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February 27, 2011

ASK THE CHAPLAIN


QUESTION:  Are Seventh-day Adventists allowed to surf the Internet from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday?


ANSWER:  Since the Internet is a fairly new innovation or form of media, the SDA hierarchy has not yet forbidden its use from sunset on Fridays to sunset on Saturdays. Seventh-day Adventists are not supposed to watch TV or listen to secular radio on the weekly, festal Sabbath.  As we already know to our dismay, there are far worse things to see on the Internet than a typical family can see on TV or listen to on the radio. Legalism is never consistent. Like in Mormonism, Seventh-day Adventism apparently needs an ongoing living voice to address their unique, current issues. 


Fortunately, however, many Seventh-day Adventists are discovering the true Gospel of Jesus Christ for the very first time while surfing the Internet on the Mosaic Sabbath.  Many have found Jesus to be their true Sabbath Rest (Mt. 11:28-30; Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 4:1-10). Truly, Christians steadfastly focus upon the unsurpassing glory of God the Son and not upon the fading shadows of the sun. Moreover, in the truest sense, the information age is a detriment to the growth of Seventh-day Adventism in the industrialized areas of the world. Seventh-day Adventism and other cults thrive largely in areas of the world with limited or no access to the Internet. In other words, overall ignorance provides the ideal environment for cults to gain new followers.


The arrival of online religion is as consequential as when the printing presses brought the written word to medieval Europe. Cyberspace affords us the priesthood of all believers in being an equal playing field. Information technology is a tool that empowers and enriches the lives of even the lowest social class in our society. Consequently, SDA students can readily fact check the claims of religious lectures in their classrooms without anyone else knowing about their quest for biblical truth.


QUESTION:  One of my colleagues, a former Seventh-day Adventist, insists that Paul is teaching the abrogation of the moral law in Romans 10:4. However, it seems to me that his interpretation ignores the overall view of Scripture—including many other Pauline statements. In context, what is Paul actually saying?


ANSWER:  Just because the law is not a way to salvation doesn't mean that it is not a guide to conduct for believers. As former legalists who suffered intense spiritual abuse, former Adventists sometimes find various forms of antinomianism very appealing and attractive. However, such ruinous conclusions are an overreaction to their painful past. 


Although the Greek word translated "end" can mean either "fulfillment" or "termination," this is not a reference to Christ having perfectly fulfilled the law through His teaching (Matt. 5:17,18) or through His sinless life (2 Cor. 5:21). Instead, as the second half of the verse shows, Paul means that belief in Christ as Lord and Savior ends the sinner's futile quest for righteousness through his imperfect attempts to save himself by efforts to obey the law.  In other words, Paul is saying that Christ is the end focus or goal of the law for righteousness.


The Apostle Paul adds:  "Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means!  On the contrary, we uphold the law" (Rom. 3:31 ESV). Moreover, in Romans 7:12, Paul declares that the law is "holy, and just, and good" just like God Himself is.  Truly, the ethical directives in both the Old and New Testaments are a reflection of His divine character and holiness. Obviously, Jesus would not have bothered to further explain or expound upon the moral laws of the Old Covenant if they were abrogated or nullified in any way.  God's divine will for His people is changeless.  Indeed, all exhortations in Scripture are a form of law.


Even without the law, death was universal.  All people from Adam to Moses were subject to death, not because of their sinful acts against the Mosaic Law (which they did not yet have), but because of their own inherited sinful nature. However, the moral law as delivered on Mount Sinai was not something unfamiliar to Adam, Noah, and other patriarchs. Clearly, the Bible reveals that murder, lying,  envy, revenge, wrongful worship, jealousy, and other acts of treason against our holy God were considered sinful long, long before Sinai.


Importantly, the law was never given to save people, but rather to lead them to the One who would. "Christ redeemed us from the CURSE of the law" (Gal. 3:13) and not from our duty to obey His righteous standards. As Charles Spurgeon aptly and rightly declared, "The grace that does not change your life will not save your soul."  Similarly, it is biblical to say that the faith that does not change your life will not save your soul.


QUESTION:  What does the gift of  prophecy, in 1 Cor. 12:10, precisely mean?  Does this indicate that the presence of prophets is still valid among believers  today?


ANSWER:  "Long ago, at many times and in  many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world" (Heb. 1:1-2 ESV).  The meaning of "prophecy" is simply that of "speaking forth" or "proclaiming publicly" to which the connotation of prediction was added sometime in the Middle Ages.


