Monday, March 30, 2009

The Cloak of Zeal and Garments of Vengeance

It's interesting that when Paul admonishes the church to put on the whole armor of God, he leaves out two items.

Paul was no doubt drawing his analogy from Isaiah 59:17 which reads, "For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak."

So we see here two of the articles which Paul used in referring to the Armor of God, namely, the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation.

But there are two additional articles that Paul didn't include: the garments of vengeance and the cloak of zeal.

Now we know that vengeance belongs to the Lord (Deut. 32:35, Heb. 10:30, Rom. 12:19) so that explains why the garments of vengeance are not ours to wear, but Christ's alone.

But we as Christians are commanded by Christ to put on the cloak of zeal!

Revelation 3:19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent."

Galatians 4:18, "But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you."

Titus 2:14, "who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works."

But there's another side to zeal...a darker side. Perhaps Paul, wanting to keep on the safe side, left out the cloak of zeal because of it's counterpart, the cloak of ignorant zeal. About this dangerous form of zeal, with which he was sadly very familiar, Paul writes:

Acts 22:3,4, "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women,"

Romans 10:2, "For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."

Galatians 1:14, "And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers."

So, Christians, when putting on the Armor of God, don't forget your cloak of zeal! But be sure it's a zeal according to knowledge.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Christian Obedience

Some say that obedience should be given only from the heart. This idea is false.

It is true that God wants us to follow Him out of love and not out of fear, but does the fact that we don't yet have that love mean we shouldn't follow God? I'll be blunt here, when I say follow God, I am specifically referring to keeping the Ten Commandments.

I say that I will not wait for the feelings to come before I render my obedience to Christ!

Even before I understand, I will follow. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!" and "Not my will, but Yours be done!" (Job 13:15, Luke 22:42)

The proponents of this position, that following God's Law is legalism, say,

"Salvation is through Christ alone, apart from anything we do!"

I agree, and so do other Adventists. We say, "Absolutely! We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and not by works."

They must believe we're lying when we say that, because they go right on saying we're legalists and that we're trying to work our way to heaven.

So when we say that if we're truly saved by grace through faith, God will also give us strength and power to obey Him, they reply "You're denying the sacrifice of Jesus! Trying to earn your way to heaven!"

They say, "By Christ alone, apart from anything we do!" Yet when a Christian tries to be obedient they scream "FOUL!" So, apparently we are saved by our works...our work of abstaining from works! Apparently what we do does have some affect on our salvation.

They will cry, "You're not trusting in Christ!! You won't go to heaven!!"

Based on what? Something we tried to do or abstain from doing? I thought what we did or didn't do had nothing to do with salvation? Make up your mind.

You say our salvation has nothing to do with our works, yet if we try to keep God's Law then we'll lose our salvation. So which is it? Is our salvation dependent on what we do or not?

Read carefully this quote from Steps To Christ, written by Ellen White, a messenger of the Lord:

"Many are inquiring, "How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?" You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair.

What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.

Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.

Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith."

He is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator of heaven and earth! He made us and we should follow His commandments regardless of how we feel or what our motive is! We can't control our heart but we can control our choices.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1)

It is our reasonable service! Who are we to say, "We'll follow You when we feel like it...when our heart agrees with You."

Remember, "You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him." We can choose to serve Him before our heart and affections belong to Him. "You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him." It is only after we give Him our will and choose to serve Him that He works in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. We must submit ourselves to God in order for Him to be able to work in our hearts! How have we gotten things so backwards?

Think on this: in light of the great sacrifice that Christ made to purchase us, His beloved children, how can we willingly choose to commit sin which crucifies Him afresh and puts Him to open shame? (Heb. 6:6)

What did Christ do on Calvary? He bore the sins of the world...the entire world. He took upon Himself every sin you or I have ever committed. As a consequence, He took upon Himself the punishment for every sin you or I have ever committed, are committing, and ever will commit. He took the punishment for every sin ever committed throughout all eternity...past, present and future.

Therefore we see that every sin we continue to commit only heaps on the pain and unspeakable anguish of our Lord and Saviour. Regardless of my heart I will do my utmost to keep from transgressing His Law, I can do no other!

When a Christian comes to Christ and places his trust in Him, will he stop sinning forever? No, we're not so foolish as to think that is the case. We are justified and deemed righteous, and then we are continually sanctified throughout this life until eventually we are glorified at His coming. Praise God.

After we've chosen to follow Him, do we lose our salvation every time we fall? Of course not. "My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1)

If we fall we are covered by the blood of Christ, right?

Yet do we really consider the meaning of that phrase, "covered by the blood of Christ"? For that sin to be covered by the blood of Christ, He must have had to first suffer. Every time we require our sins to be covered by the blood of Christ, we increase His suffering. Even when we don't even realize we're sinning, Christ's suffering and blood is the only reason we can be forgiven and our times of ignorance can be overlooked.

But we have become so familiar with the concept of Christ's atonement that we think of it in terms of going to our earthly father and saying, "Oops, I messed up." At which point he smiles and pulls a few dollars out of his wallet to pay for the damage we've caused. No big deal.

Our heavenly Father does not simply reach into His divine wallet and pull out a few dollars. When we mess up, the only way He can pay for it is with His own blood and agony!

Please God never let us forget what it costs You to save us.

Do not feel disheartened by this message. Please remember that He does it gladly! Each one of us is of infinite value to our Father. Let us always keep our eyes on Christ, "who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross." (Hebrews 12:2) It was a joy for Him to look down through time and see you in His kingdom.

Christ's Love

The depths of Christ's love.

We just can't comprehend. He cries every tear with you...He hurts every second of every day for you!

You are worth more to Him than His own life! You are more precious to Him than the entire world with all its riches.

He loves you so much, and so dearly, that He created you even though if you are lost He will hurt for the rest of eternity as One who has lost His only child!

The Sabbath and Revelation

These are some thoughts I scribbled down yesterday...tell me what you think.

Why isn't the Sabbath specifically mentioned in the book of Revelation?

Some people make a big deal out of this fact. Consider this: If the Sabbath was mentioned in Revelation, Satan would use a different issue to deceive the world.

Even IF the Sabbath wasn't the main issue in the last days, the Bible is still crystal clear that Christians should be obedient in its observance.

Of all the main issues God could have pointed to without specifically mentioning by name, He couldn't have chosen a simpler and more easily understood issue.

The issue has to do with choosing God instead of the beast, right? So that narrows it down to commandments 1-4. Let's look at the options.

What if the first commandment was the issue. How ambiguous and vague can the logic of people make that commandment? What does it really mean to have other gods before God? One could easily confuse the issue.

What about the second commandment? What about idols? Any image of anything? What about pictures? Only if we bow down and serve? What does it mean to serve?

What about the third commandment? Take God's name in vain? His literal name, or any reference to "God"? What does "in vain" mean? Can we take the name of "Christian" in vain?

But the fourth commandment, the Sabbath...simple. Keep it holy! Work six days but don't work on the Sabbath.

Thank God that the issue Satan uses in the last days to try to deceive the entire world, is so simple if we're honest with ourselves.

Monday, March 23, 2009

How Does Ellen White Measure Up?

