Friday, September 12, 2008

A Stake in the Heart

In May of 2005, thru a series of unexpected happenings, I began to study more carefully into my personal beliefs and understandings of the Bible. My family roots reach down into the soil where Seventh-day Adventism germinated and became anchored. My great great grandparents attended meetings where Ellen White's preaching laid out in graphic detail the images of future destruction. They wanted to be part of the faithful group that stood firm to the end and gladly joined ranks with the remnant. They started an unbroken chain of adherents to the Advent faith that linked me into its culture. I
felt safe in this sanctuary of certainty Four generations of SDA Robersons. My grandfather is the boy in back.that allowed me to 

grow without "worldly" interference. Within its preserve I thrived and prospered. While it kept most of the influences of the world at bay, it was not without internal predators. The people were, after all, humans who left inconsistencies and downright wrongs behind them the way flies leave specks. Some of the picayunish squabbles that resulted simply annoyed me. For those I affected disdain and withheld approval. Other issues seemed so intolerable or grievously in error that I charged them like a crusader riding for reform. Sometimes, increments of change resulted from my crusades. Sometimes I fell off my horse and nursed my wounds; but I kept getting up and trying to effect movement.

My family provenance provided me with the proper credentials to question and challenge the potentially destructive elements from within. We had followed the trend that one of my teachers at Walla Walla College called the "sociogram of Adventism": farmer, minister, doctor. My brother Three generations of SDA Middletons. My mother is the girl with scarf.and I became doctors who had grown up in the home of an Adventist minister whose father was a farmer in Texas. We gathered each evening for "worship" where we heard daily readings from Ellen White. They became so familiar to me that when I closed my eyes, I could conjure up the picture of that group of saints tiptoeing along tightrope mountain trails on their precarious journey to Heaven. I loved the cadence of her language and the rich imagery evoked in my receptive mind by her words. I felt fear-inspired resolve and not a small modicum of comfort in knowing that we were the chosen of God.

Adventism is an interesting proposition. The longer I live, the more complexity I see within its matrix. For much of my life, the church seemed quite monolithic and homogeneous. Perhaps I was just unaware of its mosaic character earlier, but I began seeing the divergence and cracks in the church during the 70's when I was a medical student at Loma Linda University. It was then that Ronald Numbers published the book that placed Southern California at the epicenter of a 6.5 tilt on the Heresy Scale. The relentless aftershocks that followed in succession eclipsed the mother quake both in intensity and magnitude. The resulting shift of the Earth under planet Adventism has spawned revisionism that would have seemed impossible thirty years ago.

In the past two years, the Adventist Church has undergone cosmic repackaging. Writers like Clifford Goldstein have been rewriting history to create a kinder, gentler Adventism. In his Adventism, the historical Investigative Judgment became metaphorical, and its definition a moving target. For Andy Nash, in Adventist Today, the church became "community" first, a place of belonging, an exercise in recovery that encourages the traumatized to tolerantly pat Adventism's infancy on the head and smile indulgently. For Samir Selmanovic the church is a forum for embracing inclusive expansion of heart in a manner reminiscent of Buddhism. For the writers of Red Books, Adventism is a family with a tree full of lovably errant characters who need to be forgiven in order to move on to maturity.

So, what is the unifying element in this newly multilithic society? What is it that prevents this evolving, confused and disparate group from fragmenting into its constituent parts? The one solid, immovable rock, the central lith, seems to be the Sabbath. It runs like a chain thru all of the keyholes and binds the separate pieces together as a whole. With all of the diverging views - liberal, traditional, and evangelical streams - which run so far apart, there is one unifying force: the Sabbath. A stake driven so deeply into the heart of Adventism that removing it would create a fatal hemorrhage.

Even the university-student generation that has heard little of the writings of Ellen White, and believe themselves unaffected by her prolific pen, plant their feet firmly on the central point of agreement within Adventism, the Sabbath. How they observe it would make their grandparents flush, but, nonetheless, its "truth" is non-negotiable - even among the young. On a more unconscious level, the state of the dead and the belief that God created the church out of the reinterpretation of William Miller's failed run at Heaven, are other subjects that remain unassailable in all of the various streams.

In pondering the "sticking" quality of those beliefs, I began to wonder why it was not the cross that occupied the place of sine qua non. The cross had always been more peripheral, more negotiable, defended with far less zeal and passion by my Sabbath School teachers, parents, ministers, and professors. I wondered why. The wondering grew into a compulsion to know. My attempts at understanding that conundrum form the core of the studies listed below. I invite you to join me in taking a closer look than you may have ventured into before. It may answer some puzzling questions you've had in the past. It may raise some questions you've never thought to ask. But if you aren't afraid to confront your core beliefs, you may find that you experience a deeper conviction and trust in the scriptures as a result. I did.

There is a section for comments at the end of each page.

Ultimate Rest is a look at the Who of the Sabbath instead of the usual "when" of the Sabbath.

Spirit explores the ways in which we are created in the image of God and how that changes the definition of "spirit."

Faith or Fear? is a juxtaposition of salvation by faith and the Investigative Judgment from a historical, but practical, Christian perspective.

Clicking on each title will take you to that study.
Where you end up may surprise you. It surprised me.

Ultimate Rest (Table of Contents)


Chapter One: Why Study? Ethan Morphis, my pride and joy
Chapter Two: A Challenge
Chapter Three: The Everlasting Covenants
Chapter Four: The Old or Siniatic Covenant
Chapter Five: Are the Ten Commandments Immutable?
Chapter Six: The Seventh Day In Creation
Chapter Seven: Jesus' Authority Over the Sabbath
Chapter Eight: The Contrast between the New and Old Covenants
Chapter Nine: The Christian Church and the Lord's Day
Chapter Ten: Scripture Passages That Raise Questions
Chapter Eleven: Adventist Heritage of the Sabbath
Chapter Twelve: The Rest That Remains
Books Consulted
Appendix 1: Herschel Hughes' Message
Appendix 2: Walter Martin's Interview
Appendix 3: Walter Martin's Questions to the General Conference
Appendix 4: Walter Martin's Position on Adventism


"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matt 11:28-30 (NIV)

What kind of rest is Jesus offering? Is it the kind of rest where we get a day off of work and pursue recreational activities? Is it rest that gets us away from our usual activities? Or is there a deeper rest He's calling us to? We go thru the routines of our daily lives feeling a heaviness that we have difficulty defining. The economy goes bust and we add another layer to our worry quotient. Will I be able to retire - like, ever? Our kids make stupid choices, and we feel helpless to intervene. One more layer. And so it goes.