Since the completion of Scripture, prophecy has not been a means of new revelation, but is limited to proclaiming what has already been revealed in the written Word.  Even the biblical prophets were preachers, proclaimers of God's truth, both by revelation and reiteration.  Old Testament prophets  like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel spent lifetimes proclaiming God's Word.  Only a comparatively small amount of what they preached is recorded in the Bible as God's direct revelation. They must have continually repeated and re-emphasized those truths, as preachers  today repeat, explain, and re-emphasize the Word of God in Scripture.


The best definition for this gift is found in 1 Cor. 14:3 (ESV) as "the one who prophesies speaks to people for  their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation."  Moreover, according to 1 Chronicles 25:1-2,  publicly performing music is a form of  "prophesying" as well. This is a notable example of how the etymologies  of various words  have changed  down through the centuries.


QUESTION:  Where was the "paradise"  located that Jesus promised the penitent dying thief in Luke 23:43?


ANSWER:   The word "paradise" literally denotes a "park" or "garden." The Septuagint uses this word literally in Ecclesiastes 2:5 and Song of Solomon 4:13, although the term also refers to the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 2:8). However, Revelation 2:7 indicates that the location of "paradise" is synonymous with "heaven" where the tree of life is located.


Paradise was also described as the place for righteous spirits in Sheol who awaited the Messiah (Luke 16:19-31). When Jesus spoke to the penitent dying thief on the cross, He assured him that he would that very day reside with Him in paradise (Luke 23:43). Obviously, their reunion occurred within just a few hours or minutes.  Although Bible scholars are divided about the exact location (heaven or Sheol) that Jesus referred to, it is my studied conclusion that this reunion took place in Sheol when Jesus went to bring the good news that the Old Testament  saints  would be relocated to heaven within a very short time.   The context  seems to indicate that the word "paradise" refers to a pleasant abode for the righteous among the dead (one of two compartments in Sheol).    


Interestingly, Jesus precisely promised to be with the penitent dying thief in a place called "paradise" on that very day. Grammar is always an important hermeneutical tool.  If heaven itself was in view that very day, it seems that Jesus would have said so. After all,  Jesus often talked about a literal place called heaven. In Koine Greek, a very precise biblical language, there are separate words for heaven and paradise.   All in all, however, we should not be overly dogmatic when the biblical data is less than clear on a topic. Historically, Christians have believed that Jesus descended into the two-compartment Sheol (i.e., creedal statements designed to validate doctrinal consensus and orthodoxy). However, it is not entirely clear from creedal statements if Jesus' visit was to the righteous or unrighteous sector of Sheol or both.  


On the other hand, some biblical scholars favor Jesus' words to the penitent dying thief as referring to heaven as being the same place as paradise. In a figurative sense, they further view "hell" as the earth itself that Jesus descended into. Therefore, in the careful exegesis of Luke 23:43, there emerges a consensus that the spirits of Jesus and the penitent dying thief were reunited in a far better place called "paradise" on that very day. Truly, we can always trust the words of Jesus.


QUESTION:  What was the rationale of the late Harold Camping (founder of Family Radio), to predict Judgment Day to occur on May 21, 2011 and the complete annihilation of this planet five months later?


ANSWER:  CNN recently had a special report on doomsday predictions (scenarios) throughout Christian history. A video clip was shown of the devout followers of Harold Camping excitedly handing out literature in public intersections while still others had signs on their cars predicting judgment day to occur on May 21, 2011.  Like the Millerites in the 1840s, Harold Camping was basing his time-setting upon an arbitrary starting date in history to calculate the supposed exact date. The primary difference in their eisegesis is that William Miller proclaimed a day equals a year principle whereas Harold Camping was using a day equals one thousand years as a principle of prophetic interpretation.


Interestingly, a Seventh-day Adventist friend expressed compassion for Harold Camping and was hoping that he would be right this time. However, based on the SDA prophetic timeline, how could Camping have been right without the National Sunday Law having become a reality?  Moreover, these repeated failed predictions make a mockery of Christianity.  Although these repeated failed time-settings are anti-Gospel, the time-setters have often benefited in a financial way from their deliberate deceptions.