Below is information I pulled from, where they put Ellen White through the prophetic tests. I'm posting this article as a response to some of the other anti-Ellen White posts that have gone up recently by those who jump to conclusions in the absolute worst possible time to do so...while evaluating a prophet. Regardless, the biblical account of how prophets have been treated is plain: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11,12

Unfortunately, no DNA testing for prophets exists. But there are the biblical criteria that have been outlined for us. Let us now turn our attention to testing the ministry and gifts of Ellen White with our biblically based testing process.

A true prophet’s predictions will “come to pass” (Jeremiah 28:9).

The fulfillments of this test in the ministry of Ellen are many, but one of the most startling may be the 1906 San Francisco/Oakland earthquake. Having received warnings of impending judgment upon the city for many years prior, she had her final and most detailed vision regarding its destruction on April 16, 1906. She saw houses “shaken like a reed in the wind” and buildings falling to the ground. “Pleasure resorts, theaters, hotels, and homes of the wealthy were shaken and shattered. Many lives were blotted out of existence, and the air was filled with the shrieks of the injured and the terrified. … It seemed that the forbearance of God was exhausted, and the judgment day had come.”

Historical accounts reveal that two days later there was no sign of impending doom until 5:12 a.m., when the San Andreas fault slipped over nearly 270 miles, crumbling the very foundations of the city. In its wake, the quake left 490 city blocks in a state of total devastation and more than 225,000 homeless people, along with over 800 dead and 1,500 injured. Several insurance companies went bankrupt trying to meet the claims.

If this was the only example of a prediction fulfilled, we could chalk it up to a lucky guess. But consistently, Ellen’s predictions concerning political, religious, and personal affairs were fulfilled. The exception to this are conditional prophecies, which we will discuss a little later. We’ll also share many more of her incredible visions later too.

For now, what about the other tests?

A true prophet will glorify God rather than himself (John 16:13).

The central theme of Ellen’s writings was The Great Controversy between Christ and Satan. Her efforts were always aimed at bringing people to the matchless grace of Christ. Her famous Conflict of the Ages books begin and end with the phrase “God is love.” She said, “We must gather about the cross. Christ and Him crucified should be the theme of contemplation, of conversation, and of our most joyful emotion.” She added, “Make Christ first and last and best in everything.”

Few communicators of her caliber refrained from taking credit and glory for themselves. In spite of her great accomplishments, Ellen felt a perpetual sense of dependency upon God. Of public speaking, she said, “When I am about to speak to the people … I have such a sense of weakness that it seems like an impossibility to stand before the congregation.” She would then pray, “Jesus, I hang my helpless soul upon Thee; Thou will not suffer me to be brought into confusion.”

A true prophet does not give his own private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20, 21).

Ever a servant of God and man, a true prophet relates information received through revelation, then submits that information to the scrutiny of the body of believers. These believers are to take the prophet’s word and compare it with the Word of God, as did the Bereans of Acts 17. These students both “received the word with all readiness of mind,” and “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Proving the message of Paul by comparing it with scripture was part of the process of incorporating his teaching into the church.

Similarly, Ellen called believers to a decision concerning her writings: “My work … bears the stamp of God or the stamp of the enemy. There is no halfway work in the matter. The Testimonies [“the testimonies” was the term she often used for her writings, especially counsels to the church] are of the Spirit of God, or of the devil.” She went on to admonish believers to apply the same test to her messages as they would apply to any: “If the Testimonies speak not according to the word of God, reject them.” Truly Ellen’s ministry bears the evidence of accountability toward both God and man.

A true prophet points out sin (Isaiah 30:10).

In a warning to Judah, Isaiah pointed out one of their sins. “The rebellious people ... which say … to the prophets, Prophecy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits.” It is our natural bent to want to hear soothing assurances from the lips of religious leaders. Paul told Timothy that the time would come when [even church members] will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3,4).

From the outset of her ministry, Ellen knew that she would be asked to deliver messages of reproof to many. Not only did her shyness make this an excruciating task, but she was often estranged from those who preferred denial. It was such times she said, “The unpleasant duty has been laid upon me to reprove wrongs and to reveal hidden sins.”

A true prophet warns of coming judgment (Isaiah 24:20, 21).

Not only did Ellen White warn of the destruction of San Francisco and Oakland, but other large cities such as Chicago. She also warned of judgments on her own church’s institutions for unchristian practices, such as publishing degrading literature.

A true prophet edifies the church (1 Corinthians 14:3, 4).

A perusal of her writings reveal that the bulk of them were counsels for the church. Her 5,274 page, nine-volume series called Testimonies for the Church consist of “advice, visions and counsel dealing with institutional development, church organization, home and foreign mission endeavors, social and health reforms, etc.”

Teaming her gifts with the administrative knowledge of her husband, she helped nurture a denomination that grew in her lifetime from a handful of scattered followers to a total of 136,879 members attending 3,876 churches.

A true prophet’s message harmonizes with the Bible (Isaiah 8:20).

Each of her books has literally hundreds of scriptural references. The Scripture Index to 77 of her principal books, not counting periodical articles, contains approximately 30,000 references. Her writings are to the Bible what a state map is to a national map. They agree with the Word without merely reiterating it. In some areas, her writings provide additional detail for present-day application. This is done in such a way as to reinforce, rather than detract from, the message of Scripture.

Another helpful analogy of her writings flows from her own pen. She called her writings “a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light.” This analogy has been experienced by countless seekers who are led to understand and revere the Word of God through her writings.

A true prophet teaches that Jesus came in the flesh (1 John 4:1-3).

Of Jesus’ incarnation, Ellen’s own words are: “[God] gave [Jesus] not only to bear our sins, and to die as our sacrifice; He gave Him to the fallen race. To assure us of His immutable counsel of peace, God gave His only-begotten Son to become one of the human family, forever to retain His human nature.”

A true prophet has a Christian character (Matthew 7:16-20).

The New York “Independent” published the following at the time of Ellen White’s death in 1915: “She was absolutely honest in her belief in her revelations. Her life was worthy of them. She showed no spiritual pride and she sought no filthy lucre. She lived the life and did the work of a worthy prophetess.”

A coworker of 23 years described her thus: “Mrs. White’s life far transcends the life of anyone I have ever known or with whom I have been associated. She was uniformly pleasant, cheerful and courageous. She was never careless, flippant, or in any way cheap in conversation or manner of life. She was the personification of serious earnestness regarding the things of the kingdom. I never once heard her boast of the gracious gift God had bestowed upon her, or of the marvelous results of her endeavors.”

A true prophet is obedient to the will of God (Deuteronomy 18:18).

Before Ellen White received her first vision, Hazen Foss was called to the prophetic ministry. Foss hesitated to obey, dreading the ridicule and rejection such a life would entail. His disobedience persisted through a second vision from God. Fearing that he had grieved away the Spirit, he called a meeting to relate the first vision, but his mind was blank. Finally he said, “It is gone from me; I can say nothing, the Spirit of the Lord has left me.”

Some time later, Mr. Foss was witness to Ellen’s ministry and recognized that the gift had been passed on to her. He pled, “The Lord gave me a message to bear to His people. And I refused after being told the consequences; I was proud; I was unreconciled to the disappointment.” He went on to say that he believed he was a lost man.

Ellen’s willing obedience to the call of God wasn’t without a struggle. When first called to travel, she said, “It seemed impossible for me to perform this work … the trials attending it seemed more than I could endure … I coveted death as a release from the responsibilities that were crowding upon me … despair again pressed upon my soul.” Finally, through prayer and counsel, she surrendered to the will of her heavenly Father, and began her lifework as God’s messenger.