Deeper than all of those concerns is a gnawing sense that we aren't really connected to God. We remember the times when we knew His presence, but just can't get back to that place. People talk about "intimacy with God." What does that mean? We go to church and make friends. We go on picnics, talk about who we knew in college, make the connections, talk about church politics, have a short, somewhat awkward sundown worship, and then play Rook. What's this intimacy thing? Not in my life!

Then comes a time in which we are brought face-to-face with the reality that there is more to this religion thing - and we've missed it. The child of God in the picture above, Gently Broken by Ramone Romero, has decided to take the risk of coming to Jesus with her disappointment, discouragement and weariness. She has come in her "filthy rags," carrying the tablets of stone that have become too heavy for her to carry. Not knowing what else to do, she has laid them down at Jesus' feet, hoping against hope that He can give her rest - real rest - hoping that He will accept and embrace her. She wants to feel close to Him.

As He reaches down to her with His nail-pierced hand, it triggers a memory of something she's read. "Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise." Gal 4:21-23 (NIV)

What does it mean? Suddenly, she notices that the tables of stone, that bear the indictments against her, begin to crumble - then break. Could this be true? Could it be that "He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Col 2:13-14 (NIV)

She sees the answer in His eyes. He did! He gently reminds her that, "the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now." Then He says to her with a sound of conviction that goes to the depths of her being, "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son. Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman." Gal 4:29-31 (NIV)

Oh, Jesus! Take it from me. Take my weariness and my fear. Let me become obedient to Your voice. Forgive me for entering in to a covenant that was never mine to embrace. Show me what it means to be a child of the free woman.

This is the beginning of the journey into being gently broken. Come and enter into the Rest that awaits us in the New Covenant. The studies on this site contain information that can aid you in finding the closeness to God you have always desired. "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I WILL give you rest."

Next Chapter: How It All Began

What is the purpose in devaluing the Sabbath? What possible good could come of it? Even if it isn't still mandatory, if I like it, why mess with it? Well, perhaps there is something better, something more in harmony with the will of God. Perhaps the Sabbath is keeping us from the Best.

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How It All Began

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” Heb 10:1 (NIV)

Some time before Christmas, 2005, my mother gave me a card she got in the mail. It announced a website from a man named Herschel Hughes who felt that he had been given a message from God for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Hughes was not only a Seventh-day Adventist, but had been on the faculty at Pacific Union College and had designed the covers for the Conflict of the Ages series of Ellen White's books. I had been on my own journey of discovery regarding some of the foundational issues of the church I inherited as a right of birth. My grandfather used to tell me stories of seeing the tower room at Elmshaven radiating an other-worldly light late into the darkest recesses of night. His mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were also Adventists.

I was in medical school in Loma Linda in the 70s when Ron Numbers and Walter Rea had made their disturbing discoveries of Ellen White’s widespread plagiarism and gross inaccuracies. Ron Numbers was one of my prMy grandparents' mode of cross-country travelofessors when his book was
published. I watched with deep concern when their documented discoveries were labeled as disloyalty, and Ellen White was vigorously defended despite the findings. I mused over the assertion that plagiarism was a common practice in her time. In her case, the material she had "borrowed" was often presented as visions received directly from God. In my estimation, "borrowing" another's writing without attributing the source was not acceptable, but attributing the source to a supernatural "vision" from God was duplicitous. Prior to this I had always given White the benefit of the doubt, believing that she had a prophetic gift but was a mistake-prone human.

At the time these disturbing facts were unveiled, I didn’t feel any urgency to study into the allegations myself. I now wonder why I avoided doing so. I think it was probably too threatening to know the details of the claims against "our prophet." I believed the Adventist Church was the only - or at least the closest thing to - the right church on Earth and didn't see any point in dredging up dirt on it. "Tearing down instead of building up," I believe was the popular quote. Besides, I flattered myself that focusing on the "negative" was just a distraction from more important aspects of Christian life. The time of discovery passed without my seriously delving into the shaky aspects of my community of faith.

My interest and energy, during the late 80’s thru the early 2000's, took an unexpected and abrupt turn toward a quest for the Holy Spirit. I was captured by a passion that drew me like a moth to The Flame. How had I been swept into this river of beauty called the Renewal? All my life I had been trained to practice strong skepticism toward anything that would pass for direct manifestations of the Holy Spirit or the supernatural intruding into my world of the natural. But here He was. Magnificent, powerful, personal and undeniable. He came to me out of the blue, unexpected, loving, real. He opened the scriptures as if they were brand new and He enlivened my times of prayer so that there was nothing I would rather do than to be in conversation with Jesus. I had never felt this way before. I had never longed so deeply to be near to my Savior.

It was not until May of 2005 that I was drawn back to a subject I would rather have ignored. But inexorably, my eyes were turned back to my church of origin where I saw recurring themes of struggle. The dysfunctions within the church were patterned and predictable. There had to be identifiable reasons why so many people fought with the same issues of internal dissonance. It was thru Cleansing Stream (a program developed by Jack Hayford, then senior pastor of Church on the Way, Van Nuys, California. Their website can be visited at: that I learned about our ability as Christians to trace back and break the power of destructive patterns passed down to us from generation to generation. It has never been a secret that certain aspects of Adventist heritage are not spiritually healthy. Legalism has always been a bugaboo; uncertainty regarding salvation, and dread of the end of time are others. In 2005 I felt compelled to track down the sources of fear and discover the truths that could resolve the spiritual malaise they had evoked since the beginning of SDA church history.