Furthermore, the late Harold Camping and other time-setters seem to have taken their alibis and excuses for their failed prophecies directly from the JW-SDA playbooks—saying that although nothing happened physically on earth, it somehow happened spiritually in heaven instead. This warped strategy apparently removes their need for a public apology, and it somehow lessens their need for heartfelt contrition. After all, alibis for disobedience started immediately after the Fall in the Garden of Eden. Consequently and unfortunately, fallen human beings have become highly-experienced experts in the area of providing alibis.


QUESTION:  What is the meaning of Jesus' statement to Mary Magdalene: "...Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'" (John 20:17 ESV)?


ANSWER:  Mary was expressing a desire to hold on to His physical presence for fear that she would once again lose Him. Jesus' reference to His ascension signifies that He would only be temporarily with them and though she desperately wanted Him to stay, He could not.  Jesus was with them only for forty more days, and then He ascended.  His ascension was both material and immaterial as "the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep" (I Cor. 15:20 ESV).   His ascension was in contrast to only His spirit ascending to heaven at the point of His physical death on the Cross.


After He went to the Father in both body and spirit, He sent the Holy Spirit ("the Helper") so they would not feel abandoned. Interestingly, this was Jesus' first reference to His disciples as "brothers" instead of friends or servants because of Jesus' work on the Cross in place of the sinner. Consequently, this new relationship to Christ was made possible.


QUESTION:  Please explain Matthew 10:28 when Jesus said, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell."


ANSWER:  God is the one who destroys (Lit. Gk. "delivers up to eternal misery") the ungodly in hell (Luke 12:5).  Persecutors can harm only the body.  The physical body must also be punished in hell due to the fact that the flesh had a significant role in sinning.  Importantly, the words translated "destroy" and "kill" in this passage are not  the same words  in Koine Greek. Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon defines the Greek word "apollumi" (commonly translated into English as "destroy" or "ruin") as "to be delivered up to eternal misery."  This scholarship is significant since Joseph Thayer himself, a Unitarian, did not believe in eternal punishment.


"In every instance where the word "apollumi" is found in the New Testament, something other than annihilation is being described...The wicked are "cast" or "destroyed," i.e., delivered up unto eternal misery (Lit. Gk.), in Gehenna in the sense of being delivered up to eternal torment.  The use of "ballw" as the synonym for "apollumi" makes annihilation an impossible interpretation." (Dr. Robert A. Morey; Death and the Afterlife, pp. 90, 153)  


Fortunately, Koine Greek (c. 300 BC to 300 AD) was a very precise language or dialect spoken by the common people on the street. Truly, as the ultimate author of the Bible, God speaks with one voice on any given topic. Therefore, any confusion, misinterpretation, mistranslation, or honest misunderstanding of any biblical text is due to the fallible nature of man. Indeed, the Bible is God's voice speaking to us.


QUESTION:  What did the Apostle Paul mean when he admonished  believers to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" in Philippians 2:12?


ANSWER:  The Greek word rendered "work out" means "to continually work to bring something to fulfillment or completion (cf. Rom. 3:21-24; Eph. 2:8,9). It refers to the believer's responsibility for active pursuit of obedience in the process of sanctification.  The phrase "fear and trembling" denotes the attitude with which Christians are to pursue their sanctification and thus to bring glory to God on a daily basis (cf. Prov. 1:7; 9:10; Isa. 66: 1, 2).  


QUESTION:  On what day of the week did October 22, 1844 occur?


ANSWER:  You can certainly enter heaven without knowing the answer to this trivia question. However, October 22, 1844 was on a Tuesday as verified by Henry Emmons, a Millerite, who wrote: "I waited all Tuesday [October 22] and dear Jesus did not come; I waited all the forenoon of Wednesday, and was well in body as I ever was, but after 12 o'clock I began to feel faint, and before dark I needed someone to help me up to my chamber, as my natural strength was leaving me very fast, and I lay prostrate for 2 days without any pain--sick with disappointment." (Quoted in George R. Knight, Millennial Fever and the End of the World, Pacific Press, Boise, ID,1993, pp.163-164)


Indeed, those who ignore the clear warning of Jesus against time-setting (Matt. 24:36,42) will sooner or later experience intense disappointment, immeasurable shame, devastating guilt, and the loss of their credibility. Therefore, it is not surprising  that some ardent Millerites ended up in  the lunatic asylums of that day with clinical cases of so-called "Millerite madness."


QUESTION:  Is it possible to somehow celebrate the Lord's Supper online as cyber-Christians?