How to Test the Prophets...Biblically

Below is an article by Angel Manuel Rodriguez at the Biblical Research Institute. I'm posting this article as a response to some of the other anti-Ellen White posts that have gone up recently by those who jump to conclusions in the absolute worst possible time to do so...while evaluating a prophet. Regardless, the biblical account of how prophets have been treated is plain: "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matthew 5:11,12

Prophets, True and False
Ángel Manuel Rodríguez

How does one tell the difference between true and false prophets?
It is good to look at a Bible topic such as this in order to realize how little we can say about it. The Old Testament highlights the constant conflict between false prophets and the prophets of the Lord. Distinguishing between them in the past was difficult, but it had to be done. The Israelites asked the Lord, "How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?" (Deut. 18:21). John wrote to the church, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). Since this topic is very important, the Lord gave His people some guidance.

1. Fulfilled Prophecies: Moses told the Israelites: "When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken" (Deut. 18:22; cf. Jer. 28:8, 9). At first glance this is a good test, yet it is often difficult to apply. In order to know whether someone is a true prophet, we have to wait for the fulfillment of the prophecy he or she spoke about. In order to help their hearers, prophets sometimes gave within their long-term prophecies a short-term one that was quickly fulfilled (Jer. 28:16, 17). Yet the predictions of a false prophet could also be fulfilled (Deut. 13:1, 2). This suggests that this test is not sufficient, in itself, to know whether a prophet is from God.

2. Correct Theology: This test assumes that people had already received messages from the Lord and that they were able to use them to grade new revelations. For example, since God's law prohibits worshipping idols, a prophet who led others to worship other gods would be a false prophet (Deut. 13:2). The message from a new prophet had to agree with God's former revelations (Isa. 30:8). The people hearing the new revelation had to have a deep personal knowledge of God's Word. This allowed them to use that knowledge to test the truthfulness of the new revelation. In the New Testament God's revelation through Jesus became the central test, with the written Word, to show whether a prophet was true (1 John 4:2, 3; John 17:17). Although this test is more difficult to falsify, it can be falsified. The apostle Paul wrote about "false apostles . . . transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:13, 14). Yet those who know the truth as it is in Jesus will not be deceived.

3. Ethical Test: False prophets do not live up to the God's laws and do not clearly speak out against sin. The prophet Ezekiel accused false prophets, "You have strengthened the hands of the wicked, so that he does not turn from his wicked way to save his life" (Eze. 13:22). False prophets were also arrogant (2 Peter. 2:18), deceitful (Acts 13:6-10), and often preached only for pay (2 Peter. 2:3, 13). Their lives were not in line with God's revealed word. People can give the impression of being holy, even saying all the right things, yet Jesus said they are like wolves dressed in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15).

4. By Their Fruit: Jesus Himself established this test. He said: "You will know them by their fruits. . . . Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit" (Matt. 7:16, 17). It is close to the third test, but it goes beyond it by asking, What are the results of the ministry of a person who claims to be a prophet? Does his or her ministry build up the church? This test requires time, but lies and deception are sooner or later revealed. We have to be open to the possibility that God still speaks to us through His prophets. But in order to identify a true prophet we should know and understand the Scriptures. We should use God's inspired Word to test the teachings and the lifestyle of the person who claims to be a true prophet. Finally, we should not hastily accept somebody's claims. We must allow time for the actions of the new prophet to show what kind of person he or she is. Testing the spirits takes time, prayer, and knowledge of what God has already revealed to us.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Free Sermons

I just wanted to write a post reminding everyone how incredibly awesome Audioverse is!

I've already downloaded like 4 days worth of sermons from I mean around 100 hours worth...and that's just the beginning.

Audioverse is a website started by people from GYC (Generation of Youth for Christ) where they post up free audio (and some video) from their various conferences with their wide variety of guest speakers and topics. These sermons are top-notch. They are available in low, medium, and high quality audio format which means that if you have a dial-up connection you can just download the low quality without it taking too long.

The best part is that it's all 100% free! Just spreading God's word.

So, if you love to listen to sermons and be blessed by different God-centered messages, visit

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Today at Church

So today at church my buddy John preached on Jonah. Good stuff but didn't really hit home with me personally.

The guys at Sabbath school began talking about things like how all churches should face west, like Daniel prayed to the west, and that a church facing east was somehow related to worshiping the sun. God help our church.

Another thing they were talking about was how vital it was in these days not to eat meat, and that anyone who hadn't cut meat completely out of their diet would not be translated. Apparently there is a passage in SOP that says something along those lines. They went on about this for like 10 minutes.

Come on, we know Daniel was praying toward the west because that was toward where the temple had been in Jerusalem. They knew that too, but still there was this strange emphasis. As for the may well be that those of us still in the remnant after the shaking will all be eating a simple diet without meat...but is that really the point? It's certainly not the vegetarian diet that is going to save anyone, so why give it such undue focus? Where is the focus on Christ and His death on the cross...and His unsearchable love yearning for us to accept His grace?

Our faith in Christ is what will save us. It may indeed be that He will work in us to stop eating meat as we near His coming, but if we haven't placed our true faith and trust in Him in the first place we're going to be lost regardless of what we eat. This is what Christ meant when He said "Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man." (Matt 15:11) There is no saving power in our diet. God help our church.

I was reading my Bible during Sabbath school and this is the passage that Christ brought me to, and had me stay and focus on:

"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." (James 3:17)

That's a beautiful verse, and the entire passage of James 3:13-18 is so rich with blessings if we meditate on it. Perhaps I'll do a post looking at this passage in the future. We'll see.

My favorite part at church today was singing Hymn #448, "O, When Shall I See Jesus"! That is such an uplifting hymn and it made my spirit soar.

Happy Sabbath :-)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Adventist World" Letter

The following letter appeared in the Adventist World magazine, March 2009 NAD edition.

"I am both surprised and appalled that there is still an element in our beloved church that refuses to accept the decision voted twice by the General Conference world leaders, that we as a body will not ordain women. There has been local leadership that has ignored the decision. However, it was and is a policy that should not be ignored. Rather, it should be adhered to and put behind us so we may be focused on our mission, spreading the three angels' messages and not disintegrating from within, as several of the other denominations are doing today.

I was not surprised that the contributor failed to mention that Ellen White refused ordination. She must have had a very good reason. It is high time we got it right and got focused on our real work and quit challenging the work of our leadership!

Ed Meyers
Boise, Idaho"

You said it, Ed! I'll be featuring a post in the near future regarding ordination of women. It's a hot topic and I hope everyone will continue to show Christ's love to me even if they don't agree.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Adventist/Catholic Dialogue On Death

The following is a very interesting and enjoyable dialogue between myself and a Catholic brother who also has a blog. The original content is from a post entitled "Who Continued Creating" regarding Christ's death. As you'll see, we delve into some extremely fascinating topics regarding the theological ramifications that one's belief concerning the state-of-the-dead has on one's view of Christ's death and resurrection. Enjoy!

Thomas' Original Comment-

"Interestingly, in your brief thoughts laid out here, you have also just answered the question of how the dead can be conscious after death. When we die perhaps we slip into that realm where time no longer has a grasp on us. It could be argued that the dead can see the Resurrection already before them - seemingly in a moment they have experienced new life - though to us who are left behind here on earth, time marches on. It is a matter of perspective.