The lethargy in pursuing spiritual health in these areas was disturbing. In fact, frank discussion of the knotty problems was actively suppressed, avoided.
As I studied, I began to see certain errors of teaching and belief in the formation of the church that spawned predictable spiritual angst. The lethargy in pursuing spiritual health in these areas, however, was disturbing. In fact, frank discussion of the knotty problems was actively suppressed, avoided. There was an aspect of fear associated with questioning the My mother and her parentscore belief system. I soon realized that I couldn't wait for others to do the work for me. I needed to understand for myself where the teachings had become canted. It was while I was in the process of this study, which resulted in a large compilation of material, that I first listened to Herschel Hughes' message.

The subjects of his message were areas I had already been contemplating. Soon I found others who were trying to find the way thru the maze of contradictions. It was helpful to add their findings to my own. It may be helpful to you, too, as you filter thru the information you have grappled with over the years, to read what others have concluded. Dr. Hughes’ message is included in Appendix 1 at the end of this study along with the website link to an audio presentation he gave in a local SDA church. I would encourage you to listen to the message itself. It gives a much clearer picture of the person giving the prophetic word and the circumstances of how he received it. My point in alluding to his presentation here is not really to endorse or refute it, but to use it as a stimulus for discussion and study. It summarizes areas of contention and theological uncertainty in Adventism that have been noted both from within the church and from Christian critics outside.

After a two year hiatus from a Southern California Seventh-day Adventist church, I felt that I needed to return in order to engage in dialogue regarding my areas of concern. I was reluctant to go since I was quite happy where I was, but I felt convicted to go back, so I did. This church was unique among most Adventist churches in that it acknowledged and moved in the gifts of the Spirit. The church went thru some internal trauma that provided a promising new pastor eager to pursue the Holy Spirit's presence. He instituted what he called a “prophetic council” that was patterned after the model of the early church mentored by Paul. “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two--or at the most three--should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God. Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” 1 Cor 14:26-29 (NIV) He encouraged people to practice those principles to gain experience in hearing God.
The consensus of the council was that the earthquake would be spiritual rather than literal. As I look back now at their conclusion, I believe they were being prepared for what was coming to the church.

Sometime in September 2005, one of the young women in the church felt that she had received a message from God predicting a powerful, destructive earthquake in Southern California in October (just one month away). She was invited to present what she felt she had heard to the prophetic council to evaluate its content. The consensus of the council was that the earthquake would be spiritual rather than literal. As I look back now at their conclusion, I believe they were being prepared for what was coming to the church.

It was in October, 2005, that I listened to Hughes’ message and felt that it contained the core subjects that needed attention. It was reassuring to me that we were both drawn to look at the same issues, and I immediately wrote him an email telling him of my own journey. Since he and his wife lived within an hour of my home, I suggested that we meet and talk. I got no reply. I sent the website link to my pastor and asked him to listen to the presentation. I’m not certain that he listened, but he did make a copy of the written transcript.

The pastor announced in church that he would read the written transcript to the prophetic council on January 17– since it had come to his attention. This was now January 14, 2006. The next day, Sunday, January 15, three months after I had written to Herschel Hughes, he called and said that the Lord had highlighted my email and impressed him to call me. He had received thousands of emails, understandably many of them rather unpleasant, and had not responded to any but mine. I explained to him what was happening at church in two days and asked if he would be willing to present his message in person to the prophetic council. He agreed to, and did.

While there was some antagonism and anger evident at the meeting, for the most part, people were respectful. After a question and answer period they asked him to leave so a response could be formulated with just the church members and leadership present. No one wanted to make decisions about whether the message was from God or how to respond to it, but, to their credit, they did come to a consensus to study further into the points of conflict identified in his talk. The task of presenting that study was given to me by the pastor. It was to be accomplished on one Friday night in March, 2006.

On that evening I decided to present an overview of the problem. It was an introduction to the subjects that needed further study. At the end of the presentation, the pastor asked me if I would teach a series of classes on these subjects. I agreed to do so, and a schedule was established. God had opened a way to explore Adventism's unique doctrines in an Adventist church. I was amazed. I had never seen that done before, nor have I heard of it since.

These classes have now been completed. They resulted in much controversy and discomfort in the church, but they also provided for discussion of problems that have been largely avoided and ignored. Church members know that the inconsistencies and contradictions exist. The practice of pretending that they don't has required psychological dissociation akin to schizophrenia between intellectual honesty and intentional denial, especially among Adventist academicians.

If you have ever felt torn between loyalty and honesty, or wondered why Adventist teaching and belief are in such contrast with the rest of Christianity, I hope that you will allow yourself the intellectual freedom to investigate the reasons for those differences. The responses from those who attended the classes were like showers of refreshing rain. Surprisingly, when we had removed the faulty foundations they had trusted before, they discovered a deeper appreciation and love for the person, Jesus.

It was painful to admit that I had to subject everything I held dear to the fire of truth and allow it to separate truth from fiction. All of it had to be surrendered to God, even my very identity.

Like most SDAs who have attended church schools, I was well indoctrinated into the key texts and scriptures used to support the fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventism. It came as quite a shock to me, therefore, to discover many scriptures that are in direct opposition to what I had been taught regarding the Bible. Some of you have run across scriptures that have surprised you in the same way. For others it will be a new concept that there may be problems with consonance between Adventist doctrine and the Bible. I am still being broad-sided by scriptures that I never knew were there, scriptures that would make what I was taught impossible. Commendably, part of the heritage of Adventism includes love and respect for the scriptures. We were told to test all things by the word of God. We should not be afraid to put that advice into practice.

More than once I have experienced consternation as I have attempted to find teachings from Ellen White in the Bible, just to discover that they are not there. I was certain that my spiritual belief system had its foundations in the Bible. To find that much of what I had been taught from my earliest years had its source in the writings of Ellen White and not in the Bible felt like a betrayal. I had to overcome incredible inertia to push ahead into territory that felt like foreign soil. It was painful to even admit that I was going to have to subject everything I held dear up to the fire in order to separate truth from fiction. In that fire, I had to surrender it all to God and allow Him to burn away even my identity if that identity was not a part of His kingdom and truth.
Adventism, too, is being given the opportunity to confront errors that have had a grip on us for far too long. We don't have to live with them anymore.

