Saturday, September 6, 2008

Unless the Lord Builds the House

“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.” Psalms 127:1 (NIV)

The Foundation Is Laid

The foundation was laid for Adventism by the fabrication of the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. Foundations are laid for the purpose of erecting a structure. When the footings of that structure are shaky, the building cannot be solid. Accordingly, the faulty biblical interpretations of the foundational teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, have given rise to a disturbing number of false doctrines. There are several interesting observations in a 'Palmyra in Ruins' by Cherry Brandstaterbooklet that was 

recently mailed to my mother’s home. It is entitled The Sanctuary Truth. It gives the publisher as The Universal Publishing Assn. but does not attribute the author. While I am certain that it does not spring from any official Adventist authority, one would be hard-pressed to find anything that disagrees with the denominational presses or official teachings. It describes the relationship between the sanctuary doctrine and the other “distinctive” teachings of Adventism this way, “The fact, though, that this great hub-doctrine still remains intact and solid is unimpeachable evidence that likewise do all its spoke-doctrines.”32 p. 42

Since the famous conference in Glacier View where Desmond Ford was “weighed in the balances and found wanting,” many Seventh-day Adventist academicians have tried to distance themselves from the Investigative Judgment. They have gone to great lengths to proclaim that it is not necessary to the integrity of Adventism. They seem to be saying that they don’t believe it to be biblical, but neither will they speak out against it in opposition. Pastors who no longer believe that the IJ can stand the test of scripture, will not free their church members from the withering results of its fallout. They will not stand in the pulpit and renounce it. Why? I have heard sermons and Sabbath School lessons in the Loma Linda University Church that come close to debunking the IJ, but stop short of relieving the people of its burdens. Their language is couched in cryptic euphemisms that serve as shelters from denominational wrath.

Even with all of the protestations to the contrary, it is clearly evident that the Seventh-day Adventist Church IS the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. An observation in the booklet alluded to above is honest and forthright about the beliefs in Adventism when it says, “To discredit this distinctive contribution to Christian theology, which alone justifies the existence of Seventh-day Adventists as a denomination, the coalition spoilers must discredit the Inspiration [capitalization his] of Sister White’s sanctuary teachings…And in their joining Christendom in its heavy insistence that the atonement was in every wise completed at the cross, and confining it there as a finished act, they leave wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked Laodicea bereft of her genuine claim of being God’s Judgment-declaring people.”32 p.31-32 Evangelical Adventists would soften the language, but it does reflect the official church position, and the position of Adventism’s “prophet.”

The Walls of Heresy Arise

It was surprising to tease out the origins of the doctrines peculiar to the Adventist Church, and 'Old Walls of Heresy' by Cherry Brandstaterfind that they all had their start in the teaching of the Investigative Judgment. Without it, there would be no cohesion in the doctrines of: the Sabbath; the three angels’ messages; soul sleep (the state of the dead); the shut door; the claims of Ellen White’s prophetic inspiration; the belief that SDA’s are the remnant church of Bible prophecy; and the discrediting of salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Seeing the IJ as the hub, let’s look at the “spoke” doctrines. Though the doctrine of soul sleep existed before the IJ doctrine, the two beliefs went hand-in-glove. One necessitated the other.

Three Angels’ Messages

The logo of three angels flying with trumpets in hand, is used to represent the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In case you are rusty on Revelation 14, here are the three angels’ messages:
“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth--to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the 

earth, the sea and the springs of water.’ "A'Three Angels Dancing' by Cherry Brandstater second angel followed and said, ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great, which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.’

“A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: ‘If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.’ This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God's commandments and remain faithful to Jesus.” Rev 14:6-12 (NIV)

Once the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment was settled into place, the new group began casting about for its own identity. When they came across Revelation 14:6-12, they did what has landed many groups in hot water theologically, and lifted the whole passage out of its context - making it apply to themselves. The word “judgment” had become the byword for those preaching Christ’s return to Earth on October 22, 1844. So, they appropriated the concept that “the hour of his judgment has come,” and applied it to their newly minted doctrine of the Investigative Judgment. Since they were, and still are, the only group on Earth preaching the IJ, it followed, in their thinking, that they must be the end-time church of Bible prophecy - thus fulfilling Revelation 14. They had been chosen to announce to all “those who live on the earth” that they must prepare for the end of all things. It also equated the “eternal gospel” of the first angel with the Investigative Judgment. Since other Christian churches had not accepted their message of Investigative Judgment, they were convinced that the Seventh-day Adventist Church was the remnant (only true church).