ANSWER:  It is entirely feasible to celebrate the Lord's Supper  among believers with HD video conferencing,   with three or more believers creating a conference call with inexpensive webcams, or just between two believers who utilize their webcams.   Many monitors and laptops now come with built-in webcams. Sometimes a remote location and/or laws against Christian assembly in some parts of the world would necessitate an alternative to corporate worship.  The arrival of online religion is as consequential as when the printing presses brought the written word to medieval Europe. 


With religious literacy dramatically on the upswing, cyber-Christians find new appreciation for personal freedom in Christ. Cyberspace affords us the priesthood of all believers--an equal playing field.  While cyberspace is no equal substitute for in-person relationships, it does avail us of meaningful, worldwide Christian fellowship.  I have never had the privilege to meet the vast majority of my online Christian friends in person.  However, through God's saving grace, we are looking forward to meeting in the earth made new.


QUESTION:  After her third funeral, why was Ellen White's interment delayed for 33 days?


ANSWER:  On March 22, 1999,  William Fagal from the White Estate office at Andrews University, sent me an e-mail with the following message:  "Thank you for contacting the Ellen G. White Estate. Her funeral took place on Sabbath, July 24, 1915.  She was not actually interred, however, until Thursday, August 26.  (How's that for funeral trivia?).  Yes, I know what you are wondering, but I don't know why the interment was delayed so long."  


Even after her death, Ellen White continued to be highly controversial. Very few Seventh-day Adventists are aware that their revered prophetess had a mysterious, 33-day delayed burial. There is speculation that SDA leaders feared that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg might exhume her body and perform  a brain autopsy on her if buried immediately after her third and final funeral. Instead, her body (in casket) was stored in a vault, owned by the funeral home, during the 33-day delayed burial. Moreover, Ellen White's body was encased in ice during the long trip by train from California to Michigan. Finally, on August 26, 1915,  at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Battle Creek, Michigan, her coffin was once again briefly opened by a few close friends and her youngest son prior to burial.


QUESTION: What does Jesus' phrase "this generation" refer to in Matthew 24:34?


ANSWER:  This cannot refer to the generation living at the time of Christ, since "all these things" such as the abominaton of desolation (v. 15), the persecutions and judgments (vv.17-22), the false Christs and prophets (vv.23-26), the signs in the heavens (vv.27-29), Christ's return (v. 30), and the gathering of the elect (v.31) did not take place in their lifetime.  Moreover, this view would fit with the lesson of the fig tree (v.32), which emphasizes the short span of time in which these things will occur.


QUESTION:  Muslims, atheists, and others  like to cite the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:34 that He did not come to bring peace but a sword.  They thereby insinuate that Jesus' words are no better than Muhammad's in regard to teaching violence.  What was Jesus referring to in this passage?


ANSWER:  Though the ultimate end of the Gospel is peace with God, its immediate result is frequently in conflict.  Conversion to Christ can result in strained family relationships, persecution, and even martyrdom.  Following Christ presupposes a willingness to endure such hardships. 


Though He is called the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6), Christ will have no one deluded into thinking that He calls believers to a life free from conflict, torture, harassment, imprisonment, etc.  All in all, Jesus is certainly not teaching any violence  in this passage, but instead He is   referring to the violence often perpetrated against His followers.


QUESTION:  Did Noah engage in evangelism on behalf of the antediluvian world?


ANSWER:  According to the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 2:5, Noah is identified as a "preacher" or "herald" of righteousness.  Thus, this description clearly denotes a public influence and/or outreach on the part of Noah.  It is impossible to be a believer without sharing one's faith. Ultimately, only  Noah and his family were saved, but there may have been others who  believed and  died before the universal Flood occurred.  Interestingly,  in both  Old and New Testament biographical accounts, our sovereign God repeatedly saved entire families or households of faith.  This encouraging fact certainly depicts the special regard that God has for the family unit.


QUESTION:  Who is the angel of the Lord?


ANSWER:   Numerous passages, especially  in the  Old Testament, speak of the "angel  of the  Lord" in a way that suggests that he is God Himself (a theophany and/or Christophany) taking on either an auditory or visible manifestation to appear briefly with various people.  For example, the experiences of Hagar, Sarah, Abraham, Jacob, and  Moses distinctly reveal instances where God took on an angelic  or human form for a short time in order to communicate directly to various human beings.  