We are standing in a kairos (prophetically significant) time in Adventist history. From many corners of the Christian church at large, God is calling people and groups to re-investigate their foundations and clean out the debris and falsehood that have been allowed to creep into the purity of the gospel. This is a time for truth. Just as Paul was constantly calling the church back to sound doctrine, so the Holy Spirit is calling the church to worship in truth and spirit. Adventism, too, is being given the opportunity to confront errors that have had a grip on us for far too long. We don’t have to live with them anymore. We don’t have to wait for the General Conference to take an official stand in order to investigate these subjects ourselves. In fact we are commanded to come under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Himself - into His classroom where He will lead us into truth. The mistakes of our spiritual parents don’t have to affect our freedom in Christ. Though it's not an easy process, the healing and freedom are worth the effort. We stand at a crossroads. God is beckoning us toward the "road less travelled" where our pride will be sacrificed so that Jesus can be glorified.

Being an Adventist is not like being a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or any other evangelical denomination. The others have never been listed as cults. Adventism has been, and is, listed with the cults by a number of experts. Walter Martin, a noted authority regarding cults, held interviews in the 1950s with four Adventist theologians, one of whom was a frequent house guest of ours in Reading, PA. There was much debate, some of it rather heated between Martin, Barnhouse and the representatives from the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Those discussions resulted in the book Questions on Doctrine. It was published by Review and Herald Publishing Association in 1957, at Martin’s insistence, as a statement of orthodoxy to Christian belief. It was under the condition of the book's publication that Martin would, with provision, remove the Seventh-day Adventist Church from its cult status. Up to this time Martin had included Adventism with the cults in his well-known book The Kingdom of the Cults.

There was so much uproar from Adventist church members about Questions on Doctrine (which refuted much of what Adventists taught), that very shortly after its introduction it was removed from publication. However, Martin’s book, which gave Adventism a guarded nod as a Christian denomination, had already been published. In an interview with Doug Hackleman from Adventist Currents (Appendix 2) Walter Martin stated that he was very seriously considering reinstating the church’s cult status. He wrote a letter to the GC president asking three critical questions (Appendix 3). The decision to place the church back into cult status hinged on their answers to those three questions. The questions were never answered (Appendix 4) and shortly thereafter, in 1989, Walter Martin died. For a series of fascinating videos between Martin and William Johnsson, then editor of The Review, click here:
There are other experts on cults, notably David W. Cloud and Anthony Hoekema, who strongly disagreed with Walter Martin’s conclusions and felt that he had created great confusion in the body of Christ, betraying the evangelical community (Appendix 4). They continue to consider Adventism a cult. Interestingly, it is the very doctrines mentioned in the message from Dr. Hughes and covered by these studies that are cited as the offending doctrines by those questioning Adventism’s claims to Christianity. It seems reasonable to investigate why evangelical Christians would consider Adventism to be a cult and not, say, the Baptists, Assemblies of God, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, etc. If there is validity to the charges, then the aberrant doctrines need to be corrected.

It feels threatening to question beliefs that have defined our lives. However, turning away from the challenge raises the haunting spectre of fear that the teachings won't stand if we look too closely. The group that heard Dr. Hughes present his message came to a unanimous decision to look at the problem areas thru the lens of the Bible. That decision led to the development of the studies which you are about to read. Hughes asserts that the message he delivered was given to him from God. The contents of that message will serve as a spur to look at problems we know we should have confronted long before this.

Ultimate Rest Table of Contents
The Next Chapter: Why Study?

Spending time delving into the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist Church probably isn't your idea of a good time. If Adventism has become primarily a culture, a community to you, it may seem completely off topic to go back and see what composes the fabric of your church. If you are a "true believer" you may think you already know everything that could possibly be brought into discussion. If you have been turned off by Adventism, you may have just walked away from everything, including Jesus. To all of you I would say, there may be questions you have yet to ask, answers you've yet to find, a Person who is calling you to come deeper into His love.

Why Study?

Legitimate questions arise as we undertake the study of the foundations and doctrines unique to Adventism. “Why should we study them? Isn’t this just a distraction from the gospel and from Jesus? Is this just another form of legalism and the religious spirit? Who cares about doctrines anyway? Who ever thinks about them?”

What we believe about Jesus is what we will transmit to those we take by the hand and lead into His presence.

Can we start from a position that all who repent and call in faith on the name of Jesus as our Savior have eternal life and are seated with Him in heavenly places? That is the foundation of our salvation. Sadly, it is not a given that a person steeped in Adventism will be certain of that position for themselves. There are deep fears about "being ready" and wondering in what ways they have offended a tabulating God. The spectre of a pen-holding deity with 'His Sheep May Safely Graze' by Cherry Brandstatermemory greater than any 
computer ever imagined is not a great comfort. The fear of standing before a Holy God without the covering of Jesus is enough to make the most arrogant tremble. Is that the dread we want to instill in others? Is that the Jesus we want to portray? Is that the heritage we want to pass on? Is that what we want to reproduce? What is Jesus really like? Our task must be to search and find what He has revealed of Himself in scripture and to let those truths replace distortions we may have inadvertently incorporated into our beliefs about Him. What we believe about Jesus is what we will transmit to those we take by the hand and lead into His presence. God has given us the scriptures for the purpose of bringing us into harmony with His heart and will. That’s what sound doctrine means.

The spirit of the world says, “You have your truth and I have my truth. It’s deluded and arrogant to believe that we can arrive at The Truth.” Intellectuals from academic institutions make proclamations from purely human derivations that the best we can hope to accomplish is to try to understand each others’ perspectives and come to accept that there is validity in all beliefs. Unfortunately, many in the Adventist Church have adopted the same position. If you are unaware of the emergent church movement within Adventism, you may want to familiarize yourself with that trend. This may be a place to start. Faith House is fully authorized by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. You can find the endorsements of well- known Adventist leaders on the site.