Thus began a long tradition of hijacking words and phrases from the scripture, and giving them new meanings. The “everlasting gospel,” from this point on, would mean “the Investigative Judgment” in Adventist parlance. This is an important point for evangelical Christians to understand. While they may be using the same words in conversation with an Adventist, they may not be talking about the same things at all. When an evangelical speaks of “the everlasting gospel” they are referring to the truth about Jesus, the cross and His substitutionary death for humanity. When Adventists speak of the gospel they are referring to the “Adventist message.” It becomes very confusing, and gives the patina of understanding salvation by faith, when in fact, the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment precludes that belief.

The second angel followed on to say that Babylon had fallen. Since the first angel had announced the “Investigative” Judgment, then those who had rejected it must be the ones who had fallen. Who had rejected the message? Why, all of the other churches. Ergo, Babylon is all Christian churches. Ellen White makes this clear in the following statement: “The churches would not receive the light of the first angel's message, and as they rejected the light from heaven they fell from the favor of God. They trusted in their own strength, and placed themselves by their opposition to the first message where they could not see the light of the second angel's message. But the beloved of God, who were oppressed, answered to the message, Babylon is fallen, and left the fallen churches."40 p. 140

Adventism alone was the true church. There was strong appeal in this interpretation to the embattled little group of embarrassed, ridiculed believers. Though the world was mocking them, the “great disappointment” was thereby turned into a badge of honor. Now, they had become the apple of God’s eye, the persecuted church of Bible prophecy - the “remnant church.” From this perspective, the criticism and scoffing of others had redemptive purpose, and served to solidify the group into a distinct, cohesive entity. The need to salvage something from their sacrifice served to obscure clear, objective evaluation of the basis upon which they arrived at their conclusions. The historicist methods of their leader, William Miller, made it even less likely that they would exegete the scriptures with contextual methodology.

The third angel is seen as continuing on with the message that identifies the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the chosen instrument to carry the world into the culmination of all things. On their shoulders rests the onus of loyalty to God thru the keeping of the Sabbath. By this time, the Millerite groups had differentiated themselves into First-day Adventists and Seventh-day Adventists. The Sunday group had not espoused the sanctuary doctrine, and thereby, made forfeit their position in proclaiming the end-time “truth.” The SDA’s stood alone in their belief in the Investigative Judgment and the Sabbath. The uniqueness of their position reinforced their certainty that God had selected them preferentially, to carry the cause of God thru to the second coming of Christ.

Each of the three angels confirmed to them the rightness of their cause. They were now the only ones who believed the first angel’s message (the Investigative Judgment) and the third angel’s message (the Sabbath). “God’s commandments” were reduced, not to the Decalogue, but to the Fourth Commandment. By deduction, those who keep the commandments of God had to keep all of the Ten Commandments - including the fourth. Those who didn’t keep the fourth commandment (Sabbath) must be worshipping the beast by receiving his “mark” (Sunday-keeping) on their foreheads and hands. By extension, to go to church on Sunday was to receive the “mark of the beast.” The Sabbath

The connection of the Sabbath to the Investigative Judgment cannot be broken without doing violence to the whole Adventist paradigm. They were inseparable from the beginning. Listen to these words from Ellen White.

"As he repeated these words he pointed to the heavenly Sanctuary. The minds of all who embrace this message are directed to the Most Holy place where Jesus stands before the ark, making his final intercession for all those for whom mercy still lingers, and for those who have ignorantly broken the law of God. This atonement is made for the righteous dead as well as for the righteous living. Jesus makes an atonement for those who died, not receiving the light upon God's commandments, who sinned ignorantly. [Note that the atonement of the Investigative Judgment is made for dead people who broke the Sabbath out of ignorance.]

"After Jesus opened the door of the Most Holy the light of the Sabbath was seen, and the people of God were to be tested and proved, as God proved the children of Israel anciently, 'God Rested on the 7th Day' by Duncan Long/No Copyingto see if they would keep his law. I saw the third angel pointing upward, showing the disappointed ones the way to the Holiest of the heavenly Sanctuary. They followed Jesus by faith into the Most Holy. Again they have found Jesus, and joy and hope spring up anew. I saw them looking back reviewing the past, from the proclamation of the second advent of Jesus, down through their travels to the passing of the time in 1844. They see their disappointment explained, and joy and certainty again animate them. The third angel has lighted up the past, present and future, and they know that God has indeed led them by his mysterious providence.