The dead are outside of time and can see time from a new perspective. This is why Jesus could tell the thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

Perhaps the dead can view time from the outside looking in - sort of a "window" on time. They can see us, and can know our needs and wants. God can allow this, as He is the Master of all time and space. This is how the dead are able to offer our prayers to God like incense, as in the Book of Revelation. This is why Moses and Elijah could appear with Jesus in the Transfiguration - God can allow them to step through the window of time.

This is also why Jesus could tell the parable of the rich man who wished to warn his brothers of their impending doom. Why would Jesus tell a parable that reflects a FALSE view of death? It makes much more sense that Jesus would reflect TRUTH in his teachings. If the dead man could see his brothers and be conscious of them, then there must be some time/space alteration when we die.

If the dead can offer our prayers, or can appear with Jesus beyond the grave, or experience "paradise" as though it is "today," then time and space must be different when we are dead.

Just as Jesus, after death, could be both "asleep in death" and yet remain the sustainer of creation, so too can those who have died be both asleep and alive in Christ. God is the God of the living not the dead. So who are we to say what that new life is like?

I understand that your immediate response will be, "Just read what I have already posted on this subject." ...Well, I have read that post. But what I am saying is that you are still left with your question above: How can Jesus be "asleep" and yet remain the Sustainer of Creation? If Jesus truly experienced death (which I believe He did) then we must explain death in different terms than your Adventist church seems to explain it. Something is wrong with a "sleeping" death if it means that Jesus ceases to be who He is. However, if we allow that death itself entails a time/space alteration then we have opened up the necessity to re-interpret what you posted about death previously. Perhaps the "sleep" theory relies to heavily on how we perceive time here on earth and doesn't take into consideration God's view of time, and our sharing of God's life after death."

My Initial Response -

"Our difference is this: I don't believe we will ever be outside of time, as God is. If we were outside of time after death, we would then be omnipresent, for we could then be all places at once in the view of those "within time" if we were no longer restricted by time.

This is not my only reason, though, for believing that those attributes belong to God alone. There are also the passages in Isaiah which speak of the redeemed gathering together from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath to worship God...which to me shows that we, as created beings, are always within the confines of time and space.

But regardless of that fact, for the one who dies and ceases to exist, or sleeps in the grave, as some like to say, it will be as a split second before we open our eyes in the resurrection. They will not be conscious of any passage of time. As you said, it is only to those of us who remain here on earth that it seems like they have been gone for so long.

I don't find any Scriptural evidence for praying to anyone other than God. He is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent...surely He does not need help hearing or answering the prayers. On the contrary, the Bible is clear that God Himself always hears our prayers.

One important thing to remember about parables is that they are designed primarily to teach one truth. If we read into them and try to make doctrines of all the various parts and place meaning where none is intended, we "wrest the Scriptures to our own destruction."

The rich man and Lazarus was certainly not told by Jesus with the intention of explaining what happens when we die. I may write a post on this parable, as it is an interesting one.

Certainly all the saved aren't in Abraham's chest cavity...and certainly they cannot look over and see wicked people burning in agony, let alone have conversations with them...certainly a single drop of water on a burning man's tongue would be of no comfort...and probably most importantly, we cannot ignore the hundreds of Bible verses which show that the dead are "sleeping in their graves", "know nothing", "all their thoughts, love, hate, etc have perished", the "dead don't praise God", the dead "wait in the grave until the resurrection", the dead "have no more portion in anything done under the sun", etc. etc.

To arrive at a correct understanding of any Bible truth, we must get all the Bible passages on the subject, and look at the big picture...when we do that, things become very clear, and parables such as the rich man and Lazarus can be seen for their true meaning.

For me the answer to the question of how Jesus can be in the grave and yet be the sustainer of all things is simple...He is God. :-)

With God all things are possible.

If there is one thing that the state of the dead doctrine relies too heavily on, it is Bible texts. For I must admit...our human minds can come up with all kinds of neat ideas about what happens when you die, but if we listen to the plethora of Bible verses on the subject, we must come to the conclusion that the dead are in the grave until the resurrection.

I do enjoy reading about your point of view, though. Keep 'em coming. :-)"

Thomas' Second Comment -

""I don't find any Scriptural evidence for praying to anyone other than God. He is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent...surely He does not need help hearing or answering the prayers."

Just to clarify...when Catholics "pray" to saints, we ask the saints to pray on our behalf - to pray WITH us - we do not pray TO the saints. It is no different than asking any living fellow Christian to pray with you. If God hears all of our prayers, then why would you ask fellow Christians (living or dead) to pray with you? Simple, because it is not a matter going to other Christians INSTEAD of God, rather it is going to God WITH other Christians - a heavenly prayer circle.

My main point is this: I am certain you have many Biblical texts that back up your conclusion about the dead being unconscious or non-existent...but just as you pointed out certain elements of Scripture (in the parables, for instance) should not be taken too literally, I too would say that things like "from sabbath to sabbath" and "from new moon to new moon" should not be taken as literal markings of time. They could be metaphors. And perhaps "sleep" does not mean that the dead are REALLY unconscious from their own perspective, but rather they are only "asleep" from OUR perspective. Those of us who are left here in this life experience their death as a "going to sleep." The Bible uses this analogy to describe a certain perspective of death. But even Jesus said that God is the God of the LIVING, when referring to the Patriarchs. The Patriarchs are dead, yet they are also alive. It depends on your perspective.

All of this is very interesting, but it is just you and I going round and round about who is interpreting correctly. When it comes down to it, we won't convince each other based on the "Bible Alone." We each have a different way of interpreting the Bible, and it is that interpretation and not the BIBLE that is the question. It is a matter of two competing "systems" of interpretation. This is why I like to study the history of these doctrines to discover whether they can be traced to ancient sources.

Anyway, you are still left with a problem...Either Jesus really did die and experienced an unconscious death (as you define death) and so ceased to be the Sustainer of Creation, or He did not really die, He experienced something other than death, remaining conscious, and so his passion was a farce in that respect."

Thomas' Third Comment -

"Allow me to clarify...

To begin with, let us say that you are correct. Let's assume that "death" is a state of unconsciousness. Let's put aside any other doctrinal differences you and I might have about saints or time/space awareness or anything else, and let's just say that "death" is exactly what Adventists claim it to be...When someone experiences death they go unconscious (or cease to exist...or however you understand that to be). Death means that the person ceases to be a conscious being.

Now we are faced with passages such as this..."...he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:8)It would seem that being "obedient to death" would mean to subject oneself to the reality of death. And the reality of death is that it is an unconscious state, or to be put out of existence altogether. To say otherwise is to say that Jesus was NOT obedient to death. He did not really "die."

If Jesus is God (which I assume you believe in the doctrine of the Trinity), and Jesus really did die which the Scriptures say He did, then we must say that God ceased to be God when Jesus died... That is, if death means what you say it means, then when Jesus died the Son of God stopped being God and went dormant or out of existence completely.

That pretty much sums up your initial post. You have stated the dilemma that is present in the Adventist position. But rather than question the doctrine itself you defend your position by simply saying, "Well, all things are possible with God."

So what does that mean?

