, and that we wish men to live virtuously through fear, and not because such a life is good and pleasant; I will briefly reply to this, that if this be not so, God does not exist; or, if He exists, He cares not for men, and neither virtue nor vice is anything.” (Chapter 10)

Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew

(About Jews who lived and kept the law before Christ,) “Since those who did that which is universally, naturally, and eternally good are pleasing to God, they shall be saved through this Christ in the resurrection equally with those righteous men who were before them, namely Noah, and Enoch, and Jacob, and whoever else there be, along with those who have known this Christ, Son of God, who was before the morning star and the moon, and submitted to become incarnate, and be born of this virgin of the family of David, in order that, by this dispensation, the serpent that sinned from the beginning, and the angels like him, may be destroyed, and that death may be contemned, and for ever quit, at the second coming of the Christ Himself, those who believe in Him and live acceptably,-and be no more: when some are sent to be punished unceasingly into judgement and condemnation of fire; but others shall exist in freedom from suffering, from corruption, and from grief, and in immortality.” (Chapter 45).

“For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians… But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, [as] the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.” (Chapter 80).

“And that the souls survive, I have shown to you from the fact that the soul of Samuel was called up by the witch, as Saul demanded… Hence also God by His Son teaches us… at death to pray that our souls may not fall into the hands of any such power. For when Christ was giving up His spirit on the cross, He said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit,’ as I have learned also from the memoirs.” (Chapter 105).

“We know from Isaiah that the members of those who have transgressed shall be consumed by the worm and unquenchable fire, remaining immortal.” (Chapter 130).

With this we come to the end of the material which has survived from the period earlier than the middle of the second century, and is considered genuine by most theologians.

Based on this, we can state that the earliest teachers of the Christian faith had the following opinions on the subjects discussed above:

  1. The dead are in a state of consciousness.
  2. The believer goes to be with God/Christ and is in a blessed state, the wicked are suffering.
  3. Everyone will be raised from the dead.
  4. The wicked will be punished in fire for an unending duration.

The ideas of soul sleep and annihilation first appeared in the writings of Arnobius of Sicca, around 327 AD. He wrote against pagan beliefs but was ignorant of the Bible, only quoting from it once in his seven volume work. He appears to know nothing of Jewish history and confuses the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

6.      Objections

Certain objections have been raised against eternal punishment and in defence of soul sleep. Some of these are examined here. 

A.   Moses teaches nothing about hell  

The objection is, that if there really were a hell, then Moses would have warned the people in the law, so they would pay more attention to God’s commands.

The response to this would be:

i)                     Moses is also silent on the subjects of the resurrection and eternal life, and no-one who considers himself evangelical would deny these.

ii)                   It has already been shown that the terms of the Mosaic covenant refer to life on this earth. The covenant people were given many warnings of the curses which awaited them (e.g. Deut 28), but they still did not pay attention to the law.

iii)                  The Bible contains progressive revelation. Only Jesus Christ, “has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (ζωην και αφθαρσιαν – 2 Tim 1: 10).

 B.   Psalm 37 teaches that the wicked are annihilated  

It is written in Psalm 37 that, “A little while and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found. But the meek will inherit the earth and enjoy great peace.” (Psalm 37: 10-11); “But the wicked will perish,” (v. 20); “But the righteous will inherit the earth and dwell in it for ever.” (v. 29). Similarly v. 28, 37-38. If the wicked are no more then there cannot be eternal punishment.

The response to this would be:

i)                     This psalm was written by king David, who lived under the Mosaic covenant. This covenant involves life in this present world, and what David says must be considered in the light of this.

ii)                   When David wrote, “the righteous inherit the earth,” he used the word ’erets. This may mean the earth, as the whole world (Gen 1: 1), but here it probably refers to the land of Israel. Modern Hebrew also has ’erets Yisrá’él. God also says to the people, “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey,” (Ex 33: 3); “See, I have given you this land.” (Deut 1: 8), and in this present psalm David writes, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land (’erets) and enjoy safe pasture.” (Ps 37: 3). This psalm is about life in the land of Israel.

iii)                  David refers to his experiences, and trusts that the Lord will continue to act in the same manner, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread.” (v. 25); “I have seen a wicked and ruthless man flourishing like a green tree in its native soil, but he soon passed away and was no more; though I looked for him, he could not be found.” (v. 35-36).

iv)                 When he writes that the sinner “will be no more,” (e.g. v. 10), he uses the Hebrew word ’éin. This word is used to negate a noun clause. It can be seen from the following verse, that this does not necessarily refer to none-existence, “While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared (he was not – ’éin).” (1 Kings 20: 40). The man here did not cease to exist, he just left. ’éin does not mean that the sinner will not be at all, but that he will not be present.

v)                   It is written that the wicked are “destroyed” (e.g. v. 20 – Hebrew ’ávad; v. 38 – Hebrew šámad, kárat). The Greek words for this concept have already been examined, and they do not refer to annihilation. Similarly in Hebrew too: kárat means to cut and šámad means destroy or lay waste. Verse 38 therefore reads, “Sinners are laid waste and the inheritance of the wicked is cut off.” The most frequent word for destroy is ’ávad. Using this word, the people of Moab are “destroyed” when they are sold into slavery (Numbers 21: 29), and Saul was looking for the “destroyed” donkeys, which had been lost (1 Sam 9: 3). The meaning of this word, therefore, is similar to the Greek απολεια, which is in fact used to translate it in the LXX of verse 20, “οί άμαρτωλοι απολουνται.”

vi)                 Inheritance and descendants are mentioned several times, which can only refer to life on this earth, e.g. v. 26, 28, 37-38.

vii)                In summary, Psalm 37 teaches the same as Deuteronomy 28: even if we must wait patiently for a little while, we will see that the righteous and their descendants will live in safety in the land of Israel, but sinners will disappear from it.

viii)              The New Testament authors do not quote this psalm when referring to the eternal state, so we have no solid basis for doing so either. On the other hand, Jesus refers to Isaiah, which does not support annihilation (Mark 9: 48, cf. Is 66: 24).

ix)                  Based on the above points, Psalm 37 teaches nothing about life after death. 

C.   Ezekiel 28 teaches the annihilation of Satan  

Ezekiel 28: 11-19 points to the fall and the fate of Satan, and at the end of the passage we read, “By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who know you were appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.” (v. 18-19).

The response to this would be:

i)                     Not all theologians accept that these verses speak of Satan. His name is not to be found there, and they are not quoted in the New Testament. Ezekiel 26-28 is a prophecy of the destruction of Tyre. Ezekiel 28: 1-19 furthermore contain the judgement spoken over Tyre and its ruler. The question is, do verses 11-19 refer to anyone other than the human ruler? If so, the following suggestions have been made as to the identity of this “other:” a) a symbol taken from pagan mythology; b) a primordial being, shut out of the garden of Eden by God because of pride; c) a creature based on Phoenician mythology; d) an ideal but non-existent person; e) Adam; f) Satan; g) Satan’s representative, the antichrist. 10

ii)                   According to other commentaries, even if Satan or another being is referred to here, the relevant section only extends from verse 11 to 17. The prophet uses this story as an example, and applies it to the king and the city represented by him (in v. 18-19) 11. Perhaps the  verses quoted above can in fact be better understood if they speak of Tyre itself, than if they refer to a human or spiritual being. Verse 19 is paralleled by other verses, which clearly refer to the city, “I will bring you to a horrible end and you will be no more. You will be sought, but you will never again be found.” (Ez 26: 21); “All who live in the coastlands are appalled at you; their kings shudder with horror and their faces are distorted with fear. The merchants among the nations hiss at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.” (Ez 27: 35-36). “By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries,” may be Tyre, or the king, but it could not easily be Satan. “So I made a fire come out from you and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the nations who know you were appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more,” could best apply to the city.

iii)                  Even if Satan is referred to, we have already seen that neither “consume” nor “be no more – ’éin,” need necessarily mean annihilation. The problem remains, that he will become ashes. But even ashes indicate a ruined state rather than total non-existence.

iv)                 I consider the best solution to be that Ezekiel 28: 12-19 refers in parallel to the city of Tyre, the king, and Satan. Figurative language is used to indicate their “fiery” fate. Due to the problems listed above, this can certainly be considered a difficult, Old Testament passage, and according to the principles of Bible interpretation, as such it must not be used to deny clear New Testament teaching.

v)                   More details of Satan’s fate are provided by Revelation 20: 10, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” This is a New Testament verse, one of Satan’s names appears in it, and although this is also figurative language, it is pretty clear.

D.   The dead know nothing  

In the book of Ecclesiastes, it is written, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.” (Eccl. 9: 5.) From this can be seen, that the dead are not conscious, as otherwise they would know something.

The response to this would be:

i)                     The Preacher is dealing with what is happening on the earth – “under the sun.” This is in line with the concepts of the Old Testament. His subject is, that everything is completely pointless if we want to live without God, “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher, ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?” (Eccl. 1: 2-3).

ii)                   From the point of view of the living, he can see that everyone will die, but what he says about the dead is not completely consistent, e.g., “the dead know nothing,” (9: 5), cf., “And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier that the living, who are still alive.” (4: 2). “and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” (12: 7), cf., “Who knows if the spirit of man rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?” (3: 21).

iii)                  If several verses are taken literally, without considering the purpose of the book, the resurrection and eternal life must also be denied, e.g., “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: as one dies, so dies the other… All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” (3: 19-20); when men die, “Their love, their hate and their jealously have long since vanished, never again for ever (le‘ólám) will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.” (9: 6); “Then man goes to his eternal home.” (12: 5).

iv)                 Even so, the Preacher does point to the judgement and eternity, “I thought in my heart, ‘God will bring to judgement both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time for every deed.’” (3: 17, cf. 11: 9; 12: 14); “He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.” (3: 11). He also exhorts us to remember the creator, and be obedient to him (12: 1, 13).

v)                   In summary, the Preacher teaches that the striving of life on this earth without God is totally meaningless, as we will all die. However, conclusions about the state of life after death should not be drawn based on this book, as this is not his subject, and what he has to say about it is rather inconsistent. 

E.   According to the Bible the dead are asleep  

The Bible compares physical death with falling asleep, e.g. “Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.” (Ps 13: 3); “Then (Stephen) fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7: 60). If the dead are sleeping, they cannot be conscious.

The response to this would be:

i)                     “Sleep” always refers to the body, never to the soul. It is not written anywhere that the soul or the spirit falls asleep, or is sleeping, or ceases to exist.

ii)                   Comparing death to sleep is a figure of speech. A dead body resembles one which is sleeping. Furthermore, believers do not grieve on account of death, as this is not a final condition. It is as insignificant as a short sleep, from which we wake up, or are resurrected. However, we should not teach doctrine on the basis of a figure of speech. Or are the dead really pushing up daisies?

iii)                  If someone is asleep, he still exists, and even dreams from time to time. The Adventist/Jehovah’s Witness view of soul annihilation cannot be supported from this expression.

iv)                 In the following passage, the apostle Paul uses the word “sleep” for three separate concepts: natural sleep, apathy and death, “So then, let us not be like the others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.” (1 Thess 5: 6-10). In the last sentence, he does not want to emphasise that it does not matter if we are apathetic, but it does not matter if we die, we still live with Christ: “To be Christ’s is to have entered a relationship that nothing can destroy.” 12 Paul also says elsewhere that even death cannot separate us from God (Rom 8: 38-39), and there is a similar thought in 2 Cor 5: 8-9, “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

v)                   In summary, we have seen that even if a believer’s body is “asleep,” he still enjoys fellowship with the Lord. 