"It was represented to me [implied – in vision] that the remnant followed Jesus into the Most Holy place, and beheld the ark, and the mercy-seat, and were captivated with their glory. Jesus raised the cover of the ark, and behold! The tables of stone, with the ten commandments written upon them. They trace down the lively oracles; but they start back with trembling when they see the fourth commandment living among the ten holy precepts, while a brighter light shines upon it than upon the other nine, and a halo of glory is all around it. They find nothing there informing them that the Sabbath has been abolished, or changed to the first day of the week. It reads as when spoken by the mouth of God in solemn and awful grandeur upon the mount, while the lightnings flashed and the thunders rolled, and when written with his own holy finger in the tables of stone. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God.

"They are amazed as they behold the care taken of the Ten Commandments. They see them placed close by Jehovah, overshadowed and protected by his holiness. They see that they have been trampling upon the fourth commandment of the Decalogue, and have observed a day handed down by the heathen and papists, instead of the day sanctified by Jehovah. They humble themselves before God, and mourn over their past transgressions."41 pp. 162-164
To ever disavow the Investigative Judgment or the Sabbath would be to destroy the core identity of the church. We have seen recent movements within Adventism embracing astounding error, while still clinging to the Sabbath, and refusing to preach openly that the Investigative Judgment can be found nowhere in scripture. The emergent church movement proponents within Adventism contend that all good things come from God, and God can be found in all religions. They encourage being in community with all “faiths” without trying to convert them to Christianity, since the essence of Christ can be found in their own traditions.
For further information go to: In the sermon found on that website, Samir Selmanovic tells of his asking a Wiccan witch to pray a “blessing” over a group of SDA ministers at a church conference. His methods are fully endorsed by official SDA church administrators including: Jon Paulien, author and Dean of the Faculty of Religion at Loma Linda University; Raj Attiken, President of the Ohio Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and founder of yearly leadership'Rest on the Rock' By Ramone Romero gathering, National Conference on Innovation; Ryan Bell, Senior Pastor of the Hollywood Adventist Church and the director of Re-Church Network; Roy Naden, Professor Emeritus, Andrews University; Monte Sahlin, author, church growth consultant, and Vice President for Creative Ministries in Columbia Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; Nathan Brown, Editor, Signs of the Times (Australia & New Zealand); Lawrence T. Geraty, past President, La Sierra University, California; Johnny Ramírez-Johnson, Professor of Religion, Psychology, & Culture, School of Religion; Loma Linda University; Jon Dybdahl, previous president of Walla Walla College and a member of 2010 Edinburgh Planning Group; Samuel Leonor, international speaker, chaplain of La Sierra University; and Julius Nam, Religion faculty, Loma Linda University.


Outworking of these philosophies led to the evangelism of Muslims in the Middle Eastern Division of Seventh-day Adventists. They boast of “thousands” of conversions of Muslims. This consists of teaching them the “Advent message” including the Sabbath, the State of the Dead, and Adventist eschatology (including the Investigative Judgment), but never requiring them to leave Islam. I was told, by one of the officials from that Division, that they had also “converted” fifty Imams to Adventism in the same manner, and sent them back to their villages to develop the synchronism of Islam and Adventism. The most disturbing revelation of all was the comments from the Imams that Adventism is naturally more conducive to Islam than any other religion. There is a comfortable symbiosis. Of course, the divinity of Christ and the cross (as the only way to salvation), must be subjugated to make that happen. But as long as the “Advent message” is accepted, there seems to be little discomfort with soft-peddling Jesus.

When there is no stand for truth, there is a slide toward heresy that knows no limitations. How is it that the Sabbath is embraced with such tenacity, but the cross is expendable? It appears that God has been relegated to a monochromatic “love,” without the multidimensional characteristics of righteousness, holiness, goodness, omniscience, truth or omnipotence.

An invitation to a discussion group, that meets in Loma Linda, went out in October 2007. The group was hosting the “national information officer for the Covenant of the Goddess, a Wiccan community”. It met at the home of Julius Nam (who is on the religion faculty of Loma Linda University).The next meeting was advertised with these words: "'Exploring Open Theism: Why God Might Not Know Everything There Is to Know.’ Our guests - Dr. Richard Rice and Dr. David Larson of LLU School of Religion. Dr. Rice & Dr. Larson are at the cutting edge of what is growing to be a major paradigm shift in Christian thinking about God--that God is genuine [sic] open to the future and experiences reality as it folds [sic]. We will explore what this ‘open view’ of God means for our faith and life.”