Does it mean that Jesus did not experience death the same way that you and I do? Well then, that means that the Scripture is false when it says that Jesus was "obedient to death." It means that Jesus did NOT experience death at all. He experienced something different than death - some altered version of death. He was not obedient to death, but obedient to some pseudo-death - He did not follow through in His obedience nor did He experience the death that He came to conquer. How could He conquer that which He never faced?

This possible "alternative version" of death may in theory preserve Jesus' divinity, but it creates a huge problem for the Adventist position. It calls into question the reality of Jesus' Passion and death...

Either way, this one doctrine seems to conflict with the bigger issue of the person Jesus, the Son of God, and what His life and death means to us. When that happens, when a core precept of Christianity is challenged by a minor doctrine, it seems the wise thing to do would be to explore a different way of understanding your notion of death.

Please understand that I am not attacking the Bible in any of this. You and I both use the Bible to arrive at our conclusions. But the Bible can be interpreted to mean a great many things. What matters is whether it is being interpreted correctly. You yourself admit that some passages should be interpreted literally and other figuratively (like Jesus' parables, for instance). The problem is that many people disagree on how that should be - what is literal and what is not. If you believe that the Adventist Church has cornered the market on biblical interpretation it is no different than when any other church claims to do the same thing...including the Catholic Church, I might add. We ALL believe that we "got it right." And we believe we got there with biblical passages to back it up. I don't blame you for that.

So we could go round and round over who is right or wrong...but it is all based on interpretation, and these things can differ. The only reason I posted is to point out that your original post is right on the money about the Adventist problem with death. It seems to contradict Christianity itself. It seems to be a glaring problem with Adventism. I would explore this doctrine further if I were you and see who first proposed it, see if it is an ancient Christian belief or a modern invention. I'm sure the Scriptures seem to back it up, but when the doctrine seems to challenge Jesus' Sonship or the reality of His death that would be a huge red flag to me."

My Second Response -

"In regard to the first of your two recent replies, I just want to clarify my position about the Scriptures.

"but just as you pointed out certain elements of Scripture (in the parables, for instance) should not be taken too literally"

When I say that parts of Scripture should not be taken literally, I mean a very narrow portion of Scriptures...mainly parables. I think it is very dangerous to take this fact further than absolutely other words, I believe Scriptures should be taken literally unless there is an obvious reason not to. So, the majority of Scripture should, in my view, be taken quite literally.

So I cannot take the numerous Scriptures referencing death as sleep and the state-of-the-dead and say that they should not be taken literally.

In reply to your second post...

For a certainty the Scriptures are clear that Jesus did die, and He was raised back to life. Those two facts must remain the solid foundation.

So, since I believe the Scriptures which say that death is essentially ceasing to exist, that is exactly what I believe Jesus did. I believe He died. Then...on the third day, He was raised again! :-) (That's an "amen!" moment)

The argument you posed is interesting because it's almost identical to the argument that I believe causes such a problem for those who believe we suffer in hell forever. It goes like this:

If the wages of sin isn't death, as the Bible claims, but instead burning throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity...if that is the wages of sin...then Christ did not pay the full cost...since He would have had to burn in hell forever to take our place.

Again, I want to reiterate that I believe the vast majority of Scripture should be taken literally, at face value, unless there is a clear and obvious reason not to. The only instance I can think of when we shouldn't take the Bible literally, is in parables and in prophetic visions which are full of symbolism, such as Daniel's visions and the book of Revelation, etc.

In my mind this fact doesn't lessen Christ's sacrifice or His divinity, but on the contrary, like I mentioned before, this biblical view of death makes it possible that Christ did pay the full wages of sin, which is death, and not burning in hell forever.

Rest assured, I will study this doctrine even more carefully, paying special attention to Christ's death and resurrection. :-)"

Thomas' Fourth Comment -

"I do apologize for going on so much…but I find this so fascinating. Thank you for indulging me...

You wrote: "I believe Scriptures should be taken literally unless there is an obvious reason not to."

I would agree to that premise. I guess we would differ on what that "obvious reason" might be. To me this issue of Christ's death is an "obvious reason" that we should at least consider some alternative interpretation as to what "death" means. (In other words, Adventists may have it wrong, and in having it wrong it may jeopardize your understanding of Christ’s divinity. And that would certainly be a “serious” reason.)

You also wrote: "If the wages of sin isn't death, as the Bible claims, but instead burning throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity...if that is the wages of sin...then Christ did not pay the full cost..."

Whoever said that the wages of sin is NOT death? I think you assume too much about non-Adventist doctrine. The wages of sin IS death (I am not denying that Biblical fact); and Jesus paid that price…He died! …But the question still remains WHAT is death. Is it an unconscious state where we are snuffed out of existence (in which case the Son of God ceased to be) or is it a conscious state where we still experience something?

If it is an unconscious state then the Adventists are right and Jesus ceased to be God when He died - He in fact went out of existence altogether, as you say – which means the Son of God was nonexistent for three days. That is a false doctrine by any standard of authentic Christian belief. God cannot stop existing or change His nature as God. He is eternal and unchanging.

So death must not be a cessation of existence…Unless you want to claim that Jesus did not REALLY experience death (which would then challenge core Christian doctrine on Jesus’ Passion). Either way you have a problem.

If however, death is a conscious state, and we do not cease to exist, then what do the dead experience? Perhaps they experience union with God and with all of the saints in Heaven? …But what if you reject God and Jesus and salvation…then what do you experience. Are you snuffed out then? Perhaps. Or perhaps that is where all of this “hellfire” comes in. We can leave that an open question for now.

Let me offer a larger view of what I am saying. I’ll summarize one possible interpretation of “death” and what Jesus’ death means. I’ll start from the beginning…

We go through our whole lives isolated from one another. We are separated by our physical and spiritual limitations: we have separate bodies, we are limited by space and time, we are limited by our experiences, we may be rejected by others, or abused, and so on, all of these things drive a wedge between us and our fellow man. We are also isolated from God and from His Grace. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden we have been cut off from God and we have had antagonism between one another.

What God wants is to bring us into Communion with Him and with each other, thus Jesus calls us to love one another and to love God above all else – LOVE conquers the isolation and division that mankind suffers from. When we open ourselves to Jesus and God’s love He can repair our fallen state; He can heal our isolation from Him and from one another.

Now what is death? Death is the penalty for sin (just as you say). Death is the ultimate isolation. It is a cutting off from all others. We experience tastes of this isolation in this life (we experience a certain isolation as I described above), but death is the final wage of sin. When we die we are cut off completely from God and from one another. That does not mean that we cease to exist. It means we experience consciously this extreme sense of isolation. It is a radical sense of being cast out and abandoned. And there is no way any mere human can overcome this isolation that death brings about. We cannot conquer death on our own.

Jesus came to earth as God-made-flesh. He is a man, and being a man He chose to experience death just as we do and He confronted this feeling of isolation that death brings about. He did conscious spiritual battle with death. BUT…and this is huge…Jesus is also God…and God is LOVE. When pure divine LOVE enters into the place of utter isolation that is death….what happens? Death is conquered!!! (There’s your Amen moment ;) )

The wages of sin is certainly death. But death is not a snuffing out of existence. Death is utter isolation and hopelessness (sometimes described as unquenchable fire or being shut out from the wedding feast or other metaphors). God brings us hope by shedding the light of Christ’s Love into the dark place of death. Death is transformed from the inside out.