F.   The soul is not immortal  

The objection is as follows: the idea that the soul is immortal originates with Plato, and the early church adopted this teaching from Greek philosophy. In Biblical use, the soul means the whole person and the spirit means either breath or inner man.

This has been discussed already, but just a few thoughts related to this:

i)                     The words soul and spirit do not have just one meaning, but several, particularly in Hebrew. A characteristic of the Hebrew language, is that there are few words and each word has many meanings. This sometimes makes interpretation difficult! There are clear cases, where nefeš is not the whole person (e.g. Gen 35: 18), and the following verse distinguishes breath from spirit, “This is what God the Lord says, he who… gives breath to its people and spirit to those who walk on it.” (Is 42: 5).

ii)                   The Old Testament was translated into Greek, and the New Testament was written in Greek. In certain cases, words adopted from Greek mythology were used to describe Jewish and Christian theological concepts. For instance, in classical Greek, the words θεος and δαιμων are similar in meaning: a pagan god (or goddess = ή θεος). In the Bible, however, θεος generally means the true God, but δαιμονιον means a false god or evil spirit. This is made clear by the usage, e.g. “They sacrificed to demons (LXX – δαιμονιοις), which are not God – gods they had not known.” (Deut 32: 17); “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob (LXX – θεος).” (Ex 3: 6). (The same thing happened in English, when the word god, which comes from Teutonic mythology, was used for the one true God.) It is interesting to note, that the word was not given a totally new meaning. The word θεος never means, e.g. donkey.

In the time of Jesus, after Plato and Aristotle, the Greeks were already using the words soul and spirit to refer to that part of man which survives death. These words are used frequently in the New Testament, with various shades of meaning it is true, but there is no explanation given anywhere that the words must not be understood in the way they are in the original Greek. Revelation 6: 9 certainly uses soul like this, and it would be difficult to understand Matthew 10: 28 in any other way. Paul wishes for the Greek believers of Thessalonica, that God should preserve their body, soul and spirit, but adds no further explanation.

In the same way as “God,” the words “soul” and “spirit” have similar though not identical meanings to their original usage in the language.

iii)                  In the early church they knew very well that Christian teaching was not the same as Greek philosophy, and they also knew (with the possible exception of Origen), that the concept of the soul in the two systems was not identical. Before becoming a Christian, Justin tried out several systems of philosophy, and is well able to refute their teachings, but even so, he acknowledges the traditional “evangelical” view of the soul.

iv)                 The Bible does not use the expression “immortal soul,” but it has not been used in the above arguments either. As everyone will be raised from the dead, and exist in a body in the eternal state, the question is somewhat irrelevant.

v)                   Immortality must not be confused either with eternal life or with mere existence. At present, only God is immortal, “(He) alone is immortal and lives in unapproachable light.” (1 Tim 6: 16). When they are raised from the dead, or raptured, believers will receive immortal bodies, “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must cloth itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Cor 15: 52-53). Immortality and eternal life, therefore, cannot be the same, as the former is not yet possessed by believers, but the latter is. The wicked, on the other hand, even while still on earth have no life, as they are out of relationship with God, but it cannot be claimed they do not exist.

vi)                 Just because parallels can be found in other religious or cultural systems, it does not mean that God’s people borrowed these concepts from them. After all, such suggestions have also been made, that Moses got the form of the ten commandments from Hittite vassal treaties, Satan and the fallen angels come from Zoroastrianism, and Jesus’ virgin birth and resurrection were borrowed from mystery religions (e.g. Mithras).

We have seen that the traditional views can be supported simply on the basis of what the Bible teaches. No recourse to Greek philosophy need be made. 

G.   Judgement has not yet been carried out 

As the judgement has not yet occurred, no-one can go to be with God at death, as his fate is not decided. This requires the idea of soul sleep.

The response to this would be:

i)                     We have already seen that the concept of the investigative judgement is unbiblical, so this cannot be a problem.

ii)                   The Last Judgement only takes place after the resurrection, but the result is already decided, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3: 18, see also John 5: 24; Rom 8: 1).

iii)                  Believers’ works will be judged (Rom 14: 10; 1 Cor 3: 11-15; 2 Cor 5: 10), but for rewards, not for “life or death.”

iv)                 As a believer already has eternal life, there is no hindrance to him going to be with Christ at death, in fact, it would be difficult to justify it being otherwise. 

H.   God would be immoral, if he tortured the wicked endlessly 

The objection is, that God would be immoral if he tortured the wicked endlessly, and in this way he would more resemble Satan than God. The concept of everlasting punishment cannot be reconciled with the Biblical teaching that God is love (1 John 4: 16).

The evangelical annihilationist Clark Pinnock writes, “Everlasting torment is intolerable from a moral point of view because it makes God into a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for victims whom he does not even allow to die.” 13 On the other hand, J. I. Packer claims, “The feelings that make people want conditionalism to be true seem to me to reflect, not superior spiritual sensitivity, but secular sentimentalism which assumes that in heaven our feelings about others will be as at present, and our joy in the manifesting of God’s justice will be no greater than it is now.” 14 

There are other rational arguments too, such as God cannot punish for an unending period sin which was committed in a finite time, and the place of punishment would represent an intolerable blot in God’s perfect, re-formed universe.

The response to this would be:

i)                     First of all, the being of God cannot be perfectly grasped by the mind of man, and so rational arguments are not necessarily valid. As a creature, I cannot demand that my creator only act in conformity to my ideas. God says of himself, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Is 55: 8-9).

ii)                   There are not many crimes which to my mind are more terrible than those carried out in Auschwitz, or the “ethnic cleansing” which occurs so frequently nowadays. On the other hand, this is not much different from what the people of Israel under God’s command did with the inhabitants of Canaan (Joshua 6: 17). We now live under a different covenant, and this can be explained in spiritual terms, but originally it occurred in a physical sense.

Because of these stories, the second century teacher Marcion threw out the whole of the Old Testament, and compiled a New Testament canon which only contained the things he liked, as he “could not imagine that the creator God would do such a thing.” It is dangerous if we only decide to accept the parts of Scripture which conform to our ideas, and either throw out or twist the rest.

iii)                  We must not forget that God is not only love, he is also a God of justice, who is angry at sin (e.g. Ex 34: 6-7). He ordered the Canaanites to be wiped out because they had cruel and disgusting religion and customs. We should also remember that God wiped out almost the whole population of the wicked world in the flood.

iv)                 The seriousness of a particular sin does not depend on the time taken to commit it. Burgling a house may take hours, but it only takes a few seconds to shoot someone dead. Murder, however, is a more serious crime than robbery and requires a greater punishment.

v)                   Who the crime is committed against also plays a part. If I hurt an animal, it may be a sin, but if I hurt a person unknown to me it certainly is. If I cause harm to my own mother, on the other hand, this is more serious still, and merits a greater punishment. Who can say that if I sin against an infinitely holy God, I do not deserve endless punishment? If the God of the traditionalists is not loving enough, perhaps the God of the annihilationists is not holy enough.

vi)                 The claim that the traditionalists’ God is a monster is unacceptable. After all, it is not written that God himself tortures the lost, and this is not probable if they are shut out from his presence. He simply abandons them to their fate, which involves torment.

vii)                We can be sure that God will judge with perfect justice. There are hints that not all punishment will be equal, e.g. Mat 10: 15; 11: 21-24; Luke 12: 47-48; Rev 22: 12. Unfortunately, no details are given.

viii)              It is very important to stress, that no God can be called a monster who has done everything possible in order to save his creatures from suffering eternal punishment, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3: 16). God does not want us to go to hell – it is up to us.

In summary, we have seen that according to Scripture, the dead are conscious until the resurrection, and after the last judgement, the wicked exist for an unending period, excluded from the presence of God. I must admit that for me too the annihilation of the lost would be a more pleasant solution to the question, but it is simply not what the Bible teaches.

The Old Testament teaches little on the fate of the dead, the New Testament much more, but the most that we learn about hell is heard from the mouth of the incarnate God, Jesus Christ.

Just another quotation to finish, “Had Christ wished to teach the annihilation of the wicked, is it reasonable that He would have selected language guaranteed to lead His church astray? If annihilation is the true fate of the lost, would not Christ Himself be to blame for the erroneous teaching of His saints in all ages?” 15

 Footnotes:  

  1. Edwards, D. and Stott, J. R. W., Evangelical Essentials: A Liberal-Evangelical Dialogue, IVP, p. 314-5.
  2. White, E. G., The Great Controversy, Pacific Press, p. 535.
  3. Unger, M. F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, entry: Gehenna, p. 462.
  4. Luther, M., Commentary on Genesis, Weimar edition of Luther’s works, 25: 321.
  5. The dead; the spirits of the departed – Hebrew refá’ím. Poetic word for the dead (Davidson’s lexicon).
  6. Questions on Doctrine, VII. 2.
  7. The Jehovah’s Witnesses teach that Jesus merely saw a vision, and no-one appeared to him in reality. The Adventists assume Moses’ resurrection based on Jude 9, “But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Other commentators interpret the verse in this way: Moses was alone when he died. According to Josephus, God hid his body from the Jews. God sent Michael to bury him, but Satan wanted the Jews to find the body and make an idol of it, as they later did with the bronze serpent. Michael won the dispute, and together with the angels, buried the body. Thus Calvin, Clarke, Wesley and Henry.
  8. Martin, W., The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 157.
  9. Conner, K. J., The Foundations of Christian Doctrine, p. 125. 
  10.  Ryrie, C. C., Teológiai Alapismeretek, p. 180. 
  11.  Cf. Beasley-Murray, G. R., Commentary on Ezekiel in, The New Bible Commentary Revised, p. 678.
  12.  Leon Morris, Commentary on Thessalonians, The NIV Study Bible, p. 1790.
  13.  Clark Pinnock, Destruction of the Finally Impenitent, Criswell Theological Review, 4 (Spring 1990), p. 253.
  14.  J. I. Packer, Evangelicals and the Way of Salvation: New Challenges to the Gospel – Universalism, and Justification, in Evangelical Affirmations, ed. Kenneth Kantzer and Carl F. H. Henry, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990, p. 126.
  15.  Alan W. Gomes, Evangelicals And The Annihilation Of Hell, part 1.  

 Bibliography:  

Barker, K. L. (ed.), The NIV Study Bible, Hodder and Stoughton, 1985.

Conner, Kevin J., The Foundations of Christian Doctrine, City Bible Publishing, 1980.