Events: I recently went on this site and the invitation was no longer posted. You may be interested in reading some of the posts, however. The group is geared toward "progressive Adventism," and may surprise you. It has taken the path that many voices in Adventism are now following, namely, veering away from conservatism and liberalism toward community. Community has become the new idol of Adventism. Theology has become such a sensitive topic that most want to avoid the whole mess. So community has uspurped the honored place of truth. I can't help but wonder what place Jesus has in all this.

Larson, in one of their discussion sessions, opened up the topic of Open Theism. This theory contends that God can only make predictions of the future. Since He doesn’t exist outside of time, and doesn’t know the future, He can make mistakes,then have to correct them. With the easy reception of these non-Christian teachings, how is it that the Sabbath, soul sleep, the Investigative Judgment, the prophetic calling of Ellen White and the prophetic status of Adventism remain inviolable? The only answer that comes to mind, is that the core teachings of Adventism have become idolatrous. The doctrines that constitute the identity of Adventism have been cherished far more than Jesus and the cross. Jesus is dispensable; the Sabbath is not. Even the more progressive theologians within Adventism cling to the Sabbath, reinventing it as symbolic and necessary for community, though no less binding.

The current generation of students in Adventist institutions has been disconnected from the source of their loyalty to the Sabbath, that is embedded in SDA DNA. Even though there is no particular code for keeping the Sabbath, and even if they don’t really have much of a spiritual experience on Sabbath, the idea of giving it up is unthinkable. They are not aware that it is traceable back to Ellen White and the Investigative Judgment, through statements such as this:

"None could fail to see that if the earthly sanctuary was a figure or pattern of the heavenly, the law deposited in the ark on earth was an exact transcript of the law in the ark in heaven; and that an acceptance of the truth concerning the heavenly sanctuary involved an acknowledgment of the claims of God's law and the obligation of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Here was the secret of the bitter and determined opposition to the harmonious exposition of the Scriptures that revealed the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary...Christ had opened the door, or ministration, of the most holy place, light was shining from that open door of the sanctuary in heaven, and the fourth commandment was shown to be included in the law which is there enshrined; what God had established, no man could overthrow." 37 p. 435

But while the students can’t connect the dots and trace them back to Ellen White, the strength of the normative belief has not diminished, and was embedded in the genetic code of Adventism from the beginning. Any who would stray from the group’s Sabbath identity have an inbred fear of being lost. It is, in large measure, why Adventists, who stop going to church, rarely start attending non-Adventist churches. Words like these echo down thru the decades into uncertain hearts.

"As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel's message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition... Men [and women!] of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the most bitter enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbath-keepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them, and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them."37 p. 608

Lest you should believe that such attitudes are extinct, let me relay an experience from two weeks ago. A young woman (33),who had found the meaning of the New Covenant and a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, called me in tears. She lives several states away, and attends a Spirit-filled Christian church now. She had been raised in a traditional Adventist family, with parents who worked in the ministry. She related her journey from uncertainty about salvation in Adventism, to a new birth (thru accepting the truth of the gospel) to some Adventist visitors to her home (in the same age group). She poured her heart out to them with the joy she has found in Christ. At the end of her sharing, their first words were, “We just hope that you won’t be one of the Sunday-keepers who come to hunt us down and kill us at the end of time because we keep the Sabbath.” These are all people in their early thirties. The core of Adventism has not changed, and it continues to cause confusion and distortion regarding the basic precepts of the gospel.

Soul Sleep and Annihilation

There are a number of related teachings that go by variou names (some of which I can barely pronounce), including: psychopannychism, thnetopsychism, annihilationism, inclusionism, soul sleep, the state of the dead and conditional immortality. It’s interesting to know that there are only four groups that hold to the notion of soul sleep. They are Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of God Abrahamic Faith, and the well-renowned Christadelphians (who do not believe that Jesus was, or is divine).

How did the teaching of soul sleep originate within Adventism? It actually came thru a Methodist preacher named George Storrs. In 1837 he read a tract written by one of his contemporaries, Deacon Henry Grew, from Pennsylvania. At the time, Grew was serving as a Baptist minister, but left when he began teaching soul sleep (also known as conditional immortality), since it contradicted Baptist belief and teaching.