Now, because of Jesus, when one dies with Christ, one finds LOVE waiting on the other side. Death looses its sting.

(I might add…. You argue that Jesus did not pay the full price because He did not suffer hell eternally. Well He was also not snuffed out eternally. So if it is the “eternal” part that you take issue with, then your doctrine suffers from the same problem. Wouldn’t it make more sense if Jesus went out of existence and then never came back? Isn’t THAT what death was all about before He came? Wouldn’t THAT be taking on the FULL penalty of death?)

(Also I must note that what I gave as one possible interpretation is NOT the OFFICIAL Catholic position. It is ONLY ONE theologians attempt at an explanation. And this theory has its Catholic critics. The Catholic Church actually allows for private interpretation as long as one’s private views do not conflict with core doctrine or that you do not force your view on others.)"

My Last Response -

"No need to apologize, I quite enjoy the dialogue! I'm just glad that you don't get angry and frusterated like so many tend to do when talking theology with those whose views differ greatly.

This is the first thought that came to mind when I read your post:

The first lie in the Bible was told by Satan, and it is very revealing. As his first lie to the human race, we can learn a little about one of the main deceptions he uses today.

It's found in Genesis 3:4, "Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die' "

Interesting that Satan told Eve that she wouldn't really die.

Now, oddly enough, worldly people define death MORE correctly that most church members. For worldly people say that death means death.

Webster's defines "death" as: "Extinction of life."

Cambridge defines "death" as: "The end of life."

Yet the devil has implanted this idea within the churches that says, "When you die, you don't REALLY go on living in a different form."

The last part of Satan's first lie was this: "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

It's amazing how similar that sounds to what most churches teach today...that when we die, we don't really die, but instead our eyes are opened, we become a spirit similar to God and we somehow know good and evil.

The truth is that only God truly knows good and evil, and He has to tell us what is good and what is evil.

Like you said, it seems to come down to what we consider "death." But I still ask the question, if the wages of sin is death, and death means burning in hell forever, then how could Christ have paid the full price if He only "died" for three days?

I don't see Adventist's belief that death really means death somehow jeopardizes the divinity of Christ. To me, it only amplifies His love, that He was willing to die, really die, for you and me.

That was a good "Amen moment"! I couldn't help but have a big smile on my face as I read your account of Christ conquering death...good stuff!

I see what you're saying in regards to the eternal aspect of the wages of sin. But I don't believe it's the "eternal" part that is the wages of sin, it's "death...period."

What I mean is that it doesn't matter how long you cease to exist, it's the fact that you've been destroyed...perished. So Christ paid the full penalty, He died, or perished, on our behalf. The amazing miracle that we can't fathom is that Christ, as you said, conquered death and was raised again!

How do Catholics interpret passages like John 3:16 which say that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life?

If we lived forever separated from God, wouldn't that still be everlasting life? And does "perish" not really mean perish but, instead, living forever separated from God?

Like you, I must note that I'm surely no trained theologian of the Adventist I may not always say what a real theologian would...these are only my personal thoughts.

One thing that I appreciate is that regardless of what we believe about what happens when we die, if we abide in Christ while we're here and follow the light He's revealed to us, we'll just be happy to make it to heaven, regardless of the things we didn't have quite right. :-)"

So, I hope you've been blessed by this peek into the theological musings of a Seventh-day Adventist and a Roman Catholic.

A Response to a Spectrum Magazine Article

The following is a response I posted on an article over at Spectrum Magazine, a very worldly Adventist website.

Ok...there's a lot here to talk about. As a fundamental Adventist I am in opposition to much of the content of this post. That being said, I'm in favor of the loving attitude toward the homosexual community, as we're called to love all mankind.

"We received a few emails from LGBT students on campus, sharing that we had offered them some hope for returning to church."

Firstly, was this "hope for returning to church" because they feel that you were accepting and condoning their lifestyle? If so, you've done them a great disservice. If you love them, help them to see that living a homosexual lifestyle is a sin and will eventually destroy their souls.

Secondly, what does the term "returning to church" entail? Does it mean being official members of the church even though continually and unabashedly living a sinful lifestyle? I am in agreement with Pastors who refuse to baptize someone who chooses not to quit smoking, so you can imagine my response to baptizing someone who chooses not to quit a homosexual lifestyle.

We should accept everyone in the church, including those who refuse to give up a sinful lifestyle, but we should not baptize them as members until they decide to surrender to Christ's will.

That all being said, we are all sinners and all fall into various temptations and trials...but that is a very different story than purposefully choosing to continue in a sin.

"One theology student wore a self-made tee-shirt the next day partially quoting 1 Corinthians 6:9: “Do not be deceived…homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.” No one asked him to change his shirt."

Do you really endorse taking away some one's freedom of speech? Would you actually have preferred that someone made this kid change his shirt? That's scary. Aren't you happy that the campus, though hopefully opposed to the practice of homosexuality, let's you conduct these discussions where viewpoints are voiced that are obviously opposed by many Adventists? Isn't it fair that those whose views differ from yours should be allowed to make their statements as well, whether it be in a large group discussion or on their T-shirt?

Secondly, does the fact that the Scripture was partially quoted change the meaning of the portion that is quoted? Of course not, it only cuts out the portions that aren't being debated. In its entirety it reads, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God." Does the fact that the Bible says that homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God change whether we list the whole passage? No. But indeed, anyone who does not repent (confess, sorrowfully, and turn away from) of these sins will not make it to heaven, whether idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards...whatever your sin of choice happens to be.

"David Ferguson, Fritz Guy and David Larson edited the book Christianity and Homosexuality: Some Seventh-day Adventist Perspectives, in which both John Jones and Fritz Guy argued that the church should not look on all forms of homosexuality as sinful, but should affirm and embrace same-sex couples."

Wow. I know it shouldn't, but it STILL shocks me to hear how some in the Adventist church can so blatantly oppose God's plain word. That's like saying that 'if some one's having sex outside of marriage but they plan on staying together forever, no problem. We should affirm and embrace them. We shouldn't tell them that they are living in sin and if they don't repent from that sin they will perish.' Condoning sin is NOT loving the sinner. If we love them we should encourage them to turn away from sin and towards Christ.

"several faculty members (including Fritz Guy, John R. Jones and Sam Leonor) at La Sierra endorsed “Adventist Against Prop 8.”"

Firstly, I'm saddened that Sam Leanor took that position, from watching "Hey Everybody" it seemed like he has his stuff together.

Secondly, I have a post regarding the Adventist position on Prop 8 at where I talk about the ramifications of Adventists going against prop 8.

"One faculty member at La Sierra, when talking to me about the prospect of a discussion like that at LSU, said, “I doubt many students here would give a damn.”"

Does it concern you at all to hear Christians using language like that? Does it ever raise a red flag?

"If we worship the same God, then surely we realize that we cannot carry out the mission of God as the body of Christ if this body is divided. But no, Christ is not divided."

Ellen White is clear that there will indeed be a dividing in the church..."the shaking" as she called it, when all those within the church who oppose the truth will leave because of the persecution.