These Christophanies further reveal that the pre-incarnate Christ was truly an active, central figure in Old Testament times.     Moreover, these  bold appearances make Christ the indisputable central focus of the entire Bible. Indeed, these unique appearances  served as a precursor of the Incarnate Christ that were typically temporary in nature.  A permanent manifestation like the incarnation of Christ made theophanies less necessary and accounts for their diminished importance in the New Testament.


Passages that mention "an angel of the  Lord" (e.g., Luke 1:11) usually refer to an angel sent by God.  The existence of angels constantly remind us that there is an unseen world that is very real (i.e., 2 Kings 6:17 depicting a great angelic army to protect Elisha from the Syrians). Furthermore, when we come before God in corporate worship, we are joining not only with the great company of believers who have died and come into God's presence in heaven, "the spirits of just men made perfect," but also meet with a great throng of angels, "innumerable angels in festal gathering" (Heb. 12:22-23) whom we do not see, but whose presence should fill us with both awe and joy.  


Though we do not ordinarily see or hear evidence of this heavenly worship, it  certainly enriches our sense of reverence and joy in God's presence if we appreciate the fact that angels join us in the worship of God.  While unfallen angels rejoice over even one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10), they will never be able to share the same testimony as human beings who have been brought from death to life through miraculous conversion or regeneration. Just like we cannot give birth to ourselves physically, we cannot give birth to ourselves spiritually.  Both are done  for us--a gift from God alone.  It's all about Him!  Soli Deo Gloria!


QUESTION: My Seventh-day Adventist friends insist that the word "hastening" in 2 Peter 3:12 indicates that God's people can actually "hasten" our Lord's return (making it happen before its sovereignly-appointed time). What is the actual etymological meaning  of the word translated as "hastening"?


ANSWER:  As a respected theologian and Koine Greek scholar, Dr. John MacArthur gives the following answer:  "One of  the motives for holy conduct and godliness is expectation. Hastening means "eagerly desiring" that something will happen. Christians are not to fear the future day of God, but eagerly hope for it (cf. 1 Cor. 1:7; 16:22; 1 John 2:28; 3:3)." (MacArthur Bible Commentary, p. 1942)


The  SDA  interpretation of "hastening" is that believers can accelerate the day of the Lord by their diligence, perfection, and witnessing (human effort). Ellen White,  the Seventh-day Adventist prophetess , stated that "Christ is waiting with a longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church, and when the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own." (COL, page 69)  


In other words,  she inaccurately implied that since the spiral toward acquiring perfection and sinlessness in this life is impossible by any human  effort or merit, Jesus will therefore NEVER return.  Obviously, the first perfect or sinless Adventist has not  been identified. Indeed, it is a bogus, guilt-producing, works-oriented, unbiblical claim for fallen mankind to be able to accelerate or delay the second coming  of Christ. Salvation comes from the Lord alone (Jonah 2:9), and it is a rescue operation  from  start to finish. Thankfully, God never goes on a rescue mission that fails. 


Only by the divine imputation of the merits of Christ can sinful humans be declared to be holy, righteous, and perfect.  Truly, fallen  humanity does not have the authority nor the ability to manipulate God's sovereign plans in any manner.  Moreover, we cannot give birth to ourselves. We are totally—not merely mostly or partially—dependent upon God's mercy for our salvation (Rom. 9:16,18). We can only appreciate God's saving  grace to the  extent that we understand the depth of His divine wrath. It's all about Him!


QUESTION:   Does Titus 2:11 tell us that everyone will be saved?


ANSWER:  The Apostle Paul declared that "the  grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people" (Titus 2:11 ESV). This Pauline passage does not teach universal salvation.  Mankind is translated as "man" in Titus 3:4 to refer to humanity in general, as a category, not to every individual.  Jesus Christ made a sufficient sacrifice to cover every sin of every one who believes or is given the gift of faith.  Paul makes it clear in the opening words of this letter to Titus that salvation becomes effective only through "the faith of God's elect" (1:1).  Out of humanity, only those who believe will be saved (John 1:12; 3:16; 5:24,38,40; Rom.10:9-17).


Moreover, in theological parlance, the grace that appears to all men is referred to as the "common grace" that accompanies the proclamation of the  gospel.  In this life, the ungodly commonly receive the same amenities and/or blessings as the godly (i.e., sunshine, rain, cars, homes, jobs, money, etc.).  Our awesome, sovereign God makes friends (saints) out of His enemies by providing "saving grace" according to His divine mercy (Romans 9:16,18). Paul adds:  "Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of  the  same lump  one vessel for honorable use and another for  dishonorable use?" (v. 21). 


