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February 24, 2011

MORE THOUGHTS ON THE SDA VIEW OF DEATH



Ever wonder why Seventh-day Adventists actually prefer to be extinct (nonexistent) during the immediate state?  Apparently, this preference is largely related to their not having eternal security in Christ.  Being that the so-called "investigative judgment" may not have cleared their names before physical death, this in effect buys them more time. This is a way of putting off the inevitable—their eternal consequences for a holy or profane life. If one is not certain about the gift of salvation here and now, then putting off knowing what fate awaits you would be somewhat comforting and less scary.  Truly, the "investigative judgment" alibi translates into a form of purgatory akin to what our Catholic friends embrace.


It has been said that false religions are wrong about the three essential S's: sin, salvation, and the Savior. Any way you look at it, the Adventist belief in the spirit being breath and the resulting doctrine of "soul sleep" (more accurately known as their extinction/re-creation view in theological parlance) clearly places Adventism outside the pale of biblical Christianity. The doctrine's hold on people, I believe, is a spiritual hold.  The Adventist spirit of deception has imprisoned its members by a deep unbelief in the truth about Jesus and His amazing work of grace.

Being the bedrock heresy of Adventism, soul sleep being the belief that the human spirit is merely one's "breath," has skewed their teaching of the nature of sin, the nature of salvation, the nature of God's justice, and the nature of Christ.  If spirit is merely "breath," then Adam and Eve's sin was more physical than spiritual.  What is "spiritual" if the human spirit is merely breath?  If the human spirit is merely "breath," then what exactly is the original sin we all inherit from Adam?  It must be physical. It must be sin-damaged genes that set us up to commit our own sins.  If "spirit" is something that knows God, on the other hand, the sin we inherit is a dead spirit—a literal spirit disconnected from God that results in spiritual death (dead men walking).


If spirit is merely "breath," then did Jesus inherit Mary's sinful flesh or not?  If He did, then how could He be said to be without sin?  If He did not, then how could He be said to be our example?  He would have had an "advantage" over us—and Ellen White (and my Adventist Bible teachers) clearly taught me that Jesus had no advantage over me.   He was human just like I am—and therefore His example means I, too, can become perfect.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has never settled the argument over Jesus' nature.  Ellen White spoke out of both sides of her mouth on this issue, and the SDA Church does not have an official stance on whether or not Jesus had sinful flesh.  If, on the other hand, spirit is something volitional that knows God, then whether or not Jesus inherited Mary's genes is a moot point regarding His sinfulness.  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  He was born without original sin; His spirit was connected to God from conception on.  All of us must be born again because we were born spiritually dead, but Jesus was born spiritually alive. Both our physical and spiritual birth is done for us.  It's all about Him!

If spirit is "breath," then salvation is a physical phenomenon.  Sin is in my genes, and sin is about my flesh causing me to commit sins. Salvation, then, must be more about correcting or overcoming my sinful flesh.  If sin is physical, then I must be able to do things to improve my condition.  Just as I can build muscle by a workout, so I could improve my behavior by careful discipline and observation of some humanistic guidelines.

If, on the other hand, sin is ultimately spiritual, then there's nothing I can do to fix the problem.  God who is spirit must fix  my spirit. The only One who was spiritually alive could bring my dead spirit to life. Jesus was without sin, even though He is genetically Mary's son. The incarnation  was a mystery that God does not reveal.  But I know that sin is not primarily physical.  Our physical selves are affected by it—no question!  But the true nature of sin is a dead spirit disconnected from God.  And, interestingly, even Jesus' body went to the grave, as ours do—while He surrendered His spirit to God.  When He arose again He had a resurrection body different from His human one—just as we will also.

Even though most Adventists don't understand why the doctrine of soul sleep has such a powerful hold on them, I believe that, like the Sabbath, it is binding because it perpetuates heresy—the heresy that sin is physical and we have nothing more to us than bodies and breath; the heresy that salvation is about getting our physical impulses under control and not ultimately about a restored relationship with God; and the heresy that Jesus either inherited Mary's sin and therefore His sinlessness was about not sinning by means  of His great will power and determination and obedience—or that He set  aside His advantage and made Himself like us so we could never excuse our sins by saying Jesus wasn't exactly like us.

Furthermore, when annihilationists and universalists give an elaborate and esoteric interpretation of those biblical texts that relate to endless punishment, they go to great lengths to demonstrate that "everlasting" does not mean everlasting and "torment" does not mean torment!  It never seems to occur to them that if the biblical authors wanted to express clearly the idea of the extinction or ultimate salvation of the wicked, there were words available to them in the Hebrew and Greek languages which could have been used.  But the biblical authors did not use those words.

On the other hand, if the biblical authors wished to express clearly to their readers the idea of unending, conscious torment, there were words in the Greek and Hebrew language which would express that idea. Indeed, the biblical authors used those words which were the only ones available to them which would indicate endless punishment to the average person of their day.  To think that they would use the precise Greek and Hebrew words which would mean endless punishment to the common reader in order to teach annihilation or universalism is to label them either deceptive or ignorant.

When the New Testament writers sought to explain what they believed about the nature of man, they consistently spoke of man as having a dual nature. Thus, man cannot be reduced to being just a physical or spiritual being but is a combination of both (body and spirit). Furthermore, the authors of the New Testament used those Koine Greek words found in the common language of their day. They used the Greek terms utilized in the Septuagint. They deliberately chose these terms because they refer to the immortal and invisible soul of man which survives the death of the body. The mere presence of such terms in the New Testament reveals the error of the secular and religious materialists who deny that the New Testament teaches that man has a dual nature—material and immaterial.

The late Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones aptly stated: "We do not give birth to ourselves—neither physically nor spiritually.  We are not born because we believe. We believe because we are reborn."  Just as we had nothing to do with our physical birth,  we likewise have absolutely nothing to do with our spiritual birth as well.   Both are done for us.   It's all about Him!   Let us declare with Jonah, the reluctant prophet: "For my salvation comes from the Lord alone"  (Jonah 2:9 NLT).  Soli Deo Gloria!


NOTE: For an in-depth, biblical study on this important topic, you may want to order the 315-page book entitled "Death and the Afterlife" by Dr. Robert A. Morey. The  late Dr. Walter Martin said of this book: "The most comprehensive biblical study of the subject in the last half century!" Simply order today directly from Dr. Morey's online bookstore (www.faithdefenders.com). The current price is $14.95 (paperback).  I heartily recommend this classic book for your personal and/or church library. Teaching sound doctrine is a biblical mandate (see Titus 1 & 2).

Dennis Fischer
Web Chaplain




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DENNIS FISCHER MINISTRIES
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