Like I said in the beginning, I am a traditional Adventist, probably because I have only been an Adventist for 4 years. I hope you'll apply your tolerance to me and my fundamental Adventist views as readily as you apply it to homosexuals. :-)

Todd G. (

Monday, March 16, 2009

Desmond Ford and Questions on Doctrine

As you may already know I have only been a Seventh-day Adventist for 4 years and so I am not "in the know" about all of the wars that have been fought within the confines of the Adventist church.

The Saints Aren't All Saints...

As is the case with many people who come into the Adventist church after God revealing such an enormous amount of truth in their lives, when I came into the church I sort of expected that members of the remnant church I was joining would be these bright shining super-Christians, all full of truth and love and sanctification. After all, any group that was aware of all these profound and beautiful Bible truths must certainly be full of saints. But, as Jim Hohnberger says, "Not all the saints are saints." I have to smile as I write that quote, for what I found when I joined the Seventh-day Adventist church was that it was like any other church in regards to its members, with plenty of knit-picking, criticism, gossip, divisions, sects, etc. etc..

...But They're Still The Remnant

Yet, there is still one thing that sets the Adventist church apart from all other churches: the Truth. The pure, unadulterated, unabashed, naked truth. A truth not come upon by happenstance or by the study of a single man or woman. Instead, the truth as revealed by genuinely God-led study of the Bible by a group of Christians from various denominations who all put their doctrines on the altar of Scriptures to examine them together. What emerged from these series of Bible studies, around 24 sessions in a 2 year period after the great disappointment, was plain Bible truth. God was creating His remnant church, for the end-times had begun. As perhaps the ultimate sign, the gift of prophecy was given to this inspired movement in the person of Ellen White, who confirmed and clarified many of the truths the group had come to through their many lengthy and in-depth Bible studies.

My Introduction To Controversy

Oh yeah, back to the point. Some time ago I had happened upon a set of sermons by a late pastor named Frank B. Phillips. They were very interesting and focused mainly on one grand theme: Righteousness by Faith. Somewhere in his sermons he referenced a book by A.G. Daniells called Christ Our Righteousness which explored the light God revealed to the 1888 Conference in Minneapolis. This message had a very mixed reception by Adventists. Some were indifferent and said, "That's old news, we already know about righteousness by faith," while others were threatened by the message and said, "We cannot remove our focus from the Law of God," and still others accepted the message with their whole heart. Ellen White herself commented a number of times that this message was present truth and should be preached and taken to heart.

Anyway, I was curious about the details of what happened at that 1888 Conference and purchased the book. This was my first introduction to controversy within the church.

The Plot Thickens

Recently, I had downloaded a couple sermons by Herbert Douglass from Audioverse because he left a comment on this blog and I wanted to hear what kind of a message he had. I was thoroughly blessed by his messages, one of which mentioned Desmond Ford and the battle that took place in the early 80's (?). So I did a quick Google search of Desmond Ford and found a little of the story, but not much. I intended to look into the controversy more at a later time.

Then I was listening to a sermon by Stephen Bohr, also downloaded from Audioverse, in which he mentions this guy named Dale Ratzliff whose sole purpose in this life is to destroy the Adventist church he was once a part of. So I did a quick Google search of Dale Ratzliff and found a whole lot of wrong theology attacking Adventist doctrine. This guy's story isn't worth looking at for me since it's just another "Came out of _____ church and now spend all my waking moments attacking that former church instead of focusing on Christ." What is interesting about Dale Ratzliff's story is the chain of events that led up to it. He, and those like him, are the "fruit" of what started with the book Questions on Doctrine, and progressed to the apostasy of Desmond Ford, and ends with the worldliness we see permeating every level of the Adventist church today. Those who apostatize and the doctrines they hold (which are also held by some who remain in the church) are the inevitable result of the very subtle errors introduced by the book Questions on Doctrine.

Long story short there is a new sermon on Audioverse entitled The Apostasy of Desmond Ford which I saw and downloaded. Good stuff! The guy who gave the sermon, Norman Mcnulty I think was his name, gave much more of the unbelievable Desmond Ford story and also some reference to this book that came out in the 50's (?) called Questions on Doctrine, which apparently caused huge theological shifts away from fundamental Adventism. Anyway, I'm going to download the other sermon by this guy where he talks specifically about The History of Questions on Doctrine.

So there's two things I'd like to investigate further to make sure I have the full story:

1.) Desmond Ford's overt attack on Adventist doctrines, and
2.) The book Questions on Doctrine's more subtle attack on Adventist doctrines.

After I get through with a little more research on this subject I'm going to put together a post or two about Desmond Ford and Questions on Doctrine. It's pretty interesting stuff.

Since landing on the Adventist blogosphere a few months ago I have been constantly surprised by the departure from fundamental Adventist theology that I had learned before I joined the it's starting to make a little more sense. Truly, the shaking must be near at hand.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Do Other Worlds Have The Sabbath?

The Background

The Bible seems to be clear that the Sabbath was created for man on the Seventh day of creation.

"And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." - Genesis 2:2,3

"And He said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.' " - Mark 2:27,28

The Bible also seems clear that there are other inhabited worlds that God created.

"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds." - Hebrews 1:1,2

"Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them." - Job 1:6

"Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD." - Job 2:1

So the Bible says that Jesus created worlds, and in Job we find the heads of these worlds coming before God as well as Satan coming as the head of this world, a position originally given to Adam.

"Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, 'All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.' " - Luke 4:5-7

"Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out." - John 12:31

So the Bible is clear that Satan is/was the "ruler" of this world (at least until Christ died on the cross and bought it back). Though, in actuality, it always belonged to God.

"For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness." - Psalm 50:10-12

The Bible also says that the Sabbath will continue throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity in heaven.

"'For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,' says the LORD, 'So shall your descendants and your name remain. And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,' says the LORD." - Isaiah 66:22,23

The Question

This is not intended to be a discussion regarding these points of theology. This question is directed to Adventists who already have a correct understanding of what the Bible says about the Sabbath and about the structure of God's heavenly kingdom.

Do other worlds observe the Sabbath? Did the Sabbath exist before the seventh day of creation? Will all worlds keep the Sabbath throughout eternity?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who Continued Creating?

The other day while I was reflecting on Christ and His death, this question came to my mind:

Who created and sustained all the people, animals, plants and everything else while Christ was on earth and, particularly, while He was dead and in the tomb?

This question is mainly for Adventists because to answer it correctly one must first have a correct understanding of what the Bible says about death and the grave, and secondly one must have a correct understanding about what the Bible says about the nature of Christ as the creator and sustainer.

My second question is this:

If it was not Jesus who created and sustained during His time on earth and in the tomb, why does the Bible say that all things are created and sustained by Him? (Col. 1:16,17)

I did not ponder too long on this question, but I did come up with a simple hypothesis:

Since God Himself is outside of time, Christ could have created and been sustaining all things before and after stepping into time to become the Son of Man. In essence, it is really a question about time. How could He do x, y and z at the same time. How could He create at the same time He was in the grave? How could He sustain at the same time He was on earth and had laid down His Godly powers? Well, even though it is hard for us to grasp, and perhaps impossible, He is outside of time. So even though Jesus stepped into time for a season, He was also outside of time.