Storrs was drawn to the teachings both of soul sleep and annihilation because he believed that they better reflected his conception of the mercy of God than the beliefs of most of the 'I've Gone Home' by Cherry Brandstaterrest of the Christian world. 

He decided to write his own tract followed by six published sermons in 1841. These were widely distributed in 200,000 tracts. It was after the publication of his teaching that Storrs joined with the Millerites, and became a preacher in that movement. He was very convincing, and a number of Millerites were converted to his way of thinking.

Charles Taze Russell was one of those people. Russell had already become a follower of William Miller, and embraced his teaching that Jesus would return to Earth in 1844. When that event failed to happen, the Millerite movement splintered into various other Adventists groups. Russell also became a student of George Storrs’, and an Adventist (See: He eventually joined the editorial staff of the The Midnight Cry and Herald of the Morning, an Adventist publication devoted to the message of the Midnight Cry. Because of disagreements with its editor, N. H. Barbour, he went from there to start the Watch Tower and subsequently the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was in Russell’s new journal (then called Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence) in 1879, that he reaffirmed that the Millerite movement of 1844 began the "modern day fulfillment of end-times prophecies.” It’s interesting to note the similarities even in the names of publications of the groups that were birthed out of the Millerite movement: The Herald of the Morning, The Review and Herald, and Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. So, the connection to the similar views, with respect to the state of the dead, is traceable from Adventism to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Russell modified it somewhat, in that he taught that the wicked are never resurrected, and remain as if they had never been after death - an even gentler solution.
Interestingly, William Miller himself did not endorse the teaching of soul sleep, and denounced it publicly, as did Josiah Litch, I. E. Jones, and the Signs of the Times.

Joseph Bates, James White, and Ellen White espoused Storrs’ teachings, and when the break was made with the Millerites, by the formation of the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment, they gratefully took the doctrine of soul sleep with them. It helped solve a very sticky problem. In fact, the Investigative Judgment doctrine necessitated the preservation of the belief in soul sleep for Seventh-day Adventists. Nothing else would work. One could not have people going to Heaven when they died, before the Investigative Judgment was completed, since it was in the Investigative Judgment (beginning in 1844) that people’s fates were determined - and not until then. It wouldn’t do to ascend to Heaven at death just to have the verdict changed. One could picture an angel going to the doomed person standing beside the sea of
 glass saying, 'Mortality Swallowed Up By Life' by Cherry Brandstater“Excuse me, John. I’m so very sorry, but a mistake has been made and you are going to be transferred. The climate in your new location is decidedly warm, and you will still have a waterfront view. Instead of looking out on the River of Life, you will have a close-up view of the Lake of Fire.” With the teaching of soul sleep, where one goes into nonexistence during the time between death and resurrection, the doctrine of annihilation became an easy next step.
In describing the distinctive doctrines of soul sleep and annihilation, now held by the SDA church, Ellen White considered these teachings to be proof of God’s revelation of special knowledge to the group she believed to be the remnant church of God. As noted above, this status (as the remnant church of bible prophecy) came about thru the development of the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment by linking it to the three angel’s messages of Revelation 14. This is a position of honor in contrast with the churches that meet on Sunday, which she categorizes as Babylon. “One of the Great Delusions. --Every species of delusion is now being brought in. The plainest truths of God's Word are covered with a mass of man-made theories. Deadly errors are presented as the truth to which all must bow. The simplicity of true godliness is buried beneath tradition. The doctrine of the natural immortality of the soul is one error with which the enemy is deceiving man. This error is well-nigh universal…This is one of the lies forged in the synagogue of the enemy, one of the poisonous drafts of Babylon.” 37 p 247

For more in depth information, please consult the study on the state of the dead, Spirit.

The quotations above are just a sampling of the foundational teaching about soul sleep which the Seventh-day Adventist Church still espouses. With growing exposure to other Christian dialogue, some have attempted to put distance between themselves and those who overtly acknowledge dependence on Ellen White’s writings for doctrinal derivation. But I find it odd (with doctrines such as the Investigative Judgment and soul sleep) that there could be any denial that their origins stem from the early development of the SDA church. One would be hard-pressed to find any Christian churches that espouse either of those beliefs. Soul sleep has no notable adherents outside the confines of Seventh-day Adventism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of God Abrahamic Faith and Christadelphians. Throughout the history of the Christian church, there have been only scattered, small pockets of those who have promoted the teachings of soul sleep, conditional immortality or annihilation.