We are all hampered by weak and limited capacities to grasp the truth about God. But holding to a position that it is impossible for us to study the Bible and be led into “true truth," as Francis Schaeffer used to say, is denying the words and power of Jesus. When Jesus came before Pilate, that ruler reflected the same attitude of futility when he rhetorically asked Jesus, “What is truth?” There was no hesitation in Jesus' answer: “In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37 (NIV)

When Jesus was reassuring His disciples He told them "If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” John 14:15-17 (NIV) “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” John 16:13 (NIV)

So, is He able to do what he has promised? Does it depend on our weakness or His strength? Are all things possible in Him or not? Do we believe that we are only victims in this world or do we believe that Jesus can use us proactively to promote His kingdom? Do we join the world in 'Jesus, Whom My Soul Loves' by Cherry Brandstatersaying that truth is relative and unattainable or do we agree with Jesus when He tells us that He will send the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth?

Which is easier, to believe that the Holy Spirit can lead us into all truth or to believe that the Holy Spirit can use us to heal the sick and raise the dead? Neither one. They are both impossible without the supernatural intervention of God. Faith says that both are possible despite the lack of faith revealed in the world and despite our weakness.

Our reticence to study doctrine has many roots. Our distaste for the legalistic ways and means by which the distinctive beliefs of Adventism were presented and enforced is legitimate. The last thing we want to do is to revisit those attitudes. However, the vestiges of that history remain in us unperceived. We are frequently unaware that beliefs we hold dear came from extrabiblical sources, but perceived or not, they affect our pictures of God and how we present His Son to others. I keep finding things I believed to have come from scripture just to discover they came from the writings of Ellen White and are nowhere to be found in the Bible.
The Church is being called to examine the foundations of belief and to change or cast off anything that does not stand the test of scripture.
As we undertake the task of searching the scriptures to purify our foundations, remember that God has called us to this task. As I have spoken with others outside Adventism I have discovered that we are right in line with what the Holy Spirit is doing throughout the body of Christ. The Church is being called to examine the foundations of belief and to change or cast off anything that does not stand the test of scripture. How gracious of God not to leave us out of this move, just as He will not leave us out of the powerful outpouring of His Holy Spirit if we surrender every thought and every belief to His leading. Change is uncomfortable. But then, Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable.

Paul is a role model to us in conducting the mission of the church. As Paul was mentoring Timothy in ways to evangelize and disciple the church, he admonished him with these words: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” 2 Tim 4:1-5 (NIV) “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” 1 Tim 4:16 (NIV)

To Titus he wrote, “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” Titus 2:1 Paul was particularly zealous that people not be burdened or confused by laying on them the injunctions of the Old Covenant which he referred to as the circumcision party. He made this clear in his letter to Titus: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach.” Titus 1:9-11 (NIV) “This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth” Titus 1:13-14 (NIV). The purity of the gospel is the essence of sound doctrine and anything that distorts that message needs to be cast off.

The strongest commendation for studying is preserved in Acts as Paul praises the people of Berea with these words, “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11 (NIV) It is a noble thing to investigate whether or not the beliefs we have embraced are based on truth. It is in this spirit that we pursue the study of our Adventist foundations.

One must question any person in authority who would discourage the people under their protection from studying the foundations of their faith from the Bible.
We have a responsibility to God, and to anyone we bring to Him through Jesus, to provide a picture of God that is as close to truth as possible. We can determine to be the worshipers God is seeking, those who value both Spirit and truth. He inspired Paul to admonish us to “Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” 2 Tim 2:15 (AMP) Far from bringing division, the pursuit of truth brings freedom and unity around the One Truth, Jesus Christ. One must question any person in authority who would discourage the people under their protection from studying the foundations of their faith from the Bible. It is clearly a mandate from God.

Many of us have held to Seventh-day Adventist beliefs since childhood. They have become a part of our DNA engrained at a subconscious level. It will not be a quick or easy task to fully examine the teachings we have taken into the core of our belief systems. But I believe we owe it to ourselves and to God to put forth the effort to hold onto the purest picture of God we can paint. And I believe that we need to be willing to renounce anything that does not line up with the word of God. I’m excited that you have decided to put aside any discomfort or fear you may have faced to get to this point. I know that God will honor the risk you have taken with powerful blessing.

We will begin our studies with the doctrine of the Sabbath (Ultimate Rest) followed by studies on the state of the dead (Spirit), the remnant status of Adventism and the prophetic foundation of the Adventist Church including the Investigative judgment (Faith or Fear?) and the writings and leadership of Ellen White.

Ultimate Rest Table of Contents
The Next Chapter: A ChallengeA look at the topics of discussion for the remaining chapters of "Ultimate Rest"

A Challenge

As mentioned earlier we will be using the message Herschel Hughes gave in a Seventh-day Adventist church as an impetus to study some of the foundations of our faith. The following was the first topic he mentioned:

“The end is near, so I give you this final warning, you must return to your Christian roots, and abandon the false teaching that it is my will that you should observe and make the Jewish Sabbath the focus of end time events, and an issue of salvation. This is wrong, for the Sabbath was part of the old covenant I made exclusively for the Jews, and as Gentiles it's not yours to claim. But I have given all people, Jews and Gentiles alike, who believe and follow me, a new covenant, which is the inheritance of eternal life, freely given by my blood, and by my grace through faith, and which also includes the guidance and empowerment of my spirit, but it includes no allowance for any legalisms from the old Jewish covenant. My Jews celebrate my creation, but my Christians celebrate my blood.”

The subject of the Sabbath is important enough to the purpose and foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist church that it is incorporated into its very name. Here’s what Ellen White had to say about the name chosen for the group: “The name Seventh-day Adventist is a standing rebuke to the Protestant world. Here is the line of distinction between the worshippers of God and those who worship the beast and receive his mark. The great conflict is between the commandments of God (i.e. Sabbath-keeping) and the requirements of the beast.” SG Vol 4, p. 54

How do we decide what to believe and what to discard? Our supposition is that we decide by scripture alone. It's time to test that theory.

Because the Adventist Church has stated that none of its beliefs come from Ellen White but from the Bible alone, I believe it is very important to investigate this claim and to be clear on what scriptures actually teach. Are any of the above assertions true? If the beliefs of Adventists that contradict the teachings of most of the evangelical church come from God, how is it that mainstream Christians also base their doctrines on scripture and they have not been listed as cults? How many of the SDA doctrines do we actually believe? How do we decide what to believe and what to discard? Our supposition is that we decide by scripture alone. It’s time to test that theory.