Corner, Dan, The Wicked Dead – Will They Experience Annihilation or Eternal Torment?

Davidson, B. The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Zondervan, 1970.

Gingrich, Wilbur F., Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 1965.

Gomes, Alan G., Evangelicals And The Annihilation Of Hell, Parts 1 and 2, Christian Research Journal, Spring 1991, p. 14; Summer 1991, p. 8, copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 500-TC, San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693.

Guthrie, D. (ed.), The New Bible Commentary Revised, IVP, 1979.

Hanson, J. W., The Bible Hell, Fourth Edition Boston: Universalist Publishing House, 1888. 

Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, DBG, 1988.

Martin, Walter, Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House, 1997. 

The NIV Triglot Old Testament, Zondervan, 1981.

Porvanzik, P., Examination of Conditional Immortality, Soul Sleep and Annihilationism, FidoNet OpenBible, 1996.

Roberts, A. and Donaldson, J. (ed.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, T&T Clark, Edinburgh, and Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan (on line).

Ryrie, Charles C.,  Teológiai alapismeretek, Egyetemi Nyomda, Budapest, 1996.

Unger, Merrill. F.  The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, 1988.

SDA studies IV

6

Is Ellen G. White a Prophet?

In 1919, Dudley M. Canright wrote, “Mrs. E. G. White, the prophetess, leader, and chief founder of the Seventh-day Adventists Church, claimed to be divinely inspired by God the same as were the prophets of the Bible. Defining her position, she says, ‘In ancient times God spoke to men by the mouth of prophets and apostles. In these days he speaks to them by the testimonies of his Spirit.’ 1 that is, by her through her writings. (cf. Heb 1: 1-2).

Every line she wrote, whether in articles, letters, testimonies or books, she claimed was dictated to her by the Holy Ghost, and hence must be infallible.” 2, 3

In the 19th century, the Adventists claimed, “Our position on the Testimonies is like the keystone to the arch. Take that out, and there is no logical stopping place till all the special truths of the message are gone… Nothing is surer than this, that the message and the visions [of Mrs. White] belong together, and stand or fall together.” 4

The view of the modern Adventist Church(es) is perhaps a little milder, as they say her writings are, “a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light.” Belief in her inspiration, however, is part of the 1980 Dallas statement of beliefs. Her writings are still considered to be the “spirit of prophecy” of Revelation 19: 10. For this reason, Mark Martin states, “Adventism is the reflection of Ellen White. She shaped it, and with the guidance of her writings, made the church what it is today.” 5 

As Ellen White was not the only one to take on the role of a prophet in the 18th and 19th centuries – consider for instance the following church-founders: Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Charles T. Russell (Jehovah’s Witnesses), as well as Emanuel Swedenborg, Anne Lee and Joanna Southcott, whose movements did not do so well  –  it is important to examine her claims in the light of her life and the Bible.

First of all it should be stated, that one reason why the leaders of these movements succeeded in attracting so many followers, was that the operation of prophecy under the new covenant was not understood by the 19th century church. Because of the experiences and Bible teachings of the Pentecostal movement, which came into being at the beginning of the 20th century, and the Charismatic renewal beginning in the 50s, Christianity at the threshold of the 21st century has a much greater chance of spotting the wrong usage of the spiritual and ministry gifts.

In connection with this, several important principles may be noted:

  1. Under the new covenant, prophecy exists as one of the spiritual gifts. “Now to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good… to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy…” (1 Cor 12: 7, 10).
  2. The Holy Spirit may give any Christian a prophecy from time to time. “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” (1 Cor 12: 11); “For you can all prophecy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.” (1 Cor 14: 31).
  3. The prophetic ministry also exists. This is one of the ministry gifts which Jesus gave to the church. “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers…” (Eph 4: 11). It may be seen, that there will be a number of these in the church, not just one. “In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers…” (Acts 13: 1).
  4. A new covenant prophet is not infallible, as what he says must be judged. “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” (1 Cor 14: 29). “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test everything, hold on to the good.” (1 Thess 5: 19-21).
  5. It should also be noted, that under the new covenant, prophecy is principally given for encouraging, upbuilding and comforting. “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their edification, encouragement and comfort.” (1 Cor 14: 3).
  6. Prophecy is therefore not for teaching doctrine, nor is it for rebuke. For these, we have the word of God. “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim 3: 16-17).
  7. The Bible warns us that there will also be false prophets, “Many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” (Mat 24: 11).

From this it can be concluded that there will be both true and false prophets in the church, and that even the true prophets are not infallible, and therefore it is important to know how to examine them, so that no-one is led astray. The Bible offers help in this matter:

A. A true prophet does not teach falsehood.

“If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer…” (Deut 13: 1-3).

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.” (1 John 4: 1-3).

From this can be seen that a false prophet will lead people in a wrong direction. The defence against this, is to realise that the Spirit of God was the chief author of the Bible (2 Tim 3: 16-17), and even in modern times, He will not contradict himself. If any prophecy or teaching contradicts the truth previously revealed by God in his Word, this thing is not from God.

B. If a true prophet predicts something, it will happen.

“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.” (Deut 18: 22).

As we are now living in the age of grace and not the law, and a new covenant prophet is not infallible, if someone prophesies in sincerity, but makes a mistake, he does not have to die! If nothing he predicts ever happens, however, it would seems he is presumptuous, and it would be better for him to keep quiet!

C. A true prophet will have a Christ-like character.

As even a false prophet can predict the future correctly on occasion (Deut 13: 1-3), or even perform miracles (Mat 24: 24), it is important to observe the person’s fruit, rather than his gifts.

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognise them.” (Mat 7: 15-16).

A Christ-like character corresponds to the fruit of the Holy Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal 5: 22-23), and includes an attitude of humility, “Your attitude should be the same as Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient…” (Philippians 2: 5-8).

I know that no-one is perfect, but it is important that a prophet:

i)                     Should live a consistently holy life, and should develop a good character;

ii)                   Should not preach one thing and practise another;

iii)                  Should be humble enough to allow others to judge his revelations;

iv)                 Should acknowledge his mistakes;

v)                   Should not abuse the use of his gift or people’s respect, in order to dominate or manipulate others;

vi)                 Should be decisive enough not to allow others to manipulate or influence him, and thus abuse the use of his gift.

Before examining the activities of Ellen White in the light of the above, a couple more points should be made. Ellen White herself claims that her visions and prophecies can only have two sources, “This work is of God, or it is not. God does nothing in partnership with Satan. My work… bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no half-way work in the matter. The testimonies are of the Spirit of God or of the Devil.” 6

In reality, however, the situation is not so simple. The Bible speaks of another possibility, “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD,” (Jer 23: 16), “Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: “Hear the word of the LORD! This is what the sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!”” (Ezekiel 13: 2-3).

So if someone “receives” something, it can come from one of three sources:

i)                     God,

ii)                   The devil,

iii)                  His own mind.

I will be so bold as to say, that if someone is called to a prophetic ministry under the new covenant, or if he receives a prophecy as a spiritual gift, even if the devil does not interfere in the matter, what he says still has to be judged, as the person’s own thoughts may become mixed in with the Lord’s message.

I am not taking about deceivers, and there will naturally also be such as these who also have to be filtered out by testing, but rather about sincere believers, who make mistakes in certain details.

Derek Prince’s teaching on mixtures is very wise, “I have noticed that mixtures cause two things: first confusion, then division. For instance, we have a message which is partly true and partly false. People react in one of two ways: some see and concentrate on the good, and so they accept the bad too. Others concentrate on the bad, and reject the good too. In neither case are God’s purposes fulfilled.” 7

When a Christian denomination, movement or any teaching is examined then, it should not necessarily be either accepted or rejected as a whole, but every single detail must be examined, as there is very often mixture.

So we are not faced here with the choice, “Ellen White was inspired either by God or the devil,” or “Ellen White was either a true prophet or a deceiver.”

In a letter written about Ellen by her husband’s cousin in 1847, this interesting opinion is found, “I cannot endorse Sister Ellen’s visions as of Divine Inspiration, as you and she think them to be; yet I do not suspect the least shade of dishonesty in either of you in this matter… I think that what you and she regard as visions from the Lord are only religious reveries in which her imagination runs without control on themes in which she is most deeply interested… I do not by any means think that her visions are from the devil.” 8

It is not this author’s intention by this study to carry out an ad hominem attack in order to destroy the reputation of a Christian leader. However, if the Adventist churches regard Ellen White as an infallible prophet 9 and they use her writings as an inspired commentary on the Bible 10, then they cannot complain if these claims are subjected to severe examination.

Let us now examine the facts, using the points listed above, with a few examples taken from the huge amount of well-documented material available. For more details, the reader is referred to the bibliography.

In the case of quotations from Ellen G. White’s writings, the source is indicated immediately following.

A. A true prophet does not teach falsehood.

1. Ellen White adds to the Bible in many cases.

Examples:

Satan was offered a pardon in heaven:

“God in His great mercy bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission.” The Great Controversy, pp. 495-496.

After man’s fall, a council was held to decide what to do:

“The news of man’s fall spread through Heaven – every harp was hushed. The angels cast their crowns from their heads in sorrow… A council was held to decide what must be done with the guilty pair.” Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, p. 44.

Angels have golden pass cards to get into heaven:

“There is perfect order and harmony in the Holy City. All the angels that are commissioned to visit the earth hold a golden card, which they present to the angels at the gates of the city as they pass in and out.” Early Writings, p. 39.

All right, if she was a prophet, maybe she knew things that we common morals do not. But the situation gets more serious.

2. Ellen White contradicts the Bible.

Examples:

The tower of Babel was built before the flood:

“The Lord first established the system of sacrificial offerings with Adam after his fall, which he taught to his descendants. This system was corrupted before the flood by those who separated themselves from the faithful followers of God, and engaged in the building of the tower of Babel.” Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 3, p. 301, 1864 edition.

cf. Gen 6-11.

Believers should never claim to be saved:

“Those who accept the Saviour, however sincere their conversion; should never be taught to say or feel that they are saved. This is misleading.” Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 155 (1900 edition).

cf. 1 John 5: 13; Rom 10: 9-11.

Believers will enter into judgement for salvation

“Every case had been decided for life or death. While Jesus had been ministering in the sanctuary, the judgement had been going on for the righteous dead, and then for the righteous living.” Early Writings, p. 280.

cf. John 3: 18; 5: 24; Rom 8: 1.

Christians will have to stand before God without Christ’s mediation

“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.

cf. Heb 7: 25; Mat 28: 20; Heb 13: 5.

The plan of salvation dates from the fall:

“While Moses was shut in the mount with God, the plan of salvation, dating from the fall of Adam, was revealed to him in a most forcible manner.” Selected Messages, Bk. 1, pp. 231-232.

Cf. Eph 1: 4; Rev 13: 8.

Those who are not vegetarians when Jesus comes back will not be raptured:

“Whoever eats the flesh of dead animals, will not be translated.” Testimonies, 1:187.

and

Marriage and bearing children is against God’s will:

At a camp meeting in East Portland in 1885, Ellen White called all the workers in the denomination together and presented to them a testimony, which was later suppressed.