QUESTION: My Seventh-day Adventist friends interpret the Pauline passages of 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 as referring to our physical bodies. How should we understand these passages?


ANSWER: The key to interpreting these two passages correctly lies in its grammatical structure.  Here is a severe warning to any who would try to interfere with or destroy the building of the church on the foundation of Christ. Importantly, the Koine Greek for "you" is plural in verses 16 and 17.  Since Seventh-day Adventism is a very physical religion, it does not surprise me that they would prefer to interpret these passages as relating strictly to the physical human body.  Indeed, these passages do not teach the so-called "health message" embraced by Adventism. Moreover, Jesus said, "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man" (Matt. 15:11 NASB).


QUESTION:  Is there a biblical mandate that only a minister can baptize people?


ANSWER:  The Bible nowhere teaches that only a minister can baptize. Any male, born-again Christian is qualified to baptize (i.e., friend, uncle, father, pastor, teacher, etc.).  The idea that only ministers are authorized to conduct baptisms reflects their intent of self-importance and to create dependence upon clergymen for all religious rites and services. Under the New Covenant, however, there is a priesthood of all believers. With the indwelling Spirit and a closed canon of Scripture, believers no longer need prophets and priests to dispense truth to them.  


Biblically, it is God's design for men to be the spiritual leaders of their home and church. Since all human beings are created equal, this is only about gender role and not an equality issue.  For example, God did not have women serve as priests and rabbis under the Mosaic Covenant, and the disciples and apostles were all men.  The Apostle Paul also indicated that men should be the key leaders in the church after some women were causing problems at the church in Corinth.


Moreover, studies have revealed that those churches who have women pastors and elders are usually liberal theologically (i.e., Seventh-day Adventism in America that ordains women as local elders and has licensed women pastors is largely pro-abortion, teaches that a place called "hell" does not exist,  no separate spirit entity in human beings, humans die just like animals and birds and become nonexistent as secular evolutionists and atheists believe as well, some are now even advocating a painless annihilation for the ungodly, etc.).  


I am grateful that my church requires men to teach Sunday School classes to those above the age of about 10.  With many women struggling to raise their children by themselves, it is essential for these young people to have spiritual influence and guidance from both men and women. Truly, a nation is only as strong as its family units are.

QUESTION:  What does I Timothy 2:4 mean when it says that God "desires all men to be saved"? Is this Pauline passage teaching universalism?

ANSWER:  The Greek word for "desires" is not that which normally expresses God's will of decree (His eternal  purpose), but God's will of desire.  There is a distinction between God's desire and His eternal saving purpose, which must transcend His desires.  God does not want people to sin.  He hates sin with all His being (Ps.5:4;45:7); thus, He hates its consequences—eternal wickedness in hell.  God does not want people to remain wicked forever in eternal remorse and hatred of  Himself.  Yet, God, for His own glory, and to manifest that glory in wrath, chose to endure "vessels...prepared for destruction" for the supreme fulfillment of His will (Rom. 9:22).  

In His eternal purpose, He  chose only the elect out of the world (John 17:6) and passed over the rest, leaving them to the consequences of their sin, unbelief, and  rejection of Christ (cf. Rom. 1:18-32). Ultimately, God's choices are determined by His sovereign, eternal purpose, not  His desires. Moreover, in Matthew 20:28, Christ's own statement tells us of "a ransom for many."  Clearly, the Bible teaches that not all will be ransomed.  The all is qualified by the many. Jesus did not pay a ransom only; He became the subject of God's just wrath in the believer's place.  He died his death and bore his sin. 

Christ's death was fully sufficient (efficacious) to cover the sins of all people. Yet, the substitutionary aspect of His death is applied to the elect alone.  Christ's death is therefore unlimited in its sufficiency, but limited in its application. Because Christ's expiation of sin is indivisible, inexhaustible, and sufficient to cover the guilt of all the sins that will ever be committed, God can clearly offer it to all.  Yet, only the elect will respond and be saved, according to His eternal purpose.

QUESTION:  I have noticed that prominent Seventh-day Adventists are increasingly saying that the Muslim god "Allah" is the same as God the Father. Are they really the same God or are they entirely different from each other?

