Sunday, March 1, 2009

Regarding Death: An Adventist Response to Critics

I have heard many Christians profess that the Adventist teaching on the state of the dead is a new doctrine. This post is to clear up that misconception.

Below is an exchange between myself and a visitor to Our Sword named Dennis Fischer, a former Adventist, who responded to an Adventist Review article I posted by Clifford Goldstein entitled "Seventh-day Darwinians."

Dennis Fischer's Original Comment-

"Seventh-day Adventist biologists (primarily science teachers in their school system) have for a long time already ignored Ellen White's mandated six-thousand-year view of the age of the earth. With their amazing cognitive dissonance (believing in two opposing views simultaneously), Seventh-day Adventists have learned to pick-and-choose their favorite doctrines while still warming the pews on a regular basis.

Interestingly, SDA dogma about the state of the dead reinforces the notion that man is basically an animal--they even die just like animals they insist. The only difference being that they are in the remembrance of God like a fallen sparrow. Moreover, one cannot await anything when nonexistent--much less a resurrection. Official Adventism needs to become consistent in its teachings."

My Response-

"My point is not that we need to be able to make sense of our own beliefs, or even to reconcile them, for I could clarify your statements about dying like animals and awaiting the resurrection. My problem is when Christians try to intertwine the plain meaning of Scripture with ideas that contradict those Scriptures.

I don't care if one tries and succeeds at believing both creation and evolution, or that we go straight to heaven or hell when we die yet there's still a future resurrection and judgement. As stand-alone philosophies, it doesn't matter what we conclude, because they are our own human ideas. What bothers me is when people in the church try to force their own human philosophies onto Scriptures so plain even a little child could understand them.

Check out my post "are the dead really dead" for a lot of Bible verses about the subject, clearly indicating that the dead are not in heaven or hell, but in the grave. I'd be honestly interested to hear how you explain these verses. I will listen with an open mind."

Dennis Fischer's Counter-Response-


For believers death means being "away from the body and at home with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8). That is why our Lord said at his death, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit" (Lk. 23:46). That is why he promised the penitent dying thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk. 23:43). That is why Paul described departing the body to be with Christ as "better by far" than remaining in the body (Phil. 1:23). And that is why Scripture speaks of deceased human beings as souls "under the altar" (Rev. 6:9) and as "the spirits of righteous men made perfect" (Heb. 12:23).

If Jesus the God-man ceased to exist between his death and resurrection, then the Trinity only consisted of two persons during that period of time. The Trinity would have been reduced to a Binity, or the resurrection of Jesus meant the re-creation of the second person of the Trinity. In that case, the second person of the Trinity would be a created being. Such conclusions are ruinous for the Christian faith because they compromise the doctrine of the Trinity. The SDA view of death is the heritage of their Arian founders. Moreover, the investigative judgment alibi cannot allow saints to be in heaven before its final verdict.

Adventist apologists also insist that Moses was resurrected from dead and taken to heaven without any biblical support for their claim. Obviously, their belief system cannot reconcile the fact that Moses and Elijah appeared together on the Mount of Transfiguration representing the law and the prophets. If Moses was resurrected from the dead, as Adventists claim, then it negates the NT teaching the Jesus is the "firstfruit from the dead." This is yet another instance where SDA theology diminishes the glory that belongs to Jesus. All in all, the traditional view of death coheres well with other biblical teachings in contrast to the extinction/re-creation view.

Both Christians and SDAs acknowledge that in the Scriptures the word "sleep" (as applied to death)is imagery, or figurative language. The division comes over what, exactly, is the REALITY of which sleep is apt imagery. In real sleep, there is a real, living person present; one's existence, thoughts, and emotions continue from the waking state, through the sleep state, and back again into the waking state. One's mind is not totally inactive during sleep. Even more important, one's actual existence is not interrupted."

My Final Response-

"So there are 6 Scriptures you've mentioned as proof of your view regarding the state of the dead.