The essence of this was, that the coming of the Lord was so close that no marriages should be made in the denomination and those members who were married should live as “chaste virgins,” so as to give all their time to spreading the message.

The testimony was read to the gathering, but was thought to be destroyed after it met with so much resistance, and the only proof of its previous existence could be had from those who heard it read or were eye witnesses to the consternation it caused.

This testimony came to light in the vaults of the Ellen White estate in 1934. The archive number is DF97- C. 

Cf. Rom 14: 1-2; 1 Cor 7: 4-5, 36; 1 Tim 4: 1-4.

 3. Ellen White contradicts herself. 

Examples: 

Deity did and did not sink and die:

 “Men need to understand that Deity suffered and sank under the agonies of Calvary.” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 907.

“The Deity did not sink under the agonising torture of Calvary” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, p. 1129.

 The dead are conscious and not conscious:

 “In a moment we were winging our way upwards; and, entering in (to heaven), here we saw good old father Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Daniel and many like them.” A Word to the Little Flock, p. 14, 1847.

“Upon the fundamental error of natural immortality rests the doctrine of consciousness in death – a doctrine, like eternal torment, opposed to the teachings of the Scriptures, to the dictates of reason, and to our feelings of humanity.” The Great Controversy, p. 545.

 The Atonement is finished and not finished:

 “The sacrifice in behalf of man was full and complete. The condition of the atonement had been fulfilled.” Acts of the Apostles, p. 29.

                “Now while our great High Priest is making the final atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ.” The Great Controversy, p. 623.

The door is closed, but not too tightly, or is it?

After the Great Disappointment of 1844, the Adventists taught that the door of salvation was shut and no more sinners could be converted. Ellen White had visions to confirm this, “I was shown that the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, relating to the shut door, could not be separated… Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God’s people; but if their hearts could be seen, they would appear as black as ever… the time for their salvation was past.” Present Truth, No. 3, August, 1849, pp. 21, 22.

The years passed and Jesus did not come, so they opened the door, but only for Adventists, who knew that Jesus had moved. In the case of others, “They have no other knowledge of the move made in heaven, or the way into the Most Holy, and they cannot be benefited by the intercession of Jesus there… they offer up their useless prayers to the apartment which Jesus has left.” Early Writings, edition 1907, page 261. 

Later still, Ellen denies she ever had a vision confirming the shut door, “With my brethren and sisters, after the time passed in forty-four I did believe no more sinners would be converted. But I never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted. And am clear and free to state no one has ever heard me say or has read from my pen statements which will justify them in the charges they have made against me upon this point.” Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 74.

Not all the dead will be raised, or wil they?

In 1858, Mrs. White thinks that not all men will be resurrected: “God cannot take the slave to heaven, who has been kept in ignorance and degradation, knowing nothing of God, or the Bible, fearing nothing but his master’s lash, and not holding so elevated a position as his master’s brute beasts. But He does the best thing for him that a compassionate God can do. He lets him be as though he had not been.” Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 193.

                By 1889, she seems to have changed her mind: “There will be a reappearance of every human being that has gone into the grave. The aged who sank under the hand of death with the burden of years upon them, manhood in its prime, youth in the early bloom of life, and the little child, all shall awake, and shake off the fetters of the tomb. But not all shall awake to everlasting life. ‘Whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.’” Bible Echo, 15/1/1889.

4. Ellen White contradicts scientific fact.

Ellen White lived in the 19th century. Many of her teachings are in line with the prevailing ideas of the day, which have since been refuted by more advanced scientific research. These notions were not revealed by the Spirit of God. The Bible, in contrast to this, although its purpose is not to teach science, does not conflict with modern scientific fact. 

Examples: 

There are species which result from amalgamation of man and animals:  

“Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood, there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men.” Spiritual Gifts, Vol. 4, p. 75. 

The wearing of wigs causes madness:  

“The artificial hair and pads covering the base of the brain, heat and excite the spinal nerves centring in the brain. The head should ever be kept cool. The heat caused by these artificials induces the blood to the brain. The action of the blood upon the lower or animal organs of the brain, causes unnatural activity, tends to recklessness in morals, and the mind and heart is in danger of being corrupted. As the animal organs are excited and strengthened, the moral are enfeebled. The moral and intellectual powers of the mind become servants to the animal… Many have lost their reason, and become hopelessly insane, by following this deforming fashion.” The Health Reformer, October 1, 1871,
Article Title: Words to Christian Mothers on the Subject of Life, Health, and Happiness.

These notions come from the Victorian idea that the brain is made up of several organs, and that the one controlling animal instincts is situated at the base of the brain.

Furthermore, Ellen White’s ideas on diet are not so much based on the Mosaic law, as she adds a great many more rules to this, (e.g. no meat at all, no dairy products, no tea and coffee, no alcohol) but were originally designed to control these animal passions. Let’s see: 

Eating meat promotes animal tendencies:  

“A meat diet changes the disposition and strengthens animalism. We are composed of what we eat, and eating much flesh will diminish intellectual activity. Students would accomplish much more in their studies if they never tasted meat. When the animal part of the human agent is strengthened by meat eating, the intellectual powers diminish proportionately. A religious life can be more successfully gained and maintained if meat is discarded, for this diet stimulates into intense activity lustful propensities, and enfeebles the moral and spiritual stature.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, p. 389.

Taking a final logical step back, we see that the real reason these animal instincts have to be suppressed is because:

Masturbation is the basic root cause of physical and mental illness:

 These quotations are taken from Ellen White’s book, “An Appeal to Mothers: The Great Cause of the Physical, Mental and Moral Ruin of Children of Our Time,” published in 1864.

“Secret indulgence (masturbation) is, in many cases, the only real cause of the numerous complaints of the young. This vice is laying waste the vital forces, and debilitating the system.” (p. 13)

                A fascinating vision follows, “The state of the world was presented before me, and my attention was especially called to the youth of our time. Everywhere I looked, I saw imbecility, dwarfed forms, crippled limbs, misshapen heads and deformity of every description… Corrupt habits are wasting their energies, and bringing upon them loathsome and complicated diseases. Unsuspecting parents will try the skill of physicians, one after another, who prescribe drugs, when they generally know the real cause of the failing health… Children who practice self indulgence … must pay the penalty.” (p. 14)

“There is hardly an end to these diseases caused by solitary vice; dyspepsia, spinal complaint, headache, epilepsy, impaired eye sight, palpitations of the heart, pain in the side, bleeding at the lungs, spasms of the heart and lungs, diabetes, or incontinence of the urine, fluor alblis, whites, inflammation of the urinary organs … Besides rheumatism, affected perspiration, consumption, asthma, catarrh, polypus of the heart, affections of the bones, fevers, priapism, strangury, polypus uteri, blood discharges, etc…”

“By unchastity, especially by solitary vice, the mind suffers permanent debility … great debility of the memory, great prostration and foolish imbecility of the mind. Perception is made dull and obtuse, the reasoning powers are blunted … From debility the mind often sinks into idiocy … I saw a young woman in a town of Massachusetts who made herself an idiot by masturbation.” (p. 2 & 3)

                Ellen White wrote a great deal more about masturbation, but based on the above, I would say: 

1)       She was a person of her age;

2)       This is the real reason behind her health reform teaching;

3)       I would not want to learn theology from this woman.

Space travel:  

Ellen was once taken in vision to another inhabited planet: “Then I was taken to a world which had seven moons. There I saw good old Enoch, who had been translated.” Early Writings, p. 940. 

On another occasion, she had a vision of several planets. I quote Hunt, “Joseph Bates was a sea captain and an astronomer, obviously he was very impressed by this vision. When Ellen White said, ‘I see four moons,’ Joseph Bates excitedly said, ‘She is viewing Jupiter.’ It has long been known that Jupiter has many more moons than four but in those days it was believed that Jupiter did have four moons. Certainly God hasn’t added extra moons since that time.” 11

She also described other planets, and got the number of moons right according to Victorian beliefs, but wrong according to modern knowledge. This vision succeeded in convincing Bates that she was a true prophet and he joined them. Bates is important, as he introduced the teaching on the seventh-day Sabbath to the Adventists, having learnt it from the Seventh-day Baptists.

                Could Ellen have been manipulating him?  

 B. If a true prophet predicts something, it will happen.

 Ellen White did not make many prophecies of the future, particularly in her later years, but of the ones she did make, none of them ever came true. Here are some examples: 

Jerusalem will never be built up:  

“I also saw that Old Jerusalem never would be built up; and that Satan was doing his utmost to lead the minds of the children of the Lord (astray)” Early Writings, p. 75.

                Since the foundation of the state of Israel, Old Jerusalem has been built up. 

Jesus would return in a few months: 

Here is a vision dating from 27 June, 1850: “My accompanying angel said, ‘Time is almost finished. Get ready, get ready, get ready.’ … Some of us have had time to get the truth, and to advance step by step, and every step we have taken has given us strength to take the next. But now time is almost finished… and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months.” Early Writings, pp. 64-67.

Jesus did not return in a few months. 

Adventists living in 1856 will be alive to see Jesus return:  

In May of 1856 – Mrs. White made a gripping prophecy during a meeting in Battle Creek, Michigan. She declared that some of those who were in that meeting would die, and become “food for worms,” and that some of them would live on and become “subjects of the seven last plagues,” while still others would “remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, p. 131-132.

Almost a century and a half have passed since, and Jesus has still not returned. 

England will attack and conquer the USA 

In 1862 she predicted, “when England does declare war [against the North during the Civil War], all nations will have an interest of their own to serve, and there will be general war, general confusion.” The result will be that “this nation [the United States] will . . . be humbled into the dust.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 1, p. 259.

England did not enter the American Civil War. 

C. A true prophet will have a Christ-like character.  

i)                     A prophet should live a consistently holy life, and should develop a good character. 

She plagiarised constantly but claimed all her material came directly from God:  

“The Great Controversy” is one of Mrs. White’s most popular books. Her adherents believe that every line is original and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Careful examination has revealed that among others, she had used as sources the following books, without any acknowledgement:

Andrews, History of the Sabbath.

Wylie, History of the Waldeneses.

D’Aubigne, History of the Reformation

Smith, Sanctuary 

James White, Life of William Miller (which he himself plagiarised from Sylvester Bliss).

James White, Life Incidents (originally from Andrews and Smith).

Walter Rea claims that according to his research, less than 20 % of the “Great Controversy” is Mrs. White’s own work, and the same of true of all her books, on any subject. 12 Even some of her visions are descriptions of illustrations found in books.

Mrs. White published a book in 1883 with the title, “Sketches from the Life of Paul.” This book was so similar to a book published in 1855 entitled “Life and Epistles of the Apostle Paul,” by Connybeare and Howson, that the publishers threatened prosecution. Mrs. White’s book had to be withdrawn and is no longer easily available. In the preface, it is claimed that it was written by special help of the Spirit of God.