ANSWER: The Adventist Jesus,  being less than equally God from his supposed created beginning, is a distinct Being from the Father and from the Holy Spirit. Seventh-day Adventism teaches that Jesus was actually "derived" from the Father. In other words, Jesus has not been fully God in His own right from eternity. Furthermore, according to SDA dogma, the three persons of the Trinity are one only in the sense that they work together in agreement and have a common purpose (this so-called "heavenly trio" get along well together). However, official Adventism notably omits the fact that the three persons of the Godhead are the same in having a co-eternal, indivisible Divine essence or substance. The God of Christianity and of the Bible is One Being yet three distinct persons (each person being fully God). Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9 ESV).

Seventh-day Adventists have been indoctrinated from an early age to insist that the Trinity isn't that important and that no one can fully understand God so we shouldn't be too concerned about the details. Sadly, such soothing indoctrination is part of their strategy of keeping inquiring members from leaving the fold.  Ellen White, the revered SDA prophetess,  was all-over-the-road on this topic. Consequently, without clear guidance from their infallible interpreter of Scripture, official Adventism still has not reached a consensus on the nature of God. Being strikingly blasphemous and heretical, they further believe that Jesus inherited the post-Fall, sinful  nature of Mary instead of Adam's pre-Fall nature. 

The biblical truth is that Jesus was born spiritually alive unlike fallen humanity. Consequently, Jesus did not need regeneration or to be born again as fallen man does. Their flawed views about the nature of God is why so many prominent Adventists can say that the Muslim Allah and God the Father are the same God. Etymologically, "Allah"  is  the only Arabic word for God. This fact confuses many people into thinking that the Muslim Allah is the same as God the Father. If God is three distinct Beings (a tritheism), you could worship and follow one apart from the others. But if God is One Being, as Christians believe, you can't worship the Father and deny Jesus as Lord and Savior.  

Importantly, the Christian Jesus died on a cross, but the Muslim Jesus did not.  When you deny the divinity of Jesus Christ (the God/man), you have also denied the one and only Triune God. Indeed, theology matters when it comes to who precisely is our Savior and Substitute! The Islamic religion does not allow their "Allah" to be even remotely considered as a Savior and Substitute (meaning "stand in"). Islam regards Jesus as merely one of many prophets. The substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ is  non-negotiable in biblical Christianity. Serious Bible students should log unto www.cultorchristian.com for in-depth, factual details on this salvific topic.

QUESTION:  Will my pet be in heaven?

ANSWER:  Is there an afterlife for pets? The Bible doesn't really teach that, but it also doesn't teach against it. There will be many happy surprises in heaven for the saints of all ages. However, I don't really know, but you will definitely not see your pet in heaven if you don't go there yourself.

QUESTION:  Of all the religious groups in the world, why do you primarily scrutinize Seventh-day Adventism?  

ANSWER:  The answer is simple. Collectively, my wife and I have more than 100 years of active experience in Seventh-day Adventism (both here and overseas).  I was never an employed minister of any other church, and I have never had the extensive experience in any other religious group than I have had with official Adventism.  

My scrutiny of Seventh-day Adventism is based solely on first-hand experience and biblical research.  Both my wife and I grew up as Adventists, and we are products of their educational system. Although I know a lot about many different religious organizations, I know a lot more about Seventh-day Adventism.  Teaching sound doctrine is a biblical commandment (Galatians 1:8-10; Titus 1 & 2).

QUESTION:  As a former Adventist for many years, I have been told by my pastor's wife that I must eat meat now to somehow "prove" that I am a Christian. Is this biblical?

ANSWER:

No! Having been indoctrinated in the legalistic stance of avoiding the consumption of all flesh foods while a Seventh-day Adventist, you certainly do not have any need for additional legalism to prove to anyone, by your diet, that you are now a Christian. With the exception of being a drunkard or glutton, Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7:19) and to be enjoyed to the glory of God. Jesus further stated, in the same chapter, that only the sinful deeds of the flesh defile us, not the food we eat. There is nothing wrong with being a vegan or vegetarian if not done in an attempt to reach a point of spiritual perfection.

Furthermore, with the holiday season upon us, many former Adventists are entertaining SDA friends and relatives at their dinner table. It is merely common sense hospitality to not be an insensitive and impolite host or hostess to your Adventist guests by blatantly indulging in eating pork, etc. in their presence. Moreover, if your guests are your SDA parents, you would actually dishonor them and thereby violate a moral directive by your thoughtlessness as they see you eating something totally taboo to them. Why not instead make your menu a pleasant experience for all who sit around your table and make Jesus the unseen guest?