Pressing questions present themselves to members and even ex-members of Adventism: Is it the desire of God that we continue to observe the Sabbath? Even when a person leaves Adventism it seems that there is a deeply rooted belief that they had better not give up the Sabbath – just in case. Is this what the Bible says of the New Testament church? Are we in God’s will to continue saying, “What’s wrong with meeting on the Sabbath, what does it matter?” instead of asking,“What does the Word of God say?” and “Does it matter to God?” Is it valid to act contrary to the Bible so as not to offend other Adventists, especially family and Adventist employers, in the hopes of influencing them to seek the Holy Spirit? What will we be bringing them to when we, ourselves, have not gotten off the bridge and into the New Covenant? Do Adventists actually keep the Sabbath? And, if not, why continue to hold onto it when it creates division from the body of Christ and confusion to new believers?

Let's push on to answer those questions.

Ultimate Rest Table of Contents

The Next Chapter: The Everlasting Covenants

Are all of the covenants in the Bible everlasting covenants? If God is the same yesterday, today and forever, could any of His covenants be temporary? Which ones are which? There are four covenants that are spoken of as being everlasting. Do you know which ones they are?

The Everlasting Covenants

One morning, as I was getting ready for work, I was struck with a revelation. It had to do with this obscure text I had never understood:

“What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. ” Gal 3:19-20 (NIV)

Often, EGW refers to the Ten Commandments as the everlasting covenant. That text all of a sudden came clear to me and I finally understood something important. I ran to my computer and opened Bible Explorer to see if my thoughts were valid. Here is what I discovered: there is a distinction made in the covenants on the basis of the parties involved. The old covenant required two parties as evidenced by a mediator and therefore, because one of the parties was human it could be, and was, broken almost immediately and therefore could not be everlasting and, it was not made with all humanity, just with Israel. I then discovered that this subject is further explored by other writers as well.10, 14

The New International Version Study Bible has an excellent table explaining the major covenants of the Old Testament. The covenants in the Ancient Near East were differentiated by the conditions associated with their fulfillment. A Royal Grant was unconditional. It was a covenant made by a king to a subject of his kingdom. A Suzerain-vassal covenant was conditional and could be revoked upon non-compliance of the servant with the requirements. The Suzerain was the king. The vassal was a servant or slave. All of the major covenants of the Old Testament can be identified as one or the other of these categories.

The Noahic Covenant:
'Noah' by Duncan Long
“Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." Gen 9:16 This covenant carried no requirements of those with whom it was made. It was unconditional and therefore, a Royal Grant. The fulfillment required no response from humanity.

The Abrahamic Covenant:

This is the statement of the covenant that God spoke to Abraham: “Then God said, 'Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him'” Gen 17:19 (NIV)

As we go to the New Testament we see that it included all nations:
“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Gal 3:8-9 (NIV) and, of course this was a prophetic promise of the Savior for all the world.

Again, this covenant had only One covenant-maker, God. It would happen without Abraham’s input. In fact, Abraham’s input was a singular failure and resulted in the very illustration of the old Ten Commandment covenant of slavery.

“These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.” Gal 4:24 (NIV)

Therefore, this covenant was a Royal Grant and was unconditional and unbreakable.
The Davidic Covenant:

"'I will also give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you.'When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you , and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever... But my love will never be taken away from him...Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will beestablished forever.'" 2 Sam 7:11-16 (NASB)

This is the covenant God made with David: 'Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David.'” Isaiah 55:3 (NIV)
"Hear now, you house of David! … Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:13-14 (NIV)

This is a reiteration of the promise of the Savior. David was a type of Jesus, and it was promised that there would always and eternally be a king who will sit on the throne of David. Again, though David failed and failed, the covenant did not, because it was not dependant on David. It was an unconditional Royal Grant.

The New Covenant:

As we will see later, the New Covenant is the everlasting replacement for the Old Covenant that was put in place as a stopgap measure. Listen to the terms of this covenant: "'The time is coming,' declares the LORD, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,' declares the LORD. 'This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,' declares the LORD. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the LORD," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the LORD. 'For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'" Jer 31:31-34 (NIV)

"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'I will deal with you as you deserve, because you have despised my oath by breaking the covenant. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you in the days of your youth, (the everlasting covenant through Abraham) and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you (looking forward to the New Covenant).'" Ezek 16:59-61 (NIV) The Old Covenant here is contrasted with the new, everlasting, covenant. Israel broke the old one they had promised to keep. Theirs was a Suzerain-vassal covenant. It was conditonal. The condition was that they would keep all of the rules, regulations and laws of the covenant or suffer the consequences. It was broken from the beginning and nothing could restore it. So God promised to make a new and everlasting covenant. The old was never intended to be everlasting.

What’s different between the unconditional covenants and those that were conditional? The mediator of the everlasting covenants was the covenant-maker and keeper. He is the king Who's word is sure and everlasting. They were promises made sovereignly by God and did not depend on another party keeping up their end. There were no conditions.

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” Heb 9:15 (NIV) The party involved here is Jesus as priest, intercessor and judge.

The Old Covenant was conditional on Israel's capacity to comply with the requirements of the covenant. They entered into the covenant and affirmed “All you have said we will do.” It was ratified by a mediator, and the conditions were not met by the people nearly as soon as they had made the agreement. The unconditional Royal Grant covenant made with Abraham spanned the time when the temporary Old Covenant was in effect. It preceded the Old and it was in place after the Old was no longer in effect. It had no condtions and will never end.

“What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God (with Abraham) and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.” Gal 3:17-18 (NIV) This is contrasting the Ten Commandments and entire Book of the Law, or Old Covenant, with the Abrahamic covenant promise of a Savior which depended on an unconditional promise from God and not laws that would be broken. The Ten Commandments were added 430 years after the time of
'I AM the New Covenant' by Cherry Brandstaterthe Royal Grant covenant with Abraham so they did not exist prior to Sinai, which was at least 2500 years after Adam.