Ellen often copied whole pages almost word for word from her sources. Below are two samples of her copying (found in Canright’s book): 2 

Great Controversy, Mrs. E.G. White The bull invited all Catholics to take up the cross against heretics. In order to stimulate them in this cruel work, it absolved them from all ecclesiastical pains and penalties; it released all who joined the crusade from any oaths they might have taken; it legalised their title to any property which they might have illegally acquired, and promised remission of all their sins to such as should kill any heretic. It annulled all contracts made in favour of the Vaudois, ordered their domestics to abandon them, forbade all persons to give them any aid whatever, and empowered all persons to take possession of their property. (p. 83) History of the Waldenses, J. A. Wylie The bull invited all Catholics to take up the cross against heretics, and to stimulate them in this pious work, it absolved them from all ecclesiastical pains and penalties, general and particular; it released all who joined the crusade from any oaths they might have taken; it legitimatised their title to any property they might have illegally acquired, and promised remission of all their sins to such as should kill any heretic. It annulled all contracts made in favour of the Vaudois, ordered their domestics to abandon them, forbade all persons to give them any aid whatever, and empowered all persons to take possession of their property. (p. 28)
 Great Controversy, Mrs. E.G. White In the gloom of his dungeon, John Huss had foreseen the triumph of true faith. Returning in his dreams to the humble parish where he had preached the gospel, he saw the pope and his bishops effacing the pictures of Christ which he had painted on the walls of his chapel. The sight caused him great distress; but the next day he was filled with joy as he beheld many artists busily engaged in replacing the figures in great numbers and brighter colours. When their work was completed, the painters exclaimed to the immense crowds surrounding them, ‘Now let the popes and bishops come! They shall never efface them more!’ Said the reformer as he related his dream, ‘I am certain that the image of Christ will never be effaced. They have wished to destroy it, but it shall be painted in all hearts by much better preachers than myself’. (pp. 91, 92)  D’Aubigne’s History of the Reformation. One night the holy martyr saw, in imagination, from the depths of his dungeon, the pictures of Christ that he had painted on the walls of his oratory, effaced by the popes and his bishops. The vision distressed him; but on the next day he saw many painters occupied in restoring these figures in greater numbers and in brighter colours. As soon as their task was ended, the painters, who were surrounded by an immense crowd, exclaimed, ‘Now let the popes and bishops come! They shall never efface them more!’ . . . ‘I am no dreamer,’ replied Huss, ‘but I maintain this for certain: That the image of Christ will never be effaced. They have wished to destroy it, but it shall be painted afresh in all hearts by much better preachers than myself’. (p. 3)

 In the introduction to Mrs. White’s book is the following claim: “As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of His word, and the scenes of the past and the future, I have been bidden to make known to others that which has thus been revealed…” The Great Controversy, p. xi.

A short Bible quotation is appropriate here, “‘Therefore,” declares the LORD, ‘I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me.’” (Jeremiah 23: 30). If the ten commandments are supposed to be God’s eternal law, what about the eighth? 

ii)                   A prophet should not preach one thing and practise another. 

Ellen White and meat:  

Ellen White began to teach on health reform in the 1860s, apparently after a significant revelation from heaven. In 1869, she writes: “I have not changed my course a particle since I adopted the health reform. I have not taken one step back since the light from heaven upon this subject first shone upon my pathway. I broke away from everything at once, from meat and butter, and from three meals. ….I left off those things from principle. I took my stand on health reform from principle.” Testimonies, Vol. 2, pp. 371-372.

She often severely rebuked others for not following this teaching: “Let not any of our ministers set an evil example in the eating of flesh-meat. Let them and their families live up to the light of health reform. Let not our ministers animalise their own nature and the nature of their children.” Spalding and Magan, p. 211.

According to her own writings and the testimony of eye-witnesses: in 1873, she was eating duck and deer. In 1880, she had chicken broth. In 1883, she asked her daughter-in-law to buy herrings and oysters for her. When she returned from Europe in 1887, she celebrated by having baked fish. During the next few years, she often had meat, usually fried chicken. In 1894, she claimed to have finally given up meat at the insistence of a Catholic woman, who felt sorry for the poor animals. 

Other inconsistencies:  

Ellen condemned the wearing of jewellery in this testimony: “To dress plainly, abstaining from display of jewellery and ornaments of every kind, is in keeping with our faith.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 366. A photograph taken fifteen years after this was written, shows her wearing a brooch and a gold chain.

In 1905, a publisher from Chicago asked Mrs. White’s permission to use quotations from her works in his magazine. She informed him that he could do so, provided he gave her proper credit. This request did not exactly reflect her own practice.

It is not claimed by this author that eating meat or wearing jewellery is a sin. Mrs. White taught this however, and forced these opinions on her followers, but was incapable of keeping her own rules. This amounts to lying and hypocrisy. 

ii)                   A prophet should be humble enough to allow others to judge his revelations.

As we have already seen, Ellen White claimed that everything she wrote was inspired by God. Of her own words she says: “It is God, and not an erring mortal, that has spoken.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 257. “Those. . . who would break down our testimony, I saw, are not fighting against us, but against God.” ibid., p. 260.

Canright states, “After locating in Battle Creek in 1855… Her influence with her people had now become settled and supreme. No one dared question her authority or inspiration.”

Protection against error can only be guaranteed, if prophecies are judged. In the case of Mrs. White, this was never allowed. 

iii)                  A prophet should acknowledge his mistakes. 

Ellen White always suppressed or denied her mistakes, or in the worst case, subtly blamed God. See part vi) below on the “shut door” teaching.

She originally believed Miller’s date of 1843, and even after the Great Disappointment (22 Oct. 1844), insisted that this was from God: “The Advent movement of 1840-44 was a glorious manifestation of the power of God.” The Great Controversy, Vol. 4, p. 429.

The first date was a little problematic, until she realised that God was responsible! “I have seen that the 1843 chart was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered; that the figures were as the Lord wanted them; that his hand was over, and hid, a mistake in some of the figures.” Early Writings, p. 64.

Unfortunately, because of Ellen White, and not God, hiding mistakes, the Adventists still do not understand that the whole Millerite movement was based on a wrong interpretation of Biblical prophecy.

If she could not find an explanation, she avoided the matter. See for example, her explanation of why they had to change the Sabbath starting time (section vi).

Around 1904, several of the Battle Creek Sanitarium workers had noticed some contradictions and inconsistencies in Mrs. White’s writings. She wrote them this testimony: “Recently in the visions of the night I stood in a large company of people. . . I was directed by the Lord to request them, and any others who have perplexities and grievous things in their minds regarding the testimonies that I have borne, to specify what their objections and criticisms are. The Lord will help me to answer these objections, and make plain that which seems to be intricate. . . Let it all be written out, and submitted to those who desire to remove the perplexities. . . They should certainly do this, if they are loyal to the directions God has given.” 30 March 1905.

Dr. Charles E. Stewart, therefore, wrote out a large number of “perplexities” which he and others had found in her writings, and sent them to her. Whereupon she had another vision: “I had a vision, in which I was speaking before a large company, where many questions were asked concerning my work and writings. I was directed by a messenger from heaven not to take the burden of picking up and answering all the sayings and doubts that are being put in many minds.” 6 June 1906.

So first the Lord tells her to explain her mistakes with God’s help, then tells her not to bother. Must have turned out to be too difficult for her!

Canright says this about her: “I knew her for nearly thirty years, but I never knew her to make confession of a single sin in all that time, not one.” 2 

iv)                 A prophet should not abuse the use of his gift or people’s respect, in order to dominate or manipulate others. 

I consider the following extracts from Mrs. White’s revelations to be pretty manipulative.

She encourages those who may be thinking of leaving her movement with this vision: “Then I was shown a company who were howling in agony. On their garments was written in large characters, “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting.” I asked who this company were. The angel said, “These are they who have kept the Sabbath and have given it up.”” Early Writings, p. 37.

Those who may have doubts about her revelations are given this: “If you lessen the confidence of God’s people in the testimonies he has sent them, you are rebelling against God as certainly as were Korah, Dathan and Abirum.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 66.

Or this: “Yet now when I send you a testimony of warning and reproof, many of you declare it to be merely the opinion of Sister White. You have thereby insulted the Spirit of God.” Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, p. 661.

Very, very many people who opposed her in any way were given testimonies along the following lines: “Unless you are a thoroughly converted man before you leave this house, I believe the Spirit of God will never make another appeal to you. It is life or death with you. You will surely be stricken down with paralysis, or the devil will drive you to suicide. I have, in the message hitherto borne to you, tried to establish you in the confidence of your brethren. [I have tried] to strengthen and settle you; but if you leave this house with the devil as your counsellor, you are a lost man.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 15, p. 368. 

She told many people they would be lost if they opposed her. And the next day they died? I don’t think so. 

vi)                 A prophet should be decisive enough not to allow others to manipulate or influence him, and thus abuse the use of his gift.

 Throughout her life, Ellen White was influenced by those around her. Her husband James used her reputation to advance in the denominational hierarchy, but was angry with others who did the same. Otherwise, he did not take her revelations too seriously, as when Ellen once received a “testimony” in which she rebuked him, he asked for the paper and threw it in the fireplace.

With regard to the peculiar Adventist teachings, Canright informs us, “Neither James White nor his wife ever originated a single doctrine held by the Seventh-day Adventists. The doctrine of the second advent they received from Miller; and all the prophetic dates they accepted from him exactly as he arranged them. The Sabbath they took from Bates, together with his unscriptural 6 p.m. time to begin and end it. Then they followed J. N. Andrews in changing to sunset time. The theory of the sanctuary in heaven they accepted from Elder O. R. L. Crosier, who afterwards repudiated it. Later they accepted from Andrews the theory of the three messages and the two-horned beast, as applied to the United States. The sleep of the dead they got from the First-day Adventists, with whom they soon fell out and had many bitter controversies.” 2 

Ellen always had visions which confirmed whatever they were concerned with at the time, and always subsequently. The shut door has already been mentioned, but to summarise briefly, they went through the following stages, and Mrs. White always had a vision to support the latest notion:

1. 22 October 1844: Millerites. The door of mercy was shut (based on the parable of the ten virgins), and from now on, no-one can be saved.

“I was shown that the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, relating to the shut door, could not be separated… Some appeared to have been really converted, so as to deceive God’s people; but if their hearts could be seen, they would appear as black as ever… the time for their salvation was past.” Present Truth, No. 3, August, 1849, pp. 21, 22.

2. 1846: Crosier. In 1844, Jesus crossed over into the most holy place in the heavenly sanctuary, and his intercession can only help existing Millerite-Adventist believers.

“The Lord showed me in vision, more than one year ago, that Brother Crosier had the true light on the cleansing of the sanctuary.” A Word to the Little Flock, pp. 11-12, 1847.

3. 1850: Bates. Jesus’ ministry in the heavenly sanctuary would last 7 years, and in 1851 he would return to the earth.

“Some are looking too far off for the coming of the Lord. Time has continued a few years longer than they expected, therefore they think it may continue a few years more. . . I saw that the time for Jesus to be in the Holy Place was nearly finished, and that time cannot last but a little longer.” Vision received in 1850. Early Writings, p. 58, ed. 1907.