QUESTION: Since Ellen White authored many embarrassing, false, foolish, harmful, inaccurate, unbiblical, and unscientific statements, what is your personal choice of her most bizarre theory? 

ANSWER:  Wow, you really know how to ask a difficult question. There are literally dozens of "bizarre" statements that supposedly came directly from the throne of God. Although official Adventism teaches merely thought inspiration in regard to the Bible, their apologists teach verbal inspiration in regard to the writings attributed to Ellen White, their revered prophetess, messenger, and infallible interpreter of Scripture. "When writing these precious books, if I hesitated, the very word I wanted to express the idea was given to me" (Selected Messages, vol. 3, pp. 51-52). The preceding statement certainly implies verbal inspiration. Moreover, in regard to her "precious" books, she added that "The instruction they contain is not of human production" (EGW letter 339, 1904). Clearly, Seventh-day Adventists claim a higher standard of inspiration for the writings attributed to Ellen White than for the Bible.

Most of Ellen White's top embarrassing statements are published elsewhere, but the following quote is less known. Referring to those who masturbate, she unashamedly stated that "Such are just as surely self-murderers as though they pointed a pistol to their own breast, and destroyed their life instantly" (An Appeal to Mothers, 1864). Thus, according to EGW, masturbation is equivalent to committing suicide. "I have since thought that many inmates of insane asylums were brought there by experiences similar to my own" (Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, p. 454). How can we believe in a person who admits such a thing?

QUESTION:  What is worse than a wolf in sheep's clothing?

ANSWER:   A fierce wolf in shepherd's clothing (Acts 20:29-30).

QUESTION: I have often noticed that Seventh-day Adventist congregations enjoy singing the well-known gospel song entitled "It is well with my soul." How can they honestly sing an inspiring hymn like this when they don't even believe in having a soul (human spirit entity) to save nor a literal hell to shun?

ANSWER:  The real truth is that Adventists cannot honestly sing popular hymns like "It is well with my soul" and "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine" and be even remotely consistent with their aberrant belief system that vigorously opposes such thoughts. This is another example of their ingrained cognitive dissonance (having the unique ability to believe in two opposing views simultaneously). 

Without their defensive cognitive dissonance, Seventh-day Adventists would likely suffer a mental breakdown and experience utter spiritual despair. Sadly and unfortunately, it is not inconsistent with their usual stance of deceiving others by talking out of both sides of their mouth. After all, their revered prophetess and co-founder, Ellen White, did that routinely by spoken word and pen. It would actually be sacrilegious for Seventh-day Adventists to sing "It is well with my breath" in order to accurately uphold their cultic dogma. Many people prefer to believe what they prefer to be true—even when inherently nonsensical and contrary to biblical teaching.

QUESTION:  What does the word "sabaoth" refer to in Scripture?

ANSWER:  The plural noun "sabaoth" means "armies" or "hosts" (the Greek term for the Hebrew "tsebaoth"). Thus, we find OT English Bible versions commonly using the phrase "the Lord of  hosts").  However, the etymology of the word "sabaoth" is not related to the weekly, Mosaic Sabbath.  The word "sabaoth" also appears occasionally in our hymnody.

QUESTION:  In just a few words, what is at least one reliable indicator of a religious cult?

ANSWER:  One significant red flag is any religious group teaching that there is no literal hell to shun and no soul entity to save (i.e., Armstrongites, Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Seventh-day Adventists). Indeed, getting the Gospel right should be our highest priority.

QUESTION: 1 Timothy 6:16 tells us that God alone has immortality. Does this somehow infer that God does not share His absolute immortality with His created beings?

ANSWER:  This Pauline passage must be taken to mean that God alone is immortal absolutely. Angels and human beings participate in the immortality that God alone possesses in a strict sense. Unlike angels and men, God has no beginning nor end. However, angels and human beings have a beginning by virtue of their creation. As "ministering spirits," angels do not have physical bodies like human beings have.  In contrast, human beings were fashioned into a two-part dichotomy consisting of body and soul. The human soul or spirit has no ending. Soli Deo Gloria!

QUESTION: In regard to the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation, if sola means "alone" why are there five of them?

ANSWER: We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed in Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.