Both universalism and annihilation are becoming more popular recently, in liberal theological circles, as natural outgrowths of the belief that God wouldn’t assign the wicked to hell for eternity. Those conclusions are based on moral outrage, and misunderstanding of the implications of hell, rather than on new exegetical biblical evidence. Whatever their origins, this constellation of doctrines deserves close attention because of their implications to our understanding of the human spirit, the Holy Spirit and our interactions with the spiritual realm.

For a thorough examination of the biblical teachings regarding the intermediate state between death and resurrection I would refer you to my study entitled Spirit. Whenever isolated groups of people claim special revelation that deviates from the foundational teachings of Christendom, their conclusions should be very carefully evaluated, and held suspect, until proven to be consistent with the whole picture presented in the bible.
The Shut Door

One source of continuing embarrassment to the Adventist Church is Ellen White's teaching that “probation” closed for the world in 1844. This is called the “Shut Door” and means that those who had not embraced the doctrine of Investigative Judgment in 1844, would not be saved. She claimed to have been shown all of this in various different visions from God.

“I was then shown what did take place in heaven as the prophetic periods ended in 1844. I saw that as the ministration of Jesus in the Holy place ended, and he closed the door of that 'The Shut Door' by Cherry Brandstaterapartment, a great darkness settled upon 

those who had heard, and had rejected the messages of Christ's coming, and they lost sight of him.”40 p 158-9

“I was shown in vision, and I still believe, that there was a shut door in 1844. All who saw the light of the first and second angels' messages and rejected that light, were left in darkness. And those who accepted it and received the Holy Spirit which attended the proclamation of the message from heaven, and who afterward renounced their faith and pronounced their experience a delusion, thereby rejected the Spirit of God, and it no longer pleaded with them.39 p 63

"There I was shown that the commandments of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, relating to the shut door, could not be separated...My accompanying angel bade me look for the travail of soul for sinners as used to be. I looked, but could not see it; for the time for their salvation is past."45

“The light behind them went out leaving their feet in perfect darkness, and they stumbled and got their eyes off the mark and lost sight of Jesus, and fell off the path down in the dark and wicked world below. It was just as impossible for them to get on the path again and go to the City, as all the wicked world which God had rejected. They fell all the way along the path one after another, until we heard the voice of God like many waters, [EZE. 43:2. JOEL 3:16. REV. 16:17.] which gave us the day and hour of Jesus' coming. [EZE. 12:25. MARK 13:32.] The living saints, 144,000 in number, knew and understood the voice, while the wicked thought it was thunder and an earthquake. [JOHN 12:29.] When God spake the time, he poured on us the Holy Ghost, and our faces began to light up and shine with the glory of God as Moses' did when he came down from Mount Sinai. [ISA. 10:27.]

“By this time the 144,000 were all sealed and perfectly united. On their foreheads was written, God, New Jerusalem, and a glorious Star containing Jesus' new name. [REV. 3:12.] At our happy, holy state the wicked were enraged, and would rush violently up to lay hands on us to thrust us in prison, when we would stretch forth the hand in the name of the Lord, and the wicked would fall helpless to the ground. Then it was that the synagogue of Satan knew that God had loved us who could wash one another's feet, and salute the holy brethren with a holy kiss, and they worshipped at our feet.”44 p 14

When she encountered a group of people in Exeter, Maine (in February 1845) who did not believe in the shut door, she conveniently fell on the floor manifesting, and relating a “vision” that attested to the shut door. When she regained her usual mental faculties, the others who had witnessed this strange event became believers in the shut door.27

"The view about the Bridegroom's coming I had about the middle of February, 1845, while in Exeter, Maine, in meeting with Israel Dammon, James, and many others. Many of them did not believe in a shut door. I suffered much at the commencement of the meeting. Unbelief seemed to be on every hand.

"There was one sister there that was called very spiritual. She had traveled and been a powerful preacher the most of the time for twenty years. She had been truly a mother in Israel. But a division had risen in the band on 

the shut door. She had great sympathy, and could not believe the door was shut. I had known nothing of their difference. Sister Durben got up to talk. I felt very, very sad.