“My accompanying angel said, ‘Time is almost finished. Get ready, get ready, get ready.’ … Some of us have had time to get the truth, and to advance step by step, and every step we have taken has given us strength to take the next. But now time is almost finished… and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months.” Vision received in 1850. Early Writings, pp. 64-67.

Then the door begins to open.

4. 1850. The children of Adventists can get saved.

5. 1851. People can get saved, if they know that Jesus has moved in heaven.

Others cannot pray to Jesus, because, “They have no other knowledge of the move made in heaven, or the way into the Most Holy, and they cannot be benefited by the intercession of Jesus there… they offer up their useless prayers to the apartment which Jesus has left.” Early Writings, edition 1907, page 261. 

6. 1882. By this time, the Adventists have given up the shut door teaching.

In this year, Mrs. White’s “Early Writings” were published, and it was claimed that, “No portion of the work has been omitted.” This is not true, as all the visions are missing that show she ever taught anything different from what she did at that time. As this would mean she was not a prophet, wouldn’t it?

Ellen herself admits that she accepted the shut door, but claims her visions corrected her, “For a time after the disappointment in 1844, I did hold, in common with the advent body, that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world. This position was taken before my first vision was given me. It was the light given me of God that corrected our error, and enabled us to see the true position.” Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 63.

I don’t believe it should be necessary to suppress the revelations of a true prophet.

With regard to the Sabbath, Canright again, “Bates accepted Mrs. White’s visions, and she accepted his Sabbath-keeping. She soon accepted all his theories about the Sabbath; that it was the seal of God, the great test of Christianity, and that it must be kept from 6 p.m. to 6 p.m.. Right after this she went to heaven, and Jesus took her into the Most Holy, lifted the lid of the ark, and showed her the tablets of stone with the Sabbath shining above all the rest of the Commandments (Early Writings, p. 26).” 2 This happened in 1846.

Nine years later, based on the studies of Elder J. N. Andrews, they changed to the Biblical starting time of sundown. The question arose, that as Mrs. White had had so many visions about the Sabbath, and had spoken to Jesus about it so many times, why had he not told her they were starting at the wrong time?

She asked an angel, and, “I inquired why it had been thus, that at this late day we must change the time of commencing the Sabbath. Said the angel, ‘Ye shall understand, but not yet, not yet.’” Testimonies, Vol. I., p. 116.

As far as I know, still not yet.

Before they accepted the sleep of the dead, in a vision Ellen saw the Old Testament Saints in heaven, “In a moment we were winging our way upwards; and, entering in (to heaven), here we saw good old father Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Daniel and many like them.” A Word to the Little Flock, p. 14, 1847. I can’t imagine why, but this vision is also missing from later publications.

Finally, whenever anyone in the denomination worked out a plan, be it a financial scheme, a building project, missionary strategy, or an order for business meetings, they would present it to Mrs. White, who would have a revelation endorsing it – always subsequently.

For example:

A financial scheme: „The plan of Systematic Benevolence is pleasing to God. . . God is leading his people in the plan of Systematic Benevolence.” Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 1, pp. 190, 191. (This scheme failed).

Harvest Ingathering for missionary work: “Shortly after the plan was started, Sister White wrote Brother Wayne of the light God had given her concerning this plan, fully endorsing it as being in harmony with the mind of the Lord.” Article in Lake Union Herald, Nov. 1, 1916. (This was successful).

If this was really the mind of the Lord, all the schemes should have been successful, should they not?

Summary:  

So just to summarise this review of Ellen White’s life and writings: she wrote some very beautiful material, but there is also much error there in which she denies Biblical doctrines, contradicts herself, and talks scientific nonsense. None of her prophecies about the future were fulfilled. She stole a great deal of the material for her books from others, which if she were not too selective could explain some of the contradictions. She did not keep her own rules, never allowed others to examine her so-called inspired utterances, and never admitted her mistakes. Those who doubted her, she beat around the head with revelations of their demise, but she was so easily influenced that others used her for their own ends.

This is not the picture of a prophet chosen by God to lead his people in the last days. 

How did she write such beautiful things?  

Many are impressed by the beautiful literary style in which Ellen wrote. Hunt remarks on this: “Even I have to admit that some of Ellen White’s writings are beautiful. After reading one of her good books like ‘Desire of Ages’, a very well done book on the life of Christ, it is hard to imagine that she could write the collection of garbage that has been exposed in my book. It is easier to understand however once it is realised that she has copied most of her ‘beautiful’ works. In fact this is what really gives Ellen White away as a false prophet. She could not separate the good works of her contemporaries from the nonsense.” 

The source of her visions:  

Having examined Ellen White’s visions, it is evident that they could not have been directly from God, as they contain so much error and they were so inconsistent, but it does not seem likely they were directly from Satan either. So where did they come from?

When Ellen White was nine years old, a fellow pupil hit her on the head with a stone, which resulted in her being unconscious for three weeks. When she recovered, she was unable to continue attending school. In 1840, at the age of thirteen, she heard William Miller preach that the end would come in 1843. Soon after this she was converted at a Methodist camp meeting, and saw many “fall under the power” as was common then (just imagine!) She became convinced Miller was right, and was devastated when Jesus did not return as predicted on 22 October 1844. She soon afterwards began to have her visions.

Many of her critics hold that her visions came from a form of epilepsy, resulting from a combination of the blow to the head and the religious fanaticism of the time. There is apparently a known medical condition of women, in which visions generally begin around puberty and cease around the time of the menopause. This was the case with Mrs. White. She had less visions as she grew older, and claimed that in later life, her revelations came in different ways.

If she had not been surrounded by those who believed in her, or wanted to believe in her, or wanted to use her, she may not have been so successful.

Canright says, “The proof is abundant that Mrs. White’s visions were merely the result of her early misfortune, nervous disease, and a complication of hysteria, epilepsy, catalepsy and ecstasy. That she may have honestly believed in them herself does not alter the fact. The writer personally knew four other women, all Seventh-day Adventists, who likewise had visions. All were sincere Christians, and fully believed in their own visions. But all were sickly, nervous and hysterical. Not being encouraged in them, but opposed by their ministers, they finally gave them up.”

It does appear, that in line with the opinion of her husband’s cousin, Mrs. White’s visions came from her own mind. 

Conclusion:  

So was Ellen White an inspired prophet of God, the only error-free interpreter of the Bible, as the Adventists claim? As Canright sarcastically remarks: “Here we have an infallible female pope endorsed as such by that church. They claim for her exactly the same prerogative which the Catholic Church claims for the Pope; namely, that she is the only infallible interpreter of the Bible. No Pope of Rome ever claimed more.”

Or was she an evil con-artist who deliberately led thousands astray for her own ends?

It is also the general view of her critics that Ellen White was a genuine converted Christian who desired to please her Lord, and not a common deceiver. She cannot be placed in the same category as Joseph Smith and Pastor Russell. She was herself deceived in thinking her visions came from God.

As for her books, some of them have a certain literary value as beautifully-written religious-historical novels, but should in no way be regarded as acceptable theology and not at all as an inspired commentary on the Bible.

A final note:  

Many high ranking officials in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and those who run the Ellen White Estate are aware of the problems with Ellen White’s writings referred to in this article. Many church members are more than likely not aware of them. As researchers have brought more and more of these things to light, the church has had to work rather hard to maintain the legend of Ellen G. White, but this is now not her fault any more, is it? 

Footnotes:  

  1. E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. IV., p. 148; Vol. V., p. 661; No. 88, p. 189.
  2. D. M. Canright, Life of Mrs. E. G. White – Her Claims Refuted, 1919, Internet.
  3. Consider as an example also this, “When I went to Colorado, I wrote many pages to be read at your camp meeting. . . God was speaking through clay. You might say this communication was only a letter. Yes, it was a letter, but prompted by the Spirit of God, to bring before your minds things that had been shown me. In these letters which I write, . . . I am presenting to you that which the Lord has presented to me. I do not write one article in the paper expressing merely my own ideas. They are what God has opened before me in vision – the precious rays of light shining from the throne,” Ellen G. White, Testimonies,” Vol. V., pp. 63-67.
  4. Review and Herald Supplement, Aug. 14, 1883.
  5. J. Mark Martin, Seventh-day Adventism and the Writings of Ellen G. White, preface, Internet
  6. E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 4, p. 230.
  7. Derek Prince, Védelem a Hitetéstől, p. 235, Budapesti Autonóm Gyülekezet, 1999. 
  8. Quoted by White, J., A Word to the Little Flock, 1847, p. 29. 
  9. “Seventh-day Adventists hold that Ellen G. White performed the work of a true prophet during the seventy years of her public ministry. As Samuel was a prophet, as Jeremiah was a prophet, as John the Baptist, so we believe that Mrs. White was a prophet to the church of Christ today.” The Adventist Review, October 4, 1928.
  10.  Venden, M. L., “God has given to our church an inspired commentary to settle the disagreements among the uninspired commentaries.” The Pillars, p. 30.
  11.  Hunt, G. G. P, Beware this cult! Chap. 18, Internet. 

12. Walter T. Rea, The White Lie!, Internet 

 Bibliography:  

D. M. Canright, Life of Mrs. E. G. White – Her Claims Refuted, 1919, Internet.

Jack Gent, Doctrines of Demons, Internet.

J. Mark Martin, Seventh-day Adventism and the Writings of Ellen G. White, Internet.

W. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House Publishers, 1997.

Walter T. Rea, The White Lie!, Internet 

W. D. Slattery, Are Seventh-day Adventists False Prophets?, P & R Publishing, 1990.

SDA studies III

3

The Investigative Judgement

Ellen White describes the Investigative Judgement in this way, “As the books of record are opened in the judgement, the lives of all who have believed on Jesus come in review before God. Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living. Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God’s remembrance.” 1 

There are two basic problems with this teaching:

1.      It is not in the Bible.

Even the Adventists themselves are aware of this: “In the 1950’s, as an editor of ‘The SDA Bible Commentary,’ Elder Cottrell tried to defend the SDA interpretation of Daniel 8: 14.  He resented Dr. Donald Barnhouse’s comment that the investigative judgement idea had not a Bible text to support it.  But after labouring with Daniel 8: 14, using the original languages and the historical-grammatical method of interpretation, Cottrell found that he could not substantiate the Adventist position.  At the suggestion of F. D. Nichol he sent a questionnaire to 27 leading Adventist scholars and found that they too had no adequate biblical defence for it. (See appendix).

A committee appointed by the General Conference met for five years and could not resolve the issues.  A minority admitted that the Adventist position could not be proved from the Bible.” 2

2.      It is in conflict with the Bible.

It is the view of this author, that the Investigative Judgement cannot be reconciled with the following Biblical teachings: –

Predestination (God knows in advance who will be saved): “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8: 29-30).

The LORD knows those who are his (so He does not need to examine lists of sins): “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” (John 10: 14).

“Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and ‘Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.’” (2 Tim 2: 19).

Believers do not come under condemnation (are not judged with regard to salvation): “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3: 18).