“The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless…and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.' Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” Heb 7:18-22 (NIV) He will not change His mind. This one was not temporary like the other. It is not conditional on our behavior. The Old Covenant was set aside when Jesus came because Jesus was what the former covenant pointed toward. But it had only ever been a shadow. In itself, it was "weak and useless." Pretty strong words.

With Christ, a whole new order was ushered in. We are his new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Cor 5:17 (NIV) And Christ became the mediator of the New Covenant. This is a mirror to the statement in Ex. 20:8-11 “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore (for this reason) the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The authority God gave for making the covenant with Israel was His creatorship. In the New Covenant we are a new creation. God’s authority to make the New Covenant with humanity is the blood of Christ who has become the mediator of the New Covenant. While we were yet sinners He came, strings free, without conditions to offer the free gift of salvation.

“Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” Gal 6:15 (NIV) The Old Covenant with all of its laws, signs and regulations is now trumped by the new order.

“But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” Heb 8:6-7 (NIV) Something was wrong with the Old Covenant. Does that sound like an eternal, unbreakable, immutable covenant?

How does one enter the New Covenant? "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned." Mark 16:16 (NIV) " That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)

Summary of the Everlasting Covenants:

1) The four major Royal Grant (unconditional) covenants mentioned in the Old Testament are: the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant.

2) The Old Covenant was a condtional Suzerain-vassal covenant who's conditions were not met nearly from the beginning. It was, therefore, broken and weak. It was only intended to be a shadow pointing to the real Covenant, Jesus.

3) The Royal Grant covenants depend on God alone for their fulfillment. They are unconditional and, therefore, everlasting.

4) The Old Covenant was conditional and temporary from the beginning. It was called weak and useless. God and Israel entered into the covenant together. Israel broke the covenant. There was something wrong with it.

5) The Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant. The New Covenant is a Royal Grant (unconditional and everlasting).

6) The authority of the covenant-Maker for the Old Covenant was creation. The authority for the New is the blood of Christ. He is the new mediator; we are the new creation.

Ultimate Rest Table of Contents

The Next Chapter: The Old or Siniatic Covenant
Was the Old Covenant ever intended to be everlasting? If it was, why is there a New Covenant? Was the Old Covenant made with us? All that God does is good. What was the purpose of the Old Covenant?

The Old or Sinaitic Covenant

The Sinaitic, or Old Covenant, made with Israel was in keeping with the covenants made between kings and their subjects. It was of the Suzerain-vassal type and came with conditions that had to be maintained in order for the covenant to remain in effect. Israel confidently boasted, "All you have said, we will do." Before the ink was dry on the tables of stone, the conditions had already been broken. Symbolic of the nullified covenant, Moses threw the tablets to the ground, physically echoing the metaphysical chards they had made of their promises to God.

The Old Covenant: The Ten Commandments and the Entire Book of the Law

The following scriptures will define what is included in the Old Covenant. Adventists have been taught that there are two parts of the Old Covenant, the Ten Commandments (which Ellen White said is everlasting) and the rest of the Book of the Law (which she calls the ceremonial law). Those distinctions are never used in scripture. They are an artificial separation. If you are going to teach that the Ten Commandments (and therefore the Sabbath) are still in effect since the death of Jesus, then you must somehow separate them out of the law since Paul clearly states that the law was nailed to the cross. Col. 2:15 So we will go to scripture to see what was included in the Old Covenant.

“There was nothing in the ark except the two stone tablets that Moses had placed in it at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt. I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers when he brought them out of Egypt." 1 Kings 8:9 & 21 (NIV)

Notice that it is the Ark of the Covenant and that the covenant was made with the Israelites after God brought them out of Egypt. Therefore it did not exist before that time. And what was in the Ark of the Covenant? The Ten Commandments.

“Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant--the Ten Commandments.” Ex 34:28 (NIV) So, here we see that the Ten Commandments are the very words of the covenant, so they cannot be separated out from the law or the Old Covenant.

“He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stones.” Deut 4:13 (NIV). Keep this in mind as we will be seeing a repeat of this statement by Paul in 2 Corinthians. 'rugged Peaks, by Cherry Brandstater

“When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the LORD had made with you…” Deut 9:9 (NIV)

“At the end of the forty days and forty nights, the LORD gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant.” Deut 9:11 (NIV)

“So I turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands.” Deut 9:15 (NIV)

Paul recognized the Law to include the Ten Commandments, “I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’” Romans 7:7 (NIV)

“The king contributed from his own possessions for the morning and evening burnt offerings and for the burnt offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moons and appointed feasts as written in the Law of the LORD.” 2 Chron 31:3 (NIV) So the Law included all of the regulations given to Moses including the Sabbath, the festivals and sacrificial system.

“So … Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly… He read it aloud from daybreak till noon …and all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law.” Neh 8:2-3 (NIV) It doesn’t take six hours to read the Ten Commandments.

“They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that the Israelites were to live in booths during the feast of the seventh month.” Neh 8:14 (NIV) Festivals were being described as coming from the law.

"Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Mal 4:4 (NIV)

“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone…” 2 Cor 3:7 (NIV) If the Ten Commandments were gloriously highlighted in Heaven as Ellen White said, with the fourth commandment being more glorious than the rest, would Paul refer to them as a ministry that brought death and say that they were fading away?

“Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered Ark of the Covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.” Heb 9:1-4 (NIV) So the first covenant included the regulations for worship, the sanctuary with the sacrificial system and the Ten Commandments.

Jesus understood this: “One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment and the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matt 22:35-40 (NIV) In answer, Jesus quotes Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:13, not one of the Ten Commandments showing, that He understood the Old Covenant to include the whole Book of the Law. In other places he quoted the Ten Commandments as in His discussion with the rich young ruler. So the Ten Commandments along with the rest of the law are considered the Old Covenant. There is nowhere in scripture where the Old Covenant is broken into the Ten Commandments and the ceremonial law. In fact that term is never used; it was an invention of Ellen White.