I have heard many preachers, and I have myself, explained these texts in their context to show they do not, in fact, teach that the dead go straight to heaven or hell when they die.

More importantly, those who believe that the dead rest in their graves until the resurrection have easily 10 times that number of Scriptures to back up their view, to which I have never heard a proper response and explanation.

Please don't believe everything you read or hear, I'm not too familiar with these arians you talked about, but I can tell you that even the reformers believed, or at least allowed the possibility, that the dead remain in the grave until resurrection.

Martin Luther: "We shall sleep, until He comes and knocks on the little grave and says, "Doctor Martin, get up! Then I shall rise in a moment, and be with him forever."

Martin Luther: "But we Christians, who have been redeemed from all this through the precious blood of God's Son, should train and accustom ourselves in faith to despise death and regard it as a deep, strong, sweet sleep."

Martin Luther: "We should learn to view our death in the right light, so that we need not become alarmed on account of it, as unbelief does; because in Christ it is indeed not death, but a fine, sweet and brief sleep, which brings us release from this vale of tears, from sin and from the fear and extremity of real death and from all the misfortunes of this life, and we shall be secure and without care, rest sweetly and gently for a brief moment, as on a sofa, until the time when he shall call and awaken us together with all his dear children to his eternal glory and joy. For since we call it a sleep, we know that we shall not remain in it, but be again awakened and live, and that the time during which we sleep, shall seem no longer than if we had just fallen asleep. Hence, we shall censure ourselves that we were surprised or alarmed at such a sleep in the hour of death, and suddenly come alive out of the grave and from decomposition, and entirely well, fresh, with a pure, clear, glorified life, meet our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the clouds."

William Tyndale: "And ye, in putting them [the departed souls] in heaven, hell, and purgatory, destroy the arguments wherewith Christ and Paul prove the resurrection.... And again, if the souls be in heaven, tell me why they be not in as good case as the angels be? And then what cause is there of the resurrection?"

William Tyndale: "Nay, Paul, thou art unlearned; go to Master More, and learn a new way. We be not most miserable, though we rise not again; for our souls go to heaven as soon as we be dead, and are there in as great joy as Christ that is risen again." And I marvel that Paul had not comforted the Thessalonians with that doctrine, if he had wist [known] it, that the souls of their dead had been in joy; as he did with the resurrection, that their dead should rise again. If the souls be in heaven, in as great glory as the angels, after your doctrine, shew me what cause should be of the resurrection."

William Tyndale: "And when he [More] proveth that the saints be in heaven in glory with Christ already, saying, "If God be their God, they be in heaven, for he is not the God of the dead;" there he stealeth away Christ's argument, wherewith he proveth the resurrection: that Abraham and all saints should rise again, and not that their souls were in heaven; which doctrine was not yet in the world. And with that doctrine he taketh away the resurrection quite, and maketh Christ's argument of none effect"

The list goes on of others who chose to let go of the traditions of men handed down to them and take hold of the Scriptures as their sole source of truth.

I believe there is a root of pride in those who cling to a select few Scriptures to prove their belief instead of searching the Scriptures daily to see whether those things are so.

Also, it seems rather unChristian to slander a church and declare "you got that belief from this bunch," when in truth, we arrived at our beliefs from deep, earnest, unprideful study of the Holy Bible."


  1. You said,"I have myself, explained these texts in their context to show they do not, in fact, teach that the dead go straight to heaven or hell when they die. If you've done it before it should be no problem to paste that previous work here so I can examine your conclusions.
    I haven't looked into this topic for quite a few years. It should be a great Greek study.


  2. Hi, Travis, thanks for coming by.

    I have a pre-made Bible study about the dead posted under the title "Are the dead really dead," I think it was posted in December, you can find it in the archives.

    Or, for that and other Bible studies, I created a separate blog at
    at which it's under the same title.