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5: 24).

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8: 1).

“Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Jesus Christ, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8: 33-34).

(To the thief on the cross): “I tell you the truth today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23: 43) (Irrespective of where you put the comma.)

[Cf. Rom 14: 10; 2 Cor 5: 10 – the word “judgement” is not found – and furthermore, we must all “stand” or “appear” before the βημα – this cannot be the Investigative Judgement.]

When someone repents under the new covenant, God forgives his sins, blots them out, and forgets them: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,…” (Acts 3: 19-20).

Cf. “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2: 38).

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time… For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8: 10, 12).

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” (Isaiah 43: 25).

“I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” (Isaiah 44: 22).

“… says the LORD Almighty, ‘And I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (Zech 3: 9).

Justification by faith and assurance of salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast.” (Eph 2: 8-9).

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5: 13).

Because of the above, it is the opinion of this author that the doctrine of the Investigative Judgement is unbiblical.

Footnotes:

  1. E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 483.
  2. R .Brinsmead, Judged by the Gospel, 1980.

Appendix

Seventh-day Adventist Scholars Response to 1958 Poll

In 1958, Raymond Cottrell (Adventist) initiated an opinion poll of Adventist Bible scholars. The sampling included all the Hebrew teachers in the denomination (8), nine heads of college Bible departments, five other experienced Bible teachers, and four former college Bible teachers. A total of 27.

To the question: “What linguistic or contextual reasons can you suggest for applying Daniel 8: 14 to the services of the day of atonement and thus to the investigative judgement beginning in 1844?” – all the scholars said that there is no linguistic or contextual basis for so applying it!

None of the scholars believes you can get the SDA view of Daniel 8: 14 from the Bible, at least in terms of linguistics and context! 

To the question: “What reasons other than language and context would you suggest for applying Daniel 8: 14 to the services of the day of atonement and thus to the investigative judgement beginning in 1844?” – the following were the responses:

No other basis, none to offer 13
Analogy between earthly and heavenly 7
Ellen White so applies it 5
A “fortunate accident” in translation.* 2

*According to the King James translation: unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed. Compare the Hebrew: 2300 evenings-mornings and the sanctuary will be justified.

To this, the Adventist theologian Dr. Desmond Ford remarked, “Such conclusions offered by the cream of our scholarship assert in effect that our traditional teaching on Dan. 8: 14 is indefensible.”

Desmond Ford was a college teacher for many years within the Adventist church.

Some other quotations from him: “Many Adventist scholars have long held that Daniel 8: 14 does not teach an Investigative Judgement. Their view was rejected because it seems to contradict Ellen White. It is well nigh certain that had Ellen White not endorsed the doctrine, it would have been surrendered long ago.”

“No scholar seriously believes that Jesus Christ is sitting in heaven turning pages to investigate Christian lives.”

This Adventist theologian points out that this notion violates the orthodox Christian belief that Jesus’ atonement for sin was completed by his death on the cross.

Sources:

Hunt, G. G. P., Beware this cult!, 1981.

Pahl, L., Investigating the Investigative Judgement, 1992.

4

Azazel and the Day of Atonement

 Ellen White taught that Christ’s work of redemption was not completed on the cross, but is still in progress in the heavenly sanctuary, “…instead of coming to the earth at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844, Christ then entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to perform the closing work of atonement,” 1 “Now while our great High Priest is making the atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ.” 2

At the end of this process, the sins of the redeemed will be placed on Satan’s head, “It was seen, also, that while the sin offering pointed to Christ as a sacrifice, and the high priest represented Christ as a mediator, the scapegoat typified Satan, the author of sin, upon whom the sins of the truly penitent will finally be placed.” 3

This teaching appears to be based on the interpretation of one single chapter of the Bible (Leviticus 16), and within this, on the meaning of a single word (Azazel). In this article, therefore, the role of Azazel in the atonement will be examined briefly.

The word Azazel occurs only in this chapter (four times: Lev. 16: 8, 10 (twice), 26), in the whole Bible. It can therefore be considered “hapax legomenon.” No-one knows the original meaning of the word for sure. It has been interpreted in several ways, and these will be examined below. For the time being, it is noted that there are two types of theory:

Leviticus 16:8 says, “He is to cast lots for the two goats – one lot for the Lord and the other for Azazel.” The Hebrew “ la‘ăz’ázél” has two possible meanings: for Azazel or as Azazel.

Therefore, the two possibilities:

  1. The goat is for Azazel.
  2. Azazel is the name of the goat.

If the assumption is made that the atonement is still in progress, and Azazel is a name for Satan, then according to these two alternatives:

1. The scapegoat is a type of Jesus, and sometime in the future, he will take our sins to Satan in the desert (verse 21).

With regard to this, Ballenger, a former Adventist, writes, “Those who make the scapegoat to represent Christ, have no opportunity to throw stones on this occasion, for they make Jesus Christ, after he has risen from the dead, and is freed from sin, — they make him so unclean that he must be driven forever from the camp of Israel, and separated from his people for whom he died; and that is too abhorrent to be entertained for a moment.” 4

He is right that Jesus will not bear sin once more in the future. “So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9: 28). The high priest, however, places the sins on the scapegoat’s head.

2. The scapegoat itself is a type of Satan (as taught by Ellen White – see above). There are several problems with this:

“From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.” (Lev. 16: 5). This teaching makes Satan into a sacrifice for sin, as both goats are for a sin offering.

“But the goat chosen by lot for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert for Azazel.” (verse 10). According to this, Satan would be used to make atonement.

“He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites – all their sins – and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place.” (verse 21-22). If the goat is Satan, he not only gets the sins dumped on his head, but also bears sin away. This appears no-where in the Bible. 

Just to comment that Walter Martin writes, “This writer is convinced that the Adventist concept of the scapegoat in connection with the Day of Atonement, the sanctuary and the investigative judgement is a bizarre combination of prophetic interpretation and typology; but it is by no means the soul-destroying doctrine that many people think it is.” 5 They do not wish to assert that Satan is a sacrifice for sin! However, this does appear to be an inevitable consequence of their views.

In connection with typology, surely an Old Testament type must have a New Testament antitype? If the scapegoat is Satan, then this is not the case.

According to the Bible, the above are all the work of Jesus: “… redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood…” (Romans 3: 24-25); “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree…” (1 Peter 2: 24).

The following logical steps may therefore be taken:

  1. If the atonement is not finished, then the scapegoat cannot be Jesus.
  2. The scapegoat can only be Jesus.
  3. Therefore, the atonement has been finished.

Further indications of the completed atonement:

  • “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19: 30).
  • “After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” (Hebrews 1: 3).
  • “But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” (Heb. 10: 12).
  • “But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Heb. 9: 26).
  • “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb. 9: 12).

By the way, Ellen White also writes, “The sacrifice in behalf of man was full and complete. The condition of the atonement had been fulfilled,” 6 “To the angels and the unfallen worlds the cry, ‘It is finished,’ had a deep significance. It was for them as well as for us that the great work of redemption had been accomplished. They with us share the fruits of Christ’s victory.” 7

Let us now consider the Azazel interpretations.

1. The Hebrew word is ‘ăz’ázél. This could be a variant on the word ‘ăzálzél which would mean perfect, complete removal. The LXX translation has “του αποπομπαιου” – for sending away.

2. The word can be divided as follows: ‘éz = goat, ’ázal = to remove (the consonants of the Hebrew text remain unchanged.) Therefore ‘ăz’ázél = goat of removal. This is the same concept as in point 1.

In these, Azazel is the name of the goat.

According to the following, the goat is sent to Azazel:

3. Azazel is the place where the goat is sent. Some Jewish writers consider it to be the height from which the goat was thrown. Others regard the word as indicating a “desert place.” – see Lev. 16: 21-22.

4. Many believe Azazel to be a personal being, who is either a demon or Satan himself. This thought is found in the apocryphal book of Enoch. It is possible that Origen adopted this position, as he taught that, to make atonement, Jesus paid a ransom to Satan when he died on the cross. The Cabalists (an occult Jewish group) teach that God sent the goat burdened with sins to this being, to appease it and save Israel from its snares. This concept must be distinguished from the Adventist teaching, as the goat is not a symbol of the demon here, but the goat is sent to the demon.

The identification of Azazel is certain to remain in dispute, but it is unlikely that Moses, under the leading of God, teaches Israel to bribe a wilderness demon with the gift of a sin-laden goat.

This author prefers the “goat of removal” interpretation, for the following reasons:

  1. This is the meaning of the Hebrew word.
  2. This agrees with the Septuagint translation.
  3. This concept can be supported from other verses. For example: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103: 12), “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1. 29).

Based on the above, this author asserts that the two male goats in the Day of Atonement ceremonies represent two aspects of the work which Jesus accomplished on the cross. One sacrifice would not have been enough to represent this satisfactorily. The LORD’s goat sheds its blood and dies for sin, but it is not written that it bears sin. The Azazel goat on the other hand, bears sin and removes it.

Hebrews is the New Testament book which deals most thoroughly with the significance of the Day of Atonement. The two aspects of Jesus’ work are to be found together in the following verse, “so Christ was sacrificed once (the LORD’s goat) to take away the sins of many people (the scapegoat); and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9: 28). 

Footnotes:  

1. E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 422. 

2. E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 623.

3. E. G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 422. 

4. A. F. Ballenger, Cast out for the cross of Christ, 1909.

5. W. Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, p. 589.

6. E. G. White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 29. 

7. E. G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 758. 

Bibliography:  

Biblia, Református Zsinati Iroda, 1989.

NIV Study Bible.

Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, DBG, 1988.

The NIV Triglot Old Testament, Zondervan, 1981.

M. F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Moody Press, 1988.

B. Davidson, The Analytical Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon, Zondervan, 1970.  

5

More problems with the Heavenly Sanctuary and the Investigative Judgement 

On leaving the Adventist ministry and at the same time the church, pastor Clay Peck listed in his letter of resignation the points which caused him the greatest problems. He could not accept the following SDA notions:

1)       That SDAs are God’s one, true “remnant” church,

2)       That the Sabbath is the seal of God and the major deciding factor for who is “in” or “out” in the last days,

3)       That 1844 has more significance than a historical date when another date-setting mistake was made,

4)       That the atonement was not completed at the cross, and

5)       That Ellen White has prophetic doctrinal authority. 1 

The questions of the law and the Sabbath have been dealt with already. The doctrines of the Investigative Judgement and the scapegoat have been discussed elsewhere, and therefore just a few difficulties in connection with the heavenly sanctuary are listed here.

First of all, a quotation from a study by a German Adventist: “The doctrine which has always been the greatest stumbling block to outsiders evaluating the ‘cult level’ of Seventh-day Adventism, even more than the keeping of the seventh day Sabbath and the claims that Ellen White received prophetic revelations, is the doctrine of the ‘investigative judgement.’