"At length my soul seemed to be in agony, and while she was talking I fell from my chair to the floor. It was then I had a view of Jesus rising from His mediatorial throne and going to the holiest as Bridegroom to receive His kingdom. They were all deeply interested in the view. They all said it was entirely new to them. The Lord worked in mighty power, setting the truth home to their hearts.

"Sister Durben knew what the power of the Lord was, for she had felt it many times; and a short time after I fell she was struck down, and fell to the floor, crying to God to have mercy on her. When I came out of vision, my ears were saluted with Sister Durben's singing and shouting with a loud voice.

"Most of them received the vision, and were settled upon the shut door. Previous to this I had no light on the coming of the Bridegroom, but had expected him to this earth to deliver His people on the tenth day of the seventh month. I did not hear a lecture or a word in any relating to the Bridegroom's going to the holiest."(Manuscript Releases Volume Five [Nos. 260-346], page 98, Letter to Joseph Bates, July 13, 1847) At the end of this letter she also mused, “I knew not how to write so that others could read it till God gave me my visions.” This letter can be read on the Ellen G. White Estate website:$fn=default.htm$vid=default.

This was a doctrine that could not be sustained for very long. Inevitably, children were born to the group, and eventually, people who accepted the Investigative Judgment began converting to Adventism. What did they do with these children and converts if the door to mercy and salvation had already been shut - admitting none but the original group of believers? Quietly, the door opened a bit to admit the babies and new adherents. The vision related above, occurred in February 1845. It was not until 1851 that the shut door teaching was abandoned. This required some fancy footwork on White’s part. How could she harmonize faith in her prophetic ministry with having “seen” a falsehood - shown to her by an accompanying angel, or worse, the Lord Himself?

The response was to quietly remove every statement exposing her belief in the shut door from her writings. The doctrine was never renounced. Neither she, nor the church, ever publicly admitted that she had had a “vision” affirming the shut door. In fact, she later denied that she had ever had such a vision. Instead, she alleged that she held the view of the shut door before she had ever received a vision, and it was her early visions that corrected the error propagated by others. "For a time after the disappointment in 1844, I did hold, in common with the advent body, that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world. This position was taken before my first vision [ever] was given me. It was the light given me of God that corrected our error, and enabled us to see the true position."39 V1 p 63 No matter that she claimed a vision in 1845 that sustained the doctrine, and didn’t abandon it until 1851. She further distanced herself from any association with the Shut Door teaching by using third person language that suggested she was not involved in the erroneous belief.

“This subject was not understood by Adventists in 1844... It appeared to them to be taught in the Bible that man's probation would close a short time before the actual coming of the Lord in the clouds of heaven…Having given the warning of the judgment near, they felt that their work for the world was done, and they lost their burden of soul for the salvation of sinners, while the bold and blasphemous scoffing of the ungodly seemed to them another evidence that the Spirit of God had been withdrawn from the rejecters of His mercy. All this confirmed them in the belief that probation had ended, or, as they then expressed it, "the door of mercy was shut."37 p 429

The above section of quotations presents some significant challenges to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is not possible to claim that God showed their prophet, Ellen White, in vision, that the door of salvation was shut and probation closed in one place, while admitting it was an error in another, without bringing her prophetic sources into question. If she was shown in vision that probation was closed for the world, then either God, or one of His angels, was giving her false information, or, the vision was coming from a source other than God. We know, from the statement quoted above in Selected Messages, that she claimed that the shut door was taught before she had her first vision. However, the vision in Exeter Maine was given in 1845 and supported the shut door, convincing all who were there in opposition to their previous belief. Her first vision was in 1844, and the experience was well-documented. Either her visions were true and from God or they were not. If they were from God, then they should follow the teachings of the Bible.

Salvation By Judgment

The teachings of the Investigative Judgment and salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ, are mutually exclusive and antagonistic doctrines. By its very nature, the sanctuary doctrine breeds fear and uncertainty about salvation. Ellen White taught that it is only believers who enter into this judgment. It is their books alone that are investigated to unearth any sins from a lifetime that have not been confessed. Should one unconfessed sin be found, when their books are closed, they will be eternally lost.

Here are some of the statements that can still strike fear into the hearts of those indoctrinated with this soul-damaging doctrine. In each instance, the quotation from Ellen White will be in orange followed with the contrasting words of the scriptures.