    What you may find interesting is the exchange the author of and I had about this topic in previous posts. You can find it under the title "A Question of Ascending to Heaven,"

    I have often discussed this topic with those who assume the dead go straight to heaven or hell, but with him it was the opposite, because his church teaches that we all rest in the graves until the resurrection and that NO ONE has ascended to heaven, not even Elijah or Moses. His reasonings are interesting and they have actually, since I looked at them honestly, made me confess that it is a possibility.

    BUT, most importantly, we should always keep our eyes on Christ, because doctrines like this are not salvational. I do think that in the end times holding the view that the dead go immediately to heaven or hell will be dangerous because one would be more likely to believe spirits that claim to be departed loved ones or even apostles that are bringing messages from God, when in fact, they are fallen angels, demons, in disguise. Very interesting Bible study on that type of deception as well.

    ANYWAY, check out the post and let me know what you think. If you can explain the many texts that lead me to believe we rest in the grave, especially in the original language (since you mentioned it, I love studying the original languages), I'd be more than willing to listen and even change my belief. I have to go by the Bible and the Bible only. :-)

  3. The SDA view of extinction/re-creation (soul sleep/conditionalism) is their most heretical teaching because it affects the natures of God, man, and salvation. Without the tradional view of death, being born again (regeneration) is impossible to understand. Regeneration is NOT simply a mental assent to some list of doctrines before baptism. Regeneration precedes faith. Even our faith is a gift from God. We had absolutely nothing to do with our physical birth, and we have absolutely nothing to do with our spiritual birth--BOTH ARE DONE FOR US! Salvation is from the Lord alone. We are not the captains of our eternity destiny. God does not help us to save ourselves as understood in partnership salvation or cooperative grace.

    A classic, 315-page book on the topic of death is entitled, "Death and the Afterlife" by Dr. Robert A. Morey. Dr. Morey ably goes verse by verse and point by point against the claims of the late SDA apologist, L. E. Froom. The late Dr. Walter Martin said of this book: "The most comprehensive biblical study of the subject in the last half century!" This excellent resource can be ordered directly from Dr. Morey's online bookstore at .

    His grace still amazes me,

    Dennis J. Fischer

  4. "Regeneration is NOT simply a mental assent to some list of doctrines before baptism." I agree.

    "Even our faith is a gift from God." I agree.

    "We had absolutely nothing to do with our physical birth, and we have absolutely nothing to do with our spiritual birth--BOTH ARE DONE FOR US!" I don't agree. If we have nothing to do with it, then everyone would be saved. We have the power to choose. We have a choice, and we have to decide to let God recreate us. He won't force Himself on those who don't want Him. That's not my God.

    "Salvation is from the Lord alone." I agree.

    "We are not the captains of our eternity destiny." I don't agree. Again, if we don't decide our own eternal destiny, but instead God is the one deciding, then everyone would be saved, or God would make some die and some live arbitrarily.

    "God does not help us to save ourselves as understood in partnership salvation or cooperative grace." I agree.

    I'm not interested in Morey's book that "goes verse by verse and point by point against" the Bible's clear truth.

  5. Hey, i found this site to be very useful:


  6. Paul, that site is amazing. Thank you for the info, I have added a link on my sidebar.

  7. Immortal Soul denies the cross - The cross reveals that the wicked do not possess immortality. John 3:16 tells us - for God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten son (that is the cross), that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but HAVE everlasting life. Therefore, when the dead die, they cannot have natural immortality whether they are wicked or not. One cannot have immortality unless they have Jesus Christ. It is a direct affront to the cross because the cross tells us that eternal life is available only through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. What many Christians are saying is that, no, you have eternal life no matter what. It is not just the cross that gives you eternal life. You are born naturally immortal. The cross denies that teaching. If one believes in the cross, then there is no way one can possibly accept this teaching.Bible is so clear that our Fitness to enter heaven and when we enter heaven are two entirely different issues!

  8. Martin Luther: "Salomon judgeth that the dead are a sleepe, and feele nothing at all. For the dead lye there accompting neyther dayes nor yeares, but when they are awoken, they shall seeme to have slept scarce one minute."