The Old Covenant Was Made Only With Israel

One of the notable aspects of the Old Covenant is that it was not made with any other people group or nation. It was designed specifically for Israel and was designed to turn a rag-tag bunch of slaves into a nation that would represent God to the other nations. One day they were building the pyramids, the next they had become God’s chosen people. They had no laws, no rules, no organization and after 400 years in captivity the people had nearly lost all knowledge of the God of their father Abraham. And so God, with a majesty that made the people tremble, took Moses onto the mountain and dictated to him the constitution for this new nation.

However, it was not just a constitution. They were the people God had selected to be the ancestors of His Son. He wanted them to recognize Him when He came. He wanted them to understand His mission and to be able to move with Him into the ministry He had destined for them. So every detail of every law, festival, and regulation - even the sanctuary itself -pointed to Him. God put everything in place to lead them to know His Son. When Jesus came all of those models that were just mock-ups of Him would have no function because the real thing would be here. Even in the Old Testament the prophets realized that the Old Covenant had been broken and would require a new covenant that would recognize a new order of things. This covenant was tailor-made for the people who would give birth to the Savior of the World. No other nation could fill this role. No other nation could be given this covenant.5

“And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?” Deut 4:8 (NIV) Moses then goes on to identify the decrees and laws: “Then the LORD spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice. He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote t'City on a Hill' by Cherry Brandstaterhem on two stone tablets. And the LORD directed me at that time to teach you the decrees and laws you are to follow in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” Deut 4:12-14 (NIV) Only Israel qualifies here.

Before delivering the Ten Commandments, God identified the group to whom they applied: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Ex 20:2 (NIV) No other people qualify here either.

"'Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant.” Ex 31:14-16 (NIV)The word 'owlam has been translated here as "lasting," not "everlasting." Its definition in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says it is “used often of time indefinitely long.”

"You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses.” Neh 9:13-14 (NIV) This speaks exclusively of the Israelites. “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.” Mal 4:4 (NIV)

“Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain.” Deut 5:1-4 (NIV) Not only was the covenant made solely with Israel, it was made with them at the time of Moses, not before. The Ten Commandments, the law, did not exist before that time.

“I have provided a place there for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD that he made with our fathers when he brought them out of Egypt." 1 Kings 8:21 (NIV) When? The fact that no other nation had the law was fully understood and confirmed by Paul: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law…” Romans 2:14 (NIV)

“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenant, the receiving of the law, the temple worship...” Romans 9:3-4 (NIV)

Notice how Ellen White has to resort to replacement theology to claim otherwise. “I am instructed to say to our people, Gather together from the Scriptures the proofs that God has sanctified the Sabbath and let the words of the Lord be read before the congregations, showing that all who turn aside from a plain ‘Thus saith the Lord’ will be condemned. The Sabbath has been the test of the loyalty of God's people in all ages. ‘It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever,’ the Lord declares.” {RH, March 26, 1908 par. 7} Only Israel of old received this covenant.

This point was brought forcefully to my understanding in 1993 as I stood overlooking the men's section of the wailing wall in Jerusalem. A Hassidic Jew, complete with side curls, was prayng nearby. I struck up a conversation with him out of interest in making contact with someone so far out of my sphere of experience. He asked me to tell him about myself. With a bit of pride and misguided evangelistic zeal I replied that I was a Sabbath-keeping Christian. He gave me an unamused look and what sounded suspiciously like a scoff as he told me, "That's impossible. You gentiles are free from the Law, that was given only to Israel. You have no obligations to keep the Sabbath. It was never your Law, but ours." Many years later, as I related this story to one of my Jewish partners, he quipped, "So, it took a Hassid to set you free." Indeed. It stuck, like a seed caught in soil until the time for germination had come.

The Sign of the Sinaitic Covenant is the Sabbath

Every covenant had a sign. You will remember that with Noah it was the rainbow, with Abraham it was circumcision, with David it was the virgin birth. In the new covenant baptism is the entrance sign and the Lord’s Supper is the repeating sign that brings remembrance. Circumcision is the entrance sign to the Old Covenant. It was clear that unless someone had been circumcised they could not take part in any of the Old Covenant or be a part of the covenant people. Sabbath was the repeating sign of remembrance in the Old Covenant.10

"An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the Lord’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat of it. The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you." Ex 12:48-49 (NIV) So when there is such controversy about circumcision in the early church, the significance is that with circumcision one enters into all of the regulations and practices in the Book of the Law. Circumcision stood for the whole package. Unless one was circumcised they couldn’t take part in any of it. After circumcision they qualified to be a part of the nation of Israel and participate in all of their constitution and practices.10

“It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested." Ex 31:17 (NIV). This identifies the covenant partners: Israel and the God who also made the Earth in six days. There were not seven creation days. Seven represents God Himself and is repeated throughout the Old Covenant. There was the weekly Sabbath, there were seven seasonal festivals, every seven years there was a Sabbatical year and there was the year of Jubilee, which was the seventh occurrence of the Sabbatical year, or seven sevens.6

"Say to the Israelites, you must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” Ex 31:13 (NIV)

“The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting (‘owlam, indefinite period of time) covenant. It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever (‘owlam), for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested.” Ex 31:16-17 (NIV)

Summary of Old Covenant Chapter

1) The Old Covenant is everything that God gave Moses on Mount Sinai.

2) The Ark of the Covenant contained the Ten Commandments.
3) The Ten Commandments make up the words of the Old Covenant.

4) The Law includes the Ten Commandments and everything included in the Book of the Law along with the whole sacrificial system.

5) God could not make this covenant with any other nation than Israel, because this covenant pointed to the coming Savior Who would come only through Israel.

6) Circumcision and was mandatory for participation as a member of the nation.

7) The Sabbath was given as proof of God's authority to make a covenant with Israel.

8) All of the religious practices of Israel revolved around the number seven. Seven is the number of completion and represents God, the Creator who put the world into place with perfect completion symbolized by the number seven.

9) The Old Covenant was of the Suzerain-vassal type that came with conditions that were broken almost immediately.

Ultimate Rest Table of Contents
The Next Chapter: Are the Ten Commandments Immutable?
What does immutable mean? It means unchangeable, everlasting. The argument is that God never changes, ergo, the Ten Commandments cannot change. Is that a valid theorum?