Just something to think about.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Steps To Christ, Ch. 1

God's Love For Man

Nature and revelation alike testify of God's love. Our Father in heaven is the source of life, of wisdom, and of joy. Look at the wonderful and beautiful things of nature. Think of their marvelous adaptation to the needs and happiness, not only of man, but of all living creatures. The sunshine and the rain, that gladden and refresh the earth, the hills and seas and plains, all speak to us of the Creator's love. It is God who supplies the daily needs of all His creatures. In the beautiful words of the psalmist--

"The eyes of all wait upon Thee;
And Thou givest them their meat in due season.
Thou openest Thine hand,
And satisfiest the desire of every living thing."
Psalm 145:15, 16.

God made man perfectly holy and happy; and the fair earth, as it came from the Creator's hand, bore no blight of decay or shadow of the curse. It is transgression of God's law--the law of love--that has brought woe and death. Yet even amid the suffering that results from sin, God's love is revealed. It is written that God cursed the ground for man's sake. Genesis 3:17. The thorn and the thistle--the difficulties and trials that make his life one of toil and care--were appointed for his good as a part of the training needful in God's plan for his uplifting from the ruin and degradation that sin has wrought. The world, though fallen, is not all sorrow and misery. In nature itself are messages of hope and comfort. There are flowers upon the thistles, and the thorns are covered with roses.

"God is love" is written upon every opening bud, upon every spire of springing grass. The lovely birds making the air vocal with their happy songs, the delicately tinted flowers in their perfection perfuming the air, the lofty trees of the forest with their rich foliage of living green -- all testify to the tender, fatherly care of our God and to His desire to make His children happy.

The word of God reveals His character. He Himself has declared His infinite love and pity. When Moses prayed, "Show me Thy glory," the Lord answered, "I will make all My goodness pass before thee." Exodus 33:18, 19. This is His glory. The Lord passed before Moses, and proclaimed, "The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin." Exodus 34:6, 7. He is "slow to anger, and of great kindness," "because He delighteth in mercy." Jonah 4:2; Micah 7:18.

God has bound our hearts to Him by unnumbered tokens in heaven and in earth. Through the things of nature, and the deepest and tenderest earthly ties that human hearts can know, He has sought to reveal Himself to us. Yet these but imperfectly represent His love. Though all these evidences have been given, the enemy of good blinded the minds of men, so that they looked upon God with fear; they thought of Him as severe and unforgiving. Satan led men to conceive of God as a being whose chief attribute is stern justice,--one who is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor. He pictured the Creator as a being who is watching with jealous eye to discern the errors and mistakes of men, that He may visit judgments upon them. It was to remove this dark shadow, by revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among men.

The Son of God came from heaven to make manifest the Father. "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." John 1:18. "Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him." Matthew 11:27. When one of the disciples made the request, "Show us the Father," Jesus answered, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" John 14:8, 9.

In describing His earthly mission, Jesus said, The Lord "hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." Luke 4:18. This was His work. He went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed by Satan. There were whole villages where there was not a moan of sickness in any house, for He had passed through them and healed all their sick. His work gave evidence of His divine anointing. Love, mercy, and compassion were revealed in every act of His life; His heart went out in tender sympathy to the children of men. He took man's nature, that He might reach man's wants. The poorest and humblest were not afraid to approach Him. Even little children were attracted to Him. They loved to climb upon His knees and gaze into the pensive face, benignant with love.

Jesus did not suppress one word of truth, but He uttered it always in love. He exercised the greatest tact and thoughtful, kind attention in His intercourse with the people. He was never rude, never needlessly spoke a severe word, never gave needless pain to a sensitive soul. He did not censure human weakness. He spoke the truth, but always in love. He denounced hypocrisy, unbelief, and iniquity; but tears were in His voice as He uttered His scathing rebukes. He wept over Jerusalem, the city He loved, which refused to receive Him, the way, the truth, and the life. They had rejected Him, the Saviour, but He regarded them with pitying tenderness. His life was one of self-denial and thoughtful care for others. Every soul was precious in His eyes. While He ever bore Himself with divine dignity, He bowed with the tenderest regard to every member of the family of God. In all men He saw fallen souls whom it was His mission to save.

Such is the character of Christ as revealed in His life. This is the character of God. It is from the Father's heart that the streams of divine compassion, manifest in Christ, flow out to the children of men. Jesus, the tender, pitying Saviour, was God "manifest in the flesh." 1 Timothy 3:16.

It was to redeem us that Jesus lived and suffered and died. He became "a Man of Sorrows," that we might be made partakers of everlasting joy. God permitted His beloved Son, full of grace and truth, to come from a world of indescribable glory, to a world marred and blighted with sin, darkened with the shadow of death and the curse. He permitted Him to leave the bosom of His love, the adoration of the angels, to suffer shame, insult, humiliation, hatred, and death. "The chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5. Behold Him in the wilderness, in Gethsemane, upon the cross! The spotless Son of God took upon Himself the burden of sin. He who had been one with God, felt in His soul the awful separation that sin makes between God and man. This wrung from His lips the anguished cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Matthew 27:46. It was the burden of sin, the sense of its terrible enormity, of its separation of the soul from God--it was this that broke the heart of the Son of God.

But this great sacrifice was not made in order to create in the Father's heart a love for man, not to make Him willing to save. No, no! "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son." John 3:16. The Father loves us, not because of the great propitiation, but He provided the propitiation because He loves us. Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." 2 Corinthians 5:19. God suffered with His Son. In the agony of Gethsemane, the death of Calvary, the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption.

Jesus said, "Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again." John 10:17. That is, "My Father has so loved you that He even loves Me more for giving My life to redeem you. In becoming your Substitute and Surety, by surrendering My life, by taking your liabilities, your transgressions, I am endeared to My Father; for by My sacrifice, God can be just, and yet the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus."

None but the Son of God could accomplish our redemption; for only He who was in the bosom of the Father could declare Him. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it manifest. Nothing less than the infinite sacrifice made by Christ in behalf of fallen man could express the Father's love to lost humanity.

"God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son." He gave Him not only to live among men, to bear their sins, and die their sacrifice. He gave Him to the fallen race. Christ was to identify Himself with the interests and needs of humanity. He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken. Jesus is "not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11); He is our Sacrifice, our Advocate, our Brother, bearing our human form before the Father's throne, and through eternal ages one with the race He has redeemed--the Son of man. And all this that man might be uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin that he might reflect the love of God and share the joy of holiness.

The price paid for our redemption, the infinite sacrifice of our heavenly Father in giving His Son to die for us, should give us exalted conceptions of what we may become through Christ. As the inspired apostle John beheld the height, the depth, the breadth of the Father's love toward the perishing race, he was filled with adoration and reverence; and, failing to find suitable language in which to express the greatness and tenderness of this love, he called upon the world to behold it. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God." 1 John 3:1. What a value this places upon man! Through transgression the sons of man become subjects of Satan. Through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ the sons of Adam may become the sons of God. By assuming human nature, Christ elevates humanity. Fallen men are placed where, through connection with Christ, they may indeed become worthy of the name "sons of God."

Such love is without a parallel. Children of the heavenly King! Precious promise! Theme for the most profound meditation! The matchless love of God for a world that did not love Him! The thought has a subduing power upon the soul and brings the mind into captivity to the will of God. The more we study the divine character in the light of the cross, the more we see mercy, tenderness, and forgiveness blended with equity and justice, and the more clearly we discern innumerable evidences of a love that is infinite and a tender pity surpassing a mother's yearning sympathy for her wayward child.