If a true evangelical Christian were to hear for the first time a simple explanation of what traditional Adventism teaches about the investigative judgement he would probably be appalled and have no doubts that Adventists are a cult. Simply put, the doctrine is this: Jesus did not begin acting as Judge of the human race until 1844. It was in that year, on October 22, that He began presiding over a great judgement tribunal. Those people being tried are professed believers in God, starting in the days of Adam and continuing right up to the present. This investigative judgement is still going on, with Jesus continuing to accept and reject the lives of believers as their cases are brought up before Him. After Jesus has finished judging those who are now in the grave, he begins to judge the lives of believers who are alive now. One does not know when his case will be taken up in the sanctuary above. When it finally is, if he passes the judgement, his sins are then ‘blotted out,’ and he is then accepted for the pearly gates.

One thing needs to be said, so that the forest not be lost for the trees. The gospel revealed in the New Testament is in total irreconcilable contradistinction to the concept of an investigative judgement. They are mutually exclusive.” 2 

The reasons for the above claim have been dealt with elsewhere. Now, just a few more difficulties:

  1. The date of 1844 (1843 at first) was calculated from the book of Daniel by William Miller. He linked two passages: Daniel 9: 24-27 and 8: 14.

A. Daniel 9: 24-27, the prophecy of the seventy weeks, refers to the first Advent of Jesus. There are various possible interpretations. The time period begins thus, “From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem…” Cyrus, king of Persia, issued a decree like this in 539 BC (see also Isaiah 45: 1). The departure of Nehemiah provides a closer date – 445 BC. If the starting point is 456 BC (from a decree issued in the 7th year of Artaxerxes) + (7 x (7 + 62 + 0.5) = 30 AD.

B. Daniel 8: 14 reads as follows: “He said to me, ‘It will take 2300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.’” 1844 is given by 456 BC + 2300 years. This only works if this verse is linked with chapter 9, and the context is completely ignored. If the context and the original language are taken into consideration:

i)                     2300 days is not written, as Miller thought (using the King James translation), but 2300 evenings-mornings. Therefore, it cannot be claimed that 1 day = 1 year.

ii)                   ‘2300 evenings and mornings’ refers to sacrifices (see 8: 11-13). The period therefore begins with the discontinuation of the daily sacrifices (verse 11) and not with a royal decree. And the period in question is not 2300 years, but 1150 days.

iii)                  This is confirmed by verse 26, which reads (according to the Hebrew): “And the vision of the evenings and mornings, which was said, is true. But you seal the revelation, because it is for many days.” Here the word for day = yóm, which may occasionally refer to years (see Numbers 14: 34). This may be understood to mean that the discontinuation of sacrifices will occur many years in the future, and last for 1150 days.

iv)                 The vision contained in Daniel 8: 1-14 is interpreted by the angel in 8: 19-26. According to commentaries, the whole vision has already been fulfilled (from our standpoint). The ram is the kings of the Medes and Persians. The goat is the Greek empire. The large horn is the first king – this was Alexander the Great who died in 323 BC. The horn was broken off and four grew in its place. After Alexander the Great, the empire split four ways – Judea belonged to the eastern state. A little horn grew great out of one of the horns. This was Antiochus IV. Epiphanes, who tried to wipe out the Jewish religion. The history of this is found in the book of 1 Maccabees. He entered the Jewish temple and slaughtered a pig in the sanctuary, thus “defiling” it. He discontinued the daily sacrifices. The army of Judas Maccabeus retook Jerusalem, and the temple was reconsecrated in 165 BC – this is the origin of the feast of dedication, or Hanukkah (see John 10: 22). Between the defiling and reconsecration of the temple was a period of a little more than three years (168-165 BC). Therefore, 2300 morning and evening sacrifices were not offered.

v)                   From Daniel’s point of view, as he lived in the 6th century, 164 BC was ‘after many days.’

For these reasons, the date of 1844 should not be calculated from the book of Daniel.

C. Two related points may be made about the October 22nd date.

I. This was the Day of Atonement in 1844 according to a purported Karaite Jewish calendar.

In connection with this:

i)                     The Karaite Jews do not issue a calendar, as they do not calculate the dates of festivals in advance, but keep them based on the moment the new moon is spotted each month, and the time the barley appears at the beginning of the year.

ii)                   According to Karaite sources, the Day of Atonement was in September in 1844, at the same time as the Orthodox Jewish festival.

iii)                  A question: why should such an apparently great event in God’s salvation history occur according to the calendar of a rather insignificant Jewish sect? (If it existed, and if it gave a date in October?)

II. When Jesus did not return at the vernal equinox, the disappointed Millerites set a new date: the Lord would come on the tenth day of the seventh month of the year of jubilee. They calculated this to be 20/21/22 October 1844. To this, a Jewish Rabbi notes that the year of jubilee would have come 25 years later. 3

D. When Jesus returned neither in 1843, nor on 21 March 1844 (first disappointment), nor on 22 October 1844 (great disappointment), Miller admitted he had been wrong, and did not set any more dates. He never accepted the Adventist explanation. He wrote, “The causes which required God’s chastening hand upon us were, in my humble opinion, Pride, Fanaticism, and Sectarianism.” 4

E. The heavenly sanctuary explanation originated with O. R. L. Crosier, but he later rejected it.

F. The Seventh Day Adventists first accepted the sanctuary theory in order to prove that the door of mercy had been shut in 1844. Mrs. White, along with the others, accepted this theory at the time, and even had visions about it. They later rejected this, and changed their teaching several times, and now they try to hide the fact that they ever believed it.

G. The Jehovah’s Witnesses calculated that end of the world would come in 1914, also from the book of Daniel. 5 When this failed to happen, they also invented something to do with the heavenly temple. According to Evangelical theologians, both groups initiated “face-saving campaigns.”

 2. Daniel 8: 14 is then linked with the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement (Lev 16). The only justification for this, is that Ellen White taught it. Even according to leading Adventist theologians, there are no contextual, linguistic or any other reasons which allow this. The Day of Atonement has been treated elsewhere. It is the conviction of this author that the antitype of the whole is to be found in Jesus’ death on the cross. In addition to this, just a couple of (maybe silly) comments:

A. It is not written that the high priest performs any sort of judgement in the sanctuary. Neither does Daniel 8: 14 mention judgement.

B. It is written in the letter to the Hebrews, which interprets the Day of Atonement, that judgement follows death, not that it is in progress while someone is still alive. (Hebrews 9: 27). This makes logical sense, because what happens if someone passes the investigative judgement, is accepted for eternal life, and afterwards (as he is still alive), falls into some sin which he does not repent of?

C. Leviticus 16: 31 states that the Day of Atonement is a “Sabbath of Sabbaths.” If the antitype of this is now underway, the Adventists should not go to work at all.

 3. God’s presence is to be found in the holy of holies, above the ark of the covenant. (Eg. Exodus 25: 21-22). This is behind the veil of the temple (Exodus 22: 31-34). If Jesus only entered the holy of holies in 1844, then for 18 centuries after his ascension, he did not enter God’s presence. There are several problems with this:

A. I have reservations with the idea that there is a temple in heaven at all, for the following reasons:

i)                     In the Bible, the heavenly temple only occurs in texts which are of apocalyptic or symbolic character, like the book of Revelation (eg. 15: 5-8), or the letter to the Hebrews (chapter 9). According to Revelation, there is also a throne room in heaven (chapter 4).

ii)                   In the Old Testament, symbolically, heaven is God’s throne, and God’s throne is in heaven (Isaiah 66: 1; Psalm 103: 16). It is unlikely that there is a literal chair in heaven, even although Jesus “is seated at God’s right hand.” These are spiritual truths, symbolically expressed.

iii)                  In a similar way, God’s temple is in heaven, and heaven is God’s temple, as that is where his presence is (eg. Matthew 6: 9), because:

iv)                 The writer to the Hebrews does not compare the earthly temple with the heavenly temple, but the earthly temple with heaven: “For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.” (Hebrews 9: 24).

v)                   The furnishings of the earthly temple, eg. the ark, the veil, the candlestick, the altar of incense, etc., all typify certain aspects of the work of Christ. These were on the earth, and now Christ himself, not a temple, is in heaven. This is the analogy between the “earthly” and the “heavenly.” (Hebrews 9).

B. If we assume that there is a temple in heaven after all, then what had already happened in the first century?

i)                     The veil was torn, opening the way into the presence of God, (Mark 15: 37-38; cf. Heb 10: 19-20). (In Revelation 4, the candlestick and God’s throne are seen at the same time. There is no veil between them, as there was in the earthly temple.)

ii)                   Jesus passed within the veil (Heb 6: 19-20).

iii)                  Jesus took his blood into the sanctuary “having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb 9: 12).

iv)                 He “cleansed the heavenly sanctuary.” (Heb 9: 23-26).

v)                   Jesus is no longer a Levitical priest, as he finished the work of atonement on the cross, but a priest after the order of Melchizedek. (Heb 6: 20).

vi)                 He sat down at God’s right hand, i.e. in his presence. (Heb 1: 3).

From the point of view of the writer to the Hebrews, all these had already happened in the past.

 4. One more thing: it is inconsistent to teach that, on the one hand, God knows us so badly that he has to examine lists of sins for more than 150 years, as he does not know who to raise from the dead, but on the other hand, he knows us so well that he can recreate us perfectly from the data stored in his memory.

 Another quotation, just to finish: “SDAs have been willing to gradually drop various teachings that have proven unbiblical, but not the investigative judgement. Knowingly or unknowingly the gospel has always been compromised in order to retain this most distinguishing doctrine. Evidently they think the doctrine of the investigative judgement important to their identity. This is a monstrous price to pay for an unbiblical doctrine… No-one denies that fragments of the gospel appear through SDA media, but the mixture of the credible with the non-credible leaves everyone in doubt, confusion and ambivalence.” 6

 Footnotes:  

  1. Clay Peck, My journey out of legalism, lecture given on 15 January 2000, found on the following Website:  http://www.sdaoutreach.org/
  2. L. Pahl, Investigating the Investigative Judgement, 1992.
  3. Sears, C. E., Days of Delusion – a Strange Bit of History, chaps 8-9, 1924
  4. William Miller, Letter to the Brethren, Advent Herald, 3 Dec. 1844.
  5. If you’re interested, it works like this: “Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign…” (Dan 4: 32). 7 times = 7 years of 360 days = 2520. Reckoned from the (purported but incorrect) date for the destruction of Jerusalem 606 BC + 2520 years = 1914.
  6. T. Nixon, personal letter to L. Pahl.

 Bibliography:  

Baldwin, J. G., Daniel – an Introduction and Commentary, IVP, 1978.

Ballenger, A. F., Cast out for the Cross of Christ, 1909 (Internet).

Barker, K. L. (ed.), The NIV Study Bible, Hodder and Stoughton, 1985.

Canright, D. M., Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, 1914 (Internet)

Gill, E., The 2300 Day Prophecy – Building on Assumptions, (Internet)

Haugland, J. S., The Shaky Foundation of the 1914 Doctrine, (Internet)

Martin, W., The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House, 1997.

Sears, C. E., Days of Delusion – a Strange Bit of History, 1924 (Internet)