1) EGWAll who have ever taken upon themselves the name of Christ must pass its searching scrutiny…Sins that have not been repented of and forsaken will not be pardoned and blotted out of the books of record, but will stand to witness against the sinner in the day of God.37 p 486
"I tell you the truth; whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. John 5:24 (NIV)

2) EGW
As the books of record are opened in the judgment, the lives of all who have believed on Jesus come in review before God. Beginning with those who first lived upon the earth, our Advocate presents the cases of each successive generation, and closes with the living. Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God's remembrance.37 p 483

For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Heb 8:12

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:27-30 (NIV)

3) EGW
Every man's work passes in review before God and is registered for faithfulness or unfaithfulness. Opposite each name in the books of heaven is entered with terrible exactness every wrong word, every selfish act, every unfulfilled duty, and every secret sin, with every artful dissembling. Heaven-sent warnings or reproofs neglected, wasted moments, unimproved opportunities, the influence exerted for good or for evil, with its far-reaching results, all are chronicled by the recording angel… Those who in the judgment are "accounted worthy" will have a part in the resurrection of the just. 37 p 482

ScriptureBut when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7 (NIV)

4) EGW
Since the dead are to be judged out of the things written in the books, it is impossible that the sins of men should be blotted out until after the judgment at which their cases are to be investigated.37 p 485

But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. 2 Tim 1:8-9 (NIV)

5) EGW
No value is attached to a mere profession of faith in Christ; only the love which is shown by works is counted genuine.37 p 487

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. Eph 2:8-9 (NIV)

6) EGW
The judgment is now passing in the sanctuary above. For many years this work has been in progress. Soon – none know how soon- it will pass to the cases of the living. In the awful presence of God our lives are to come up in review…When the work of the Investigative Judgment closes, the destiny of all will have been decided for life or death. Probation is ended a short time before the appearing of the Lord in the clouds of heaven.37 p 490

“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:11-13 (NIV)

7) EGW
Though God's people will be surrounded by enemies who are bent upon their destruction, yet the anguish which they suffer is not a dread of persecution for the truth's sake; they fear that every sin has not been repented of, and that through some fault in themselves they will fail to realize the fulfillment of the Savior’s promise: I ‘will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world.’ Revelation 3:10. If they could have the assurance of pardon they would not shrink from torture or death; but should they prove unworthy, and lose their lives because of their own defects of character, then God's holy name would be reproached.37 p 619

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

8) EGW
They afflict their souls before God, pointing to their past repentance of their many sins, and pleading the Savior’s promise…Though suffering the keenest anxiety, terror, and distress, they do not cease their intercessions.37 p 619-20

Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory. Eph 1:13-14 (NIV)

The Investigative Judgment induces fear and uncertainty. The word of God brings assurance of salvation, with clear evidence that we have eternal life now, as we put our faith in the completed atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. His Holy Spirit has been poured out on us as a seal, guaranteeing our heavenly inheritance. What a different story from that given to millions of people who fear that some forgotten sin will spell their eternal doom.


The Investigative Judgment is the doctrine upon which the Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded. It forms the hub from which the spoke doctrines emanate. The faulty nature of the church’s foundational doctrine, sets the principles from which its derivative doctrines were developed. They, too, were shot thru with theological inconsistencies and outright error. The inability of the early founders to admit their mistake, regarding the October 22, 1844 date for Christ’s Second Advent, became a heavy burden that would be borne by millions of subsequent followers. The sins of the fathers and mothers have, indeed, been passed down thru generations of their spiritual descendants. The arrogance, egocentricity, isolationism, pride, deception and denial have attached themselves to much of what has been built, and remain to this day.

The doctrines of the Sabbath, Soul Sleep, Shut Door, and Salvation by Judgment, spawned by the Investigative Judgment, were discussed in this chapter. Other derivative doctrines will be examined in the next.

Faith or Fear? Table of Contents

The Next Chapter: A Matter of Identity

Who wouldn't rather be cast as the hero in the play than the villian? OK, maybe we have a few rebels in the group, but let's assume it isn't a play, but reality. We'd rather be on the winning side - at the top of the class. Right?


Dennis said...

The link to EGW website for the shut door letter has been removed. I was unable to return anything by searching for shut door.

Gently Broken said...

Thank you so much, Dennis. I appreciate your being so kind as to check these out and let me know if things aren't working. That quote has now been moved on the EGW writings site to the Manuscripts section and the link has been changed above. It worked for me. Try it again. Cherry